When Brian Howie first brought the Great Love Debate show to Atlanta in 2014, the local dating scene looked pretty bad.
The men were acting like slugs, the women appeared desperate and no one was taking advantage of the great weather, robust nightlife and influx of outsiders that should have made Atlanta a top city for singles.
All the drama made for a Jerry Springer style show with a Southern twist, Howie said.
But that was then. In the last four years and 14 Great Love Debates later, Atlanta has come a long way. This year, Howie and his crew have named Atlanta the “most improved” dating city. “On the one hand it couldn’t get worse, on the other hand it has gotten better,” said Howie in an interview by phone.
The Great Love Debate, a live interactive show on love, sex and dating in the modern era, returns to Atlanta March 19 for a special show at City Winery. The show will be recorded as a special live presentation of the Great Love Debate Podcast.
In four years of touring various cities across the country, the show has been responsible for 47 known engagements, Howie said. It has been eight months since the last show in Atlanta and locals have really started to appreciate the dating scene.
“Atlanta is on our recommended list if you are looking to find love and everybody agrees with that...except for some people in Atlanta,” Howie said.
Atlanta’s massive development in neighborhoods across the metro area have helped move the dating scene forward. “Things are being built that are forcing men and women to hang out together more than they did before,” Howie said. From Ponce City Market to the conversation-friendly concourse at the new Braves stadium, men and women are finding more spaces to have positive interactions and socialize.
It reminds Howie of Chicago, except in Chicago all that socializing is compressed into three months before cold weather sends everyone into hibernation.
The debates have taken on a different tone over the years, Howie said. He doesn’t hear women spouting the old ratios of six or seven men to one women in Atlanta anymore. And while the men in Atlanta still need to evolve from 43-year-old adolescents, each side has taken a more cooperative attitude toward the other.
“It is definitely going in the right direction. I think in Atlanta and in a lot of places, the men are doing the work,”Howie said.
Over the last six months, particularly with the rise in the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, men have thought about their behavior and they are asking the right questions and trying to do better, Howie said. But a side effect of the movements has been woman on woman crime. “Our shows used to be a lot of man versus women in dialogue now it is women versus women,” Howie said.
One group of women want to blow the roof off the #MeToo movement no matter the consequences while another group wants women to take a softer approach so they don’t scare the men away.
“Mostly the question that comes up at our shows now that didn’t come up five months ago is, what would you like us to do as men engaging you, approaching you, dating you?” Howie said. “The women wanted the men to try harder and men wanted women to make it easier. Now we spend time talking about those things.”