Western Men 3: The Return of Bracing Yourself

OK, just a few more things for which you may need to prepare, and you should be all set.  Ready?

WE KNOW FAR LESS ABOUT THE WORLD THAN WE SHOULD: …but thanks to international social media platforms like Facebook, we’re getting better.  Most Americans were familiar with Britain’s exit from the EU, for example.  The problem is, we’re home to Hollywood, Broadway, and Nashville (not to mention our variety of sports), so our media tends to focus on celebrities and pop culture, and, unfortunately, give less time than it should to world events.  We’ve still got a way to go, and you can expect that most of us only speak our own language, but we’re improving.  However, you might need to give us some backstory when discussing international events.  And geography?  Better get out a map and point it out for us.  

WE’RE AGGRESSIVE: This all comes down to productivity and not wanting to waste time.  We tend not to gloss over things or spend time beating around the bush.  We generally to take our relationships at a pretty fast pace; be ready to pull on the reins, if necessary.  

 

WE LIKE OUR FAST FOOD: Which also hearkens to a fast-paced lifestyle.  However, you’ll note that most American guys are not the least bit averse to trying new cultural fare.  Though suburban areas are speckled with chain restaurants and fast food places, authentic ethnic cuisine is very much alive and well in metropolitan areas.  However, that doesn’t mean we’re ready to give up our hot dog carts just yet.

WHICH LEADS TO OBESITY: While much of the world’s opinion is that Americans are overweight – and admittedly, many of us are – over half of the single men you’ll meet work out in some fashion at least twice a week, be it running, biking, weight training, yoga (yes, guys do it too!), playing sports, or the like.  We like to keep our dates active, with places like hiking trails, indoor rock-climbing walls, and ice-skating rinks being popular choices.  
WE’RE CAR-OBSESSED: Granted, a lot of us do gain some self-identity from what we drive.  And we don’t tend to use mass transit.  However, our traffic etiquette is among the best in the world!  

PETS, TOO: I am entirely guilty of this one, as my two dogs are definitely treated like part of the family.  If you date an American guy who has a pet, expect that he will be the same way.  Animal rights are a very active political topic in the U.S., and in many states, animal cruelty has become a felony.  If you don’t love dogs, be prepared to pretend like you do.  

I hope you’ve made it this far without being scared off.  This covers the major issues, the rest will just have to be pleasant surprises you discover along the way.

BRACE YOURSELF AGAIN: WESTERN MEN, PART DEUX

While you may have walked away from Part 1 saying, “No problem, I can handle that,” I want to emphasize that was only the beginning.  Here’s some more of what to expect from us.  


WORK:  Americans tend to be very career-oriented and driven.  The average US work week is about 48 hours, with career professionals working much more.  One of the first few questions asked in conversations upon meeting one another is, “So, what do you do for a living?”  It tends to be both a source of pride and a means of self-identification, as we’re brought up with the value that with hard work, you can accomplish anything.  Ask any American, “What do you see yourself doing in five years, career-wise?” and they will tell you, they’ve thought this through and formulated at least a rudimentary plan to achieve this goal.   

The group of workers working over blurred construction site.

SENSE OF HUMOR: Men in the US are much less reserved than those in other countries, and we love to laugh.  Whether your sense of humor is dry and witty, like Tina Fey, or rambunctious and fun-loving, like Amy Schumer, be sure to let it out, we love it.  If you can make us laugh, you’ve won our hearts; many of my own best relationships have started out that way.  

TIME: Few Americans “live in the moment.”  While mindfulness practitioners are on the rise, lives tend to be at a more frenetic pace, getting as much done as possible in as little time.  Our lives our rigorously scheduled on our mobile devices, with free time being a valuable commodity.  In relationships, most have shifted from intrusive voice-phone calls that demand the entirety of one’s attention to texting or emails, which better allow for multitasking.  If you’ve got your guy’s full attention, value this prize, as it doesn’t come easily.  

EQUALITY: Women’s rights and equality are huge issues in the United States, and this is reflected in the dating dynamic.  While chivalry isn’t dead, you may find it ailing.  While there are those of us keeping it alive, don’t expect that the American male will open your car door for you, and if you reach for the restaurant check as a gesture, don’t be surprised if he allows you to pay.  We view women as being strong, independent, and capable.  However, we’re also not good at subtleties; if we’re crossing a boundary, stand up and let us know – we will respect you for it.

