Have you ever read the “Missed Connections” ads in a newspaper or online zine—or even on Craigslist? In these ads, lonesome singles (well, we hope they’re single, anyway) describe seeing someone in a public place and not having the nerve to approach the attractive stranger. Or having approached and said a few impersonal words, not having the nerve to ask outright for a date. Now, not one but two dating services, as reported in the NY Times, have come up with a gimmick to ease the social awkwardness and make the romantic connection happen. For a small membership fee or the price of a pack of business cards (around $25), the person is supplied with cards that hint at or boldly announce their interest. The idea is to carry the cards, and if you see someone you’d like to make a connection with, you give the stranger the card—and then exit, so you don’t have to face immediate rejection. The card has some cutesy comment on it and an Internet address at which you may be contacted.
Sounds pretty good to me. Aren’t we all looking for a fail-safe method of dating? Don’t most of us want a comfortable way of meeting new people? Not to mention the relaxing idea of experiencing social companionship without having to turn ourselves inside out and become “life of the party” personality types. (Because we most of us aren’t, after all.)
I used to work with a young woman who would meet men in bars and give them her business card with her real name on it and her contact info. Today, no one would think that wise behavior. These new dating agencies have it covered. Their flirty cards include impersonal contact info through the dating service’s Internet site. Stalkers need not apply.
Of course, the one drawback to this method is that now, instead of just gazing at the handsome or beautiful stranger from afar, and comfortably yearning later over a missed opportunity, you have to follow through. It’s your job to walk over to the person and hand that person your dating card with its cute message. The scary part is that you might see a negative expression on that person’s face as you approach. The good part is that since this is a hit-and-run job, you don’t have to linger to see it. You give the person the card, or in the case of a restaurant, you could put it at the person’s plate. Then you skedaddle. Another option is to have a friend or a waiter deliver it, of course, but the point of the cards is to hand them out yourself.
Just the act of delivering the card is flirtatious. You’ve started something. You might go over acting all demure, or you might go for flamboyant, but whatever, you’ve made it clear—as one of the printed cards says—that you are hitting on that person. Yet at the same time, you have made it fun for yourself. (And for the other person.) You’ve been daring, but you didn’t hang around long enough to be rejected. Plus, the object of your interest isn’t confronted with something a little too symbolic—like the classic drink sent over—when that person may not be the instant decision or commitment type. It’s safer on both sides.
I like this idea. While it might not be suitable to give a card to someone who is obviously enjoying dinner with a spouse, this is game-playing that is just right when one is young, single, and looking. Or older, single, and looking. It could even be adapted by people hoping to make friends, not romantic connections. (Is there anyone like that, really?)
It sounds so much better than speed dating, in which you can get rejected by a dozen people in a mere hour. When speed dating first started, it seemed like a great idea, efficient. But it takes all the joy out of making contact with a new person. It’s like doing instant job interviews back to back, with a timer. Even movie stars find it difficult to gracefully mouth the best words to describe themselves and their latest projects over and over to the press, and essentially, that’s what speed dating requires. Few of us have the rote skills of trained actors.
What’s perhaps most interesting about this dating card idea is that it allows you to get at least partway over the hump of unrealistic yearnings for a person only seen from afar or only spoken to for a few seconds. It gets you moving to the next logical step, settling for someone who is not actually perfect. You may wonder how I can characterize approaching someone you’ve already idealized in a few seconds or minutes be anything like settling. I think it is because the mere act of connecting brings your behavior down to human proportions. The problem with fantasy is that it has an overblown beginning and an overblown ending but no middle. The beauty of using dating cards is they launch you straight into the middle of your story, which after all is the best part of any romance.