Books on dating
July 31, 2007 11:00 AM   Subscribe

What's the best book on dating (for guys) that involves natural methods.

By natural methods, I mean to exclude books that talk about elaborate systems for shagging as many women as possible, or books that simply exhort you to "shape up, and know you're 'The Man.'"

I'm 25, single, spend a lot of time doing a lot of things that are supposed to help me get a girlfriend, but don't seem to deliver.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (45 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Stop looking. Stop doing things in order to get a girlfriend. Be yourself. Do things that interest you. Meet people. Let things happen. Women (and men) can smell it a mile off when you're Looking For A Girlfriend, as opposed to Hey You're Pretty Nifty Would You Like To Go On A Date?

Thing is, when you're looking, the way you appear is that you have a girlfriend-shaped hole in your life, and it needs to be filled by the first available candidate. This is somewhat off-putting.

When you're not hunting, you're you, and a girlfriend would be a nice thing to have. Women recognize this and, I believe, respond much better to it.

Again.. just be yourself, stop hunting.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:13 AM on July 31, 2007 [4 favorites]

Honestly, as a woman without a clue and feeling similar to you, I don't believe in any trick or technique anymore. I just try to make myself happy and assume one day I'll hit the lottery without even buying a ticket. I've wasted too much money on losing tickets in the past 10 years.

That's me, eternal optimist...
posted by loiseau at 11:17 AM on July 31, 2007 [2 favorites]

Ugh, that's painful advice! Not to say that it's not true...but painful.

It's hard not to look. Nothing fixes a thing so intensely in the memory as the wish to forget it.*

Try to stop hunting and be yourself, sure. But there's going to be times where you just need to get out there and embrace the idea of finding a girlfriend. Especially if acting nonchalant and uninterested is not "you". Somewhere between indifferent asshole and desperate is a good place to be. The rest is just a numbers game and time.

I think it's also matter of moderation. Go find other things to do with MOST of your time. But make some time for active girl seeking too...respond to craigslist ads, go on dates, talk to women in public places, be friendly, ask women for their number, get used to rejection, get good at dating, and find those books (I'm sorry that I don't know of any, but frankly I'm not sure that any book is going to help you as much as getting out there, gaining experience and getting good at dating**). Then again, those books will likely be very confidence building, and that's also key.

Good luck to you!

*Michel de Montaigne
**Getting good at dating doesn't necessary equate to being successful/scoring (a girlfriend or otherwise), but the two are correlated.

posted by iamkimiam at 11:25 AM on July 31, 2007

I should elaborate that you'll get a lot of canned advice about this like (no offense anyone) "be yourself, love yourself, try not to try, it'll happen when you're not looking" but when you do that any object of your interest won't know you're interested. And if you express interest in someone suddenly you're trying too hard. I've just stopped believing in a formula and assume as long as you're an attractive person (mentally, physically, creatively, whatever) and have your own house in order it's random and there's nothing you can do to make it happen.
posted by loiseau at 11:26 AM on July 31, 2007

I would definitely recommend against reading a book on dating. I can't imagine any of them offering advice or methods that would really be very useful to you, because everyone is different.

That said, I myself am considering writing a book on dating : ) Here are a couple of tips that have seemed to work well both for me and my friends.

First, dirtynumbangelboy's advice is pretty good, although I don't think you need to completely stop trying to date. But an approach that's more focused on the "now," rather than the "I wonder if you would make a good girlfriend," has worked really well for me. It makes the whole process a lot more fun when you just relax and get to know the person and don't analyze every little thing about them. I've learned an incredible amount about _myself_ this way, which was been really rewarding.

Be 100% honest all the time, and don't play any games. I've just recently learned the full weight of this advice. I had been on a couple of dates with a girl whom I liked, but didn't feel any romantic spark with. I wanted to change the dynamic to just "friends" but let her down nicely. I was going to say something about realizing I'm too busy for a relationship right now, but that wasn't really true, and if we ended up being friends and I kept dating other people, I would look like a jerk. So I gritted my teeth and said:

"I guess I'm just not feeling another "date" with you, but I'd really like to hang out again in more of a friends kind of way. Realizing that has me a little bit stressed out, and it's not easy for me to say, but I feel like it's important to just be up front and let the cards fall where they may. I've had a bit too much run-around from people I've dated in the past not to just stick with a simple explanation of my feelings when necessary."

