Tuesday, March 25, 2008

My Week of Picking Up Men

This article is currently published on Msn.com's Dating & Personals site

My Week of Picking Up Men

By Amy Spencer

As if you haven’t already heard this from your married friends, your mom, your self-help magazines, and that nagging voice in your own head: If you want to meet a man, you gotta get out there. Yeah, well… that’s easier said than done because you probably do get out there. The good news (if you can call it that) is that you’re not the only woman hitting the bar scene and batting zilch. Which is why I decided to find and test out some new places to pick up guys—and report back on which were most successful. Here is what I learned in seven days about where to look, what kind of fellas you’ll find there, and how best to get a guy’s attention.

Monday: Hit the gym
Want a guy with fitness on the top of his list? Then dust off your sneakers and get active. Tip #1: Wait to hit the gym until after the 6 p.m. crowd gets packing. The 6 p.m. guys I saw appeared frantically focused on getting done and getting out—probably because they had girlfriends or families at home. You want the man who works a little later and takes his time with the weights because he’s not under pressure to get home on time. Tip #2: Check the class schedules and go to the gym during the most popular time—but don’t take a class. Fifteen minutes after I arrived in the evening, a throng of women filtered out of the gym and into a studio for a yoga class, leaving me and one other woman alone with 20 or so men. Bingo! So start checking the schedules, ladies, because this male/female ratio adjustment helps. Tip #3: Skip the treadmills, where the men I saw were either wearing headphones or breathing too heavily to engage. Head to the free-weight area where men let their eyes wander — into the mirrors, at you — while lifting. I got a few friendly grins there. Tip # 4: As cliché as it sounds, I got the attention of one man with the old “Excuse me, do you know how to use this machine?” No, I couldn’t understand a word he said through his accent, but he sure was cute. Unfortunately, I didn’t meet anyone special on this first trip, but I’ll definitely go back. It can’t hurt to shape up while you search, right?

Tuesday: Sit for a coffee at Starbucks
If you want a laid-back fella with good taste, start drinking your lattes in public. The best time to go is when people have a little bit of time to linger, like during the after-lunch coffee break on a weekday (say, 3 p.m. or 4 p.m.), after work, or on a leisurely Sunday morning. Tip #1: Take a seat close to the drink delivery waiting area, so you can chat up men during the four minutes they’re waiting for their cappuccino milk to froth. Tip #2: Instead of a newspaper, book or laptop, bring a writing pad and pen. Instead of burying your head reading or typing, writing allows you to alternate between keeping busy and looking around. Tip #3: Be prepared to wait a while for Prince Charming. When I got to Starbucks, there wasn’t a man my age in sight for about 45 minutes. (On second thought, schlep a magazine for long, lonely minutes like this!) A few guys popped in and out quickly. Maybe because it was a weekday evening, they had places to rush off to. Next time, I’ll try the Sunday afternoon visit to see who lands on the weekends. Tip #4: Be prepared to approach a man yourself, or you’ll spend your evening staring at men across the room silently. What didn’t work: I asked a man if he knew if there was a Radio Shack nearby and he simply pointed me that way. What did work: I told another, “I have two hours to kill and I’m trying not to spend much money, so I wondered if you knew of any art or photo galleries in the area?” He pulled out his tourist guide book and helped me find one... just hours before he headed back to Colorado. Refill, please!

Wednesday: Go to an art-gallery opening
In a search for a cultured man, I hit an art opening at an edgy gallery downtown for free cocktails and freeform art, while another single friend of mine went to a party at the Guggenheim Museum uptown (a more conservative crowd). Which is how I learned Tip #1: Choose a gallery that feels like home to you, because the men in each gallery tend to reflect the space itself. My friend Stephanie said the men at the Guggenheim were impeccably dressed, but seemed as look-but-don’t-touch as the building itself. As for the men in the concrete-floored warehouse space I’ve visited before, let’s just say one was wearing a matching white cape and mask and red rubber boots. Best to filter out guys like this before you get there! Tip #2: Take advantage of the built-in bonus of the art show: The art is the only conversation piece you need. I stopped at the wine bar for a cocktail, took a quick spin around the room, and landed on a piece of art I found interesting enough to talk about and stood a few feet away while the men rolled through. I asked a few men questions about it, and the lines that seemed most natural were: “I can’t decide if I love this or hate this; what’s your take?” “I can’t really get my head around this one, can you?” and “Hey, any ideas on what this is supposed to mean?” Tip #3: If there’s a multi-sensory work of art there, head for it. My gallery included an installation with photographs combined with recorded music. A crowd gathered, and there was much chatting. I met an architect who told me about his recent trip to Nepal, but I didn’t feel a romantic connection with him. I chalked this night up as art for art’s sake.

