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Science Advice Goddess: Mud About You

Amy Alkon on

I'm a recently divorced woman. With COVID restrictions easing up, I'd like to go out to bars again. I'm rusty on flirting etiquette. Should I have a "pickup line" or wait for a man to make the first move and then hint I'm interested?

--Unsure

Men do not speak hint. Hinting to a man is like trying to discuss a complex issue with your cat. It will give you a look like it's considering your points -- while meowing something that means, "Shut up and die so I can eat your face."

In the wake of #MeToo, waiting for a man to approach you in a bar is likewise less than productive. Young guys tell me they feel "safer" using dating apps because a woman's "likes" and replies make it clear she's interested. (A few men joke -- half-kiddingly -- about having a notary under the bed during sex so they'll have signed documents of consent: "Your Honor, see page four: 'Agreement to go to second base.'")

Not surprisingly, evolutionary psychologist T. Joel Wade and his colleagues find that men prefer women's "direct" pickup lines -- unambiguous requests for a phone number, a date, or sex. Direct lines "clearly convey interest" in a way "innocuous" icebreaker lines -- like "What the hell is a macaroni 'n' cheese martini?" -- do not. "Flippant" lines -- cheeky, creative openers like "Are you an assassin?" -- likewise leave men guessing (and often annoyed).

Though men will say they love when women ask them out, it's a risky strategy unless you're looking for a quick fling. Men evolved to be the chasers of the species and to expect to prove themselves to women with "high mate value" -- which is why they cross deserts, fight duels, and build empires instead of napping. Effectively falling out of the sky into a man's lap can suggest you're desperate or broken.

 

Instead, make it totally (and repeatedly) clear to a man that you're interested -- with brief touch, extended eye contact, and almost sickening flattery -- basically clubbing him over the head 26 times with "YO, DOCTOR DENSE, ASK ME OUT ALREADY." Unless a guy's willing to risk asking you out, you won't know he's really interested. In contrast with female choosiness, men are "opportunistic maters," the researchers tactfully observe. Translation: Carpe dickum. Consider that there's no pickup artist movement for women because the only seduction skill a woman needs is the question: "Wanna go back to my place and be strangers with benefits?"

Pug Trafficking

I'm a single guy in my 20s using dating apps. It's been hit-and-miss (mostly miss). My sister showed me her account so I could see how other guys present themselves. I was confused by all the guys posing with cute animals. Isn't it kinda cringe to see a guy cradling a dog in a Halloween costume?

--Dr. Don't-little

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