Are you single and miserable?
It may be time to ignore your mother's advice and talk to strangers.
Not in bars -- but at dry cleaners and gas stations, according to dating coach David Wygant, who, with Bryan Swerling, has written a new advice book, "Always Talk to Strangers: 3 Simple Steps to Finding the Love of Your Life" (Penguin, $13.95).
"Single people are everywhere," writes Wygant, who points to a "passive waiter mentality" as the cause of the problems with dating today. And he's not talking about restaurants.
"Why is it that when it comes to love, so many people believe that it'll someday simply fall out of the sky," says Wygant, who has some clients who pay him up to $10,000 for a private counseling session.
Ditch the movies "Sleepless in Seattle" and "Serendipity," he says. "They play on our hopes that love is predetermined and written in the stars. Ask yourself how many times you've seen the story lines in those two particular movies happen in real life."
"Don't buy into the myths that Hollywood sells to you," he says. "If you meet the right person, love will develop over time."
Before you speak up, though, you may need to give yourself a physical tune-up.
For women, "touchable" hair is a must-have, Wygant says; mustaches are a must-not. He suggests limiting the number of ear pierces to a hole or two in each ear -- "Ten holes says you spend entirely too much time at the mall."
For men, no ponytails or earrings; they're out of style by at least 10 years, he says. And get rid of the ear wax, nose hair and back hair. Wearing a simple necklace is OK, but no gaudy jewelry.
Both men and women are advised to get pedicures.
Once you're looking your best, it's time to start talking.
Wygant said the real way to meet others is to project "availability" while you do your errands or work.
"You can actually get so caught up in what you're doing that you emit a frightening vibe to others," he says.
He finds that same vibe often is purposefully emitted at a bar, where people go to pick up others.
"When they get there, they completely shut down and put up barriers," he says.
That's why he suggests avoiding bars and looking for members of the opposite sex as you go about your day -- "bookstores, coffee shops, restaurants, movies, work . . ."
"Become aware of people looking at you," he writes. "The truth is people look at things that interest them. If you find people looking at you, then most likely they're interested in something about your appearance."
For those introverts who are frightened to approach and make small talk with a stranger, Wygant recommends "Boot Camp Internet Dating," which allows a person to "practice" dating while meeting new people.
He cites one man who, after 150 Internet dates, met a woman he is very much in love with and has been dating for two years. "He says it was a fun journey and worth it just to find her," Wygant writes.
If that number scares you off, maybe it's time to start talking to strangers. Some approaches he suggests in his book include:
Coffee shops: "Sit next to another solitary Sitter. . . . Talk to them about the latest overpriced blockbuster in the movie theater. . . . Don't worry about bothering them until they give you a clear sign you are."
Bookstores: "Pay attention to what others are reading and browsing through. It's extremely easy to tell someone you have read the book they're looking at and either recommend it or not."
Movie theaters: "If you're a woman, go check out the latest action film. . . . If you're a man, go look for the latest light romantic comedy." When you're leaving, he says, "Why not turn to the stranger next to you and ask them what they thought of the movie?"
Department stores: "If you're a woman, spend some time in the men's section. . . . The same goes for men. Look around the women's department. Ask someone you find attractive if you think that your sister or close female friend would like a pair of pants like the ones you're holding."
Yoga: "Unfortunately for women and fortunately for men, the ratio is usually 5 to 1 in favor of the guys. Therefore, if you're a man who doesn't mind putting your body through 90 minutes of pure torture in an unnatural position, this is a great place to meet someone."
Gas station: "Take a look at who is filling up around you. Instead of daydreaming, start up a conversation. . . . Talk about how much you like their car or how high the price of gasoline has become."