In which I attempt to encourage dudes. Here we go.

By far the most common objection to what I’ve said to men in the Details series goes something like this: “It’s all well and good for you to say men should initiate, but that means that they’re taking on the majority of the risk. I’ve been turned down, and it sucks, and now I find myself gun-shy and unwilling to take on the chance of more disappointment.”

I guess there are a couple ways for me to approach this. I don’t have the spiritual gift of mercy and I’m not terribly sympathetic as a human being so my knee-jerk response to this sort of reply is typically something along the lines of, “Oh, just grow up.” But I know that’s not actually helpful, much as some men (and women) need to hear it. So. Read on.

First, I do want men to remember that, as I said in another “Details” post, attraction is a complicated thing. When a gal says, “No thanks,” to a man’s request for a date, it’s a bummer for him, but men need to stop seeing it as a personal rejection. It’s not. It’s just that, for whatever reasons from legit to ridiculous, she’s not feeling it. And — here’s the kicker — she’s not under any obligation to explain or justify those reasons to the guy who asks her out. In fact, I generally have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for things like that.

I think a huge part of the problem is waiting too long and investing too much emotionally in the potential date. If you find a girl interesting, ask her out, soon after the interest develops. Don’t wait until you’re into “hurt and disappointment” territory if she turns you down. It’s not that big a risk — or it shouldn’t be unless you’ve spent weeks mentally composing a speech about how much you like her or whatever. And nine times out of ten, it’s not really “about you” at all, it’s something intangible. And please know that I’m working just as hard to encourage women to take a chance and say yes (it’s a risk for us too!) to good guys.

My second thought is, well, is there a common theme emerging as far as the reasons you’re getting a “no thanks”? Among my friends, probably the most common reason for saying no is too much intensity rather than just, “Would you go on a date with me?” I’m not saying guys need to change who they are, but it’s wise to be willing to work on your approach if that’s causing problems. I mean, you know the old definition of “crazy,” right?

So, are you coming on too strong? Only asking out the hottest girls in your circle? Overlooking the solid female friend right in front of you? Do you get stage fright and just need to practice a thousand times? Are you investing your heart in a girl pre-asking-out, and just feeling the pressure? Are you one of those guys who asks out girls he’s never spoken to before? All of those things are pretty quick fixes. Ask a girl out if you’ve talked to her a few times (great opportunity to work on your conversation skills) and find her interesting. Don’t wait weeks or months, don’t invest too much, just keep it light and casual.

And since this is always the elephant in the room in conversations like this, I’ll touch on the whole “looks” thing. Just the other day I read an article about online dating site profiles and the fact that the more polarizing a person’s looks were, the more likely that person would be to have others contact them. In other words, the more classically pretty/handsome people were getting contacted far less often than the ones who some people thought were not just less-attractive, but actually ugly. And in my own experience I can tell you that the men of my acquaintance who’ve had the most success in the dating world are not necessarily my best-looking guy friends. The three or four of them who have just rocked it out in the last couple of years aren’t the face-melting hotties, they’re just the ones who’ve been persistent in the face of a lot of “no thanks”es from girls, even stuck it out through a series of girls going on three or four dates with them and then calling it quits — and they’re the ones married, or engaged, or in serious relationships. Their attitude was that they just had to do what the Lord called and equipped them to do, which was to be initiators, and leave the results to Him without worrying about women’s responses, trusting that He uses means to accomplish his purposes.

From my own experience, I know that, because I’m not a five-eight, 110-lb blonde volleyball player or a Megan Fox lookalike or whatever, there’s going to be a narrower range of men who find me attractive. That is totally fine — I’ve gone out with guys who thought I was perfect looking and had no interest in the skinny blonde type, much to my surprise. And I have some really gorgeous friends, so I know from their experiences that being the prettiest girl in the room isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be. The less conventionally-attractive you are, the more specific your dating pool is going to be, sure. But haven’t you seen some weird-looking married people? Don’t all sorts make it down the aisle? Tall, short, fat, thin, gorgeous, ugly, and everyone in between? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: attraction is complicated. And that can work for you as well as against you. Play up your quirks. Roll with them. And at the same time, work on your character. Whatever you look like, strive to be the godliest, most contented, most gentlemanly, most confident Whatever Type You Are that you can possibly be. (I’m going to throw in a pitch for The Art of Manliness here. Seriously, guys. Check it out. Taking their advice is going to put you way ahead of many, many dudes in the 20-35 age bracket.)

Third, and just getting really practical here, it occurs to me that it might be a good idea for guys to have a quick definition of “date” to throw out to girls who might think “date” means “OH MY GOODNESS HE LOVES ME.” You might say something like, “Hey, I’ve been wondering if you’d go on a date with me sometime. And I’m using the old-fashioned definition of the word ‘date,’ as in, I find you interesting and I’d like to get to know you better. Casual. What do you think?”

Overall, what I want to say to the men reading this is, be encouraged. Hurt and disappointment? It’s part of life. You can’t insulate yourself from it. It’s going to happen whether you ask interesting girls out or not, so if you want to be married, why not take the bull by the horns?

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11 thoughts on “In which I attempt to encourage dudes. Here we go.

