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What makes someone unattractive?
July 11, 2014 8:00 PM   Subscribe

I'm a young woman without much luck in romantic relationships. I think I may have a problem with my behavior and body language because I'm introverted and I'd like to understand it and maybe gain some control over it.

So, I'm wondering what can make a person unapproachable or undesirable. What might make a man decide a pretty, normal woman is not worth pursuing? What sort of body language exudes disinterest or a judgmental character? What kind of attention is off-putting (my "flirting" is probably not very alluring)?

In recent years I've made an effort to pay attention to my body language and have tried to be better at flirting, which does not come very naturally to me. I try to seriously engage in conversation, ask lots of questions, smile and laugh at their jokes, make a little bit of eye contact. I still have issues with being quiet in big, unfamiliar group conversations, being serious one on one (I like to ask probing questions and I often get long answers), and crossing my arms sometimes. I'm doubtful I'll really be able to change some of those things, they feel too deeply rooted in my character. But hopefully this gives you some idea of how I think about this stuff and maybe a hint at what I might be doing wrong.

Thanks! Hoping to hear from your experiences, impressions, and insights.
posted by poilkj to Human Relations (28 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
Insecurity and its many faces.
posted by gemutlichkeit at 8:08 PM on July 11 [3 favorites]


I have a friend who says that "desperation is a stinky perfume."

She's European, but I think the meaning comes across well. If you are trying too hard to attract the kind of attention that forms a relationship, then it shows, and it turns people off. Well, it turns some kinds of people off. People who are attracted to desperation will be, um...attracted to desperation.

Be interested in people because every person has some interesting quality or story. Not only or mostly because you think this particular person would be fun in bed/a good coparent/ willing to buy you dinner.

Go out and do more things that you enjoy just for the joy of doing them. Ride bikes, build things, take a group dance class (many cities have classes that meet every week on an informal drop in basis) and just meet more people. Practice talking to total strangers, in line at the grocery store, at the dog park. Practice having lots of different conversations outside of the intention to make yourself attractive to potential partners.

And be paying attention to the body language of people you are engaging. If they've got crossed arms or are trying to face away from you, then they aren't interested in your line of questioning, even if they are talking. Being talked at by people when I am not interested is on the top five list of unattractive things, in my book.

Read widely and otherwise engage in your world. After you've asked a question, maybe find a (brief!) way to connect the answer to something you've recently encountered. Then ask a question about their opinion of the connection you found. Don't force this.

Finally, volunteer with people. Find a group that you feel you have nothing in common with, and strive to serve without judgment. Go to the hospital and hold preemie babies. Organize and shelve donations for the food bank. Walk dogs at the local animal shelter. This will do a few things. You will learn things, which might make you more interesting. You will learn not to brag about your volunteering. It will improve your world, immediately and tangibly. And perhaps most importantly, it will take your mind off the feelings of wondering if this person or that person is attracted to you. You will have practice operating outside of that channel.

Oh. And flirting is like sex. There are lots of ways to do it. There are lots of definitions of it. There are lots of cultural boundaries that shift and perhaps overlap. Learning to flirt is like learning to play guitar. You kind of have to start somewhere, and maybe it's Ani DiFranco, or AC/DC covers, or Taylor Swift. What works in one environment might be taboo in another. If you are trying to use the exact same flirting tools in every situation with no modulation, you are either always flirting in the exact same environments (broaden your arena) or not using enough tools. This is not to say that you need to add a fake giggle and a hair toss to your repertoire if that's not your thing. For instance, did you know that you can flirt from all the way across a room, without ever having a verbal exchange?
posted by bilabial at 8:25 PM on July 11 [8 favorites]


This is so hard to really break into simple steps. It basically comes down to:

1. Be genuiney interested in them.
2. Don't worry about what they are thinking of you.
3. Don't go inside your own head.

Those ideals are impossible to always live up to. And, I mean, there are plenty of times when breaking all those rules are fine, even advisable. But flirting successfully comes naturally from those three things.
posted by 256 at 8:27 PM on July 11 [7 favorites]


It helps to look at insecurity from the flip side of the coin, too.

