Help a girl meet more guys in No Fun City...without online dating.
December 7, 2011 6:47 AM   Subscribe

Help a girl meet more guys in No Fun City...without online dating.

I'm a 21-year-old lady. I do go on dates, but not a lot, and frankly a lot of attention I get is from old guys (like 40+) or creeps (like the charmer who shouted NICE LEGS! at me from his car yesterday). I am not a supermodel, but I don't think I am unattractive. I am pretty shy though and not very good at flirting. I know some girls who can sit next to a man on the bus and get a date with him the next day. All I get are a few awkward smiles.

All this is sort of compounded by the fact that I live in Vancouver (Canada), a city of notoriously un-forward men. When I've been to Toronto, Montreal, or Seattle I've had a lot of attention from men when I went out at night, but here that's rarely the case. I already do my best to dress nice, and I do go out to quite a few shows and to bars with my friends, so I'm not some shut-in in sweatpants.

These are the standard suggestions that I get:
1. Meet boys at places that interest you!: I am into literature, philosophy, art and would love to meet a guy with similar interests. Unfortunately, I don't have swarms of men approaching me when I hang out at the library or the art gallery. I love independent music and go to a lot of shows, but I also feel desperate/like a creep approaching men if they don't approach me. I am not into sports (I have an ankle condition and basically suck at everything).

2. Singles groups/events: At 21, I am waaaaay too young for these.

3. Going to bars/shows/etc. alone so my friends won't intimidate men: I've heard this one a few times. I just don't think people do this here. If I go to a bar alone, I'm pretty sure I'll look like a loser and/or alcoholic.

4. Online dating: Obviously this is what Metafilter is going to suggest. Ι am averse to it for the following reasons:
- I am not photogenic. At all.
- I tried searching OKCupid and came up with both my brother and a boy who stalked me in high school
- I feel like the online dating crowd skews more to 30-somethings.

How do shy 20-something girls find dates, especially in a city without particularly forward men? Are single women screwed in Vancouver because of a skewed gender ratio (I've heard this one before)? Should I just accept that maybe I'm kinda ugly? Do help me out.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (30 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
When I've been to Toronto, Montreal, or Seattle I've had a lot of attention from men when I went out at night, but here that's rarely the case.

Part of this, and part of the problem that a lot of people have with getting approached, is looking like you're having fun. In another city, things are new and and exciting and thus you look more excited from the outside. In your own city, it is a lot easier to get in a rut, visit the same places, the same shows with the same people and not seem from the outside very enthused about it.

I'm a more or less average looking guy, but I met a ton of women simply by being the most fun person at the party or club. I don't mind the drunkest; I mean the one excited to see people (giving hugs, actually engaging in the "how are you" process), having interesting conversations, throwing high-fives around and generally having a really wonderful time. That kind of energy draws people in and thus, you meet new people.

My advice would be to go outside of your comfort zone in your own city and try something you've always wanted but never had the guts to do. Then, do it again. The excitement you get on the inside is attractive on the outside, and I can guarantee you'll start meeting people.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 7:01 AM on December 7, 2011 [7 favorites]

...but I also feel desperate/like a creep approaching men if they don't approach me.

Stardate 2011: Dudes like it when woman approach them. Seriously. Some will be a little nervous. Some will be put off. Some might have a significant other. Some might be kind of dickish. But, honestly? "Dude, I was at this show and this cute girl just came up and started talking to me!" is something you brag to your friends about over beers. What's not going to happen is whatever paranoid fantasy (and I mean that in the nicest way, I really do) going on in that head of yours. You will not get made fun of. No one will point and shout "HEY LOOK AT THIS DESPERATE GIRL THINKING SHE COULD TALK TO ME!" It's just not going to happen, especially if the dudes in your town are as reticent as you say they are.

You're not going to meet anyone by trying to be as comfortable as possible at all points in time. I mean, you might, but I wouldn't put money down on it and I certainly wouldn't bet my future happiness on it.

