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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

How to Attract the Opposite Sex: an art seminar/dating opportunity from Details on Request

Nila Raja of Nila and the Rajas leads an eager crowd of singles through the dos and don'ts of how to attract a partner outside the Off Broadway bar. And it all turns out rather well...

Written by Jemima Broadbridge

nila raja explaining by kellie black
Nila Raja by Kellie Black.

Last Thursday I was in Broadway Market to review one of a series of intriguing talks organized by Details on Request, a group of curatorial East London artists, for Amelia’s Magazine. The talk I’d been asked to cover was about How to Attract the Opposite Sex. Not having had much luck myself recently with attracting and retaining boyfriends, I was eager to find out if there was anything new I could learn.

There was a pretty lively atmosphere in Broadway Market when I turned up for the open air talk, on the pavement outside Off Broadway, the popular and trendy bar hangout, frequented by the more fashionable London Fields locals. Despite the fact that the talk had been delayed from 8pm til 9pm for various reasons, the atmosphere in Broadway Market was perfectly suited to the subject matter, with everyone gathered in a frivolous and light-hearted summer evening mood, jostling outside the bar in anticipation of what promised to be an entertaining discussion. It was also First Thursday of the month which is open gallery night in Hackney, meaning that the crowds were drifting up from Vyner Street towards London Fields in search of alcohol and social interaction.

Nila Raja, who is the striking and exotically beautiful lead singer of Nila and the Rajas hosted our evening discussion. She began by saying to us that whether we attract the opposite sex or not depends so much on the alignment of ‘chance factors like the weather, the flowers, the trees, whether the sun is shining’…

Antonia-Parker-How-To-Attract-The-Opposite-Sex
Illustration by Antonia Parker.

She then selected one guy and one girl from the group to pose as models. Taking the girl she asked her to walk as she normally would in front of us. Nila then summoned her back and asked her to pin back her shoulders and stick out her chest before attempting the same entrance again. This time her posture was noticeably improved. “Look”, exclaimed Nila, “See what a difference something that simple can make to how you present yourself?”

Nila then took the bearded man in his khaki military jacket with shiny brass buttons, complimenting him on his bold fashion sense and explained how he could get a girl on her own at a party, by asking her if she wanted to come outside for a smoke with him. Some of us guffawed out loud at this suggestion, because the unhealthy stigma attached to smoking and the bad breath linked to it, is anathema to most people nowadays. But some of us conceded that smoking was still seen as sexy by some because of Bogart and Hollywood movies.

What Not To Say Kayleigh Bluck
What Not To Say by Kayleigh Bluck.

She asked the guy if he would recognise the tell tale signs indicating whether a girl fancied him or not? Nila said that one indication is when a girl flutters her eyelashes at you before gazing directly into your eyes. Another is when she directs her gaze briefly towards the man’s crotch and then back up to his face. There were lots of giggles at this point. Nila then posted a large sheet of white paper on the wall outside the bar and asking the assembled throng what, in their opinion, were the ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ of dating conversation – in particular, first dates.

Antonia-Parker-How-To-Attract-The-Opposite-Sex
Dos and Don’ts by Antonia Parker.

A nervous titter ran through the crowd and everyone looked at each other, as if to say, yeah, we’ve all been here before. Under Don’ts we soon had a list defining the more obvious off -limit topics of conversation: babies, marriage, PMT and periods, ex-boyfriends, talking about yourself too much, talking about work too much, family and DEATH (which for some reason was in capital letters). Under Do’s we had, ask them about: what he/she likes to do in their spare time, for fun; travelling; football, sport (if dating a bloke); topics he or she is knowledgeable about in order to make them feel attractive and the focus of your attention.

Most of the ideas on the list were fairly westernized, for example in terms of taboos around avoiding discussion of marriage and babies ahead of marriage and babies. As one woman confided to me, “This is not a problem in the arab world.” The subject matter was mostly familiar to all of us and not particularly original or ground-breaking, however the interactive nature of the talk acted as a catalyst that sparked off a peculiar chain of reactions in the assembled crowd, leading to some amusing consequences.

Holding Hands Kayleigh Bluck
Holding Hands by Kayleigh Bluck.

An Australian bloke who told us he was travelling the world, started to interrupt Nila in order to support her by giving the male point of view on dating. He jumped up and down in his surfing shorts and flip-flops with such enthusiasm, he might as well have been a ballerina on point, flailing his arms and speaking expressively to the crowd. “Yeah”, he exclaimed, “I’m a traveller and talking about travelling with blokes is good. I mean everyone’s travelled somewhere haven’t they? and you’re bound to get a response with that.” The next thing I heard he’d disappeared downstairs into the gents toilets for some action with a mystery blonde he’d met that evening. One of the friendly crowd I’d met on a bench outside the bar had stumbled in on the pair of them next to the fishtank in the gents loos.

A minute later a friendly-faced young man appeared at my shoulder with his bike, asking me what the talk was about. He said he’d been passing on his bike and seen the crowd and was curious to know what was going on. I filled him on on the details but he seemed much more interested in where I was from, what was I doing there and what did I get up to in my spare time? It suddenly occurred to me that I was being picked up by a stranger. Soon we were discussing my choir – The Hackney Secular Singers. He told me he was the lead singer in a band and would like to come along to our choir rehearsals to try out some time. Before I knew it we were exchanging details and I was the stunned possessor of his mobile phone number and email address. I returned to the very friendly and pleasant group of four strangers with whom I’d been chatting earlier who were sitting on a bench outside the bar. They bought me a beer and then, as we wended our way back towards Hackney Road, one of them insisted on getting me alone so that he could ask for my phone number, telling me he was a ‘free agent’.

amelia and the friendly man by kellie black
Amelia and the Friendly Man by Kellie Black. Just imagine this is Jemima folks. Because it was actually her… slight misunderstanding by Kellie. I was a bit confused about why the illustration looked so like me – turns out it is me!

I concluded that I may not have learnt a great deal from the talk in terms of technique or ideas about how to catch a man, but that its location, the timing, the open air setting and the boulevard style of delivery meant that it was more than likely you would achieve the endgame of attracting some one of the opposite sex, simply by being there – which is half the battle, after all. It had also been a really fun way to spend my evening.

Couple Kayleigh Bluck
Couple by Kayleigh Bluck.

For more information about Details on Request see their website: they’ve got lots more going on throughout August.

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