Chas McFeely’s signature spiked-in the-middle hair is flagging. He has dark circles under his eyes and a far-away stare.
Two weeks ago, as part of his self-declared “year of doing,” the amazingly named McFeely launched a dating website—hookchasup.com—where he just happens to be the only guy. And where he’s offering a $10,000 reward to the person who introduces him to the woman he marries. While some people might only fantasize about making such bold moves, McFeely, a 40-year-old creative advertising executive in San Francisco, went ahead and did it.
He’s opened a virtual Pandora’s box, and ever since, messages from single women and their friends, neighbors, coworkers and parents have been flooding his inbox. Even his grandmother’s 92-year-old friend is on the case. The response has been nothing short of overwhelming.
“I never expected more than 100 people to look at this thing,” says a shocked and flattered McFeely, whom no one would confuse with, say, Will Ferrell’s Chazz Reinhold in Wedding Crashers. Meanwhile, hookchasup.com has been visited by over 40,000 people in 115 countries and has garnered more than 600 email introductions to eligible women across the globe. “I’m apparently huge in Greece,” he says. The average time spent on the site is a whopping eight minutes.
McFeely has been staying up until 4 a.m. pretty much every night since the site launched, sorting through emails. “Not being able to respond to every single one has been killing me,” he says. (At the insistence of his best girlfriend who is helping him vet applicants, he recently set up an auto reply.) He says that at least half of the people responding claim they don’t care about the money, including more than a few ladies who’ve submitted their descriptions with headlines like, “Save yourself the 10 grand and pick me.” But he’s prepared to throwdown regardless.
Visitors to the site quickly learn that the 6’1” optimistic Aries from Philly loves kids, monkeys, Scrabble, skateboarding and Seinfeld references. “But that’s not my whole story,” he says. “I still needed to leave something to the imagination.” The artistically shot images (courtesy of photographer friend Toby Burditt) are intimate without being uncomfortable or corny. McFeely appears lonely and slightly forlorn, a Wes Anderson subject in need of a little TLC. Refreshingly absent are the ubiquitous Burning Man, guitar and motorcycle shots of other online dating profiles. In one picture, McFeely relaxes in bed reading Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. A photograph of his grandmother rests on his nightstand. In another he’s sitting in front of his mom’s old turntable holding a Cat Steven’s album (the Harold and Maude soundtrack).
The idea first occurred to him around the holidays, following a breakup and months of burying himself in his work. He used the attendees of a party as his focus group, and they cheered him on. He wrote and built the site himself over a weekend and in early March shared it with a friend, who posted the link on Facebook. McFeely, who doesn’t have a Facebook or Twitter account, was, and still is, amazed by its instant success.
While, at first glance, it’s tempting to mock McFeely and assume that he’s either A) a loser B) a cheeseball or C) douchey for his unorthodox approach to finding a mate, he’s none of these things. He’s just a regular, sincere, if not overly earnest, guy who wants to find the love of his life, settle down and start a family. Which is maybe why hookchasup.com has struck such a chord. “I’ve never felt this exposed,” he says of his newfound fame.
But even after spending eight whole minutes soaking up the site, I can’t help wondering if McFeely’s problem isn’t one of reality rather than of reach. In a land where single straight women easily outnumber single straight men, what’s the deal? Why the need to go to such extremes?
In his defense, McFeely says he’s tried dating sites and friend setups in the past, but never with much luck. He even considered hiring a high-end matchmaker, but ultimately decided to take the reigns of his own fate. He doesn’t have a “type,” but says he prefers someone with a “creative edge.” (Although he doesn’t rule out falling for a brainy scientist.) While he admits to having been a perfectionist in the past, he says he’s no longer looking for flaws. In other words, he’s loosened up with age.
“I have no doubt this is going to work,” he says. “If I can’t find my future wife out of the hundreds of emails I’ve already gotten, I should probably move to Alaska.”
Exhausting as it may be, McFeely has decided to go out with as many women as possible and “see what happens.” So far, he’s been out on exactly one date, but there was no “spark.” One down, 617 to go. He’s already lined up four more dates for this week.
Note: To help a brother out—and potentially make 10 grand, of course—send an email describing your proposed match to email@example.com.