Archive for September, 2008

Are You Ready to Find “The One?”

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

This article is currently published on’s online dating and relationship advice magazine,

Baffled as to why you’re still looking for love? Maybe you need a fresh approach to gauging who’s right for you. Here’s how to get one.

By Amy Spencer

It happens to the best of us: There you are, going on date after date but none of them seem to be panning out. Maybe you’re just having a string of bad luck. But then again, sometimes — just sometimes — there’s more out there for you than you’ve noticed. Just because you’re keeping your eyes peeled for love doesn’t mean your heart is entirely open. If you can’t put your finger on why you’re still looking, check our list of the most common dating ruts. If you’re in one of them now, you have the power to change your outlook. Then, when someone with potential crosses your path, you’ll recognize it immediately and be ready to pounce!

Problem: You aren’t feeling instant sparks
Solution: Forget romance for a sec and use the “friend” filter

When we go on a date, we’re usually looking for some hit-us-over-the-head romantic chemistry, and when we don’t feel it, we think the date is a waste of time. But that’s not true! “If you have a strong negative reaction to someone you meet, that’s one thing, but a neutral or unsure reaction to a person can turn into chemistry down the line—and those who shut the door right away won’t get to find that out,” says Laurie Helgoe, Ph.D., author of The Boomer’s Guide to Dating (Again) and creator of So how can you be sure you’re open to later-blooming chemistry? Simple: Instead of using the “romance” filter that measures that love-at-first-sight chemistry, use the “friend” filter on your next date. Think about it: When you talk to a new person at a party, you don’t use cocktail conversation to search out what the two of you don’t have in common, you look for the things you do have in common. Try doing that on your next date. Instead of casting off your date too quickly (as in “Oh, he’s not into music,” or “Oh, she’s far too quiet compared to me”), hone in on whether you both love Frasier re-runs, have similar views on immigration, or can’t stand cheese plates. “The pursuit of friendship takes the pressure off by making the goal of the date learning about the person,” says Dr. Helgoe. Which, let’s be honest, is what a first date should be anyway. Because the more common ground you discover, the more likely chemistry can develop later.

Problem: Your dates look great on paper… but that’s it
Solution: Pay attention to how you’re feeling vs. your date’s résumé

So this person has a ton of wonderful qualities. That’s fine, for a start. But amazing chemistry isn’t just about finding someone you admire or think would be a great life partner. It’s about how you feel when you’re with that person. For instance, if the date you had last night was friendly and gregarious, but you felt more meek or quiet than usual in his or her shadow, that doesn’t make for strong chemistry. “You want to really feel like yourself—your happiest, most excited self,” explains Rhonda Findling, author of The Dating Cure. So on your next rendezvous, don’t merely ask “Do I like this person?” Also ask yourself “Do I like myself when I’m around this person?” And with an attitude like that, you just may recognize something brilliant very soon.

Problem: You don’t think this person has long-term potential
Solution: Try the “Carpe date-’em” trick

We single people are so afraid of “settling” that we can’t help looking ahead to the future in the first few minutes on a date. In the movie Something’s Gotta Give, Jack Nicholson asks Diane Keaton if she wants to go for a walk along the beach. She stammers and wavers until finally he says, “It’s just a walk, not a marriage proposal!” Try to think of your dates the same way. It’s not a long-term commitment… it’s a latte. Take it one step at a time. You know that saying carpe diem—in Latin, it means seize the day? Instead of carpe diem, carpe date-’em! Go on a date for what it is, and don’t start obsessing about whether this person wants the same number of kids as you do. Going slow is fine.

Problem: You swear all the good ones are taken already
Solution: Look again… at people you usually pass over

Thanks to all the adorably hopeful romantic comedy movies they keep making, it’s sometimes hard to shake the thought that someone, somewhere, someday, will sweep you off your feet and move with you to an old vineyard in Italy. But what about your neighbor, who hits the same coffee shop in the morning thirty seconds after you do? Like traffic accidents, love accidents often happen close to home. You may be looking for a fairytale, but remember that sometimes, the fairytale is finding someone when you’re taking out the trash. “Think about the happy ending in Bridget Jones’ Diary,” says Dr. Helgoe. “She didn’t end up with her sexy boss… she ended up with the guy she met at the family party wearing a reindeer sweater!” So keep your antenna up 24/7 and the next time you wonder, “Where are all the good single men and women?” remind yourself they may be standing next to you on line at Old Navy or Whole Foods.

