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10 Ways to a New Romance: Not the Lady Gaga Kind

How do you do it? Where do you go?

Maybe you’ve just broken up with a long-time partner – or lost one forever. Maybe you’ve been without someone special in your life for a long, dry period. Whatever your story, when you finally get tired of sitting home alone on Saturday nights or of hanging with the same gang of same-sex buddies – it’s time to step away from the computer, get out of the house, and jump back into the hunt.

How do you do it? Where do you go? Here are some suggestions.

Work your network. I hate the word networking. It lacks soul. In the business world, it implies that who you know trumps what you can do when it comes to getting ahead. But in a social context, networking – finding new friends through old – is a time-honored method, and for good reason. If someone you trust thinks you have something in common with another person — or at least something to talk about – then the odds for success are pretty good. Why not start the ball rolling by putting together an event; invite all your friends and ask each of them to bring along someone new. If your friends know anyone who loves to play matchmaker, then get close to her (it’s almost always a “her”).

Clean up! Most women are sensible about appearance, but a surprising number of single men are not. I have it on good authority (my female friends, unanimously) that appearance counts. Get a better haircut, wear a nice shirt, shine your shoes. Ask for help if you need it. Local tastes matter: In the college town where I live, cowboy boots are thought an affectation – but 20 miles away, dusty boots are a sign that you’ve been out on the ranch today and can fit right in.

Go dancing. Over the summer, my town hosts a live band on the downtown mall on Wednesday evenings. It’s not my style to mill about asking strangers to dance, but it appears to suit a lot of folks. My local paper is filled with announcements about groups devoted to swing, salsa, tango, folk, and square — and they always appear to need live bodies.

Troll your pet. Dog parks are a great place to meet people, especially because your hound is likely to be less shy than you are. The best chick- or guy-magnet going is a lively puppy. And your dull station wagon can become a riveting attraction if wet noses and tongues are hanging out the back windows. Most important, having a dog with character says something about you: It says you’re a warm, caring, responsible person with a tolerant sense of humor. Because a great dog is first of all a great clown. Are you a cat person? How about volunteering at the Humane Society?

Try your alumni group. For some years I’d been ignoring email from my college alumni association. When I finally read one of the mailings, I learned that a group of alumni from a dozen allied universities met at a local bar for happy hour once a month. I started going and found a group of about 40 regulars, all of them fascinating, attractive folks. I made lunch dates. Over the course of a year, a couple of these contacts have blossomed into solid friendships.

Learn — or teach. Sign up at the YMCA or a local college. Think carefully about what courses to take. A cooking class is a far better bet for striking up conversations than, say, C++ programming. Have a thing for hunky guys with motorcycles? Learn to weld. Want to meet a gal with a powerful nesting instinct? Sign up to learn feng shui. An early-evening class in modern literature, art history, or independent film, can lead to drinks and dinner afterward.

Be a sport. Learning a new sport will introduce you to potential teammates – a co-ed bowling or softball league will offer better social contacts than, say, fencing. If you’re in good shape and proud of it, it won’t hurt to show off in a swimsuit or cycling shorts. If you’d like to be in better shape, join a health club and ask around for work-out partners.

Worship, or at least sing. Churches and synagogues provide lots of opportunity for socializing. If you’ve the talent, join the choir. If not, volunteer for a committee or special event.

Work for a cause. Join a charity — or even better, a political campaign. Get involved, get passionate, and meet other passionate people. Working the phones is not a great way to meet the other people in the room, but organizing precinct meetings can put you in touch with like-minded people all over town.

Take your quest online. Try out online dating sites like POF, Loveawake, Meetup as another great way to find like-minded folks.

Don’t forget your kids. Their friends have parents. My ex actually married someone she met at a PTA meeting.

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- MARCUS AURELIUS

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