Once everyone gets into the hustle of life we learn pretty quickly that the years and years of straight talk from authority figures - do your homework, be nice to your sister, don’t nap on railroad tracks, etc. - all concerned things on the periphery. The things we want as grown-ups, our motivating aspirations, everyone’s, are horrible, selfish, often disgusting things - world-wide domination, vile sexual fetishes, death to our enemies - not good, morally-minded things at all. We’re monsters. But we can’t own up to this, not publicly, if we want to stay alive or not be hookers, so we speak the Code; we pretend, for example, that when we start chatting up a pretty man or woman we’re just being friendly and that a midnight invitation to to come up for coffee doesn’t involve something super dirty or that Levitra enhances guys' ability to throw footballs through a backyard tire swing.
Women are Code speak mavens. They are so advanced they sometimes forget they’re talking code, and imagine whatever bullsh*t or distraction they're using to leaven the truth is really the thing that they care about, which, research indicates, is supremely useful in both being OK with really shallow behavior and convincing other people to carry your handbag.
Women, for example, get away with saying they’re attracted to guys that are “funny”, by which they mean guys who make them feel attractive and sexy and fun!, which is brilliant if you think about it, because that’s almost the same thing as funny and yet not the same thing AT ALL. When Gwyneth Paltrow insisted in an magazine interview years ago that Brad Pitt is “funniest” guy she ever met, what she really meant was his soft supple hair is so FUNNY! And his washboard abs are so FUNNY! Look at his perfectly formed jaw line, it’s HILARIOUS!” An outrageously handsome man is paying attention to little me! Giggle, giggle, giggle.
Men, on the other hand, generally suck at Code speak, especially when approaching the ladies. They bollox it up like toddlers presenting some Crayola crayoned abomination for display on the fridge, which doesn’t make any strategic sense at all, since the space between what men want and what is socially appropriate is really, really huge, abhorrently huge, it could fill Oakland Coliseum with fantasy-beast anime porn.
BUT in the rare case where guys do master Code speak, what you get is an unstoppable force. You get the guys of Manhattan. You get black guys. Devastating banter. Girls heads spin. These guys talk talk talk until resistance yields.
Now SF women claim that these guys are AMAZING. SF women say they long for a day when these players from Manhattan ride into town because SF guys, by comparison, are mild mannered, socially uncoordinated candya**es. SF guys, they complain, lack the skills and cahones to chat up the ladies. They're stuttering, epicene, unkempt wimps.
This kind of attitude, you might note, seems rather confrontational. It makes you wonder if SF guys live in a scary environment. It makes you wonder about the value of aggression in such a place. It makes you wonder about that guy in a turban who waved a scimitar at Indiana Jones: aggressive maybe, but stupid, absolutely, because Indiana had the gun.
SF women seem to have this hybrid sensibility of hill-billy southern gallantry, where prescribed gender roles dictate who should aggressively pursue whom, and a regionally specific 70s-style extremist feminism, where there is hyper sensitivity to being hit on. According to San Francisco magazine, “Bay Area women have been known to react to innocent flirting as if they'd been groped ... Marie, a 32-year-old executive recruiter [says]: ‘If a guy walks up to me at happy hour, I think he's a friggin' cheese ball.’”
That’s the paradox. SF women get sort of annoyed when guys attempt to seduce them. Not bemused or bored, annoyed. The fact that the average SF guy has the charm of a yard rake doesn't matter. SF women want men to make advances on them but without them knowing that the advance is being made, which requires not just Code speak but pretending to be gay.
This creates what anthropologists call a double bind dilemma. A successful response to one message implicates a failed response to the other, so that the person will be automatically wrong regardless of response. It's pretty much the kind of thing that broke the Union in 1861 and makes the Middle East a total mess. So if you’re a guy in San Francisco and there's a pretty girl sitting next to you, what’s the right move? You keep quiet, keep your head down and hope no one starts yelling.