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Hope Springs Internal

I’m a guy, 27, college-educated, well-employed, and attractive, but it’s been three years since I’ve dated anyone. My family is far away, my friends have all moved away or married, and I can’t date women I meet at work because they’re all clients. I’m not interested in joining clubs, taking classes, or advertising in the personals, and I think talking to strangers on the street is simply odd. Basically, I refuse to work at dating. By that I mean meeting people should be natural and fun. So, am I just unlucky, or is there something I’m not doing?

--How Solo Can I Go?

"Meeting people should be natural and fun!”

Yes, and my dog should get up off the couch and bring me my thesaurus.

Perhaps your aggressively passive approach to picking up women has proved successful in other areas of your life: “Getting a job should be natural and fun!” Maybe you simply waited for potential employers to sidle up to you and murmur seductively, “Hey, stockbroker ‘bout we get you drunk and watch you trade pork belly futures?” First, of course, they had to track you down -- just not at clubs, classes, or your current job, via friends or relatives, or in the classifieds. (Where? Jail? Your walk-in closet? The middle of a busy intersection?)

Slouching around waiting for mobs of women to chase you down the street and plead for your company can be an effective technique -- for any men who happen to be Justin Timberlake. If, however, “young, gorgeous, world-famous rock star” is not how people generally describe you, you might consider a more pro-active approach.

Acknowledging how hard it is to meet somebody should help you drop-kick your silly restrictions. If you’re like a lot of people, you’re a Mars mission away from your old circle of friends and family, and work is more 5-9 (as in, 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.) than 9-5. If girl clients and coworkers are off-limits, who does that leave -- the 9,000-year-old office cleaning lady who shakes you awake so she can vacuum under your desk? No wonder, about ten years back, the personals stopped being seen as the last resort of the rare, pathetically desperate person. These days, they’re the first stop for just about anybody who’d like to have a date or two before they’re ashes in an urn.

In fact, desperate has become the new normal -- hence, the massive billboard I spotted outside the famous Pink’s hot dog stand in Los Angeles: “Wife Wanted. White male, nice looking, great sense of humor, financially secure, loves to travel, seeks fun fit female (age 32-46) with a great smile and a wonderful heart. Call 310-226-2999.” Forget agonizing about approaching women on the street; this guy has to contract with a call center every time a bus passes.

Unfortunately, this is just a prelude to the traditional first date: two wary strangers at opposite ends of a dinner table, alternately circling and being circled like a mountain lion moving in on something small, furry, and soon-to-be dinner. There’s a sure lead-in to conversation that’s “natural and fun!” -- if your idea of a screaming good time is hours of interrogation by customs agents, followed by that special medical exam where the loudest sound in the room is the snap of the doctor’s latex gloves.

Maybe that’s why there’s no French word for date. French people go out in groups, gathering with friends at bars and restaurants. The point is having a good time, not mass-interviewing candidates for “The One.” But, say, for example, Jean-Claude thinks Marie-Chantal is “la bombe.” He could turn the evening into a personal fact-finding mission, stopping just short of asking for a urine sample. But, why -- when he can simply observe her in her natural habitat, talking and laughing with friends? If they like each other and have chemistry, they’ll go out -- not as strangers, but as acquaintances with friends in common.

Speaking of friends in common, where do you live, in a gated community of the very married? You don’t have to be French to have a social circle; just make an effort to fill your life with people and events. Picture the woman you want, imagine where she hangs out, and go there. (Yes, take a pass on the leg-waxing.) Accessorize with woman-friendly props like a bandanna-necked dog or a baby. Dogless? Childless? As Justin would say, minor “wardrobe malfunctions” -- easily repaired by buddying up with a married dad, with dog, on babysitting duty. Will this send mobs of single women chasing after you, begging you to tear off their tops? Probably not. Still, you’re sure to bump into one or two more than you would while waiting for the perfect woman to pop out of your couch cushions and offer you more beer and chicken wings.

Copyright ©2004, Amy Alkon, from her syndicated column, "The Advice Goddess," which appears in over 100 papers across the U.S. and Canada. All rights reserved.