“Did you feel that?” he asks, lacking a modicum of self-awareness (or self-control).
Ashley, knowing this script by heart, braces for the inevitable.
“Sorry. I thought it was an earthquake, but it must have been you rocking my world.”
Ashley is not impressed, but this isn’t the first pick-up line she has received. Although he might beg to differ, the man’s strategic line did not, in fact, “rock” her world. It merely disturbed it.
And Ashley isn’t alone. I ventured to Long Beach, CA bar 4th Street Vine to ask a random array of women, “Has a pick-up line ever worked on you?” The reactions consistently included a combination of eye rolls and guffaws followed by an emphatic “no.”
Nevertheless, pick-up lines do not seem to be going away anytime soon. In 2017 alone, Amazon has listed over one thousand new dating and relationship advice books, many of which tout ways to master the “art” of the pick-up line. However, with batting averages too abysmal to admit, men repeatedly strikeout when they rely on hackneyed lines to initiate conversation with the opposite sex. “Any put together woman would reject a man who relied heavily on pick-up lines,” says Lisa Shield, a dating and relationship coach. “She would shoot him down immediately. We don’t have the time or energy these days to entertain this kind of behavior.”
“This kind of behavior,” at least in our post-Harvey Weinstein social and political climate, is receiving increased scrutiny and rightly so. Men, who have consistently relied on or felt resolute in their problematic behavior, are finally being taken to task for inappropriately engaging women in public and private spaces. “The stereotypical pick-up line is inherently sexist. It is a ‘pick-up line’ because it plays on sexist stereotypes,” continues Shield. Stereotypes such as the belief that women want to be drooled over; when they play hard to get, they obviously want to be pursued; and women don’t take charge but rather wait to be taken.
On the flip side, Dr. Janet Lever, Professor Emerita in Sociology at California State University, Los Angeles and co-author of Getaway Guide to the Great Sex Weekend, sympathizes with men and acknowledges the role women play in maintaining the status quo. “Some parts of sexist script remain and women are complicit in keeping old rules alive. If women were as likely to approach a guy they think looks interesting, handsome or stylish,” says Lever, “men wouldn’t have to come up with cheesy pick-up lines. Women would share responsibility and have more empathy with the awkward position men are always placed in.”
Shield shares a similar sentiment. “As a dating and relationship coach for the past fifteen years, I really feel for men. Women want them to initiate contact. The problem is, if they come on too strong, we’re insulted and they risk being accused of sexual harassment. If they don’t come on strong enough, we say they’re not ‘real men.’”
It’s clear the problem with pick-up lines partly stems from outdated gender roles: men should be dominant, forthright, and persistent (i.e. “real men”); women should be submissive, demure, and receptive (i.e. “real women”). Well, it’s 2017 and such restrictive binaries are about as old-fashioned (and bad for you) as a Victorian corset. “Burdens for initiating a relationship, and later for initiating sex, should be shared,” says Lever. “Don’t judge a guy for a cheesy line if you won’t walk in his shoes and try to do better.”
As my 1st grade teacher used to say, sharing is caring, but empathy is difficult to learn after being close-minded and guarded for most of one’s adult life. But for pick-up lines to fall by the wayside, there needs to be a collective effort. It’s integral to recognize when our patterns of behavior reinforce sexist script, but as most actors will confess, improvisation is terrifying yet simultaneously liberating. Transparency, vulnerability, and honesty are always better alternatives to “Do you mind if I walk you home? My mother always told me to follow my dreams.” A guy who uses a line like that might get a polite laugh, but likely not much else.
“I am a big believer in getting Emotionally Naked,” says Shield. “This goes for men as well as women. Emotional Nakedness is about being genuine and emotionally available. People today crave authenticity.” She’s right. Many of us (myself included) are starved for honest interactions. In our social media saturated age, where one’s self is presented through a series of screens, filters, and avatars (maybe I’ve seen one too many episodes of Black Mirror), authenticity often seems harder to find than water in the Mojave Desert.
“[Women] are looking for men who are more evolved and who don’t resort to cheap tricks,” says Shield. “There is a way for a man to approach a woman with dignity and respect. To approach a woman in this way, a man must exude genuine confidence. This man wouldn’t even think of trying to trick a woman into liking him.”No trickery, no gimmicks, and no pick up lines should be the New Year’s resolution for single men in 2018.
At 4th Street Vine, I asked women how they prefer to be approached, and the responses were unanimous: just be nice. You know, say “hi,” try to make a connection, ask a question that isn’t answered with a groan-inducing punchline, or, if you find yourself rehearsing sexist script, don’t engage at all. Take a step back and consider how you’d feel having your intelligence insulted with a line like “Did you sit in a pile of sugar? Cause you have a pretty sweet ass.”
Shield puts it’s best: “Talk to us like we’re people.”