When you're dating or flirting you're constantly sending signals that transmit information to the person you're with. (Duh!) Those signals transmit all sorts of information, stuff like your level of interest in them, how you think about big things in life, and how comfortable you are in your own skin. They take many forms too, verbal and non-verbal, intentional and unintentional. You seem to have a good handle on a lot of those signal types and vectors, but I think there's one that deserves your attention and, yeah, it has to do with insecurity.

I'm a firm believer that you really have to love yourself before anyone else can truly love you. That translates down to the 'like' level of personal relationships too. When you like yourself, you can learn to (and simply will in many unconscious ways) transmit signals to the other person that tell them how to like you too. It helps to do it consciously first. Identify a passion or trait or quirk or something you love about you, and imagine your best friend telling you how amazing a person you are for it. They already (know how to) like you, and you'll have a great idea of what they'd actually say. Now, practice telling someone else just that way.

It might take a few different ideas before you find something about yourself that you're comfortable sharing in this context, and probably a lot of editing in the retelling. But once you've figured out one, you'll find it gets easier to show people how to like you You'll start doing it automagically through your unconscious behaviors too. The people on the receiving end of those signals will tune into them and follow suit!
posted by carsonb at 8:36 PM on July 11 [10 favorites]


This might seem like odd advice, but have you considered hiring an interview coach? If you're worried you might be giving off weird body language, it's hard for us to speak to that without seeing you in person. A good interview coach can help pinpoint odd behaviors and provide feedback on what to do and say instead.

A friend of mine went to one, and they spent a lot of time going over how he sat and his eye contact quirks. He said it made a big difference, not just in interviews, but in the rest of his life, too. So, it might help.
posted by umwhat at 8:38 PM on July 11 [2 favorites]


I had kind of a revelation once when I was dating this guy who used his words. He flirted a little bit, then basically said "wanna make out?" He talked about things he wanted to do together. He told me when I was annoying or boring him or making him happy. Then it started getting serious he said "is this getting serious or is it a summer thing? How much do you like me anyway?" We ended up breaking many years later but I learned a lot from him, mainly that it's ok to ask people and it's ok to answer honestly. People might be happy or disppointed or sad at what they hear but we are all grown ups and life goes on. I started actually asking people what they thought and felt instead of guessing and life got a lot less confusing. Instead of wondering why some guy I totally clicked with didn't want a relationship I would know that he planned on moving soon or his ex was still in the picture or whatever. When I met a great guy we were able to articulate our attraction and commitment.

Now I strive not to ever get into those weird gray area relationships with anyone: romantically, professionally or platonic. If I get a weird sense about someone I ask what's up?
posted by fshgrl at 8:43 PM on July 11 [93 favorites]


Think of men as humans and maybe even friends first rather than romantic interests.

I'm divorced so what to I know though
posted by vapidave at 9:13 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


I try to seriously engage in conversation, ask lots of questions, smile and laugh at their jokes, make a little bit of eye contact. I still have issues with being quiet in big, unfamiliar group conversations, being serious one on one (I like to ask probing questions and I often get long answers), and crossing my arms sometimes.

It sounds like you come off as serious and reserved? That's an OK way to be, you don't have to be SUPER FUN EXTROVERT!!1! to be attractive or loved.

I think that coming off as serious and reserved probably makes engaging with you seem relatively high stakes and not all that casual to these acquaintances/strangers, though. That probably does make a lot of people uncomfortable, because they don't want to get so (emotionally/conversationally) intimate so fast, or maybe ever.

To be honest, other women are probably going to feel more comfortable engaging with you and chatting with you, if you come off as kind of intense -- mostly, I think, because they won't feel like there's necessarily any subtext (whereas a lot of guys are likely to assume there's a sort of romantic subtext to your conversations, or at least that a romantic subtext would be expected). So honestly, if you want to hit on guys or to signal that they should hit on you, you might want to try enlisting other women in that. Either by assuming you're going to a party/bar/whatever to meet new *female friends* and then letting them introduce you to their male friends or by letting them (or even asking them, privately and beforehand, if you're close with them) to act as sort of wingmen for you. Meeting you and striking up conversation with you as part of a group and introduced by a third party will probably also make the men feel more comfortable with regard to your intensity/seriousness, because you'll have another woman sort of "vouching" for your ability to also be friendly/fun/accepting/etc, by showing that she likes you and is friends with you.

