This picture is particularly sexy because he is watching the team of fifth graders that he coached compete in Destination Imagination. If you don’t know what that means just trust me that it is a testament to how much of a mensch my husband is.

Steve is hot, has a job that he likes/loves depending on the month, does 100% of our cooking, 75% of our housework, is incredible with our kids, makes me laugh, brings me tea in bed, and drives me around when I ask him to.

In addition to my charm, excellent parenting philosophy, and decidedly good dowry I have a few flaws. I am obese, grow strange things off of my back, am super lazy, and require a fair amount of attention, wait I mean space, no I meant attention, actually space (and the ability for my partner to read my mind as well as my moods.)

I tell you this not to cast myself as an ogre…but to show that in many measurable ways I married up. It is true that Steve and I complement each other well yet he is not the only example of me advancing in the batting order. If you go all the way back to high school you can check my track record. My boyfriends, and the boys waiting in line to be my boyfriend were always above my paygrade. In high school I had a friend ask how I, a 7 (I was thinner then) had landed all the 10s in our class.

I haven’t quite distilled a formula, but it is a mix of strategy where most people hope for magic, truth when most people paint pretty pictures, asking for what I want, and the important distinction of not thinking of men as women with penises.

Strategy.

1. Have lots of guy friends.

You never interview for your dream job without practicing. Hanging out with guys, having days where you watch football, drive to new places, try curling, and talk about weird science stuff instead of who is dating who is both interesting and keeps you ready for a date. No guy really wants to talk about his relationship with his mother on a first date. Or at least not the guy you want to marry.

2. Leave your house.

Head out into the world without surrounding yourself by girlfriends. Unless you like electricians (and I must say, they are a great trade) and want to wire your house for all new lighting you must leave. Go to a concert. Get a dog and go to the dog park. Go to a bar. The challenge doesn’t stop there. Once you are out of your house you need to talk to people. It doesn’t have to be the cute shaggy guy in the corner. Try the dude next to him. Warm up by talking to the bartender, it is her job to talk back. But I repeat. Hit the streets alone. Your wing woman is more likely to squee about the Ryans on screen than talk to the Ryan right beside you.

3. Treat each errand as an opportunity.

Sure the postal dude has a wedding ring, but what about the guy behind you in line? Ordering at a counter? Ask him what’s good to eat, or offer your opinion. You are stuck in a chicken salad rut, you want to spice it up. What would he suggest? He might look at you as if you were asking him to cheat on a test, or he might engage. Do I think this will likely end in a date? No. No I do not. But it is possible. It is also practice in staying open to people. Staying open when you are ready to quit this miserable search is the single best thing you can do to stop being single. It helps to have a little fun along the way. And maybe try a new sandwich too.

4. Join shit.

Go on a group hike, go to a tweet up, start a club. Once I left the target rich environment of high school and college (and got divorced from my college boyfriend) I had to create spaces where I might meet someone. I started a poker night, I created a social service arm of my alumni association, I volunteered at art events.. I made quite a few friends whom I treated as gateways to other more potent friends. Then I went so far as to  open a bar to meet a guy. I don’t mean I was there at the door at four pm. I mean I built a bar, with booze and inventory and point of sale. Which was not the point. Finally I found a way to bring the potential partners to me. I have to admit, it  worked a little too well. I was pretty slutty (a combination of strategy and having been in an unsatisfying relationship for 8 years.) Thats what the bar fostered. I mean. not my bar in particular, just the late night bar scene. It led to hooking up. Sometimes with dinner. When I got serious about finding a real partner and not a fling I got a dog. And started hanging out at the dog part at 5:30, which is when the people with jobs would go. That strategy worked. What else is like a dog park? The specialty beer store. At 6pm. The counter at the best brunch spot at 9:30 on Saturday. 10:30 is too late- those are slugs. 8:00 is all the breeders. 9/9:30 is good. The coffee shop at 2. Sit at a big table. Let the other tables fill, invite people to join you. Practice staying open.

Truth.

