Hitting on people in bars makes me want to blow my brains out.
November 3, 2009 4:17 PM   Subscribe

Let's say you remove geography from the equation in finding a potential partner. How would you go about it?

So I'm turning 28 in a few weeks. To a lot of people that seems relatively young, but I've lived an long, eventful, interesting life and had a lot of good, crazy times to look back on.

Long story short, I'm feeling ready to settle down a little, take some steps forward in my personal life.

My life is pretty great otherwise, and I'm really happy and grateful with where I am. My love life, however, sucks. And has for a long time. I've had a string of failed relationships, one after another, going back many years. At every step I imagine it will get easier, but it never does. Having money doesn't help, getting in shape, taking care of myself, trying to be happier, nothing helps. Dating still sucks, working at meeting people still sucks. For something so central, so intrinsic to a long, happy life, it's deeply frustrating to have so little success.

Obviously there's a lot of reasons for this, but the biggest one that I point to is geography. I live in Los Angeles. This is a well-documented issue and I won't rehash it now, but being a single dude here is less than ideal. Most everything else about the city I love, though, and I hate to leave just because of the crappy single life.

Fortunately, I'm in a somewhat unique position. The business I'm in allows me to a) take a lot of time off and b) work most anywhere in the world for short or long projects.

It makes me think - if dating here is so bad, why am I still looking here? I can go anywhere I want, for as long as I need to. I seems worthwhile to really put some time and effort into this aspect of life, doesn't it?

So what would you do in my place?

I'm a writer at heart (a better one than I've displayed here, I promise) so meeting someone on the net is probably the way to go, but I'm open to any suggestions, especially specific anecdotal suggestions.

Obviously I could just go somewhere and meet people, but I'm looking for more systematic kinds of solutions. I feel like the haphazard, serendipitous approach that romantic comedies tell us is the way people find someone hasn't really borne fruit, so maybe it's time to try something else.
posted by milinar to Human Relations (21 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Consider thinking of ways to narrow down the serendipitous approach to groups you might be more interested in. If you're a scifi dork, go to Dragon Con and hit on people there. Other conventions or gatherings of likeminded individuals might help you meet someone with whom you have both a lot in common and romantic/sexual chemistry.
posted by NoraReed at 4:34 PM on November 3, 2009

Well, uh, you might be in the right place already? This site seems to work pretty well for some.
posted by booknerd at 4:35 PM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

My friend Owen started by advertising on Craigslist. He began with a very general and generic ad, but got little to no response. So he elaborated on it. That got a response, but it wasn't the one he wanted. So he reposted it and elaborated on it even more, being very particular about his habits, his likes and dislikes, his passions, his random habits. Finally he had something like a page-long ad. And someone responded. And they went on a date, and now they live in the same place.

Most people approach dating by casting as wide a net as possible, thinking that they will whittle it down from the responses they get. Why waste time? Post as particular an ad as you can. Anyone who will read the entire thing has already proved that they are curious enough. Basically a long ad is a series of hoops that a potential partner is jumping. If, at any point they see a dealbreaker, they can stop reading and move on. But if they get through your list of quirks, vicissitudes, and interests, and finds it compelling, they just might have enough interesting things on their table to compel you back.

Good luck. I'm kind of in the same boat as you.
posted by Sully at 4:38 PM on November 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

I doubt it's geography. Meeting people in bars doesn't work for everyone. Try the online thing and be casual.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 4:41 PM on November 3, 2009

Ditto NoraReed (to a degree). Do what you like and be outgoing. I do not agree with "hitting on" women at a convention, unless you really make a point of doing it tactfully. Given the typical ratio of men to women, I think women can deal with a lot of grief at such settings.

Given that you can move, find somewhere you want to (and can) stay for a while. Meeting a nice lady, only to tell her you have to be going to your next assignment usually puts an end to things, either to avoid a long-distance relationship, or because the long-distance relationship gets strained and fails.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:44 PM on November 3, 2009

I like what you wrote and can very much relate, although I'm a female and 44. I've tried Craigslist with some decent success.

