Meet Your Match

Want to find The One? Sign up for a class or two — and follow these pickup tricks as soon as you walk through the door.

By Elsa K. Simcik

t’s no surprise that plenty of people meet their significant other while participating in an extracurricular activity — a political campaign, a coed book club, a scuba-diving class. But how do two people go from practicing verb conjugation in Spanish class to dinner and drinks? Who should make the first move, and what should he or she say? And most important, what if you get shot down and you have six more weeks of organic cooking class with this person? Read on to find out what dating experts around the country have to say.

Register with a reason
Be honest. If one of the primary reasons you’re joining the class or group is to
“I totally nabbed my boyfriend by volunteering on a political campaign.”
meet someone, pick something that not only interests you but that will also attract the opposite sex. “I totally nabbed my boyfriend by volunteering on a political campaign,” says Leslie Jacob, 29. “The political arena seems to be full of single men.”

Indeed, it makes sense to “envision the person you would want to meet and think about what would interest that person,” says Nancy Slotnick, a dating coach and the author of Turn Your Cablight On: Get Your Dream Man in Six Months or Less. If it’s a Ty Pennington type you’re after, get yourself to a woodworking or bathroom renovation class. More in the mood for a Bobby Flay type? Cooking school, here you come.

Don’t bring a friend
This one can be tough (especially if you’re on the shy side), but are you really going to talk to new people if you’re with your best bud or a gaggle of girlfriends? Plus, a potential partner is more likely to talk to you if you’re solo. “When you go to something alone, you’re much more approachable,” says Slotnick. So summon your courage and go it alone.

Pick your place
Remember, the organizers of the course or meeting aren’t thinking of your love life when they’re doing their planning. “These activities are not always set up to be conducive to meeting people,” says Slotnick. Her advice? “When you arrive, take a moment by the door to assess the situation,” she says: Look around the room for the cute guys or gals, and then choose your seat accordingly.

Flirt without saying a word
Rather than burying yourself in some reading material or a cell-phone game, look around the room. Slotnick says, “If you see someone walk in and would like to meet that person, play the eye-contact game. Look away. Look back.” It’s OK to do some low-level flirting and to make it clear that you’re available.

Speak up
After you’ve worked it with your nonverbal cues, you’re going to have to say something. But what? Daniel Aferiat, a psychotherapist (and Slotnick’s husband) says, “I think that
A little initiative can really pay off.
there is a misconception that if you have the right line or phrase, it will magically open the other person up. But it’s more about taking the risk to say hello. If there’s mutual interest, then the person will help you by joining in the conversation.” You can also say something simple like, “Is this seat taken?” or “Hi, have you been to a class like this before?” or “Excuse me, is this the right room for the history of Chinese ceramics class?” Oh, and ladies, Slotnick also says you don’t always have to leave the opening line up to the guy — go ahead and start the conversation; the guy you chat with will probably be very flattered.

It worked for Amy Anderson, 26. After struggling to meet people in a new city for about a month, she joined a running club. “I stood to the side trying to figure out how it all worked and of course looking to see if there were any cute guys. I saw one guy who caught my eye. I approached him and asked how the group worked.” That conversation led to dinner and now they’re approaching their one-year anniversary. See? A little initiative can really pay off.

Be brave
But if the fear of rejection is giving you social paralysis, settle down. Slotnick also says that women, in particular, tend to “think that if they show themselves to be available in any way, they’re going to seem desperate.” That’s just not true. She says you should “be friendly the same way you would if you saw someone with a cute dog in the elevator.” Aferiat adds, “If you crash and burn after an attempt to meet someone, give yourself credit for trying rather than blaming yourself for failing. If you aren’t willing to take the chance to feel hurt, angry, diminished or sad, you are certain to lose opportunities in life.”

Even if you don’t meet someone first time out at a class, there are plenty of other places where you can try out your tactics. And you may even learn how to scuba-dive in the process.

Elsa K. Simcik is a freelance writer in Atlanta. Her work has appeared in newspapers and magazines including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Dallas Morning News, Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine and
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