Can I ask you something?
Those five, loaded words. The moment I see them in my inbox, which is quite often, my heart does a somersault and thuds audibly against my ribcage. That text always scares me and thrills me at the same time.
What is it with men asking me that all the time?
And it’s not just me. Evidently, lots of young, attractive, single women have been asked the same question eventually. It’s phrased so innocently, that it completely throws you so that another, indecent question can be asked.
The way it works is this : You’re talking to a good guy friend. You flirt, or maybe not, depending on what kind of friend he is, then you exchange hellos or goodbyes, or ask about each other’s day. Then suddenly after a brief silence he texts you :
Can I ask you something?
And you’re left thinking Didn’t I just talk to him? What could he possibly want to ask? What kind of terrible question needs such a hideously formal preface?
Because it is a preface. It’s a manipulative opening line meant to elicit an answer in the affirmative. And once you’ve agreed to answer, you’ve walked right into the trap.
See, if it’s a guy you really like then the moment he poses that question, all your energy focuses on a glamorous stage where you’re directing the perfect way this conversation can go and your actors immediately start performing the following Act :
But reality, is an Act where one of your Actors decides to improvise, run off the stage and throttle an audience member :
More often than not that question they want to ask is, at least in my experience, offensive. It’s exactly the sort of thing they wouldn’t dare ask you to your face, especially since the messaging medium has seduced everyone into being cheeky. Unfortunately, not all of these conversations are humorous, unlike the ones above.
Are you seeing anyone?
Why are you going out with him?
Why can’t we go out?
Why are you still single?
I’m not up to dating standard.
What are you wearing right now in bed?
A body suit sewn from dead human skin.
How did you feel in the shower?
Like Janet Leigh in Psycho
Why are you so fat?
I eat for a living.
Do girls watch porn?
No we’re too busy starring in them.
How much do you masturbate?
Till I pass out.
What would happen if the two of us ended up in bed together?
I’d still sleep.
What’s your favourite sex position?
The position where I do social work for my Church.
Are you on your period?
Did you want to borrow my tampons?
Most of the questions are downright sleazy, invasive and impolite. There’s no dignified response to them. If you do answer, it invites even more outrageous follow-up questions. One friend tells me that the dreaded question acts as a gentle preamble to a topic that would normally be out of bounds. No matter how hard a girl tries to keep things clean, it gets dirty. While sexting is quite the rage these days, which I totally sympathise with, I was under the impression it happens when the girl is enjoying it and not, as I often am, gagging in horror at the sudden change in the direction of the conversation.
If you say yes, you can ask me, what follows is almost always not a question you will enjoy. If you say no, you cannot, then you’re likely to be viewed as a stuck-up, anti-social, overly sensitive female who’s been on the defensive too often.
If you, like me, have been unsuspectingly and unwittingly lured into conversations such as these on countless occasions and you’re not entirely sure what the right call is, then I suggest the following approach :