104 Ways To Break The Ice

So I’m out at a bar with a friend and he tells me there’s a girl across the room that he thinks maybe made eye contact twice or might have been three times but it’s possible she was looking at someone else or something on the bar and you never really know in these situations so maybe he’ll just stay here, he says, leave her alone, since she’s probably having a nice night and he doesn’t want to ruin that and he doesn’t have anything to say anyway.

You don’t have anything to say?

See, I’ve always held the opinion that it doesn’t matter what you say, as long as you say something. The whole 99% of life is showing up thing which is I know is corny but which I also know is true. I mean, nobody in a bar, or the world in general, thinks you’re actually interested in the shoes or the weather or the New York Giants or the new season of Sherlock or how loud the place is or whatever — it’s just the necessary cover for the please talk to me I’m lonely that we’re all desperately communicating but don’t want to acknowledge. That’s just the ‘game’ people talk about, and there’s nothing wrong with it. For years I told partners I had a totally sweet saltwater aquarium in my apartment and did they want to come up and check it out? And not one person ever complained about my lack of an aquarium. All parties were just happy to have found a way around having to say, “Hey, I think you’re pretty and I want to kiss you.”

So I’ve never once had a relationship begin with something grand and romantic, like I came to expect from the movies, and I figured the same was true for most other people, as well. The opening lines of my relationships span from sweepingly idiotic to mundane, and while there are some sweet ones in there, too, they certainly don’t make up the majority — nor did they predict future success and compatibility. In fact, many of my favorite longest-lasting relationships emerged from moments that were painfully awkward — shining examples of the opposite of smooth.

So when my friend told me he had nothing to say, I told him it didn’t matter. I said: just walk over there and open your mouth. Something will come out. Trust me. You won’t say nothing. And if you do say nothing, that’s good, because we as humans don’t need your nothing-saying genes in the mating pool, anyway. And so he stepped off his stool, straightened his tie, and cleared his throat. I gave his shoulders a hearty shake, then slapped his face and spun him around, pushed him in the direction of the girl.

He stumbled but caught his footing — walked right up to her table and said,

Uhhhhhhhh, what kind of chocolate is that? Is that French? I mean is the chocolate from France?

They’re together now. He’s been in a mutually-loving relationship with that person ever since, making love — not even banging, making love – every day and sending emails like We’ll find you someone, Jack, I’m sure there’s someone out there for you, too and posting adorable pictures of themselves on the internet and the walls and anywhere which will allow it, and it’s almost too much, and it’s all because he walked over and said something. He said anything.

It’s a good example.

It’s a good example that 99% of meeting someone nice is in showing up, is in preventing yourself from overanalyzing and instead just being with them in that particular place at that particular time. That it’s never as difficult to connect with someone as it seems in your head. That love is not this impossible thing reserved for the clever — it’s the for the awkward and embarrassed and the lonely and the unimaginative and the nervous and the self-conscious and anyone who can bring themselves for a single moment to say something.

Say anything.

And I know this is true. Because I checked.

I checked one hundred different relationships for their first words. The rules were simple: the first line must be honest — what was actually said in that moment — and it must have led to love. Romantic love; the sort of love we’re all about. The kind we imagine on Valentine’s Day, wish for when we’re alone, fight tooth and claw to protect when we find it. That sort of love. And the lines below are the result. They’re the truth. They were all — each and every one of them — good enough to find someone love, and, I think you’ll find, something worth considering the next time you’re certain you don’t have anything to say.

