Why Is Talking to Women So Difficult?

by: Sarah B 

I identify as bisexual.

I was back and forth about whether I was bisexual or lesbian for a nice long stretch of time — which was difficult because I was in a serious relationship with a woman for almost four years almost immediately after I figured out I was indeed legitimately attracted to the same sex. Now that I’m living the single life and getting my shit together, I’ve found a “label” (damn you) that feels comfortable, which is great. But along with this whole living-the-single-life thing, I have also discovered some things about myself. One of these things, a bit of an unsettling awkward embarrassing thing, I will share with you all, the public, the internet, right now… I have no idea how to talk to women I’m attracted to. Literally no clue.

It’s kind of pathetic, actually. When it comes to the opposite sex, I’ve got it. I can flirt along with the best of ‘em, and I rarely, if ever, feel intimidated by male-identifying folks or the idea of striking up a conversation with them, regardless of how hopelessly attracted I am to them. I’m much more willing to put myself out there and tell a man* that I find him attractive and would love to get to know him than to even look at a woman I’m attracted to. Seriously. Especially directly in the eye. That shit is intimidating as hell.

The first time I had a crush on a girl I actually knew and encountered in my everyday life, other than my ex-girlfriend, the first compliment I gave her was that I liked her backpack. I then proceeded to ask her if she wanted to share my baby carrots with me during our night class. Essentially, I turned into a kindergarten-aged boy, complimenting her on the things she owned instead of saying her hair looked nice or that her eyes were pretty or that she was really smart. And then I offered to share my healthful snacks with her, as if that would be considered sufficient as some sort of “date.”

This affliction has not gotten better with time. In fact, sometimes I feel as though it’s gotten worse. Now I’ve turned into a kindergarten-aged boy who ignores the women I find attractive. I have a hard time even starting conversations with attractive females. It usually ends up being a big mess of mumbling and looking down and blushing and saying something stupid or completely mundane. I plan out the perfect things to say in my head, things that sound sweet and suave, and then completely chicken out whenever I have an opportunity to say them. I’ll either forget what I was going to say, or I just don’t say anything. Ever. Sometimes it even gets so horrible that I can’t even look at a woman I find attractive. Which is just a serious problem for a variety of reasons.  With women, I turn into a socially inept child.

Just to make this entire thing even more awkward than it already is (because face it, at this point, why not go the whole nine yards and share exactly how embarrassing I am with the whole entire world), I currently have an interest/attraction/whatever to a woman I know. I can’t talk to her. When I say can’t, I don’t mean “won’t,” I mean can’t. I’ve tried to come up with something to say, I’ve played about eight million scenarios out in my head, but I always end up just staring at her wide-eyed like I’m constantly terrified or completely ignoring the fact that she exists. I’m pretty sure she either thinks I hate her or that I am super weird. Which is just sad. I’ve considered writing her a note, an email, a Facebook message, pretty much everything other than saying something in person, because if I were to try to do that, I am pretty sure I would have a heart attack and die or start sweating so profusely that it would be disgusting.

I’m not really sure why talking to women is so hard. Maybe it’s because I’ve had bad experiences with some very mean and spiteful women, and so the fear of rejection is worse than it is with the male sex. Maybe it’s because other women who are attracted to women don’t readily identify me as being into the same sex, and so I’m afraid of causing confusion or mixed-up signals (or hitting on a straight woman and then being ridiculed or made fun of, which is honestly one of my biggest fears ever). Then again, maybe it’s just because I’m still figuring out how to go about dating someone of the same sex.

Whatever the reason is, I hope I can figure this whole thing out and come up with a compliment/pick-up line that’s a bit better than “I like your backpack. Would you like a carrot?”

* I’m using the word “male” for simplicity’s sake, but this applies to all male-identifying people, not just biological males.

Sarah B is currently a senior at DePaul University. Her major is in Art History with a concentration in Latin American Art and her accompanying minor is in Spanish. She is passionate about Latin American cultures, good tequila, learning, smush-faced animals, and the TV showCommunity because she and her sister are Abed and Troy, respectively. In her spare time she can be found reading various books that have no similarities in theme, wandering the city like a lost child, and watching funny videos on the internet.

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3 responses to “Why Is Talking to Women So Difficult?

  1. I have this same issue with asking women out, too.

    I have made myself practice over the years, but it’s still heart-wrenching on the inside. I definitely have a fear of rejection but sometimes I find it worth it to take a chance.

  2. i do find it difficult trying to get a women out on a date. i’m definitely not shy, can talk to anyone. but it’s definitely worth the chance. 🙂

  3. As far as I can tell, I’m more intimidated in talking to women than I am with men because the predominant social paradigm says that women have power over men insofar as those men find them attractive, and that social interactions between women are always fraught; female/female relationships are thought of as less stable than those between men (brotherhood and fraternity, right?), which probably comes from ancient Greece where male/male homosexual relationships were an integral component of the mentorship of young boys. So where men are considered the default active party, love for a woman is considered driven by base instinct and not as lofty as the pure, intellectual love between men. (See Plato’s Symposium.)

    Basically, when I’m talking to a woman I need a lot of evidence to believe that I’m not talking to an instance of Most Girls (feminine, interested in pop culture and fashion, not nerdy or scientific.) In modern society, as in Plato’s day, the only consistent way for a woman to be accepted by nearly all male subcultures is to loudly signal that she’s not like a woman, but like a man – masculinity as being equivalent to ethical nature, intelligence and personhood. If I suspect that feminine women don’t have these traits, I think I can’t trust them not to be catty and betray me at the nearest possible opportunity, so I’m intensely awkward around them. Given this one would expect men who identify with masculinity to be uncomfortable around women, as indeed they have been historically, but I think modern society is so fixated with heterosexuality that there’s a standard script for men to simultaneously desire above all else and distance themselves on a personal level from women.

    It all breaks down to femmephobia. The only solution I’ve found to this is to use my awkwardness as a flirting strategy, which works on a really interesting subset of girls who like girls – the woman at the party who responds well to “So I’m wondering about the evolutionary pressures that caused female bodies to be rounder and softer than those of men” tends to be a really cool person by my standards. I’m not sure how I feel about this – in a society that consistently punishes feminine women by telling them they don’t have ethical natures, intelligence or personhood, is using hyperintellectual pickup lines a selection pressure against women who don’t care to loudly signal their intellectualism? The lines between actual masculine and feminine traits break down in a society that’s been defining and reinforcing constructed traits for those genders for thousands of years.

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