Archive for February, 2009

Is Your Date Into You?

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

This article was originally written for Match.com’s Happen magazine, where you can find more of my articles about love and dating.

Is Your Date Into You?

Learn the surprising signals that the person sitting across from you is truly smitten—the eye squint, the souvenir offering, and more.

By Amy Spencer

t’s no secret that people spend a large portion of the time they spend with a date wondering, Does this person like me? And while you would think the signs would be clear, all too often they’re not. Even if your date has been smiling up a storm or raptly listening to your views on alternative fuel, he or she could just be acting interested and secretly hoping the evening will end soon. But that’s not to say you need to be in the dark about your date’s true feelings. It turns out there are many signals your date may send that give away what’s really going on. Here are some of those subtle signs that, at first glance, might seem like nothing… but could mean there’s a real connection and raging chemistry between you two.

Your date says your name more than usual. Maybe your date says your first and last name, like, “So, Michael Malone, you up for a night cap after dinner?” Or maybe your date says just your first name three times, like “Jenna, Jenna, Jenna.” Either way, it can be a sign that your date feels so much chemistry, he or she can’t help but connect with your closest possession: your name. But only if they say your name in an enthusiastic way—not in a flat tone like the person behind the counter at the DMV. “Saying someone’s name is like a sign that you’re testing the magic you’re feeling, because you almost can’t believe they’re real,” says body language expert Patti Wood. “It also subconsciously elicits immediate focus from the person whose name is said,” says Wood, which is more proof of the chemistry: If someone is into you, he or she wants your full attention.

Your date squints at you. If you watch reality dating shows like The Bachelor and all the rest, when one party harbors a crush on the other, they’ll give each other a cute little squint, usually followed by a smile. What gives? It’s an unconscious bit of body language that shows the person is searching for more info about you. “Squinting is typically a gesture of searching deeper into something or testing it,” says Wood. “The same way you’d squint at a diamond to see if it’s real, squinting shows you’re focusing harder to be sure it’s not just a mirage.” And that, she says, is a great sign. That coy little spy tactic shows that your date likes you so much, he or she is looking more closely to see if you could possibly be as great as you seem. (Obviously you are!)

Your date asks the “why” and “how” questions. During dinner conversation, any polite date will ask you factual things about your family like, “So, do you have brothers and sisters?” But that’s not necessarily a sign they feel chemistry with you. It is a sign of chemistry, however, if they delve deeper and ask more probing questions. As in, “So, how did you get interested in accounting anyway?” And “Why did you decide to move all the way across the country?” That’s one of the ways Jennifer Santana, 29, first noticed that she and her current boyfriend were clicking. “He asked questions about my family—not just the same old questions but things like, ‘What are your parents like?’ People on first dates don’t really ask these kinds of questions unless they have some intention of meeting them some day.” These challenging questions are a strong sign that the person you’re with is seriously interested in you and not just making polite chit-chat.

Your date gets quiet midway through your time together. Rather than taking your date’s silence as a sign your date has lost interest, it could actually be the opposite: Your date may be feeling such a pull toward you that he or she is lost in thought about it. “Sometimes, a person feels such a strong attraction that instead of nodding and following the conversation, he or she is just contemplating you,” says Wood. So the next time your date seems to have missed the whole end of your story, don’t cast the person off too quickly. If you really can’t be sure whether their distraction is a bonus or a sign of boredom, go ahead and ask them. “Say to your date, ‘Hey, where’d ya go?’” suggests Sharyn Wolf, CSW, a psychotherapist in New York City and author of Guerilla Dating. “If they say, ‘What are you talking about?’ or act defensive about paying attention, that’s not a good sign. But if they grin back at you and say, ‘Sorry, I guess I got distracted,’ that can be a great sign. It shows they may have been imagining a future outing — or just a future — with you!”


You hear “you’re” a lot. If your date says to you, “You’re awesome” or “You’re so funny” or “You’re a trip!” or “You’re something else…” then you’re very lucky! Personalizing your admiration or approval of a date means a lot; it’s a strong sign of attraction, while statements like, “That’s awesome” or “That’s funny” don’t mean as much. Using the wordyou means that the person feels chemistry with you, versus just grooving on your story-telling skills.

Your date gives you a token of the evening. If your date gives you something you can hold onto and look at later, chances are they’re feeling chemistry. Jennifer’s date once picked up a pack of matches from the restaurant they were in and said, “Here, for you.” He didn’t say, “Something to remember me by” or “So we’ll always remember this night,” but that, in fact, was the underlying message. It’s a sign that your date wants you to have something to remember him or her by… because clearly this person will be remembering your date as a great one.

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

How Do I Love “The Bachelor”? Let Me Count the Ways…

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

There’s something you should know about me: I’m a feverish fan of The Bachelor. I love everything about it. In fact, if I wasn’t already married, I’d want to marry the show after a couple of group dates and a really meaningful one-on-one. How many ways do I love it? Let me count them for you:

1. I love watching the women climb out of the limo and greet him for the first time in all their awkward, knee-shaking glory.

2. I love when the girls come up with clever ways to get his attention—knock-knock jokes, fake teeth, opera singing, palm-reading, hot dog-making, poem-reading—ah, but I’ve loved them all.

3. I love when the girls pinpoint their “biggest threat” and start to worry how to keep his eyes off of her and onto them. I’ve been in that stomach-dropping position in dating, too, and it stinks. I’m not sure I’d be bold enough to “steal him away,” but I’m glad they are.

4. I love how honest so many of them are about being ready (and sometimes nearly desperate for) a serious relationship.

5. I love how nervous the girls get trying to be themselves while camera lights hover over their shoulders at dinner in a huge, empty, pin-drop quiet room. Yeah…not the best atmosphere for being yourself.

