The male protagonist enters a coffee shop furnished by boho-inspired furniture and enveloped in a smoky aura. The cinematic setting is disrupted only by the occasional whir of a state-of-the-art espresso machine. Across the room, the protagonist’s female counterpart raises her gaze and the couple make eye contact immediately.

Or maybe not. Maybe he stumbles into her table, knocking her book to the floor, forcing them to engage in conversation. Such an interaction, or any other tired rom-com trope, pushes the same concept: Love is inevitable, the path to it, effortless.

While one can dream, realistically, life doesn’t work that way, and flirting with women is a lot more complicated. Sometimes it’s okay to approach women in public under the pretense of flirting. The keyword to keep in mind here, though, is “sometimes.” “Sometimes” is the basis upon which all hope of crafting your very own meet-cute moment, and not crossing the line into creepy territory, should lie.

Gauging the acceptability of what you’re doing may be a challenge, but the following tips — from a living, breathing female — can help.

Assess the Situation

Before you initiate any sort of interaction, read the general social cues the woman is giving off. Ask yourself, first and foremost, is she busy? Does she look like she wants to be alone? If the woman you have your eye on has earbuds in and is vehemently typing away on her laptop, just let her be. Breaking her workflow is not only detrimental to what she needs to do but is also simply unkind. It will paint you in her eyes as an annoyance, which is not a label likely to inspire romantic attraction.

While you may be tempted to brave forth regardless, trying to talk to women who are clearly concerned with other pursuits is unlikely to produce the outcome you long for. However, if they seem unbothered and relaxed, proceed forth and give it your best shot.

Be Clear and Direct

That being said, make sure you enter the interaction with a clear idea of where you’re going with it. Make your intentions and feelings known, tactfully of course, but not in a manner so convoluted that you leave women confused. Asking a woman to watch your stuff, for example, will likely warrant no more than a nod.

Make things easy on yourself by picking a starting comment that will warrant a response and engage your counterpart in conversation. In essence, if you think a woman is cute, compliment her. If you like the book she is reading, ask her how she likes it. However, don’t just leave it at that. Make sure the interaction moves forward. In short, if you make an effort, make that effort worthwhile.

Consider the Response

While you may simply see your conversation opener as an innocent — although perhaps desperate — attempt at not dying alone, it’s crucial to keep in mind that’s not how it may be received by a complete stranger. Especially if you decided to approach a woman who is alone, albeit in a public space, her initial response may not be one of complete trust.

Subject position, defined as the role you hold in society, is a personalized reality affected by the experiences you have had in the past. Men, simply by being men, are often afforded privileges within American culture that women are not. While you may take feeling safe in public for granted, or not view approaching a female stranger as a dangerous act, the same may not be true for the woman you’d like to talk to. The last thing you want to do is make her feel uncomfortable within a space she felt secure. It’s not just an attraction thing; it’s simple human decency.

It is also important that, throughout your interactions, you’re aware of how you’re being received by women. Do they seem to okay with what’s happening? Are their responses thoughtful and engaging, or are they short and clipped? Are they closing themselves off, or opening up to you? Proper and mindful interpretation of these cues will ensure that you act in the correct manner going forward.

Accept the Outcome

So, you’ve taken your shot. There’s really only two ways this can go: reciprocation or rejection. Keeping your expectations low is a saving grace, as it will protect your feelings and your pride. If you are faced with rejection, accept it and move on. Nothing can make you look worse than being pushy. But assuming all goes well and you’re successful in your quest for romance, embrace it!

Now go forth into the world. May you find someone who likes you, just the way you are.


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