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Brooklyn Bookbeat: Former Brooklynites coin 'The Gaggle,' a modern guide to dating

These two ladies are charter members of The Gaggle. Photo by Ian Mahathey

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Jessica Massa was living in Brooklyn this past June when she published "The Gaggle" -- a well-researched and innovative guide to dating in the modern world. She and her best friend-turned-business partner, Rebecca Wiegand (also a former Brooklynite) offer women a new way of approaching their love lives, emphasizing the importance of the "gaggle" of men they are connected to. Massa and Wiegand propose that once a woman recognizes and analyzes her "gaggle" -- which might include a co-worker, ex-boyfriend, or prospective boyfriend -- she can use these relationships to her advantage, employing more agency in her romantic life. Brooklyn Eagle checked in with Massa and Wiegand about their life in Brooklyn during the conception of "The Gaggle." They share with us how the borough influenced their project, what they miss most about Fort Greene, and offer a preview of their next project.

How did you decide on 'The Gaggle' terminology?

The Gaggle terminology started out as almost a fluke. We didn't necessarily expect it to stick! We first had our epiphany that we (and all the "single" girls we knew) had gaggles one night on our couch in Brooklyn. Becky was upset that boys hadn't been asking her out, and Jess recognized that while Becky hadn't been going on dates, she certainly had a group of guys who were ambiguously moving in and out of her orbit - a "gaggle" of guys, as Jess haphazardly called it. We immediately began talking to our friends about the idea and were surprised to see that they latched onto the word 'gaggle' and started using it with us instantly. Over time, the name just stuck, and we found it more and more appropriate as we set out to define what exactly the gaggle was, and how women were navigating their own gaggle. 

If you look up a video of photo of a gaggle of geese, you'll find an orderless, seemingly random group of birds wandering confusedly and somewhat aimlessly around a field. That doesn't sound so different from our love lives these days, which are lacking order and structure! But we say that if you are able to recognize your gaggle and ask yourself what you might want from each of these relationships, then YOU can put yourself at the center of it and start seeing some order in these connections.

As for the rest of our terminology - post-dating world, non-dates, the various gaggle guy and girl names - we chose labels that we felt were the most clear, honest and self-explanatory. We want women to enjoy their love lives and to recognize the potential in the guys and settings around them. So if you're on a Networking-Non-Date, or hanging out with your Accessory, and you have that terminology somewhere in your head, you'll more quickly understand that situation and have some tools in mind for how to make the most of it.

I understand you were both recently living in Brooklyn. What neighborhood were you in?

We lived in Clinton Hill. We started out as roommates on Waverly and Fulton, just on the border with Fort Greene. Becky stayed in that apartment and Jess eventually moved a few blocks away, still in Fort Greene. So we have worked and hung out socially everywhere in that neighborhood from Fort Greene park to the beer garden to many a restaurant and coffee shop!

What do you miss about living Brooklyn now that you're in Manhattan?

Becky: I left Brooklyn very reluctantly. There is so much that I miss from the old neighborhood: the warmth of Madiba and all their delicious spicy food, the outdoor flea market, Beny's Delice where I got my morning coffee, Prospect Park where I would take my dog, Bear Tennessee, for off-leash hours every morning before 9am, Urban Vintage where Jess and I would meet to work, Greenelight Bookstore with its fabulous, eclectic selection, my lovely former neighbors... I could go on! Manhattan has lots of perks, but it is definitely more anonymous as a city and there are way more tourists. That said, I made a point of carrying the spirit of congeniality and neighborhood friendliness with me to my new place in the Financial District, so I do feel like I'm starting to get a community together there. I also have an office in a row house in Prospect Heights, so I get to spend time in Brooklyn every week, and that is terrific for me.

Jess: I miss being inspired by my surroundings so often. In many ways, modern Brooklyn feels like it was built for writers, entrepreneurs and creative types. The coffeeshops are quirky, the brownstones are charming, the shops are eclectic, the street art is exciting, the restaurants are unique, the bookstores are cozy, the people are intriguing and open to sharing their stories and passions (and to lending you an umbrella if it's pouring rain and yours is broken)...of course, this is all true of Manhattan as well. But in Brooklyn, it just feels like you're hit with it on every corner. I found that vibe very inspiring as Becky and I were trying to think and write about modern romance in new, interesting ways. If I was having some sort of mental block, I would just go for a walk, see some stuff, smile at some people - and my mind would open up. I imagine this is why Brooklyn has cultivated such a community of fascinating people trying to create. It's an amazing creative space that I haven't found anywhere else, in NYC or in my travels.

How would you say living in Brooklyn influenced the ideas behind 'The Gaggle' -- or do you feel that your conclusions about the modern dating scene are universally applicable, and unaffected by location? 

Jess: Seeing as we first realized that we had gaggles on our couch in Brooklyn, we would definitely say that living there influenced our initial ideas about The Gaggle. That was where we developed our own gaggles! But our first order of business was to get out of the NYC bubble entirely and see what was actually happening in other cities and towns across the country, to see if our conclusions about the modern dating scene were universally applicable. That is why I spent a year traveling the U.S., doing research for the book by interviewing over a hundred men, women and couples and really delving into what was happening in other areas. I hit big cities like Chicago, San Francisco, Houston, Denver, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Cincinnati, New Orleans, Louisville and Minneapolis, as well as smaller areas like Green Bay, Provo, Baton Rouge, Nashville and Aspen. 

Everywhere I went, post-dating had become the norm. People were going on non-dates, cultivating ambiguous relationships within their gaggle (even if they didn't realize it yet), and wondering why their love lives looked so strange and untraditional. Most importantly, people everywhere were making connections and finding love through their gaggles. I met so many incredibly inspiring couples, and saw amazing relationships, all over the country - and I was able to see that they had found love through these more ambiguous means and relationships. Seeing the evidence in front of me confirmed our belief that embracing the post-dating world, no matter where you live, is the best way to find love and build strong, solid, exciting relationships in the modern romantic landscape.

What are you working on now? 

We are working on many projects, as always. The Gaggle paperback is coming out for Valentine's Day (publication date is February 5th!). Our newly launched website, www.The-Gaggle.com, features a wide variety of perspectives on modern love, relationships and identity. We are also growing The Gaggle across social media platforms, so now you can find us on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Tumblr, Instagram and whatever else will get invented tomorrow! 

In projects that are not Gaggle-centric, we are co-writing a spec screenplay about the experience of Millennial "adulthood." We also optioned a screenplay that we are producing, called Classic Love Story by Brooklynite Andrea Bartz (co-author of the Stuff Hipsters Hate book and blog). It is a love story of sorts set among hipsters in Williamsburg and is a real passion project for us since we think it captures what that particular scene is like. Becky wrote a Brooklyn-inspired short story of erotica called "A One Night Stand in Brooklyn" for the iBook anthology, Vixotica: Sexy Short Stories by Best-Selling Erotica Authors; she is also working on a series of novellas about couples on their honeymoons.

January 10, 2013 - 10:16am


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