“I never meet anyone great.” That was my line. And it was true.
But according to Helen Gurley Brown, life provides an endless array of opportunities to meet men. While most of the ideas for this that she recommends in Sex and the Single Girl are ones that no one I know would ever even consider—let alone try—I figured if I was going to be following in her stead, it was time I opened my mind a little.
The way Helen saw it, if, you were at a bar and spotted a cute guy bringing a drink to another girl, you ought to bump into him. It was a ridiculous notion of course, but I had to admit that this was something of a full-proof plan. While we both might end up covered in mai tai’s and, of course, there was the would-be mai tai drinking girl sitting at the table waiting for her date to consider, Helen had one thing straight: there was simply no way that the former drink holder could escape having a conversation with me.
Alas, I just didn’t have that one in me.
Luckily, not all her ideas involved getting doused in drink. There was, for example, her suggestion that you wear an attention-grabbing pin (she wore one that said “I have gray hair, brown eyes and a black heart”) or trot out an interesting towel at the beach (she recommends one that features a checkers game). Faithful disciple that I had instantly become, I found a checkers towel online (Kmart, wouldn’t you know) and optimistically packed it in my bag for a weekend a trip out to the Hamptons. Did I care that I didn’t remember for the life of me how to play checkers? Absolutely not. The towel was God damn adorable. And perhaps, I thought, my would-be suitor would be able to provide a refresher course—a concept so cute-sounding that I could practically picture it happening to Kate Hudson in a movie.
Alas, the men on the beach in Montauk didn’t seem to agree. Or let me rephrase: the men on the beach in Montauk didn’t seem to notice my towel at all. They were too caught up in surfing, or sunbathing, or talking to their girlfriends who weren’t lying on towels featuring children’s board games.
Deciding that I was what was standing in my way, I vowed to be more pro-active.
So, one morning, I wandered down to the beach at an ungodly early hour, otherwise known as the time when the surfers prepare to go out. It was too early for sunbathing but not, I decided, too early to put on a bathing suit and drape myself in an adorable towel. Because hope springs eternal, I even brought the checkers pieces that came with the towel. Clutching my Ditch Witch coffee, I sat on a bench facing the ocean, my checkers board towel under my ass. Nothing happened. A reasonably attractive surfer guy walked up, coffee in hand, and joined me on the bench just as another guy began putting on his wetsuit a few feet away. My odds seemed pretty good. I started talking to the one closest to me, the one on the bench, about surfing, entirely clear about the fact that this was going to be a problem very soon since I know next to nothing about surfing, but my conversational options seemed limited and I still wasn’t entirely awake. Our conversation went something like this:
Me: Great day for surfing.
Him (smiles): Sure is.
He nodded. We both sipped. By now, the other surfer guy had wandered away and while I’m no mathematician, I realized that this meant my odds had decreased 50 percent. But, really, it felt more like 90 percent. I wasn’t sure what Helen expected to happen. Was he supposed to compliment me on my towel? Invite me to play a game right then and there? Or merely glance at what was underneath my ass and determine that only a woman he could fall madly in love with would buy it? I wasn’t even certain I was attracted to this guy and yet I was dying for him to engage with me, to prove to me that Helen was right about this towel being a good way to meet men because that would somehow prove that she was right about everything—which would then prove that I had, indeed, found a mentor who would make sure I could have the sort of happy, fulfilled life she did.
After a few minutes, my would-be surfer boyfriend stood up, wished me a great day and ran toward the water with his board.
“That’s a total old lady pin,” my friend John said as he walked up to me at the L.A. Farmer’s Market. “Only an octogenarian would say anything about it. And an octogenarian wouldn’t be able to see it since the writing’s so small.”
He had a point: I could barely read the words on my California State Fair pin and my eyes were inches away from it. But I’d been thinking about Helen’s idea that a pin could be a conversation piece and decided that, since I lived in New York and was from California, a pin that said something about California could incite an interesting conversation. “It’s funny you should ask why I’m wearing a pin that says California on it,” I could picture myself—or really Kate Hudson in the romantic comedy version of my life—uttering. “It just so happens I’m from California! And I actually got it the last time I was in California!”
But if it’s not visible, I reasoned, it wasn’t a conversation piece. So we returned to the store where I got it and I exchanged it for a pin that featured the New York postage stamp with the famous Love sculpture on it. I was excited by the switch—not only was that one far more youthful-seeming but it also projected exactly what I was seeking. I attached it to the top of my shirt and prepared for commentary.
Undeterred, John and I sat down for coffee at Monsieur Marcel, a French cafe in the middle of the Farmer’s Market, both of us eyeing a handsome light-skinned black guy sitting by himself and communicating through eye signals that we thought he was an ideal candidate for the pin test. Sensing our stares, the guy looked up and we both grinned at him. He smiled, nodded, and glanced away.
“Just give him a minute,” John whispered. During that minute, the guy turned around so that his back was facing us. “He’s probably just unfriendly,” John added. I nodded but then we watched the guy initiate a conversation with a girl in workout clothes who was walking by. She laughed at whatever he said to her and they kept talking.
Not wanting to let go of the dream of the conversation-inspiring pin, I turned to the waiter as he approached us to pick up our dishes. “What do you think of my pin?” I asked him.
He glanced at it and shrugged. “It’s fine,” he said. He looked more closely. “Actually, it’s kind of weird. Why does it say 8 cents?”
“It’s modeled after a stamp,” John piped in. “That’s a famous sculpture in New York.”
The waiter nodded warily and asked us if we wanted anything else. We didn’t. When we left, he came running after us and at first I thought he was going to confess that he’d reconsidered the matter and decided my pin was terrific but he was only returning the sunglasses I’d accidentally left behind.
Our next stop was the Apple Store at the Grove, where we asked a 20-something employee what he thought of the pin; he also found the 8 cents part weird and seemed equally uninterested in the Love sculpture. He did, however, mention that if I were someone he thought might buy a computer, he’d without a doubt tell me he liked it.
But for some reason I wasn’t deflated. Because while my pin didn’t attract any suitors on its own, there was no denying the fact that it helped me to interact with men I otherwise wouldn’t have met. Even, it seemed, when Helen’s suggestions didn’t work, they actually worked.
But that still didn’t mean I was willing to consider bumping into a guy carrying a drink.