You might also want to try internet dating or something more formal like that. I don't think that guys in general have an issue with introverted women, and the kinds of shyness or intensity that come off strangely in a boisterous party can become really successful ways of connecting and even flirting on a more intimate date. It's probably easier and better in the long run to change your venue (for getting the hook up) than changing your way of existing in the world!

If you think your body language is off putting *in general,* and not just in terms of dating or at big group events, then I would suggest trying to be more true to yourself. A lot of people definitely don't take well to any scent of fakeness or artificiality, and trying to be someone you're not can give off that scent. Even if you're just doing it in a good-spirited "fake it till you make it" type effort, and there's nothing sinister or strange behind it at all, many people will assume the worst, and many more people will just be straight up uncomfortable.

Also, this is very specific, but since you talk about crossing your arms and seem shy, you might want to think about it -- people who don't like to be touched often ACT like they don't want to be touched when they're all crammed up like that. You can just see it in how a person will sort of shrink away if someone is even at risk of touching him/her or how they'll make a relatively big deal of a near-miss or a bump or one of those obnoxious "stranger puts his hands around your waist or on your lower back and GUIDES you" moves. It's not some huge deal in regular life, but it's not exactly sexy to see someone shrink away from touch, just because sex involves...um, lots of touch. So maybe think about how comfortable you are and how comfortable you seem in terms of your proximity to other people. When you're talking to these guys, or anybody really, do you signal "THERE IS AN INVISIBLE WALL BETWEEN US AND PLEASE RESPECT IT" or are you signalling that you're OK with how close they are and would be OK with them getting closer? It's fine if you're *not* OK with that, you don't HAVE to be comfortable with anyone invading your personal space or touching you, but if you're giving off signals to someone who you actually *would* get to know better that you don't want them to literally come any closer, you might be signalling disinterest when you don't mean to.

Along with that, eye contact is actually kind of...aggressive when flirting, so you can "get away with" way less than in other situations and still communicate really well that you're interested. If anything, you maybe want to err on the side of too little eye contact than too much. What's more important in terms of showing that you're interested, is proximity -- if you want to flirt more than you are right then, move a little closer to the person. Try to do it in a "two steps forward, one step back" kind of way (that works for a lot of flirting in general, honestly). So for example, maybe you and the guy are sitting on a couch talking, and you want to flirt a little more -- maybe scoot a little closer to him, but don't look him right in the eye as you do it. That probably sounds really cornball, but my point is -- you don't want to be super aggressive (which stuff like moving closer *while* maintaining eye contact would be) but you also want to literally create more intimacy (which stuff like moving closer to someone does. Or if you're far off from the person -- across the room or across a circle of people talking -- making eye contact while smiling or making a reaction face at something would do). So anyway, when you're flirting, you might want try to combine making a specific, literal move at creating more intimacy (moving closer) with something that simultaneously takes the edge off of that intimacy (like looking away, like making a joke, whatever).

Oh, something else very specific -- if the other person seems like she or he feels awkward, or even *says* that they feel awkward, it usually works to straight up say that you don't feel awkward, you're just [thinking about what they said/tired/wondering about XYZ/etc]. At the kind of get togethers it sounds like you're talking about here, especially, there are probably lots of people who are half in the bag or otherwise out of it or confused or feeling like they're putting a foot in it, and it's usually a good thing to just say straight up that they're fine and you're having a good time yourself. Or at least, that's been my experience, anyway.

Also, I personally doubt that you come off as desperate. If you seemed desperate, there would more likely be no end of guys hitting on you and trying to take advantage of that, and you'd have a whole different problem (and imo a worse one, so don't worry about not having it!). But of course, this is all just based on my personal experience -- your mileage may vary!
posted by rue72 at 9:29 PM on July 11 [5 favorites]


There are likely boatloads of men who are drooling over you, whom you're completely ignoring.

Lots of the above advice is great; apply it to everybody.

