It’s been fairly impossible to avoid that He’s Just Not That Into You book that everyone and her sister has been reading. You know, the one with the guy who consulted on Sex and the City, who’s been hailed as the second coming because he says some straightforward things about what guys are supposedly thinking when it comes to the dating world. It had been recommended to me highly — I was offered a spot on a friend’s waiting list for what she called “THE BOOK.” I picked it up at the library instead, and I admit that I read it in hopes of culling some amazing tidbit that would suddenly explain my *cough* embarrasinglylongamountoftimethatidon’twanttoadmitto *cough* dryspell.
I suppose it’s a decent enough book — I’ve certainly found much more insulting schlock in the ChickLit section of the bookstore. A lot of what Greg Behrendt writes is common sense (saying “I don’t want a serious relationship” means he doesn’t want to be in a serious relationship; if he’s always drunk/stoned/high every time you get together, it’s not a good sign), but by the time you’ve hit your late 20s, you should have figured this shit out by now. Hell, I know that if the boy I’ve had a crush on since I was 16 was even remotely interested in me he’d be the one contacting me. I still e-mail him from time to time, fully knowing that I’m being stupid and that I need to quit it and retain what little dignity I have. But I don’t because of that whole being stupid thing. But that doesn’t mean I’m not aware that I’m being stupid.
Mostly He’s Just Not That Into You, or rather, the press around the book, made me want to slap the girls who feel like they’ve been shown a ray of light from God himself. These are not only the women who read the book and passed it on, but those who WENT ON NATIONAL TELEVISION to openly admit what morons they are. “Oh My God! He always said he didn’t want to marry me, and now I know he really doesn’t!” “I’ve finally learned that the fact that he fucked three random girls each week during the year we were together meant that he didn’t really love me.” Ya think? But maybe I should feel bad for them; if they couldn’t figure this stuff out before now, then they’re in pretty bad shape. I pity them, but I still think they’re morons.
But I’m not writing to save the morons from themselves. I’m just not that nice. The truth is that the first chapter didn’t sit well with me at all. In it, Behrendt says that “He’s Just Not That Into You If He’s Not Asking You Out.” Basically, if a guy is interested, he will move mountains to find out your name and number. He adds that a woman should never, ever do the pursuing. Aside from being highly bothered by the throwback to 1950s demands that I sit by the phone and wait, I have to say that I’ve had enough conversations rating which sex has the worse hand in the dating game to know that it just ain’t that easy. Almost every guy I know has whined that the onus is always on him and he’d love to be approached or asked out. So who’s right: Behrendt and his friends, or me and mine?
Here are the results of an informal poll wherein I bugged a bunch of the straight boys I know. While most are from New York (city and state), it’s a pretty good cross-section of fellas — single, involved, married, players and non-players. I was surprised to see just how often they gave the same answer to each question.
Behrendt says: If you have to pursue, nine times out of ten, he’s just not that into you.
Amy asks: If you’re interested in some cute girl, will you always ask her out?
Anthony: No, I see many cute girls on a day-to-day basis. I don’t stop each one and ask them all out.
Jamie: No. I never do. Ever. I am too shy and rubbish, unless I really know they like me first.
Glenn: If never is the same as always, then yes, otherwise my answer is no. My whole life, I’ve asked one girl out and it worked out ok, so I don’t know why [making the approach] didn’t take, but it didn’t. I’m a little on the shy side in the social arena.
Joe: No. Actually, most of the time I didn’t. I would think that’s more a function of personality rather than gender.
Lance: No. I actually rarely ask them out based on their cuteness. I’m fairly shy. My typical approach is to become friends with said girl and hope for some kind of magic moment when we both stare longingly and a kiss ensues. In fact, I’ve been told by a third party that a girl I found cute thought I was nice, and it still took a lot of time to ask her out.
Scott: Not necessarily, although I’ll definitely flirt and try to get a sense if she likes me, and see if she’s available.
Tim: Absolutely. It’s just too easy to find an excuse to get together with someone, and in New York it’s easy to just hang out for a few hours or get a few drinks without making it seem like a date. There are a few (very few) girls that intimidate me a bit and make me reluctant to ask [them] out. I usually have to feel them out for a long time, and then I usually get the nerve to ask them out.
Steven: For the most part, yes (excluding those that you know will not work in a relationship).
