Social skills – and hygiene – can help lovelorn techies

Lookin’ for love? Then shave off that scraggly beard, ditch the too-tight tee from a geeky conference last decade and leave the Teva sandals at home. That’s just some of the advice from matchmakers who help techies master the dating scene.

From Route 128 outside Boston to Highway 101 in Silicon Valley, techies seem to run into the same problems when it comes to dating. They dress too casual. They don’t talk enough, and when they do talk it’s about work. And sometimes they’re so busy writing code or tinkering with systems that they forget to shower. (Read a Q&Awith an online dating expert to learn the hottest trends and view a slideshow of the 10 best places to take a techie on a date.)

“We definitely have to talk to techies about grooming and social skills,” says Julie Paiva, CEO and founder of Table for Six Total Adventures, a matchmaking service in the San Francisco Bay Area. Paiva has thousands of techie clients and claims credit for more than 900 marriages in Silicon Valley.

“We tell techies to get a nice dinner jacket, even if it’s just to pop over a Polo shirt. If they’re wearing khakis and a T-shirt, we encourage them to have it color coordinated,” Paiva says. “Ponytails are OK. The problem is having them clean, shiny and well-groomed.”

The bottom line for techies: You don’t want to look like a member of ZZ Top. But you should follow the rock band’s fashion advice `cause every girl crazy `bout a sharp dressed man.

The same holds true for techie women. Leave the sneakers at home and strap on a pair of heels, matchmakers recommend. And don’t forget to shave your legs.

“Put on some lipstick and let your hair down,'”Paiva suggests. “Techie women need to think about investing in a few shapely black dresses because dresses are really attractive to men of all ilk.”

Techies may be brilliant at computer science, but they often need a little tutoring in Romance 101. That’s where matchmakers come in.

More than other professionals, techies are comfortable seeking help from online dating sites and matchmaking services to improve their love lives.

“Techies are more willing to try online dating services because that’s what they’re comfortable with. They can manipulate data and move it around. They can get around one of these sites a lot easier than regular folks,” says Paul Falzone, CEO of matchmaking services The Right One of Norwell, Mass. and Together Dating of Washington D.C.

“But after being misled and lied to at online sites, they get frustrated and then they come to us,” Falzone says. He estimates that around 30 per cent of his clients — which total 300,000 members at 60 locations — work in technology-related fields. Falzone says his dating services are responsible for more than one marriage a day nationwide.

The popularity of Web sites such as Match.com and eHarmony.com has made it acceptable for techies to use dating services. Increasingly, they are shifting from online-only sites to full-fledged matchmaking services

“Techies know that they are not going to meet people who want to get serious about dating and get married online. And they’re not going to meet the right people when they are out and about on their own,” says Amy Brinkman, director of matchmaking at It’s Just Lunch Silicon Valley, a matchmaking service with a majority of its clients working at technology firms.

“They’re outsourcing so many other things, this is something they can outsource, too.”

The good news is that with a little guidance, techies can be as successful as any other professionals at finding true love, matchmakers say.

“Techies try harder because they are well aware of the negative stereotypes around their social lives,” Paiva says. “They are much more open to suggestions than a venture capitalist or a doctor or an attorney because they want to fight that stereotype. They are much more open to advice about how they dress and what they should do.”

“Techies are very successful with our program,” Falzone agrees. “All they do all day long is take instructions from software or manuals or whatever. They’re more attuned to coaching.”

To succeed on blind dates, techies need to not only expand their wardrobes but also to expand their reading material, experts suggest.

“Everybody is not as fascinated as they are about technology,” Paiva says. “They need to read Newsweek and Time. They need to look at the entertainment pages. They need to be open to asking lots of questions of others.”

Being up on current events should give techies something to talk about with their blind dates.

“It takes more than one or two dates for techies to open up. They seem to be more closed, guarded, shy or introverted than people of other professions,” Brinkman says. “I always encourage women going out with one of these men to try again. They’ll tell me that they don’t think the guy liked them or that the conversation didn’t flow naturally. I encourage them to go on more dates.”

Because they’re not as gregarious, techies often look for more outgoing, bubbly mates.

“Women who go out with techies will say: I did all the talking, and all he gave me was one-word answers,” Brinkman says. “I recommend that techies don’t talk about work because a lot of women can’t relate to that.”

But techies don’t want a blind date who is too boisterous or too blue collar, either.

“A lot of these nerdy, geeky type guys, they’re not looking for a loud, beer-drinking kind of lady,” Falzone says. “They’re looking for a quiet, refined individual. They’re more interesting in conversing than in yelling at a sports bar.”

While they may dress poorly, techies just want to have fun. That’s why Paiva’s dating service coordinates events such as hiking and skiing trips for groups of singles in Silicon Valley.

“Paintball is still really popular, especially in Mountain View. The techies seem to love that,” Paiva says. “Techies are quite social, and they enjoy group environments…They like being creative and thinking outside the box.”

While techies as a whole are pretty open minded, they tend to be snobby about one trait when considering possible partners: brains. If you want to date a techie, you need to have some university cred.

“Education is really important to techies — maybe more so than other professionals,” Brinkman says. “They’re interested in what degrees people hold and which schools they went to. They’re not necessarily looking for another techie, just someone who is well educated.”

Besides intelligence, techies are looking for potential mates who are open minded, have a sense of humor and like to travel. They don’t want to end up with partners who work as many hours a week as they do.

“Techies are looking for someone who is willing to play and be spontaneous, not just another workaholic,” Paiva says. “In a cultural environment where everyone is working 60, 70 or more hours per week, what they’re looking for is balance. It’s kind of like a fantasy they hope to attain through their partners.”

When techies are choosing a steady, stock options are a plus.

“Meeting a woman who is financially stable is very, very important to techies,” Paiva says.

If you can get them to dress up, techies make excellent partners, matchmakers say. That’s because most of them are looking for long-term relationships. They’re not trying to be players.

“Techies are very, very marriage minded,” Paiva says. “They really want to settle down….They like the idea of having a family and children.”

“Techies are good, dependable people,” Brinkman says. “They are the salt of the earth. They are real about their relationships. What you see is what you get. There’s none of that deception you get with other professionals. Generally, with that particular group, most of our clients come to us to find a steady relationship and to get married.”

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