Recently my friend Elizabeth told me about a guy she had started seeing. “How did you meet him?” I wanted to know. “From work? Match.com?” When she told me she had met this man while she was on the beach at Far Rockaway I confess I nearly dropped my drink. “I noticed he was burning and so I offered to share my sunscreen,” she said.
“Who are you, Gidget?” I asked in amazement. “Who finds romance at the beach in real life?”
But then I thought about it. The truth is, if you can get past the whole “I look horrible in a bathing suit” feeling—and can bring yourself to unplug from your iPhone for long enough—the beach is a perfect place to mingle. People at the beach are already relaxed and in pleasure-seeking mode. (Not to mention everyone is semi-clothed.)
And so, inspired by my friend Elizabeth (and with a nod to Gidget) here are some of Miss Mingle’s “hottest” tips, for those who want to lend Cupid a helping hand next summer:
Location, location: Choose a beach where there are likely to be other single people. Also, place your towels and chairs in a crowded section of the beach—near the surf line—rather than in a more secluded spot. This is like positioning yourself near the food table at a party, where the action is, rather than against an out-of-the-way wall.
Hunt the Stray: People who are by themselves are easier to approach than a group (especially straight men; something dreadful happens to straight men when they are male-bonding). And if you should notice that great guy before you have committed to a spot, try to arrange your towel or chair so that he is between you and the ocean. That way you can not only check him out thoroughly, but also you can pass him on your way to and from frequent dips. After a while you will seem like old friends; your neighborly smile can extend to comments like “The water is so cold!” and “It’s heaven in there.”
Eavesdropping: This the most common beach pick-up technique, also known as the “Fade-in”: Listen carefully to what’s being said by two or more strangers, and—at an appropriate moment—make a pertinent remark, as if you had been there all along. Often it is the lone man who will insinuate himself into women’s conversation; so girls, if you think he’s listening, be sure to allow him an opening.
The Art of Observation: This is the perfect tactic if you are alone and so is she. Making a non-personal comment is safe and unobtrusive. Dogs, kids, things in the sky and things in the water make perfect subjects for casual conversation. “Excuse me, but does that look like a shark out there?” is always certain to get her attention.
Surf or Turf?: When asked whether they are more likely to strike up a conversation with a stranger in the water or out, most women will choose dry land and men water. Women say they feel they looked better on their towels or in their chairs, with their hair and suits dry. (I find this surprising, since I myself feel much more confident with the lower half of my body submerged. But hey, that’s just me.) I find water conversation preferable because the common activity of swimming creates a sense of camaraderie. After all, you’re in there together. More important, it is much easier to abort the conversation when you are in the water (you just ride a wave or quietly sink).
If you are feeling adventuresome (Remember, Gidget wasn’t above a few tricks, and she always got her man), try:
--The Exhibitionist: Build a large sand castle or a sand sculpture and see who comes to watch. Don’t worry if you attract the children; there are plenty of divorcees out there.
--Old-fashioned Girl: Ask him to help you with your beach umbrella or a bottle that won’t open.
--The Flatterer: Approach her with “Okay, I know I’ve seen you on TV.” Or tap him gently on the shoulder and say, “Excuse me, would you mind keeping half an eye on me while I am in the water? You look like a strong swimmer.”
--Risqué Business: Ask him or her to apply sunscreen to your back.
--The Accidental Tourist: If you should be lucky enough to be knocked by a boogie board into an attractive person’s waiting arms, or tumbled together in a crashing wave, quip: “We’ve simply got to stop meeting like this!” or “I think I just fell for you.” Or even, “In some countries we’d have to get married now.”
Okay I’ll see you out there next year. (I’ll be the one packing the extra Coppertone.)