When her exclusive matchmaking dinners grew too popular, Erin Davis introduced a $150 service taking Jewish singles out on the town and helping them reel in dates.
A pack of single women, dolled-up and mostly in their early thirties, fast approach a Manhattan bar called The Green Room on a chilly Saturday night, already warmed up from cocktail hour and eager to meet men. As they round the corner and near the entrance, they slow, suddenly unsure how to proceed. They huddle together and, as if out of instinct, fall back to let their leader through. Their bodies part like the Red Sea and Erin Davis, 31, emerges, and assumes her position before the women who have paid her to act as their “wing woman” for the evening.
Davis strides up to the bouncer in her black pumps and skinny jeans that cling to her sculpted calves. She puts on a flirtatious smile, like she tells her clients to do.
Her little leather jacket conceals, for now, her tanned, toned arms and a black one-shoulder top, a digression from her usual tangerines, magentas and hot pinks. Her blonde-highlighted hair has been blown straight, teased at the crown, and carefully tucked behind her ears.
As she pulls out her I.D. and waves to friends on the street, she radiates confidence.
“Let’s get a drink, children,” she beckons and steps through the threshold.
Davis’s underground, word-of-mouth-only wing woman service began a few years ago after several clients grew impatient with her matchmaking program called “Shabbatness,” a catered, intimate Friday night dinner for Jewish singles – usually held at a friend’s apartment – where Davis handpicks twelve guests. After filling out a form online, it can take months, if an applicant is lucky, to receive the bubbly emailed invite, peppered with exclamation points, containing the allure of finding a mate while sipping her signature “Shabbatinis.”
Some clients wanted a more efficient process and begged Davis to take them out with her. For $150, the wing woman service includes an hour-long, in-depth consultation where Davis takes inventory (a list of insecurities, deal breakers, past lovers), and attendance at two events as Davis’s guest. Sometimes she takes clients to elegant museum dinners; other times to sports-bar parties. She also lets clients scroll through her over 3,000 Facebook friends so she can get a feel for the “type” they’re looking for. Before a date, she sits with them at a bar to make sure they build a proper buzz.
A shy, male client named Jonah who works in finance reached out to Davis after a difficult break up with a non-Jewish woman. Davis helped quell his nervousness over drinks before an event.
“That drink made all the difference, let me tell you,” he writes in an email. “She was really upbeat and made me feel confident and happy. She was very complimentary and very positive and it helped me a lot to forget about my stressful day in the office and focus on the night ahead.”
He is still dating a woman he met at an election night birthday party Davis arranged for him to attend. She encouraged him to follow-up with anyone he felt a connection with and helped break the ice during introductions. The nights out with Davis made him feel more confident with dating.
For all her high energy, pre-date pump-ups and spirit boosters, she often tones it down in public. During a recent networking happy hour in the Meatpacking District, a friend spied an attractive man and Davis slyly walked by him, but didn’t say anything. She glimpsed a ring on his left hand and turned back toward her friend, shaking her head.
“She lets you do your thing,” says one female client who asked not to be named for privacy reasons. “We’re people, we’re not robots, and we’re all educated adults.”
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Davis moved here from Georgia six years ago wanting a life change. She bounced around from several jobs before her employer, a former journalist and well-known philanthropic Jewish woman whom Davis assisted, inspired her to host Shabbat dinners, similar to her own. Davis went out every night, amassed a robust client list, and launched Shabbatness three years ago. Her Excel Rolodex contains a thousand names. She created a separate Shabbatness binder with photographs of anyone who has signed up, loosely organized by attractiveness. In one year she dated 49 men and recently wrote a book proposal that includes anecdotes about bad dates and advice for millennials. In it, she pitches herself as a “‘lay leader’ (no pun intended.).”
“She’s a driving force. She’s very energetic and enthusiastic and gets people moving, which is, I think, a rare talent,” says Ariel Peikes, who met her several years ago at an event for Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, where Davis worked at the time. She immediately recruited him to help her plan the American Jewish Committee gala, an organization she is also involved in, and later nominated him for a board position there.
Davis’s appeal and confidence is part of the orchestrated plan.
“I walk into the room like I own the room,” she says, which is exactly what she does at Green Room.
She squeezes toward the bar and orders a martini with olives. The four women follow her and gather round. They wear sexy tops, as is Davis’s insistence for women. One talks about a man she occasionally sleeps with, but she has no boyfriend. For the most part, they keep quiet and look around uncomfortably. Davis has taken these women here for a man’s 42nd birthday because she knows many of the attendees, which makes it easier to introduce clients. She takes a sip of her drink and spots a man she knows.
“Oh my god, hi!” she yells across the room to a tall man with wavy hair. He looks like he works in business or finance, as the majority of Davis’s circle does. “I haven’t seen you in so long!” He comes over and she introduces him to each woman. Small, awkward chitchat ensues, but Davis is no longer paying attention. Another older male friend, clean cut and wearing jeans and a sports jacket, has entered the bar.
“You look great!” she calls to him, cupping her hand and waving like a crazed princess. He comes over and she pets his chest and playfully pokes his stomach. The women look on. When he leaves, she momentarily turns her attention toward a shy, but attractive woman with blonde hair who hasn’t spoken much.
“The one with hair on his head is newly single and gorgeous,” she whispers in the woman’s ear.
All night, Davis works the crowd and the men eat up her compliments. At one point, she gushes over one man’s choker necklace, and he leans in to help her get a better look at the medallion dangling off it.
By the end of the evening, four new people want her to be their wing woman. She stands in the back of the bar and surveys the crowd. Her protégées are out there somewhere. She thinks several people might go home together and is elated at the prospect.
“I’m the Jesus of the love world,” she says.