Her response was great: "Your honesty rocks, I think we're on the same page, and let's grab drinks or a show sometime when we are both free." Now I have a new friend, I can hang out with her and not sweat the romantic side of things, and who knows? Maybe she has some cool single friends that I'll meet.

In spite of what you say about the "know you're The Man" stuff, I have to say that confidence is a huge, huge factor, but it _does_ have to be genuine. Don't roll out like you're eight feet tall and a modern-day Adonis, but be positive about yourself. This is a hard thing to develop when you're not having much success in the dating scene. It only came to me after I went on a date with a girl who, when I met her, was basically the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen. I laughed to myself and said, "Yeah right." Three weeks later it was totally, totally on. It didn't last long, but the lesson learned was, don't underestimate yourself. Since then I've dated a number of incredibly beautiful, interesting, fun women, who I never would have thought would give me the time of day previously. I am by _no means_ a conventionally attractive, wealthy, dashing young man, but a little confidence really has gone a long way.

Other than that, it's hard to be more specific without knowing a little bit more about you. I will say that, on the whole, dating is a numbers game. I don't mean like you need to run everyone through a mill and go on five dates a week, but if you do want to meet people, you have to work at it, and it can be a grind. I usually date in cycles, with breaks of a few weeks or a month or two in between where I just go off and focus on other things, and then come back to it. It's very easy to get burnt out otherwise.

I think about this stuff endlessly, in a sort of curious academic sort of way. If you want to talk about it more, feel free to email me. See my profile for the address.
posted by autojack at 11:35 AM on July 31, 2007

but when you do that any object of your interest won't know you're interested.

Trust me, it gets through.
posted by hermitosis at 11:36 AM on July 31, 2007

I should elaborate that you'll get a lot of canned advice about this

Which is funny, because it's not what he asked for anyway.
posted by artifarce at 11:36 AM on July 31, 2007

I agree wwith what everyone else has said. But since you asked for books:
No More Mr Nice Guy

Not a dating book. May or may not apply to you, but if you're not getting what you want in life, you might be asking the wrong questions.
posted by Ookseer at 11:40 AM on July 31, 2007

"How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie.

Apply what you learn from that book and everything else will follow.
posted by COD at 11:41 AM on July 31, 2007 [2 favorites]

I really liked Dating: A Survival Guide from the Frontlines by Canadian sex advice columnist Josey Vogels (but I bought it because I was at a reading of hers in Montreal, not because I was in the market for same).
posted by mendel at 11:58 AM on July 31, 2007

have you tried using web-sites like eharmony. let a company do the "meet the girl" part for you. internet dating is increasingly common and acceptable - it is worth a try.
posted by Flood at 11:59 AM on July 31, 2007

Sun Tzu said:
In all fighting, the direct method may be used for joining battle, but indirect methods will be needed in order to secure victory.
Art of War.
A very good book on dating indeed.
posted by Bovine Love at 12:04 PM on July 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

Based on my limited exposure to them, dating books for men and/or women are crap. They all have some kind of "system." Anonymous is looking for a book that's not promoting a system, and I think that will be tough to find. Because as audaciously bad and filled with filler as most dating books are, apparently no publisher is audacious enough to charge money for a dating book with the simple commonsense advice that others are posting here and have posted to half the other dating-oriented threads here on MeFi.
posted by adamrice at 12:20 PM on July 31, 2007

Instead of dating guides, read good literary novels, preferably by female authors (Margaret Atwood, Melissa Bank, Valerie Martin, Jeanette Winterson, and Jennifer Wiener all come to mind). Read Natalie Angier's Woman: An Intimate Geography and read some gender studies or at least some feminist-ish websites.

Dating guides seem premised on the idea that men and women are inherently different and always will be, and that tricks are required to bridge the divide. What's actually required is learning to listen to the other side, to hear their concerns and strengths and weaknesses as valid and good and worthy. Literature's going to get you there a lot faster.
posted by occhiblu at 12:30 PM on July 31, 2007 [10 favorites]

I agree with loiseau's first comment. I've tried dating a few people I found online, but it never felt right to me; I decided I don't want to do that anymore. As far as dating books, I've read a few; I came away feeling like they were a little bit useful, but that I didn't want to be spending so much time thinking about dating.

The way I see it is that I don't want to put my energy and time into trying to force a relationship into my life; I'd rather spend that energy and time on doing the things I want to do, and becoming the best me I can.

