The following interaction, and my experiences on a Christian college campus suggest that the tutorial promised in the title might be handy for young women who, for whatever reason, made it to adulthood being comfortable talking to only one man: Jesus.
I was recently driving with some new friends between a wedding reception and a pub where it was guaranteed that we would meet new people–including male people–as the logical product of two friend circles colliding. One of my traveling buddies reported back that the bride, my dear childhood friend, had agreed to introduce her to any guy she felt intimidated to talk to. I responded, perhaps made more blunt by Red Hook, “Or you could just talk to them.”
“What?” I was asked, as if I had just suggested trying to bring the mullet back.”You could talk to them. I talk to boys all the time,” I said, referring to adult men, but enjoying the tongue-in-cheek effect of “boys.” Three other voices asked in unison, “Really?” “Yeah, it happens every day,” I answered, thinking they were joking then suddenly feeling inexplicably worldly. One said, “I can’t do that. Especially if they’re attractive. I tried to say something interesting to a guy, but all I could think of was John 3:16.” “Well,” we all laughed as I rotated around to face the backseat passengers head-on, “if a man has a problem with that, that could be a deal breaker for you.”
Ya know, talking to strangers in general isn’t easy for everyone–my little introverted self included. And talking to people you find attractive can be even more intimidating. I’ve been sent into mute anxiety by my share of brown eyes and tilted grins. But nothing has been more paralyzing in conversations with men than the expectation that I have to construct coherent sentences, while being charming, intelligent, funny, and cute; discern how many kids this guy wants to have when I’m not sure if/when I want kids; consider whether our names would look okay hyphenated; try to figure out what he really means by, “That’s my favorite book, too!”; and plan our wedding; all while trying not to spill my drink. It’s just too much.
If you’ve ever felt that way, can I just say, calm the heck down. Then take a deep breath, and next time you’re in a social situation where you find yourself face-to-face with a male person, follow these simple steps. Or make up your own. I’m no expert, and this is not a guide to dating a boy. I really couldn’t tell you how to do that. Let’s start with talking. But whatever you do, remember that asking you to have coffee is not a marriage proposal. Okay, now that that’s covered, Scenario 1.
Scenario 1) Say “Hi.”
1.b) If he says “Hi” back, don’t freak out. He means “Hi.” No one is offering to have anyone’s children. Unless you offer. Please, don’t offer to have his children.
1.c) If you have made it this far without any reproductive propositioning, now would be the time to further the conversation. This is most effectively accomplished by asking a question. You can skip “How are you?” in some cases. I’d start with some name swapping unless you want to prolong the mystery. But if you are looking for that kind of mystery, just stop it. This isn’t I Kissed Dating Good-Bye. It’s I Stopped Worrying about Getting Married Long Enough to Talk to Somebody. Stay focused. Besides, if we’ve made it this far without talking to men, kissing dating good-bye is the least of our worries.
1.d) Yay! You know each other’s names. If you even think about tacking Mrs. to his name, I will kick you in the face. For one thing, you just met him. For another, you already have a name. Accept it. Your next step is to continue the conversation about each other’s lives or interesting current issues, families, interests, etc. Surface-level small talk is dumb, but don’t dump your entire life story in the first ten minutes. This isn’t about being ooh-mysterious. It’s about having emotional boundaries.
1.e) And now you’re talking to a boy.
Sometimes it doesn’t go so well from the get-go and you might regret your newfound conversation skills. You can decide a conversation isn’t worth prolonging for whatever reason, but if a guy is clearly a douche bag and doesn’t respect your time (or his own), don’t waste yours. But in very few cases should you return douchebaggery for douchebaggery. Be kind, be classy. Also, see Scenario 2.
Scenario 2) Say “Hi.”
2.b) If he says “Girl you talk too much. Shut up,” you might want to say something really sweet like, “I’m sorry to bother you,” but I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t say anything per se.*
Then there’s always Scenario 3) Say “Hi.”
3.b) He says nothing, walks away.
3.c) Find someone else to say “Hi” to. Maybe a girl this time. Talking to boys is overrated.
*Bonus points if you can name the source of this quote.