Do I flirt like it's 1955? (long explanation inside).
August 25, 2008 7:42 AM   Subscribe

MeFites, I have a bit of a problem. I'm a twenty-year-old heterosexual college female with, it seems, a nerd problem. I have never dated or kissed anyone in my life, and I'm starting to wonder if it's my personality that's the issue.

My lack of sexual experience used to completely effect my self-esteem. In high school, I absolutely hated myself - the way I looked, the way I talked - and to be honest, I'm still in the process of acquiring some self-esteem via exercising, working on projects, etc. I thought I was making pretty good progress until BAM! this summer, when I met the most perfect boy in the universe.

He was funny, he was smart, he was politically aware, he was sarcastic - and he was nerdy! Nerdy, although not a trace of social awkwardness existed in his body, so everyone loved him. He was absolutely adorable, and I was crushing hard. But I gathered up courage and made the effort. We had similar tastes and interests in music, movies, and television, and we often traded mp3s and recommendations (I, in my naivete, believed this to be "flirting.") I dressed better. I wore makeup. Everything was sarcastic and ironic and amazing; I felt like I was finally in. (Believe me, this was the most sustained interaction with a crush I'd had in years).

Towards the end of the summer I was beginning to realize that his feelings weren't reciprocated, and bummed though I was, it's not like it was unusual for me, so I decided to let it go.

Enter a girl I'll call Susan. Susan is a friend I recently met, and she's my complete opposite. She's beautiful, popular, and she lives to party, drink, and have sex. Let's just say when it comes to books and feminism and movies and music, she's not all too interested; she prefers social interaction. She had seven ex-boyfriends to my zero - and we were the same age. I was jealous of her the entire summer.

Susan had an interesting formula: she was quiet and giggly and conservative by day, and a hardcore drinker and partier by night. It seemed to me that she had the madonna/whore thing down to a "T." (On the other hand, I was always loud and sarcastic with my opinions, especially around this guy - I thought he'd appreciate my intelligence, I guess?)It was genius. I found out just a couple of weeks ago that the two of them drunkenly made out, had sex, and are now dating. (This all happened in the span of about a week).

I was absolutely devastated, if only because he picked a girl that was completely opposite from me (and, I thought) him. I followed him around the entire summer like an idiot, and she spent the whole summer hooking up with some other guy and then going in for the kill with the guy I liked (she knew this, by the way) in only the last few weeks.

My question is: I'm obsessed with books, feminism, and pop culture - but is it scaring the mens away? Should I ditch the nerdy for the sexy, or find a way to mix them up somehow? I thought flirting was conversations about indie bands, for crying out loud, but now I feel like that's what 12 year olds do. I try to flirt with my brain too much, I guess. In 2008, how do young people flirt? And how can I learn (preferably without awkward hookup sex - although alcohol I can stomach)?
posted by themaskedwonder to Human Relations (74 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Flirting's not about what you say, it's about how you say it. I'm not scared away by books or feminism or pop culture, and brainy flirting is way cool, but without the right kind of intonation, eye contact and body language, a conversation about indie rock is just a conversation about indie rock.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 7:56 AM on August 25, 2008 [3 favorites]

Yes, obsession with books, feminism and pop culture (or anything else, for that matter) will scare a lot of men away. The good news is that these aren't the men you'd be into anyway.
posted by box at 7:58 AM on August 25, 2008 [12 favorites]

Don't get overly balled up in the alcohol part. Lasting relationships are less like to occur when alcohol is the ice breaker. And wow, you're only 20, you've got ages of time.
posted by netbros at 8:00 AM on August 25, 2008

Don't try so hard.

Plenty of guys like smart girls. But no one likes desperation.

(I like smart girls; this girl knew that; she spent an evening "convincing" me she was "smart", mentioning her two MAs, etc. This was a turn off, because she was working it too hard.)

Relax, let things flow. Working too hard to seem smart, informed, sarcastic, ironic, whatever, makes people wonder what you're trying so hard to hide; it comes across as a hard sell, and people wonder if they're being rushed or pushed into something.

Oh, and I'll be accused of boyzone, but -- I like nerdy girls a bunch, but you don't want to come off as so into D&D or anime or indie films that these things have replaced your sexual side.
posted by orthogonality at 8:02 AM on August 25, 2008 [2 favorites]

Awkward hookup sex is not required. Learning how to flirt, though, as solipsophistocracy says, is. Guys need encouragement and sometimes even a more literal bop on the head to realize that someone's crushing on them.

SIRC guide to flirting looks like a good start.

But - like I said - even the most observant of people, male or female, might need a slightly more direct approach. What are you hoping to accomplish with the flirting? Are you hoping the guy will ask you out? Next time, why not ask /him/ out? I assure you, it's just as nerve-wracking for the guy as it would be for you. If he says yes, you know he's attracted to you. If he says no, well, you haven't wasted an entire summer on a guy who has no interest in you. ;)

Good luck - it's not easy, those first few steps out there, but it's worth it!
posted by twiki at 8:03 AM on August 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

I don't wanna be a downer, but you kind of hit this on the head: "Bad boys"/"bad girls" get all the play. That's not to say that you won't find a fellow who respects your casual, brain-first, boobs-second approach. But if you're upset about not getting around enough, you'll just need to be more aggressive.

I think my big breakthrough moment was realizing that most people want to be wanted. That is, they're just as excited about being with you as you are about being with them. But unless you make some kind of overt maneuver, you'll never be able to cash in on that.

The reason your dream boy picked Susan could be because he was more interested in her. Or it could be that hye didn't think you were interested and moved on to the next best thing.

