html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: Just say what you mean.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Just say what you mean.

4. You can’t say the wrong thing to the right person and you can’t say the right thing to the wrong person (really!), so say something to them and get it over with.

Capella asked for advice for the people who really are tied up in knots; this was the most freeing thing I’d seen in a long time. It really is true that you can’t say the wrong thing to someone who already has a crush on you. One sweet mechanical engineer printed out some complex graph and the code he had written. He gave it to me because he said it was the hardest thing he’d ever done and he wanted me to see it. Very, very sweet, and then I kissed him. If she thinks you are adorable, she will like whatever you blurt out; and tease you about it when you go out to breakfast a few months later.

If she doesn’t already like you, you cannot be so eloquent and clever that she will be convinced to like you. I remember a great, great card I got, with a friendly, home illustrated poem about taking me out for a sundae. I liked the poem and the effort, but I just wasn’t into the guy. I still cringe to think that I was too chickenshit to thank him properly and say no. It was a great card; it deserved a better response than I gave him.

Say something. Say anything. It cannot be wrong or it can’t be right; the only way you can lose an opportunity is by saying nothing.




**************
Hey ladies. To help convince gawky college boys to say something, would you please leave a comment with the goofiest comment that earned a guy a kiss from you? (Or guys, if you have a good story.)

49 Comments:

Anonymous Tia said...

"That was awkward. I wasn't sure if you wanted me to kiss you."

Tia proceeds to jump on him ravenously.

12:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Laugh if you wish, but this whole discussion reminds me of Newcomb's Paradox. These geeky guys are so charming, in part, for reasons correlated with the fact that they are not just speaking up and asking. Telling them to ask, isn't that like, well, telling the guy to grab both boxes in the Newcomb game? Yes it would be good to grab the extra box, but is it better to have the *disposition* to grab the extra box? Then I am not so sure. Megan herself seems to like these guys. There is no doubt that fine tuning can improve just about anyone, but I am not yet sure how to define what is in the feasible set, so to speak.

Or so it seems to me now.
Tyler

12:50 PM  
Blogger Spungen said...

"You clean up nice."

Just so I'm clear, we're not really talking about casual sex anymore, are we? It seems like this is advice that would help a guy land a girl, but not necessarily for casual sex. In fact, it seems like we're talking about the sort of thing that would lead a girl to think the guy was interested in her for something more. And we're talking about the kind of guy that women tend to assume will be interested in a relationship if they try to bed them.

Because man, few things ever pissed me off more than getting humped and dumped by a geek.

12:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Doesn't your advice come down to this:

http://www.transbuddha.com/mediaHolder.php?id=1394 ?

-- Ennis

12:55 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

That counts as goofy? Let's see...

My seven year ex and I were both sitting close against the cold, on a hill overlooking the entire Bay Area, watching San Francisco twinkle, when we saw a shooting star. I asked him he wished for, and he asked me what I wished for. I said that I wished he would kiss me, and he said that he wished he were more flexible for taekwondo.

I had to kiss him first, too.

12:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, this:
SNL Skit about sexual harassment / how to ask a woman for sex

12:56 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

we're not really talking about casual sex anymore, are we?

No, I meant this for people who really have a crush on someone. Ben.

12:57 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Doesn't your advice come down to this:

http://www.transbuddha.com/mediaHolder.php?id=1394 ?


Why? Why? Why did you jump to that conclusion, when I said nothing of the sort, and explicitly said it depended on whether she already had a crush on the boy? Which is probably dependent on lots of things, of which looks are just one component. And, lest we confuse the young ones: gangly college boys who look like colts, you are handsomer than you know.

Do not listen to men who are just repeating the fallacies that kept them on the far side of the gym, away from real women with breasts. Listen to the women, who are telling you that you are adorable and they want you to respectfully hit on them.

1:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My seven year ex and I were both sitting close against the cold, on a hill overlooking the entire Bay Area, watching San Francisco twinkle, when we saw a shooting star. I asked him he wished for, and he asked me what I wished for. I said that I wished he would kiss me, and he said that he wished he were more flexible for taekwondo.