What we’ve learned:
Just because you’re cute doesn’t mean he’s coming over. Throw out some unavoidable, unmistakable signs but know that just because he hasn’t approached you yet, it doesn’t mean that he’s not picturing your first, uhm, kiss either. Not that I’m into people hanging onto false hope (see above about being aware of my stupidity), but don’t count out the one you’ve been eyeing just yet.
Behrendt says: Just because you like to lead doesn’t mean he wants to dance.
Amy asks: If a girl approaches you, does that immediately drop your interest level? If so, why? If not, does it make you more interested?
Adrian: Hell no! Sometimes it takes a girl approaching me to make me notice her. Even I can get distracted from the ladies in the room if I am appropriately enthralled with food or conversation.
Anthony: I am impressed with a woman who goes after what she wants, especially when what she wants is me. She gets some points for that, for not sitting back and hoping I would notice her.
Lance: It completely increases my interest to the nth degree… you have no idea. A girl approaching a guy is the most surefire way for a girl to get a guy’s attention. Sometimes it is a bit shocking (because it doesn’t happen enough) but once the shock has worn off (about 30 seconds in) smitten-ness ensues, at least until you catch a whiff of her full personality.
Joe: The act of coming over doesn’t itself do anything to the interest level — it’s the outcome of the approach. If she’s an idiot or I am starstruck and totally bomb the conversation, that usually lessens my interest.
Scott: I love it when a girl approaches me! Yes, sometimes I think it does make me even more interested.
Kurt: It doesn’t make me more interested but it’s nice do the accepting or rejecting rather than the other way around.
Tim: I love it if a girl approaches me. I actually prefer it. If some young lady and I are stealing glances and there is an interest, I’d actually wait for her to talk to me. It’s not the smartest strategy, but I always feel like I’d be imposing if I were to approach them.
Glenn: It definitely doesn’t drop my interest. I’m not sure if it makes me more interested, but I do know that it might make me take a look more closely.
What we’ve learned:
Gurlies, speak up! Behrendt has it all wrong here. Every single guy said that they’d love to have a lovely one such as yourself make the approach. Yes, I know it’s hard but it’s just as hard on their side and not only will you impress them by showing the confident chick that you are, but you’ll stun them just enough that you’ll have the upper hand. Plus, isn’t it worth making the first move and learning whether some cute boy is worth your time, instead of waiting around all “Gosh, golly gee, will he ever notice me”?
Amy asks another question: Would you prefer to make the first move towards conversation, or would you prefer that she does?
Scott: Either way is good. It’s great when they make the first move — especially if it’s a random encounter, because I hear that a lot of girls would rather not be approached at the store or the subway or sometimes in bars. I’m not afraid to approach but I try to read the signs carefully. If she talks first — it’s the best sign.
Steven: I always liked the girl hitting on me first. It’s always a fun to have a confident girl make advances in the beginning, turns into a more interesting game. ‘Cause it’s all about the game, RIGHT?
Tim: It doesn’t matter as long as there is conversation. If I’m around a girl I want to talk to, I’ll strike something up. If I didn’t, I’d feel like a buffoon later.
Joe: They came so rarely — really beggars can’t be choosers, you know. It’s like you’re asking a stranded man in the middle of the Sahara whether he prefers ice in his water.
Lance: I would prefer she does. Because I’m a chickenshit. But I’m cute. Tell your readers. And I have a steady job and a nice pad. And kittens that I treat nicely. I’m good with pussy.
What we’ve learned:
She approaches: 50%
If you’ve got your eye on a cute boy, take a chance and chat him up. Like I said above, not only do you weed out the unworthy ones that much faster, but starting the conversation will give you the illusion of confidence even if you hadn’t quite tried that skin on yet.
Behrendt says: We don’t like [being called and asked out]. Some guys might like it, but they’re just lazy.
Amy asks would you prefer to give a girl your number, or to get hers?
Joe: I’d probably prefer to give her mine. Giving it away gives her the power not to call you, but it also demonstrates that you’re willing to wait for her call (or willing to accept that she won’t). Getting hers — assuming you actually get her number and not the number of her favorite pizzeria that delivers — means that you have to play the how-long-should-I-wait game.
Kurt: If she has mine than I don’t have to worry if I’m calling too soon or I’ve waited too long. I hate the game.
Glenn: Either way is ok with me. I would probably prefer to give, thus I don’t have to get over the hesitation anxiety of calling.