  1. Yeah, no, that girl’s not my girlfriend or anything.
  2. Hi, I’m [someone].
  3. Hey, sorry, you probably don’t remember me but the other day you asked for a pen and I said no, and I felt like I was kind of rude, I mean I really didn’t have a pen to loan you, I just had the one and I needed it to write that, but I felt like maybe I came off rude and, I dunno, I worry a lot about that I guess, and I didn’t want you to be thinking like ‘wow that girl sure was an asshole’ all week, which you probably weren’t, I know, you probably didn’t even give it a second thought, but like honestly I was just sitting here kind of hoping you’d sit there again so I could apologize and this isn’t really turning out as planned, so sorry, for this too, and um, my name’s [Someone].
  4. So you went to school with him?
  5. Wait so it’s you who put all the Spice Girls on the juke?
  6. You sound drunk.
  7. Is this The Village? Am I in The Village right now? And am I saying that right?
  8. So, you go to an all-girls college… do you like chicks?
  9. Can I call you Trixie?
  10. Hey there — you seemed cool, thought i’d write :) what was guatemala like? i’ve never been anywhere in central or south america yet. hoping to make it to brazil one of these days. maybe we’ll talk!
  11. No, I’m not going to add you on Facebook.
  12. Hi, is anyone sitting here?
  13. You played baseball? I played softball in high school!
  14. It’s great to see someone put their faith on Tumblr like this. I’ve always been scared to talk about religion on my blog. Hope you keep it up!
  15. So, you’re a Texas fan?
  16. You’re the girl from the bus right?
  17. Do you live around here?
  18. Hi I’m (someone), I’ll be one of your debate coaches this year.
  19. Hi, so… uh… my mom told me to come over here and talk to you.
  20. Cool hair. Purple’s my favorite color.
  21. I love Northern Howl.
  22. Wow, you’re a great kisser.
  23. Um.. can you teach me how to play four square?
  24. So, are you in town for Lollapalooza?
  25. Hey, is the Internet working?
  26. Can I put makeup on you?
  27. I like your beard.
  28. Is there anyone normal here?
  29. What do you think of philosophy so far? Like, in general.
  30. So, last night, inspired by your conversation that I was kind of eavesdropping on yesterday, I watched probably the most scarring movie I’ve seen in like a year, and I entirely blame you. Do you know Lars von Trier?
  31. You wanna hit this?
  32. Which Harry Potter book is that?
  33. That’s nice, but I thought I was being set up with someone named Dieter. Where’s Dieter?
  34. Well, that’s the second time I literally ran into you today. But you don’t have tacos in your hand this time. I like tacos though, so I wouldn’t mind if you were holding them again. My name is Matt, by the way.
  35. So, I guess we’ve been partnered up to work on this assignment together.
  36. Yeah, I think I met you before at your sister’s birthday party, like, two years ago. I remember that.
  37. Hi, wow, this is kind of awkward, because my friend told me I should instant message you and Facebook you, she’s such a matchmaker, but according to your profile, it says you like Bright Eyes!  I like Bright Eyes, too!
  38. I just want to tell you that I thought your fiction piece was supremely great.  We should hang out sometime; want to go to Trader Joe’s and pick up some cider and day drink?
  39. Brandeis, huh?  My mom and dad went there.
  40. I guess the sky does look pink.  You and your pink sky.
  41. Your eyes are like brown diamond. Beautiful. Is this how you say it?
  42. You licked my braces!
  43. I really love that shade of lipstick that you’re wearing.  Maybe I can try it on sometime.
  44. Wanna go back to my, um, dorm?
  45. I’m a cage fighter.  Really.
  46. Wow, what an awesome Led Zeppelin t-shirt!  I love Zeppelin.
  47. I hate heading back to my apartment in Allston — cabs are so expensive.  Maybe I can just crash at your place?
  48. Can I have a Gusher, ?
  49. I like your earrings.
  50. I guess my favorite fruit is mango. Watermelon?
  51. So… how about we go on a date?
  52. So, what do you think is better, California or Maine?
  53. Is anyone sitting here?
  54. You look lost. Who are you here with?
  55. HEY, I haven’t seen you since middle school!
  56. I wish I didn’t have to spend my time in this amazing country alone…
  57. Hi, I’ve been working with the Office of International Programmes and I’ll be coordinating all of your field trips domestically and to neighboring countries while you study abroad here at the university. Nice to meet you.
  58. Hey shawty.
  59. Hey, you probably don’t remember me but I was in your math class last semester. Did you get an A in that class? The professor seemed creepy, like he gives A’s to girls just because they’re pretty. I mean not that you’re pretty or anything. I mean you are pretty, but you’re probably good at math also. I’m sorry.
  60. Has anyone ever told you that you look like Cher. I mean that in a good way.
  61. You’re that girl who dated Isaac Watts in high school, right? Props dude, that must’ve been rough.
  62. Are you on acid right now?
  63. You have really beautiful hair.
  64. Sorry, I know this is a weird question but do you know anyone who could sell me ecstasy?
  65. Do you know where the bathroom is?
  66. Do you work here?
  67. My name is [someone], this is my girlfriend.
  68. Hello.
  69. You have very monkey-like fingers.
  70. Whatcha drinking?
  71. Hey, I like your avatar.
  72. Why aren’t you playing basketball?
  73. So… coffee.
  74. Oh my god, wow… you’re so… blonde! WHO is actually that blonde?
  76. Oh, hey. You work here too, right?
  77. Hey, how are you? What can I get you to drink?
  78. A/S/L?
  79. Hey, I like your tattoos.
  80. What do you want… to drink?
  81. Do you wanna touch tums?
  82. Are you rolling?
  83. I give great hand massages.
  84. I’d better stop.  Someone else might discover the “one beer” trick, and I’m the one that will lose if they know.
  85. Can I lay with you?
  86. I’m drunk messaging since I need alcohol in order to get the nerve to ask you…
  87. What would you do if a car came at us right now?
  88. So, you wanna make out?
  89. You have a very beautiful smile. Why aren’t you smiling more often?
  90. Can I borrow your sweatshirt?
  91. Hey, can I see your book? It’s a really cool book. I like old books.
  92. You picked a shitty time in pop culture history to re-read Dracula.
  93. Real men don’t need chasers!
  94. I just wiped my nose with this hand
  95. Why are you wearing a sombrero?
  96. Hey, how’s it going?
  97. Who’s he?
  98. What are we shooting? Count me in!
  99. People tell me that we’d have fun doing impressions together.
  100. I recognize you.
  101. Wow, you’re suuuuch a good singer.
  102. I really like your hair.
  103. I like your shirt.
  104.  You need 22s on that bitch. TC mark
image – Shutterstock


