Saturday, April 26, 2008

Was I on a Date or Baby-Sitting?

A CUTE guy from a rock band sent me an e-mail message out of the blue. We had a friend in common, and he saw me sing “Christmas Wrapping” by the Waitresses one night in Brooklyn, at karaoke. He wanted to say hi, he wrote, but was unshaven at the time and didn’t want to make a bad impression.

So far, so good. He was certainly handsome, which I discovered thanks to Google: lanky, thin, straw-colored hair, cheekbones so sharp they could shave slices like Post-it notes off a block of Jarlsberg.

He continued, in all lowercase, to introduce himself. I scrolled over his rambling exposition, waiting for the payoff. Was he going to ask me out? He didn’t. “i’m at home absolutely spazzing out because we’re leaving in a few days to make a record and i have to/really should finish a long list of songs. so, waving hello and/or re-hello! all the bestest.”

My enthusiasm waned. A hot guy in an indie band waved me hello and/or re-hello mid-spazz-out? And he’s leaving in a few days to make a rock album? How old is he: 40 going on 19? I rolled my eyes, but they only landed on those cheekbones on my computer screen.

I wrote back and made it easy for him. I even used all lowercase, mirroring his casualness. “hi. let me know if you ever wanna get a drink sometime. it would be fun to meet up.”

A relationship book I once read told women to use the word “fun” whenever possible. The author claimed it had a subliminal aphrodisiac effect on men, who want a relaxed girl attached only to good times — the human equivalent of Diet Coke. This is not me.

Over the next month, I got a few texts from him reporting on his band’s stay in the Northwest: updates on their album, the weather. His texts were postcards; he was broadcasting, not communicating. Even so, I liked hearing from him and wondered if he would meet up with me in New York, or if he would flake out. Despite my skepticism, I still wanted to go on a date with a good-looking guy who went through the trouble of getting in touch with me after seeing me sing in a bar.

While he was away, I asked my musician friends what they knew about him. Joanna, a singer, summed him up: “He’s an indie rock dreamboat. His voice is transcendent and he writes lovely lyrics. He has a nice face, he has a kid and he tours a lot. He’s a star in his world.”

I was surprised to hear he was a father. I was 28 then and had never dated a guy with a child. Also, he seemed like sort of a kid himself.

I have never been one for musicians. I know girls are supposed to go crazy for frontmen who close their eyes when they sing and nod their heads when the drums kick in, but I’m like Shania Twain with that stuff: That don’t impress me much. I’ll take wit and brains over the ability to carry a tune any day. You can teach a monkey to play the guitar, you know.

Still, anyone who can make a living doing something creative is impressive. And he did have a nice face. I would have to take Joanna’s word for it about his lyrics, though, because I tried to listen to a couple of his songs online and was too bored by the melodies to pay attention to the words. It was typical emo stuff: droney, thick, exhausting, but obviously heartfelt.

He sent a text message when he was back in town and asked me out for Monday. I said yes, and he wrote, “actually, are you around tonight?”

“No,” I wrote. I felt like a mom belatedly establishing boundaries. I heard back an hour later: “monday it is!”

He already annoyed me, and we hadn’t even met. I would soon learn a lesson men have known for years: that it’s possible to be attracted to somebody you don’t like.

Maybe “like” is the wrong word. There was something clumsily endearing about him, or maybe it was just his looks. Even cynical women can be reduced to buttery puddles by a pretty face.

He told me to meet him at his subway stop in Brooklyn. He was shorter than I expected but otherwise very cute. I wore heels and a dress, like an adult on a date. He wore corduroys and slip-on Vans sneakers. I hovered over his shaggy blond head.

He took me for a walk around his neighborhood. I’m always suspicious when a guy takes his date on a walk, because it reeks of poverty and an inability to plan. It seemed as if he was taking me on a stroll of his estate, and from the way people on the street greeted him with questions about his tour and album, it was as if he was the king of his neighborhood.