You don't have to wear a low-cut shirt and get wasted to make boys like you, but you do have to let them know you're interested. How you do that is up to you.
posted by GilloD at 8:04 AM on August 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

It sounds trite, but be yourself! That way you'll attract the type of guy who is the right type for you.
If you keep tailoring your behaviour, conversation, and looks to what you think a certain guy would want, you may come across as if you're trying too hard.

Flirting is less about trying to impress the opposite sex and more about showing them that you're interested in them. Smile, try to relax, ask lots of questions, listen and pay attention to what the other person is saying.
posted by emd3737 at 8:05 AM on August 25, 2008

You'll find guys who are totally turned on by your brainsiness. Don't get into drinking and awkward hookup sex if you don't want to.

However, there are the cute awesome nerdy guys who either a) don't get indirect flirtiness or b) are used to being turned down by the cute awesome nerdy girls. These need help and encouragement. More touching (not necessarily of the heavy petting type, just the hand-on-knee or cuddling up type) will help, as will being more forward about your like.

I wouldn't be surprised if he really just thought you were trying to be friends and nothing more, as nerdy girls sometimes find themselves in the situation of wanting a friend to talk about various nerdy things, and the best options are males. These guys go "Oho! A girl who shares my interests!" the first few times, and get burned the first few times, and then get a lot more cautious.
posted by that girl at 8:09 AM on August 25, 2008 [4 favorites]

Some random points:
- the decisions about who to make out with or have sex with that are made while drunk do not necessarily have anything to do with an individual's serious relationship interests;
- people do not necessarily have a single type they are attracted to (no matter what happens in movies and tv shows) - that is, it's entirely possibly he could be interested in both "a woman like Susan" and "a woman like you" (when I think about the history of relationships of mine and friends of mine there's a variety of body, personality, and temperment types for pretty much all of them I can think of);
- did you ever tell him you liked him or were attracted to him? Being friends is not flirting. If you were being brash and opinionated and forward about your opinions of everything else, but coy and reticent about your attraction to him, then he might simply have thought you considered him only a friend as well;
- sort of contuining the line of thought of the previous point, some men are a lot more passive than you might expect when it comes to "hooking up," and it might have happened with "Susan" only because she initiated it (in other words, he might not have "picked her" per se, but just gone along with her for the sake of the prospect of casual sex).
posted by aught at 8:12 AM on August 25, 2008

I thought flirting was conversations about indie bands

Flirting is not conversations about anything in particular- we are not what we watch, listen to, read or buy. You are more than the sum of your interests, so you don't need to add or drop any interests to be a good flirt. Flirting is subtly letting someone know you find them attractive, which can be done in conversations on almost any subject. If you are conversing with someone, give them your full attention, smile, ask questions, laugh at their jokes, maybe even do a little bit of touching (a stroke on the arm, a pat on the back, little things). They'll get that you're into them. Getting wasted or being half-naked is not required, although being in an outfit that makes you feel attractive will help boast your confidence, and sometimes a drink or two can help lower inhibitions and make you feel a little bit friendlier (but be careful! Being drunk is not as charming as the drunk person might think).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:13 AM on August 25, 2008 [14 favorites]

Everything was sarcastic and ironic and amazing; I felt like I was finally in.

Nggh. This, I guess, was the only warning note for me. I might be misunderstanding you, and if so, apologies, but it sounds like you think flirting is about insincerity and word games and combatativeness. It's a bit like the little boy who pulls on the braids of the girl he likes and then runs away. If you like someone, it's powerful and attractive to say to them, 'I like you,' and be honest. Attention doesn't equal attraction, and constant sparring gets a bit wearying after a while.

Also, remember that flirting allows you to test them - you shouldn't feel like it's all one way. If everything you're interested in makes them yawn, or sincerity scares them off, they're not someone you want to be involved with anyhow.
posted by RokkitNite at 8:15 AM on August 25, 2008 [7 favorites]

Don't be desperate. Remember, most guys of your age want to get laid much more desperately than you do, and as a result your standards can be much higher than theirs.
posted by phrontist at 8:17 AM on August 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

It's probably scaring some of the mens away, but it's not scaring away the mens that you would actually enjoy being in a relationship with. Susan's style here isn't an alternative mechanism of flirting; Susan's on a whole different thing. Some men will respond to that — honestly a great many men will respond to that — but if you don't feel comfortable doing it, or if you feel like you have to pretend to be somebody else in order to make it work, then it's not for you. You don't need to emulate someone you describe as your complete opposite just to meet people, I promise. Just be patient; guys will come along that will respond to you and your style of interaction.

Note for the record that very, very often, people are most strongly attracted to other people who are "completely opposite from" them. The fact that this guy liked Susan shouldn't be surprising on that front, and you'll probably experience less annoyance and cognitive dissonance in your life if you internalize that quickly. Most of the time when you see people getting together, you will think they are horrible for each other. Some of the time you will be right, some of the time you will be wrong.
posted by penduluum at 8:19 AM on August 25, 2008

Next time, why not ask /him/ out? I assure you, it's just as nerve-wracking for the guy as it would be for you. If he says yes, you know he's attracted to you. If he says no, well, you haven't wasted an entire summer on a guy who has no interest in you. ;)

Also, given that you're a nerdy type interested in nerdy types, he's probably not going to be put off by you asking him out. In fact, he may see it as a good thing. At least, that's been my experience as the kind of guy you seem to be looking for. So, uh, where ya from?
posted by spaceman_spiff at 8:21 AM on August 25, 2008

Response by poster: Rokkit, thanks. What you described was what I did, more or less, and I can see now how immature and stupid it must have seemed...
posted by themaskedwonder at 8:22 AM on August 25, 2008

Your story sounds a bit like something out of Questionable Content :) (I'm kidding of course, but its a great comic and might give you some cathartic relief)

You're getting a lot of great advice from all the comments above:
Dont be to hard on your self. Yes, I know its hard (I went through it too) growing up without any dates and getting into your 20's worried its never gonna happen. Dont pressure yourself and dont let those worries cause you to "try to hard"... and look desperate.