As an aside, as an introvert with lots of introvert friends of both sexes, breaking out of that might be to increase your "casual" physical contact. High fives, fingertips across their knuckles, spontaneous hip-checks, fingertips slowly running up the spine starting just above the tailbone...
posted by porpoise at 9:59 PM on July 11


My first date with my current girlfriend almost didn't lead to a second. Her body language was similar to what you describe, OP: crossed arms/hunched shoulders, only fleeting smiles (usually a little frown-y at the corners), and even-more fleeting eye contact (default mode was staring about four feet behind my left shoulder). She wouldn't take/trade the lead in conversation, and offered mostly monosyllabic replies. Due to the awkwardness of the date, and her seeming aloofness, I was certain that I was somehow blowing it and that she wasn't into me at all. And, obviously, this seriously depleted my into-it meter. Abort! Abort!

You know what turned it around? Well, towards the end of the date (exhausted for topics after doing 80% of the talking already), I went into this super-geeky monolog about the theoretical inner life of plants. She finally engaged a bit more, and before we parted she made a point of asking me out for round two.

Why am I sharing this (utterly charming, damnit!) story? Because even though she was clearly uncomfortable -- and sending a lot of go-away signals -- she pushed through, took the initiative, and helped make an opening for further contact. It was not suave, but it changed the dynamic of the evening completely.

Now that I've had a couple of years to get comfortable with her, I can see how hard she was working during that date. Really, too hard; when we are painfully aware of our quirks-that-people-might-dislike, they will often snowball. A lot of athletes and other performers describe a sort of "zone" where they have just the right focus to excel. The key seems to be a mix of practice and avoiding overthinking. When we focus too much on failure points, we run the risk of exacerbating those flaws (e.g. worrying about posture might make us slouch more, which will trigger our childhood stuttering, which...). My overall point is that you can outshine your social "shortcomings" by flipping/owning them, and by -- however awkwardly -- simply showing engagement.

Tip #1: Work on one leave-me-alone behavior at a time. If you tend to hold back in group or coupled conversation, focus on warm, genuine eye contact. Make that the official "hiya!" signal of the night. Worry about posture, etc. at another time.

Tip #2: Don't stress about the effectiveness/quality of your "flirting." Just be engaged. Really, that's flirting. Sure, it's possible to be really "good" at flirting, but most people aren't super-awesome raconteurs. Think about this; if you're dorky, and your flirting is dorky, don't you want someone who can roll with dorks?

Tip #3: You don't specify how you are trying to meet people. Let me cast a vote for the internet; online dating is a godsend for those of us on the introverted end of the spectrum. I'm a pretty-socially-adept introvert, but I have serious, practically insurmountable, blocks regarding cold-approaching women in public. Once that step is out of the way, I'm usually fine. I know that having a chance to break the ice at a safe distance, and being mostly sure that the person I'm meeting actually wants to meet me, takes a huge load off. Bonus: your profile can even indicate that you're a bit shy/awkward, which gives your date a leg up on understanding WHY ARE THEY CROSSING THEIR ARMS.
posted by credible hulk at 10:58 PM on July 11 [7 favorites]


Insecurity and discomfort can shout loudly via body language. Keeping your head up, your shoulders relaxed, your hands still, and your mouth very slightly open (VERY slightly) can help to unlink your body language from your mind. Crossing your arms and looking uncomfortable means 'stay away' and 'don't touch me'.

Staring at someone can make them uncomfortable, and just smiling doesn't necessarily carry the invitingness you are seeking. A really good way to demonstrate to someone that approaching you is not going to lead to a brush-off is to turn your head towards them, narrow your eyes slightly, and let a sly smile play across your lips. Think of something sexy -- it will telegraph in your expression. Hold their gaze for a brief moment before slowly pulling your eyes away as you turn your head. Then glance back at them the same way just for a split second before looking away again, or dropping your gaze to your lap while still smiling. Not super intense or forward, but definitely gets the message across. You don't need to keep doing it, just once or twice should be enough.

It sounds cheesy, but trust me, it works. Sometimes too well, so be careful who you use this on ;) And if all else fails, just go up to him and introduce yourself, and ask him a situational question to start a conversation. The worst they can do is not be interested, which frees you up to find someone who is.

