Illustration by Camille

Illustration by Camille

A lot of things give me anxiety (cars, ham, missing a flight, pimples), but there are two activities that others might find nerve-wracking, but which I’ve always enjoyed: Taking risks and meeting new people. Asking out cute strangers is a combination of these tastes: It’s thrilling, like cutting my hair super-short or dangling my feet from some high place. I’ve been known to wink at strangers from across the room, approach boys on campus and say, “You’re cute, can I give you my number?” and ask foreign bodies to coffee, or dinner, or just to bed. Sometimes this has gone really well, and other times, not so well at all…and there have been a few occasions where I have made others uncomfortable with my brazenness.

My friends are both wary of and impressed by my ability to approach others. When they go out with me, they say, “Wow, I wish I could do that, too.” My response is always, “Of course you can!” followed by a lengthy pep talk. Encouraging my friends to set aside their fears and ask cuties out has made me realize how specific my approach is. While I’m perfectly comfortable with walking right up to those I find attractive and making that fact very clear, many of my friends are uncomfortable with this kind of overtness. Witnessing their unique (and less forward) ways of approaching cuties has taught me a thing or two about my own method, and the most important thing I’ve learned from watching my friends approach persons they find attractive is that I don’t always have to approach others with the blatant intention of having our mouths/hands/bodies make contact in sexy ways.

While, it’s totally cool to want to get laid, I also want to make sure I’m not objectifying anyone without also accounting for their actual humanity. It’s super frustrating when you’re having a nice conversation with someone and they cut it short as soon as you mention that you’re in a relationship, or not interested in them sexually. I never want to be THAT guy. There’s a big difference between wanting to do sexy things and expecting to do sexy things. It’s OK to approach cute humans because you want to touch mouths, but it’s also important to be open to all the possible outcomes, which makes it less likely for me to get disappointed.

This specific guide is modeled after the best terribly written series of romantic young adult fiction I know of, aka the noble Choose Your Own Adventure gamebooks, where you get to decide your fate by picking where the storyline goes, which then dictates the page you turn to next! Wild, right? In our case, the page numbers are right beneath each bit of text, so you can click around down there! But before I lead you into the murky waters of love and lust and mutual respect, I also want to stress that people are human beings who make their own choices, and they might not match up with yours! Pickup culture is gross, so this is not a guide to “picking up” people you find attractive. This is about choosing your own adventure—stepping a bit outside your comfort zone in order to have fun and exciting times with others. Finding another person attractive (in all senses of the word) is exhilarating and wonderful. Acting on that attraction should humanize you and the other person in a way that is kind and respectful to everyone involved!

Whew. Now that that’s covered, are you ready, you brave and considerate beings? Let us enter into a hypothetical public stranger encounter: TURN TO PAGE 2.