In the last few weeks, a number of my friends have had interesting grocery store encounters. My buddy Valentine Cherry-Hill*, spotted a cute girl in the produce area of D.C.'s so-called "Soviet Safeway"--where the lines are as long as they were in Communist Russia--and they made meaningful eye contact. Though he didn't have the wherewithal to approach her in person, he put up a Missed Connections ad on Craig's List, which she responded to ... and now, they're going steady!
Another friend--Maurice Amsterdam*--was in a small market on the Upper West Side the other day when a gamine woman asked him if she should spend the extra couple dollars for organic strawberries. Somewhat startled by her unexpected question, Maurice mumbled, "Sure, why not? You're worth it!" and then shuffled off to the check-out counter. As soon as he walked out, shy (and yet shockingly handsome) Maurice kicked himself for not engaging in what she had obviously hoped would be a flirtation.
And then there's ... me! Do you remember how, a month or two ago, I flirted in line at Whole Foods with the groovy talking head I'd seen less than an hour before, holding forth on CNN? Granted, she was a girl--a brilliant Arab-American writer (and syndicated columnist!) named Mona Eltahawy. But we hit it off, and have hung since then. In fact, I'd even go so far as to say we're friends!
In other words: According to my personal research, 2 out of 3 grocery store flirtations end in successful relationships!**
As such, I decided to get some tips from the nice people who run the Whole Foods Market chain about how to increase your chances of finding love in the dairy aisle. They had team members from across the country write in with their insights ...
So, now, without further adieu:
TIPS FOR TOP-QUALITY GROCERY-STORE FLIRTING!
TIP # 1: HANG OUT IN THE DEMO STATION!
Why? Here, you have a guaranteed topic of conversation: whatever food you are sampling. You also have a perfect excuse to hang around for a minute or two, as you use that toothpick to eat your little Swedish meatball, or use another tiny cracker to scoop the remaining bit of spicy hummus from your tiny cup. And there's nothing wrong with grabbing a second sample (Whole Foods promises!) if you need an excuse to stick around for a while. Plus, the brochures and recipes that are available at the demo station are perfect material if you need to write down somebody's number or email address ...
If a store is pouring free wine samples, I'm sure I don't have to tell you, it's an even more opportune moment to break the ice.
Similarly, any grocery that has a dine-in area (like many Whole Foods do) or a small attached coffee shop (like the Stop & Shop in my father's town does) affords a nice opportunity for a flirtation that will feel more casual than it would at a bar.
TIP #2: FLIRTY QUESTIONS YOU ASK JUST ABOUT ANYWHERE IN THE STORE
LADIES: Don't be afraid to ask a cute guy for help reaching something on one of the top aisles!
And regardless of your gender, if you spot something interesting in another person's cart, feel free to ask about it. You might say Wow! I see you have an entire flounder there. How are you going to prepare that puppy? Or: I've been meaning to try the sunflower seed butter; do you like it? Or: Do you think paying extra for organic berries is worth it?
At the same time, you should ...
TIP #3: AVOID AISLES WHERE "PERSONAL PRODUCTS" ARE SOLD
Some people would be quite uncomfortable if someone came up to them and asked them if they liked the smell of a certain body wash while they were throwing a bottle of, say, dandruff shampoo in to their cart. It will also be embarrassing to have someone tap you on the shoulder and ask your opinion about multi-vitamins just as you're reaching for that box of laxative pills. Also potentially, um, asinine? Trying to make conversation in front of the toilet paper display. To avoid awkwardness, stick to spots where food is for sale--or try the flower area.
TIP # 4: DO THE CHAT-UP AT THE CHECK-OUT
While you're waiting for your turn to pay: that's a great time to get to know your fellow (cute) shopper. (Who among us wouldn't welcome a nice, friendly, flirtatious distraction when we've got nothing better to do than feel pissed off about how long the line is?) Strike up the conversation by asking about the cooking or yoga magazine someone is flipping through; or grab the latest copy of--I don't know--maybe Marie Claire! out of the rack and commenting on one of the headlines.
As always, what have you got to lose?
*All names are porn-star names.
**This data is not FDA-approved.
DEAR COMMENTERS: I'm glad it seems to be unanimous: you guys didn't think I was being too judgmental with Chef Du Jour. And to the woman who is originally from Europe: I like your analysis of the situation! It DID sound like he did to me the thing he does to everyone else in his life! ... As for your questions about Elevator Man: Hmm, lots of people seem to be wondering why I didn't go out with him again. It's hard to say what wasn't there, between us, except that I just didn't feel the chemistry. We have been in touch via email since the date, though; he's written to me a couple times. But still, I can't see it going anywhere.
Also, it sounds like it'd be worth doing a post about who pays on a first date, huh?