DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: You have been by far the sanest and most impactful source of advice for me on romance. So, thanks. Thought I’d reach out for specific advice.
I’m a 25-year-old straight guy living in a big city. During COVID I’ve relied mostly on dating apps to meet women, and have had good results. But I think it’s more fun and exciting to meet people organically in person, and lately I’ve been going out a lot on the weekends with that in mind (but not as the sole purpose of going out). Part of this means going to clubs, which is kind of a new thing for me.
I happened to find this one club that I LOVE. The DJs play the music I like, the staff are down to earth and nice, and the crowd is around my age and always brings positive energy, like everyone is genuinely there to get loose and have a good time (which unfortunately you can’t say for a lot of clubs in this city). It’s also very queer-friendly, which I think contributes to the inclusive vibes. I feel so comfortable, happy, and excited in this place that I will go completely alone and have a blast dancing into the wee hours, and I’ve done that back-to-back nights.
What makes it extra fun is that I get a lot of attention from the women there. I presume it’s because I tend to be one of the few hetero guys in the whole venue and I’m pretty attractive (I get a lot of attention from the men, too, but that interests me less). I’ll be in the zone on the dance floor, minding my own business, then I’ll feel girls’ eyes on me, and then suddenly I’ll find myself dancing, grinding, and making out with a cute girl without really any effort or intention on my part. It’s kind of mind blowing. I think it helps being alone – I imagine it’s easier and less intimidating for a girl to approach me that way, especially when she has her group to back her up. I bet it also helps that I actually enjoy dancing and get into it in the middle of the floor instead of just watching/brooding from the sidelines.
Anyway, here’s my issue: we’ll make out for a few seconds, or even a few minutes, often without having even spoken a single word to one another, and then the interaction will kind of peter out, and we’ll go our separate ways on the floor, or she’ll give me an “I need to go check on my friends.” This is basically the scenario that repeats virtually every time I’m there.
I’m often satisfied to have random transient dance floor make outs and then go right back to getting on with my evening. But sometimes it gets hot and intense to the point that I want to spend the entire night with someone. What’s the next step? How do I prolong these interactions? Do I try to take them back to the bar where it’s brighter and quieter and chat them up a bit to actually get to know who they are? Do I straight up say “let’s get out of here” and try to take them home ASAP? Do I let it peter out, cool down, and then find them again later? Does them stepping away mean they’ve already lost interest and I should just leave it be?
It’s a counterintuitive issue for me, because I’ve always followed the MO that you should escalate things with someone – over the course of a date, an evening, an interaction, etc – to sustain an upward crescendo of sexual energy. It seems the gradual step-by-step makes the process more comfortable and builds anticipation and excitement for the finale. On the flip side, deescalating things, or not escalating in the right rhythm can deflate all of that.
But when I’m making out with someone and we have our bodies pressed against each other, I don’t see any way to escalate from that point other than sex – anything else seems like it would take the energy down a notch. On the other hand, does it make sense to be thinking about moving in that direction when I haven’t even learned someone’s name yet? It’s important to me to avoid creeping anyone out because this is a venue I hope to keep coming back to, and a big draw of the place is the notable absence of creepy/uncomfortable vibes compared to most other clubs.
I know this hookup-y question is lighter than most of what I read on here, but any practical advice or insight could really help. For me, making connections with sexy strangers is a rare source of joy during these apocalyptic times.
Horny and Antsy
DEAR HORNY AND ANTSY: Here’s the thing, HAA: humans are bad at understanding why we feel the way we feel. We feel the physical sensations and then decide on the why after the fact — usually by backfilling in information based on what’s going on around us. In fact, scientists would test this by having folks cross a chasm or gap on a thin bridge. Once they got to the other side, they would have one of their assistants — young, attractive, and usually the opposite sex of whomever just did the crossing — interview them for the study, then hand the subject their phone number in case they had more questions. They would also do this with far less rickety or scary bridges. However, the purpose of the test wasn’t asking the questions. It was what the subjects would do afterwards.
The folks who crossed the scarier, less safe-seeming bridge were far, far more likely to call that number than the folks who crossed the safe one — and often the subjects (usually, but not exclusively the male ones) would ask the interviewer out or want to know more about them.
Why? Because, as it turns out, the physical sensations of fear and the physical sensations of sexual arousal are identical. The difference is the context; is there a sabertooth tiger behind that bush or are you talking to someone hot? Oh, you’re talking to someone hot; clearly you’re turned on. Doesn’t matter that you were being chased by that tiger five minutes ago, it’s that moment now that defines why you think you feel the way you feel.
This is what’s known as “the misattribution of arousal”, and it affects us in a number of every day scenarios. If you’re doing something that excites your central nervous system and your cardiovascular system… you’re exciting other parts of yourself too.
If you’re a regular reader of my column, you’ve probably seen me say that the dance floor is its own beast and what happens on the dance floor isn’t necessarily an indicator of anything off the floor. This is especially true at clubs where the dancing doesn’t have the structure of, say, salsa or merengue or swing; you’ve got people out there grinding, rubbing up and down on each other and generally looking like the only thing keeping bits from going into other bits are assorted strips of cloth. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the people dancing want to f--k the person they’re grinding up on. More often than not, that’s just the dance; the music ends, folks go on their way and dance elsewhere. Guys who don’t recognize this or who try to go to far usually find themselves frozen out pretty damn fast.
Now, if you take the energy of the dancing, the driving beat of the music, the elevated heart rates and the almost hypnotic ecstasy (in the non-sexual sense) that hits folks during dancing… well, you get a lot of intense, directed physical arousal and folks who will grind, grope and make out while the music plays and the DJ drops the beat. But when the moment ends… they go on their way like nothing happened. That can get confusing if you’re not used to it.
Hell it can be pretty confusing if you are, but if you’re not used to the dynamic, it can leave you feeling like you’ve either been lead on or like you were given an audition and failed.
(It’s also worth noting that sometimes you’ll run into folks who’re ripped to the eyeballs on cocaine or molly or other drugs and are cuddly or make-out-y because of it; the same philosophy of “the dance floor is its own thing” applies, but moreso.)
I would also note that just because you’re ramping things up — grinding on each other, making out, etc. — that doesn’t mean that the overall arc needs to keep escalating or things won’t happen. Heating up and cooling down is far more exciting than just letting everything keep going until you explode into sex. It’s like a roller-coaster; you need the slower parts to give contrast to the drops and turns, the ratcheting up of tension to give meaning to the release of the drop and so on. Having things heat up, then cool off, then heat up again actually builds the mood to a crescendo in ways that just continually turning up the heat never could. So don’t be afraid of letting things cool down; it doesn’t mean that you’ve f--ked up, it means you have a moment of release that keeps things from redlining instead.
As a general rule, you should assume that whatever happens on the dance floor with a stranger is going to stay on the dance floor. However, if you want to see if there’s more to your dance than just a dance… when the song ends, tell your dance partner that you need a drink and would she like one? Head over to the bar, buy her a drink and see whether you two can keep a conversation going as well as you kept the rhythm going while out on the floor. If so… great, then you may have something more than the DJ telling your heart what to do. If not… well, you gave it a shot and now you have your answer, as well as some dance floor make-outs.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org