One of the weirdest things about high school is that they don't teach you the really important shit that you need in order to survive. We spent so much time in health class learning how to prevent teenage pregnancy and crotch diseases that we didn't realize until long after we'd graduated that they never showed us how to go about it when we were old enough to actually want that stuff that biology was pressing for.

Not the fucking. That's not what this article is about. I'm talking about all the stuff that leads up to it. Meeting the right person, how to approach them, what to say, how to present yourself. The most basic part of any relationship: finding someone. Because, let's be honest here, if you came into this article hoping it would answer your question of "Why won't this bitch fuck me?" you have several stages of growing up to do before you're even mature enough to handle the discussion, let alone the woman. For the rest of you, some of the most common mistakes I see guys making are ...

They Rely on a "System"

5 Ways Regular Guys Ruin Their First Impression With Women
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There's not a lot that makes me more embarrassed about my gender than guys who talk about having a "system" to pick up women. And no, it's not a rare circumstance. There are books, forums, DVDs, fucking boot camps devoted to full-on psychological manipulation (some of them actually talk about utilizing mild hypnosis). I'm not going to get into the ins and outs of that subject because it's a whole article by itself, but it's important to bring up because those "systems" are used with the specific purpose of obtaining sex, and they're built on a foundation of dishonesty.

There are several reasons you can't pull that bullshit when you're attempting to meet someone new if your goal is starting a relationship. The first is obvious: If you present yourself as something you're not, you can't keep up that act forever. Eventually, you'll have to show your real self, and she's going to think, "Wait, this isn't the person I met." And she'll be right, because she's never experienced that side of you before. In her eyes, you will have changed from one personality to another, and it can doom what you've built in a heartbeat.

5 Ways Regular Guys Ruin Their First Impression With Women
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"I'm so sorry. I should have come clean about the devil worship. At least the human sacrifices."

The second is something that should be obvious, but sadly is not. Ready for it? She is *gasp* an individual! Now, don't get all huffy and roll your eyes with a "Yeah, no shit, dumbass," when you hear that. Because if you were ever planning on using a "system," it means you didn't really understand it.

A system, for the most part, requires constants in order to be efficient. And in training yourself to act a certain way to obtain the reaction you want from women, you have to assume that they all respond in a highly predictable manner. As an individual, she's going to act and respond in ways that are unique to her, because she is not a vagina that happens to have the downside of a personality attached to it like a parasite. If you're truly looking for a relationship, you're mature enough to understand this. If you're using a manipulative "system" to get there, you're not.

This is the problem with this whole line of thinking. The guys who adopt it are treating the entire process like a game, like women are competition. They're acting as if she's the end boss of a video game and they have to figure out the exact pattern of attack in order to make her submit in defeat. What those guys don't realize is that in reality she's a potential co-op player whom you need in order to defeat the real boss. And every woman plays differently. You have to find the one who complements your play style or the whole thing ends up being a giant clusterfuck. Basically a World of Warcraft raid.

5 Ways Regular Guys Ruin Their First Impression With Women
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"What, you don't believe in love at first sight? You'd deny a man his destined soul mate?"

But even guys who don't use a system still wind up doing things like ...

Using Pick-Up Lines

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If you want to get an immediately popular exchange going on a forum or Facebook or in a room full of actual face-having humans, ask for people's best pick-up lines, and then just watch the douchebag floodgates open. You'll get everything from goofball openers like "Hi, can I buy you a drink? Or maybe a car?" to ridiculous ones that make you genuinely want to punch the person in the face, like "Puppies are as cute as the speed of light is fast, but your cuteness threshold approaches that limit." If the world is even remotely just, the person saying that line will have never made it past the word "speed" before he found himself talking to an empty bar stool. Or at the very least, elbowed in the throat.

The problem is that we've all joked about and made fun of pick-up lines for so long that there are real people out there who think that they're a prerequisite for dating. That they're as much a part of the courtship as the ceremonial tearing of the condom wrapper or buttering of the goat.

5 Ways Regular Guys Ruin Their First Impression With Women
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They really like it, though.

