USCLight banter at work today brings up a word I’ve never heard before,  “neg.”

A female coworker explains, “It’s when a guy says something kind of mean to a girl, but really subtle.” I’m still puzzled. A male coworker chimes in, “Oh yeah, that worked all the time for me in college. I would ask girls, “Do men actually find you attractive?”

I gasp.

The female coworker supplements with, “Yeah, or he might say something like, ‘Oh, my mom has that same sweater'”.

I get it now. But just to confirm, I consult the urban dictionary to find the following:

A light insult wrapped in the package of a compliment. Used by pick-up artists to gain and maintain the attention of women who possess uncommon beauty. These women are immune to standard compliments. Example:

Man: “That’s really cute, your nose wiggles when you speak”
Woman: “No it doesn’t”
Man: “Ha ha, there it goes again, sorry, its just really cute”

It’s condescending bullshit AKA asshole speak. There’s an actual term for this?

My male coworker adds, “there’s also the ‘takeaway'”. I ask, “Is that related?” He says, “Well, you offer someone something and as soon as they’re not sure that they want it, you take it away. Then they REALLY want it.”

What’s with all the games? It’s all so complicated. I think back to my dating experiences and wonder if I’ve ever fallen for it. I get that sinking feeling. Maybe we all have. As a social experiment, I want to try it out. But I wonder if it works the other way. Are men as easily duped into questioning their self-confidence? Do they fall for these games?

And then it hits me- yes, they do…

It’s fall of 2009. I am near the end of my dating project. I am at the Pony, a bar near my house. It’s packed and the male to female ratio is always 2:1. A tall man wades through the crowd. He’s wearing a letterman’s jacket. I have been overserved. As he’s approaching, I yell, “HEY, LOOKING FOR A DATE FOR PROM?” He stops dead in his tracks, right in front of my table. I look up at him. His eyes are sparkling bright blue. Chiseled face. Over an athletic build. He takes off his hat and runs a hand through his hair. Then he puts his hand on my head tenderly, “We’ve got the same hair”, he tells me, “Jew- fro!”

We are neg to neg.

He smiles and we talk for a few minutes. We find each other a few times that night but nothing comes of it. His brother, who is less charming, tells me what a big athlete his brother is at USC. THAT explains his jacket and OOPS, THAT’S quite an age difference. He gives me his card so that I can get a hold of his brother. But why can’t he just write down his brother’s number or better yet, ask me for mine? OR, more importantly, why doesn’t jacket guy do this himself?

All very odd. But it all began with my light insult wrapped in a compliment.

So, it works. But what starts with crap ends the same way. Upon meeting someone, I prefer the regular variety of compliments or better yet, just “Hi”.