Communication Breakdown
August 29, 2010 8:57 AM   Subscribe

Am I fundamentally missing something? "Let's get a drink," or something extensionally equivalent thereto, from presumably single/presumably not-gay male to presumably single/presumably not-gay female he isn't already friends with, means "I want to bone you," right? Like, everyone, presumably including bay area women, do/can be reasonably expected to know that?

I've just recently had several weird interactions that have started with "let's get a drink" and ended with "I'm not interested that way," and wtf.

Like, I always thought that A's accepting something that is socially encoded as a date (like "let's get a drink") with B means that at least A is basically attracted to B, is single, is of the right sexual orientation, etc. So of the many possible results to this interaction, the one that B can expect NOT to happen is that he turns out to have been in the friendzone from the start, right?

My very favorite: the girl who went out for said drink with me and called her boyfriend on the way into the bar to say goodnight.

Womanizing is hard. I'm going back and forth between "bay area women are completely fucking clueless" and "I have no idea how to flirt/am setting off massive gaydar even though sometimes I've mentioned ex-girlfriends etc." Or perhaps some from behind door A and some from behind door B.

Ideas?
posted by paultopia to Human Relations (81 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
This may come off as overly harsh, but based on what you typed: They're just not that into you. They thought they might be, then spent time with you. The one who called her "boyfriend" on the way decided pretty quickly what she didn't want and set that ground rule very early on.
posted by arniec at 9:00 AM on August 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


They're humoring you and letting you down easy. Would you rather they say no to the drink with a declaration of their sexual disinterest in you?
posted by thusspakeparanoia at 9:01 AM on August 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


No, it means, "I'd like to talk with you, and get to know you a little better, while having a drink."
posted by Houstonian at 9:02 AM on August 29, 2010 [53 favorites]


......means "I want to bone you," right?

No.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 9:02 AM on August 29, 2010 [22 favorites]


Response by poster: (Yes I would rather! I'm totally not cool with wasting my time going on a date with someone who starts off just not that into me.)
posted by paultopia at 9:03 AM on August 29, 2010


I have asked women if they want to have a drink with me without having any romantic or sexual intentions. Granted, I would never do this to a total stranger on the street, because what could I know about her other than the way she looks. But it is possible to be (platonically) interested in someone after knowing them for a short time, and "getting drinks" is a ritual that can be useful for all sorts of social interactions.
posted by grumblebee at 9:03 AM on August 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Nevermind, perhaps it's that you're asking a sheltered yet sophisticated type of female out... a type unaccustomed to being womanized. They don't read boning intent into every seemingly innocent invitation. You should set your standards appropriately lower.
posted by thusspakeparanoia at 9:08 AM on August 29, 2010 [14 favorites]


I think it's strange to expect people to know whether they'd want to fuck you or not from a brief interaction that basically consists of you asking them to have a drink. If someone asked me to go have a drink with them, I'd agree if there was some initial attraction or chemistry but there are lots of things you could do while we were getting the drink that could put me off wanting to sleep with you. So don't think of it as women intentionally misleading you -- you passed the initial screening, but they weren't interested after the drink.
posted by peacheater at 9:08 AM on August 29, 2010 [9 favorites]


Three possibilities come to mind:

1.) The invitation was not interpreted as a date request, but as a "let's hang out request."

2.) The original intent was understood. The recipient was thinking, "I have not ruled out this guy as a boyfriend/sexual partner." Between the initial acceptance and subsequent rejection, they have made up their mind.

3.) The girl was never attracted to you, but was sufficiently caught off-guard as to have a polite and plausible excuse handy.
posted by justkevin at 9:08 AM on August 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


If a guy whom I didn't really know or whom I wasn't interested in, but was fairly decent-looking otherwise, asked me out for a drink, I would say yes. Because all "let's get a drink" means is "let's get a drink" !!!!!

At the very least, I would have a nice afternoon and conversation. Additional bonus if he turns out to be friendable, datable, or relationship-able, or marriageable. But these are additional bonuses.

This post strikes me as highly disturbing because what you are essentially saying is: I am not interested in making conversation or getting to know someone if I can't bone her!

Women are not objects and they can sense from a mile away if you think of them are objects to bone.
posted by moiraine at 9:11 AM on August 29, 2010 [47 favorites]


"Let's get a drink" means "let's get a drink."

Even if it's obvious that you're sexually interested, which depends a lot on how and when the invitation is made, agreeing to getting a drink can mean anything from "I want to bone you too" to "I don't want to bone you yet but might if I get to know you a little better" to "I don't want to bone you at all, but I'm going to let you down easy" to "this guy's a creep but free beer yay."

Ideas?

Yeah, uh.

If so many women are going out on dates with you without realizing it, the problem might not be that they're "fucking clueless," but that you're not clear about your intentions.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:12 AM on August 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


So of the many possible results to this interaction, the one that B can expect NOT to happen is that he turns out to have been in the friendzone from the start, right?

No. It seems to me that you know this is the answer because this is what has been happening to you. Or are you wondering if people think you're gay? It seems like in one case you asked a woman out for a drink who had a boyfriend. I assume this was some sort of an accident, and yet maybe this was just her way of telling the guy who she is having drinks with that she has a boyfriend.

When I've been single, going for drinks with a guy was basically a get-to-know-you better exercise where I wasn't not interested but I wasn't definitely like "let's go to your house and watch a movie" interested either. Maybe they got to know you better and decided they weren't interested? Possible?

Womanizing is hard.

I know you're frustrated, but you're aware that "womanizing" isn't just a neutral word to describe someone who is trying to date women, right? You seem like you may be overgeneralizing a few negative interactions to a larger "wtf is wrong with women around here?" attitude which I think is going to be somewhat problematic for you. You might find that you have better luck in situations that are more clearly date-oriented such as online dating or "I'd like to take you out to dinner and a movie" sorts of things. I sympathize because getting mixed signals is tough but for anyone who dates around, it's just sort of part of interacting with a lot of people to try to find ones that you click with.
posted by jessamyn at 9:12 AM on August 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


When I invite someone out on a date, I explicitly use the words on a date in the invitation.

The way I see it is, if I don't make things clear and I get misunderstood, that's partly my fault.
posted by Mike1024 at 9:13 AM on August 29, 2010 [11 favorites]


1. Could mean "I want to bone you." Could mean, "I want to figure out whether I want to bone you." Could mean, "I feel like getting a drink." Could mean, "I feel like going to a bar with you and seeing if anyone there's attractive." Lots of possibilities. I looked in your profile to see if you were an engineer.

2. Re. "womanizing is hard" -- yes. However, I don't think that word means what you think it means . . . or you've chosen the wrong avocation.

3. For the avoidance of doubt, the fact that I commented doesn't mean I want to bone you.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 9:13 AM on August 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


paultopia: "I'm totally not cool with wasting my time going on a date with someone who starts off just not that into me."

You're not going out on dates, you're going out for a drink. If you're not using the word "date" in the invitation, then they aren't dates.

From what you've written, you're not in the friendzone from the start and I doubt you're setting off gaydar, so I'd look to something else. Like, say, the implied expectations and entitlements you're illustrating in your question here.

