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The romantic history of a nerdette

7 Jun

There’s no point denying it. I am a nerd of the bookish persuasion. I was one of those conscientious kids, developing scoliosis from carrying around too many books. My taste in literature and music wasn’t quite in step with my peers. My eternal battle with acne and the inability to put together a decent outfit disqualified me from being cool. Luckily I had enough self awareness to realise this and in many ways relinquished myself to it. But in short, I felt I had nothing to say that would interest guys my age.

manMap seeks book nerdsIt was a blessing I went to a single sex school. There was no pressure to impress anyone. I dreamed that one day I’d meet a nerd like myself. I’d glimpse him in a corner somewhere, nose to page hoping to avoid the scorn of the cool girls. I’d psyche myself up, walk over and ask him what he was reading, only to discover it was my favourite book (I knew this was a long shot. I’m yet to meet a man who loves Room with a view the way I do).

It never happened, but I entered my uni years filled with optimism. I was studying writing after all. Surely my classes would be filled with row upon row of nerds like myself. And in one of those rows I might find him. But then I discovered an awful truth. Most of the people in my course were mature-age. The uni had only accepted a handful of school-leavers. And of the few guys, most were either taken, gay or way too cool for me.

After graduating, I hoped work might provide the elusive doorway to the opposite sex. I’ve met some wonderful people working in publishing, people who don’t think I’m slightly odd. But sadly, most of these people are women. And many of them single like me. And so, it was with mixed feeling that I made an important discovery on Friday night. 

The week had been pleasantly smooth: one big job finished at work, a cosy beverage at Grandma’s, delightful dinner with wing-girls at a new noodle bar, productive round of workshopping at my writing group and the purchase of a new book. By Friday evening, I felt like nothing lay between me and a successful round of mapping. But of course, there’s always the danger of A Bad Venue.

First stop: The London, Paddington. Empty and scarily well lit. Second stop: The Royal Hotel. Also empty. Third stop: Durty Nelly’s. Busier but not optimal, an uncomfortable number of women.

Nearing 7pm, I was starting to think the clear winter’s night was going to waste when I found myself at the well-packed Beresford. Always mindful that I run the risk of getting thrown out, I headed to the courtyard and away from the diligent eyes of the bouncers. After surveying every guy who wasn’t obviously gay or on a date, I decided a quick round inside wouldn’t hurt. If I got thrown out, it wouldn’t matter. I already had a healthy bundle of completed surveys in my handbag. Two guys were just settling into a table with their pints as I approached. What happened next will renew your faith in chivalry. I smiled and said hello and one of the guys said, “Oh I’m sorry, did you want this table?” Hurrah, I thought, here sit kind, decent men. Modern Mr Darcys. I asked them if they were single, thinking such nice guys must be firmly attached. But they were both available. Double hurrah! I asked them if they belonged to any social groups which meet regularly. One played tennis. The other spoke words that would make any single nerdette swoon. He was part of a men’s only book group.  

Surveys filled, I hurried off into the night, head filled with images of men sitting on comfy lounges discussing themes and character development. Mecca, I thought, If only I knew where they met.

But then I got cranky (partly because I was hungry). How could the man-nerds of Sydney be so cruel? Since adolescence I’d been searching for men who read. Now they were sectioning themselves off from their female equivalents. Were they afraid we’d force them to read chick lit or emasculate them with tea and iced vovos? I wished I’d ignored my hunger pains and thought to ask the surveyee before I’d left. On behalf of all the nerdettes out there, I’ll try my best to track down the exclusive book groups. They may not let us in, but we can always loiter by the door.

PS. Over 80% of the surveyed guys at the Beresford were single. Worth a visit ladies!


It’s raining, men!

19 Apr

manMap enjoys a man-ly downpourOne thing I really enjoy about being in my 30s is not feeling pressured to go out and have big weekends. Spending my non-work time surveying random men has seen my alcohol intake plummet dramatically. I was always a light-weight. Now I’m a feather-weight. And I don’t bounce back like I used to. But I don’t feel the need to go out and have vodka-fuelled party nights anymore, so it doesn’t worry me. Plus, a whole day on the couch recovering feels like a waste of a precious day.

