Q: I’m 23, and not unsuccessful with women, just in finding one who wants to stick with me. I approach women two ways: hook up, then part company, or, if I have strong feelings, I work the gentleman angle — ask the woman out, spend quality time with her, and hold off on making moves until we get to know each other. This approach always fails, and I get friendzoned. I used to tell myself they were afraid of commitment, but more than once, I’ve watched these women get a boyfriend shortly afterward.
—Not A Player
A: When you like a woman, sure, be a gentleman, just not a Victorian gentleman — avoiding all sexual contact until marriage and always walking closest to the curb so nobody’s chamber pot of excrement splashes on her petticoat.
Where you go wrong is in dividing the world into two kinds of women: the hussies you make moves on and the nice girls you leave puzzled, angry, and sexually frustrated. You probably fear rejection by girls you care about but excuse your mousy approach by calling yourself a gentleman instead of a wimp. Not making moves doesn’t make nice girls want you more; it makes them go from wanting you to wanting to throttle you — until they finally give up and maroon you in the pink zone of their address book (for girlfriends and guys who might as well be).
You should instead divide women into “I could do her” and “Only with a gun to my head and a feedbag over hers.” You can’t know whether a woman’s a keeper on the first date, but at least try to kiss her to stake your claim for being more than friends. Even if she has some rule against first-date kissing, she’ll get the message that you are attracted to her, you aren’t gay, and your interest goes beyond finding out whether she gets along with her sisters and what she thinks should be done to bring peace to the Middle East.
You don’t just go in cold for a kiss. Get some drinks in a girl, then casually touch her arm a few times. Researchers found that a light touch led people to leave bigger tips, made them more likely to sign a petition and to give a stranger on the street a dime. In studies in France by Dr. Nicolas Gueguen, men at a bar were more interested in women who touched their arm shortly after meeting them, and women touched by a man were more likely to dance with the man and, in another study, to give him their phone number. (Guéguen warns that his results might have varied in North America since the French are more “tactile” people — researcher shorthand for “when two plumbers meet on the street in France they give each other sweet little pecks on each cheek.”)
These light arm touches are actually a valuable investigative tool. If, upon being touched, your date doesn’t back up while extending a can of pepper spray, consider it a signal to treat her not just like a lady, but a lady you’re interested in, and go in for some lip. Maybe it’ll lead to love, maybe just a couple more dates. But, at least there’s the possibility of something beyond the friendzone — for guy who understands the difference between getting sparks flying and writing a woman a purchase order for some lighter fluid and a box of matches.
Q: What do you call somebody you’re in a long-term relationship with when you’re both middle-aged professionals who live together but aren’t married? My (fill in the blank) and I are somewhat stymied when introducing each other. “Boyfriend” sounds transient, “partner” is business-y, “significant other” sounds cold, and “lover” is way too much information. Help!
A: Have you tried “This is Bob, and we’re in a monogamous sexual relationship”? Or maybe “Meet the one thing keeping me from dying alone and having my decomposing body go undiscovered for weeks.” There’s status in being married, so there’s an understandable desire by those who are coupled but not under contract to have their relationships valued, too. Unfortunately, there really isn’t a good term for introducing an unmarried partner, although some options might be: “My Yoko Ono,” “my consort,” “my constant,” “my boy-toy,” “my everything,” or, during a rough patch, “my plus-one, Bob.” But, do you really need to explain your relationship immediately? Frankly, if more of the smug married people out there were as honest and concrete as you’re trying to be, they’d drop that convenient spousal shorthand of “Meet my husband” for something like “This is the man I refuse to have sex with. I’ve fantasized for years about strangling him in his sleep, but it’s a tough economy and I’m in retail.”