I walked up to the far corner of her table. “Hey, can I see what you’re drawing?” I asked. She looked up – she didn’t notice me as I’d walked over – and I smiled. I nodded at her sketchbook. “Is it ok if I look at your sketch? I know some people don’t like it when somebody stares over their shoulder when they’re in the zone…”
“Sure,” she said and leaned away from the sketchbook.
“Mind if I…?”
I pulled an empty chair from an adjacent table and sat perpendicular to her. “I’ve only got a couple minutes before I have to meet up with some folks,” I said as I put my latte down. The figurework was loose and sketchy, but the clothing was surprisingly detailed. “Wow,” I said, “I really like the way you do cloth. Drapery drives me fucking nuts.”
“Yeah, me too,” she said. ” Makes me wish I was only doing underwear. Are you an artist?”
God I loved questions like that. They might as well be asking “Hey, would you like this opportunity to show off and humblebrag a little?” I wasn’t the world’s greatest painter by any stretch of the imagination – in fact, I eventually quit painting and took up writing instead – but I was pretty good and I’d been in a few local gallery shows. I definitely had enough skill to come up with some visually striking pictures – especially since I was working digitally at that point. Photoshop lets you correct for many, many sins. This was shortly after the iPhone had been released, so I made a point of having copies of my latest paintings stored in the photo app for just such occasions.
“Hey, first things first. You show me yours and I’ll show you mine.” She laughed. “I’m Harris,” I said. “April,” she said, shaking my hand before flipping her sketchbook back to the first page. April was studying fashion design with an eye towards interesting prints and unusual dress designs and accessories. “That explains the hat,” I said.
“Hey, don’t knock the hat!” she said in mock outrage. “It’s my one concession to being a Texan,”
“Does it get you a lot of guys asking if you could hog-tie ‘em?”
“Wow, that’s the best innuendo you could some up with?” she asked with a grin. I rolled my eyes at her.
“Heard it before, huh?” She nodded. “That’s what I get for going for the low-hanging fruit.”
“So now I’m low-hanging fruit?”
“I notice you didn’t answer my question,” I replied.
“No, but you’d be amazed how many guys choke when I tell them I prefer to ride bareback.”
Oh yeah. I liked this one.
“You mind?” She handed me the hat. It was a gift from her roommate, who worked in a hat store out by UT campus. I was surprised to see that it’d been hand-painted. I was impressed; I was never as good with physical media as I was with Photoshop, and I would’ve loved to be able to paint something like that.
I flipped the hat around and put it back on her, backwards.
“Here you go. Now you can tell them you’re into reverse cowgirl.” She broke into peals of surprised laughter as I pulled out my phone to show her some of my paintings. She scooted closer to me and leaned in and I put my hand on her back. “You realize I’m going to have to call you ‘Cowgirl’ from now on. That’s totally your name to me now,” I said.
“Jerk,” she snorted and smacked me on the shoulder.
April was fairly intent on her sketch by this point, which meant that she wouldn’t necessarily see me when I walked up. I made a point of approaching from the front at a slight angle rather than from the side or behind her for just that reason – it meant that she was much more likely to see me coming over through peripheral vision – and keeping the table between us. This way I was less likely to startle her or provoke an immediate sense of threat when I would say “Hey”.
Similarly, when coming up to someone who’s seated, it’s important to sit down as soon as possible – otherwise you end up coming across as looming over them, which can creep them out. It also carries the context that you’re seeking their approval and attention. Think of it in the context of a boss and employee – the boss is seated at his desk while the employee is standing nervously in front of him. The seated person is in the comfortable position while you’re standing; the body language and position sets you up as being the one seeking the other’s approval. Sitting down puts you at an equal level.
Mentioning that I only had a few minutes also helped put her at her ease; it meant that if I was a creep or a jackass, she was only going to have to put up with me for a short amount of time before I had to get up and leave… and if I didn’t, she had a built in escape clause; an icy “Didn’t you say you had somewhere to be?” is a good way of telling people to fuck off when they’ve worn out their welcome. If we were having a good time, I could either elect to stay and keep the emotional momentum going, or leave on an emotional high-note and call later… assuming I got her number.