If I go to a bar alone, I'm pretty sure I'll look like a loser and/or alcoholic.

Bring a book. Seriously. Reading a book in a bar is basically saying ASK ME ABOUT MY BOOK. Unfortunate for people who want to be left alone to read, but hey, take advantage.
posted by griphus at 7:07 AM on December 7, 2011 [25 favorites]

Cultivate a circle of friends through your outside interests. Make sure these friends aren't especially introverted or shy, and get yourself into the habit of being invited to parties and throwing parties at your place. Meet your friends' friends, and this places you in a position where you can get more dates. If you went to college, join the local chapter of the alumni club. The common theme here is to do things that involve socializing. Echoing Rodrigo, be fun.
posted by deanc at 7:07 AM on December 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Be more forward! Don't rely on the stereotypes and gender expectations that have hobbled women for centuries, approach people yourself, take initiative! The same way that it's not good for a guy's prospects if he's shy, it's not good for you either. Don't wait for prince charming to single you out and sweep you off your feet, find a guy that makes you go "hey, I think the might be awesome," and find out if he is.
posted by Jon_Evil at 7:09 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't see a real reason not to use online dating:

- I am not photogenic. At all.

Then post a far-away or blurry photo that barely shows what you look like. What's the point of a photo that doesn't show what you look like? To make your profile still show up in people's searches. If you write a good profile, they'll still be intrigued by you. Then they'll meet you in person and the "photogenic" issue won't matter anymore.

- I tried searching OKCupid and came up with both my brother and a boy who stalked me in high school

You could also run into them in a bar. Shielding yourself from interacting with the outside world is not how to be successful in dating. As for your brother finding your profile, that's a huge "so what?" There is no need to worry about being ashamed when people find your profile; using an online dating site isn't a crime!

- I feel like the online dating crowd skews more to 30-somethings.

Again: so what? So what if 30-somethings get more use out of the site? 20-somethings use it too, and that's what matters for you. You can quickly dispel the idea that people in your age range don't use OKCupid by doing a search limited by age. I just searched OKCupid for "guys who like girls," in or near Vancouver, within just 1 year of your age, who have posted photos and have recently logged on (indicating they take the site seriously). There are a lot of them.

You can give excuses for why online dating might not work out. But the fact is, there's no more efficient way to increase your chances of finding someone than by trying a dating site. The site lets you very quickly generate a lot of viable possibilities in a way that's just not possible in real life (aside from speed dating).
posted by John Cohen at 7:19 AM on December 7, 2011 [9 favorites]

Regarding 3. Go to bars/shows with girlfriends. This doesn't say "single" with quite the volume of being alone, but it's enough, and you'll have a better time, (and whenever there are people getting drunk, it's nice to have people around that you know in case anything weird happens)

Another reason you are probably having luck in Seattle because guys outnumber girls significantly, and there is competition for eligible women. (It looks like an insignificant difference from a population percentage number, but that slight difference is distilled out of the wider population and concentrated in the singles scene. Seattle also has a lot of aerospace and tech giants importing (predominantly male) specialist workers from all over the world, further unbalancing things). I don't know how Vancouver compares but I imagine it's closer to normal.

I also feel desperate/like a creep approaching men if they don't approach me.

Which would you prefer: Dating from the pool of whoever happened to choose you, or dating ANYONE that YOU chose? Think about the difference that makes. If you are the one looking for someone, you get to select them based on what they do. But if your options are limited to people who found you, not only are your options limited, but you're dating someone who you've never seen in any genuine interaction, only them pretending to be whatever it is that they think you'll like.
You approaching men might sometimes be interpreted as desperation, or an easy lay, but it's also power - YOU are the one opening your options and doing the selecting.

As a half-way point, a lot of women get part of both worlds by doing selecting without approaching - catch eye contact and smile. This is sort of the polite fiction for the appearance of traditional gender duties, while giving the woman more agency than openly acknowledged.

