Saturday, March 29, 2008

Who Are We?

Amy Spencer is a sex and relationship journalist and radio host. She writes about love and sex for Maxim, Glamour, Real Simple, Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Match.com, and msn.com, among other publications. She was a launching editor of Maxim magazine in the U.S. as well as a features editor at Glamour, thus mastering both sides of the dating and relationship jungle. And following in the footsteps of fellow relationship experts Greg Behrendt and Dan Savage, Amy was a recent blogger for Chemistry.com's The Great Mate Debate. She has appeared as an expert on NBC's Access Hollywood, CBS' Entertainment Tonight, E's True Hollywood Story, VH1's Naked Hollywood, VH1's Christina Aguilera, the Fox News channel, and G4's Filter. She has done dozens of radio interviews around the country on FM, XM and Sirius radio. For the past four years, Amy has been the resident relationship expert on the Sirius Maxim channel, with a former weekly appearance on The Covino & Rich Show, and as a relationship expert on Howard Stern's Howard 100 News. Amy currently co-hosts the Sirius Maxim channel's #1 specialty show, Sex Files, a weekly live call-in advice show about love, sex and relationships.

In addition to answering viewers sex and relationship questions on G4's Attack of the Show, Anna David writes novels (the rights for her first one, Party Girl, which HarperCollins published in the summer of 2007, were snapped up by Sony Television while her second, Kept, is being published by Harper in March of 2009), blogs (about reality shows for foxnews.com and sex and relationships for wetv.com) and has talked about pop culture and sex on The Today Show, Hannity & Colmes, CNN's Showbiz Tonight, VH1, MTV, and E! among others. Anna wrote the sex column for Razor magazine and has written reported stories, celebrity profiles and first-person essays for The New York Times, The LA Times, Playboy, Details, Cosmo, Redbook, Maxim, Stuff, Movieline, Variety, Premiere, People, Us Weekly, TV Guide, LA Confidential, The New York Post, Women's Health, Ocean Drive and Esquire UK, among others. Her website, annalyticalanswers, houses many of her Attack of the Show clips as well as additional questions she answers for viewers. In April, 2008, Anna joined Amy as the co-host of the Sirius Maxim channel's Sex Files.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

If We Met in a Former Life, Maybe He Was Straight Then


NEW YORK TIMES, Sunday, March 25, 2007
Modern Love

By ANNA DAVID

"He’s gay, you know,” Bonnie said.

We were sitting on stools at a bar on Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood, surrounded by Amstel Light bottles and cigarette smoke.

“Really?” I gasped.

“Really. And not just gay. Very gay.”

From across the bar, Brian caught my eye again and we gazed at each other lustfully. Bonnie had introduced us only moments before, and I was struck by the “love at first sight” lightning bolt.

Of course, I had felt such lightning bolts before. At 25, I couldn’t yet fathom relationships built on trust and mutual compromise; I saw only fables and romantic comedies. Love, I was convinced, happened in a lust-filled instant, and there was no mistaking it for anything else.

“I’ll be right back,” I said to Bonnie and made my way to Brian’s side.

“Oh, my God, Bonnie just told me,” I blurted to him, knowing I didn’t need to finish the sentence. I felt confident that the lightning bolt hadn’t only struck me; from the moment Bonnie had introduced us, Brian and I hardly had taken our eyes off each other. The news about his sexual orientation felt worse than disappointing; it actually seemed intrusive, like it was infringing on the course nature wanted us to take. “Is it true?”

“It is,” he said. “I mean, I always have been. But maybe I don’t know."

That opening, combined with the sight of his sparkling hazel eyes and perfect cheekbones, was enough for me. “I’m buying us shots,” I announced, certain that my bar order was the only thing we needed to reach the next step.

Though Brian was, in fact, “out,” he fit my profile of what I imagined a sartorially straight man might look like: he was dressed in a button-down shirt, gray slacks and basic black non-designer shoes, with no product in his hair.

And there was the matter of the eye contact we kept having not to mention that he seemed far more interested in cornering me for one-on-one conversations than other gay men I had met, who would start off talking to me alone but then trot me over to their friends as if I were a show-and-tell item, usually urging me to be “fierce” and funny.

By the end of the night, I was pretty sure this was love, and when I reconnected with Bonnie, she gave me all the confirmation I needed. “I can’t believe it,” she said, shaking her head, “but Brian is into you, too. This is just too bizarre.”

With that, I went up to Brian to say goodbye, and he asked me out for the next night. I nodded, giddy, and we kissed goodbye on the lips, in the bar, with seemingly no worries over who might see. What kind of a gay guy does that?

I figured the conversion process was more than halfway through.

When I was getting ready for Brian to pick me up the next night, I found myself more excited than I had ever been for any other date. There was something fabulously intense about an attraction so deep that it transcended the standard definitions of sexual orientation. The notion of a date with a regular old straight guy, who wouldn’t have to sacrifice or defy anything to go out with me, seemed downright dull in comparison.

Over steak and red wine, Brian and I wasted no time in psychoanalyzing his past. He told me about a traumatic incident in his adolescence involving his then-girlfriend and his brother, and how it led to feelings of betrayal and shame that he didn’t know how to handle. Soon after, he hooked up with his first guy.

“My God,” I said, pouring more wine for him. “You’re not gay. It’s just that a traumatic event made you think you were gay.”

Brian shrugged.

I leaned in so that our faces were inches away from each other.

“Maybe I’m bisexual,” he said.

I was willing to accept that. After all, this transition back to straightness might be slow for my new boyfriend.

I nodded and he kissed me a real, passionate kiss.

After dinner, we went to a bar across the street, and although it wasn’t a gay bar, we immediately ran into two gay guys we both knew. One of them, Matt, was hostile to me, even though he had been quite friendly when I met him a few months earlier and he had been hitting on one of my gay male friends.

When Brian went to the bathroom, Matt turned to me. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” he asked.

“What are you talking about? You mean, with Brian?”

“Of course I mean with Brian. What kind of game do you think you’re playing?”

“We’re just hanging out, nothing to get worked up about.”

In truth, I imagined that Brian and I were setting new standards of what love could be, but I knew Matt wouldn’t make an appropriate confidante.

Anyway, shouldn’t I be the one concerned that Brian might be playing games with me? After all, I was doing what I had always done: going out with a man. Brian was the one betraying his group.


WHEN Brian came back from the bathroom and Matt went off to smoke, I told him what had happened. He shook his head. “We used to date,” he said of Matt. I should have known; Matt probably wouldn’t be the last of Brian’s exes to have a problem with our transcendent love.

Brian and I went back to my apartment, where I opened a bottle of wine and we both lighted cigarettes. Soon we started kissing. As we kissed, I started to move Brian toward my bedroom, but when we got to the door, he stopped. “I don’t feel comfortable doing anything more,” he said.

“Why?” I asked, feeling like he was suddenly backing out on the courageous and important journey we were taking together.

“Look. That’s all I want to do.”

“No pressure,” I said, kissing his neck.

Brian calmed down, and as we cuddled I tried to erase from my mind the notion that I was someone who puts pressure on men in bed. After a while, we just lay there trading cigarettes and sad stories about our respective dysfunctional families and the times we had been in love or thought we had been in love, doing the postcoital thing without any coitus.

We fell asleep spooning, and during the night I had a dream that took place in Washington, which ordinarily wouldn’t have meant anything, except that when I told Brian about my dream, he said he was born in Washington.

That sealed it: We were soul mates who had been together in previous lifetimes. Given my weakness for storybook love and my well-established history of spontaneous passion (my third date with one guy was, essentially, a move from San Francisco to Los Angeles to live with him), this seemed the only possible explanation for our unlikely and illogical connection.

When I shared these thoughts with Brian, though, he only smiled warily.

Over breakfast, he took a deep breath and gave me the apologetic look I had been dreading from the beginning. “I think you’re fantastic,” he said. “But I have to tell you: I really think I’m gay.”

