Jessie Newburn, Columbia’s social media maven, has a new project she’s working on this year, one that is different enough to be featured on the Huffington Post and receive a big-brother warning from at least one friend in Columbia.
She is trying to get taken on three dates in 2012 to ‘top-tier’ weddings in the D.C. and Baltimore area. It’s an idea that came from a friend designed to expand her already large social network and, in some ways, make Columbia more like home.
This is something new for Newburn, 48, who is the director of communications and community engagement at the Columbia Association. She is also the co-founder of the group HocoBlogs, which encourages bloggers in the area.
But to those who know her, it’s not a shock.
“Anybody who really knows Jessie Newburn is not surprised at all,” said Dick Story, Howard County’s former Economic Development Authority CEO. “It’s her next adventure. …I would never use the term 'wild and crazy,' but she is a fun-loving person who has a slightly different perspective on the world as we see it. Whoever takes her up on these offers will have a tremendously fun date.”
Newburn has taken her wedding project to the web (naturally), but with mixed success. A Craiglist ad she posted Feb. 7 was flagged as questionable, and then taken down.
She described herself as “a date for men who aren’t looking to date, but need a date.”
“I’m looking to increase my social network in the DC and Baltimore areas,” she wrote.
Even though the ad was taken down, she still has her notes on what qualifies as a proper wedding date on her blog, a modern-day journey that was picked up and recently featured on the Huffington Post.
“The people getting married need to be of families in the higher echelons of government, business and philanthropy in this area,” she wrote. “And I need for you to be a gentleman. I’ll be a lady. I can hold a conversation … and my alcohol. I can be charming, a good date and appropriately dressed. I’ve been told, in so many words, that I wear my 48 years well. I have a more-than-reasonable job, interesting hobbies and a life I enjoy living.”
Newburn’s response rate thus far? She’s gotten naked photos, and heard from someone who wanted to crash a wedding with her, according to the Huffington Post. She’s also gotten a joke voicemail from a friend.
Tom Coale, who is on the board of the Columbia Association, as well as the author of hocorising.com, had this to say about her latest project. “I just hope she’s careful.”
But Story, who’s known Newburn, a longtime Columbia resident, for years, said she’ll be fine.
“Nobody would mess with Jessie--I‘m sure she’ll do the appropriate level of screening,” he said. “If I was in the market, I would take Jessie to any wedding I was going to. “
The idea to ask for dates to high-end weddings initially developed between her and a married farmer friend during the 2010/11 New Year’s, when she was staying at a bed and breakfast, Buckland Farm, which he co-owns in Clearville, PA.
Newburn, who has been married before—in a civil ceremony—told her friend she hadn’t been invited to many weddings in her life, maybe not even 10.
“He was like, ‘What? You, the social networker, you don’t go to a lot of weddings?’ It didn’t even occur to me that weddings were big networking events,” Newburn told Patch.
Newburn said her friend encouraged her, saying many guys would love to have the platonic wedding date, possibly avoiding questions from relatives on why they weren't married yet, or perhaps they are gay, and not out of the closet.
"I’m a 'Plus 1,' " she said. "If I go, I plan to drive my own car and leave. It’s not like I need to be picked up and escorted and given a corsage."
She held on to the idea for a year, but decided to go for it in 2012.
Newburn also told the Huffington Post her wedding project is just another way to make Columbia—a place she loves for the diversity and educated residents—feel like home.
"But it's also really, really, really boring," she said. "We don't have any dance clubs. We don't have a lot of music venues. What I've come to understand over time is that for whatever reason, at this point in my life this is where I live. If I'm going to be here for a while, let me just know more people."