Friday, February 26, 2010

Stamp Collecting Is Sexy… Part I

It’s true. If someone’s really passionate about the Inverted Head Four Annas[1] stamp from India it could be downright hot.

Ok, I actually don’t know anyone personally who collects stamps these days, but the point of this blog is really that interests are sexy, passions are sexy … regularly engaging in cool activities is sexy.

As you can imagine, I speak with a lot of singles (of all different backgrounds and personality types) about what they are looking for in their potential life partner. Outside of universally stating that they are looking to meet someone who is truly happy in themselves (see “Your Best Valentine,” Feb. 9, 2009 blog for more on this), the other most oft articulated response is unfailingly that they want to meet someone who has interests and is interesting. In some ways, these two concepts are inextricably tied together.

Sound like a simple request in a city like New York ? Well, you might be surprised to learn that there are many single New Yorkers who proclaim to have encountered a profound lack of interesting people out there. And hard as it might be to hear, Ladies, the complaint is largely coming from the guys.

Yes, Loyal Readers, you can consider this blog sort of an addendum to “Don’t Shoot the Messenger: Part I” (see May 7, 2009 blog). While it is very important in this ever so competitive city to be slim and put together, it is also simply not enough just to look good. Having interests and being interesting is equally important.

Just recently, a male client (let’s call him “Jim”) lamented to me – “I meet so many women in New York who are just plain boring. Their only interest is watching reality t.v., looking good … and shopping. Yes, I want to meet someone who looks great but after a while looks fade and we need to have something to talk about!”

In fact, I hear this from a lot of Jims, Joes and Jacks. They’re looking for the girl who they can admire for having interests that are not just staying in shape, seeing her friends and finding a husband.

So, word of caution to the Ladies: if you look hot in your Tory Burch ensemble but don’t have anything to add to the conversation, a lot of “Jims” will ask you out, sleep with you and potentially date you, but chances are they ain’t marrying you.

And it must be said here that despite Jim’s comment that the attractive women he has met of late are “boring,” we all know that Manhattan is home to countless women who are VERY attractive as well as super interesting, passionate about life and engaged in the world around them. And, so Ladies, the really quality men (i.e. those men who also take care of themselves physically, have good jobs and are successful, kind and interesting) are looking for these type of women as their counterparts (yes, of course, there are the guys who love the model-types who stare vapidly out onto the world, but we’re not talking about those guys – we’ll leave them to their models).

To be sure, there is something really appealing to men when your eyes light up talking about how you scaled Mt. Kilimanjaro (yes, one of my female clients has done this – I listened to her story of trekking in the night, blackness all around except for the light emanating from her headgear in complete awe), or when you talk about how you got a scholarship for your voice at a top school (another client’s passion is singing – and well!).

Ok, not everyone is going to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro but that doesn’t mean other interests and hobbies aren’t appealing. You can be passionate about World War II history or fencing or cooking or Russian films or Moorish architecture or Spanish medieval literature … or stamp collecting. You get the picture - it really doesn’t matter. The point is just to have interests that aren’t limited to your yoga or spin class. And if you have plenty of true
[3] interests and passions, make sure that you don’t get too lost in the giddiness of dating that you forget to convey these interests to your prospective suitor. Because that’s when you shine![4]

Ok, Ladies, please know that your message to the men is on its way, so Guys, don’t think you’re going to get away scot free
[5] on this one (hint: Part II is titled “Stamp Collecting Can be Too Sexy”).

[1] “The Inverted Head Four Annas of India is a famous stamp prized by collectors. The 1854 first issues of India included a Four Annas value in red and blue. However, an invert error occurred during production, showing the head 'upside down.' This is one of the world's first multicolored stamps.”

[2] Similarly, isn’t it sexy when you meet a guy who has a true passion or skill at something that is totally unexpected? Both men and women are attracted to people who are excited about life and manifest their passion for life in what they do.

[3] I use the word “true” to qualify the word “interest” here because many New Yorkers will say that they love art, theater, etc. but they haven’t been to an exhibit or play in years. Taking advantage of poetry readings, gallery openings, indie films at the Film Forum, etc. on a regular basis helps to give you plenty of interesting things to talk about with a date and shows that there is likely real substance behind such phrases as “my interests include art, travel and reading.”

[4] And worse, yet, don’t lose these interests when you start dating, because that’s likely part of what drew him to you in the first place!

[5] If you, like many others, mistakenly thought the expression “scot free” finds its origins in the story of Dred Scott, click onto the following link to find out the real origin of this phrase (going to make you do a little work this time!).