Equality woman man concept

DOMESTIC PEACE: Though we can certainly be enthusiastic at times, if you peruse online dating profiles for American men, you’ll note that most include one thing, either explicit or implied: no drama.  We prefer to be open, honest, and communicative rather than allowing issues to linger.  Because we work hard and engage in many work-related social events, our homes are our sanctuaries, and we like to keep them peaceful.

This should give you enough to digest for now.  Oh yes, there will be more…

MAN WITH A PLAN

In my city, there’s a cobblestone street along the Mississippi River.  On one side of this street is a riverwalk park; on the other, a row of historic brick buildings which now house hospitality businesses.  One of these is an Oscar Wilde-themed coffee shop; another, a theater; others include a couple of upscale-yet-casual bars.  Spanning the river is a historic stone bridge, which makes for a romantic walk-and-talk.  Within a few blocks, there’s a variety of bars and restaurants catering to a number of different tastes.  It’s centrally-located, yet far enough from the city’s epicenter that parking and traffic aren’t a problem.  

This is my dating home base.  First date?  The coffee shop, which is rife with built-in conversational topics: literature, early 20th century architecture, the view of the skyline, etc., followed by the opportunity to walk in the park or grab appetizers if things are going well.  Second date?  A movie in a quaint four-plex and drinks at the quiet wine bar next door.  Third allows for dinner at nearby Eastern European, Italian, Japanese, Mexican, steak, pizza, or sushi restaurants, even a great sports bar if she’s a burgers-and-beers kinda gal.  man-with-the-plan-feature-image-inblog-image

There’s little about my go-to location that doesn’t scream “magical memories,” which serves to make an impact; that is, after all, what those key initial dates are all about.  The main importance of this hub, though, is that it’s loaded with opportunities, regardless of what sort of woman I’m with, which makes on-the-fly planning a breeze.  You can always formulate some sort of escape-hatch if things aren’t going well, but are you prepared for what’s next if things go great?  A charming rustic restaurant on the outskirts of town may make an initial impression, but a drive to a different location to continue enjoying one another’s company elsewhere creates a rift in the connection you’re trying to establish.  

I encourage you to skip the destination location at which to meet, and use Google Maps to do some research of your area to find your base of operations.  Look for a park, lake, or other scenic area in which, weather permitting, you can casually walk along, enjoy each other’s company, and lean in for the memorable first kiss; the sort of place you could easily return for an impromptu picnic.  Check for the proximity of a (non-chain) coffee shop, restaurant, and nice, intimate place to have a drink.  A nearby art gallery or museum is gold.  Scope out the location.  Find the spots in the coffee shops and bars with the best view.  See how creative you can get with your home base.  

Successful planning for a great date isn’t about showing up with an itinerary.  Flexibility and being ready to make suggestions depending on how things flow is the key.  Use your location to your romantic advantage, cover as many bases as possible, and be the man with the plan, which is always sure to impress.  

Hey Guys: Listen Up

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Check out the articles written by women about what we, as men, could do better, and just about every one of them features an entry on listening.  Admittedly, it is something that we tend to suck at.  It’s not our fault: we’re wired and raised to be fixers and problem-solvers. On our list of gender roles, it’s right up there with protecting, providing, and eating nachos.  

Inversely, “good listener” makes just about every woman’s top ten list of desired qualities in a partner.  Watch a group of women in conversation sometime: it’s a perplexing verbal ballet.  Most of us guys, on the other hand, have somehow just barely managed to grasp the basics of communication and body language.  No time for that; we’re usually too busy fixing something in the garage.  

With training, practice, and a patient partner, we’re able to rewire instinct and be that good listener.  Here are some tips.  

