When I was in my early twenties, there was a young man who took a shine to me. His way of showing this was to stare directly into my eyes while pointedly singing along to the music of The Manic Street Preachers. Yes, the overwrought political band with no perceivable concept of subtlety. The band that had a single called, “If You Tolerate This, Your Children Will Be Next.” It actually won a Brit Award (1998 was a very weird year).
The point is, that I, like every woman I know, have dealt with a bunch of awkward attempts from men trying to pick me up, all of which flash back to me every time I try to talk to a woman. Suddenly I have a new empathy for those dudes and every guy who has ever whined at how difficult it is to talk to women. Suddenly I am through the looking glass, and I AM an awkward, confused weirdo, desperately trying to figure out how to impress women*.
That’s not surprising. Toronto is filled with brilliant, funny, gorgeous women. Women who not only have a start-up but also a YouTube makeup tutorial channel with over one million subscribers; no-nonsense bike mechanics who have a bullshit detector as finely tuned as a Stradivarius violin and who have slept with EVERYONE; graphic designers who write the only performance poetry you’ve ever enjoyed. It is intimidating!
However, most of the advice about talking to women is from a hetero dude’s point of view, and it is often pretty terrifying. “The Game” for example, a gilded tome that suggests going through a routine of touching women on ever more intimate parts of the body until they can’t resist you because of their stupid lady brains (I’m paraphrasing). It’s also the book that suggests saying terrible things to women to mess with their self-esteem until they want to mess with your boner while crying (again, paraphrasing).
There is NO WAY I’m doing any of that creepy shit. My pal suggests the best bet is to be introduced to a friend of a friend at a potluck; however, I am a terrible cook, and it feels too much like auditioning for role of girlfriend in front of someone’s entire (chosen) family.
So what is the best option?
I decided to attend “Queer Slowdance,” a monthly event by the incredible Sherwin Tjia. It’s a beautiful, fun and inclusive event that is possibly the best thing that happens in Toronto. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a night of slowdancing queer folks, but with the added brilliant element of having volunteer “Designated Dancers” whose job it is to ask people to dance. Since this feels like the most terrifying thing I can possibly do, I sign up. This is not the first time I’ve been a DD, but it is the first time I’ve been one since I realized I’m queer. Yes, I’ve spent nights volunteering to ask queer folks to dance and had no idea I was into women. Remember the list of glaring signs I mentioned in an earlier article? That was the tip of the iceberg.
The evening, as always, is magical. A kind woman calms my nervous while babbling during the first dance. I have conversations with all kinds of incredible folks over eighth grade dance classics and the occasional slow jam. The rules state that DDs don’t hit on the people they ask to dance, so I get to spend an evening practicing talking to lots of different people. I’m still a bit intimidated, but it turns out I can talk to almost anyone if I just give myself a chance. And there is something about being physically close to someone (well, lots of someones, one dance after the other) that makes you begin to feel more comfortable. And unlike what pick-up artists would have you believe, it’s possible to develop that kind of physical contact without being awful (consent is built into the fibre of Queer Slowdance).
After my shift as a volunteer has finished, I manage to talk to (and get the numbers of) three amazing women. I attempt to talk to another woman. She’s wasn’t interested, and it wasn’t a big deal. I just walked away, went over to the bar and started talking to someone else.
I’m still FAR from an expert at talking to women, but I’ve realized that it’s easier to do so in a venue I feel comfortable in. I’d love to be a smooth, tough lady who can go into a dive bar and come out with the number of my future wife and girlfriend (two different women). The woman with that kind of skill is out there (she’s probably the no-nonsense bike mechanic), but I am not her.
Maybe it’s okay to meet women by doing things I actually like and going to places I want to be. That’s probably the best way to meet a woman I have things in common with anyway. Yeah, I know, no kidding. But give me a break – none of the books seem to have anything about hanging out with women more than once.
Pick-up artist’s loss = my gain.
* I have, however, managed not to threaten women on Twitter or send pictures of my genitals without getting permission, so I’m not at #NotAllMen level yet.