Help me not be a socially-awkward weirdo around men I find attractive.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (11 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a 30-year-old straight woman. For the most part, my social skills are strong. I make friends easily, am a good conversationalist, and can read people pretty well. I even have a career that relies on said conversational and people-reading skills, and I'm good at my job. When it comes to social/friendly interaction, I'm very lucky.
There is one enormous exception to this: I am absolute crap at social interactions that involve flirting, dating, etc. Well, that's not exactly true. I'm great at a sort of low-key, friendly flirting with guys that I find interesting or entertaining on a social/mental level. But when I find a guy physically attractive, it's like a complete systemwide shut-down of my social skills. Typically, one (or sometimes all) of three things happen:
- My normal low-key-life-of-the-party style goes into caricature mode around him - I become that loud, and somewhat crass, saying weird things just to get his attention. I often find myself blurting out things that make me cringe to myself for weeks. Normally I'm pretty tactful and discreet, so this is always jarring.
- I try to completely ignore the person. I will talk to everyone in the room but him. If I see him coming down the hall, I'll duck into another room so we don't have to interact. I understand this one is pretty normal, but it's really annoying.
- If I do interact with the guy, and manage to do so without being a boor, I turn into a totally de-sexed version of myself. This is to "reassure" him, myself, and anyone observing that, no, I don't want to have sex with him, perish the thought. My style becomes almost masculine, "one of the guys." I'll get all jocular and impersonal, avoid eye contact, etc.
It's the third "symptom" that bothers me the most, because I feel like I have the least control over it (with #1, I can tell myself to shut the hell up, and with #2, I can just make myself keep walking, or force myself to interact). I've tried the standard female flirting things (playing with my hair, catching his eye and looking down, touching his arm), and they just make me feel ridiculous and totally obvious. But again, they only make me feel ridiculous when I'm actually physically attracted to the guy. I find myself doing all those things unconsciously when it's a more cerebral connection going on. This makes no sense, right?
I should also add that, at age 30, I've only recently realized this was an issue. I used to think that the fact that so few guys asked me out, etc was just "further proof of my essential unattractiveness." Work with a good therapist helped me realize that I had some fairly deep-seated issues around sex, intimacy and self-esteem that caused me to have some thick walls around myself for a long time.* I'm pretty sure these walls, and my paralyzing fear of rejection (which led to my reluctance to flirt or otherwise show interest in a guy), are a big reason why I've had so little success with guys. In retrospect, there have been many attractive guys that were into me, but I was so convinced that they couldn't be interested, and so terrified of rejection if I showed my own interest, that things rarely got off the ground (the few exceptions involved guys I was already friends with and copious amounts of alcohol).
But now I'm in a much, much better place emotionally. I feel a lot more emotionally and physically open. I'm not terrified of rejection anymore, which is a wonderfully liberating feeling. But my behavior has remained the same. It's like I need to deprogram myself from my almost physical reflex not to flirt with hot guys. Any thoughts/advice on this last hurdle? If you'd prefer to respond privately, you can email email@example.com.
* Not sure this is really relevant, but in case it is: a lot of my issues with this came with the fact that I'm fairly sexually submissive/kinky and tend to be wildly attracted to guys that seem to have a strong dominant streak (along with other attributes, of course). But I was really ashamed of this part of myself - I saw it as "weak." I was also completely terrified of letting go and losing control and so I think this might have been part of the reason I built such high defenses. Accepting this part of myself was a big step towards feeling more emotionally open. I also learned more about D/s sexuality and realized that a. these complicated feelings are not uncommon and b. there's a way to go about it that doesn't make me really weak or powerless.