Problem: You feel down about yourself and not date-worthy
Solution: Give yourself a pre-date pep rally

After traveling a few miles on the road to nobody special, it’s easy to start blaming yourself. You wind up going out and socializing or turning up on a date with a sad-sack attitude. (Hint: Not a turn-on…) Nobody wants to date a downer, so it’s time to corral the cheerleaders in your life to remind you why you’re such a catch. One hour before your next date, give one of your cheerleaders a call. Maybe it’s an older brother who says, “Dude, you are a fine specimen. Go get ‘em!” When I’m having a down dating spell, I email my gay friend Todd my latest dating sob story just so he’ll write back, “Are you kidding? You’re the prettiest girl in the world! If I liked girls, I would have wanted to marry you five years ago!” Is it hokey? Yes. Does it work every time? You betcha.

Amy Spencer writes for Glamour, Maxim, Real Simple and other publications.

You can also link directly to this article on, where you will find plenty more of my dating advice:

Happen Magazine: Are You Ready to Find The One?

Rachel Bilson in Page Six Magazine

Monday, September 8th, 2008



For my cover story on Rachel this week (featuring the completely necessary cute fashion photos of her) go to:  Rachel Bilson in Page Six Magazine 

Page Six Magazine, September 7, 2008

Page Six Magazine, September 7, 2008

Rachel Bilson’s Divine Inspiration

On The O.C. and in real life, Rachel Bilson launched a million fashion crushes with her unique but subtle sex-bomb style. Now the actress—who talks to Page Six Magazine about everything from Coco Chanel to Hayden Christensen—is making it easy for copycats to steal her look, in her new role as a designer.

By Amy Spencer


There’s been a momentary mix-up about meeting for lunch at the Alcove Café & Bakery in Los Angeles’ trendy Los Feliz neighborhood, minutes from Rachel Bilson’s home, one that left the doe-eyed former star of The O.C. standing by the front counter alone, nervously clutching her bag like a girl waiting to be invited to the popular kids’ cafeteria table. It’s a surprising sight, given that Rachel’s O.C. character, Summer Roberts, was the cool girl in school. Rachel sighs with visible relief when this interviewer shows up, and launches right into a giddy monologue.

The actress, who just turned 27, uses the words “cool,” “amazing” and “like” as much as you’d expect the former star of a teen drama might. She also employs terms like “Oh my gosh” and “Ay-yai-yai!” As she sits down, she pulls off her tortoiseshell Ray-Ban Wayfarers and folds them in half, tucking the square into her palm. “Pretty nifty, isn’t it?” she says, giggling like Doris Day. It’s the first sign that this baby-faced actress is actually an old soul: She’s a girl who lives for vintage fashion, loves classic architecture and looks up to icons from the ’60s and ’70s to concoct a personal style she calls “eclectically accessible.”

Her outfit today is, indeed, effortlessly chic: a label-less navy blue trapeze dress, with a scoop neck and spaghetti straps, that she found in a little store in Soho. The tan braided leather bag hanging from the back of her chair is by Zac Posen, a friend. On her feet are a pair of Sigerson Morrison sandals. “I guess they’re gladiator-esque,” she says. (She uses that suffix a few times, too: “esque.”) Her hair is pulled back in a messy bun, with two tiny braids pinned on either side and a few loose strands hanging to her shoulder in a perfect “Oh please, I just threw my hair up” kind of way.

No wonder so many twentysomethings (and more thirtysomethings than may like to admit) have style crushes on Rachel. But tell her this and she responds with a shy bob of her head. “Awww, that’s amazing!” she says. “When I hear stuff like that, I think it’s so cool. If people like what I wear, that’s awesome.” Even DKNY Jeans noticed how much people like her style, and signed the actress up to design a capsule junior sportswear line called Edie Rose that will hit stores this month.

