There are people who will tell you that the most important thing to remember when trying to pick someone up is confidence, that you miss all the shots you never take, that the worst thing that can happen to you when you put yourself out there is hearing the word “no.” These people have never asked a woman out in West Hollywood only to have her laugh in their face as she says “I’m straight,” then fall down a flight of stairs and I had to get a ride to the emergency room and it turns out I broke my ankle.
Don’t listen to those people. Listen to me. A thousand horrible things can happen to you. The most important thing you can do in life is establish plausible deniability that you have ever liked anyone, anywhere, ever. Here, then is a guide for the cautious. Remember: nothing ventured, nothing ventured.
Be sure to mention in passing someone else you find attractive, who looks nothing like them. This will throw everyone off the scent.
Keep your coat on during the entire conversation.
Tease her a little bit about the fact that she is mortal and will someday die.
Pay your host a modest compliment about their home within your intended’s earshot.
Make eye contact, then go home immediately.
Offer him your shoes. Insist.
Hide yourself in an uncharted cave until someone comes looking for you. This way they’ll know that you’re independent, but also not seeing anybody else.
If he mentions liking a particular book or band during your conversation, send him a copy or a pair of tickets the next day. Then don’t answer his calls for a year.
Invent a significant other with a vague, sinister-sounding illness.
Body language is important. Carry an actual shield.
Refuse to learn their name. Leave the room if you have to.
Steal something of theirs when they go to the bathroom. Plant it on a mutual friend, then set the two of them up with each other. Whisper your feelings into the wedding invitation when you send them your RSVP.
Let your hand brush against theirs, then visibly wipe it off on your jeans. Then anonymously pay off their student loans.
Move away. If they really get you, they’ll come find you.
Tell her a horrible secret, then spend the rest of your life apologizing for it.
Just feel things very intensely. They’ll know what to do.
Raise your hand as if to wave at them from across the room, then run it through your hair instead.
Leave the party early without getting their number.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.