What? Relationships are complicated in the Midwest.

If you're one of these people, it should be a massive weight off of your shoulders when I tell you that pick-up lines are not only unnecessary but, as a general rule, should be avoided at all costs. At least outside of a one-night-stand situation. See, they've sort of just devolved into "Hey, would you care to do boner things with me?" without actually using those words. Unless those words are the actual line ... which is quite possible, because pick-up lines are fucking stupid.

5 Ways Regular Guys Ruin Their First Impression With Women
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"Fuck your mother. Is that any clearer to you?"

Now, nothing is absolute -- I have heard a few rare women claim that they like pick-up lines and think they're cute. But it's safer to play the odds, and really, if you meet a woman who turns you down because you failed to use a pick-up line, it's probably safe to assume she's not quite the droids you're looking for. Pull out your light saber and chop her arm off.

Metaphorically speaking.

So what do you say? How do you approach a woman you'd like to meet? Honestly and simply put: Don't be a douchebag and don't be something you're not. Just take a deep breath, shake out the cobwebs, and start a conversation the way you would with any other human being. Or come right out and say, "Hi. I apologize if I'm bothering you, but I think you're cute, and I wanted to meet you." Not those exact words, mind you -- meeting someone isn't about memorizing a script, you're not a goddamned salesman. All you're doing in those first few seconds is conveying the idea of "I exist, and I really want you to be aware of that."

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"And I've barely murdered anyone."

But of course, the reason men feel like they have to do all of this artificial bullshit is ...

They Let Rejection Dictate Their Actions

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I had such a hard time talking to girls in high school. The ones I did develop a connection with didn't want to take it further than friendship. And the ones outside of my circle of friends didn't make it much further than a nervous exchange of pleasantries and an awkward departure. I can safely blame most of that on my reaction to past rejections. Well, that and being exactly the same as every other teenager who has ever lived.

Rejection stings like a motherfucker. I don't know anyone who handles it well -- it's just not in our nature. Not just with relationships, but with any situation: job interviews, joining a fraternity, losing a "most awesome Burt Reynolds tattoo" contest. But in a romantic setting like we're talking about here, it's so much worse, because they're not rejecting one of your skill sets. They're rejecting you. You open up and make yourself extremely vulnerable, and when that presentation goes unreceived, it's like setting your balls on fire and putting it out with a bucket of acid.

5 Ways Regular Guys Ruin Their First Impression With Women
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Oh, man up. Wait, that's probably a bad choice of words.

It's natural to close yourself off each time it happens, especially if you're getting far more rejection than acceptance. But what happened in my case (and what I've seen happen with a lot of guys I've known) is that I let the fear of rejection dominate me to the point of making me timid. And we're not talking about the "cutesy" type of timid that some girls find adorable. We're talking about being so timid that the guys come across as creepy, repulsive pussies.

Remember, for the most part, women put a pretty high value on confidence in a man. Now that doesn't mean that you want to burst into the room and say, "Congratulations, you won. Get in the truck." It just means not looking like you're about to piss your pants over a simple hello.

5 Ways Regular Guys Ruin Their First Impression With Women
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OK, if he starts talking about how pretty fire is, just make a run for it.

Seriously, imagine what's going through her head when some guy she's never met steps up and starts awkwardly rambling about whatever pops into his head, sweating and fidgeting like he's trying to avoid the police, a slight hint of "I could vomit at any second" on his face. She's either going to have her hand securely wrapped around a can of Mace, or she's just going to blow you off, thinking, "If he can't even get past the introduction, what the hell is he going to be like on an actual date? Or during the first kiss? Or when it's time to tattoo my name on his scrotum?"

They Make Bad Assumptions About What Women Want

5 Ways Regular Guys Ruin Their First Impression With Women
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"How in the hell did that ugly jerkoff end up with that hot chick? He must be rich. God, I hate gold-digging bitches."

