Saturday, 7 July 2012

I Object

Anna sent me this link and asked what I thought. And, golly, look at all those married ladies saying, "Go out and get him!" Wow.

I think telling a guy you want to date him is a smack in the face of received wisdom. I think it's cutting to the chase, and women shouldn't chase men. I think it's courting rejection, and women in general take rejection more to heart than men. I think it's a way to get a guy who is too lazy to go after who he wants but will certainly be grateful to receive what he can get without effort. I think it's a way to scandalize the stuffing out of super-trad NCBs, if super-trad NCBs are your cup of Earl Grey.

That said, I can see the benefits of having a bucket of emotional cold water thrown in your face sooner rather than later.

I really do believe that men go after what they want, and if they are grown up enough to want an adult relationship with a woman, than they will go after that relationship and that woman. Absolutely nothing in human culture tells Single men "Hey, don't chase women." Men are encouraged every day and in every way to go out there and get a woman. They might not be told to marry her, and they may be mocked sorely if they are turned down flat. And there's where women can assist the situation.

Men are more likely to ask you out or to be their girlfriend or whatever if they are reasonably sure you are not going to reject them. So if you want men to ask you out, you must be a friendly, approachable, sympathetic kind of woman. You must smile, say hello, ask questions, ask for advice, be a good listener, have open body language (e.g. uncross your arms), and invite nice men to parties you throw with your housemate. Asking men to parties is, I think, what you should do instead of asking men out on dates. And during the party you can ask him to de-cork the wine or get the lid off a jar, which stresses that you know he is a man and that you think men are darned useful to have around.*

The extent of my personal philosophy of girls liking guys is if you like a guy, you may show it by touching his arm. Obviously this is going to be more significant in countries where people don't touch each other much. But I have checked my British Flirtation handbook (long story), and arm touching is key. If you touch a guy's arm, he is going to think you just might like him. And he should be flattered and encouraged, if encouragement is something he wants.

For aye, there's the carpet burn. Not all the guys we fancy and want to date are going to fancy or want to date us. And it's not us, it's them. They just have some other idea of who they want to date and who they are likely to fall in love with. There's not much you can do about that. Once you've figured out that Mr Wonderful is just not that into you, gracefully and charitably back off.

I think guys can grow on girls. We can become fond of the little blighters over time and sometimes Mr Hilarious But suddenly becomes The One. But I am not so sure men so often capitulate with a happy little sigh to the kind of girls they did not seek out for themselves. Sure, it happens, especially if sex is on offer. But marriage? Well, sometimes. But men are not as super-excited about marriage as women tend to be, so let's just say the engine might stall on the way to the chapel.

Meanwhile a girl who cluelessly flings herself at a man without any marked attentions on his part can be really annoying, both to the embarrassed man and to his friends and relations. And, hey, that girl has been me, so I'm not throwing stones here. I'm just stating a sad and inevitable fact of life.

Come to think of it, I shouldn't throw stones at memories of my adolescent self either because even back in the 80s and the 90s, older women were telling us younger women to go ahead and ask out men. We were told that this was the modern, progressive, sensible, adult, womanly thing to do. And I would have been spared much misery if I had not done it. Which is why I am banging on about it today.

*As far as I can make out, few things depress a man as much as thinking the object of his affections is SO smart, employed, independent and self-sufficient that she simply doesn't need him and he doesn't add much to her life. Personally, I err in the opposite direction, ("Gosh, B.A. If you just up and die, I am in serious trouble!!!") so once again, if anyone knows of any writing jobs going, contact me at


Sarah said...

I've always known this is one of your major Searching Singles tenants, but I really have always disagreed with you about this. It's just that nothing I have ever experienced or observed matches up with this.

In my experience, I have not found any pattern with, "The guys I've told, or have made my intentions obvious to, I have not ended up with and the guys I've waited it out for, I have." It's generally seemed kind of random to me.

The first relationship I ever had, he actually was the first one to actually SAY what his feelings were, but previous to that, I kind of knew he liked me, and he definitely knew I liked him. Actions speak louder than words, and if my actions hadn't blatantly told him, I don't think he would have ever told me.

The next guy I was with, I actually said it first.

And interspersed were guys who I did tell, who didn't like me, and guys who I didn't tell who didn't like me, and who I just ended up sighing over for months while I waited for him to ask me out, when he never did. Lots of time wasted! I have always preferred, and found it fruitful, to "cut to the chase" as you say, and get down to it without all the tension and uncertainty. If he likes me too, awesome! If not, well, now I know and can move on without clinging to false hopes.

