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Women: What Makes A Man Interesting? You Know, That He Can Fix? - The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal
May 12th, 2014
09:54 am


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Women: What Makes A Man Interesting? You Know, That He Can Fix?

I’m writing a piece that’s the flip side of You Weren’t “Nice,” You Idiot, You Were BORING, wherein I hope to explain to the timid young dudes out there how to acquire a personality. This article is intended to be friendly, sympathetic, and helpful.

And so I ask: As a woman, what makes a guy interesting to you? You know, that he can actually fix?

Because the temptation is to say, “Well, I want a hunky, handsome guy,” but not every guy can be hot. Or make himself hot. The temptation is to say, “I want a guy with a compelling personality,” but unless you can break that down into what a compelling personality is and how to get there, then basically you’ve given some pretty damn useless advice.

What I’m looking for are actionable items that a guy can work on to make himself someone that you would be interested in hanging around with on a regular basis.

(It’s comparatively easy to get a first date, depending on how you approach a woman and her personal level of “Why not, what the hell,” but the types of dudes I’d be looking to help here would be the ones who get one or two dates and then their partners drift away, disinterested.  And they don’t know why they’re just sort of background noise to women at large, all they know is that for whatever reason they’re not memorable.)

What I’ve already got is stuff like:

  • Have your own interests, and don’t be ashamed of them. Because a person who only talks about what you want to talk about becomes boring really quickly. Find some hobbies, something to discuss besides “I really like you, you know that?” so that when you take her somewhere, you can take her somewhere cool.
  • Be interested in things that you’re not familiar with… Which is to say a lot of nerds have a bad habit of tuning out when people start talking about things they don’t know about, figuring that anything they don’t understand can’t be interesting. But listen. Ask questions. I don’t know much about baseball, or wedding dresses, or the weather, or dentistry, but if you treat it like, “Oh, maybe I can learn from this person!” and ask questions, you’ll find most people are actually happy to educate you. And then you know more things to talk about.
  • …but don’t be afraid to express disagreement. A dude who bobs his head for everything isn’t a person, they’re an organic rubber stamp. If your date is saying that “21 Dresses” is the best movie ever made, it’s okay to say, “You know, I didn’t care for that!” as long as you’re not disdainful of her choice. Sometimes it can lead to a more interesting conversation about what you didn’t like, and what you do like in movies. There are a small contingent of people who only want to hear reflections of things what they like, but they tend to be terrible fucking partners anyway; don’t be afraid to respectfully tell someone you didn’t love what they loved.

…and so forth. But I’d like some feedback from women on things guys can do to make themselves more attractive as a long-term partner (or, alternative, things dudes have done to establish themselves quickly that they’re not a long-term partner). I’ve discussed psychological things thus far, but it could also be physical tricks like “Don’t have a messy bachelor’s apartment” or “Learn to dress well” (as long as you explain where to go to learn how to dress well).

And so, again, I ask you:

As a woman, what makes a guy interesting to you? You know, that he can actually fix?

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/402266.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

(147 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

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[User Picture]
Date:May 12th, 2014 02:10 pm (UTC)
He needs to be able to express himself well. I'm not saying that he has to be an orator, or have perfect spelling in every email, etc. But he needs to be able to explain what he's thinking. I find words sexy - spoken or written. I like to know what someone's opinion of something is, even if I disagree with it, in a manner where I can actually understand said opinion. I get shyness, and I've suffered from that my own self, but if you're going to talk to me, *talk* to me.
[User Picture]
Date:May 12th, 2014 02:20 pm (UTC)
One: Cook well, and be adventurous when it comes to food. I like sharing meals, but it's even better if it's something we've prepared together. I know this isn't going to be important to everyone, but honestly? If you don't have a solid appreciation of food, this isn't gonna work for me. It doesn't have to be fancy cooking, but you should know how to wield (and sharpen) a knife.