“But. ” I sputtered. “What about what you were saying about being bisexual?”

“I know I said that,” he said. “But after last night, I think I realized that it’s not true. I’m just gay.”

“But you’re attracted to me. You said it! A few times!” Horrifyingly, I found myself on the verge of tears.

“I know. And I do think you’re very attractive. But I just can’t do this.”

Unconvinced (or in full denial), I later stopped at a spiritual bookstore in West Hollywood that I had passed many times and barely noticed. I was looking for some comfort, some explanation, some confirmation that what I had experienced with Brian was as real and important as I thought it was.

And there, among the collections of crystals, affirmations for inner children and books about creating your own destiny, I found it, the book I had subconsciously been seeking: “Only Love Is Real: A Story of Soulmates Reunited,” by Brian Weiss, M.D. That fact that the author’s first name was the same as my soul mate’s only confirmed that this was the book for me.

I had never been one for self-help or spiritual books, but I was riveted by every word of “Only Love Is Real,” which explained that not everyone was comfortable with the notion of previous lifetimes, let alone the concept of meeting and falling in love with the same person over and over again. I hadn’t exactly been comfortable with it, but now, with Brian, I had come around.

Brian would come around, too, I thought, as I underlined and dog-eared passages and pages I found significant.


THAT night I carried the book along to dinner with Bonnie, certain she would support my exciting new discoveries.

But she, who was as logical and wise about love as I was dramatic and superficial, just shook her head. “Anna, you’re going on no sleep, ranting about how you’ve fallen in love with a gay guy, clutching this crazy book,” she said. “I’m worried about you.”

I slipped the book back into my purse and willed myself to talk about something besides Brian.

I wish I could say that Brian came around. But as days passed without even hearing from him, and then weeks, I had to confront the inevitable.

In the end, it would be months before we ran into each other again, at a bar in Los Feliz, and this time when our eyes met he glanced at me with embarrassment the kind of look I imagine a straight guy might give a gay guy he accidentally ended up in bed with one night when he was feeling experimental.

“I’m so sorry for getting you all mixed up in my confusion,” he said. “I was going through a rough time then.”

A rough time? Confusion? I had so many questions, but my ego and pride (not to mention my suspicion that he wouldn’t have any answers) kept me from doing anything but smiling kindly. “It’s O.K.,” I said. “I understand.”

And I did. Sort of.

Not long after, I came across “Only Love Is Real” in my bedside reading pile and promptly tossed it into the trash, thereby letting go of both Brians at once.

Our love, of course, hadn’t been real, those previous lifetimes had all been in my head, and the only lightning bolt to strike me was the undeniable reality that, with all due respect to Kinsey’s sliding scale of sexual orientation, sometimes gay really means gay.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

There's NoSpace for Your Privacy


Los Angeles Times, July, 2006

By Anna David, Special to the Times


This wasn’t love or “friends with benefits.” It was somewhere in between the two, minus anything remotely resembling love or, for that matter, friendship. We were, to use a term I’ve always found creepy, lovers.

He was a fan of “social networking” websites such as Friendster and MySpace. He had, in fact, originally asked me out through Friendster – though only because an email he sent to my regular email address never arrived (a sure sign that the universe had at least made an attempt to protect me).

The entire time we were dating, he seemed to log onto Friendster nearly every day to add photos or captions or new favorite songs – something I swear I wouldn’t have noticed if Friendster didn’t regularly send out cheerful e-mails announcing such developments. Bulletin: Death Cab for Cutie now makes his favorite music section. His constant attention to his Web profiles put me in the tenuous position of being able to take his emotional temperature in the third person – a weirdly “outside” inside view of the relationship.

This hit home on the day, some time between when we met and started sleeping together, that he altered his answer to “Who I Want to Meet.” He expressed desire for skills and attributes I did not possess -- a pretty singing voice, good taste in wine. Finding out that he longed for a cyber girl with skills one might find on an average resume was quite a blow. And not terribly subtle.

The next guy I went out with mentioned the MySpace Top 8 (if you don’t know what that is, I sincerely congratulate you on having a life) on our first date; by the second, he’d moved me onto his. When, on our third date, he asked me when we should change our respective status to “in a relationship,” I told him it was too soon, but the next time I logged onto MySpace, I saw that he had made the move. Simultaneously flattered and pressured, I upgraded my own box within days.


Unfortunately, our Internet claims turned out to be premature, and I found myself breaking things off with my MySpace relationship partner within weeks of having announced it to the 76,509,622 people in my network. Then I was faced with an undeniably modern dilemma: what was the appropriate amount of time to wait before proclaiming myself as single again?
It seems like you can’t turn on the television without seeing an EHarmony commercial featuring two made-for-each-other looking people clutching one another giddily, or go to a dinner party without hearing about some friend of a friend who met the greatest guy or girl on Friendster or MySpace or Nerve or JDate or fillintheblank.com. But my experiences led me to wonder if this revolutionary social tool is actually making the dating process even crueler than it already is.

Did I really need to know that the guy I was seeing was out advertising for my replacement while continuing to sleep with me? Did the one who’d been so ready to claim me in his inner circle of eight (and then his inner circle of two) really need to see how quickly I could expunge him from my cyber world?

That’s not even taking into consideration all out exes, who are surely sprouting up on those websites by the nanosecond. Must we experience the horror of seeing who’s happily in another relationship -- complete with photo documentation of said happy couple – or even worse, married?

I’m probably not a good person to ask. After all, I waited only 24 hours before declaring myself single again, figuring that while I was making My Space my own again, I might as well demote him from my Top 8.

I can only hope that the next guy I meet is a Luddite.

For Guys: A Guide to Girl Talk

This article is currently published on Match.com's online dating and relationship advice magazine, Happen.com

Baffled by what women are getting at half the time you talk to them? Then keep this translation manual handy to decode her most misunderstood lines.

by Amy Spencer

If you’ve ever spoken to a woman, it’s fair to say you’ve been confused by one. Yes doesn’t always mean yes, no doesn’t always mean no, and most of us have once in our lives even admitted, “Well, I may have said that, but I didn’t mean it.” What’s with all the mixed messages? “Women communicate by giving subtle suggestions instead of being literal, so we can check for positive reinforcement before we continue. We want to be careful about the impact we have on the other person,” explains Sharyn Wolf, CSW, a psychotherapist in New York City. But while figuring out what women really want can be difficult, it’s not impossible. So follow this guide to girl-speak. These are some of the things you might hear a woman say as you meet, date and woo her—and the code for reading between the lines.

What she says: “You’re really sweet, but I have a boyfriend.”
What she means: “You’re really sweet, but I definitely don’t want to date you."
Why she says it: It’s a classic barstool scene: You see her sitting by herself and figure it’s as good a time as any to make a move. And it’s all going so well—she’s smiling, she’s answering your questions—until she drops the bomb that she has a boyfriend. Now, she may be telling the truth. But more likely this “boyfriend” is merely a ploy to get you to back off fast. “I use that line all the time, it really works without hurting a guy’s feelings too much,” says Claire McKimmie. “It shows immediately that there’s nothing more to say.”

What she says: “Why don’t I take your number and I’ll call you?”
What she means: “There’s no way I’m giving you my number so why don’t I take yours?”
Why she says it: Even in this day and age, most women like to be pursued, so if we really like you, we’ll happily hand over our digits and wait for you to call. Pretty much the only time we’ll ask for your number is — sorry — when we want to keep the ball in our court and, well, never see you again. Other not-so-great responses: “Why don’t you email me instead,” “You can get my number through our mutual friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend Marcy” or “I’m in the phone book.” Trust us, if she likes you, she’ll make it easy for you to call.

