Before I start this, I want to be clear: I have never seen an episode of Bravo’s show, Millionaire Matchmaker. Or maybe I saw part of an episode once, but confused it for The Bachelor or Real Housewives or something. I also need to say straight off the bat that I find the idea of needing dating “tips” about as mortifying as someone coming up to me at a restaurant and telling me that I don’t know how to eat in public (this has also happened). But it’s been a year since my last serious relationship, and with every false start of a potentially good date that ends with me stalking some guy on Gchat for three weeks (or vice-versa), I finally took that first step in any good rehabilitation program and realized…maybe it was me. So when my editor Amanda Ernst told me about how she’d once spoke to Patti Stanger, she mentioned off-handidly that the one piece of dating advice bestowed upon her by the reality TV show matchmaker was “Smile More.” Which, living in New York for the past 4 years and spending most of that time blogging alone in my apartment, is not something that I do naturally in large crowds of people. Maybe if I’m super drunk.
Usually, when I “smile” it’s because I’ve just thought of something very, very mean I would like to do to someone who didn’t return my phone calls. But hell, what could it hurt, right?
As a slight agoraphobic, I may not have even been conscious that I’d taken Stanger’s words to heart (despite warnings otherwise). Outside Scott Campbell‘s art show on Crosby Street Thursday night, a mob of hipsters had overtaken the cobbled block, and I didn’t know a soul there. My usual M.O. would to look straight ahead, scowling at nothing, or even better, scowl at my phone (because I am important and have somewhere else to be, d’uh). I’ve also perfected the dead-eyed stare of someone who is too tired to make eye contact, which I usually reserve for the L-train at 6 pm. But at this particular event, a blond boy walked boy and smiled at me, and without even thinking, I smiled back. It probably looked something like this. The guy must have a thing for girls with rictis though, because he invited me to join his friends at another party, and then another. It ended up being a really fun night. Huh.
So maybe smiling did work. But in a city of murderers and rapists and European guys who want to just blah blah blah your ear off, smiling at strangers, even cute ones, is a big flashing sign for “I’ve never seen an episode of SVU.” But it worked so well that one time, I thought I’d try it again. The next day, exhausted and cramped on the train ride back to Greenpoint in a packed train, I managed to make eye-contact and do a half-smile/shrug thing at the smartly dressed, mean-looking 20-something I kept being shoved against. Instead of glaring or trying to move out of my way, he actually smiled back, leading to a 10-minute conversation on how much we hate the train. Hey, shared interests!
As I exited the train I saw a hot guy with a cigarette, fumbling in his pockets for his lighter. I quickly (probably creepily) jumped at the chance and lit it for him with some matches. “Thanks!” he said. “No problem!” And then I left. Because I didn’t approach this guy to get his number or have him fall in love with me and move in together where he’d write songs about how we met and eventually I’d kick him out because musicians don’t pay the rent, y’all. I did it because I was feeling…friendly. All this time, I distrusted people who smiled all the time because they were “phonies” (I just coined that term, btw). Turns out, it works the other way around. The more you smile randomly, the easier it gets. And then people smile back. And then you start to feel good, and friendly, and not so alone, even if you are. I can’t say I won’t fall back on bad habits of glaring and avoiding eye contact, but I have started practicing my smiles in the mirror. They’re pretty terrible right now (ranging from grim smirk to crazed chick who just boosted her Zoloft prescription), but practice makes perfect, right? And maybe one day, I too can find a millionaire to match me. Or at least a guy that I make it past date three with.