We wound up in a bar, where we sat next to each other on stools. Once I got my beer, he put his knee between my legs, and I remembered why I agreed to go out with him. I felt my contempt for his Peter Pan posturing slip away as hormones seized my body. All I could think about was how the corduroy over his knee felt between my bare thighs.

He told me he bought a DVD of “The Electric Company” to show episodes to his son. I had told him that I was a fan of 1970s children’s television. “Do you want to come over and watch ‘The Electric Company’?” he asked.

I squeezed his knee with my legs. “Sure.”

He lived in a one-bedroom apartment and had converted the bedroom into a playroom for his little boy. It was cluttered with wooden toys, and everything was at shin level. He kept this room for whenever his child came to visit him, which apparently was not very often.

We retired to the living room, where dresser drawers hid a Murphy bed. His mattress lowered like a drawbridge, and we fooled around on it for a few hours. It was lovely, clumsy fun.

Three days later, I got a text message from him: “hope you got home okay last night!” Then, right afterward, “oops sorry julie. i thought i sent that text tuesday.”

Thanks to technology, there are so many more ways to fail.

After the fail text, I heard nothing. I feel dumb admitting it, but part of me believed that making out with me would launch him into action mode.

A few weeks later, on a flight from Chicago back to New York, I couldn’t sleep: I had cast myself as the lead in the pornography looping in my head. Just like Splenda can make you hungry for more sweets, even a casual sexual encounter can breed a craving for what can’t be sated by a night of fumbling on a Murphy bed. I sent a text message from the baggage claim area at Kennedy Airport.

He said he was cleaning. I offered to come over with my DVD of “Free to Be ... You & Me” on the chance he was up for some ’70s children’s TV, which by now I assumed was a euphemism.

I took a cab over to his place, where we hung out in his kitchen listening to music and eating ravioli while he told me about his son.

The custody proceedings in the last week had turned ugly. The child’s mother didn’t want him to have any visitation rights, and he was heartbroken.

He told me they had gone out for three months but he had never called her his girlfriend. When he broke up with her, she announced she was pregnant. He thought she was on the pill and figured she had gotten pregnant so he wouldn’t leave. He did anyway, after which she had the baby and moved overseas.

I felt bad for the woman if she thought a baby could act as maturity Miracle-Gro on a man who had dated her for months but still kept it casual. But I also felt bad for him, sideswiped by this unfortunate side effect of a life lived dreamily. I remember Joanna telling me how many of his songs were about longing and loss: I thought about the love of his life, this little boy with yellow hair, living a world away.

He made sure to use a condom with me that night, on his son’s bed.

Afterward, I didn’t hear from him. I didn’t want to call, but I realized I had left my earrings and DVD at his apartment. I needed to get my things and move on, but I knew it was up to me. He wasn’t going to get in touch with me: I was waiting for the Great Pumpkin to give me back my earrings.

I sent him a curt text on my way to the subway telling him that I wanted my stuff back and that I would be in his neighborhood later. In the meantime, I went to meet a friend for drinks at a bar not far from his apartment.

Hours after I had sent the text message, I heard back: “hi julie. so sorry i’ve been out of touch. things have been crazy. the other thing is that i’ve started seeing somebody else and wanna see where it’s going. anyway, i have your stuff, just let me know where i can drop it off, xo”

I felt my cheeks get hot. How did this happen? Even though I had seen right through this clown, I still managed to get hurt. I did like him, despite everything. It wasn’t fair.

Soon he entered the bar with a shopping bag and slid into the booth between my friend and me. The awkwardness was palpable, sultry, like fondue.

“Hi,” he said, handing me the bag.

“Thank you,” I replied, staring at my drink.

There was a long pause.

“So,” he said. “What are you doing?”

I took in a sharp breath and looked him in the eye. “Having a drink,” I said, answering the world’s stupidest question.

He took a moment to assess, then rose silently from the booth and slipped into the night. I took out my DVD, put my earrings on, crumpled up the shopping bag and finished my Diet Coke.

