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Beyond the bar: City of festivals

11 Jan

Sydney must be keeping the banner industry in business. Every other week a new set of banners is installed along George Street, advertising the latest festival. From food and wine to art festivals, or celebrations of multiculturalism, coffee or music, there’s sure to be a festival (or two!) which interests you.

Festival events can be a great place to meet new men, as long as you’re strategic. Choose your festival wisely. Opera in the Domain, won’t attract as many single men in their early 30s as Sydney Festival’s Keystone Bar. Film festivals are fun, but you’ll have a better chance of chatting to men at Tropfest than you will inside a cinema.

It can be a daunting walking into a crowded festival, but there’s another way you can use events to meet men. Keep your eye on Sydney’s list of festivals. A few weeks before an event, think about people you know but don’t regularly socialise with. They might be friends of friends you’ve met a few times, or work acquaintances. Send out a group email, organising a meeting place and encouraging everyone to invite their friends. That way, you’ll meet new people through mutual friends. After a few hours of picnicking, the dynamic of the festival will take over and you might find yourself exchanging numbers with a lovely man sitting on the next picnic rug.    



8 Sep

A few weeks ago one of my gay guy-friends showed me an app on his iPhone called Grindr. This app is essentially a hook-up tool. It gives you profiles of all the Grindr-users in the area, including a photo and the distance between you and them. If you like the look of someone, you can send them a message to see if they’re interested in some fun.

As someone who hasn’t even experienced online dating yet, I found this idea delightfully outrageous. I couldn’t stop myself from discussing it with my wing-girls: how did they think the straight community would respond to an equivalent version? Would there be a market for it? Would it be packed with men and only a handful of ladies? What sort of safety issues would it raise (yes I know…I’m way too practical for my own good…)?

But then I started thinking that it might actually be really helpful for the people looking for a serious relationship online. I don’t think they’d find it useful directly, but they’d end up benefitting from it.

Imagine this: there’s a tool men and women can download for free and use from the comfort of their own phone, if they’re interested in some obligation-free fun. They no longer have to trawl through sleazy pick-up joints or filter through online profiles trying to find someone who doesn’t want a relationship.

No more lying or pretence; just an app that puts everyone on the same page.

This would potentially remove all these people from online dating sites, leaving behind the serious daters. And really, this would suit everyone: the casual fun-seekers can find each other easily and without apology. Those looking for love won’t be distracted by those looking just for sex. It’s a win-win outcome!

Of course the heart is a tricksy muscle and things aren’t always that simple, as another gay guy-pal discovered. His latest Grindr rendezvous left him with a lovely boyfriend. It’s early days yet, but for the moment, they’re both happy.

So what do you think ladies, would a straight version of Grindr help us find true love?

Let’s get physical

27 Jul

Even to a non-sporty girl, a fit man definitely has appeal: someone strong enough to literally sweep you off your feet, someone who can carry that heavy grocery bag, someone who can keep up with you on the dance floor and who cares about their wellbeing. So long as he’s not expecting me to get up at 5am to join him for a jog, it sounds like a good deal to me.

Exercise has become a way to help stay emotionally fit too, particularly in a fast-paced, demanding and sometimes stressful city like Sydney. Lots of people use exercise to exorcise the pressures of work and to enjoy a hit of endorphins. One man even told me he uses working out for anger management. I was surprised someone would admit this to a stranger, but snaps to him for recognising this about himself and doing something constructive to manage it.

So how do single women tap into men on the exercise circuit?

You would have read in previous posts about the singles boot-camps that are gaining popularity. But another important thing you can consider is the landscape of different Sydney areas. Geography often impacts on the type of exercise available and therefore, the kinds of men who are drawn to exercise in that area. In the inner city, where people live in small apartments with no real option for lounge-room workouts, men hit the gym or jog in the park. In the east, swimming and surfing combine exercise with lifestyle. And in the inner west, it’s all about the Bay.

Iron Cove Bay is the nucleus of many inner west men’s fitness habits. The Bay Run (or Bay Walk in my case) is a seven kilometre track that runs around the Bay and over the Iron Cove Bridge, and it’s always filled with men jogging. The sports fields nearby are home to adult football and soccer teams and guys take advantage of the workout stations that crop up every few kilometres along the track.

But exercise isn’t restricted to dry land. Besides the local swimming centres, men are into rowing and sailing. The Drummoyne and Haberfield (UTS) Rowers Clubs on opposite sides of the Bay are great places to enjoy a boozy lunch (after July for the temporary teetotallers!) and mingle with the locals. Their big balconies make them perfect for a relaxed, sunny afternoon. One guy I surveyed even met his wife through an inner west rowing club, so if you’re looking for a new sport and don’t mind the early start, perhaps this is the way to go.  

