Lynn Carr, a long-time Philadelphia School District reading teacher and author of “Shouldn't Dating Be Easier?” (Alpha Graphics, 2014), based on more than 4,000 interviews with men about women, is seen here during a recent book signing. (Photo by Sherry Sternthal)

Lynn Carr, a long-time Philadelphia School District reading teacher and author of “Shouldn’t Dating Be Easier?” (Alpha Graphics, 2014), based on more than 4,000 interviews with men about women, is seen here during a recent book signing. (Photo by Sherry Sternthal)

by Lou Mancinelli

There was a priest and a nun who both very much liked the other. For almost seven years they would see one another at different gatherings and barbecues. They taught together too. But their vows to the Church prohibited them from following their instincts, so they gave up their holy life and were married.

Now the couple has five grandchildren. It’s one of the true stories told in “Shouldn’t Dating Be Easier?” (Alpha Graphics, 2014), a self-published debut book by Lynn Carr, a long-time Philadelphia School District reading teacher.

The book contains quips, insights and advice Carr collected over the past four years as she conducted more than 4,000 interviews with men from ages 21 to 90, from Center City and the suburbs of Philly to upstate New York. Everywhere Carr went, she approached people and asked them questions. None of the interviews was setup; it was all spontaneous.

“Smile, and put your best foot forward.” If it seems simple and logical, so be it. Nevertheless, after speaking with enough men to populate a small town about their efforts to meet women, date and stay married, those are the biggest pieces of advice Carr has to offer.

“I was trying to figure out how my girlfriends could meet guys,” said Carr, who would not disclose her age, during a recent telephone interview, “and why they were still single.”

Her idea to write about the relationships between women and men first started four years ago, when she realized there was a need for a book like this. Too many of her attractive and intelligent friends were leading single lives, wondering what they were doing wrong.

“I was basically writing a book for women to get into the mind of a guy,” Carr said. The book was originally supposed to be about how to flirt, but as Carr conducted more interviews, “it took on a life of its own.”

At bars, clubs, in line at the supermarket or at the hardware store, everywhere she went, Carr introduced herself to men and told them she was writing a book about how to meet a man. Could she ask them a few questions? Everyone she asked said yes except for one man (who drank alone at a bar and said, “Not without a lawyer present”). Her first question was usually, What do you think of a woman who sleeps with you on the first date?

Younger men, in their 20s and 30s, told her that’s not the type of girl they’d marry. If they really liked her, they would wait. It was about respect. On the other side of that, when she asked a man in his 70s, he said, “I’d be grateful.”

“It’s not just a book about dating,” Carr said, about the finished product. That’s because the people she talked to and the answers she received reached beyond the realm of dating. What she’s produced is also a book that subtly explores self-esteem and self-discovery. (Carr said that several of the men she interviewed told her she looked like Suzanne Somers when she was a TV star.)

In the world of flirting, simple behaviors, like body language, tell a story. Carr repeatedly heard that if a woman does not smile or sits with her legs crossed in a big group of girlfriends, men will not approach her. If she can’t smile, how can she be nice? If she’s always in a big group of friends, how can I approach her? The fear of rejection is greater when a whole group is watching.

Another of her staple questions was, “How do you think a woman should dress.” Place, age and season-appropriate, she found. One man told her about a woman he had seen in a Center City bar on a Friday night. It was winter, and she was dressed in a tank top, short shorts and flip flops. He told Carr he’d never approach a woman like that. It seems that in dating, the cover is exactly what we judge.

“The old art of flirting is what I’ve learned,” Carr said about the process of creating “Shouldn’t Dating Be Easier?”

Women, she explained, need to participate too. You need to be open. Separate from your friends for a while; take a long walk to the ladies room. Or, if you’re at a club or bar, if you’re interested in someone, say hello; ask what they are drinking. It could be a possible way to connect. If you’re at the grocery store or anywhere, say hello, and be open to chance.

“Women can flirt without saying, ‘Can I have your number?’” she said. Sometimes men can feel intimated about approaching a woman at the bookstore or when she’s choosing oranges. But “if the girl is interested in the guy, it won’t be weird.”

Carr, who earned a master’s degree in elementary education and reading from Temple University in the ’80s, was raised in Long Island and went to C.W. Post College (now Long Island University) in the ’70s. She married and had her first child at 21. Then she worked as a reading teacher in Philadelphia for 15 years at different Catholic schools in the area, then in public schools for 15 years. Now she is “happily divorced” and happily has a boyfriend. Two years ago, Carr realized she needed more time to finish the book than she had, so she resigned from her school district job.

The book is separated into nine chapters, and covers themes like what to do and what not to do, what lines to say, how to dress appropriately, knowing what you want and how to meet people: at work, through friends or by chance.

After contacting numerous agents in New York and other major publishing houses and receiving interest, Carr, who has lived in Cheltenham for almost 30 years, decided to self-publish because traditional major houses would only give her around eight percent of each sale. She thinks this is the type of book that could be optioned for television or a movie and didn’t want to sell the rights to a publishing house.

“I think that would be a definite possibility,” Carr said.

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