If the eye thing is hard to picture, you can see some direct examples of this in Memoirs of a Geisha and Kama Sutra: A Love Story. Flirting is an art, something that requires practice. Do some research, watch what others do that makes them seem open and inviting. Talk to a friend who seems good at it -- ask her for tips! Not everything that works for others will work for you, you have to figure out what does. Have fun with it! And good luck :)
posted by ananci at 11:12 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


Impro by Keith Johnstone is the one of the most useful books I've ever read. Johnstone talks extensively about body language. His analysis is aimed at actors, but I've never been remotely interested in theater and I still found the prose engaging and practical.
posted by cribcage at 11:13 PM on July 11 [14 favorites]


Are you wearing makeup? Cute, flirty clothes? It's not like every guy needs that stuff... but when a woman tells me she never gets any interest from guys, she'll often be the type who wears little to no makeup and favors functional or kind of shabby clothes. To a lot of guys, that can come across like you're just hanging out and not looking for romance.

I'm definitely not saying you need to go crazy with miniskirts and eyeliner to find love! But if your look reads as super-casual, that may be something to consider. It's possible the problem lies not with your flirting, but your fashion.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:23 AM on July 12 [5 favorites]


I have no idea what's going here and everyone else is just stabbing in the dark too. Which is fine, just noting that your question is pretty general.

But.

If this is how you regularly communicate, I would find it maddening. Now that's just my personal take, which isn't and shouldn't be worth much to you, but there's an annoying sense of vagueness in your questions, combined with a hint of desperation that I personally would probably find a bit off-putting. Again, that's just me and this is all based off a several paragraphs you wrote on the internet.

Lastly, consider this: Are you flirting/dating in your league, personality wise? If you're nerdy chick who digs scifi, then hitting up sports bars or bars in general might not go well for you. If you're sports loving chick, then flirting or dating with academics might not be work well for you. Find the group that's your natural place and go from there. That tends to take care of the body language thing, as any oddities are paved over by bonding over similar likes.

Good luck!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:47 AM on July 12


What might make a man decide a pretty, normal woman is not worth pursuing?

Okay so hmm.

My first thought when reading your post was, "I bet she isn't half as bad at interacting with people as she thinks she is."

I'm not going to say you should ignore the advice here because I don't know you and maybe there really is something in your body language that suggests you're uncomfortable and disinterested. But I bet that another part of the problem is that you're trying to "flirt" to entice guys into "pursuing" you.

Asking someone out is emotionally risky. Guys vary a lot in how willing they are to take that risk. In my social circle, there are only a couple who would ask someone out on the basis of a little flirting and they're not in the market; the rest would probably wait until it was more of a sure thing (which might mean waiting forever). Are the guys you're flirting with asking a lot of other women out?

Have you considered just casually talking to a new guy ... and then, if you end up liking him, asking him out for a low-stakes date like having coffee? I think this is a good strategy whether there's something wrong with your body language or not. If there is something that is making guys think you're not interested, well, you've just destroyed that misimpression.

(I know that this could be nerve-wracking for someone who's shy, so take it or leave it.)
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 4:50 AM on July 12 [2 favorites]


Bluntly: Overweight and not feminine looking. If you're overweight, try to get down to a healthier size. What kind of clothes are you wearing and are you doing your hair and makeup? Your stereotypical man prefers women with long hair and who have proportioned figures and look like women. Try wearing more feminine clothes and hairstyles if you aren't already.

I would do an experiment and drop the probing questions and see what happens. That can be too heavy and the stereotypical male is not going to be open to probing questions (especially about feelings or emotions) because sometimes they feel uncomfortable talking that much. People might hate my answer but there is truth in it. I love asking questions but if you're looking for a date, it may be too much at first.
posted by Fairchild at 6:24 AM on July 12 [2 favorites]


Has anyone ever engaged you successfully? What did THEY do that you appreciated/enjoyed. Start being mindful of the people you find most conversationally engaging and see what about them you might emulate.

Some things I find key: eye contact, engaged questions, relaxed body language. Most people have something they love to talk about, and they might even have something to talk about which you can take interest in. Engaged questions and responses can change the path of a conversation in unexpected ways. Sometimes its OK to encourage this deliberately to find engaging overlaps in your knollege domains, or even something they want to talk about that you DONT know about but find interesting (I like this one).

Alcohol is brilliant for reducing advertised body tension. That quiver you probably get at the corner of your mouth when you force a smile will probably go away. But for the love of god be careful; your an adult, I wouldn't have to explain why here.