My parents, for instance, are only together because my mom made my dad cookies one day. He did much of the chasing after that, sure, but she was sort of the catalyst.

My closest male friend has asked plenty of girls out, but admitted that none of the girls he'd ever asked out had accepted, and that all the girls who he'd ever actually dated and even fallen in love with, initiated the relationship.

I don't think all men (though certainly some) are so simple minded that as soon as something becomes less of a challenge, it becomes boring, or less interesting, or less desirable. Maybe in the patterns of your experiences, and maybe for the previous generation of daters, it's true.

But then there were, what? 10 women who answered that question? Most of whom said they were married to men that THEY pursued. It can hardly be said that they must represent a minority.

I honestly don't think that a girl has any less of a chance of getting a husband if she asks him out for coffee. I'm not saying she should take the role of the man and should be completely open... But asking a guy out to coffee doesn't mean you're opening your whole heart to him. The initial revelation of feelings is not (or should not be) the only challenge there will be to impress and keep a girl, and I think guys are smart enough to know this.

(this comment is all over the place, I know.)

Seraphic Spouse said...

When I talk about courtship, I'm talking about courtship leading to marriage. Boyfriend-girlfriend relationships interest me on only a superficial level until I see a ring. The fact that A and B "are in a relationship" has no meaning for me unless A and B are at least talking marriage.

Ten women saying "Yah, right on. I certainly bagged my man" is not really a scientific sample. And heaven knows how many men they broke their hearts over before their husbands decided to stick around for the long haul.

But of course I'm not much of a scientific sample myself.

I am interested in the story of your mother with the cookies, however. What was the context of the cookie giving? As much as I wail about girls baking boys cookies, it strikes me as a more in the touch-his-arm category than in the "Hey, I like hanging out with you. Let's date" school of thought.

Seraphic Spouse said...

I'm just so overwhelmed thinking about so much self-inflicted female PAIN. Whatever minimizes female pain, that's what I vote for. If simply asking guys out so as not to harbour false hopes really is the way to minimize female pain, than okay. But I'm not convinced it is. I think a lot of the time it is merely prolonging the inevitable. Yes, sure, some guys do grow up after 10 years of living with a woman they're not convinced is the One, but ohhhh, man. The pain.

Sarah said...

Well, actually, my parents didn't even LIKE each other when they first met. He was a Marine in charge of letting people into the base where he worked. When my mom didn't have the right paperwork, he didn't care how cute she was, she wasn't getting in. She thought he was handsome, but a jerk.

So a couple weeks later, she went back to where he worked with a plate of cookies, with the idea to "kill him with kindness." (Meaning, she thought it'd annoy him that this girl he didn't like was pestering him by bringing him cookies and forcing him into the awkward situation of being gracious to her.)

Of course, dad didn't pick up on this, and thought it was a genuine gesture, so asked for her number. The rest is, as they say, history.

Sarah said...

Oh, I forgot to say regarding boyfriend/girlfriend relationships not being interesting until marriage-talk happens...

It IS important if and how the relationship starts, because you'll never get to the marriage-talk point unless you're IN a relationship. Most people don't get engaged in the span of a week like you and B.A., ;) so the Point A to the Point B is important.

Anna said...

Thanks for tackling the question.

I do wonder how old the couples, especially the husbands, were when they got together. I would guess that younger, and therefore more immature and less self-confident men would be more okay with the woman giving him the go-ahead and not find in emasculating.

Anon said...

"She thought he was handsome, but a jerk. "


Seraphic Spouse said...

Oooh! I love the Marine story!!! I love it!

And I cannot help but mention that your mum was not trying to woo your dad but to kill him with kindness and get past him!

Sarah said...

Yes, but the point is that my dad didn't know that. ;)

Seraphic Spouse said...

And my point is that he was wrong.

Anne said...

British Flirtation handbook?

Charming Disarray said...

I'm sympathetic to your theory about minimizing pain, but honestly, I'm starting to believe that letting the guy do all the chasing opens women up to a totally different kind of pain--the guys who've pursued me the hardest were the jerks. Sometimes I think the rules (which I don't follow religiously, but in effect I never do the chasing) actually weed out the nice guys and leave you with the wannabee puas. I think there ends up the being just as much rejection from those men, with a hefty side dose of feeling like a chump. I don't like chasing guys at all, but I'm starting to re-evaluate. I'd rather have a nice guy who's a bit lazy and clueless than ten flakes who put on a show of being interested just for the fun of it.

Charming Disarray said...