6. I love how excited I get when I can tell a conversation is really flowing. Phew, that’s when I can breathe a sigh of relief that at least the bachelor has one normal girl to fall back on.

7. I also love when a conversation is clearly not flowing and they stare at each other for a few minutes before taking another drink. (This season’s Natalie talking about “I love bears. All bears!” wins the awful points.)

8. I love the dramatic build-up for “the most dramatic rose ceremony yet” week after week…after week. Some, eh, not so dramatic.

9. I love that after an over-the-top date of a helicopter ride, a picnic dinner, scattered rose petals, candlelight and a serenade by a semi-famous musician, the women turn to the bachelor and say things like, “Thank you so much, you’re so thoughtful, I can’t believe you did all this for me!” I’m sorry to tell you this, my dear: He didn’t.

The Bachelor 13: Jason

The Bachelor 13: Jason

10. I love watching the girls figure out how to make the bachelor kiss them for the first time. (Molly gets props this season by answering what she’s good at with, “I’m a good kisser. Wanna see?”)

11. I love trying to figure out myself how much of the interaction between a couple is real, and how much is the bachelor being forced to smile back and say on camera, “I can really see a future with her,” so they can edit segments of it together later. Uh oh, he’s not looking at her…but wait! His eyes are watering! Dang those editors are good at keeping us guessing.

12. I love that some women still haven’t figured out that the minute they start naming names about the other women they don’t like in the house, that’s when they move from a “contender” to his “confidante” and are no longer in the running for that final rose!

13. I love watching the two-on-one date go down. Man, it hurts.

14. I love the look of panic-slash-nausea that washes over the bachelor’s face at some point during one of the meet-the-family dates. (This year’s winning moment was watching Jason as Nicole’s father used their bonding opportunity to sell him Jesus.)

15. I love that the vacation getaway date seems to be the time when you have to tell the bachelor “I’m falling for you,” “I’m falling in love with you,” or in some brave cases, “I love you”—or else he supposedly won’t have seen enough of your “emotions” to keep you around.

16. I love that when the final three women made video messages for the bachelor this week, Chris Harrison called them “personal, private messages.” Last I checked, broadcasting to an audience of millions isn’t considered private. But who’s complaining?

17. I love how long they drag out the Rejection Ride home, prompting the woman who’s just been dumped to cry as much as possible. And I love that I can’t tear myself away when she does.

18. I love that sometimes when a woman is rejected, it makes me cry. This season, Stephanie and Jillian both got the waterworks going for me. There’s just something about a good woman owning her feelings that gives me such hope.

19. I love that out of 13 bachelors and 4 bachelorettes, only 3 final roses have led to marriage—and yet every season I really think, These two could be the ones!

20. I love that the bachelor has to call the women “ladies.”

21. And I love that, through it all, despite a painful format that pits grown women against each other and puts them in the demeaning position of watching the man they like blatantly date a harem of women…I’m rooting for him, I’m rooting for them, and I’m really, truly wholeheartedly rooting for real, true love to prevail.

Right now, though, I hate that I have to wait two more weeks to see what actually may be the most dramatic rose ceremony yet!

A Budget Bedroom and a Big Fun Thank You

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

I was searching for some home design ideas this evening, so I typed in the name of one of my favorite interior designers: Vanessa de Vargas, who began with a storefront on Abbot Kinney in Venice, California called Turquoise. She now has a company and blog of the same name (and a genius service called e-decorating, which is worth checking out). I interviewed Vanessa last year for a story I wrote about designing on a few dozen dimes for The Nest.com, and it was picked up by some other news outlets.

The most fun part? Finding this personalized “Thank You” blog posting she did on her home design blog, after the story appeared in the Miami Herald:

I mean, golly, I’ve never been thanked in a headline before. Needless to say, it brought a huge smile to my face, so I had to share it! In fact, what better time than now, in our still un-stimulus-ed economy, to share a few more budget tips for making the most out of your home, right? Here’s the full story from TheNest.com, which includes an easy plan for beautifying your bedroom on the cheap:

Give Your Bedroom a Makeover for $500

IT DOESN’T TAKE SIX-FIGURE FINANCING TO TURN YOUR BEDROOM INTO A DREAM DESIGN. HERE ARE SOME TRICKS FOR DECORATING YOUR BEDROOM ON A BUDGET.

By Amy Spencer

Make your own curtains for $100
For renters who don’t own homes, the cost of having custom blinds made is very expensive, says interior designer Vanessa de Vargas, who owns the design store Turquoise in Venice, California. Making your own curtains is a good way to hide cheaper blinds and add beauty to your bedroom. Spend your pennies on a beautiful or quirky pattern you love and do them on your own. “Just hem the bottom and the top, get a rod, and you’re done,” says de Vargas.

Paint stripes or add a wall decal for $75
If your room doesn’t offer high-end architectural details or unique design elements, add your own. Buy some painting tape (be sure to push the tape into ridges in the wall surface so the paint doesn’t run under it) and paint a bold stripe or two in place of crown molding. Or attach a removable wall decal to one wall or corner. DVider sells single wall decals in a rainbow of colors for about $25 to $45 each (dvider.com). And Blik offers packages of polka dots, chandelier silhouettes, natural plant graphics, kids’ designs, and more from around $50 to $65 (whatisblik.com), though they don’t stick easily to textured walls.

Revamp your lamps for $50
If you like the lamp base but want to pump up the color some other way, simply wrap and hot glue a brightly colored vintage scarf around the shades you have — it looks best if the light shines through both the scarf and shade. If you don’t like the base, paint it a beautiful deep blue or coral red with two coats of high-gloss spray paint.