What she says: “Oh, sorry, I already have weekend plans.”
What she means: “I don’t necessarily have weekend plans, but you’re calling so last-minute, I’d feel like a loser if I admitted I was free and took you up on your offer.”
Why she says it: As much as we all say that The Rules is an outdated tome that brews trouble between the sexes, there are still some things we can’t let go of. And one of them is that we don’t want to accept plans with you last-minute, because we don’t want you to think we’re that easy to catch. “If a guy waits until Friday to ask me out on Saturday, I’ll probably say no,” says Claire Arnaud. “He has to work for it. And if he doesn’t have the patience to call back next week, too bad, that’s his loss.”

What she says: “This feels good, but we really shouldn’t.”
What she means: “I want you, bad, but don’t want to get burned.”
Why she says it: The night is winding down, and it’s time to decide whether she should hold ’em, fold ’em, or hop in the sack with you. So if your date isn’t telling you a flat-out “No,” “I don’t want to,” or “I don’t like you that way,” chances are she really does like you — and want you — that way. She’d just rather wait a few weeks or months until she knows you’re not a love-’em-and-leave-’em type. “It’s possible she’s been in the position before of sleeping with a man and wanting to hear from him and then not hearing from him—and she doesn’t want to make that mistake again,” says Wolf. So if you’re a guy who really does want the relationship to go further (be honest now), it’s worth telling her so to see if she’ll change her mind.

What she says: “So, what have you been up to?”
What she means:“Why haven’t you called me? Are you seeing someone else?”
Why she says it: If we haven’t talked to you in a few weeks and then you suddenly start calling again, all we want to know is, What the heck took you so long? But because we want you to think we’re laid-back “Hey, whatever” women, all we dare squeeze out is a general inquiry. “I don’t want him to know I care,” says Emilie Giroud Capet. Our biggest fear? That you’ve been calling other women instead of us. Whether that’s the case or not, you’re best off filling in your missing weeks with very un-sexy things. “I’m hoping he’ll tell me he’s been working really hard,” says Emilie, “or better, that he’s been really sick.”

What she says: “If you want to have a guy’s night, go ahead, fine.”
What she means: “I really, really don’t want you to go. And if you do, I’m going to be pissed.”
Why she says it: It seemed innocuous enough: You asked her if she’d mind rescheduling your romantic night in so you could go out with the guys. She’s given you the green light. So what’s the red flag in that statement? The word “fine.” See, when a woman says something is fine, it’s decidedly not. “A woman will say it’s fine for him to go without her because she doesn’t want to get in a fight about it, even though deep down, she doesn’t want him to go without her,” says Wolf. Another phrase women often use to clue you into their displeasure: “If you like.” As in, “Sure, you can go out with the guys tonight, if you like.” That’s a pretty clear sign that while you may like it, she sure won’t. Either way, feel free to play dumb and go out with your buddies—just be ready to accept the consequences when you return.

What she says: “So, tell me about Diane.”
What she means: “Should I be threatened by Diane?”
Why she says it: When a man brings up another female’s name in the midst of a story, a woman’s internal panic button is pressed—she fears that you’re talking about her because you’re secretly attracted to her. So until you make it clear you wouldn’t touch Diane with a ten-foot pole, our insecurities will lead us to assume she’s a wasp-waisted blonde who laughs at your jokes—and you’d love to take her to bed. So if Diane is attractive and bed-able, please don’t say, “She’s really cool.” Instead try, “Diane’s just someone I work with. Boy, she can be annoying sometimes. Some guys at the office have the hots for her but I don’t get it; she’s not all that.”

What she says: “I love the way you smell.”
What she means: “I love you, but I don’t dare tell you I love you before you tell me you love me.”
Why she says it: “I just told the guy I’ve been dating for three weeks that I loved the way he smelled,” says Lili De Monseignat, “but it’s more him that I love than his smell.” Then why hold back? Because women know that telling a guy we love him before he tells us could be too much for him to handle. “It’s too soon to tell him I love him, because he’ll freak out and run away!” says Lili. But if you want to be loved, perk your ears up for the word itself. “I love your dog,” “I love your apartment,” “I love the way you dress,” and “I love that you love Indian food” are all signs that something big is bubbling underneath that little heart of hers. In other words, gentlemen, please be gentle.

Amy Spencer writes for Glamour, Cosmopolitan and Real Simple, among other publications, and currently doles out relationship advice to men every week on SIRIUS Radio's Maxim channel.

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

—Amy

Turn Her "No" Into a "Go"

Originally printed in Men's Fitness Magazine
Click on images to read the text...which you should!



—Amy

The Last Seduction


RAZOR, July/August, 2005
Every Maverick needs a Goose, but should you pay for one?
By Anna David
The concept of men showing other men how to pick up women isn't entirely new. Not only was there Ross Jeffries' 1992 book How to Get the Women You Desire Into Bed (which emphasized conscious manipulation), but you men have been casually coaching your buddies on how to acquire would-be conquests (in exchange for wingman credit) for years. Yet Hitch fever seems to be sweeping the nation of late, with a variety of pickup gurus claiming they can teach men how to make us limp with list -- for a small fee.

It all seems to have shifted up a few gears several years ago when an inordinately tall Canadian named Erik von Merkovik (nom de plume: Mystery) began gaining online attention for developing things like "the neg theory," which essentially says that the best way for a man to get a hot woman interested is to lob her a qualifier that's designed to both compliment and subtly one-up her (e.g., "Nice nails - are they real?"). Since then, companies like Double Your Dating, Real Social Dynamics and Pick Up 101 have popped up everywhere, and while we ladies sat home watching Sex and the City, many of you were learning how to make us want to have sex in your city.

Like most women who'd gotten wind of this, I was distinctly unimpressed. The last thing our society needed, I thought, was more men abandoning actual intimate relationships for casual one-night affairs. Besides, I can basically recall only one time when I was actually seduced - that is, where I succumbed to a guy's advances based almost entirely on his efforts to woo me. See, addicted as I am to my alpha-female role - I tend to decide whom I want and then engage in mutual, verbal and physical flirting - I essentially believed that the mating dance happened naturally, and not by following a set of rules complete with its own glossary (see sidebar).

I was also highly skeptical of the fact that seduction was something that could be taught at all, and quite convinced that men trying to do so were essentially old-fashioned shysters trying to feed on - and exploit - the insecurity (and wallets) of other men.

So when Seth Parker, one of my seduction instructors for the afternoon, explained that he might hit on me in a bookstore by wrapping up a magazine and bopping me on the head with it, I casually explained where I would have wanted to shove that magazine. (Guys, this is not an "approach" I'd recommend, unless you happen to be, say, Colin Farrell.)

Seth is partners with Cameron Theone, Ranko Magami, and Robert Torrey in Fidentia (“confidence” in Latin), an LA-based company that teaches nebbishy, bespectacled or simply curious men to discover their inner sex gods (www.fidentia.org). By the end of one of their three-day, $650, bimonthly workshops, a graduate should be able to walk up to a group of attractive women (known in these circles as a "cold approach"), single out the cutest one and seduce her. All three days of the workshop, in fact, end in bars and nightclubs where students can try out their new skills while their proud tutors look on from their own tables of conquests.

On the surface, none of Fidentia's three partners (Ranko lives in Europe, where he's currently working on an eight-CD seduction series) scream lady-killer. But I guess this makes sense. I mean, how could a group of AFC's (Average Frustrated Chumps) relate to a triumvirate of Brad Pitt doppelgangers? I was surprised to discover, however, that all three of these guys were actually quite articulate, peppering their conversation with enough three-syllable words that I started to believe they weren’t just for the tape recorder’s benefit. And when they swore that most of the men that come to them want girlfriends and not a succession of one-nighters, I actually believed them.

Robert mapped out an eight-part strategy that made sense, including getting comfortable by taking up more physical space (I'm a fan of any guy who's comfortable with his body, because it suggests a certain level of innate sexual confidence), and watching the coveted girl for I.O.I.’s, (Indicators of Interest, like playing with her hair, smiling, teasing you and asking questions about you). Most women could fill notebooks with incidents where men seemed to be utterly devoid of this skill, but I still wasn't remotely willing to imagine that any of this crap could actually work on me.