Sure, she might be with him because he's rich -- I'm not denying that those women exist. But that ugly jerkoff could also have met pretty much every other quality that woman was looking for in a man. Charisma, confidence, sense of humor, kindness, respect, stability ... See, it turns out that, as a general rule, women don't judge men the way men judge women. Due to some combination of physical differences and the endless ways society defines gender roles, the end result is that the workings of the female brain can seem strange and mysterious to men who don't spend a lot of time talking to them.

5 Ways Regular Guys Ruin Their First Impression With Women
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I don't know either, man. Just go with it.

Usually after a guy gets rejected so many times, he gets frustrated or outright pissed off. He'll start laying blame, sometimes pointing it toward women in general (when it gets to this point, that's where underlying misogyny starts to take its true form), and sometimes he points it toward other men. "Yeah, I'd get dates, too, if I had a six-pack and huge pecs." They deflect the actual issue as something they can't control, not even realizing that they were most likely rejected because of their attitude or a mismatched sense of humor ... or any one of a hundred different traits that didn't line up right.

The truth is, there are people who look just like you, who have your same income, who are still having sex. If women only talked to guys with rock-hard bodies and six-figure incomes, they'd go a decade between encounters. If they didn't make compromises on a man's looks, condom companies would go out of business and we'd be in a global shrinking population crisis.

5 Ways Regular Guys Ruin Their First Impression With Women
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And this guy would be dead from sexual exhaustion.

The way around these problems is so simple, but it eludes so many well-meaning men because we get wrapped up in the competitive tone of social interactions, and we make them out to be more complex than they actually are. I'm far from an expert on relationships, having been through a divorce and enough unstable partners to staff a military ground invasion on a mid-sized country. But once I figured it out, it all clicked, and I found the most beautiful, stable relationship of my life. And the trick is this:

Relax. She's a human, just like you. She's had every fake piece of shit in a 50-mile radius hit on her in every conceivable way. Maybe it's time you gave her something different: sincerity and honesty. You'd be surprised how high that ranks on her list.

But so many men never reach that point, because ...

They Give Up

5 Ways Regular Guys Ruin Their First Impression With Women
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Let's face it: After a while, you just give up. It doesn't matter what you look like, what you do for a living, how much money you have, how enormous your penis is, or how often you prove that by whipping people with it in public. If you get rejected enough, you don't want to feel that ever again, so you just stop trying. And this is where I see guys fall into a long spiral down.

What happens is that, yes, the desire to avoid rejection has tipped the scales in favor of exiting the game. But the desire to be with someone is still there. You can't get rid of that any more than you can remove your stomach for being hungry. So maybe you still go out on occasion with the hopes of meeting someone, but you end up sitting by yourself all night, getting steadily more down as the night ticks on and no one presents herself to you.

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"This is bullpoop. I am a beautiful man, and girls are stupid."

So you pay your tab and go home, sad and alone, and blame an entire gender for making you so miserable, while rubbing one out to a rerun of The Golden Girls. Here's what makes that so crazy ... besides the obvious Golden Girls part.

Bars, clubs, coffee houses -- all those spots that one goes to in order to meet other people -- they are all social places. They are, by design, meeting grounds for people who want to find and connect with other humans. You, having reached your breaking point, have cut out the "social" part of that equation and are now putting as much faith into someone finding you as you would into expecting the Tooth Fairy to show up and pay your electric bill.

What is so easy to forget is that half of the people in those places are there for the exact reason you were. The only difference is that they're making an effort, regardless of the outcome. And if a woman's choices are the guy who had balls enough to walk up to her and talk or the sad sack of meat slumping over his beer at the end of the bar ... well, that's pretty easy competition for the guy who already has her attention.

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"Look at that lonely crying guy at the end of the bar! Hahahaha! What a pussy!"

It can take a long time to find somebody. And even when you do, they might not be the right person for you. If you find yourself in the "I give up" frame of mind, the only way I've seen people get out of that is to take a break. Find some fun shit to do without the end result being a relationship treasure map. Hell, you might find that this frame of mind makes it easy to talk to people. I did. And that's how I finally got the courage to have sex with all of your moms.

John is a columnist right here at Cracked with a new article every Thursday. You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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