Tuesday, January 01, 2008

On my triumphant return: What Maxim won’t tell you about interacting with women

Okay, so I know I’ve been gone a whole month, and that a lot has happened in that time. World leaders have been killed. Primary caucuses approach. Jessica Alba has come up pregnant. Tony Romo has discovered that he can’t play football when there are hot blondes in the stadium. Not to mention the extended holiday period, which has included world travel, relationship shakeups, lots of gifts given and received, and plenty to be thankful for. And what’s my first post of the new year about? Dating.

Not an earth-shaking topic, to be sure, but it’s one that’s recently been at the forefront of my attention. Doug has posted in the past about Nice Guys™ and the errors of their Nice Guy™ ways, and I think it’s a fairly accurate depiction. But having recently been forced, unwillingly, into an evening with one of these poor, misguided souls, I felt the need to clear up a couple of misconceptions that Maxim and similar publications might be spreading about what, precisely, women are looking for in their interactions with men.

This is, of course, by no means intended to be a comprehensive guide, nor is it meant to imply that women are some sort of monolithic hive mind that all think the same way. Yes, there are women out there who are turned on by braggadocio about workout regimens and college bar fights, but that’s kind of the point: Every woman is an individual, not just a member of Group Woman, and should be treated with respect for her individuality and not just items from a punch list.

Lesson the first: Women aren’t impressed by what you say; they’re impressed by what you do. We don’t care about how many reps you do on each muscle group. We don’t care about how badly you kicked the asses of those eight guys who jumped you. Many of us don’t care about how much money you make. We care about what you’re doing while you’re out with us. Are you polite to the waiter? Are you listening to what we say and not just waiting for your turn to talk? Are you paying attention to us, or is your interest wandering around the room? Are you engaged in the moment and your interaction with us, or are you just marking time until you can get us back to your place? Are you dressed like you have somewhere to go, or do you look like your date is just a quick errand you have to run before you hit the gym? Are you treating us with respect, or just treating us like the frat brother you farted on before heading out to pick us up? All of that speaks far louder than anything you actually say to us during the course of the date.

Lesson the second: Whatever you think women want to hear is probably wrong. This goes back to women not being impressed by what you say. When you say, “You’ve got a really nice body,” you probably think you’re giving a compliment, and women like compliments, right? Except you’re working from the assumption that your opinion of her body is paramount in her mind. You’re also saying to her, practically in so many words, that the shape of her body is paramount in your mind. If you absolutely have to comment on her appearance, stick with a simple, “You look lovely.” It’s flattering, complimentary, and vague enough to avoid being creepy.

When you say, “I can bench-press a subcompact car, and I’ve got a perfect twelve-pack,” you probably think that you’re wowing her with your awesome physique, but you’re basically offering a benefit that she can enjoy only when you’re naked. Because of course y’all are going to end up naked, right? Assumptions are never a good way to start out a date.

What can you say to a woman? Dunno; what has she been saying to you? That’s where you get your cues. “Wow, I never would have taken you for a mountain climber. Tell me more about summiting Kilimanjaro?” “What made you decide to become a tax attorney?” “You must have been the smartest contestant in the Miss Magnolia Midlands pageant. What made you decide to stop competing?” Don’t make the mistake of seeing a date as an audition for each other’s company and thinking that, by letting her know she’s gained your approval, you’re putting her at ease. You’re not going into it to gain each other’s approval; you’re going into it to get to know each other and decide if you want to take things further. And the best way to do that is to actual listen to what she’s saying, instead of waiting for her lips to stop moving so you can talk.