As regards online dating, you seem to have a false dichotomy. Stick up a profile, and then keep doing all the other non-online-dating things as if you had no profile online. If someone gets in touch via the online thing and they look really interesting, win! If not, so what? There is no downside (beyond spending some time online), it just opens up more options.
posted by -harlequin- at 7:26 AM on December 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

What's the Vancouver metafilter crowd like? Start going to meetups! At the very least, it'll be a large group of new-to-you people who know other people, perhaps young, single, man-type people, in the city.
posted by phunniemee at 7:29 AM on December 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Anecdotally, I didn't start getting normal, reasonable, human-to-human interaction from men my age and slightly older until I hit about 25 or so. I don't know the exact reasons, but I can guess that it's partly an immaturity problem on their part, partly a lack of projected, outward confidence on mine.

I'll recommend OkCupid even though you're put off by it. You don't have to be photogenic. That's a pretty bad excuse. Set up a profile with no photo and answer a ton of questions. I'm positive you'll be surprised at what you find just browsing. The online crowd skewing older doesn't mean there are zero twentysomething users.
posted by theraflu at 7:31 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

An attitude reorientation is warranted. There are signs of defeat, passivity, and giving up all through this question. You're not giving yourself a chance.

Creeps on your OKCupid? Block them and focus on the nice ones. And there are tons of people your age there.

No-one talks to you in galleries? Try talking to them instead? Or try to go places where you are forced to interact, like book clubs, non-profit volunteering, I would say sports teams but you are 'not into sports' -- are you a student? There are hundreds of campus clubs you could try. The benefit of these activities is that you meet people by default and the wall of silence is already broken.

Don't like going out alone? Fine, but when out with friends, get away every now and then and give people a chance to approach you. Maybe linger by the bar alone for a little while. People do go to places alone, by the way.

And finally shy and not good at flirting -- I feel you, and I have been there, but you don't get off the hook so easy. It's like saying I'm weak and not good at lifting weights. Of course you're 'not good' - no-one is until they practice! You've slammed the door, but this can be fixed if you put in the work, and indeed you should put in the work because it will make things better for you. If you place all of the responsibility on the guy, you will keep meeting only those really aggressive guys and creeps, and the match will have everything to do with whether they want you (without knowing you), and little to do with whether you want them.

Ugly/not photogenic, skewed gender ratio, guys not forward enough-- it's all excuses and ways of giving up or absolving yourself of responsibility, and I know that life can be difficult and discouraging but try to recognize this as the negative thinking it is, and cast it aside, because it is not doing you any good. All you get is awkward smiles? It's a good thing. You're being noticed and you're halfway there. Smile back and say hi.
posted by PercussivePaul at 7:34 AM on December 7, 2011 [5 favorites]

I feel like the online dating crowd skews more to 30-somethings.

I feel like it skews towards 18-24 year-olds.
Regardless, this age perception point is irrelevant because you live in a city and OkCupid will have more users your age than you possibly have the time to browse through. You might not see them all at once though - OkCupid tries to whittle things down for you, (and your search criteria might be quite specific in addition to that). Something that makes a site like OkCupid work better is to be brutally honest with yourself about what you really like. If you ask someone what they're looking for, they'll usually spout a bunch of nonsense that they believe is true, and then go and crush on someone who doesn't really line up with that. Dating sites give you uprecented power to let your comfortable fictions about yourself end up wrecking your search :)

OkCupid has a lot of depth for a dating site, and quite a few subtleties that affect who you see. Give yourself time to get the hang of it. Play with it.
posted by -harlequin- at 7:35 AM on December 7, 2011

I also feel desperate/like a creep approaching men if they don't approach me.