Relax. Be yourself and RELAX. Some boys are scared away by intelligence, pop culture and feminism.. and other boys will be completely entranced. There could be a million reasons why the cute nerdy boy you wanted hooked up with someone else, and its entirely possible whatever reason it was had nothing to do with you. The fact that it happened doesnt indicate you are inferior. Be genuine. Be forgiving. If you run into him again, be nice. It strengthens character ;)

Your Mefi profile page doesn't say where you are physically located.. so I cant offer you any location-specific advice. Without sounding like a downer, dating does get harder as you get older. On the good side though, typically we get wiser and more experienced with each situation. Remember: every social interaction (dating-related or not) is a chance to practice your human-interaction skills and grow as a person. Embrace those moments (large and small) and you'll become richer as a person. Thrive on that, explore new things/areas,.. and I guarantee you'll meet the boy of your dreams.
posted by jmnugent at 8:22 AM on August 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Are you sure that you made your feelings known? Guys are a bit more oblivious to romantic cues and have rejection fears, too, so maybe it never came out or he didn't want to mess up what you had going. And he just went for the easy pickings. Hindsight is 20/20, and looking back on my 20s I would say that when the fling blows over and you all hook up again (which you will) you should have a nice, fun dinner together and break out a bottle of wine. I'm not saying get drunk, but one or two glasses will break some of the awkwardness and nervousness and let some feelings surface about where you all stand.

Also try to set your sights on other guys if you can. I would have been amazed to meet someone like you when I was in my early 20s as I went through a real drought when it seemed like all the girls were steadfastly following the dichotomy of dating crazy guys/jocks or abstaining altogether. It seemed to me that as the girls got near 30 they got wiser, more secure, and more curious and it got easier to have relationships with them. I think you just have to be more assertive and be more willing to have some fun relationships rather than find The Guy. That will help give you some of the skills you're after. </ramble>
posted by crapmatic at 8:25 AM on August 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Sounds like you live in your head. You say, early on, that you've hoped to be loved for your intelligence. In fact, everything you wrote has to do with mind and ideas. The problems is that love and sex don't take place in the mind. They're not ideas. That's the disjoint, and of course you can't bridge that gap.

Stupid girls attract guys because they're not entirely in their minds all the time. Susan doesn't sound stupid, but she's not 100% in her mind like you are. Your instinct, naturally, is to view that as a deficiency in her...though you're also intuitively grokking that that's not quite it, hence your frustrated desire to chuck the contents of your brain (or at least mask them).

There's nothing unsexy about ideas or intelligence. But there's something profoundly unsexy about someone who lives there 24/7. You don't need less ideas or less braininess. You just need to discover parts of yourself that are not the mental narration and conceptualization. Because that's the part that falls in love and causes others to fall in love. It's the vibe, the chemistry, the subliminals, the pregnant pauses. The special sauce, as it were. You can add up all your favorite books and all your favorite bands and all your wittiest jokes, and there's not a drop of special sauce in any of it. The special sauce is way way back in this flow chart....its' the part of you that falls in love with those things in the first place. And you've lost your connection to that. You're all in the mind.

How to learn to exist beyond cognition? Meditation or Tai Chi are classic routes. Dancing is another (take lessons, and/or dance really badly alone in your room to music you love with ecstatic abandon....sort of like Bill Murray's visceral karaoke in "Lost in Translation", and do it every day). Want a trippy trick to try? Visualize yourself as inhabiting the portion of the universe that's OUTSIDE your skin. If it gives a weird tinge of vaporous thrill, good! Foster that!

Extra tip: focus on the things you love. Not the things you like, prefer, or respect with your brain. I mean the stuff (including people!) that makes your heart feel gooey. Dwell there for a moment, then try to isolate the gooey heart swelling feeling so it's not related directly to the things themselves that cause the reaction. Refine the feeling to its distilled essence, and let it swell. Good thing to do every hour or so. Set a watch alarm.

Who you really are is permeated with love. It's enticingly sexy, but also so much more. The brain, for all its miracles, is a mere appliance.
posted by jimmyjimjim at 8:25 AM on August 25, 2008 [36 favorites]

Anecdote about the guy: a lot very smart, nerdy men nurse hang-ups about their younger days when all the girls ignored them and beefy jocks snarked about their good grades. As nerd culture edges towards the mainstream, this is changing, but high school is generally a popularity contest where nerds are bottom-feeders.

When the nerd boys get older, women realize that these are the nice, funny, engaging men that the jocks are not, and the nerd boys bask in their moment in the sun. I've met a lot of cripplingly brilliant men who go through a stage where they flit around with vapid arm candy who reassure them that they're just as sexy as the popular guys who once dissed them.

This happens to nerd girls, too, but maybe not with the same social intensity. Eventually your nerd boy will realize that he and Susan don't have a lot in common (or maybe they do, who knows!) and he'll sober up.

You don't need to hang around for that. Like the other posters have pointed out, plenty of men will find your wit, intelligence, and politics utterly compelling and sexy: men who would love nothing more than sit in bed with you all morning and do the NY Times Sunday crossword. I'm 25 and you sound a lot like me. I was a little awkward at 21 as well, but the older I got, and the older my dating pool got, the easier it became to meet demanding, engaging men who weren't freaked out by my Le Tigre obsession and enormous library.

