Women have the perfect excuse to ask a man out today: It's Leap Day, that once-every-four-years time when legend lets girl chase boy. This holds true througout Leap Year, for 52 Saturday nights' worth of lines like, "It's good luck to accept a woman's invitation during Leap Year."
(In non-leap years women may have to use more original openers. "Excuse me, but I think you're sitting on my Hershey Bar," is one, proffered by a 38-year-old attorney.)
Here are other suggestions, gleaned from experts in the dating game:
Send a drink to his table . Janet Gordon once asked a waitress to bring a cup of coffee to an attractive man she spotted in a restaurant. "He sent a note that I should come and join him. But it didn't work out. He turned out to be a Regan supporter."
Role-play the invitation," says Dov Peretz Elkins, a New York-based human-relations consultant. "Plan it out with a friend so you'll have someone waiting in the wings to applaud you if you succeed, or cushion the shock if you fail."
Use guided imagery to minimize pain of rejection. "Rehearse the scene in your mind," says Elkins. "Imagine the best that can happen and the worst. That way you'll see that it's no big deal if he says no."
"Make the first date a low-key occasion with a specific agenda," says frequent-asker Terry Batt. "Rather than a gourmet, seven-course dinner, make it lunch or a weeknight get-together. Invite him for something specific, like listening to your Beatles' records or attending a free concert. It makes both parties less anxious."
"Specify a time limit. Letting someone know in advance that you plan to make it an early evening," says Batt, "eliminates the chase around the dining-room table."
"Begin the invitation with an empathetic statement to put him at ease," says assertiveness-training instructor Mary Lee Zetter. "Start by saying something like, 'I can imagine you may not be used to a woman asking you out, but . . .' so you acknowledge sensitivity to his feelings."
"Rehearse in front of a mirror. It helps develop the pattern in your head," says Zetter, "if you're fearful of stammering or stuttering."
"Never bulldoze out of fear of rejection. It won't work to imply that a man's a sexist pig," adds Zetter, "if he doesn't go out with you."
Ask a man to a function that may aid his career, suggests Rozanne Weissman. "This is such a workaholic, goal-oriented town, that asking a man to a congressional reception or to meet some lawyers you know may be a sure way to get his attention."
Make it clear who'll foot the bill. Some say the hostess should pay, others think a bill should be split and some feel it's still the man's job -- particularly if his salary is larger than hers. "You've got to communicate," says Dick Conoboy. "That doesn't means you've got to get out your financial statement. Just say 'my treat' or 'let's go Dutch' or whatever."
"Act positive," says Leslie Atkins. "Never tell him you're nervous or apologize for calling. If you sound like you're going to have fun, you probably will."