I've pretty much given up on the whole dating thing. It gets old after awhile looking for someone. I had the love of my life, so I'm fortunate in that regard. I did always want that lifelong relationship, but that takes a couple of pretty special people that really get along well with one another.

I love being alone, so I think that's why it's so hard to find someone. I've never had life with someone exceed my life alone. There's still a part of me that hopes there were someone that could make that wish come true.

I'm hoping you get some good answers here as I'm curious myself.
posted by VC Drake at 4:49 PM on November 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the responses. I've done the online thing ad nauseum and it hasn't really worked out, people you meet online seem to have the same weird expectations and mindgames in this city that people in bars do.

Trust me, after 6 years of living here after moving from the northeast and banging my head against the problem and talking to people from all over endlessly about it...
posted by milinar at 4:49 PM on November 3, 2009

This guy I know lived in LA for several years and tried to meet women, but never did. Terrible or nonexistent dating experiences. Then he moved to San Francisco, met a fabulous woman, and married her.

The guy I'm talking about is my husband, by the way. :)

He claims that LA didn't have "the sort of woman he was looking for". That may or may not be true, but relocating did work for him.
posted by cleverevans at 4:52 PM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Cleverevans - I've heard that story a million times. Exactly my point.

But let's say relocation is off the table. I like everything else about this city and want to stay. What's plan B?
posted by milinar at 5:00 PM on November 3, 2009

There really isn't a systematic way to find someone for a long term relationship and not have geography be an issue. Very few people will want to get involved with you if you can't commit to living close by for an extended period of time, and though it looks like you can do that it isn't a good idea to make that kind of commitment with only a relationship in mind.

Your options really are move or keep trying in LA.

Oh, and on preview it seems you are deciding to stay in LA.

Maybe go to an event or something that is for people just moving to LA? They might be less crazy. (that's just an idea, though it sounds like a horrid sitcom plot)
posted by America at 5:06 PM on November 3, 2009

I'm sort of in your situation. After three years in Phoenix, I've grown to really love it here. Problem is, I've been trying unsuccessfully for three years to find a long-term relationship here. Me: liberal, black, sorta erudite. 99.9% of the men here: white (and not necessarily open to interracial dating, as I am, conservative, and uh ... not erudite.

Thing is, though, I'm happy here and I'm sort of hoping that by just being happy and doing what I like doing, I'll run across that .1% of the single male population seeking what I'm seeking.

So, if you're truly happy in Los Angeles, I say take the online dating approach. Be specific in your ad. Take breaks as necessary (because I personally find an endless streams of dead-end dates, which you will have, pretty exhausting.)

Also, if you think you might find someone in say, the Bay Area, why not post an ad there or go to Match.com and search by zip code. I've been targeting Tucson (a bit more "me" than Phoenix) in hopes that I'll find someone that way.

Good luck (and as someone pushing 40, I say, take your time. You really are still young).
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 5:23 PM on November 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

I grew up in LA, but haven't lived there in many years. I can see how dating in LA could be even more horrible than the geographically-averaged level of horribleness, which is already pretty horrible.

Anyhow, one thing you might not be aware of (I'm serious -- no snark in intended) is that LA is a big place and not quite as uniform as many people think, even people who have lived there all their lives. Santa Monica is not Glendale is not Pasadena is not Huntington Beach.

I think your chances of success in taking time away from LA to start a relationship predicated on your moving back to LA to live are slim at best. Better, since you like some aspects of LA, to find a better LA, no?

In short: move to Eagle Rock and join a book club.
posted by lex mercatoria at 5:34 PM on November 3, 2009

May I suggest How to Be an Adult in Relationships? Leave aside the cheesy how-to of the title; I found it to be an enormously useful, thought-provoking method of reordering more authentically what I expected from relationships in general and how I thought of myself in relation to a partner in particular. It won't necessarily tell you any tricks about where to go to meet a good partner... but it may change your outlook entirely on how to recognize a potentially good partner when he comes along.

