I just got back from DragonCon. I discovered that what was true in the past is still true. Which means a little essay I wrote in 1999, shortly after returning from Origins, is still valid. It could be broadened to apply to most male con-goers, but I’ll just reprint.
With tongue in cheek I present — how to become a gamer with a woman.
1) Learn to dress well.
1a) Begin by throwing away and replacing all the following: every piece of clothing that is more than two years old; any outerwear that has holes or stains which you don’t use for a) chemical experimentation or b) car/house maintenance. This will probably include some of your favorite slogan T-shirts. If they’re faded, dingy, have holes, or smell funky (ask a non-gamer, neither you nor your friend’s opinions on this can be valued), then buy a replacement.
1b) Next step is buying clothes. You do not have to buy from either Gap or GQ, you can do well at stores such as WalMart. However, you must not trust your taste yet. Find a friend or decent acquaintance who has a wife. Pay her(*) to accompany you, with one simple rule. You can pick what you want, but she gets to veto it. (This gives you some chance to validate your taste while avoiding the tendency toward cave-dweller slobbishness inherent in all gamers.) Realizing that some clothing while individually acceptable clashes with other items, pay your expert witness to add a ‘veto combination’ list.
1c) Now set your combinations up in advance – much as you clip corners or pack storage trays or miniature boxes, work in advance will save hours and embarrassment later. Yes, this may mean that you have to put shirts and pants and socks in the same drawer – and those sets will have to be in several drawers. Heck, it means you have to use your drawers and closets for clothes instead of game storage. Trust me, it’s worth it. (see step 2 in regard to how to put clothes in closets and drawers.)
1d) WEAR the darn things as organized, but for no more than sixteen hours. Plan in advance. If you’ve done a long day at work, and you’re getting ready to head for a marathon session of Stellar Conquest, change clothes.
1e) Shoes use all the above except 1c. Your shoes – and you should have at least two pair worn alternately – do not go in the drawer. Instead when you determined eligible combinations in 1b, you should designate which shoes can or cannot go with a given combination. Then when you choose the shoes for use (a mandatory element of getting dressed) you don’t wear sandals with your double-breasted suit, but instead choose from the ‘dress shoe’ sublist of list ‘shoes’.
(*) Throughout this document I’ll recommend paying instead of asking. This serves two purposes. First, it makes it clear to the person providing assistance that you’re serious and you value his or her time. Second, it makes it clear in your own mind that the advice should be followed. Free advice tends to be ignored whenever it’s convenient. Advice you pay for gets followed even when it’s not convenient. You should pay AT LEAST as much as you would for a wargame in which you expect to invest serious time and effort — $40 to begin, and up to $100.
2) Clean and maintain.
2a) Clean and maintain your clothes. Once you’ve worn them (1d) you don’t wear them again till you wash them. Washing clothes does not consist of cramming them all into the machine in any order, tossing on a handful of soap, and turning the machine on “Hot, Full load”. Again, find someone who knows how to do laundry (this may be someone other than the person you used in the first step, but not necessarily) and pay(*) him or her to teach you how to launder your clothes. Laundering is not only how to wash, and how to dry (both machine and line), but how to fold, iron, and store your clothes.
2b) Clean and maintain your shoes. Pay someone to teach you how to polish, or in the case of running/tennis shoes how to clean, and how, when and why to use shoe trees.
2c) Clean and maintain your residence. Everywhere you hope to have your potential gamer girl see should be clean. Assume until you get to know one better that unclean and unkempt dwellings are reinforced shields against any female presence and act appropriately.
2d) Clean and maintain yourself.
– shower daily. Ideally, shower prior to putting on a new set of clothes (1d). Wash your hair thoroughly at least every other time you shower.
