Hey gang, today’s article is a guest post by my buddy Matt Shafeek. Read all about him at the end of this post.
Rami has written before about the risk of coming off as a creep when approaching women, and how you need to power through despite that possibility. I want to expound upon the topic of chancing creeperdom and how, if nothing else, you should embrace the possibility.
Reading a woman’s signals can be extraordinarily tricky, especially for those of us who’ve arrived a little late to the dating game. As beneficial as it would be to the human race, it is sadly not a gift that men are all born with. There are (to the uninitiated among us) a lot of subtle gestures that we’re expected to pick up on when flirting that are easy to miss or misinterpret, sometimes due to our own biases.
I’m admittedly still working on this myself. I’ve slowly gotten over my fear of approach anxiety, but I still tend to err on the side of not seeing any attraction after I make initial contact. This comes from a lifetime of feeling like women just aren’t interested in me sexually. It’s actually a pretty fascinating blind spot to have, when you think about it. I’m well aware of just about every other expression/emotion on the human spectrum, but I have a terrible tendency to assume that no matter what the woman is saying or doing, she’s not interested in me as anything more than a friend. Does this sound familiar to any of you?
Retrain Your Membrane
In order to retrain your brain like I’m currently doing, you’re going to have to start making leaps of faith – pushing past that feeling of doubt or uncertainty for better or for worse. And look, I’m not going to lie – when you make that assumption, it’s possible that you’ll be entirely wrong.
In fact, early on it might very well be likely. You might get some awkward glances or some unkind words said to you. Heck, maybe you’ll get slapped, or, if you’re particularly off (or living in clichéd romantic comedy), you may even a drink splashed in your face. Your worst fear fully realized, right? But hey – it’s all in the name of getting better with women, and I daresay you should take any of those reactions as a badge of honor.
Still not convinced? It’s okay – I wasn’t either, for a very long time.
Maybe this will help. Take a look at this target I made:
Far left is Brian Krakow for any non-My So Called Life fans. He was the nicest guy, and Claire Danes ignored him so hard.
Now, the outermost ring of the target is where a lot of geeks are when they first start out. I’ve dubbed this the Nice Guy Zone. The guys in the Nice Guy Zone are extremely wary of overstepping their bounds. They err on the side of caution, and they wait for the girl to give the green light as clearly as possible before making a move. The good news is they’re never going to offend anyone.
The bad news is they’re only going to have luck with women who are willing to do some of the work themselves. Rami and I can tell you from experience: this is not a particularly large percentage of women. For reference, any guy that’s ever wound up in the Friend Zone also calls this place his home.
The inner ring in what I’ll call the Creep Zone. It’s the place where every guy who’s spent the majority of their life on the outer ring fears going. Here you’ll find overt, sexually aggressive dudes with a level of confidence that doesn’t quite match their level of skill. Signals and social cues don’t matter to them much, and they’ll push their luck to the point of discomfort no matter how the woman responds initially.
Why are they on the inner ring while the geeks are on the outer ring? Well, the way I see it, even though the Creep Zone lurkers might have a tendency to fail, they are still closer to their goal than someone who’s simply waiting in the background, afraid to make any bold moves. Which brings us to the bull’s-eye.
The bull’s-eye of this target is where every guy wants to be. I’ll call this the Don Draper Zone, ‘cause I think Don Draper encapsulates a lot of the qualities men want to have when dealing with women (for the purposes of this discussion, we’ll ignore his looks, though they’ve certainly helped him plenty along the way. Note that he is also extremely flawed, as any fictional character who’s captivated audiences for over six years has to be).
Don Draper is confident and charismatic, a smooth talker who knows how to get what he wants. He also knows exactly how to read women and react accordingly. Over the years he’s learned how to tell when a woman is curious, when she’s bored, when she’s just being polite, and when she’s irresistibly attracted to him. As you can imagine, that’s a very valuable skill to have.
You Too Can Be The Don
In the journey to unlocking your inner Don Draper you’re going to be slowly discovering the nuances of flirtation and female body language. The main way you do this is by experimenting with your responses to the women that you’ve approached. If you’re playing it safe, and staying in your comfort zone, the odds are against you stumbling upon the perfect reaction to every woman you encounter. Sure, you might get lucky, or the woman might just already be interested in you and will drop all pretenses, but you’ll find that most interactions will end in frustration. Believe me, I know from personal experience.
Think about the target again. Imagine if I handed you several darts and told you to aim for the bull’s-eye. You would probably throw each dart one at a time, carefully adjusting your aim along the way, hoping to land a bull’s-eye by the time you throw your last dart.
Now, imagine if I gave you those same darts, but I gave you a caveat: if you ever hit anywhere inside the inner circle surrounding the bull’s-eye, I will chop off your hand. I’d venture to say that the odds of you hitting a bull’s-eye would drop precipitously – any thrown dart would steer way clear of the inner ring and would likely land somewhere on the outer ring, if on the target at all.
Most likely you’d just hand the darts back and tell me it wasn’t even worth throwing them at all, no matter the prize.
Here’s the thing – when you do everything in your power to avoid coming off as a creepy guy, you’re mentally hamstringing yourself in the exact same way. In your attempts to learn how women behave and respond to you, being too cautious can wind up costing you far more in the long run than accidentally being too aggressive and falling into The Creep Zone every now and again.
Overstepping your bounds (in the realm of what is considered by most to be ‘creepy’ as opposed to, you know, ‘rapey,’ – this distinction should hopefully be obvious to you) is part of the process of learning how to read and respond to women – of landing that bull’s-eye – and if it’s never happening to you, you’re probably not taking enough chances. I like to think of this as Flirtation Calibration.
Take Chances And Win
So do yourself a favor. Take the risk of coming off as an overly aggressive creep with at least one woman that you’re attracted to. Make it someone you meet out at bar or just make sure it’s someone you’ll never have to see again if things go south. And don’t do it just for the sake of doing it. When you’re flirting with a new woman, and you’re not sure if she’s into you or not, try erring on the side of her definitely being into you, and see where that attitude takes you.
Hopefully you’re right and you’re rewarded for it, but if you’re wrong, and you wind up with an appletini all over your face (Note: only if you’re living in a rom-com. More than likely the worst case scenario is an awkward moment), you know what? You just learned a valuable lesson in reading women, and you lived to tell the tale. That’s all calibration is – adjusting all the way up and down the spectrum before you find the perfect spot.
One final note, and this was a very important lesson for me to learn: when you start taking these kinds of risks, you’ll naturally stop walking on eggshells around women so much. And once you stop treating all the women that you’re attracted to like princesses that you’re doting upon (a quality most women don’t find attractive), you’ll have taken another very important step in realizing your inner Don Draper.
I hope you all find this helpful. Good luck to you my fellow geeks!
P.S. Thanks to my friend Rolando for giving me this exact advice years ago, even though I ignored it at the time. Hopefully the rest of you won’t be as stubborn as I was.
Matt Shafeek is a writer, performer, and amateur game designer living in Astoria, Queens. He’s been a geek his whole life, but he made a major life change in 2008 when he took on a personal challenge to give up video games for an entire year. During that time he focused his attention on several other facets of his life, including dating. Since 2008 he’s learned to embrace many of the helpful pieces of advice Rami and others before him have discussed in great detail. And though he thinks he still has a lot to learn, the past few years have given him a renewed outlook and a much happier life.