Two: If you're only doing something because I want to do it, either be as enthusiastic as I am about it - or stay home. Don't ever tell me "I'm just doing this because you said I have to," but rather "It's important to you so it's important to me." Trust me, I'm aware that you wouldn't be stopping at this yarn store we just happened to drive past if I weren't bouncing up and down in the passenger seat about it - but if you agree that we can stop, then don't grump about it.

Three: Clean hands with neatly-trimmed fingernails. Obviously not if you've just come inside from yardwork or an oil change or something like that, but in general: Be clean. Smell nice.

Four: You can debate without being disagreeable, you're willing to explore different points of view, and you pay enough attention to the outside world that you have at least a vague idea of what's going on out there.

I'm sure there's more :)
[User Picture]
Date:May 12th, 2014 02:44 pm (UTC)
Two: If you're only doing something because I want to do it, either be as enthusiastic as I am about it - or stay home. Don't ever tell me "I'm just doing this because you said I have to," but rather "It's important to you so it's important to me." Trust me, I'm aware that you wouldn't be stopping at this yarn store we just happened to drive past if I weren't bouncing up and down in the passenger seat about it - but if you agree that we can stop, then don't grump about it.

Definitely this. If you really don't want to do something, please be honest with me about it and give me the opportunity to find someone else to go with. If you decide to do something you don't want to do as a favor to me (I appreciate that!) then don't spend the whole time being miserable about being somewhere you don't want to me. That's not helpful. I'd rather not go to something than go with someone who is making it known just how much they don't want to be there.
[User Picture]
Date:May 12th, 2014 02:30 pm (UTC)
The ability to Get Shit Done, and the motivation to do it. Especially when it comes to life skills: the moderate ability to clean a home, do laundry, pay bills on time, groom yourself, eat right, and being able to at maintain at least polite interest in uncomfortable situations.

Also, I don't need attention 24/7, but damn if we're out to dinner or having a conversation I better not see that phone come out.

On a more ephemeral level, curiosity. Curiosity leads to learning, to interest, to listening, and it *is* something that can be learned and practiced.
[User Picture]
Date:May 12th, 2014 03:15 pm (UTC)
These are great ones.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
Date:May 12th, 2014 02:32 pm (UTC)
Keep an eye on the table talk. If half your "conversation" is comments on people around you, it's off-putting. If you can't drive a mile without complaining about every other person on the road, don't drive me anywhere. And especially, don't tell me about how your ex-wife agreed with you that this is a date because I don't agree that it is, and I'm the one actually here. I call it table talk because most of it is an expression of anxiety at a new situation and isn't intended as actual conversation, but I did actually dump the last guy who asked me out over the stream of negativity that he felt fit to subject me to because he couldn't drive without complaining. The ex-wife thing was just weird.

Watch your language and listen to me. If I tell you I'm really in a financial crunch and you (separately) tell me you have tickets to an event and would I like to attend, I'm going to assume you mean you have tickets, plural, or intend to rectify that. I do NOT want to find out, as we approach the venue, that you have ticket and you expect me to buy my own. I wouldn't have gone if I had known that, and if the event had been more expensive or less compelling, I would have gone home right then. (If that ever happens again, there is nothing that will stop me from going home.) It isn't that I need things bought for me; it is that I need an indicator that you've been listening to me. I don't try to harp on "oh, I'm so broke," but when I arrange one of our dates as a walk on the beach because I can't afford anything else, that didn't change less than a week later and now I can afford a concert ticket. If it had, I would mention!
[User Picture]
Date:May 12th, 2014 02:39 pm (UTC)
I will add, I'm not saying "remember every little thing I say" in my second point, but more "try to listen well enough to hear what's important." I have a lot if experience of men not listening to me and my criteria for "I feel heard" is incredibly low. I don't care if you don't remember the discussion about which sandwich to get, but I do care that you remember important details about me, like that I'm broke, bi, and in a serious poly relationship. Key points: hear them. I'm doing that for you, and this is not a one-way street.
[User Picture]
Date:May 12th, 2014 02:47 pm (UTC)
Every time I have carefully attempted to quantify what makes a guy interesting to me, my actual being-attracted-to-someone has gleefully latched onto a counter-example, so I can't actually answer that question :-).

