Ryan Duggins dishes on how to break the ice on the underground.
This article originally appeared at AskMen.com.
Approaching someone you are physically attracted to and don’t know, in any situation, requires the bravery of a soldier.
Luckily for us in 2012, meeting sexual prospects in the age of social media, online dating and listings means that all most of us have to do to fulfill that human need for contact is to fill out a small profile, include a thumbnail picture and describe what our favorite album is.
But the ease that the internet brings to dating takes its toll. Suddenly, contemplating talking to someone while in line for a coffee, or standing in a cramped tube, becomes the equivalent of jumping out of an airplane with no safety parachute. But if you think that sounds scary, try approaching women on the District Line train at 8 a.m. on a Monday morning. That’s what I’m about to do.
Nerves aside, your day would be made even before it really began if you had a flirty chat with a good-looking girl about the price of a breakfast bap at the delicatessen. But if we all know this, and are too scared to try it, then does that mean we’re pretty much screwed? Is it really that difficult and cringe-inducing to ask a woman you haven’t spoken to what she’s reading? I’ve dated girls I’ve met in the daytime before, but I’ve never taken someone out that I originally met on a train. Today seems as good as any to test those tracks.
The London Underground travels hundreds of thousands of single women from one important meeting to another on a daily basis, so I figure this should be easy as I’m presented with one beautiful, successful woman after another on a conveyor belt that only ends when the trains do. If the law of averages is a theory that rings true, this should be like shooting fish in a barrel. Or fishing for women in a cramped train where they can’t move, if you would prefer.
What time is it? Go time.
With my best shirt on, tight trousers and a fresh shave, I jump on my first tube. I scope out my surroundings, trying to identify not so much individuals, but vantage points and how people act when commuting. I’m looking at the blank skeleton-stares of my fellow travelers, thinking how hard this might actually be when taking into consideration that no one wants to be here, and no one wants to be disturbed from their coma-like states as they wait for their stop.
Assurance of interest has to take a back seat in these surroundings. It’s not like in a bar where you have a solid 30 minutes at least to consider approaching the person who’s been giving you the eye. There’s a time limit here, so you can’t afford to waste any jittering your knees. I sit down, and shared what I thought was a third glance with the girl in front of me reading a magazine. I find I get away with being mildly insulting when flirting, so I look at my feet like I don’t care what her response is, and say the following:
“God that looks boring.”
I keep my head down hoping to be alerted by a response of something sexy like, “Oh, and what would you know about what I like?”, which would be the start of a definite exchange of numbers. But I hear nothing. Silence. My pride stops me from raising my head. She hasn’t even threatened to respond. I shake off the discouragement, lift my head, put my elbows on my knees and look at her, in a sort of cool, arrogant way which I thought she’d buy. But she gets up and walks past me, her coat gently slapping me as she turns to step off the train. I need a new approach.
Being a bit of a cocky bloke has always got me results as I have a non-threatening face and I’m only 5’7”, so I stick with what I know and grab a newspaper from the seat next to me. This is train number two, as I obviously couldn’t stay on the one before. My cover was blown. I take a seat next to someone who I shared a glance with as the doors opened to the train. I open to the London What’s On pages, where adverts of the various different West End shows are placed. I open the paper wide so that she can see what I’m reading, tilting it her way so as to offer her the story. Same technique, different head position.
“Is that any good?” I say to the confused target.
I don’t turn my head or point to a specific show. “I’m sorry, are you talking to me?” she responds. “Yes indeed, now, have you seen this show? I might go,” I say without really looking at her yet. We need to initiate a proper discussion for our faces to be turned. She is neither warming to my approach nor cold to it. Just mildly tempted and slightly concerned that I may be a bit mental.
“Do you usually talk rubbish to strangers?”
Yes, you’re thinking what I’m thinking aren’t you? I’m in there, she’s a bit of a “banter-babe” who likes to poke fun and playfully argue. Oh my, I can see us tickling each other into submission with only our sheets to cover us in no time. I smile to myself, and turn to what I expect will be a cheeky grin with a raised eyebrow. This was not the case, as I turn to see her place her second earphone from her loud iPod into her ear.
Cheeky doesn’t work in London, a place where boring modern-chick lit novels are set and couples hold hands whilst taking arms length pictures of themselves near the Thames river.
Awkwardness, shyness and borderline Aspergers is what I need here. No bullish penis-swinging antics, just an awkward moment turned into light chatting is the key. I have a plan.
A variety of unintentional mishaps is pretty much standard procedure in cramped conditions, but I’ve never seen them as a chance to pick up. They are the only things that ever spark interaction in situations such as this, and even if that is only a nervous shudder of “Oh I’m sorry,” it’s still something. I stand in the middle of a crammed train, holding onto an upright bar and bracing for the journey, but it seems that a rather pretty brunette has her hand about two inches below mine on the bar. I look away, and “unintentionally” put my hand on hers.
She quickly moves it lower from mine. Her head is cocked towards me. I obviously remove my hand with haste, and apologize. “Oh don’t worry, it’s fine,” she replies as she goes to return her head to face the window. “It was a bit awkward though,” I spurt, before she has the chance to settle. She turns back toward me and giggles at my observation. I stop my tongue from throwing out such arsery as “But it was the most action I’ve had in ages,” and just plow away with a lighthearted conversation about how busy it gets on this train at this time. It doesn’t matter what the topic is, people enjoy talking to people when they feel comfortable. Especially people like Sarah, a 24-year-old buyer for a clothing outlet based in the city.
We exchanged numbers and agreed to drop each other a line. I would have gone with the Facebook exchange, but we’re underground so I didn’t want to risk not finding her when I had enough phone signal to search.
You can meet anyone, at any point, wherever you are, as long as you break the ice gently and find something to talk about. We all like to talk, and share, and discuss things, so every once in a while it’s important to be reminded that this is possible without the aid of a computer screen. Even if that reminder comes in the form of a slightly creepy premeditated plan of romance.
Now, do I tell Sarah I have a girlfriend and that this was an experiment, or shall I just not text her? Hmmm. I’ll wait for her to call.
Photo credit: Flickr / plusgood