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When the tables are turned

Hey folks, I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything substantial but first jury duty intervened and then I had to dig out from all the time I missed during jury duty, so blah blah blah. Regardless, in the meantime there have been a couple of things which have popped up on my radar screen that somewhat play into the same themes I’ve been thinking and writing about recently. Namely, how the hell do men and women relate to each other? And more specifically, how do you ask someone out, how do you react when you’re asked out, and how do you interpret the other’s reaction?

A few days back, while reading the Overeducated Nympho (if you don’t read this blog, you should. Vix is a) more prolific, b) funnier, and c) hotter than me. Or at least c) is true as far as you know. Or as far as I know or she knows. Anyway.) I ran across a comment in which a female commenter said (among a few other things): “I just want to say…as a girl, I think actively pursuing guys is way overrated. If it doesn’t scare them, it bores them. There’s just no winning.”

This caught my attention. It was less than a week after I posted the big long series on How to Ask a Girl Out (and yes, folks, I will be getting around to that shortening-up revision sometime soon) and so the subject was very much on my mind. Just not from the female perspective. Not wanting to hijack a fellow blogger’s space, I still wanted to reply, so I answered: “There actually is a population of guys out there who fall between Scared and Bored…although I don’t have any firm idea how big a segment that is, I definitely know they’re out there.”

Luckily for me, this little exchange has actually turned into a substantial and very interesting correspondence between yours truly and Late Bloomer on the whole subject of gals-asking-out-guys. With her permission, I’m sharing some of this correspondence with you in the hopes of creating an enlightening dialog.

I think I’ve mentioned it on this blog before, however obliquely, but I’ll come clean right now. In my lifetime, I have been a huge, sappy coward when it came to asking girls out. (My repentance of this in adulthood is what led to the how-to series. You know, now that I’m married and the pressure is off.) I’ve almost never done it unless there were clear signals from the lady in question. And in the case of my wife, well, she will bluntly tell you that she decided I was the one for her, set trap after trap and watched me stupidly blunder right past all of them before deciding that subtlety would not work with my oblivious ass and going straight to the clubbing-on-the-head. That one worked. So to have women out there saying that approaching guys is a waste of time just saddens me on several levels, not least of which is the fact that had a very small group of women not had the ovaries to let me know they were interested and/or actually come forward and ask me out, my miniscule romantic history would be even MORE pathetic.

But also I wrote the “how-to” series because I felt sorry for guys who were like me and had to fight to work up the balls to ask someone out. It’s scary fucking shit to do that, at least until you’ve gotten some experience at it and learned to roll with it. And the fact that it’s scary and difficult doesn’t change if the genders are reversed. I have a boatload of respect for those gals who hitch up the ovaries to ask a guy for his number. Not only are these ladies facing the same fear of rejection that we guys are, but they’re also bucking what is in our culture the “expected” behavior of their gender just by stepping up to the plate. That takes some guts, people. And I don’t care who you are, if you’re putting yourself out there, I respect that.

So. In talking with Late Bloomer, I got a good and honest view from a stranger of what it was like for her. She says, “You are obviously right about there being ‘in-between’ guys who appreciate being pursued. I would LOVE to meet them. It’s just that, well if I haven’t scared off or bored several guys with my ‘bold’ ways, then they’ve gotten the wrong-ish idea and assumed I must want to jump them immediately (I guess they thought their work was done for them?) and it soon turns into this thing about sex and not so much a relationship.”

That sucks. But I’m not surprised. I do believe that a certain percentage of guys is always going to assume that a woman approaching him is interested at least as much physically as in any other way. Partially I think it’s just that whole hard-wired sex thing in the male mind. That is, a certain percentage of guys always think that way when approaching a girl, so therefore if they’re being approached BY a girl, they would automatically assume something similar is at work.