Ever notice how these days in all the action movies (ie the ones aimed at the 16-35 male demographic), the guy is nervous and the girl makes the approach?
posted by -harlequin- at 7:53 AM on December 7, 2011

Oh, also try Plenty of Fish if you feel like there aren't enough people your age on OKCupid (this is what I found when I was single, also in Vancouver). There are some downsides to it (bad website, average user is a bit less classy than the average OKCupid user) but I believe it has a much larger userbase around Vancouver.
posted by ripley_ at 7:55 AM on December 7, 2011

I don't think I'm photogenic in the least, but once I started taking photos of other people I started to learn that it's all bunk. Everyone has a best angle and maybe that angle doesn't make you look like a star, but you just have to look like a good representation of yourself.

I have a friend on the east coast who felt the same for years and years and then she caught a pic I took where she really liked the way she looked and asked me to take some photos of her for her online dating profile. I did. They turned out great and she got a metric ton of interest on her dating site of choice. BTW - she's now in a committed, long term, relationship.

Work with a friend who has a dSLR and a decent lens. Take lots and lots of photos, ideally with natural light and lots of different poses/angles. Find the ones you like. If that doesn't work, consider spending time with a professional or hobbyist photographer. Someone looking to learn portrait photography would be great because they'll be slightly challenged to get "the shot".
posted by FlamingBore at 7:59 AM on December 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

I hate-hate-hated online dating. I had better success meeting candidates at night school, whatever the local school board was running that was of some interest to me. Relaxed atmosphere, exposure to new people and new things, no pressure. Obviously, it depended on the course and the right batch of people (the Tai Chi class will only be filled with seniors, for example). Even if you don't meet anyone, or meet anyone who can set you up with someone they know, you still get something out of it. Different circles and exposure to something outside your usual norm helps out a lot.

Caveat: my track record is horrible. I still think that night classes are a good idea, though.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:12 AM on December 7, 2011

I live in Vancouver. I'm a guy. When you go to bars, go with a female friend if you feel you need to, but not a whole group. Be confident. Talk with your girlfriend a bit, look around as she talks, and find men you're interested in. Notice the ones who are checking you out. Approach them and get their numbers.

Also, honestly, you should give online dating a real chance. I'm in my 20s, with interests similar to yours, and that's how I met my girlfriend. Get a pro to take pictures, if necessary. Tell OKC you're interested in 20-somethings. Don't reject guys for bullshit reasons. I have a female friend who does this and then complains that there's no one to date. But if you have a long list of dealbreakers, the problem is you, not the dating pool.
posted by smorange at 8:27 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

I hate OKCupid. I'm 22 and the only experiences I've had with OKCupid were an online stalker and a real life stalker. OKCupid possibly permanently soured my opinion of men. Plus, I don't like having a public dating profile for my city, for the same reason I don't like having a public Facebook. If you don't feel comfortable, don't use it. I've never had problems with any "stalkers" when it comes to men I met naturally, in real life. YMMV, but I see no reason to use it if you feel uncomfortable.

I think the advice to go out with girlfriends and look like you're having a really good time is great. Don't be afraid to just start a casual conversation with someone. I used to fear this because I imagined the conversation would veer off in some uncontrollable direction, but, well, if this happens you can always wrap it up or excuse yourself. No pressure, it's just a stranger. Good luck.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:35 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

My best strategy before internet dating was to make more female friends, and then meet their guy friends :P Network and be social, ask people out to go do stuff, work on making a friend out of anyone. If you're not willing to date online, you have to meet the friends of friends of friends.

Also just going somewhere isn't enough to "meet people" unless you're making a habit of striking up conversations with people. If that's not easy for you, you should sign up for art classes, second language classes, martial arts classes, art openings, Toastmasters, get involved with the social committee at your work, etc. These all present opportunities to INTERACT with other people instead of standing in a place waiting for people to approach you.