  1. Give her your full attention.  Put your phone down, turn off the TV, and listen without distractions.  If you’re in public, she’s the only one in the room.  
  1. Don’t fix.  This urge is difficult to overcome.  However, when she’s telling you about her aggravating day at work, she’s not seeking advice or solutions, she’s expressing how the day’s events made her feel.  Women tend to focus as much, if not more, on the emotion as much as the content when conversing, whereas men are more apt to just share information with one another, newspaper-style.  Shift your effort to trying to understand her perspective on things and empathize with her.  
  1. Don’t anticipate.  A lot of our time in conversation is spent thinking about what we’re going to say next and preconceptions as to how the conversation is going to go.  Don’t.  When she’s talking to you, fully focus and let the conversation unfold organically.  Pay attention to the details.  The things she tells you other people do that irritate her?  That may well be a subtle way of telling you something you’re doing that irritates her, or at the very least, some solid tips on things to avoid.  The things she’s telling you that a friend’s boyfriend or husband did for her?  That’s your cue, Romeo.
  1. Engage.  Nod in the right places.  Ask questions to clarify points or get further info to show that you’re an active participant in the conversation.  
  1. Watch your body language.  Point your body in her direction.  Lean forward.  Maintain eye contact.  Avoid crossing your arms.
  1. OK, once in awhile, you can fix.  Does she frequently mention her phone dying?  Doing something small like picking up a pocket-sized portable charger will not only show that you care, but that you’re paying attention.  

If you catch yourself slipping back into guy-mode during a conversation, don’t be hard on yourself.  Active listening is a skill, and like any, the more you practice it, the better you’ll get.  She’ll appreciate your efforts.

Hi, Ladies, We’re the Western Men. Brace Yourself.

Greetings, international women!  On behalf of the men, I wanted to introduce us.  If you’re not familiar with us (or the American stereotypes), you might be in for some surprises.  Here’s a bit of what to expect, and how to deal with us.

WE’RE LOUD: The saying that you hear an American before you see him?  That one’s true.  We have a natural exuberance and passion for life, and sometimes that means we forget that the person sitting beside us can hear us just fine, there’s no need to yell.  If this gets to be too much for you, just start talking more quietly.  We’ll usually take the hint and turn down the volume.

Attractive young man shouting out loud with hands around mouth

WE’RE GENEROUS: It’s our natural tendency to help.  We’ll hold the door for a stranger, we’ll help people pick up things they’ve dropped, we’ll give money to a bad street musician.  Often times when we’re abroad, people look at us funny because we’re always trying to tip.  This is just part of our upbringing; we’re taught in elementary school and children’s organizations to always be helpful, polite, considerate, and generous.  As is it so ingrained as a part of our culture, this is just something you’ll have to grow to appreciate about us.

WE OVERSHARE: We are less reserved than most other cultures, and are prone to sharing details of our lives with casual acquaintances.  You may be shocked by some of the things you hear come out of our mouths during a first date.  Knowing this detail can help you prepare to expect just about anything; try not to let it catch you off-guard, and always have a backup topic to casually switch to.    

WE’RE AFFECTIONATE:  Public displays of affection are very common in the US.  We like to hold hands in the park, sneak kisses in line at the grocery store, hug when we greet one another, and be close in general.  This may feel a bit awkward at first, but we’ll understand if you just let us know that it’s unfamiliar territory to which you’re still trying to get accustomed.

Couple embraced and kissing each other

WE’RE OPTIMISTIC: About everything.  We possess indomitable spirit, and it’s hard to keep us down: we’re survivors.  We live in the country of the American Dream, with the philosophy that with hard work, we can accomplish anything.  As a result, most American men are very career-driven.  We do tend to work long hours, but we like to play hard, too.  Most of us are working toward a specific goal, and we rarely let anything hold us back from trying to achieve it.  Enjoy the positive energy, and be ready to get swept up by it!

If you’re ever in doubt by our behavior, give us the benefit.  We are, as a whole, a very well-intentioned bunch.  We just require some patience (and maybe someone to smooth down our rough edges).

