Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Dealing with a no

If the answer is no, you have nothing to lose by asking if another day, place, time, or event would suit them. Listen to the response carefully. Often people really are tied up working late, taking care of a sick parent, getting out of a relationship, studying, or being distracted and would be willing to consider an invitation in the future, just not now.
If you’re feeling brave, you can say, “If not now, how soon?” If you’re feeling a bit vulnerable, you can say, “Let me give you my number, and you can give me a call when you’re ready.” The middle ground is to say, “Why don’t I give you a holler in a week or two and see how you’re doing?” If your potential date says fine, then do it. If he or she says “I’ll call you,” don’t hold your breath. Who needs to turn blue?

The Invitation: Sending the Message

You have several options when actually asking for the date. The choices may be influenced by circumstances (like distance), personality, and personal style. In general, the closer you are when you ask, the better. When you’re close to the person, you get more information, you appear more courageous, and you get some practice for the date.
You can adapt any of the following methods for sending the message to your level of comfort. But be careful that you’re not hiding behind your comfort level — sooner or later, you’re going to have to get out there and actually date.
  • Asking in person: When possible, this is the best way to ask by far because seeing the person face-to-face gives you the most information. You can read body language and see whether the potential date looks pleased, terrified, God-forbid-revolted, or delighted. Based on the other person’s reaction, you can then modify your behavior accordingly or run. The disadvantage with asking in person is that it’s also the scariest for the exact same reasons. But it’s still preferred and also the friendliest technique.
  • Asking on the phone: This method gives you less information, but if you get panicky, you can always hang up before they answer (although caller ID has made hanging up without saying anything a great deal trickier). When you ask over the phone, nobody can see your palms sweating; but then again, you also can’t see your potential date’s reaction. Never ask an answering machine for a date. It’s cowardly, sends the wrong message (you’re manipulating them by making them call back before you ask them out), and occasionally, the machine actually eats the message. You never know if your potential date got the message or if it was intercepted by a protective parent, a jealous ex, a careless roommate, or the Fates.
  • Asking through a third party: In elementary school, you may have asked your best friend to ask her best friend if someone liked you. You may have even eventually gotten an answer, but after Suzy told Peter, and Peter told you, were you really 100 percent sure about the answer? Third parties are a very unreliable method of information flow. When other people get involved, sometimes they add their two cents to your message. For example, what if your best friend liked me and wanted you to ask me if I’d go out on a date with him? Can you see lots of room for sabotage and miscommunication?
  • Remember the story of our Pilgrim forefathers, John Alden and Miles Standish? Miles was the governor who asked his best friend John to intercede on his behalf with Priscilla Mullens. Priscilla decided she liked the messenger, and Miles was left out in the cold. Don’t ask somebody else to ask for your date. The messenger may end up taking your potential date, and then not only do you still need a date but you also need a new friend.
  • Asking with a note: Even though computers have made notes faster and sexier, notes don’t offer you much information and feedback, whether they’re e-mail or snail mail (through the post office). When you ask with a note, you also don’t know the mood your potential date may be in. In addition, a note opens the opportunity for interception, misinterpretation, a delay in feedback, and a lack of flexibility. Ask anybody who’s asked for an RSVP to a written invitation, and you begin to understand the problem with asking for a date through a note. If you’re absolutely determined to ask for a date in writing, I suggest a handwritten note via the post office because it’s classier and implies more effort and concern.
A brief note here on sending a note with flowers, cigars, wine, a baseball hat, a ticket, or any gift: Sending gifts with the note is cute but tricky. You don’t want to appear to be bribing your potential date on the first date. Gifts can be a token of respect and admiration and are okay and even valuable as you’re getting to know each other, but they can be too much too soon. Besides, you don’t want to have to top yourself later and end up buying your potential date a small country by the fourth date. Start out simply.

