Offering up advice will be dating experts Rita Colbert and Jess McCann. Colbert is the founder of the Singles in the Suburbs Meetup group, and she doesn’t just talk the talk: She went on 35 dates in 35 days — and blogged about it — in order to get out of her comfort zone and meet people. McCann is the author of “You Lost Him at Hello,” a book aimed at helping women meet mates. (You can also read “On Love” columnist Ellen McCarthy’s profile of McCann and her book.)
To set the mood for tomorrow’s chat, we asked Colbert five questions about dating this time of year. You can bring your own questions tomorrow at 1 p.m., or submit them in advance.
True or False: It’s easier to get dates around the holidays.
Rita Colbert: False. It’s easy to get dates, no matter what time of the year! What is different is the importance we place on getting dates around the holidays. There is so much focus on holiday events, from office parties to social outings with friends to, of course, New Year’s Eve. It seems like every time you turn around you hear statements such as “How to cope through the holidays as a single.” No wonder everyone’s mindset regarding dating and the holidays is inconsistent with how we view it the rest of the year! Don’t let the “holiday doom if you are a single” syndrome make you think any differently. Instead, let’s reframe positively and put that energy out there so that you attract so many dates for the holidays you can’t keep them all straight!
Jess McCann: Neither one! Your attitude is what determines whether or not you get dates, not the time of year. So if you are glum around the holidays, it will absolutely be more difficult to find someone. But if you are jingling while you’re mingling, you’ll get approached a lot more often. Take advantage of holiday parties and seasonal festivities. The worse thing you can do is throw a pity party for yourself. No one will RSVP to that!
You’re at a gathering and you see someone cute across the room, but you’d rather not use the “So, how do you know X?” line. What’s your favorite holiday party icebreaker?
Rita Colbert: I actually learned this one from Jess [McCann], and it’s been my favorite to date. First: Eye contact! Make eye contact with that person. That establishes the “I’m interested” baseline. Then work yourself up to where they are and ask them something simple and innocent such as “Could you please pass the menu?” Or, if at a crowded bar, simply say “Excuse me” as you inch your way in to order a drink and make an offhand comment on the crowd or the environment.
If you are at a house party, it tends to be easier since groups of people are engaging in converstion on any given topic and it’s easy to join in. You could always make a comment about the food, the decor or something funny that you saw happen.
Really, no matter where you are, a great way to break the ice is to make a comment on the surrounding environment/situation, as that’s already something you both share/have in common! If someone is interested, they are going to use any opening you give them as a chance to engage. Just maintain eye contact and, more importantly, a smile, and if they don’t engage, then don’t take it personally.
Jess McCann: I first recommend using what I call the SEE factor. It stands for Smile, Eye Contact, Energy. If you give a guy or girl the SEE factor, it tells them you are friendly, approachable and interested in having a conversation. More than likely they will give it back, or walk over to you. If you want to go straight for an icebreaker, you don’t have to think of anything mind blowing. The purpose of an icebreaker is not to show how witty you are, it’s simply to open the lines of communication. I met my husband by asking him to pass me a menu! What does that tell you?
You meet someone at a friend’s happy hour and agree to get a drink with them over the weekend. Problem is, you don’t know anything about their religious beliefs. What’s a great seasonal, but non-denominational, December date in D.C.?
Rita Colbert: You don’t have to be of any denomination to appreciate the holiday decorations that abound in Washington. Take advantage and do a self-guided nightime walking tour of the monuments, especially the National Christmas Tree, which is beautiful and free to see! Or walk around Old Town Alexandria, which is lit up for the season in the most romantic fashion.
Don’t neglect the fun factor involved with ice skating. The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden Ice Rink is something that is unique to Washington and a fun, interactive date that gets you in the holiday spirit, regardless of which holiday you celebrate. (Even for those of you out in the ‘burbs, Reston Town Center has a great rink with lots of options for hot cocoa or a glass of red wine nearby.)
If indoor activity is more your style, look for a cooking class at places like Cookology, which have a variety of “holiday dining” courses, from wine pairings to holiday baking to preparing a holiday meal. You’ll be learning, sampling and having something to talk about the entire evening. Or go catch a holiday show like “The Nutcracker” or “A Christmas Carol.” We are fortunate to live in an area where the arts abound, and the holiday season is a great time to take advantage.
Jess McCann: Go someplace cozy and warm like the Tabard Inn. Sit in the lounge area and get toasty by the fire. Or indulge in something sweet and delicious at Co Co. Sala. Most places will be decked out in holiday decor, so you will get in the holiday spirit no matter where you go!
You went to a friend’s holiday party. You got a little “festive” and had a few drinks, and made a date with someone you’re not sure if you really want to go out with. How would you handle the situation?
Rita Colbert: Go! I always say, “Get Up, Get Out, Do Something!” and now is your chance. I’m a big believer that you can’t go wrong meeting someone. Maybe the connection doesn’t end up being “romantic” (and you won’t know until you go), but perhaps you realize you have a friend who would be perfect for this person, or it ends up being a networking connection or maybe you learn a new fact. Even those stereotypical “terrible” dates teach us something about ways we don’t want to be treated and things we don’t like. You really can’t go wrong meeting a new person. So think positively, find a cute outfit you’ve been dying to wear and give it a go!
Jess McCann: Once you commit to a date, you must follow through, in my opinion. You never know — things may actually work out, and if not you may be able to become friends. The lesson here is don’t drink and date. It’s dangerous!
Since 2012 is right around the corner, what one resolution do you wish more singles would adopt?
Rita Colbert: As the leader of Singles in the Suburbs, I hear tons of potential resolutions. But the one that I never seem to hear my members say is that they resolve to develop a happy, healthy relationship with themselves! That is what I want all singles, at this moment, everywhere to say: 2012 is the year that they fall in love with themselves! The only way to find a healthy, full relationship is to have a healthy and full life on your own. You have to love yourself before you can expect someone else to love you. So spend the year finding out about you (or rediscovering yourself). Embrace the opportunities that you have when you are out of a committed relationship. Travel alone! Enroll in a variety of activities and courses and see what you enjoy! Use this time to meet a wide variety of people (join tons of social groups, make friends, become exposed to people and places that you never would have sought out on your own). Just use the time to date yourself, discover yourself and fall in love with yourself, and you’ll find that the rest of the world must do the same.
Jess McCann: I wish women would stop waiting for men to make the first move. Guys are just as afraid of rejection as anyone else. By using your SEE factor or a simple icebreaker, you can give men the boost of confidence they need. Approaching someone first doesn’t mean you are in love and want to date them, just that you are open to having a chat. Nothing more.
I also wish men and women would get off their phones! They pass by other singles everyday and yet they don’t talk to them because they are usually yapping or tapping on their mobile devices. If you are present and in the moment, you will see there are potential dates all around you!