Seattle: quit playing games. A hunky, social-butterfly friend of mine, who has no business whatsoever on online dating sites, recently had me sign up with the latest social networking platform—get this—ImInLikeWithYou.com. Still in beta, the eye-candy site lets you create a profile of images and answers to stock questions like "What's your favorite takeout dish?" Supposedly this is enough to spark the interest of potential paramours, but hold up, because they can't talk to you unless they "win" (through bidding points and being witty) a game you've created. The rules indicate to put what you want as the title of your game, so naturally I entered "Osteria La Spiga." But in browsing, I saw the wit of Seattle in action—coming up with stuff like "How many miles are between where you live now and where you were born?" You answer, the game owner chooses from the top "bidders," and only then do you get an e-mail address. Um, it could take years to get an actual date with these people!
After this bell jar of a winter, some of us are over hibernating and hiding behind monitors, and want to accelerate the dating process. We've begun staging a comeback—perhaps by taking a holiday someplace warm and returning with ridiculous red heels that have no place outside of a burlesque show (ahem). In lieu of wearing them to lunch at the Microsoft cafeteria, I gathered tips from a handful of folks I consider dating pros, from a bartender to a Babeland staffer. Watching us try, fail, and sometimes score, they've got a front-row seat for the ongoing dramatic comedy that is Seattle dating. If these experts can't help us...
As post-winter beauty rituals go, forgoing comfort food, renewing a daily walk, or buying a bright accessory will all get your plumage ruffled up, but don't forget what's underneath. Get ready for surreptitious beers at Madison Beach with some hot wax, and I don't mean new records. Wax On Spa (www.waxon.com) has locations in Belltown, Kirkland, and Capitol Hill, and they specialize in the yeow-inducing but thorough Brazilian. Once you're smooth and ready to go public, Wax On owner Anne Uhlir's advice for overcoming Seattle passive-aggressiveness is "a shot of tequila." Trust me, it can't burn as bad.
Something else that's always hot in Seattle is burlesque, and if you've ever been turned on by a performance, the opportunity's there to join the ranks. Miss Indigo Blue's bump-and-grind classes (www.academyofburlesque.com) worked for Audrey McManus, a Babeland merchandiser and co-host of the local TV show Sex Life Live. "From before and after, my self-confidence and body image shot through the roof. I'm not skinny, but I was taking things off, swinging them around; people were hooting and hollering, and it made me feel like a million bucks," says McManus.
Your bod's looking hot, or you're at least feeling fierce, what to do now? A little flirting practice is in order, and there are plenty of ways to go about it. Shy or awkward-feeling people can sign up for Flirting 101 or 202, cheap "one-night wonders" taught at UW's Experimental College (depts.washington.edu/asuwxpcl). If the sections are full, teacher Alma Rubenstein is also known as the Professional Dater (.com), whose Pioneer Square–based business offers help. Rubenstein is "an outspoken girl from Brooklyn" who's arranged networking events all her life. Like all transplants, she finds the Seattle freeze bizarre. "It's supposed to be one of the three or four best places for singles, but people are not connecting," she says. "My female clients tell me, 'God, the men just don't have confidence. And the men say the women are just not friendly." She aims to bring both genders out of their shells with a variety of approaches, including romance and date-coaching, matchmaking, and activities like speed dating.
If speed-dating only makes your head spin, McManus has designs on safe spaces where you can do your flirting homework, like the grocery store. Whole Foods, for instance, seems to employ cute, knowledgeable people in its specialty departments. "If I was seriously bummed out, I'd go there and ask questions about cheese. They're very into their job, so you get samples and it's flirty, and then you just leave." Also: "The dog park is good. You can be like, 'Oh, I'm sorry my dog stole your Frisbee.' You can hit somebody with a tennis ball and then apologize." For practice of a more specific nature, sign up for Babeland's workshop schedule (www.babeland.com) to get announcements on everything from flirt nights to Fellatio 101. McManus says even timid students end up having a lighthearted learning experience, and yes, they draw the curtains.
Online dating takes stamina of a kind I obviously don't have, but McManus sees an unusual stigma toward the practice in our high-tech city. "People are always dissing themselves, saying, 'My friends put me up to it,'" she says. So if you're going that route, be positive and unapologetic, for crying out loud. For instant face-to-face, there's always the bar scene. Contrary to what my mom would say, King's Hardware (5225 Ballard Ave. N.W., 782-0027) bartender Ben Capdevielle thinks a library is no place to meet people. The atmosphere in his always-packed watering hole, with macho taxidermy everywhere and a rad Skee-Ball machine, is a major conversation facilitator. But does he see a lot of hooking up there? "There's a lot of trying without success," he admits, adding that the best pickup line is the old standby: "Can I buy you a drink?" "You're not thinking of some stupid thing to say that some asshole wrote in Maxim," he says.
Another classic might be, "Shall we dance?" Century Ballroom (915 E. Pine St., 324-7263) owner Hallie Kuperman says that classes taper off in late summertime because people would rather be outside, but the open windows of her beautiful space overlooking Cal Anderson Park make spending time there now no sacrifice. The associated HaLo space has allowed her to offer more Outdancing queer classes in addition to popular swing, salsa, and tango ones. For novice dancers, she suggests swing if you're younger and have lots of energy, or salsa if you're OK with its increased sexiness—"Whatever your level of comfort is." She notes that some people enjoy the Ballroom's dances precisely because they aren't a pickup scene—"A lot of people do it because they really enjoy dancing. It's a great way to meet people. I don't mean that in a romantic sense necessarily, but it is a really awesome way to make a community of people." Kuperman's final piece of advice for aspiring dancers and lovers, which should be kept in mind during every stage of the dating game, should you choose to play: "Be patient and kind."