Jenna Bean Veatch tells a few different origin stories of how she came up with the idea for The Not-Creepy Gathering for People Who Are Single and Want to Fall in Love. In one, she’s walking around a lake when the idea hits. In another, a friend’s roommate comes home from a date, freshly infatuated, and reminds Veatch such a feeling is possible. Her third digression about the idea speaks to Veatch’s background in performing arts. “I was in grad school, working on my MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts,” Veatch says. “I was doing a dance show about the desire for human connection and I was attempting to create connection by having the audience participate. I realized that, if my goal was to facilitate human connection, there were more impactful ways [to go about it] than me dancing about it.”
Human connection and romantic love figure heavily into Veatch’s work. The last full-length dance performance she made was a two-woman show about heartbreak and Ukrainian history, 50 Heartbreaks and I’m Still in Love with YOUkraine. So it isn’t surprising to find Veatch’s current performance happens in rooms of nervous romantics at artsy, heartfelt singles nights where she performs a little stand-up comedy to get people laughing.
Over the past three years, Veatch has hosted more than 30 Not-Creepy Gatherings in Seattle and other West Coast cities. The first one she booked was at a “teensy tiny little venue in Bellingham, Washington.” Seventy people showed up. “There was an energy of ‘What is this thing?’” Veatch says. “‘What’s gonna happen? We don’t know, but here we all are!’ It was so playful, sweet and surprisingly moving.” Veatch says that a lot of the magic of making the nights “not-creepy” comes from the name. Merely stating that the event is not for creepers discourages that behavior.
I confirmed through my Washington networks that the Not-Creepy Gatherings are focused on vulnerability. While no one had stories of raving romance, one acquaintance made a friend she still keeps up with and had an enlightening, encouraging conversation with an octogenarian about love and learning to love again.
Veatch was single when she started the Not-Creepy Gatherings, and through them, she found love. And she lost it, too. “She broke my heart. For a while that made it hard to keep hosting these events. It was a little like rubbing salt in the wound,” Veatch says. “But it ultimately made me better able to empathize with the people showing up. Getting a reminder of how risky it is to put ourselves out there. I still believe in it.”