Thursday, June 28, 2012

Girl Guide to Picking Up

Yesterday I had a lunch where I was able to actually extol some advice on being a man. Particularly a shy man that blunders through sexual politics mostly ineffectually. But I thought it's been ages since I wrote anything on this blog glossy-magazine worthy and thought I would extrapolate my half of the convo here. Note that I am not qualified to write a 'Guys Guide' to picking up, because I am grossly unqualified in this regard, but I can write one from my perspective as a non-sexually aggressive male.

Let's Get Antiquated

Permit me this, it is no longer 1920, ladies no longer attend finishing schools and then get presented at a debutant's ball (unless you live in Ballarat), suitors do not attend the manner and negotiate dowry's with your parents. What I'm saying is, a girl can ask out a guy.

But I believe I am not being radical or chauvinistic in saying that the social contract that guys pursue and women play defence remains. Practically and behaviourally speaking, when there is an attraction between a man and a woman, a man is supposedly responsible for asking out the woman.

Let me dismiss as an option the 'lucky dip' approach which is go to a backpackers get as drunk as you can and start dancing with somebody of the opposite sex and then start kissing them and then hope they will take you somewhere semi-private to have sex. Not that it doesn't work, but that a guide to how to take that approach is exactly as long as that sentence was.

So, in any situation where you want to hook up with somebody, somebody has to make that happen, and going from a possible attraction to confirming/disconfirming that attraction bears with it risk, and that risk is expected to be taken by the man.

I'm generalising obviously, of my 6 exes, I asked out 1. Just 1. So my personal experience disconfirms this social expectation. Yet I would argue it still exists. But let's deal with my experience.

The Ace Up Your Sleeve

Is simple, ask him out. It is the most powerful tactic you have in your repertoir. I personally would never be turned-off, or disrespect or even feel emasculated to be asked out by a woman, even a girl.

What I would feel is A) flattered and B) incredibly relieved. I don't subscribe to these gender roles, or any gender roles per se. However I do still feel an acute failing as a man to overcome my fear of rejection and ask a girl I like out, my fear is irrationally crippling. Like the thought of asking out a girl causes me to go instantly into a panic attack, heart racing, heavy breathing, all things that make asking a girl out much, much harder.

People feel stress at public speaking, jumping off tall things, running in an 800m, going to job interviews, presenting ideas to the board, riding a bicycle down a hill... all things I scoff at, yet I know how crippling irrational fear can be, because I feel it.

But obviously my evolutionary disadvantage is at an extreme, obviously there's a spectrum ranging from me at one extreme to Shawn Kemp at the other.

Here's the thing though, this is a guide to picking up a guy you like, the one you have some kind of existing relationship with, be it friends, you are in the same dance group, catch the same train, work together, or they donated one of the organs you are currently using. You like them, they like you. Neither is certain until somebody asks out somebody and somebody responds 'Yes'.

It's the uncertainty, the risk of rejection nobody wants to deal with. Furthermore, ironically, and allow me to presume to lecture you on psychology here, the more he likes you the less likely he is to ask you out. It seems counterintuitive, but we get pleasure from anticipating a relationship, the more time somebody spends thinking about the pleasentness of the future relationship, the greater the percieved risk of rejection. In 'Stumbling on Happiness' Dan Gilbert sites a study where people were asked to describe a date or something with somebody they had a crush on. They found the more elaborate the fantasy the less likely they were to ask the person out within the next 2 months.

Piling on top of that, here is the deal. If a man is expected to assume the risk of being rejected and thus the onus falls on him to make the relationship happen, he gets the downside of having to experience being rejected. He also has to go through the motions of overcoming the fear of rejection. Sounds pretty shitty?

But from your end, if you like a guy, what can you do? Encourage him and build his confidence to the point where he can overcome his fear of rejection and ask you out. Otherwise, the guys you have to pick from are the ones that ask you out. Not to be misogenistic, but you become a begger not a chooser. You can choose whether to date somebody, or not. You can't choose 'who' asks you out. The best you can hope for is influencing who asks you out.

If you are good at flirtation and he is good at reading signals, then this can work pretty okay. But I know a number of women that agonise for months, years as to whether a guy likes them or not, and whether they are being too subtle, too overt or slipping into a delusional fantasy land.

The upside of the guys end of this deal, is that rejecting people can be empowering, but is more often unpleasant, thus if not interested the guys only compensation for the expectation of having to ask a woman out, is that they can just ignore advances and pretend ignorance. Even though this probably exacerbates and prolongs the mental anguish of many women, a guy can't exactly preemptively reject somebody who doesn't ask him out. The best he can do is hook up with somebody else.

The Ace is even Acer

And that's an important point. If you break convention, and ask out a guy, you not only have a competitive advantage over other women who might be trying to attract his attention, if it's a dud you can resolve shit much quicker.

