I think most men are generally terrible at hitting on girls, and I think this is primarily because most men have so little experience being hit on.
It’s probably not actually as complicated as it seems. If more guys would just think to themselves, “What if somebody said this exact same thing to me in this exact same context?” they’d save themselves a lot of stupid attempts.
I arrived at this conclusion shortly after an encounter at the gym in which I may or may not have been hit on by a guy who may or may not have been gay. It’s possible this guy was just totally insane. Either way, it felt like I was getting hit on by a gay guy, and that’s all that matters.
Let me begin by telling you that the first thing this guy did was walk into the weight room and start mimicking the sound of a siren with his mouth. It sounded something like a tornado siren. He thought this was hilarious. He walked up to a group of mostly espanol-speaking teenagers and, without any introduction, began making the siren noise, more or less, in their faces. He then motioned for them to watch him walk into the basketball gym, where he walked behind a stairwell and performed the noise, briefly confusing everyone in the building.
“That guy is freaking crazy,” one kid said.
When he came back in, he began speaking in some foreign tongue to the espanol-speaking teenagers. They didn’t say anything. They didn’t do anything. They were utterly befuddled. This is behavior I’ve never encountered before, and not only am I probably 10 years older than these kids, I’ve been living in Lawrence for the last five years.
“You know what that is?” he asked.
Stunned, they offered no audible response.
“It’s latin,” he said. “It’s a Catholic prayer.”
He went right from that to inspecting their teenage arms and abs. I’m not kidding. Squeazing and touching and looking, he compared them to his own, which were extremely flabby and attached to a face that looked like it was 40-some years old, but an excessively abused 40-something, if that makes sense. His face looked kind of like a ball of bread dough, after it’s been kneaded for a while. And fat.
“I know latin, italian, french,” he told them, loudly. “A little spanish. Espanol. Petit espanol.”
He made several remarks about the teenagers’ muscle tone, then had one of them feel his (supposedly) surgically repaired shoulder, which he had (supposedly) injured in a car accident.
Soon, the boys left. That meant it was me, him, and two 20-something girls, which he totally ignored, except to loudly mock something one of them said.
I knew he was going to say something to me. I was hoping I wouldn’t have to respond to the tornado siren or touch the shoulder. And I certainly didn’t want him to recite a prayer all in my face.
I was preparing what I would say to him. And I will say, I’m pretty good at making people feel unwanted for conversational purposes. So good, actually, that I sometimes do it accidentally, causing people I actually like to think I don’t want to talk to them.*
*Does that make me a jerk? That doesn’t seem fair, but I honestly don’t know. It’s not like I derive any pleasure from this. I don’t make people feel uninteresting just for kicks, or to make myself feel better. It’s just that I don’t like small talk, unless there is some realistic expectation that it will become something more interesting. Some people find other people necessarily interesting. I don’t. That’s all.
Not everybody has this skill. My friend, Lance, for example, cannot ever extracate himself from a bad conversation. He’s so engaging (or, perhaps, engagable), that people think he’s interested when he actually isn’t. He accidentally makes people feel like they are entertaining him (often, as I think about it right now, probably me). This is a fine skill to have. I’d probably be better at my job if I were like Lance but, alas, I’m not.
The point is, when I set out to be unapproachable, I’m usually effective. Probably 95 percent effective, I’d say, in warding off unwanted conversation.
So I pulled the bill of my hat down, kept my eyes focused on what I was doing, or the wall, and adjusted my workout so that I would not be in his vicinity.
And if he started to talk to me in latin, I was going to say this: “Hey, I don’t mean to be rude, but I don’t want to talk about this.”
It’s direct. It leaves no room for misunderstanding. It’s just, “Don’t talk to me. No offense.”
But he did not talk to me in latin. And he did not make the siren noise. Instead, he hit me with this:
“Nice work with those 50s.”
I was sideswiped. What he had said to me was neither intrusive nor overtly annoying. What could I say?
“Thanks,” I muttered, not looking at him.
And then he went for it.
“Nice arms, too.”
That was it. I hurriedly finished my last set, and bolted out of there. I can’t imagine what he was going to say next, but I knew it wasn’t going to get any less weird from there.
Call me a homophobe, if you want. If you’re a woman, imagine how creeped out you’d be if a guy like that started commenting on your legs while you were doing lunges. Now, multiply that by whatever you multiply by to allow for unwanted homosexual advances.
So I started to think about this, and I wondered how often things a lot like this must happen to women. Some random guy at the gym making some out-of-place and completely transparent compliment, then ignoring all nonverbal signals that this was a poor idea. And how often do men make the creepiest compliment possible at the weirdest possible time?
I think you can only get away with this stuff if you’re really, really ridiculously good looking, and if that’s the case, why are you complimenting women in the first place? You’ll do much better by insulting them.
So that’s my useless advice for the day.