Now you are on the date. This first date is the best time to let your freak flag fly. Mix it up. Some funny stories of cousins peeing off porches, a little bit about what you are reading/listening to, a few questions for him that are not too personal or pushy. Then go for it. Tell the truth.

1. About you.

Don’t put him on the spot about his life and history, tell him why he won’t like you. Even if you sound a bit creepy. Whats the worst that will happen? This will be your last date…that is excellent news, now you aren’t wasting time on someone that won’t like you in the long run. The best case scenario? He convinces you that you are right for him. He can deal with your rabid Patriots fandom. Its good to mix in quirks that are not so scary…football fanatic, with legitimate dealbreakers- in therapy and medicated for depression. Sure if he has a prejudice about mental illness you might be able to educate him and do a service for the world, but I’m guessing he won’t be your life partner. So put it out there. Religion, politics, money. Talk about it. Why all the fluff on first dates? This kind of truthful intensity It makes things go faster. Both the date and the relationship. If it sounds like to much try on a bit of it.

2. About him.

When you do ask him questions make them a balance of specific and open ended. Specific to help prompt him, and open ended so you get to hear more. Instead of what do you do for fun try “Tell me about a time this July you got filthy.” Follow up: “Would he do that again? How did that take him outside of himself?” Or…”What made him visit a new city? Does he have a strategy to not feel like a tourist? What makes him want to return home?”

3. Wrap up.

If you want to see him again tell him. Think of a meeting you run. Would you leave without action items? No. Would you leave without the next meeting on the books. Hell no. You will send him the link to that comedian, he will look up the name of the author of that book he is reading. When you ask him to go to the movies on Friday get an answer. If he waffles or wiggles then you know the interest is not mutual. That’s fine. Don’t overanalyze and think he is still on the table. Waffle= he is not going to join you for breakfast for the next 2,000 Sundays. You had a good night, got some practice with a desirable guy, and learned about a way to get dirty in July. Celebrate that.

Men are not just women with penises.

Action.

Not to generalize, but totally to generalize. Men have a bias towards action. Even just a little bit of motion can help a guy talk (assuming that is what you want…) a great second date can be running errands, doing a green up day, taking a fly tying class. Something where there is a bit of action, and a bit of a plan to follow, that takes the pressure off the conversation, keeping it from being the full content of the date.

More action. Show him you like him. He may not know. I mean, this is assuming you didn’t show him on the first date. Which of course I am fine with as long as you were safe and consenting. You need to show him physically that you like him. Put your hand on his knee in the car. Again if he recoils try not to feel hurt, instead feel thankful that you have that information.

Even more action.

Ask for what you need.

Perhaps you have a tight friend group. Tell him you need him to meet your friends. If there is one super bitchy friend maybe leave that one out (maybe forever?) and go bowling. Again, if it is dinner cook together (this way you know if he will be able to cook for you in the future). Group restaurant dates are not the best until later. If you want him to drive, ask him to pick you up. If you want him to stay over or stay off of his phone, ask him for that too. If he has been slightly too polite give him permission to swear. Whatever you are worried about, whichever quirks might make you rule him out, give him a chance early to show you another way. Don’t expect him to read your mind. This doesn’t mean telling him: ” you strike me as socially stilted, has anyone ever evaluated you for Asperger’s?” More like: I often express my excitement with piss poor language, is this OK with you…not that I can stop anyways, just wanting to check in before we show up for a 16 person ski trip. And by the way. I will not ski.

What does this come down to?

Do more, ask what for and about what you want, tell on yourself, try it all again.

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Anna Rosenblum Palmer is a freelance writer based in Denver, CO. She writes about sex, parenting, cat pee, bi-polar disorder and the NFL; all things inextricably intertwined with her mental health. In her free time she teaches her boys creative swear words, seeks the last missing puzzle piece and thinks deeply about how she is not exercising. Her writing can be found on Babble, Parent.co, Great Moments in Parenting, Ravishly, Good Men Project, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Playpen, Crazy Good Parent, and YourTango. She also does a fair amount of navel gazing on her own blog at annarosenblumpalmer.com.