You can’t have sex, or any sort of relationship with someone you’ve never met. The reality is that most successful personal introductions that have led to friendship, or relationships, or just sex can be broken down into three stages.
First, discovery. Two people find one another. This can be face-to-face. It can be online. Or, it can be via phone app. It doesn’t matter. Two people, or more than two people discover one another and show mutual interest.
Secondly, the parties involved create a space for communication. That could mean meeting for coffee. Or, stepping out a bar for a smoke. Or, having a private online conversation.
Finally, one, or all parties propose what they want from any future interactions. This is the scary part. If you say you’re only interested in relationships when they just want to hook up, but you would have been fine with that you’ll beat yourself up. If you’re trying to make friends, but the really cool person you’re talking to wants more than that, you may feel obligated for various reasons. And then there’s the creepy people who try to assert power over you. If you comply to their whims you feel like crud. If you tell them to bugger off you worry they may do something.
There are no tricks. Despite what online gurus and magazines may suggest, there are no guaranteed ways to make the final step of introducing yourself to a potential partner easier. I still get knots in my stomach when I realize that I’m about to ask someone out on a date, or, ask them if they would be interested in a sexual encounter. In fact, I think I’ve failed at every step of my introductions numerous times. Why don’t I share my failures and then we can discuss how we can all do this with more grace, even if we do get rejected.
So, my failures during the discovery phase of introducing myself to women… I would blame on being a straight male who has been well trained in misogynist culture. To be clear, as straight men we’re the most self-doubting species on earth and our tool for hiding that is machismo. It’s not the close dancing, it’s the close dancing while foaming at the mouth’ before making eye contact. It’s not the act of discovery, it’s the act of discovering an attractive person and not giving them the time to discover me. It all reeks of desperation.
The second step, creating a space to communicate. I think my failures at this stage are tied to my occasional lack of patience. Fairly recently, I was at a party, dancing with a friend of friends. When I was leaving, I tried to ask my dancing partner for her contact info. However, the party was insanely loud and she couldn’t hear me. My response? I gave her my business card. Probably the least social thing I could do in that instance. I could have given her my phone and asked her to give me her number. If I was patient, I could have asked to speak to her for a second. But impatient me, gave my dancing partner my business card and left the party. I haven’t heard from her since.
At the final step, telling the person that I’ve met what I want is when fear usually wins. I’ve regularly decided I’d rather have a fun conversation with someone than ask them if they would be interested in going out, or sleeping with me. I honestly don’t know how I’ve had sex pretty consistently since my late teens. Despite my fears, I’ve almost always had a girlfriend or love interest. I don’t know why I become brave around certain women, and yet with others, I keep my attraction to them to myself.
To be honest, I think the solution to my failures is both personal and societal. First, I need to be more patient. If I see someone, I need to give them ample time to decide whether to give me physical cues to initiate an interaction. I need to be patient when trying to create a space for the person I’ve met to communicate with me. I need to face my fears and not worry about how Western society sees failure, and openly state what my interest in that person is when I have the chance to tell them. I need to remember some of my favorite relationships started with a handshake and a smile.
From society? Straight men shouldn’t feel like they have to initiate. Women shouldn’t feel like they are obligated to wait for men to initiate said actions. If you discover me and I reciprocate interest, if you create a space for us to communicate and tell me what you want from our mutual attraction, I promise to push my machismo to the side and listen. I’m sure I’m not the only man willing to help change this narrative.
When guys do creepy things like corner women in bars and then touch their face, that should disqualify them. When older men tell their younger girlfriends not to dance far away from them, while they sit in a corner being miserable, that should disqualify them. Bothering people who want to be left alone should also be disqualifying. “Blocking” people who are clearly interested in one another, should get a societal thumbs down. Seeking power and control, rather than, a mutually agreed upon situation — needs to be something of a bygone era. In general, let’s stop doing creepy controlling things to people. Also, we need to stop accepting creepy behavior from others.
While we’re trying to become better people, we all need to stop laughing at others getting rejected. It’s a part of life. It happens to all of us. However, we can accept rejection gracefully. And treat those who experience rejection with class.