It’s the simplest thing in the world to do – start a conversation – but when there’s attraction and potential rejection involved, apparently it becomes a MESS.
The October issue of Hampton Roads Magazine is out, and I feel like I’ve been thrown to the socially awkward wolves. The auction isn’t till Thursday, but we 20 Sensational Singles have already been friend-requested on Facebook, and getting messages and emails from ones (supposedly) interested. And I’ve been bombarded with the reality: The real reason there are so many singles out there? People suck at starting and/or maintaining conversation.
Yeah, I know I’m a total dating rookie. My one, long-term serious relationships developed ‘situationally’ i.e. with someone I saw on a regular basis. There’s a reason for that—it’s REALLY hard to pique my interest with a few lines of chitchat. But I said I’d be openminded, right? Slowly, as I’ve warily sent responses to would-be weirdos, I’ve realized that ‘tis true: no one has a decent intro AND a good follow-up, which is really what it comes down to.
A few days ago I asked friends on Facebook to leave me the worst/best pickup lines they’ve ever heard. I noticed an interesting breakdown among the 8 people who responded (yes, 8. I’m a blogger, not a social scientist!)—4 guys responded with typical sleazy/cheesy one-liners, while all 4 gals knew exactly what I was talking about. The pickup line is an ongoing test. It does not include one-liners that are more or less meant to grab attention or laughs. It’s more than that, and one slight can UNDO all past prose. And my own opinion: you have to keep proving yourself through the second or third interaction.
Whether in person or online (or the odd circumstance of someone seeing you in a magazine), the anatomy is basically the same.
The Essentials of a Good Pickup Exchange
Keep It Simple
Why are you talking to me? Do you think I’m interesting? Is there something interesting going on around us, or do you have something to say about a shared pursuit? Whatever the reason is: don’t make keeping up my half of the conversation hard work! Be friendly, don’t use physical contact too soon, and (in the case of online communication) do mention a detail you know about me, but don’t get weird.
Keep It Interesting
OK, now tell me something about YOU. Saying hi and/or paying compliments do not earn you a prize. (Perfect example from a recent message: “You look familiar. Let’s meet for a drink and talk about why you look familiar. I’m awesome, just wait and see!” I KID YOU NOT!).
Keep It Specific – No Ambiguity, Please!
Ask for a phone number, if you want to. Or, if it’s an ongoing email exchange, make an effort to keep the conversation going. ‘“Hi, you seem like an interesting person. I just wanted to tell you that. Okay, bye.”’ doesn’t give me much to work with. Thanks for noticing! If you want a response, you’re gonna have to do better than that.
*special note for online communication*: Use Punctuation Marks! So many things can be taken so many ways:
“Let’s get together.” (Is that a suggestion, a passing thought? If I respond to this, does it make it my idea?)
“Let’s get together!” (If you’re really that enthusiastic, you shouldn’t be keeping me guessing. See above.)
“Let’s get together?” (Nice. Now I know I have only two possible responses.)
And most importantly, here’s how to stop any potential interest DEAD in its tracks:
Be Totally Off the Wall
A fumbling-idiot line can be kind of cute, because it indicates nervousness and sincerity. But eventually you have to pick up the ball and sprint to the goal line! Real life example: “Do you believe in ESP?” I’d like to think he was just awkward, but 10 minutes later we were still playing guessing games, and my eyes were glazing over. He should have started talking like a normal human being after a minute or two. As soon as I saw my friends come in the restaurant, I politely told him to get lost.
The point is, go ahead, act like a total idiot! Just convince me you’re not really an idiot…preferably as soon as possible.
Be Inappropriately Inappropriate
Flirting is OK. It’s even OK to be racy. But don’t sexify a neutral topic! This is a time to be tasteful and classy. I understand that guys think about sex pretty much all the time. Just pretend you don’t for at least the first few conversations, OK?
What do you think, am I too harsh? (It’s my opinion that if you’re not picky about the pickup, well…you deserve what you get!)
Is there ANYONE who can keep it interesting and clean until they’re past the awkward stage?