If you were to look at Internet dating sites, beauty counters, or advice books, you could easily get the idea that young women have a dating problem. To New Rochelle native Jessica Massa,
though, author of the new book The Gaggle: How the Guys You Know Will Help You Find the Love You Want, the only problems are that people don’t realize dating is dead and they don’t see how much potential there is for romance in the new “post-dating world.” And a publishing company, several news outlets, and a major film studio seem to think she may be on to something.
“Traditionally, women wondered, ‘Who am I dating?’” Massa, 29, says. “‘Who is taking me out to a movie on Friday or calls a week in advance to take me out to a bistro on a Saturday?’ But we started talking to people about their actual love lives, and we rarely heard that story.”
So where do lasting relationships now come from? Massa and her business partner/former roommate/best friend/fellow New Rochelle High School grad, 29-year-old Rebecca Wiegand, maintain that, instead of the steady Friday-night guy, women—and men—today have a “gaggle,” a group of friends, frenemies, wannabes, colleagues, and exes with whom they text, flirt, go out for drinks, and see movies on a whim. These interactions, say the pair, who now live in Brooklyn, sustain young people socially the way a traditional romantic partner used to, and fostering those interactions can help one of them grow into a rewarding romance.
The two friends came up with the idea “on a random night” in the summer of 2009. “I came home from a cocktail party and started complaining about my love life,” Wiegand says. “But I knew what she was doing every day,” Massa says. “So I said, ‘It’s true you’re not dating anyone, but you spend your time with that ex-coworker, you had dinner with your ex-boyfriend—you have this gaggle around you.’”
By late fall, Wiegand, who worked in film development and book adaptation for New Line Cinema (which had just done the dating-advice book-turned-movie He’s Just Not That Into You and was in the midst of producing the Sex and the City movies), had brought 20 pages to her boss. In March, the two founded wtfisupwithmylovelife.com to promote the concept, and, soon after, the studio optioned the script idea.
In the meantime, Massa, who had graduated magna cum laude with a degree in psychology from Harvard (Wiegand attended Yale), took her savings, some money from family, and some funds from the New Line deal and drove around the country conducting interviews in preparation for the book. “It was important to me to be as scientific as we could be.” Now the book and the website and script development are fulltime jobs for the duo, and articles about the ventures have appeared in outlets from EW.com to the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
As for their own love lives, Wiegand says, “I have a boyfriend now, but I also have my Gaggle, and my boyfriend has a Gaggle, too. That was a condition.” And Massa? “I just spent a year on the road, and then wrote a book!” she answers. “Thankfully, because I have this Gaggle perspective, I had the most awesome romantic journey during that year.”