So, door C.
posted by rhizome at 9:14 AM on August 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


It seems like you're asking women out cold. As in, you don't even know enough about them to know if they are single. In that case, you'd better be more explicit and mention that it's a date. I'm a married woman and have been asked out for drinks by guys a few times, and it's always just buddies sitting around having beers shooting the shit because they know I'm married (and they usually are too). So yeah, opposite sexes having drinks can be a just friends situation easily.
posted by JenMarie at 9:15 AM on August 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Just wanted to add, especially if you are workmates it can easily be interpreted as colleagues going to happy hour which often doesn't have romantic overtones.
posted by JenMarie at 9:16 AM on August 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


If this is happening to you a lot, I'd specify somewhere that you are asking them on a date. I've gone out with guys I considered to be my friends for drinks, with no romantic connotation. It's not unheard of.

However, its possible that these women (minus the one with a boyfriend) are interested in you romantically when they accept your offer, but become not interested in you by the end of the night. Perhaps you are going after women who want relationships but are giving off "I am a womanizer who only wants to bone you" vibes?". Though really, there could be a million reasons why they are no longer interested in you.
posted by fermezporte at 9:17 AM on August 29, 2010


Best answer: I've had this problem in the past, and I think I can help you. Two things: First, there is a BIG difference between "Let's go have a drink," and "Would you like to have a drink with me?" The first is more casual, and can easily be interpreted as one friend going to get drinks with another. The second, by forcing a yes/no answer, makes your intent more clear. The fact that you're not even asking a question so much as making a suggestion sucks for this kind of thing.

Second, there is a big difference between "Would you like to have a drink with me?" and "Would you like to go out on a date with me." The first leaves room for ambiguity. The latter does not. I switched to the latter phrasing after something like this happened to me. It works better. Good luck.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 9:18 AM on August 29, 2010


Response by poster: So, quick clarification. I used words like "bone" and "womanizing" to be flip and amusing. Not because I just think of women as sexual objects. I just forgot that humor doesn't work on the internet. If it offends you, please mentally rephrase to what I meant but was too silly to write, namely "I think I'm asking these women out on dates but something is getting lost in translation wtf."

(Also, and this is shading into chatfilter so I'll keep it short, but I'd really like some clarification on how it counts as having some kind of entitlement issues to be romantically/sexually interested in someone and be annoyed when s/he accepts [what you thought you made clear was] a date then turns out to be uninterested from the start. There's a big difference between "I have a right to reciprocal interest" and "I am frustrated by mixed signals.)

Thanks for the thoughts ... please keep them coming!
posted by paultopia at 9:28 AM on August 29, 2010


I've been on a lot more first dates that I've had sex partners.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:34 AM on August 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Just because someone is willing to get a drink with you doesn't mean they are going to have sex with you, or that they're interested in a relationship, or anything remotely like that.

It's not a "problem" that a date for drinks in a bar doesn't always materialize into a viable romantic thing. It's not something you have to work on. It's just life - not everybody wants to jump your bones. Stop looking at "the friend zone" as a punishment.

Assuming none of the above applies, where are you meeting these women? If it's a coworker or some other situation where there's a degree of pressure not to get involved in a romantic thing, the assumption might be that you're grabbing a drink as friends. Because who dates their assistant/barista/massage therapist/roommate/ex's bff/whatever??? (Not that I think so, but the woman in question might.)
posted by Sara C. at 9:36 AM on August 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's a big difference between "I have a right to reciprocal interest" and "I am frustrated by mixed signals.

It's not "mixed signals" if someone agrees to go on a date with you but then decides they're not interested.

I agree it's weird that the one girl agreed to go out for a drink but then called up her boyfriend - but sometimes misunderstandings happen. That's OK. The world does not owe you simple, cut and dry, dating experiences.
posted by Sara C. at 9:39 AM on August 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


Mod note: comment removed - if you can't answer without snarking, don't.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:42 AM on August 29, 2010


I'm a bit surprised at the reaction you are getting. There have been quite a few previous questions about asking someone out where the suggestion was to offer up drinks or coffee as a low pressure "pre-date."
posted by smackfu at 9:56 AM on August 29, 2010


Just to repeat what others have said: Be clear and upfront about what you're intending. Say "Want to go out on a date?" or some variation there of. If you want a date, ask for a date and leave no ambiguous room about what you're asking.
posted by nomadicink at 9:59 AM on August 29, 2010


Best answer: I'd really like some clarification on how it counts as having some kind of entitlement issues to be romantically/sexually interested in someone and be annoyed when s/he accepts [what you thought you made clear was] a date then turns out to be uninterested from the start.

"I'm going back and forth between 'bay area women are completely fucking clueless'"

For example, that.

Since your attitude has come up in a few other comments as a potential reason your dates are going awry, I guess it's okay to explain. I stayed away from it in my original comment because I was trying to give you the benefit of the doubt. (Humor on the internet works, by the way, but often requires an audience familiar enough with you to know you're joking if you're going to imitate a garden variety jerk, because otherwise people might just think you're one of those.)

What you have here is a situation where you think you're asking women out on dates, but for whatever reason, what you want isn't materializing. This happens enough that you turn to the internet for help understanding what's going wrong.

Yet your question is phrased as, basically, what the hell is wrong with these women. The common denominator of all these failed dates is you, and yet you focus on are women in this area fucking clueless or what. You briefly acknowledge that hey, maybe you come across as gay or something--but that's the extent to which you take responsibility for these dates going awry. The rest of your post is all about what is wrong with these women. They didn't give you what you wanted and now you're berating them for it.

That sets off a lot of people's douche-meters. You see, there is a long, proud tradition of men who have difficulty dating placing the blame square on women's shoulders, so a lot of us are sensitive to behavior that fits into that pattern. Guys who do this often behave as though they're owed dates and sex, and when that doesn't work out, it's because something is wrong with all those women they tried to date. It's like a little alarm bell to us: be aware, this guy might be a douche! So we tend to scrutinize more closely for other things that may or may not mean you're a douche.

It's the internet. You were trying to be funny and it didn't come across quite right, so maybe you're really not this kind of dude. But since you asked, there's my explanation of why your post came across as entitled.

(And yeah, I'm going to slightly agree and disagree with some of the previous comments. I think that some women are hyper-aware during the beginning stages of a relationship, and anything you say that might set off their douche-meter will work against you, even if there's another explanation. So you might want to be careful about not giving the impression you think you're owed romance or sex after a drink, more careful than you would be with someone who knows you better.)
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:12 AM on August 29, 2010 [48 favorites]


paultopia: "I'd really like some clarification on how it counts as having some kind of entitlement issues to be romantically/sexually interested in someone and be annoyed when s/he accepts [what you thought you made clear was] a date then turns out to be uninterested from the start."

Since I used the word, I'll clarify by stating that it was basically based on the words you have now retracted as "flip," but in your question you strongly imply that you had particular goals that were not satisfied, that your actual question was "how do I achieve this specific outcome?" But with your update that's all pretty much moot now, except for the 'uninterested from the start' part. That's an assumption on your part, they most certainly can lose interest over the course of your time together.

