Occasionally, I hear women wonder why some (most?) guys don't seem to pick up on the hints and signals they emit. Speaking as a guy, here are some possible reasons why this is the case. I don't necessarily do these, but I can at least relate to them in some situations.

  • If a guy acts on the subtle signals that women try to emit, then sooner or later he'll probably get himself into an awkward situation where he basically makes an ass out of himself, and/or winds up upsetting some women (more on that in a second), and/or gets in trouble somehow because he misinterprets them.
  • If a guy is around long enough, sooner or later he runs into some woman who actually gets offended if he asks her out. I don't understand the female psychological process behind this, but there it is. If a guy is just unlucky and this happens several times in a row, he might finally decide to wait until he has some obvious indication that a woman likes him before he does anything.
  • Some guys, for whatever reason, suffer from just friends syndrome. That is, the unlucky guy has many female friends, but that's all he is to them. That's actually not so bad, but this syndrome seems to be contagious, with subsequent women following suit. These are the guys who get the calls at 11PM or 2AM on some Friday night from a crying female friend who wants him to come over and comfort her after she gets dumped, or when her dog dies, or whatever. Been there, done this one. I think some guys must emit some kind of friend pheromones or something.
  • Sometimes women do bizarre things. For example, they figure out that a guy is attracted to them, and even though they are attracted as well, they do something bizarre like avoiding the guy. After taking enough of this kind of crap, the guy in question tends to change his game plan. This one I have experience with.
  • Many times women are way too subtle. They don't have to be obvious, but being a little too subtle tends to cause problems. Why? Because the guy can't tell whether the woman is just being friendly, or if she's attracted to him. He also can't tell if she has a boyfriend, is married, or is otherwise committed. This is about ten times worse if the setting is in a situation where the woman is being paid to be friendly, such as if she's a waitress, checker at a store, or any other kind of service position.
  • Sexual harassment hysteria has bred an entire generation of young men who have no idea what is permissible and what isn't. These guys know what is acceptable and what is not in a sane society, but American society isn't sane. Is it good or bad to open a door for a woman? (I've gotten bitched out for that.) I've gotten bitched out for telling someone happy birthday! (And no, it was simply a "Hey, happy birthday!" Not a "Happy birthday. Your room or mine?" or anything dumb like that.)
  • Guys have been accused of stalking (which is another example of media-driven hysteria) for doing simple things like sending a girl flowers, or showing up at the business she works at (e.g. a restauraunt or a coffee shop). Guys who are more sensitive (women want sensitive guys, right? :) to this kind of thing tend to avoid situations where their actions can be misinterpreted like this, and play it safe. (Thus they never get anywhere, and also don't appear to pick up on female signals.)
  • If a woman (who doesn't have some glaring physical, personality, or mental disorder) asks a guy out, the guy can say either yes or no. If he says no, life putters on as usual. If a guy (who doesn't have some glaring physical, personality, or mental disorder) asks a girl out, the previous may happen, or her boyfriend (who he didn't know existed) comes over and beats him up, or she sues him, or she gets her girlfriends together to lambaste him. The latter is something which would most likely happen in an environment such as high school, but still, it's traumatizing enough to seriously screw up some guys. In any case, it doesn't make much sense, but there it is.

Now eventually, guys grow up just as woman do. They get a life, get a clue, and stop giving a damn what other people may or may not think. A lot of it has to do with environment.

So ladies, if you're trying to attract some guy who just doesn't get it, consider increasing the obviousness of your actions little by little until he gets it, or just break down and ask him out.

There are two possibilities here: He's just as much of a tedious coward (ie. an AFC) as she is, and so we end up with a situation where both parties allow themselves to be ruled by a fear of rejection. This mean that she gives him "hints" - signals that are supposed to show an interest but always allow her to deny to her friends and peers that she's been rejected. This is for some reason important to a lot of women. They then have the cheek to get frustrated with the lack of the man's advances. The man, in turn, is arrogant enough to believe that his peer group holds him in such esteem that being rejected by her would be so disastrous for his reputation, and is unrealistic to believe that always tip-toeing around the edges won't have him classed as a pansy or AFC by the people observing this. At some level he has a better understanding of the situation, so he rationalises his COMPLETE INACTION with the fact that some women think that any advance is sexual harrasment and similar american rubbish.

