Doctor’s Note: Occasionally I’ll get a question that I don’t feel qualified to answer. For example, a reader wrote in looking for some some advice about picking up men – not my area of expertise unless you want tips on how to pick me up specifically. So instead, I’ve reached out to my friend and fellow dating coach Arden Leigh – author of The New Rules of Seduction, founder of the Sirens Seduction Forum and occasional guest poster – to help out instead.
Take it away, Arden!
Hi Dr. NerdLove,
Do you have any pick-up type suggestions for women? Or could you point me in the right direction?
I am in my 20s, pretty but chubbier than the societal standard of beauty, successful, smart, funny in my own way (good zingers, but me telling a joke is a train wreck.) I’m divorced, though…which is fine, it’s great actually, but it means that I missed out on those early-20s dating scenes where my girlfriends seemed to figure this whole thing out. I do some online dating, when I have the patience, and I do just fine in terms of attracting messages from men, but I haven’t had much luck in actually meeting people from online dating. It seems like when I meet someone, the chemistry just isn’t there.
Part of my “problem” is that I have standards. I refuse to pull teeth in order to have a conversation. If you can’t ask me a question or two at some point in the first 5-10 messages, I am done–you clearly aren’t interested in *me* as much as you are interested in some action. Good luck to you.
So I figured, maybe I can meet people IRL, right? But I don’t know how to do it! I am pretty good with starting up small talk type conversations, and I try to smile and “look approachable,” whatever that means. I am aware that I have resting bitch face. That’s just my face. That’s what my face looks like when I’m watching a baseball game at a bar, checking my grocery list, walking my dogs, whatever. It doesn’t change the fact that I’m polite and friendly to the guy sitting next to me, the lady whose carriage is in front of mine, and my neighbor walking his dog across the street.
I get it that women can approach men. Here’s my thing: I want a man who is confident enough to take the plunge once the door is open. The way I see it, if I start a conversation with you, that means I want to have a conversation with you. If you want to continue the conversation, the ball is in your court. I still struggle with social anxiety, and starting the conversation in the first place is hard enough. It often leaves me feeling drained but glad that I did it, which I think is good.
I’m kind of rambling now. I guess what I’m asking is, how do I make it clear that I am available without developing that “she wants the d” image that isn’t necessarily true? (I do want the d, by the way, I just want to get to know someone a little before sharing that kind of intimacy.) I’ve been in situations in which I was a little too frank about my (high) libido and eclectic tastes, and had a few guys who thought that meant they were entitled to have sex with me. They can be difficult to discourage, and tend to take rejection badly. I don’t want to deal with it again–I don’t need to be slut shamed or told I’m fat and ugly anyway (right, I’m fat and ugly, that’s why you wanted to sleep with me so bad. Totally makes sense.) Those situations have made me thoughtful about how straightforward I am about that kind of thing, and they have made me hyper-aware of any kind of boundary-pushing behavior.
So am I subconsciously turning people off now? Did I miss some kind of formative “how to pick up men” seminar during my early 20s? Any suggestions from the male perspective?
-Really, I’m Not Mad, That’s Just My Face
Really, my sweet,
Dr. NerdLove has kindly asked me to step in to answer this question for you, since seducing men is my area of expertise. I’m a little nervous because Dr. NerdLove’s advice columns are notorious really, really good1 , and I’m hoping I can live up to that. So, hi. I’m Arden. Nice to meet you.
First, it sounds like you are already exactly my kinda gal because you are making efforts to go after the things you want. You left a marriage that wasn’t working for you, you are aware of all the positive attributes you possess that make you fun to be around, you know your own good looks as well as the “type” you fall into. You’re not afraid to approach guys, you’re not afraid of your sexuality, and you have standards. Frankly, you sound awesome.
I feel you on the online dating thing. I hate online dating and whenever I try it, I stop soon after and swear never again, probably for similar reasons to what you describe. There’s too often a lack of chemistry, and when guys show up to meet you after seeing your profile – i.e., a literal advertisement that you are single and looking – they’re like, “Hey, you’re single! I’m single! Let’s bone and/or date and/or make out and/or be in a relationship or whatever exact goal I am looking for because you are available and that is all that matters.” I literally once got a message from a guy on a dating site that read, “I think we’re really compatible because I am ridiculously attracted to you.” Really, guy? That’s the causality there? You’re attracted to me and that’s what makes us compatible? Did you ask me how I feel about it?
