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Should Women Ask Men Out On Dates?
The short answer: No.

The longer answer, from "The Missing Wink," my Advice Goddess column I just posted:

Men are most attracted to what’s slightly out of reach, not what’s throwing itself in their laps, crushing their yarbles. Sure, they’ll say they love it when women ask them out. They also love women who’ll have sex with them 20 minutes after meeting them in a bar, but they aren’t going to make them their girlfriends. In the unlikely event they ask for a second date, it probably won’t be “Can I take you to a movie?” but “Meet me in section P3 of the parking garage.”

The question is, do you want to be politically correct or romantically successful? There are those who insist men and women are exactly the same -- perhaps prompted by all the good ole boys they see breast-feeding babies at Denny’s, or by the proliferation of NFL logo-imprinted Kotex. Data does show that men and women are cognitively very similar. Additionally, notes evolutionary psychologist David Buss, both sexes get skin-protecting calluses, have taste preferences for fat, sugar, and salt, and developed sweat glands for bodily cooling. Where men and women diverge, writes Buss in a 1998 analysis of sex differences, is in domains in which they’ve faced “different adaptive problems over human evolutionary history.”

Few people truly understand how far we haven’t come. While it’s only a matter of time before you can nag your robo-vacuum via e-mail, psychologically, you’re still the cave girl next door. Back in the Pleistocene era, when birth control meant being a fast runner, having sex could yank a woman off the mating market for nine-plus months, then stick her with a hungry kid -- long before readily available frozen pizza replaced readily diggable crawly grubs. A man, on the other hand, merely gave up a few minutes of his time and a teaspoon or so of sperm.

Now, there are a lot of really bad places to be a single mother, but probably one of the worst ever was 1.8 million years ago on the savannah. The ancestral women who successfully passed their genes on to us were those who were choosy about who they went under a bush with, weeding out the dads from the cads. Men had a different genetic imperative -- to avoid bringing home the bison for kids who weren’t theirs -- and evolved to regard girls who give it up too easily as too high risk for anything beyond a roll on the rock pile.

Sure, these days, you can slap a medicated sticker on your back and run around having lots of pregnancy-free fun. Unfortunately, as evolutionary psychologist Don Symons writes in The Adapted Mind, “Natural selection takes hundreds or thousands of generations,” so don’t count on our genes getting the message to upgrade to Cave 2.0 anytime soon.

Forget worrying about what’s equal or unequal, and stick to what works: A woman targets the guy she wants and flirts to let him know he’s got a shot. If he doesn’t ask her out, he’s either a weenie or not interested. Either way, if she tries to force a relationship, it’s unlikely to end well. As for accusations that the “old-fashioned” (see reader's question) approach is a form of “disempowerment” practiced by women who secretly hate women -- if anything, it’s the disempowerment of women who secretly hate women who have dates.

The entire Q & A is here.

Posted by aalkon at May 24, 2006 6:54 AM

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It's possible to get into relationships with those "weenies" if you do most of the pursuing, and I can understand why a girl might stick her neck out for a guy who is maybe a little too shy and not very confident. But in my experience they remain just as shy and lacking in confidence after you are in a relationship with them as they were before. Maybe it's my Cave 1.0 wiring, but I like a guy with a little game, who takes some initiative and pursues me.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at May 24, 2006 10:54 AM

PJ's comment notwithstanding-- A lot of women don't know how to flirt. As Carolla put it a few years ago: 'When a good-looking woman says she has a great sense of humor, it means she liked that part on Friends last night when Matt Leblanc made that face.' Lots of women never develop skill at listening or wordplay.

Posted by: Crid at May 24, 2006 12:09 PM

You're absolutely right, Crid. That's a subject of other columns, as is women's tendency to dress like they're on their way to repair somebody's septic tank.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 24, 2006 12:24 PM

Some guys, myself included, just have no clue a woman is flirting with them unless a third party points it out afterward. Usually that third party is my wife... who asked me out 21 years ago.

Posted by: Eric (they call me MISTER Weenie.) at May 24, 2006 1:37 PM

I don't know that I'd say that all women who ask men out are doomed to spinsterhood. But I will say this: if I'm pursuing more than one woman, the most eager one is very likely to be the least desired.

Posted by: snakeman99 at May 24, 2006 1:54 PM

Eric, the thing for guys like you is to pursue any woman you're interested in and see rejection as a sign that it's time to ask somebody else, not take it personally.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 24, 2006 2:31 PM

> Some guys, myself included, just
> have no clue

I'm in the weenie club and tired of beating myself up about it. And tired of women coming up 15 years later to say "Y'know, 1987 could have been something special" when at the time they could never muster anything more personal than "Pass the salt." I don't know if women should ask guys out or not, but neither gender is excused from pursuing their interests courageously.

Posted by: Crid at May 24, 2006 2:40 PM

I have no "gay-dar" as well. Working near Laguna Beach 25 years ago I just thought lots of the guys coming through my supermarket checkout line were chatty. To some degree, it goes back to the old Groucho line "I wouldn't join any club that would have me as a member".

I am not sure the old evolutionary rule apply to male/female relationships today.

Posted by: eric at May 24, 2006 2:50 PM

It's a woman's job to flirt her ass off...especially if the guy's the kind of guy who obviously is going to be slow to get it. I've always gone for those guys, so I recognized that.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 24, 2006 3:28 PM

when the gender mix deviates from 50/50, interesting things happen.

unfortunately, i've been on the wrong side of that mix for seven years and counting.

personally, i'd like a woman if she hit on me, but mostly because she doesn't have a penis, and is therefore disrupting a disturbing trend.

Posted by: g*mart at May 25, 2006 1:41 AM

My wife asked me out for our first date.

Posted by: Oligonicella at May 25, 2006 7:23 AM

My wife asked me to her New Years Eve party, and I brought a date. She wasn't very specific...

Posted by: eric at May 25, 2006 7:27 AM

"My wife asked me to her New Years Eve party, and I brought a date. She wasn't very specific...

Posted by: eric at May 25"

I don't know if this is absolutely true, or 33% made up. I don't care. It is very funny (and - yeah - adorable). Thanks, eric.

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at May 25, 2006 8:01 AM

Most guys want to feel like they won the prize deer with their skill and cunning, not hit it when it ran out into the street.

Posted by: Todd Fletcher at May 25, 2006 10:47 AM

Oh, just follow your gut. I suspect people are born with social plumage specifically tuned attract their particular counterpart. Tamper with Mother Nature's filters at your own risk.

Posted by: Paul Hrissikopoulos at May 25, 2006 11:16 AM

I swear that is true Jody. My girlfriend at the time and my (now) wife despised each other after 5 minutes. My girlfriend had us leave after about an hour, and we spent the evening outside the Balboa Island Village Inn breaking up, loudly. My wife ended hooking up with her roommates father, which ended the roommate situation very quickly.

Ahhh, the 80's.

Posted by: eric at May 25, 2006 12:54 PM

Women find me repulsive.

Posted by: Jim Treacher at May 26, 2006 2:19 PM

Bottom line is: go with the flow. All those should I? shouldn' I? what about the rules? am I following the 10 steps to success? etc., are sure to fail.

Posted by: Frog in L.A. at May 26, 2006 5:16 PM

If a women wants me to ask her out she better make it obvious that she wants that. I'm tired of the "i'm pretty and don't need to say anything" women. It's true that most women don't know how to flirt. Expecting every guy to leap on you based on your physical appearance is stupid.

Posted by: chris at July 8, 2006 4:59 PM

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