Tag Archives: meeting people

Alone Together: Urban Life In Vancouver

There’s been a lot of fuss of late in the Vancouver media about dating, meeting people, and the perceived isolation that seems so typical of Vancouverites.

I don’t know how we have a reputation for friendly people, but I’m betting those folk who think so are judging us from sunny days. This is Jeckyll/Hydeville, and it’s a rainforest. When weather rolls in, so does a whole new grumpified citizen.

But I read a reader’s response in VanMag this week and the writer later suggested on Twitter that perhaps our anti-social bad-flirting ways is because of our dearth of truly public gathering places, like European plazas and public courts, where people can really mingle together.

Unbelievably, it’s been nearly two years since the Olympics landed in Vancouver. Those halcyon days were truly amazing for us because we’ve never been that gathering kinda community in this town. It was a new world.

Cynics would say every time we get together it ends in a riot, but that’s bullshit. Riots happen in civilized cities too because asshats are omnipresent. Welcome to life.

It’s true, though. Vancouver doesn’t “gather” a lot. We’re not into community like some other places. We like to think we are, but we’re not.

We’re the city Arthur Erickson helped build, for all its pluses and minuses.

Instead of grand sweeping public places where you’re all in it together, we’ve got spaces filled with hideouts, different levels, and either manmade or natural divides.

Look at Arthur Erickson’s legacy project, the heart of Downtown Vancouver, Robson Square.* Littered with little spaces where you can shun others and be alone, it’s almost as if to suggest being in public is good, so long as you don’t have to actually mingle. Three people here, five people there… it’s still a gathering spot, just filled with micropockets of people. Alone together, the Vancouver way.

Ducking into alcoves for privacy and hiding seems like a great option, a wondrous thing for readers and lovers, but it encourages us to have distance from one another too.

With all our forests and twisty long miles of beaches for us to get lost in, and the pockets of ethnic neighbourhoods and the growing economic/class divides, it kind of makes sense that we’re this disconnected community here in Vancouver. We don’t chat or talk on streets. There are endless commutes between communities, which means picking a neighbourhood means likely committing to a neighbourhood, unless you’re driving a car.

Add it all up, and we’ve stopped talking to strangers, and have become insular. It’s frustrating for anyone who doesn’t want to be in that mode. Deep down inside, I’ve got New York-meets-small-island sensitivities, and this town confuses me.

Plus, this insular world is a game-changer if you’re single but don’t want to join a club or do the online-hookup thing.

So, this fuss about “Vancouver men suck” for dating, well, it goes both ways, sugar. I know I’m guilty of not flirting, smiling, or starting enough conversations.

That’s oversimplifying things, though.

I think it’s bigger than that. I think the cost of living here affects how much we want to date, I think the changing economy and how so many of us in the city have ditched cars doesn’t help the dating life either. Every added inconvenience or wrinkle makes dating, et al, a bigger social chasm to cross. This thing, that thing, those things — oh, lord, can’t it just be simple?

For me, personally, I’m in that “life is complicated” stage and dating’s inconvenient. Hell, life’s inconvenient. 168 hours a week, and I don’t know where they go.

I know a lot of folks who think the same as I do, “Well, sex would be nice but I don’t want to feel obligated to anyone right now” or however you want to define the resistance. Relationships are made for compromise, that’s what it’s all about. Give, take. When you feel like you’ve got little left to give at the end of the week or the pay period, well, why try at all?

Does money, commute, weather, geography, and everything else all conspire to make Vancouverites more insular and sucky for dating? Probably all of the above, yes.

I’m leaving town at just the right stage, I think. I’m ready to have a more insular work life that encourages more after-hours socializing, rather than vice versa, but I’m happy I’ll be in a smaller city where it might be easier to do all of the above, and on a more friendly budget.

I’m sure I seem like the non-dating type these days, but I wasn’t always this way, and I’m excited to change gears on that front, and many others. I’m open to blind dates once I move, and plan to dial up my Flirt Number too.

After I cross the pond, gaining an outsider-looking-in perspective on my hometown will be interesting, because much of Vancouver’s allure baffles me in my jaded hamster-on-a-wheel present lifestyle.