CONNECT

Matrimony International in association with Retreat Into Life is proud to bring you the

 

Holistic Wellness Retreat

Denarau, Fiji on Viti Levu

October 30th-November 5th, 2016

 

Join us on this amazing journey to find a deeper connection with yourself, as well as to your local and global community in gorgeous Viti Levu, Fiji! This retreat will include beautiful ocean front resort accommodations with a pool alongside the ocean, as well as excursions on and off the island to provide opportunities for self reflection as well as interaction with the island community. In addition to the beach in our own backyard, we will go on a day cruise to a small Fijian Island with renowned sandy beaches. We will also have the opportunity to spend a night in the Abaca village, whose traditions are hundreds of years old. Other adventures include a visit to oceanfront sand dunes, a natural spa treatment in the Sabeto mud springs, a cultural experience at the nearby Port Denarau market/marina, and exploration of the Koroyanitu National Heritage Park mountains and rain forests. In addition to traveling, delicious and nutritious meals will be provided as well as daily yoga and meditation, holistic wellness workshops, and of course, dance fitness classes. We will also have an opportunity to give back to Fiji and assist in the post cyclone effort. For students and professionals, course credit or CEU’ s are being offered through ISU’ s counseling department.

Your reservation for this retreat will include:

* Accommodations for 6 nights over a period of 7 days at the Wyndham Resort in Denarau. This beautiful property is nestled between the edge of the ocean on one side, and lush garden views on the other side. It is also located near the Denarau ocean front Golf Course. These large condos Room arrangements include a large King Bed room with a private bathroom, a queen bed room, and a room with 2 twin beds each. Each condo contains a full kitchen, living room, and a washer and dryer. Amenities include an outdoor ocean front pool with a Tiki bar, a fully equipped exercise room, and internet (for small fee).

* Seven day meal plan catered to your dietary needs/preferences made from wholesome ingredients. Vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, and dairy free options available as well.

* Transportation to all the excursions which are located around the west coast and west side of the Island.

* Activities include:

Day cruise to a small Fijian island
Overnight stay and cultural experience in the Abaca Village
Guided hikes in Koroyanitu National Park
Sigatoka sand dunes
Sabeto mud springs natural spa treatment and hot pools
Port Denarau Marina and market/cultural experience
Daily yoga/meditation classes
Dance fitness classes
Volunteer activity contributing to post cyclone effort

*Interactive Holistic wellness workshops including an emphasis on cultivating a deeply rooted sense of self. Workshops will focus on unifying the mind, body, spirit of the individual in order to form meaningful connections within the local and global community.

*Graduate level course credit or CEU credit will be available to students and professionals as an option through the ISU counseling department including a nueroception .

*Free time! Participate in as many activities as you would like offered in the program, enjoy the resort, take a hike, or soak up some sun on the beach or at the pool. Other activities such as biking, scuba diving, fishing, river rafting/ canoeing, and golfing etc. are available on the island for an additional cost.

Pricing

Room reservations are subject to availability.

$2375 pp twin bed accommodation
$2375 pp shared queen bed accommodation (must register with your roommate)
$2575 pp shared King Bed/private bathroom (must register with your roommate)
$2675 private Queen bed accommodation
$2875 private King Bed accommodation

Reserve your spot now with just a $500 deposit!

*If you are interested in combining your Fiji experience with New Zealand’s Adventure retreat which is back to back, a package deal which means large discounts are available for the trip and airfare!

Discounts are also available for early bird registration, service extending professionals, groups, and for referring friends. Also ask about retreat airfare specials. Please contact me with any questions and if you are interested in signing up as space is limited, and registration will close mid August. Thank you!

Nicole Celeste Packer
boogaloofit@gmail.com
208 403 7221

For more information on upcoming retreats and workshops worldwide, join the “Retreat Into Life” Facebook group or contact Nicole.

 

OUR GRANDPARENTS’ DATING TIPS THAT STILL APPLY TODAY

In today’s fast-paced Tinder, Netflix-and-chill society, it can be hard to establish and build a meaningful relationship with someone.  Think back to our grandparents’ era… Cary Grant.  Gary Cooper.  James Stewart.  Think any of these guys would have problems getting a date today?  It’s not just Mad Men décor making a comeback, the old-school sensibilities are returning with a vengeance as well, and have never faded from the Southern states.  If you want to make a positive impact on a date, take a page from your grandfather’s playbook.  Ladies, you deserve to be treated with respect and class, and really should settle for no less.