Until I told Seth as much, and, thoroughly undeterred, he glanced over at me casually and uttered, "Well, I probably wouldn't hit on you, anyway."

Now, I'm not stupid. I understood the game he was playing, and that he was a self-defined expert at it. But I have to admit that it threw me off a bit.

Cameron was even better at defying my expectations. I wasn't thoroughly charmed by his bravado on the notion of cold approaching ("I don't even consider meeting a girl after exchanging eye contact a cold approach anymore - that's just for amateurs") but he began to win me over when he explained what women want in men. "The time of watching Steel Magnolias and The English Patient and crying together is over," he declared. "If you're a guy, be a guy. Don't kiss ass; don't supplicate. Don't be wishy-washy, indecisive, and overly needy. Are you conveying playful, a guy who has a strong reality and purpose and goes out and gets what he wants, or are you the guy that's nervous and needy and seems to be saying, 'If I buy you a drink, will you like me?'"

And Cameron and Co. don't perpetuate things like the neg theory, or believe that women like men who are assholes - just that we respond when someone is both strong and light in their approach (say, asking a girl out playfully, making it clear that you won’t resent her if she says no), which is a harder combination to master than you might think because of a little thing called the male ego.

Still, some of what these guys suggest may still be a bit much. Seth thinks that men should approach women they don't know with the same confidence they would an acquaintance of five years, and believes that even if women are blatantly rude, they shouldn't falter. "If a really nerdy guy walks up to a group of really beautiful girls and he says, 'Hey,' and they say, 'Fuck off,' he's probably going to bend over and walk away," says Seth. "But if a better looking guy who has more money than Donald Trump walks up and they say, 'Fuck off,' he's probably going to say, 'Yeah, right,' and stay there."

But where does this kind of advice leave us, exactly? Is approaching women and pretending not to notice that they're annoyed actually a good idea? I mean, where's the line between confident guy and annoying lech?

"Whenever I go actively seeking seduction as a primary motive, I usually end up going home alone," says Colin, an attractive actor. "My most successful 'seductions' have been moderately random, when I'm relaxed and genuinely interested in something relating to the woman." Still, Colin concedes that teaching shy guys to be more confident and deserving of whatever women they're attracted to "is not a bad thing." As Colin says, "Many of us will not talk to that 'hot chick' based simply on the feeling that we're not good enough."

My friend Peter, meanwhile, is irritated by the very notion of seduction instructors. "I don't believe in tricks or gimmicks or any of the crap these guys recommend," he says, relaying a time he was at a wedding with a hair model and one of these coaches, "a big loser," says Peter, "was all alone and jealous."

There are others who agree with Peter. As my friend Veronica says, "I'm a fan of mystery [note the lower-case m], so I like it if a guy keeps himself a little at arm's length." And my friend C.J. says that if she's not immediately attracted to a guy, he doesn't stand a chance.

So, is this seduction instruction thing a waste of time and money, or the answer to a lifetime of the cold shoulder? I guess it depends on the guy - not to mention the girl he's after. But a class could at least help remind men that sometimes all you need to do is try. In these days of appropriate behavior and mutual respect, we women can go months without even being flirted with. And, apologies to the PC police (not that I imagine many of you read Razor), but, take it from a woman -- being pursued with a light, playful touch feels good.

Take the way Cameron treated me. "Here's my number, in case you decide you want to go on a date," he said as I was leaving, and though I don't imagine that happening (I'm not going to date a dating instructor, even if we could sell the rights to our story and make a mint), he did manage to make me do a complete 180 simply by keeping up his end of our verbal bantering without getting defensive or letting me intimidate him. And if other men who might otherwise walk right by or sit in silence can learn that in a class, I say sign on up.

Then, once you've got the flirting thing down, we can cry together over Beaches all we want.

Just a Gigolo
If you're interested in finding the class that can help bring out your hidden ladies man, check out the following:

Mystery Method – A method overseen by Mystery, and his henchmen Savoy, Lovedrop, Sinn, DJ, Misschievous, Francis, Ludechick and Samurai, the Mystery Method is a system of attraction that’s been developed over the past decade; popular Mystery moves include the “neg theory” and the three-second rule (approaching a girl within three seconds of making eye contact with her). Workshops are all over North America and Europe and cost $850 for three days and $1850 for three days and three nights. (www.mysterymethod.com)

Real Social Dynamics - A company that offers Bootcamp ($1500 for three days of intensive one-on-one education) as well as $900 seminars worldwide that teach men such things as how to create "cocky and funny material on the sly" and how to play hard-to-get. (www.realsocialdynamics.com)

Speed Seduction – Workshops taught by the master himself, Ross Jeffries, can be found all over the world ($995 for three days) with Jeffries’ unconditional guarantee: “If you don’t get laid, I don’t get paid.” (www.seduction.com)

Dating Workshop Glossary:
Target: The woman you’re after
Number close:You ended the conversation with her phone number
Kiss Close:You also swapped a little spit
Excuser: A guy who makes every excuse to not approach a woman or start a conversation with her
PUA: Pick up Artist
LJBF: "Let's just be friends." (Essentially, the last thing on earth a PUA wants his target to say)

Ready to Break Up? Read This

This article is currently published on Match.com's online dating and relationship advice magazine, Happen.com


If you’re about to declare your independence, here are six ways to deliver the news (at least one of them will suit your situation.)

By Amy Spencer

Just as the old song says, breaking up is hard to do. So hard that some people keep dating months and years longer than they want to, just to avoid having to deliver the news. And that simply shouldn’t be the case. But sometimes it’s hard to know how to make the break.

Here, we take a look at six of the most common breakup techniques—what’s good about each, what’s bad, when to deploy each method and when not to. Take a look at these routes to Splitsville, and see which one suits your situation...and remember, do your best to always be kind and have good breakup karma.

1. The “We need to talk” talk
If you and your significant other have ever referred to one another as “boyfriend” or “girlfriend,” sitting down for a face-to-face, level-headed conversation is usually considered the best, most considerate tactic.

Pros: The “We need to talk” phrase is so notoriously linked to doom, so if you can spit that much out, you have a running start toward the end. You also get credit for being mature and fair, which keeps the door open for a friendship in the future, and doesn’t mar your reputation—which is vital if the two of you run in a similar group of friends.

Cons: You may have to endure extreme anxiety in the hours or weeks leading up to having the conversation. And though you may start the talk calmly, you have no control over what happens next. “After I explained to my girlfriend that our relationship was over, I made the mistake of suggesting we go for a walk to keep talking about it,” says Jason McIntyre, 28. “What started out as a silent walk by the water turned into a loud argument and her calling me names in front of a huge group of people.”

Tip: Prepare a bulletproof answer to the “But why?” question that will come up again and again. Your best bet: Reveal an issue you have that they can’t solve. It may be better for both of you if he or she walks away saying, “It’s true, the jerk does have serious mother issues...”

2. The un-love letter
On Sex and the City, Berger dumped Carrie with a Post-it. But there are a lot more sophisticated ways to get the bad news across—everything from a bona fide pen-to-paper “Dear John” letter to e-mail, voicemail, and text-messaging.

Pros: This is the right tactic for people who really can’t handle confrontations. If you’re going to hurt someone’s feelings, it’s a lot less painful for you if you can avoid seeing the look on their face that comes with it... and possibly the tears or words that follow. Also, if it is hard for you to get your feelings out in a conversation, a letter allows you to do so without getting sidetracked.

Cons: You will be called cowardly, cold-hearted and 4,000 other unprintable things by the other party involved. You deny them the opportunity to ask questions, process the situation with you, and have that all-important “closure.” “A guy I was dating for a year and a half stopped calling me back, then let himself into my apartment with his set of keys and left me sunflowers, the keys, and a breakup note that said nothing but to have a good time on a trip I was taking,” recalls one woman. “I was so taken aback. What a coward!”

