Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Let Them Know What You Want

I got approached the other day.

Standing in the bookstore in the bargain section with one eye on the book I was reading and the other scanning for staff about to kick me out, I suddenly became aware of a well-dressed young man standing beside me.

He was polite. He was well-dressed. He asked me lots of questions about myself. He had confident, relaxed body language (*). When I told him I wanted to get back to reading, he withdrew gracefully.

There was only one problem:

I had no idea what he wanted.

Was he gay and attracted to me (**)? Was he a pick-up artist or salesman practicing cold approaches? A guy getting over his shyness? Did he want to sell me something or invite me to join his religious cult? Was he new in town and looking for a friend?

He never told me.

He never gave me the opportunity to let him know whether or not I was interested in the thing he had to offer because he never told me what that thing was.

It can be a scary thing to put our cards out on the table but it's good practice. Furthermore,  when it comes to approaching strangers, especially in situations where they aren't expecting to be approached, it's crucial.

Otherwise they aren't able to give you their full attention and give you an honest interaction because they're do busy asking themselves: What does this person want? How long are they going to keep talking to me? Is this more interesting than what I'm already doing or am I dealing with a creeper here? What will they do if I tell them I want to go about my business?

Always let people know what your intentions are.

It doesn't have to be a big thing. Something as simple as: You look interesting so I thought I'd say hi to you and introduce myself goes a long way.

Other examples:

Hi there. I saw that book you were reading and it looks interesting. I thought I'd come over and ask you about it.

Hi there. I'm waiting for a friend and you look nice so I thought I'd chat with you. Do you have a couple of minutes?

[TECHNICAL TIP: Pause for a beat or two after you say "Hi there." This gives the other person's brain a chance to go from whatever-they-were-thinking-about mode to Oh-someone-is-talking-to-me mode]

These aren't the greatest examples in the world. Often though, they don't have to be. Sincerity and letting people know what you're doing and what you're expecting in return often goes a long ways.

(*) Actually, the cold approach technician in me isn't fond of the T-stance he used. I endorse feet parallel and hip-width apart. But that's a minor quibble.

(**) I'm going with this one. I like feeling pretty.


Take a few moments right now, to come up with some reasons you might want to talk to someone. Imagine situations where you might want to talk to a stranger. Practice out loud saying those reasons. If you're nervous or don't think you can do it, practice it by yourself in the privacy of your bathroom mirror.

If you're feeling brave...well, take a walk and see what happens.

-May All Beings Be Sexy

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Not Approaching

Last week, we talked about why approaching is useful. This week, I want to talk about the subject of NOT APPROACHING.

Cold approaching is one of the most over-valued and over-talked about skills in all of internet dating-advice-dom. Women ask about it. Men ask about it. PUAs talk about how to do it. Feminists talk about how to do it. Dating advice writers talk about it.

There are a lot of different ideas out there about when and how to do it and who to do it to. And while it's true some advice is more helpful than others, there is reams of stuff out there. So if people want to 'learn how to approach' there is a LOT of stuff out there from the technical to the situational to the psychological.

Sometimes though, some of the questions I get have a different vibe. They ask why should they approach. They say they want to approach but only when they know to do it exactly right or have X,Y, or Z handled. Or you give them information and they have more and more technical questions, even though they are not actually going out and trying out any of the suggestions.

Or they're tired. Or they're sick. Or they aren't good looking enough. Or they don't want t offend anyone, interrupt them, or 'ruin their day.'

Those are all legitimate things. I just don't always see what they have to do with talking to strangers.

With those people I find myself wondering if they are actually looking for help approaching or if they are looking for someone or something to justify their decision to not do it.

It's okay to find approaching difficult. It's okay to find approaching scary and to be worried about how others will perceive you or being rejected. It's okay to decide not to do it--it's a low-percentage play for getting a partner. It's strength is in building confidence, gaining social experience, and helping people realize that they can do something that makes them anxious or ends in rejection and still be okay. But there are lots of other ways to do those things also.

It's okay to decide cold approaching isn't for you right now or ever. It's also okay to do one or two and change your mind.

