Every book on dating says that single people, whether girl, guy, or andron (ok, maybe that’s not a person), needs to be equipped with, as we call them, “pick up lines.” As I think that the term pickup line has negative, and particularly ridiculous connotations, (refer to following- “excuse me, are you tired? Because you’ve been running through my mind all night…”-if you use this line for any other than comedic purposes, you need to leave right now), I propose that we refer to the new pick-up lines of our generation as “conversation starters,” or, for short, just “starters.”
As the people around us are slowly fired, getting a job, which has never been easy, is becoming practically impossible. Craigslist and idealist and ivegotajobforyou.com each get thousands of applications a day. Even coming straight out of a prestigious grad school, once a guaranteed job ticket, doesn’t guarantee jack- shit.
How to get a job? Network, network, network. When you are at an event, look out for every single prospect that could help your career as you would if you were scoping out the bar for a mate. So thus the pick-up line, or rather the starter, once the treasured property of only the singles market, has become a necessary accoutrement for all.
Luckily, most of the people reading this blog are not stupid. You have all that it takes to start a conversation; you just need to learn how to use it. Once you do, you will be set. Hot guy, beautiful girl, amazing job working for the Obama administration, yup, they will all be yours.
Starters can be used whether you are networking/ trying to talk to the Pulitzer-Prize winning author at your alumni event (note: I was seated next to the Pulitzer Prize winning author at my alumnus event purely for my conversation starting ability), or trying to talk to someone of the opposite sex at a bar or at Duane Reade. You may even find that there is crossover between these two categories, i.e. guy with the great body standing at the buffet at your CLS event might also be a first year at Paul Weiss (where you desperately want to work). These situations are “crossover” situations, and can be handled with customized starters.
Starters require a certain amount of creativity, but can also be gleaned through paying attention to what you say.
A particularly brilliant moment of mine occurred at my sister’s graduation from Columbia Law School. Actually, it really wasn’t brilliance; it was a mistake that turned into brilliance. Like penicillin.
I was standing in the bleachers in my cream billowy sundress, when I saw a guy with dark hair, an amazing butt, and a blue-collared shirt watching the graduation from the grass. I thought to myself, oh my gosh, that has to be that guy that I met working on the Obama campaign, who I thought was gorgeous but never connected with afterwards. After contemplating for about ten minutes whether that was actually the butt I thought it was, and battling with my nerves and my analysis that the reason I was still contemplating walking up to him was actually just because I was too scared to talk to him, I walked myself down the bleachers and towards where he was standing. Lingering next to him for a brief second, I then tapped him on the arm. “Excuse me,” I said, “but did you work on the Obama campaign?”
He turned to me and put his sunglasses on his head. He was thirty-five. At least. Ooops, I thought. I’m an idiot. In an accent heavy with Greece, he said politely to me, “No, I’m sorry. It is not me you are looking for.” And that’s when I saw his wife walking towards us, claws out. Double oops.
As I walked away from him, blushing, I realized, Jesus, that Obama question is a great conversation starter. An especially great conversation starter when you are wandering around an Ivy League law school graduation. Or anywhere else that alumni from top schools are present.
I now have my contextualized starter for these types of events.
The most crucial factor when launching your starter is attitude. Ultimately, it is not what you say; it is how you say it. Remember your starter is meant to begin the conversation, it is not the conversation. It is relatively likely that the receiver may not even hear the starter, but will notice the body language and attitude that support it.
Specific attitudinal cues to keep in mind when starting a conversation:
Straightforwardness- People are much more likely to respond if you are straightforward; this indicates confidence; confidence is attractive.
Being genuine- Are you genuinely interested in this person? Then show it! As you move into the conversation, be genuine. Make comments directly related to what interests you about the person (please, not her boobs), or about the environment or situation.
Being genuine makes you sound a lot more intelligent, because you are actually saying things that you believe or interest you. That’s where passion comes in (the job interview must). Also, the conversation then has the capacity to turn towards something you are knowledgeable about, leaving you the ability to speak eloquently with your conversation partner. Talk about good first impressions.
Nonchalance- Ok, speaking of acting interested, be interested, but not overbearing. Ease, comfort, and nonchalance are the name of the game. Even if you are talking to the most gorgeous/intelligent person you’ve ever met in your life, resist the urge to be on top of them. People in America are weird about personal space. They don’t want you in theirs unless they invite you in, either with their body language or speech.
Humor- Humor is great for giving off the nonchalant vibe. Also, if you make a funny comment about the situation, “Wow, doesn’t that guy look exactly like Homer Simpson?” then besides setting a casual tone, it also shows that you are funny. Girls like funny guys. And funny girls are just awesome. So work it.
Persistence – Boys who will not leave a girl alone: this does not mean stalk someone until you get their attention. For the love of God, please don’t do that.
But, you may not get a person’s attention on your first try because they don’t hear you, or aren’t even sure you are talking to them. Particularly if you are at the gym and someone has an IPOD on, or you are at a busy cocktail hour with a band playing, you may have to be a little more overt with your starter.
Physicality- Physicality can be a great way to get someone’s attention in this type of situation.
Physical placement can get you inside the target’s radar. If they are talking to someone, and there is a space where you could stand that physically gets you into their circle, it is then much easier to conversation start. They will notice you in their physical space, may make eye-contact with you, and might even save you the trouble of starting the conversation by starting it themselves. You also can potentially start the conversation with the people surrounding them who you find less intimidating, eventually you will end up speaking with your target. Also, joining their physical circle indicates to them that you are confident and purposeful. Just by seeing you in their circle, they will reach the conclusion that you have a right to/ reason to be there, and this will help ease the discomfort (for both of you) of initially starting that conversation.
Booze- A glass of wine or a Sam Adams also definitely helps. But beware of tequila pre-conversation starting. Opportunities to sound eloquent incrementally decrease with each shot of Cuervo (yes, and even Patron).
Once you have launched your starter, pay attention to their attitude and body language. If you do, you will be able to tell very quickly if you are receiving a positive response. Within the first ten seconds, you will see if the person is interested in speaking to you or not. Also, for you singles out there, if you have chemistry with the person, that will instantly manifest itself as well.
Next week: Starters for the Guy: How to get a girl’s interest in five seconds or less
Samantha would like to invite you to send your favorite starters to Samantha@meezoog.com. Please indicate where you have used this starter and whether it works or not. Please, do not use them on her. Although this could be entertaining.
Tags: dating advice for men