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  • Courtney


    • Anonymous

      They are 104 opening lines reported to me by various people who turned them into loving relationships.

      what part was confusing


    These were wonderfully amusing (and inspiring! :P)

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  • Kaitlyn

    Brandeis shout-out!

  • http://www.twitter.com/mexifrida Frida

    The one we were all waiting for. Nice perspective at how simply things can begin.

    • JE

      I was the Bright Eyes line contributor.  Unfortunately, that one didn’t pan out, but the “You go to an all-girls school, do you like chicks?” did.  (I’m a lady-lovin’ lady, so it was more of an honest question, not a creepy come-on.)  In the end, I guess it’s always a #BrightEyesFail.  I guess that’s what Oberst would want, right?

  • CornyCupid

    “Here is a link to my myspace, if you like what you see, I guess I’ll be hearing from you. ”

    I heard from him and 6 years later I still love hearing from him everyday. 

  • Anonymous


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      i know you.

      • Anonymous

        Crooks get off of Thought Catalog right now.

  • http://karyninny.com/ karyn

    I am number 9 and I feel that I’ve contributed to Valentine’s Day in some important way now. Thanks, Jack. 

  • salt salt n pepa

    this is boring as hale

    • Anonymous

      thats the point

      • Anonymous

        ugggghg i give up

  • angel

    the issue for me tho–and why i don’t attempt to break any ice– is  because i’m pretty much clueless as to how to keep the ice broken. really it comes down to how easy it is to talk to the person. or if the awkward silences are pleasant enough and not murder.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=11519626 Yu Hin Adrian Ho

      I feel your pain.
      My best guess is to jump to the next random shit that pops into your mind. The issue is that my brain starts thinking and over analyzing things. And nothing comes of it.

      • Irrelevant

        This also. The second I consider, “uh oh i’m out of shit to say” it’s gg. And this tends to happen sooner rather than later…

    • Irrelevant

      Dude this is totally true, I would break the ice all the time if it was a sustainable thing… when someone says “I don’t have anything to say” that doesn’t mean that they can’t go up to someone and say hi, it’s the whole “hey i’m interesting enough to keep talking to” issue…………..

      • Irrelevant

        Oh I’d also like to add that I used to start conversations fairly often until I saw this pattern taking shape… self fulfilling prophecy, perhaps, but I’ve been getting psychological help for two years now and “just breaking the ice” is still not enough despite all I’ve learned.

  • Leisa

    “So where exactly does one procure a dragon backpack?” Yep. True love. 

  • http://twitter.com/SophiiieCooke Sophie Cooke

    This is awesome. Romance without crazy metaphors, just simple & sweet. Good job :)

  • http://twitter.com/SoosSahar Sahar Soos

    “Hey, you probably don’t remember me but I was in your math class last semester. Did you get an A in that class? The professor seemed creepy, like he gives A’s to girls just because they’re pretty. I mean not that you’re pretty or anything. I mean you are pretty, but you’re probably good at math also. I’m sorry.” LOL cuute

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    My friend and I have been discussing this concept for years. We wanted to write a book called “On Approaching The Line…” Except we could never come up with THE line. We’d attribute all of our “failed meet-cutes” to not knowing THE line. But maybe it’s because there’s not one….epiphany 

  • guest

    You forgot the quintessential “do you have a lighter?” !

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    “do you ever think about infinity?” & we’ve been together since!

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    “If they’re going to play Miley Cyrus, I wish they’d at least play her good song” (spoken by a guy)

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    “I guess the sky does look pink. You and your pink sky.”

  • http://twitter.com/MerDiann Meredith H

    I 100% adored this. As a person who has NO trouble breaking the ice (I talk to people in elevators routinely) I am always trying to tell my friends the same thing and they never believe me. I am glad someone else recognizes the importance of just starting the damn conversation. If it’s meant to be, the stimulating talk will come later! 

    Tweeting this right…now.

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    “Can I trade you one of these stupid cigarettes for one of yours?”

  • Lipstainjane

    #104. I guffawed.

  • Raab Alexandra

    Might I add from my own most recent picking someone up experience, “So why AREN’T you dancing to Lady Gaga?”

  • http://twitter.com/gypzAndy AndreaCarmona

    This was brilliant. Just show up. So simple.

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