Mal Jones of West Tisbury cooks up a new twist on speed dating

Kenneth Malcolm “Mal” Jones of West Tisbury is one of those Island guys who is always coming up with an unorthodox idea. His latest is a Social Mixer Breakfast.

“A cross between speed dating and contra dancing” is how Mr. Jones described his latest concoction, and he’s hoping that he’s hit on a way to combine the best elements of both.

“You get to be sort of close to people in contra dancing but you don’t get to talk,” said Mr. Jones. “Speed dating gets a little cutthroat.”

On Friday, March 9, Mr. Jones will treat a group of four men and four women to breakfast at an as-yet-to-be-determined local restaurant. The group will loosely follow the rules of speed dating, in which men and women rotate partners and engage in short, timed introductory conversations with each member of the opposite sex.

Mr. Jones participated in a speed dating event at the former Outerland night club a few years ago. “Speed dating is very interesting.” he said, adding jokingly, “You could practice your different lines. That one didn’t work. Let’s try another one.”

However, Mr. Jones doesn’t necessarily see his mixer as a matchmaking event. “I don’t know what I’m looking for, if I’m looking at all,” he said. “It’s just a social thing to meet more people. You never know who’s going to walk in the back door.”

Mr. Jones has lived on the Vineyard since 1960. He was a regular attendee of the contra dances that were popular here in the 90s. According to him, about 70 people of all ages gathered year round to enjoy partnered folk dancing. For a short time, after the demise of the regular get-togethers, Mr. Jones hosted potluck breakfast/dances at his home.

“People have tried to get it started again, but it hasn’t picked up,” Mr. Jones said. However, a handful of Islanders travel to Woods Hole regularly to attend a monthly contra dance. He occasionally makes the trip. “There are a lot of young students. There’s enthusiastic young blood coming in and having a good time. Then there’s a guy who was an intern in the second world war.”

That’s the type of mix that Mr. Jones enjoys, and he misses the local dances for the opportunity they provided for connecting with new people with a variety of backgrounds and interests.

Mr. Jones is a philanthropist who donates money and a good deal of his time to furthering causes that he believes in. He established “Up the River Endeavors” which, according to its website, “is a consortium of organizations and individuals with the goal of addressing the fundamental question of how human beings can reconcile with nature so that we can ensure our own survival and that of other living things that share our planet.”

Every summer, Mr. Jones hosts a gathering of representatives of the handful of organizations that make up his nonprofit consortium. The weekend includes a Friday night contra dance that is open to the public. The upcoming mixer will be another attempt to bring different sectors of the community together.

“It’s an interesting community here with many facets.” said Mr. Jones. “I have ties in many different places. The Vineyard seems to be changing pretty fast. There are a lot more people. It’s far from the farming and fishing community it used to be. It’s turned into super suburbia.”

Mr. Jones concluded, “At the social breakfast, what you see is what you get.”

For more information on the Social Mixer Breakfast, call Mal Jones at 508-693-4218.