Possibly more useful would be a list of things that scare people off before they discover whether they happen to be attracted to you or not?

I guess some advice might be:

1) Learn the art of backing off gracefully.

Once you know that you can apologise and back off from attempts to work out if someone's attracted to you, you can be more confident in approaches without getting a reputation as a creep.

A corollary to this is 'learn how fast to go with an approach' - obviously if you're a recidivist boob or butt grabber (or hair stroker, argh, I actively like my friends playing with my hair but only because they are nonthreatening, I don't want you to do it if I don't know you) no-one is going to listen to your apology, but paying attention to how far is too far with people should let you calibrate this within a couple of attempts.

(Learn how long and close to hold a friendly / introductory hug, too; a sure sign to me of someone who is going to strike out as a Nice Guy a lot is that special extra-clingy hug that holds just a little too long, even if I don't personally mind.)

It's pretty hard to sum this up in a quick guide, because it contains a multitude of subcategories like 'how to tell whether she just wants you to keep your hands to yourself or whether she wants you to not interact with her again this evening / ever', and 'how to apologise without crawling around on the floor in comedy self-effacement', and 'how to not appear bitter about it even when you totally are', with a side order of 'no, really, don't try again later unless she like literally asks you to with words, and don't hang around in the hope of that happening'.

2) Attempt to convince yourself that there are, in fact, many additional piscines in the ocean.

After being burned a few times, one of the things we're assessing is 'will this person cling to me like a limpet and threaten suicide if I try to distance myself?'. Even if you _are_ interesting to her, if you fail that assessment, she's not going to take the risk of getting close.

It's monstrously unfair to ask you to stop feeling like that, because you really feel like that - sure. But if you can somehow avoid feeling like that - ideally, I think, by having something else in your life other than attempting to find a pairbond and investing your self-worth and identity in that other thing instead, and therefore being able to treat potential partners as a potential surprise bonus rather than the only worthwhile thing in your existence - it will help your chances.
[User Picture]
Date:May 12th, 2014 03:27 pm (UTC)
treat potential partners as a potential surprise bonus rather than the only worthwhile thing in your existence

[User Picture]
Date:May 12th, 2014 02:52 pm (UTC)
I also want to say _something_ about 'be unexpectedly competent at something', but also _don't expect it to work on everyone_.

I think that is probably the key to just about everything - it's really easy to get discouraged at fishing for a partner by being an awesome interesting person when it turns out that the person you have fixated on is just plain not interested.

Convincing yourself that that doesn't mean you are hopeless and worthless and no-one will ever love you so you might as well start trying deceptive routes and molding yourself in what you think is the image they want is very difficult, but attraction is incredibly random and entirely unfair, and nothing that you do will actually change that - in fact, trying to work around it will reduce your odds of finding someone else who _is_ compatible, because it will hide what you really have to offer and make you look less interesting (or worse, actively dangerous to know because you might turn into a limpet) to others.

The reason assholes get more girls isn't because they're assholes - it's because they play the field, rather than assuming one rejection is universal or getting fixated on any one potential partner (because they are assholes and don't see them as individual people, just potential targets). If you can avoid being an asshole but also avoid assuming that if you can't be with The One you will never find love, that's quite a lot of the battle.

Edited at 2014-05-12 02:54 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
Date:May 12th, 2014 03:02 pm (UTC)
This one takes hard work to fix, but I think it's the dealmaker/dealbreaker for me: You have to seem like you're happy, confident, comfortable, doing exactly what we're doing. (Flirting at a coffeeshop... or messaging each other online... or talking over dinner... or, you know, whatever.)

This means you do not seem

a) Terrified that you will fail this stage and be eliminated.
b) Hopeful that you will pass this stage and be permitted to move on to the next round.

Focus on enjoying this conversation for its own sake -- as you would if you were spending time with a friend, or even passing time with a stranger on a long and lonely train ride.

