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Every day and every night, thousands of girls sit in offices, go to parties, wait for elevators to come and lights to change, buckle their airplane seat belts, and strap-hang on subways, and look wistfully at the princes, near princes, and knaves they cannot quite start conversations with.

Way back in the dark ages of dating (you know, before the Internet), most people picked up a date the same way they picked up a bad cold—either a friend, family member, or co-worker was responsible, or they simply stumbled onto it in the street. These days, things are a little different. Strangers rarely speak to one another on the street or the coffee shop or the commuter train, either out of fear, shyness, disdain, or because they’re already involved in a long-term relationship with their cell phone.

And dating at work is equally problematic. Not only is it risky from a professional standpoint (reason for leaving: got caught fucking in the supply closet), many companies have instituted strict “no dating” policies. As have countless singles after enduring one too many setups with Throat-Clearing Girl or Enormous Head Guy, courtesy of their seemingly insane married friends.

Between life’s distractions—technological and otherwise— and the ever-growing array of shiny new dating options, few people give much thought to the old-fashioned methods of meeting. In fact, most of us would just as soon pour out our hearts to some faceless cyberstranger than strike up a conversation with that cute guy or girl standing three feet away from us at the bookstore.

Why? Because we’re chicken. And, well, lazy.

Unfortunately, all this comfort comes with a cost.

“I do think online interaction erodes face-to-face courtship,” says O’Brien. “The art of flirting gets lost.”

So how do you meet someone without an online profile, a three-minute speed date, or an electronic wink?

 
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