More likely is that he's not actually interested in her and so pretends not to notice these "hints" - women are rarely excited by passive and unexciting men. This can result in the same kind of situation, as he indulges these "hints" but doesn't act on them so as not to give her "the wrong idea", despite the fact that that's exactly what he's doing.

People, if you can identify with this situation, PLEASE stop being so passive. I'm not advising you to do this for your own sake but for the sake of the rest of us, who are sick and tired of hearing about this self indulgent mental anguish again - we've all heard it before and unfortunately probably will again, and I can assure you that the situation is probably not as interesting, unique or disastrous as you'd like to think. I'm surprised so many people have the patience for it.
It's very hard for me to understand why men think that they are the only ones confused, befuddled and wary in the mating/dating game. Women are only human, you know: they hate rejection, they're afraid of making fools of themselves, they don't know if a guy is single or not just by looking at him (especially since fewer men wear their wedding rings than women), they're not mind readers regarding whether the guy fancies them or not.

On top of all that, women are held back by millenia of social stigma and repression which casts them in the passive role - stupid and outdated this may be, but it is just as true as the fact that rejection, even though it's just rejection and not the end of the world as we know it, hurts. It's natural. Not to mention the fact that many women even in this day and age have been actively indoctrinated by their parents or religious guardians into the passive roles.

The only area in which men really are at a material disadvantage is the whole sexual harrassment hysteria foolishness. I can only sympathise with American guys - it's not so bad in most other parts of the world. As for why it's rude to open a door for a woman, follow the link for my theory.

I refuse to play this game at all. I have, as a result, never asked someone out. This is my policy and I'm sticking to it.

I'm not saying I won't ever act interested, but if you want to go out it's up to you to do something about it. It's not a matter of fear of rejection I just don't want anything to do with this silly little system of trying to guess what someone's really thinking and feeling at the moment without just coming out and saying it so I've opted out entirely. I'm just waiting around until someone comes out and does something because they have a significant interest and aren't the type of person who's afraid to just come out and say what they mean.

The effectiveness of this can be debated, but I'd like to think it worked: my current girlfriend cut right to the chase by avoiding any silly little signals and just coming out and kissing me.

Update: Six years later and we're still together. Coincidence...? ... or conspiracy!

Second update (11/26/14): I've been gone from the site for... years doesn't even seem right at this point. But coming back this is one of the first posts I was reminded of so another update is in order. The two of us are still together and stronger than ever. When I first wrote this we hadn't yet made it to our first anniversary, now we're closing in on 15 years together. Never married, never going to be, child-free, and non-monogamous.

Having spent many years in deep sexual frustration, I can identify with men who miss women's signals. I know I was one of them. Was being the operative word, at least most of the time. So, I'll pass on some fruits of my experience.

First, all people, regardless of gender, are individuals. This means that previous experience may or may not apply to your current romantic interest. My early romantic experiences left me with no definable pattern. Which led to more confusion and withdrawal. In time I learned that while women do have a consistent pattern of sexual signals, it takes a while to figure out what it is, and the pattern may not apply to your current interest. Like everything else to do with people, women have tendencies but no absolute rules. I have been out with women who touched you constantly, but had no interest in smooching. I have dated others who kept their arms around themselves, but were secretly dying for me. ( I learned this from her best friend-- turns out she was just as scared of screwing up as I). I have been rejected for not making an aggressive pass, and berated for trying too hard. So, if a boy meets someone a bit outside the norm early, he can end up really confused.

The other problem is getting turned down. It's natural, and most women do it politely, if you're polite to them. But girls, particularly in your school years, may reject a boy with deliberate cruelty. So a guy who hasn't figured things out yet, and has had a couple of bad or strange experiences can end up downright petrified. For many young men and boys, asking a girl out, or even walking up to say hi, requires making a leap of faith. Odds do not a apply, this is like tossing a coin and each and every trial has no relation to any of the others that have gone before it. So a boy may have to make not just one leap of faith, but many consecutive leaps until he develops the confidence and instincts required to relax.