Julie Klausner is a writer and performer who lives in New York City.

Asking for a Date

Whether a date’s spontaneous or planned, the first or the last date, or you’re young or old, sooner or later, going out with someone comes to this: Somebody has to ask for the date.
No matter how much or how little you plan (and regardless of your reputation, your Aunt Sylvia, the knot in your stomach, the advice of your friends, your New Year’s resolution, or your success with dating or lack thereof) nobody, with the possible exception of Adam, ever made a date without asking for it. I bet that even with God as the go-between, sooner or later Eve expected Adam to pony up and find the courage to ask if they could take a walk in Paradise, and if he didn’t, well, it explains a lot about the snake, don’t you think? Face it, the only thing scarier than the first date is asking for the first date. But if you can remember that you’re not looking for a cure for cancer, that you won’t die even if he or she says “yes,” and that life as we know it will continue no matter what your potential date’s response, you may relax enough to actually (gulp) ask for a date.
Gazillions of perfectly normal (and lots of less than normal) people have all gotten nervous about asking for a date. You and I and everybody else are connected to a long line of sweating, nervous, stuttering, tongue-tied souls, and even the slick ones feel anxious on the inside about asking for a date. Do you feel better? No? Well, I was afraid of that. Never fear — in this chapter, I tell you some things that should comfort you in the asking, help you in the consummation, and protect you from any possible devastation beyond a teensy pinch on the ego.

Perking up pick-up lines

Don’t even think about using lines like these:
  • “Come here often?”
  • “What’s your sign?”
  • “I must have died and gone to heaven, because where else would I see an angel like you?”
  • “If I told you that you have a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?” The danger with overused, hackneyed pick-up lines is that they generally end up sounding like the equivalent of “Oh, baby, baby, hmm, hmm, hmm.”
So rather than practicing a pick-up line, follow these two guidelines:
  • Focus on the situation and your feelings. “I couldn’t help myself; I just had to come over and tell you your smile was keeping me from concentrating,” is ever so much better than “New around here?” “Do you know the hostess?” “Heard any good jokes?” and so on.
  • If the line sounds like a title to a country song, don’t use it. Of course, an original pick-up line can be memorable. I have never forgotten a guy who said he knew I wasn’t from around here (I was in Alaska at the time) because I didn’t smell like fish. While I’m sure this line probably worked for him once or twice, I just giggled and remembered the line, not him. Never say, “My wife doesn’t understand me” or “You’re the best-looking person in the room” or “Want to spend the night with me?” on the assumption that if you don’t ask, you don’t get. We’re talking about finding a date, not spending the night in jail.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Admitting you’re not perfect

Given the reality that making the acquaintance of a stranger is tricky stuff (even if you believe that a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet), the idea is to be nonthreatening without looking like a complete wimp. That’s why being vulnerable really works. Consider the following:
  • Asking for help, directions, or an opinion. Most people are more than willing to jump in and help out, so take advantage of that tendency. Helping others brings out the best in all of us and also feels safe. At that moment, you’re in control.
  • Admitting that you’re nervous. Admitting that you’re nervous because you think someone is so cool is complimentary and sweet and honest. But once is plenty; more than that is whiny and makes you sound like an overstrung bundle of nerves. Panic isn’t sexy, and it’s sometimes contagious.
  • Admitting that you don’t normally do this but you’re so inspired that you’ve ignored your usual shyness, fear, or sense of propriety. Think about it: Aren’t you impressed when someone puts in extra effort and seems to be doing something for the very first time and you are the motivation? Heady stuff.
Being persistent is okay as long as your persistence can’t possibly be mistaken for stalking behavior

Just when you think a compliment’s safe

Believe it or not, even conservative compliments can occasionally get you in trouble. I was working on a TV show and a very well-known actor was in make-up with me.
I said, “Love your hair.”
He said, “It’s a piece.”
“Nice teeth,” I responded.
“They’re caps,” said he.
“Beautiful eyes?”