If you change yourself for someone just to get their attention, you'll have just as little in common as Susan and Nerd Boy do. Chin up!
posted by zoomorphic at 8:28 AM on August 25, 2008

Also, do body stuff. Not to develop a "hot body", but to live more in your body. People won't fall in love with the walnut in your skull, it's got to be the whole package, so you need to fully inhabit it...and own it (regardless of how it looks). Exercise, yoga, etc. Do it at the same time as you practice meditation, tai chi, dancing, etc, and you'll soon notice profound differences in everything internal and external.
posted by jimmyjimjim at 8:33 AM on August 25, 2008

"Should I ditch the nerdy for the sexy, or find a way to mix them up somehow?"

Let's take some of your implied valuation out of the picture for a moment, and stop putting yourself on a spectrum where at one end is intellect and the other end is some kind of stereotypical "sexy." That's doing you a disservice as a person and more to the point, counter to your intentions.

Intellect is attractive (to a certain subset of people). However, if one of your goals in your interactions is to be able to attract romantic and sexual interest it's not at all the only way to signal your attractiveness. Your tone of voice, body language, word choice, appearance, eye contact habits, and a million other little things are entirely a part of the equation. Your self-identity as "nerdy" is just part of the mating dance. Don't treat it like the whole thing.

"I was always loud and sarcastic with my opinions, especially around this guy"

I like loud and sarcastic women, myself. My spouse has her moments of it and a couple of the relationships I remember fondly were with women who could be described that way. Heck, my daughter is growing up with a pretty good sarcasm reflex, and I'm hoping she grows up to be an attractive woman too.. One thing that helps draw the line between people who are loud and sarcastic in an attractive way and people who are just assholes is that they aren't always like that. There's a time and place, when you're appropriate and funny and self-aware. Just handing out negativity all the time gets old -- it's not a great way to signal how attractive you are to someone.

"I thought flirting was conversations about indie bands, for crying out loud"

That's one way to do it, and you can make that work, but it takes a heroic effort to do well. "Flirting with the brain," as you put it, still has to be flirting. In cases where you're flirting with a romantic interest, you want to be sending out attractiveness signals. Hiding them under too many layers of meaning, too much indirection through reference, or too much sarcasm will absolutely defeat the point. What's your voice like when you're having that conversation? What's your body language saying? Are you throwing eyebrow-raising double entendre in there, and how much (too much can be off-putting; too little goes unnoticed).

"...he was sarcastic.... Everything was sarcastic and ironic and amazing... she lives to party, drink, and have sex...the two of them drunkenly made out, had sex, and are now dating"

Look at that story. You seem to have presented yourself to this guy as a friend who he can hang out and crack wise with. His new girlfriend presented herself as someone to have sex with. For this guy, one of those roads leads to a relationship and the other one doesn't. I'll admit being familiar with this concept; some of my favorite past relationships started out with immediate attraction, a sexual encounter, and in the next morning's light turned into something more lasting.

"how can I learn (preferably without awkward hookup sex...)?"

There are going to be a certain number of relationships you miss out on because "hookup sex" would have been what kicked them off. It's totally understandable not to want to head down that path, doubly so if you feel like it would compound your self esteem issues, trebly so if you've sat down and decided it's simply Not What You Want.

"Towards the end of the summer I was beginning to realize that [my] feelings weren't reciprocated..."

You've got a strong personality. Did you take advantage of it to be assertive? Did you ask him out? Did you invite him over to "watch a movie" or make out or talk about feelings? Did you give him any chance to even form feelings for you? Did you offer any gesture of romantic interest apart from "being sarcastic?" Remember: not everyone develops romantic feelings for someone by hanging out and being snarky. For some people, you have to make a move of some kind, especially if you're not putting a conscious effort into signaling your attraction, interest, and availability.

It's something of a stereotype but there's an element of truth in it: Sometimes you have to club a guy over the head to get him to notice you. I look back on interactions I had with women I would have loved to date or make out with or hook up with or marry or carry off into the sunset decades ago, and in hindsight I realize some of them were trying to send me signals to do so (even adjusting for nostalgia; at least a few of those ladies were expressing interest I didn't see). I just never picked up on it in the moment. But in my teens and twenties I was simply too dumb to notice the opportunities knocking. Any girl who wanted my attention in those days pretty much had to throw herself at me, not because I wanted the kind of girl who threw herself but because I wouldn't have known what to do -- or that there was anything to do! -- without it.

Anyhow, you sound like a fairly together and aware person. Don't let one unrequited crush send you into a spin! Learn from it, instead. Look at what did and didn't work for you in this story, and then adapt accordingly.
posted by majick at 8:37 AM on August 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

I was always loud and sarcastic with my opinions

That doesn't sound sexy or fun. It sounds annoying and obnoxious as in you might be fun to crack jokes with but date?

I followed him around the entire summer

Hey, did you ever ask him out on a date? After all, what you think was obvious may not have been to him.

Should I ditch the nerdy for the sexy, or find a way to mix them up somehow?

You sound nerdy (which is a perfectly fine) and you probably just need to find where all the nerds are. Any book clubs on campus or local comic book stores? Investigate!

then going in for the kill with the guy I liked (she knew this, by the way)

She's not your friend.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:38 AM on August 25, 2008

Sorry, by this:

"you'll soon notice profound differences in everything internal and external."