Add one beautiful throw pillow for $25
If you can’t find one you love in your budget, make your own! Check out designer Amy Butler’s sewing pattern pages for instructions (amybutlerdesign.com).

Buy high-quality sheets from discount stores for $25
Splurge on that unique throw to toss on the bed but save on the sheets beneath. Most people think of overstock sales stores for brand-name clothing for less, but they’re also gold mines for bedding. Try stores like Loehmann’s, Ross, and Marshalls to pick up Nautica or Ralph Lauren high-thread count sheet sets for as little as $22.

Make your own headboard for $100
Headboards, especially custom, tufted ones, add instant glam to a bedroom. If you can’t afford to have one made for you, make your own. “It’s honestly the easiest project,” says Grace Bonney, founder of the design blog Design Sponge. Hit The Home Depot or a hardware store for a piece of cheap wood, plywood, or even MDF (reconstituted wood), along with a piece of thick foam you can cut with scissors, fabric that complements your color scheme, and some oversized buttons. (Ideally, you’d cover the buttons with the fabric for a monochromatic look.) Staple gun the fabric over the foam to the back of the board. “To tuft it,” says Bonney, “drill holes in the wood to pull the buttons through.” This project is especially great for renters if you can’t fit a giant bed and headboard up five flights of stairs but want a solid design behind your bed that you can even switch out with the seasons. If you’re not up for the DIY commitment, try this easy fix: Hang a beautiful painting at the head of your bed. Or hang curtains behind your bed — whether there’s a window or not — in a striking fabric.

Buy a foot-of-the-bed bench for $50
Save money by using flea market or thrift store finds. Pick up an old bench to put at the end of the bed and reupholster the top of it in a foam pillow or tufted design (use the same technique as with the headboard). Bonney suggests, “You can do the same with an old trunk at the base of your bed, which gives you seating and extra storage.”

Be creative with your nightstands for $50
Some designers swear by using large books piled up as a nightstand to hold a lamp and an alarm clock; the books add a unique look to the room. Or go for a minimalist angle by buying or making fabric book holders, suggests Bonney. “These are giant pieces of rectangular fabric with pockets on each side that go under your mattress, where you can keep your book and reading glasses. It’s perfect if you don’t have room for a bedside table and want to keep clutter off the floor,” says Bonney.

Adorn with fresh flowers for $25
It’s the one thing those design magazines always seem to have in photos that real lifers don’t: a vase of flowers. Whether it’s a vase full of tulips or rhododendrons, or one filled with tall grass and lilies, fresh flowers instantly enliven a room.

*     *     *     *     *

For more decorating tips, hit up this story and others at TheNest.com. And Vanessa, I hope to see your name and designs in even more places soon!

Love…for less than 30 bucks!

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

Valentine’s Day is just two days away. And unfortunately this year, money is an object (one that can, you know, buy other objects you need more, like your car lease and mortgage payment).

But today, I’m working with Axe to assure you that you can still indulge your Valentine without breaking the bank. And you can do it guilt-free, thanks to the global survey of women we did that unearthed two reassuring facts:

First, nearly 50% of women said they’re not expecting as much this year as last. And second, 62% of women said they’re expecting a guy to spend 30 dollars or less on their gift! And…exhale. The fact is, getting an edge in the mating game isn’t about money, it’s about the presentation. One beautiful, bursting peony flower can mean more than a dozen red roses. The more unique and personal it is now, the more memorable it will be for a long time to come.

Here’s one fun, free treat you can find—along with some of my specific tips—on the Axe Facebook page to get you started:

Chocolatize your date!

How hilarious is that? (Yes, that’s me. And looking at myself is making me hungry…) Better yet, personalize a delicious photo of the pair of you. I wish you tons of Valentine chocolate fun.

Is Your Relationship Normal? Answer now!

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

I don’t know about you, but every so often when I look at my life, I get curious about the day-to-day details of others’. When I see a couple walking their dog, I’d love know: How did they meet? Who makes dinner more often? Do they have a TV in the bedroom? And is she lucky enough to have a husband who does the laundry?

Well, thanks to a story I’m working on for Redbook magazine right now, I’m about to find out!


But I need your help. Share and you shall receive, right? Just click here on the Redbook Relationship Survey and answer a few fun multiple choice questions about your everything from pet names to paying the bills. We’ll be publishing the results in an upcoming issue.

So…is your relationship normal? Let’s find out.

Run, don’t walk…

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

…to see He’s Just Not That Into You.

It’s cute, smart, current, un-cliché (well, as much as a romantic comedy can be—I mean…no one gets shot dead) and captures nearly every angle of dating and love. And it fully supports how I want every single person to see dating: full of surprise and hope. Optimism is essential. Love is not logical; it doesn’t progress smoothly on paper the way it always should. And the movie, as it weaves in and out of character’s lives, feels just as wonderfully uncertain. As one story crosses another, sometimes the characters support each other, sometimes they’re stepping on toes, and yet all of them want the same thing we all want in the end: a love that takes away the mixed messages. A love that makes sense. A love that makes the crazy, confusing ride worth it!

I laughed, I laughed again, I almost cried, then I laughed, then I actually did cry, then I laughed some more and said “Awww” a few times. Basially, I wanted to hug this movie when it was over. I suppose I could wait and hug the DVD, but that wouldn’t feel the same.

I recommend He’s Just Not That Into You for whatever stage of love you’re in. And I’m sure single women will be flocking to this anyway. But in case you’re on the fence, do yourself a favor and go. If you’re single and wondering if all the search and the hope is worth it anymore. It is. And this movie will remind why. You may not know where life and love will take you, but if you want to enjoy the ride, you have to let go of the safety bar and let go…

Valentine’s Day On a Budget

Friday, February 6th, 2009

With the economy in the dumps, you may not be diving into your wallet for this heart-filled holiday day like you did last year. “Even for love?” the romantics ask. Sigh. Yep, even for love. That’s why my latest project is working with Axe to offer some great tips on how to get an edge in the mating game on February 14 for all the folks who are feeling a little at the edge of their budget.

