If you're in one of those groups, you're probably hoping to find your special someone — and wondering, Where can he or she be?
But take heart if online dating sites put you off, for many ordinary places make excellent potential meeting grounds.
You may have to stretch your normal behavior — that is, you may have to reach out, assert yourself, be creative, act strategically and think outside the box. But if you're willing to do all that, frequenting these six sites can boost your odds of a productive encounter:
1. On the job. Caution and discretion are required to sustain a relationship at the office — or in any other day-to-day workplace, for that matter.
For starters, what if things don't work out? It can be difficult — even hellish — to face each other (just ask Bridget Jones). And if romance does bloom, it may be hard to do your jobs when you're preoccupied with arranging "alone time."
But relationships can take root and thrive in this fertile meeting ground. My copywriter friend, Suzanne, started dating a fellow team member, Joe, at her advertising agency. Both were committed to their jobs, so they kept things secret for nearly a year, sitting apart at meetings and commuting to work separately — even after they had moved in together! Ultimately, Suzanne and Joe decided to get married, obviating the whole "workplace awkwardness" issue.
At conferences and work parties when I was single, I approached men who appeared to be alone. I went out with an instructor I talked to over the crabmeat canapés at a faculty event. At another, I struck up a conversation with the handsome, funny bartender, who happened to be an actor. We got to enjoy one dinner together before he was called to L.A. for film work.
2. At events involving your kids. While planning her daughter's wedding, my divorced friend, Jane, developed a crush on the florist. Afterward, eager to keep the connection alive, she went to his shop and thanked him in person. He gave her a bouquet of roses. She invited him to dinner. They've been together 15 years.
When my daughter's friend lost her mother, I invited the widowed father to brunch. From the time he walked in, he waxed poetic about his deceased wife. Was it me or the timing? I couldn't be sure, but it was clear he was neither available nor ready.
Years earlier, newly divorced and pushing my daughter on a playground swing, I spotted a cool-looking man with his daughters. We smiled, sat down on a bench and started talking. I wound up dating him for two years.
3. At classes you attend — or teach. The subject matter should excite you — don't sign up for a bridge class if you hate playing cards — but the type of class has to be right, as well. At a Web-design course, for example, my divorced neighbor, Larry, faced a computer and a blank wall — no interaction with fellow students, no chance to mingle.
Next he tried Italian cooking, with better results: The class involved preparing dishes with a partner, so Larry picked the entrée course — and a single-woman partner. They made eggplant parmigiana and vegetarian lasagna, among other things, then enrolled together for a second cooking course (on soups). That was three years ago. These days they're in each other's kitchen almost every night, cooking up a storm.
As a writing instructor, I had an ironclad rule (unarticulated, of course!) against dating any student. An editor taking the course wrote some poignant essays about his son's wedding, becoming a grandfather and learning to live alone. I waited until after the last session, then made my move: "If you sell any of those pieces," I told him, "I hope you'll let me know. Actually … you can get in touch even if you don't sell them." He called the next week, and we went out until I discovered he wasn't exactly living alone.
4. On vacation. Think about splitting the rental of a group ski lodge or beach house. It's a great way to meet like-minded people — provided, of course, you like skiing or the beach!
I happen to love the latter, so for years I bought weekend shares in single-parent beach houses. As with my "no students" rule, I never dated a fellow house member; when we played charades or had barbecues with people in the community, however, I did meet a few men I wound up dating back in the city.
The advantage of meeting someone on vacation is that the two of you have "preselected" similar interests and comfort levels. A friend met her future husband by walking up to him at the swimming pool of a resort and asking, "How does anyone water-ski on this thing?" Another, an avid cyclist, met her husband-to-be on a bike trip in France. (On my one and only bike trip, through New England, the lone male I got to know was the driver of the sag wagon.)
5. Volunteering. Pick an activity that interests you — and one that's conducive to interaction. Reading to a very young child in a hospital room may be satisfying, for example, but it's also an activity that tends to isolate the volunteer. By contrast, preparing food in a community kitchen or playing piano at a senior center — both of which I've done with friends — opens broad opportunities to meet other volunteers. Same goes for fundraising, wrapping holiday presents and teaching new skills.
6. On planes, trains and automobiles — or waiting for them. It's easy — or at least logical — to strike up a conversation with a seatmate; if nothing else, you've got your destination in common. Or you might kick things off by talking about the book or magazine you are reading, or your impending (or just-concluded) vacation. Even an offer to share your travel snacks makes a great icebreaker.
My friend Leslie met her future husband, Paul, when they sat next to each other on a plane to San Francisco. She was headed to a conference. Paul lived there. When the plane landed, he asked Leslie if she would have any time for dinner or sightseeing. "Both," she told him. That led to a long-distance relationship and a move to San Francisco, where Leslie and Paul celebrated their 10-year anniversary this year.
On a bench inside Philadelphia's Penn Station, waiting for his train to Washington, an acquaintance named Bob started talking with the woman beside him. A fellow theater buff, he learned, she was headed for New York. Next they discovered they were both avid readers and baby boomers who love '60s music. Talking with her was so natural that Bob felt like his ship had come in. Actually, it was his train, but he had the presence of mind to get her number. One phone call, 25 years and five children later, they are married and still talking — and traveling — together.
Nancy Davidoff Kelton is the author of six books, including Writing from Personal Experience, and a memoir to be published later this year
Also of Interest
- Slideshow: 6 reasons to date someone your own age
- 6 places to never use a debit card
- Quiz: How much do you know about social isolation?
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