Finding Love Among the Dead at A Singles' Night for the Strange
Morbid Anatomy offers a meeting place for city dwellers whose interests range toward the unusual, esoteric, and unmentionable.
By The Lady Aye
On entering Morbid Curiosity: A Morbid Anatomy Singles Night, guests are asked to write down their name and any random word they like on a name tag. Janet Ginsburg chose the word “squid,” simply because she likes cephalopods. It's not a professional interest, she just happens to enjoy learning about these legendary creatures of the deep in her spare time. While it wasn't a huge conversation starter initially, she was excited to find a venue that “loves this sort of thing.”
Specifically, that thing is “rational amusement,” defined by Morbid Anatomy as “topics residing at the interstices of art and science, history and curiosity, magic and nature.” For the uninitiated: the Morbid Anatomy Library is a research library and private museum committed to “celebrating and providing materials dedicated to the places where death and beauty intersect.” A maze of rooms cluttered with antique medical specimens, the library offers lectures along the lines of “Women Who Bite: Chastity Belts, Castration Anxiety and Feminism” and “Selfies At Funerals: Postmortem Photography and Cultural Taboos” and classes in arts like anthropomorphic mouse taxidermy. Some people have kickball leagues and book clubs. Morbid Anatomy offers a meeting place for city dwellers whose interests range toward the unusual, esoteric, and unmentionable.
New York has long had dating events around on religion, career, and sports, but it’s a little bit harder to find romance if your hobbies revolve around things that most people refuse to speak of at the dinner table. To put it another way: if you're looking for love in New York, but the thought of a rom-com style “meet cute” turns your stomach and breaks your anatomically accurate heart, Morbid Curiosity is the right mixer for you. Morbid Anatomy may seem like an unlikely setting for romance, but given the increasing popularity of the venue (the library, museum, and lecture space it contains are moving to a much larger facility in the Gowanus neighborhood this spring), the odds are good that there's at least one match among its enthusiasts.
Daisy Tainton, the event’s curator, may be uniquely qualified to bring this particular gathering together. By day, she photographs, mounts, and catalogs insect specimens for the venerable American Museum of Natural History, which means she’s handled more than her fair share of creepers. And with her unusual interests, relating to humans has proven to be more than a bit complicated.
Morbid Curiosity was born out of a conversation Daisy had with Morbid Anatomy's creative director, Joanna Ebenstein. Daisy related some of her own experiences in the dating world, including an incident where she had met a cute guy she was interested in and asked him to accompany her on a simple errand that turned out to be a deal breaker. All she wanted was for “him to come with me to pick up a dead kitten for taxidermy, which caused him to disappear forever…like dust on the wind.” From that heartbreak, however, they devised a plan to fill a room with like-minded – if offbeat – souls to see if the sparks flew.
True to Daisy's vision, there was an impressive crowd for a frigid February night, with a good ratio of men to women. The population of the room was mostly young, professional, and quirkily dressed – and they became increasingly social as the inexpensive wine flowed. Baltimore-native Eric Indin came accessorized with an animal bone necklace and put “Poe” as his extra word on his nametag “because I just got a raven tattoo.” Coincidentally, Rachel Ridout, the attractive blonde manning the beverage table, was from Maryland; Indin’s name tag gave them some things to talk about, like Charm City's vibrant outsider art scene, specifically a recent exhibition of paintings and crafts by sideshow “half man” Johnny Eck at the Maryland Institute College of Art.
To get the other gathered “Morbid Anatomists” talking further, Daisy had planned a few activities that encouraged interaction, including “Pathology Charades.” Asked about the origins of the game, she replied, “I think I made it up. Or it was on Seinfeld, I can't be sure. Seriously, I tried Googling it…but couldn't find anything.” Naming rights aside, teams paired off and tried their luck at acting out things like “leprosy” by miming losing their noses and “tuberculosis” with a red scarf standing in for bloody sputum. A huge hit with the crowd, it got everyone energized and mingling.
As the games wound down, the crowd naturally formed smaller groups; some admiring the art work, some trying out magic tricks, and some discussing which of Morbid Anatomy's upcoming taxidermy classes suits them best. The overall vibe was easygoing and social, which, after all, is the point of all dating events. Though it’s too early to tell if any of the meetings that night will result in love matches, Daisy was still happy with the results. “At the very least, we will make lots of friends,” she said. Overall she and Joanna are so pleased with the evening's fun that there's already talk of making the mixer a monthly event, with Daisy at the helm as the “Director of Romance.”
As for her own prospects from Morbid Curiosity? Daisy is demure. Like the other rom-com conventions of happily-ever-after and like the candle-lit dream date she confesses, “I don't do well with 'date' concepts… Give me flowers and take me someplace quiet to drink and talk. An after-hours tour of a museum I don't work at would be great, too!” Whether those flowers are dead or fresh is up to the imagination of would-be beaus.