Coffee and a name card can break the ice

By Tom P Blake – Finding Love after 50

Mike is single, shy and finds striking up a conversation with women difficult. "Without some outside occurrence causing an 'opening,' saying hello seems too forced or cliché-like," says Mike.

He's not alone. Shyness affects men and women. What are some ways to break the ice if you want to meet a stranger to whom you're attracted?

I suggested to Mike that he say, "If you're single, would you like to join me for a cup of coffee?" If the woman hesitates, hand her a business card and say, "I don't ask women to call me, but if you think about my offer and decide having coffee would be OK, you'll know how to reach me.”

Easier said than done, but what have you got to lose? At least you're not fumbling around, trying to come up with some stupid line that women find pathetic.

Gale e-mailed: "Most women I know over 50 are totally turned off by a man with a 'line.' After all, we're well over 50 and have heard them all. A simple statement of greeting or a question is best. In a supermarket ask a woman for help in choosing an item. Be yourself."

Gordon and I worked together in San Francisco in the 1970s. Gordon reminded me that the Marina Safeway had a reputation as a place to meet singles on Wednesday nights. Gordon said, "I remember going to produce, picking up an artichoke and asking someone I was attracted to how to prepare it."

Duane wrote: "Some singles don't have business cards. I suggest a personal card with name, cell phone number and e-mail address." Duane's idea is a good one. A personal or name card should make it easy for a person to get a message to you, without disclosing where you live or work.

Listing a first name only and the telephone number of an answering service that screens calls accomplishes this.

William liked the idea of handing out a card if there's a hesitation on the other person's part. "That gives her a chance to make a decision later without any pressure.

Bruce took advantage of a recent "outside occurrence" to meet a nice woman. Traffic on the 55 Freeway came to a halt when a propane truck overturned. Bruce called his computer-savvy friend John in San Clemente, who checked the traffic situation on the 55 and told Bruce that he and everybody else would be stuck for a long while. So Bruce walked among the cars and related to drivers what he knew.

"There were quite a few great women there. I wound up chatting with one for a while, eventually getting her card. Always make the best of things!"

Mary suggested women should notice something unusual or attractive about men and then make a comment. Mary said: "Any question for help - an opinion or directions - to strike up a conversation. The worst that can happen is a flat no; the best is the beginning of a friendship."

John said he's used a technique for many years that works every time. "I'd write out a note - on a napkin works well in restaurants, airplanes, etc. - with a simple statement. Something like, 'You caught my eye and I think it would be fun if I could buy you a drink or a cup of coffee.'

"Under that message, I gave the recipient multiple choices, with a box on the left of each choice for her to check off her answer. It's important that the wording not be threatening, but provide the answer to the most important question: “Are you single?"

John listed the choices from which for her to choose: Great idea; sorry, my boyfriend/husband wouldn't understand; this isn't the right time, but give me your number and I'll call you; bad idea; other.

If John delivers the note himself, he says, "Here's a secret message." In some cases, he's asked a food server, bartender or flight attendant to give it to the woman "Women never feel threatened and just about always respond," John said.

John's method works when one has the luxury of time - on an airplane or at a sporting event, for example.

I met a woman at an Anaheim Angels baseball game, when she sang the national anthem. Afterward, when she was seated a few rows from me, I slipped her a note asking, "Do you sing at weddings? If so, give me a card."

I called her the next day and took her out on a date. That was years ago and we're still pals.

John's method works only when there's time to write a message.

To overcome the awkwardness of approaching a stranger, keep these points in mind:

-If you don't strike when opportunity knocks, your chances of meeting that person will likely be gone forever.

-Rehearse what you're going to say ahead of time so that it's automatic for you - call it your coffee speech - stated in 20 seconds or less. Then, there's no sweaty palms wondering what you're going to say, or no stupid lines.

-Have name cards printed and carry them with you at all times.

For men and women, meeting potential mates is difficult and doesn’t happen often. When the iron is hot, you’ve got to strike (in a nice subtle way). Don’t let opportunity pass you by.

Reader Comments

Eileen, San Clemente: "I've been widowed for eight years. Being alone was not the worst thing in the world. Being miserable in a relationship is. I learned that I needed to make myself happy and that is not a job I could expect another person to fill."

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