You can systematize people, but it's not very romantic and you can accidentally end up thinking like a sociopath, so just try and relax, be present and advertise your engagement the way your favourite converationalists do, and practice will make it feel more natural. You can practice a lot of this just talking to people.

Oh, and don't be afraid to be direct or take the initiative. Be safe, have fun.
posted by The Legit Republic of Blanketsburg at 7:43 AM on July 12 [1 favorite]


Lots of people are introverted or shy and not at their best in big unstructured groups. You're not alone in that. The good news is, lots of introverted and shy people do find love.

Attractiveness is subjective. No one here can tell you whether you are unconsciously creating barriers to romance for yourself, and if so what those barriers are. And even if we could all meet you, we'd probably all have different ideas about what makes you attractive and what you might work on.

From your question it sounds like your primary romantic attempts are in large groups, and you are not very comfortable in large groups. So ... maybe change where you're looking. I second the suggestion to try internet dating. You can identify people who interest you and meet them one-on-one in a setting you find comfortable.

You could also try exploring your interests. Take a class, join Toastmasters, volunteer - don't worry too much about dating, just make friends. If you run across someone you find particularly interesting, then ask them to get coffee.
posted by bunderful at 8:08 AM on July 12 [1 favorite]


Honestly like at least 50+% of it is just dumb luck. Chance. Nothing you can do. Just accept this. Laugh about it. I find it's crap that you need to "like yourself" or " be confident" - mostly. I know so many men who are attracted to vulnerability. So many couples who met at horrible times in their lives and it worked out fine. So many single women who have alllll of their shit together and volunteer all the time and still no boyfriend. The magical thinking "reward from the universe boyfriend" thing just doesn't really happen, never will. Give it up and laugh. You could do everything right and be single forever. You could do everything wrong and meet someone amazing. You could die tomorrow. You know? Romance is like that, just one of those things with too many factors to control.

Things you CAN do:

-get a dating profile, put some effort into pics. Actually go out in some dates with some okay people. Just do it. Set the bar a tiny bit lower than it is right now. Do it for fun first dates and laughs and coffee. No expectations.
-go out to parties. Do stuff. Not "volunteering" but literally anything that has decent amounts of people your age. Meet friends of friends. Tired? Want to stay in? Nope. Go out.
-Look pretty. Blah blah blah patriarchy blah beauty in the eye of the beholder blah. Seriously though, look pretty. Make an effort. And don't be ashamed about it. Be hot.
-Drink enough to loosen up. Be safe, have a dd, etc etc.

That's really honestly like 90% of it. Liking yourself? Reading? Nah. I mean, that stuff is nice. But it's not a magic formula.
posted by quincunx at 8:36 AM on July 12 [12 favorites]


To answer as asked, I think depression and anxiety are unattractive. I speak from experience. I dated online and off through 2 years of therapy and SSRIs, but something "clicked" only after this process was "done."

This is not to say that depressed people don't find or don't deserve love, only that real misery is harder to hide than one thinks.

Fight the good fight. Good luck!
posted by 8603 at 10:20 AM on July 12 [1 favorite]


"Honestly like at least 50+% of it is just dumb luck. Chance. Nothing you can do. Just accept this. Laugh about it. I find it's crap that you need to "like yourself" or " be confident" - mostly. I know so many men who are attracted to vulnerability. So many couples who met at horrible times in their lives and it worked out fine. So many single women who have alllll of their shit together and volunteer all the time and still no boyfriend. The magical thinking "reward from the universe boyfriend" thing just doesn't really happen, never will. Give it up and laugh. You could do everything right and be single forever. You could do everything wrong and meet someone amazing. You could die tomorrow. You know? Romance is like that, just one of those things with too many factors to control. "

This. And also all of the folks on ask.metafilter.com who have ever said it's (at least partially) a crapshoot are correct. It's not a meritocracy. Don't get me wrong. Getting your shit together is a great thing to do. It will make you happier, improve the quality of your life and help you to avoid dysfunctional relationships. BUT it will never by itself guarantee that romantic love will find its way into your life. There are always factors beyond your control that need to come together in just the right way for that to happen.