If he got sufficiently more flexible, it might help not just with taekwondo but also with certain activities of a romantic nature :)

1:12 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Whatever. That was when I had full splits in every direction. I can't think how more flexibility on either of our parts could have improved matters.

1:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your advice was similar to the clip in that the woman has already made up her mind. That is, her actions are invariant to your strategy, beyond just asking. All you've done is subbed "be the target of my crush" for "be attractive".

Boys want some agency, they want to know what's right(er) and wrong(er), not that they have no control. When told the latter, they will assume that she couldn't possibly have a crush on them, so they will do nothing (you can't do the right thing for the wrong person).

As a boy, I'm finding your advice a bit "ideal world" or "frictionless physics". I guess IRL I've found things to be far more confusing.

--e

1:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm actually pretty surprised by some of the guys comments here. I'm nobodies idea of a GQ model; I suppose I look alright but no great shakes. I'm also rather more introverted than not, never was the life of the party. But guys, this stuff isn't really complex once you get over your version of 14yr old awkwardness. I haven't experienced any of the sort of things you are talking about in years, really.

As far as I can see, a lot of the way girls are socialized in this way has to do with plausible deniability. It isn't `ok' for her to be too forward and actually say anything, but there is a lot of body language etc. that can be passed off as innocently meant, so it is ok.

For example If a girl has been bumping knees with you under the table and leaning in close for the last half hour, it doesn't mean `lets go back to my house now' but it probably means she's open to exploring the idea... probably. Don't make assumptions, but don't ignore these things.

You get the point. Pay attention a little. If you can't find a non-awkward way to say `can I kiss you', don't. That wasn't the key to Megans advice. On the other hand, I've found conversations like that go pretty well as a rule. Where pretty well means sorting out where we stand without anyone feeling awkward or hurt or weird about it.

So, 'e', no I don't think there is anything particularly idealistic about it. Maybe it's just the circles I travel in, I don't know.

s.

1:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, 'e', no I don't think there is anything particularly idealistic about it. Maybe it's just the circles I travel in, I don't know.

Megan is assuming that somebody out there has a crush on most boys, most of the time. That's idealistic. I would think that far more common is a scenario where one party or the other uses woo-craft to build a connection.

It's also unrealistic to assume that asking if you can kiss is something that is welcomed by most, if not all women. I guess it runs around 50-50% amongst the women I know, with half saying it kills the mood, even when they wanted to kiss somebody to begin with.

And we're talking women in their 20s and 30s, not their teens.

So yes, Megan's advice, feels a bit ideal scenario to me.

1:47 PM  
Blogger Jacqueline Mackie Paisley Passey said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:02 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They probably should say something. But, signs aren't 100%. And, then, sometimes after you say something you end up all weird around each other, and then you stop talking, and hanging out, and end up losing someone even as a friend.

Of course, that frees up more time for hanging out at the gym, and making goofy videos of you and your buddies.

Oh well,

Justin

Wow, you both deleted your posts before I even responded.

2:22 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Nope. I deleted them. I wasn't in the mood.

Friendly direct request and clear response shouldn't have to mean the end of a friendship. It might mean some awkwardness, but that can pass. Still, if it leads to you sending me more videos, I approve.

2:26 PM  
Anonymous Mitch said...

Boys want some agency, they want to know what's right(er) and wrong(er), not that they have no control. When told the latter, they will assume that she couldn't possibly have a crush on them, so they will do nothing (you can't do the right thing for the wrong person).

Being the asker is your agency. The fact that you choose who to ask is actually pretty huge. There is a theoretical result in computer science (at least, that's where I encountered it) that says that a certain simplified model of matching (where the guys all go to their favorite girl, and the women look at all the guys in front of them and say "maybe" to their favorite and send all the other guys to their next-favorite girl, who does the same thing, until everyone is matched up) is male-optimal. In other words, if you only consider stable pairings (pairings where there are no two people who would rather be together than with the people they got paired with), the male-asking, female-choosing algorithm above matches each guy with the best girl (his most-favorite) that he could possibly get. Also, it's female-pessimal, in the sense that the girls end up with their least favorite guy of all of the stable pairings.