And then work on your flirting skills. Plenty of askmes on here dealing with that - teaching you to pay attention to your body language, eye contact, projecting confidence and approachability, etc.
posted by lizbunny at 8:38 AM on December 7, 2011

I was in your position until quite recently, to the point that I wasn't even really looking to meet guys anymore. But I did meet one, and he's great, and I think the key was just to be more social in general. I met him at a vintage store in Baltimore that I was visiting with a new friend, and if I hadn't made the effort to be friends with her I never would have met him.

So go out with your friends, make an effort to befriend new people of either gender without trying to date them, and you will come across someone you want to date and who wants to date you.
posted by nonasuch at 8:43 AM on December 7, 2011

...but I also feel desperate/like a creep approaching men if they don't approach me.

Online advice generally causes people to relate their own personal preferences. In other words, there will be a slew of men who will say "I would fricking love it if more women would ask out me. I LOVE LOVE LOVE it when women ask me out, it is so sexy. Try something new, you may be pleased with the results!!!!". You will also get some men who will tell you to not ask guys out because it is "awkward and emasculating".

The point here is that both groups are telling you what they personally (or their friends) would like. But, at the end of the day, your need to feel good about the choices that you have made trumps what random men prefer.

I say, if you honestly feel "desperate/like a creep approaching men if they don't approach me" then don't do it. Don't do something that will make you feel bad just because "some men like it". Instead, you could try Rodrigo Lamaitre's approach and try to be very approachable.

Granted, it probably wont be as effective as just asking a guy out, but at least you wont feel "desperate/like a creep".

For what its worth, I ask men out all the time. Personally, sitting and waiting for them to approach makes me feel cowardly. But you notice, I am choosing my action based on what will make me feel good about my choice, not just "what men may/may not want".
posted by Shouraku at 8:44 AM on December 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

I agree with others who say that there's nothing wrong with you striking up a conversation with a guy. Heck, totally cool to ask for a guy's number to. Trust me...guys love this because it doesn't happen that often. It does require you to go out of your comfort zone but eventually you're going to have to take some risks. Maybe you'll get rejected, maybe you'll give your phone number out to some guy and he won't call. But honestly these are some of the worst case scenarios. As far as online dating is concerned, I met my wife online so I won't knock it. You might not find as many early 20's guys online but you'll definitely find them and I still think you should give it more of a try. You may even want to have a professional photographer do some pictures for you. That may seem like taking it too far, but it's been done. The most important thing...just relax and have fun. Think of meeting guys as adventures. Some will be great, some will be boring, some will be scary. But you have nothing to lose by trying. Good luck!
posted by ljs30 at 8:47 AM on December 7, 2011

As a male Vancouverite, I think the guys here are less forward than in other places because there seems to be a lot more single women here compared to elsewhere. So simply being in the right place at the right time may not be enough out here; you may need to start taking the initiative to introduce yourself and show some interest in guys.
posted by auto-correct at 9:20 AM on December 7, 2011

So you don't want to online date- that's cool, but it makes it tougher to filter out all the dudes that are in relationships, gay, obnoxious, or not interested. That doesn't even start getting through to guys that have your similar interests. It means you have to more ballsy to get yourself some dates.

Start talking to your friends. Tell them you want to meet more people, widen your circle, whatever. People with similar interests tend to find each other- so that's a pool you can start fishing in. It's not getting set up if everyone is just hanging out.

It's going to help a lot to get some confidence. Meeting guys and asking them out can be embarrassing, you're going to get rejected. BUT- rejection doesn't kill you, and getting a little embarrassed doesn't kill you either- even better- as you get older it gets a hell of a lot easier.

Learn to bluster.
posted by Blisterlips at 9:51 AM on December 7, 2011

Being in Vancouver, and having had very similar discussions with friends who have lived here for FAR longer than I have, I think I can address the, "I know some girls who can sit next to a man on the bus and get a date with him the next day. All I get are a few awkward smiles."

There are panhandlers, bums, beggars, scam-artists, and needy people galore. When I first came to the city I was overwhelmed by it all (came in from east coast suburbia). I was never someone to try and chat up random people on the bus but this experience was the nail in the coffin for that.