  1. Laura, you really nailed it with this line: “attraction is complicated”. Ain’t that the truth! Remember Betty and Veronica from the Archie comics? Veronica was supposed to be the most desirable girl at Riverdale High, but every reader knew that Betty was the real deal. After 24 1/2 years of marriage, I can honestly say (as I have all along) that I’ve found my Betty.

    Tim

  2. – just doing some catch-up reading here, and, seeing as how I’m such an expert on what it’s like to be a broken hearted guy, thought I’d chip in 😛

    In general your counsel seems very wise and workable Laura. But I do also think that it can be okay to be hurt and disappointed for a time, and to have this sap your confidence. That’s just the way it goes sometimes and you might need time to recover, or you may even always carry a wound from the experience, unless God graciously gives you complete emotional healing. It’s alright to be messed up and broken for as long as it takes – what matters is whether you are being godly through it all.

    *But* (and this is where I agree with you Laura) there is a difference between taking time to heal and wallowing in sorrow, and the point does comes at which, as a man, even perhaps with some residual fragility, you just need to step up and take initiative. You have to make the best of the life given you, and while that does mean dealing with stuff in the past, it also means looking forward and living life! You can do this imperfectly and with trembling – courage is action in the face of fear, afterall. But you should act.

    • I’d agree with you wholeheartedly as I usually do if not for the fact that we’re talking about a date here. Disappointment, sapped confidence, bruised ego? Yeah, definitely. But requiring emotional healing from God if a girl says “No thanks” to a request for one date? A guy who’s that emotionally fragile doesn’t need to be on the dating scene at all, IMO; he needs to be in counseling.

      I don’t want to be cold about this whole thing, and (believe me) I’m very sympathetic to the healing process required after a serious breakup. But I guess I’m saying that it really shouldn’t be THAT big a deal for a guy to ask a girl on a date, and if it is… well, the best way to get over that sort of fear is desensitization — i.e., asking MORE girls out! I don’t think you ever get over a fear by dwelling on how big and scary it is, I think you usually get over it by doing it until it’s not so big and scary.

  3. Ah yes, I’m with ya now… and not. Turns out I don’t quite agree with you on the dating thing. I do agree that, in itself, a date can and probably should be a ‘light affair’. But the whole reason you’re going on a date is that you think there’s a possibility it could go somewhere. So it’s *not* actually as light as all that. And if you have a broken heart, you may not be ready for a relationship, and it wouldn’t be very nice to go on a few dates with a woman and then tell her you are into her but you’re not ready for a relationship…

    I’m keen to hear your thoughts on this 🙂

    • “But the whole reason you’re going on a date is that you think there’s a possibility it could go somewhere.”

      Ah, see, here’s the kicker, I think. I’ve gone on dates with several guys I didn’t really see things going anywhere with at the time. Turns out it didn’t go anywhere with any of them, but I was open to it, and there was no heartbreak on either side, because we were going into it with the attitude of, “Sure, I think you’re interesting, let’s give it a go!” But if your attitude to dating is, “I have to make sure that this person has the potential to be my spouse before going on a single date,” then I can see the problem, and the potential for heartbreak. IMO, the purpose of dating is to answer the question: “Do this person and I have the potential to be right for each other?” Not only is there no need to figure that out beforehand, you’re actually being redundant. It’s like the person who takes a shower before having a bath.

      There are two problems from what I can see:

      1. Consumerism, where Guy or Girl spends a fair amount of time evaluating the suitableness of other people to fit into their life. One of the problems here is obvious, I think, but there’s another problem — I hesitate to say “pickiness,” but maybe “initial pickiness.” You shouldn’t marry someone you’re not pumped about, but I don’t think it’s crazy to say you should be willing to go out with lots of people you’re not immediately pumped about.

      2. Mysticism, where Guy or Girl has to feel some sort of leading from the Lord, or, alternatively if you’re Presbyterian ;), Guy or Girl has to intellectually work out the potential for marriage, pre-date. I’ve actually heard older married men in the church counsel younger guys not to so much as ask a girl out unless they’re relatively confident, not just that she would be a good wife in the abstract (although that’s offensive enough, IMO), but that she is actually probably THE ONE. That kind of counsel? Bonkers. How do you get to know someone’s romantic potential outside of a dating situation, without stringing them along or sending mixed messages? In my experience, frankly, you don’t.

      That, as they say in the South, was a whole lotta sugar for a nickel! 😀

  4. Feel like I might be flogging a dead horse… if that’s the right expression – you’re not a dead horse… but anyway I would really like for us to come to a clearer/more precise point of divergence. I think I finally properly understand what you have in mind – no decision making before the date, just see how it goes once you are getting to know the person.

    But there will come a point in the dating process when you begin to think ahead, when perhaps one or both of you begin to get your hopes up. At this point messed-up-broken-hearted-guy (or girl – obviously I have something at stake here) may either get his heart broken all over again or find himself interested but not ready, in which case the girl may get her heart broken.

    I don’t say this because I think it’s healthy to try and avoid getting your heart broken, but rather to say it’s okay to have some time out when you’re fragile.

    • I don’t see anything I disagree with there, Fi, except that there “will” come a point when people begin to get their hopes up. I’ve seen plenty of amicable splits after 3, 4, 5 dates where both people said, “Nah, not working out, no hard feelings.” More common after that to get your hopes up, sure, and I certainly think that it’s perfectly all right to, as you say, have some time out when you’re fragile.

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