Unfortunately, this is a double-edged sword. Every now and then, particularly when it’s pouring (with rain, not booze), I feel like I deserve a night in. My internal dialogue goes something like this:

“You never just relax and do nothing. You’ve worked hard all week. If you have an quiet night in, you can get up early and hit that huge pile of surveys you’re hoping will magically insert themselves into your enormous spreadsheet. The couch and the DVD player miss you.”

And while we all need some downtime, staying in means we’re not meeting anyone new or (for those of us who live alone) socialising at all.

When I was in NYC, nothing stopped me going out to explore: not the freezing temperature, jet lag, lack of sleep, snow, the fact that my boots were being held together with superglue. In Sydney, the sky can cloud over and suddenly going out seems like a major effort. Excuses come thick and fast and fantasies of hibernating seem both wonderful and achievable. But I know that if I give myself a little shove and go out, I can have a great night either with friends or mapping. By picking a venue that’s comfortable and cosy, the colder weather is no longer an issue. So in the hope that I can help you get motivated, despite our long summer days being over, here’s a list of five winter venues filled with single men who are waiting for you to warm up their night:

The Oaks Hotel
Although The Oaks has a huge courtyard, there’s still a maze of rooms inside, particularly upstairs. Make sure you don’t block yourself off in one of the smaller rooms, or guys won’t feel comfortable coming in. Rooms with pool tables are great, because you can always challenge the guys to a game.

Town Hall Hotel, Balmain
Almost entirely inside, other than the verandah, this is a popular venue for buck’s nights on Saturdays. If you’re up for some friendly flirting, this is the perfect spot. Friday nights are also fun with the local crowd.

PJ Gallaghers, Drummoyne
This pub attracts lots of the sporty guys who live in the Drummoyne area (and there a tons!). If a big footy game’s on head elsewhere, unless you’re happy to join in and bond over barracking.

The Hero of Waterloo
This small, friendly place can get pretty crowded on Saturdays, making it easy to bump into guys. The live classic rock near the bar gets people on their feet. It’s easier to mingle in this area than the room around the corner with tables and chairs, but do a recon lap because anyone sitting down will need to come to the bar at some point.

The Fringe Bar
Drawing a crowd that reflects its name, The Fringe is the perfect winter venue for the creative and the cool. While you might be a little intimidated if you feel you don’t belong, after a few drinks (or just one in my case) everyone’s more relaxed and happy to enjoy the night.

If you’d like to help spread the word about My manMap, please vote for me in the Best Australian Blogs Competition by clicking the big blue badge (or brooch as I like to think of it) on the righthand side of the page. It’s quick and easy and muchly appreciated!

This pub is a Gemini

5 Apr

Endeavouring to provide Sydney-siders useful* information, I like to return to venues at different times. I try to be open-minded and give each spot the benefit of the doubt. A pub/bar/beach/park could be heaving with single men most days, but I might turn up on the one day there’s some Man Convention on that I don’t know about and the place might be empty. Or I might show up at a bar where there’s a huge bachelor party and assume the venue’s better than it is. So in the hope of creating an accurate venue profile, I do my best to be fair to everyone.

One thing I have noticed about going to a venue at different times is that the scene can change dramatically from a week night to a Friday night to a Saturday night to a Sunday afternoon. Which is fabulous. I wish I could open my wardrobe and find the same set of clothes magically changing depending on the day of the week. And while not all venues switch vibes on different days (I like to call these Libra bars – as in the horoscope, not the ‘lady-time’ brand) there are definitely some Gemini pubs out there.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve made two visits to the Lord Dudley, the first visit on a Saturday night. I was fairly nervous about transitioning from mapping in the CBD to mapping in the Eastern Suburbs, even though lots of guys I’d surveyed in the city said they lived in the east. Those of you who know me know I’m not an Eastern Suburbs girl. I feel more comfortable at the dodgy Darlo end of Oxford Street where I live. Even working in Woollahra has been a transition for me. The bus is always full of women so perfectly dressed they could be mannequins. I realise shopping at Big Bargain where everything is $10 makes me stand out in a bad way. So the thought of having to approach men on the turf on these Alana Hillesque girls made me feel somewhat anxious. Luckily the walk down Jersey Street to the Lord Dudley was long enough for me to numb my nerves by mentally chanting, “men are just people” a million times.

