I'm sorry I'm no master of relationships, but I'm forty, am on my second marriage, have three children, and have employed probably near a thousand people in the past decade or so. I am not agile or graceful in interacting with people, but interacting with people has been my fate and I'll try to give you the benefit of my experience with women, and humans in general.
All "new" (unfamiliar) people have an axe to grind. The good ones, the bad ones. They (we) are all trying to gain a foothold in an unfamiliar environment. I believe it was Dale Carnegie who said the most vital human need is the feeling of importance. And I think it was Emmanuel Kant who said "He who has a Why can live with almost any How." Freud said that all human motivation came from only two things: 1. The sex urge, and 2. The desire to be great.
Until we are established (have found our "Why"), we all have a "hidden" agenda (or at least from our limited perspective we believe it to be hidden). In most cases it involves seeking comfort or safety, and acceptance. Of course there are some weirdos out there if we are looking for arguments of marginal cases--but those top three are pretty close to universal. We are more alike than we are different.
In accordance with Chinese social structure--which carries three thousand years of function to recommend it--I value track records. Chinese businesses don't consider associates to be even marginally close until two or three generations have passed in solidarity.
When I meet a new person (and Lord have mercy...I meet a lot of new people), I cannot retain the smallest detail about them. Names and faces get flushed past me like a waterfall. I am bathed in them. (And most of them disappear right back into the ether.)
They...don't exist for me.
They're not real in that stage. No one is. You smile as you shake my hand and I smile as I pretend to give you some reason to think that I like you and our future together will be bright. I have certainly done my share of pretense: desire for sex, desire for acceptance, desire for power, all that stuff. Looking back it's not a proud feeling. I painted on all that stuff. I wanted so desperately to be liked.
It's a social charade that burnt out in my (already weak) social wiring years ago. If I lost my current social moorings, I don't know how I would ever rebuild them, so jaded have I become.
I don't do this much anymore. I'm established and tired and mean. I am the lion that everybody coming through the door rolls over and exposes their underbelly to, wags their tail and they want me to lick their face with approval....and it's exhausting. You would probably regard me as an asshole, and I guess I mostly am.
The reasons for fakesmile are clear: everyone stands to gain more safety and acceptance, more survival, if we all play nice enough while strangers that an actual relationship--that tender, vulnerable, translucent, embryonic shred of relationship--can form.
Also, important advice that I wish someone had told me, is that your mental state alters who you want to sleep with, AND who will agree to go to bed with you. Insecurity makes you see in a different way, seek something different; kind of like when you're starving, you'll dive at a fast food hamburger and french fries, but someone who is full has a different aspect on what food ought to mean. A dash of Maslow's hierarchy of need plays well here.
I have come to trust one measuring device for humans absolutely, and that is time.
In two weeks or a month or a year the artificial tail wagging comes off. The lipstick wears out, the song is over, they run out of one liners.
Time kills pretense. And thank God for that.
Eventually people must exhale and relax their gut. It's not until you reach that stage that you actually know what you've got.
Aside from a few rare exceptions, I feel you cannot "meet people". You discover them, often requiring digging, grinding, polishing. It would be worthwhile measuring the thickness of pretense--which as I've said is a safety mechanism.
So, I would seek out this creature where security and acceptance are as established as possible--the closer to an environment of acceptance, the closer you are to people who are themselves. Like...whatever is the OPPOSITE of a meat market dance club where the women are pretending to be hot chicks for the men who are spritzing themselves with things they don't smell like and sucking in their guts as you walk by.
Nicole suggests a church--I'm not religious, so that would not work for me, but is good advice for others who are.
I guess I would try to find a group of people who already shared some important part of my perspective on life, and hunt through them for someone I also found attractive in at least two other ways. And, obviously, people who are not starving.
Remember that beauty is a stage. We're all going to be sick at some point. We're all going to be laying in bed and let out a huge, light fixture--rattling fart. We get fat. We have blunders. We screw up our careers, have low points, get lost. We get old, things stop working. So you better shop for some things with staying power, like how they speak. How they listen. Sense of humor. Curiosity, endurance. And simple grace.