The line is named for her maternal grandmother, Edith, who passed away a few years ago, and her friend’s grandmother Rose, who reminds her of her own. Speaking of Edie, Rachel says, “She would just be so proud and…ack”—she stops for a second to fan her glassy big brown eyes as they well up with tears. For a second, those eyes, mixed with the freckles on her nose, make her look a bit like a Precious Moments figurine. “To have her name live on in a way,” she says, “it just makes it so much more special.”

The collection consists mostly of black and white basics mingled with hits of sunny yellow. And, yes, the vibe is very Rachel: “It’s simple with one pop of color, which is like me. I’ll dress basic with, like, a pop of [color in] a shoe or an interesting bag.” The design work took place a few months ago at the DKNY Jeans offices in New York. “I came with some pictures, a couple pieces of my own clothes and some ideas in my head.” Since Rachel can’t draw, she described her vision for each piece—including small details like buttons—and, over the course of a few hours, the entire line was done. She’s also learning how to sew, in part because so many of the vintage items she picks up require altering to fit her tiny, size 0 frame. And while Rachel may be an ace at describing an outfit, so far she’s terrible at making one: The first item she sewed—a long, flowing skirt—“was a disaster,” she says, laughing. “It was 10 sizes too big and instead of going out it goes in at the bottom. Totally unflattering.

A passion for fashion is in Rachel’s blood, though, and she credits her style to her mother, Janice, a spiritual adviser. “Vintage is her love,” the actress says. “She has a great eye, which I think I’ve inherited from her.” Rachel doesn’t, for example, have a favorite brand of T-shirt, and when she tries to think of one, she decides on an old white cotton tee her mother picked up in India, on an annual visit to see her guru. “She used to go every year, and she’d bring back this amazing jewelry, like bangles, which I still have.”

Rachel was raised in Sherman Oaks, in the North Hollywood area, by her Catholic-raised mother, and her Jewish, television director father. (Her parents are now divorced and she has one older brother, 31.) She is, truly, a Hollywood baby. Her great-grandfather ran the trailer department at RKO pictures. Her great grandmother wrote screenplays (like 1950’s Pal, Canine Detective). Her grandfather directed classic sitcoms, including Hogan’s Heroes and Get Smart. Her aunt is a producer who worked with Errol Morris on Fog of War. And her father, Danny, directed television shows, including Viper and The Sentinel.

Rachel describes a childhood spent visiting film sets with her friends on Friday nights. (Her classmates at Catholic school included Kirsten Dunst and American Idol runner-up Katharine McPhee). As a teen she joined the family business, appearing in commercials, including “a few embarrassing ones, like Pepto-Bismol and Subway, ay-yai-yai.”

Today, Rachel lives in an old 1920s Spanish bungalow, which she shares with her little shaggy gray mutt, Thurmen Murmen. She’s turned an extra bedroom into a walk-in closet filled with a couch, an old vintage trunk that’s been in her family for decades and a standing wood wardrobe she picked up at an antique mall. She says she has kept most of her clothes forever, especially shoes (like a pair she dreamily describes as “vintage tan-brown leather boots with tassles on the side. They’re kind of riding-boots-esque”). She also has a collection of Chanel bags she’ll never get rid of. Her favorite? “A black bag in the quilted pattern, but it’s a bucket. It’s the best purse in the world.” Coco Chanel is on the list of people the actress counts as her fashion icons, especially after she and her mother visited the legendary designer’s apartment in Paris last October during Fashion Week. “She was like the Beatles,” Rachel says. “So ahead of her time.” But her number one fashion icon is Annie Hall, the character and the actress: “I really respect Diane Keaton because she’s always known herself and been true to herself, and she doesn’t care what other people think. I think that’s really cool.”

Perhaps Rachel has developed this casual attitude after being bashed by the fashion police. Recently, for example, she was featured in a item for wearing baggy jeans, and got flak for a paparazzi shot in which she’s sporting Martin Margiela open-toed ankle boots while feeding a parking meter. “I love those boots!” she says. “I know they have no toes—that’s what’s cool about them. Otherwise, it’d be just another ankle boot.” The concept of judging and being judged riles her up more than anything else. “I think it’s cool to try things, and I think it’s cool to be on the worst-dressed list, I really do! Because you’re like, ‘You know what? I like how I look, it’s different.’ So people aren’t as accepting of it, but that’s OK. Bring it on, I don’t care!”

