July 19, 2009

The other day I was at the gym and noticed a man looking at me and smiling. For some unknown reason, I smiled back at him. It just happened. It was a quick smile, nothing at all inviting - but he took it upon himself to approach me. He was very tan and swarthy, middle-aged, and he walked over and said, "I like your face. I want to make it with you."

Who says that? Someone with a healthy ego. He didn't even love my face, he just liked it.

I asked where he was from. "Argentina," He replied. That explained it. Then he pointed to his shoulder length hair and said, "I got salt and pepper hair. Which is hard to find."

You know what else is hard to find? A man who thinks about what he says before he opens his mouth.

As someone who micro-analyzes every thought, I can't imagine what it must feel like to blurt out whatever comes to mind. It must be someone who doesn't care either way about the outcome.

"Pick-up lines are like verbal SPAM," my friend, Sherri, says. "No one pays attention and the person saying it doesn't really expect you to say yes."

Maybe that's the problem. It's not as though I felt he cared either way. He could have just as easily said, "I like your face. I want to go have a sandwich."

And also, I knew that as soon as I walked away, there would be another face around the corner he liked just as much as mine.

All of which led me to the conclusion that when men flatter a woman - it's not what they say, but how much they mean it. Or pretend to mean it. Recently a male friend was complaining about how the new woman he's seeing is having him 'checked out'. Checked out how? At first I thought he meant she was having him go for a physical at the doctor. Which, in my mind, would be the ultimate romantic gesture. But that's not what he meant. It was more like a background check. She was asking around about him and he was nervous the feedback wouldn't be positive.

"Why, because they'll say you're a womanizer?" I asked.

He paused. Then seeming puzzled asked, "What's wrong with that?"

The problem, I explained, was that having that label suggested he was disingenuous with women. He considered this even though he disagreed. "But when I'm with them in the moment, I mean what I say."

When will that excuse be retired? "In the moment" is the worst defense ever. No good can come from being in the moment. Why should this be a free pass to say whatever comes to mind? If it's common sense not to yell 'Fire!" in a crowded theatre, it should make sense not to say "I'd love to go with you to that wedding" just because you think someone smells nice.

When someone says "I meant it in the moment I said it" what he or she is really saying is: "I don't want to be held responsible for anything. Go away."

I guess you have to know your audience. If it's a casual encounter, unless you're dealing with a sociopath, chances are you can get away with saying something you don't mean because the investment isn't that great.

But even though I had no intention of ever seeing or speaking with the Argentinean again, I still didn't want him to feel rejected. So I did the considerate thing and lied. I told him I was married. His response? "I don't mind. I'm easy-going."

I suppose if you're going to hit on someone you have to believe they're lucky to be on the receiving end of your pick-up. When I said goodbye and walked away he had a look that said, 'What's wrong with you for passing me up?'

I have to stop smiling at strangers.