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Lasting First Impression

Room for Squares

One thing Iíve learned from the hordes of people who come for Pride is that, when it comes to meeting other people, people are weird. It just seems that the formalities of first impressions almost always get in the way of true introductions. Every single time I meet a new person, I find myself having to sit through an exchange of niceties that is neither informative nor interesting. Meeting people should be easy, and getting to know them should be easier still. We just have to steer clear of a few fatal mistakes.

Essentially, what we all want to know when we meet someone new is whether or not friendship with this person is viable. That, simply put, is the meat of the burger and the reason we want to meet people in the first place. The lettuce, the tomatoes, the buns? They all amount to unnecessary small talk. Itís always best to take a strict Atkins approach when confronting, and confronted by, strangers.

First off, letís examine the nature of things. Strangers are, for lack of a better term, weird. They are not like you (at least not yet) and thus are different. So the only logical thing to do, after exchanging names, is to ascertain some mode of familiarity, to find any kind of similarity between the two of you. Now, all of this is presuming that A) youíre interested in this person, and B) he hasnít yet displayed (at least to your receptors) an overpowering sense of disinterest in you. So, you press on.

One simple rule is to ask open ended questions. Do not commit the fatal error of throwing out a yes-or-no question. As stated earlier, youíre not yet sure whether or not this person is looking for any reason to bolt, so donít give him one. A yes-or-no question would only aid his retreat. They are conversation killers. For example, imagine that youíre at a museum and you ask the guy youíve been following around, ďDo you like art?Ē Well, your first mistake was asking an obvious question. Your second was giving him the chance to respond with nothing more than what the question requires. If he chooses to, he could end the conversation with one word. Donít give him that option.

Now that youíve engaged him, for Godís sake, donít ramble on about what you do, what you like and what you donít like. If there is one thing that scares people away more than anything else, itís intensity. There is no need to disclose every single detail about your life to an absolute stranger because he wonít care. Every time Iím subjected to someoneís life story or tale about his job and education, I zone out. True, I may have asked the question to begin with, but when my questions arenít reciprocated I start to realize that the dudeís more interested in himself than me. And as his interest in himself goes up, my interest in him invariably goes the other way.

If you think about it, first encounters are some of the most unexpected, exciting and suspenseful moments. Why people restrict themselves to formal questions about work and school remains a mystery. Perhaps itís the desire to stay close to the banal so as to remain as far away from the bizarre as possible. I donít know. But címon, weíre gay. How bizarre can bizarre be? If youíre not eating babies with hot sauce for dessert, then chances are that whatever individual quirks you may have, it wonít matter. Every new person you meet embodies an entirely new history of experiences. Thereís no need to stick to a 9 to 5 mentality.

Keep in mind that although making first impressions is important, itís not always better to err on the side of caution. For instance, opening up a debate about the death of Sub Pop will tell you a lot more about a person than what he does to pay the bills. You may be meeting someone for the first time, but you want to make it last too.