Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Auntie Seraphic & the Speaker's Acquaintance

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

A few weeks ago, I a friend introduced me to an out-of-town guest. I was surprised to discover that this guest was an attractive single man about my age. I got flustered and while I didn’t do anything too embarrassing, I kind of got quiet & shy and didn’t let him see the best parts of me. However, my interest was sparked...something that (a friend observed) hasn’t happened for me in some time. I find myself wishing for an opportunity to get to know him better.

This guest is returning to town soon, to participate in a public forum. I am interested in the topic, as well as in the man, and so I am planning to go to the event. My question is: how do I go about saying hello and starting a conversation with him, without actually chasing after him?

I’m so not good at this - I despise any hint that I’m “throwing myself” at a man - but some friends have pointed out that you do have to let the guy know that you’re open to his attention. And one married female friend has encouraged me to let him know about a few things we have in common. Of course, after that the ball would be in his court.

No, he didn’t call me, email me, or friend me on Facebook. I realize he could be completely uninterested. But he’ll be back in town briefly, and then not again until who knows when. Would it be violating The Rules to show up to a public event where he will be and start a conversation with him? If not, how can I go about doing this?

Thanks for any practical tips you can give.

Speaker's Acquaintance

Dear Speaker's Acquaintance,

As he is coming to a public forum, there is no harm in you going up to him afterwards to say, "Hi, I'm [Speaker's Aquaintance]. We met at so-and-so's house. I really enjoyed your talk. Listen, if you're not doing anything afterwards, X, Y and I would be happy to take you out for a drink." Having been introduced to him by a mutual friend, you have the right to talk to him. In fact, you have to, to be polite.

Suggesting you and your friends whisk him away for a drink is just good hospitality to a someone who you know who has travelled to your town. It makes you seem friendly, not a man-chaser. If he is already booked, then smile and tell him you hope he enjoys his visit and then toddle off with a happy (if fake) smile on your face. Go out with X and Y and moan.

Notice X and Y have to be there. As a woman, you really can't just ask a male acquaintance, on the strength of one introduction, out for a drink. Keep in mind, though, that if X and Y are girls, he might like one of them better. So put some thought into whom you pick as wingmen, as the boys call such useful friends, or wingwomen.

Incidentally, it is also okay, at a day-long seminar, to plunk yourself down beside any speaker if you spot him munching his sandwich alone. That whole ritual of introducing a speaker means that, for the duration of the seminar, he is officially part of your social circle. And, once again, approaching a speaker who has been introduced to you during or just after the seminar or talk is just good hospitality. Speaking as a speaker, I love it when people come up to me to say "Hi." It makes me feel like a movie star.

One of the problems in society is that we have forgotten all the useful old rules that explained the difference between friendly hospitality and overly forward behaviour. For centuries, an adult woman could always speak to a man to whom she had been introduced by a mutual friend. But of course women could not (and still should not) go up to a complete stranger her age in a park or bar and start chatting away.

The Rules is very much obsessed with husband-hunting. I am more interested in men and women becoming good, chaste friends, friends who may or may not fall in love. The introductions of mutual friends and public lectures are ways in which women can meet new men in a respectable, stress-free way.

You know, I may start advising shy readers to intentionally go up to speakers after lectures to say "Hi, I really liked your lecture!" just to bang into their heads that men are not that scary, and not just marriage-possibilities, and there are indeed appropriate times to go up and talk to them.

I hope this is helpful.

Grace and peace,


Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Going up to speakers after lectures is a great way to meet famous and important people too. I met Peter Kreeft this way, and got his email address and ended up getting him on our list of regular commenters for a while. Celebrities are people too, and the celebrities of the intellectual world are much better behaved than the kind they feature in the Daily Mail.

(Kreeft was married, however, so I can't speak for it being a way to meet "men").

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

I was once in an elevator with Richard Neuhaus and since it was a very tall building and we were both going to the top floor, I decided to break the ice with a joke. He laughed.

here is my Neuhaus joke:

"A Party strongman comes up to a factory worker and says, 'Why Comrade, I didn't see you at the last party meeting...' The factory worker says, 'Oh dear me, Comrade, if I'd known it was going to be the last one, I'd have brough the whole family!'"

theobromophile said...

Agree with Hilary Jane re: meeting famous people at their speaking events. I've met all sorts of fun, talented people that way - and people who have then happily helped my career or pushed me in the right direction.

One of the problems in society is that we have forgotten all the useful old rules that explained the difference between friendly hospitality and overly forward behaviour.

Which a lot of men have forgotten as well. There are many who insist on seeing normal friendliness, or anything outside of outright snottiness, as a come-on. As I may have bemoaned recently, a married man saw my spending time with a group of friends, of which he was one part, as a come-on to him.

Which is to say: you cannot control how all men think about you and your intentions. What you can do is to act in such a way so that reasonable, level-headed, emotionally healthy men respond well to you, whether as a friend or a potential romantic match. And reasonable, level-headed, emotionally healthy men are the kind of men that you want to find.


Back to the advice-seeker: if you are really shy, you could ask your mutual friend if she would take the hottie out for drinks post-lecture, and include you in the group.

Juno said...

I like the idea of being able to talk to males without the perception that I'm throwing themselves at them. I just like to talk to different people and know everybody at the social event. I mostly just like to see everyone get to know each other and stay involved. Sometimes its mispercieved though, so I usually don't go up to a male one-on-one unless I know them really well.

kozz said...

Here’s a funny story for you that loosely relates to what we’re discussing here. Again, I’m from different culture and although you might find it weird, it’s a good example how random talk can backfire or be misunderstood.
Three weeks ago, I was waiting for my office shuttle at office. Meanwhile, I struck up a conversation with another employee who occupies the opposite cube. He’s a new graduate student, a decade younger, and has been in the company for about a year. We’ve never spoken before or even made eye contact before this.
We spoke for about five minutes; some random small talk about bus routes and colleges. And then he asked him which year I graduated, with the possible intention of gauging my age. So I told him. The smile drained away slowly from his face and he moved away. I presume he thought I was one of those cougar women types. Lesson learnt. I will only talk to people I’ve been introduced to.

Seraphic said...

Cougar women types indeed! ROFL!