Giraffes flirting

I had this roommate once who was really into “hitting on girls.” We were recently out of college, and he hadn’t hit on girls much in college, but now we were young men living in Boston and he’d discovered that this was something he could do, hitting on girls. It became his project. He had a group of (male) friends who he would talk to about the best ways to hit on girls, and then they would go out on the weekends to hit on girls together. I don’t know where they went exactly. My roommate also got a job at Starbucks, because I guess a lot of girls come into Starbucks and he wanted to hit on them too.

A lot of men would like to be better at hitting on girls. Mostly young men. Young men want to be better at flirting. The idea is to maximize your attractiveness to all girls so that you then have as many girls as possible attracted to you, so that you can choose which girl(s) to have sex with. As many girls as possible, but most importantly, more than zero girls. Because realistically, what most people who use this strategy are hoping is that by appealing to all the girls they’ll hook at least one.

Note the language we use: hitting, hooking. Note the tendency to think of flirting as a competitive sport, where the girl is like a soccer goal.

I can’t tell you, if you are a young man, how to get better at hitting on girls. I don’t know how to hit on girls. I can think of only one time in my life when I’ve done something that I’d describe as hitting on a girl; it was after the 2004 Democratic caucus, and I thought a girl in my precinct was cute, and I ended up asking for her number. She didn’t give it to me.

What I can tell you is that I hear from a lot of people, men and women both, not quite so young anymore, who are tired of the game. It’s exciting at first to play a social role, the role of someone looking for a partner, which is a new role to us when we’re young — exciting at first, but at some point we realize we’d actually like to get on with it, to move from someone who’s looking for a partner to someone who has a partner, and at that point the game starts getting in the way. We don’t want to worry about what it means if she holds her drink that way, or if she takes three and a half minutes to respond to our text. It’s stupid. We have bigger fish to fry. We want to start the relationship.

And if you’re in that boat, wondering how to get past the flirting and past the game to being in the relationship you want, here’s something else I can tell you. Forget about getting as many people as possible to be attracted to you. Instead, focus on attracting the people you want to be with. Don’t worry about the other people. It doesn’t matter if they like you or not.

I have a friend who used to do a lot of political canvassing. Knocking on doors, trying to get people to sign petitions and donate money. She told me that it’s not about persuading the people who aren’t on your side; it’s about knocking on more doors and finding the people who are already on your side. Someone disagrees with you? Thank them and knock on the next door. That happens ten times in a row? Knock on the next door. Don’t waste your time arguing with all the people who aren’t going to help you. Instead, find the people who are going to help you, who want to help you.

It’s good advice, and not just for political canvassing. Next time you find yourself at a party, a bar, a Democratic caucus, or wherever else you go to hit on girls, instead of worrying about how to play the game, try just walking up to someone and starting the conversation you want to have. You want to talk about robots? You want to talk about the best way of making Kung Pao chicken at home? Go for it. If they’re not into it, smile and try someone else. You’re looking for the other person in the room who wants to have the same conversation as you do, or at least the same kind of conversation. Don’t worry about the ones who want to have different kinds of conversations; they’re probably fine people, but they’re not going to help you right now. Keep moving. Party getting too small? Find another party. There are lots of people out there.