These lecture notes explain it better. You can also google for "traditional marriage algorithm".

The upshot is that it's probably better to be the asker, even if there's nothing you can do to improve your chances. The fact that you choose who to ask gives you a lot of agency.

2:29 PM  
Anonymous Mitch said...

Of course, given that that's a theoretical CS result it is a bit "frictionless physics", as e says. Even the spherical cow gets a date.

I just wanted to say that even if there's nothing you can do to woo, you still have agency. You still have some control over your own destiny. You just have to ask. The idea that there's nothing wrong you can say to the right person makes the asking part easier.

You just can't get stuck on a girl that's not interested. Keep on asking, and you'll find the one that is.

2:39 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

For the record, I think both boys and girls should be asking, and that the person getting asked should give a clear acceptance or refusal. I am opposed to uncertainty in important things like getting laid.

The asker has more than the agency to choose. The asker has the ability to make hidden opportunities happen. And since we mostly agree that people miss cues, they are underestimating how many hidden opportunities they have. So ask!

2:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The idea that there's nothing wrong you can say to the right person makes the asking part easier.

It depends on how the wrong person reacts. I once asked a woman to dance (college, semi-formal), and she pointed at me and laughed. Now, since she wasn't an asshole, and her response was so disproportionate, I have to believe that she misheard me in some way but that doesn't matter. [I suspect she thought I was asking for sex, and not a dance, but I have no idea why]

I've got a fairly healthy ego, so I just shrugged and waited for my regular dance partner to come back, a woman who was a better dancer and far more attractive than the one I had just asked.

However, I can imagine an alternate scenario in which somebody's feelings might have been pretty badly hurt.

I don't normally tell this story, not because it bothers me, but because it invites speculation about what I might have done wrong. I simply leaned over and said "Do you want to dance". That's it.

--e

2:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a story of the sort I think Megan wants. It's from an interview with Garry Trudeau

---
"As I was walking out the building one day on my lunch break, two-thirds of a block away this spectacularly beautiful young woman in a very short miniskirt was walking toward me . . ."

Not sure where this is going, but I'm taking notes as fast as I can.

"She was in her early twenties. I was 16 and looked all of 12. You could feel it in the air, her coming at you. Her presence was destabilizing the street for a one-block radius. Guys were gawking, cars were slowing. This woman was a menace. She was walking in a confident way, with a swing to her hips. I was geeky and shy, too shy to make eye contact. I wouldn't even have known what to DO with eye contact. My discomfort must have been obvious because, as she passes me, she leans over, her breath is warm, and she softly . . . growls in my ear."

Wow.

"I thought to myself: I've just been handed the most extraordinary gift. She showed such wisdom, with such a generous use of power. She just changed the life of a young boy. I thought , Anything is possible."
---

-- e

2:58 PM  
Blogger Spungen said...

"and she pointed at me and laughed."

Well, I can't deny this happened to you if you say it did (although you raise the possibility she misheard you). All I can say is that I've never done that myself, and even the meanest of women I've known have not done anything like that to my knowledge.

The only place I've ever seen behavior like that is in teen movies and TV shows. I suspect men who are inexperienced see things like that on movies and TV, and mistakenly think there's an appreciable risk of women reacting like that in real life.

3:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Megan is assuming that somebody out there has a crush on most boys, most of the time. That's idealistic. "

Now, to be honest, I am regularly accused of idealism, but I happen to think that any man smart and interesting enough to be reading this blog has a high likelyhood of having females in vis vicinity that have a crush on him. Now, he may pick the wrong one to hit on - she may be interested in someone else or simply not find him attractive - but that is where some of the other advice comes in.

One important thing is to stay in touch with reality - pay attention to her and what signals she is giving off and don't make your choice based solely on magazine-attractiveness but choose someone that you hit it off with so that it is reciprocal, based on personality, exciting not just sensual, and has the potential to be more than just sex.

- Jane from TN

3:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bah, I read this blog and no one has a crush on me.