– Maintain your head hair. This means get regular haircuts. Again, pay(*) for advice regarding style – this payment is in addition to the pay you give the person giving you your haircut. As to facial hair… Unless you have the physique of a male model or Russel Crowe [edit – hey, 1999, ok?], never have a 5 o’clock shadow (or 2-day growth). Avoid faddish beards (goatees, fringe beards, van dyke beards, etc) as well. A full beard or a mustache should be worn only after consulting with at least three women other than your mother – again, ask wives/significant others of your friends or acquaintances, but in this case payment is not necessary. In repeated surveys, over 3/4 of the eligible women said that they preferred clean-shaven men unless the men had visible weaknesses that needed the facial hair to disguise. These are discolorations, weak chins, extraordinarily prominent noses, and such, not ‘baby-faces’. If you look too young, revel in it.
– Brush your teeth and floss them at least twice a day, ideally first thing in the morning plus after every meal. Mouthwash is optional, though if in doubt use it.
– Use Deoderant. Your shower cleans the old grime up, but you will sweat.
3) Change your behavior.
a) Reduce your gaming to no more than twelve (12) hours over no more than three (3) days per week.
b) Learn to listen. Listening requires you NOT try to top the person, nor try to change the subject, nor let them “babble on while waiting for a break”. You should be able to paraphrase if not repeat the salient points of the preceding five minutes. Fair warning – this is HARD — harder than learning the sequence of play for SFB, harder even than learning basic conversational Klingon.
c) On the days that you’re not gaming (see 3a), go places and do things that might bring you into contact with girls. These include but are not limited to:
– church/synagogue to include the ‘social activities’;
– dance classes;
– aerobics classes;
– Book discussion and writing clubs;
– singles bars (use with caution – don’t go with your fellow gamers unless they have wives/significant others/dates (gasp) to bring).
– swimming at the beach.
Ensure whatever you do that you get outside for at least one hour every three days – that bright light which others call the sun is beneficial. You can combine this with some of the above activities.
4) Talk to women. You’ve removed the repellents. You’ve learned how to listen. You’ve placed yourself in situations where you have the opportunity to meet women. Now talk with them.
4a) Learn and use conversational opening lines – not just the first sentence but a small set of lines. Never, ever try to use a pickup line. You are a gamer. Your pasty skin is anathema to anyone wanting a one-night stand or even an evening on the town. You’re playing serious strategy, not beer and pretzels.
Here, gamer, is a freebie:
— [situation: game convention, on seeing a booth bunny] “Hi. Do you play the game? (assuming she says no) Cool. What do you think of the convention? [regardless of answer unless it’s ‘get lost’] Oh? How so?”
4b) When the conversation’s done (and remember that SHE picks the when), let go. If you try to monopolize her, she’ll feel like a victim of your monopoly. Instead of being willing to talk again later (that day, that week, that year), she’ll flee.
4c) LISTEN – use the skill you learned in 3b. When you speak to her, the words “I”, “Me”, and “My” should cross your lips only in the first minute (My name is Kirk), in answer to a direct question she asks (Yes, I have seen that movie), and as part of your graceful [4b] exit (I‘ll see you later).
5 Follow up. The first steps will get you some ‘nibbles’ – women who actually pay attention, and who might even be willing to give you an evening of somewhat undivided attention. You are probably going to have to do take next step of asking her. Your hint is that she’s been willing to converse with you for more than ten minutes on more than one occasion – three times is a convenient test line. At that point, follow up by setting up a date. Yes, gamer, a date. Don’t pay attention to the discussions you heard from the football players (when they weren’t dunking you or snapping towels at you) — they’re bragging, and it’s as valid as the Warhammer player’s claims to tactical expertise that sweeps all foes from the table. Where you go depends in part on where you met her, and mostly on what you learned in thirty minutes of conversation (remember, three ten-minute conversations where you LISTENED means you probably know her favorite food and her favorite couple of activities, possibly her favorite movie types…) Use what she told you just as you would use your opponent’s telling what he’s spending limited points to purchase. But go somewhere she likes and do something she likes – oh, be certain you at least are indifferent if not also liking it, or it’ll fail, but the key is that she likes it. And when it’s done, follow up. Just as in gaming you want to advance through the position you’ve opened — send a card, or a flower (just one’s enough), or even a phone call. Don’t wait till the next time you’ll see her normally – that’s as bad as making an interrupt card the last play from your hand.
— paraphrased from lessons my wife has taught me.