One of the nice things about being married for a few years and getting older is it gives you some chance to look back on your pre-marriage romantic history with some sense of detachment and perspective. This is an important development if I’m going to be able to give solid romantic advice to my son or daughter. It doesn’t do kids any good to tell them what happened to you if you only see it through your eyes of long ago; tell them what it was like then, and what you think about it now that you’ve walked down the road a few years beyond. You have to be able to look back at your own experiences and talk objectively about what went right and what went wrong.
As it turned out, many things went wrong. I think that’s true for virtually everyone, though. I believe almost everyone I know has been hurt emotionally, even if only briefly, in the pursuit of love. That’s the sexual revolution for you; compared to our parents and grandparents and beyond, society allows us to make more choices and try out more options before making a commitment, but one person’s choice to move on is often another person’s moment of rejection.
Tonight we were at a function at Lily’s school, and Linus saw a girl who goes to his school. I saw him linger at the food line, watching her, and then I noticed she was doing the same thing to him. She was being a bit more forward than he was, actually taking a few steps toward him to stare at him. He, on the other hand, turned his back and kept eating. I mentioned to him that this girl, Cora, was looking at him. His eyes got very wide and he turned around to confirm. They made eye contact, she smiled, and he turned around and kept eating.
Understand, I wouldn’t have pushed him to approach her unless I had a really good idea that he wanted to talk to her. Nothing is worse than being prodded and teased as a youngster about those types of things. But I watched the boy watch her. I saw his reaction when he heard she was looking at him. And although I haven’t been interested in seven year-olds since I was nine, I could totally understand why he would be into her. That little leopard print coat. Those Mulan shoes. Girl had it going on.
I said, “Dude, she’s looking at you for a reason. I think she wants you to go talk to her.”
He shrugged. “Do I have to?”
“No, you don’t have to, but I think it would be nice. You could ask her how she likes her teacher.” That’s a perfect in for him, because he had the same teacher last year. I totally set him up, which makes me my son’s wingman.
To my amazement, he put his food down and went out in the hall to talk to her. The conversation lasted perhaps one minute. I asked him what they talked about and he said, “Do I have to tell you?” No, I said, of course you don’t have to tell me. A man’s entitled to his privacy. But I suspect the conversation went something like this:
Linus: “How do you like your teacher?”
Cora: “He’s OK.”
Linus: “I had him as a teacher last year.”
Notice there was no, “See you around”, or “So long”, or “I’m going to go back in the room and eat now” in my reenactment. I have complete confidence Linus just turned around, his obligation filled, and walked away. And that is completely, 100% fine. He has plenty of time to work on the niceties. In fact, maybe it’s a part of his Aloof Technique, which is not to be confused with the Hard To Get Method. They are different. Aloof Technique is much riskier, because it can also be conflated with the Paralyzed With Fear Response.
Aloof is one thing, Paralysis is another. You at least have a chance if you are seen as aloof. Only a fetishist goes for Paralysis, and you rarely see that kind of thing in grade school.
The important thing is, he got up to go talk to her. Doesn’t even really matter what was said. He overcame his reticence and he approached her, and lo and behold, it wasn’t as painful as he imagined.
And that brings up one of the most important things I have learned about girls. Over the years I have had conversations with girls I had crushes on at various points in my life, and I have learned there were opportunities I did not explore, that they were just as afraid of me as I was of them, and if only one of us had started the conversation, we could have dated for weeks or even months before deciding we were completely incompatible and moving on to someone else. OK, I won’t share that last part with him, but I will share that he has nothing to lose and everything to gain by just being friendly and talking to girls he’d like to be friendly with and talk to. And that it’s a lot easier to do than he thinks.
That’s what I will tell him. Lily will likely require advice that I am ill-equipped to give, but I think self-confidence and friendliness are winning choices no matter what. I will also advise them that only a European Master can successfully combine those with the Aloof Technique.
As we left the school tonight, Linus and Cora caught each other’s eyes again. Linus grabbed his coat, ran to me and said, “Hurry! Help me zip up my coat!” He needed help because he had put his coat on backwards on purpose. Once I zipped the coat he said, “Now put my hood up!” Despite safety concerns, I played the role of faithful wingman and did as he asked. Then he marched down the hall and as he passed her by I heard his muffled voice say, “See you tomorrow, Cora!”
“Linus!“, she shrieked, laughing hard.
Maybe he doesn’t need a wingman after all.