Some might see it as not trying; I see it as living my life in a way that feels authentic and honest to me. In the process, maybe I'll meet someone with whom things simply click. If that happens, I know I'll feel much better about the relationship than I would had I gone out looking for a partner.

I have friends who violently disagree with this line of thought, by the way; however, I've realized that I don't want to structure my life around seeking a relationship. Maybe it's all a matter of perception; do what feels right for you.

Finally, as a woman I must point out that I like to be treated, first and foremost, as a human. Sounds obvious, but I despise it when guys interact with me in terms of me being a potential girlfriend/someone to mess around with. In my experience, simply being a woman seems to cause many men feel they are entitled to view/treat me as an object first and foremost. This is a horrible and infuriating feeling. Ergo, my non-approach to dating; the best way to meet a guy who will interact with me as a human being is by living my life as such...not by seeking a boyfriend (and thus, putting guys into a category similar to the one that I hate being placed in).

I don't mean to sound all feminazi - just giving you my point of view. Hope it helps.
posted by splendid animal at 1:06 PM on July 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

I heartily recommend Double Your Dating. It points out specific things that guys can do that trigger an attraction reponse in women. It is often counter-intuitive. For example, you may think repeatedly complimenting a woman about her beauty is a good thing to do, but it actually puts up a wall between you because how is she supposed to relate to you if you think she is a goddess? It is far more effective to jokingly tell her that her shoes are ugly. Shock, 'oh no you didn't!' and the game is afoot.

There are specific examples on the website and in the book, and if you want to become a 'player' that book will probably help you. I wasn't interested in that myself. What the book did for me was to snap me out of this inferior mindset I was in, help me realize that women are people too and that snapping into some submissive 'date mode' is not the way to relate to them on a human level. Since then my interactions with everyone have been much more comfortable, honest, and relaxed. And that's the way it should be.
posted by PercussivePaul at 1:20 PM on July 31, 2007

Perhaps something like the SIRC Guide to flirting is closer to what you are looking for? It's not about dating, per se. Assuming you don't have issues meeting women so much as getting more intimate with them, I think it may help.
posted by Green With You at 1:33 PM on July 31, 2007

Jesus, _please_ do not use eHarmony. It's the opposite of a numbers game. Read this.
posted by autojack at 2:33 PM on July 31, 2007

Advice straight from my mom: find a group that caters to one or more of your unique interests, and stalk it. Ok, ok, she didn't say stalk it.
posted by Jacen at 2:47 PM on July 31, 2007

This comment touches on what I find creepy and insulting about books on dating.

It is contradictory to expect that a book that offers "specific things that guys can do that trigger an attraction reponse in women" is really going to help someone "realize that women are people too." This isn't just a problem with books targeted toward men; I find the tactical, game-playing attitude to be present in most books aimed at women, too.

Again, I would encourage you to do what comes most naturally of all: live your life, and trust that you will eventually meet someone without having to learn or use specific "methods."
posted by splendid animal at 3:22 PM on July 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

This advice will be wildly unpopular.

Step 0: Check to see if being "just you" has gotten you anywhere. If not, proceed.

Step 1: Select the group/gender/demographic you are interested in dating. This may be harder than you expect.

Step 2: Throw out everything that demographic has said about what they want, how they want to be treated, etc. Do not consider it true, do not consider it false, simply give it no weight. Write down that rhyme about snips and snails and puppy dog tails, then ritually burn it.

Step 3: Through anecdote, careful observation, and any method you can find, discover the people whom that demographic actually dates, not who they say they want to date. Repeat several times the phrase: when reality and theory do not agree, reality always wins.

Step 4: Decide if such a transformation is within your power, and if you wish to do it. Do not become something you will loathe, or cannot sustain. Look to see what it will cost you.

Step 5: Figure out who you are. Draw a line from you to the group actually dated and move along it.