Tip: The more words you write, the better. If you’re actually contemplating doing this to end a long-term relationship, you can somewhat save face by writing a page for every year you were together. Often, it’s not a letter or email itself that pisses someone off—it’s a short, flip letter.

3. The vanishing act
If you’re living in a place where you can get lost in the crowd, then literally doing so is one way to opt out.

Pros: This break-up tactic has two qualities that make it attractive to some: It requires less than zero effort, and it’s somewhat non-committal. Because there’s never a definitive breakup, some people can get away with contacting their ex weeks or months later to say hi or even restart things. If they run into their former sweetie accidentally, they say, “Hey, whatever happened with us, anyway?”

Cons: This break-up method is usually used when a relationship was just budding and no real connections had been forged. But to pull this stunt further along the love timeline is insanely disrespectful of your former sweetie’s emotions, not to mention time and energy. Here’s why: The person who gets dumped this way will take some time to catch on, and during that time, will be working quite hard to track you down. (It’s not uncommon for the dumpee in this situation to believe that something bad has befallen the dumper.) “I was dating a guy for three months when he disappeared, and I was a wreck because I thought something horrible had happened to him,” explains Jennifer Schwarz, 32. “I figured out he was just fine, thanks, when I went by his apartment and discovered he'd moved out. What a waste of my worrying!”

Tip: If the person you’re dumping knows where you live, where you work, or what Starbucks you go to in the morning, be prepared for an eventual awkward, angry confrontation.

4. The time-out tactic
When you want to cool off a relationship instead of ending it cold, the “let’s take a break” technique can work well.

Pros: If you are leaning towards breaking up but aren’t 100-percent ready to call it quits, this method can clarify where things stand. If you do know you want out, then this is a way to let someone down easy... you are telling them that the situation isn’t working and you’re trying to get some perspective. This can give the dumpee a chance to get used to his or her upcoming shift back to single status.

Cons: This can be emotional torture for both of you. Obviously, the person getting offloaded will be hurt and confused, but dragging it out can also be confusing to your own psyche. “I told a woman I was dating for six years that I wanted a break, but after a few weeks, I missed her and asked to get back together,” explains Sam Syed, 40. “Two weeks after she took me back, she dumped me! It was an emotional rollercoaster I wish we could have avoided.”

Tip: Don’t suggest seeing other people. It will be a lot less messy if you make this about taking time to think on your own, without adding other people—and jealousy—into it.

5. The ex-factor
Sometimes it feels much easier to bow out of a relationship if you say you can’t resist the gravitational pull of an old amour.

Pros: It may sting a little less on the dumpee’s end to hear this excuse versus being told “You’re just not it for me.” “I always say I’m getting back with my ex because I think it’s better for women to hear; it’s like a pre-existing condition,” says Todd Bush, 36. “I’m telling them I didn’t find someone better, but that I’m caught up in the feelings I had for someone before.”

Cons: If you’re not really going back to an ex, then you could get caught, which is embarrassing for both of you.

Tip: Make sure your mutual friends have your story straight—and the fewer details they have, the fewer they have to screw up. You wouldn’t want one saying to the person you just broke up with: “What are you talking about? His ex got married to someone else last year!”

6. The send-a-messenger method
This tactic involves sending someone else to do your dirty work, so you don’t have to deal with it yourself. Hey, subpoena messengers work for our judicial system...

Pros: Turning what could be an emotional moment into a business transaction can keep the dumpee’s reaction rather restrained. In fact, I was recently blown off via a man’s best friend: What started out as a “vanishing act” turned into a “send-a-messenger” method using the “ex-factor” excuse. “By the way,” the friend told me, “Tom wanted me to tell you he’s sorry, but he started seeing this girl he used to go out with.” I must admit, I was so befuddled by who was doing what to whom, it worked brilliantly.

Cons: Frankly, it’s a little fourth-grade. And you certainly had better not be using this on anyone who’s more than a casual date or yours. And, hey, you’re going to owe that friend you’ve sent, big-time.

Tip: Empower your messenger to offer a good eye-rolling and “I don’t know what his/her problem is” to soften the blow.

Amy Spencer is a freelance writer who covers relationships and lifestyle stories for Glamour, Maxim, Real Simple and other publications. While she admits to having used a few of the tactics explained here, it only dawned on her while writing this that, sadly, she’s been on the receiving end of even more.

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

—Amy

Be a Dating Optimist!

This article is currently published on Match.com's online dating and relationship advice magazine, Happen.com


Need help getting psyched for your search for The One? Try these smart strategies for a more positive mindset.

By Amy Spencer

Recently, I had a string of bad dates. One was with a man who couldn’t stop pointing out my flaws (specifically, “You have really short nails” and “Do you always laugh like that?”). Another was a smart, handsome man who turned out to be intolerably self-aggrandizing. The list goes on—but instead of getting bummed out that I was getting, well, nowhere in love that week, I laughed it off. You see, I am a dating optimist, and I know that some awful dates are par for the course. But why dwell on the bad stuff? The fact is, no one is going to meet the man or woman of their dreams with a negative outlook—which is why I talked to other dating optimists and found some top tips on how to bring out the brightest, best, happiest dater inside us all.

Commit to complimenting your date on three things
Making yourself search out the good (Hmm, maybe I’ll like his laugh!) rather than the bad (Uh-oh, she'll probably hate the loud atmosphere…) is the simplest way to flip the optimist switch. If you focus on finding the good in the person across the table, you will find it.

Remember: The worse the date, the better the story
Dating is like the opposite of the Olympic figure-skating judging: Instead of throwing out the highest scores and the lowest scores, a happy dater relishes both. And let’s be honest, we all have our entertaining horror stories to share. Tracy Allen, 29, recalls one date she had that always garners an appreciative audience at parties: “I was having a great ski weekend with my date, until every few hours he’d call the cat-sitter he hired to ask how his kitty was doing,” she says. “At one point, he even asked the sitter to put kitty’s ear up to the phone so he could say hello!” Personally, I fondly recall my shock of listening to a first date of mine casually mention the porn shop he opened with his uncle…but instead of being frustrated about another lost night, I grinned on the inside thinking about how funny it was going to be to tell the story later. (That was four years ago, and it’s still one of my favorites.)

Practice changing your negative buzzwords
If you don’t know what yours are, ask a friend. Maybe they often hear you say you “can’t,” you “hate” or you “won’t.” Or maybe you’re always talking about how people “never” do anything right. Once you know what to listen for, you’ll be more likely to catch and stop yourself. For added incentive, do what cursing-quitters often do: Put $1 in a jar every time you bring up a negative topic among your friends, to help train yourself out of bringing up negative topics on your date. Think about it. You wouldn’t want to hear your date say he or she “can’t understand people who like sushi” or “don’t feel like going to work.” You want to hear that they love surfing and will try anything on the menu. The same goes for you: Nobody likes that SNL character Debbie Downer, so do what you can to be the most positive version of yourself.

Give yourself the YNK speech before your next date
As in, You Never Know! You never know, he might be the date of your dreams. And if he’s not, you never know, he might be the roommate of the man of your dreams. Or, you never know, maybe she’ll tell you about some great new hangout that’s packed with cute singles, or know someone who wants to hire you to join Madonna’s concert tour—or merely tell you a story that prompts you to take off to Thailand for a month. The point is, even if dating doesn’t lead to true love, it leads to different, interesting, and sometimes wonderful experiences you might not have had otherwise. And that’s all good.

Put together a cheering squad
Whether a date bombs or exceeds your expectations, the very fact that you don’t know what’s going to happen is a large part of the fun. So many of my coupled-up friends say they envy how in my average night out, anything could happen. Being reminded of this fact made me appreciate my single status even more—which is why I decided to permanently draw them in with before-and-after reports. I went on a date recently after meeting some married friends of mine for a cocktail. Before I left, we worked out a code that I would text them through the night: “C” for Cute, “NC” for Not Cute, “SC” for Super Cute, SFO for “Still Figuring it Out,” etc. We had such laughs thinking about what I might find, that I walked away from them and toward my date with a giddy anticipation I hadn’t felt in a while. (Oh, and by the way, that date was super-cute and super-nice.)

