Saturday, January 22, 2011

"Who writes letters anymore?"

Apologies to everyone for the definite lack of new content over the past couple weeks. Many of our bloggers have left to study abroad for the semester, so the real world's been interfering. But worry not: we'll have things up and rolling again soon. 

In the meantime, enjoy a short and amusing video about miscommunication troubles:

Thursday, December 30, 2010

"Do you want a cup of coffee?"

HE SAYS: "Do you want a cup of coffee?"
SHE SAYS: "Yeah, okay."
(HE THINKS): "Sex is on!"*
(SHE THINKS): "Coffee sounds good right now."

*This is an Eddie Izzard reference. If you don't get it, watch the video immediately. If you do get it, watch it again anyway because it's funny.

Okay, in all seriousness now: this post is about possible flirtation miscommunications. This is different from the "Squirrel Flirting Business" because we're talking about times when a guy might think a girl is playing hard-to-get, when in fact, she is just trying to let him down/ignore him/be polite. We're going to go at this from a specific personal experience - my sister's. (If you aren't interested in the ancedote, you can just skip down to The Moral... but know that you'll be missing out.)

The story starts with your classic high school love triangle (the names are all fake and come from the Brat Pack movies, at my sister's request): Samantha likes Jake, who is best friends with Brian, who likes Samantha, who thinks Brian is creepy. Brian constantly hangs around Samantha in a futile attempt to win her affections. Samantha, worried about upsetting Jake, always tries to be polite to his friend. Her politeness includes smiling, nodding in annoyed agreement, and putting up with his constant, awkward presence. She doesn't want Jake to think she's into his friend and therefore off-limits, and she believes she is being perfectly clear about her disinterest in Brian (for example, she always ignores his invitations by saying she has a dentist appointment, implying that she would rather have her teeth pulled than hang out with him...but he never gets the implication.) Herein lies the miscommunication: he thinks her politeness and elusiveness are flirty behavior ("she must be playing hard to get!"), but she just thinks she is being polite. (Oh, dear.)

This miscommunication leads to a melodramatic blow-up via text messages when Brian finally confesses his undying love to Samantha. She rejects him, and he thinks she's a total bitch for leading him on all year. Here are some snippets of the conversation (just for humor's sake, and to emphasize the potential consequences of the flirtation misunderstandings):

          Brian: "Is it really not obvious that I like you?"
          Samantha: "I'm sorry if you think I led you on, but I just like you as a friend."

          Brian: "You aren't perfect, you know. If you reject me, you're just sabotaging
               your own happiness."

          Brian: "What hurts the most is I opened myself up to you and put myself out
               there and you just crushed me and you don't even care."
The Moral: Gents, you can probably safely assume that a girl is just being polite when she just smiles and acts nicely toward you; assuming more than that can be risky business. Sometimes going for a cup of coffee really just means a cup of coffee. But ladies, realize that when you act coy and elusive, it can very easily be construed as playing hard-to-get. I know that I often think that my body language and voice fluctuations are totally obvious signals, but it's not fair to assume that the "he" gets it. Samantha probably would've been better off just telling Brian flat-out that she wasn't interested as soon as she realized that he was interested in her; being upfront in the first place might've saved them both some embarrassment and some stupid texts.

So, to both ladies and gents: do you have any personal anecdotes/embarrassing memories about similar situations?

Monday, December 20, 2010

"It's fine."

HE SAYS: “What’s the matter?”/ “Is that okay with you?”/ “So you like it?”/ “Is something wrong?”
SHE SAYS: “…it’s fine.”
Sometimes, HE THINKS: “Oh, good, it’s fine.”
Some other times, HE THINKS: “OH SHIT.”

This is a reasonable response. Gents, we don’t think you are stupid. And it is true, often “it’s fine” means anything but, and let’s be honest, often a girl will make it pretty clear if that is the case. But there are a couple of things to note. Generally, she is probably responding with “it’s fine” either because it IS totally fine, or because she doesn’t want to talk about it anymore.

So, Option A: she really means it.
If she really means it (and if you are talking to her in person, you can usually tell; if it’s via text or chat, good luck) then it is a non-issue; were we all perfectly honest, clear and straightforward people that would always be the case (but alas…). Once you get to know a girl, you can usually determine whether she is being genuine, or whether she is hiding the cleaver behind her back as she smiles at you.