However, and this goes to the "how your question is phrased" thing, you seem to be looking only for external reasons why they might lose interest: boyfriends, they think you're gay, etc. All a bunch of stuff you can't control.

Sara C.: "It's not "mixed signals" if someone agrees to go on a date with you but then decides they're not interested. "

This is exactly it. They aren't giving you mixed signals, you're giving them mixed signals, which I imagine you realize by now with all the explanations of the differences between the words "date" and "drink."
posted by rhizome at 10:14 AM on August 29, 2010


I'd really like some clarification on how it counts as having some kind of entitlement issues to be romantically/sexually interested in someone and be annoyed when s/he accepts [what you thought you made clear was] a date then turns out to be uninterested from the start.

I'm a bit surprised at the reaction you are getting. There have been quite a few previous questions about asking someone out where the suggestion was to offer up drinks or coffee as a low pressure "pre-date."


It's a reaction to the unfortunate way the poster put his question. He was joking, but it was hard to know that because there really are a few guys out there with the attitude of, "Hey, I bought you a drink so therefore you owe me a roll in the hay." Kinda makes women feel indignant.
posted by Houstonian at 10:15 AM on August 29, 2010


paultopia: “Am I fundamentally missing something? "Let's get a drink," or something extensionally equivalent thereto, from presumably single/presumably not-gay male to presumably single/presumably not-gay female he isn't already friends with, means "I want to bone you," right? Like, everyone, presumably including bay area women, do/can be reasonably expected to know that? ... Womanizing is hard. I'm going back and forth between ‘bay area women are completely fucking clueless’ and ‘I have no idea how to flirt/am setting off massive gaydar even though sometimes I've mentioned ex-girlfriends etc.’ Or perhaps some from behind door A and some from behind door B.”

You're so anxious to win the game that you're assuming it's already won at the very beginning. "Let's get a drink" means a person wants to have a drink with you. One of the reasons a person might want to have a drink with you is because they're attracted to you. But the fact that they're tentatively attracted to you doesn't mean they want to bone you, either. Asking to have a drink with you is generally an excuse to spend time getting to know you, and at the end of that time you may find the person wanting to bone you. Or you may find them wanting to hang out with you more, and spend more time deciding. Or you may find them calling their boyfriend. People are different. You can't expect the same thing from every woman.

Generally, if you want a reliable code-phrase that means "I want to bone you," I've found there's only one that really always applies, that always and in all cases means they want to bone you. You should memorize it, so that you recognize it when you hear it; females have a strange and difficult code language, and deciphering it can be a real difficult trick, but I'm willing to let you in on this secret to help you out. Are you ready? Write this down:

The woman-code for "I want to bone you" is when they walk up to you and say "I want to bone you."
posted by koeselitz at 10:39 AM on August 29, 2010 [9 favorites]


If you'd rather everything was on the direct surface, why aren't *you* asking "hey, wanna have sex?"

And why so worried about being perceived as gay (twice in your question)? Again, *you* drop hints (eg, talking about ex GFs, which by the way is a dumb date strategy), but somehow she's supposed to check yes for "get a room," no for "he's gay?"

You are speaking in code -- no shame, that's the way the game is played -- but expect women to give it to you
straight up in response, thumbs up or down on whether you're bone-able this minute.

Chill out and enjoy the trip.
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:40 AM on August 29, 2010


It is in the nature of a date, even when that word is explicitly used, that one person may lose interest in the other by the end of that date. There are a million women out there who are also left wondering what went wrong after the one and only date. But they're not usually inclined to blame all the fucking clueless guys in their neighbourhood.
Frankly, if your post is even a reflection of your attitude, it's no wonder you're striking out.
posted by uans at 10:46 AM on August 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, but the post comes across with a frustration and sense of generalizing about women-as-other vs. the specific interactions you're having with a person that probably is coming across in your communication with the women you're meeting as well.

That said, I'm a single Bay Area woman, and am often see the same thing in reverse - guys I meet socially or via work who are in relationships and not looking for a partner frequently say "let's get a drink" or some such thing to me, to the point where I generally don't read that as a date/pre-cursor to a date at all anymore.
posted by judith at 10:59 AM on August 29, 2010


koeselitz: The woman-code for "I want to bone you" is when they walk up to you and say "I want to bone you."

I completely agree with the first paragraph of your reply. But the second paragraph, and this, strike me as unhelpful, as does other piling-on here, particularly in light of the poster's (partial) correction of his tone.

Let's just bracket the "one and only one sure sign" theme. I do think it's reasonable to ask how -- generally, probabilistically -- to interpret social signals that are more indirect, and here the correction seems to arise as much from what other people (generally) mean as it does from what women (generally) mean.

(FWIW, I actually subscribe to the view that for some matters only explicit invitations or permissions will do, and resist imposing a dilutive literalness test on all prefatory interactions.)
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 11:01 AM on August 29, 2010


Each time a woman offered to buy me a drink, 99% of the time we ... got it on.
posted by ducktape at 11:09 AM on August 29, 2010


Not your target audience (except for the Bay Area female part), but I say/hear "let's get a drink" frequently, with no implication of boning, merely interest in social interaction. I would not expect that phrase to have a romantic/sexual context unless that were made much more clear in the invitation.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:12 AM on August 29, 2010


The one who's sending mixed signals is you.

I'm totally not cool with wasting my time going on a date with someone who starts off just not that into me.

If you want to go out on a date, then ask them to go on a date. No dallying around with this getting a drink crap.
posted by The Biggest Dreamer at 11:14 AM on August 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


ended with "I'm not interested that way," and wtf.

I could use some clarification here. The women aren't interested in a second date, or they aren't interested in going to bed with you immediately?
posted by uans at 11:21 AM on August 29, 2010


Best answer: If you change your wording from "Do you want to get a drink?" to "Do you want to go out with me for a drink?" you're likely to make your intentions clearer from the start.
posted by KathrynT at 11:34 AM on August 29, 2010


Best answer: New Englander here. If someone said, "Let's get a drink" to me I would assume that person was (romantically/sexually) interested in me - it's a lighthearted approach, not as pushy - I think - as "Would you like to go on a date". The one time I visited San Francisco I was so taken aback by the forwardness of the men there that I found them almost frightening. Am I right in thinking that you're not originally from the Bay Area? Maybe other Bay Area men are so forward as to make your (to me, quite normal) 'courting' behavior seem ambiguous? In which case, by all means, do as the Romans (er, San Franciscans) do.
posted by pammeke at 11:39 AM on August 29, 2010


I'm from the Bay Area. I am ah, not terribly attractive. I have been surprised a ridiculous amount of times (I really should know better by now) when it turns out that a random dude just met who suddenly wanted to hang out with me one-on-one meant that as "I want to bone you." I don't assume by default, given my looks, that any heterosexual male out there wants to bone me. When some random dude wants to hang out alone, it genuinely doesn't occur to me that this is a sign of "I want to bone you, by saying yes, you are indicating interest in boning me too eventually" because I have been treating them like a normal person, i.e. one who probably doesn't want to bone. Stupid me.