Among other things, really accepting the "crapshoot"/"beyond your control" aspects of finding romantic love helps you to overcome the tendencies that may put people off because the tendencies come across as "desperate" or "needy".
posted by jazzbaby at 10:33 AM on July 12 [4 favorites]


Honestly like at least 50+% of it is just dumb luck. Chance. Nothing you can do. Just accept this. Laugh about it. I find it's crap that you need to "like yourself" or " be confident" - mostly. I know so many men who are attracted to vulnerability. So many couples who met at horrible times in their lives and it worked out fine. So many single women who have alllll of their shit together and volunteer all the time and still no boyfriend. The magical thinking "reward from the universe boyfriend" thing just doesn't really happen, never will. Give it up and laugh. You could do everything right and be single forever. You could do everything wrong and meet someone amazing. You could die tomorrow. You know? Romance is like that, just one of those things with too many factors to control.

Quoting quincunx again because this is basically it. Add demographics/location to luck (if you didn't already) and it's like 80% or 90%.

The only things I can think of that you can actively do, that are actually within your control, are 1) look as good as you reasonably can, and 2) try not to come off as someone who is always dour and complaining. And of course you should shower, etc.

But really, though all the suggestions above are fine, when I think of all the married or otherwise not-single women I've known it turns out a whole lot of them were one or more of the following: fat, unattractive, shy, insecure, suffering from depression, anxiety, or physical problems, mean, unfeminine, unemployed, lacking confidence, lacking hobbies, lacking notable accomplishments, bad at flirting, bad at dating, opposed to joining clubs, and so on.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 10:57 AM on July 12 [4 favorites]


I can sympathise with you. As someone who had to learn this stuff too (it doesn't come naturally to me) what stuck out to me in your description of flirting with people is that you don't mention physical contact at all. When you are walking somewhere with a date, and you are enjoying their company, do you walk close enough to them that you brush arms sometimes when you gesture? When you are sitting across the table from them, and you are excited about something, or they say something funny, do you put your hand on their hand for a moment? Do you "accidentally" sit really close to them if you are both sitting on a bench or a couch? Do you inch closer if you originally sit a little apart? Do you turn towards them and let your knees brush under the table if you are sitting on a corner of a table or at a bar?

Honestly, the big turning point for me in dating was starting to notice if the guy was doing that sort of thing (and realising that it Meant Something, if it kept happening) and also conciously trying to do some of it myself. Without that sort of physical contact, guys I was interested in didn't realise that I was interested in them, so they wouldn't pursue me. But a little bit of physical contact can go a long way towards making them aware that you're interested, and you can go the rest of the way and use your words: ask people out if you think they're neat! It's the 21st century, and if it bothers some guy that you asked, then you probably don't want to be with him anyway. I think if you do those things (making some physical, flirty contact and actually asking people out or telling them you've got a crush on them) you can probably change your luck with romantic relationships. You've got to be brave, and that's hard, but it's worth it!

(And, something else useful I've discovered: if you pine over one guy for a year, or years, asking him out for a drink becomes this huge scary monster thing that you can pretty easily convince yourself that you CAN'T DO. But it's much easier to ask someone out you don't know very well, because the stakes feel a lot less high. And if you go out on a lot of dates (either because they ask you, or you ask them), it's easier to not be crushed if it doesn't work out with one guy, because you start to realise that are a lot of fish in the sea, and that one guy wasn't your only hope for romance).
posted by colfax at 11:14 AM on July 12 [3 favorites]


Look for people you genuinely have something in common with. It sounds to me like you are fairly bright. If you are hanging out with folks of more average intelligence, this may be part of why you are not clicking. Go hang out where 'geeky' guys hang out. You might find that alone completely changes things.

At one point, the info that I was, at that time, busty and could write a smidgeon of HTML was all some guys needed to know to desperately want to know me better. Yeah, I was a nerd in high school with few friends at school and all the usual stereotypes. I haven't had a problem attracting men ...in a long, long, long time.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 11:58 AM on July 12


I'm going to go against the grain of your question here and suggest that your general premise could use some adjusting. You seem to be asking how you can make yourself more generally attractive. I don't think that this is a particularly effective way of finding one long-term partner who is a really good match. In fact, I'd venture the opposite: you should present yourself more specifically, and *less* generically attractively. What I mean by that is that, for most people, the ultimate goal of the whole process is not to be pursued by the greatest number of the opposite sex, but to end up with one really awesome match. For instance, a while back I remember reading about the most popular women on OkCupid - the ones who got the most number of messages, etc. Most of them ended up single, and complained that trying to sort through all the messages they got was a full-time job that they couldn't handle. Is that really a desirable state? Who wants an inbox so chock full of messages that you don't even have time to read them, from men who are mostly mediocre matches for you? Surely the better goal is to present yourself so specifically that you effectively filter for the few men who would be really awesome matches on multiple levels.

