The Wingman: How Not to Hit on Someone: “Luke, I am your father”

November 6, 2011 § 3 Comments

There are certain things a person knows by instinct not to say to a someone when you’re chatting them up at a club/bar/bar mitzvah. “I wet my bed until I was 17.” “I went to prison for exposing myself to a minor.” “I think Kings of Leon is a really good band.” Such statements are what we women call “red flags,” as in, “Grab his giant red flag and use it to hail a cab to get the hell out of here.”

When Albert Einstein famously said, “Only two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former,” he must have been standing in a bar watching his friend tell some woman that she reminds him of his mother, before his mother was committed to the mental ward when he was nine. I am continually surprised by what people will say aloud, but I am continually shocked by what men will say to women they’re trying to have sex with.

The following story brings you today’s advice from the Wingman: if you’re trying to pick up a younger woman, don’t tell her that you have a son her age.

My junior year of college, I was studying abroad in Oxford. One weekend, I ended up in a hotel on the coast of Wales, miles from anything that could be considered a city and at least a few miles from the nearest small town. After dinner at said hotel, my friends and I contemplated what to do for the evening. Being without a car, our choices were to drink in the hotel bar, or to sit in someone’s room and stare at each other.

Upon entering the bar, we heard a ruckus coming from a private room. Walking by, we saw thirty or forty people (mostly men) drinking enthusiastically. A few of them were wearing sombreros. If I were at home in California, it would be odd but not entirely improbable to see a group of drunk men wearing sombreros in a bar, especially if there’s a Chevy’s nearby. In Wales, however, I’d have been surprised if anyone could even identify a sombrero. (A month or so later, I threw a Cinco de Mayo party with a few of my American friends; when we invited some British guys to the party, one replied, “I don’t know what Cinco de Mayo is; we don’t have any Mexicans here.”)

After getting our own table and a pint apiece, six or so of us Americans, the majority being female, were talking and drinking for a half hour or so, at which point a spectacularly drunk Welshman wearing a sombrero threw himself into an empty chair and began to talk at us about I have no idea what. I do remember thinking that I wouldn’t mind wearing a full-body condom: this guy was skeezy, if entertaining. Another Welshman – older, more composed, less sloppy drunk, and more conscious of personal boundaries – also sat down, and we preceded to have a strange conversation with them about many things. (The older one told us that drinking Guinness in Dublin was better than sex. “Oh, my wife will kill me. It’s almost as good as sex.” My friends and I traveled to Dublin two months later.)

Mostly, they wanted to know what we were doing in Gwbert, the “town” the hotel was nearest too, pronounced like a mix between “Gilbert” and “Goobert.” Actually, they wanted to know what “the fuck” we were doing in Gwbert. Apparently, as Americans traveling the British isles, we were getting it all wrong. Even Welshman don’t want to go to Gwbert, our new friends informed us, they themselves were only here for some team-building thing for work that was mandatory.

Last year, apparently, they went to Spain on their team-building trip/reward vacation, but thanks to the economic downturn, this year they were in the middle of nowhere Wales. At this point in the evening, my friends and I discovered the reason for the sombreros: all the employees at this event had been playing a game in which they were split up into teams, with each team representing a country. By this point, many other drunk Welshman had begun to pour into the general bar area, so our only-somewhat-tipsy friend could point out the cowboy hats (the U.S.), canvas safari-type hats (Australia), berets (France), and triangular straw hats (China), in addition to the aforementioned sombreros (Mexico).

Around this time, other Welshmen, on their way to being plastered themselves, tried to join our group, apparently thinking our original two guests had been hogging us – or rather, hogging the five or so young American girls. They were initially less interested in our two male friends, though by the end of the night, they were loving on them too, with an enthusiasm that the term “homoerotic” doesn’t quite capture.

One by one, or in pairs, we peeled ourselves from the table, ostensibly to use the “loo” or something, after at least one new Welshman had become quite grabby.

At our table, the Welshmen had been buying us drinks – pints of cider and beer – girls and guys both. On my way to or from the bathroom, I stopped to say hi to a male friend that was chatting with another Welshman (younger, seemingly less creepy, cuter if not truly cute), and suddenly found myself with another new friend ready to shower me in free drinks.

