A few times recently Kevin and I have attended the young adults group at our church. A few of us are married, but the majority of the 20- and 30-something group is singles. There’s something I’ve noticed where Christian singles gather. Cliques.
Let me explain. I think many of us learned long ago that cliques are not good — at least when it comes to excluding others. Still, as long as no one is being left out, our go-to response in social situations is to gravitate to those with whom we feel comfortable — our friends. Often our same-gender friends. For this reason, gatherings of singles can resemble a junior high dance, where girls stand on one side (or sit at one table) while guys stand on the other. Each is hopeful to meet someone of the opposite sex, but the dynamics aren’t conducive to it.
So what’s the solution? Two answers: a little courage and some social strategies. I remember seeing an episode of some talk show that showed how singles could get a date almost anywhere. They had a young woman (a moderately attractive actress) go to the card section of a bookstore and strike up conversations with various guys who came to select cards. She would ask them what they thought of a card she was picking out for her brother or make some humorous comment about a card. I don’t know how much of the spot was staged, but the young woman was successful in getting two of three guys to ask for her number. The point of the spot was that friendliness and starting a conversation goes a long way in garnering dates.
When I was single, I often attended singles events — or events where I knew other godly singles would be present — with a lot of hope. But I would sometimes leave the event frustrated because I had failed to “break away” from my familiar groups — the guys I already knew I would never date and my pals who I could spend time with any time. At a few such gatherings, I made it my goal to make sure I engaged at least one single guy in conversation — even if he wasn’t the one who initiated the conversation. My boldness paid off in getting to know interesting new friends who invited me to other functions where I could meet more new people.
Here are a few guidelines I kept in mind (during my single days) for getting away from the crowd:
Go It Alone. When you’re at an event or function, make an effort to break away from friends for a certain amount of time. Your friends can seem like an impenetrable fortress to members of the opposite sex who might want to meet you. Go by yourself to the refreshments table. Sit down in an area of the room where you don’t know anyone and introduce yourself. Recently, after our church’s young adults group, I was sitting at a table with my sister-in-law, and a young man walked by our table, introduced himself and said, “Did you have fun tonight?” I had seen him having a great time with his friends earlier at a different table and was impressed that he went out of his way to approach us and a few other tables to introduce himself.
Take the Opportunity. At a “tacky T-shirt” party, I wore a T-shirt with a snarky comment about social networking. I was refilling my soda when a guy I didn’t know laughed and said, “Hey, I like your shirt!” Instead of just saying thanks and moving on, I elaborated on how I had come to own the T-shirt. We talked for a little while, and the next week he invited me to have tacos with him and some of his friends after church.
Make New Friends. The two strategies above can apply to anyone. The more friends you have, the more people you meet. We’ve often talked on this site about the importance of a “network” when seeking a godly mate. When you stick closely to your friends in new social settings, you don’t expand your network. While you shouldn’t make new friends only to increase your chances of meeting someone, if you stick closely to your existing friends group you can’t expect to meet anyone new.
I believe these strategies are helpful for both men and women. However, I think for women, these strategies can feel extra uncomfortable because we may wonder if we’re being too forward or stepping into what should be the guy’s role. But I think we females often go too far the opposite direction, expecting guys to “pluck us out” of our groups of friends — an expectation that is unrealistic. You don’t have to throw yourself at a guy, but stepping away from the crowd may be just the encouragement he needs. Not to mention, learning to be friendly is a skill that will serve you throughout your life.