There must be something wrong with all of the girls I meet.

Justin

4:03 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

JUSTIN!!!! What are you talking about?! Margie and Dubin and I sit around, talking about how pretty you are. Have I not called you my favorite? You not only have people that have crushes on you, you have a fan club.

The girls you meet must be broken.

4:09 PM  
Blogger Spungen said...

I'm with Jane; I'd add that it doesn't even have to be a crush, you just have to be within her general range of attraction, then show some interest. This range is not usually all that narrow, at least not physically. Women are vain, and it piques our interest at least a little when we know a guy is interested. Once that interest is piqued a crush can often develop.

That link also had some useful bits about how to turn someone down. I think it is true that women give off mixed signals and confuse men, simply because we don't know how to do otherwise. Sometimes neither person knows how to bow out of a situation, even though both would prefer to.

4:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Women are vain, and it piques our interest at least a little when we know a guy is interested. Once that interest is piqued a crush can often develop."

Very true! This happened to me recently, totally by accident. Just showing some interest, listening, paying attention, asking questions -- it can take some innocent friendliness and turn it into a raging crush.

"Sometimes neither person knows how to bow out of a situation, even though both would prefer to."

This is a terrible problem, and something akin to it also happened to me recently. Sometimes you know that you have lost all interest but you feel really bad about it - you don't want to let the other person down when you know there are expectations. I hate this - love (and lust) are selfish things in that you must selfishly desire the other person (for sex or marriage or whatever the case) or it isn't real. Then there also must be unselfish compromises in order to make it last, but without selfish desire for the other person you have nothing. So, pity love is not love at all. Another hard lesson learned.

-Jane

4:38 PM  
Blogger Bob V said...

Justin, Megan's got a point. I used to think all the girls I met were defective too until I started paying attention and found that some of the time some of them actually like me--even if I haven't done anything to merit it.

Next, follow Spungen's advice about piquing womens' interest, and you will be money.

4:43 PM  
Blogger Dubin said...

Justin is playing us. He knows chicks dig him.

5:34 PM  
Anonymous yoyo said...

Hm i think guys have more agency than just the ASK. most of the time people aren't attractive because they haven't really let other people see tehm. if you show more personality by talking more, being more expressive, talking about yourself, etc. most of the time you're just blending in so theres nothing ot pique interest. its not what you say it how you do it. if you're having fun and confident (ie believe what you sya and are into it) then pretty much anything works because she's laughing. thats your green light.

of course if you've been good frineds for months+ then your best hope is just get wasted together and wake up in the same bed a few time. eventually you'll just have sex sobre because its routine and routines aren't the awk. asking's mute at that point.

6:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now, to be honest, I am regularly accused of idealism, but I happen to think that any man smart and interesting enough to be reading this blog has a high likelyhood of having females in vis vicinity that have a crush on him

Shouldn't there be at least 10 young swains who are dying (dying!) due to their burning passion for the witty author of this blog, our lady of the eternal supply of hot potatoes, Madam M?

The only place I've ever seen behavior like that is in teen movies and TV shows. I suspect men who are inexperienced see things like that on movies and TV, and mistakenly think there's an appreciable risk of women reacting like that in real life.

See, that's why I don't tell that story. I know it's not a common occurance, but it's a bit annoying to have it dismissed.

How's this - ask men what the rudest rejection they've ever received is. You'd be surprised.

A female friend of mine was once bragging about how she dealt with some of the men she met at a party, so I know it's not all in men's heads.

So yes, boys probably are afraid of something that is pretty rare, and that's dumb. At the same time, acting like it never happens isn't useful for encouraging people. It's far better to tell them that it does happen, rarely, but when it does happen it's not such a big deal.

You know, I really should bow out of this discussion. I really want to sound as positive and encouraging as Megan does. I think her advice is good and useful as far as it goes.

I just don't want to avoid the corner cases, and I think acting like there is no friction does nobody a service.

I'm also coming across all earnest and shit, which is a downer when the comments I dig most are the clever and witty ones.