I rounded the last corner hoping to be met with the sight of a dense border of men around the pub. I’d seen this wonderful vision before when I’d driven past on a Friday evening. But alas, the vision was not a reality. I did what I always do when I show up somewhere potentially disappointing. I headed straight to the bathroom to give myself the, “you’re already here, just get on with it” lecture. So I did. I hit my survey quota despite the crowd being thinner than I’d hoped. And the results weren’t bad. In fact, I met a few really nice guys. So I felt I owed the Lord Dud. the opportunity to prove he wasn’t a dud. I decided to return on a Friday night.     

My next visit to the Lord Dudley proved it was a Gemini pub. Men filled the footpath enjoying a beer and the complimentary sausages. There was a strong contingent of men in their late 30s-early 40s, as well as a few younger guys who showed up around 8pm. Suits, tradies, business owners and creatives, there was a nicely balanced blend to enjoy. And although one woman told me men from the east would only speak to women from the east, I have my doubts since they all spoke to me. Plus I didn’t see a single person wearing a badge stating where they were from. The best tip I got was from a long-term local. He told me all the women usually show up around 10pm. Ladies, you know the old saying about the early bird…     

* I am eternally infuriated by the enormous number of books that have been published which provide insightful information about meeting men: sign up to RSVP, go speed dating, go to a nightclub and get drunk. Oh what splendid ideas, I’m so glad I spent $29.95 on such generic information. How would I have ever thought of that all by myself! Would the Cheap Eats Guide get away with filling its pages with McDonalds and KFC locations? Bitter, twisted, moi?? Well, I am a single woman in my 30s… 🙂

March Mapping Report

30 Mar

Beloved reader-peeps,

My apologies for being tardy. Among the usual juggling of coordinating the production of a publishing house, fighting the man drought by rounding up single men, co-running a writing group, obliging my OCDesque habits and maintaining some resemblance of a social life, I’ve had a few other chores thrown into the mix. So there’ll just be one post this week and I figured the timing’s perfect for a March Mapping Report.

This post comes with a language warning…enjoy!

March Mapping Highlight: hitting 600 surveys at the Lord Dudley in Woollahra. Thank you to all the helpful guys there! 

March WWWtK results

Our WWWtK question was:

If a woman’s interested in you, what’s something/one thing she can do to increase her chances of you asking her out?

A lot of guys said the same things, so I’ve put them in order of most common response to least common response and clumped together similar responses:

  • Make eye contact (or as one guy put it, engage in some eye-fucking) or do something physical that makes it clear you’re interested – maybe it need to get back into palm-flashing!!
  • Make the first move.
  • Smile.
  • Be relaxed. Act normal.
  • Be approachable and make sure you communicate that you’re approachable. Don’t be stuck-up or as one guy put it, ‘be on the level’. One guy said, ‘Ditch the princess act.’
  • Start the conversation.
  • Know how to have a decent/interesting conversation. Be intelligent.
  • Don’t be too full on, keep it light and casual.
  • Be lady-like.
  • Don’t be shy.
  • Be interested in the actual guy you’re checking out, don’t just focus on what he can offer you as far as security, money etc.
  • Stand next to the guy. You won’t need to say anything to him. Just by standing near him you’ll get his attention.
  • Offer the guy a drink.
  • Whisper something filthy in his ear.

A very cute Irish guy at Bronte contributed that last point.

From Mars to Venus

Earlier in the month I posted a poll to find out why some women don’t feel comfortable approaching men. This poll is open for another two week, so if you haven’t voted, please vote!

There’s some interesting information surfacing. So far the most common reason is: I figure if men like the look of me, they’ll come to me. So far no one has said they’d rather meet men online…interesting considering how popular dating sites are…I’ll do a full report when this poll has closed.

Over to April

It’s time to decide on our next WWWtK question. Here are the contenders:


A sweet note to end on

I had a drink with a publishing wing-girl at The Grasshopper during the week. It’s a great spot for a catch up if you’re in a small group. There’s a very cute barman working there who gave me a friendly wink and set my heart aflutter (yes, I’m sure he does it to everyone but I don’t care!).  It gets rather packed on Fridays, which is an advantage. You’ll be forced to rub shoulders with  guys whether you want to or not.

Have great weeks and even greater weekends!

Growing a love culture

1 Mar

[There are a few sweeping generalisations/stereotypes in the post, for which I apologise. Hopefully further research will make them less sweeping.]