I’m bursting with great ideas, and some of them revolve around chocolate. Why? Because Axe did a global survey about what women like for Valentine’s Day, and it turns out that chocolate tops the list of what women love by a long shot:

  • Nearly 70% of women said that chocolate was more irresistible than shopping, jewelry or, ahem, sex.
  • 72% of women would hide their chocolate to avoid having to share it.
  • And this one’s my favorite: 20% said they’d lick their chocolate so no one else would ask for a bite. Hmmm, I think I want to meet those women.

So with those cacao stats in mind, here’s a start:

The key to knocking it out of the park on Valentine’s Day is in personalizing your present. So instead of simply handing off a boring box of cliché chocolates, I suggest you personalize your gift by adding a card that tells her—in as many reasons as there are chocolates—why she’s awesome.

So for instance, if you give her a box of 10 chocolates, you also get her a card that reads, “10 Reasons Why I Love Hanging Out With You!” 20 chocolates? 20 reasons. (And no, you’re not allowed to reach for that measy Sampler box of 4 because you can’t think of ways you like her!)

Your reasons should be absolutely unique to her. You know…

  1. I love your laugh.
  2. I love that you ask me why in the world basketball players would choose the horrible combination of yellow and purple in their “costumes.”
  3. I love that you eat cheeseburgers with jalapeños on them, just like me.
  4. I love how you kiss.

See? It’s easy and fun. And a card like that will mean as much to her (possibly more) than anything you can spend $100 on.

Another unique way to personalize your chocolate is to wear it yourself. I’m sure you can use your imagination on that one, but one option is wearing Axe Dark Temptation, their new chocolate-inspired fragrance, so she’ll want to snuggle up to you to get her dessert. (And trust me, it doesn’t smell like a chocolate soufflé; it’s more of a spicy, peppery scent with an after-aroma of chocolate.)

So, armed with a dozen other budget ideas (because a dozen roses is so cliché), I’ll be doing a radio media tour with Axe on Thursday, February 12 to offer more Valentine’s tips around the nation. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to catch a show and hear more!

And as you plan for how to spend your V-Day, please, keep thinking personal: How can you make your present unique to your Valentine?

Hope that helps, and happy hearting to all!

Date Like It’s Spring Break!

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

The reason I love writing dating advice these days is that, thanks to the World Wide Internet, my stories have escaped the words-on-paper cycle. You know the one:

1. Pick up magazine. Read! Enjoy!

2. Dump into blue recycling bin.

3. Use as Scott “Naturals” toilet paper four years later as you…

4. Pick up magazine. Read! Enjoy!

Now, my stories pop up every now and then just when I’ve forgotten I’ve written them. This afternoon, I got some emails about a story of mine that appeared today on msn.com’s home page.

You can read Love Lessons from Spring Break here, on msn.com.

Or, keep reading. It’s fun advice for singles and daters of all ages. And fear not: I don’t advise drinking alcohol out of old funnels. Though, hey, funnels are making quite a comeback…

Love Lessons from Spring Break

Think there’s nothing of value to be gleaned from the good ole days of partying during Spring Break? Think again!

By Amy Spencer

Ah yes, the sweet season of spring. It’s a time of crisp mornings, the scent of daffodils, buds on dogwood trees … and hordes of college kids cramming into motel rooms to gulp beer with wild abandon. But spring break is not just a memorable event for the collegiate crew; it’s also an experience that can provide dating lessons for years to come.

Harkening back to a time in your life when you were focused on fun and quoting “Carpe Diem” can actually help your state of mind as you search for love. So get ready to stop and smell the surf (and a little stale beer), and consider some dating lessons that the season’s favorite break can teach us all.

Lesson #1: It’s OK to date more than one person.
There was a time when a date was just a date. One night it was Mona; the next night, Claire, and things weren’t considered serious until someone suggested going “steady.” Now, we’re in the era of the one-cocktail commitment, where dating more than one person is looked down upon. Except on spring break, that is, when you kiss two people in one night while texting a third to meet you at the Tiki bar. But the truth is, those college kids are onto something: If your dating goal is a lifetime relationship or marriage, then you’ll have plenty of time for monogamous commitment. Maybe evendecades of time.

So use your single days like the spring-breakers do — to get to know a few people at the same time, while you figure out which person you like best. As long as you’re truly honest about your actions and intentions with everyone you date, you’ll avoid the one break you don’t want: the heart one.

Lesson #2: Don’t drink more than your date.
Yes, alcohol can sometimes feel like a nice social lubricant. But before you dose yourself on your next date, take this spring-break lesson with you: It’s all fun and games until you make a fool of yourself giving a stranger a lap dance on a public stage and then losing your cookies on someone’s bare feet. If you and your date want to tie one on for kicks, go right ahead. Just be sure to do it together, perhaps even in private, lest you get so drunk, you end up in an embarrassing anecdote in a story about bad dates … which is exactly what happened to a guy who went on a date with my friend Jamie. “We went for Japanese food, and he suggested we order some sake,” said Jamie. “I said I was good for a glass, but he wanted to get the whole large bottle. When I told him I wouldn’t be able to drink that much, he said, ‘That’s OK, I will.’ And he did.” Jamie said his drunken behavior was less than attractive, and she couldn’t wait to get home.

Lesson #3: Head to where there are more fish in the sea.
What’s one reason all the young things on spring break always seem to find someone? Because there are just so many someones to go around! Give yourself a similar leg up. Instead of hitting the same old local bar full of the same old faces, try traveling a bit out of your comfort zone (and maybe your town), and hit spots where you might meet some new people.

