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ISSUE 119 VOL 16 PUBLISHED 4/14/2006

Two gals and a guru

By Alyssa Kleven
Contributing Writer
and Stephanie Soucheray
News Editor

Friday, April 14, 2006

According to dating guru David Wygant, men aren't just dogs, they're Scooby-Doo. When over 200 St. Olaf students packed The Lion's Pause last Thursday to hear one of the nation's foremost dating experts promote his book, "Always Talk to Strangers," and comment on flirting, pick-up lines and the dreaded "friend zone," those in the audience were treated to some of Wygant's more colorful analogies.

According to Wygant, a self-proclaimed "media personality" with admittedly no training in psychology, men are like Scooby-Doo, the simpleminded, oversized, tongue-wagging cartoon dog who will do anything to get a Scooby Snack. That's right, ladies: Before you assume Wygant was picking on men by comparing them to cartoon dogs, it should be said that he compared women to the crispy biscuit Scooby-Doo is rewarded after he helps solve crimes. Never high-tech or politically correct, Wygant used humor and audience participation to get his advice about dating and meeting people across to the excited audience.

Wygant's basic message was simple: Get out and meet people. Wygant believes 50 percent of people will like you and 50 percent will not. The only way you can work these odds is to smile, make eye contact, and chat with every person you find attractive.

Though Wygant's advice is simple, it gives the prospective dater a lot of confidence. Wygant claims that rejection is never about you not fitting into someone else's life, it is about him or her not fitting into yours. Thus, the prospective dater should see every person as a potential friend, not someone destined to think he or she is not cute or smart enough.

Although the women's studies majors may find fault with Wygant's Scooby Doo analogy, his message was refreshingly gender-neutral. Unlike the authors of "He's Just Not That Into You" or "The Rules," Wygant does not believe that women need to wait around for men to ask them out. He believes that members of either sex should be aggressive if they want to, and actually blamed men's passivity for a lot of common dating snafus.

Using audience volunteers, Wygant illustrated some of his dating advice. He reminded the audience that everyone's favorite thing to talk about is themselves, so if you don't know how to approach your crush, ask him or her about an interesting article of clothing, the book the person is reading, or what sort of sandwich he or she is getting in the bag lunch line. Wygant guaranteed a positive and comfortable interaction if people listen to the prospective mate.

Clad in a metallic silver leather jacket, cowboy boots, a three-inch red leather cuff watch and an overall Zoolander quality, Wygant is a 43-year-old entrepreneur. He got into the dating scene after transforming his social life in college. As a former actor and bar-owner in New York, and after several decades of successful and satisfying dating, Wygant was pressured by friends to help them with their pick-up game. Now, millionaires and celebrities will pay Wygant to spend one week with them $10,000 to help them meet partners, adjust their image with a private consultation, and learn how to get greater sex appeal.

As two single women and audience members, we laughed during Wygant's talk. We appreciated some of his tips, but honestly, we were left wanting more. We wanted to believe there had to be more to the secret world of dating besides eye contact and interesting questions, so we gave Wygant a taste of his own medicine. After the talk, we did our best to walk confidently towards Wygant, smiling and looking in his eyes the whole time. We wanted to do the unthinkable: We wanted to date the Dating Guru.

First, we asked him if he was interested in going out after the program and he gave us an enthusiastic "Yes." Because it was Thursday night and because we live in Northfield, our social outing was limited to the karaoke mecca that is Froggy Bottoms. We asked Wygant to be our X-ray vision into the St. Olaf dating scene.

What sort of social interaction did he witness when he examined our school? Why do people "not date," as almost any Ole will tell you? We wanted answers to these questions, but we also wanted image consultations (Would he like our bangs?) and the answer to one big question in the back of every single's mind: What the hell is wrong with us?

Well, apparently, what's wrong with Stephanie is her gray fleece Columbia jacket, proclaimed by Wygant to be the "least sexy thing you could possibly wear." After removing the jacket, Wygant squinted like a scientist looking through a microscope at deadly bacteria. He sipped his Pinot Noir and made one comment that convinced us of his magical power: "You went to Catholic school, didn't you?"

Shocked at his accuracy, we put ourselves in his hands for the rest of the night. Wygant was easier on Alyssa. Her glasses made her eyes "mysterious," but as Wygant's eyes landed on her fake Target brand Birkenstocks, he grimaced. Everyone at the table agreed that not only are the shoes "dirty hippie" shoes, but that the fashion sin was made worse by the fact they weren't even real.

Before you think Wygant is only good at criticizing people's Midwestern dressing habits, let us share that he was a great date, because he was a great conversationalist. He told us about his life journey, which included many, many women. He talked about the evils of SUVs and suburban moms who drive them. We talked about the beauty of Berlin at Christmastime, the importance of a first kiss and the dreaded "friend zone."

After observing the action at Froggy's for over two hours, Wygant had two general thoughts about the St. Olaf dating scene. The first was that too many boys and girls are in the "friend zone." Not to be mistaken for actual friendship, the "friend zone" occurs when acquaintances share some chemistry, but nobody wants to initiate things out of fear of rejection and the possibility of encountering your "friend zone" crush on our tiny campus after things get awkward. So, people stay put and dates never materialize.

Wygant encouraged more Oles to be flirty and test the waters. In other words, don't be afraid to touch your "friend zone" crush's arm when they make a joke, or say something flirtatious to them, along the lines of "I had a dream about you last night." Though we may not use the dream line (It's just sort of creepy), Wygant's call for a little more spunk to get out of the "friend zone" inspired us.

The second phenomenon Wygant witnessed was what he calls "pack mentality." Often seen at bars, and among high school and college students, members of the same sex group together and become unapproachable to perspective dates. It doesn't allow you to make much eye contact, or to talk to someone without it seeming like you're interviewing them in front of your friends.

By the end of the night, we agreed that our time with Wygant was well spent. It wasn't because he was a particularly great date, but rather, a great person. And after all, finding fun, interesting people who make the hours at Froggy's fly by is what dating is all about.

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