I don’t know what’s broken in this town, but it’d be nice if the locals would learn to smile more, talk more, and celebrate that we’re all in this life together. Being civil to people on the streets actually feels good. Engaging with humans, it’s a positive thing. Feeling like we’re all a little more connected makes the big expanse a little less scary.

Live a little. Get out of your head. Say hi to people. Smile. Character is who you are when no one’s looking, but it’s also who you are in passing, too.

And if they don’t say hi or smile, do it again until someone else does. Don’t stoop to their level of isolation. Be in the world, not just of the world, as the old Biblical quote goes.

And what do you think? Why are we so… Vancouverish?

*Arthur Erickson’s “alone together” style of design also makes Simon Fraser University what it is. The campus is bleak but beautiful in the dark season, filled with isolated spots and, ironically, convenient places to jump from.

In Vino Veritas: Turning Points

[One of those into-and-almost-done-a-bottle-of-wine postings. Bear with me here.]

So, Mission: Get a Life is underway.

Making friends, for me? Not very hard. Not if I am myself. If I’m relaxed, content, sociable, people warm to me quickly and easily. And why not? I’m a good person. Better yet, I’m funny. I even make the aesthete’s basic requirement of being “smart” in the broad yet defined “non-Wikipedia” kind of way.

Bonus: I’m brutally frank. This makes me unpredictable. I still regularly shock my best friends of 15+ years, because I’m unflinchingly honest — always. Fortunately, I’m often (definitely not always) tactful, so it’s a little more easily swallowed. Even my employer calls me “honest to a fault”, but she laughs when saying it, and I notice coworkers will actively eavesdrop when I speak, so it can’t be that offensive. Yet. Continue reading

The Brave New Single World

I got out tonight, off my single ass, and met some new people.

The trouble with this city is just how entrenched everyone is and how hard it can be to meet new people.

I joined a social organization a year and a half or so ago, when my self-esteem was only beginning to be picked up off the floor, and tonight I finally made it out to my first event.

Meetup is a place where you can go and find “meet-up” groups that do things you like. Kayaking? Sure! Hiking? Sure! Photography? Sure! D&D? Sure! Dining? Sure! They’re all there. And unlike joining a group where you do varied events all the time, you can go to as few or as many different Meetup groups that you can find to appeal to your sensibilities. (The only fees tend to be a $1 – 2 drop-in fee, since the groups cost money to run each month. Pay and be quiet.)

(The organization is worldwide. Check the website out. More than 2.5 million international members, and more than 14,000 groups.)

The folks there tonight were all in their 30s and 40s, and were all smart, good conversationalists, funny, friendly, and so forth. It wasn’t just one of those things where you know the underlying thought is “who’s coming home with me tonight?” It’s genuinely about just meeting people.

But, hey, betcha some sex happens. I ain’t no bookie, but I know a thing or three ’bout odds, baby.

Naturally, I somehow managed to mention I wrote this smutty blog, so maybe they’ll say hi or something in the comments. (Hi!)

The point being: If you’re stuck in single, annoyed at your now-married friends, tired of seeing the latest “adowable!” stream of drool pouring down their kids’ faces, wishing your college friends had managed to evolve by now, or anything like that, then this is an awesome way to meet new people.

When you sign up, sign up for the email as well, so that you get the weekly digest that lists all the events happening that week. That way, you don’t just get notices about the Meetup group you joined, but about everything happening in your city, and on what days. That’s how I saw the listing for Clerks II when I shoulda been working and not checking email, and decided to get off my apathetic ass and head to the flick. (C II rocked, by the way. I’ll be writing about the pussy troll sometime. Laughed my ass off. Great fun.)

I’m not a joiner. I don’t wanna join a fucking team or take an art class or do some pottery, because it’s redundant. Same shit every time. I like variety. This way I have it.

Anyhow, some people have asked in the past how you meet new folks and how do you Be a Good Single Person. Well, not by hanging out in bars, not by sitting on your ass at home, but by doing something that allows you to engage with others in a safe environment, and this is that.

I would actually DISSUADE you from just joining a class or something. Couple reasons: One, you don’t liek the people, you’re fucked. No variety, same thing every week, no change in people, and it probably costs a lot more. This is an endless array of meets that occur on a plethora of topics, with a wide variety of people. Can’t beat it.

Check it. You might like it. I did.