About five weeks ago, a guy started posting flyers of his face all over Manhattan that said "Looking For A Girlfriend," with a paragraph about himself and the search and his real cell phone number for "Serious Enquiries Only."
He has since punched up the dating advertisement by correcting his spelling error, listing his name, Dan Perino, and his website. Dan is a painter/plasterer who wants to get back into acting and, obviously, find love. In fact, he's originally put almost identical flyers up looking for acting work, clearly realized the attention he was getting from it and decided his love life needed a little PR too.
When xoJane asked me if I wanted to track down this guy, my initial reaction to the flyer's existence was probably the same as most people's: I thought it was hilarious and kind of sad. I was laughing at this guy and not with him. My assumption was that the flyers were a desperate and stupid thing to do: Putting posters up searching for the love of your life like they're a lost dog, much less offering up your real phone number for every psychopath in the free world to be able to directly contact you. What was he thinking?
All the same, I had no desire to mock someone like this. It would make me no better than some YouTube commenter on a hate spree, and I didn't want to do that. Being hateful is "me time." I decided I wanted to actually hear this guy out.
I called my friend Taylor Ketchum, a brilliant writer and performer, to help me brainstorm what to say when I called him. The way I saw it, there were two approaches. I could call and pretend to be interested in a potential date with this guy or I could just level with him that I was writing an article and did he want to talk to me about his crazy dating scheme.
Was he mentally ill? Was he dumb? Did he know about the Internet? These are all questions I had circling in my mind. But since the writing on his flyer was pretty genuine and thoughtful I decided, "Just call this guy and hear him out." And that's what I did.
A woman answered the phone, who I immediately presumed was basically his "pussy secretary," fielding calls from thirsty women, ready for a shot at true love with flyer guy. I was not wrong. She put Dan on the phone, I told him what I was after, and he invited me to meet him at a hookah bar in the East Village to talk about his personal love search business.
As I was walking to the train (I am very rich), I called Dan to double check that he'd be there when I arrived and he said, "Can I ask you a question? Is this a stupid thing?"
I liked the question. It meant he was self-aware enough of how he was possibly being perceived as the guy who put a public flyer up to find a lady friend.
I met up with Dan in the dark bar/hookah lounge. He was friendly and polite with kind eyes. He was hanging out with a lady who approached him on the street when he was putting up posters because she was so drawn to his search for love as she herself was getting married to the woman of her dreams in the upcoming week. That struck me as a surprising amount of hopefulness and positivity to be found in one room in a city that is generally filled with aggression and disappointment.
Dan came up with the idea of his girlfriend poster search after a woman he'd wanted to date (a lady who had commissioned him to do artwork) turned him down. He'd just had enough. He wanted to find love with someone who wanted that same thing he did, not to wander around hoping it'd come his way anymore.
So, Dan made a poster.
Dan's had an interesting life thus far. He used to be an actor and is working toward doing that again. He makes his money as an artist, was married for two years in the '90s, but it ended in an ugly divorce. He has a 17-year-old daughter, who is not thrilled with his very public search for love. Dan had a $200/month rent-controlled apartment in the West Village until he lost it in the divorce. Talk about heartbreak.
So far, Dan's put up over 22,000 flyers (500-700 per day) looking for a girlfriend, with not one single flyer put up by any other person. He printed them all himself, tapes them all himself and he's seen the fruits of his 3 ½ hour per day labor with over 67 dates in the last 6 weeks. If finding a girlfriend is a numbers game, he's putting in the work.
But why a poster?
Because Dan loves the outdoors and doesn't want to meet people online. He doesn't want to hang out with someone who's addicted to their computer. This is a man who's hiked the Appalachian Trail. He loves fishing and camping and the outdoors and he wants the kind of person who's into that too.
Dan gets so many calls. So so many.
He got 131 calls just the first day and only decided to go out with one of those 131 inquiries. From the results he's gotten thus far, this bizarre methodology is seeming less and less outdated and more and more one of the most brilliant strategies in the game today.
And don't think Dan doesn't know what he's doing, because he does. He's letting the interested parties come to him. There's an emotional intelligence in that approach. Why chase mostly disinterested women to end with a lot "no's" and disappointment? Why be the demand when you can be the supply? And they do demand.
Dan gets a lot of different kinds of calls. He gets interested dates. But he also gets a lot of women calling, telling him how moved they are by his search and wishing him luck. And they're not even being sarcastic.
He also gets a fair share of prank calls. He doesn't like texting anymore. Dan's patient and always takes calls or calls people back later. He got more than seven calls and three texts during our interview alone. Dan seemed overwhelmed by the situation but he also clearly likes the attention and he's worked it into his schedule. You don't put up over 22,000 pictures of your face with your contact info on the street because you don't want attention.
Dan's gotten calls from a rapper who invited him over to have his choice of "20 blondes." A generous rapper but not much of a feminist, I would say.
Along with thousands of phone calls, people have begun to recognize him on the street (obviously — especially when he's taping up his own posters) and then ask for pictures and autographs. Sometimes they'll follow him for blocks, watching him post his flyers. Guys walk by him or honk from their cars and yell, "You're my hero!"
Dan's amused but he's know they're being ridiculous.
Is the bar for "hero" at this point just getting laid? That's a dark reality.
Dan's not attracted to a particular kind of woman but they do have to be intelligent. He talks to these ladies on the phone for awhile, if they sound interesting, to learn about who they are and if he's really curious to meet them.
When I brought up sex, he immediately blushed and giggled. A lady never tells and neither did Dan. But he did say he has a strict "no sex for 30 days after meeting" policy, and it's been six weeks, so math tells me that Dan has gotten laid. And good for him. I'm not saying this flyer thing isn't at least partially a publicity stunt but Dan is also a genuine and thoughtful guy.
Maybe one of the most impressive aspects of this story is that Dan has turned down lots of "no strings attached" sex. I don't think he's turned down all of it, but that is just guess based on logic and from watching him smile too much when I asked him about it (or maybe I'm just projecting.)
But isn't this soulmate project just another way to get strung along? Of course it is. Dan knows that. Plenty of women have called and just want to play with him emotionally but he knows they don't have any real intention of meeting up. But he believes the juice is worth the squeeze. He's taking it all as it comes and he's still putting posters up so he seems to have patience for it all.
While Dan's methodologies are definitely unorthodox, he's basically made the streets of New York his own personal dating site and it's working. Dan wants to be married in a year and have kids in the next few.
Dan is also looking for a woman in her twenties or thirties. Pardon?
I was very skeptical about at first because Dan, himself, is 51 years old. But Dan says he's not looking for a girlfriend. He's looking for a wife and the future mother of more of his children. The women in their 40s and 50s that call him are often not pleased. Then, why not just list the age thing on the poster? Because, Dan says, "I think that'd turn women off. They wouldn't call."
The guy putting up posters for love around the city understands women better than most of my ex-boyfriends.