Tell yourself, “I won’t settle for any old relationship, I want an amazing relationship”
If you’re ever feeling low about your unattached status, ask yourself this: If you really, truly wanted to be dating just anyone, you could be, right? The guy who e-mailed you for a second date. The girl who gave you her number at a party. That ex who still calls to “check in.” You just choose not to date them because they’re not right for you. And that’s a good sign, because it proves you won’t settle for just an average relationship. You want someone who’s really right for you. It makes any amount of waiting worthwhile.

Go on you-can’t-lose dates
Nothing seems like more of a waste than having an average, predictable evening with a boring date you know you’ll never see again. And that’s why you should try this can’t-lose strategy: Find something you’ve really wanted to do…and do that on your date. Take him or her to a driving range or the opera or play bridge together if you’ve been hankering to go. Because you can’t help being optimistic when you know that no matter what happens with the love connection, you still win! This also works if you’re looking for dates, too: “Instead of meeting men in bars, I started doing fun things to meet them,” says Stephanie Prepon, 36. So far she’s taken sailing lessons, golf lessons, and signed up as a member of the Guggenheim Museum—and met some great men in the process.

Remind yourself that it’s a numbers game
You don’t rent the first apartment you see, and you don’t buy the first bathing suit you try on. You sample them all, and the more you try, the closer you know you’re getting to what you want. Well, it’s the same with love. Remind yourself of that fact! Sometimes the restaurant is only average, sometimes the $160 jeans stretch too much in the butt, and sometimes your date will disappoint you. But getting the bad ones out of the way takes you that much closer to the good ones—and more importantly, makes you appreciate the crazy twists and turns on the road to real romance.

Amy Spencer writes for Glamour, Maxim, and Real Simple among other publications.

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

—Amy

Sex and Two Cities: Naked New York



PLAYBOY, April, 2003
NAKED NEW YORK

By Anna David

In Los Angeles I never find the men, only the boys. Perhaps because the town dream is celebrity (an excuse to play all day), the males here seem trapped happily in perpetual adolescence. It's all about games and sex and drinking, a film executive says, pretty much summing up a typical LA boy's dream activities. Even the ones in suits - the ones alleging to be men - seem interested only in chasing after perfect newbies with enhanced bosoms that flood L.A.X. daily (part of California's fresh-meat for fresh-produce deal with the rest of the country). So convinced is the male Angeleno of his endless dating possibilities, L.A. girls have to get used to the fact that one day, out of the blue, he just may not call. The first boy who did this to me told me his reason years later: "You really needed to wax, baby," he said, shrugging. "Down there." Over time I got used to it. But when I grew up and the men around me didn't, I began to suspect that things might be radically different on the other coast. I decided that a trip to New York was just what the waxer ordered.

THE MAGAZINE GUY

"He's good-looking, straight, the editor of a men's magazine and I've never heard of him screwing over anyone I know. Either you've managed in one night to uncover New York's undiscovered gem or there's something really wrong with this picture."

So says a friend of mine--one of those beautiful, cynical publishing girls who has a firm grasp on her city's dating scene--when I tell her about making out with high-powered Magazine Guy in the cab the night before.

At first, I'm horrified and feel defensive on his behalf, but I slowly realize that she has a point. Nongeeky Magazine Guys, an only-in-New-York phenomenon, are intellectual rock gods to us Magazine Girls; if Viggo Mortensen and Dave Eggers could morph into one creature (who also had the power to hire us at a competitive salary or at least give us that world-weary-but-wise girl column we've been aching to write), he'd be the Magazine Guy. We definitely don't have MG's in L.A.

I meet him at the Hudson, Ian Schrager's newest hotel, during an allegedly exclusive party for something no one in attendance seemed to be sure of. It's my first evening in town and I'd slept maybe three hours the night before and not at all on the plane. I arrive feeling self-conscious about my outfit, a hybrid of New York and Los Angeles sensibilities--little black dress over Juicy jeans with a pair of slip-on Jimmy Choos--and I'm fully aware that I have dressed for the girls, not for the guys. (In New York, trendiness is everything; in Los Angeles, as long as it's sexy, it doesn't matter how last year it is.) Two seconds after I walk into the hotel, a girl gives me the up-and-down and promptly spills a drink on me.

Admittedly, I'm not in the best frame of mind to meet a guy. He's introduced to me by Peter, a friend who claims to never go out. In New York that seems going to fewer than nine bars a night, because people are always clapping him on the back and saying things like, "Didn't last night go off?" or "You'll be at Sway tomorrow night, right?" Upon first glance, I'm not particularly impressed with Magazine Guy--or, more accurately, I'm not impressed with how not impressed he seems to be with me. He's dark-haired and tall and appropriately chiseled. However, he is far more interested in chatting with an essentially incoherent Page Six reporter than he is in charming writers from the left coast. I inform Peter that I find Magazine Guy cheesy and too into himself.

The next night after dinner I go to meet Peter, who happens to be having drinks with Mr. Magazine and some other guys. From the get-go, Magazine Guy's attitude has undergone a 180. Before I even sit down in the chair he's suddenly made available by his side, he's tossing out those you-know-you-look-exactly-like compliments. I'm sensing that getting a guy's attention in New York can be difficult but once you have it, it's an easy thing to hold.

Later, after M.G. and I have succeeded in holding each other's attention for a good hour, he starts exploiting his job mercilessly by telling me about an article that he's editing on cunnilingus. He says he would tell me what the article espouses but it's actually something far easier to show than it is to tell. I gulp. Later, when he asks me if I want to share a cab--explaining that his West Village apartment is on my way back to Brooklyn Heights--I say yes.

Now, if we were in L.A., this would mean we'd leave together and then I--being the chick--would decide, depending on a zillion tiny occurrences and whims, whether we're embarking on a random night of sin or just a kiss and number exchange. I figure it's the same thing in New York, only with a chauffeur. Once ensconced in the cab, he starts giving me a back rub--a really good back rub--that evolves into kissing. As the cab pulls up outside his apartment, he starts saying things. They're a jumble of last-minute, nonsensical utterances meant to persuade me to get out here rather than continue on to Brooklyn, something about how he has a king-size bed and a queen-size one and I could sleep in either. I keep kissing him. I'm somewhat self-conscious and aware of the cabbie a few feet away. De Niro's Taxi Driver line about how he always had to wash off the seats at the end of the night twists its way through my mind. Ultimately, I say no. I tell MG that he could literally be Norman Bates in Psycho and I wouldn't know it. He nods and hands me his business card.

When I talk to Peter the next day, I pretend he's a girl and share way too many details about what happened. He tells me Mag Man called him the previous night, complaining that he was alone because I wouldn't come in with him. I'm incredulous--I've been spending the morning contemplating the softness of his lips and all he seems aware of is the fact that I didn't fuck him. I take out that bloody business card. After toying with the idea of e-mailing, I remember that there's no time for clever and cute. I dial determinedly, leaving a message that I have plans for the night but I'd like to meet up with him afterward. It's New York so I decide to be aggressive.

Later that night I swing by his place. I've been to third-floor walk-ups as much as I have penthouses. But when the elevator doors open directly into M.G.'s apartment I'm horrified to admit that I can actually feel my legs spreading at the same rate as the doors. He lounges on a couch near a table that holds a bottle of Dom Perignon with an attached card from Tom Ford positioned for maximum effect. What happens later in the king-size bed (yes, there is a queen size, too) is not sex, but it's highly enjoyable. (I, like many women, subscribe to the Clintonian definition of sex.) Suffice it to say I feel a need to check out what he'd learned from the article he claimed to be editing. While the information is not earth-shattering, I believe most men could benefit from following the advice. When he puts me in a cab and and hands me money, he does it in a way that doesn't make me feel like a prostitute or as if I've sacrificed all my pseudofeminist sensibilities.