Let me give you an example from my own life. I was newly single a few years ago. If I had just wanted to maximize my chances of being generally attractive to the most number of men possible, I could have done various things with my body and personality to that end (maybe some spray tan, maybe some highlights in my hair, tight jeans and/or cleavage, playing down my education, refraining from talking about controversial issues at the first meeting, etc.). Instead, on my own OkCupid account, I decided basically to break all the rules: I started out talking about obscure philosophers I like, my PhD, my fairly uncommon convictions on religion/sex/other controversial issues, etc. Most men understandably didn't find me a good match (well, those who, ahem, actually read my profile). But the few men who did message me with substantial messages almost invariably were awesome matches. Even in person, I think that you would be helped by a similar strategy. What I'm arguing here is that I think that your goal should not be to attempt to mold yourself to some generic standard of attractiveness nor to more effectively play the cliched coquette, but to present yourself as particularly and honestly as you can. Going along with that, one key thing that I think is lacking in your question is any sense of your own agency in the process, which is key. Being pursued by men in general is fine and all, but there is no sense of particular men in whom you are interested, and whom you would like to attract. I think that until you can find men to whom you want to appeal, you'll necessarily have the unhelpful kind of bland definition of attractiveness that you're currently working with. I would recommend first figuring out what you think are the key authentic attributes of you, and what (probably related) characteristics you are looking for in someone of the opposite sex. Then, I would work with that material. Maybe you're geeky and love science fiction and would love a guy into sci-fi too. Or maybe you're religious and want someone who shares your faith. Maybe you love Jane Austen, or science, or wilderness camping, or Renaissance poetry, or barbecue, or whatever. Basically, there are distinguishing attributes that make you you - things that you love about yourself and, even if not generically attractive (or even if generically unattractive), things that you would love a guy to love about you, and maybe share himself. I think that you should figure out what these are and bring them to the forefront of your self-presentation, rather than attempting to hide those things behind some kind of generic flirt mask. To hell with what 99% of the male population thinks of you. It's the other 1% - the really promising matches - who should really matter to you.
posted by ClaireBear at 12:23 PM on July 12 [21 favorites]


I completly agree with ClaireBear.

That said, I remember a time in my life when I simply did not realise someone was actually attracted by me. I was simply unable to read mens signals! Luckily at the time I went out a lot with my brother and his friends, who finally began to give me pointers, as he said sometimes it was extremly obvious someone was interested but cooled it when I did not respond in kind. I just did not notice and complained afterwards that no one liked me.

So rather than trying to change your own body language and clothes etc, try and become better at reading the other person: what signals is he sending? Where does he look? the floor? your boobs? your hands? If you have a male friend or brother ask them if possible to observe you in a such a situation and the person you are with - this is some 20 yeares ago so I cannot remember in detail what it was they did and I did not notice.

Another easy technique to establish rapport (not only when dating) is to mirror the other persons body language: not so that it becomes obvious but just in a mild way. If he leans back, do the same, if he rests his chin in his hand you do to.
You have to watch it so it does not become ridiculous and obvious but I have used this successfully in many social situations to establish a closer connection. There is some fancy name for it which I cannot think of right now.
posted by 15L06 at 2:10 PM on July 12


I suggest you read this book: Intimate Connections. Do the exercises faithfully for 3 months.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:08 PM on July 12


Hands-on experience is your friend! Hire a professional who is expressive and observant to have a conversation with you. Maybe they can even spy on you while you go on a date! That way you can get friendly real-time feedback on your body language. A psychologist or somatic sex therapist would be excellent choices, but your lucky connection may live in the worlds of theatre -- performance -- sex work -- public speaking -- etc.

Also, video tape yourself.
posted by fritillary at 7:57 PM on July 18


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