If you are running into this a lot, uh...I will second everyone who said "use the word date in a sentence when you ask next time." Even a clueless dolt nerd like myself might figure that one out.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:56 AM on August 29, 2010


Best answer: The meaning of things like "Let's get a drink" varies in different social circles (and it depends a lot on the extent to which different groups of people recognize the possibility of non-sexual friendships between men and women).

To you this is obviously an expression of sexual interest and a request for a date, and presumably with the people you're used to hanging out with, it would automatically be taken as meaning that. Obviously, some of the women you're asking out aren't taking it that way, and presumably with the people they're used to hanging out with, it wouldn't be taken as meaning that.

So it's not that "bay area women are completely fucking clueless," and you're not intentionally sending mixed signals either. You're giving them a coded message that you think is perfectly clear, but they're using a different code book to interpret it. Just try to be clearer about whether you're asking someone on a date or not.
posted by nangar at 11:56 AM on August 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


In my experience, if someone says "let's get a drink" and they are a man (I am a woman) I would never assume it was a date/potential romantic situation. If there were some history between us where the person had already flirted with me or given me clues to think they were interested - I still wouldn't necessarilly think this was a date situation. Because "let's get a drink" is something friends say to each other.
posted by marimeko at 11:59 AM on August 29, 2010


I am too old and too taken to be in the dating/mating dance, but there were a few things that jumped out at me in our OP. And I have read the whole thread, so I know that you've explained some of the wording.

Your question, it seems to me, practically screams desperation in wanting to reach your stated goal of er, um, carnal knowledge. Women can smell that desperation and in my observation do not respond well to it. As others have said, a drink is a drink is a drink. I am straight, and male, and if you asked me if I wanted to go get a drink, I would not read anything else into that and I don't see why a woman would, Bay area or no.

But if you asked me if I wanted to go get a few drinks to get to know each other, then I would assume that you had other intentions about our relationship, and I would tell you up front that plying me with liquor would not help you achieve your goal (of course I'm being light humored here, and I hope you get the point).

I had a friend in college who used the "Hey, ya wanna fuck?" approach, which left me aghast, but he was pleased that for 8 or 9 slaps in the face, he got one or two sexual encounters, usually one night variety. It was 1972, and mores were somewhat different.

I had another friend (again, please remember that this was a loooong time ago) who pretended to be gay in order to "let" women "save" him. I was as aghast at this as the other approach.

There are biological and socailization differences, certainly, between genders. But men and women, regardless of orientation or identification, prefer honesty to artifice. If you want to get a drink with a woman, or go to a movie with a woman, her agreement ≠ contract, but rather, as others have said before, an opportunity to see if this encounter may lead to more adventure. If the haste you express in the OP is evident, I am afraid you will diminish the possibility. Leading to an "It's not you, it's me" moment, which we all know means, "it IS you."

So, my advice, whether you ask her if she wants to go get a drink, or if she wants to go for a drink with you, or somewhere in between, just take things at as they come and not with an attitude of this must end up in X place by Y time, or I fear you will just be in for more disappointment.
posted by beelzbubba at 12:36 PM on August 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


If a woman (who says girl?) invites you to "have a drink", have a drink. Sharing conversation over a beverage is an equally fraught minefield for all of the participants. I recommend that you try not to give any advice. No advice the first time, as a rule, unless it's about a menu item and you've been to the location before.

I would say be yourself but I actually feel that is the worst advice to give you. Your next "let's have a drink situation" I want you to be an incredibly sincere writer doing research for an essay contrasting relationship cues you had in college with the cues of more experienced (older) people from all walks of life. When she (or he if gaydar does embolden a fellow man) then say you'll be happy to bring along the first two pages next you meet - maybe they can give it some editorial points - over drinks.
posted by parmanparman at 12:40 PM on August 29, 2010


A single, heterosexual man asking a single, heterosexual woman out for a drink can mean several things, but mostly it means "Hey, you're cool, I'd like to spend some social time with you. What say?" It categorically should not be assumed to imply "I want to bone you". Maybe you do want to bone her but asking her out for a drink is not any sort of code for that, and should never, ever, no really not at all, be assumed to be so. So if she accepts and goes out for a drink with you it means "Yeah, he seems okay, this might be fun". And that is all.
posted by Decani at 12:40 PM on August 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Response by poster: Beelzbubba, could you explain the desperation signals you're getting? This could be super-helpful...
posted by paultopia at 1:29 PM on August 29, 2010


My advice Paul is to think about the reputation you can create for yourself in the Bay Area. Here's what I mean. Continue to ask the kind of women that you are attracted to for drinks and be the charming guy you claim to be. Regardless of whether or not the women you ask have immediately put you in the "friend zone" as you put it, they may think about you at some later point or may have a friend who's single and try and set you two up.

On another note, if you're holding on to this level of expectation based on a drink there may be other codes you're using/saying with heavily weighted implied intent that women aren't agreeing to either. That could set you up for some disappointments.
posted by fantasticninety at 1:41 PM on August 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Best answer: Just because someone is willing to get a drink with you doesn't mean they are going to have sex with you, or that they're interested in a relationship, or anything remotely like that.

It's obvious he knows that. But it would be weird for someone to be willing to get a drink with him but to have already totally ruled/categorically unwilling to have sex with him. He doesn't think he's getting shot down, he thinks he's getting acceptance of his date offers from women already unwilling to date him.

Thus, the answer is that you must be more clear that this is a date. Therefore, use the word "date".
posted by spaltavian at 1:46 PM on August 29, 2010


Wow. "Let's have a drink" means "I want to bone you"?

To me, "Let's have a drink" means "Let's go on a date or almost-date sort of thing to see if we click." It's like a date, but zero pressure.

You're probably giving out a signal that you expect the drink to lead to you getting laid, and the woman loses interest when she realizes your intentions.
posted by 2oh1 at 1:48 PM on August 29, 2010


Well, I'm a chick, but I can be helpful on what I regard as desperation signals. Even I notice those :P

Usually it involves a guy being pushy. Doesn't take no for an answer politely, or at all, or at the nicest keeps pushing if you say no ("oh, come on, just a quick drink..."). If a lady is not giving you eye contact (or giving you very brief eye contact) and/or she doesn't smile at you, or only does it briefly and then keeps trying to go back to what she's doing, she's not interested. If you push on anyway, that's desperation. It's really a question of seeing if she is showing interest BACK to you. If she's polite enough to speak to you when you start talking to her, I do realize that a lot of guys take that as mutual sexual interest, but we're all socialized to be polite--and there's plenty of other threads on AskMefi about how we're afraid to be blatantly uninterested in a fellow because we never know if he's going to lose his shit if we say no. Study up on what flirtatious behavior is like for women, and make a note of whether or not she's giving you some extra interest/attention beyond general politeness. If she is, then it's probably good odds for you. If she keeps trying to be polite but go back to what she's doing, then she's not.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:48 PM on August 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ok, I've done this tons of times and here's why: You meet an attractive guy who you like, even though you don't really know him. He asks you for a drink, great, you go out. The conversation quickly gets really sexual and the whole situation just seems really, well, scummy and weird. It's really clear the guy is just going through the motions to try and get me into bed. If I were looking for a one night stand or some type of short lived fling then that would be fine, but I'm not really interested in that type of thing and I'm guessing a lot of women you are dating aren't either.