Step 6: Leave the house. You've gotta play to win. Law of averages.
posted by adipocere at 3:29 PM on July 31, 2007 [3 favorites]

I have spent the last 6 years not looking and still haven't had a date. What am I doing wrong?
posted by CrazyJoel at 3:53 PM on July 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

IANADE, and I have no idea what you mean by "natural methods", but a couple of written resources spring to mind:

A Lover's Discourse, by Roland Barthes - might, at least, put you into an interesting mindset over the entire lurve & dating issue (as language or performance); and

Womens' magazines, like Cosmo, Cleo etc. As occhiblu points out, "What's actually required is learning to listen to the other side, to hear their concerns and strengths and weaknesses as valid and good and worthy", only I think you'd get there faster by browsing the articles & advice columns written for & by women who are in your exact position - but on the other side of the fence, or perhaps the same side, as the case may be. (Just don't use this shortcut as an excuse for foregoing quality literature & nonfiction feminist & gender studies books)
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:07 PM on July 31, 2007

Magazines are written for advertisers. Women buy them to look at the pictures, not to read the filler. Buying Cosmo to learn about women is like buying Popular Electronics to learn about men.
posted by watsondog at 8:13 PM on July 31, 2007

Without any doubt, Intimate Connections by Dr. David Burns.

Its a good book on life.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:42 PM on July 31, 2007

How To Be a Man (Birmingham/Flinthart), and Mark Pilgrim's advice on fruit salad.
posted by ads at 8:51 PM on July 31, 2007

Magazines are written for advertisers. Women buy them to look at the pictures, not to read the filler. Buying Cosmo to learn about women is like buying Popular Electronics to learn about men.

Really? I should post an AskMe about this. I always thought they reflected the consensus vanilla view of the world - they're chock full of normative judgements on what makes a good/bad date/partner etc.*

And Popular Electronics isn't the best analogy. I'd say you could actually learn a fair bit about men by reading the lite infotainment mens' equivalents of womens' magazines - the ones with a few soft porny bikini shots, some sport, fashion & exercise tips, yes, sex & relationships columns, and plenty of ads for watches, cars, colognes & electronics.

*actually, there's probably something a bit more subtle than that going on (in both F & M mags)...the articles are always in a kinda worldly-wise tone, generally confident to the point of smugness, optimistic etc...there would be an unconscious transference in place such that readers come to associate this alpha attitude with Dior perfume, Jeep Cherokees, or whatever other fetishes the advertisers are flogging.../media studies 101
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:58 PM on July 31, 2007

Why can't a book go into depth about the wonderful power of "being yourself." There's got to be some theory to "being yourself." What does that entail? Sincerity? Curiosity? Openness? It means something, it works in some ways. Are there ways of being more yourself than others.

Does being yourself mean playing WoW all day and not talking to people at work because they're jerks? That won't get you a date.

Does being yourself mean forcing yourself to go out, to like coffee shops and shows that you like, but try not to put up a front when you go there?
posted by philosophistry at 10:28 PM on July 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

"being myself" worked tremendously well in high school and college where I was surrounded by girls constantly.

I think for girls it's different, because guys are constantly hitting on them.
posted by philosophistry at 10:30 PM on July 31, 2007

let me respond, since i was sort of called out and I think I could have been clearer with what I was saying.

This comment touches on what I find creepy and insulting about books on dating.

It is contradictory to expect that a book that offers "specific things that guys can do that trigger an attraction reponse in women" is really going to help someone "realize that women are people too." This isn't just a problem with books targeted toward men; I find the tactical, game-playing attitude to be present in most books aimed at women, too.

Again, I would encourage you to do what comes most naturally of all: live your life, and trust that you will eventually meet someone without having to learn or use specific "methods."

The problem is that many men, such as the old me, are conditioned to think that they have to do certain things in romantic settings. Maybe it's a lack of good role models, who knows, but many men turn themselves into doormats in front of women because they are intimidated or because they don't know how else to act. Should I continue to do what comes naturally? What if what comes naturally is stammering, cold sweats, and massive insecurity? Shouldn't I try to correct whatever psychological problems or misconceptions I have that are making things difficult? clearly the poster has been trying to live his life and things are sufficiently not happening that he is seeking help.

I will grant that the book sounds kind of cold and calculating. This is because the author is trying to make a living and he is giving people what they want, i.e. techniques to attract women. But the underlying message of the book is much simpler: that for whatever reason, a lot of men have weird misconceptions about how they are supposed to behave around women, and this leads to behavior that makes it difficult for women to connect with them.
posted by PercussivePaul at 11:13 PM on July 31, 2007

p.s. adipocere's comment is quite in line with the philosophy of the method I was pointing to.
posted by PercussivePaul at 12:07 AM on August 1, 2007

Definitely second the Burns' book.
Great resource, even if it sometimes sounds a bit dated with references to 'going to the disco'.
posted by willmize at 4:28 AM on August 1, 2007

Listen to adipocere’s advice. Do not listen to occhiblu’s advice.