So yeah, if it’s all the same to you, I’m gonna stick to the IRL portion of your question, because that’s what’s worked better for me too.
I totally get that you want to have a man who is going to engage you in conversation, take the plunge and show some interest in you. And you’re right, it is totally awesome that you started the conversation and they should really know to take it from there. But here’s the thing – many of them don’t. You have to think of guys as scared and confused little creatures who constantly fear laughter and rejection. A lot of them will look at your approach and think to themselves, “Is she flirting with me? No, she can’t be flirting with me. She’s just being friendly. Or else she’s making fun of me. Did my buddy put her up to this? Are they laughing at me somewhere? Is this a joke?”
Intimacy is scary for everyone, men and women and genderqueer people alike. It is scary because of how much we need it. We are programmed by evolution to fear ostracization from the tribe, because at one time that meant certain death. We need to connect with others. Ever felt how scary it is to need something? Ever been in a relationship where there was something you needed, something that was a real dealbreaker, and you were afraid to ask for it because if you heard a ‘no’ that would mean calling the whole thing off, and so instead you asked for something you merely wanted but could live without if it really came down to it? Needing is scary.
When I teach seduction, I teach the cultivation of empathy. I look at the guys I try to seduce and I think to myself, If you are like 98% of human beings walking this earth, there are parts of you that are sad and lonely, there are needs in you that are not being met, there are unshared dreams that you wish someone would listen to, there are fantasies you haven’t explored, attributes in you that have gone unacknowledged, fears you’ve been afraid to express. You poor thing. Hi. I’m Arden.
I end up doing a lot of the work in my dating life. I’m okay with that, because I’m better at it than most. You might prefer a more 50-50 share of the workload, and that’s fine too. After all, you’re right – your starting the conversation is hard enough, and you also deserve empathy for how needed and difficult intimacy is.
The thing is, I can’t make these guys braver for you. We dating coaches like myself and Dr. NerdLove are trying to create an army of fearless seducers who approach their fellow humans with courage and compassion but we can only reach so many people, you know? I’d love to be able to coach these guys to sweep you off your feet but I’ve never met them so really the only variable I can control is the advice I give to you.
Okay, here are your options:
Approach guys in the way you’ve been approaching them, start conversations with them, and after ten minutes or so if they can’t take the plunge, so to speak, move on. Increase the number of men you approach and let them filter themselves out by the way they respond to you. Expect one in every 10 guys you approach to have the courage to take the lead, and approach accordingly.
Approach guys in the way you’ve been approaching them, start conversations with them, and make it abundantly clear that you are interested in hanging out with them. You can do this in a straightforward way that is still classy and makes no promises: “Hey, you seem very cool and I’d like to get to know you better. Would you be interested in continuing this conversation over coffee sometime? What’s the best way to get in touch with you?” And then actually follow up with them over whatever contact information they give you, because probably even after that they will still be telling themselves that you were just kidding or something.
Develop your social circle so that you have a fun group of friends and are constantly meeting new people through them. After a long relationship it can be easy to wake up and realize that you don’t have much of a social life, but luckily it’s not too tough to build one. Go to meetup.com and join a few groups with mutual interests. Text all your friends to go on a group outing to a haunted hayride or a local pie contest (I did that today to my best friend who’s also a dating coach, who is now inviting his friends, and now we’re all going to eat pie and go on a haunted hayride together). Constantly expand your social circles so you are always meeting new people, and if you like one of them, flirt with them or ask them out as in points 1 and 2. You can also tell your friends you’re down to meet new dates so that those friends can go back to the guys you like and say, “No, she actually wasn’t making fun of you, she thinks you’re cool.”
