On not being a dillweed in the meet market

Based on these posts, it seems that some guys find it genuinely challenging to interact with women at a bar without being complete fucking asswipes about it. So that I never have to hear another piercing whine about how “nobody ever told me not to be a massive jerk just ’cause she was out in public,” I hereby present the Non-Asshole’s Guide to Picking Up Chicks.

1. Forget everything you ever heard from a “pick-up artist.” The lines, the “negging,” all of it. Even if it worked for you before, it’s 100% Grade A bullshit and misogynistic to boot. The only way it ever works is by increasing the number of women you hit on in a night, improving the odds that one of them is desperate enough to sleep with you, and by playing on insecure women’s fears. This will never find you a stable relationship, and if you really don’t care that you had to make a woman feel terrible about herself just to get laid, you’re hopeless and should stop reading now.

2. Don’t assume. Yes, many people at bars on the weekend are there to try find a romantic or sexual partner, but not all of them are—women are also allowed to enjoy shooting some pool, watching the game, or hanging out with friends. You can’t always tell by looking who’s on the market and who’s not, so it’s not unreasonable to approach people, but don’t go into it thinking they’re asking to be hit on just by being there. If they are open to you, it’ll be pretty clear once you start talking, so start with something neutral and see how they respond. If the woman wants to keep talking, you’ve delayed the flirting part of the evening by twelve seconds, and if she doesn’t, you may have helped her not feel like she’s been harassed all goddamn night. (What, you think you’re the first guy to try this today, or tonight, or in the last five minutes? Not a chance. Don’t add yourself to the faceless stream of obnoxiousness.)

3. Ask nicely. When striking up a conversation, ask open-ended questions she can say “no” to. For example, think about the question “Can I buy you a drink?” for a second. That’s a pretty loaded question, right? I mean, here’s this guy just trying to do something nice for you, how can you say no? No, seriously, how can you say no to that question? There’s a lot of societal pressure there for women to accept the drink, because if we say no, some guys will call us bitches and yell about how they were just trying to make a nice gesture, for christ’s sake, and who says no to free alcohol, anyway? And, yeah, you may not be one of those guys, but she doesn’t know that yet—she hasn’t really even met you. So women can be afraid to say no, and once they accept the drink, they feel like, “Oh, he spent $12 on this gin and tonic, I at least owe him a few minutes of conversation.” And then all of a sudden you’ve kind of coerced this woman into conversation with you, regardless of whether she has any genuine interest or not. You could be making a lot of women uncomfortable with this approach and not even know it. Try instead, “Do you mind if I have a drink with you?” Much easier to say, “Thanks, but no thanks,” to that, right? And if you’d really like to buy her a drink just to be nice, you can offer to pay for the round next time she’s ordering. Then you know that she actually wanted the drink, and she has the option of thanking you graciously and accepting, telling you she’d prefer to cover her own tab, or accepting and offering to pay for the next round. Lots more options than just “yes” or “no,” lots less guilt. Not only does giving women the chance to say “no” help keep you from being a jerk, it’ll also save you time and money on women who just aren’t interested but couldn’t otherwise figure out how to tell you that.

4. Compliment, don’t leer. Look, we all know that when you introduce yourself to a stranger at a club, you’re basing your actions purely on physical attraction at that point. They might be brilliant and kind, they might be dull and mean, you have no idea yet. So if you want to say something nice about a woman to break the ice, it’s probably going to have to be about her looks. We get that. But there’s a difference between, “Wow, you look beautiful,” and “Damn, you look hot in that top,” if you catch my drift. Women know when they’re being ogled and, even if they wore something low-cut and attention-grabbing, it’s still fucking rude. The woman you’re talking to didn’t know you were going to be at the club when she put that outfit on, so you should at least consider the possibility that she’s not wearing it for you. By the way, we’ve all heard about how beautiful our eyes are and how you mistook us for models, so basing your compliments on the individual woman in front of you will get you a lot further.