If you prefer something more easy-going, throw on your trackies, grab a wing-girl and enjoy a walk around the Bay. I promise the scenery won’t disappoint. My friends and I like to use the code word ‘keys’ to alert each other that a hot man is in sight. Otherwise, head to Leichhardt’s Hawthorne Canal Reserve, where guys play tennis and basketball and dogs are allowed off the leash. A game of carefully choreographed frisbee might end in you making some new canine friends, who in turn may lead you to their Dr Chris Brown-esque owner. 🙂

The seemingly endless search for love

19 Jul

manMap on a seeminly endless search for loveSunday was a dream day, a prelude to spring. So with my Dry July sisters in mind, I dismissed thoughts of sunny beer gardens and set out for a round of culture instead.

Circular Quay was vibrating with energy: families, tourists and locals hummed around on their various adventures. I was bound for Cockatoo Island, which is hosting an art exhibition as part of the seventeenth Biennale of Sydney.

It’s always been my dream to find a man who isn’t opposed to art. I’m certainly not hanging out at the MCA each week but I like to dip into artistic circles every now and then. A gallery visit helps keep my mind flexible and having someone to compare notes with is good fun. Filled with hope and delight at what the day might hold, I joined the queue for the free ferry, ready to open my heart to modern art and contemporary love.

Waiting for the ferry gave me time to study my fellow queuers. There were quite a few couples with young kids but people in their 20s and 30s were out in force, girls creatively dressed, guys in skinny jeans and thick-rimmed glasses. It was difficult to work out who belonged to who but I was optimistic. Until I got on the ferry and everyone paired up to take their seats. The boat was flooded with couples holding onto each other to resist the harbour’s light swell. I was surrounded.

“No probs,” I thought. “The single guys will already be there. The couples would’ve taken their time over breakfast, which would’ve slowed down their day.”

Disembarking, I wandered toward to main exhibition area. Ahead of me was a group of artistically scruffy guys. Jackpot! But by the time I’d entered the building, they’d disappeared. There were plenty of guys inside, many of them attractive and fit. But the way people wandered around, taking their time to ponder before heading back to a friend or partner, made it hard to determine who was available.

I worked my way through the exhibitions, half my heart captivated by the art and the buildings themselves, the other half feeling like I’d failed yet again to locate single men outside watering-holes. Doubt began to whisper in my ear:

You’ll never find a thousand men to survey. What gives you the right to interrupt strangers who are just trying to enjoy their day?

The cold and ancient grime of the building sucked away the sun’s warmth and energy, making me feel even worse. I was at the point of conceding defeat when I came across an artwork, part of which said: the seemingly endless search.

And that’s when I realised something important. The search for love often feels impossible and eternal, particularly when we find ourselves surrounded by happy couples. But those couples were once single people, on their own seemingly endless searches. And yet one day their search came to an end and they found the love they were looking for. And there’s no valid reason why the same won’t happen to me.

Or to you.

Two train night

12 Jul

manMap takes a train or twoIt’s always disappointing when I head out somewhere, handbag packed with blank surveys, wing-girl by my side, only to discover that my destination doesn’t deliver.

In the spirit of supporting Sydney ladies detoxing for Dry July (you’re a third of the way there girls!) I headed off to Winterland at Carriageworks on Saturday, imagining Tommy Hilfigeresque models in beanies and matching scarves skating round the ice rink. With promises of markets, music and all things frosty, I was looking forward to a dose of winter frivolity in preparation for my trip to New York at the end of the year.

Perhaps wing-girl and I were there at the wrong time or on the wrong day, but the reality didn’t match my fantasy. There was no fake snow, no roasted chestnuts, no gingerbread, not even a cardboard cut out of a snowman. The massive disco ball was impressive but it made me think Priscilla Queen of the Desert, not winter. There were a few guys there but they were coupled up and clearly band groupies (I’m not knocking the band. Great place for a gig, even if there wasn’t a foil snowflake in sight.). As I looked about the fabulously expansive space that is Carriageworks, I was at a loss to pinpoint exactly what was wintery about the festival, other than its timing. And while there were half a dozen stalls selling gloves and socks, in the words of my wing-girl:

a few stalls does not a market make.

Disenchanted and with a pile of untouched surveys, we headed back to the city and to a place that never lets us down: our favourite sushi train.