I know you say you were joking with the way you phrased the question, but even classing up the language a bit doesn't change your general opinion towards the women you are dating. Your bitterness shows and trust me the women you are dating can pick up on this. Bitterness towards women in general is not a trait I'm looking for in a man I'm dating.

The woman with the boyfriend was just a miscommunication I'm guessing. It's going to happen. There will always be ambiguity and miscommunications when you first start dating someone. Really whether a drink with someone you just met was a date or not is ultimately determined after the fact. If you start dating, it was a date, if not it was just a friendly drink.

I really don't think your (general) problem is that these women don't realize that getting a drink is a datish activity. The problem is the date itself. Somewhere between you asking these women for a drink and the end of the drink these women have decided they are no longer interested in you. And so not interested in you they need to make it clear they "just want to be friends." This is a pretty big 180, which is why I think you are probably coming off as either only interested in sex or as very bitter (of course it could be many other things such as rude, arrogant, or who knows what). If you have any mutual friends with any of these women I would ask them to ask these women what you did to turn them off so you can get some insight as to what is going on.
posted by whoaali at 2:00 PM on August 29, 2010 [16 favorites]


Beelzbubba, could you explain the desperation signals you're getting? This could be super-helpful...

I'll go ahead and take this one. The list of signals is infinite, but basically, if you are desperate for sex/a girlfriend, it will be obvious. If you go for drinks or whatnot thinking "oh my god I HAVE to get sexed with something" people can tell. If you are desperate, then everything you do will be a signal of your desperation. So stop thinking "I HAVE to have SEX with SOMEONE! NOT HAVING SEX IS MAKING ME CRAZY! ARRGG!" and start thinking "My life is really awesome, and I am awesome, and I would like to meet new, interesting people, because every person I get to know contributes to my life. Oh hello, here is an interesting person here."

Instead of expecting sex from any woman you go out for a drink, expect to discover something unique and interesting about her.

And, sadly, as some people have mentioned, the only commonality in all of these encounters is you, so it is less likely that ALL ladies in the Bay area are clueless and it's more likely you are clueless, so fix that.

One question, and this is the most important question you have to ask yourself to become less clueless: do you have any female friends? Not someone you want to have sex with, but female friends who you will never have sex with but you are friends with them because of shared commonalities.

If not, why not?
posted by fuq at 2:06 PM on August 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


Best answer: This is one of those damned if you do, damned if you don't situations. I've had random guys/acquaintances ask me to go for drinks and similar things before, told them I was in a relationship, and have then been chided by them for being presumptuous/assuming they were at all interested in me that way. So, I think if a guy asked me to go get a drink, I'd think there was a good possibility he was interested, but I wouldn't be certain. There is definitely a chance that I'd have a drink with him if I weren't romantically interested just to be friendly, if I couldn't tell whether it was a friendly invite or a romantic one.

I also agree with the people upthread who said some of these women may be interested at the time when you ask them out, but after spending that time together lose interest.
posted by Ashley801 at 2:06 PM on August 29, 2010


I also totally agree that your amount of totally platonic female friends (not including women you are friends with because you are hot for them) can tell you something whether or not your difficulties with women are happening because the women are disliking your personality.
posted by Ashley801 at 2:10 PM on August 29, 2010


Beelzbubba, could you explain the desperation signals you're getting? This could be super-helpful...

I don't know what Beelzbubba is seeing, but here's my take (I wasn't going to volunteer this observation, but since you asked...):

1. You sound a little angry/misogynistic ("fucking clueless" women, "boning", "womanizing is hard", referring to a date as "A" vs "B"... I interpret "I use these terms to be flip/amusing" to mean "I use sarcasm to avoid real intimacy/vulnerability")
2. Anger is the flip-side of fear
3. So you're afraid... you won't ever get laid? = desperation

Best of luck to you man! Your attitude in the follow-up comments is more encouraging...
posted by mpls2 at 2:10 PM on August 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


I also totally agree that your amount of totally platonic female friends

It's less the number of platonic female friends than the capability see women as fully human, rather than sex objects or magical princesses or whatever.
posted by fuq at 2:18 PM on August 29, 2010


Last comment from me:

I apologize if I am wrong about this, because I'm not that familiar with Pick Up Artist jargon, but some of the words you used reminded me of that stuff ("social encoding" "friendzone" etc.)

So, on the chance you use the PUA stuff, it might be a good idea to check out this thread, for a perspective on how it is seen by women when it is used on them and they are aware of that. Just one more possibility of something that could be happening when you go out for drinks.
posted by Ashley801 at 2:20 PM on August 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Desperation signals from the original question (for me, as a woman):

from presumably single/presumably not-gay male
"I'M SO STRAIGHT! WE CAN HAVE SEX! LOTS OF IT!"

"I want to bone you," right?
"Bone" is sort of 13-year-old-boy-ish, which reads "desperate," but more to the point, your clear, stated message here is, "I want to date so I can get some." Not, "So I can find women I like" or "So we can build a wuvvy duvvy future together" or "To have some fun" -- it's "TO GET TO THE SEX PART AS FAST AS POSSIBLE."

ended with "I'm not interested that way," and wtf.
wtf, indeed. A woman not being interested in you leads you not to disappointment, but to "wtf" ... which implies "wtf is wrong with her?" It's hard not to read this as "I AM SO GREAT SEX ME UP" even though I know it could be a legitimate expression of frustration. (But perhaps sexual frustration?)

Like, I always thought that A's accepting something that is socially encoded as a date (like "let's get a drink") with B means that at least A is basically attracted to B, is single, is of the right sexual orientation, etc.
"I'M STILL NOT GAY!"

So of the many possible results to this interaction, the one that B can expect NOT to happen is that he turns out to have been in the friendzone from the start, right?
Talk about the "friendzone," unless joking or on a movie set, sounds pretty desperate. It's such a sitcom category, and such a sitcom way of tackling dating. Real people really dating don't do this, at least in my experience.

Womanizing is hard.
"I just want a woman. Any woman. With girl parts."

I'm going back and forth between "bay area women are completely fucking clueless"
Ugh.

and "I have no idea how to flirt/am setting off massive gaydar even though sometimes I've mentioned ex-girlfriends etc."
"I'M STILL NOT GAY! Can we have sex now?"

I don't get any impression that you're interested in meeting PEOPLE -- people of a female persuasion, but people nonetheless -- just that you're interested in meeting their vaginas with your penis as fast as possible. And that you really, really, really badly want me to know you're straight, which not only seems desperate, but seems very insecure.

I understand, from what you said, that you were joking with some of this, but a lot of it still does read as desperate, insecure, and lumping-together-of-women-who-are-to-blame as Kutsuwamushi pointed out.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:28 PM on August 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


Sadly we will have to be resigned to getting our signals crossed until someone comes out with The Human Psyche 2.0

There are no universally agreed upon communications protocols, especially as regards unspoken intentions, so one's interpretation of "let's get a drink" will be influenced by gender, upbringing, previous experience, mood at the time, etc.

