Perpetually friendzoned? No idea what I'm doing
August 18, 2012 8:18 PM   Subscribe

I need a crash course in how to pick up/approach girls.

Full disclosure: Young, early 20s male, living in an urban area. I am terrible with women. Low confidence, approach anxiety, missing reading positive cues as negatives. Currently still in college and I would like my remaining time here to include being involved with more girls.

I have never hooked up with a girl outside of a clearly defined relationship. I have never been to a party and left with a girl. I have never straight up ask a girl on a date. In fact, I have never gotten into a serious relationship without hand holding type support from my friends(as in, “Of course she likes you! Ask her out now!”). I'm not currently looking to be in a serious relationship (and many college girls aren't either) but I'm afraid that my inexperience will doom me should I happen to meet someone special.

Simply put, how can I learn to:
1) Approach girls at bars, parties, etc with the intent of flirting/trying to pick them up?

2) If I meet a girl I could potentially be interested in, how do I introduce myself and interact in a way that doesn't automatically get me friend zoned? You might think that nobody can be 'automatically' put in the friend zone but every girl I've dated has considered me a 'close friend' before we started a relationship.

Any advice or resources would be appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (45 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
how do I introduce myself and interact in a way that doesn't automatically get me friend zoned

You will get lots of other advice so I just want to address this one part. I am not sure why PUAs are so defensive about admitting this, but in reality in almost all cases if a girl is looking to hook up with someone but does not want to hook up with YOU (but is fine with still being friends) it is that she thinks you're ugly. It is not that you said some mysterious wrong word in the super secret girl code handbook. It is not that you didn't wear a crazy enough outfit or didn't neg her enough. It is that she finds you physically unattractive.

A girl wanting to be friends with you is something totally separate and unrelated to whether she wants to hook up with you, and you can encounter any combination of those two things. As you clearly saw when you met the girls who wanted to be friends with you and then wanted to date you (and presumably get physical with you) after that.

So don't worry about not coming off as "the friend type". The girl liking your personality will only help you, promise. Just remember if she doesn't want to hook up with you, generally there is nothing you can do about that but become better looking.
posted by cairdeas at 8:32 PM on August 18, 2012 [32 favorites]

Low confidence

Work on this first. Hit the gym, pick up some new hobbies, learn about something interesting. Whatever it takes.

If you have social anxiety issues, you may want to avoid high pressure situations like walking up to complete strangers in bars or at clubs. Find a hobby or social group that allows you to meet different women in a low pressure setting. Work from there.

Most importantly, just talk to women like they are normal human beings like anyone else.

Oh, and god's sakes, stay away from pick-up artist literature.
posted by Kevtaro at 8:32 PM on August 18, 2012 [16 favorites]

every girl I've dated has considered me a 'close friend' before we started a relationship.

I think this puts the lie to the whole "friend zone" idea, assuming you're using it in the usual sense (i.e. "women always decide that I am their friend and stop looking at me as a potential partner".)

You seem to be using terminology from the PUA scene. That whole approach and way of looking at human relationships is ethically questionable, and even if you don't care about that you should be aware that everybody now knows about and can recognize those formulas, and you will look like a creep when you try to perform them.
posted by contraption at 8:35 PM on August 18, 2012 [41 favorites]

Start on yourself first. You have low confidence, anxiety, and difficulty reading social cues. I'd spend some some time just focusing on doing things that will help you with those things before you start seeking out girls to pick up. This may be as simple as finding things that you're good at and enjoy and doing those things. It may mean you need to figure out why you have low confidence in general, so don't count out some low-key therapy or counseling to help out there. It's totally normal to need support from friends as you pursue a person romantically, but as you've probably realized, it's not gonna be productive to only be able to get and sustain a relationship with help from friends. That change will come if you get to the bottom of your anxiety and confidence issues. Focus on just being you, and being genuinely glad about it, and you will start to be a lot more attractive to many more people.

Second, being friendly without an agenda goes a long way. Go pick up a copy of "How to Win Friends and Influence People" -- it's recommended here a lot because it does teach you how to be a good and genuine listener, and that's something that will help you short term as you're just dating, and long term when you're actively seeking someone later for a full relationship.

Third, go out with some people who you feel have the social skills you wish you had. (Don't waste time with people who play others, though; you'll develop negative habits that will screw you over and honestly, people who manipulate others for sex or for a good time are dumb-asses and don't deserve to be emulated anyway. One of my ex boyfriends won me over by making fun of me all the time. He was a huge, charismatic, utterly charming dick and I wish I'd had the sense to see that when he first started hitting on me. Please don't be him.) Notice how your friends (male and female!) approach others -- what do they say, how do they compliment others, what do they do interaction-wise, etc. They can be really good guides as you approach girls in whatever context you happen to be in.

My personal pet peeves re: guys hitting on me as a straight female: overly nice guys; guys that touch me too quickly or aggressively; guys that try to make others laugh by making fun of you or other people in the room; guys who make jokes at the expense of other people present in general; guys who look like any negative or neutral response from a girl will crush their souls.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 8:36 PM on August 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Do some online dating. Because you both know before you meet in person that it's a date, it'll get you some experience talking to women you're potentially interested in, which in turn will give you more ability to express your interest to people you meet at parties, bars, etc. That is, assuming you don't find someone awesome online first...
posted by anonymisc at 8:38 PM on August 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

Obviously there are some things you can do to increase your attractiveness to certain people. For example, some people really like beards, or really like long hair. This may make 1000 other people find you unnatractive, but for those that like those things you will be much more attractive.