That will help us both to know whether we enjoy one another's company -- which is what I care about -- and if it isn't what you care about, I'll pick up on that in a hurry.
[User Picture]
Date:May 12th, 2014 03:04 pm (UTC)
Oh, yes! This. Being in the moment is so important.
[User Picture]
Date:May 12th, 2014 03:09 pm (UTC)
Respect for my boundaries. I take my own sweet time letting people in. I will not raze all my boundaries to the ground the second I meet a guy who's interested in me. If he keeps pushing boundaries, I will be driven insane and want to kill him. Dating will be the last thing on my mind.

A taste in music that doesn't exactly correspond to mine. I love discovering new music and trading songs and discussing songs, it's how I connect with myself and with people. Even if his taste includes headache inducing dubstep.
[User Picture]
Date:May 12th, 2014 03:11 pm (UTC)
as i'm sometimes frustratedly married to a mostly great guy who went from online friend to poly partner to husband when my marriage pfft'ed...i can't answer this well.

but i'd like to touch on "what happens when you and a nice woman just don't hit it off".

1. be gracious about it. don't run her down to your buddies, just say it wasn't working. if you're an ass about it, eventually women are going to judge you by that.

2. if she's an especially nice person, ask HER what you could have done better...then LISTEN. you're not begging for another chance here, you're asking for advice from a woman who didn't click with you.

3. clean up your act. literally. from your fingernails to your car to your apartment. you don't have to be pristine, but clean and without stained clothing is a good thing unless we're going to do something like gardening or car repair. seriously.

4. listen to your buddies...carefully. not their bragging, but "man, she said i wasn't/didn't" stuff. fact is, hearing what NOT to do is as important as hearing what TO do.
[User Picture]
Date:May 12th, 2014 03:13 pm (UTC)
He is intuitive and responsive.

He is ambitious and accomplished.
[User Picture]
From:Lara Miller
Date:May 12th, 2014 03:19 pm (UTC)
Go ahead and express interest. Don't dance around the subject and expect her to pick up your subtle hints. That's just confusing. But don't be creepy either - you can say, "I'm interested in you" without saying, "I want to stare at you while you sleep."

Don't get mad or pushy if she isn't interested, or if she isn't sure yet if she's interested.
[User Picture]
Date:May 12th, 2014 03:21 pm (UTC)
Honestly, what makes a guy attractive is that he is attracted to and interested in ME. That is, he listens to what I have to say and respects my opinions, even when he disagrees. He thinks my jokes are funny (and that's a tall order because I suck at humor). He can be the hunkiest guy on the planet, but if he doesn't find me sexy, then I'm totally turned off.

At the same time, he can't be too needy or clingy. I don't want somebody to fawn over me, get so wrapped up in me that he doesn't have his own life. That sort of thing is repellent. Whining, pouting, and otherwise behaving like a needy child is right out.

I admit I'm not typical, so YMMV, but I've never cared all that much about jewelry and candy and flowers; I am more interested in shared experiences. To guys, I would advise you to spend time in her presence, doing things you both enjoy, and give her the gift of listening. Most women I know want true intimacy -- not just sex, but actually KNOWING each other, your hopes and dreams, the interesting tidbits of your days, the formative events in your past that shaped who you are. Guys can be "friends" because they spend a few hours fishing or watching sports or playing games, even though they don't know anything about the other guy -- not the names of his wife and kids, his religious or political beliefs, his health problems, etc. But a typical woman doesn't understand this. How can you be friends and not know your buddy's wife is going through chemo? This is mind-boggling to most women.

What attracted me to my husband is that when I visited his apartment for the first time, it was clean. Especially the bathroom. It was apparent that he knew how to use a vacuum and a scrub brush. The only thing that was a turn-off about his space was the dark brown sheets (ugh). But that was easily cured. :D

We've been married 27 years, and to me, what makes it work is 1) a shared attitude that divorce is simply not an option, so we have to work things out, and 2) a willingness on both our parts to be servants to each other. A relationship can be really beautiful when two people are arguing NOT about who has to do a chore, but who GETS to do a chore. "Let me take care of that for you" is far more sexy and romantic than "I love you." My heart swells with love and desire when I see my husband carrying a laundry basket or doing the dishes.

