Girl Talk: Let’s Talk About Negging

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I was at the bar at the Mandarin Oriental in Las Vegas enjoying a glass of champagne and having an intense one-in-the-morning chat with a new friend about raising kids (she’s a mom, I want to be one) when a young, casually-dressed guy came over and put his hand on both our backs. He was cute and friendly and something about his unexpected approach sparked my interest. I wasn’t there looking to meet anyone, but I rarely get hit on, so I paid attention. My friend was married and not too impressed with him but she retired and let me judge for myself.

At first, I thought he was somehow sophisticated; he was friends with the band, and seemed cocky in a fun way. I rarely drink, but since I’d already broken my teetotaler rule, I figured if he offered to buy me another $26 glass of Veuve Clicquot, I’d go for it. He didn’t. Instead, he asked me my name three times, each time demanding to know if it was my real name. I’m no expert on fake name etiquette but I’ll go out on a limb and say that if a girl’s going to make up a name, it’s not gonna be as generic as “Rachel.” The more he asked if my name is real, the more accusatory he sounded, and if he thought I was making up my name, surely anything else I said would probably sound just as ridiculous.

I didn’t need to worry, though, since he wasn’t big on small talk, and every question I asked him he managed to evade. “What do you do?” I asked, not in the New York one-upmanship kind of way, but out of genuine curiosity, considering I knew absolutely nothing about him. “You don’t need to know,” he told me, like I’d just asked him for a trade secret. True, but it seemed like a pretty basic question a guy trying to pick up girls might expect.

Instead, he pounced on the idea that he’d somehow managed to interrupt an incipient lesbian tryst with my friend simply with the power of possessing a cock. He asked me over and over, any time there was a lull in the meager conversation, whether I was “with” her, as in, on a date. I told him repeatedly that she was just a friend (if she was my date, why would I suddenly ditch her?), but he didn’t believe me. Then he busted out with “Do you like dick or vag?” At first, I wasn’t sure what he said, since no one has ever asked me whether I’m bi in quite that gross a way before. When it sunk in, I told him, truthfully, “Both.” He acted like this was a more offensive answer than either of the others I’d come up with, including my “fake” name. Up unil then he had his arm around me, but he moved as far apart from me as he could while still be seated in the chair next to me.

“What?” I asked.

“That’s fine, but I’m not going to cuddle with you.” Okay … I wasn’t really sure what part of “both” he didn’t get, but by then I was starting to get fed up, and the champagne was catching up with me. I sensed that I was about to lose it and start crying, because how pathetic was I to still be talking to a guy who was clearly not worth even a rebound make-out session?

The “best” thing he said to me all night, though, has to be when he told me my leopard print dress was ugly. “You should never wear this again,” he said definitively, like he was some fashion guru. Now, I wasn’t expecting a compliment, but if he hated how I looked in my dress, why was he trying to stick his hand down it? I didn’t ask what part of the dress most offended him; by that point, I was – finally — plotting my escape.

If he’d used any one of these “lines,” which it only later occurred to me is classic pickup artist (PUA) “negging,” I might have been able to overlook them, but their cumulative effect made me more shocked than anything. I stuck around because I wanted to see what the ultimate conclusion would be. I gave him the benefit of the doubt; maybe he was just socially awkward, not trying to be a total douchebag. Yet he even managed to make a compliment seem like an accusation. “But when am I going to see you again?” he kept whining, as if my entire flight schedule had been designed so that we met right before I left town, thus thwarting him from seeing me again. Gross. Eventually, when I told him he couldn’t come to my hotel room because I had a roommate (I was not seriously considering it, but was grateful for the roommate excuse to stop me from doing something I might regret) he suggested going back to his place for sex, which I managed to decline, before escaping while he went back to the bar to get a drink.

I seem to have a knack for meeting weird, gross guys on vacation (see my date with a “Top Chef”). That’s not as bad as meeting them on my home turf, where I might risk running into them again. Maybe I give guys like that more time than they deserve because, at least in those two cases, my self-esteem had taken a hit, and I was flattered that even someone who I don’t respect was interested in me (yes, that’s something to discuss in therapy). Also, since I would never blatantly insult someone I liked, it was confusing to have someone giving such mixed messages. One minute Vegas dude was trying to kiss me, the next he was telling me my dress was ugly.

I realized that I don’t mind lighthearted mocking that comes from someone I know actually cares about me. I’ve had plenty of dates rib me about the size of the purses I carry (I once clubbed a woman next to me as I sat down in a restaurant) and another time I checked in at Whole Foods on Foursquare and got a text from a guy I sometimes hook up with saying, “Really? Whole Foods?” That’s far different from someone telling me my dress is ugly. If I were on “What Not to Wear,” that would be acceptable, but if you’re trying to get me into bed, it’s not.

The only positive thing, as far as I can tell, about guys like that is that they let you know what they’re like right off the bat. If you choose to go forward, you have only yourself to blame. It’s easy to say that they’re rude or obnoxious, because, well, they are, but I’d prefer that style of confrontation than someone who’s nice to my face and then ignores me, or says whatever they want to get me into bed only to drop me right after. Other than that, since I live in New York, I’m hoping these kinds of pickup lines stay in Las Vegas, where I don’t have to deal with them on a regular basis.

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