Answering machine etiquette

An answering machine message, unlike an offthe-cuff remark or rumor or discussion, can be saved and replayed and misinterpreted and overanalyzed and overreacted to and thrown back in your face. Not only that, but you never know who’s going to be listening on the other end. Here are six messages never to leave on a date’s machine:
  • You’re the best I’ve ever had.
  • I never want to see you again.
  • It’s me. Give me a call.
  • Next time, we’ll go out.
  • Your mother is hot.
  • Can I have your friend’s phone number?

Always go for it if you’re having a good hair or anything else day

You’re cuter when you’re happy, and self-confidence is sexy. Don’t get into the “well, today is a write-off, I may as well ask, get rejected, and make it a perfect score” mentality. You can tolerate being turned down more easily when you’re feeling strong — not to mention that rejection is a lot less likely. Asking someone out for a first date isn’t the time to trot out your best anything, including your imagination, checkbook, or best friend. This is a time to think KISS: Keep it Simple, Sweetie. All you want to do here is send a clear and gentle but important message: I’d like to spend some time getting to know you better.
Are you interested?

Remember that timing is everything

Don’t ask for tomorrow or next year. A basic rule is to ask for a first date a week to ten days in advance, but you can break this rule with impunity as the need arises. You can ignore these guidelines if the spirit moves you to be spontaneous. For example, “Hey, got time for an ice cream cone?” can get you an immediate yes; you can also expand this invitation to a “maybe next week” if you get a no.
Now is always a better time to ask than later because your courage may diminish over time. There are some obvious exceptions to this rule: Don’t ask someone who is in a crisis (never ask for a date at a funeral), just getting out of a relationship (never ask for a date at a divorce hearing, even if the person isn’t one of the parties involved; it’s bad karma), or going through any other experience when you may appear to be exploiting a weakness. You need to take the other person’s life situation into account as well.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

She wants romance but hates that she wants romantic partner

Dear Cheryl: I have two major problems tied together: 1) I really want to find a romantic partner, and 2) I hate myself for feeling that I need one. I've been told my whole life that I need to be independent and able to take care of myself. I am. I'm a 23-year-old graduate student at a prestigious world university in a challenging male-dominated technical field. I love the professional opportunities and challenges available.

However, I feel terribly guilt-ridden and weak because I'm not happy with my personal life. I feel that I'm failing as a professional woman because I'm not satisfied with a life that consists of just my friends and me.

I've been told over and over to be patient, to concentrate on being an interesting, attractive person and that the rest would take care of itself. But it isn't. I feel this horrible sense of failure because I'm lonely—not for want of friends or family—but for want of a real relationship.

I hate myself for wanting a partner, not necessarily a husband, yet—but a partner. I hate myself because I want a man I can depend on when I know logically that I should depend only on myself. I know I can work, live and even thrive professionally by myself, but I don't want to anymore. The only thing I hate more than being alone is the guilt I feel over hating being alone.

I don't know what to do. I've tried joining clubs, starting new hobbies, taking up dancing, online dating, fix-ups by friends, clubs, bars. I'm not unattractive and don't have a terrible personality. I just can't find anyone I fit with and I'm not happy with the "be patient" approach. I've seen too many women end up permanently alone.

—I Am Woman Hear Me Roar

Dear I Am Woman Hear Me Roar: You've come a long way, baby. A long way since Gloria Steinem said, "A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle." Turns out, fish might not need bicycles, but women do need men. A least most of them do if they want to have healthy, happy lives with children and families. So, get over your guilt over wanting a partner. That is so mid-20th Century.

Now, how to find him—that's a different story. You're doing everything right. In fact, you're doing too much. Select the one or two activities that you really enjoy and concentrate on them. And look around your classrooms. They must be full of men who share your interests. (By the way, even Gloria Steinem got married. If it was good enough for her ...)

Dear Cheryl: I caught my husband watching Internet porn. Before this happened, I had lost interest in sex for a while. I didn't tell him I knew what he was doing. What I did was to really step up the sex with him to let him know I was interested again. A few days after we had good sex, I caught him again.

This time I confronted him. He said he would stop and we worked things out. But I'm still the one who's initiating sex. What should I do? Should I continue to seduce him or let him come to me when he wants it?

