Getting out of a divorce or long-term relationship can be bewildering, and it’s easy to feel lost at sea. It takes time and effort to reattain a sense of self, but when you’re ready—actually ready—to start afresh, you’ll find the modern dating world quite different than the last time you were here. It’s often hard to know what to do or where to go. Here, for starters, is at least what not to do, and three places not to meet women.
The Gym: We’ve all seen the gym lecher before. There he is, eyes bugged out, staring for whole minutes at the Lycra bodysuits, licking his lips, a cartoon wolf with his tongue on the floor. In my gym he looks like Wilford Brimley, mustache and all, with a gray bear + deer = beer shirt tucked into his exercise pants, doing minimal calisthenics as he gets one eyeful after the next. We all chuckle and laugh at him, but it’s important to realize that if you’re using the gym to hit on women, you are also this man.
If you were freshly divorced and somebody asked you where the best place to meet women is, you’d probably say “uh…the gym.” This should be your first sign that this is the wrong answer.
If their gigantic headphones and steely stares weren’t hint enough, women don’t like to be bothered at the gym. They’re there to work out, and if they’re serious, they’re in their zone. Anything that takes them out of their zone, be it a dashing gentleman, screaming baby, or fire alarm, is going to be an interruption. They’re sweaty, they’re stinky, they’re not made up, and not ready, willing, or able to engage. (The few exceptions to this rule, the women who bounce into the gym lacquered with cosmetics and smelling like the perfume aisle, only to do one set of five-pound dumbbell lifts, are there to tease. They enjoy the attention but don’t for a second think it means anything: the more you stare, the more validation they feel. These women are walking red flags.)
More to the point, if you hit on a woman at the gym and it’s taken the wrong way, your gym membership could be put in jeopardy, depending on the litigiousness of the woman. And even outside of that extreme, if you’re a regular, you’ve hamstrung yourself into having to engage with this woman in small talk that grows smaller and smaller every time you see her. These are returns that start low and diminish to nothing at all.
Really, take a cue from the women themselves: you should also be there to zone out, focus in, and do you. The gym is a wonderful time to not have to be bothered, to concentrate on your own self-improvement, and work on hitting the next rep goal. Your goals come first—you’ll be your most attractive when you’re not leering at anyone except yourself in the mirror.
If you must, try this strategy: If you have a confirmed LOL (look of lust), sidle up to the looker between sets, say, “I couldn’t help noticing you noticing me,” and hand her your phone with Gym Cutie in the name box, ready for the phone number to be input. Once she punches her number in, thank her, and walk away, back to your workout. Text hours later, if at all.
Work: Just as you should never shit where you eat, you should also never hit on your coworkers. For starters, trying to get a date at work reeks of a scarcity mindset, of not breaking outside of any comfort zone, of sheer laziness. It reduces the size of your world down to the square footage of your office space, flattening all possibilities. As a newly single man, the world is freshly wide open, but instead of taking it all in, you’re attenuating your scope to the microscopic. You’re looking the wrong way through the binoculars.
You’re also setting yourself up for a lot of trouble. I don’t only mean legal trouble, though I also mean this, and the ice has never been thinner for any scintilla of harassment. But more to the point, by hitting on a woman from work, you’re making yourself a target for tedious office gossip, nosy and invasive coworkers, and internecine office dramas that can only sap your energy and attention. Why put that target on your own chest? You’ll either be painted as the Office Horndog or will have your dirty laundry aired in the most professional spaces.
Furthermore, notwithstanding any nostalgia you may have for the tenderest Jim/Pam moments, remember that the best way to hate someone is to spend every waking moment with them. During the pandemic, many people woke up to realize who it was they were living with, and were appalled by the results. And what’s a road trip with your best friend without a bitter, sniping blow-up at some point? It’s just too much time to spend with anyone! To attempt to date a coworker is to ask her to share her professional and personal time with you—a recipe for immediate and certain disaster.
You should also crave the “me” time that a workplace romance would not afford. A lover is scarce, and you should be not only able to get away but should want to get away, to work on you, with the time for women coming thereafter.
If you must, at least go to another floor, building, division, office, town, region, state, occupation—really, try not to.
Finally, you want to avoid trying to date women who are in any transactional situation, be it a business partnership, client arrangement, mentorship, or other relationship where the primary purpose is decidedly not dating. It seems silly to have to write this, but I’m also amazed at how often this rule gets broken.
Do not try to turn patients or clients into prospects. If she’s your client, she’s your client only. If she ceases to be your client for some reason, by all means, go ahead and ask her out, though honestly if she’s not your client there’s a reason for that and it’s probably best to leave the entire situation in the rearview. Plus, there are so. Many. Others!
This, like dating someone from work, is a reductionist mindset, limiting your dating pool at the time when it should be at its most expansive. You have no restrictions whatsoever on who you meet, so relish that abundance and act on it. Respect the changes you’ve made and the man you’ve become. Instead of any desperate, anxious energy—“I better latch on to the first thing that comes by!”—evoke a calm, laid-back, Happy Apathy: “I have time to wait for something good. I have quality enough to be discovered.”
If you must, don’t.