How can I attract the opposite sex?

First you have to meet eligible singles. If you're still in school, your job is relatively easy. You're surrounded by hundreds of people every day, half of whom are of the opposite gender. If your school is not coeducational or if you're in trade school and most or all of your peers are of the same sex, or, of course, if you're past school age, your job will be a little more difficult. Then you'll simply have to be a little more imaginative in finding ways to meet potential dates.

Places typically recommended by "experts" include the laundromat, the shopping mall, and the supermarket. The laundromat can indeed be a good place to meet available singles. Every patron spends at least an hour there with little to do but wait for the "wash" or "dry" cycle to finish. This makes the people more receptive to conversational initiatives by others, as well as for allowing ample time for conversations to develop.

The supermarket or the shopping mall may be less attractive as potential singles meeting grounds, however. True, the romantic image of the supermarket may consist of meeting the man or woman of one's dreams in the frozen food section: you and he (or she) smile at each other, your hands brush as you reach for the T.V. dinners, and the next thing you know, a wonderful conversation has ensued. And the shopping mall is said to be a favorite hang-out--at least for young people. But for the chronically shy, both these settings may hold less promise than more structured ones. They fear many people go to these places not so much to meet people as to simply make purchases. The fact that few, if any, strangers may have struck up conversations with them there indicates that most people are not receptive to the idea of these places as informal "singles bars." And for the shy person, where even little details matter, any lack of receptivity by another person can be fatal to one's self-confidence.

On the other hand, there is one thing to be said for shopping malls: the specialty stores. If you notice someone browsing in your favorite section of the book or record store or some other specialty shop, this is a good indication that the two of you share similar interests, which can be grounds for conversation and getting to know each other better.

Letting friends and relatives know that you are looking for a companionable dating partner can sometimes turn up leads. You might be able to get introductions through these people and at the very least, names and telephone numbers.

Another good way to meet potential dates, if you're past school age, is by enrolling in a local adult-education course.

Various enterprising people in our society have set up a variety of mechanisms to help compatible singles meet each other in an effort to supplement the traditional ones. One of these is the video dating service. Available singles are interviewed on videotape, as well as watching videotaped interviews of other singles. This allows them to "see" potential dating partners before they arrange their first date. Although this can be a bit pricey, it may be worth investigating for those who are at ease before a camera.

In addition, there are the "900" telephone numbers, phone lines that people call up to chat with a bunch of other people and possibly arrange dates. Unfortunately, these don't seem to be very promising. The charge for these calls can be pretty stiff, and the conversation can be pretty strained. And there's no guarantee that a person you would like to meet will be calling the line at the same time you are, anyway. There are better ways to meet people. In short, as one woman's magazine put it, "Romance can't flourish at a dollar per minute."

Another place, it is generally agreed, that the shy person (and nearly everybody else, for that matter) should not spend their time looking for dates is in the so-called "singles bars." In this highly-competitive atmosphere, those with the cleverest "lines" or the most seemingly self-confident manner are the ones likely to get the most attention. Here, too, people are most likely to have their guard up to avoid being seen as merely another "conquest" by those around them. The singles bar scene is described by those who have experienced it as more like a "game" than a real way to meet the opposite sex. Not very promising for most people.

What About the Classified Ads? Should you advertise in the personal columns? Many people are uncomfortable with the idea of "marketing" themselves like a soft drink or a bottle of mouthwash. But for the shy person, the personals may be a way of meeting people that is worth a second look.

A misconception is that those who use the personals are simply looking for "one night stands." Some people are, but as Marie Edwards and Eleanor Hoover point out in The Challenge of Being Single, the obviousness of these types of people makes them easy to avoid. And in fact, many of the advertisers in single's columns are looking for long-term relationships and even marriage.

Aren't the personal ads an "artificial" way to meet people, though? Not really. Some people find the traditional dating scene--hanging out in bars, or trying to think of a "cute" or "clever" opening line--to be truly artificial. If the participants in a single's column are truthful, this way of meeting people can be one of the most honest there is. Everybody is totally up front about what they are looking for in a person before they even meet--what could be more honest than that?