5. Take “no” for an answer. Seriously, if a woman makes it clear she’s not interested, just say, “It was nice to meet you,” get up, and walk away. When you’re unwittingly hitting on a woman who doesn’t want to be hit on (probably because you violated one of the rules above), it’s an innocent mistake*. Once you know she’s not interested and you keep pushing her, it’s harassment, plain and simple. If it’s not going to happen, politely remove yourself and leave her be.

6. Don’t ask “why not?” It doesn’t matter why not. Both potential partners have full veto power, and she’s just exercised hers. It is of absolutely zero consequence why. Knowing her reasoning doesn’t change the facts. And no, she doesn’t owe you an explanation or anything else, particularly after knowing you for a whopping five minutes. Both of you have the right to refuse the other for any reason at all, even reasons you happen to think are stupid. Besides, the answer you get probably doesn’t mean anything. Either the truth has nothing to do with you (“I’m a lesbian,” “I’m in an exclusive relationship”) and you just pressured someone into telling details of her personal life to a complete stranger, or she knows you won’t like the truth (“I just don’t like blonds,” “I can’t stop staring at your hideous shoes”) and she’ll make something up to keep you from getting mad at her. Either way, you’ve learned nothing useful and put someone on the spot. Even if the explanation she gives is both true and is about you personally, what difference does it make? Are you going to argue with her? Are you seriously going to try to badger a woman into dating you? Oh, when I say it that way it sounds like a dick move? Yeah, it is a dick move.

7. Don’t take it personally. Even if she’s wearing skimpy clothes and flirting with every other guy in the place, if she doesn’t want to flirt with you, don’t get your undies in a bunch about it. Yeah, sure, you’re a great guy, you have a lot to offer, you’ll make someone really happy, whatever. You (probably) do deserve love, and she might be foolish for rejecting you, but, hey, that’s her problem, and you can’t and shouldn’t try to make her see the light. Why do you want a woman who doesn’t want you, anyway? When you get all offended and protest that she just doesn’t see what makes you so special, you’re forcing her to keep talking to you, which is basically asserting that you have a right to date or at least talk to her. But you don’t. No matter how special you are, she is her own person and is under no obligation to talk to you or protect your ego from the pain of rejection. And think about it for a second: Aren’t there dozens of women in the bar you would reject out of hand? How would you feel if they got upset and pushy when you didn’t want to give them your number? Much as I am not a fan of the tradition that the man has to make the first move, it actually works in your favor because you can usually avoid talking to women you’re just not interested in. Women are getting approached all night and don’t have that luxury. Just accept that she doesn’t want to date a certain percentage of the world’s guys, and you happen to fall into that percentage, along with thousands of other guys. It’s not personal; how could it be, since she barely knows you?

8. Be open to friendship. Yes, even if you came to the bar looking for a one-night stand. If you’re clicking really well with someone but it becomes clear that it’s not leading to sexytimes, don’t think of it as a waste of your time. You met a nice person! Being open to discovering a different kind of relationship than you were looking for can be the difference between reacting like a self-involved dingleberry and reacting like a decent human being. Of course, that doesn’t mean you’re obligated to continue talking to a woman who it’s become clear doesn’t share your goals for the evening. It’s perfectly acceptable to offer to continue the conversation on the phone or over email, excuse yourself, and go look for someone else.

9. Don’t get her drunk. It’s hard to say no to free drinks, as I mentioned above, so don’t keep plying her with alcohol all night just because she doesn’t say, “God, I’m so wasted. Anyone who fed me another drink and had sex with me would, at best, be in a morally grey area.” I mean, she’s a grownup, she’s in charge of her own actions, it’s not your responsibility to keep her from getting drunk, but don’t keep ordering for her. If she wants another one, she’ll ask for it.

