A chilly reception at yoga class was the first thing Jorge Amigo thought of when he read an article in Vancouver Magazine asking "Do Vancouver men suck?"
When he moved here from his native Mexico City four years ago and wanted to make friends and meet women, Amigo joined a yoga studio. He says he greeted his classmates as he rolled out his mat, focused on his own body during the lesson and then tried to bond with the others after class.
"You've just shared this beautiful one-hour experience of sweating together, so the least you can do is say, 'Hi, it was nice sweating next to you. What's your name? What do you do? What do you study?'" he said. "Oh my God. I've never experienced such incredible stonewalling in my life."
So when Amigo, an editor, researcher and environmentalist, read Katherine Ashenburg's piece about how heterosexual men in Vancouver seem to be clueless when it comes to dating, he attempted to address the other side of the equation by emailing a response that caricatured how women react to his overtures.
Vancouver Magazine editors immediately posted his "Do Vancouver women suck?" piece online and instead of hate mail, the 30-year-old resident of the West End says he received 700 Twitter replies within two hours. The article became a trending topic and over the next three weeks he was invited on a dozen dates.
Amigo's friends encouraged him to take his message further, so Feb. 7 he launched a #bemyamigo campaign on Twitter, which kicks off with a dinner for strangers on Valentine's Day.
"Tear down the ice wall, Vancouver," reads an online promo for the event at the Irish Heather pub.
Every two weeks following Valentine's Day, the campaign will unleash "secret, surprise" happenings in the street inspired by people who offer hugs at festive events.
Amigo says future activities will aim to foster a sense of community that will help people, particularly women who are keen to avoid lechers, feel safe about opening up.
"I can't go and change the cultural factors. I can't change the physical structure and urban planning of the city that doesn't enable people to talk, there's no public squares. And I can't change the weather," Amigo said. "But what I can change is I can become a catalyst for social interactions as a person who pushes the buttons and says you're sitting in a coffee shop alone, why don't you just signal to others that you're approachable."
Amigo says conversations struck up with strangers aren't necessarily about getting into their pants.
"In my opinion, the most exhilarating of human experiences is to break the barrier of anonymity between two people," Amigo said. "Maybe the person in line with you at the supermarket simply wants to comment on your bag because it's cool, and that leads to you talking about quinoa, and then you become quinoa friends. It happens in this city. A lot of people talk about quinoa."
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @Cheryl_Rossi