As much as I fear rejection, I can at least comprehend rationally this last point, that it is healthier to know, resolve and move on with your life than live in prolonged limbo. I will from time to time enlist help to actually push me out of my anticipatory fantasy land, through my nauseating fear and actually ask a girl out.

But, I once had a girlfriend that on first impression I wasn't very interested in. People say first impressions last, but I 180'd on this girl because a thankfully superficial and perverted friend pointed out she had a 'hot arse' which I noticed for the first time. This was a catalyst that changed my view of her and I came to like her, then love her and then get dumped by her some years later.

The point being though that she was (arguably) lucky to have someone intervene and change my view of her. You can't obviously count on these random exchanges happening. But asking somebody out will inevetibly force people to reevaluate. It may even be after they reject you. Asking them out may be the first time they even truly notice you. What I'm trying to say is, that even being rejected, all is not necessarily lost.

Am I right ladies?

Now to speak from a very subjective personalised view, but if a girl I liked asked me out, there is literally no way she could get it wrong. She could call me up and say:

'tohm, you are a disgusting human being, I find you reprehensible, your artwork is crap, you are full of shit, you are arrogant and often misinformed, the more I learn about you the less I like you, I don't know how you live with yourself... will you go out with me?'

And I would say yes.

She could text:

'wil u go out wit me?'

And I would say yes.

She could text:

'go out wit me. I really love the Black Eyed Peas'

And I would say yes.

She could change her relationship status on facebook to in a relationship with me and when I recieved the notification to confirm or not I would say 'yes'. And go along with it.

If a guy likes you, you can't get it wrong. There is no bad time to call, there is no bad way to ask. The only thing you can get wrong is to leave it ambiguous so as to not really ask at all. There is no real way though to ask out a guy that likes you and screw it up.

I don't know if it's the same for girls, and that's straying off topic, but I assume if somebody liked me I similarly can't really get it wrong. But the perception guys have of guy-kind is that they are creeps that just want to get in womens pants and I, and I assume many men worry that we can get it wrong, that women are sensitive to guys coming across as creepy, or presumptuous or a million other deal breakers.

A Caveat

If a guy doesn't like you. There's almost no way to get asking him out right. He will say no, even if you are perfect in your elocution and punctual in your timing.

I see no point in denying though that there are a body of the male population that will sleep with women just because they can. You can ask them out and provided they are not at that moment having sex with somebody they prefer to you, they will probably agree to a date and see if they can sleep with you.

The advice I draw from this is twofold, don't procrastinate and agonise over whether the time is right or you know what to say, if he likes you it certainly doesn't matter, if he doesn't like you it almost certainly doesn't matter. The second-fold is that even if he doesn't like you you may still get a date and some sex out of it. No guaruntees.

A Return To The Classics

So you can't bring yourself to it, to ask out a guy. You would rather take the passive approach and play a game of hide & seek. Read and interpret and analyse his behaviour and see if you can encourage him to take the leap of faith.

And you find confidence attractive right? Why not see if he has the confidence to ask a lady out on a date?

Okay, I mean it's valid. Unless you rejected him and have since 180'd and now like him, then you are either going to have to be exceptionally fucken encouraging and he will almost certainly resent you that you didn't have the labia to ask him out, and expected him to do so twice.

But pretty much except for that, oh, also if you used to be married to his best friend, you should ask him out, that way your ex-husbands anger at him is misdirected and hopefully he doesn't hit women or anybody smaller than him.

But except for that, you really don't have any moral obligation to ask a guy out. So don't. Fine. What are you left with?

There's No Such Thing as Too Encouraging

I have a number of friends that enjoy reputations as ladies-men, lady-killers etc. As such one expects them to be uber-confident when dealing with the opposite sex, and professionals at sexual politics, confident they are reading all the signals right and know just what to do.

Yet when recently called upon to do wingman duties, I made light of a lady-killers seeming self-doubt, and he turned to me and said 'I don't think you realise how anxious I am'.

My point is, even amongst men who appear to be confident Mad-Men esque cads, the fear of rejection and anxiety shows up still.

Most people (gender and sexual orientation is irrelevant) are risk averse, that means that they fear the downside (in this case rejection) more than they look forward to the upside (a relationship, sex etc.)

Man, woman etc. If you want somebody to assume that risk for you, then you need to minimise it by being as encouraging and unambiguous as possible.

It's hard, but consistency counts too. The reality of risk aversion is, that if every encouraging thing you do (smile at them, wink at them, laugh at their jokes a little too enthusiastically) is one step forward, every discouraging thing you do, whether intentional or not (be tired and run down around them, fail to laugh at their jokes, respond to an email with 'whatevs') is ten steps back.

Arguably, it isn't ten steps back, but back to scratch. The confidence required for a large number of men to ask a girl out is immense. Immense and fragile, very, very fragile. Furthermore fear of rejection makes any excuse to delay and reevaluate very attractive.