....I meant your perception of how the world flows inside and outside of you. Not that you'll, like, slim down (or tone up) mentally and physically, or any b.s. like that (that's not what you need. You can come-as-you-are re: all that stuff).
posted by jimmyjimjim at 8:38 AM on August 25, 2008

I have to say that even though I do like the "nerdy" girl type a lot of them try to quiz me, or say "initial" statements that make me feel as if they are really trying to show me that they are smart and they want to know if i am the "same"....and at least the ones I met are very heavy on the "sarcasm" and "Ironic" thing you mentioned...Once in a blue moon it was cute but now I get turned off by the thought that I have to pass a test before this person show me who they really are... I often feel that attraction is not oh wow we both read "books" and could have a decent conversation about them but more like baby you and I click and I really want to take off your pants....I am not saying this is necessary but "sexual" attraction is very important for the male species...and me and a girl sharing movie reviews instead of saliva often (but not always) leads me to the LJBF (lets just be friends) zone quicker than Usain Bolt in the olympics.
posted by The1andonly at 8:41 AM on August 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

I would also like to say that just because your approach to flirting didn't work with this particular guy, it may very well work with another one. To me it sounds like you did a lot of things right, but there's also no indication of the smiling, lingering glances, and occasional physical contact one associates with flirting occurred. If those didn't happen, in the future, they would signal interest on your part and might facilitate things. I'm not saying you have to fall all over a guy, because no, but it's how most of us figure out someone is a possibility.

I know it's hard, but try not to get too hung up on why he picked Susan. She may have pursued him more blatantly and more aggressively, opposites often attract, or maybe he was just horny. It also doesn't sound like you asked him out and he said no, or you made a move and he rejected you, so it may not necessarily be a case of him choosing her over you, but him choosing a girl he knew was interested instead of pursuing a girl he thought was just a friend. Please don't feel you need to change who you are to snag a guy. As many have said, the right guy will either share or at least appreciate the fact you have those interests. Continue to take risks, they will pay off either with the result you want or as a learning experience to help you get what (or who) you want down the road. Good luck!
posted by katemcd at 8:47 AM on August 25, 2008

I was beginning to realize that his feelings weren't reciprocated.

If you aren't getting what you want, you need to take some responsibility for going out and getting it. Don't just wait until somebody realises that they like you enough to want to do all the hard work of asking you out, making a move, etc. etc. So: If you like someone, ask him out! If you are chatting somewhere private and there's an intimate moment, don't sit around waiting for him to kiss you.

If you can't manage that, at least tell him in plain English, for example, that you really enjoy spending time with him, or that you had lots of fun with him at the park, or whatever.

Second thing.

If you can manage it, try asking some guys out who you like but who are not necessarily SOULMATES or the recipient of your giant crush. Go on some dates, have a nice time, kiss them if you want to, screw them (safely) if you really want to. If they turn you down, that's fine. You presumably don't fancy 100% of men, so less than 100% of men are going to fancy you. Even if something utterly embarrassing happens - hey, notch it up to experience and carry on. The world won't end.

After a while you will have more confidence, more experience of dating, and find it easier to hit it off with people you have a giant crush on.

Third thing.

Make sure that in your state of "Must impress him!" you don't talk about yourself the whole time, tell a whole series of funny personal stories, or get into loud and hopefully hilarious monologues. That might be good for being the life of a party, but not to really get to know someone. Instead - ask them questions. Let them talk for a while. When they are done, say something that shows you heard what they said - don't tangent straight back onto something about you. Preferably, ask another question related to what they said, that leads the conversation onwards.

Combativeness and wordplay, to me, signal that someone isn't completely comfortable in my company. We're not talking about anything important, because we don't know each other well enough to talk about the things that matter. If they were comfortable, they would drop the public face.
posted by emilyw at 8:49 AM on August 25, 2008 [3 favorites]

I was you when I started college. It finally worked out for me with a nerdy guy (and then another). Be yourself. If they don't like you, that's one thing. But if they do like you, remember that, contrary to what other posters may be suggesting, the guy may be just as befuddled and inexperienced as you are. If the moment seems right go ahead and make the first move. As cliche as it sounds, a spontaneous backrub or just diving in for a kiss actually works.
posted by hydropsyche at 8:53 AM on August 25, 2008

If it makes you feel better about your taste in men, lots of nerdy college men are extremely vulnerable to the methods of Susan for exactly the reasons that you'd guess. It's not to say that her ways are the right ones, or for you, but it's a set of mistakes that lots of young men make. There's a tshirt that floats around here: "I'm a physicist; flirt harder." Looking back on my life there were a lot of situations where I only figured out that someone was interested in me way after the fact.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 8:59 AM on August 25, 2008

I have never dated or kissed anyone in my life, and I'm starting to wonder if it's my personality that's the issue.

Probably not. My guess is that you have difficulty reading people. At that age, I was almost completely oblivious to signals I would get from the opposite sex. Unless a girl practically threw herself at me, I'd miss the signs. And the girls I thought I was interested in, I wouldn't notice that they regarded me with complete disinterest, and would waste my time chasing them.

Likewise, you've probably had a number of missed opportunities because you were interested in guys who weren't reciprocating while a number of other, perfectly worthwhile suitors were buzzing around you, unnoticed. (Especially if you were hanging out with the nerdy crowd, who would have found it more difficult to make their interest known to you.)

You're a smart girl - invest a little time observing how people express interest in each other. Go to parties and watch how guys and girls express their interest in each other. Learn to read body language and unspoken cues. Figure out what attracts people to each other. Besides improving your own "Game" you might even find the intellectual pursuit aspect of it rewarding.
posted by mikewas at 9:05 AM on August 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

It's like a snowball--the more anxious you get about it, the more you will send turny-offy signals.

There is a cool nerd boy who's equally shy out there. My lovely husband had his first kiss at 24, for instance. Find his equivalent at your college, and you're in like Flynn.

And as a cranky, sarcastic, wise-cracking woman who lives in her own head, let me tell you the best way to get a guy to kiss you: sit next to him on a couch, be still, and be quiet for a moment.

The Nick and Nora thing is great in the movies, but in real life nobody grabs you and lays a smooch on you while you're in the middle of some wacky, hilarious riff.