Before the hate-mail begins, please note that I have nothing but the utmost love, respect, and admiration for women.  My mother is one, and my daughter another, and I would expect to see both treated in the manner I recommend.  I certainly do not view them as being in any way inferior.  However, I do believe that chivalry is still alive, and that there is a difference between the sexes.  There is some behavior that is befitting of a gentleman, and that’s something that never goes out of style.

 

DRESS TO IMPRESS: Show your respect for your date by putting an effort into your appearance.  Clothes clean and pressed, naturally, and a bit overdressed (but not too much, you don’t want to make your date feel uncomfortable) for the occasion and location is always better than underdressed.  When in doubt, go for dark jeans, a dress shirt, and oxfords – and make sure they’re shined – perhaps with a vest or waistcoat for a little dressier look.  And take it easy with the cologne: a little on the inside of the wrists is sufficient.

FLOWERS ON THE FIRST DATE: Sorry, Grandpa, but modern tradition dictates we skip this classic.  Spend the money on coffee or drinks after dinner instead.  

MEET HER AT THE DOOR (AND BE CERTAIN YOU’RE ON TIME): This one shouldn’t even have to be stated, I feel, but yet there are those in this day and age who think a text when they pull up is OK.  Walk her to the car, open her car door.  When you return, walk her to her door.  Part of the male role in a relationship is protector, and no matter how handy she is with unarmed combat, a sidearm, taser, or can of mace, she should still feel like you’ve got her back.  Most importantly: if you’re going inside, it’s only by her suggestion, don’t even bother.

COMPLIMENT HER: Your date will have likewise no doubt made an effort to impress you, as the four other outfits she tried on that didn’t make the cut would attest.  Let her know that it paid off and that she looks great.

THE MAN PAYS: I’m not denigrating the achievements or equality of women anywhere.  If your date insists on paying for her meal, then by all means… however, the implication is that the gentleman will pay for the evening, that’s just the way it is.  If you’re the one who asked the other person out (and guys, you should be), it’s your obligation to pay.

ORDER FOR HER: And while we’re on the subject of dining, this is a nice move to make to add a little class and will typically make a positive impact: discuss the menu beforehand, figure out what she’d like, and order for both of you.

NO ELECTRONICS: Turn off the radio in the car and talk.  Turn off your phone, ignore the news crawl on the TV in the corner of the lounge, and give the entirety of your focus and attention to your date.  Make eye contact, ask questions, and engage.  In today’s fast-moving society, there’s a dearth of people who can sit and actively listen, and this won’t go unnoticed.

ETIQUETTE: Hold the restaurant door.  Walk on the street-side of her.  Push in her chair for her.  If she leaves, stand when she returns to the table.  Carry her packages for her.  She goes up stairs first, and you go down first.  You don’t have to go overboard, but these sorts of gestures make a big impression.  Don’t think so?  George Clooney, Jon Hamm, and Matt Damon are all recidivist manner-intensive nice guys, and it’s not like they need the extra help.

A HANDWRITTEN NOTE: Not an e-mail, not an e-card, no e-anything: the day following a date, compose a handwritten thank-you note and send it to her home or office, whichever address you have.  This little act will make a huge impact.  However, you should also call the following day to thank her as well, and if you’re interested, ask about a future date.    

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST (ON A FIRST DATE)

Short of a job interview or a tax audit, there are very few times in life that you try to make as good an impression as when on a first date with someone in whom you’re romantically interested.  You try to present the best version of yourself, fudging on the uncomfortable stuff and glossing over some of the negatives.  Your impetus is to find out if you want to pursue a second date with this person, and from there, perhaps a relationship.

 

So why not begin laying the groundwork for this potential relationship from the very beginning?  I’m not suggesting oversharing in an attempt to scare away your suitors.  Being unabashedly yourself, however, creates an environment of trust in which your date can feel comfortable knowing that he or she doesn’t have to be perfect either, they’re dealing with another flawed and wonderful human being like themselves.  The added benefit of this approach is that it shows a great deal of courage, self-esteem, integrity, and honesty to admit your weaknesses.  All of these qualities are extremely attractive in a partner.