Sex is sweaty and messy, getting there is more so. It's not an antiseptic process.

-- e. e curmudgeon

7:37 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

How's this - ask men what the rudest rejection they've ever received is. You'd be surprised.

A female friend of mine was once bragging about how she dealt with some of the men she met at a party, so I know it's not all in men's heads.


For what it is worth, I believe that men (and women) who asked sincerely get very rude responses and I think that is incredibly poor form. But, you can write off those people based on that information alone. When you are asked sincerely, people with manners will give gracious and unambiguous responses.

7:51 PM  
Blogger Spungen said...

e.e., of course rare is much different than never, and rare doesn't help if you're the rare one.

I did not intend to be dismissive. Insofar as I was, it was probably because I've known guys to claim such rude and abrupt turndowns when I had knowledge that the facts were otherwise. Some of these claims have in fact been made against me and were inaccurate, but had the desired result of gaining sympathy for the claimant and marshaling it against me.

After all, while it's not acceptable to get angry at someone merely for turning you down, you're allowed if they do it unkindly. This creates an incentive to claim unkindness if the rejectee is of a retaliatory mindset.

I wonder if the female friend in question used her blunt methods only on aggressive and persistent men, or if she actually enjoyed embarrassing well-meaning men who were within the realm of polite behahavior.

8:17 PM  
Anonymous jens said...

I've had some rude rejections (although nothing as impressive as being slapped...the only time a strange girl actually slapped me it was apparently her way of introducing herself. No kidding:

[I walk up to the bar to ask for a drink. A pretty brunette steps in my way, offers a handshake, and says:]
"Hi, I'm Theo..."
"Pleased to meet you, Theo"
[She then slaps me, fairly hard, in the face]
"I don't like your beard."), but what really stands out are some of the elegant rejections I've had:
1) Approaching a girl that I'd already known in a "buddy" relationship for months with a love poem...I got an elaborate rejection poem. I lost track of her somehow, but my last memory of her was years later when she had finished grad school, and we ran into each other in a park, and were still comfortable enough that we got caught up with her sitting under a tree and stroking my hair in her lap.

2)In college, I acted as an undergraduate teaching assistant, and developed quite a crush on my best student. I waited until our professional relationship was concluded, wrote her a poem (gotta stop with these dumb poems!), and she arranged to meet me for drinks at our campus bar. I reciprocated with drinks in my dorm room (after walking miles through the snow to purchase a blender to mix the drinks), and she indicated that she wouldn't mind a bit of "recreational" activity, but she was already committed ... to her high school physics teacher. We stayed friends for years, but I still kick myself for being such a serious idiot and passing on the suggested activity.

3) I asked a mechanical engineer to a Disney movie (she was chair of the Committe of Undergraduate Councils, I was treasurer). She explained very matter of factly that she was already in a relationship, but would be happy to see the movie with me in a platonic way, if she could pay her own way. We watched the movie, and then walked around campus for a couple of hours, showing each other our favorite spots. It still stands out as one of my top ten nights even though there was no trace of sexuality. (I am not in the habit of thinking in terms of "quality", but if I were she would have scored really high)

Sorry I don't have anything more recent, but when you've been paired for twenty years, you kind of lose the opportunity of being rejected!

11:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know about chicks digging me. I haven't actually been out with many girls, maybe 15. And that's counting the met just once for coffee kinds of things.

When I'm single, my luck with the opposite sex seems far worse than Megan's. I remember mostly having no options even.

Oh well, I've got a g/f now.

Justin

1:25 AM  
Blogger Dubin said...

Delayed reaction to:

I asked him he wished for, and he asked me what I wished for. I said that I wished he would kiss me, and he said that he wished he were more flexible for taekwondo.

Megan, I would not have kissed him. I would have gotten up and left. But maybe that was my problem earlier in my love life adventures... I was so ready to get hurt or angry. Still, I would have walked out on him and/or kicked him. We can't help who we are, and you are very generous of spirit.

1:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heh, at least he's honest. There's this Mike Birbiglia bit, he's a comedian, that goes something like:

I was talking to my girlfriend and I asked her, what's your biggest fear, and she was like, I'm afraid you'll meet another woman, and you'll leave me, then I'll be all alone, and she asked me what's your biggest fear, and I was like, bears.

And another one that I liked:
I asked my girlfriend, what really turns you on, and she was like, "black guys." I didn't know how to respond to that, I've been mistaken for a lot of things, but no one's ever come up to me and been like, hey, are you black?

Justin

1:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If she thinks you are adorable, she will like whatever you blurt out; and tease you about it when you go out to breakfast a few months later.

If she doesn’t already like you, you cannot be so eloquent and clever that she will be convinced to like you.


Bottom line: Ugly guys, go home.

I'll be in the corner if you need me.

6:34 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Megan, I would not have kissed him. I would have gotten up and left.

What are you talking about? It was soooo cute...

Bottom line: Ugly guys, go home.

No, no, no. Adorable is a function of her crush on him, not a function of his looks. And I'm telling you, guys: more women have more crushes on you than you know. I swear. We tell each other, you see, so I know for certain.

11:44 PM  
Anonymous jens said...

> more women have more crushes on
> you than you know

So how should you deal with girls that you think might be signalling crushes on you when you are obviously not available but thrive on the attention?

Is there any way of not leading her on without altogether turning her off?

9:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If she doesn’t already like you, you cannot be so eloquent and clever that she will be convinced to like you. "

This is the part I disagree with the most. The relationships I've been in have not started with a woman having a crush on me long in advance of anything else. Nor do most of the relationships I've seen look that way, even in college.

-- e

9:43 AM  
Anonymous jens said...

> This is the part I disagree with
> the most.

If you interpret it as meaning she has to fall in love with you at first sight, of course you disagree.

I think the meaning is not that there is nothing you can do that will make a girl fall in love with you. Often just showing a bit of attention will draw her notice enough that her mind begins to dwell on you, and there you are.

The meaning is that the girl is not equivalent to a video game where if you just spin the controls right you get the high score. There isn't some magic pick-up line that is guaranteed to give a good impression. There isn't a prepared speech that will work on every girl.

And if she has already gotten a BAD (BAD as in "repellent", not BAD in some intriguing way) impression of you, you might be able to improve on that, but your chances are slim of ever being her lover.

9:57 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

not BAD in some intriguing way

You mean BADD.

10:14 AM  
Anonymous jens said...

No, not Bothered about Dungeons And Dragons BADD. I meant "having 'bad boy' appeal"...or rather, I was stating I did not mean "having 'bad boy' appeal".

11:40 AM  
Blogger Dizzy said...

I'm with Spungeon - I've seen men claim abuse when I really don't know how the girl could have been nicer. And most truly awkward situations occur after the boy has refused to take some pretty clear refusals that were maybe worded just tactfully enough to have deniability. Like, "I don't think it's a good idea to go up to your room."

7:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very late getting to this one, but I was working really late one night with someone at my office. We ended up having dinner and she drove me home. As I was getting out of the car she said she would really like to see my appartment. I told her it was really a mess but after I cleaned it she could come over.

I was in the elevator when I had the eureka moment that she might be interested in more than actually seeing my relatively nondescript appartment. Got off the elevator, ran downstairs but she was already gone. When I told my brother the story to see if I was reading too much into things his response was along the lines of if I was not using my #$^% I should donate it to medical science so it would be of some value to someone.

Despite my remarkable stupidity, we ended up dating about 2 months later. Now married for 6 years.

7:15 AM  
Anonymous jens said...

Girls are hard to read...in YOUR case, she was almost certainly showing interest; but in my younger days, I was giving a girl a ride...when it was time to get out she leaned over, wrapped her arms around my neck, inserted her tongue between my lips, and spent a very pleasant minute or two that way with me. When I foolishly thought she might be interested, she told me I was too short (5'8") and too easy (admittedly...she seemed like a hotty).

9:20 AM  
Anonymous qui tacet said...

its nice to be reassured occasionally that there is hope. looking forward to more posts like this

10:35 AM  

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