But if it's the case that you're trying to hide your anxiety and fear about talking to strangers from yourself under a cloak of "I'm not afraid--I'm just doing what's best for the otherfolk by protecting them from myself" or "Respecting boundaries" or whatever, it's not going to work.

Our bodies know when we're lying to ourselves.

And if you're looking for other people to validate or justify those lies you're telling yourself--that doesn't work either. Even if they DO tell you what you think you want to hear, it won't help you at all.

Because your body KNOWS. And it will let you know it knows. And you will keep feeling it, whether you want to or not.

-May All Beings Be Sexy

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Approaching Is Not About Getting A Date

Learning to approach strangers is a great skill to have. I sometimes think it is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your dating life.

When I tell people this, they sometimes ask me how often it happens that you get into a relationship off a cold approach. Isn't it easier to meet people at parties or shared activities?

Yes, it certainly is.

The thing is though, cold approaching is not about getting into a relationship. If you're measuring results by whether or not someone becomes your partner or not, cold approaches are a long shot even for the people who are GOOD at them.

 But that isn't why we do them. Approaching strangers is not about 'getting something'--not getting a girlfriend, not getting laid, not getting over anxiety.

Approaching is about learning.

What cold approaches do is help people without social experience make up a lot of ground very quickly without putting the relationships they're already in at risk.

There's less social consequences for both parties if you're strangers to each other. You don't have to see each other again at parties, work or social functions

Committing to cold approaching means you meet a lot of people and  see a lot of different individual reactions. You see how people are different and how they are the same. You learn to deal with your own anxiety. You learn to deal with rejection. You learn how to deal with success, even when you don't feel worthy of it. You learn that most people are good to each other and nobody wants to hurt anybody's feelings. You learn that you are likable and that you have something to offer and that other people aren't jerks or stuck-up bitches or dudebros or whatever. You learn that you will make mistakes and neither you or the other person will die a horrible death. You learn other people aren't perfect or normal either and that there's no secret formula that everyone else in the world knows but you. You learn that awkwardness is uncomfortable, but it's not the end of the world.

Best of all, you get to do all this at a pace you can comfortably handle.

You discover which types of strangers are the hardest to approach whether that's attractive people, authority figures, or little old ladies that remind you of your fearsome junior high school English teacher.

You learn to become confident and comfortable with your own fear. You get enough social experience that you start to realize that no matter what happens, you're able to handle it.

And if things go wrong...you're able to handle that too, either by smoothing over awkwardness, apologizing, or walking away.

-May All Beings Be Sexy

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Text Anxiety

When it comes to texting or other forms of instant communication, heres a question to get in the habit of asking yourself before you press send.

Am I sending this text to communicate something to the other person or am I sending it as a way of managing my own emotions?

Instant communication is scary.

Its easy to read things into messages that arent there. Its easy to fill in the blanks between messages with our own fears. After all, its instant communication--so why arent they answering? Dont they know Im dying over here?

Some dating advice contains rules about texting or calling to help with this. Only text Y many times a day. Wait X amount of  time before replying. If you message the other person, wait until you get a reply before sending another.

Im actually fond of that last one, especially if its someone youve just met or are in the process of deciding whether or not youre going to meet. I dont think its a hard and fast rule though.

Instead, lets make THIS the rule: Text to communicate.

That means we use instant messaging as a way to connect or relay information rather than as a way to relieve our own feelings.

Even when were really anxious? Even when our feelings might be justified?

Yes, even then.

Especially then.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine found himself worried when his girlfriend, who was on the road, wasnt answering his texts.

Every moment that passed without hearing from her made his anxiety worse. His way of dealing with his anxiety was to text her some more. The more he texted, the less she wanted to engage with him. The less she engaged, the more texts he sent, leading to a bombardment of texts and calls that went on until three in the morning.

When they finally spoke, she was not a happy camper.

Sometimes in dating, we have a tendency to take actions that create the very situation were trying to avoid. This was one of those times.

Before you text, ask yourself: What am I feeling right now? Am I lonely, angry, or frightened? Am I bored, stressed or impatient? Am I hungry or overtired?

Give yourself some space.

Maybe the message needs to be sent anyway. Often youll find it doesnt.