Sydney society is big on cultures, and I don’t mean the cultural type. I mean the type you grow in a petri dish. We like to drink Yakult to help defrag our digestive system. And some people inject bacteria into their faces so they can’t raise a flirty eyebrow. If only there was a culture Sydney singles could be injected with to help them find love.

When it comes to dating, Sydney’s culture ranks low on the Love Ladder. After my time in New York, I’d put it down to Sydney’s conservative tendencies. Of course it was difficult to meet men in a city where they won’t make the first move and women still want them to. Despite our multiculturalism, we’ve still got a reserved British heritage hampering our efforts to find love.

‘If only we were les European, and more American in our attitude,’ I thought, ‘life would be filled with dating and potential love.’

But this weekend I learnt some harrowing news.

Keen to catch the boys at the beach in the Eastern suburbs while the weather was good, I slathered on my invisible zinc and headed to Bronte on Saturday. The plan was to work my way south to Maroubra, but there were so many guys at Bronte I didn’t get any further.

As expected on a sunny day, lots of guys on working visas were enjoying a barbie on our coastline. Since there were more men than bbqs, I had a captive audience. Guys were happy to do surveys while they stood in line waiting to cook. (Thanks guys!) Many of them had come out to Australia with their partners, but most of them had single friends in Sydney keen to find love. I realised these guys were useful. They were in a position to compare Sydney’s dating culture with their homeland.       

Two of the guys I surveyed were French but had been living in Australia for nearly a year. Representing the pinnacle of romantic culture, I was almost too embarrassed to ask them how Australia compared to France. The response was rather grim. Apparently in France most people are happily settled in a relationship by their mid-30s (ie. don’t move to France hoping to fall in love ladies. You’ve got better odds here.). I asked the guys why they thought this was and one responded that most men want to start a family in their 30s. Was this the difference? Men want to settle down, ergo they date with serious intentions, ergo they find love by their 30s so they can have kids. I realised I have no idea when Aussie guys want to start having kids (if they want them at all). Is our youth-perpetuating culture resulting in a pitiful dating culture because no one wants to settle down? Perhaps this is something to investigate in the next round of WWWtK.

On that note, I ask the French guys what a woman can do to increase her chances of a guy asking her out.

“Be a lady,” one of them said. For months now I’ve been thinking we need to be more like American women, friendly and (god help me) flirty and assertive. But perhaps what we’ve lost is that ability to lure men in with the feminine mystique French women are known for. Perhaps what we need to do is splice the American openness with French femininity, stick the petri dish somewhere warm and then dose ourselves daily with the resulting bacteria. What do you think?

 ~ ~ ~

As an aside, I had a great time asking guys our WWWtK question. They loved the idea that readers were sending in questions to add to my survey. I got some hilarious and some insightful responses. Can’t wait to share them with you in March.

The love-barrier

20 Sep

An alarming number of single women among my social group (myself included) suffer from a chronic condition. We constantly complain about the symptoms: fatigue, anxiety, stress, tardiness. And as the longer days hint of the approaching summer, we shake our heads knowing our condition is going to flare up like angry eczema. Even though there are things we can do to help manage our condition, reining it in proves to be an impossible task. RBS (Ridiculously Busy Syndrome) has become our way of life.

RBS commonly occurs in single women living in Sydney. Having so many options for entertainment, combined with no obligations toward a Significant Other, means our interests can consume most of our time outside work. My social circle is primarily female, the majority single, and made up of people with diverse interests. But one thing we have in common is that We Are Oh-So Busy All The Time.

Part of this busyness is because we all have things we love to pursue, whether it’s music, fitness, fashion, psychology or fine food. But I wonder whether it’s also partly because we don’t have anyone (aka Mr Lovely) at home to help us slow down. Instead of seeing how a relaxing Sunday could pan out, most of us have a series of events to carry us through the day, inevitably leading us to be happily socialised but rather exhausted. An eventless day on the calendar is an endangered species or something that’s been deliberately scheduled to catch up on less appealing chores, like tax returns or Gumption-ing the shower recess.

Although I enjoy feeling like I’m living a full and productive life, I can’t ignore the thought that RBS might be a barrier to love. In our rush to get from one event to another, to make the most of the time we have with our friends, to finish this and move on to that, to see that film and go to that festival and attend that event, are we missing out on catching the eye of that guy sitting a few tables away, or waiting for the train on the same platform as us, or enjoying the sun in the park? We’ve all heard the quote that’s often used as a metaphor for love:  

You can chase a butterfly all over the field and never catch it. But if you sit quietly in the grass it will come and sit on your shoulder.