The other thing my husband does that is super awesome is that he encourages me to spend "girl time" with my friends. A guy should be confident enough in a woman's integrity to allow her space to have other interests and friendships without being jealous. Relationships thrive when there is trust.

Finally, learn to disagree without being a jackass. Ferrett has it right, when he says don't be disdainful. However, in my experience, most people don't know how to do this. It's a skill that takes practice. Think about how ridiculous people get about politics, religion, sports. Heck, think about the way people get bent out of shape discussing Star Wars vs. Star Trek -- as if you can't like both! I am trying to teach my son to say, "that isn't my cup of tea" instead of "that sucks, and anybody who likes it is obviously an idiot." Denigrating a woman's tastes and choices is a sure way to relationship hell.
[User Picture]
Date:May 12th, 2014 04:26 pm (UTC)
How can you be friends and not know your buddy's wife is going through chemo?

My ex and his friend G. have known each other since they were in sixth grade together. One day G. called, and they talked on the phone for more than an hour, mostly about video games and movies. Eventually the conversation wound down and they were saying their goodbyes, when G. said, "Oh! Yeah! I remember what I wanted to tell you. We're going to have a baby!"

Yep. An hour about video games, and oh yeah my wife is pregnant.

Anyway, the broad-brushed answer to the question is that many times, women talk to each other to discuss the problems in their lives, and men talk to each other so that they're not thinking about the problems in their lives!

"Let me take care of that for you" is far more sexy and romantic than "I love you."

YES. Yes yes yes.
[User Picture]
Date:May 12th, 2014 03:24 pm (UTC)
Be nice to waitstaff, cashiers, baggers, etc. Be polite and generous with praise and kindness.

Know how to tip, and tip well.

Not everyone can deal with animals (allergies suck) but again, polite interest and willingness to try is awesome.

[User Picture]
Date:May 12th, 2014 03:32 pm (UTC)

The corollary is that a woman will notice how you treat others, so if you bad-mouth your ex, neglect to call or visit your mother, make rude comments about other women's appearance, etc., a wise woman will run for the hills.
[User Picture]
Date:May 12th, 2014 03:30 pm (UTC)
(Feel free to ignore if opinions from queer men aren't of interest, but I don't think any of the following is particularly gendered)

This is sort of an extension of your first point, but "Be passionate about something". If it's something I already like as well then great, and we can geek about it together, but if not, teaching me about new things that your eyes light up when you talk about is always hot.

Be able to make decisions and have ideas - if I've planned and co-ordinated our first two dates, and when I ask what you want to do for the third your answer is "whatever you fancy" then it probably won't happen.

Pay attention to what I say - following up on something I said a few days later with a new and interesting perspective because you've been thinking about it since then make me feel special and you look thoughtful.

If you like me, then make it clear - compliments are good, as long as they're specific, so I know that you're actually paying them to me, rather than to some imagined version of me in your head.

There's a difficult balancing act between confidence (which is hot) and arrogance (which is often off-putting). I think the best advice I can give here is "Assume that I like you, don't assume that you can expect things of me outside of general politeness until I've made it explicit that you can".
[User Picture]
Date:May 12th, 2014 07:32 pm (UTC)
Oh, I totally agree on the first three, especially!

Planning every date becomes a chore. Remembering what I say....now that can be downright impressive depending who else I've been seeing lately.
[User Picture]
Date:May 12th, 2014 03:42 pm (UTC)
I find that the ability to extrapolate and make connections between things is ... not as common as one might believe. But you need it, if you're not going to just regurgitate what I/someone else has told you explicitly. If you know that I love my plants *and* that I spent my first twelve years in a Caribbean country, when that third date rolls around and you're trying to figure out what to do, the glasshouses at the Botanic Gardens present themselves as things I might enjoy because they'll contain plants I remember -- and you'll get major points for having thought about it, because it shows interest. Anybody can memorise my coffee order or the hobbies I listed on my profile; not everybody can or will take that next step to think of things I didn't list out.
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