by RICHARD GLOVER
A young female friend tells me it’s hard to get to know the boys at high school parties because “they just talk about themselves”. Naturally, I was shocked. Clearly the old men of the tribe have failed to pass on the ancient secrets of meeting the opposite sex.
Rule one is always ask about her. This goes back many millenniums when the first caveman stumbled on the first cavewoman and sympathetically inquired about her efforts to achieve a work-life balance. She had a wildebeest that needed gutting, he had the evening free and that’s how the human race began.
It’s been the same ever since. Properly informed teenage boys, in service of their biological destiny, have politely inquired about matters in which they have no possible interest, including, in extreme cases:
1. Lovely dress! Is it from that new shop Zara?
2. I love Justin Bieber, too! When did you first discover him?
3. Tell me more about veganism. It sounds like it could be right for me.
I admit it’s tough to find something to talk about. When I was 16, a friend used to take an interesting-shaped bolt to teenage parties. When he found himself in front of a girl, he’d be red-faced and tongue-tied but, in an effort of self-mastery, would pull the bolt from his pocket and display it on his outstretched yet shaking hands. She’d say: “What’s that?” He’d say: “It’s a bolt,” and the conversation would be off and running.
Crucially, there’d always be a point in which he’d turn the conversation back to the girl, as in the inquiry: “So do you have a collection of bolts, too?”
This sort of smooth, debonair style is clearly missing in this generation of young men. Luckily, this column is in a position to help them achieve the seductive mastery of my own generation.
What’s crucial is to express interest in whatever is being said, however much of a stretch. For example:
4. It’s just so great to meet someone as concerned as I am about tropical deforestation.
5. Actually, I’m a feminist myself.
6. So, which is your very favourite Kardashian?
Of course, it used to be easier for young people to meet. When I was growing up, we’d spend long evenings gathered around the piano wishing one of us could play. Into the deathly silence, we’d always try to stammer out a question:
7. I just adore Germaine Greer. My only criticism: she’s not tough enough on the men. What’s your view?
More importantly, we’d try to turn ourselves into the sort of young men who’d interest these particular young women.