Are the single's ads dangerous, though? Not with a little common sense. There are several layers of protection. First, advertisers and respondents are anonymous. Last names, phone numbers and addresses need only be exchanged when both participants feel comfortable doing so. Secondly, the advertiser can screen out replies and the respondent can screen out ads, eliminating any that may seem questionable. Third, the relationship can proceed in stages, first with letters, then with telephone calls, and finally with coffee or lunch. Fourth, initial meetings can (and should) be held in a public place. Perhaps a restaurant, maybe a coffeehouse, or just a spot in the park. And finally, if a friend is informed about plans and schedules, a fifth layer of protection will be added. Although all relationships (even traditional ones) can have their dangers, following these precautions makes using the personals relatively safe.

I shall now make a case, however, for what I think is one of the best ways to meet compatible members of the opposite sex: and that is, in the club or organization.

By "club or organization," I mean a volunteer group, a church, a civic or a hobbyist organization. As a member of such a group, you will form a sense of camaraderie with the others. You demonstrate that you have a genuine concern and interest in the things the other people in the group are interested in.

Joining a volunteer group is a great way of meeting compatible people. If you're interested in the environment, join an environmental group. If you're concerned about illiteracy, join a literacy tutoring program. You'll meet people who not only share the same interests, but probably the same sensitivities as well. Of course, you must be genuinely concerned about the issue the group is involved in. If you join such a group merely as a means to meet other people, the others will spot your phoniness and resent you for it. You probably won't find the people you meet very interesting, either. However, when you stick with a volunteer group, you automatically create a sense of partnership with others. You demonstrate that you have a genuine concern and interest in the things other people are concerned about!

Another good way to meet potential dates, if you're past school age, is by enrolling in a local adult-education course. Such courses are available for a moderate fee and offer instruction in everything from relaxation techniques to creative writing to ice skating. Of course, these classes will require you to overcome your shyness fairly quickly, since the average class lasts only a few weeks. However, a class is a setting at which you know the same people will be present every week, so you have an extended period to get to know them better. This allows you to avoid the awkwardness or abruptness of trying to arrange dates or other outside activities with a virtual stranger after only one meeting.

How do I ask for a date?

The whole process of dating is a source of confusion for many people. One young girl wrote an advice columnist asking how she was supposed to make a boy in her class aware of the fact that she liked him. "Is it polite to just tell him, or should I write it in a note?"

The standard procedure, far simpler and less potentially embarrassing to both parties, is to simply strike up a conversation. As with any friendship, the amount of enthusiasm he displays will indicate if her interest is reciprocated, while she does not commit herself if it is not. An affirmative reaction, however, could easily lead to a non-romantic reason for getting together, such as lunch, a library study session or a trip to the ice cream parlor "to compare class notes."

The next step may be to invite him or her to some activity not far removed from the setting in which you normally find yourselves. For example, arrange to eat lunch, go for a walk, or study together. This will allow the two of you to gauge your compatibility with each other in a relaxed, casual setting, and could lead to a closer relationship, if indicated.

None of this is actually "taking somebody out on a date," however. In commonly accepted parlance, a "date" (meaning a possible prelude to a romantic relationship) is when one person, usually the male, invites the other person to some kind of evening activity, almost always including a meal at a restaurant and some form of entertainment, such as a movie or play. The male usually picks up the female by car and may also meet the female's parents. If you use the above strategy, the actual invitation to a real, formal date will have to come later.

On the other hand, some people prefer just to ask another person for a date flat out. For example, shortly after meeting someone and deciding that you're compatible, you might say: "Would you like to go with me to the movies on Saturday night?" (And here you name the movie that's playing.) "I know of a great restaurant I'd like to take you to." And many people find it easier to ask for a first date by phone.


What do I do on a date?

But what do you talk about on a date? This is a natural concern for many people. Most social interactions are relatively short. But, a date traditionally occupies an entire evening! What on earth is the shy person going to talk about for all that time?

