With Valentine’s Day (‘VD’ to those of us who haven’t yet tired of the old Valentine’s Day/Venereal Disease joke) ever-so-quickly approaching, you might be feeling compelled currently to take stock of your love life… or lack thereof. If doing so leaves you with nothing but an urge to twitterant about all the ways romance has wronged you, then you’re probably staunchly rooted in the anti-VD camp and planning to drown your many sorrows in a February 14th full of Sad Whiskey Sours. We feel for you, bro.
The relative merits of greeting card holidays aside, feeling down about love – finding it, keeping it, trusting it, whatever – is something we’ve all struggled with at one point or another. Lucky for us (and you), we had a chance to chat with the lovely Amy Spencer, former Maxim editor and self-proclaimed “Dating Optimist,” about her new book, Meeting Your Half-Orange. In the book, Spencer lays out a plan for meeting your ‘half-orange’ (otherwise known as ‘the one’) that boils down to a few key concepts: first, stop worrying (and stop talking smack about ‘love’ just because you’ve struck out in the past). Start by admitting (to yourself, your friends, your Gchat contacts, and/or the world) that you want to find the girl who makes you feel like you’re starring in the best action-romantic-thriller-comedy you could ever imagine. Then, trust that she’s out there (you might have to work at believing it at first, but you’d be surprised how easy it becomes with a little effort). Most importantly, while all of this is going on, get down to the business of living and loving your life, and let your positive energy do the work of bringing an amazing girl to you.
Before you give in to your propensity for cynicism and throw down your computer in a rage, consider, as the book points out, that the fact that you’ve read this far means you’re already somewhat of a dating optimist. Think about it. You wouldn’t be so frustrated that you haven’t yet met a great girl if some part of you didn’t believe that one is out there for you, right? Right. Good. With that out of the way, we’ll let Ms. Spencer do the rest of the advising. Be warned, though: you might come out of this feeling more like a delicious candy heart than a Sad Whiskey Sours. (Not to say that you can’t have both, of course. Candy and whiskey go smashingly together.)
So. What made you decide to write this book?
Well, I was single for a long time in New York City, and had a total blast for a lot of it. But when I was finally ready for a relationship, I found myself saying all the usual things: "Why don’t the people I like like me back?" and "I don’t know if there is someone out there for me," and "Maybe I’m just better at being single." But I was tired about being bummed out about my single life, and decided to live it up instead–I figured that if I was going to meet the right person, I’d do it by being my best self, right? And that’s true for all of us. When I realized this is a message that needs to be heard, I wrote the book.
What if you’re just not an optimistic kind of guy? Are you saying you have to be cheerful and happy all the time to get the girl?
No, no, no, definitely not. Optimism gets a bad rap, I think. People think I mean you have to post smiley faces around your desk and talk about rainbows. And guys, you don’t! It’s just about believing that a great girl is out there for you, and not beating yourself up for not having met her yet. Any one of us can be optimists, which is simply about believing that your life will work out. It just takes practice. If you can get good at Crossword puzzles and Sudoku, you can get good at seeing the bright side of your dating situation. And this isn’t woo-woo girly stuff, by the way. This is based in neuroscience and psychology, because if you can think positively about your dating life and yourself, you can actually change the neural activity and structure of your emotional brain, which changes your mood, your confidence and your body language, the works. This is real deal stuff!
You’ve mentioned that you used to feel bummed out about single life. What surprised you most about the journey from sad single to dating optimist?
How calm I felt. Friends of mine would even say to me, "You seem different," and "You seem really happy. Did you meet someone?" The fact was, I decided that while I waited to fall in love with my other half, I’d fall in love with my life. In the book, I talk about how important this – it’s a term known as "eudaimonia," which is a state of fulfilling your authentic happiness. Don’t worry about dating, just do what makes you happy. Maybe it’s snowboarding, or playing pool or mastering DJ Hero – whatever it is, do more of it! When I did stuff like that, I stopped feeling pressure to go on a date every single night, or slog through my online profile to find someone to wink at. If you’re feeling awesome, you’re going to put out awesome energy, plain and simple.