(I don’t love this one but I’m going to list it anyway since it is an option.) Increase your perceived social market value and approachability by dressing up for your body type, practicing a less bitchy resting face if you feel that it’s truly hindering some guys from approaching you, and cultivating a body language that signals openness to approach. Then go places with lots of guys and stand there and wait for which ones approach you. I hate this because for me it takes all the agency out of it, as in, I have to wait to be “chosen” by guys instead of doing the choosing myself. But at least you will get approached by guys who have the balls to approach you, and you won’t have to worry about whether they’ll take the plunge.
Do any combination of the above that feels right to you.
Let me also address the issue of the guys you approach who automatically think “she wants the d” and then get bitter and slut-shamey when you don’t. I wish I could just get rid of misogyny for you but if I could do that I’d have done it already. As it is, I just get into lots of arguments about it that end in me blocking people on twitter and facebook.
It is in no way okay for a guy to feel entitled to sex with you just because you have talked about your sexuality in general, or for any reason at all, really. However, let me remind you again that these guys are usually fragile little creatures who are genuinely confused and terrified of rejection, so the less socially savvy among them will sometimes think, “Wait, she doesn’t really like me, she’s just being friendly or making fun of me. Wait, now she’s talking about her sex drive. Holy shit. She does really like me! She wants the d!” And then they go for it because they’ve misinterpreted your signals. And then they get rejected, which is exactly what they were trying to avoid in the first place because intimacy is a need and asking for a need is scary. So then they lash back at you. You’re ugly, you’re a slut, whatever, they didn’t want you in the first place, fuck you. They’re trying at all costs to restore some of their fragile little ego that you’ve just shattered. They were so certain they were right that you wanted the d this time and they fucked up.
I’m not excusing their behavior but I am providing some context. Understand that the shit they’re saying about you, as awful as it is, is probably not half as bad as the shit they’re saying about themselves in their own heads after they get rejected. So be kind and be communicative. “Hey, I understand where you might have interpreted what I said as a sign of interest in sex, but that really wasn’t what I intended. I was hoping just to have a frank conversation as friends. Are you cool with that?”
I also really try to avoid giving off mixed signals to anyone I’m not absolutely interested in. I shoot down most guys who approach me – as unfair and hypocritical of me as that may be – because I don’t want to waste even that five seconds of their time if I’m not completely sure I’m interested, because I don’t want them to have any reason to feel entitled or angry, or to put myself in a potentially dangerous situation. It sucks so hard that increasing your perceived social market value as a woman also means increasing the kind of approaches you don’t want, means that the world becomes a slightly more dangerous place for you to live in. It’s unfair, and I fight and yell about it every day and get in arguments on social media.
The only thing I can recommend here is for you to be communicative, and socially savvy, and to pepper your conversation with buddy-buddy signals (fist-bumps, squared body language rather than angular, and don’t touch your neck or play with your hair) if you’re really only interested in a guy’s friendship. This isn’t a guaranteed safeguard against misogynistic entitlement – hell, you can still get catcalled walking down the street in sweatpants – but it can help diffuse some situations a bit.
Another option is to surround yourself with people who are informed about consent culture and sex positivity. Go places like Catalyst Con or the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit; attend local sex ed classes; find friends who are into things like conscious communication and boundaries and consent, people with whom you can talk about your sexuality without that being misconstrued as a come-on. You can try to educate the guys you meet out in the world, or you can go where the guys are already educated. I can tell you from experience which is easier.
And while being yelled at and slut-shamed is never pleasant, the upside to it is that you can thank those guys for revealing their true asshole natures to you so that you can cut them out of your life. (Or in my case, block them on facebook.) Keep your standards high. Surround yourself with people who are kind and cool and who make you feel good.
Best of luck to you, Really. I applaud the strides you’ve made already and it sounds like you are completely capable of creating the life you desire – one that’s full of cool people, both friends and lovers, who appreciate you and your boundaries.
P.S. I wrote a whole book on pickup for women that’s called The New Rules Of Attraction, and I also offer private coaching through my organization The Sirens Seduction Forum, so check out either of those for more resources. You can also follow me on twitter/instagram at @ardensirens, or check out my blog at ardenleigh.typepad.com.
- I forget, did you want the check for that plug made out for cash? – Doc [↩]