And let me repeat adipocere’s key phrase again; when reality and theory do not agree, reality always wins.
posted by Aidan Kehoe at 5:58 AM on August 1, 2007

...apart from the fact that adipocere's advice sounds like you're trying to hone in on some sort of niche market - say, BDSM asian punkette biker chicks - and treating it like a thoroughbred cattle auction, without any thought that individuals within the "group/gender/demographic you are interested in dating" are individuals, not statistical tokens of a species type. Overcoming this attitude may be harder than you expect.

And let me repeat occhiblu's key phrase again; "What's actually required is learning to listen to the other side, to hear their concerns and strengths and weaknesses as valid and good and worthy"
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:50 AM on August 1, 2007

I think Maxim came out with a mini-book a while back. It had useful tips about how to dress well and be appealing over all. Basically, I think you need to have a sort of common denominator level of attractiveness. After that, sorry, but being yourself (or at least the most like yourself that is also appealing to others) is right on.

Of course, if "you" are shy and desperately horny, this is not what you want to be projecting. But there are other parts of yourself that are also you.

To start with I recommend blind dates over lusting after some stranger (or, heaven help you, a friend) and then trying to build up the confidence to ask them out. It's really very easy to do -- online is the best way to do it. Both my ex- and current girlfriends were blind dates I set up via online personals. In both cases I ended up having incredibly fun and satisfying relationships (and obviously still do with my current lady). I've recommended OkCupid in the past and I'll recommend them again. Not so great: eHarmony.
posted by Deathalicious at 7:06 AM on August 1, 2007

As an aside, I'm still looking for a book. I'm going to check out the book by Burns since that was the only thing seconded. If it's good, I'll mark the suggestion as a "best answer."

Nevertheless. You can't just say that "be yourself" is some kind of panacea. Because it's so not. I was replying to a girl, and I just focused heavily on being myself, and as a result, I spoke waay too informally, like I was talking to a friend. You might retort, "Well, if she doesn't accept you for the way you are, then maybe she shouldn't be with you." But I think in the early phases, in the introduction phase, you shouldn't have to expect the kind of acceptance that comes after the relationship gets off the ground a bit. Honestly, "focusing on my 'inner-game'" would've helped me out more in that situation.

What exactly does "be yourself" mean? I need someone who has one foot in the intuitive, unspoken voodoo realm, and another foot in the analytic, articulate realm to spell it out for me. I asked this, actually, one year ago and got some interesting results, but it was in a broader context.
posted by philosophistry at 7:49 AM on August 1, 2007

heh, I can't mark anything as a "best answer." oh well, not so anonymous after all =)

But anyway. I think "be sincere" is a much better thing to invoke than "be yourself," for example.
posted by philosophistry at 7:53 AM on August 1, 2007

I think "be yourself," might include "focusing on your 'inner-game'." Someone who's not going to be conscientious of their partner is just not going to be conscientious of their performance on a date. If you're the type who pays attention, then you're going to pay attention to etiquette and such on a date. Simple as that. But it also means that you shouldn't pretend to be someone you're not. One dating book I read a while back suggested that if you pretend to have more confidence and more social skills than you actually do, that you'll eventually become that way. I found that to be a total lie. Who you are is who you are. It'll shine through eventually no matter what kind of act you put on at first.

That said, what is "way too informal"? I don't recommend talking about, say, your colonoscopy, but for the most part informal is okay. I met my guy online and then we had dinner almost right away. We started out formally, but we quickly went into those Things Dating Books Say You Shouldn't Talk About On A First Date, and we learned that we had some uncannily-common experiences. It was this personal common ground that made us relax and enjoy each other's company, and we went on to have a second date and a third... and so on.
posted by katillathehun at 8:12 AM on August 1, 2007

I think for girls it's different, because guys are constantly hitting on them.

Oh absolutely it's different, esp. for very attractive girls -- almost every man they meet is only talking to them because they want to have sex. Imagine getting hit on 5 times a day, every day, for 10 years. Even most of your guy "friends" secretly want to fuck you. Christ. I kinda feel sorry for them. (Kinda like a rich guy who can't be sure who is really his friend, and who just wants his money.)