The one bit of advice I will give is "use the bartender as a wingman". You don't need to wander the bar approaching people. Get the bartender into a conversation and a surprising number of people will just try to jump in. Those are the people to talk to, not people just chilling with their friends. Plus you are friends with the bartender so you are obviously pretty cool.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:41 PM on August 18, 2012 [5 favorites]

You might think that nobody can be 'automatically' put in the friend zone but every girl I've dated has considered me a 'close friend' before we started a relationship.

First, this is the exact opposite of "friend zone". Second, there's nothing wrong with being friends first. Many people even prefer doing it that way.

Your main issue seems to be low self confidence/anxiety/avoidance etc which are all tied together. Solution 1 is lots and lots of practice, working your way gradually up from "learn how to make small talk with other people (yes, women are people)" to "learn how to flirt without being creepy" to "learn how to ask a girl out/home (and gracefully accept it if she turns you down". If that seems overwhelming, Solution 2 is talking to a therapist about it. Really though, it's just about meeting lots of people until you find someone you (mutually) connect with.

"friend zoning" is a dumb idea anyway. Not everyone will be attracted to you, and the percentage drops as you get less attractive and less interesting (no idea where you fall there). If someone isn't attracted to you, they are very unlikely to become magically attracted to you with the perfect pick up approach.
posted by randomnity at 8:45 PM on August 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

I have never been to a party and left with a guy (or a girl, for that matter).

This is not something to judge yourself against. Most people don't "hook up" this way. I've had plenty of casual sex, and yet I've pretty never gone home with a random person at a bar or party.

Being a friend before you start a relationship is a good thing, not something to be embarrassed by. Frankly, I worry about the fact that I haven't met anyone interesting through my circle of friends in a long time.

Women will be attracted to you, or not*. They will have sex with you based on their own desire to have sex. Or not. They will date you, or not. These aren't things you have a ton of control over.

Be a personable dude who is respectful of women. Be assertive enough to go for what you want -- if you like someone, ask her out, make a move, etc! If she shoots you down, well, that's life. Everyone has been turned down. Don't feel like you're the first guy ever to be rejected, or that it means something about you besides "this girl wasn't attracted to me" or "this girl didn't feel like having sex with me".

*This can somewhat be influenced, via dressing well, taking care of yourself, etc. But at a certain point it's academic and just up to chance whether any given woman will be into you or not.
posted by Sara C. at 8:49 PM on August 18, 2012 [13 favorites]

The one bit of advice I will give is "use the bartender as a wingman". You don't need to wander the bar approaching people. Get the bartender into a conversation and a surprising number of people will just try to jump in. Those are the people to talk to, not people just chilling with their friends.

Seconding this, strangely enough as someone who never hooks up in bars.

I'm a regular at a neighborhood cafe/bar. I go there to write when it's quiet during the day, and if I'm still there at cocktail hour I'll stick around for a drink. I typically chat with the bartender throughout my writing day, and if there are others there chatting with him, it usually will become a conversation.

This conversation often starts to feel like a few friends chatting casually, and thus anyone participating in this casual bartender-influenced chatter comes off as "one of the group" in a way that would never happen if I were in a bar with a group of girlfriends. I've talked to a lot of random strangers via this bartender chat, and while I'm obviously not there to hook up (it's broad daylight and I'm typically there to write), I've met more people this way than I ever have hanging out in bars under typical circumstances.

If you can participate in this sort of thing (usually requires a sleepy bar), I'd definitely recommend it.
posted by Sara C. at 8:58 PM on August 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

Be yourself.

Then relax.

Then be yourself.
posted by matty at 8:58 PM on August 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

People tend to hook up with people they know because it's a lot safer - you tend to know which of your friends are nut jobs and whether you want to go there - random person in bar, not so much.

Friendships lead to sex and/or relationships. That's kind of the safest go-to model.

I don't think you have any problems whatsoever other than low self-esteem and poor messages about what sex should be like.

Be nice and respectful and don't approach women with an attitude that you deserve sex from them because you have a cock and you'll be fine.
posted by heyjude at 9:27 PM on August 18, 2012 [8 favorites]

Work out, dress well, have good hygiene and read some books. Nothing spectacular, just be a good specimen. Then be social and friendly and don't hang all your hopes and cares on a particular woman. One or another will like your look.
posted by ead at 9:30 PM on August 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Fake confidence, if you don't have it. Ignore your fear and don't let it paralyze you. Look, if you want to ask girls out or ask them to go home with you or whatever, ultimately you just have to do it -- and if you haven't, ever, well, there's not a lot we can tell you other than to just do it.

It sounds like you're looking for casual sex. You can have casual sex with a friend just as easily as having a romantic relationship with a friend. Are you specifically looking for casual sex with strangers? I can't tell.
posted by J. Wilson at 9:36 PM on August 18, 2012

When I think of "friend zone" I think of a girl who is not interested in a guy but likes him well enough to chat with or do things with and she makes that clear. Either she never responds to overtures or dates other people and talks about it or says, "Let's be friends." And the guy sticks around, pining and hoping she'll give him a shot and slowly becoming more bitter about this girl. Getting "friend zoned" is as much or more about the guy's actions and attitude as the girl's.

