In Toxicity, I said:
It’s assumed to be trivial to pick up men (which, speaking as a man who has been on the receiving end of many a clumsy come-on, definitely not true), and basically everything I can find on women picking up women is, well, porn.
And in response 7zl said:
But do tell about these clumsy come-ons you’ve encountered — it’ll be a “what not to do” sort of learning experience.
Which I think may count as a sort of “dating tips” post, and given that I was just talking about the lack of those, I suppose I ought to sort some of these out. Let me throw down some categories of the worst come-ons I’ve received. Once again, these mostly come from the realm of internet dating:
- Comparisons to celebrities
It’s possible that this is just a personal pet peeve. Drawing close parallels between me and someone else just really bothers me, and I don’t know if other people experience it that way.
That said, it’s especially banal and uninteresting when it’s a celebrity. Partly because they mostly have nothing to do with me except that they’re white guys with beards. Jonathan Frakes (or Commander Riker), Judd Nelson (recent, not circa The Breakfast Club), “Doctor Who with a beard” and “Kal-el with a beard” all fit this category–all real comparisons that someone has used to hit on me. None of them even remotely believable.
- Coming on too strong
This one’s really hard to quantify, because there is a fine line between it and “being assertive”. This usually (not always, or even close to, but usually) comes from the guys who message me, and the worst examples are completely over the top, like the guy who invited me to a “sex party in a barn” in rural Illinois.
More subtly, thought, really gushy first contacts just make me self-conscious. Or ones that are too explicit. I don’t mind a bit of innuendo or even a little exnuendo, or even a lot of these, and I don’t mind moving really fast. I’ve been known to send messages myself that say things like “you are brain-meltingly hot”. I guess the only place I can draw the line is when someone gets in touch in a way that feels like they’re taking liberties. Like, they’re already deciding what sex acts we’re going to perform, or have a place in their existing relationship structure that they’re trying to slot me into.
This happens in person, too. Please do not smack my ass or grab my crotch until you have some reason to believe that I want you, personally, to do these things. I will extend to you the same courtesy. And if you are not part of a very specific subset of the people I know, and I go to sleep alone and wake up with you next to me, there will be trouble. You’ll know if you’re in that subset. I’ll tell you.
- Not putting in enough effort
I know, this can be confusing after the previous one. But I get a lot of messages that have no content from profiles with no real information. I’m a gregarious guy, and I don’t mind providing more than my fair share of the conversation. But you have to give me something to riff off of, or else you have to be so inherently fascinating that merely drawing my attention is sufficient. That’s happened, but as a general rule at least asking a question or something is really important.
A corollary of this is that you have to be willing to put in part of the effort of getting together if things are going well. When someone says “Hey, I’d like to meet you”, a reasonable response isn’t “find something interesting and make all of the plans and then contact me with a time and a place and I’ll decide”.
On OkCupid specifically this probably means “no winks”, but I’m not willing to lay down completely rigid rules here. Which… isn’t super helpful, I guess. Sorry.
- Assuming too much
I don’t know if this happens to anyone else, but my profile has gotten more and more explicit over the years as people write to me assuming that I’m something I’m not: submissive, sadistic, interested in helping them cheat, a fan of Ayn Rand, etc. I don’t really know what to say here, other than if I haven’t said it and you haven’t asked about it, I don’t know why you’d think you know it.
Also, I’ve stopped mentioning that I’m bisexual in front of strange men because it is too often taken as an opening for a really aggressive advance. Jesus, guys. Slow the fuck down.
- Body parts
Maybe this is prudish or sex-negative of me, but I would kind of like to see your face before I see all of your other body parts. I totally understand a desire for privacy in this world, and not wanting to show your face to strangers. But, well, I’d like to see it before I see your naked ass, or your breasts, or your cock. Or even just all of your tattoos. I’m not going to psychoanalyze this stuff; I don’t assume it’s pathological or anything. I just like faces. I totally understand if this has been successful for you with other people, and will gladly shake your hand and go a different direction. No, your hand.
Assuming that you don’t mind showing me your face, though, I will gladly look at any other pictures you want to send along.
Okay, so, that aside, what has worked well for people contacting me?
I really, really like finding out what people are about. A discussion of something that really interests you or a way-over-the-top passionate rant about something you hate is a great way to catch my attention.
- Asking questions
Reading something in my profile and asking me to expound on it is a great way to catch me. I love to talk. Or type. Not write–I have motor dysgraphia–but I will type at you all day.
- Suggesting that we meet
This is great! It puts the ball in my court, and now it’s my turn to make a proposal as to how and where. This is a good amount of give-and-take. Similarly, if I suggest a meeting, then mentioning that you have some time on Thursday is also fantastic.
- Coming on just strong enough
I wish I could put this more clearly, but hitting the right level of bantery I-really-think-you’re-great is really good. Too explicit too fast is a turn off, and being too aloof is a turn off. But making it clear that you’re interested without making me feel pressured is perfect. Maybe I’m too difficult, but the people who can manage this make it really work for me.
In person caveat: I can be a little thick about taking hints face-to-face. More than once, someone has hit this point and, when I didn’t immediately respond in kind, backed way down. I get it, because putting oneself out there is nerve-wracking, but falling back too fast leaves me confused as to whether I’ve done something wrong, or I just read too much into it in the first place. In fact, the only reason I know for sure that this has happened is when someone tells me later, or they ask why exactly I didn’t respond. Asking why is good, though; it can be uncomfortable for me if I have to tell you you’re not my type, but taking that well ameliorates the discomfort, and on the other side if I didn’t mean to chase you off we might end up in an epic-makeout-session-turned-fling-turned-six-year-relationship. It’s happened.
I worry that all of this makes me sound super picky, but I kind of am, so there’s that.