It’s basic math: The more people there are — tall, short, American, foreign, funny, round, skinny, intellectual, goofy — the more likely you’ll be to meet a potential match. So this weekend, search for your fish in a few new places. Try a big karaoke bar, a darts tournament at a new pub, a demonstration at the Mac store. Or, of course, search online for love, which is just swimming with singles who want exactly the same thing you do: a great date.

Lesson #4: Order the special on the menu.
One of the best things about short-term, pleasure-seeking trips is that you live every minute like it’s your last. If you’re on spring break, you see it as a fleeting moment of youth that must be lived to the fullest: You order the special drinks with umbrellas in them, you dance on the beach in your bikini —and you probably take advantage of plenty of other opportunities you might regret the next day. Still, you feel like you’re really living. But the fact is, whether you’re 20 or 45, you still only live once. So why not make every date special and memorable? On your next date, think spring, and try something daring. Hit the rock-climbing wall at the gym, or order the rosemary cocktail and the sliced beef cooked on the rock. It might be terrible … but it will be memorable. And that’s what living is all about.

Lesson #5: Make out with someone you’ll never see again.
There’s one thing partying kids have mastered — the no-strings-attached hookup — that might also be good for you. Why? Because sometimes it’s healthy to hook up without thinking about tomorrow for just a minute. That doesn’t mean you have to have sex with someone — even consider some sexy kissing in a restaurant parking lot. You may learn a few things about yourself in the process, says Ava Cadell, love coach and author of 12 Steps to Everlasting Love. “Sometimes it’s easier to be less inhibited with a stranger than someone you know,” says Cadell.

It can also give your self-confidence a good boost by reminding you that you are one good-lookin’ person whom plenty of people would be lucky to date. It also provides your brain a nice break from plotting your future together in the first five minutes of meeting. That’s true refreshment.

Lesson #6: Go out for guys’ or girls’ nights out just to have fun together — not to hook up with the opposite sex.
For some reason, those big girls’ and guys’ nights out often turn into “lonely group sitting in a bar scanning room for potential hookups instead of having fun together.” Spring break, on the other hand, is first and foremost, about feeling free and having a blast together — and if that involves licking whipped cream off a stranger’s shoulder for laughs, so be it! Mature adults should consider this same approach (well … to a point). So instead of going out with the goal of meeting The One or someone, aim to have a great time with your friends above all else. And what happens from there may surprise you.

Lesson #7: Sunny weather and bathing suits definitely put people in the mood.
If you’re looking to amp up the closeness with someone you’re seeing (or if the dating you’re doing is more like a “date night” with a long-term partner), take a page from kids on spring break: Consider a weekend away in a place that feels like paradise. (Just don’t schedule it for the same time the college kids are hitting the same paradise.) “The sun releases more feel-good hormones that flood the brain,” says Cadell. And the better you feel, the more fun you’ll have and the better your date will go.

Lesson #8: Look on the bright side of your date.
On a spring break trip, the goal is to have fun with the people you meet, plain and simple. But in the adult world, dating becomes more like a grocery trip: You pull out your list, push your wonky cart up and down every aisle, and scan the goods. “Do you like spicy food? Good. Been married before? Oh. Have goals for the future? Glad to hear it. Like to travel? Oh, that’s a shame …” Instead of taking your next date so seriously, toss away your stuffy list, and look for the best things about your date. Find out what you do have in common and what you do like about him or her. And as you part ways on the doorstep, don’t analyze how you feel about your date too soon. Instead, maybe you want to do what the spring-breakers would do: Go on and kiss ’em! Sometimes that makes all the difference.

Amy Spencer is a freelance writer who has written for Glamour, Real Simple, New York magazine and Maxim, among other publications.

Ginnifer Goodwin: A Fine Romantic

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

The next great dating movie is upon us! In just three days, He’s Just Not That Into You lands in theaters. And flocks of females are sure to follow. You can bet I’ll be there with a family size popcorn combo in hand (sorry, you’ll have to get your own).

The love-fest on film is sure to make Ginnifer Goodwin—who plays Gigi in the film—an even more recognizable and relatable name than she already is (you’ve seen her in Big Love and Walk the Line). I had the chance to interview her, as well as her co-star Justin Long, a few short weeks ago, and the story was just printed in Page Six magazine. Thought you might enjoy reading up on how Ginnifer sees her former loves, her current single life and the relationship she’s really after. And the quotes from Long, one of the funniest and easy-to-talk to actors out there? Priceless.

You can check out a more well-designed version of the story, along with the gorgeous photos of her and Justin Long (taken in a drool-worthy mansion on the Pacific Coast Highway) here, in Ginnifer in Page Six.

Page Six magazine, February 1, 2009

Page Six mag, February 1, 2009

Ginnifer Goodwin: A Fine Romantic

Actress Ginnifer Goodwin is single, footloose and fancy-free—but ready for a man to sweep her off her Manolos. The star of He’s Just Not That Into You talks about her recent Hollywood breakup, flirting with co-stars (like Justin Long) and exactly what she’s looking for in her next big love.

By Amy Spencer

“One of my New Year’s resolutions is to live outside my comfort zone. Normally I’m home and in bed by midnight. But last night I closed down my own party. There were posters all over—my face was everywhere!”

It’s the morning after the premiere party for the third season of the HBO show Big Love, and star Ginnifer Goodwin is functioning on about four hours of sleep. That may not seem like such a big deal, but the actress swears she’s normally the “go-home-early girl” who has to be “sandblasted out of my house” if she doesn’t get a full eight hours. This year, however, she’s turning over a new leaf. Which is why she cut loose and partied with her co-stars, sister and pal Justin Long. “After the premiere, whenever someone said, ‘Let’s go to this bar,’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m in!’ I went to O-Bar in Hollywood, and no one was dancing but me!”

