While spending the past year conducting interviews and research for my upcoming book about the post-dating world, WTF Is Up With My Love Life?!, the most surprising realization I have had is that modern men are just as eager as their female counterparts to discuss the currently ambiguous non-dating scene. Conventional publishing wisdom tells us writers that men don't buy or read these types of books - and maybe they don't. But wow, do they like to talk about these romantic issues!
Equal numbers of girls and guys submit questions for my online advice column. The comments sections in every corner of my website are filled with men who passionately share their opinions and experiences about love. My original plan to focus on interviewing women for the book gave way to a desire to create a more equal opportunity dialogue, after I saw how willing guys were to delve into these bigger questions of what men and women want and where communication and expectation between the sexes has broken down. Men, at least young men of our generation, love to dish on this stuff.
So having spoken to many guys in the past year, I will sometimes notice a belief or attitude that I hear from them over and over again. A 'truth' about the male psyche that they seem desperate to share with women - and about which women often have very little clue. In particular, these truths tend to come up when I ask one of the key questions that perplexes people in this confusing post-dating world, where traditional dates and explicit proclamations of interest are nearly extinct: How can a girl tell if you're into her? And here's the answer that guys always give (in their own unique language, of course):
If I'm talking to her, then I want to sleep with her.
To clarify, these guys aren't saying that if they're talking to a woman, then they want to date her, or introduce her to their parents, or marry her. They're saying the most basic of things: that if they are talking to you, then they are attracted to you.
I've heard this answer in many forms. One guy told me, "If I just give you a sidelong glance, then sure, I probably don't want to sleep with you. But if I am standing there, listening to what you're saying and keeping the conversation going, then yes, I want to sleep with you." Another group of guys explained their system of "Zeros" and "Ones." If you're a One in their mind, then they'll talk to you - because they want to sleep with you. If you're a Zero, then they won't and they don't. Many guys have said to me (always with a caveat about how they know it sounds terribly misogynistic and offensive, but hey, what can you do?) that unlike women, who often engage in conversations with men and other women simply because they find them interesting or feel social pressure to be friendly, they just don't bother putting any time or energy into conversing with a women to whom they're not attracted. As one very straightforward interviewee put it, "Look, Jess, I support your project and I think what you're doing is great. But as a guy, it's really not that complicated. I'm talking to you; therefore, I think you're attractive. Done. End of story."
So how can this knowledge be helpful to us women? The guys who I interviewed are the first to admit that, just because they're talking to you - aka are attracted to you - that doesn't mean that they're necessarily going to call you and follow up. A great, attraction-fueled conversation doesn't always lead to a romantic future (although it often leads to a Facebook friend request, which can be a start!).
However, understanding this basic fact about men can be beneficial to us because, during our more insecure or neurotic moments, we can give ourselves permission to shut off one small part of our brain - the part that is wondering if he's even attracted to you, or if that dress makes you look fat, or if the humidity is causing your hair to expand to new heights, or if that girl at the next table looks cuter than you. It turns out that guys are not sitting there thinking, "You know, she's okay, but I'd be more attracted to her if her nose was a little bit smaller." He's talking to you? Then he's attracted to you. You're either a One, or a Zero. And if you're a Zero to him, then you'll barely even know. Because guess what? You're not talking to him. No time wasted there.
So the next time you're having a conversation with a guy, stop thinking about whether he finds you attractive. Hint: he does. Instead, focus on aspects of your conversation that will likely impact what happens after the initial attraction. Find common ground, display your charming personality, decide if you're attracted to him. And use the knowledge that he's attracted to you to flirt a bit more confidently than you normally would. You're talking to some guy who wants to kiss you - that should be fun, right?