How to Meet a Good Man in a Bar

October 14, 2010

Is it possible to meet the love of your life in a bar? Of course. Is it easy? No. The odds are not in your favor. Should you bother then? Well, I do know several happy couples who met in a bar. It’s just as legit as meeting someone at a bus stop or baseball game. Random encounters are the fourth most common way that married couples meet (after school, work, and friends of friends).

Going out to bars with friends in hopes of meeting someone new deserves a place in the rotation. However, it should not take up more than 10-20% of your strategic effort. There are many more effective ways of meeting someone you might actually want to date.

There’s nothing wrong with going out to bars and hoping to meet new people. In fact, that’s the primary reason people go out drinking with their friends. Sure, you can have a fun night just hanging out with the girls. Most women who go out drinking with their friends are not really expecting to meet Mr. Right. But they are always alert to the possibility. Let’s not kid ourselves – that’s the motivation for an hour of hair straightening, eyelash curling, smoky eye applying and Spanx tugging.

Why are bars worth including in one’s search for find a mate?

1. They’re packed with singles.

They’re the most reliable locale for finding lots of other singles. There’s really no other place for large numbers of people to congregate in the evening after a busy week. They’re also where you find other folks on a weekend night who don’t have a date.

2. People in bars are generally in the mood for fun and relaxation.

They’ve come to a bar for the express purpose of having a good time, and they’re feeling social. Add a little liquid courage to promote fun and decrease inhibition, and who knows what can happen!

3. It’s good practice.

Getting out and learning to approach strangers, signal attraction, and engage in conversation, i.e. flirt, is very important in any dating strategy, and bars offer almost limitless opportunities for this.

Why are bars generally a terrible place to meet someone?

1. People go there to get wasted and crazy.

Guys are looking to blow off steam and have fun, not hold auditions for the mother of their future children.

2. They’re anonymous.

Especially in large cities, bars see a lot of turnover. There are very few where “everybody knows your name.” You might be chatting up a serial killer or a douchebag. I’ve heard of newlyweds trying to pick up women in bars. People in bars are more likely to behave badly because it’s very easy to disappear afterwards.

3. There are a lot of men who go to bars in search of casual hookups.

In fact, a guy who might be great in a relationship is probably not looking for a girlfriend in a bar. By default, if you’re hanging out in a bar, even minding your own business, there’s a good chance a guy will assume that you’re DTF. It’s very easy to be sized up incorrectly when out drinking with a group of friends.

Guys who feel zero anxiety about approaching women are successful in bars, but they’re also the least likely men to offer commitment.  If a handsome guy approaches you in a bar, he’s probably a cad, so be careful what you wish for.

4. There are a lot of women who go to bars in search of casual hookups.

Girls Gone Wild who like to dance on the table and pull up their shirts for attention congregate in bars. With the steady flow of alcohol (usually preceded by an hour or two of “pregaming”), bars usually contain many very drunk women. If you’re sober or just pleasantly buzzed, you’ll be watching as women make out with strangers, grind on the dance floor, get into physical fights and stumble around. You may even happen upon some chick giving a guy a BJ in the ladies room. In a very real sense, these beauties are your competition for the night.

How do you meet a good man in a bar?

Regardless of whether going out to bars makes sense as a way of meeting new men, most singles do it, so you might as well maximize your opportunities of meeting a good guy. What does that entail?

1. Choose the bar carefully.

If you live in a place with a varied bar scene, then you know that different bars have different vibes and different crowds. Here in Boston, Daisy Buchanan’s is filled with kids under 21 (and a favorite old pickup haunt of John Kerry’s, btw). The Miracle of Science next to MIT is a cozy bar with great burgers. The crowd is generally a grad student/faculty mix. Faneuil Hall has a bunch of rowdy bars where people are routinely kicked out for fighting and being blackout drunk. Allston is where the hipsters hang. Tons of guys hang out in the bars near Fenway. Figure out what kind of guy you’re interested in and then figure out which bar he’s likely to go to. Don’t waste time in bars that are not your scene.

2. Dress to send a message about who you are.

Signal by your mode of dress what your intentions are for the evening. If you’re not looking to go home with a stranger, don’t dress like a hooker.  I’m not suggesting you wear a burqua. The rule of thumb I suggest that women follow is: 1 of 3. The 1 of 3 Rule says that you may highlight one awesome body part when you go out. If you’re lucky enough to have great boobs, bottom and legs, you still only get to show off one thing. In other words, no tight miniskirts with a skimpy shirt. Have you got great legs? Good for you, wear mile high heels and show them off. But pair that mini with a high neckline. If you’re proud of your rack, by all means show some cleavage, but opt for flares instead of leggings. If you’ve done thousands of lunges to get that ass you know turns heads, make that the feature.