At that point, I said, “Nice package,” and left it at that — and I wasn’t even flirting.

How to Compliments?

It’s okay to be complimentary as long as the compliment is sincere and at least fairly reasonable and stays away from body parts below the neck and above the ankles. Saying to a fat person, for example, that he doesn’t sweat much isn’t even in the compliment ballpark. Saying “You remind me of my grandmother” (for either sex) isn’t too hot, either.
It’s okay to compliment men on their:
  • Hair: Thick, shiny, wavy, healthy locks, a nice cut, an attractive color. Talking hair is pretty safe. But don’t talk about receding hairlines, bald spots, early graying, or anything else that may be a sensitive topic. Don’t make even a casual reference to dandruff; avoid the words flake and flaky for at least five minutes after talking about hair.
  • Eyes: Blue, green, black, or brown, all God’s children love to hear that they’ve got nice eyes. Some particularly good adjectives? Try bright, clear, beautiful, expressive, warm, laughing, and sensitive. Avoid sexy until the third date.
  • Neck: If he’s got a neck like a wrestler, tell him. If it’s a chicken neck, let it pass.
  • Tie: Cut, color, style. But don’t say you want to use it to tie him to a bedpost — at least not yet. Make sure it’s patterned and not grease stained before you comment on the unusual design.
  • Socks: Some men take a lot of care picking their socks. Stun — and impress — him by noticing, but never lift his pant leg without asking.
  • Smile: Men love to hear that they’ve got a charming, handsome, alluring smile.
  • Teeth: A bit more personal. Shiny is good, but big, dangerous, or sharp should not be noted.
Women find praise for essentially the same things really cool:
  • Hair: Women spend a lot of time on their hair, and they like the effort to be noticed. But don’t touch without asking, be careful about noting an unusual color (two out of three women in America color their hair), and never say “dye.”
  • Eyes: The same rules apply for women that apply for men. Like I said before, everyone likes to be complimented on his or her baby blues (or greens, etc.).
  • Neck: Complimenting a woman on her neck can often be a bit iffy — unless it’s long and slender. If her neck is as thick as a linebacker’s, though, you can comment on skin unless she’s wearing something really low cut.
  • Smile: Women love to hear that they’ve got a warm, engaging, sweet smile.
  • Teeth: If you don’t know how to give a compliment on teeth without coming off as an oral surgeon, go for the smile instead. Stay away from body parts — even muscles (in either sex). Also, complimenting women’s shoes can be a bit tricky, raising the possibility of a foot fetish. It’s just not worth the risk this early on. Avoid the killer b’s: buns, breasts, briefs, bazooms.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Helping Dating Sites Stand Out In Crowds

On the day two years ago when Ray Doustdar officially launched his online dating Web site, the lead story in the Life section of USA Today was all about his company -- exactly as he planned.

Two months later, Doustdar and his site,, were featured on NBC's "Today" show, also as he planned.

His crowning achievement came one evening when NBC "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno used TeamDating for a joke. When meeting people through online dating sites, Leno said, dating in teams is safer because "the police have more clues as to where to find your body."

"What I think happened is one of Leno's writers read about my company and came up with the joke," said Doustdar, 35, who's having the last laugh.

In the fiercely competitive field of online dating Web sites, where some players are spending millions on ads and public relations, Doustdar has received loads of publicity on a shoestring budget.

He has gotten TeamDating featured on many high-profile TV shows and in newspapers and magazines without having hired a consultant or PR firm.

How did he do it? "All it really cost me was time," he said.

Intense Outreach

Time is money. In the months leading up to the site's launch, 90% of Doustdar's day was spent reading, researching and calling on media people.

He checked each media outlet to see who covered online dating and social networking.

He read every story he could find online about dating, social networking, the Internet and technology.

Then he would post comments about the stories online, with his full name, title and company name attached.

Along the way Doustdar gently honed a cordial relationship with reporters through e-mails and phone calls, offering himself as a source. Those links often led to stories about TeamDating.

"I've written e-mails to everybody under the sun," he said.