Also, Los Angeles is certainly a tricky place socially (due to it being so decentralized), but having found the love of my life here about 4.5 years ago, I can attest that there are at least a few wonderful guys in L.A. So keep your chin up. ;)
posted by scody at 5:47 PM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

You could use this map to focus on areas of the US with higher single-female-to-single-male ratios. Look for the red dots -- the larger the better (for you). (Source: Richard Florida's book Who's Your City.)
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:13 PM on November 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Why not try something like what Sully mentions above, a long in-depth ad designed for Craigslist describing yourself and your ideal woman/relationship. Post this ad in every major city nationally or internationally.
Include in the post that after your initial connection and phone conversations, that you will be willing to be the one to travel to them for the first visit. If things go well, you would be willing to move wherever they are and try living with them for x weeks or months to expand your relationship. But most importantly, be very clear in your post that although you'll be willing to do all the initial travel, the ultimate goal is to settle down with them in LA if things work out, and women who are open to re-locating to LA for the right guy are the only ones who should apply.
posted by BillBishop at 6:45 PM on November 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

I don't like meeting people in bars (only a certain subset of the population frequent bars, and this is not the subset of people I can see myself with in the long term), or online (maybe some people have luck with this, but the men I meet through dating websites tend to be a little ... desperate). I found the most relationship success through friends, and friends of friends. So after graduation, I made sure to go to a place where a) there would be a lot of people my age clustered together in a small geographical locality so it is convenient for people to hang out and chill (convenience makes all the difference), b) I could get involved in an extracurricular activity where I would meet a lot of people and make significant (as opposed to superficial) contact. My extracurricular activity happened to be an intensive learning course, which was a lot of fun because we bonded in classes and after classes. But I am sure you could replace that with something else.
posted by moiraine at 1:39 AM on November 4, 2009

Move to NYC.
posted by allkindsoftime at 7:18 AM on November 4, 2009

LA isn't the problem.

I think you have some unrealistic expectations here. If you're not someone who's naturally great at meeting and connecting with people, it's going to be hard/difficult/painful/awkward wherever you are, until you get used to doing it and stop making a big deal of it. I compare it to public speaking. Until you get desensitized, it's scary as hell and not enjoyable.

Seriously, the problem here sounds like you just aren't good at meeting people. You can go to San Francisco, New York, Chicago, or anywhere, and you're not going to meet people if you keep the attitude that "meeting people at xxx venue" sucks and you need to try something new. And I guarantee you that if you meet more women in LA, you're going to meet more women you like. Don't blame the city. You'll find all kinds of people in pretty much every city you go to if you try hard enough. It's like that old saying "wherever you go, there you are."

If I were you, I'd re-assess the belief that having a partner is "so intrinsic to a long, happy life." It's hard enough without telling yourself that you won't ever be happy unless you find that person. You're putting way too much pressure on yourself.

It just sounds like you just need to learn how to meet people. You learn this by trying to meet new people, having a really difficult time with it, making adjustments, and not giving up. Yes, it's going to suck and you'll get dropped on your head over and over. You'll also meet a lot of cool people if you actually do it. Most people don't have the stones to do this though. It's really really difficult.
posted by PFL at 8:21 AM on November 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: PFL, Moraine, et al - thanks for the responses. No problems meeting people here at all, I'm just not happy with the people I meet and the way relationships are conducted by and large. I've dated here a lot, all kinds of people from all kinds of venues. I've heard this from nearly everyone who comes here from another place as a single person. Yes, surely there are good people here, but how to find them wasn't the question. Some food for thought, though.
posted by milinar at 9:37 AM on November 4, 2009

A friend of mine gave some interesting advice on internet dating. She suggested that you make a checklist ahead of time of all the characteristics that you want, then after the coffee date you go home and see if they met 80% of them. If so, go for it. If not, no second date.
posted by NoraReed at 12:04 PM on November 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you want to live in LA, why fish for women in Miami or NYC or Bumfuck, Wisconsin, who probably are living in those towns because they like living there? Fishing all over the globe is really for people who don't give a crap where they live and are willing to move, and you're not. Unless you can talk a chick into moving for you, that is, but that can be kind of a crap shoot.

Everyone who's single thinks dating sucks everywhere. People in NYC think dating sucks, people in Bumfuck think dating sucks. LA is probably not any better or worse than any other place on the planet, really.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:19 PM on November 4, 2009

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