So, here's the deal, if you like a girl and she's not interested then she hasn't "friend zoned" you. You've offered, she's declined. If you don't want her as a friend, be gracious and move along.

Being able to be a friend to women --- not just a guy who lurks around hoping someone will have sex with him -- is the mark of a guy who would be good to be in a relationship with. Talking to lots of women and being open to experiences with them without an expectation of sex will make you a more well-rounded and attractive person.

Make sure you are keeping up your appearance, good hygiene and all that, and check that your attitude towards girls isn't preventing you from making connections.
posted by amanda at 9:46 PM on August 18, 2012 [16 favorites]

Here are my two cents. Totally subjective, you mileage will assuredly vary:

If you approach someone new with the intent of flirting or becoming anything other than a friend, you can very easily give a negative impression of yourself. Be careful in doing this.

If you find it difficult to approach women individually, try to spend time with a group of people instead. This gives you an opportunity to observe different girls and their behavior. You can try to determine who would be approachable, who is the most interesting to you, etc. Also, I find groups of mutual friends can sometimes allow two individuals to converse more fluidly than if the two were alone.

Maybe it would work in your favor to let a girl act first? Wait for her to be looking at your eyes. Look for signs she is awaiting a response from you. If you don't know how to flirt, or it makes you uncomfortable to do, then who cares? Just don't flirt that much! To clarify, by this I mean don't try to blatantly advertise yourself. Some girls find it very interesting when men are unresponsive or slow in attempts to impress them. Some of these girls will want to know more about you; If this happens make sure to take notice and act quickly! You can't expect a girl to wait around very long to "figure out" someone who acts permanently disinterested.

I've done well for myself with the opposite sex by living passionately and inviting others along for the ride. I believe the most attractive thing of all is one who plays all the cards he or she was dealt (even if you are only holding out for a flush on the river), being content with oneself, and having character that is firm but approachable and loving.

Hope the ramblings help. Good luck!
posted by fieldcannotbeblank at 9:54 PM on August 18, 2012

Here is some advice for how to meet a hypothetical girl who is like me, but single:

1. Be friends with people she is friends with, showing that you have good judgment about people and that people with good judgment like you.

2. Join a discussion that she is in and engage her in conversation about a subject she finds interesting, showing that you're fun to talk to and making her want to get to know you better.

3. At the end of the conversation, ask her if she wants to continue the conversation somewhere you can hear yourselves think.

That's pretty much it, along with the usual general being respectful of (not just women you're attracted to but) everyone, being a good sport about rejection, not making overtly sexual comments about people's looks, and practicing good hygiene.

I agree with cairdeas that of course attraction has to be present, but I think for the majority of people there aren't "ugly people" and "attractive people". I think being comfortable in your own skin, and—this is important—finding clothing and a hairstyle that flatter you will go a long way in terms of looking good. But everyone has their own definition of attractive and unattractive, as well.

And yeah, there's no friend "zone", there are just people who find you interesting but not attractive.
posted by capricorn at 10:03 PM on August 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

First: SIRC Guide to Flirting (it's backed by science!). Also, successful hook-ups are defined by your ability to:
1) Fake confidence
2) Fake giving no fucks

If you can do those two things then you will be terrifically successful (provided you're also an interesting person, but that's a given).

You might think that nobody can be 'automatically' put in the friend zone but every girl I've dated has considered me a 'close friend' before we started a relationship.

Isn't this the opposite of the "friend zone"? I thought the "friend zone" was when chicks thought you were a good guy, a great friend, and never wanted to have sex with you. The very fact that women are being your friends and then having sex with you means you are the anti-friend-zoned guy. How is that not totally awesome? That right there is confirmation that once people know you they find you sexy and want to bang. Take confidence in this dude, it means you're attractive, you just gotta show it.

I'm not currently looking to be in a serious relationship (and many college girls aren't either) but I'm afraid that my inexperience will doom me should I happen to meet someone special.

Oh Lord, please disabuse yourself of the notion that the skills it takes to engage in drunken college hookups are the skills it takes to form a deep, long-lasting romantic relationship. You aren't going to meet The One in a frat house basement over a game of beer pong, I promise you. It is far more likely that The One will arise out of a friendship that turns into romance like the relationships you've already had. The only connection between the two is the confidence it takes to initiate the interactions in the first place, and that's something you can get from just talking to random strangers.

Question: why are you worried about the lack of hookups? Do you genuinely believe a dearth of one-night stands will interfere with relationship-forming in the future? Or is this one of those things where your friends are talking about conquests or you're reading the (inevitably trumped-up) "trip reports" online and you feel left behind? Are you just looking for sex? The last one is really the only reason you should be pursuing the one-night stand thing. One-night stands are not proof of your experience, sexual prowess, or masculinity. They're good for getting quick sex, but not necessarily good sex. They're also fantastic for acquiring hilarious and awkward stories, but from the tone of your question I'm guessing you're trying to avoid that.

Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to get at is to figure out your real motivation for being all worried about picking up chicks, and whether picking up chicks is actually going to satisfy whatever your needs are.
posted by schroedinger at 10:14 PM on August 18, 2012 [9 favorites]

In the real world of healthy adult human relationships, the "friend zone" is the place you are in when you meet other healthy adult human beings with whom you share interests and you .... wait for it .... become friends.
posted by elizardbits at 10:22 PM on August 18, 2012 [15 favorites]

Tomorrow morning I will dig up a study I found recently about how likely women are to go home with. Random Guy (tl;dr: not very).

There's a crowd I run with that's pretty geeky. The guys in it are not model-perfect. They are short or fat or hairy or all of that and then some. And yet nearly all of them have wives or long-term girlfriends. It's really not near as much about looks as you think. What they all have in common is confidence (which is not the same as being dominant or overbearing).
posted by rtha at 11:01 PM on August 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh Lord, please disabuse yourself of the notion that the skills it takes to engage in drunken college hookups are the skills it takes to form a deep, long-lasting romantic relationship.

This, a million times over.

Someone just linked the guide to flirting, so I won't relink it, but it is what I was going to recommend. If you can figure out some of the basics of communicating and reading body language, you are most of the way there.

And in my limited and anecdotal experience, the hardest part is walking up and saying "hi." If she wants to talk, great; if not, have you lost anything?

But before you start chasing after total strangers in clubs, rethink your aversion to dating friends or acquaintances. Picking up a stranger is really hard; dating a friend or a friend of a friend is really easy. There's way more trust, there's at least a modicum of shared interests, and again, it's so much easier.
posted by Forktine at 11:09 PM on August 18, 2012

2) If I meet a girl I could potentially be interested in, how do I introduce myself and interact in a way that doesn't automatically get me friend zoned? You might think that nobody can be 'automatically' put in the friend zone but every girl I've dated has considered me a 'close friend' before we started a relationship.

Look at the way you wrote this. You're using terminology that comes from a community of guys with a generally not great attitude toward women. This friend zone stuff is crap -- it's dishonest. You know why? Because you're in a situation where you're unhappy to be someone's friend when you wish you were her lover. You're not her friend. You're faking it, because you're more interested in your resentment that she didn't pursue you than you are in your ostensible friendship. If you're harbouring resentment toward your friend, she's not your friend.

A lot of people in here have told you that you need to work on yourself -- and I think they're right. But it's not the gym or the mall. You need to change your approach to women.

Do some volunteer work. Habitat for Humanity's good. You'll meet people, which is also always good. Hopefully, some of them will be bery different from you. Those are great people to make friends with. Fix your inside up a bit. I don't care if you want to get married or have a one night stand -- in either case, doing some real, heavy thinking about how you behave toward women is a good idea for you (because it really will make you a more likable dude) and for the women with whom you have these relationships (because they deserve to be with a guy who isn't filling his head with mysoginistic garbage like this friend zone crap).

Too long?
how do I introduce myself and interact in a way that doesn't automatically get me friend zoned?

Don't pretend to be her friend. Ask her out instead.
posted by samofidelis at 11:17 PM on August 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

Let me second the idea of doing some online dating. It takes away the uncertainty since you know that anyone you are talking to on that site is there for the same reason you are. Dating is a numbers game, so the more first dates you have, the more likely you are to meet someone you like and who likes you.

Once you have dates lined up, though, just practice being a decent guy with them. All this Pick Up Artist shit is so lame - a guy who needs that kind of systemized approach is not someone I would want to date anyway. Be reliable, fun, entertaining, charming, and genuinely interested - then I'm not only going to want the first date, but probably a bunch more too.
posted by deliciae at 11:23 PM on August 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

HEY ALSO I am sorry if that came off as super grumpy. I'm in a work argument right now, and that's on me, the aforementioned grumping.
posted by samofidelis at 11:30 PM on August 18, 2012

I'm a girl, around your age and I've hooked up/had casual sex with guys. If hooking up is what you want (and it's not totally clear from your question), being in college is a huuuuge point in your favor. I would never go home with a random guy I met in a bar because it would just seem way too unsafe. A random guy might be cute, funny, interesting, I might totally want to do fun things naked with him and I wouldn't leave with him because it would feel like taking too big of a risk.

College is a totally different situation. A guy hitting on me at a college party is at least slightly a known quantity. He's around my age, we have stuff in common just by dint of being at the same school, at the small school I went to we most likely would know people in common and I'd be able to place him in context. Plus, and this is crucial, if I went home with him I'd know where I'd end up and know how to get home easily. A lot of this probably applies more to a small, insular school than a large urban school where "college party" doesn't mean just college people are there and people live scattered around the city instead of in dorms, so I'm not sure if it applies.

So that's the biggest thing. Assuming the context is right, the deciding factors (for me) are:

a) willingness to hook up, which varies across people (and across time and place) and you can't really do anything about without being a huge jerk. Some people are just not into casual physical encounters, or want to make out/fool around but not have sex, and all of those are fine and you need to respect someone's right to set those boundaries and not get frustrated or think they're a tease or feel like you've wasted your time because all you got was x, where x is less than you expected.

b) physical attractiveness (including things like hygiene and how they're dressed) and not being weird. Being too physically aggressive, not being a good kisser, saying something off-putting or mean, extreme nervousness or drunkenness, etc. etc. This obviously varies vastly from person to person too- one person's cute awkwardness is another person's painful awkwardness.

