PJ DeMasseo has been trying to lock down this date for two weeks. He’s got the girl, and he’s got the plan, but for the 29-year-old, who regularly bartends from 8:30 p.m. to as late as 6 a.m. and cuts hair during the day, lining up a time has been easier said than done.
“It’s just tough luck. At some point, you just have to chalk that up to something that ain’t working,” he says.
For DeMasseo and the 266,600 other Las Vegans working in leisure and hospitality, it’s a predicament that comes standard with the industry. While 9-to-5’ers spend nights and weekends flirting over cocktails or scoping out potential mates on the dancefloor, the folks pouring those drinks and serving those tables must veer off the beaten date-night path in their quests for love.
But when you work through the night and sleep during the day, doing so can be difficult. Several studies link shift work to higher rates of divorce and infidelity.
“It’s extremely challenging and stressful. I don’t know too many people who are in the service industry who have a long-term relationship,” says DeMasseo, who recently opted to take a “vow of single-arity” to focus on his hairdressing career—and eschew the pitfalls and exhaustion of dating on the graveyard shift.
The atypical hours and irregular schedules of night shifts in Las Vegas often require meeting people on the job or at late-late-night hangouts like Dino’s, the Gold Spike, Home Plate and PT’s. But hitting the bars at sunrise—especially after working all night—gets old quickly, and can also mean running into the same crowd again and again.
“It’s almost hard if you’re not an alcoholic,” DeMasseo jokes. “It doesn’t lend itself to a healthy lifestyle.”
Bianca Stephens, a single mom and server at Slice of Vegas pizza at Mandalay Bay who often works back-to-back closing and opening shifts, has little time to sleep, let alone go on dates. She says finding a match means getting creative—and getting out of your comfort zone.
“You have to forget there’s a ‘friend zone’ and have lunch dates with people sometimes,” she says.
In her off-hours, Stephens seeks out activities like yoga classes, where she can meet like-minded people and older moms who might introduce her to a potential beau with kind of career goals and ambition she says she struggles to find within the hospitality industry crowd.
Still, working service means sustaining a relationship with someone outside the industry can be an onerous task, even when intentions are best.
"It gets tricky, definitely. I've had boyfriends that have worked the 9-to-5 and sometimes you just don't get to see them," Stephens says. She explains that while that can initially be a good thing, as it helps stagger the honeymoon phase of dating, clashing schedules ultimately make it difficult for a relationship to grow if it becomes serious. "It gets crazy, but if that person really cares, then they understand they're just going to have to see you on those couple days that you don't work."
For now, she’s content to keep things casual. "Sometimes I work 18 days in a row on double shifts. I don't want to go out after that. Even if I did have a day off, maybe I don't want to see that person because I'm too tired and I need to rest my feet." she says. “Sure, I’d like to have a relationship. But you can’t force it in Vegas. If it happens, it happens.”
Both Stephens and DeMasseo say that while they’ve never tried online dating in earnest, sites like OkCupid have become increasingly popular among their friends and co-workers with mixed results.
Meeting people is less the challenge than finding those with chemistry—and schedules—to match. While there are no dating apps or websites tailored specifically to the service industry, our city seems primed to welcome one. After all, there are plenty of fish in the sea—and more than enough night owls in Vegas.