My point is, you can't be too eager. A guy will literally tell his friends 'She brought me a chocolate souffle she baked herself to work today and it had a love heart in syrup on top... I think she maybe likes me.'

I mean there are also guys, much more competent and confident than me for which a smile or wink is enough, and there is always getting really trashed at a backpackers bar and making out with them let's not forget, but many guys need a very compelling case, beyond reasonable doubt to get the courage to ask a girl out. Especially, if they really like you.

Ambiguity is your enemy, inconsistency is your enemy. You don't get to have a bad day in their presence. If you can bottle up your rage and frustration with other aspects of your life and release them liberally when they are not around, so that they may hear of how angry you are around everyone except them.

Nice Guys/Girls Are Ambiguous

I was recently asking about the definition of pacifism, in my youth I had identified as a pacifist and refused to act violently even to defend myself. I later learned that pacifists can employ violence in self-defense. My response was 'hang on, isn't that just most people, isn't that just what a decent person does anyway? Why do they need a special word for that?'

Similarly, there I guess has to be a difference between being a good human being and being encouraging in the above sense. Like I try to be very egalitarian, and I don't know because I get no feedback, but I could imagine that for a girl that was interested in me, this would make trying to determine if I liked them frustrating, because I'm nice to everybody, I support everyone, I am also at times cruel to everybody and critical of everyone.

I probably couldn't tell you how to tell if I like you, but it doesn't matter because if I do I will eventually ask you out. In a possibly too confrontational manner.

But if you are a great person, an amazing person the cruel tragedy is that you will probably have to be an even more amazing woman and ask guys out because they will never be able to tell whether you like them or not. Maybe you can resort to stalking them in an obvious way. Even then, he will probably wonder whether you stalk them exclusively, or you keep an eye on everybody.

He Just Wants to Get In Your Pants... And Then Cuddle Afterwards

I don't want this to come across as a 'ladies, you want equality, start asking men out then!' type quasi-feminist rationalization to why life should be easier for me, a man. What I mean to say is that the number of times my trusted confidants have said to me 'just ask her out!' I feel is disproportianate to the number of times I would recieve this advice if I were a woman.

But the option is there. If you can embrace it, the world is pretty much yours. 'Asking out' seems like a risky, vague yet precise science to me as a man. I have to do so confidently, ideally face to face, failing that I should definitely call, and from their the communication channels somehow reduce in effectiveness.

My delivery should be confidant, nonchalant but not overconfident or nonchalant. Humour is okay, unless it is funny, and subsequently creeps her out. By all means we must not reveal ourselves to be creeps.

A creep is a man that just wants to have sex with her, unenjoyable sex. The sex will be unenjoyable if my body isn't perfect, men's bodies and genitalia are unattractive things. Sex with me will almost certainly be unenjoyable. Maybe I will wait until I am an elite athlete to ask her out? I can't bear the thought of her lumping me in with that creepy jazz saxophinist as a creepy guy. What if she tells everybody that I asked her out? Makes a toast at work announcing how repulsive she finds me? What if she puts me up for sexual harassment? Who are they gong to believe? A man or a woman? My reputation will be shot. I'll have to quit my job, find a new one, then kill myself.

These fears may be all irrational, the fact though is, that men enjoy and don't enjoy a reputation as being sexist pigs. The nice guy will hesitate about coming across as a pervert, because he probably is a pervert. I am one of the most undersexed guys I know, and I am a pervert. The nice guys are perverts too. They want to have sex with you. They just feel guilty about it, and they want the oxytocin hit after sex too, the cuddling, the affection.

They worry about coming across as a creepy stalker because, the nice guys do obsess over you.

It's so hard for a nice guy to be confident because he is nice. His niceness will almost inevitably result in self-doubt and restraint. It takes a lot for guys like me to admit to the natural impulse in our heads that say 'I want to fuck you so bad.' because this sounds suspiciously like the guy you don't want to hook up with who says 'I want to fuck you so bad. then discard you, then fuck your friend.'

They are worlds apart, but similarly both enjoy sex. The thing is that the latter guy is going to ask you out because he has no sense of shame, he is disproportionately likely to represent men in the collective impression of men amongst straight women.

So in short, be encouraging, be assertive. No results are guarunteed.

It's A Case Of Positioning The Feet In the Shoes

I love Q-tip. I also can't write advice for how a guy can pick up women that they actually want to be with, because I have no idea whether what works for me can be transposed onto the opposite sex.

For example, I have a theory that if a girl liked me, I really can't fuck up asking them out, but it's just a theory. I am never going to aks out enough girls to test it in any meaningful way. I would really just need to be told if it's true or not.

I am really shit at asking out women, this is something I know about myself. But I do everything in my power to resist reading 'The Game'.

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