Despite my cynicism of all things Hallmark, perhaps there’s some truth in this saying.

Last Sunday I spent a few hours at Bondi Beach. Festival of the Winds was on and I was hoping thermanMap says let's go fly a kite!e’d be a crowd. The sun was out and the kites looked stunning against the blue sky. But I felt anxious about meeting my survey quota. There were so many families getting involved but (not sure why this didn’t occur to me earlier!) kites didn’t seem to be a huge draw-card for the average man. Kicking myself for wasting precious surveying time, I headed beyond the area of the festival and there they were: clusters of men catching up on Vitamin D and enjoying some down-time. Many of them weren’t locals. They’d just decided to hang out at Bondi for the day because it was sunny. They weren’t planning to swim or fly kites and yet they were there.

Not once have my friends and I deliberately headed to a grassy patch to watch the world go by. Our gatherings, particularly during the day, always involve activities. Perhaps this is where we’re going wrong. Our movement is scaring away the butterflies. I’m not generally one to make New Year’s resolutions, but perhaps this would be a good one: schedule in some regular time to be still. That way, even if my butterfly* doesn’t flutter past, I can at least loosen the grip of RBS.

*With apologies to my future partner for likening him to a feminine insect. Whoever you are, I’m sure you’re most manly and not at all butterfly-esque. 🙂

To love and to part

9 Aug

It isn’t possible to love and part. You will wish that it was. You can transmute love, ignore it, muddle it, but you can never pull it out of you.

– EM Forster A Room with a View

In a time when travel is engrained in our culture, lovers are often parted. Most of us at some point will be interested in someone from overseas or with plans to relocate. Sometimes it doesn’t matter. Both parties know it’ll be a short-lived romance and embrace the experience without hopes of a future together. Sometimes the pull of love is too strong and people decide to change their plans. And then there are times when parting is inevitable in spite of a couple’s happiness and they must choose to default back to singledom or pursue a long-distance relationship.

I recently had dinner with a lovely wing-girl who’s found herself in this position. She enjoyed a six month relationship with a man who was moving overseas. When she started seeing him, she knew that he wasn’t staying in Sydney and she was, but they got along well and that undefinable something was there so she thought, ‘Why not?’

I really admire that my friend put herself out there despite knowing the relationship had a limited lifespan. I definitely (and to my detriment) possess the ‘don’t get hurt’ reflex that stops me from investing emotionally in something with a known shelf-life. I’m very much a future tense person, sacrificing the present by focussing on what may or may not happen, which is a terrible way to approach love. In Sex and the City, Jack Berger jokes to Carrie, ‘Maybe we should go out on a date before we break up.’ A sentiment I need to keep in mind.

So as you can imagine, it was with some trepidation that I headed to Bondi on Sunday, hoping to catch the post-City tomanMap enjoys the Bondi scenary Surf crowd. The eastern suburbs are an area I don’t know much about, other than the fact that they’re filled with temporary residents from across the globe, keen to enjoy beach-life while they’re here. A terrifying prospect for a woman who loves men with accents but fears falling for someone who won’t stay in the Land of Oz for long.

After recovering from the shock of seeing the huge queues of people waiting for a bus back to the city, I set about surveying the men enjoying the sun and salt-laced air. The first group of guys I approached were having a great laugh and they were friendly too. But sadly they were Irish guys living in Melbourne, so no luck there. The next batch were Sydney-siders plus one European who’d settled in Bondi. The third were all very attractive with insanely white teeth but didn’t speak English. Not very conducive to surveying. As I worked my way from group to group across the grass I felt like I was at the opening ceremony of the Olympics. There were guys from all over the world relaxing in the sun. In fact the international crowd outnumbered the local crowd, but I suspect all the Aussies were at the pub.  

So if you’re looking for someone exotic, I recommend heading to Bondi on a sunny day. Those of you not into the bar scene should strategically position your picnic basket near a cluster of guys on the grass. Hopefully they’ll speak English (or you’re multilingual) so you can invite them to share the food you’ve brought. Pavlova anyone?

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!