Once installed in our carriage on the sushi train, we realised the tables on either side of us were taken by guys. I draw the line at interrupting people while they eat for my own selfish research purposes, but wing-girl did wonder whether the guys were like us: single and looking for something delicious on low-key Saturday night. I considered stalking them after they left to find out but thought that might be taking things a little too far.

The night made me realise how difficult looking for a man would be for women who don’t drink. So far, my surveys have revealed that most couples meet through work, a mutual friend or in pubs and bars. If you were working in female-heavy industry like childcare or education, had exhausted the options your friends could provide and didn’t like the pub scene, meeting men would be a huge challenge. Perhaps women not into wine should keep in mind the ever-growing number of restaurants and cafés with communal tables. You could always ask the guy sitting next to you to pass the salt…Here’s a few I’ve been to and enjoyed:

  • Din Tai Fung –  this place serves up the best dumplings in Sydney and is ridiculously popular. You can opt to a share table so you don’t have to wait too long for a seat. Getting the right ratio of vinegar to soy sauce is a great way to start a conversation with the people at your table.
  • About Life – this café and store is Mecca for people with intolerances, or anyone who enjoys local or organic produce. The big tables are great to share, so just take one wing-girl with you so there’s room left for the men!
  • Blue Ginger – delicious to the extreme, you could ask the man next to you for his pick of the menu.

If you know of any other places with communal tables, leave a comment so the list grows.

Thank you thank you thank you to my winter wing-girl for coming on yet another one of my wily schemes. Despite the lack of completed surveys, I still had a great night out.

Follow the leader

5 Jul

manMap takes on the tangoAs a single woman who’s lived alone for nearly four years, I’ve learnt to become independent. In so many ways, I love my having my own space. I can come and go without disturbing anyone, I don’t have to fit in with other people’s domestic routines and I don’t feel like I’m neglecting anyone if I park myself behind my computer and tap away at the keyboard for hours.

The habit of being independent can be really hard to step away from though, and I often forget that it’s ok to relax and let someone else take charge. I’ve conditioned myself to be my own leader, so stepping into the role of follower means completely re-programming my reflexes.

Last week a tango-loving wing-man invited me to join him at a practica, a practice session where tangophiles gather to dance and socialise. He thought I’d be up to the challenge since I’d done basic ballroom dancing at school. Having heard judges from So you think you can dance say that people study the tango for years before they’re deemed half-decent, my first thought was to suggest going to the pub instead. But in the spirit of trying new things I decided I’d be brave, reunite my feet with my high-heels (it’s been flats since the “sewing needle incident”) and accept the invitation.

On Saturday afternoon, we arrived at the Bondi Pavilion for my first taste of the tango. It took me about five minutes to realise I had a few additional challenges besides not knowing the steps:

  1. I’m not used to being led. I went to a single-sex school and was never particularly talented at sport. When we started ballroom dancing, my friend and I decided that instead of swapping roles each week it’d be best if we just stuck to one for the whole term, so we didn’t have to learn both. As a result, I actually got a decent mark in sport but ended up learning only the man’s steps. Not helpful when you need to relinquish control and have faith that your partner will steer you safely across the floor.
  2. I have a fear of injuring people, which stems from the fact that I’m not designed for rough games (hence the eternally bad marks in sport). I spent a good chunk of time panicking that my heel would end up in wing-man’s shin. Not beneficial when exploring new territory or taking risks.
  3. I struggle with situations when I don’t know what’s coming next. Wing-man explained that Mr Tango was in charge of choreography and Ms Tango followed his signals so she’d know what to do. He could change his mind, mix it up or keep her guessing and it was her job to read his body language and follow suit. For someone who’s very structured and used to being her own choreographer in life, I found it difficult to switch off my brain and wait until I was told what to do. Not conducive to spontaneity.

The philosophy behind the tango is outdated, but I realised there’s a lot I can learn from it. Sometimes it’s nice to relinquish habitual responsibility and let a man take charge. I’m all for even footing, but knowing that a man’s there to guide you safely through life’s challenges, or even just be with you at every step, definitely has its appeal.

I didn’t meet scores of single men with good posture and exotic accents, but the experience was great fun and the regulars were friendly and welcoming. It’s the sort of scene that could really expand your social life if you committed to it. For those of you looking something more low-key, I hear the modern jive scene is a great place to meet single guys.

A big thanks to my wing-man for sharing your love of the tango with me and for your patience. I hope your toes didn’t end up too bruised!