As something of a Bohemian, there’s plenty about me that screams “undateable,” and I bring these issues up on the first date, if not in conversation before.  I’m a freelance writer, and as such, my income can fluctuate wildly, depending on what I’m working (or not working) on at any given time.  Since one of the major topics that I write about is mental illness, and that comes up almost immediately in conversation by way of the question “So what do you write about?” I bring up that I have depression, anxiety, and a touch of the OCD.  I also don’t have a vehicle – I live in a major city and since I have a home office, I just ride my bike or use mass transit (or taxi, or Uber, or variety of other available options) to get to few locations that I need to go that aren’t within walking distance.

I’m sure that some or all of this scares away eligible candidates on occasion.  I’m OK with that, and here’s why: these are things about myself that I would have to engage in awkward conversation about at some point.  Since first dates are the breeding ground for awkwardness, why not use that as the proper venue?  If the above issues are going to be a dealbreaker, I’d rather know that over a cup of coffee on our first meeting rather than over an expensive fourth-date dinner after further time and energy have been spent on a relationship that’s not going to work out.

Those who don’t run off after my admissions come to find out that because my finances are often feast-or-famine, that I’m very good at budgeting, sales-shopping, tucking money away for a rainy day, and am overall quite resourceful.  I’m extremely aggressive in managing my mental illness, and devote part of my time to helping others manage theirs (and frequently has made dates become comfortable about opening up about their own experiences, which establishes a great bond of shared experience).  With regard to not having wheels, it’s my plan to be back on the road this fall doing on-location travel writing with my canine wards.

I lose few people by being forthright with them; in fact, I’ve found that it has the effect of drawing them closer and developing a strong comfort level from the onset and facilitates open communication.  While my lifestyle may be unconventional for someone careering toward fifty years of age, it’s what I enjoy and what makes me happy, and the only thing about it that’s going to change is anything I deem fit.  Most thus far have respected that, and whether things have worked out or not, one thing that my dates have all said is that they appreciate my honesty and openness.  These acts of being vulnerable and trusting lay the groundwork for interdependence in a relationship.  I don’t ever have to worry about someone blowing my cover or getting a false impression of me, or worry about what will happen if they discover “the real me.”

 

Not everyone is right for everyone else, and the more efforts that are put into being your authentic self and being honest, the more quickly you’ll be able to assess if the person you’re with will (or won’t) work for you.  Be straightforward about who you are, what you’re looking for, and what you bring to a relationship.  If your date can’t accept who you are or is looking for something else entirely, you’ll never live up to their standards.

Don’t sabotage yourself.  You don’t need go into issues that aren’t a major obstacle and wouldn’t come up in conversation.  You’ll still want to avoid first-encounter conversational pitfalls: personal finances, health issues, being lonely, sex, religion, politics, exes, etc.  Without being boastful (universally a huge turn-off), be sure to play up some of your strengths.  You don’t need to paint yourself as a perfect person, merely an interesting one, in order to catch the attention of most potential partners.  When certain topics arise, don’t dodge the uncomfortable issues, embrace them.  It’s what builds a strong relationship, and that, after all, is most likely the reason you’re dating in the first place.

FRUGAL FIRST DATES

Since “Netflix and chill” has come to carry such seedy connotations, dating can get expensive in a hurry.  Concert tickets, movies, dinners, flowers: these things all add up quickly.  When hitting the dating sites and going on a lot of first dates, I like to try and keep things on a budget, since there’s a whole lot of “you’re not right for me” out there.  Here are some ideas to keep your romantic pursuits from breaking the bank.

 

COFFEE DATE: Coffee shops tend to be an excellent place for a first in-person meeting.  They’re ubiquitous, and very well-suited to quiet conversation.  Unlike a movie – or even dinner out – nobody is locked into a set amount of time, and either person can easily wrap things up if they’re not going well, or stay and chat (or move on to another venue).  It’s a wonderful, low-pressure encounter that’s an easy way to get to know the other person.