Regardless, this is a lesson for my male friends out there. Don’t make hasty assumptions. Late Bloomer basically described a typical scenario which happens every weekend all around the country in which Our Heroine, while out having a drink and a good time meets a guy who intrigues her. She takes a deep breath, rallies her ovaries, and asks him for his number…and gets it. Success! Except he freezes her out when she doesn’t immediately put out. That’s not the fault of Our Heroine. Dipshit Barguy thought he gave his number to Tipsy Tabledancer, because when he goes out to bars it’s Tipsy Tabledancer that he’s looking for…and he probably sees her often enough that he starts to assume that most of the girls around him fit into that category. Up comes Our Heroine, who shows some interest. Consciously or not, Dipshit Barguy has an expectation that he’s looking at Tipsy Tabledancer. Unfortunately, our real-life Heroine doesn’t meet that expectation. When he realizes that, rather than try to see what was actually being offered…a sincere expression of interest but not necessarily an offer of a chase across the sheets…he bailed.

In our discussion, Late Bloomer and I agreed that context is important here. Ladies, if you’re in a bar, the context will dictate that it’s more likely that the guys around you are primarily interested in sex. I don’t really have a solution aside from that suggested by many women (including Vix) about going to a bookstore or coffeeshop and trying to flirt with some guys there. I don’t know personally; like I said, I was a gutless coward who couldn’t screw up the courage to put himself out there. I never did the bar scene, and I certainly would never have hit on a girl in a coffeeshop because I’d be too convinced that I’d be perceived as a creep, pest or even a stalker. And similarly I wouldn’t be alert to the fact that a woman was flirting with me in that context; I’d be likely to ascribe it to my own dirty mind and wishful thinking. But that could just be me. In any case, I’d be willing to bet that a guy approached by a lady in that context would be less likely to immediately jump to the conclusion of “She wants me! Time to buy condoms!” than a beer-buzzed dude in a bar.

Our ol’ pal Dipshit Barguy has made the connection in his mind that a girl in a bar only asks a guy for his number if she wants to ride him like a stolen Ducati. The fact that this assertion is incorrect is bad enough in and of itself. But the hidden cost comes when after a time or three at it Our Heroine says, as Late Bloomer did, “Well, screw that, guys are either scared off or are just assuming I want some quick sex. What’s the use of actually asking a guy out for anything but?” Now, fellas, you’re beginning to learn as I did why girls might be more reluctant to put themselves out on that limb and approach us.

At the end of the day, a certain percentage of guys are just going to be scared off. My female motorcyclist friends bitch about this one all the time. I guess a girl who approaches the guy or does other “non-traditionally-feminine” things (like riding a motorcycle) just short-circuits a whole heaping pile of guys, through no fault of her own. She’s being herself, and the guys get all weirded out on her.

Personally, I don’t get it. A girl riding a motorcycle or going up to a guy and asking him out is, in my humble opinion, exhibiting a sterling level of confidence and independence. To me those are highly attractive qualities. But some guys feel threatened by that, I guess. My only conclusion is that those guys are sufficiently insecure in their masculinity that they have to always be clearly and definitively Mr. He-Man Knuckledragger within their relationships. Too bad, I think they’re missing out.

Men, I say if a gal comes up and asks for your number, flirts so outrageously with you that you can’t possibly think she’s NOT interested, or (if you’re the Taoist Biker) she just clubs you over the head, stands over your prone body with her fists on her hips and says “I’m the one for you, buddy,” don’t rush to judgment. She’s come to you, after all. She’s put herself out there. The pressure is off of you, so at least listen to what she has to say. See what she has to offer. Who knows, you might be surprised.

Because I can tell ya, fellas: if ever there’s a girl out there who’s willing and able to ride you like a stolen Ducati, it’s a gal with the independence, confidence, assertiveness, and brass ovaries to seek you out if she decides she’s interested. Just don’t make hasty assumptions, give a gal a chance, and see where it goes.