I think my main advice is that this isn't something you can control. You can't learn some magical tip that is going to make girls change their minds about going home with you. Almost all of the factors I've outlined are outside of your control, with the exception of context and even that is purely drawn from my own experience. Some girls are just not going to hook up with people. They are just not into it. Some girls are, but their desire to do so varies from day to day, place to place, guy to guy. You can't control this.

The things you *can* do are the same things people are telling you here and the same advice everyone gets when they want to get better at dating. Work on your physical attractiveness (maybe) and work on confidence and getting better at accepting rejection. And do not in any way worry about not having enough "experience" to handle meeting someone special. Success at hooking up is not success at being in a relationship. Hooking up success is luck, serious persistence and maybe being really charming and attractive. Relationship success is a lot more about who you are- and you've been in relationships, so it sounds like you're doing ok on the front.
posted by MadamM at 11:37 PM on August 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

eye contact



light touching

in that order, take your time.

same exact approach for women to men too.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:59 PM on August 18, 2012

You need to really grok that this isn't a situation where the women at a party are going to be willing to go home with you if only you can unlock them with the secret Cool Guy's Girl Password. A percentage of the women in a given room will be happy to do so, but there isn't any way to know which women those are. Discovering the individuals you seek is a cross between a numbers game and a guessing game. The only way to win is to be willing to risk rejection, because there are going to be 99 blow offs before you get anything from a snog to a number to a shag.

It's important that you gain this skill because after college, the whole "hang out together and hook up until your mutual friends decide you're a couple" thing eventually stops working. I would suggest Rejection Therapy. You might also read Getting to Yes, which beats the pants of PUA.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:56 AM on August 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

I almost hurt myself laughing at that one. That is 100% incorrect. Maybe that's just the case with you.

Considering the ratio of favs between the comments I think the number is more like 33% incorrect.... which, considering cairdeas said "almost all" cases, not "every single one", the statement is closer to be being, well....not incorrect at all.

Different women look for different things in a relationship. Some prefer humor, some prefer intelligence, some want prestige. etc. etc.

But the OP's not looking for a relationship - he's looking for a hook-up. Which, yes, boils down to immediate physical/chemical attraction for men and women (so say psychologists, anyway). Now, there's no one type of physical attractiveness, mind - a simple shower and the right cologne can double how physically attractive some guys are.

Here is some advice, mainly based on what skeeves me out when I interact with a guy:

1) don't refer to them as "girls" in their presence. Not even, "don't call them girls to their faces", refrain from that term when you're out. You've referred to women as "girls" almost 10x more than you've referred to them as "women" in this post, which would skeeve me out speaking to you even if you were super-hot. I would wonder how frat-boyish (i.e. date-rapeish) you would be. I can guarantee you not every woman would be as sensitive to this as I would be, but some would be, and I can guarantee those that wouldn't be still would not be offended by the term "charming lady" or "beautiful woman" instead of "girl"

2) treat women like human beings. They are not targets. They are not prizes. Their needs are not less important than your own.

3) handle any and all rejection with grace and, again, understanding the person that rejected you is also a human with wants and needs that are not less important than your own. I ran into a guy in a bar that would, for serious, chat up a woman for about 5-10 minutes and then, when it got to the point where he proposed them sleeping together and she said she wasn't really interested, he would immediately shut off and move to another woman. Like, "oh, that sucks," and walk away. "No" never means "yes" (unless there's an established and mutually recognized safeword!), but how you handle the first "no" may make a second "no" less likely (or more likely, if you sit and whine).

4) Really pay attention to her. I'm not saying shower her with compliments and all that - I'm saying do not think, "how can I get her to sleep with me" but instead, "is she having fun?" It's a different mindset, but there are subtle things that will make you seem like either a skeezy guy, or a caring guy.

5) Don't pressure her. If you ask if she wants a drink and she says no, none of that, "aw, come on - it's just one drink" or anything of the like. Also, consider what it may mean and if she says something else with it. Women are (unfortunately) told not to be "bitches". Not to be "mean". And telling someone outright, "I really don't want you sitting next to me right now" falls into the "mean" territory. Declining your offers to dance, drinks, or going to that quieter corner over there is a subtle way of trying to say the same thing. Unless there are extenuating circumstances of course (she's got a broken leg, she's already got her cosmo, it's too hard to work the crutches and hold the cosmo). Pay attention and don't force your attentions.

6) Be EXTREMELY careful with the "light touching". Part of me wants to say that you shouldn't do it first, but it can vary by situation. But yesterday I was out, and I was sitting with this guy I'd ust met, and he was, apparently following Ironmouth's steps. Eye contact. Okay, I'll be polite. Smiling. Ok, it doesn't hurt to smile. Compliment. Why thank you. Brushing my hand gently. WHAT THE FUCK?! I didn't talk to him for the rest of the night. Touching is very personal, and if you do it too quickly, you're a goner. Don't follow a script for touching - follow cues. Is there a reason to touch her? Even so, do it subtly and watch her reaction. If you hand her her glass and your hands touch, does she pull away quickly? Might be a bad thing to grab her knee, then. If you tell a joke and gently kick her foot does she kick back?