Option B: It’s NOT fine.
If a girl tells you “it’s fine” in a tone that indicates the reverse, she is probably doing so because she doesn’t want to talk about it any more. Whether you have pissed her off to such a point that she literally wants the conversation over, or whether she is embarrassed or uncomfortable with continuing it, or whether she thinks the fact that you do not know, intuitively what is wrong is insensitive, one way or another she is indicating to you that she is not ready or willing to communicate further on the subject. Girls, this is stupid. As one of the authors of this communication-related blog, I honestly believe that refusing to communicate is not going to make anyone happy. But alas, I am guilty of this one too. Sometimes the problem seems too petty to go through the bother and embarrassment of explaining, even if it’s troubling me; and sometimes I feel like the problem is obvious enough for the other party to figure it out and that I should not have to explain myself. As we all know, however, what seems plain and simple to one person can be about as clear as mud to someone else.

Gentlemen, whatever her reasons, if you can tell that fine is what it is NOT, then go ahead and assume she probably won’t elucidate. It’s not a bad idea to ask once more, on the off chance her better self catches up to her, but after that the only subtle way to get an answer is to do a little extra thinking, and see if you can figure out what it was that incurred her wrath. Hopefully you will immediately hit upon the cause (for example, “Oh, maybe I shouldn’t have checked out the waitress” or “Maybe she wanted me to ‘wash my fucking socks’”) and will be able to carefully address it without making it something that is the matter for her but rather as something that is of concern to you both (best of all possible worlds here). If such obvious reasons do not present themselves, however, another (better?) option is to call her on it: “I know you said it’s fine, but it sounds like something is still wrong, and I don’t know what it is. What’s really the matter?” It wont make her happy, but it will get a clear response from her – either she will blow you off in anger (in which case, girl’s got issues) or she will respond, either angrily or reasonably.

If we always had the guts to say what we mean, the world would be a better place. Unfortunately, we do not; and until we do, while girls everywhere will love you if your deductive powers/telepathy are skillful enough to determine what it is we mean, asking us straight out will usually work out alright in the long run. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"Hey we should hang out! Okay, bye!" (aka: Squirrel-Flirting Business)

SHE SAYS: "Hey we should hang out!"
HE SAYS: nothing because she doesn't let him
SHE SAYS: "Okay, bye!"

Let's talk about squirrel-flirting business. Yea, it happens. It's the kind of flirting where you dart around the other person like a half crazed squirrel then run up a tree, then godknowswhere.

The coolest and nerdiest of us are guilty of this faux-pas and I'm pretty sure it's embarrassing for those on both ends of the party. (Which also calls into question: what in the world are we, as a group of academic nerds, giving relationship advice for? You'd think after pumping out 50 pages on Foucauldian theory over a month, we'd know how to communicate by now. But sadly, tis so not our fate. Learn from our mistakes people.)

So I confess, I too am guilty. I've gone up to a fella and have said oh-so-boldly! "hey we should hang out!" then concluded with a "okay, bye!" within a matter of seconds aaannddd MARCHED back out of that arena while laughing. Too bad all the vital information was missing. If you didn't know me better, you'd think I was being coquettish. I swear that was not my intention.

Fellas, please understand that we aren't trying to tease you when we flick that beauteous smile of ours on and off every couple of days or so. It's just that our confidence machine isn't so well oiled on a minute by minute basis, and sometimes, yes if you're special enough, our engines can even stop mid-sentence without reason, rhyme, or... RUUNNN!!! (then again we might just need our morning tea and wonderbread, or whatever our rituals may be.)

Hence dear gentlemen, try approaching us a couple more times if we are scowling at you or ignoring you after we've shown clear interest sometime while back. And well, even when our confidence machines are overcharged? Meeting us half way wouldn't be such a bad idea either. "Ladies first" mustn't always apply.

For our part, the next time we - or let me just promise for myself - I spot you, SingSong's tragic flirting target, I will make sure to suck up my pride or insecurities and simply say what I mean. Though I can't promise you I'll succeed. Because truthfully? I don't always have the energy to play games or read between the lines, nor do I have the heart to make the guy do the same for me in return. But in the case that my words fail, I suppose a little communication hint from the good ol' guy friends might do me some good. Maybe. Only maybe.

At this point I should probably ask, at the fear of coming off as a rather demanding specie from Venus (you really don't have to cater to our every need, boys), are there anything that the gents would like us to know?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Sound of Silence (Immediately Preceding the Sound of Bitch-Slap)

SHE SAYS: "Hey, what's the plan for today?"
HE SAYS.... absolutely nothing.

Once upon a time, in a land far far away, I met a guy. We'll call him Alex, because... well, because that's his name. He stopped me as I was about to leave a bar, told me I was beautiful and asked for my number. Gentlemen, take note: as my compatriots have said before, you will never go wrong with telling a girl she is beautiful. Unless she just said something like "why don't you ever wash your fucking socks?" or "I'm pregnant", in which case you need to scrape the bottom of the conversational barrel for something a little more relevant.

