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May 24, 1999   CONTINUED e-mail e-mail to a friend in need


Dear Breakup Girl,

I know the advice and it all makes a great deal of sense. If I'm always alone I need to expand my circle of contacts. I should get off of the couch and get out in the real world. Ya like Jazz? Go see some live Jazz. Ya like Shakespeare? Go out and see some live Shakespeare. Y'like active stuff? Go running and do some active stuff. It all seems so sensible.

But...how do you make it happen "where the rubber meets the road" as it were? (Maybe rubber wasn't the best choice of words in this context???..but never mind.)

Here I am ...I'm out at some festival enjoying the summer day maybe watching some al fresco theatre, I see a fetching woman across the verdant mead...she's into this event, I'm into this event.. she appears to be alone...we share at least one interest. I rack my brain to think of a way to connect to this other human being. Of course what actually happens is I think of nothing to say or do and two more ships pass in the night.

So how does it work? How do I convey the "Are you alone? 'cause I like you and I'm not an axe murderer" sentiment that I would like to express in these situations? It starts with "hello" and then....?

And while I'm at it how did all of you out there learn these skills? Was there a special class I missed? Is there a secret group of mentors who specialize in these things (besides BG of course).

-- Ted

Dear Ted,

See, you guys totally psyche yourselves out. "Hello" is an excellent start. And -- especially since, in the context you describe, "you share at least one interest" -- you've already said to BG the next thing you could say to the damsel: something like "Looks like you're into this event." That's it. (Hint: in such conversations, avoid "I'm not an axe murderer." Also, "verdant mead.") When being approached, people are not looking for people to say The Right Thing. We can sense People Who Are About to Say the Right Thing a mile away. Too rehearsed. You are not the one doing al fresco theater.

That said -- and this may sound contradictory -- it does take practice. Because no, you did not miss the memo on social skills. BG used to feel the same way about sports, you know. Most other girls at Breakup High seemed to have been born with lacrosse sticks in their hands. I was like, "How do you just know how to do that?" It was like in Fame when the music starts and everyone knows the song. But I decided one day to learn to play ice hockey (take THAT, you willowy gazelles!) and yes, it came slower to me than others, and yes, it took practice, and no, it does not always feel natural, but I do it. Oh, and also: I love it. Maybe even more, in a sense, than the people for whom it comes more naturally.

And that's why, for you these social interactions present an opportunity for, well, abject fear, but also for -- glass-half-full -- greater satisfaction. Those beings who have total social confidence (you know, unicorns) don't get to get that little "Who-hoo!Yay, me!" frisson when they step forward and say, "Hello! Looks like you're digging Henry IV!" You -- no matter what happens next -- do. So go get it.

Breakup Girl

PS Also. I've said this before, but it bears repeating. Shy folks. In terms of what will be effective, efficient, and satisfying for everyone involved, when you've decided you want to ask someone out, either [ball your fists, grit your teeth, and] ask him/her out, or don't. Especially with the relative ease/shelter of email, a lot of would-be relationships (or at least dates) take the form of these huggy flirty hangyouty chitchatty maybe someday interactions ... and that's it. At some point, for some people, this approach goes from flirting to flitting. Which is what gnats to. So.



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