Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Too Much Mouse, Not Enough Cat
As Yogi Berra once said, "you can observe a lot by watching." Pay undivided attention to something - anything - for a little while and you'll be surprised by all the nuances you can pick up on. It really can be anything - the way your dog picks out his napping spot, the timing patterns of traffic lights, or the go-to phrases of your favorite (or least favorite) broadcasters. Recently I've taken my step-back perspective and used it to observe a timeless art of human courtship, namely the behavior of men and women in bars.
I used to always wonder how funny it would be to see a Discovery Channel-type documentary on humans done in the way you see it so often done with wild animals, including some British-sounding voice narrating the interaction between, and pursuit of, both genders. Well, it turns out, something to that effect has already been made (beaten to the punch on yet another idea). In any event, my main conclusion is that men and women pursue each other like it's a cat-and-mouse game. I'm not exactly breaking new ground with that, but the comparison is valid nonetheless. Before I say anything further, let's make it clear that this is a pretty big generalization made from a small but semi-respectable sample size, and while it's far from definitive, it's not outrageous either.
Your typical bar scene consists of males in the act of pursuit and females in the act of trying to be pursued. Men scour the room looking to see which women they want to go over to, and women scour the room looking for which men they want to come over to them. And so the game ensues. Women do their fair share to try to attract the attention of those they deem desirable, but most of it is nonverbal and passive - a glance here, a half smile there, maybe even an attempt at eye contact - it is all a momentary lowering of the drawbridge over the moat of inapproachability. Unlike the male approach to directly engage, the female approach is merely to facilitate interaction, not necessarily to initiate interaction.
Case in point - John, Kevin, and I were out a few Fridays ago, enjoying 3 dollar Guinness at a comfortably crowded bar with a band playing that almost didnt suck. As we were standing near the bar discussing baseball trades, three not bad-looking women made their way over and sat down at the table about 3 feet behind us, abound with "talk to me" body language. Almost simultaneously, three seats opened up at the bar, which I implored us to take because I had a bad hamstring at the time and my legs were killing me, plus how often can you get 3 seats at the bar at 11:00 on a Friday? We sit down at the bar, at which point Kevin notes "those girls behind us looked like they wanted us to talk to them, they're probably pissed." Sure enough, they left less than 10 minutes later in a small huff.
Of course, we'll never know if they left as a result of our supposed indifference or not, but it's still easy to picture one or two of them venting on the car ride home, "how dumb are those guys...didn't they notice that we sat down close to them and smiled in their direction?" Which brings me to my underlying issue - why do so many people consider it the male's obligation to get the ball rolling? If you really want to try to get to know me or one of my friends, it's not against the law to say "hi" yourself. Is it some underlying feeling of having the lower hand when you are the approacher as opposed to the approach-ee? Do some people really consider it beneath them to have to go up to someone else? Is it some female tendency to want any man to be able to read her signals, thus failing to act upon a woman's subliminal inviting messages means an instant disqualification? Of course, it could just be the fact that, when you're the approach-ee, you have surefire knowledge that the approacher is interested in you, whereas, if you're the approacher yourself, part of you is never quite sure right away if your target is actually attracted to you or if they're just being nice until they can invent an excuse to get away.
Obviously, we humans have done a decent enough job of pursuing each other over the years, hence our existence as a species. But I leave you this evening with this bit of wisdom: men are a preoccupied species. Our minds are a clouded archive of sports facts and movie quotes, and that's before the first pints of the night are poured. It took us decades to realize that when a woman utters the phrase "I'm fine," it means the complete opposite. So please, take that into consideration if you're trying to attract our attention, especially after a few beers. Because that point, we can't tell if a glance or two in our direction means you want us to talk to you, or if you're simply trying to look out the window to see if your car has a parking ticket on it or not.