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Nine ways to meet a guy

Date: 2006-09-30

OK, admittedly it's been a while since I went man shopping (I've been married for years), but the subject still fascinates me. I'm always curious about how both readers and the young women on my staff meet guys -- and the frustrations they experience along the way.

Many women admit to being discouraged and annoyed because the process is "so hard." They wish it could all unfold naturally, effortlessly and romantically. After a spate of fruitless nights in bars and clubs, they feel an urge to take to their couches rather than face one more night of being "out there."

But whoever said it was supposed to be easy? I think you have to tackle meeting guys like you would any big project -- by putting lots of effort into it, perfecting your skills as you go, and realizing that some strategies work a whole lot better than others. What's funny is that as soon as you accept the fact that it's a project, the whole experience feels less daunting. And you'll have far more luck.

So approach it as if you were about to buy your first apartment or plan a trip to Fiji, rather than hoping something will just happen when you show up at a party. Here are the nine best tips I've learned.

1. Don't develop hard-and-fast rules about the ways you're willing to go about your search. Some women, for instance, have a policy against being fixed up. Or they refuse to ever try online dating. But you need to be flexible and willing to experiment with a variety of strategies, particularly if you find yourself in a drought. Zillions of women have met good guys on blind dates. So why turn your nose up at them? And you can't simply try one blind date and then bag the whole strategy. My theory has always been that a winning prospect only comes around every six to seven blind dates, so you may have to chitchat with five chumps in order to get there.

You also need to be flexible about the places you go to meet guys. If you head to the same bars all the time, you're going to see the same old guys -- or the same type. There are always interesting new ways to meet men, and you need to keep your ear to the ground to hear what's hot at a given moment. It keeps changing. One minute networking cocktail parties are all the rage, and the next minute something else is. I heard lately, for instance, that day spas are starting to offer times when singles can mingle.

2. Be unashamedly proactive and methodical. Cold-hearted calculation doesn't seem like a very magical approach to meeting the love of your life, but there will be plenty of time for magic once you're dating. Tell yourself that you will do at least two specific things every week to facilitate your quest. And when opportunities present themselves, make things happen rather than just allowing them to unfold.

For instance, if you see a hottie and there doesn't seem to be an easy way to meet him, accidentally bump into him, for God's sake.

3. If you are going to a party, bar, or event, do not travel in huge packs of women. Women who move in wolf packs intimidate guys. It's hard to break into a group that size, plus it's easy for a guy to think that the moment he turns around after talking to you, all the other chicks are going to laugh hysterically about a comment he made or even the pants he's wearing. Two is an OK number (you and a friend) but three is even better because one friend has a pal to talk to if you start chatting someone up.

4. Avoid being too glam. When you're all dolled up, you may feel like a man magnet, but guys are often put off by too much product. Lots of makeup and tons of designer labels scream high maintenance, and guys say repeatedly in e-mails and interviews to us that they don't like that. Plus, all that junk makes you seem unapproachable.

You want to look pretty and sexy, period. One other tip: Consider wearing something that could be a conversation starter, like a T-shirt with something funny written on it or a faux-fur vest that a guy may ask to touch.

5. Have a drink in your hand. We once had a cute girl write a piece about her experience being a professional wing woman -- someone hired by shy guys to chat up women in bars and then introduce them. She provided a great tip: Do not stand around empty-handed. If you are holding a drink, a guy won't feel he has to immediately buy one for you. But then later, if things are going well, ordering you a refill gives him something positive to do.

6. Do not be too coy. Coy can be sexy and very appealing. Guys, as we know, like the chase. But if you seem too elusive, guys won't approach. These days, more than ever, men seem to dislike ambiguity and they shy away from the slightest chance of rejection. So what's a coy move that works? When I was a young single writer, David Givens, anthropologist and author of "Love Signals: A Practical Guide to the Body Language of Courtship," gave me a wonderful tip: Make eye contact with an object of desire, hold for three seconds, and then look away. Repeat. If he's interested, you've given him a pretty clear signal that it's safe to head your way.

Once you're talking to a guy, you don't want to be all over him like white on rice -- you'll only seem desperate. But let him know in a slightly more subtle manner that you're interested -- for instance, by laying your hand on his arm when you make a point.

7. When there's an adorable guy suddenly in your path, don't be so worried about saying the perfect thing that you end up saying nothing at all. All right, you don't want to come across like an idiot, but as long as you seem fun and friendly, you'll be OK -- so just get something out.

To be better than OK, rely on a few strategies.

Asking for help from a guy is a surefire conversation starter. Because you're not trying to be clever, you'll feel less self-conscious, and also, guys love to offer assistance.

If you are in an electronics store and see an adorable guy five feet away, you can try something like "Excuse me, could you tell me the difference between LCD and plasma screen TVs?"

Humor can work, too, but it's trickier. Rather than try to be the next Ellen DeGeneres, you can make a cute comment about the absurdity of a given moment. For instance, if you are standing by an elevator, you could slyly say, "I hear that pressing the button 20 or 30 times actually does make it come faster."

Another good trick: playfully polling a guy. An example: "I'm taking a poll for the bar. Did you have to drive more than five miles to get here?" You could also come up with a question about yourself you toss out to him, like "Do you think I should get blue contact lenses?"

8. Be positive. A few years ago I arranged for a single friend of mine to sit next to a hot guy at a charity dinner. Through the night, I watched them from my table and I had every reason to believe things were going well. She seemed enchanted and they were both talking up a storm. But later the guy told me that my friend had offered up an endless stream of negative riffs. She hated the subway, her boss, teacup dogs, etc. She thought that confessing things she didn't like was a way of bonding with him, but guys are turned off by negativity.

9. Really hear what he has to say. When you're nervous, it's easy to become overly self-conscious. You might ask a guy you've just met plenty of questions, but be so worried about what to say next that you don't pay close attention to his answers. And that will make it harder to form a connection with him. Here's a trick to help you focus. Wait a few beats after he says something and think about what he's said. Then allow your next comment or question to really play off what he's told you.

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