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43.GAYDAR MALFUNCTION



Q: Dear Dr. Luv,

My gaydar is terminally ill. If it even exists, its batteries are missing and cannot be found. I am very nervous about going up to other guys that I think are good-looking and asking them out. I try to use all the common stereotypes to determine whether a man is gay, but inevitably I can't decide if he is or not, so I let him disappear.

Is there a way to know if a guy is gay? Or do I just take my chances and hope I don't get punched in the face?

Sincerely,

A: Dear G.D.,
Gaydar is often intuitive -- a "feeling" more than anything else (some recent studies have even suggested that pheromones are involved). Of course, observable external clues can help: Are you both in a gay bar? Is he reading "The Advocate"? Is he wearing one of those banal faux-vintage sports-team T-shirts that advertise preferred sexual positions? Then you've probably got a gay one on the line. Or are you both getting a pedicure? Is he reading "Details"? Is he wearing a vintage Madonna concert T-shirt? Then if he's not gay, he's most likely not the sort of straight guy who responds to a bit of flirting by punching a gay guy in the face. Obviously, stereotypes often become stereotypes because there is a small element of truth in them. But there is no failsafe way to know whether a person is gay -- there are as many different ways to be gay as there are gay people.

At any rate, judging by your letter, I'd say that malfunctioning gaydar isn't your primary problem. Rather, your problem is your proposed pickup technique (luckily, pickup techniques are much easer to acquire than gaydar). Walking up to complete strangers and asking them out is not an effective way to get dates. Certainly, it's not an approach I'd recommend for a seemingly somewhat shy fellow such as you (or for anyone in an environment where getting punched in the face is a real danger). Keep in mind, too, that not all situations are suited to flirting with someone (for instance, if a gorgeous guy is rollerblading quickly past you in the opposite direction, you may just have to let him disappear).

Before asking someone out, try the following steps (I've given some examples that you will have to adjust to suit your situation, but they should give you a general idea):

1. Smile. If your smile is returned, go to the next step.

2. Make a friendly comment about a neutral subject, such as "Nice day, isn't it?" or "It's sure crowded in here today." If the fellow seems to encourage more conversation -- by making eye contact and responding to your comment -- go to the next step.

3. Ask a friendly (but not too forceful) question that might give way to a conversation: "Do you know who sings the song playing right now?" or "I couldn't help but notice your beautiful turquoise bracelet -- is that a Hopi design?" or "Have you been to the new restaurant that just opened next door?" This is where you can separate the people who want to talk to you from those who don't: The ones who want to talk to you will join you in a conversation. The ones who don't will offer noncommittal, one-word responses or pointedly open a book and pretend to read.
When someone joins you in a friendly conversation, you can at least be more certain that he isn't some sort of psychopath who goes around punching people in the face. Plus, you can learn a little bit about the object of your desire, and better ascertain whether asking him out is something he'd be receptive to. Even if he's gay, he may not be eligible.

Finally, consider making an effort to put yourself in environments where people share your values, if not your sexual orientation. Those people are generally likelier to include potential dates than random crowds are.
Good Luck!!!

Dr. Luv


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