When I decided to revamp my life according to the principles of Helen Gurley Brown’s Sex and the Single Girl in order to write my memoir Falling For Me, I not only committed to learning to cook, decorate, put myself together and tackle a whole bunch of new activities (ceramics, anyone?) but I also agreed to embrace at least a few of her ideas for meeting men.
That Helen was a ballsy one—you don’t get to be the Editor-in-Chief of Cosmo without balls—and her suggestions for interacting with new men verged on the wacky. She recommends, for instance, chatting them up on every train, plane and bus you’re on (something tells me she’s never been on the F train), browsing the men’s section at various department stores and knocking into a guy carrying a drink to another woman in a bar—that is, some things I simply wasn’t willing or didn’t think it would be safe to do. As a compromise, I came up with a few ideas of my own—some of which worked better than others. Here are a few that ended up being the craziest, complete with side benefits, warnings and grades:
1. Volunteering: Not only were there men at the introductory orientation at New York Cares but the person leading the orientation was one of them! And then, once I started volunteering—frying eggs at a soup kitchen to feed to the hundreds of homeless people that had lined up and singing carols at a home for the elderly on holidays—I met guys that had something that most I encountered did not: good values. Alas, I wasn’t attracted to any of them. With repeated effort, though, I bet this one could work.
Side benefit: Becoming a better person.
Be wary of: Many volunteers seemed to be from rather serious Christian church groups and immediately bolted from conversations with chatty women.
Overall grade: B
2. Speed Dating: While this wasn’t around in Helen’s day, God knows she would have endorsed if had it been. I dragged a fellow lapsed Jewish friend to an event for Non-Practicing Jews (the company has plenty of other even quirkier theme nights, providing ample options for those who have a thing for bald men, Democrats, or other demographics). We were definitely presented with a slew of potentials in a very short time and no one squirmed and bolted (see above) if I chatted them up.
Side benefit: Leaves you with amazing stories to tell your friends; I actually met a new boyfriend a few nights later when I was telling an assembled group about the experience and he later told me he only asked me out because he knew I was clearly available if I was willing to go speed dating.
Be wary of: It seems like way more women than men sign up for these things. On our night, the organizer recruited random guys from the neighborhood—including one Best Buy employee still in his work t-shirt (I thought it was a costume at first). Also: there wasn’t a man in the group that I was remotely attracted to.
Overall grade: C-
3. Dog walking: As a cat owner, it had never occurred to me that a pet could actually enhance a social life. But my friends with dogs were always telling stories about the new, canine-obsessed pals they made while walking their dogs so I decided to give this a whirl by borrowing my friend Tom’s Golden Retriever for a stroll from my Chelsea apartment over to a nearby dog park. While I didn’t actually meet any eligible bachelors on my journey, I think that’s primarily because I was blatantly a fake: questions about breed and age were too advanced for me and I didn’t figure out that you’re not supposed to chase the mutt around the park until I eventually noticed all the other owners calmly sitting around. With practice, I’m fairly certain this one would have been effective.
Side benefit: Time spent outside with man’s best friend.
Be wary of: Coming off like an idiot if you’re going to be as unprepared as I was. Brushing up on age, breed and dog etiquette is highly recommended.
Overall grade: B+
4. Pin wearing: In Sex and the Single Girl, Helen advises women to wear a “lapel pin with a message printed on it.” (She explains that she had one that said “I have gray hair, brown eyes, and a black heart,” which, she swears, was “always a smash hit.” Seriously.) I decided to wear one emblazoned with the Love stamp (an homage to artist Robert Indiana’s famous sculpture). While hordes of men didn’t come running up to me demanding to know my name and insisting we go out, my friend and I engaged every single guy we encountered in conversations about whether or not they would ever approach a woman just because of the pin. (The answer was always no but still, I met them…)
Side benefit: You get a nifty pin!
Be wary of: Attempting this one on your own. When I just wore the pin, not a damn thing happened. But when I had a friend with me (a gay guy), we had an excuse to get into lengthy conversations with men we never would have otherwise (the Apple store employee, the waiter, etc.). This certainly could have led somewhere.
Overall grade: B
5. Traveling: Sure, I knew before I read Sex and the Single Girl that you could meet men on planes, but the truth of the matter was that on most flights, I’d tended to keep headphones or a computer on at all times. In other words, I wasn’t exactly projecting availability. But when she wrote, “There’s something sexy about being sequestered 20,000 feet above the earth almost as close to a strange man as a banana to its skin,” I reconsidered. And promptly met a man who invited me first to share a cab from La Guardia with him and then to the ballet later in the week. On another trip, I chatted up the guy in the next seat who turned out to be a marathon-running doctor—and we ended up dating for a while afterwards. (Though, it should be noted, I didn’t find anything particularly sexy about being as close to him as a banana to its skin.)
Side benefit: If you actually go out with the guy, you have no ties to him if he ends up being creepy—no friends who are going to be disappointed you didn’t like their friend, no need to delete him on Facebook, etc.
Be wary of: Creeps. When I went to the ballet with my La Guardia pal, I discovered that he was from the “inappropriate touching” school—hands on my waist as I tried to scoot past him to my seat, hand on my leg during the pas de deux, etc. And he seemed genuinely shocked when I didn’t want to go back to his hotel with him. Maybe there’s something to be said for the friend screening process after all.
Overall grade: B (a grade mitigated by the nice marathon-running doctor, who’s still a friend of mine).
Anna David is the author of Falling For Me: How I Hung Curtains, Learned to Cook, Traveled to Seville, and Fell in Love which hits shelves tomorrow.