PICNIC IN THE PARK: If you live in a metropolitan area, it’s no doubt dotted with beautiful neighborhood parks.  If you live in a more rural area, there are likely some great recreational areas nearby.  Either way, a picnic is a good way to have some romance on a budget; feel out some of her favorite foods and snacks beforehand, pick them up at the grocery store, toss them in a basket, put some wine in a thermos, and grab a blanket.  You’ll earn bonus points for being willing to do some prep-work for the date, and if your phone has decent volume (or you have a portable Bluetooth speaker), you can put on some soft music while you enjoy.  This is another great way to be able to converse and get to know one another.  Some places feature canoe or paddle boat rental too, which can make for a romantic, if somewhat risky, endeavor.  Hiking trails may also be an option with less chance of getting inadvertently dunked.  The downside to this plan is that you’re a hostage to the weather – be sure to keep an eye on the weather report and have a contingency plan in case a surprise rain shower puts your plan on hold.

MUSEUMS: Not only are admissions typically low or offer discount admission days, this shows a cultural interest, and gives you an opportunity to find some common ground, discuss which works or pieces are your favorite, your own experiences in travel and history, and the like.  If you’re not great at first-date conversation, this can be a good way to provide distraction and take some of the pressure off with built-in topics for discussion.  If you live in a metropolitan area, there will also be a lot of galleries and shows in the art district in which you can wander around.  Science centers can be a lot of fun, too, especially those home to an IMAX theater.  Which leads me to…

DISCOUNT MOVIE DAYS: My neighborhood theater has discount Tuesdays in which admission for two, tub of popcorn, and large drink is less than $15.  While movies aren’t conducive to conversation, this is another great outlet if you don’t do well at first date getting-to-know-you chatting.  Afterwards, you can grab coffee or a drink and discuss the movie, which can easily lead to discussion about movies and actors, and segue into more comfortable conversation.  Many areas also have smaller theaters that show classic, art, or foreign films, which can boost your cultural cred.  During summer months, a lot of parks will offer free movies; just grab a blanket and some snacks and lie in the park together.

BREWERY OR WINE TOUR: If you’re a fan of adult beverages, these are typically free, and an interesting educational experience that generally culminates in sampling the product in the tasting room.

BOOK TOUR/READING: Bookstores, libraries, and art venues host periodic author and poet readings free of charge; this is another great cultural outlet that can involve a potential partner in one of your interests.

BOWLING: Even with shoe rental, beers, and greasy snack bar fare, this is a fun.  It can get quite loud, so conversation may be difficult, but this can be a lot of fun (as well as getting a nice view of your date’s… assets).

COMEDY: Amateur or open mike nights have low-cost admission, and laughing together is a bonding activity.  Smaller venues often feature some of the bigger-name comedians at lower rates; keep an eye on schedules and ticket prices online.

FLEA MARKET: There are so many interesting, unusual, conversation-provoking items you can find here.  You can also get an idea of your date’s sense of decorating style, share stories about the past as you encounter items from your childhood, or just talk about the weird stuff that a person can buy at a flea market.

DIVE BARS: Grab a domestic on tap and play some pool or darts, perhaps some karaoke?  Dingy little bars are fun, and conversation flows a bit more freely after a couple of drinks.  The environment means you don’t have to try to act classy, you can just relax and have a good time with no pretense.

TRIVIA NIGHT: Want to see whose command of useless knowledge is better?  A lot of bars host weeknight trivia nights offering cash prizes or bar credit for top scorers – you could even come out ahead on this one!

LOCAL EVENTS: Check your local paper and sites that amalgamate area events to see what’s going on in your area, there are a lot of unique and inexpensive opportunities to be had.

COOKING: While a stranger might be reluctant to come to your home, if it’s someone with whom you’re already somewhat acquainted, this can be an excellent way to save a few dollars while showing off your kitchen game.  Don’t have kitchen game?  You need kitchen game – take a community education cooking class.  Serve something light and quick and easy to make: fish, a side salad, and some dinner rolls will do the trick, and if your date offers to bring something, a bottle of wine makes an excellent and easy suggestion.  Light some candles, put on some soft music, and watch your date enjoy someone else doing the prep-work for a meal instead of having to do so herself.

For further ideas, contact the Mi Concierge.  We’ll seek out local events that will provide great inexpensive, unique date ideas that you’ll be sure to enjoy.  

HOW TO (SUCCESSFULLY) BE SINGLE

charles-bukowski-cinematheia-com_There are worse things than being alone. But it often takes decades to realize this. And most often when you do, it’s too late. And there’s nothing worse than too late.