PercussivePaul has it. Relate to a woman, esp. an attractive one, on grounds other than her physical beauty, and you'll rock her worldview. (Never, ever comment on a girl's attractiveness if you're interested in her -- the moment you do, she'll shift to "dammit, he's just like every other guy!" mode.) It's not about being tricking girls into liking you. Rather, it's about teaching yourself to relate to woman as (*gasp*) people, as equals, rather than sex objects to be polished and put up on a pedestal.

Put another way, complimenting a woman's appearance repeatedly sends the (insulting, IMO) clear message she's heard a thousand times, "I'm only talking with you because I want to fuck you." How sketchy is that??

"Being yourself" just means acting the same around a girl you're interested in as you do around your friends. Don't get all tongue-tied and insecure, intimidated by her beauty (cuz gosh you just want to fuck her so bad!!!), not knowing what to say, boring her at best and making her uncomfortable at worst. Be yourself, the you that's not intimidated. (Easier said than done!)

Honestly, David DeAngelo's material sounds like it's perfect for you. It addresses not only the direct "what to say to a woman at a bar" but also the indirect "how to build yourself a terrific life". *cough* torrent *cough* I would also suggest that you reconsider your objections to the systematic approaches -- a good "dating system" is a crutch to help recalibrate your current, self-defeating behavior. When you learn to walk, you leave the crutch behind.

Biggest thing, as others have said, is to build yourself a great life where you don't NEED a girl to make you happy. (Okay, really REALLY easier said than done!!)

As an aside, we teach physics, biology, chemistry, art, calculus, history... why are people so freaked out by teaching "How To Acquire a Mate"? It's way more important to most people than all that other stuff. Maybe it's kinda like cheating, like "hey.., you're supposed to stumble blindly through this like the rest of us!!"
posted by LordSludge at 8:18 AM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

The problems I have with systems like DoubleYourDating, is that I do in some ways agree with the "be natural" or "be yourself" imperative. Doing those tricks is acting, and I just get really sore performing on the dating scene. It becomes a second job, and an extremely unenjoyable one at that. If having to bend over backwards for a month, and be a sleazeball is what it takes to get a girlfriend, then I'd rather be single.

I'm not against work though, but it has to be a good "Flow" kind of work.
posted by philosophistry at 9:12 AM on August 1, 2007

Rock on. Next time you see a girl you're interested in, walk up and slip her a note that says, "I would very much like to have sex with you because it will raise my self-esteem and fill a huge void in my life, and because nobody else that I like will have sex with me at the moment." Hurray for total honesty and sincerity.

Or you could learn how to do the opposite of that. Either way.

Okay, that was harsh and over-the-top, but my point is: You don't want "honest".

Neither do you want "natural". "Natural" is what you currently have. You don't need a book to do what you currently do. "Oh, hi, can you recommend a book to teach me everything about physics that I currently know and not teach me anything new?" No, you want Something Else. You WANT to change, you want to learn, even if it's just learning how to approach & talk to women that you don't know.

Maybe the problem is that it's too much all at once and you feel all sketchy and phoney. So eat the elephant a bite at a time. For example, just learn eye contact for now. Next month, practice body language. Next month, start working out at a gym. Etc. Some of this stuff, you probably already have nailed, so you're a step ahead there.

Or, if you get a book (per the original question), just read & implement one chapter a month.

Look, I hear ya. There's a MOUNTAIN of material here, and if you try to do it all at once, you're gonna feel stupid and look silly -- because you're not real good at any of it yet! It'd be like a new driver going auto racing.

But you gotta start somewhere -- or not at all. Your choice.
posted by LordSludge at 10:37 AM on August 1, 2007

I'm guessing that the topic is so intractable because everybody has their own way of learning. Some passively get good principles from their parents and peers and so just being themselves seals the deal. Others read formula, act, and voila. Most just mimic whatever everybody else is doing.
posted by philosophistry at 11:37 AM on August 1, 2007

Dude, there is some bizarro-world bullshit in here.

Look, I can only say what has worked for me and for my friends, and what hasn't worked.