The next morning, my cell phone flashes a text message: "Thanks for staying over--Norm Bates." I message back, "Thanks for not being psycho." He messages, "Thanks for tracking me down." Me: "It was worth the trouble.

It's been weeks and I still haven't gotten a response to that. The last I heard, he had turned down a chance to star in The Bachelor and was dating an actress. I guess I'm not the only one with an MG fetish.

THE ACTOR

If you live in Los Angeles, the last kind of guy you're looking to meet in New York is an actor. So it's ridiculous that as I'm fawning over MG; one of New York's most reputed skirt-chasing bold-faced names stops by to say hi to Peter and ends up joining us. Because my focus isn't on the Actor--and because I'm the only woman at the table--he becomes increasingly interested in me.

"What kinds of things do you write?" he asks, glancing down from his cigar.

"Mostly pieces on celebrities," I say with a smile.

"What bullshit," he laughs, tapping ash on the table. "You should write about something interesting."

I can't argue with him on that point. If I inform him of my current project, he's sure to take his cigar and go, so I listen as he tells me that I should read Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky (I'd mentioned that my great-great grandparents were from Russia) and care about politics more. In L.A., I can't help thinking, an actor guy would probably tell me I should read movie scripts about Russian submarines and care more about what's in the trades. I nod flirtatiously, not bothering to mention that Notes From the Underground happens to be sitting (unopened, but there) on my bedroom table.

Since I have two games going at once, this entire exchange is happening in front of Magazine Guy and Peter. And so begins a fascinating verbal sword fight between Actor and Editor; MG makes a reference to a movie Actor was in and Actor counters that Mr. Magazine spends too much time watching bad movies. At first I think Magazine Guy is unsophisticated, like a fan who happens upon a famous person, but as the dialogue continues I realize he's brought up the movie role both because smart people know the movie sucked and the Actor's part was tiny. Actor seems completely indifferent. Is this a Sophisticated New Yorkers' version of a dick swinging contest? When Magazine Guy wanders off briefly Actor grabs my hand, asking me if MG and I are serious.

"Please," I say, shaking my head. "I just met him."

Actor smiles. "Well, I'm going to get your number from Peter," he says. "We'll go out in L.A."

He reaches to the pendant on my necklace, a picture of a naked woman (not me). "Get her dressed, will you?" he flirts, affixing me with that cocky gaze he's done so many times on his TV series (which is nothing like Dostoyevsky or Tolstoy, believe me). I promise. He squeezes my hand. I leave with MG, figuring that's the end of that.

Several days later, as I'm running through the streets of Brooklyn, my cell phone rings.

"Hey, I'm calling from the National Enquirer and I've got a story for you," says someone in a guy-doing-a-flirty-crank-call voice. I hate guys-doing-flirty-crank-call voices.

"Who is this?" I counter, in my I-don't-have-time-for-this voice.

He says his name, first name only, and I draw a blank. Only when he mentions Peter do I make the connection, trying to decide if the National Enquirer joke is funnier or less funny based on who it is. I decide less, then change my mind.

"Are you back in Los Angeles?" he asks, now sounding completely recognizable.

"I will be in a few days."

"Are you free next Monday or Tuesday?" he asks. "Could we go out one of those nights?"

"Probably."

Monday and Tuesday pass without a word. But if LA has taught me anything, it's don't ever take an actor's treatment personally. It's almost a relief, oddly, to find out that the New York version is just as flaky as the LA one.

THE INVESTMENT BANKER

Back when my best male friend from college, Jack, lived in LA, he liked to set me up with incredibly wealthy bores. All he tells me now is that he's found me an Investment Banker who, of course, I'm going to fall in love with.

I meet Banker at a French restaurant on the Upper West Side. When I walk in, I realize I've been given no physical description, so all I'm looking for is someone who appears to be rich. That describes everyone in the restaurant. I mention his name to a waiter and am led immediately to a table where a young-faced, graying man in a button-down shirt and blazer sits.

We haven't looked at the menu and Banker is telling me about his divorce--he had a miserable quickie marriage to a woman he'd known for only a few months. By the time we order I've heard about Banker's chef (on vacation), celebrities he lives near and the 500-plus employees he controls. The shocking part of is that he's not coming off as horrible. Or maybe I'm just surprised he's such a talker--bad dates in LA usually mean awkward pauses. In this case, I'm struggling to even get in a "You're kidding" or "Oh, my." By dessert, Banker begins to reveal a darker side. "Do you have nightmares?" he asks.

I don't.

"I've been having a lot of nightmares lately," he responds. "The same one kind of over and over. Or variations of it."

He frowns the way people do when they're trying to remember their dreams. "It's really violent."

"Violent how?" I imagine he dreams about people tearing up dollar bills.

"Well, my ex-wife has this ax - and she's trying to kill me. No, not me..." Another frown. "She's trying to kill a woman I'm seeing."

He smiles, satisfied, the way people do when they remember their dreams.

Huh. I down a glass of water, wondering if I'm blushing. I have this inconvenient, Zelig-like quality of getting embarrassed for people when they aren't embarrassed for themselves.

"So, do you see a difference between women in LA and New York?" I ask him. Anything to get off of this "paging Dr. Freud" track.

"Absolutely," he smiles. "Women in New York are much more aggressive."

Then he regales me with a story about how a woman once overheard him giving a clerk his address in a video store and slipped a note under his door a few days later. I'm trying to decide if there's something supremely excellent about him that I fail to see or if his address screams "I'm a billionaire" in that indecipherable-to-Angelenos New York speak.

"Who says you have to go back home tomorrow?" he asks suddenly. "I mean, couldn't you just as easily write in Central Park as you could at home?"

I'm not exactly sure what Banker is suggesting so I explain I'm actually ready to go back. He looks hurt. "Because I've had such a wonderful time," I add.

When I make my move to leave, he walks me to get a cab. At the moment when the kiss on the cheek turns into a kiss on the lips, I let it last for about half a second. The truth is, much to my Jewish mother's chagrin, my years in LA have shown that I'm more drawn to the out-of-work actor than to the guy who can give him work. If I were a really good person, I would probably tell Banker to lose the ex-wife-murdering-the-new-girlfriend-dream bit from his rap, but it's much easier to wave enthusiastically as the cab pulls away.

THE SINGLE DAD NOVELIST

When Single Dad Novelist comes to pick me up--by foot, how quaint--I already know he doesn't stand a chance. I'm far too obsessed with MG. During dinner at a local Italian eatery, Novelist actually reveals himself to be more interesting than he seemed over the phone. Before becoming a writer and editor, he lived in Seattle and played in a semi-successful band. Nothing about him screams former band member--but then, nothing about him screams anything. He just seems like a surprisingly unbitter guy who stands back after having been slightly rumpled by the world.

The only topic that seems to get Novelist animated is his daughter. He talks about their trips to Coney Island, their garage sales, their recent cruise (and shows me pictures of that one, to boot)--even the disco party this eight-year-old center of his life wants to have. Maybe it's my biological clock ticking but I can listen to cute kid stories all night. Problem is, this isn't making me fall for Novelist so much as it is making me feel happy that his kid has such a great dad. I don't care what the premise of that Adam Sandler movie was. On a first date, a guy with a kid is not sexy.

After dinner, Novelist and I take a walk around the neighborhood. I ask him all kinds of questions about being a novelist, an occupation that doesn't much exist back home. Of course, there are screenwriters--the whole town, right down to the guy who bags my groceries at Gelson's (true), is one of those. But they talk about the selling, the percentage, the pitch meeting. If they're really creative, maybe they talk about their three-act structure.

