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Recently, a guy at a local bar struck up a conversation with me. We spent over an hour swapping stories and cracking each other up, but, to my surprise, he ended up leaving without asking for my number. While it's possible that he had a girlfriend or just wasn't into me, this sort of thing happens to me pretty frequently. What do I have to do or say to get a man to ask me for my phone number? --Failed Flirt

A guy doesn't chat you up because his vocal cords need exercise. He's thinking of asking you out. At the same time, he's worried about his ego: Will you grab it, throw it on the floor, and jump up and down on it? Drop it from a tall building to see if it bounces when it hits cement? Club it like a baby seal and make change purses out of its hide?

If you think there's even a small chance you'd be willing to remove clothing in his presence, give him a visual signal that it's safe to proceed. He's waiting. And waiting. And waiting -- presumably, just like the rest of the guys who eventually slunk out of bars, parties, and coffeehouses without asking you for your number. Assuming you aren't hideous, man-bashing, dull, unpleasant, desperate, and/or lacking in gay-dar, there's a very good chance they cut out because you weren't exactly spraining an eyelid batting your eyelashes at them.

It doesn't help that men seem to have gotten the message that they're supposed to be about as sexually aggressive as neutered kittens. Supposedly, this is what women want. Well, it is what some women want: the loony-tunes, "all-men-are-rapists" radical feminists ("In seduction," bleated Andrea Dworkin, "the rapist bothers to buy a bottle of wine"). These days, nobody in polite (leg-shaving) society takes these "wymyn" seriously. Unfortunately, it isn't exactly a huge stretch to trace a path from their demented ravings to women who feel vaguely guilty about "demeaning" themselves by wearing glittery eye shadow, and men in bars who are quick to assume that no response means no.

Luckily, anthropologists, after years of spying on people on the prowl, have come up with a definitive list of the body language that tells a man a woman's gone all twisty for him. Topping the list are the come-hither look (gazing at him, then dropping her eyelids and glancing away), smiling, giggling, playing with her hair, smoothing her clothes (when they're not at all wrinkled), and touching him (a biggie). But remember, deep down, the average guy considers it a miracle if a woman will even entertain the prospect of having sex with him. Repetition is the surest cure for men's innate self-doubt. The first time you brush your hand across a guy's arm, he'll think it was an accident. The second time, he'll wonder if it was intentional. The third time, he'll probably start searching for a matchbook and a pen.

Of course, that assumes you're doing this stuff because you're feeling the groove, not because you're self-consciously attempting to flirt-by-numbers. The difference? Whether there's lust underlying your message. In the words of the French author Colette: "When she raises her eyelids it's as if she were taking off all her clothes." The essential point you have to keep driving home with every hair toss and come-hither glance is "I'm a girl and I might let you see me naked." Sure, your thigh-slapping wit in storytelling and joke cracking is a plus -- as well as something you might have in common with the beefy lug your guy's going up against in the Burp Olympics at the sports bar.

Knot Right Now
I'm 25, and I've been with my boyfriend for eight years. I'm now ready to get married and have children. He says he loves me but doesn't want to rush into anything. I don't think eight years is rushing things. I don't want to leave him, but I don't want to wait around forever, either. How can I deal with his hesitations?--Ready Already

Imagine that -- a 25-year-old guy who would rather stumble into bed at 3 a.m. after a screaming rock concert than be dragged out of it by a screaming baby. How can you deal with his hesitations? Um, respect them? He simply isn't ready to become a clone of his dad, and there's really no telling whether he'll ever be. The worst thing you could do is try to shove him down the aisle. And why would you want to? Hmm, perhaps because after spending a third of your life as somebody's girlfriend, you see being somebody's wife and mother as the easy way out of developing yourself? Just a thought! He isn't wrong for not wanting what he doesn't want -- just wrong for you if your clock's stuck on four minutes to baby shower.

Copyright. 2004, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com (www.advicegoddess.com)

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