Written for STUFF Magazine and published in 2012.
Flirting in the urban jungle can be a dangerous game. Rejection and humiliation lurk throughout all layers of the brush, waiting to plunge their talons into hapless wannabe Lotharios. To help you make the first move, we've whittled flirt-friendly locales down to a selective six and compiled a few dos and don'ts for each. We've armed you well, young grasshopper, so go forth - and shoot to thrill.
I. THE CLUB/CONCERT
You can tell a lot about a person from their taste in music: it often intersects with everything from individual fashion sense to politics. So the next time your favorite band or DJ barnstorms Boston, pay attention to the potential mates writhing on the floor. Clearly they dig the same vibe you do, so exploit the opportunity to connect with those on a similar wavelength. Besides, unless you're wading through anger-management issues at the Gathering of the Juggalos, chances are your fellow music lovers are feeling social and eager to mingle.
Chat between songs. Not only will this give you the ideal window to ask in-the-know questions like "Do you think they'll play [insert rare B-side here]," but your vocal chords won't be competing with 145 decibels of bass feedback.
Dance! It's okay to look like you're over the moon. Confident, carefree dancing rarely hurts, even if you only wind up looking endearingly goofy.
Be a lounge lizard. Leaning against the wall or splaying out on a leather sofa with a drink in hand might seem alluring, but unless you're Serge Gainsbourg, "too cool to care" is so junior high. To play hard, you've got to flirt harder.
Monopolize the experience. If the fox you've been conversing with is a diehard fan of Robyn, then they probably won't appreciate you airing your own biography during "Dancing On My Own." Pretty soon, you'll wind up doing just that.
II. THE GYM
Sure, you may encounter some primeval-smelling Neanderthals by the pull-up bar or music-blaring divas who treat the squat rack like their own personal karaoke booth. But you're also apt to find plenty of hot, sweaty, half-naked Adonises and Aphrodites who likely live or work in your hood. This can be tricky terrain, however, so don't let all the fine physiques and, ahem, flexibility on display cloud your judgment: one faulty flirt and the object of your desire may crush your heart like a cantaloupe between deadlift sets.
Be sincere. This is especially important in an appearance-oriented environment. "If people put Boston attitude aside and approach someone with genuine friendliness, things progress well," observes Chad Flahive, a personal trainer at Equinox. Preening and posturing will get you nowhere - so please refrain from bragging about how much you can bench.
Refine your form. Casually asking an attractive acquaintance for tips on perfecting your incline sit-up or cable curl demonstrates confidence in conversation. Plus, it implies (but doesn't state outright) that you find your fellow gym bunny appealingly fit.
Do "The Creep." Save the stalking for Facebook. Flahive says he often sees smitten exercisers drop their own workouts so that they can follow and mimic the cutie in crosshairs. Trailing attempts are super obvious in this setting, and they'll score you a restraining order before a phone number.
Disturb the inner sanctum. Consider earbuds and/or labored grunting the universal sign for, "not interested." "People don't want to be approached when they're sweating and clearly in their zone," says Phelan. "It's unflattering and uncomfortable."
III. THE MUSEUM
Picture it: a quiet afternoon. You're drifting through a gallery in dreamy contemplation, each work transporting you to another time, place, mood, or all of the above. You're surrounded by beauty - not the least of which may belong to that cultured cutie doodling away in a sketchbook just down the hall. Fortunately, the walls are literally lined with conversation starters. And that lighting? Totally flattering.
Snoop. "Eavesdropping is the best way to begin flirtation in a gallery," says Clark Crowley, creative arts program director at the Boston Center for Adult Education. If you don't know Monet from Manet, cop conversation points from nearby aesthetes. Says Crowley, "Even if you're approaching an art history major, most people with a romantic sensibility are open to new and interesting ideas, even if they're stolen!"
Play the Philistine. "Alternately, you can try saying, 'Hey, looks like you're really enjoying this painting. Tell me a bit about it,' " Crowley adds. "People with knowledge of art history really like to share."
