It's kind of like first date jitters.
As I dial the stranger's number, I can feel my heart fluttering, my fingers shaking. I take in a shaky breath right before the phone stops ringing and I hear the voice of a man on the other end:
If you live in New York, you've probably already spotted one of his tear-off tab fliers:
"Looking For a Girlfriend" is printed in bold, blackened typeface. The face of man stares you back squarely in the eye.
The printed plea is simple, unassuming: "I'm really looking for a girlfriend. This is not a joke. Just tired of the singles scene and hoping to meet the right person. I am a professional artist and creative person. You know who you are. To me each and every person is beautiful. Open to the possibility of the relationship morphing into something more profound."
Sweet if not a tad idealistic, right? I decided to ring him up and get his story.
His name is Dan Perino and he's a 50-year-old artist living in the West Village. He plans to post 500 fliers every day for 30 days. (If you do the math, that's about 15,000 fliers in total — this guy is seriously committed). So far, he's received about 400 calls. On Friday alone, he received 131 calls.
So what's his deal? Why not just sign up on OkCupid or Tindr like everybody else? "I don't believe in internet dating or Craigslist because that would just put me on the internet all day long," he griped. Fair enough.
For Perino, there's actually a little more to this than meets the eye. He's calling it a "great social experiment" and he's already come to a few of his own conclusions about the modern dating scene. "I met a girl a month ago at a bar," he recalled over the phone. "She was beautiful, but she turned me down. It gave me the idea. I wanted to learn about women and men, about relationships."
That isn't to say that he hasn't had a few ahem, interesting, propositions so far.
"This girl — she was leading me on — and I said I was going to call. But when I called her number, I got this message: 'Make a chimpanzee noise to hear my number. And bark like a dog to hear my voicemail.' It turns out she was a stripper with a boyfriend, and she just wanted to have fun with me. I'm on the internet now, so people know my face. People have chased me down the street. Men have called asking me, 'How much?' They all want to have sex with me."
Off the phone and around the city, his interactions are drastically different.
"I noticed something — that women are very, very shy on the phone," he observed. "But outside, women show a lot of affection, and you see it in couples walking down the street. The woman will rub her boyfriend's back, touch his arm, or try to hold hands. And men actually shoo that. Men are totally opposite. A lot of guys hoot and holler at a woman, but that's not affection. Today, you have people getting married, but there's no affection, no communication. There's no communication on a movie theater date."
I guess you could consider him a casual philosophizing observer of the dating scene ... who also happens to be looking for his match.
"I'm just a guy looking for a girlfriend," he said. "But I'll be alone in bed before I go into a bar to pick up a woman."
Then I hope those 15,000 fliers work out for you, man. Best of luck.