I started dating again. And since it’s what I’m thinking about, I ask strangers their opinions and see what they have to say. Generally, I ask any straight man I meet the same question, “Where do you find single women?” It’s a fun icebreaker. It sounds ridiculous and candid. Who asks such an awkward question? I do! And then I smile. This makes the dude realize I mean it. If I stay silent and wait, it becomes something of a challenge. Like perhaps I don’t believe he knows where to meet single women. Often he’ll rephrase the question aloud, “Where would I go to meet single women?” I’ve been collecting answers for weeks now.
From these answers, you’ll notice two things. One, guys must secretly be watching lots of romantic comedies, or they’re remembering the trailers. And two, most men I asked don’t really know where to look. There was a surprising lack of diversity in their answers. I left out the obvious ones like bars, coffeehouses and AA meetings. The bad news for women is most of the ideas I heard don’t seem terribly romantic. Also, if a guy approached a woman at most of these places it’d get awkward fast. Over time, I learned most straight men seem to be about as savvy as a panda bear. And in case you don’t recall, pandas are animals that require teams of vets to help them get laid. Combined with the fact we’re all spending more and more time with screens, you can see why so many love lives aren’t exactly bonfires of passion. After talking to scores of straight men about where to find single women, I reached the conclusion most couples are lucky they found each other.
In no particular order, here’s where straight men told me to find single women:
1. TRIVIA CONTESTS IN BARS
I don’t know what this says about you, smart women.
Apparently, some guys think the only time you’re ever seen out in public is when you’re at a bar on a school night, downing shots and dropping knowledge like Galileo dropped the orange. Technically, I’ve seen smart women at trivia contests in bars. The idea isn’t terrible. Unfortunately, not all smart women are easily swayed with bar drinks, geography questions and scorecards. It seems, if you’re looking for a smart woman, you have to look in all the places any smart person might be. That’s a lot of places. Other answers I heard were: day trips to museums, poetry readings, open mic nights, library fundraiser events (I’m not kidding this was someone’s idea of romance), going to indie movies by yourself on a Saturday night, and of course, attending conventions for whatever nerd-love obsession makes you geek out. Basically, smart women are everywhere. You have to listen for them.
This is what you call… an L.A. answer. It’s a young Hollywood thing. Gay or straight, the canyon hikes in the Hills are sexy parades. I like to guess which guys are gonna give me the bro-answer and tell me Runyon Canyon’s a great place to “meet single ladies.” I’ve learned it’s best not to actually say “ladies” out loud, unless you’re on-stage announcing something and it’s followed by “and gentlemen…” Also, going to an uber-trendy pickup spot such as Runyon Canyon to meet single women seems like going to McDonald’s because you’re hungry and it’s easy to find a McDonald’s. One piece of advice I heard about hiking and flirting- it’s hard to stay cute when you’re sweaty-faced and talking your wind away as you march uphill, so keep your encounters charming and brief, and exchange contact info fast as you can. Take that for what you will, bro.
3. DOG PARKS
Dog parks are the kissing cousins of “hiking.” A dog park is a funny place to flirt because it’s so cliche and expected. It gets awkward fast. Maybe you get lucky, and perhaps your Rhodesian Ridgeback starts humping her Border Collie and you have to separate them. At first, she may be irritated. Then, a few jokes and some laughter later, you make plans for drinks. But if you tend to bound over and chat up every attractive woman you see- you’re doomed for comparison to the obvious analogy. When you Jones at a dog park you look like the dog who runs around sniffing all the other dog’s asses. Don’t be that dog.
Another reason to tread lightly is, for lots of women, their dog park is one of their habitual spots. They don’t want to mess it up with some bad dating. Few men are as important as their dog park. It’s not personal. Okay, it is personal, but don’t make it a big deal. Women tell me what works well is when… you smile and say hello. If they’re at a distance, nod. But if they’re close enough, some eye flirting can make a morning nicer. No need to chat up every smile. Trust that an interested woman will make herself available to talk. Remember, don’t be the dog that sniffs every ass in the place.
4. THE WAITRESS
I understand why guys said this one. It’s not as sexist as it sounds. You spy a side of a woman when she’s working that’s much different than the one you might see when she’s out at a bar. Also, a good laugh is sexy. A laughing waitress always captures my imagination. And I like to make waitresses laugh. If restaurant flirting is handled badly, it’s easy to be the jerk who’s hitting on the one woman who’s obligated to keep coming back. Since she’s working, I let her set the pace of our flirting. I keep in mind, for her, it’s a coffee warm-up. It’s not that she’s back to sample my charm. Waitresses get tired of shitty come-ons. She’s heard it all before. Any puns based on her name, any dumb rhymes… basically, it’s highly unlikely you’ll come up with a joke she’s never heard or a song someone hasn’t sung to her based on her name. Now, if she’s ignoring other tables to stay and talk with you, don’t leave your number on a napkin or card, be a man and ask for hers. And then call her.
