Early morning at the gym, another girl I see a lot. Guessing 30 years old. Pale skin and dark hair. Wholesome. I started to greet her in the morning awhile ago. Defensive vibe. Though I find her attractive, I’ve gotten no interest from her. No big deal. It’s not required. But it’s time to add her to my name list.
I clumsily approached while she was stretching. So she saw my shoes first as she stood up. Not my best walkup. I encroached on her space. She signaled fear.
“I didn’t mean to scare you… actually I did. (quick laugh)” I did my resolution pitch and offered my name. She played along with friendly discomfort.
“I’m Ledger.” [not her real name]
I scrambled to finish with some throwaway words and “you can go about your day…” Like a police officer. It was very brief.
I didn’t want to include, but some great takeaway for a fail. Some of which did not occur to me until writing this.
First, approach regardless. I lost nothing by going up to her even though her reaction confirmed my suspicion that she had no interest. I’ve had backfired approaches turn into positive interactions on subsequent encounters. Even if that doesn’t happen here, it doesn’t matter.
Human nature avoids embarrassment. But sometimes it has to suffer it and feel it. It’s like a toothache in your heart. It has this weird empty quality in the moment that feels just as empty on later reflection (unless you’re joking about it with someone else who was there). That’s an important feeling. It is like a failed attempt at a max lift. It’s not happening, but some kernel of the effort makes you stronger in the long run.
Second, if they give you nothing, keep it short. Common sense. Know when to fold ’em. Her demeanor did not invite conversation. Naturally, my brain did not summon anything else to say. I would gain nothing by forcing this.
Third, wait until they are in a position where all it takes is a mild head turn (at most) to see who they are dealing with. Going up to her while she was bent forward a couple feet in front of me was an invasion. My big mistake.
I also stood too close. But even if I had backed up a foot, it would have been bad timing. Wait until she’s standing up straight and I’m in or near her field of vision.
Fourth, sacrifice comfort to keep frame. From the start of this interaction, I was posting a savage loss. The only thing that could have made it worse would have been to self-negate entirely. I observed my impulse fighting to apologize profusely for the clumsy approach.
This 15 second interaction was like a Mortal Kombat death match between my shame and my security. My shame probably won. I self-negated by some fidgety movements and the impulse to dismiss myself with a joke.
But my security, the impulse to “own my own shit” put up a great fight. I caught my self-negating joke in midair and tried to claw it back. The finish of talking like a cop was not smooth either. But it did borrow an authority frame and was a feeble assertion of control. That assertion was not to win, but my conscious effort to assert what was left of my frame.
I’ve noticed that frame is always nourished by the genuine effort to assert it, no matter how clumsy.
Fifth, observe what you can. She maintained eye contact and was not reluctant to tell her name. But I read nervousness in her expression. And she moved her hand toward a nearby ledge (and away from me). This was a good tell of a bad signal: I don’t feel safe, I need to hold something that is secure. I need my Ledger.
Finally, it is heartening to break this down and see how I instructed her to indicate lack of interest. Bad spatial mechanics, bad timing, and a clumsy, self-negating delivery.
Wrong question: had I performed a better routine, would she have been interested?
Right question: had I performed a better routine, would she have been securely framed to express whatever interest she had? Yes.