Good luck. And remember, you never know what someone else is looking for. The fact that you like them is not an indication that they'd like you back (in that way)--their crank may only be turned by women with shaved heads, or amputees, or women who look like their third grade teacher, or women who come from northern Bulgaria, or whatever.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:05 AM on August 25, 2008

I'm not going to disagree or agree with anything already said because dating's a many splendored heartless fickle beast and without knowing exactly what went down in your situation, what you did, what he did, what he thought, where he is in life, what you thought, where you are in's just one of those weird things with too many variables where I've found others advice to be both right and wrong many of the time. I still overthink things, but I'm especially bad at assembling an independent panel about such matters and you know what, you always hear five different things. And even when 5 out of 8 Helens agree on interpretation A or B, in the exact same situation whatever they agreed on doesn't work or the total opposite works. And ask anybody you know who are now in a serious relationship and you'll hear all kinds of shit that follows "the rules" to a T or break every single goddamn one of them, yet they're still together. You just can't trust that shit. Other people's advice might be a good jumping off point, but going back to the many-feathered, fire-breathing, rainbow-farting beast that is dating, we're all like blind men feeling up some poor frightened elephant that doesn't understand why it's being molested in some dark jungle when it comes to relationships that isn't our own, or hell, when it is even our own. Yea small parts that we're feeling might be true, but it's not the whole of the matter.

I say this as someone who's more like you than Susan. For people like Susan who have the technique, looks, etc. down dating's a simpler thing to figure out. I can't tell you the many times I've had friends or acquaintances who are "Susans" be absolutely befuddled that I can't get a date or agonize over things in my love life. For them, they go out, they get asked out, what's the problem? Why can't you get asked out? What? I thought that guy was totally into you! What do you mean he turned you down? Did you say/do this like I told you to? Really? You're a girl, you have boobs! I don't understand! Then yet again they go on and rattle off all the guys that asked them out this weekend and complain how dating is "so hard" when you yourself can't even step up to the plate to take a swing and you end up banging your forehead on the table in a futile attempt to knock yourself out and quite possibly drown yourself in your eggs benedict in a vain attempt to escape from another session of her trying to commiserate with you but only succeeding in making you feel worse.


Anyhow, don't get hung up on the fact that nerdy/geeky guys necessarily always want nerdy/geeky girls. Just because you're both into the same things does not guarantee fireworks. I can certainly tell you that. Just watch popular pop culture. When the nerds in the movies succeed who are they girls that they want or try to get with? The hot sorority girl or the popular cheerleader. Growing up a tomboy I've played sounding board to many a guy friends who'd say 'Yea would it be cool if I could find a girl like X' then come bitching to me the next weekend about how their hot not girl X girlfriend wasn't letting them play their video games or made fun of their interests or wouldn't let them hang out with the guys or whatever. But you know what, they made their bed and they have to lie in it. Who knows, maybe the not girl X has something else that interests them. We don't know. But you can't get hung up on that because that's not you.

This is how many a totally acceptable if not downright cute nerdy geeky girls who aren't the waifish hipster or wide-eyed ingenue or girl next door cutie Phoebe Cates get their hearts broken. It's really not you, it's mostly them. Sure your "flirting" technique might be blunt, but is it any less blunt than getting shitfaced and sloppily kissing? It's just different. Again I haven't observed your behavior around this guy or this whole situation, but I've found it much easier to go through life with the advice "If he liked you, he liked you," and move on. If I don't, I'd obsess over what I did wrong, what about me he didn't like. Maybe it was how I looked? It's always how I looked! Maybe I talk weird? And if you think the stink of desperation follows you now, overthinking all the ways that maybe you failed or will never meet someone will only concentrate it like those damn febreeze automatic air freshener things that shoot out a puff of scent every ten minutes to make sure you don't forget that you actually suck.

And trust me because I've had this foisted on me plenty of times, you're going to get all the "Guys your age now are just immature, they'll appreciate a girl like you when they're older," advice ALL the damn time. First off, that's bullshit because why should I push off my prime dating years waiting for guys to mature, and second again it makes you all hung up about "man, maybe people just don't get me and I'm weird." No, eff that shit. Just go out and find yourself a dude that likes you for you. If you think a makeover might help, do it. If a cute new outfit puts you in a flirty mood? Buy it. Nothing wrong with self-improvement, but it's like the game. You lose the moment you start thinking about it. Go out, find someone who likes you. I'm not gonna lie., It's going to be damn fucking hard, I'll tell you right now. You might have to deal with dry spells like a motherfucker then cut through dense foliage with a machete. It might be slim pickings. The economy might be hurting the booty market hard, but do you, son. Just do you.
posted by kkokkodalk at 9:06 AM on August 25, 2008 [7 favorites]

If you can manage it, try asking some guys out who you like but who are not necessarily SOULMATES or the recipient of your giant crush. Go on some dates, have a nice time, kiss them if you want to, screw them (safely) if you really want to. If they turn you down, that's fine. You presumably don't fancy 100% of men, so less than 100% of men are going to fancy you. Even if something utterly embarrassing happens - hey, notch it up to experience and carry on. The world won't end.

This is very good advice. It's so easy to build everything up (and then feel like the world is over when it all falls apart) when you don't have that much experience with these kinds of things. I'm not saying that the Susans of the world don't feel it when relationships don't work out, but, having had more experience, they probably have more of a sense of context -- as well as the confidence that one thing ending doesn't negate the possibility of anything new starting ever again. You can earn that kind of confidence, too, which will make you feel like less of a freak. (Speaking as a former 20-year-old who felt like a freak for the exact same reasons.)