Become an installation. Different galleries attract different patrons. For instance, you're probably more likely to find a hipster hottie browsing a street art exhibit than gazing at oil paintings of dead presidents. Stay on the move, even if it takes you multiple visits to cover the gallery grounds, lest you limit yourself to a single breed of culture vulture.
Go too far. While analyzing art can make you appear cultured, describing an abstract painting of red rectangles as an elaborate orgy should not be attempted (unless you are Steve Martin in LA Story.)
IV. THE T
A public place where all walks of life intersect, the T offers a buffet of personalities. Where else might one encounter an aspiring pyrotechnics artist, a professional dominatrix, and a German philosophy scholar at once? (Well, maybe a Rammstein concert.) But to forge a connection in transit, you'll have to flirt with Fu Manch-grade genius. Whether they're sleepily schlepping to work or returning home, most of the T's denizens are simply trying to get somewhere. But don't let the long faces dissuade you. Even the crankiest of commuters can enjoy idle conversation it it's handled just so.
Initiate eye contact. The T is rife with amusing sights. So the net time that grizzled guy with Wild Turkey breath starts singing sea shanties between Hynes and Copley, exchange a glance of amusement with the hottie across from you that says, "We're in this together - at least for one more stop."
Showcase your own reading material. Displaying The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo won't do much to set you apart, but something that really captures a unique interest provides a silent billboard advertising your personality. (Just leave the Marquis de Sade at home. Let's not rush things.)
Stare. Unless you're auditioning for Shame Part II, prolonged gawking will place you on the psycho list faster than you can say "Fassbender."
Ignore your surroundings. Ceding your seat to someone who needs it makes a much better first impression than carrying on a conversation while the grandmother to your left clings to her walker for dear life.
V. THE DINNER PARTY
Eating is a sensual act. If you've only been doing it solo (dining, that is), make a point to host a potluck dinner party. It's a good way to get that attractive friend-of-a-friend delivered straight to your door: conspire with your close pal to have said acquaintance brought as a guest. You can show off your knack for witty dinner-table banter without the pressure of a private audience. (Plus, you're on home turf.) But even if you're a soiree's guest rather than its host, you can bring a dish to showcase your culinary skills and get a potential mate salivating. After all, you know what they say about someone who knows how to wield a kitchen torch.
Plan a dinner date. When surrounded by food, diners inevitably turn to the subject of favorite restaurants. If things progress smoothly, mention that you'd be happy to introduce your new friend to that intriguing falafel joint you've described.
Offer help. If you're a guest, volunteer to stay and tackle dishes when other gluttons skip out. It'll lend you a noble sheen and provide your flirting partner with an opening to grab a sponge and plunge in with you.
Forgo allies. Most friends love to play matchmaker, says Crowley. In an intimate setting, you have the unique opportunity to subtly steer conversation in your direction with help from a wingman.
Neglect manners. This isn't the time to lower spaghetti noodles into your mouth like it's feeding time at Sea World. People rarely notice when you're being polite: when you're rude, it's the last thing they forget.
VI. THE SPORTS BAR
On an average game night at any of Boston's innumerable sports bars, the laughs are unfettered, the testosterone flows faster than the Sam Adams, and Rondo may not be the only one out to score. The vibe is laid back, but passions run high - and the communal viewing experience makes it comparatively easy to bond with a fan on a neighboring bar stool. Still, bring your A-game, lest tonight's lucky streak end with the Celtics broadcast.
Get into the game. Becoming interested in an event together can result in budding feelings of companionship. It will also give you something to discuss.
Compete. If the conversation is bubbling, take things to the next level and challenge your new pal to a round of pool or air hockey. Playful competition can yield playful teasing, the arguable gateway to playful lovemaking.
Overdress. Most sports bar regulars are there to kick back and unwind. Save the snakeskin pants for the club (or avoid them altogether).
Drink for the win. Tossing back those pale ales with abandon will turn your flirting skills to jelly, unless your potential partner enjoys slurred speeches about LeBron James's early career in Cleveland. On a similar note, please ignore the urge to order your neighbor an Orgasm. "Don't flirt by buying shots," cautions Sonja Ma, manager at Game On! "It's old and outdated."