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Those of you who live in Brooklyn may have noticed, over the winter, spring, and summer, signs popping up around subway stations and attached to trash cans with the romantic call to action of "Dating: One Nite Stands Only." In the fine print, along with the phone number to call if interested, there are some notes about what exactly this entails. "Dutch dating," "the library," "bookstore," "window shopping," and "a walk date" are all options. To what end, also, is clarified: "Meaning maybe romance." That's what anyone would expect from a best case scenario date, perhaps. Of course, this posted sign is something of a joke, passed around on Twitter with laughs over who exactly this guy thinks he is (a comedian, maybe?) and whether anyone has actually called (someone did! We have not). But it's an old-school harkening back, however ineffectual, to a time when dating was a little more simple, or, maybe, just not on the computer.

Online dating is now so commonplace that we need scientific research to remind us that, oh yes, it's not that as a form of dating it's any better at helping you find your soulmate (or just a likely companion) than the traditional varieties. It's not as if dating websites have uncovered some magic bullet of love, as much as they may purport to do so; their algorithms are algorithms but they are not perfect. What is true is that, generally, the more people you meet who are looking for a relationship or "maybe romance," the more likely you are to find one of them to your liking, and drum up something mutual. And dating websites make it easier to consider quite a lot of people, so they automate the process and make it more efficient. It's not a matter of science, it's a matter of the statistics. Eventually, if you look long enough and meet enough people, say the people who advise in such matters, it will happen. Right?

But some people, like Mr. Maybe Romance above, are sticking with the old-school methods. For example, Adam Orna, 39, a resident of the Bronx, who hangs out in Union Square Park regularly with his own sign. The New York Times has a cringeworthy-but-maybe-a-little-sweet piece on Orna, a man not unlike any number of people on the verge of 40, thinking again about what they want in life, and feeling like it's someone to share that life with. Having hit up the bar and club scenes and tried his hand at online dating (none of which worked for him), he's written his request on a sign that says, "Please Date Me." It also puts forth his qualifications: "Single, healthy, loyal, straight, marriage-minded, marathon runner, vegetarian." He's got a decently salaried job with benefits and owns a condo. So why does something about this seem so terribly sad? Alex Vadukul writes

He sometimes wears a nice suit, sleeves rolled up, and hands out roses to women. “Hello beautiful, care for a rose?” is a frequent opening, as is a friendly wave accompanied by his boyish smile. Women tend to ignore his advances, but he is polite and soft-spoken, never handling rejection badly. That resilience is a good thing, for rejection tends to come in bunches.

Perhaps it's because, as daters, we're trained to think that if someone wants something too much, it's yucky, scary, or there must be something wrong with them. Perhaps it's because we're supposed to be so cool, and anything people do publicly, online or off, to show their cards (or strategies) is likely to meet with mockery. No one wants to be a creep, and yet, we're all creepy in our own special ways! Is it creepy to want love? No. Is it creepy to hold a sign saying that you do? Hm.

Maybe, also, it's because urban-dwelling women are trained not to take roses from strangers, or to respond to their comments or requests, because that can too easily go down an uncomfortable road. But in a city in which women are always saying "there are no good men," and with a backdrop upon which we regularly bemoan men as afraid of commitment or Peter Pan syndrome-afflicted, it's rather funny, and maybe not funny ha ha, that a guy who comes right out and says what he wants wouldn't get any serious takers. Of course, at the same time, he's standing on the street holding a sign. Who's going to stop for that? Who's not going to mock it at the same time that we maybe feel a little bit bad for having done so?

In fairness, though, he's really just incorporating the theory of online dating—cast the net wide, say what you want, portray yourself authentically, and don't worry about rejection—in a sort of grassroots man-on-the-street way: 

At his post, Mr. Orna dutifully greeted passing women and ignored the occasional pedestrians who laughed at him. “It’s like fishing,” he said. “Some days you get something. Some days, nothing.”

He just wants what everyone else does. Maybe romance. Or, actually, definitely romance: He told Vadukul, “There have been nights I’ve cried I was so lonely. You’ve got a good job, good hobbies, but what good is it if there’s no one to share it with?” Aw/facepalm. A sign doesn't keep you warm at night, but neither does a computer (toasted leg syndrome notwithstanding). But, yes, someone date this guy and report back, please.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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