The other thing I will say sounds cheesy but it's true: Now is not forever. If I could go back in time and say anything to my nerdy and ashamed 20-year-old self who never thought she could find or be worthy of love, it would be that. This thing not working out is not a shameful predictor of the rest of your life.
posted by mothershock at 9:08 AM on August 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

She's not your friend.

I don't know that I'd be so quick to call her on that one. When someone likes a guy, and then doesn't do anything with him for months, I think the statute of limitations has expired. Either the guy's not interested, or she's no longer interested in the guy.

We don't know the circumstances, really, but it could be something like this:

June - Masked Wonder says that (Tom) is cute. Susan agrees, saying something to the effect of, "Yeah, if I wasn't with (Bob), I'd be all over him".
August - (Tom) flirts with Susan. Susan realizes that he's still single, and (Bob) is out of the picture. Thinks briefly to June, and figures that if Masked Wonder still had a thing for (Tom), that something would have happened by now. Surprise - Casual Secks!

Masked Wonder, I'm sorry that your intended is unavailable. In the future, you should be a little more obvious, because nerdy boys can be quite oblivious. It can be hard to get up the nerve, but it's the 21st century, and women may (and should) ask men out as well. Don't just say, "want to go see The Dark Knight?", say, "Hey, I like you. Want to go out on a date? We could see The Dark Knight." If you can't muster up the words, just go straight for a kiss. It'll surprise you both, but boy is that an ice-breaker!
posted by explosion at 9:12 AM on August 25, 2008

Sarcasm is turn off. I understand that its an easy coping mechanism, but if you want really engage someone on a higher level then you'll need to cultivate some sincerity and perhaps tone it all down a bit.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:12 AM on August 25, 2008

I'll admit to not reading every reply in this thread, so 1k pardons if I'm being redundant. As a nerdy guy myself, I like girls who can talk about a wide variety of things - not every conversation has to be intellectually rigorous. If we can talk about the perils of IP law one minute and which New Pornographers album is the best the next (Electric Version, btw), that's wonderful.

But also, some guys don't want a lady who is exactly like them, either. I've had the best relationships with women who are much more outgoing than myself, and short-lived ones with those I've really connected with intellectually.

Oh, and strictly judging from the length of your question, you've obviously given this a lot of thought - but nothing is more attractive than self-confidence. Be confident enough to forget about a guy if he's not into you, and another will fall into your lap soon enough.
posted by antonymous at 9:15 AM on August 25, 2008

If you're ironically flirting you're not actually flirting, you're mocking the act of flirtation because you feel like girlish behavior is intellectually beneath you.
posted by The Straightener at 9:26 AM on August 25, 2008 [7 favorites]

Be yourself, don't change to attract or you'll attract people who want to change you.

Intelligence is attractive, in my opinion. I really find it hard to believe I'm particularly unique in that respect.

If you change now, you'll really regret it later.
posted by aleahey at 9:31 AM on August 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

>> Without sounding like a downer, dating does get harder as you get older.

It doesn't have to. Grad school? okcupid? Not to mention the rest of college if that's where she is. Not to mention the rest of her life. Nothing is on the line, and there's no rush.

To the OP:

Be uncompromisingly yourself. Know yourself. Keeping growing and learning in directions that interest you. Study people, and don't be self-conscious. Relax, and have fun.

Attention to appearance, body language, conversation skills, and planning and tolerance for uncertainty all make things happen more easily.
posted by zeek321 at 9:37 AM on August 25, 2008

You have very strong opinions about dating for someone with no experience.

The issue is not whether you are maddona/whore enough, or pretty enough, or whatever. You just need confidence. Don't try to anticipate what people want by becoming someone (however slightly) different. I personally am loud and sarcastic to the point of rudeness, and I do quite well. The thing is that I don't only act that way around sarcastic people; it would be like pretending to be intellectual for intellectual people etc. Most people aren't looking to date someone exactly like them . . .

Another thing: doing platonic friend activities in order to get in someone's pants is stupid, and unfair. Can you imagine how irritated you'd be if you found out your cool new friend had been trying to get in your pants for months by doing normal friend stuff with you?
posted by shownomercy at 9:38 AM on August 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Another lesson: tell the Object of your crush that you like him, and not women like Susan. It's entirely possible that she zeroed in on him precisely because she knew you liked him (out of competitiveness, the enhanced sense of attraction your crush created, jealousy, whatever).
posted by junkbox at 9:39 AM on August 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

I wasn't party to your sarcastic flirting, so it's difficult to tell whether this was the problem. I, myself, am a feministnerdygirl who flirts primarily through teasing. However, I also giggle and blush pretty easily (and uncontrollably) which, I think, sends a pretty clear signal to the recipient of the flirting--IE, despite the sarcasm, it's pretty obvious when I'm interested. I think it really depends on how high up your defenses are, especially if you're waiting for the other party to make the first move.

That being said, don't wait for the other party to make the first move. Really. My best guess at what happened here is that SuperCrushObject was open to the possibility of something more early on, but the fact that you were both a bit sarcastic (and therefore probably difficult to read) andnever made it clear that you were interested in being more than platonic friends caused him to eventually start seeing you as just a friend. Those boundaries need to be defined before a romantic exchange can go anywhere, and the best way to define that boundary is through a hot and heavy make out session, which seems like something that Susan is all too aware of.

I wouldn't be too worried, though--it's entirely possible that what's going on between SuperCrushObject and Susan won't last too long. I'd continue meeting people, dating, etc, but if he finds himself single again (especially if they aren't dating for a long time), take another stab at it. Based on her dating history, I wouldn't be surprised if she lost interest and he was single again soon.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:40 AM on August 25, 2008

Flirting can be on any topic. In my longest-lasting, happiest relationship, our first few conversation centered around Richard Dawkin's "Ancestor's Tale,' which local brewery made the best IPA and ended in a very silly argument about math that we had both strongly forgotten.