But this woman has every right to kick up her heels and celebrate right now. After playing the adorable sidekick in films like Mona Lisa Smile and Win a Date With Tad Hamilton, then taking on the role of Johnny Cash’s first wife in 2005’s Walk the Line, this month Ginnifer gets top billing in He’s Just Not That Into You. Remarkably, hers is the most prominent role in a movie that includes Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Aniston, Scarlett Johansson, Jennifer Connelly, Ben Affleck, Kevin Connolly and Justin Long.

Based on the best-selling dating advice book of the same name, He’s Just Not That Into You comes at an interesting time in Ginnifer’s life, as her December breakup with her boyfriend of two years, American Pie actor Chris Klein, is still relatively fresh. “It just…it was just…time,” she says, noting that they still have great mutual respect. But by the sound of it, Ginnifer’s tough love may have also had a hand in the split. “I’m so an all-or-nothing person in dating, always,” she says. “I’m big on not wasting time. And so, yeah, if something’s not working, it’s time to not hold people back.” Still, she has kind words for Chris who, prior to dating Ginnifer, was engaged to Katie Holmes. “He is a very traditional fella, which I find so very attractive,” she says, with an “awww” in her voice. “He’s a stop-and-smell-the-roses kind of guy. And he’ll end up with the same kind of woman.”

The 30-year-old actress hardly looks heartbroken. Tucking into a hearty vegan scramble at a Hollywood café, and dressed in black jeans, black tank top and black Converse sneakers—all borrowed from a friend, because her own clothes are still packed up in boxes at her new home nearby—she’s all grins and giggles. Ginnifer’s friend and co-star Justin describes her as “adorable in a quasi-elfin way. Ginny’s beyond cute, she’s a hot elf. And she has her eccentricities. It’s like a wonderful battiness. She’s just loopy enough.”

Ginnifer grew up in the suburbs of Memphis, with “artsy fartsy” parents, who divorced when she was 16. Her father was a musician who once conducted Roy Orbison’s band and later opened a recording studio. Her mother was a stay-at-home mom who later became a “computer genius,” working for big-brand companies like Apple, FedEx and the Smithsonian. (She has one sister, Melissa, 28, a professional animator in Los Angeles, and is close to her two stepsisters as well.) Much of her childhood was spent doing local theater, and her first “real” kiss happened at summer camp when she was 15. “We kissed, and I ran off!” she remembers, laughing. “I was so freaked out—I mean, life had changed.” Three years later, Ginnifer enrolled at Boston University, where she earned her B.F.A., and also studied at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Following graduation in 2001, she and a friend moved to New York, where she settled into a fourth-floor walk-up in Hell’s Kitchen that fit only a twin-size bed and some uninvited mice. (Her favorite NYC date spot? The classically cozy Tavern on Jane, because “anything trendy would turn me off.”) The acting agent she scored before leaving school had her working immediately, and “it’s just flown since then,” she says. She moved to L.A. in 2003, and nabbed her big break in 2005, when she was cast as Margene, the third and youngest wife of a polygamist (played by Bill Paxton) on Big Love.

Along the way, there were boys, of course—she was linked to actor Topher Grace in 2002. And, despite the frantic flight from her first kiss, Ginnifer, just like her ex Chris, is a bit of a traditionalist—at least when it comes to romance. “I love Valentine’s Day!” she says. “I love it, I love it, I love it. I like having doors opened for me. My favorite romantic comedy is When Harry Met Sally.” And one of the most romantic gestures a guy can make, she says, is “taking me to meet his mother.”

She is not, however, a girl who relies on self-help tomes to navigate her relationships—in fact, she didn’t even read the book version of He’s Just Not That Into You until after she had filmed the movie. The essential message of the book is that women should stop making excuses for guys who don’t return their advances/call them back/take a relationship to the next level, and face up to the fact that, if he’s into you, he’ll make a move unprompted. So what did Ginnifer learn from it? “At the point at which I read the book—which was a year ago—I couldn’t believe how tolerant I was of foolishness.” That said, she’s confident that she gets the message. “I may be a feminist, but I also really want to date a guy who’s going to come after me. I’m really not into people who are not into me,” she says. “I mean truly. If a guy is not calling me back, I’m so turned off. I’m gone! I’m on to the next.”

So what kind of guy is Ginnifer looking for in real life? “I will end up with someone in the arts,” she pronounces. “I am positive. I eat, breathe and sleep acting. And I’ll end up with someone who is happy staying at home and having me cook supper. But I also really need to be intellectually challenged and stimulated. I want someone bookish, and someone who is passionate.”

Justin—who met the actress eight years ago when they were both on the TV show Ed, and who essentially plays the voice of book co-author Greg Behrendt in their upcoming movie, giving no-nonsense advice to Ginnifer’s looking-for-love character—has his own thoughts on the type of man who might work best for his pal. Other than someone who appreciates her acting, he says, it should be “someone who has a modicum of patience, who’s not afraid of a woman who has a certain amount of strength. Ginny’s definitely very opinionated. But underneath it all is this wide-eyed Memphis girl, who’s not at all jaded or mired in cynicism.”

