Here are some things Spencer Robertson, former Bachelorette contestant, is good at: Water treatment (a family occupation), decisiveness, and the casual shirtless photo. Here are some things the 31-year-old is not good at: Break-ups, working for anyone other than himself, and saying “no” to once-in-a-lifetime opportunities like appearing on the popular ABC franchise. “If you were to ask any of my friends, they would never have pegged me as someone who would have gone on the show,” Robertson, from his home in San Diego, California, tells The Manual. “Screw it. I’m going to do it.”
Alas, Robertson’s foray into reality TV did not end in true love; he was eliminated in week eight of 13-episode season. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t know how to date. “You’re a needle in a stack of needles,” he says of the experience, and it was unsurprisingly tough to gain momentum with bachelorette Tayshia Adams when any small amount of time with her was then followed by three or four days without. “In the real world, that’s not the case,” he says, “and if it is the case, you’re dating the wrong person.”
At the time of this writing, Robertson is single but unconcerned. He dates at will, and judging from his Instagram, he’s not missing any good times waiting for Ms. Right. “Organic” is his philosophy, when it happens, it happens, and in the meantime he’s off on the next adventure. So we tapped him to provide a how-to for the dating hopeful. From where to meet someone through that all-important first date, he’ll get you to closer to your real-life rose ceremony.
Let’s be honest, online dating doesn’t carry the stigma it once did in the era of VHS. Whether you’re on Bumble, Match, or even Tinder, just about everyone uses these apps to cast a wider net. “It’s a decent way to meet people, especially if you’re new to a city,” says Robertson, who admits to using Hinge in the past. Sometimes friends would elbow him, saying they’d seen his profile online. “Yeah, you’re on there too,” he says. “I don’t know what all the shame is about.”
The rule of thumb is keep your damn shirt on — in most cases. “Not all shirtless pics are created equal,” he explains. “If you’re going to have a shirtless pic, it has to be a classy shirtless pic.” Bathroom mirrors, gym mirrors — really, all mirrors, as a rule — are not classy. If you’re going sans top, it must be candid, and you must be around other people who are in similar states of dress. “More women resonate with that,” he says. “They want a guy who’s not super exposing himself to everyone. Leave a little bit to the imagination.”
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“If you’re willing to walk up to a stranger in public, I guess the world is your oyster,” Robertson says. But the self-described shy guy isn’t that type. “I prefer to have some kind of mutual ground,” he continues, describing his past two relationships’ sources as mutual friends and comfortable house parties.
He likes the idea of common activities, whether that’s beach volleyball or video games. Wherever you do the things you do is a prime place to meet someone with likely similar values. “You come here often?” may be cliché, but it’s cliché because it’s so often used insincerely. If you and the person you’re interested in are in the same place at the same time, engaging in a mutual activity, it’s not a bad opening line.
So who approaches who? That would be you. Reach down, feel for your stones, and wade in like a boxer against an opponent with a longer reach, knowing that you may take a few on the chin. “As a man, you have to take the reins,” Robertson says. “Girls don’t want a guy who’s indecisive.” No wriggling out or prevarication. Go for it.
So you scored a phone number? Nice job. Now let it rest — for a day, but no longer than two. Then reach out and start a conversation. Feel your potential partner out. Is he or she enthusiastic? Let rip the effusive texts. If he or she is more terse, response in kind. “Mirroring their response is what I usually do,” Robertson says.
But don’t drag it out for weeks on end. The end goal is to meet in person, so after a good number of back-and-forths, pop the question to meet up IRL.
That first date is not the time for vagaries or liberal arts majors. “Make it the least open-ended as possible,” Robertson says. Give him or her the date, time, location, and a brief itinerary. All the details are there, and, as he says, “All they have to do is say, ‘Yes, see you there, perfect.'”
Listen, this is not a big deal — or at least don’t go into it think this. Relax. RELAX. Pick a place that’s quiet, public but not secluded, a location that will let you two talk and clearly hear each other. “I try to remove stimulation so it’s just you and the person and the conversation,” Robertson says. “That way you can really get a feel for who they are in the least amount of time.” Comedy clubs are great fourth-date fodder, but for that first interaction, you want to be telling the jokes (if you tell jokes; for god’s sake, don’t try out new material). His go-to is a park or the beach with a picnic, a glass of wine, a blanket, and a speaker playing light background music. Just you and her. “And that’s it.”
The wine, the sunset, the Bon Iver from your little speaker, it all went so perfect. “If it goes really well, maybe a kiss at the end,” says Robertson. But for god’s sake, don’t linger. He advises to wrap it up succinctly. You had a great time, you’ll talk soon, and you’re walking away. Be decisive and avoid maybes. Stick the landing.
Listen, we’ve all been there: It was love at first sight, at least on your side. The most difficult thing to do after that brilliant first date is not to mash the accelerator. Like any auto racer will tell you, if you give it too much gas, you risk flooding the engine and stalling the whole thing. Car metaphors aside, give it space. Let it breathe like the wine you drank the night prior. Short of dunking his lower parts in the Pacific, Robertson continues on with normal life to avoid fixating. “Keep your mind distracted,” he says. “Exercise, stay active, hang out with your buddies.”
Listen, we’ve also all been there: It is not love at first sight, and it’s really not even like at first sight. Honestly, it was kind of meh. “My advice would probably be different from my actions,” Robertson says with a laughs. Like many others, he’s squeamish about hurting someone’s feelings by the direct approach. But every day, he’s striving to be a better man. “Honestly, I think the best thing to do,” he says. “I just need to tell them straight up I’m not interested. People respect honesty.”
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