Alexis on the Sexes: What's my line?

Tips for making a great first impression.
Updated 4/16/2015

Q: I’m a 27-year-old guy who recently got out of a nine-year relationship, and I’m having mini panic attacks about meeting women. I’ve been getting out and about, trying to do my best, but I have no idea how to approach that cute girl at the bar. I feel like I have to come up with an awesome first statement or be something unforgettable during that first impression.

How do women like to be approached? How can you tell when someone is open to being approached by a guy? I don’t want to come off as a creeper or desperate (because I’m not), but I do want to meet new people and restart my dating life.


A: I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve watched a guy blow it because he used some dumb line. I’d have enough money to take you out for dinner and tell you everything not to do when approaching a girl. Instead, I’ll give you the 101 version, with some personal experience. Report back after putting some of these pointers to work.

Firstly, don’t think you need a go-to line. Most of them are awful, and smart girls can smell the BS. Before you do anything, smile and make eye contact. If she’s looking back at you, preferably repeatedly, go ahead and approach her. Body language is fairly universal. If she catches you watching her and faces the other way, she most likely wants to be left alone. Oh, and don’t talk to the girl reading a book at the bar. She’s obviously not interested in talking to anyone. (Why she’s at a bar, I’m not sure.)

Smile, be friendly, and say something genuine. Compliment her style, her hair or her choice in beverage. A guy walked up to me in a bar not too long ago and said, “I’m sorry to bother you but I have to tell you that you’re the most beautiful woman in here.” Did it work? No, he wasn’t my type, but it’s memorably still the best thing any guy has tried on me. So many men use opening lines that automatically put women on the defensive. “Do you have a boyfriend?” is a terrible icebreaker that I hear regularly. In two seconds, I’ve learned that his only intention is to hook up and he thought it was OK to ask a stranger a personal question. Try things like, “I really like your hoodie, did you buy that around here?” or “Your hair is gorgeous, is it naturally curly?” We work hard or spend money on our appearance, so it’s nice when someone notices. Also, don’t touch girls you don’t know. It’s an invasion of space and it can feel threatening. My girlfriends and I sometimes yell, “Boundaries!” when a guy we don’t know touches one of us.

Have a drink to loosen up, but don’t get drunk. Someone tried to buy me a drink last Saturday and spilled half his beer on my leg in the process. On offering to buy drinks, if you do it when she’s already holding a full beer, she will probably say no (she has one, duh). Keep an eye on her glass, then offer to buy the next round.

I’m a huge proponent of group settings to meet new people. Coed rec leagues, trivia nights or whatever you’re into will introduce you to people with similar interests. Don’t discount your married friends; they make great, non-competitive wingmen. Steal one of your guys for a Saturday and take a taproom tour, then find a busy bar patio. There is a 100 percent chance you’ll talk to several women and end the night with a phone number or, at the very least, a new Facebook friend.

You’ll take a lot of swings, and a lot of them will be misses. Unfortunately, being new to dating also means being new to getting rejected. Take no for an answer, but don’t let it dissuade you from trying for a yes next time. If you get frustrated, take a break. It’s when you’re jaded that you become the desperate creeper, and nobody wants to talk to that guy.

This column originally ran on April 10, 2014.

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