Thus in bachelor days I would sometimes make invitations that were totally non-romantic (want to grab a burger after this?) and be met with "I already have a boyfriend," Conversely, invitations that - in my mind - had definite "let's get to know one another as a preliminary to possible sex," were accepted by women who turned out to be 100% unavailable.

It's a fact of life in the chaotic human realm.
posted by wjm at 2:56 PM on August 29, 2010


Reading this, I was first struck by the misogyny of the question and its cluelessness. After a bit, I was just reminded about how hard this is, and how easy it is to misunderstand one another.

I read this as an inquiry into how to communicate desires to the opposite sex and, secondarily, how to understand failure. One way of replying is to say that the desires are shallow and reprehensible; I'd be more fully on board with this if I wasn't just reading elsewhere on this site replies to the effect of "don't scare him off with too much sharing" and "jump on it honey." Very different circumstances, but there's a danger of overcorrection. I am led to believe that some young folk in the general population seek out sexual partners, but I am not in a position to confirm or deny.

Another way of replying is to urge complete transparency. I doubt whether this is good advice; I think it's legitimate to ask for tips as to how to communicate in such a way as to reduce the risk of misunderstanding while allowing both parties the opportunity for graceful exit. Sometimes those who want to be transparent are accused of lacking subtlety or on the receiving ends of slaps, even if the intent might be well received if put more adeptly.

Another way of replying is to insist against generalizing, or to rail against stereotyping. For me, the premise of virtually all of the relationship advice sought and provided here is that generalization is possible. As to stereotyping and misogyny, I think it was evident but has been softened somewhat. I am inclined to give the poster the benefit of the doubt -- meaning, attributing to him a very poor sense of humor, and a very poor sense of how it play around here -- but others may differ.

What bothers me most is how the response has been to shift this into a discussion of failure -- namely, to suggest that what's wrong is that the poster is a desperate asshole. If so, that would limit the success of any technique. It just seems to me that isn't so constructive (unless you think it's easy to change character), and strikes me as based on very sketchy evidence: we have the failed jocularity of the post, not dialogue from how this person treats people in real life. Sometimes the green ain't the blue marble, people.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 3:15 PM on August 29, 2010


The O.P asked what he was doing wrong, where the miscommunication was occurring. He wondered if "he had no idea how to flirt." He's received what I think are a lot of valuable answers about how he comes across, how his sense of humour is received--as well as a reminder that we are not all issued the same code book.
posted by uans at 3:25 PM on August 29, 2010


uans, fair enough. Just bear in mind that whether "he had no idea how to flirt" was intended as an alternate hypothesis in the event "let's get a drink" was otherwise a sure-fire deal clincher. I think the idea that it is has been beaten to death, shocked back to life, and vivisected. Ditto "not the same code book." I daresay he knew that, however clumsy the original question.

Very little evidence on "how he comes across" in real life, but we are all free to speculate, I guess.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 3:36 PM on August 29, 2010


Paultopia is being reasonable. In many many parts of the world asking a woman out for a drink means you are asking for a date. In a lot of places the actual word "date" is considered kind of lame, so people avoid it.
posted by w0mbat at 3:36 PM on August 29, 2010


This might definitely be standard for where you're from, but I notice in a lot of parts of Northern California, the rules are a less strict and meeting up for drinks can really mean anything. My coworkers routinely meet for drinks all the time. If a guy were asking me out, the last thing I'd expect is to "be taken for drinks." Even coffee seems more "date-like" than drinks, just because I associate drinking with happy hour and not something I (or other people I know) routinely do on first dates, but with coworkers and friends.

"Let's get a drink" also sounds like, at least to me, you just want to get buzzed, and it doesn't matter if I were friend, family, male, female, what-have-you. So I'd think, "wow, this guy likes drinking, guess he just wants to hang out at a bar and have someone to chat with". I've been asked out for drinks by guys who have girlfriends and wives...I guess you have a culture clash on your hands. When in Rome...
posted by The ____ of Justice at 4:14 PM on August 29, 2010


"So, quick clarification. I used words like "bone" and "womanizing" to be flip and amusing."

I can't help but suspect this is how you're losing their interest. I realize you're not using words like that with your dates, but the fact that you find womanizing amusing leads me to believe your sense of humor could definitely be turning off your dates (if not offending them). The boyfriend call you mentioned sounds similar to the cellphone trick my female friends talk about using when they're on a date they need a way out of. They pull their cellphone out of their pocket or purse, pretending it had been ringing on vibrate, and have a quick fake conversation into it (along the lines of "Hi Jen! What?!? When? Are you ok? Of course I can be right over!"). My guess is that you gave away your intentions through humor. Your date didn't want to be rude or confrontational, so she [wink] called her boyfriend to say goodnight as a way to tell you sex wasn't an option.

In your post, you said: "So of the many possible results to this interaction, the one that B can expect NOT to happen is that he turns out to have been in the friendzone from the start, right?"

You asked: "Am I fundamentally missing something?" I think you're fundamentally missing the difference between your intentions and your date's intentions. You want sex. She wants a date. My take is that you weren't in the friendzone from the start. You got put in the no-way zone when she realized what your intentions were (or what she believed your intentions to be).


This thread gives me the heebiejeebies because, if you actually are a womanizer (which I certainly hope you're not), is it acceptable to use metafilter to help you take advantage of women who don't want to have sex with you? I mean, let's be honest: if you're getting shot down by women who realize your goal is to have sex with them, it means they don't want to have sex with you. So, if you are, in fact, a womanizer, that means this question really is "how can I bone women who don't want to have sex with me?" As you said, "Womanizing is hard." I hope metafilter is not the place to get that sort of advice (if you are a womanizer).
posted by 2oh1 at 4:31 PM on August 29, 2010


Paultopia, have you ever met a woman who, for whatever reason, comes across as being sort of bitter and angry at men? Have you ever met a woman who seems a little desperate for some reason, even if you couldn't quite put your finger on why? Have you ever started a conversation with a woman in a bar, only to realize that she's sort of defensive and seems like she's waiting for you to slip and prove that you're just like all those other guys? It's pretty easy for you to pick up on that kind of thing, isn't it?

Reverse the genders, and that's sort of how you're coming across. My guess, from the general gestalt of the way your question is worded and posed, is that these women are meeting you, seeing you as pleasant/attractive enough to not immediately rule out, and then somewhere during the actual date they are deciding to bail.

It's okay to be out there looking to get laid. Really, it is. It's even okay to come across that way -- that's not going to frighten every woman off. But very few women want to have even one-night-stand type situations with men they perceive to be selfish, or suspicious of women in general, or full of themselves, or defensive about their sexuality. And a sure-fire way of keeping anything sexual from developing from a date? Giving off signals like you are entitled to something sexual happening. The fact that people in this thread are picking up on these signals from your post makes me think it's pretty likely that you're sending them in real life.

I will offer you the advice that I would, if asked, offer the men that I have declined second dates with due to similar signals. Apologies if this advice does not apply to you, I have specific gentlemen in mind as I write it, gentlemen that your post vividly reminds me of:

-- Worry less about being interesting, and more about being interested. It's not fun to go on a date with someone who lists his wonderful qualities, and then doesn't ask you questions or let you get a word in edgewise. If you find yourself telling more than one anecdote about how awesome you are, you need to check yourself.