Turns out that, due to the volcano that had lately erupted over Iceland, spouting veritable tons of ash and grounding all planes, the Welshmen’s boss was stuck in Italy and had not been able to attend the company retreat. This retreat included booze – an open tab with the hotel bar that the boss’s second-in-command, seemingly the most sober of the bunch, was exceedingly lenient with.

Suffice it to say, we all (American and Welsh alike) got plastered; I’d barely have finished off half of a pint before I had three Welshmen trying to order me another. It was even the same for the guys.

Over the course of three or four hours, I had long, hilarious conversations with a number of Welshmen, ranging in age from late twenties to early sixties. At one point, I was standing with a girlfriend talking to this Welsh guy who I believe was named Mike (though we had to retrospectively reconstruct this fact the next day from various pieces of “evidence”).

Mike was in his mid to late forties and was hitting on my friend hard. As this was all progressing, my friend or I made a comment on about the tattoo on Mike’s forearm. It appeared to be letters.

It was, Mike told us. In fact, it was an ambigram (ambigrams always make me think of that Dan Brown novel where ones saying “fire” and “water” get burned onto a bunch of priests’ chests; an ambigram is the script of a word that reads identically if turned upside down). Apparently, this ambigram spelled out the name of Mike’s son, which I think was Thomas but may have been Taylor or something else starting with “T.”

Having a tattoo of your son’s name is a rather sweet gesture, and mentioning this to a girl you’re chatting up could, in fact, win you sensitivity points, as long as you mention that you’re divorced, which Mike immediately did (got one thing right). Yes, the “I have a kid” revelation can work in your favor, provided it is not followed by another.

Mike then told us that his son Thomas/Taylor was a teenager. He may have been sixteen or seventeen, I don’t remember precisely. What I do remember is thinking, “At twenty-one, (Friend) and I are closer in age to your son than we are to you.”

After Mike told us a bit about Thomas/Taylor, during which time I was amusedly silent, drinking my pint, I moved on to another, potentially less creepy group of Welshmen/my American friends.

My friend did not run screaming from Mike. She did not even excuse herself to go to the bathroom and then conveniently fail to return. She actually continued to talk to him for a while, before rejoining the drunken group which, by this point, I believe was singing “Lean on Me” a cappella. We proceeded to sing many things a cappella, including an old S Club 7 song that I was pretty well into at age ten or what have you, until we Americans were wearing the sombreros and berets and swaying in time to the “music,” our arms thrown around Welsh shoulders.

Well, some of us. I was much less about the touching with drunk men I had just met, but generally, the end of the gathering was very lighthearted, a sort of “We Are the World” facilitated by copious amounts of alcohol.

The night in the bar of this Gwbert hotel was – despite the fuzziness-inducing effects of seven or so pints – quite memorable. Even now, though, a few years down the line, I’m astonished at Mike’s decision to throw out, “Oh yeah, so I have a sixteen-year-old son.”

Having a tattoo of your son’s name, okay, that’s sweet, that could win you some points. Noting that said son is almost my age: not so much. This just seems like a no-brainer – you should lie.

If you’re in your mid/late forties and you’re trying to sleep with a twenty-one-year-old American that you met in a bar maybe an hour ago, you’re probably not concerned with establishing a relationship based on trust and mutual respect. This is fine – it’s the contract of the skeezy bar hookup, and if the girl goes for it, she’s not picking out wedding china in her head in the meantime.

Ergo, LIE. You’re “sweet” and “sensitive”? You have a son that you love? Great, say he’s a toddler. Get the most out of this you can. He can be five at the most. Six or seven is pushing it – that’s the age when a kid starts to seem like a person rather than a tiny, adorable talking doll that you can make say inappropriate things.

DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT tell the younger woman that you have a kid almost her age. You do not want her to do the math and realize that you could be her father. That in and of itself is not necessarily a dealbreaker, but if you’re trying to seal the deal, you do not want the girl to be connecting you with her father. She looks at you, she immediately pictures her father: it’s a big mood killer. The kind that requires she go take a 45-minute shower and you go away.

So lie. Tell her about the cute castle that little Tommy/Taylor made with blocks a few days ago. Tell her how he called you “Mama” for two years, because he apparently thought it was a nice all-purpose parent name. Tell her about something shitty your ex-wife did to you, even, if you like. Make up whatever endearing stories you like. Just do not open your mouth and let, “I could be your father” slide on out. She’s not that drunk.

She could never be that drunk.

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