It is the ultimate pathetic Carrie Bradshaw/Cosmo question. Every article on it at some point features the words ‘gal’ and ‘single’ in the sentences that follow. Like this one. But although it scores a 9.5 out of 10 on the cringey scale, the issue of women asking men out remains a divided one. A quick survey in IMAGE Towers revealed that an overwhelming majority of our lady pen-pushers would and had asked men out in the past, with most of these encounters resulting in tidings of great joy (three marriages later). However, when I put the question to most of my male friends, the answer I get is a little different. They too seem to agree that a lady should ask a gent out – but most feel this out of a sense of injustice at always being the ones to have to stick their necks out. Furthermore, the main boon of being asked out for men is flattery – not the end result. Overwhelmingly most guys seem to find the idea ego-massaging, but would prefer to man up and do the asking-out themselves.
My personal ethos has for the most part been that if someone is interested they’ll let you know. But this was after a lifetime of living in Italy – the Irish male was an unfamiliar beast. Or mouse. So a while back, out of a combined sense of irritation with wimpy men and as a way of testing my metal, I asked someone out. He seemed reserved, so I thought this was an ideal guinea pig to try it out on. It did not go according to plan. After having sent an email, and a rather cryptic one at that, I awaited a reply for three days. Day 1 – “He hasn’t seen it yet.” Day 2 – “It’s definitely gone into his Spam.” By Day 3 I had the bright idea to send a threatening text message. It read “Are you ******* kidding me?!” There may have been more exclamation marks. Surprisingly my scary text worked. Or sort of. After a bit of back and forth (in which I told him among other things, that it was ok if he was gay, I understood) the whole thing wound up with a date that wasn’t all bad… Just mainly bad.
While these days of deep embarrassment preceding the date rumbled by, I made the unfortunate mistake of letting most of my male friends in on my carry on. You would think this was the funniest thing that had happened since Half Baked. Excerpts from my text message correspondence with the guy were repeated over and over again followed by raucous laughter. The punch line to their every joke was that my insanely over-blown ego had been neatly crushed. The advice my male counterparts gave me was also comforting – ‘do an ostrich’- i.e. hide, ignore him and hope he forgets about it. A hero’s way out clearly.
What I’ve gathered is that women are willing to ask men out as an act of independence and a statement of their own agency. Whether this is actually what’s going on inside their heads I cannot say, but the majority of women do it out of a sense that they shouldn’t feel inhibited – out of a sense of duty towards their newfound empowerment and sexual freedom. But very few would do it because they think this is the best way to approach the opposite sex. Most women I think would agree that it isn’t ‘ideal’ and I’m willing to bet most of them would be unlikely to say that this is ‘the surest way to get the guy.’ Asking men out serves a similar function as we were told Sports Day did when we were in primary school – it’s not about winning but about taking part. I disagreed in primary school and I disagree now. Whether it’s the two-hundred metre race or asking a guy out on a date, the purpose should be to win. Sadly because of the mysterious ways of sexual politics, I think female self –assurance of this sort is never particularly revered nor rewarded by the male on the receiving end. But I’ll leave it to ladies who know better than me and aren’t the resident cynics…
Jennie McGinn – Previously of Prowlster Yes. I asked my fiancé out. Or rather, I ordered him to take me out. You have to grab the bull by the horns.
Jo Linehan – Junior Editor at IMAGE I have asked a guy out and didn’t even think about it. It shouldn’t be left to the boys, right? Wrong. They will always have an itching sense that they’ve been coerced into something. Others I’ve asked about it agree. I wouldn’t bother again.
Jeanne Sutton – Co-editor of Siren Magazine I really think it depends on the timing and the personalities. In the past I have done the asking because I am an empowered young woman of the full voting rights age. But I got fed up of all that and did the whole waiting-and-heavily-hinting thing.
Roisin Agnew @Roxeenna
Cartoon by Liza Donnelly for The New Yorker.