Lesson the third: Drink less. Oh. Emm. Gee. If you’re out on a date, particularly in the early stages, with a woman you’re really interested in, you’re probably pretty nervous, and you probably think that a drink or five will loosen you up and help you to be yourself. This is a mistake. The first drink both relaxes you and makes you more likely to reach for the second; by the time you’re reaching for the fourth, you’re well on your way to an imitation of Animal House that is both unflattering to you and unpleasant for her. Trust me that the jokes you’re telling aren’t nearly as clever, the way you’re groping her isn’t nearly as charming, and the hoops you’re making the waitstaff jump through aren’t nearly as funny in her head as they are in yours. Keep it to a single drink, at least until you get to know each other better; you’ll be more likely to remember your evening, and more likely to have an evening worth remembering.

Lesson the fourth: The way you act influences the kind of women who respond to you. How can I explain this without coming across as kind of classist and bitchy? I'm fairly sure I can't and shouldn't even try. Here's the deal: You're looking for someone who more-or-less matches your interests and aspirations; most women are doing the same. To find Your Kind of Woman, you also have to be the kind of man who is attractive to Your Kind of Woman. If your ideal woman is classy and intellectual, you're not going to attract her by acting like a frat boy. If your ideal woman is down-to-earth and unsuperficial, you're not going to attract her with fancy meals and man-jewelry. If you find yourself consistently unsatisfied with the women you date, you need to either change your expectations or start dating a different kind of woman, and if you want to date a different kind of woman, you need to start acting like the kind of guy who can satisfy the kind of woman you’re looking for. If you want to date a Highlands woman, you need to act like a man who can walk into Highlands and order a drink without embarrassing himself. And if, being fully honest with yourself, you realize that you’re just not that kind of man, you need to learn to find the beauty in the kind of woman that responds to you as you are.

Lesson the fifth: Think interaction, not transaction. Like I’ve already said a couple of times, women aren’t some sort of hive mind that all think precisely the same way. There isn’t some formula that’s guaranteed to sweep every woman off of her feet. Some women like having doors opened for them; some don’t. Some women like jazz music; some don’t. Some women like hamburgers and not football, some women like football and not hamburgers, and some women like both. If a woman doesn’t respond positively to your Guaranteed Seduction Technique, that doesn’t mean she’s faulty/bitter/ungrateful/scratched and dented; it just means that she’s not into whatever move you just pulled. The secret is to find out what she is into and give her that. Or find a woman who responds to the moves you already have.

Lesson the five and a halfth: A nonstarter isn’t a failure or a disaster; it’s just a fact of life. No matter how perfect you two might seem together, no matter how well you behave and how well she responds, no matter how well you listen to what she says and how you try to give her what she’s looking for, things just might not work out. Maybe you discover that whatever she’s looking for isn’t something you want to give. Maybe she discovers that whatever she thought she was looking for isn’t what she wants after all. Maybe you discover that you’ve been shooting for Nordstrom women all this time, when what would really make you happy is a Target girl. Maybe every factor is in evidence and perfectly in line and the whole thing is just lacking that chemistry, that spark, that makes the leap from a dinner date to a relationship. It happens. It doesn’t mean that you suck; it doesn’t mean that she does. It just means that you move on and try again with different people. And sure, yeah, if it happens on a regular basis, you might want to try detecting a pattern and looking at the other tips here provided, but if just once, it just doesn’t work out, that’s just a shame. And it’s just something you have to deal with, get over, and move on.

The most important lesson is to find out who you really are and be that. If you force yourself to be someone you aren’t, you’re not going to be happy in the resulting relationship, no matter how well the pieces fit together. And if you allow yourself to be yourself, but continually pursue women who don’t respond to You, you’re not going to be happy, because you’re going to be lonely and convinced that all women are bitches. Manage your behavior and your expectations, be yourself, and realize that dating is absolutely going to suck no matter what you do or how you handle it. So go ahead. Go for it. You’ve really got nothing to lose.

So there’s my highly anticipated return from my blogging hiatus. I’ll hit the high points of politics, travel, social anthropology, and the 2008 Sugar Bowl featuring the Georgia Bulldogs in future posts. Also watch this spot for more Friday randomness. In the meantime, happy holidays, merry Christmas, happy Slovak Independence Day, stastny novy rok, and God bless.

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