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.
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,