So, could the two of them ever take their friendship to the next, romantic level? “My friends are like, ‘Well, what about you guys?’ ” admits Justin, who dated Drew Barrymore for a year before splitting in July 2008 and who was briefly linked last year to Kirsten Dunst. But, he insists, “we are like brother and sister.” Ginnifer seconds that emotion: “It is like being siblings. It’s a platonic bond. They say men and women can’t be friends, but that’s not true.” As for consoling each other through their respective breakups, she says, “We’re close in this way that I don’t ask certain questions because it’s almost like it would be small talk. We’ve told each other how we feel, but we don’t talk about ‘what happened.’ ”

Ginnifer also bonded with her on-screen actress gal pals—Jennifer Aniston and Jennifer Connelly—while filming He’s Just Not That Into You. “We talked about, you know, does one even need a love of one’s life to be happy. I believe you absolutely don’t…but I do. Love will be a part of my great happiness. A great part of my great happiness.”

For now, though, her single life is the perfect fit. “Right now, I’m not lonely and I’m not needy, and I’m not, well…” she pauses and sighs, her sweetly goofy demeanor turning sentimental. “Sometimes I, of course, feel like I want to be taken care of. But right now I’m very, very, very happy and taking care of myself. And I really don’t want it any other way.”

6 Surprising Guys You Should Date

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

I wrote this story for Match.com’s Happen magazine, and I had a blast doing it. First, because it’s fun to revisit the people we dated in our pasts. But also because it reminded me how each person we date teaches us a thing or two about ourselves and about love. I’m not suggesting that these are the only six types of people you should date, or that you should even stop at six. (I’m sure your dating roster has its own unique additions.) But I do suggest that you look at who you have dated and really think for a minute about what you’ve learned from each one.

I really do believe that every single person we date—yes, even the one with the body odor—teaches us something new about what we want—or what we definitely don’t. After all, without learning what kind of people are wrong for us, how will we ever find our way along the path to Mr. Right?

I recently got an email about this story, asking, “So? Did you find Mr. Right after all those dates?” So, what the heck. I figured I’d post the story for you, and then give you an update on the ending.

6 Guys You’ve Got to Date

by Amy Spencer, for Match.com’s Happen magazine

I was raised within the “just try it” system. At the dinner table, my only requirement when faced with food was to taste it… just a little bite. “Just try it.” And so I would. One piece of lamb. A forkful of beets. A sliver of quiche. My parents allowed that I could be picky if I chose to be — but only after I’d experienced the surfeit of choices firsthand.

I carry that mentality with me to this day, which is the only reason I love olives and live for oxtail ragu. In fact, I’ve found the try-it policy so effective, I’ve taken it from the dinner table to the business world to the dating front. “Sure,” I’ve told myself over the years, “You’re allowed to date successful, super-smart, tall, gorgeous, wicked-funny men. But you can’t be picky until you’ve at least tried dating other types.” And guess what? The tactic has worked in my favor, leading me to all sorts of self-revelation and a good amount of fun. Here, in order of their appearance in my recent years, are some of the surprising types of men I’ve dated, all of whom I’m glad I did. Each of them taught me more about life and love than I could have imagined.

1. THE MOMMA’S BOY

I wasn’t put off by the fact that he was almost 30 and lived at home until the day he asked me to pick him up for a romantic date that would start at the movies. When I arrived in my Saturday night best, he was sitting in the kitchen talking to his mother. “Have a seat,” he said. “I figured we’ll skip the movie and hang out here with my Mom.” A version of this happened no less than eight times in one month. She was a nice enough lady, sure, but she seemed to creep up into everything we did, making it hard to get to know him as an individual. The clincher: As we were making out alone (finally) in his basement apartment, he heard his mother’s footsteps upstairs and called out, “Mom, come down here and tell us about the party!” I was still buttoning up my top as she settled in with us for the rest of the night. I’m surprised I stuck around as long as I did. I wasn’t used to hangin’ out with a mom. I’m the girl who answers my mother’s questions about my life with one-syllable sentences. (“Fine. Good. Fun.”) But after spending so much time with his mother, I realized, well gosh, if I’m going to hang out with a mom, I’d rather it be my own mom.

Why I’m glad I dated him: As exasperating as his mother’s presence turned out to be, the light in his eyes when he talked to her was heartwarming. Sure, she’s probably doomed to play the role of the monster-in-law to her son’s future wife, but after dating a few bitter sons since, I learned it’s better to be with a man who loves the most important woman in his life rather than hates her, right? And after dating him for three months, I actually started hangin’ out with my own mom and opening up to her more — and she still has no idea she has this stranger to thank.

2. THE SHORT, BALD, STRUGGLING COMEDIAN

I met him at — where else? — a comedy show (not his own) through a mutual friend. And though I wasn’t floored by his physical attributes, I was seriously impressed with his confidence. He was a foot shorter than me with a gleaming scalp and an empty show schedule, but that didn’t stop him from cracking lots of ba-dum-pum jokes, telling me I was “so pretty,” and declaring that he’d feel like the luckiest guy in the world if I’d go out to dinner with him. Well, the guy who had just dumped me certainly didn’t feel that way, and it felt good to hear it. He told me later it was his “Fake it ’til you make it” approach, meant to cover up his insecurities around women — but guess what? It worked like a charm. So well, in fact, that we casually dated on and off for over a year. I still cherish the nights we spent walking for hours around town, popping into galleries, performance shows and comedy clubs, laughing all the way.

Why I’m glad I dated him: Because an uplifting date is a good date. Especially if it’s with someone who doesn’t remind you of your last bad boyfriend. Even though the relationship didn’t develop into a long-term thing, we decided at least it was better to be in feel-good company than miserably home alone. It’s been four years since we last dated, but we’re still friends to this day. When either of us needs to smile, we both know who to call.