I was genuinely interested in looking at her sketches, which made talking to her easier; I wasn’t giving the “I’m here to pick you up” vibe, I was just a guy who was interested in talking about something we clearly had in common. Having my own work readily at hand via the iPhone meant that we could compare notes and I could brag a little as well as back up my claims – I’ve known lots of guys who claim to be photographers or DJs but have never touched a camera or a turntable in their lives. Lots of folks will claim to have a cooler job than they really do in order to borrow some of that coolness for themselves.
Her response to my (admittedly lame) joke about the hat gave me a good indication that she was interested in flirting; she called attention to it without shutting me down or telling me that it was inappropriate. Coming back with a more overtly sexual reference also gave me a good indication of her sense of humor and what level of edginess I could get away with, as seen in her response to the “reverse cowgirl” joke. If she hadn’t made a similar joke back to me, I probably would have kept things dialed back a little until I had a better sense of how interested she was. As it was, when she leaned in to look at my phone – as opposed to taking it from me and flipping through it on her own – I knew she was getting into me; I had good reason to assume that she would be cool with my touching her.
Giving her a cute nickname is a good way of not only keeping a shorthand of who she was if I got her number – you’d be surprised at how quickly names can blur – but also of cementing me in her mind. If I called her up and said “Hey Cowgirl this is Harry…” she is much more likely to remember me – and the fun she had with me – than if I said “hey, this is Harry, I don’t know if you remember me but I talked to you about your sketches…”
As much fun as I was having talking to April, I really wasn’t kidding when I said that I only had a few minutes before I had to meet my friends. We were vibing and I was definitely interested in her, but I already had plans and I didn’t feel right just blowing them off; I also didn’t know April well enough to invite her to come with me on what was ostensibly a guy’s night. Plus, with her sketchbooks and coffee, she seemed fairly well settled in for the immediate future. I pulled one of my business cards out of my wallet – I was proud of these; they were heavy, glossy stock with one of my paintings on one side and my contact information on the other – and handed it to her.
“Hey, I have to go,” I said, “but my website with all my art’s on here. Let me know what you think!”
I left the coffeehouse and headed to the bar. I was still in a good mood – I’d met a cute girl, I was warmed up and ready to party like a rockstar with my buds – all in all a net positive from my perspective. I assumed that this was going to be the last I’d hear from her.
At the time, I could have stuck around; there was definite attraction there, and we were having a fun time. The logistics of the situation – being in a coffeeshop with a big bag of art supplies – meant that I probably wouldn’t have been able to turn this into an instant date by hopping to one of the bars near by, but we could have spent more time hanging out at the coffeehouse.
As it was, leaving her with my card was a mistake; it often comes off as a passive-aggressive move and puts all of the pressure of making contact on her. I would’ve done better to say “Hey, I’m having a great time talking to you and I’d really like to see you again. Let me get your number and I’ll call you tomorrow,” and handed her my phone to have her punch her number in. That way, depending on how the night went, I would be able to send a ping text – “Hey, do you speak text?” or “This bar is lame, what are you up to?” - and keep the emotional momentum going. I’m a big believer in texting the same night I meet the person rather than waiting some arbitrary amount of time for fear of showing too much interest. Texting is a great way to keep flirting with someone, even bringing some sexual tension to the conversation; played right, it’s possible to turn getting a number into a make-out session that same night.
Still, I needn’t have worried…
A week later, as I was coming out of a movie, I had a voicemail waiting for me on my phone.
“Hey, this is April… you know, Reverse Cowgirl? I was wondering if you were doing anything this weekend…”
We ended up dating for four months.
- I hate that phrase, it sounds like jargon. Think of it like Glengarry Glen Ross: “ABC motherfucker. Always. Be. Closing.” [↩]
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