The dollar value of the publicity he received could easily reach well into six figures, said Andy Oliver, vice president at Lewis PR.

"If someone wrote the bible on public relations, I would want a case study on how Doustdar achieved what he did," said Oliver.

"The key thing was he did his homework, the research and preparation. He really understood the people he was pitching, what interested them and what interested their audience as well," Oliver said.

Doustdar's idea for TeamDating came after a night when he and his partner spent an evening at a bar, where they met two women. Going on blind dates in teams, he reasoned, was a safer and potentially more fun way for people to meet.

Convincing the media that his online dating site was worth a look took some investigative reporting of his own.

He chose USA Today as the starting point 14d found that reporter Olivia Barker covered the online dating field. Doustdar began reading every story Barker wrote, and sent her e-mails on every one. He never mentioned TeamDating in his e-mail commentary, but his signature was always accompanied with a brightly colored logo of his company.

And not all his e-mails were flattering.

"I was disagreeing with her half the time, reasoning she would appreciate honesty," he said.

The exchange went on for six months. One day she called him.

"She liked the e-mails and said they made her think about some things differently. And then she asked me about TeamDating."


The TeamDating site had been running for months in a beta test format. Doustdar held back the launch for when the story ran.

Hits 'Today' Show

More than 200,000 people visited the site that day and about 3,000 of them signed up for team dating, Doustdar says.

His next target was the "Today" show, which did a five-minute segment on TeamDating. About 600,000 visited his site that day.

Doustdar already had a good understanding of how the media worked.

His experience includes executive positions in entertainment branding, licensing, sales and marketing. Firms he worked for included Universal Studios, BMG Entertainment and Procter & Gamble (PG).

Doustdar called on his contacts in those fields whenever he needed a door opened, such as when he made contact with the executive producer of "Today."

Other shows that carried segments on TeamDating included CBS' "The Early Show" and ABC's "Good Morning America."

Wherever he traveled, Doustdar made it a point 15 arrive two days early to visit media executives or local TV outlets -- people he had researched and contacted.

He ended up on news and entertainment shows in St. Louis, Cleveland, Atlanta, Chicago and Tampa and Jacksonville, Fla., among others.

The episodes are available for viewing on

The Web site now has about 60,000 regular visitors and 20,000 registered dating teams.

Doustdar set out to achieve something else when he launched his site.

"My goal was to develop both a Web site and a TV show tied to it," said Doustdar.

He's realizing that goal.

According to Doustdar, negotiations are under way with a "signature actor, a major production company and a major cable network" to develop a show around team dating.

An announcement could come "in the next few weeks," he said.

When it happens, you can bet the media will cover it.

Avoiding what doesn’t work

When you’re approaching someone, don’t be any of the following:
  • Cute: Unless you’re 6 years old, the Little Bo Peep routine gets pretty annoying pretty fast.
  • Slick: When you think of slick, think of snake oil salesmen. People don’t trust slick.
  • Obscene: Nothing is a bigger turn-off than lewd or disgusting gestures, jokes, and personal observations. Remember you’re in civilized society; if that doesn’t work, pretend your mother can hear every word you say.
  • Silly: Straws up your nose and lampshades on your head have never been attractive, so give it up and act like an adult.
  • Stupid: Acting stupid puts you in a catch-22: I mean, really, you act stupid to attract someone’s attention, but do you really want the attention of someone who finds stupid attractive?
  • Negative: Gossiping about someone brings up the very real possibility that you would gossip about present company.
  • Whiny: Please . . . I really don’t have to explain this to you, do I?

Love and negotiations at first site

One of the most focused first dates I ever heard of happened between the people from whom I bought my apartment. They had met in passing at a seminar years earlier. Then they bumped into each other at a party. He got her phone number and called her. He said that he had to go out and check on his summer cottage to see whether there had been any hurricane damage and asked if she’d like to come along. She said she was looking to get married and have kids and had no interest in “casual dating.” He said he wouldn’t even consider that kind of seriousness unless he’d had sex with a woman first. Before the first date, they’d negotiated a weekend together, sex, and a potential for marriage and kids. While I’m not sure I would recommend this approach to everyone, it worked splendidly for them; they were married within six months and pregnant shortly thereafter. Being this focused certainly makes a statement. Like my mom says, “You don’t ask, you don’t get.”