-- Out-of-context remarks about ex-girlfriends, what you're like in bed, what kind of boyfriend you are, what kind of date you are, what kind of women you like, they can come across as kind of needy or strange.

-- If you talk about other women, ex-girlfriends or otherwise, in an unkind way, this does not work in your favor at all. If you make generalizations about women, this does not work in your favor at all.

-- Defensiveness about being perceived as gay makes you look like you're closeted or homophobic. I'm not saying you are. I'm just saying there's really no way to spin that so it doesn't look that way. Even if it's phrased as a joke.

-- Be kind. Be interested. Be calm. Go on a date with the intention of finding out as much as you can about a person, and letting her know a little bit about you. If things go in a friendward direction, welcome that too -- friends are some of the greatest treasures in life. Relationships, and sexytimes, that spring from friendships are wonderful as well.
posted by troublemenot at 4:58 PM on August 29, 2010 [8 favorites]


As I recall, the OP lives in an area with a disproportionately large gay population--that's why he's wondering if he's being perceived as gay.
posted by uans at 5:03 PM on August 29, 2010


I am a Bay Area Female (though non-native). I ask men I am interested in, "Would you like to have drinks some time?" I do believe this is short hand for "let's go on a casual date", and they seem to agree. When I have been asked out for drinks by men I'm not interested in, I say no, or if they're going to remain in the friend-zone I tell them right off.

I honestly believe the behaviour you're experiencing is a Bay Area thing, as I've experienced its gender reversal. People here are afraid to say no and give a lot of run around. That said, I think you need to just step out and say "date" instead of "drinks", if only for your own sanity. If you are worried that you are sending the wrong signals, stop sending them and say exactly what it is that you want.
posted by loriginedumonde at 5:04 PM on August 29, 2010


"Let's get a drink," means "I want to bone you," "Let's get a drink, so I can decide if I want to spend more time with you, possibly, eventually, in bed, or as a friend, with no sexual interest at all. "

With the persistent result of "I don't want to spend more time with you," you need to change your approach. Lots of good advice here. It might be hard to hear it, but I recommend it. Guys People who listen, who are interested, who really, really listen, are wonderful. And probably have many options for sexual partners.
posted by theora55 at 5:11 PM on August 29, 2010


Paultopia, I had to rejoin real life for a few hours there. I'm not sure that I can say it better than the women who have answered you.

I get the sense from your responses that you are not a "womanizer" in the traditional sense of that word, b/c if you were, you wouldn't give a shit what anyone thought, let alone women. The desperation I sensed was mentioned by others as you're perhaps too obvious in wanting to get laid--again, that's a pretty basic drive, and not a bad thing, but just as you've been socialized to go for it, women have been socialized to make sure you're worthy. At the risk of using an anachronistic example, Elaine on Seinfeld had a pretty quick gauge of whether a guy was "sponge worthy." A look, an ill timed joke, a stain on a shirt could all put you out of the running.

None of this means that you're a bad guy, but--to put it in zen terms--to reach your goal you must give up your goal. Let it happen.
posted by beelzbubba at 5:15 PM on August 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


No one here seems to have mentioned that it is possible, and believe it or not, perhaps even common, to want to spend time with someone whom you find sexually attractive, in whole or in part *because* you find them sexually attractive, without necessarily having it in your mind that you may ever want to bone them. Sexual attraction is *not* a synonym for "I want to bone you."

That could be what is going on in some of these cases.
posted by serena15221 at 6:08 PM on August 29, 2010


Response by poster: Couple of quick clarifications/follow-up answers to grist the mill a little:
- I have more female than male friends, and some very very close female friends in whom I have no romantic/sexual interest.

- I also do get confused for gay a lot. A lot. I can't figure out why. But it's a genuine concern insofar as if I'm interested in someone, and I'm trying to communicate this in less than skywriting, the message will get crossed if she thinks I'm not interested in women, obvs. I have had had at least one woman I tell one of my friends that she thought I was gay even after I asked her out.

The woman who called her boyfriend and I subsequently actually became (casual, not super-close) friends. The boyfriend is real. She and I have hung out otherwise and had lots of fun. Obviously she didn't find me reprehensible.

Thanks for all the advice. Particularly for the charitable comments that don't start with the assumption I'm some kind of misogynist/rapist/pua/NiceGuyTM/whatever.
posted by paultopia at 10:28 PM on August 29, 2010


I think its not clear from your post if you are looking for a gf or looking for sex. I would suggest you modify your approach for depending on what you are after(fwiw, I am former/sometimes (partial resident?) single bay area woman):

- Sex: As an example, I have a "friend" who IS a pick up artist (he was one before the whole PUA craze). His approach is simple. He is looking for sex. He divides women into 3 categories: 1. Women who will fuck him. 2. Women who won't 3. Women who are 'friends', these don't really exist they are treated like male buddies who are not close buddies. He does not waste time with the women who won't sleep with him. If there are no signals of interest, he moves on IMMEDIATELY. How does he find women who will sleep with him? Well, he's been known to go to bars and say to 10-15 women (in one night of several bars): I think you are really hot, do you want to "get down"/ "get hot and heavy" / "fuck" / "have sex". His ratios are pretty good. He usually gets laid. He also creates opportunity: DJs (he also has a professional job), hosts afterparties in his loft, answers all booty calls, is clear about what he wants and who he is (a womanizer), has drugs (cocaine, pot and vicodin) and huge amounts of alcohol readily available in his loft, thus creating the "opportunity" more easily. He even has buddhas, hindu statues, and crosses, to show he has the appropriate spirituality for the appropriate woman. Mind you, I don't think he would EVER sexually assault someone, but he has been known to take a woman (who flew to SF for a booty call but had changed her mind by the time she landed) back to the airport and strand her there because she wasn't interested in sex anymore. He is ruthlessly interested in sex and women ARE objects to him. He is totally honest about it, and all the women who get involved with him are aware of it.

- You are looking for a relationship: Continue as you are, with the clarification of asking women if they want to go for a drink "with you". Keep in mind, this is your opportunity to get to know them better too. A girlfriend is not a booty call, but an intimate and deep relationship which you can be vunerable and open and she will do the same. So you really should want to take the time to get to know your date, and while being romantic, do go a bit into the friendzone - you will be inviting her into all different aspects of your life/home/social circle and you probably won't do that lightly.
posted by zia at 6:02 AM on August 30, 2010


Woman here, London and Los Angeles based.

My first interpretation of 'Let's get a drink' would be, 'he wants to network/continue conversation about project X/pick my brain re Subject Q'. In a world of people who freelance and who rely on networking and relationships to keep projects coming in and percolating, I 'get a drink' with heterosexual members of the opposite sex all the time.

It wouldn't even cross my mind that I was 'on a date' unless this conversation started with a long meaning look and 'you have beautiful ears. Shall you and I go find somewhere dark and private?'. If I thought there was any ambiguity about the matter, I might, oh, say, conspicuously phone my husband on the way to said drink, just to make things clear. I have actually done this, so, there you go.