Scott: I like to get hers if I feel like there’s a mutual attraction. I don’t mind the ball being in my court. I’ll give mine too, but I won’t know if she’s not calling because she thinks it’s too forward of her or if she really doesn’t like me.
Adrian: Get hers. Then I’m not waiting for her to call, and I know I’ll actually call (or I wouldn’t have asked).
Tim: I kinda need hers. One is because if she has my number I need to know that it’s her calling, plus it also helps me remember her name.
What we’ve learned:
Get hers: 50%
Give yours: 30%
Almost all the guys mentioned the inevitable, uncomfortable waiting game. It seems like everyone’s a loser in that — whether you’re the one waiting for the call or the one trying to figure out just how long is long enough to wait to dial those seven (or ten) digits in. Most guys seem to prefer to walk away with your number tucked safely in their pocket (especially with your name written clearly). The rest tend not to have a clear preference whether or not they hand their number over or you do. If you’re really interested in someone and are a little worried that he’s too shy to ask, then offer up your number with a Mae West wink that he call you sometime.
Behrendt says: If we’re really excited about someone, we can’t stop ourselves.
Amy asks: Aside from the obvious obstacles (boyfriend/girlfriend/lives on a tiny island near Antarctica), what would keep you from pursuing someone you were interested in?
Anthony: My brother(s) had already slept with her, she is a raging drunk or druggie, a financial and credit challenged mess, or something else that makes me feel like I am too old to be dealing with a woman I would consider to be a fixer upper.
Steven: If she has emotional/physical baggage.
Glenn: Too young or too old would do it. My age parameters aren’t as strict as Amy’s but I do have some. Shyness would definitely be a block, as would low self-esteem. I guess the last would be distance, probably wouldn’t pursue a girl in LA, but I did once.
Joe: She’s a hooker. Or has a major drug problem or communicable diseases.
Lance: If she’s a game player (i.e. “come chase me”): You find her interesting and assert that, but she plays hard-to-get. At this point in my life, I just usually assume she’s not interested, and go back to my drink. It’s cute when you’re a teenager, but quickly loses interest when you hit mid-twenties.
Adrian: [If she’s a] client, vendor, employee or friends with certain friends with whom I am not, in fact, friendly. The mother test is a factor, but it hasn’t ever stopped me. Otherwise, the only other thing that would stop me is fear of rejection – public rejection, mostly, since I’ve gotten over the others reasonably well.
Tim: Nowadays I won’t pursue someone that’s more than a 40 minute subway ride away. Lately, I’ve been noticing I’ve been dropping a girl if she has a pet that’s like a child to her. And rich girls that live fancy lives. Rich girls that live normal lives are fine, but rich girls that have no concept of money, I can’t handle. And if I find out the girl is a “relationship girl,” all bets are off. You know, those girls that bounce from boyfriend to boyfriend and are never single.
Scott: Aside from those things, if I sense she’s not interested in me — I’m out. Other than that — ha — it’s pretty hard to scare me off.
What we’ve learned:
Kick the drug habit and get off the streets, friends. Make an appointment with your doc and clear up any nasty STDs you’ve been neglecting. Seriously, though, Behrendt’s right that not a lot of things will deter a guy if he’s into you, but there are some things that are just insurmountable in his head. Those things, however, don’t seem to be universal at all and if you’re not getting called even though you know you two were rocking some intense chemistry, try not to take it too personally. Hell, you’ve got some pretty high standards too, right? Shake it off the best you can and move on to the next boy, and possibly the next one after that, until you find one that is worthy of you and doesn’t expect you to time travel back into the Stone Age.
If you haven’t read He’s Just Not That Into You, trust me, you’re not missing much. Behrendt doesn’t tell you anything that you can’t learn by hanging out with a couple of guy friends. In fact, you’re a lot better off hanging out with your friends and having fun instead of fretting about how your actions fit into some guy’s idea of The Rules. But, if you have a burning desire to read it, pick it up from the library and save yourself the money. Instead, use it to take out that cute boy to coffee — you know, the one you’ve been flirting with for months, hoping that he’ll make a move. Or buy a shot at the bar and send a drink over to the fellow with the chunky silver rings who leans really well. Hell, maybe you just tuck those dollars into your pocket and keep walking, thankful that you’re smart enough not to be sitting by the phone for some schmuck to wise up to your rockin’ self — you’ve got better things, and better people, to do.