How to flirt?

Successful flirting is all about fun and confidence and playfulness and sexiness. Unsuccessful flirting is about being too out-there, too sexual, too self-absorbed, and too eager to flirt with anyone. Basic rule: Flirt with your date, not the waiter, hostess, your date’s best friend, or her mom. Here’s some info on how to flirt with style:
  • Be interested. Few things are sexier than someone who’s totally into you. Paying genuine attention is a great place to start.
  • Lock eyes. Don’t stare, but connect with your eyes and you have a better chance of connecting with your hearts.
  • Play. Good flirting is fun. Don’t be afraid to giggle and tease.
  • Touch. Brush arms, bump knees beneath the table, tweak noses.
  • Flatter. A sincere appraisal of what you really like about this person is a turn-on. False praise, however, is a total turn-off.
  • Take a chance. Flirting, by its very nature, is active. Sitting back and waiting for someone to flirt with you may mean you put in more couch time than flirt time. Take a stab. Unless you drool all over your date or flirtmate, you have nothing to lose. Who doesn’t like a little flirting?

When you approach someone, take this advice

When you approach someone, take this advice:
  • Be sincere. The key to being sincere is to mean what you say. Pleeeeze don’t practice sincerity in front of the mirror. For sincerity to work, you have to focus on the object (person, please) of your desire and believe what you’re saying. In the most basic sense, you are selling yourself, but the soft sell works the very best.
  • Be honest. If you’re a rotten dancer, say in a self-effacing, engaging way that you have two left feet. Don’t try to make yourself someone you’re not to impress someone you may or may not like. Don’t pretend to love jazz, collect Porsches, or own a yacht. On the other hand, telling the truth isn’t the same as baring your soul.. Also, when it comes to discussing the other person, remember what your momma said: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
  • Be friendly. Who doesn’t like friendly people? When you’re friendly, you smile, you’re open, and you’re fun to be around.
  • Be positive. I’m not talking goody-two-shoes here, just pleasant and upbeat.

The Importance of Eye contact

First rule: Eye contact is crucial. If you can’t connect with eye contact, you can’t connect. Eyes are not only the window to the soul, but being connected directly to the brain, they’re the primary information gateway for human beings (and we know that everything comes from the brain, in spite of your humming hormones). Make eye contact. No looking down at your shoes. No checking out buns or breasts or legs.
Focus your baby blues on the potential date’s baby blues. But for heaven’s sake, don’t stare (and remember to blink). You want to be perceived as soulful, not psychotic. The goal here is to show that you’re interested and sane.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Picking the perfect date by birth order

If you want to know more about a guy or girl you’re dating, the family tree is a good place to look. Certain personality traits, unique to birth position, tend to show up again and again in family after family. For instance:
  • The oldest child: He or she will tend to be bossy, super-responsible, competitive, and assertive.
  • The middle child: A people pleaser, he or she will often “make nice” in an effort to keep things calm. Middle kids tend to be the diplomats in the family and in life. It’s hard to get them to take a stand or figure out what they really want, and they can be a bit manipulative.
  • The youngest child: Adventurous, creative, and confident, youngest children also tend to be hyperemotional and needy at times. They like being babied.
  • The only child: After a childhood of being in the spotlight of their families, only children tend to crave attention and will aggressively and charmingly seek it from you. They tend to be disproportionately successful.

