Very embarrassing story from my youth coming up. Oh, woe.
Back in the 1980s, before The Rules was published, all the teenage girls' and women's magazines recommended that girls ask boys out on dates. "These are the EIGHTIES!" was their argument which, come to think of it, wasn't a very good argument. It was even a very bad argument for large, multicultural cities like Toronto, where some cultures simply didn't care what year it was: girls weren't supposed to ask out boys. Some cultures had moved to Toronto in 1950, and for many of their adherents, time stopped in 1950.
My mother firmly believed that girls were not supposed to ask out boys, even though she took the Toronto Star, which was (and is) a left-wing paper, watched television, sent us to publicly-funded Catholic schools, etc. And naturally, I thought her attitude to dating was behind the times, which it indeed was, or she would not have allowed me to start dating at age 14. (She had been allowed to go to someone's prom when she was 14, so she thought it only fair that I be allowed to date at 14, too.) So I took the initiative, as one so often did back then, and asked a large, handsome Filipino boy at my brother's school out to a theatrical performance at another school.
Oh, snap. Just realized now that South Pacific was probably not the world's most sensitive choice of cross-cultural dating venue. Oh, well, I was only 15 or 16. What did I know?
Anyway, I took Scooter (we'll call him Scooter) to South Pacific and paid for his ticket and was a perfect lady and pretended not to notice when some racist jerk in Finch Subway Station made an anti-cross-cultural dating remark. I even humbly admitted I could be wrong when I repeated some left-wing idea about poverty breeding crime, and Scooter hit the subway roof because apparently he was being brought up poor. He saw me to my bus, and we probably shook hands goodnight.
Thus I thought the date was a success until my brother brought me a note home from Scooter thanking me for an "enchanted evening". The message was wrapped around a banknote: the price of his ticket.
I felt like I had been slapped. It was as if I had done something SERIOUSLY WRONG, something seriously insulting to Scooter, by paying for his ticket, and the only way he could right this wrong was to give me the money back. Now I'm not sure why I was so ashamed; perhaps there was something in the note. I remember the note imperfectly, but I sure remember the shame.
And the shame was very helpful, for it meant I never asked out Scooter again, or plotted to be where Scooter was, or made any attempt to trail after Scooter. And Scooter, I might add, never made any reciprocal invitations to me.
The number one rule of pickiness is that you should pick from only those guys who actually like you.
And, no, I'm not joking. Many girls choose which guys they are going to have a crush on or they are going to ask out not because those guys were kind, friendly or complimentary to them, but merely because they are cute. Or because other girls think they are cute. Or because they symbolize something, like wealth, popularity, stylishness, or adventure.
My mother, in trying to explain the laws of human nature, said that girls weren't supposed to go out in the world and hunt down the perfect man. We were supposed to sit still and pick from the men who wanted us. I thought this horrifying. What if I wasn't the slightest bit interested in the men who wanted me? Not having an Auntie Seraphic to ask about this, I just ignored my mother. But since I am Auntie Seraphic, I would counsel: 1. wait for the next crop of suitors and 2. travel to where they may be.
The social rules really do change from place to place. At (obsession alert) swing-dancing, I noticed one of the coolest of the Cool Girls ask a guy to dance, and he positively leaped to his feet. But that, of course, is a swing-dancing event in Edinburgh; possibly the unspoken rules are different for a Latin American salsa dancing club in Toronto. I bet they are.
However, whether you agree with me or not that women shouldn't ask guys out on dates, I hope you will agree at least that the only guys you should be "encouraging" are the ones who need the least encouragement, which is to say guys who genuinely like you, are friendly to you, say nice things to you and are thoughtful to you.
This may be a mind-boggling thought, but the fact is that not all men are going to like you--like, at all--and this is not, in fact, a major tragedy. It always blows my mind to discover that some people, people I have been polite to and can't remember offending in any way, just don't like me. ("ME?! Little ME?! But, but...! But I like them!") I survive by concluding--after much soul-searching and wondering if I should start carrying breath mints in my handbag--that the problem is them, not me.
That is, I posit that there is some internal block in this otherwise admirable human being that causes them to dislike A) women B) women my age C) women my age with opinions they deplore D) Canadians E) red-heads F) "the middle clawsses"/"posh fowk, ken" G) people with dry, super-curly hair H) humanity in general.
And that is sad. However, it is worth knowing that someone greatly, if unfairly, dislikes you ASAP, so as not to waste time turning handstands to give encouragement to "the shy" or endless tolerance to "the rough diamonds." Naturally this is just as helpful for married women trying get about in society as it is for young women hoping to find a good and loving spouse.
If you recognize yourself in this, you must not think that you have "made an ass of yourself." If you keep on inviting people to events and they keep turning you down (or never, ever reciprocate), or you continue to make pleasant chat at cocktails parties despite the fact they almost bit your nose off at the last cocktail party, you are not an ass. You are just a nice person doing her best.
However, there may come a time when it hits you like a spitball between the eyes that the reason someone you like very much keeps putting you down (etc.) is because he or she simply doesn't like you. And when you realize this, you must draw back. You don't have to sign a pledge before witnesses to avoid them. Indeed, it is probably best that you not talk about it at all--unless to your cheering psychotherapist. You do this not only as a kindness to yourself, but as a kindness to the person who doesn't like you. He or she doesn't like you and so logically will be relieved when he or she sees less of you.
Of course, you can also be all American (very not-Canadian, very not- British) about it and ASK them WHY they don't like you; the idea fills me with horror. However, I suppose there is a chance--in the USA and other emotionally honest countries--that your non-fan will respect you for asking. He or she may even tell you. A ten year old classmate told me why he didn't like me, and I have always kept his words in mind. Painful truths are often very helpful.