People can be introverted (like me) and unforward as a result. They can also have been burned or been burned out by the constant nagging of random strangers and seem unforward as a result.

Unfortunately, aside from making a funny comment about something currently happening on said bus ('GodDAMN but this driver cannot brake for shit' as a good, if colorful, example), people just never seem to make random conversation.
posted by Slackermagee at 10:47 AM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, I'll second what's been said before: guys don't really think about 'gender norms' all that often, if at all. Asking a guy out isn't so much sacking the quarterback here as much as walking past the 50 yard line and meeting him before he gets to punt.
posted by Slackermagee at 10:50 AM on December 7, 2011

Another vancouverite here... I'm queer so I can't speak to the straight guy-girl ratio in this town, but it's true that people here are super standoffish. It's hard to meet friends, much less potential dates! What seems to work for meeting friends and dates is going to lots of friends-of-friends/invitation events. People become more approachable at a houseparty than at a bar. And you already have something in common that you can talk about: how you know the people who are throwing the party!

In all situations: Bring a wing-woman, they should remember their role is to be your personal cheerleader! Maybe try just walking up to guys and complimenting them on their clothes/hair/karaoke talent? That's not creepy, everybody likes a compliment! If you just start petting their face, that's creepy. Try to go to events with a crowd a bit older than you too, because you may not be meeting the more mature guys around your age... I've noticed that lots of stable + mature 21yr olds tend to find friends in groups of slightly older people.

p.s. I also don't think online dating is very helpful, ESPECIALLY (from what I've heard) for straight girls. Certain types of people really like it (as you can see from these comments). But if you're not into it, you're not into it. Better to focus your energies elsewhere.
posted by 100kb at 10:53 AM on December 7, 2011

Oh, sweetie, you have my sympathy. I lived in Vancouver for seventeen years. You know how I fixed it? I left. No joke.

It is true that the only way you're going to meet men is to strike up the conversation yourself. Compliments are a good start. Or commenting on any old thing that catches your interest in someone. I think people who don't live in there can't really understand how hard that is, though. People don't even make EYE CONTACT in Vancouver. On the other hand, though, if you can muster it, I always found that people generally responded well enough when you did break the ice.

I had a boyfriend once (see, so it can happen!) who taught ESL downtown and one of his Brazilian students commented one day that "in Vancouver, everyone is very nice, but no one is very friendly."

Also, what is it with the older men? I always found that, too, but what I think is super interesting, is that I'm over 40 now, so the men who are hitting on you now, are the men who wouldn't hit on me then! Maybe it just takes twenty years for Vancouver men to finally grow frustrated enough with the situation to take charge?
posted by looli at 12:21 PM on December 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

How do shy 20-something girls find dates, especially in a city without particularly forward men? Are single women screwed in Vancouver because of a skewed gender ratio (I've heard this one before)? Should I just accept that maybe I'm kinda ugly? Do help me out.

Get un-shy. There's simply no reason why you cannot work on that. Everytime you want to respond "but I can't!" ask yourself why you can't. Not wanting to do it and not being able are two different things.

take this from someone who was exactly where you were (but a guy) when I was 21.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:38 PM on December 7, 2011

I've spent significant time in Vancouver. You'll have to be more forward.
posted by fake at 9:13 PM on December 7, 2011

All the suggestions you list are good ones, and the final two are particularly likely to work out for you. Your excuses for not using them don't really hold water. At some point you've got to take the plunge and put yourself out there ('scuse the mixed metaphors). Just because you're a woman doesn't mean you shouldn't take any risks in the dating realm.
posted by benbenson at 7:09 AM on December 8, 2011

Join a homebrewers club. It will probably be overwhelmingly male, and you'd pick up some awesome skills even if you don't meet anybody there.
posted by forkisbetter at 9:23 AM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

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