Sarah, awesome story. And obviously your mom didn't worry about looking like she was interested. It sounds like she was just being herself. If she had been overly concerned with not looking interested, she wouldn't have done it. Obviously your dad saw something in her personality that he ended up liking. I think too many of these rules make it really hard for women to just be themselves.

sciencegirl said...

The original question was "Should I tell him I'm interested in him?" It was not "Should I indicate, by any outward sign, that I am interested in him?"

The original question baffles me because it assumes that romantic interest is something rare or obscure, whereas I have had frequent, intense crushes throughout my adult life. Granted, I often asked this question in college! Didn't find a satisfactory answer, either, because flirting with a few men didn't get me a boyfriend, asking one guy out didn't get me a boyfriend, being obvious and being coy didn't work, and the Internets got me a very awkward date with a judgmental atheist. In the end, I found the healthiest attitude to have in all this was a cheerful indifference. Grad school was better for me, anyway, on the romantic front. But I'm still not married so whatever. The truth is, there's not really some Perfect Strategy to getting a husband, but if there were, asking cute guys out probably is definitely not it.

If I'd gone around declaring myself to each of my "romantic interests," rather than just testing the waters with a little flirting, I don't think things would have turned out any better for me than they have. I also think the possibility of DRAMA would have greatly increased. Through so much practice in riding out the storm of emotion, I've also learned just how fleeting these "interests" can be.

The advice to not ask a man out is not the same as advice to sit around pining for months after the same man hoping you "interest" him. You should be doing the opposite: if he isn't asking you out, it's because he's not that into you. He might be more into you later, but he isn't right now. He might be debating all the pros and cons of asking you out, but the pros haven't won yet. So do other stuff. Quit caring. If there's no change, move on. If he changes his mind, and you still think he's pretty great, then go out with him.

n.panchancha said...

Oy! The controversy!! I have to admit that I'm almost always really uncomfortable when my friends tell me they're going to go tell a serious crush that they like him. Perhaps that's because, from my more objective, outsider perspective, it's more clear that the lads in question are not giving off perceptible "I like you best!" vibes to these friends, and I just don't want to see their little hearts crushed. (And also these are usually the type of men who don't need their egos further inflated... ooh, but that's very judgy of me.) Ugh.

Emotional chastity, yes. Not having heart-bursting crushes on men who aren't trying to marry you is the best way to avoid this situation. On the other hand, the emotional chastity spiel, especially when I'm hearing it from a 23-year-old speaker, can come across as unpleasantly cold and jaded - like, "Loving someone is stupid, unless your safety is already guaranteed." I know that's not true, but often it's seemed that way when young people have explained it to me - i.e. emotional self-preservation is the most important thing, even if it comes at the expense of genuineness.

I've seen so many girls heartbroken or crush-sick, so yes, avoiding that would be awesome. But I also think there's an element of innocence to the way some women love men they admire (even if they're not with them). I have at least one very dear Catholic friend who never thought of NOT telling her then-boyfriend that she loved him before he told her, and who, before they were dating, invited him along with her to places all the time. He married her less than a year after they started dating (yes, he proposed). It just seemed like she would never understand why she ought not to say what was true: if she loved him, she would say so, and any "conventions" that told her to do otherwise were silly.

So I'm not 100% sure where I stand. I hate seeing women lost in dreamland and not reading the very REAL signs that a particular man hasn't shown any particular interest, and that the crush is probably futile. On the other hand, it's almost worse when someone who's been vulnerable, and had her heart broken, decides that wisdom dictates coldness and detachment. Ideally, I think, I wish we could assume men don't have crushes on us unless they actually demonstrate that they do, but I also wish we could be vulnerable and real and never grow cold because we've been hurt.

And perhaps this is the time for someone to say, "Yes, but we live in a fallen world." Yes. Sigh.

Anna said...

@CD: Clueless, maybe. Lazy? Nah.

Seraphic said...

I think one thing we can all agree on is that we must use our heads and be rooted in reality. If you're sold on the "asking guys out" philosophy, at least consider watching and waiting until you see clear signs that he might be into you. For example---has he touched your arm? Touch her arm, Shy Boy!!!

Mustard Seed said...

For the first time, I followed Rules with the last guy I dated earlier this year, and by the end of it, I felt like I had been cold and aloof, and not myself. I still wonder if things would have been different if I had let myself call him more often and initiate dates, but I was stubborn that he had to make the effort to win me over. I had been burned once in the past by being overly available. This time around wasn't any better... just a drawn-out ending that was still painful and confusing. The whole thing taught me a lot, and I think there has to be some happy medium in there somewhere, but I'm not planning to take that approach again.

okiegrl said...