Interested in receiving invaluable dating feedback, benefiting from image consulting, dating coaching, personalized introductions, events and more? Contact Marni at to learn more about becoming a client. Give yourself the gift of love in 2010.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?

Recently a group of friends and I were speaking with a male friend from Northern Europe about NYC dating protocol. Where he hails from, if you’ve gone to the trouble of asking a girl out you like her, if she says yes she likes you … if you go out and have a great time, then you’re dating … and you’re not about to keep dating new people each week. If it doesn’t work out, well then you start again. Ok, perhaps somewhat over simplified, but still his point was made.

As expected, we all informed him that this is so far from the norm in New York ... and he was left utterly bewildered. In complete earnestness, he asked us to enlighten him on our American-style of "courtship". Through our best efforts we tried to explain the rules, the understandings and the norms of American/NYC dating.

We informed our friend with the funny accent and ruddy cheeks that in this city it’s fair to assume that any person you meet and go out with is probably dating other people. Perhaps they’ve got dates lined up each day of the week or even back to back or perhaps they are going out with a few people who are in the running to be the future Mrs./Mr. Right. Indeed, chances are any person you meet is out and about dating - as any normal New York single would be. Thus, one must know, that even a hookup, or multiple hookups (no matter how good, passionate, romantic, etc.) and even numerous great dates during which you feel so connected do not equate to exclusivity.

To be sure, even if people genuinely like each other, it’s really nothing personal - it’s all about keeping your options open. Ultimately, the outcome of our explanation to our Scandinavian visitor was that dating here is not like in his homeland. On this front the U.S. is still like the Wild West – a land with no rules and governed by pure lawlessness.

And the trouble with the NYC system is that the lack of rules leaves so many questions unanswered:
“Should I tell this person who is smitten with me that, while I like him, he is not the only one I am seeing?” “When do I have to explain this – after two dates, two weeks, two months?” “Do I owe this explanation to the girl I am spending time with if we haven’t slept together?” “Even if we have slept together, do I owe it to him or her if she or he hasn’t asked?” “When do I owe ANYTHING to anyone?”

One of my friends – let’s call him Lothario Z. – was dating two girls simultaneously for several months. And yes, he was sleeping with both. In his mind the arrangement was completely kosher – neither asked if he was dating anyone else, so he felt no need to tell them (by the way, Lothario Z. is actually a very sincere, kind guy). Ultimately, he cut one lady friend loose to focus on the one he really saw as a potential life partner. And serious they got. But when she learned, months later, that in the first few months of their relationship that she was one of two, she was not happy to put it mildly (in fact, it almost caused a breakup). In his mind, however, his conduct was justified – she never asked. And, according to him, he never told her anything to convey they were exclusive (nor did he ask her what she was up to, therefore also remaining completely in the dark as to whether she dating/sleeping with others).

Yes, yes, you know what happens when you assume … Note to Girls and Guys Alike: Until you have a conversation and agreement on the topic, it’s not safe to assume anything is exclusive.

So, if you don’t have the right to assume exclusivity and it’s too early to have that conversation, what’s a hapless dater to do? Why, keep going out on dates, of course. Upon hearing this advice, one of my girlfriends (let’s call her Jane) lamented that she is just not the kind of person to date multiple people at once. “How do people do it? If I go out with someone it’s because I like him [Jane is an unusually decisive Manhattanite, not forever caught up in the “BBD” -- bigger, better deal] – I don’t want to go out with anyone else! I would feel deceitful.” Very European of Jane.

As hard as it is to advise against the romantic ideal of falling head over heals and cutting off all other options immediately, I advised Jane that she needed to be smart about her dating life. We all know that it takes a long time to get to know someone. Why would you spend valuable time just with one person only to find out a month and a half later you’re really not compatible in the long run. Why would you put all of your eggs in one basket only to find them all broken two months later and having to start all over? And if you don’t have an exclusive relationship why, oh why, would you cut off all of your other precious options? (Jane is shaking her head, wondering why she can’t have an exclusive relationship right away – because Jane, you don’t know him, he doesn’t know you and anything can happen…).

Jane reverts back to the question of what exactly is she supposed to say to the guy that she likes but maybe not as much as the other guy she likes but doesn’t really know and what exactly does she owe him? Wow, that’s a convoluted one. Of course, I tell Jane she owes him nothing, but still I feel for her predicament. Maybe we should all move to Europe …