– Charles Bukowski

 

The reason for a lot of failed relationships is that people seek a partner when they’re not in a good place emotionally.  They’re lonely, miserable, in a bad place financially, or, let’s face it: horny.  I’ve fallen into this pit myself, and have a litany of breakups and divorces as a result.  A friend was good enough to key me into the fact that the only time I should be looking for love is when everything is going well in my life, and while I’ve yet to find True Love ™, this advice has served me very well, if not in finding my perfect match, then in at least avoiding the wrong ones.

GIVE IT TIME: When you leave a relationship, it’s a difficult period.  Accept that you’ll be feeling negative emotions, and try to understand the root of these emotions rather than running from them.  It’s OK to be sad, lonely resentful, or afraid; it would be abnormal not to.  Give yourself time to process what went wrong, what you could do differently, and refine what traits in a partner that you’re looking for – and which ones you’re not.  It’s an adjustment period, but one necessary for growth, strength, and understanding.

STAY POSITIVE: Don’t dwell on these negative emotions, though.  There will be things that you miss about your former mate, that’s only natural.  But don’t lose hope; you were looking for a partner when you found your last one, you’ll find one again.  It may take many first dates to weed out those who aren’t a good fit for you, but you’ll find love again, you may just have to be patient.

ACCEPT YOURSELF: You’re a human being, full of flaws and weaknesses.  We all are, even (sometimes especially!) those who seem the most well-adjusted.  Don’t try and hide those aspects of yourself, they’re part of you and have formed you into the person you are today.  Embrace your dark side, come to terms with it.  There are some things about yourself you can work on changing, and some things that are simply a part of your being, be it by nature or nurture.  You’re never going to be the perfect partner for everyone (nobody is), nor are all couples compatible, no matter how many similarities they share on the surface.  Avoid comparisons and focus on being the best version of yourself that you can be.

BE INDEPENDENT: Everyone feels lonely from time to time, and as social creatures, we’re wired to seek companionship, especially the romantic kind.  However, you should be at a point where you’re looking for someone because you want to be with them, not because you feel a need to be with someone to make you whole.  Use your time being single to foster some of your interests and hobbies, go out and try new things, and get to know yourself better.  In doing so, you never know whom you may meet.  Until that time, learn to enjoy spending time alone.  It can really help you to clarify your personal priorities.

EXPLORE: Dating provides an excellent opportunity to get you out of your old routines and patterns.  Get out and try new restaurants, small concert venues, nightclubs, and the like, either with a new flame or by yourself.  Check event listings in your local paper and online and find new things to try.  Find new areas of your city to which you’ve not been.  Old girlfriend didn’t care for museums and art galleries?  There’s nothing holding you back now from checking out that new traveling exhibit now.

SPEND TIME WITH OTHERS: No longer do you have to strike a balance among your partner, your family, and your friends.  This can be a great time to reconnect with those with whom you’d not had time to spend prior.  Reach out to a few people with whom you’ve not spent time recently, they’d no doubt love to hear from you.

BE FINANCIALLY SECURE: Among the worst reasons to seek or be with someone is because you’re unable to pay the bills by yourself.  When you do get into a relationship, you’ll be held hostage by this factor.  You may have to become more clever at budgeting, move to a smaller place, get a roommate, pick up some sideline or part-time work, learn to bargain-shop, or any of a number of other money-saving and –management techniques.  It may be hard being single and broke, but you can do it.  And need to.  You’re developing the vital skill of self-reliance.

RECOGNIZE THE ADVANTAGES OF BEING SINGLE: Want to flirt with the cute blonde in the coffee shop?  Go for it.  Want to go see a cheesy movie spur-of-the-moment?  There’s nobody else you need to convince.  Want to eat a can of cold beans out of the can for dinner?  I do that at least once a week.  Want to do some travel or take a cruise?  You’re the only one whose schedule you need worry about.  Your free time is your own to do with as you please.  Go to bed when you want, get up when you need to, watch what you want on TV.  Want to spend the weekend in loungewear playing video games?  Do it – nobody’s going to complain.  Your priorities are entirely your own, with nobody else to factor into the equation.  Oh, and the best part?  Not having to share the bed (other than with your pets).