Two Cues Every Man Should Look For From Women
Flirtation can be a sexual, emotional, and intellectual mine field rife with cultural mores, standard practices, clichés, and a mix of emotions—fear, anxiety, excitement, levity, stimulation, annoyance, discomfort, shame. Two strangers thrust into a dialogue in which they are both a black box and at least one person might have romantic and/or sexual intentions.
As a bartender I watch a lot of flirtation between men and women. Typically the man engages the woman (though not always) and the outcomes vary. Sometimes the man and woman leave the bar together. Sometimes the conversation simply ends (with or without a phone number exchange). And sometimes things get awkward.
It’s this last outcome I’d like to speak to as I see this scenario go negative pretty often. When it does it is almost always because the man is not reading the situation correctly. At some point, the woman is no longer interested in conversation. She might not be interested in the guy, she might have other things on her mind, or she might just want to be left alone. Whatever the reason, I often see the woman withdrawing and the man in turn presses even harder. He basically disregards the signals she’s giving him and tries to force things forward.
This does not make the man a bad person.
As men, we’re taught to pursue women. That’s the paradigm of romance in the West. It’s like a dance: men approach, women play coy, the men pursue, and eventually the man “wins” her over. Women do play their part in this dance on occasion. I’m sure it’s exciting and romantic to know a man will sacrifice his pride and time to pursue her IF she’s interested in him.
But what if she isn’t interested?
Then the man becomes an annoying creep.
It gets worse as many women often feel the need to play the polite routine to avoid any negative backlash. Men can be overbearing, and that’s an intimidating for most women. So if she’s not interested in you she might still laugh at your jokes and smile and nod when you talk.
For many men this is just downright confusing. It feels like we’re getting totally mixed signals. Moreover, the #metoo movement seems to be teaching us that everything we’ve been told about romance is wrong—that pursuing a woman is an expression “toxic masculinity.” It feels like we’ve been duped and that we should maybe just give up on the whole thing (see the MGTOW movement). But that’s not very productive.
In the words of NASA great, Gene Kranz:
“Let’s work the problem, people. Let’s not make things worse by guessing.”
How can you tell if a woman is genuinely interested in you (even if you think she’s playing “hard to get?”)
Turns out, women communicate quite openly and obviously if you’re paying attention. We men just need to learn to be better observers. Research published in the Psychological Bulletin suggests there are four common behavioral cues associated with attraction: eye contact, smiling, laughter, and initiating conversation.
It is the first and last cues in that list that are key—eye contact and initiating conversation. A woman might smile and laugh when you talk to her, but if she’s not looking you in the eyes and making her own conversation then she’s probably not interested in you.
When I see flirtation go south at my bar it is always because the man fails to recognize the woman has lost interest. She’s looking down at her drink and only responding to be polite and yet the man just keeps talking on and on—in fact he usually ends up talking more to make up for her lack of input. He gets anxious and more aggressive and maybe a bit snarky because he’s confused and frustrated. He can sense things aren’t going right but she’s still laughing and smiling at him, so she must still be interested, right?
Men, we all need to open our eyes a bit more and learn to accept failure with grace. If the woman isn’t looking you in the eye and she’s not really driving any of the conversation, it’s time to say “nice meeting you,” and leave it at that.
Period. Full stop.
The more we act in this way, the more comfortable women will eventually be in the act of flirting. They won’t have to be so guarded or annoyed because they’ll feel respected. We can eliminate much of the confusing behavior we see in women by changing our own behavior.
Ever have a drunk friend yank your ear off all night and you feel like you can’t get away? It sucks, right? Flirtation doesn’t have to be like that.
You’re talking to a random stranger. Chances are she’s not gonna be interested in you. And that’s totally okay. You don’t need to win her over. Her interest or lack-there-of holds zero bearing on your worth as a man. It’s hard to remember that sometimes, but it’s true. There’s no need to be sad or angry. If she wants you to pursue her, she’ll show you. If you don’t see the signs, then just be a gentleman and let it be.
That’s healthy masculinity as I see it. I think we need more of that.