Here's a brief collection of first nights out.
One thing I've been really focusing on is getting comfortable with both men and women. I definitely know what it's like to be the awkward guy who enters a mixed set only to pay attention to the women, and the men don't like that much. Furthermore, being able to befriend men and building a base male social network to act as allies both in pickup and in life is crucial (so I read).
So, I started out slowly, going to my favorite bar. The reason I like said bar is that it's generally really quiet (read: almost no students from the local university go there). I'm 24 and a grad student, so the clientes are maybe 10 years older than I on average. First night, no women except the bartender—she and her boyfriend are friends of mine. Because I need to know that I need to work on opening people generally—maybe approaching fellow bros will help reduce Approach Anxiety, as warm up—I open a guy sitting next to me. Navy vet, turns out to be a sweet dude, and I end up having an awesome conversation with him for an hour. Trying to get out of the going-to-meet-girls-to-get-them-to-like-me frame and into the going-to-have-a-good-time-and-enjoy-whatever-happens-and-whomever-I-meet frame.
Next night, superbowl, more or less same story. Same bar, meet a guy who is here from out of town and looks pretty awkward—once he got relaxed he turned out to be another cool guy, too. Only women were same bartender and a lesbian couple. Thought to myself, OK, getting used to opening strangers in general is good, but I also need to approach women.
Next night: I go to a different bar, which is all day happy hour. For whatever reason, I actually do homework better when I'm in noisy environments than quiet ones. I focus better. So I'm at a table working, I notice a birthday party—4-5 girls and 3-4 guys—also in the room, but I'm able to tune them out. One of the girls comes over and invites me to join them. I said thanks, but I have to plan a lecture I was giving the next day (I teach two classes of freshman comp.) I thought to myself, be appreciative and gracious, but act disinterested, and I can always go open them later if I need to. A few minutes later, one of the guys in the group makes the same offer, and I make the same response: I actually legitimately need to get this lecture done, and I wasn't planning on opening people that night.
A while later, a few of the girls sit at the table next to me. I try to open using the body language tips everyone knows: over the shoulder, don't face them. I start talking about my freshman comp class and asking if they remember theirs (these girls are obviously in college); they talk blah blah blah. I don't really know where to go from there, and eventually the conversation fizzles, which is fine. I go back to work. The birthday girl herself comes sitting next to me and is giving me serious IOIs. She is turned facing me and asking me my name and touching me. I turn toward her a little. Not sure what to say; she's obviously a party girl, and I try to talk to her about my comp class. She tells me about Spongebob (wtf? a 22 year old girl?) I tell her about a time I was in Miami with a bunch of my college friends and we're smoking pot and watching spongebob and it looks scary. She quickly loses interest, and I get back to my writing.
My assessment of the situation: It was fine, somehow I was demonstrating enough value to have people approaching me (or feeling sorry for me?). I was conscious of a few body language things and actually got over aa enough to approach a few people. For someone just starting out, that should be a win by itself. I know I need to do this a lot more, and have some conversational pieces already memorized so I'm not groping for things to say. That will help me calibrate (which can only be done by approaching dozens of sets just like this one).
Followup: The day after that one night, one of the girls I talked to recognized me and came up to me and started gabbing at me in the student union. I had no idea who she was until she said I talked to her last night. I tried to put on a smooth grin and said "oh yeah, you girls are MUCH too crazy for me," deliberately rolling my eyes and turning away just a bit. She flashed me the biggest smile I've seen in a while. I asked her what she was doing here, she said she was looking for her sorority friends because they were doing some kinda stuff and giving out candy. I said "I farking LOVE candy" and so the two of us walked to where she was meeting her sorostitute friends. I was kindof a goof with all of these girls for just a minute or two, getting a sticker for whatever cause they were promoting, grabbed some candy, and left. Same girl yells after me "bye!" I don't turn around, just waive over my shoulder and keep walking away. I think I hear behind me. 'he's cute," but I pretend I don't hear it and I keep walking.
So I think I must have been legitimately displaying some value the night before, even though I had no idea how to take advantage of it in that situation. So +1 for self esteem and believing in approaching random people, +1 for handling approach anxiety, +1 for recognizing that that outing counts as a serious win for someone literally just starting out, but also recognizing that it doesn't mean anything unless I open exponentially more sets.