Money Manners

Ryan Livengood; 'Surround yourself with better people'

Note: This article originally appeared Sunday, December 4, 2005

Bio: He's 26, lives in Overland Park, has a pre-law degree and works in an auto body shop.

Challenge: Meeting women who are smart, established and can handle his interest in cars.

Advice: "Your hobby is semi-all consuming, and there aren't many women there," Betty Stander told Livengood during his session.

Livengood said he's also interested in reading and history, which Stander pointed out are individual activities.

He needs to find something apart from working on his car and going out with friends who chase after younger, partying women.

"Surround yourself with better people instead of watching these guys jerk around women," Stander suggested. And find women who are more his age or a few years older.

Stander said he needs to present himself with more confidence - "I wouldn't nod at someone in a bar," Livengood said - and lose his bitterness.

He also should spin his work. Mention the college degree first. "Make it like this was one of life's mysteries," Stander said. Something like: "I graduated magna cum laude, decided I didn't want to do that. I wanted to go for a passion, which is creating powerful race cars."

Assignments: Go up to five people and start a conversation that lasts at least two minutes. Hang out with a female friend; she'll make him more approachable to women.

What happened: Livengood met "gal's gal" expert Angie Ross at the Brooksider Bar and Grill to practice approaching strangers.

He was visibly nervous and not at all optimistic that anyone would be interested in speaking to him, especially with a Chiefs game on the TVs. "There's nothing wrong with cynicism every now and then," Ross said. "But no bitterness or negativity."

Livengood approached a table of six: three women and three men (who turned out to be their husbands). It helped that one had recognized him from the newspaper that morning, and the group quickly listed off names of eligible women they knew.

Ross watched as Livengood charmed the three women at the table while their husbands stood by. "He's using his sense of humor to make people feel comfortable," Ross said. "He needs to be doing that all the time."

When a couple of young attractive women entered the bar, Livengood grumbled. "I bet you want me to go up to them."

He did. The women offered to let him sit with them.

After Ross and The Star left the bar, Livengood stuck around and talked to a few more people, including the two women. He forgot to ask for a number. (Julie, if you're reading this, he's still interested.)

What's next: Livengood said his assignment was moderately painful. But "there are very few things in life I can't do if I have to."

He doesn't think the experience has changed him much. "I'm not mortified of talking to people, I just don't like it."

And "it helps when you have a wonderful ice breaker," Livengood said later: "`Hi, I'm doing this for The Star. They're making me do this.' I don't know how it would work if I walked up at random with no icebreaker."

He plans to check out some local groups, starting with the Young Friends of the Library.

As for the bitterness Stander told him to work on?

Livengood's not worried. "Bitter is more something you get if you really want to start grilling me about dating. You only get the bitter thing going on when it's like the 93rd time in the last two or three years that I've gotten a girl's phone number and she doesn't answer her phone."

After the first story ran in The Star, a woman e-mailed us; she and Livengood later met for a date.

Overall he's optimistic about the future.