Now, I confess that this and other questions hold a strange fascination for me. I think largely it’s because, as Dan Savage has said, so many questions about relationships and the interactions between human beings just plain ol’ have no right answers, and that we all have to figure them out for ourselves. There are tons of things that could be said about this whole thing, and I invite my dear readers, male and female, to weigh in. Late Bloomer already knows she has an open invitation (but she also let me know she’ll be busy for a while); everyone else feel free. In the absence of correct answers, sharing the breadth of experience and opinion will have to substitute for real knowledge…


6 Responses

  1. I had enough time for a first glance…and it looks great, TB! I can’t wait to dive into that.

    “That’s what SHE said.”

  2. An amazing post. Not only is it well written, but it is spot on! I wish I had some interesting insight to share, but you’ve said all that needs to be said!

  3. Thanks, Foxxy, as always you flatter me. *bow*

    LB, glad you like it, and feel free to expound further!

  4. OK, here’s my commentary:
    You’ve pretty much said everything that I could have said about this subject.

    Maybe it is just that simple, that context matters. Of COURSE the guy would assume that sex was in the bag if he was asked out in a bar. Why else do most people go to bars anyway? 1. To drink, 2. To hook up. Not to find people to join their book group, that’s for sure.

    I talked to a guy friend of mine, who, similarly to you, was asked out by all the women he has dated. In asking him if he thought being asked out meant that the guy expected sex, he said “No.” And then I brought up a hypothetical situation of a coffeeshop, and before I even finished asking my question, the answer was almost glaringly obvious to me. I really don’t think most guys would make that assumption right away, in that context. [He agreed.]
    It definitely depends on so much more – the guy’s personality, the girl’s personality (and intention), and the nature of the exchange between them (like the amount and depth of flirting).

    I agree with you that the guy would have to assume the girl was interested at least physically. Practically all potential male-female romantic interactions begin with physical attraction. (I’m just talking about seeing someone at some place and garnering up the courage to talk to them…not someone you’ve known for a long time and suddenly realize you have feelings for. This is purely about people who would otherwise be strangers.) It’s not like you’re going to look at a person and go, “Wow, he/she looks like she’s got a really big heart. I should ask him/her out.” Nah…it’s more like “He/she is freaking cute/hot/sexy. I should go talk to him/her and get a number.”

    Like I said, in a bar I think most people aren’t in a state of mind of finding someone to date or have a relationship with. They want the quick hook-up, the one-night stand. But if that leads to a relationship or something else, then great (if it’s mutual). I have to say I can understand why a guy would assume that, and it doesn’t make me mad that they would expect that in a bar/nightclub situation. After all, the environment was catered for situations to lead to that anyway.

    Basically I have learned that if a girl is interested in a relationship-before-sex situation, then a bar is not the place to go looking for it. I know, that’s really obvious, and most people figure this out early. I guess that’s what makes me a late bloomer. *shrug*

    Great post again, TB. Sorry it took me so long to reply to.


    P.S. Thanks for at least calling attention to this and letting guys know that they should take the time to hear us take-charge girls out before making assumptions, feeling intimidated, or annoyed that they didn’t get to do the chasing. You never know who can blow your mind unless you give them a chance.

  5. Truthfully this blog would have been nothing without your input, LB, so thank YOU for stimulating the discussion!

  6. hate to rain on your stereotypes there, but I’ve dated not one but two guys who i met in bars. the first one was a bit shy so i invited myself back to his place (success!). while we were messing around we got to talk and realized we actually liked each other. we waited to have sex (a whole week!), and that’s because we both had the guts to say “oh, wait… you’re actually kind of cool…”

    the second guy made it clear from the beginning that he wanted to get to know me, starting off with a proper dinner and evening out. i totally felt like i had the choice to kiss him on the cheek and nothing more at the end of the night, but, well, he was yummy so we got to third base and it was fun. we dated for a couple months after that.

    don’t get me wrong, i’ve also had my fair share of one-night stands with guys who’ve hit on me in bars. i was also dressed “suggestively,” so my intentions were more direct than in the situations above.

    Bah, no worries. A stereotype is what it is: not perfect but handy to make some broad generalizations. Bravo to you for your good luck in the bars, both long and short term! I’ve never even TRIED, heh.

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