Thursday: Cheer along at a sports bar
I like fun-focused, outgoing guys, so I hit a crowded sports bar for two back-to-back basketball games, and it was the second most successful stop of my week (you’ll hear about my most successful outing in a minute). Tip #1: Go after the game has started, when the bar is already packed, and you have a lot of options. By the time I got there, the bar seats were all taken with men, which meant I’d have to squeeze my way through to order a drink and get a good look at which guys were of interest. Tip #2: Pick the two cutest men in the room and dive in. My line was, “Sorry, guys, do you mind if I squeeze in and order something?” Squeezing was an understatement—the crowd was so tight, we were practically hugging, which made conversation required. Tip #3: Don’t miss halftime! Some of the men around me were so into the game, they only made light conversation, they seemed distracted while talking to me, and I got quite a few “Holy crap, hang on, go, go!” moments breaking up the mood. Enter halftime: The room relaxes, men look around, and you’re there to talk to. I spoke to four cute guys during halftime. No phone number exchanges at the time, but my confidence was doing the wave. Tip #4: Change the topic from sports as quickly as possible. I asked one guy about some of the players on the Lakers, and he talked for 20 minutes about them, which was not only boring for me, it didn’t begin to forge a connection. Switch the topic quickly with something like, “I’m rooting for Miami just because I had such a blast there on my last visit. Have you ever been?” At the end of the second game, I took the business card of an investment banker and emailed him the next day, but nothing came of it. Which was fine by me, thanks to...

Friday: Attend a friend’s party

If you feel better about a man vaguely connected to your social circle, accept those e-vites! I went to a friend’s “new job” party filled with about 80 people and learned a few things as I worked the room. Tip #1: Tell your closest un-single friends you want to meet all the single men in the room. I met my first three guys after being tugged at by my married friends whispering, “Hey, I found one, come here!” then being dragged across the party and introduced. Effortless, painless... though by the end of the third introduction, I was still without a date prospect. Luckily, there were other men arriving in throngs, and I tried my own approach. Tip #2: As cliché as it seems, use your party host as fodder: “So, how do you know Andy?” is the perfect open-ended question, and it honestly doesn’t come off as cheesy—I know because when I was standing at the bar waiting for a drink, one guy walked up and asked me that. Which leads to Tip #3: If you don’t see anyone you want to talk to, be sure to make yourself approachable for a guy who spies you first, and standing at the bar with a grin on your face is the perfect place to do so. Tip #4: Sure, you’re bad with names, but it pays to get good at a friend’s party. Even when I found out a guy named John was already taken, I made the effort to remember him and said, “Hey, John!” when I walked by an hour later—which is when he pulled me over to introduce me to his single friend. Score: A phone number! (And one date. So far so good!)

Saturday: Play in the park
On a sunny Saturday afternoon, I headed to a park out of the city to find some outdoorsy men, and here’s what I discovered. Tip #1: This is best done with a partner in crime. Walking through a park alone is great for window shopping, but it’s much easier and safer-feeling to approach men in groups—and as a woman in a group. Tip #2: My friend and I sat in the middle of the park, forcing us to take reconnaissance strolls to see who was entering the fold. Save yourself time and place your blankets near an entry point so you’re always alert. Tip #3: Bring a Frisbee. You’re not going to get much interaction by sitting on a blanket waiting for men to come to you. But tossing a Frisbee lets you get near them and — whoops, sorry! — right onto to their blanket. Tip #4: If you don’t have a toy, ask to borrow someone else’s. I watched a few guys play catch with a football. I was intimidated at the thought of playing with them, so I waited until they put it down, then asked if my friend and I could throw it around a little ourselves, even though we weren’t that good at it. Sure enough, the guys offered to help us perfect our spirals.

Sunday: Head to Home Depot
The hardware store is a handyman’s best friend, and I fielded it alone with pretty good results. Tip #1: Go with a minor construction plan in mind, like putting up shelves, fixing an always-running toilet, hanging pictures (whether or not it’s real or fake project is up to you.) Tip #2: Aim for the aisles full of small items like screws, bolts, pliers, and paintbrushes. When I went on a Sunday around 1 p.m., the aisles with larger items like window screens and sinks were full of couples and men wearing wedding rings. Tip #3: Approach a man with a very unfocused question that allows for gobs of conversation. Here’s what I asked a tall, handsome blonde I encountered while looking at screws: “Can I ask you a quick question? I’m putting up shelves in my wall, and I don’t know if I need a specific kind of hardware. Do you?” I know, it seems very old-fashioned, but men are old-fashioned, and they want to help with your construction questions! The proof: He took the bait and asked if the walls were concrete or sheet rock and what exactly I was hanging, then helped me collect a few pieces. When we finished up, he said, “Well, good luck,” as he turned to walk away. What I should have said: “Thanks. Your girlfriend is a very lucky woman!” What I really said: Uhhhhh, thanks, I, cool, yeah, awesome... thanks. (Hey, we all chicken-out sometimes... ) To be sure you don’t do the same, don’t forget Tip #4: Create a solid plan for parting words. For instance: “Thanks so much! When I need help next time, I wish I could call you!” If he’s single and interested, you can bet he’ll offer.

So by the end of my seven days, I got a little fitter, found a new photo gallery, learned about a great hike in Nepal, caught up on the basketball season, learned how to throw a better spiral, hung a picture in my apartment, got one guy’s number and one guy’s email address, and got asked out for one fun date. If that’s not enough reason to get out of the house for a week, I don’t know what is!

Amy Spencer also writes for New York, Real Simple, Glamour, Maxim, and other publications.

You can also link directly to this article on Happen.com, where you will find plenty more of my dating advice:

Msn Dating & Personals: My Week of Picking Up Men:


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