ed. note: Thrilled to finally share a piece from a good friend who happens to be one of the best writers I know on the topics of dating, singledom, and life as a modern woman. Since so many of my single friends are wondering if it’s still possible in this age of dating apps to meet someone IRL, I asked Shani Silver to stop by and share a few pieces of advice with her signature lighthearted approach. Be sure to check out more of her writing here, and prepare to become obsessed.
I don’t believe in dating advice. I believe in dating experiences, and sharing them. Dating is such a personal endeavour, and everyone’s experience is different. So advice, in a way, is kind of like just giving single people FOMO. I am an expert in nothing. I am a liver of life, a doer of things, I’m not so different from you. I just have a lot of thoughts on this topic, and on Saturday mornings, with a cup of (iced) coffee and a pleasantly sunny day outside my window, I like to write them down. For single, straight women, meeting single men in the wild has become an activity bearing the difficulty of acquiring one’s medical degree in cardiothoracic surgery. It’s not supposed to be this hard.
There’s some confusion about why it’s so hard, and after many years in the single scene I think I might have some semblance of an explanation for that: It was always hard, we’re just comparing it to when it was easy. When we were in high school, college, even grad school, the world was our social oyster. We had to be around the opposite sex constantly, without even trying! In class, at lunch, school functions, it was as if that time of our lives was a giant jar of candy we could freely sample from. Post-collegiate life slammed a lid down on that jar and welded it shut. In post-collegiate life, we have to try.
I find location scouting for single men to be a topic of conversation among single women I know, repeatedly. There are plenty of opinions floating about regarding where on earth single men go. And since Netflix hasn’t yet incorporated an online dating feature, we’ll have to rely on unexpected ways to meet people, those moments when they actually do pry themselves from the couch or laptop and interact with society. I have a few ideas.
Let’s begin simply. I’m not saying you should hang out at a bowling alley night after night, hunting prey. I am however suggesting that you and no more than three friends (single or otherwise), plan a bowling night on a night you know (because you’ve Googled it) that particular bowling alley has a team night where groups bowl together. Check out your surroundings before you rent shoes and are assigned a lane. Look for an open lane next to a team (though be aware mixed gender teams tend to involve mostly couples), and request that lane specifically. If you’re embarrassed of your bowling skills, all the better. Ask for help from the lane next door. After that, you’re on your own, soldier. I’ve done what I can.
image via the simple life
I really like breweries, the kind you can hang out in. The casual nature of long, communal tables allows for a very easy gathering of humans. One of the reasons I think “traditional” meeting places don’t work is that they come with implied pressure. I enjoying meeting people in pressure-free situations, situations you wouldn’t typically consider rich hunting grounds. It’s kind of easier to meet people in places you don’t go to meet people, you know? Find a brewery, bring a friend or two, ignore your phones, and have a day-drinking afternoon enjoying some local brew and perhaps a pretzel, carbs be damned. Even if you meet no one, you’ll have had a relaxing afternoon that did not involve technology. There’s nothing bad about that.
image via life & food
The Driving Range
Let me be clear: I do not golf. I do not understand golf, I cannot watch golf without getting an anxiety attack about wasting precious moments of life, it is all a mystery to me. However: The driving rage just makes good sense. It’s a solo activity. Men can go here alone or with a pal to simply swing a club at balls. You can, too. Pick a spot next to (or better yet in between two) gentlemen, and strike up a conversation when it feels right. Beware: Lots of men wear gloves when they golf, preventing you from spotting the turn-back-now warning sign that is a wedding ring. Just a word of caution. This philosophy would also work very well at batting cages, if golf ain’t your thing. (And I don’t blame you).
image via madame figaro
Other People’s Parties
This one’s my favorite. The older we get, the less birthdays and celebrations revolve around getting drunk on regrettable alcohol. They instead become about actually enjoying ourselves! Restaurants and venues with large outdoor patios are prime locations for large gatherings of friends in celebration of one occasion or another. There is a casual, come-and-go vibe (provided it’s not a sit-down dinner, avoid those) to these parties, and while walking up to one and trying to join it is simply weird, saying hello to one member of the herd as he breaks off to order another round at the bar doesn’t sound like a bad idea to me. Alternatively, join a friend or two when they attend one of these parties. There is always a more-the-merrier vibe and if nothing else it might introduce you to new friends.
