By Kathy Flanigan
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
If you're unhappily single, there are two ways to look at the upcoming holidays: with dread and with less dread.
Experts advise less dread.
The dating czars suggest that for singletons, the holidays are the best season in which to flirt your way to a partner for dating's biggest night - New Year's Eve.
They can't promise it will be easy. But it really should be fun.
_Go to a party, even if you're not invited.
"Everybody needs to go to every holiday party that they're invited to or they need to go as a guest," proclaimed Patti Feinstein, a Chicago-based dating coach.
Men and women tend to get all "freaked out about being single," Feinstein said. "Turn it around and look at all the opportunities you get at this time of year. This is the time where you don't need pickup lines."
_Flirt, even if you don't know what you're doing.
Women need to give a man a reason to talk to them. Feinstein recommends wearing a "cute little Santa hat." Rachel Greenwald has bigger plans for the uncoupled.
Greenwald is the author of "Find a Husband After 35," a 15-step program based on strategies learned at Harvard Business School. You won't necessarily find flirting instructions, but you will understand why it's important to be out there networking.
Greenwald offered flirting lessons by phone from her Colorado home while her three children played. First, do your own market research. Prepare conversation talking points. "That's not easy. That takes time," Greenwald said.
"Flirting isn't just the superficial batting of the eyes," she said.
At the party, make eye contact with a man but don't approach him first. Just smile. It helps if you bring something as a conversation starter. Wear a Packers pin (but not necessarily any sports clothing). Have an interesting handbag, scarf or earrings - something that prompts conversation.
And then talk. If you want the conversation to continue, or want him to call again, Greenwald suggests a couple of tactics: Mention a book you've recently read but don't quite give up the entire title. Offer your e-mail so you can look it up for him.
Jill Schlosser, 30, has heard of the book, but she's not yet at the husband-seeking stage. She considers each holiday party an opportunity to meet all kinds of people. She will, however, prepare talking points for a date - to ensure both parties have a good time.
But as far as feeling like a lonely singleton this time of year - it doesn't happen, Schlosser said. Not with her attitude.
"I think the other thing is, in general, people are just nicer to each other this time of year with the holidays," Schlosser said. "In some ways that's like natural flirting."
_Be confident. Even if you're not.
Offering equal time for men is Alan Goldsher, 37, relationship columnist for Match.com. Goldsher, an author and musician, had no background in writing about relationships when he took the job. He is not a psychologist, but he writes like one online.
That takes confidence. And Goldsher, who lives in Chicago, recommends that every time.
"Even if you're not necessarily confident, act confident," Goldsher said. "Women are far more impressed by someone confident."
He stands by his words. "My philosophy in life, in general, is ask. I'm sort of an `I-don't-care' kind of guy. I just ask. `Hey, I'm Alan. You seem like you're pretty cool. Want to go out sometime?'"
In the meantime, he has developed and recommends "a bullet-proof ego." Goldsher understands the frustration of not being attached this time of year. A few years back he was dating someone. The couple was talking in bed when she sprung the news that she didn't want to see Goldsher anymore. He was - get this - too nice.
"She dumped me two weeks before New Year's Eve," he said.
"To be honest, I hate New Year's Eve. I never had a girlfriend on New Year's Eve."
_Dating makes you feel young. Even if you're not.
This starts the busy season at Single Attractions, a video dating service in Milwaukee.
"It's really funny because as soon as September is over and the weather starts getting a little bit colder and all the festivals are over, people start getting worried about the holidays," said co-owner Kathy Badura.
Clients range in age from 25 to 82, Badura said. Most of them are professionals who want to increase their odds on pairing up. They pay a fee that begins at $595 for the first year and then choose from several videos.
Badura and her partner, Connie Lichtenberger, advise clients on how to make the best video; how to submit a good photograph for the file; and how to fill out the personal questionnaire.
For instance, don't submit a picture of you holding a prize-winning fish for your file. Sure, mention that you enjoy fishing once in a while "but we don't need to see a picture of the largest fish they ever caught," Badura said.
We asked Badura and Lichtenberger for five tips on how to close the deal when you get the date. They offered: "Put your best foot forward and dress to impress. If you're meeting somewhere make sure you're on time and make sure you know the exact details of where you're meeting. Be interesting and interested. Enjoy your time together even though you may not feel it's a future relationship for you.
"Don't tell your entire life history as far as dating and divorce at this point. Save that for a later date. Don't talk about anything that's negative or very heavy."
_Smile. Even if you don't feel like it.
Coach Feinstein recommends what she calls "one, two, smile." Catch the eye of another person. Look at them for two seconds. Smile. Then look away.
Flirting isn't off-limits if you're at an office holiday party, according to Greenwald, who has an MBA from Harvard. Think of the party as networking - casting that wider net for a partner.
Most likely, singletons will decide this is the last year they go without a significant other.
"We definitely see a cumulative ramp up with an interest in dating. It starts around Thanksgiving and peaks for Valentine's Day," said Trish McDermott, vice president of romance for Match.com.
Match.com surveyed 1,000 of its online clients and found that 87 percent of singles claim to be optimistic about the holidays. At the same time, 31 percent said they feel extra pressure to be dating during the holiday season.
Not so for Steve Kelley, 33, of Milwaukee. Although the Match.com member understands the sentimentality of the holidays and "the desire to refocus, redouble efforts to meet someone," he's happy to go to holiday events stag.
"I tend to like freedom," Kelley said.
© 2003, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.