7) Know who to pull. One of my guy friends was constantly complaining about how he couldn't get "a girl". He tried but they always wanted to be "just friends". Noffair! To be fair, he has met someone (they're engaged!) but I wonder how many people his missed out on meeting because he was chasing after women who were, to be blunt, out of his league. I have a current friend who hits on the hottest available woman in the room. When she leaves he'll start talking to the formerly 2nd hottest woman in the room - who he'd up to that point been completely ignoring. He is currently single and whines about it (I think standards - and high standards! - are great. just saying that if you're having trouble pulling, and it's becoming an issue, you might want to reevaluate your standards).

I know a lot of the stuff above could mainly be boiled down to "treat her like a human being", and I suppose that's the main point.

I haven't hooked up with a ton of people, but when I have, the main reason has been physical attraction. When I've been physically attracted to someone enough to want to hook up with them, but didn't, the main reason was because they seemed misogynistic enough to make me concerned for my safety, dignity, or both.

And because I have to make this post longer, chiming in with the "friend zone" idea crap. 1) as others have said, you don't seem to ever have been put in the friend zone 2) look at it from another point of view. Do you have a gay friend? Maybe your gay friend has a crush on you. What could your gay friend do that would make you want to sleep with him? Would you feel comfortable if your friend was always hanging around making, "haha, maybe we should sleep together!" comments at you? Remember, though - you can't directly say, "dude, shut up about that already - I'm not going to sleep with you!", because that would be bitchy. Your women friends should be rough equivalents of what your guy friends are. "friend" does not translate to "person I really want to fuck but won't have me!"
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 1:29 AM on August 19, 2012 [24 favorites]

In almost all cases if a girl is looking to hook up with someone but does not want to hook up with YOU (but is fine with still being friends) it is that she thinks you're ugly.

No, that is not quite correct. Not being sexually attracted to someone/not wanting to hook-up is not the same thing as thinking they're ugly. Taking rejection personally to that degree would be a mistake.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:23 AM on August 19, 2012 [19 favorites]

I have never straight up ask a girl on a date.

A lot of this is a numbers game. Rejection won't kill you (thought the first few times it might feel like it), and you'll get over it.

every girl I've dated has considered me a 'close friend' before we started a relationship.

This is the opposite of the friend zone.

Approach girls at bars, parties, etc with the intent of flirting/trying to pick them up?

In my experience, it is like finding the right Lego piece, or trying to pet a new cat. Don't go into it with the mindset 'I am going to flirt with you in the hopes to take you home.' This will make you self-conscious and generally set off alarm signals. Instead, go into it with 'I want to get to know you and have a good time.' You may think 'but that is exactly what I mean!' No. It is not. The first is a very clearly defined end-state, the second a much more open goal.

If I meet a girl I could potentially be interested in, how do I introduce myself and interact in a way that doesn't automatically get me friend zoned?

Since you are using this term in a way that is completely outside my experience of it (and also any other use of it I have ever heard) - don't worry about it.

One of the best ways to find romantic partners is to increase your circle of friends. Make friends of people - interest groups, hobby groups, sports teams etc. and you will start finding romantic partners there, and they will introduce you to prospective partners as well.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:18 AM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

In almost all cases if a girl is looking to hook up with someone but does not want to hook up with YOU (but is fine with still being friends) it is that she thinks you're ugly.

I'd rephrase that as "... it is that she doesn't find you and/or the idea of hooking up attractive," because that covers a lot more than just hot vs ugly. There's also how you smell, whether she feels safe, what her friends might think, that she has her mother in town visiting, that a creepy guy earlier said something nasty and she's still angry, that she can see that you have your shirt tucked into your tighty whities... There are a million reasons to say no, not just ugly.
posted by Forktine at 5:52 AM on August 19, 2012 [10 favorites]

There is a ton of advice here. It all boils down to one fairly simple truth: there's no magic, no secret, and no technique. Everyone is different. There is no such thing as a "friend zone". There is no such thing as a system (PUA, etc., etc.) that will coerce thinking human beings into having sex with you.

Good hygiene, some genuine hobbies, and the ability to smile, listen, and be present are the traits that make anyone attractive. Unsurprisingly, that's probably exactly what you want, too.
posted by ellF at 6:00 AM on August 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Make sure you're at the right venue and then adjust your expectations downwards. There are tons of parties and events where not one single person goes home with someone they didn't know beforehand. Ask your friends who are having one night stands where people go who are looking for one night stands with people like you (bars probably skew older, for example), plan on many "no"s for each "yes"--you won't get a yes every night or even every weekend, and remember to apply the rule of three: if a guy says he's hooked up with n women, divide that number by three to get the actual total.

Side note on your meta-objective: Having lots of casual sex isn't really necessary for later relationships, and having one night stands definitely isn't.
posted by anaelith at 6:30 AM on August 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Every guy who has ever been in my friendzone is someone that 1) I was simply not attracted to [this doesn't mean that he's ugly, there are some very cute men in my friendzone, but the spark isn't there], or 2) someone who has a dealbreaker issue (gambling addition, can't shut up about his ex, talks about himself and never asks me any questions about myself, etc).

A woman who puts you in the friendzone is a woman who knows you don't have what she's looking for in a sex partner and that she can't give you what you want either. It's usually not personal and has little to do with anything you said or did. Be friends if you want to be friends, and if you don't want to be friends then move on.