We stop in at his apartment, which is filled with art made by friends-turned-successful-artists and stacked to the brim with toys and momentos and books on top of books on top of books. I tell him I want to read his books and he digs through a closet for copies, which he signs while I snoop. He's sitting under a painting he did of Jesus smoking a cigar and we're listening to a record he says he likes to play when he deejays parties (which he seems to do when he's not writing, editing or fathering). I'm almost won over by his Renaissance Man array of skills, his modesty, his calmness, his (in L.A. terminology) good energy when he looks up from signing.

"Hey, we should go to an ATM," he says. "I can get some money so we can go into to the city together."

His eagerness somehow translates to desperation. I shake my head and tell him I'm going to the city on my own.

He's the nicest guy in the world. Too bad I seem to be a sucker for assholes, no matter the city.

AND ALL THE REST

I meet many other men during my week in New York--an adorable hotelier with a lisp and a girlfriend, a music manager who seems to manage only the violinist of a band I didn't know used a violin, a writer who tells me that Sex and the City has ruined the dating scene in New York. "People think because something's been on that show, it's a big deal," he says. That's the last thing New York needs--more things for girls to analyze.

For the hell of it, and because I'm not used to it, I try different ways of walking down the street. At first I try to attract attention with a male companion in tow-hey, I'm happy and I'm on vacation - and I find men that avert their eyes from my hip-swinging, big-smiling gestures. (A hot dog vendor actually looks past me, to the guy, and asks him how he's doing--prompting my male companion to wonder if he was actually just hit on by a man selling hot dogs.) But when I do my best imitation of the New York street gaze--distracted yet tough-looking eyes seemingly fixed on something at neck level--I get the random catcalls from construction workers and the like. Perhaps even more than Angelenos, New Yorkers want what they can't have.

On the way home my plane stops in Vegas, where an overweight, drunk and angry man takes the aisle seat to my window. (No one's in the middle seat, thus my bag occupies its leg area.) Vegas wants to stretch, though.

"Look, you better move that bag," he snorts, by way of greeting. My sweetest side does not emerge and before I know it, Vegas is yelling. A Good Samaritan walks by, insisting I move to his seat and he handles Vegas. I'm overwhelmed with gratitude, the fact that a stranger would come to a girl's rescue like that. I almost feel myself tearing up. But when we land, Hero Man doesn't zip off into the night. He waits for me.

"So, you live in L.A.?" he asks, reaching a hand out to hold the offensive bag. For a second I try to figure out why he looks familiar--and then I realize he's a dead ringer for Anthony Perkins playing Norman Bates. No joke.

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.

Monday
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:

—Amy

Should You Try Dot.com Dating?

Originally printed in Glamour magazine

It was written for the women out there, but it's still chock full of insight for anyone browsing for love. Click on the pages for a readable version before you dot.com yourself another date!



—Amy

Are You Ready to Find "The One?"

This article is currently published on Match.com's online dating and relationship advice magazine, Happen.com


Baffled as to why you’re still looking for love? Maybe you need a fresh approach to gauging who’s right for you. Here’s how to get one.

By Amy Spencer

It happens to the best of us: There you are, going on date after date but none of them seem to be panning out. Maybe you’re just having a string of bad luck. But then again, sometimes — just sometimes — there’s more out there for you than you’ve noticed. Just because you’re keeping your eyes peeled for love doesn’t mean your heart is entirely open. If you can’t put your finger on why you’re still looking, check our list of the most common dating ruts. If you’re in one of them now, you have the power to change your outlook. Then, when someone with potential crosses your path, you’ll recognize it immediately and be ready to pounce!

Problem: You aren’t feeling instant sparks
Solution: Forget romance for a sec and use the “friend” filter
When we go on a date, we’re usually looking for some hit-us-over-the-head romantic chemistry, and when we don’t feel it, we think the date is a waste of time. But that’s not true! “If you have a strong negative reaction to someone you meet, that’s one thing, but a neutral or unsure reaction to a person can turn into chemistry down the line—and those who shut the door right away won’t get to find that out,” says Laurie Helgoe, Ph.D., author of the Boomer’s Guide to Dating (Again) and creator of Wakingdesire.com. So how can you be sure you’re open to later-blooming chemistry? Simple: Instead of using the “romance” filter that measures that love-at-first-sight chemistry, use the “friend” filter on your next date. Think about it: When you talk to a new person at a party, you don’t use cocktail conversation to search out what the two of you don’t have in common, you look for the things you do have in common. Try doing that on your next date. Instead of casting off your date too quickly (as in “Oh, he’s not into music,” or “Oh, she’s far too quiet compared to me”), hone in on whether you both love Frasier re-runs, have similar views on immigration, or can’t stand cheese plates. “The pursuit of friendship takes the pressure off by making the goal of the date learning about the person,” says Dr. Helgoe. Which, let’s be honest, is what a first date should be anyway. Because the more common ground you discover, the more likely chemistry can develop later.

Problem: Your dates look great on paper… but that’s it
Solution: Pay attention to how you’re feeling vs. your date’s résumé
So this person has a ton of wonderful qualities. That’s fine, for a start. But amazing chemistry isn’t just about finding someone you admire or think would be a great life partner. It’s about how you feel when you’re with that person. For instance, if the date you had last night was friendly and gregarious, but you felt more meek or quiet than usual in his or her shadow, that doesn’t make for strong chemistry. “You want to really feel like yourself—your happiest, most excited self,” explains Rhonda Findling, author of The Dating Cure. So on your next rendezvous, don’t merely ask “Do I like this person?” Also ask yourself “Do I like myself when I’m around this person?” And with an attitude like that, you just may recognize something brilliant very soon.

Problem: You don’t think this person has long-term potential
Solution: Try the “Carpe date-’em” trick
We single people are so afraid of “settling” that we can’t help looking ahead to the future in the first few minutes on a date. In the movie Something’s Gotta Give, Jack Nicholson asks Diane Keaton if she wants to go for a walk along the beach. She stammers and wavers until finally he says, “It’s just a walk, not a marriage proposal!” Try to think of your dates the same way. It’s not a long-term commitment... it’s a latte. Take it one step at a time. You know that saying carpe diem—in Latin, it means seize the day? Instead of carpe diem, carpe date-’em! Go one a date for what it is, and don’t start obsessing about whether this person wants the same number of kids as you do. Going slow is fine.

Problem: You swear all the good ones are taken already
Solution: Look again… at people you usually pass over
Thanks to all the adorably hopeful romantic comedy movies they keep making, it’s sometimes hard to shake the thought that someone, somewhere, someday, will sweep you off your feet and move with you to an old vineyard in Italy. But what about your neighbor, who hits the same coffee shop in the morning thirty seconds after you do? Like traffic accidents, love accidents often happen close to home. You may be looking for a fairytale, but remember that sometimes, the fairytale is finding someone when you’re taking out the trash. “Think about the happy ending in Bridget Jones’ Diary,” says Dr. Helgoe. “She didn’t end up with her sexy boss… she ended up with the guy she met at the family party wearing a reindeer sweater!” So keep your antenna up 24/7 and the next time you wonder, “Where are all the good single men and women?” remind yourself they may be standing next to you on line at Old Navy or Whole Foods.

Problem: You feel down about yourself and not date-worthy
Solution: Give yourself a pre-date pep rally
After traveling a few miles on the road to nobody special, it’s easy to start blaming yourself. You wind up going out and socializing or turning up on a date with a sad-sack attitude. (Hint: Not a turn-on…) Nobody wants to date a downer, so it’s time to corral the cheerleaders in your life to remind you why you’re such a catch. One hour before your next date, give one of your cheerleaders a call. Maybe it’s an older brother who says, “Dude, you are a fine specimen. Go get ‘em!” When I’m having a down dating spell, I email my gay friend (the Will to my Grace) my latest dating sob story just so he’ll write back, “Are you kidding? You’re the prettiest girl in the world! If I liked girls, I would have wanted to marry you five years ago!” Is it hokey? Yes. Does it work every time? You betcha.

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

You can also link directly to this article on Happen.com, where you will find plenty more of my dating advice:
Happen.com Magazine: Are You Ready to Find the One?

—Amy