One thing I had to learn the hard way is that everyone gets turned down once in a while. Even rock stars and Sean Connery. Sure, Tommy Lee got to boff a few famous women. Lots more have turned him down, and none of my ex-girlfriends would have given him the time of day. The truth is no matter who you are, there is no guarantee that the person you desire at the moment will desire you. That works both ways. I think most of us have experienced an unwelcome crush. Becoming a couple is a mutual choice. Which means you can get turned down for any reason or no good reason at all. Getting turned down doesn't mean you're ugly, or nasty. It isn't a product of having a good line or anything. It just happens. Heck, I was once turned down because she really liked me. Her feelings made me emotionally dangerous, which can be a real problem if the woman has been abused. When you deal with individuals, any outcome is possible.

So, if getting turned down really says nothing about you, therefore you have literally nothing to lose. Okay, so someone looks just perfect right now. And she said no. Well, if there are five billion people in the world, that means you have a couple billion others out there. In other words, keep trying.

Don't worry too much about being ‘smooth’. Smooth comes from relaxation. If you aren't relaxed you can't be yourself. One thing that helped me was to try and take the pressure off myself in the type of early dates I scheduled. Ask someone you like to a 'pre-date', say lunch or a drink after work or class. An hour or two together, no pressure, a situation where even a good night kiss is unlikely. Since you know you aren't getting any in advance, there's no reason to worry about it. And if you're attracted, and it's mutual, you both will figure it out. The experience makes asking for a ‘real date’ easier.

You don't have to be perfect. Real life isn't like the various Seduce and Destroy seduction systems so wonderfully parodied in the film Magnolia. There is no one system. You can make mistakes. In fact you will make mistakes. Mistakes come from being human. Just pay attention, and try to learn. Everyone makes mistakes, the key is not to see them as disasters. They're potential lessons. if you don't get out and make some mistakes, how can you learn from them? Anyone who really likes you won’t turn against you because of some minor faux pas.

One good reason to start out asking a lot of people is that we often don't know what kind of person we really like. Many times, the person who works for us isn't the person we think we ought to be dating. The person you want to date is the person you enjoy spending time with the most, and you think 'cute'. You should be friends. And if you decide you like them, it's okay to mention it. Once. And directly, because most people are not the Amazing Kreskin. If they say no, back off and pretend nothing happened. Don't bring it up again, or stop spending time with them. You've told them, so the ball's now in their court. If they change their mind, they'll let you know. But don't wait around for them either. Bitter experience teaches that carrying a torch only makes your right arm tired.

Romance can be a serious thing, but it doesn't work if you start out that way. It's a natural outgrowth of ordinary relationships. Ask people out in a way that minimizes the pressure on yourself. Dating is one area where Don’t worry, be happy is the right attitude

It's understandable that guys may not pick up on date-me-hints from women because of various reasons, a common one being that women sometimes hint too subtly. But what about leave-me-alone/cut-it-out hints?

This is what's been puzzling me the most especially because I feel I am not a subtle person when it comes to disliking something/one. When people (both genders) call me things like sweetheart, sweetie, cutie, honey, etc. I find it truly disgusting and I let them know. I say, "Don't call me that; it offends me and makes me uncomfortable. I'm not your pet." (Not to mention the fact that these words are all on an official list of words not to be used in school or the workplace because they can be considered sexual harrassment.)

Or in other cases, "Stop touching me, it bothers me (while making obvious motions/expressions of disgust from being touched)" "Don't pick me up, it freaks me out. I'm not a toy. (while screaming and kicking if they've persisted after I've told them to cut it out several times)" But yet, they persist; and I continue to request they stop. They insist that it's okay to continue because it's funny or whatever, so they're going to keep doing it. But hey, what about my feelings? I DON'T LIKE IT. LEAVE ME ALONE. AM I BEING TOO SUBTLE? Because I don't get it.

No, really. I want feedback. /msg me! Am I not being obvious enough?

"I figured it out!"

"What?" Beth had her teeth embedded in a crayon. Periwinkle. Old lady lipstick.

"I counted from here to the door and that's why I'm smarter. I counted! It's thirty-. Um." He ran out of fingers to hold up, scrunched up his eyes. "Thirty-four."

"Nuh-uh. You did it wrong." She picked a bit of wrapper off of her tongue.

Harry shook his head, quick like a bird. "I didn't. I did it like this." He demonstrated, like he was walking along a balance beam, heel to toe.

"Nuh-uh. You gotta do it backwards, see?" She did Harry's thing in reverse, looking straight ahead. "You did it the wrong way. It's shorter your way. You cheated!"

Harry wiped his nose on the sleeve of his overalls. "I'm still smarter than a girl."

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