You will be more attractive to the right kind of men if you don’t overdo it. Practice the art of subtlety. Men don’t want relationships with women who blatantly seek attention from lots of guys.

3. Consciously signal attraction.

Men looking to get laid like sexually aggressive women for obvious reasons. If  you’re not making a spectacle of yourself, you may feel like an ugly duckling. Remember that you don’t want to waste time catching the eye of a player. Andrew Trees, in his book Decoding Love, lays out a nice summary of what the research shows about getting men to approach.

The short answer: eye contact with a smile. Not surprising, right? What is surprising is the amount of encouragement men need before risking an approach. It’s more than most women would feel comfortable with. According to a study cited by Trees, even making eye contact multiple times had a success rate of only 20% if it wasn’t accompanied by a smile each time. When women added the smile each time they made eye contact, their success rate increased to 60%.

I know one young woman who swears by the practice of staring at a guy until he approaches. She claims her success rate with this strategy is 100%. However, she admits that guys often assume that she’s DTF, and I know for a fact that she’s dated some real jerks.

4. Be aware of body language, and use it.

Most of the communication of sexual attraction is non-verbal, at least initially. What you say with your body speaks volumes about how you feel. Much of the time, we’re hardly aware of the messages we’re sending, but by being tuned in you can communicate attraction with intent. You’ll also be better poised to interpret the body language of others.

Trees cites the work of psychologist Monica Moore, who has catalogued 52 non-verbal signals that women use to draw men’s attention. The top three are:

  • Smile at him broadly
  • Throw him a short, darting glance
  • Dance alone to the music

Despite the fact that men are very visually oriented, Moore’s research has shown that the number of signals a woman sends counts for more than her looks. Women who sent more than 35 signals per hour averaged 4 approaches per hour.

5. Focus on the “reluctant male.”

Researchers coined the term “reluctant male” after Moore determined that 2/3 of the encounters between men and women at a bar are initiated by women. Presumably, this is because men often fail to pick up on the signals women send. They are more obtuse about signals both sent and received, which also explains why they don’t pick up subtle rejection cues well either. And more than 87% of women are willing to initiate.

Biologist Timothy Perper speaks about a “division of romantic effort.” Men take control over physical seduction, but women play a key role in the early stages. He describes 5 stages of interaction leading to courtship success:

  • Approach
  • Talk
  • Turn (Both members of the couple turn their bodies to face one another.)
  • Touch (Usually initiated by the female.)
  • Synchronize (Mirroring one another’s physical movements, voice cadence and eye contact.)

Each one of these stages is an escalation point, and attraction should build with each step.

6. Choose a second encounter wisely.

None of the stages above should be exceeded at the first meeting.

  • Don’t make out in a bar.
  • Don’t prolong the meeting past closing time.
  • If you like a guy, offer your phone number for use at another time.

Why all the strict guidelines? This isn’t The Rules, is it? No, this is not about playing hard to get. This is about giving the attraction time to incubate and build before taking it to the next level.  It also gives you an opportunity to “vet” the guy – does his Facebook page say he’s in a relationship? Is he prepared to expend effort to see you again? (Notice I said expend effort. It is not appropriate to assume that a man should be willing to spend money on you. If he is generous, you should reciprocate. Feminism killed chivalry.) When searching for a relationship partner, you must be careful to weed out any men who are not available or worthy of a relationship.

You must also be worthy of a relationship yourself. Remember, when a man shows interest he won’t know right away whether you go into the short-term box or the long-term box. If you’re looking for a serious relationship, being very selective about sex is one way of ensuring you’re perceived as potential LTR material. Signaling your willingness to have sex immediately with a man you just met says that you are not particularly selective, so there is nothing special about this man. You’re also signaling that there is nothing very special about sex. It’s the fastest route to “one and done.”

In summary, there are three steps to successfully meeting a good man in a bar:

1. Send the right message up front.

2. Be willing to take the initiative with a guy you find attractive.

3. Be merciless in culling players from consideration.

With the right strategy, you can turn a night at a bar into something you’ll tell your kids about someday.