The fact is, Rachel is too happy to care, thanks in part to her boyfriend of almost a year and a half, actor Hayden Christensen, also 27 and whom she co-starred with in the February ’08 movie Jumper. “I’m happy and that’s all that matters,” she says. “I have someone really great. Someone who can make me laugh—that’s always what comes first. It’s the best to be able to really, like, truly laugh with someone like they’re your best friend, you know?”

Hayden is not the first co-star she’s hooked up with, of course. She famously dated her co-star Adam Brody from The O.C. for three years before splitting up during the show’s final season. In fact, the two haven’t seen each other since the series wrapped in spring of last year. “They say, ‘Don’t date your co-star,’ but that’s who you’re around,” says Rachel. “If you’re in an office, and you see someone every day and you click well, you’ll start dating. It’s the same thing.” The two lived together, and after their breakup in December 2006, they divided belongings and dogs—
Adam took pit bull Penny Lane, and Rachel walked away with Thurmen. “Oh yeah, during the divorce, that was a given.”

Up next for Rachel is New York, I Love You, an abstract film collection of NYC stories due out next February, in which she also co-stars with Hayden. She already visits New York at least six times a year, but making this movie only increased her desire to buy a place—“somewhere downtown”—as soon as possible. “I want an old building,” she says. “I love the true New York old hardwood floors, exposed brick—the whole deal, you know?”

Her favorite Manhattan boutiques are Mayle and Lyell, both in Soho, and the vintage shop Circa Now in the East Village, and she loves dining at downtown fashion-crowd hot spots like Café Habana and La Esquina. Ideally, she says, she’d like to raise kids in New York, but first, she has 
weddings on her mind. No, not her own. Thanks to a set-up on her part, The O.C. (and Gossip Girl) creator Josh Schwartz is marrying her friend Jill, with Rachel as the maid of honor. “They’re having a big wedding, which made me realize I want a very small wedding,” she says. “I don’t like attention like that. It freaks me out. I’d almost want to elope. My mom would have a heart attack, but maybe I’d have to bring her.”

Which is not to say she can’t stand on her own. As the date of her Edie Jose for DKNY Jeans fashion debut approaches, she is not bothered by naysayers who groan, Oh God, another actress with a clothing line. “I ignore it,” Rachel says, without missing a beat. “I think of myself as someone who loves fashion and has the opportunity to design clothes, which is something I’ve always wanted to do.” As she stands up, she unfolds her Ray-Bans and slips them back on, looking like the kind of girl who could inspire a million copycats. “I hope to prove them wrong with the product. Hopefully.”

Be a Dating Optimist!

Monday, September 1st, 2008

This article is currently published on’s online dating and relationship advice magazine,

Need help getting psyched for your search for The One? Try these smart strategies for a more positive mindset.

By Amy Spencer

Recently, I had a string of bad dates. One was with a man who couldn’t stop pointing out my flaws (specifically, “You have really short nails” and “Do you always laugh like that?”). Another was a smart, handsome man who turned out to be intolerably self-aggrandizing. The list goes on—but instead of getting bummed out that I was getting, well, nowhere in love that week, I laughed it off. You see, I am a dating optimist, and I know that some awful dates are par for the course. But why dwell on the bad stuff? The fact is, no one is going to meet the man or woman of their dreams with a negative outlook—which is why I talked to other dating optimists and found some top tips on how to bring out the brightest, best, happiest dater inside us all.
Commit to complimenting your date on three things.
Making yourself search out the good (Hmm, maybe I’ll like his laugh!) rather than the bad (Uh-oh, she’ll probably hate the loud atmosphere…) is the simplest way to flip the optimist switch. If you focus on finding the good in the person across the table, you will find it.

Remember: The worse the date, the better the story.
Dating is like the opposite of the Olympic figure-skating judging: Instead of throwing out the highest scores and the lowest scores, a happy dater relishes both. And let’s be honest, we all have our entertaining horror stories to share. Tracy Allen, 29, recalls one date she had that always garners an appreciative audience at parties: “I was having a great ski weekend with my date, until every few hours he’d call the cat-sitter he hired to ask how his kitty was doing,” she says. “At one point, he even asked the sitter to put kitty’s ear up to the phone so he could say hello!” Personally, I fondly recall my shock of listening to a first date of mine casually mention the porn shop he opened with his uncle…but instead of being frustrated about another lost night, I grinned on the inside thinking about how funny it was going to be to tell the story later. (That was four years ago, and it’s still one of my favorites.)

