Leber: Handcuffing is no way to ask for a date

Friends, I feel like we need to have a little talk about courtship.

When asking for a date, no one's saying there's any need for long-stem roses or a handwritten invitation, but some things just make me wonder.

Like remember the Northgate Mall "glistening white buttocks" incident back in May, where one gentlemen invited another to engage in some recreational romance by exposing his backside in a lavatory? It works for baboons; it's called "presenting," but for humans, that's just not socially acceptable.

And then last week, a man working at a Dalton, Ga., Taco Bell was arrested after reportedly handcuffing himself to a female co-worker he wanted to date, despite the fact that the young lady had apparently refused his previous advances.

Gentlemen, in addition to being illegal, these methods of wooing are not attractive. They're downright scary. They convey desperation and aggression, neither of which is an especially respectable quality. Assertive is nice. A little vulnerability can be good. But anything beyond that can just be frightening and make a woman feel violated. (And handcuffs should be saved for later in the relationship, and then only with consent -- and for heaven's sake, don't lose the key.)

When it comes to inviting a lady or gentlemen on a date, however, I tend to think simple is best. Avoid nudity. Avoid entrapment. "Do you want to go out on Saturday?" or "May I take you out to dinner?" are good, basic approaches. Do this on the phone or in person; I'm not a fan of texting for a date. Speak in a clear voice. If you're over the age of 18, try not to stumble. "So, um, like, I dunno, you wanna, like, I dunno, hang out or somethin'?" is simply not acceptable.

And, of course, this is all fairly obsolete because people don't really get asked out on dates anymore, do they? We hang out, meet up, hook up, and then eventually we have some uncomfortable exchanges -- "So, like, are we dating?" -- and gradually the terms boyfriend and girlfriend come into play, often after the handcuffing and the presenting, and all.

It's a little sad. Getting asked out on dates is nice. The object of your affection might not feel the same way and rejection is always a possibility, but a nice dinner invitation is always pleasing.

To the invitees: If you're truly not interested, decline politely. This person is opening himself up to you. Be considerate, and treat a person's feelings with care. If you're not sure, what's the harm in a meal or a cup of coffee? You never know.

When I was a young teenager, I had my first experiences with being asked out. One boy began by approaching me on a prehistoric version of instant messaging and ended by arriving at school the next morning with a sign stapled to his shirt. Another pulled me aside at a party, handed me a flower and asked if I would go on a date with him.

I turned them both down, and if I recall correctly, neither in the most gentle of ways. In retrospect, I should have been kinder to their young hearts, especially the one who didn't make a spectacle. Sign Boy I felt less bad about.

So, if you must decline, be kind, but to those who have been rejected: Try to accept the loss graciously. And by all means, leave the handcuffs at home.

Remember, there's a fine, fine line between wooing and harassing.

Contact Holly Leber at hleber@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6391. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/hollyleber.

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