—Back in the Mood

Dear Back in the Mood: Your husband might think that your renewed interest in sex is only temporary. Or he may be hooked on Internet porn. How do you feel about porn? Would you be willing to watch it with him? That's one option.

In the meantime, continue to seduce him. See if he gets the hint that your interest in sex isn't a passing thing. Stay in touch and let's see what's going on.

Always offer options about the date

Options can include the day, time, activity, and transportation. Options make you sound organized without being bossy or rigid, as long as you keep them limited. Offering a few choices at the outset makes you sound less panicky than you would if you were to offer them after the potential date says no to your initial suggestion.
If you’re specific about the date and your potential date doesn’t like the suggested activity but does like you, you can modify your plan. Also, although a plan with several separate possibilities requires more work on your part, it offers a better chance of success — and a chance to figure out whether your potential date has any interest in you. After all, if you’ve offered all options regarding place, time, date, activity, and so on and the answer is still no, the problem is as clear as the writing on the wall, and you’ve hit the wall. Take a deep breath and move on. It’s not the end of the world, just this potential date. Scary but efficient.

By offering to meet there, go in separate cars, or pick her up, you instantly show yourself to be considerate, capable, and sensitive to the fact that females have heard horror stories about being abducted by a date and never seen again. Although you’re not Jack the Ripper, understanding that she may feel a little uneasy about being in a car with a stranger makes you a liberated and cool guy for thinking like a modern woman. You will score major points. In the initial stages of dating, people sometimes want so much to be liked that they agree to things at the expense of their integrity. If your potential date has enough sense to say, “I’d love to do something with you, just not mud wrestling,” then give that person a gold star. Don’t be offended — be pleased. You have just found someone with brains, courage, and honesty.

Never say, “Would you like to go out sometime?”

If you phrase the invitation like this and the askee says “no,” you’ve left yourself absolutely no out except to be swallowed up by a prayed-for earthquake. If the person says “yes,” you still have to ask him or her out. Yikes. Instead, be specific. It’s much better to say, “I’d love to see the new exhibit at the museum. Any interest in going either Wednesday or Thursday?” You offer a specific opportunity (as well as alternative days) and at the same time, you give your potential date a great deal of room in which to negotiate without sounding wishy-washy or desperate. Giving specifics also allows your potential date a couple of seconds to think about it, rather than getting caught completely off guard.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Dating Game: Tell mystery man she's got his number

In today's dating world, we can find our dates online and keep track of mutual interests on our iPhones or Blackberrys, but it's ironic how a simple pen and paper can have more of an impact.

Sharon, a good friend who has had her share of ups-and-downs while searching for Miami's Mr. Right, was headed to a birthday dinner in Broward County. Riding in the passenger seat of her friend's car, she noticed an attractive man sitting in the sedan that pulled up next to them at the red light, just a block from her destination.

Sharon looked over at him several times and got caught looking twice. The mystery man smiled back, nodded, and when the light turned green, he headed right as they went up the street and turned left into the restaurant lot.

When dinner was over, and she returned to her car, she noticed a note under the windshield wipers.

"I saw you looking over at me, and if you want to learn more, give me a call," was the message on the note. "He wrote his number," Sharon said. "Seven digits."

That's right. He forgot to leave his area code.

When was the last time you heard of a guy leaving a note for a woman he saw all for all of 30 seconds? In middle school? All he knew is what he saw; barely enough to provide a police description, not enough to fill out an online dating profile.

I tried this once, leaving a note on the car of a woman who lived in my apartment complex after she smiled at me nicely one day in the elevator. But in retrospect, I should have talked to her. Instead I came across like a stalker, which may be the reason my car was towed, despite parking in my assigned spot.

As for Sharon's mystery man, obviously he noticed where they parked, turned his car around and delivered the note while they were dining inside. Sharon became intrigued. There was attraction, curiosity, a sign. But with no area code, she and her roommate had a mystery to solve. So they called the number trying different South Florida area codes.