How do you feel, in general, about walking up and talking to strangers? Is this something that is always a challenge, or only a challenge with women you find attractive? If the former, then beefing up your social skills is going to help.

I'm not sure I understand why you'd rather pick someone up from a bar than get to know them over time. Is this about wanting sex without a relationship, or about the personal challenge of asking a woman out? As a woman, knowing that a potential partner has had lots of casual flings does not make me more interested in him.
posted by bunderful at 6:46 AM on August 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

Here's the blog post about a couple of studies that I mentioned last night. The studies looked at casual sex - who says yes, who asks, what happens. The post links to the studies.

The takeaway: Women are very very unlikely to say yes to a strange guy who approaches them and asks if they want to go have sex. They are more likely to say yes if he is familiar (one of the studies asked women about what they would do if approached by a celebrity, and also if they were asked by a guy they already knew).

In one scenario in one of the studies (which was a follow-up of an older study), study participants were asked:

An attractive member of the opposite sex approaches you on campus and says, “I have been noticing you around campus and I find you to be very attractive. Would you go to bed with me tonight?”

The result:

male proposers were perceived (by women) as more dangerous and less likely to provide them sexual satisfaction than women were perceived (by men). Male proposers were perceived (by women) to have lower status and to be less warm than the women proposers were perceived to be (by men). There were no gender differences in perceptions of the proposers’ sexual faithfulness, mental capacities, gift giving, or risk of STD.

The whole post is very interesting and deserves a close reading.
posted by rtha at 7:39 AM on August 19, 2012

I really need you to read this and reconsider how you think about women. I get that you're still in college and it's super cool to act like women are walking vaginas, but most women will be more susceptible to being treated like people than sex holes.

I myself have had plenty of one-night stands. Know what made me want to bone the dude? Talking, laughing, finding shared interests, and also being attracted to him. The attraction can come either before or after the talking, so if you're unattractive you have even more reason to work on your personality.

And nthing everyone else who says that your number of casual hookups does nothing to elevate your position in a lot of women's eyes.

And sorry to be mean but seriously, the "frienzone" thing has got to go. Women aren't a game, we're people. Nothing is sexier than a dude who gets that.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 7:40 AM on August 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

In almost all cases if a girl is looking to hook up with someone but does not want to hook up with YOU (but is fine with still being friends) it is that she thinks you're ugly.

Not being attracted to someone physically, and thinking that they are "ugly" are two different things, and I think it's mean-spirited to suggest that the OP is ugly.
posted by bearette at 7:42 AM on August 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

Also: confidence trumps all.
posted by bearette at 7:43 AM on August 19, 2012

I'm not super good at this, here's what I think I've figured out so far:

Nobody's really good at this sort of thing. However, it's very easy to mistake confidence for competence. That is to say, there are plenty of people on the internet who are very willing to tell you how awesome they are with the ladies, and they can teach you the tricks. There are also plenty of people on the internet who claim they are supermodels who can bench press like nine hundred pounds and have a Ferrari or whatever. The point is that there's a lot of muddling through and making mistakes and there's no 'perfect' way to do this. Failure is never as bad as you think it is, and succeeding doesn't change your life as much as you think it will.

There's no trick that will make somebody who isn't attracted to you attracted to you. There are certainly things that generally will make people attracted to you: working out, having a sense of humor, good personal hygiene, being a good person, that kind of thing. But I don't believe there is a trick that will make a specific person attracted to you if they are not. I think generally you are looking for somebody who is attracted to you who you are attracted to as well. Things are easy if the attraction is mutual. Things are nigh on impossible if they don't like you so much.

There is nothing wrong with expressing your attraction to somebody in a direct and respectful way (like asking them if they want to have dinner with you), and pretty much everybody who has rejected me has been amazingly kind about it. (Well, OK, everybody after high school-ish.) Rejection isn't awesome, but knowing is always better than not knowing, and now you know that they're not that into you. Accept it.

What you use to attract people absolutely has a bearing on the kinds of people that you attract. If, for example, you use money to attract women, you will attract the kinds of women who are attracted to money. If you use weird mind games, you will attract the kinds of women who are attracted to weird mind games. If you want somebody to like you for you, well, you have to be you. This is my way of saying "Don't read those sketchy things people write on the internet."

Even people who I think of as having been fairly successful with the opposite sex strike out. They get shy. They get self conscious. It's part of the human condition. There's nothing wrong with it, so please don't feel like there's anything wrong with you. I've never hooked up with anybody or picked up a lady at a party, and I'm OK with that.

If you're still in college, my advice would be: Clubs, hobbies, sports. Try them out; try to make friends with everybody, men and women alike. Even stuff you don't think you'd be into, give it a shot. If you feel like you're not good at making friends with people, practice that as much as you can.
posted by Comrade_robot at 9:06 AM on August 19, 2012 [7 favorites]

The first and last step is to abandon the entire concept of "picking up" girls. Be a human and interact with humans.
posted by cmoj at 9:37 AM on August 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

First, fuck the concept of friend zoning and everything about it. First, women who are genuine friends are good help for finding you a girlfriend if you hang out with them, and the more that you have, the more chances you have that one of their friends might be genuinely interested in you, and secondly, are you even really friends with them if all you want to do is figure out how to fuck them, or just a creepy jerk who doesn't know how to take no for an answer? Seriously. Think about that.