Fortunately, it's easier than you may think. For one thing, a date is usually centered around some sort of activity, such as going to a dance or to the movies. This solves most of your problems for you. During a movie, you don't have to talk about anything, and afterwards, the movie itself serves as a topic of conversation. So the problem of conversation becomes relatively simple. Making your first date relatively short and centered around an activity of some sort will do a lot to calm your nerves.

Much of your conversation will be based upon you and your date's initial meeting. You already know something about your date, so this makes conversation much easier; you simply base your conversation on what you already know about him or her. Ask about a project of the other person that came out during the previous conversation. Ask about a problem he or she was trying to get resolved. If you've ascertained the other person's interests, you can even do some reading up on them before the next date so that you can impress your partner with your knowledge of his or her interests!

If you're young, school is an excellent subject for conversation, and can provide an endless supply of topics. If your date is employed, work can be a good source for conversation.

Following are some additional tips for keeping the conversation going. (These tips apply to other social situations as well):

  • Discuss events in the news

Maybe the other person isn't real up on current events. But there's an easy way to find out. When the other person says something that reminds you of something you read or heard on the news, use this natural tie-in and see if it gets a good reaction: (Speaking of politics, did you hear about the new crime bill they're trying to put into law? If the other person isn't up on current events, he or she may really be into celebrity news or pop culture. So, study up a bit on feature articles in newspapers and magazines before you go on the next date.

  • Talk about the situation that brought you together

The friend who introduced you or the place where the two of you met is a perfectly natural topic of conversation.

  • Talk about the present situation.

That salad looks delicious. What's in it?

Look at all the bicyclists out today! Do you enjoy riding yourself?

I'm really looking forward to that movie tonight. Have you caught any of Arnold Schwarzenegger's previous films?

Just as important in knowing how to win a date is knowing exactly what it is that you want from a date. Is dating for you a prelude to marriage? If so, what is the age at which you would wish to be wed? Is it right after high school or college? Is it somewhere far off in the future?

Or maybe you view dating as simply an enjoyable way to spend an evening. You might even wish to remain single--at least for the foreseeable future. In any case, to what degree do you think sexual relations should enter the picture? Are they something that may be consummated before marriage, or something that should wait until only afterwards? What are your moral, religious and philosophical beliefs about such matters? No answer is necessarily wrong, but only once you have reached the level of knowledge, maturity and independence that you can make intelligent decisions about such matters. Then you will realize that many people have sex at an early age and regret it later, and that the only "safe" sex is, as one surgeon general put it, "with an uninfected, mutually faithful partner." Only after you have known somebody for quite some time can you make truly reliable judgments about such matters.

Some people feel that dating is merely for winning sexual gratification, a belief that is incorrect, but widespread. It is possible for a man and a woman to enjoy each other's company without considering either sexual relations or marriage, but in this case their relationship will eventually be termed a "friendship" rather than a "romance." In any event, it is important that you have a clear idea of where you stand on these issues before you begin dating. Choosing as dates those who have compatible goals and desires can save the two of you much misunderstanding and disappointment later on.


How do I communiate romantic interest?

> Several times over the past years I have made contact with
> someone I am very interested in and I have
> become good friends. This is nice, however I
> was hoping for something "more," like a romantic-type
> relationship.

All right, first of all, be glad you can make friends. A lot of shy people can't even do that, and friendships can be very valuable.

Sending out romantic signals. How to Start a Conversation and Make Friends by Don Gabor (the audiocassette) has a lot of tips on this. Here are some of them.

Expression: "I'd really like to get to know you better."

Body language: Warm smiles, long eye contact, affectionate touch on arm.

Communicate availability status through conversation.

Suggest dinner, attendance at a party, or a walk in the park. How about activities with just the two of you, such as cross country skiing through the countryside or a hike along a nature trail.

Don't push it too fast! And especially, don't push for sex. I suspect that this is the reason most guys get the "I just want to be friends" talk (though they might deny this). Do all the other things for several months, even a year or more, without even once making a reference to the two of you being boyfriend and girlfriend. Let her suggest it.

One advantage: until she officially pronounces the two of you "boyfriend and girlfriend" you are perfectly free to see other women. (By "see" I mean do all the same things with them that you do with her.)

Doesn't sound like such a bad deal to me.

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