Money Manners

Ronnetta Parks; `I had to come out of my shell'

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

Bio: She's 27, lives downtown and works at KU Med while attending Penn Valley Community College.

Challenge: Making single friends and attracting guys who have their stuff together.

Advice: Dating coach Betty Stander said Parks should approach dating the same as she does her schoolwork: strategically.

She needs to expand her friend circle. Married friends are good for setups, but they've been out of the game so long, they might lack sympathy for singles' woes.

Stander said Parks should up her target: "You are a wonderful person and you are bringing a lot to a relationship, but the guys are jerking you around. And I hate that."

A bad experience with one guy keeps Parks from trusting others. Stander said, "Keep reminding yourself that he's a new and fresh person."

Parks left positive. "This is the most aggressive I've been toward my dating life in a long time."

Assignments: Join organizations where she will meet like-minded, ambitious people. Choose a select group she's comfortable with and let them know the kind of guy she wants. And tell well-connected acquaintances who might not know she's searching.

What happened: We sent Parks and "guy's guy" Rob Thompson to salsa night at the Westport Beach Club. (See video from the night at www.Kansascity.Com.)

Thompson coached her through the art of picking up a man - without actually approaching him.

"Make eye contact," he said. "Smile. Don't look away. Keep eye contact. Smile."

Parks noticed someone looking her way. Thompson told her to stand near the guy at the bar while waiting for the bartender to bring over a lemon or water.

It worked. He approached Parks, the two danced, and then he asked for her number.

"I had to come out of my shell," Parks said. "It's not as hard as some people think it is."

What's next: The guy from the salsa bar called her, but they've yet to set up a date.

"I haven't actually been out since then," she says. She did attend a wine-tasting event - by herself. "Just small talk, everybody knows each other. After I've been there a couple times, it'll be a little bit easier."

Her online dating profile has been more active than ever, and she signed up for the Young Friends of Union Station.

She's also enlisted a team of friends to scour Kansas City for compatible men.

"It takes time."