Guest columnists and contributors are generously sharing their talents and insights while I’m taking some time to care for my new baby. Today’s essay comes from “His Take” contributor, Dennis Hong, who writes about relationships and other topics at Musings on Life and Love.
Ladies, meet Scott. That’s him in the middle in the photo. Yes, the one with the mane of hair and the pager clipped to his jeans. Scott and I were fraternity brothers at UCLA over 15 years ago, and for as long as I’ve known him, he has epitomized the term “chick magnet.”
Within the fraternity, there was a standing air of mystification over Scott’s ability to attract women. He didn’t have to say anything; he didn’t even have to make eye contact. The ladies would just magically flock to him — even during the most inopportune times.
Years after we graduated college, for example, a group of us met up in San Diego, at a hotel bar on the beach. We were sitting in a row along the bar, with our backs to everyone else at the place. At one point in our conversation, a seagull flying overhead decided to take a great big dump, and it landed right on the back of Scott’s white shirt. Of course, he was a little annoyed. But, being the laid back surfer dude that he is, he simply turned around and wiped it off. Noticing what had happened, a group of strangers at a table behind us lobbed a few words of sympathy towards Scott. One of the women in the group — a woman none of us had even noticed or spoken to — got up, walked out of the bar and returned ten minutes later with a bleach pen. She walked up to Scott and said, “Here, this will take care of the stain.” And before Scott had a chance to respond, she started cleaning off his shirt for him. We were ten years out of college, but Scott’s “talent” hadn’t faded at all.
Whenever I’ve been down about my dating life, the advice I get from friends usually revolves around the line, “Stop trying so hard.” And whenever I hear that, I’m reminded of Scott. In all the years I’ve known him, I’ve never seen Scott “try too hard.” Because he’s never had to. But I’m no Scott. I know I will never get approached by women with the ease that Scott does. So, I listen to my friends’ advice, and I remember all the other clichés:
“Just be yourself.”
“Smile, laugh, have fun.”
“Let the women come to you.”
Well, guess what? I am. I do. And they don’t.
I know that because I’m no Scott, I have to do something else to make myself more
visible to women. I can’t sit at the bar and play the brooding, mysterious man. Or the shy, quiet guy. Because I’m not hot enough to get away with that. Having a friend like Scott is a constant reminder that I have to try hard. And that’s why I get annoyed when people tell me to stop doing so. I mean, when did trying hard become such a bad thing? When did effort become a stigma?
We don’t tell a dyslexic kid to stop trying so hard, and to just relax and let the words flow from the page into his brain, do we? We don’t tell a fourth grader struggling with her math homework to stop trying so hard and just let the answers find her, do we? So why do we tell a guy who’s trying to meet people to stop trying so hard? The answer, I believe, is that “trying too hard” has become a euphemism for “creepy desperate.”
It’s a fine line, but I think it’s important to make the distinction between the two. Lavishing a woman with praise and telling her how she’s the most beautiful creature I’ve ever met and insisting on buying her a drink even after she’s turned me down? That’s creepy desperate. But going around and talking to people and making sure that I don’t just hover within my bubble of friends when I’m out? Call that “trying too hard” if you want. Honestly, though, I don’t see the problem with it.
The real problem is trying inappropriately. So, instead of telling someone he’s “trying too hard,” why not point out how he might be making people uncomfortable? Because clichés don’t help, but practical, specific advice does.
And for the non-Scotts who do have to try hard? I say go for it. Take every opportunity to approach someone and say ‘hi.’ Be friendly and warm. Be witty and funny. But remember the fine line between trying hard and creepy desperate.
And, if all else fails, Scott says he’ll hook you up with a seagull rental joint that’s done wonders for his dating life.
*Dennis Hong blogs about the life lessons he’s learned. Check out his
and his friends’ musings here.