5. THE MOST OBVIOUS: “WELL, YOU CAN ALWAYS FIND WOMEN ONLINE”
Of course, I heard this one a lot. OKCupid, Meetup.com, saying “yes” to every Facebook invite (totally not recommended). I heard online dating mentioned in lots of different ways. And I’m pretty sure every one alive on the planet, who doesn’t have a dirt floor or ride a yak to school, knows you can find love online. If you can find a team of Siberian oxen for sale on Craigslist, why wouldn’t you be able to find love in the Personals? And now researchers are reporting that 1 in 5 new relationships start online. Clearly, people find each other on the internet. But, most of the guys I spoke with said they just use online dating to find sex. So… there’s that.
6. THE MATCH-MAKER, or the less formal, “YOU HAVE TO MEET MY FRIEND”
I was surprised by how many men recommended this approach. In other words, outsource the job. Rather than find a woman, have others bring in some candidates. Very efficient, I guess. But when you turn your dating luck over to your married friends, matchmaking gay roommates, romance-minded retiree neighbors, and your mother’s bridge club, when you give them all a turn at finding someone from the hordes of people they know, just remember, you asked for it. Prepare for some long strange nights. This is true for men and women, equally. There are some weird fuckers out there and our friends and family members know way too many of them.
This was the second most common answer. Countless guys seem to imagine yoga studios are where women cluster, sweating, stretching and slowly becoming bi-sexuals. The yoga studio seems to be a little intimidating. Far more than hiking or dog parks, yoga studios are a very female space. The other thing is asking out a fellow yoga student is a lot like asking out your waitress. Women don’t go to yoga to meet a guy. At least, not primarily. So, if you ask a woman out, try not to embarrass her by putting her on the spot while everyone’s waiting for the teacher. And maybe don’t ask her out the first time you see her. Maybe build up a short history of smiles, stolen glances and lingering looks… and then ask her out. Let some romance help you overcome the cliché of asking someone out from your yoga class.
8. FARMERS MARKETS
With some of these ideas, it’s like… Really? A farmers market?
It’s really only good in theory. In reality, farmers markets are places you go on weekend mornings once you have a girlfriend. However… any guy who goes out looking for love at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning is my kind of go-getter. I say, good luck! And if you go, maybe bring a camera, snap some candid shots of street scenes, perhaps you start a conversation with a woman by asking to take her picture. If she’s into it, and it goes well, perhaps you split some fresh blackberry preserves and a loaf of warm bread. You never know, could be a memory you tell grandkids. And it’d be cool if you had some pictures.
9. KICKBALL, DODGEBALL, SOFTBALL & OTHER LEAGUE SPORTS
Like the trivia contests in a bar, this one doesn’t require a guy to leave his comfort zone. “So you’re saying, we’ll play kickball… all I have to do is- don’t show up looking like a slob- because I might meet some cool women? Yeah, I can do that.”
If I lived in Brooklyn, I’d take this idea a little more seriously. It sounds fun. And I like to play with women and see their sense of fun in action. My only trouble is, I prefer to surf than go play kickball. But surfing’s a solitary sport. So what the hell, signing up for some team sport- is probably a good idea for those of us who live, work and play alone. It’s that… or I start dating dolphins.
10. “TAKE A CLASS, AND THEN GIVE ‘EM THAT ROM-COM STORY…”
This one surprised me the most. It was sad and sweet. I wanted to know where these guys were all getting this same idea. No one ever said. I think it must be from Hitch or some other romantic comedy. The thing is, if you’re actually into the class and want to learn how to make authentic wasabi, and you’re not just there solely to meet women, taking a class is an awesome way to meet someone to date because you’re doing your own thing, and most folks are naturally charming when they’re learning. It spotlights your curiosity and openness, shows your inner child, and hopefully your eventual success at something that matters to you.
The best I can make of all the advice I heard, if a straight guy is looking for single women, he can spend hours searching and flirting online and occasionally go out on some hit-or-miss half-blind dates and maybe find some casual sex and perhaps, love. Or you use the opposite approach, get out of your house as often as you can, go do shit you like to do, and if you meet a woman and you want to see more of her… ask her out. Just do you and trust that love might be found at any flea market, gallery opening, or cross-country flight. You just never know.