Monday, 14 October 2013

A Spectacular Failure at Picking Up a Girl in a Bar.

The other night, I was at a bar with a handful of co-workers. This bar is a very blue-collar kind of bar, in the North End of Halifax, about a half hour to forty minute walk from the downtown core. It's got a lot of older regulars and tends to be an after-work crowd rather than a weekend-partying crowd. I don't find it to be a "pick-up" kind of atmosphere - especially when karaoke is going on, because anyone who knows Halifax's karaoke scene knows that there are a couple of regulars on the scene who, while entertaining, set the tone for hilarity more than anything else.

So my co-worker's and I are here after our day and a few of us have had a chance to sing already - I sang one of my standards, "I Don't Know How to Love Him" from Jesus Christ: Superstar. It's in my range and I get the satisfaction of belting out that middle part and surprising everyone who hasn't heard me sing before. It's a vanity pick. I do it well. I can't sing anything else from the movie. All the smokers are outside, and the table is populated by just me and one other friend.

Enter the Pick-Up Artist. Our table is at the back of the room, near the waitresses' stash of cutlery, condiments, etc. Pick-Up Artist wanders over and pokes his head around for a few minutes.

"Aha!" he exclaims. Friend and I look over at him. "Hey, there's a plug back here and I need to charge my phone - will you guys make sure nobody steals it?" We agree, as that is not an unreasonable request. He plugs his phone in.

He doesn't go back to his table. He stands there for a few moments, awkwardly. Friend and I exchange glances. Pick-Up Artist starts to strike up a conversation. "Are you guys going to sing tonight?"

Now here's the thing. If a guy approaches me at a bar, I'm going to be civil at first. Just because I'm not interested, I don't have to be rude, and I think that's reasonable. I know some people will say that you're just giving them an "in" that way, but really, what I'm doing is giving them the benefit of the doubt and assuming they are a decent human being. There's no harm in their trying to strike up a conversation with a pretty girl. The harm lies in turning that into harassment when they make it clear they're not interested.

"I already have, actually," I say. I turn back to Friend, who is very pointedly not making eye contact with Pick-Up Artist.

"Oh, yeah? What did you sing?"

"I Don't Know How to Love Him from Jesus Christ Superstar. Anyway, we'll make sure your phone doesn't get stolen." I turned back to Friend.

There it was. I made it clear that I was not interested in continuing the conversation, but I don't believe I was rude, considering the man was a stranger. I attempted to treat him politely, as any decent human being should.

This, my friends, is where a man should walk away. Manly readers, if you find yourself in this position, do yourself a favour. Walk away. I will explain why this is so important shortly. Our Pick-Up Artist, however, did not walk away.

"Oh, wow! You must be really intelligent!"

Okay, I'm not going to lie. I was kind of gleeful that he chose to say something so wildly stupid after the point at which he should have walked away, because it meant that I had free reign to school his dense little brain. Friend and I locked eyes. Keep in mind, we haven't really hung out outside of work much. She hasn't really seen me drink and she certainly hasn't seen me in a situation in which I can actually tell someone what I think of them as our customer service job has us biting our tongue more than I would like. I can see she's looking forward to witnessing what she is sure is about to come.

I look at him. "How exactly does that make me intelligent?"

"Well, it's a pretty old movie, and you know it exists."

"That's a terrible metric for intelligence. For one thing, taste is completely subjective and for another, knowing that something exists doesn't make me more intelligent, it means I was exposed to it."

"Well -"

"And, actually, that's pretty classist, on top of being just a shitty metric for measurement. Not everyone has the opportunity to be exposed to the same things, and just because they never had a certain experience, that doesn't mean that they're somehow less intelligent."

He gaped at me for a moment. "Well." He paused. "You're right. It was not a good example." He stood their for a second. Friend was trying to not laugh visibly, and I could see her trying to hide her smirk. I waited for him to get the message that he was not going to get anywhere with me, hoping that he would finally leave. Unfortunately, this was the kind of guy who gets his ego bruised and has to then go on to prove himself.

"But how would you ever measure intelligence then, since everyone's experiences are all different?" he finally asked, apparently pleased with himself. I rolled my eyes.