10. Don’t pretend you don’t notice she’s wasted. Even if you weren’t the one who got her wasted, don’t act like you’re not aware that she is. It’s usually pretty goddamn obvious when someone’s too fucked up to be making decisions. If she seems drunk but aware of what she’s doing, asks for sex, and is involved and enthusiastic through the whole thing, well, that’s a drunken hookup. But if she’s not entirely sure what’s going on, if she responds only weakly, appears to pass out, or just lays there passively but “doesn’t say no,” that’s rape. Don’t be a rapist. One of the best ways you can keep yourself from being a rapist is to err on the side of caution: If you think it’s borderline whether she can consent, don’t do it.

This is all pretty fucking simple, really. Be polite, and treat women like they have an equal say in how the evening’s going to go.

*NB: No matter how pure of heart and well intentioned a guy might be, getting hit on when you don’t want to be still feels like harassment, especially since women experience it pretty much all day, every day. We understand that you can’t control how other guys behave, but you still have to contextualize your actions. Basically, you’re one raindrop in a deluge—you might be a little warmer that the others, but it’s hard to notice or care when we’re soaked to the skin.

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5 Responses

  1. As a guy who’s never been stupid enough to ruin a woman’s perfectly good evening in a bar, let me say 1) bravo and 2) it’d be great if women knew how terrifying meeting people really is.

    Maybe you do know. But regardless of whether it’s society or evolution making the rules (and if you think I’m getting into that, you’re crazy), men feel a lot of pressure to be the ones who put ourselves out there. Some of us try to initiate conversation, others buy you a drink, others … well, you’re very familiar with what others do. But as hard as it is, rest assured that some of us out here are trying to be decent human beings.

    (Of course, I can’t help but feel like it’s putting us at an evolutionary disadvantage with the cavemen…)

    Blessings,

    c

  2. it’d be great if women knew how terrifying meeting people really is.

    Oh, we know. Or at least, the queer contingent knows. I’ve had too many conversations that resembled:

    “Hi, I’m Kim!”
    “What?”
    “Bye, I was Kim!”

    complete with hours of “what could I have done better? (Answer: not run away).

    I’ll know not to ask the drink question. That was an excellent tip, and something I’ve never considered.

    The good thing about feminist ladies (besides being better in bed and equal in sharing the housework) is that we can initiate as well as receive hospitality. Don’t know about evolutionary advantage, but it certainly makes for better relationships. Maybe the reason you see so many of the cavemen is that they can’t keep anyone in the cave for long.

    Cheers for the article!

  3. cmajor7, a lot of women — even those who like to be the one who gets approached — have put ourselves out there for a guy we liked, so we do know how that goes. We’re not under the same constant pressure to always be the one to make the first move, so most guys do experience it a lot more often, but these emotions are not completely foreign to us. And of course, I can’t guarantee that following this advice will keep the women you approach from being completely rude in response, because there are people like that across the gender spectrum.

    You should consider, though, that even if you’re the world’s nicest guy, it’s not generally ONE dude that ruins a night. It’s the constant stream of dudes who aren’t looking us in the eye, or who don’t leave as soon as they get shot down, or keep feeding their would-be date drinks when she might be thinking she should stop that tend to make women feel like public commodities rather than people. Like I said, raindrop in a deluge.

  4. word! found you through missconduct’s last post. there’s a hazel dickens tune i wish could be posted above every brass rail:

    i’m just sitting in this bar room
    yes, that’s whiskey that you see.
    and my name is mary johnson
    and lord my feet are killing me.
    i been working hard
    and i just stopped in
    before I head on home
    and if you’re thinking something different, friend,
    well you sure are thinking wrong.

    if you think you’re reading “want to”
    in these big brown eyes of mine
    well it’s only a reflection
    of the “want to” in your mind.

    i like a good time talking
    and i like good company
    and if you could see it my way
    well you know we might be friends
    but you think my being here alone’s
    an invitation to my bed
    and the drink you think has turned me on
    has only turned your head.

    we all get lonely sometimes
    and this might be your time
    you’re seeing satin pillows
    sweet perfume, forbidden wine
    and you think I’m dreaming of those lines
    and now we bid adieu
    well just like you don’t want to,
    it’s a little thing I’d like to choose.

  5. Ha! Good one, magicbean. I hadn’t heard that before.

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