Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Obsessing About Strangers

Claire recently got in touch with me because she was literally freaking out about a guy that had asked for her number and hadn’t called when she expected. They’d met on the weekend, he’d called on the Tuesday and suggested meeting up a couple of days later, she’d said she wasn’t free and suggested the weekend, he said he was away that weekend but would call the following week, and she was flipping her wig by Sunday evening fretting about if and when he’d call. When she got in touch with me, it was the Thursday i.e the weekend he was away hadn’t even arrived yet. I.e When she got in touch with me, she had known of this man for five days.


The above scenario came from the current post on the excellent blog Baggage Reclaim. In it, blogger Natalie goes on to point out several ways in which obsessing over things like this are really about you, and not the other person.

I wanted to write a little bit about phone numbers and strangers. It's something I have some experience with, and wonder what other folks have experienced.

I have asked perhaps five or six women I've met in various places for their phone numbers in the past. And given that I took the risk of doing that, I called everyone of them back within a week of the ask. Usually within 3-4 days.

I have also done the mutual exchange route. And I have handed women my number and e-mail address in the past as well.

Here are, to best of my recognition, the results from all of that.

On the plus side, with each successive attempt, a bit of confidence seemed to develop in presenting my interest in someone.

In addition, in more recent years, I have become more able to hand out the contact info, or ask for the contact info, and then let go of any attending stories about what will happen.

On the other hand, I can recall just a single instance when any of this led to a dating situation. Several years ago, I ended up going on three or four dates with a woman who I met in a coffee shop just once, and got the nerve up to ask for her phone number. Otherwise, unless I'm forgetting something, all of those other times ended up being dead ends.

In addition, there were at least a few times the woman in question was dating someone else, and was just humoring my request for contact information or the sharing of my contact information.

Now, I'm well aware of the juiciness of the story of meeting a stranger, and then somehow, as if by magic, he or she becomes "THE ONE." Movies and television are filled with these kinds of stories. And the popularity of approaches like "Pick Up Artistry" can easily make one think that this kind of thing happens a lot.

However, I'm pretty sure that it actually doesn't. That the lion's share of long term relationships don't involve meeting some random person in a coffee shop, bar, on the bus, in the airport, etc., exchanging numbers, calling, and then falling in love. It's just not that likely, and yet I can imagine that a fair number of readers have felt like Claire before. I know I have fretted over making a call to, or getting a call from, some woman I knew next to nothing about. And it just seems foolish looking back on it now.

Which doesn't mean one should never do these kind of things. But perhaps it's best to remember the odds, and not put a lot of energy into chasing down, or fretting about, strangers.

What do you think?


  1. I think it's fine to do it- both giving and receiving contact info- but not take it too seriously, and definitely not pin all of your hopes on it. I'm trying to think of one long-term relationship among the people I know that developed this way, and am coming up with a zero. I'm sure it happens, but it's probably way more common in movies than real life.

  2. "I'm sure it happens, but it's probably way more common in movies than real life."

    That's definitely what I think.

  3. I have to disagree a bit with you on this one, a large number of relationships I’ve witnessed were started by calls and exchanging contact information.

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