After about a week of texting back and forth, we went on a date, which was lovely. It ended with a number of affirmations from both parties that we should do it again sometime; unfortunately things were put on hold by my five-day camping stint in Tasmania. (Hate it when that happens.) Upon my return, we confirmed the day of our next date and continued to text sporadically until the day before. Being perhaps a bit of a planner by nature-- anybody who mentions my book of grad schools is gonna get shanked-- I realized, on the morning of, that I wasn't sure when he was coming over. Above is my text to him, and his [lack of] response. He never contacted me again.

Gentlemen, never do this. Never, ever, ever. Be polite, abrupt, or even downright rude, but respect our emotional, overthinking brains enough to communicate. Sure, maybe it's easier to just ignore the issue (especially if it's not someone you know that well, as in this case), but do it anyway. Talk. Explain. Think of it as a way to accumulate good karma, or to reduce the number of girls who want your head on a platter because you made their friend sad.

Bottom line: ignoring people is just rude. And not in a neat ska way, either.

RE: "Thanks...but I already have a girlfriend...."

In response to SlowLearner's dilemma: 

First, I think you handled the situation pretty well. You didn't lead her on and you were polite in letting her down. If I were in this cute girl's sassy pumps, I might've just assumed you were a little dense and didn't actually get that I was trying to ask you to dance (I mean, The Pause is pretty significant - obvious, even-  but there wasn't a direct "Hey-I-think-you're-sexy-do-you-want-to-take-me-for-a-spin?"). If not dense though, I probably would've figured you just weren't interested, but at least it wasn't a harsh rejection.

If you encounter a similar situation next time you're all up in the club though, I might advise a slightly different way to handle it. The trouble I see with just saying "Well, it was nice to meet you" and turning away is that the cute girl has no idea why you decided to turn away. Strapping on her sassy pumps again, I imagine that if I were standing there, staring at your freshly-turned back instead of gettin' low to the trashy music, I'd be wondering a lot of things: Nice to meet me? Yeah, sure, I bet. Well if it was actually nice to meet me then why don't you want to keep talking? They (the "royal they" aka Cosmo) always tell me that guys are always up for it!!! If I'm throwing myself at you, why don't you want me??? So what, not your type? Too short? Not cute enough? (How am I supposed to know you think I'm a "cute girl"?). And if you have a girlfriend, why didn't you just say so? That's the easiest way to turn someone down...I don't understaaaaaand! [NOTE: girls often over-think everything they hear.]

Emphasis on the last bit. Seriously: as a girl, if a guy is going to reject me... well, personally, I'd much rather hear you're in a relationship because (assuming it's true), it means there's nothing wrong with me, per-say... you're just already taken. It lets you off the hook, and it saves me from having to wonder what went wrong.

Unfortunately... it gets a little tricky here. You asked if you should just straight up tell her "Thanks, but I already have a girlfriend"... and I'm going to go ahead and complicate this. It would be an okay response, and she'd probably appreciate knowing that you're in a relationship. I'd probably prefer it to you just walking away without any excuse. However! the problem with telling her straight up like that is you are then drawing attention to the fact that the cute girl was hitting on you, and that she was unsuccessful (!). Since girls don't typically go out on a limb like that and boldly approach guys to start hitting on them, you don't want to embarrass her by obviously letting her know that you know she was hitting on you. In other words... if she doesn't explicitly hit on you and it's all implied (no matter how obvious it is to you), if you just go ahead and say "Oooh sorry I have a girlfriend you should back off", then you're essentially saying "Even though you didn't actually say anything I know what you are really trying to do and it's not going to work". And (at least for me anyway), that'd be pretty embarrassing.

But don't fear! The situation is not without hope! An easy way to get around all that would be to simply say something that lets her know you have a girlfriend, without blatantly saying "I'm turning you down because I already have a girlfriend." For example: "Hey, it was nice meeting you, but I have to go. I promised my girlfriend I'd meet her in a few minutes." Tada! These may sound identical to you because they are offering the same information... but it's all in the delivery. Again, at least speaking for myself here, I'd very much appreciate that subtle difference since it'd save me from getting too embarrassed.

To sum: SlowLearner, I do think you handled it well (at least from the way you tell it, you didn't come off as a real jerk). Telling her straight-up next time that you already have a girlfriend would honestly be fine, too, but the subtle moves might be the most considerate way to go about letting her down.