Small Talk and Pick Up Lines

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When I first began college I went out on weekends with my friend Claudia hoping to meet a new guy at the parties we attended. Things always turned out the same. Every young man who approached me wanted Claudia’s contact information. She was at the height of her charisma and popularity and while I loved her like a sister I grew weary of feeling like a fifth wheel and after a time she was busy going on dates anyway. I needed a new partner and that’s where my cousin Ingrid came into the picture. She was attending the same university, had access to a car, and was always up for adventure so we became the new team.

I’ve never known anybody who actually thought that Ingrid and I look even remotely alike but when we stepped out together it created an automatic pick up line. Every single time someone would begin a conversation by asking us if we were sisters. Ingrid always looked more like her dad and it might be argued that I looked like her mom, but in truth I generally resembled my father’s side of the family. Since our mothers were sisters it really made no sense that people thought we were sisters but maybe there was something there that we were unable to see. Anyway it worked like a charm and neither of us outshone the other so we always had a good time meeting new people. We even went out on a couple of double dates.

Our liaison ended on the night of our cousin Alan’s twenty first birthday. That’s when we both met a rather handsome and interesting friend of Alan’s named Mike. He had recently attended Loyola University in New Orleans but had transferred to the University of Houston. He had a preppy look that spoke of someone who came from a different place than our town.

While I was intrigued with him it became apparent to me that he was interested in Ingrid which was fine because I wanted at least one of us to land a possible date with him. Imagine my shock when he called me a few days later. I was so stunned that I asked him if he had perhaps obtained the wrong phone number when he got information from Alan. My question perturbed him because Alan had asked him the same thing in a round about way, wondering if Mike wanted to talk with “the pretty one” or “the smart one.” 

As you might have guessed my mostly male cousins thought of me as “the smart one.” It was a kind of scarlet letter for a young woman back in the sixties. Not many men were enthralled with brains over beauty back then but interestingly Mike had responded that he wanted to pretty one with the short hair which was definitely me. I think I fell in love with him instantly when he told me that. Eventually he found out that he had also selected a smart one, although Ingrid and I joke to this day that he could not have lost because we were both pretty and smart.  

I honestly hated the whole concept of meeting someone of the opposite sex for the first time. I was never particularly good at small talk or being flirtatious. Such moments were actually somewhat painful. Once I got to know someone I was fine but I’m just not good at all with pick up lines or first meetings. I tend to just freeze and quietly blend in with the rest of the room. 

When I was a senior in high school I competed for a four year college scholarship from Texas Commerce Bank. I was nervous about the interview that was part of the process but I was a competitive debater and felt more comfortable with public speaking than having a conversation with someone I never met before. The college counselor prepared me a bit with some possible scenarios so I felt ready for whatever came. Boy, was I surprised when the first question was thrown at me. The panel wanted to know what I did when I went on a date. Aside from the fact that I thought it to be a personal and invasive inquiry, I had never been on a date in my life at that point. I had no idea what to say.

I must have looked like a deer in the headlights as I attempted to fake an answer. I probably would have been better off just being honest but I worried that it made me sound somehow like a freak and so I babbled aimlessly about places we would go and topics we would discuss. It was quite pathetic and as I spoke it felt like slow motion torture. If given the opportunity I probably would have bolted from the room. I was certain that I had eliminated myself from consideration and as expected I did not win.

Times have changed so much since then. Nobody in an official capacity would base judgement for an academic scholarship on a young woman’s dating habits. Not only that, I find that men are less likely to be frightened by a strong, intelligent woman. I suppose that in a boys will be boys world there are still comments like “Do you want the pretty one or the smart one?” but such things may happen less often. Many people also meet through online dating services where all the small talk is already done with the extensive questionnaires that match men and women who have similar likes and dislikes. I think that in many ways meetings in public over coffee or lunch which is popular is also more casual and less anxiety inducing. Lucky for me I met the man of my dreams at my cousin’s birthday party and never had to worry about such things again. Fifty three years later we are happily married with a lifetime of memories having nothing to do with appearance or pick up lines. Life is good.


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