3. THE WORKAHOLIC

I work long hours, but I don’t work into the night and every weekend — like one man I dated for five months did. At first, I admired his work ethic. He stayed at the office until he’d gotten his layouts perfect. He’d come in on Sundays to get a head start on the week. He’d call in on vacations to be sure the work was being done to his standards. In turn, I stayed at the office later, got more accomplished, and my work improved. And when we went out, we did it well. Very well. Hundred-dollar bottles of wine and oysters and steak at 2 a.m. As we’d be ushered into a private celebrity event with people he worked with, he’d say, “Now aren’t you glad I took on that extra assignment?” At first, sure. It was exciting. But eventually, I found myself going solo to dinner parties at his friends’ apartments, searching for someone to take his ticket to the theater at the last minute, killing time for hours on a Saturday while he ran to the office to deal with “just one quick thing.” I worked hard to work around his work, but in the end, “nagging” him about wanting a bit more of his time got me dumped. Thank goodness.

Why I’m glad I dated him: Dating an extreme type made me appreciate men who are more even-keeled. I had to re-learn similar lessons when I dated The World Adventurer (too many months away from me spelunking and swimming with sharks) and Mr. Life of the Party (whose overactive social life only rested for about two hours on Sunday afternoons). Through them all, I learned that a person’s time and company is of greater value than his celebrity friends, exciting adventure stories, or cold hard cash.

4. THE LANGUAGE-CHALLENGED FOREIGNER

On my first date out for sushi with an Eastern European man I’d met, he ate the entire mound of spicy wasabi in one bite, then sat quietly with tears in his eyes from the burning sensations in his mouth. “That not the guacamoles,” he finally said. Because I’m a writer, I always assumed I’d be attracted to those who shared my language — the way an accountant would probably be more drawn to a saver than a shopaholic, and a musician would find it hard to sample new pieces for a tone-deaf date. Still, I couldn’t help being attracted to this oversized man who’d ask me, “Where the bread we get for dinner?” and email me, “My friend will join with to restorant. She amazing women.” My friends were as confused about my attraction to him as I was about what he was saying. But there was something about him I was drawn to, and I continued to date him until I figured it out. It was this: He had a heart the size of South America and I wanted to learn from it. He was generous and kind — and more than once drove to the airport to pick up friends of mine he’d never met. When I saw through his life how important friends and family were, the language barrier didn’t seem like a very big deal. (In the end, it did turn out to be a big deal, but it wasn’t the only reason for our breakup.)

Why I’m glad I dated him: In the two years we dated, I learned that actions speak louder than words, whatever language you speak. He taught me more about how to be a good, selfless, loving person than any other man I’d known. After him, my dating priorities shifted permanently: “Has to have a huge heart” has been at the top of the list ever since.

5. THE SHY ACCOUNTANT

He looked, literally, like a cartoon accountant. He had brown horn-rim glasses, a gray suit, and a tan trench coat. His hair was combed and pasted in a side part like a 1940s newspaperman. He looked like the before in “before and after” photos. And when I first got “stuck” talking to him at a friend’s party, I didn’t feel much like chatting, so I just asked lots of questions about him. He was sweet and, it turned out, very interesting: Before he worked as an accountant, he worked in a company that transported artwork that had been sold or needed cleaning. He told me fascinating stories about going to million-dollar mansions to dismantle and move sculptures the size of my kitchen. In the end, he was more enthralled by the business aspect of the job than the labor, which led to his current career, but he had some of his own artwork displayed at home and planned to revisit his craft someday. I mentally slapped my own wrist for judging this quiet man so quickly. Who was I to assume that quiet meant boring and that accountant meant uncreative? I dated him for two months before I admitted the spark just wasn’t there… but it was a fun two months.

Why I’m glad I dated him: I took away two things from the accountant. First, the obvious: It’s foolish to overlook someone based on the package he or she comes in. Second: Before the accountant, I was convinced that the more I had in common with a man, the better off we’d be. Now I believe it’s not how many things you have in common, but which things you share (attitudes, goals and senses of humor top my list). Which is why I’m also glad I dated The War Activist and The Starving Jazz Musician, even though none of those relationships stuck. What’s boring, I’ve learned, isn’t people in gray suits — it’s dating someone from whom you learn nothing new.

6. THE KID I WENT TO GRADE-SCHOOL WITH

When I first knew him, he was a scrawny kid with a bowl haircut who sang Jailhouse Rock in the fourth-grade play. A decade later, we spent a young summer dating (and never even made it past first base). Two decades later, he was standing in front of me at a movie screening when we both happened to be visiting my hometown. He’d grown up, I’d grown up, and though it seemed odd to imagine dating that little kid from the lunch line, it was clear to me that had I met him some other way (say, in a bar or a bookstore), I would have liked him. So why not test the waters 20 years later? We spent our reunited date talking about old teachers and our school’s International Day. But Grade School Guy and I really hit it off. In fact, we’ve been dating for four months, and things appear to be, well, making the grade. I don’t know what will happen for sure, but my spirit and hopes are soaring.

Why I’m glad I’m dating him: In my single periods, I always used to wonder: Can recycling relationships actually work? Have I already met the person I’m meant to be with? This man is proof that maybe, just maybe, it can work. Not just because we were both open to the odd idea of stepping backward in our lives to find someone we might want to share our futures with. But also because it’s clear that a shared common background makes for a smooth relationship beginning. Just like all the other surprising types I’ve date, I’m glad I decided to “just try” this one out.

Amy Spencer is a freelance writer who has written for Glamour, Real Simple, New York magazine and Maxim, among other publications.

Since I wrote this story…

Things worked out so well with “the kid I went to grade-school with”…I married him. And I really do thank, in my heart, all the surprising guys that led me there—the good, the bad, the rude, the weird, the ones that really liked me and the ones that really didn’t. Without them, I might not appreciate what an amazing match I got in the man I married. Sheesh, though, talk about a “surprising” date: I had no idea it would be my very last one!

If you’d like, you can read this story on Match.com, including some reader comments debating number one on the list.