Practice changing your negative buzzwords.
If you don’t know what yours are, ask a friend. Maybe they often hear you say you “can’t,” you “hate” or you “won’t.” Or maybe you’re always talking about how people “never” do anything right. Once you know what to listen for, you’ll be more likely to catch and stop yourself. For added incentive, do what cursing-quitters often do: Put $1 in a jar every time you bring up a negative topic among your friends, to help train yourself out of bringing up negative topics on your date. Think about it. You wouldn’t want to hear your date say he or she “can’t understand people who like sushi” or “don’t feel like going to work.” You want to hear that they love surfing and will try anything on the menu. The same goes for you: Nobody likes that SNL character Debbie Downer, so do what you can to be the most positive version of yourself.

Give yourself the YNK speech before your next date.
As in, You Never Know! You never know, he might be the date of your dreams. And if he’s not, you never know, he might be the roommate of the man of your dreams. Or, you never know, maybe she’ll tell you about some great new hangout that’s packed with cute singles, or know someone who wants to hire you to join Madonna’s concert tour—or merely tell you a story that prompts you to take off to Thailand for a month. The point is, even if dating doesn’t lead to true love, it leads to different, interesting, and sometimes wonderful experiences you might not have had otherwise. And that’s all good.

Put together a cheering squad.

Whether a date bombs or exceeds your expectations, the very fact that you don’t know what’s going to happen is a large part of the fun. So many of my coupled-up friends say they envy how in my average night out, anything could happen. Being reminded of this fact made me appreciate my single status even more—which is why I decided to permanently draw them in with before-and-after reports. I went on a date recently after meeting some married friends of mine for a cocktail. Before I left, we worked out a code that I would text them through the night: “C” for Cute, “NC” for Not Cute, “SC” for Super Cute, SFO for “Still Figuring it Out,” etc. We had such laughs thinking about what I might find, that I walked away from them and toward my date with a giddy anticipation I hadn’t felt in a while. (Oh, and by the way, that date was super-cute and super-nice.)

Tell yourself, “I won’t settle for any old relationship, I want an amazing relationship.”

If you’re ever feeling low about your unattached status, ask yourself this: If you really, truly wanted to be dating just anyone, you could be, right? The guy who e-mailed you for a second date. The girl who gave you her number at a party. That ex who still calls to “check in.” You just choose not to date them because they’re not right for you. And that’s a good sign, because it proves you won’t settle for just an average relationship. You want someone who’s really right for you. It makes any amount of waiting worthwhile.

Go on you-can’t-lose dates.

Nothing seems like more of a waste than having an average, predictable evening with a boring date you know you’ll never see again. And that’s why you should try this can’t-lose strategy: Find something you’ve really wanted to do…and do that on your date. Take him or her to a driving range or the opera or play bridge together if you’ve been hankering to go. Because you can’t help being optimistic when you know that no matter what happens with the love connection, you still win! This also works if you’re looking for dates, too: “Instead of meeting men in bars, I started doing fun things to meet them,” says Stephanie Prepon, 36. So far she’s taken sailing lessons, golf lessons, and signed up as a member of the Guggenheim Museum—and met some great men in the process.

Remind yourself that it’s a numbers game.

You don’t rent the first apartment you see, and you don’t buy the first bathing suit you try on. You sample them all, and the more you try, the closer you know you’re getting to what you want. Well, it’s the same with love. Remind yourself of that fact! Sometimes the restaurant is only average, sometimes the $160 jeans stretch too much in the butt, and sometimes your date will disappoint you. But getting the bad ones out of the way takes you that much closer to the good ones—and more importantly, makes you appreciate the crazy twists and turns on the road to real romance.

Amy Spencer writes for Glamour, Maxim, and Real Simple among other publications.

You can also link directly to this article on, where you will find plenty more of my dating advice: Happen Magazine: Be a Dating Optimist!