The great fishing expedition

Blane Bachelor dishes relationship advice on Great Catches, Nervous Fishermen and why texting to ask a gal for a date sucks.

Q: The last few guys I’ve dated have been on the shy side when it comes to starting something up. It goes something like this: I will meet this guy and I will feel some mutual interest, but we will part ways without any digit exchange. Then, the big fishing expedition will begin.

He will start asking about me to mutual friends, he’ll friend me and then start e-mailing me through Facebook, or he’ll find ways to be at the same place I will be. Ultimately, the shy guy will make it seem like he’s really putting himself out there with a “Well, call me if you want to . . . ,” “E-mail me if you’re ever interested in . . . ,” “You should come to this (blah-blah) that I’ll be at . . . ” and there it is, I am left holding the ball. So then I feel like I either need to make the next move, or risk that not making it will be interpreted as disinterest or rejection.

I know guys will find a way to make it happen if they are really interested, but I seem to have a misconception that there is this shy type of guy out there, for whom this is their way of trying to make it happen. When, and how much, is “helping” a guy out ever appropriate?—Sick of Shy Guys

A: Let’s take this “fishing expedition” metaphor to the gills, shall we? I’ll start by addressing two subsets of specimens here: the Great Catches and the Nervous Fishermen.

First, the Great Catches (like you). As a GC, you’re probably also an enterprising, go-getter type, and thus having a hard time lulling around in the lake waiting for a line to be cast. Fine, GC. But you’re allowed one indicator to let a Nervous Fisherman know you’ll, um, bite his bait. That means one invitation on your part (“Wanna go fishing with me this weekend?”) or one acceptance of a lame cast on his (“Sure, I’ll meet you at the Fishing Expo this weekend”). That’s it. From there, it’s his job to take the initiative (i.e., grow a pair). If he doesn’t, do not fling yourself out of the water and into his boat. Just swim breezily away. There are plenty of other Not-So-Nervous Fishermen out there who will recognize you for the GC you are—and will be more than eager to do whatever it takes to reel you in.

Now, onto the Nervous Fishermen (e.g., the Shy Guys). You’d love to pull in a GC, right? So you drop a line in the water and wait. But when there’s any resistance on the line, you just drop the damn pole in the water because you’re so afraid of falling out of the boat and looking all wet in front of everyone.

I get that shyness can be stifling, NF. But when you find a GC you want to get to know better, you have to stop casting and start asking. Too many potential dates—and relationships, for that matter—drown in the stage of swimming and circling and testing the waters (i.e., texting, IM, Facebook, e-mail). Rock the boat, take the plunge, and remember (warning: mother of all dating clichés coming next): If one doesn’t bite, there are always more fish in the sea.

Q: What is the etiquette involved in this texting and dating? I have had so many guys try to schedule dates this way. I’m a Southern girl and think that it’s pretty bad form to not at least call to ask for a date, but my friends seem to think it’s a pretty normal thing. I know people who have their entire relationships—asking for dates, conversations, even arguments—via text messaging. What is the deal here? Am I the only one who still thinks hoping he’ll call means hoping he’ll call? What do you think?—Overtext

As a Southerner myself, I wholeheartedly agree with you. But texting—like them thar Internets—is here to stay. Technology has irrevocably changed everything we do: how we work, do business, get our news (just ask those frazzled newspaper execs) and even date. So if by “normal,” your friends mean “largely accepted” with regards to the text ask-out, then they’re unfortunately right.

So aside from taking a hard “I don’t respond to date requests via text” line—and likely missing out on lots of dates—what can you do? First, try to view texting as the first step toward human interaction. So why not reply to a text invite with something like, “Sure! Call me, and we’ll figure out the deets”? Ideally, then you’ll graduate to a real, live date—paving the way for real, live conversations about how you’re a traditional Southern gal who loves in-person interactions much more than digital dancing. It is possible to wean someone of the text teat, but it takes a little time.

Finally, guys: Are you getting the message here, or should I send a mass text to spell it out? If you really like a gal and want to set yourself apart from the rest of the herd (you know, the ones with the overdeveloped thumbs), then call her already. Jeez.

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