Finding love in Chicago

This week I attended a singles event called “The Great Love Debate” with a few friends. It was mainly out of curiosity, boredom and a “What the hell do I have to lose?” attitude. As a thirty-something single, I figured that there would be something to learn — even if the experience wound up being a hilarious memory.

The event was a panel discussion, led by psychologists, match-makers and a self-proclaimed “seduction coach.” After an hour-and-a-half discussion, which relied heavily on audience participation, the entire group migrated to the bar next door where skills learned could be applied in a “Meet, Greet, Mix, Mingle & Match” party.

Yes, it’s all as corny as it sounds.

While I embraced the humor, and I did feel as though I was in an awkward episode of “Sex and the City,” I’m glad that I went. The event revealed that I wasn’t alone in my frustration with technology as both a barrier to meeting people and a sloppy instigator of romance. The “experts” chastised those who lean on it exclusively. (Get off your smartphone people!  Interact with the world, not your fingers!)

It also revealed that men — maybe not all, but a significant portion of those who remain single into their thirties and forties — are still a little scared to approach women. I don’t know why, but this shocked me. It also made me question my own approachability. I actually had a conversation with one shy guy dressed in a business suit, on how to overcome his hesitation with approaching females. My advice to him: No need for any “game.” Just say “hello” and start a conversation with “What do you think about …” or “How do you feel about …” — pegging it to something happening around you right then and there. He seemed grateful, if not a little embarrassed.

I don’t claim to be an expert, of course. There is a reason that I’m still single. But if anything comes out of that experience for the 100 or so men and women in attendance, I hope it’s this:

1) Tuck the smartphone away when out … please.

2) Don’t hesitate to just say “Hello” … you never know what you’ll learn from the person sitting or standing next to you.

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