"Look," I said. "That is a long and involved ontological and epistemological debate that I don't really want to get involved in with a pleeb at a bar."

He finally appeared to get the message and retreated to his table. Later on, some young kid was singing the Beatles and I was called up right after him. I had to walk by Pick-Up Artist's table to get to the stage, so I paused on my way by - because I really am quite vindictive - and I said to him, "Wow - that kid must have been fucking brilliant - the Beatles are way older than Jesus Christ Superstar!"

He wasn't impressed with that.

Anyway. I sang my song. I went back to my table. A short while later, he comes back, to check that his phone is still plugged in. He put his hand on my shoulder and leaned in to talk to me. I pulled away.

"Hey - you should ask before you touch anybody. You shouldn't touch people without their permission," I said to him. He pulled his hand away.

"You're right!" he said. He turned to Friend and placed his hand on her shoulder and leaned in to talk to her. Bear in mind she was sitting mostly turned away from him, and her body language was screaming "I don't want to get involved in this."

"Hey, buddy," I said. "I said you shouldn't touch people without asking. Stop touching her."

"I'm not touching you, she doesn't have a problem," he said.

"Look," I said. This guy had long passed his welcome and was entering into serious harassment territory. "It's time you fuck off, alright. We don't want to listen to you or talk to you."

It took telling him to fuck off a couple more times, and one of our male friends returning to the table from smoking and yelling something obscene at him to finally get the guy gone.

Sorry, that was a long story, I know. But, male friends, do you see what went wrong here?

First lesson: A girl being civil to you is not an "in". If she's polite but distant, she's not interested. If you keep badgering her, she's likely going to become not only less and less interested, but more and more pissed off.

Second lesson: I know that you think persistence is key. That if you don't take "no" for an answer, your chances of eventually getting a "yes" go up. Well, guess who else doesn't take "no" for an answer? Rapists. Girls grow up knowing they have to protect themselves from getting raped. Most girls, when they interact with a strange man at a bar and make it clear they're not interested just to have him continue to push and badger at them have a thought process somewhere along the lines - either consciously or subconsciously - of "he will not go away after I told him no; that means the likelihood of him ignoring my no if I were alone with him is significantly higher."

When you badger a woman at the bar relentlessly, you are sending her a signal that you could very likely be a rapist.

But what about the ones who finally say yes? Are they significantly smaller than you? Do you not think there's a possibility that they feel that maybe, since you're so relentless that you might pursue other methods of making her say yes, like violence? Do you think perhaps that she might be saying yes because that seems safer than risking getting beaten up or violently raped, as opposed to coercively raped (which is what you would be doing)?

Here are some tips for your pick up attempts at bars.

Approach the girl you are attracted to. There is nothing inherently wrong with this act. Say something. Don't use a stupid line. Don't use a fake compliment to try to ingratiate yourself to her, because if she's anything like me she'll school you on your patriarchal classism. Just say hello, compliment her shoes or hair or whatever.

If she's at all intrigued or interested in hearing more, she will respond positively.

If she isn't, she will either roll her eyes and ignore you (far easier than my usual route of giving human beings a chance to prove themselves as decent, and usually more effective as well), or she will smile tightly and respond monosyllabically, or in some way, her body language and actual language will indicate that she's not interested. If she tries to be polite, don't make her regret giving you the benefit of the doubt. Be a grown up, say "Okay then, I hope you have a good night, cheers!" and walk away.

Firstly, she will appreciate you as a human being for not harassing her. Her friends will appreciate you for being a decent human being. You're not likely to get anywhere, but you know what happens when you consistently be a decent human being? Someone eventually sees that you are a decent human being, and combined with your charming personality and suave good looks, they will find you irresistible.

It won't get you laid tonight, probably. But it will honestly make everyone's night out more pleasant, and which is a better ego boost? That a girl responded because she actually finds you attractive or funny or whatever, or because she's scared you're going to rape her? If you said the latter, you're an awful human being, but if you said the former, the only way you can do that is by respecting boundaries. Because when you respect other people's boundaries, they will respect you. And respect will get you a lot further in this world and with relationships of all sorts - casual to serious - than fear of violence will.

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