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How To Have A Real Life Meet-Cute

How To Have A Real Life Meet-Cute

Years ago, a married friend told me: “If you want to catch a lion, you’ve got to go to the jungle.” I laughed and continued swiping on Bumble.

Fast forward to today, where many singles, especially Gen Z, have grown increasingly skeptical about their chances of finding love on a dating app and equally averse to their subscription fees. They’re more inclined to slide into someone’s DMs on social media, or even try finding someone the old-fashioned way: by striking up a conversation in person or, as it's recently been dubbed, meeting “in the wild.” (Maybe my friend knew what she was talking about after all.)

The reasons for dating app fatigue abound. “People are frustrated with the gamification of apps, constantly monitoring for matches, keeping up with multiple conversations at once, responding to messages. They’re also getting wiser to the fact that, despite what many of these companies say, the goal is to keep them on the app,” says Marisa T. Cohen, PhD, LMFT, a therapist and relationship scientist based in New York. “They’re looking for more organic ways to connect with others and assess personality and compatibility in real life.”

The main benefits of meeting in person: It offers an immediate opportunity to gauge chemistry, rather than prolonged back-and-forth messaging only to discover zero real-life attraction. Plus, if you meet at a specific place or type of event, you know you share a common interest right off the bat.

Meet the experts: Marisa T. Cohen, PhD, LMFT, is a therapist and relationship scientist based in New York. Jess Carbino, PhD, is a dating and relationship sociologist and founder of the online coaching practice Relapy. Marie Thouin, PhD, is a mindful dating and relationship coach based in California.

The first key to catching someone’s eye or starting an authentic conversation is being in the moment. “A lot of my clients try to meet in real life but notice the people next to them swiping through the apps rather than interacting with others,” adds Cohen. “I would say the first and most important step is putting your phone away.”

Ready to venture into the wild? Ahead, three dating experts share their top recommendations on how to meet people in real life:

1. Ask to be set up.

This is arguably the most straightforward way to meet someone without using an app. The biggest plus to getting set up by friends, family members, or even a coworker is knowing the other person comes somewhat pre-vetted. No one who cares about you wants to see you dating a creep.

And, best of all, there’s a good chance your date will share your values and/or interests. “If you associate with people who share your views and values, chances are, the other person will be consistent with them too,” says Jess Carbino, PhD, a dating and relationship sociologist and founder of the online coaching practice Relapy.

2. Take a class.

A class centered around a skill or hobby you enjoy—like rock-climbing, photography, or cooking—is a great way to meet someone with similar interests. It also gives you tons of organic conversation starters. That babe in your art class, for example, will probably be down to discuss a new exhibit in town, which could even lead to the suggestion you check it out together.

“[At a class], most of the focus is on the activity,” says Cohen. “Any conversation will be interspersed with what you’re doing, so the get-to-know-you part is less formal, less interview-like, and lower pressure.”

3. Join a book club.

Book clubs are about trading opinions and engaging thoughtful discourse, meaning you’ve got tons of chances to see if another member is a potential intellectual match. Someone’s views and insights about the book itself might also offer a peek into their personality, too, adds Cohen.

If you think there’s chemistry, try approaching a book club crush on your way out of a meeting and suggest grabbing a coffee one-on-one to continue the conversation.

4. Attend professional networking events.

Pursuing an office romance probably isn’t a great idea: If things go south, an ex is the last person you want to see five days a week. Larger industry gatherings like happy hours or conferences, however, expose you to people with similar career goals and relatable schedules, explains Marie Thouin, PhD, a mindful dating and relationship coach based in California.

And, hey, if you attend an event and don’t find any eligible singles, you’ll still get something out of the experience, Thouin adds: “It’s a cross-pollination opportunity. You can expand your career network and quite possibly your personal one, too.”

5. Go grocery shopping on weekends.

Think about gussying up a bit before hitting Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, especially on weekends when people are more leisurely and less rushed. A meet-cute in the produce aisle is possible—the key is “taking normal situations and making yourself a little more aware of who’s around you,” says Carbino.

“If you see someone attractive, first check if they have a wedding ring on. If they don’t, starting a conversation can be as easy as, ‘Have you tried the frozen Kung Pao chicken? I was thinking about it.’ If they’re interested, they’ll engage with you,” she adds.

6. Sign up for speed dating.

Before the apps, speed dating was the closest thing to swiping because it involves a quick, instinctual yes or no. It’s also a given everyone there is single and looking for romance. Unlike the apps, however, speed-dating events are in person, so you don’t have to worry about deceptive photos—plus, you can get a temperature check on your in-person chemistry.

These days, speed dating options are plentiful, with many events narrowed by age range, interests, or a shared experience like dining in the dark or solving puzzles, notes Cohen. An online directory of local events (like TimeOut or EventBrite) can often help you find the right one.

7. Attend a faith-based mixer.

Remember Charlotte and Harry? Chances are, you won’t get an impromptu proposal from one of these, but singles’ events thrown by faith-based organizations—like churches, synagogues, or mosques—offer another way to meet people with shared values.

“You don’t necessarily need to be super observant, but if you’re comfortable with your religion and seeking someone who shares those beliefs, a faith-based event is an ideal social opportunity,” Carbino says.

8. Go to a storytelling or speaking event.

It takes guts to be vulnerable onstage, but open mic nights or speaking events give you a forum to express your creativity and showcase yourself, says Thouin. There’s usually a chance for post-show mingling, so if you’re too shy to participate, try approaching someone to compliment them on their performance and ask more about what they shared.

9. Volunteer.

Selflessness can be a turn-on. “Get involved in a cause you’re passionate about. Not only will it be personally meaningful, it’s also an opportunity to connect with someone who has like-minded values and ideals,” says Thouin.

Whether you volunteer at a soup kitchen or an animal shelter, the feel-good vibes you get from helping others may also help someone notice you.

10. Go to a bar or coffee shop.

People have grown so accustomed to communicating through devices they’ve forgotten how to just say hi, says Carbino. Approaching someone at a bar or coffee shop takes a degree of self-confidence, which can be very attractive. How they respond—whether with encouragement or indifference—will indicate interest. Who knows? It may even lead to the age-old dating practice of yore: exchanging numbers.

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