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June 5, 2019

Can I Flirt at the Gym?

Hey, Bonita…

Hello,

I work out a lot and seem to be on the same workout schedule as a gorgeous woman who I think is similar in age to me. I’m on cardio on the same days as her, and weights, too, which leads to some casual interactions related to gym machines and so on. She's super nice with a great sense of humor. I'm careful not to offer unwanted advice, since she's in great shape and obviously doesn't need it, but I'd love to talk to her more. I want to ask her out—she's gorgeous, we seem to have the same values related to taking care of our bodies, and I'm totally impressed by her workout routines and stamina. I'd like to know more about her, go out on a date, then see where it goes.

The problem is that I'm very aware of this whole post-Me Too culture, where women seem to view flirtation and attention from guys as offensive harassment. I feel like I can't make a move, because I don't want to become some internet post about the gross guy at the gym who won't leave her alone. I've always thought I was pretty good at flirting, but now I second-guess it all, worrying that I'll be labeled as a creep.

I really like this girl and barely know her. It seems so simple but so complicated at the same time. How can I try to get more acquainted without giving her a reason to say "me too"?

Thanks,

Clueless Musclehead

Dear Musclehead,

I’d agree that you’re a bit clueless when it comes to what Me Too actually is, and what women are actually asking of men when it comes to flirting and dating. At no point have feminists asked men to stop flirting and engaging with us, and that’s not what Me Too is about. Tarana Burke coined the term when talking about the prevalence of sexual assault and abuse against women in America, essentially saying that telling another woman about your assault will most likely get you a “Me too!” from her.

The 2015 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey found that one in three women have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime. That’s a lot! Do you have a mom and two aunts? Apply that statistic to the women in your life, and I think the seriousness of the problem will become more evident to you. The #metoo hashtag was founded to bring these statistics into common knowledge and create a national conversation around the way we treat our women and girls in this country—and it worked. I’m picking up an annoyed tone in your question, but I want to commend you for thinking about that hot lady’s lived experience of womanhood and the subconscious ways chauvinism and misogyny might play out if you approach her.

If Me Too has you examining your behavior and being more mindful before approaching a potential date, that’s great. I’d say you should be extra careful since you’re talking about hitting on a woman at the gym, an environment notoriously overrun with the male gaze. It’s actually the reason I prefer not to exercise in gyms. If you’re worried about your attention being construed as harassment, then I recommend not flirting with her while she’s working out or using any gym facilities. She sounds like a powerhouse who wants to get her pump on, anyway.

Does your gym have a juice bar? Perhaps you see her when coming or going. These would be the best times to approach her if you’re worried about coming on too strong on the gym floor. Avoid blatant comments about her physique, and focus more on your admiration of her stamina and routine. Ask her for advice, even if you don’t need it. I’m sure you know best what’s comfortable for you, but it seems to me that you’ve got an eyeful of her body already, so there’s no need to start there with flirting. Also, she’s probably noticed you staring already. Shoot your shot, my dude, but shoot it with respect.

Need advice? Email advice@flagpole.com, use the anonymous form at flagpole.com/getadvice, or find Bonita on Twitter: @flagpolebonita.

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