Places to Avoid for Dating

You may be sorely tempted to go scouting for a date at the office, at a bar, or online at work, but don’t. Trust me.
  • The office: I know, you think, “Well, it’s nonthreatening and familiar.” Yeah, and everybody will know about it, and one of you will very likely get fired. Work is about competence, and anything that interferes with that is poison. Most of us succumb to the M*A*S*H philosophy of life, based on the popular TV series, but think about it this way: Want to lose your job and your love at the same time? Dating someone from the office confuses your work life with your love life and makes you a likely target of office gossip. You may be tempted to date friends, sibs, or exes of people you work with, but doing so is still not a good idea, so don’t, at least unless you plan to change jobs — voluntarily.
  • Bars: “What can she possibly be thinking here?” you may wonder. How about it’s dark, almost everybody has been ingesting substances that alter perception, and who needs a relationship based on blurred sensibilities? Plus bars are too noisy to talk in, and you can’t see what the person looks like. If nothing else, how do you answer, “Come here often?”
  • Online: Even though I’m a fan of online dating, there are four caveats here: 1) Never use the office computer — it’s not private, it’s not smart, and you could get both busted and fired. 2) Don’t spend too long online before you actually meet in a safe, controlled environment. 3) Because it’s so easy and private, the resultant false sense of intimacy can allow you to divulge too much too soon. 4) The accessibility gives rise to a “shopping” mentality — “I’ll just keep looking; I wonder who else might be out there. . . .” Online is primarily about fantasy. It’s the illusion of intimacy while still being at arm’s length. When you do meet face to face, there is all that expectation. Even with a blind date, you know that you don’t know. It’s okay to chat, but online is the ultimate long-distance relationship. You’ll think you know much more than you really know, and that’s really tricky. So get off-line quickly.
  • Singles dances: The air of desperation is palpable, but if you can go and have fun, you’ll probably do okay, because you’ll stand out as the only person really having a good time.
  • Singles weekends: These weekends mean too much stress and expectations that are too high. You’re better off spending the same money and taking a cruise; at least that way you can feel your money is well spent even if you don’t fall in love.
Singles activities are designed to pair you off, but you may have nothing in common but desperation or loneliness, which won’t work and doesn’t make you look anything but pathetic. If you’re going to adopt this approach, at least build up some experience and confidence by doing some of the preferred activities included in the earlier sections.

The personals: Online and off

If you’re going to write a personal ad, find a journal, newspaper, or magazine that reflects your interests and is available in your geographical area. For example, if you enjoy sailing, then (“Hi sailor, new in town?”) a sailing magazine may be a great place to place an ad. Or if you have a publication that you read regularly — whether it’s the Times, the Mirror, a daily or weekly paper, or a special interest magazine based on skills, industry, geography, sports, interests, or income — a personal ad allows you to connect with readers with whom you have something in common. As long as you’re going to the trouble and expense of placing a personal ad, be specific and pick a publication that reflects who you are, not who you’d like to be.
If you write well and can be very specific about who you are and what you want, personal ads can work out well. The main thing is to play it safe:
  • Don’t provide any identifying information (such as an address or phone number) in the ad.
  • Meet in a public place.
  • Tell someone where you’re going and when you plan to be home.
  • Don’t let anyone bring you home.
A personal ad is a good way to jazz up your social life, but remember that this person is a stranger. Use the same caution you would with anyone you don’t know and see Chapter 26 for information about dating someone you haven’t “officially” met.

The same general rules that apply to print personal ads apply to online dating. It’s in the same way that 20 years ago, the personals were considered fringe and then moved into mainstream. Although five years ago the Internet was considered marginal and overtly sexual, primarily for kinky liaisons or questionable activities or participants, these days Internet dating is pretty darn mainstream and popular, encompassing literally millions of people. Although some people may still be a bit shy about admitting to online dating (how come I can’t find a date the “usual” way?), millions of folks view the Internet as a great way of increasing the pool of eligible possibilities. ) In a nutshell, your profile should look very much like the one that you would put in a magazine or newspaper: Pretend that you’re paying by the word (even though you’re not) so that you are succinct and specific.

