Q: Ohh! I FINALLY get what you’re saying! For the longest time, I was resenting you for telling women they shouldn’t ask men out. I had this impression of you wanting ladies to just sit in a corner waiting for a strong, burly man to come to our rescue. I reread some of your columns, and it seems you’re saying it’s okay for us to APPROACH guys, strike up a conversation, and show we’re interested, but not to do the actual asking out. Or, am I wrong, and are you saying we should literally wait around for them? If so, I’m just going to go buy 23 cats right now and get it over with.
— Don’t Wanna Be The Crazy Cat Lady
A: Too many women tell themselves they’re expressing their equality with men by taking a “Raid on Entebbe” approach to getting a date. (You’re supposed to be seducing a man, not rushing him into your cargo plane before he gets shot by the Ugandans.)
Women who go all “Me Tarzan, you Tarzan” on men confuse “equal” with “the same” and what a woman can do with what actually works. (Pssst! Somebody has to be Jane.) You might be as “liberated” as all get out, but your genes are ready to party like it’s 1.8 million years ago, when women evolved to be the harder-to-get sex and men co-evolved to expect to smooth-talk a woman into the bushes. Anthropologist Heather Trexler Remoff writes in “Sexual Choice” that an unambiguous advance on a man — asking him out — is fine if your goal is getting him to attend one specific function with you. If you’d like more than a single-serving-size encounter, “you’d do well to take (your) time and not push against the built-in rhythms of human courtship.”
Guys these days don’t make this easy. Masculinity, especially in young guys, appears to have gone the way of the rotary dial phone, the Betamax, and the spotted owl. It’s gotten so bad that there are even Barbies for adult males — the action figures guys stay home moping to about how they can’t get dates. (Of course, the first step would be actually asking a girl out, not staying home praying to date her.) If the current downturn in manliness continues, fathers will soon start telling their sons, “Son, someday you’ll grow up and be a large boy who needs to shave.”
The answer for you and the rest of the ladies isn’t taking over the man’s job — doing the asking — but signaling to him that it would go very, very well for him if he did it. You do that by flirting. You’ll have to experiment, but you can probably flirt far beyond what seems reasonable — especially when a guy seems to have all the sexual aggression of a lost baby duck.
Ultimately, flirting is a form of information-gathering: Is there a man cowering in there somewhere? If so, is he man enough and interested enough to squeak out, “Doing anything Friday night?” If he can’t or won’t, he’s telling you something important: “Go flirt with the next guy.” You may do a whole lot of flirting with a whole lot of next guys, but it beats dating somebody who’s not that interested in you or sitting in a corner waiting for some burly man to come to your rescue. (One may — an archeologist in the year 2110, musing, “Hmm, looks like she died waiting for a guy to grow a pair.”)
Let’s meek love!
Q: How come many women on online dating sites expressly state in their profile that they don’t want “winks” from men, only e-mails? Isn’t a wink just an invitation to look at a profile — which is what an introductory e-mail is, right?
A: You never get a second chance to make a really crappy first impression. Next time you’re in a bar, and you spot a girl who strikes your fancy, don’t bother talking to her or buying her a drink. Just tap her on the shoulder and run. That’s basically what you’re doing by “winking” online. Never mind coming up with some clever little form e-mail that you personalize for each girl you hit on. Just send that little winkieface symbol, telling a girl you’re too lazy, dull, wimpy, or cheap to write her a message (cheap because you can “wink” on a lot of dating sites without paying to join).
Sending a wink is also a really girly thing to do — the online version of wearing a really short skirt and crossing and recrossing your legs. That does send a provocative message — something along the lines of “Hey, ladies — guess whether I’m wearing any panties!”
© 2010 Amy Alkon, all rights reserved.
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