As far as picking up girls at a bar goes, I am far from a player and I kind of loathe the whole pick up scene and rarely go to a bar with the intent of going home with someone, but I've managed to do it a few times. Here are the factors that seem to work for me:

1) being a known quantity. Either I was a regular at the bar, or at a party with a bunch of friends, or I was friends with a friend of the girl (one of the advantages of having a lot of girls who 'friend zoned' me. It's the best when you can get introduced by someone so you don't have to use some dumb line to open a conversation..

2) listening. Ask questions, listen to the answers. Make eye contact while she is talking.

3) have one thing about you that they are interested in. It's very random what this is, and the best way to find it is asking questions and listening. Really even something simple like liking the same underground band or whatever.

4) being willing to dance, even if you are terrible at it.

5) be genuinely complementary, but not like over the top creepy.

6) being a little bit drunk, but not too drunk. This is entirely optional, but helped for me.

7) relax, don't think about whether you are going to be able to fuck the girl that night. Just try and get to know her and if she gets closer, you get closer. That's really all there is to it.
posted by empath at 9:37 AM on August 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

I forgot to mention this above why I went into the "what skeeves" me stuff when you seem to really be asking about sex.

I prejudge a man's sexual performance by his outside the bedroom performance.

If he pulls me onto the dance floor, even when I've said "no", how can I trust him to take no for an answer to something when we're alone?

If we're dancing and he's all about himself - not holding my hands or looking at me - how attentive could he be in a more intimate scenario? (Conversely if I'm dancing and he's yanking me about, why in the world would I trust him with more delicate parts of my body?)

If he's just hovering near me instead of actively trying to be part of the conversation, would I have to similarly take charge for everything later?

If he can't take hints (like the "subtle but not outright no's" I mentioned above) does this mean I will have to give him clear, explicit, verbal instructions later as well (clinical-instruction style, not fun, dirty-talk style)?

It may not be fair, but it's ended up being accurate for most of my cases (I've gotten into relationships with so-so sex because the guys were nice otherwise). It may also not be accurate for all women (I've never asked), but I do usually wonder about a lot of guys as potential sexual partners and certain things they do - that have no immediate relation to sex - gets them knocked down a rung/off that list.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 1:26 PM on August 19, 2012 [7 favorites]

So. The best way to get someone to come home with you from a bar for some fun casual sex is to tell them you find them super attractive and that you would love to take them home for some fun.

And then be ready to keep hearing "No" and keep trying until you meet someone who is also looking for fun casual sex and who also finds you super attractive.

This is the secret: there is no secret. It's like trying to find a job; you spruce yourself up, act enthusiastic, be polite, and ultimately it comes down to you having what the other party wants while they have what you want.

PUA advice boils down to either "gimmicks" to catch people's attention (the weird hats, the benighted "negging" bullshit) which may be useful for people who have trouble starting conversations, but only up to a point, or to "handicapping" in the horse race sense, trying to suss out which people (on the basis of clothes, body language, etc.) would be likely to say yes to some hypothetical PUA.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:09 PM on August 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

You might think that nobody can be 'automatically' put in the friend zone but every girl I've dated has considered me a 'close friend' before we started a relationship.

Believe it or not, most people I know in relationships (I know that's not what you're looking for right now) ended up dating one of their friends. The 'friend zone' doesn't exist - people really don't compartmentalize that way. It's about whether the chemistry is there or not. What PUA people refer to as 'being friend-zoned' really means 'she didn't fancy me'.
posted by mippy at 1:08 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

You need to really grok that this isn't a situation where the women at a party are going to be willing to go home with you if only you can unlock them with the secret Cool Guy's Girl Password.

Yes, this.

Women like casual sex as much as men. They are more likely to have it - assuming they are already attracted to you - if you're interesting, interested in them, aren't unclear about what's going on (don't say you want a relationship if you don't, don't make out you just want a fling when what you really want is to get married and have babies yesterday - the latter is *very* awkward to deal with), have something to say, and in the main seem like someone with whom they will have a good time. Good casual sex is about having fun, and respecting your partner even if you don't want to call them in the morning. If you can give that, women will pick up on it, and when the chemistry is there that's how it happens.
posted by mippy at 1:13 PM on August 20, 2012

I have never hooked up with a girl outside of a clearly defined relationship.

This is not entirely within your control.

I have never been to a party and left with a girl.

This is not entirely within your control.

I have never straight up ask a girl on a date.

This is really entirely 100% within your control. Next time you've got your eye on someone, do this. Ask her on a date. If she says yes, awesome. If she says "no," you've still made a step in the right direction, by becoming the sort of guy who asks women on dates.

But look, -- it sounds like you're doing just fine relationshipwise, you're meeting women, you're going on dates with some of them, you're just upset because YOUR RELATIONSHIPS DON'T FOLLOW THE SCRIPT that you've got in your head. So, like, what, because you're getting support from your friends and sometimes letting the woman make a move instead of being 100% full-on badass-motherfucker lone-wolf pickup artist all the time? Sounds to me like the biggest problem isn't your love life, it's the weird unrealistic standard you're trying to hold yourself to.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:44 PM on August 20, 2012 [5 favorites]

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