Your advice is meant for both men and women, but do you have any guy-specific advice about how to make this concept a reality?
Well, I know a lot of guys who consider themselves nice guys and who keep losing the girl to smarmy jerks – and they start wondering if they should start playing that "Mystery" game, if they should toss attitude around and pretend to be someone they’re not. My vote? Absolutely, positively not. Because guess what happens if you win over a girl by being someone that you’re not? Reality sets in when she realizes you’re not actually as rich or suave or bold as you came off at first, and that’s a terrible start to a good relationship. Be yourself. Embrace who you are and what weird things you might like (like, maybe you have an odd sense of humor or, I don’t know, secretly watch "Brothers & Sisters" on Sunday nights.) The more you flaunt your unique attributes instead of trying to be like every other guy, the better you’ll feel. And that positive, confident energy is exactly what’s going to draw the *right* girl straight to you.
It seems like positivity will attract a lot of ladies. What are some important things to remember when determining which one is the real ‘half-orange’?
That’s a great question. Because yes, once you start feeling great, girls will come flocking! It’s as if you’re creating that "I’m taken" vibe, which we all know girls can’t get enough of — if they think you have a girlfriend or wife, they’re all over you. And you can make that happen as a single person, too!
The most important thing to remember is that you don’t want to judge your half-orange by what she looks like — how thin or curvy she is, what job she has, what shoes she’s wearing — you don’t want to be analyzing her physical characteristics at all. Instead, look to yourself and how YOU feel when you’re with her. Do you feel attracted to her or surprisingly drawn to her warm and sorta sexy nature? Are you laughing with her and do you feel intellectually connected? This is how you’ll know she’s your half-orange. Not by what she looks like, but how you feel when you’re with her. And that’s when life surprises you. It’s how you can end up with a girl who’s maybe "not your type" or you never pictured yourself with, and yet you can’t get enough of her and she couldn’t be more perfect for you.
There might be some people who won’t get to see this interview or read your book. What should guys do if they’re trying to be dating optimists but they’re stuck spending time with dating pessimists?
Run! Well, not really, but there is some truth to that. There’s been research that found that happiness and negativity are actually contagious. Literally. It’s called "mood contagion." Which means that if you’re hanging out with toxic, miserable friends who think every girl they meet is a loser, well, that can start to rub off on you mentally and physically. Do you want to be the guy in the corner hanging out next to the friend who’s shaking his head and crossing his arms and grumbling about how lame this place is? That might scare your half-orange right off. So maybe it is wise to spend time around other optimists, or at least happy people in general, and let their mood rub off on you.
A lot of guys find it difficult to leave a less-than-stellar relationship because they’re worried that they’ll never find anything better. What advice would you give over $2 beers to someone in this situation?
Well, I can’t ever tell anyone whether a relationship is right for them or not, but what I’d suggest to a guy like this is: Look at why you’re staying. Are you staying because you can’t be bothered looking for someone else? Are you staying because you’re afraid you won’t find anyone better? Well, those are two terrible reasons for sticking around. Don’t stay in a relationship out of laziness or fear! You can be in a relationship that makes you feel awesome — you know, with a girl who thinks you’re hot, smart, cool, funny, sexy, all the good stuff. So if you’re not feeling that way with the girl you’re with now, then I, for one, think you deserve better.
Are there any nuggets of wisdom that didn’t make it into the book that you’d like to impart to MadeMan readers?
Well, I’m not sure I say it in the book, but love with the right girl isn’t something that just happens to the lucky guys. You don’t just have to sit back and wait for it while all the player bad boy types steal the girls you like. If you’re shy, if you feel awkward approaching girls, or you’re not sure what to say sometimes, that’s okay! The more you start focusing on the good stuff about your dating life and yourself, the more you’ll create a great energy around you and attract the right girl.