Let's start with me, because I know the subject best. For the three most-recent girls that I've dated, it went something like this: I like X. It seems like you'd like X. Wanna do X together? Whether that X was frisbee golf, going to electronic music fests, or skinny dipping, they all said "Yeah, sure." Now, it can't be because I'm some Adonis— I'm a chubby guy with a beard. And it is similar, but separate from making friends, because I was up-front about "Hey, that went well. I think you're attractive and would like to date you. Interested?" With a couple girls, it didn't click, but whatever, which is why I'd recommend dating girls that you enjoy talking to. More than anything else I've done in the relationships I've had, I've conversed. Which is why, in contradiction to some of the advice above, I do think it's important to be honest— because if you can't talk honestly with someone, why date them? It'll be a pain in the ass. Lord Sludge confuses "honesty" with desperation and social retardation, but that's only true if you're a desperate loser, which you're probably not. Very few people are so unredeemable that they're off the dating scale, and if you're one of those (even though you probably won't listen), you should look to therapy first, dating second. But that "Don't tell them they're attractive" bullshit? Of course you think they're attractive. Just don't make a thing about it, y'know?

I'd also mention two other things, both borne of my own experience and that of one of my buddies who just gets mad play— first off, don't obsess over the traditionally "perfect" girls. Usually the effort they spend keeping themselves that way just isn't worth it, and if you were their type you'd already have been socialized to know what to do around them. If you're not all weird about it, the vast majority of women your age (and mine) are attractive. It's more important to be able to talk to 'em. Second, be nice to women even if you aren't interested in dating them. Practice it, and you'll have it in the clinch. I don't mean fawning over them or exalting them, just treating them about as you'd like to be treated— be kind and generous and generally uncritical. Avoid playing at insulting them in order to start the "Oh no, you didn't" game, not because you have to treat them with kid gloves, but because playing at any sort of game is kinda weird, and will only get you into a relationship with women who enjoy playing games. My pal Pat, at least until he got into his recent long-term relationship, got laid like bricks by being someone who was nice, enjoyed hanging out and was comfortable with himself.

So yeah, you'll hear a lot of different definitions of "be yourself" packed into this thread, but mine's gonna come around the crux of working at getting past all the weirdness that's socialized around these gender relations while not sublimating the fact that you'd like to date them.

As for books? Well, despite thinking that occhiblu probably gave the best bibliography (in that it's good to have at least a passing knowledge of literature, because it'll help you be a well-rounded person with things to talk to, especially to women), I'm gonna say that this is the sort of thing that really has to be learned by living it and that all the Get-Laid-Quick schemes can at best be seen as tools to help you create a structure for change within your life, but are much more likely going to add just another layer of weird expectations and "system-gaming" that won't end up with you more healthy or more fulfilled, just poorer by the cost of the cover.
posted by klangklangston at 11:59 AM on August 1, 2007 [7 favorites]

Absolutely! Some guys are "naturals", the product of a highly social environment. Bartenders are a good example of this -- they get so much social interaction every day, with highly social people, that social interaction is easy for them. There's a reason bartenders get laid like rock stars.*

Then there are those of us whose family/friends are borderline Aspergers, and who work in... IT. ::scary violin shreaks:: Not a whole lotta social edumacation goin on there, lemme tell ya. Half my co-workers can't even make eye contact when they talk with each other.

The "naturals" just have more practice. We don't think of being social as a skill, but it certainly is. Now, the maddening thing about naturals is that they really don't see what the big deal is. Just talk to the girl. If you like her, you have sex with her. Duh! Who needs a book?? They forget about the million little things from body posture to eye contact to romantic timing that they have already learned, have well-practiced, and take for granted.

If you do have "natural" guy friends that are good with women, you can learn a LOT from them just through observation. Actually, getting a social sorta job: tending bar, waiting tables, outside sales, or anything that requires a lot of social interaction, is a really good way of "naturally" boosting your overall social skills.

The thing is: the "acting" approach IS forced, IS faked -- for a while. Such is the consequence of book-learnin' vs. acquired experience. You'll be radically changing your behavior -- that's the whole point. But, given practice, you slowly incorporate the "acting" behavior into your normal, natural behavior until, one day, you're just that friendly, social guy that girls want to hang out with.

* Sure, the booze has a lil sumpin to do with it too, but bartenders I know generally do have pretty hot girlfriends.
posted by LordSludge at 12:50 PM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

Based on the responses of all the guys who've commented on this thread (I'm not including the OP, here), the ONLY one I'd be interested in getting to know (and this is all hypothetical, by the way...) would be klangklangston.

Take that for what it's worth, philosophistry.
posted by splendid animal at 3:51 AM on August 8, 2007

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