Wimp my ride
I've often had a woman sit across from me on some form of a date and tell me she just broke up with her boyfriend and isn't interested in getting involved. That's usually followed by how she's too busy with work, lacks the emotional energy for a relationship, etc. This time, the woman was on our charity bike ride planning committee. I was testing the course, and she asked to ride with me. During our ride, she asked for biking tips. I gave her suggestions and said I'd e-mail her specifics (which I did). She thanked me and asked to do another ride with me. After that ride, she told me she'd just broken up and all the rest about how unready she was to get involved. So, why be out with me? Her response: Women can have male friends, and I'm a "safe" person to be with. — Joe Spokes
When a woman you aren't in a relationship with says you make her feel "safe," think back a few minutes. Unless you just fended off a mountain lion or helped her escape from a terrorist compound, she's probably thanking you for helping her escape any chance of ever having to have sex with you.
You didn't ask her on a date; you found yourself on "some form of a date," which sounds like a pattern for you. It's probably because you're too wimpy to ask a woman out on what would sound like an actual boy-likes-girl evening. Maybe you hope if you hang around long enough, you'll graduate from loiterer to boyfriend. Instead of dates, you have schemes to keep her on the hook: act as her tour guide, e-mail a book report on how to be a better biker, and ... what's that? She's not ready for a relationship ... but would you mind emptying the litter box and reshingling the garage on your way out?
Of course, you and 10,000 other wimpy guys are now screaming, "What could possibly be wrong with going on a bike ride with a woman?" And yeah, she asked. And wasn't it sweet of you to type up all those bike tips? No, it was not. Sweet is bringing the little old widow next door a bowl of soup. If I'm right about you, you put out for women you barely know (in goods and services, anyway), not because you're a wonderful person, but because you want something in return — girlfriendly attention. In other words, you're a male prostitute — just without the sex.
A guy generally does this because he feels like too big a loser to be enough of a draw on his own, just over drinks. Women sense this, and drop-kick him into the friend (or friendly eunuch with bike tools) zone fast, when he otherwise might've had a chance. In this case, for example, things might've turned out differently if you'd invited the woman for a post-ride drink. In the future, if you're at all interested in a woman, ask her out; don't ask how you can help her out.
Instead of giving in to your fear of rejection, seek rejection — the sooner the better. Not only will this keep you from wasting your time, the longer you wait to ask a woman on a date, the less likely she is to go out with you — which doesn't necessarily mean she'll stop seeing you. (Little Bo Peep has lost all her ... "emotional energy for a relationship," and she'd appreciate it if you'd round up her sheep so she can save her physical energy for the guy she does have a date with.)
Stare way to heaven
I read your column, so I get that men are visual creatures. But when is it OK for a woman to be jealous over her boyfriend looking at other women? — Piqued
There are men who make you feel like the only woman in the world and men who make you feel like the only thing standing between them and a clear view of some other woman's jigglies. Lynne Truss, in her book on manners, Talk to the Hand, writes that "manners are based on an ideal of empathy, of imagining the impact of one's own actions on others." In other words, while all men look, rude men let themselves get caught. So, the question really isn't when to be jealous, but when to be on your way.
The responsibility is yours: choose the guy who'll take the occasional visual freebie that crosses his path, but lose the guy whose body language says he'd trade you to passing Bedouins for five minutes with her ... and he'll just duck out to the parking lot to see if any men are looking for parking spaces for their camels.