Even though they are called the Rules, I prefer to think of them more as guidelines. They're helpful for women who tend to make themselves too available, but I tend to feel cold as well if I follow them exactly. For example, I don't call every time I feel like it, but I let myself call a couple times a week if I'm in a relationship. I don't always answer texts right away,etc.

I agree with Auntie that most men prefer to do the asking, but it's not a hard and fast rule. I don't think there's anything wrong with asking the guy out for coffee, or as a date to a wedding. My guideline is to keep the date casual, unless it's an event he wouldn't otherwise attend.

Caelaeno said...

Hmm. I'm not a huge fan of telling guys that you have feelings for them...but asking them for lunch or coffee or something, then seeing what they do next seems to be /quite/ effective. (Also in my experience--if they don't ask you out in reciprocation, MOVE ON. Nothing is going to happen here.)

Of course, this has mostly happened with guys at work (fairly liberal university) so I don't know how great an approach this would be for NCBs.

Anonymous said...

I recently told a friend/coworker that I liked him. Actually, I wrote him a note that said something to the effect of "If you were to ask me out, I wouldn't say no. But I'll let you be the man and do something about it if you want, so I'm never going to mention this ever again unless you bring it up."

I don't know that this was exactly the best way to go about it. We'd known and been friends with each other for probably about a year, then I started liking him as maybe more. In hindsight, I don't think he ever liked me like that, but it was sure hard to tell. Because of the situation we were in, I was one of his closest friends (if not his closest), who was there in the flesh, anyway, and not a thousand miles away. Another male co-worker of ours had just moved away, and the two of them were really close, like brothers. When co-worker #2 moved away, I think this friend of mine allowed me to fill in #2's spot. So the eye contact that he and I made rather often—lots of mutual rolling our eyes together, etc—that I took as flirting, was really the same sort of interaction he'd had with #2. (That's just one example, there were lots of other examples, as well.)

So, to make a long story somewhat shorter, before I wrote the note, I could have made lists of equal length of reasons why he DID like me, and reasons why he DIDN'T. So I decided to put myself out there, and write the note, but still give him permission to take the lead if he chose.

It took him a month to say anything. At that point, we didn't see each other every single day like we had most of the time, but we were still communicating as if nothing had happened. By the time he FINALLY pulled me aside and told me he loved me like a sister, and nothing more, I'd pretty much already had that figured out. If, however, after a month of pretending like it wasn't out there, he HAD asked me out, I can't say what I would have done at the time.

Now, a month or two after our talk, I can see that I love him simply as a brother, as well, I just hadn't been that close to a guy in a long time. Our relationship hasn't really been quite the same since. It saddens me to think that I might have lost a brother, but at the same time, I don't really regret telling him how I (at least thought that I) felt, if only for my own peace of mind. I think I would have gone on being somewhat emotionally unchaste and wondering if he'd just never quite worked up the courage to ask me, when all along he was just loving me like a sister and being blissfully unaware of my torn-ness.

So...back to that posted article...hehe. I think I agree to a point with some of those women. Make your feelings known (and if that is possible with a touch of the arm, all the better! I don't think that would have worked for said man in my case, though, as he really doesn't like to be touched). Where I dissent from them is when your feelings are out there, and he hasn't done anything, they say you should go for it and ask him out. If he knows how you feel, and he hasn't said anything, well, ladies, let's be honest. He's just not that into you.


Sarah said...

I don't think the arm touch thing would work if you like someone who's already a close friend.

I touch my close male friends all the time-- on the arm, on the back, hand, whatever, just as a gesture of warmth. If, one day, one of my arm touches had a special significance, I don't think he'd have any clue. :P

I guess like Seraphic says before, it depends on the culture. I think that would extend to the "culture" of whatever your and your friends interactions are like.

hip2bsquare said...

I hope Seraphic will forgive my impertinence in commenting (I'm a male).

I imagine that it must be frustrating for women to wait for the men that they're interested in to make a move. Still, I think that telling a guy you like him is unlikely to get a positive result. That's very much been my experience when I, on very rare occasions, receive unsolicited female attention.

If you're taking the steps that Seraphic outlines to show that you're an open and friendly kind of gal and he still hasn't asked you out he's--wait for it--just not that into you. Or a bit of a coward and who wants to marry a coward?

american in deutschland said...

Yes but Queen Victoria proposed!!!!

Seraphic said...

Yes, because she was a reigning monarch. It was probably illegal for anyone to propose to her.

Seraphic said...

Actually, I think Princess Elizabeth may have had to propose to Philip of Greece, too...