Forget the pub. I’d like a rock to crawl under, please.

What can you buy for $30? A book and a bottle of wine. A meal at a fairly nice restaurant. Or a ride around downtown Philly on a school bus full of drunk people from New Jersey.

This unusual dating opportunity was perhaps misidentified as a pub crawl, since our organizer insisted on taking advantage of our unlimited transportation even between bars that were a block apart on foot. Or four bouncy blocks of cobblestones by school bus. There were other unintended side effects of our vehicle. Like, when we arrived at one ill-chosen stop on our crawl– a colonial-themed restaurant full of senior citizens– an elderly woman asked if we were a school choir. Apparently, she had failed to notice that a good chunk of our group was pushing middle age. But it seemed like the participants themselves had forgotten this as they stuck their heads out the windows of the bus and hollered at total strangers.

Hollering had become the normal form of communication a few bars in, which is when I had my encounter with Crazy Chicken Wing Lady. I was sitting at a table with some fellow crawlers of both sexes, when she wandered up and observed that I was, in a vain attempt to absorb some beer, eating wings. “Look at this girl!” she shouted. “She’s eating wings!” Yes, everyone agreed. “Eating wings in the bar! In front of everybody! That’s so brave!” We all smiled and tried to return to our conversation. “Are you looking?” she screamed. “She’s licking her fingers. She’s like Princess Diana!” I’m not sure what Princess Di has to do with meat on the bone, but I was feeling more like a circus sideshow than royalty. At this point, no one even remembered what we had been talking about before CCWL appeared. So the table sat quietly and watched as I nibbled the rest of my wings and she enthusiastically narrated.

Of course, every terrible date story has a silver lining. When it was time to move on to the next bar, riding on a school bus hardly seemed like an embarrassment at all.

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You’re not fully dressed.

Philly is not New York, but neither is it the small city where I grew up or the resort town where I used to live. What’s the difference, you ask? No, it’s not the cultural activities, or the traffic, or even the real estate prices. It’s the smiling.

In those less urban environments, people smile at others a lot even–hold on to your hats, cityfolk–when passing strangers on the sidewalk. When I first moved to the city, I continued smiling in my usual way and found that almost everyone looks back at me like I must be a religious nut or a panhandler. (And no, I’m not dressed like either of those. Unlike my personality, my wardrobe was pretty easy to bring up to urban standards.)

I have finally learned not to smile at total strangers but I still have trouble with the avoidance of eye contact required when passing someone on an empty sidewalk. I really should be used to it by now, since it’s also standard operating procedure in my office.

But the other night I found the strangest spot where people refuse to smile–the speed dating registration line. There they stand, several guys who are paying money to meet me just a few minutes from now, and they will absolutely not make eye contact or smile. Are they too nervous or embarrassed? Do they, with smiling muscles atrophied from life in the city, not want to waste their energy too early?

And the most important question: If I’m the only one smiling, does it make me look mentally defective instead of friendly?

Maybe, but I’m going to keep at it anyway. And if you see me, please smile back, before I’m forced to take more drastic action. Have you heard my rendition of the “Annie” soundtrack?

For those not having Sex in the City

We Philadelphians are used to New Yorkers looking down on us. (Recent true conversation with a New Yorker. Her: We don’t go to Philly much. Why would me? Me: Birthplace of our nation? Easy parking? Nevermind.)

At least when it comes to speed dating, the New Yorkers may be right. I did a little investigating into other speed dating options in the region and was shocked by the variety I discovered in the Big Apple. Not only were there the normal categories you might expect–Indians, Latinos, Asians–but also some potentially controversial variations–African-American men matched with women of all backgrounds.

There were events for snobs (Ivy leaguers and singles with advanced degrees), cougars (“Women Dating Younger Men”) and pragmatists (Non-practicing Jew Night notes “You’re in it for the matzah ball soup!”). Then there were the events for people with certain occupational fetishes. I was only slightly surprised to discover “Playing with Fire,” your opportunity to speed date a New York firefighter. But I had absolutely no idea there would be a market for “Hot for Teacher,” the event for female teachers and the men that are “into” them.

I think my absolute favorite, however, has to be the speed date in which your interests shape the event itself. That would be canine speed dating, “designed for single dog owners and their pets, you attend the event along with your pet, date 10 people of the opposite sex as you walk with your dog.”

Not being a dog owner, I guess I’ll have to wait for the feline variation. Nothing like putting 20 cats in a room to break the ice.

Don’t say that #111

It’s funny how many of these rules for dating behavior come down to money. Having money = good. But when a girl you’ve just met asks what you’re doing this weekend, and you answer, “I’m riding a Jet-Ski. My Jet-Ski. Then I’m cruising the Chesapeake on a yacht. My yacht,” that = no good.

Firing range, Part 2

You learned last week about how my dating at the firing range turned out, but what you missed was the preparation. I knew this was a social event different from most in my experience, so I met with my fashion consultant/best friend ahead of time. A skirt would be too dressy, we agreed. But jeans might be too hot.

I settled on khakis. When I arrived, I was relieved to discover that my outfit fit in relatively well. That was, until the woman arrived in 5-inch stripper-style heels. She had decided on jeans, but must have realized that they were too hot, because she had the top button undone.

I thought that was pretty casual until a very large woman entered the building. Her tank top was not quite as oversize as her bosom, so she had a full 10 inches of visible cleavage. But the highlight of her outfit had to be the fuzzy pink bedroom slippers. Sadly, she wasn’t coming to date; that was just her gun-buying outfit. I’m a little worried about the guy back in the bedroom.