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Recently, a guy at a local bar struck up a conversation with me. We spent over an hour swapping stories and cracking each other up, but, to my surprise, he ended up leaving without asking for my number. While it’s possible that he had a girlfriend or just wasn’t into me, this sort of thing happens to me pretty frequently. What do I have to do or say to get a man to ask me for my phone number?

--Failed Flirt

A guy doesn’t chat you up because his vocal cords need exercise. He’s thinking of asking you out. At the same time, he’s worried about his ego: Will you grab it, throw it on the floor, and jump up and down on it? Drop it from a tall building to see if it bounces when it hits cement? Club it like a baby seal and make change purses out of its hide?

If you think there’s even a small chance you’d be willing to remove clothing in his presence, give him a visual signal that it’s safe to proceed. He’s waiting. And waiting. And waiting -- presumably, just like the rest of the guys who eventually slunk out of bars, parties, and coffeehouses without asking you for your number. Assuming you aren’t hideous, man-bashing, dull, unpleasant, desperate, and/or lacking in gay-dar, there’s a very good chance they cut out because you weren’t exactly spraining an eyelid batting your eyelashes at them.

It doesn’t help that men seem to have gotten the message that they’re supposed to be about as sexually aggressive as neutered kittens. Supposedly, this is what women want. Well, it is what some women want: the loony-tunes, “all-men-are-rapists” radical feminists (“In seduction,” bleated Andrea Dworkin, “the rapist bothers to buy a bottle of wine”). These days, nobody in polite (leg-shaving) society takes these “wymyn” seriously. Unfortunately, it isn’t exactly a huge stretch to trace a path from their demented ravings to women who feel vaguely guilty about “demeaning” themselves by wearing glittery eye shadow, and men in bars who are quick to assume that no response means no.

Luckily, anthropologists, after years of spying on people on the prowl, have come up with a definitive list of the body language that tells a man a woman’s gone all twisty for him. Topping the list are the come-hither look (gazing at him, then dropping her eyelids and glancing away), smiling, giggling, playing with her hair, smoothing her clothes (when they’re not at all wrinkled), and touching him (a biggie). But remember, deep down, the average guy considers it a miracle if a woman will even entertain the prospect of having sex with him. Repetition is the surest cure for men’s innate self-doubt. The first time you brush your hand across a guy’s arm, he’ll think it was an accident. The second time, he’ll wonder if it was intentional. The third time, he’ll probably start searching for a matchbook and a pen.

Of course, that assumes you’re doing this stuff because you’re feeling the groove, not because you’re self-consciously attempting to flirt-by-numbers. The difference? Whether there’s lust underlying your message. In the words of the French author Colette: “When she raises her eyelids it’s as if she were taking off all her clothes.” The essential point you have to keep driving home with every hair toss and come-hither glance is “I’m a girl and I might let you see me naked.” Sure, your thigh-slapping wit in storytelling and joke cracking is a plus -- as well as something you might have in common with the beefy lug your guy’s going up against in the Burp Olympics at the sports bar.


Copyright ©2003, Amy Alkon, from her syndicated column, "The Advice Goddess," which appears in over 100 papers across the U.S. and Canada. All rights reserved.