Last Friday night and I’m in the supermarket. My tummy is rumbling but I’m not looking for something for dinner, or even a bottle of wine, I’m looking for a man. Yup. Again.
This rejection therapy month appears to be turning into a ‘throw yourself at men and see what happens’ month.
And before you ask about The Greek, he is now back in Greece for the summer. He’s messaging me from Starbucks in Athens and I’m replying from whatever coffee shop I’m in but I don’t think it’s going to go anywhere. He’s a lovely man and I so grateful that we met but our lives are in different places. Literally.
Because I’m now a weird self-help junkie I believe that our paths were meant to cross and that we both made each other’s lives better but that doesn’t have to mean we stay together forever. Look at me being all open and New Age-y…
Anyway, I’ll keep you posted but in the meantime I want to keeping facing my fears when it comes to men.
This time my rejection mission is to approach at least two men in this supermarket and strike up conversation. It goes without saying that I’m acutely embarrassed. But hey ho, such is my life these days.
I sidle up to a tallish man (nice jumper) taking an ice cream from the freezer and think of something to say. ‘Er, have you had that flavour before?’ I ask. I feel like a tit. He looks at me and looks a bit bemused but he smiles and says ‘No.’
Me: ‘What is it?’ Him: ‘Peanut butter and raspberry jam.’ Then I think I must have made a face because he laughs and says, ‘Yeah, I know. Sounds weird. A bit too hectic maybe.’ I like his use of the word ‘hectic’ but before I can engage him in a fascinating conversation about vocabulary, he puts the ice cream back in the freezer, picks up some ‘Pralines and Cream’, smiles and walks away.
I take an ice cream and put it in my basket even though I know that I have no intention of buying it. I feel I need to stay in part. My heart is beating and weirdly, I feel rejected even though he was perfectly civilised.
I walk around with my decoy ice cream and spot another target at the ready-made salads. A small, arty looking man with a bright blue scarf is deciding between a bland looking Nicoise and an equally bland looking feta salad. He picks the feta. Yet again, I pounce with my trusty line, ‘Have you tried that one before?’ and yet again I get the same response. ‘No’ but this time I get a shy smile and twinkly eyes. ‘I hope it will be nice,’ he says, ‘it’s my dinner.’
He sounds Italian and seems like he would be happy to chat but I don’t know how to move this salad conversation forward. I blush, freeze and walk away, saying, ‘Enjoy!’ in a weird, fake voice.
I feel like an idiot but a brave idiot.
I go outside to report back to My Flirting Coach. Yup, My Flirting Coach.
When I wrote about picking up the Greek in the coffee shop, a few people told me about something called the Pick Up Artist community, and a whole education system that I never knew about – a system which teaches singletons how to flirt and how to pick up strangers. Most of it is geared at teaching men how to pull but it turns out there are lessons for women too.
Jean Smith, social anthropologist, teaches both men and women how to flirt on her monthly ‘Flirting Tours’ of London. It sounded cringe-making and embarrassing so, of course, I signed up.
We meet at the entrance to the National Portrait Gallery. There’s ten of us, three men and seven women, aged from late twenties to early fifties. Everybody is lovely – not weird.
A very pretty girl talks about being fine chatting to guys she’s not interested in but how she absolutely freezes when she likes someone. Tell me about it. An older man who has just come out of a marriage talks about doing this just to get more confidence. Jean, our teacher, gives her Motley crew a pep talk.
She tells us that the aim of the night will be to have a three minute conversation with a stranger. There is an audible intake of breath. She tells us not to panic.
‘If it leads to something else then fantastic, but if it doesn’t go anywhere it doesn’t matter. You can just say ‘it was nice talking to you, enjoy your evening’ and walk away. Nothing lost, nothing gained.’
And we don’t need to say anything remotely interesting either. Jean explains that we think we need to say something witty and fabulous but actually people don’t even notice, they are too busy thinking of what to say themselves so just say anything and ask lots of questions – people love talking about themselves.
But we before we’re allowed to talk to the unsuspecting public, our first task is to smile at three strangers in the National Portrait Gallery. I felt silly but fine.
Here is a picture of me doing just that. Yes, I look like a nutter and I’m crap at taking selflies. I don’t even like the word selfie. I’m too old for it.
Next we hit the streets where we’re told to ask for directions from two different people. We scatter like undercover cops on a mission. It was oddly thrilling.
I ask two men for directions to the station. One told me in a hurry but another guy seemed keen to stay and talk. His directions were very specific and involved instructions like ‘Take the road that’s at 3 o’clock, not 5 o’clock.’ Do streets have times? He then worried that that tube might be closed and gave me alternate routes. I almost felt bad for the trouble he was going to. It definitely went on for three minutes.
Then I hurried off to rendezvous with the group at Tesco, after which we head to Covent Garden where we’re told to disperse and ask a member of our ‘preferred sex’ if they know a good bar. I cringe. I walk around and around not gavin the guts to ask Spanish tourists for a bar recommendation for fear it will be TGI Friday, or they’ll just say ‘Que?’
The whole thing felt desperate and uncool and embarrassing. God, why does this business of being cool matter so much? I’m never cool even when I hope I’m being cool, so what does it matter to have three minutes of uncoolness with people I’ll never see again?
Finally I found two guys standing outside the tube and asked them if they knew a coffee shop nearby (for some reason I felt this was less uncool than the bar question, God knows why) ‘Thanks for interrupting,’ said one. I couldn’t tell if he was joking or not. I apologized and other said ‘Why do you want coffee at this time of night?’ It was 8pm at this stage – fair point really.
Anyway, long and short of it, they were rude and horrible and I was most definitely rejected. It stung for about five minutes. I had old thoughts that if I was skinny and blonde they would not have done that. But of course even if I was skinny and blonde they would still be horrible.
So I got over it very quickly. Result. At the end of the night we had a drink and Jean dispensed more wisdom.
‘Fear of rejection is at the root of everything,’ says Jean. ‘But why do we let somebody else decide if we are good enough or worthy? Most of the time when people reject us it’s not about us, it’s about them. They might be having a bad day, be seeing someone or, in their case, very rude. In which case, would you want them? You’re not right for each other. Nothing lost, move on.’
She said, quite rightly, that we have more chance of finding someone we like if we initiate conversations rather than wait for some brave soul to come to us. She also said that we can build people up if we don’t know them – we might see someone who is good looking and imagine them to be perfect in our heads. A five minute conversation might determined they’re dull as hell – but at least we’ll know. I think that’s really true. All the time I’ve wasted thinking about what some man I didn’t talk to might have been like.
She also says that being proactive is not desperate it’s actually very sexy and flattering to anyone on the receiving end. She tells the story of going up to a guy in a bar and saying: ‘You look thirsty, what are you drinking?’ She said he nearly fell over with shock and they ended up going out for five years. She also told us that one of her past pupils ended up going out with a guy she met during the Tesco exercise. She asked him which rice was best for curries and he asked her if she’d like to go out for curry with him. It’s the stuff of urban romance legend! We eat it up. Anything is possible!
I left the evening feeling very positive and uplifted, and I took that positivity to a bar in North London where a friend was celebrating her birthday. I must have been giving off something different because I got chatted up by not one but two men. One was a twenty-six year old who was sweetly surprised when I told him I was ten years older than him and another was a man so drunk I struggled to understand what he was saying. ‘I’m not drunk,’ he corrected me. ‘I’ve got a speech impediment.’ Classic. My kind of guy.
And if you’re interested in the flirting tour visit flirtology.co.uk for more information. I’d highly recommend it. Jean is very clever and interesting and the whole thing is surprisingly good fun. And I’m not being paid to say that.