There have been studies that suggest that the longer the personal ad (when wordage is charged) the greater the response implying the author’s vast and unlimited bank account. Because there is no per-word charge for online ads, the green effect is less likely, and going on and on may make you look desperate, lonely, and disorganized. Be succinct, by giving an idea of who you are and what makes you unique, as well as specifically who you’re looking for.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Friends, relatives, and — believe it or not — exes

The less strange the stranger you’re finding to date, the easier and more comfortable the early stages. People you both know and trust are a great bridge. Whom can you trust more than your friends, your Mom, or your ex (assuming that you two are still friendly)?
  • Friends: Fix-ups are good news/bad news. On the good side, your friends presumably wouldn’t fix you up with Jack (or Jackie) the Ripper, and they probably know you well enough to know what you like. On the bad side, often they want to know specifics, may choose sides, and will likely be miffed if you don’t treat their friend right, don’t come up with the details, or don’t spend as much time with them as you used to because you’re seeing the friend. All things considered, fix-ups are often worth the risk of somebody knowing your business, especially if your friends are perceptive and know cool people.
  • Relatives: Isn’t it fascinating what people who love us think we’ll love? This outlet has all the problems of a friend fix-up with the added problems of gossip and the inability to ever go home for Thanksgiving if it doesn’t work out. On the other hand, presumably they do love you and will have to answer to your Mom if they come up with a real loser.
  • Exes: Allowing your ex to fix you up with someone can be a bit dicey (after all, an ex with an ax to grind can come up with a doozy of a loser). On the other hand, who knows ya, baby? Whether you agree to such a fix-up or not probably depends on the comfort of the break-up. If it was super icky, you’re probably not speaking anyhow. But if your ex is still a friend and other signs seem right, go for it. If your split-up was marked by scream fests and flying fur, and you still refer to each other by unprintable expletives, my advice is to politely decline.

Sports and Dating

You’ve probably always known that physical activity is good exercise and great for your heart. You just didn’t know how great until now. Attention couch potatoes: There are dating benefits to being even a spectator at a sporting event, but active is best!
  • Sport teams: Even if you’re a klutz, find a sport to play. It’s generally safe, it’s fun, it’s physical, and team members almost always get together afterwards — especially if they win. Even if you view yourself as the ultimate klutz or hated gym, more and more leagues are demanding co-ed-ness (please don’t tell my English teacher I used that word).
  • Health clubs: Health clubs have a lot going for them: You’re among other people doing essentially the same thing. You see the same familiar group of people all the time. Keep in mind though that most people are in spandex and therefore often a bit shy, so be willing to go slowly.
  • Individual sports: Even if you embrace the loneliness of the long-distance runner, skier, mountain climber, shot putter, or cycler, there are clubs that support your individuality while having great parties, useful Web sites, and like-minded souls. If you run into the same person daily as you scoot around the reservoir or walk your dog or peddle uphill, smile as you gasp.
  • _ Sporting events: Most people are really relaxed when they watch sports —unless it’s the playoffs — and they are quite willing to explain what’s going on or to argue about who’s best. So asking the cute person next to you, “Why did the ref call that penalty?” will likely result in a smile and an explanation.

Spiritualism and altruism — a dating duo

The tips in this section can be good for a two-fer: good works and good vibes —a cool dating possibility:
  • Places of worship: Many churches, mosques, temples, synagogues, and other places of worship or spiritual activities have special singles services and events, figuring that they’re safe and familiar and spiritual and, with any luck at all, have the potential to increase the wedding business. The only problem here is that you can’t date lots and lots of folks at the same place of worship, or you’ll get a bad rep. So either be selective or plan to change congregations should the need arise.
  • Volunteer activities: Being your most altruistic self is hard to resist, and having something in common with another altruistic soul gives you lots to talk about. Just make sure that you like the activity itself. After all, you don’t want to end up licking hundreds of envelopes to save sperm whales because you heard fishermen have great poles.
  • Political campaigns: Political campaigns offer a nearly perfect environment because volunteers share a common goal, campaigns don’t go on forever, and the atmosphere is exciting and intense.