A 305 resulted in a pizza joint. A 786 version was not in service. A 561 call interrupted a bridge game. But 954 reached his office voicemail at a consulting firm, but Sharon didn't leave a message. Why would he leave his work number? she asked. And why did he fail to include the area code? She wondered if he were married or dating and in search of some extracurricular activities.

I suggested to Sharon that while those scenarios were not outside the realm of possibility, perhaps he had cell problems, or his cell is an out-of-state number. As for the lack of an area code, it may have been an honest mistake (he may have assumed she'd know it was 954) or he may have wanted to see if she would begin the search.

Regardless, what did she have to lose by leaving him a message and perhaps meeting for coffee or a drink? These days, some singles will exhaust all options to meet someone. Better to try than to think "what if . . ."

So Sharon decided to call and told me she'd leave this message: "Hi, this is Sharon. You saw me the other day at the red light and I got your note. If you want to meet me, give me a call." And she would just leave seven digits.

Stay tuned.

Never ask for a first date for a Friday or Saturday night

These two main, big, serious date nights are too important a place to start. Asking for a first date on a Friday or Saturday is like playing at Wimbledon without a tennis lesson or having ever played on grass or at all. Even people who don’t have dates and haven’t had one for ages are often loathe to admit their plight to a stranger (and if you haven’t had a first date, you’re still strangers). Start off with a Wednesday or Thursday night, which are nights when people generally don’t have much planned. Also avoid Mondays like the plague. Everybody hates Mondays.

Don't be afraid for a rejection

The First Rule to asking for a date is this: No guts, no glory. The worst-case scenario is that the prospective date says no. At that point, you’re no worse off than you are at this very moment.
Rejection is definitely not fun, but a rejection is only one person’s opinion of you. You don’t like everyone, and not everyone is going to like you. If someone says no, then he or she misses out on getting to know how truly terrific you are.
Rejection can be the beginning of opportunity. Scads of hugely successful people just wouldn’t take no for an answer. Think about Fred Astaire: When he first went to Hollywood, a talent scout wrote, “Big ears, too skinny, big nose, can dance a little.” Many famous beauties and stars in many fields had to cope with someone’s negative opinion of them — nobody hasn’t faced rejection. The question is: Are you going to let it get you down? Of course not! Alexander the Great probably conquered the world by the age of 30 because some shortsighted lass turned him down — maybe because he was too intense or short or something. Maybe that rejection made him want to make more than most Grecians earn. (It’s a pun; say it out loud — but definitely don’t use it until the fourth or fifth date or after you’re married or your last kid leaves for college or your hearing has gone.)
Rejection means that that person says no but not that everyone will. You need to realize when no is no, when someone’s showing absolutely no interest. If someone consistently says no when you ask for a date, it’s okay to say, “Look, I hear that you’re not interested, and I don’t want to be a pest. If you ever change your mind, here’s my number,” or “I’ll call you in a year,” but then for heaven’s sake, don’t call any sooner than that. With time, the sting really does go away.
Conversely, if you really don’t want to go out with someone, don’t say, “Maybe” or “Call me next week.” Just say, “Thank you for asking, but it’s just not possible.” Remember that the world is a very small place. You may change your mind, or that person you turn down may marry your best friend or be in a position to hire you someday. There is no reason to ever hurt someone whose only sin is being interested in you, so be gentle but firm. Rejection isn’t gender specific. It’s not any easier for guys to face rejection than it is for women. We’ve just programmed men for power, and asking someone out is boss, even if the whole experience is tinged with fear. Either sex can feel more powerful by taking the initiative and asking someone out. Biology has nothing to do with the ability to tolerate possible rejection. Women, if you’ve never asked a guy out, you should do it for your own liberal education. Guys love it. However, they may think you’re hotter to trot (sexually) than you really are, so take that into consideration.
If you’re afraid of rejection, you may miss out on a lot in this life, which is pretty darned short as it is. See if you can put that angst away, take the chip off your shoulder, and go for it.