image via camille styles house party in the hills
In Annoying Lines For Things
A sense of camaraderie really brings people together, and gets them talking. Annoying lines for things establishes the sense that everyone in the line is on the same, annoying team. Post offices, DMVs, airport security, Trader Joe’s on a Sunday, etc. I really like taking unpleasant situations and painting a silver lining around them, and this is one such scenario. Talk to people. Commiserate. Make a friend. Maybe they have a friend. Or a son who lives alone and is gainfully employed….The point is, if you spot a guy you’d like to speak to while waiting in an annoying line, your first topic of conversation is right in front of you. Speak.
image via the sartorialist
The Right Kind Of Happy Hour
Remember what I said about pressured situations? Happy hours at bars that resemble nightclubs, or anything that is referred to as a “scene,” these are pressured situations. We go into them with expectations, and we’re let down when those expectations are inevitably unmet. Happy hour is an awesome time to meet people, if you go to the right happy hour. First of all, size. We ignore small bars for this purpose. We think the odds are better at that massive new establishment with killer drink specials and Frosé. Consider a small bar. A pub. A neighborhood location relatively close to places people work. I work in Manhattan and I live in Brooklyn, and I always pass by bars after work that are full of guys, and they’re not the bars I’d expect. There are old worn leather chairs and no televisions and people just looking to quietly end the day. Try one of those.
image via garance doré
The Park, Dammit
Go outside! We tend to transfix on locations as venues, but wide open spaces are the ultimate in pressure-free places to spend a little time. Public parks, watering holes, sports fields, these are all places people (and groups of people) go to just chill. Remember fresh air? Wasn’t that fun? Try it again! Think Sheep Meadow in Central Park, Barton Springs in Austin, and others. Bring a blanket, a book, a frisbee. Stake your claim in a populated piece of grass and enjoy the day. And if you do happen to meet someone there, you’ll already have something in common–you like the park!
image via a blog about love
Before I leave you, I also want to speak to a few knee-jerk meeting spots that have proven unfruitful, at least for me. Again, remember everyone’s dating experiences are different. I have a very hard time listening to people suggest the same, total crap meeting locations time after time, and I’d like to dispel these rumors.
Mythical Meeting Places That Never Actually Work: The Grocery Store
First of all, it’s really hard to meet people at the grocery store. I know we all have this charming, Meg Ryan movie meeting happening in our heads where we’re both shopping for the same brand of probiotic yogurt. It isn’t going to happen. People don’t grocery shop to meet people, they grocery shop because they need groceries. The only conversations that are happening at the grocery store are price check questions or couples discussing dinner ingredients. Look around next time you’re at Whole Foods. I’m right.
image via maja wyh
Mythical Meeting Places That Never Actually Work: A Cooking Class
It has also been suggested to me that I take a cooking or wine class in order to meet new people. So I did, and I met a lot of new people. New, married people. Single men don’t take cooking classes. Single men don’t take wine classes. (To be fair, they do sometimes teach them). If you feel even slightly uncomfortable attending an activity alone, chances are single men do, too, and therefore they don’t do it. Relaxed social situations are much smarter, unless you really want to learn about Beaujolais, in which case wine class is amazing.
image via Melissa Jill Photography
Mythical Meeting Places That Never Actually Work: A Bar
Lastly, a word on bars. I know you know couples who met in bars. I know you still go to bars with the glowing light of optimism beaming from your eyes. I don’t want to rob you of that. I just want us all to stop lying to each other that we’re going to meet men in bars. You know who meets men in bars? Bartenders. Waiters. The people who work there. They meet people in bars, because interacting with them is pressure-less. It’s comfortable to talk to a bartender. It’s not comfortable to walk up to a girl you find attractive while she’s flanked by four of her girlfriends.
image via Jenna Hidinger Photography
In sum, get comfortable.
Enter situations that you would attend for social reasons other than meeting potential romantic partners and simply enjoy yourself. When you’re genuinely having a good time, you take the pressure off of yourself to accomplish a secondary goal, and when you do meet someone in the wild, it won’t feel forced. It will feel unexpected, and amazing. At least I hope so.