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The Worst That Can Happen if You Ask a Girl Out

by Dear Jon
February 26, 2008


Dear Jon,

There's this girl at my school that I really like and I want to ask her out but I don't know how. She's not like super model beautiful or mean or really popular or anything like that. She's nice and I guess she's just a normal person, you know? But I get all nervous anyway. How can I break the ice?

Tongue-tied in Tenth Grade

Dear Tenth-Grader,

"she's just a normal person, you know?" No, I don't. There are only 116 well-adjusted people in the world, so if you mean by normal that she is "just as neurotic as everyone else" than I guess I understand.

Your letter has me reminiscing of my life in the tenth grade. I had all the romantic success of a tom cat at a canine stag party. Meanwhile out of a class of thirty, I was one of only two people to fail the written test for a learner's permit in Driver's Ed. The other guy was of a type we called "skids," probably meaning skid-row. Other generations or regions of the continent called them "hoods." Anyway, scholarship was not his strong-suit.

So when John Cougar sang "hang onto sixteen as long as you can...." ('Jack and Diane' circa 1982) I said, "No, thank you." That song was all about Jack's romantic success with Diane. And wow, was Jack ever successful. John Cougar projected the "skid" image in the early 1980's.

So, you want to overcome the jitters to talk to a girl whom you are interested in. If she is anything like a normal person, she is just as scared of you as you are of her. This mutual terror is completely usual for the vast majority of the nearly seven billion people in our world. It also leads to a huge communication gap between guys and gals.

He says, "Hi," while stopping and glancing at the girl's face. This is a guy's way of finding out whether the girl will even talk to him.

She says, "Hi" back. This is a girl's way of giving permission for a conversation to start.

He says, "You going to the dance?" This is a seemingly neutral inquiry. His guard is still up.

She says, "No. I'm really not much of a dancer." That means that no one has asked her yet and she is hoping he will, and she has invited him into her world of vulnerability by admitting that she does not think of herself as a very good dancer and that further more she lacks confidence and feels like a loser, and if he would just ask her, she would feel a whole lot better about herself.

But he doesn't know that. What he hears is that she is not going to the dance because she does not consider dancing to be worthwhile. He thinks to himself that he is an idiot for even bringing it up, and that she will go tell her other non-dancing friends about him and they will all laugh at him. So he retreats.

"Yah," he says, "School dances are kind of lame. Guess I'll see you around." Putting up a diffident exterior, he is now prepared to craw into a hole until at least his sophomore year in college.

She does not know that. Instead her feelings are hurt because he has led her along by talking about the school dance, exposed her sense of vulnerability and low esteem, and then stomped all over it by insulting the School Dance itself, when two of her best friends are on the organizing committee.

"Bye," she says, which means, "You jerk I'll never forgive you, not like you care anyway." She is late to History class because she heads into the girl's bathroom to find a stall where she can cry.

You, tongue-tied tenth-grader, need to break the cycle of poor communication. You need to learn to read the female mind.

First Rule: The Meaning of "No."
A. "No I'm not going to the school dance," is not the same statement as, "No I don't want to go to the school dance with you."

B. "No. Please stop trying to kiss me," means "No. Please stop trying to kiss me." It does not mean, "You're a creep and I hope you never call me again."

C. "No" can mean "Never" and "No" can mean "Not now."

D. "Not now" can cover a period anywhere between five seconds and five years.

E. When in doubt, assume that "not now" means "not for the duration of this time together" before it means "never." When she means "never" she will say "never."

F. If she has to get out a restraining order against you, it is because you have failed to understand the meaning of "No" especially when she began to include words like "Never."

Second Rule: The Meaning of Eye-Contact
A. If you ask her if she is going to the dance, and she meets your gaze squarely from a completely upright posture, and replies, "What's it to you?" that is your signal to duck and run.

B. If she is glancing into your eyes and glancing away, and her lips can't decide whether she wants to smile at you, and she replies, "Um, I don't know," that means that she is as scared of you as you are of her, and she is desperately hoping you will ask her to the dance, and she is desperately hoping you won't, and she is desperately hoping that her need to use the Girl's Restroom won't manifest itself in some embarrassing way.

Third Rule: The Meaning of Third-Party Involvement
A. A girl is able to ask a girl-friend to ask you if you are intending to ask her to the dance.

B. A boy should not ask another boy to stand-in to ask the girl if she would go with him to the dance. He runs the risk of that other boy becoming a rival.

C. A boy may ask another boy to respond to the girl's friend that yes you are hoping to, and what would she say?

D. Hopefully that all gets settled before the final bell, and if the response is positive, you have tacit permission to phone the girl.

Fourth Rule: The Worst that Can Happen
Whomever said, "It never hurts to ask," is a complete idiot. It hurts to ask and be rejected. It is like setting off a grenade in the masculine psyche. It can also get around, especially if you have used third-party involvement. "Hey, did you hear Jon wanted to ask Shari to the dance and she laughed in his face." Or, technically, not in his face, just to her group of girl-friends. That's not as bad, though, as "Hey, did you hear Jon wanted to ask Shari to the dance and she called the Assistant Principal and now he's suspended and the family is being sued for damages for harassment."

But somehow or other, boys and girls figure it out, the world keeps spinning, and new boys and girls keep being born. It's all about overcoming our fear. If she is as normal and nice as you say, then the worst that will happen is that she will say "No," drop the nuclear pscyhe bomb called the "Friends" speech, and you will live to see another day and that the sea really is filled with other fish.

Based on what you describe, I give you a 50-50 chance unless someone else asked her first. Those are a lot better odds than other things you take for granted, so go ahead and ask.

About the Author:
Dear Jon dated in 12th grade, then in his year off from college, and then in his senior year in college, when he found the courage to ask out the girl who became his wife, now of nearly fifteen years. He never wants to be sixteen again.

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