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Lynn Hummel: Connecting in the first half hour

This column is dedicated to “singles” — unmarried people, young and old. If you read the paper or watch TV you’ve noticed there are numerous websites to help match you with another single. Some advertise they specialize in casual dates, deep relationships, or both. One is for “hookups” only — whatever that might mean. They match people by age, profiles, personality tests and even zip code. Zip code may sound ridiculous, but if your perfect match lives in a zip code 2,000 miles away, who would make the call? Some of the best known websites are eHarmony,, Christian Mingle, Single Parent and Black People For those of us who connected before the age of computer matchmaking, the whole process sounds scary. For example, if you have to send a picture of yourself, how old can the picture be without being a fraud or false advertising?

Of course, arranging that first meeting is only the beginning. According to a recent survey, 13 percent of people have actually walked out on a first date (does the disappointed person left sitting there get a discount if he/she paid a dating service? Don’t even wonder). But — even scarier — 66 percent of people decide in the first half hour if there will be another date.

What this means is that in the world of dating, first impressions are a big deal. Some psychologists say you have about three minutes to make that first impression, so if you’re planning on a half hour to get warmed up, you may miss the train.

For those of us who flatter ourselves to believe that we’re the old reliable types who grow on people after they’ve had a chance to get to know us, the 30-minute-get-acquainted window is mission impossible. One can only imagine the eventual scene in Herman, Minnesota when it was advertised that there were too many bachelor farmers and not enough eligible women. What was it like when the first busload of single women arrived from Chicago? How did that work out? I’m afraid to ask. The only thing worse would be to advertise that Williston, North Dakota needs 1,000 eligible women.

I always thought a clean shirt, a big smile and a few minutes of friendly chit-chat should be enough to break the ice. But for those of us who are basically shy about talking to strangers (those who say they aren’t are bluffers), a clean shirt is the easy part. But how do you do the big smile and the friendly chit-chat when you’re frozen with doubt, fear and sinking confidence? Difficult at any age.

My friend Bob has a way of meeting people and making conversation. A while ago, he was traveling through Wisconsin and had to stop for a bathroom break, but couldn’t find a bathroom. He spotted a funeral home and knew they always had bathrooms, so he went in. He hadn’t noticed the cluster of cars parked outside. When he walked in the door, there was an open casket before him and a viewing line, so he thought he’d better go through the viewing line before he tried to find the bathroom. He immediately put on his solemn, mournful face and assumed a respectful attitude. When he got to the casket, he observed an elderly man. The guy ahead of Bob in the line looked at Bob like he expected a comment. Bob said, “he sure was a great guy.” Then he found the bathroom and quickly got on the road again. Fifty years earlier, his opening line to a young woman would have been “Athlete, class president.”

Obviously, even with computer matchups, there will always be the necessity of an opening line (which sounds better than “pick up” line doesn’t it?) Here are seven that have a chance (only slight) of working:

  • “Do you believe in love at first sight or should I walk by again?”
  • “I’m not trying to impress you or anything... but I’m Batman.”
  • “I’m not actually this tall — I’m standing on my wallet.”
  • “Hi, I’m Mr. Right. I heard you were looking for me.”
  • “Did the sun come out or did you just smile at me?”
  • “Didn’t I see you on the cover of Vogue?”
  • “Bond — James Bond.”