Its hard to notice this when were in the grip of those emotions, but there are times when all the instant communication in the world isnt nearly as effective as time and space for both people to reflect.

It might not be instant. But sometimes its a whole lot faster.

-May All Beings Be Sexy

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Parable of Up In The Air Girl

Every once and a while I go for breakfast with a woman who is constantly trying to decide between three or four men.

It makes it significantly tougher for all parties that one of those men is her long term boyfriend.

"Everything's kind of up in the air," she tells me.

I respond to this by nodding and making supportive noises in between bites of buttermilk pancakes. I don't tell her that she says this exact same sentence to me every time I see her, which has been once every two or three months for the last couple years. Save for the long term boyfriend, the men involved sometimes change, but the situation never does.

Everything is up in the air.

Not from my perspective.

Everything isn't up in the air. From her description of the situation, the only thing up in the air is her. She hovers there like a hot air balloon tethered to a circus fairground--not free enough to float away, not grounded enough to come down.

Everyone else is just standing around waiting to see if she's going to come down or not.

One guy is trying to coax her down.

A couple others are waiting for her, looking up with arms extended waiting for her to make a damn decision one way or another.

Another wanders in and out of the scene. He looks up, notices she's still up there, and walks away munching on an apple. Every now and then he ambles by to see if there's been any activity and if so, whether things are going to break his way, but he doesn't seem bothered much one way or the other.

Personally, he's my favorite. He's just going about his life, open to possibilities, but not worrying about things over which he has no control.

I try to follow his example.

Some days Up In The Air Girl seems torn. Other days, she tells me everything happens for a reason and she's just going to see what happens.

Which would be fine, I suppose, but while she is waiting to see what happens, time is passing.

Secretly, I believe the reason the situation has never really changed is because she LIKES it. I wonder if  having three or four potential relationships makes her feel powerful.

Sadly, that kind of power is an illusion.

Having choice is power. But having choice and not making it is wasting it.

Having three or four POTENTIAL partners is the same thing as saying she has NO partners.

She has nothing. Worse, she doesn't seem to realize it.

And time is still passing.

It reminds me of a line in Nick Hornby's High Fidelity where the protagonist's girlfriend says something to him to the effect of "you spend so much time keeping your options open that pretty soon you aren't going to have any left."

It makes me sad.

She talks about not wanting to hurt people, but it seems like many of the people are involved are already hurting. She also doesn't seem to realize that the person who is most missing out is her.

One guy has made the choice to stay with her. Others have chosen to wait.A few others have walked away. Others see her as a potential opportunity, but not one worth investing undue effort in.

But all of them have made a choice. All of them have exerted their power. We can argue about the wisdom or rightness of their decisions, but they have made them.

What else can we ask from ourselves and others? We make commitments...to ourselves, to others, to our own values. We accept the consequences for how things turn out. We hope for the best, and learn from the worst.

In short, we keep our feet on the ground, pick a direction, and start walking.

But to remain Up In the Air forever?

Whether you're male or female, Don't Be That Girl.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Maybe Nothing Went Wrong

When things don’t go well, our instinct is to look for what went wrong.

I need to be fixed.

No wait, she needs to be fixed.

No wait, the relationship needs to be fixed.

And the big question: What am I doing wrong?

It’s a human way of processing. When things go wrong and we feel overwhelmed to cope with it, we cast about looking for something to blame, looking for a piece of control over the uncontrollable.

It took me a couple days to realize there was a better question.

I could drop the idea of wrong.

Instead of judging, instead of trying to find reasons to blame myself or my partner, I could simply look at what happened. 

Instead of asking myself, what am I doing wrong, I could ask another, deeper question.

Not what am I doing wrong?

Just what am I doing?

-May All Beings Be Sexy

Friday, October 17, 2014

Diary of a Gateway Boyfriend: A Poem

Posting will resume Tuesday.

In the meantime, here is a poem for those don't know what to do or what is going to happen next:

by W.S. Merwin

with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow for the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water looking out
in different directions.

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you
looking up from tables we are saying thank you
in a culture up to its chin in shame
living in the stench it has chosen we are saying thank you
over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the back door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks that use us we are saying thank you
with the crooks in office with the rich and fashionable
unchanged we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us like the earth
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is