I'm not even talking about people I meet specifically at work-- being able to make contacts with interesting, connected people and toss ideas around is really important in a lot of lines of work. If you're wondering where some of the hostility on this thread is coming from- the idea my default 'socially encoded' role, as you put it, in any interaction with a man is as a sexual being and I have to watch myself on account of this or be 'fucking clueless', is directly threatening to my livelihood. And even more so of my basic enjoyment of life, as I love conversation and would like to be able to talk to men other than my husband, thanks, without the constant danger of some 'womanizer' considering me a 'tease'.

To smooth your path in future, 'woman as person in same social category as man' is the default social encoding nowadays, and 'woman as potential sex partner' the unusual situation that requires you to clarify what it is you're after. How you go about that is a different question that the one you asked, the answer to which is, yes you are fundamentally missing something.
posted by Erasmouse at 11:41 AM on August 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


To smooth your path in future, 'woman as person in same social category as man' is the default social encoding nowadays, and 'woman as potential sex partner' the unusual situation that requires you to clarify what it is you're after.

This is such an interesting thread, almost despite itself.

It's debatable, but I think "person who may be a potential sexual partner because of, inter alia, gender and sexual orientation" is in a different category than "person who is unlikely for some reason to be a sexual partner" for purposes of "Let's get a drink" and other invitations. You may approaching this differently than the OP, who specified that the person wasn't already a friend, while you are thinking of actual or potential business contacts . . . these are overlapping sets, but different in their centers of gravity.

But in fact the default coding doesn't seem to be what you say, and pretending that the question's agenda is perfectly agnostic as to the recipient's identity -- that it makes no difference for guessing at the other's ambitions, or being and being seen in another's company at a bar by a partner or spouse or colleague -- is putting one's head in the sand.

I agree with you to the extent that the OP would actually be better off presuming equivalence encoding for his purposes, and nothing in what I say is meant to suggest that people responding to such an invitation without sexual intention are clueless. And I might wish it were otherwise, because I agree with you that the discrepancy is discriminatory. Finally, the recipient has the power to clarify the circumstances too.

Personally, I only have drinks with a member of the opposite sex in the middle of Madison Square Garden, in full business suiting, while broadcast on the Jumbotron. But I still struggle with the maniacs from time to time.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 5:35 PM on August 30, 2010


>But in fact the default coding doesn't seem to be what you say, and pretending that the question's agenda is perfectly agnostic as to the recipient's identity -- that it makes no difference for guessing at the other's ambitions, or being and being seen in another's company at a bar by a partner or spouse or colleague -- is putting one's head in the sand.[...]. And I might wish it were otherwise, because I agree with you that the discrepancy is discriminatory.

Well, you could just wish it were otherwise, or you could try being more optimistic about the malleability of cultural mores! :) In my vast experience of men ranging over three separate continents, 95% of my coffee/drink interactions have been utterly free of soap opera hijinks. I don't know what field the Questioner is in, but 'friends', 'business-contacts', and 'person whose value to my work is unclear at the moment but he's suddenly giving me an idea about X so let's have a drink'', not only overlap, but are really hard to differentiate in any work involving creativity. Maybe I have my 'head in the sand', but my husband, for instance, is a journalist and often has to spend long hours speaking to women! alone! without a chaperone! because the pesky fact is that women have roles in public life now and his bureau doesn't have a Department of Lady Journalists just to interview them. I certainly wouldn't want my husband to be afraid of 'feeling out' (har har!) some random person who might have a tale to tell because I might walk by the pub and shriek 'A-HA!!!!''

Obviously there's generational/geographic/social circle issue at play here. The rare times I have run into awkwardness, it would be from older men ("gosh I'd love to talk to you about the project but what would my wife say! har har!" You have no idea how bizarre that sounds if you're accustomed to being treated as a person most of the time), or men from cultures still in the grip of hysteria over women's sexuality (which, okay, is all cultures, but some more than others). The remaining category is the individual Guy with Issues, and apologies to the Questioner but his phrasing was full of red flags on that front- 'frendzone'? 'womanizer'? 'bone'? Unless he works in an entirely male industry in a country where women aren't allowed to drive, I would suggest that his attitude, not mine, is the problematic one. Which is why he's the guy with the question.

So- Questioner, yes, I would say you're coming off as 'normal interaction with person' at the moment, hence your array of female friends (healthy!) and frustration (unhealthy!). I assume you need to optimize your Flirting Mode. Flirting, as I understand it, involves innuendo, intimacy, and physicality. I appreciate that it's scary to cannonball into potentially icy waters, so a toe-in approach would involve physical compliments (start with eyes/hair, I guess); touching elbows (instant alarm bells for me, so good for you!) and conversations that quickly go, "But enough of these mundane, earthly subjects. Let's talk about YOU'.
posted by Erasmouse at 2:24 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Erasmouse, valuable perspective. I guess where we differ is whether the world at large regards "Let's get a drink" -- uttered in the contexts that the OP had in mind, which seemed to me more social than professional, but whatever -- as containing the same set of possible meanings, with the same associated probabilities, regardless of the invited party's gender (and potentially associated sexual orientation). We are not differing about the OP's attitude, or optimal strategy, and we are not differing about yours. I just disagree that the words have the same probabilistic meaning, any more than "come over to my apartment for a drink" do.

P.S. I am now thinking of all the dude elbows I have grazed.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 8:49 AM on August 31, 2010


Response by poster: Jesus H. Fucking Christ. I'm not talking about conferences. I'm talking about CAFES. Social situations! Not networking meetings! Not "hey, you have an interesting proposal for implementing synergies with empowerment and teaming" or whatever drivel passes for talking to people in the world of corporate morons these days.

How on earth can you people read posts with such a complete lack of charity? Why not actually assume I'm a rapist? You might as well.
posted by paultopia at 2:19 AM on September 3, 2010


Paul, I understand that at this point in the thread you're upset, but:

"I'm not talking about conferences. I'm talking about CAFES. Social situations! Not networking meetings!"

Yes. When I meet people SOCIALLY I typically assume they are interested in getting to know me better PROFESSIONALLY unless there are QUITE CLEAR signals otherwise. And not often do people announce, "Omg, you seem really fun, can we be BFFs and hang out now?" (or, in my pre-married life, "let's date!") on a first meeting. The norm in my circles, anyway, is to go out for lunch or drinks with a more "networking" feel to it -- using mutual networking/work type interests as a "hook" for that meeting, then getting to know someone, talking about work and that leading to discussions beyond work. Maybe several times before moving on to having purely social invites. Navigating the world of "beginning an adult relationship" (friendship or romance) is hard.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:58 AM on September 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Paultopia, I think I read your situation (esp. post clarification) reasonably correctly and with reasonable charity. But as much as I share your frustration with some of the reactions to your question, your latest makes me more frustrated still. The "you people" and "assume I'm a rapist" rhetoric suggests the hasty generalization and lack of nuance (e.g., about Bay area women, and romantic interest equating to boning) that pissed people off about your original post.

Sure, chalk up this waste of everyone's time, including yours, to a certain lack of charity, but also try to review it for hints as to how you can communicate constructively and non-dickishly with others.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 6:10 AM on September 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


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