If you are a nerd girl and you are interested in a nerd boy, you are lucky in a lot of ways. You can assume a world of shared information, the fact that he won't be intimidated when you drop mad science into the conversation and so on. That in and of itself is not flirting, but when you compare that to normal dudes, you are already way ahead because you don't have to worry about coming across as 'nerdy' - he understands!

But flirting consists of so much more than talking. And in a lot of ways it is inherently physical. The same words delivered with a smile and eye contact are very different than just delivering information to a lab partner or friend. Limited contact - brushing fingers, top of the leg, shoulders and so on - is another way of indicating that you are having this conversation on both levels of enjoying the exchange of words and ideas and also of enjoying the person you're sharing them with.

And good luck - nerd girls, in my experience, are in high demand with the nerd boy world, especially if they look nice. A lot of nerd boys date more normal girls for a while, but can find themselves bored by girls who are just not interested in hearing about his experiment/project/hobby/passionate interest in Battlestar Galactica/etc.
posted by palindromic at 9:52 AM on August 25, 2008

My question is: I'm obsessed with books, feminism, and pop culture - but is it scaring the mens away? Should I ditch the nerdy for the sexy, or find a way to mix them up somehow? I thought flirting was conversations about indie bands, for crying out loud, but now I feel like that's what 12 year olds do. I try to flirt with my brain too much, I guess. In 2008, how do young people flirt? And how can I learn (preferably without awkward hookup sex - although alcohol I can stomach)?

This is just my personal preference, yes, I think it would be a good idea to mix smart and sexy. I am really into smart women, there's no way I'll ever mess with a dummy. But, she must have a physical side too, sex is REALLY important to me. Sex is really important to many people, regardless of age and gender. I'm with jimmyjimjim, who is way more articulate than I am, that someone who lives in their head all the time can be really tiring. We have to use our brains all the time in school, and for those who are employed, they have to use their brains there too. For many people, being brainy 24-7 is just way too much.

Get in touch with your physical side. Like someone suggested, take dance lessons. Sign up for a sport. Explore the world of food and alcohol, booze will definately help you get in touch with that physical. You don't have to get shitfaced to enjoy it, just two drinks should be good enough. Watch porn, what goes on in these movies doesn't always reflect reality, but it will give you an idea on how things work in the bedroom. Use sexual innuendo in your conversations, and learn how to joke about sex.

What's holding you back from doing hook-ups? You may love it. Many of my emotional attractions began with sexual ones.
posted by sixcolors at 9:58 AM on August 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Why is everyone pretending it's not about physical attraction.

If there's no attraction then it's not flirting and you can't flirt to create attraction.

To be blunt, it seems to me he was attracted to her and not to you.

You're only 20. There will be other guys who will find you attractive before you even say a word.

And lose all of the labels: geeky, nerdy, etc. It's all meaningless. This post- kkokkodalk at 6:06 PM- is complete drivel. That's the mindset you must avoid.
posted by Zambrano at 10:15 AM on August 25, 2008

Why is everyone pretending it's not about physical attraction.

If there's no attraction then it's not flirting and you can't flirt to create attraction.

To be blunt, it seems to me he was attracted to her and not to you.

You're only 20. There will be other guys who will find you attractive before you even say a word.

This is wrong, well I suppose it could be true but we can't have the knowledge to know it to be true. As it was said numerous times before the object of the crush may not have made a move for many different reasons, only one of them is disinterest.
posted by mmascolino at 10:27 AM on August 25, 2008

I didn't read all of the comments here but this might have been said before...

Never change who you are for someone else. You seem like a good person (smart, good taste in music, etc.) You do not need someone who goes for the "slut". Keep true to who you are and Mr right will come along. Also don't focus on one person. As for your flirting style, smile at a guy and say Hi. That is all the flirting you should ever need.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 10:45 AM on August 25, 2008

100% of your energy for 3 months -> one person who may or may not be interested

100% of your energy for 3 hours-> one person who may or may not be interested

That's the point I want to emphasize, nicely summarized.

It doesn't take an entire summer to figure out if someone is into you and vice versa. Enjoy the crush, enjoy the sarcastic flirting — but be brave enough to take it to the next level.

Did you ever reach out and hold his hand when you guys were walking along, maybe crossing a street or tiptoeing across a mudpuddle?

Did you rub his shoulders, or lean into him when you were sitting side by side on a bench, or kiss his cheek when he gave you his usual platonic hug goodbye?

Hanging out and having ironic conversations can be flirting, or it can be friendship, or it can be both. Doing any of the things I just mentioned (never mind something even more direct, like asking him out on a date, heaven forbid) is like flirting, but better, and sends him a signal that you are interested in him, at least for handholding.

If you didn't do any of those things, he wouldn't have been foolish to think "too bad, she's not that into me, oh well, I guess I'll give that other girl a call and see if she wants to go out to dinner next week." The early stages of a relationship are like a dance — you signal a bit, he signals back, you approach, one retreats slightly, the other moves closer, and so on. You weren't dancing — you were on the sidelines commenting on the music.

So, no need to get into the drunken hookup thing if you don't want, but you do need to become comfortable in your own body as well as in your own mind. Sarcasm and irony are great, when they are ways of connecting and creating. They are not so great when they are defense mechanisms and ways of keeping the world at bay.

Should I ditch the nerdy for the sexy, or find a way to mix them up somehow?

Like everyone has said, this is not a dichotomy. Nerdy can be hot hot hot, or it can be dull like dishrags — it's not the nerdiness that makes the difference. And sexy isn't synonymous with vapidity, either, despite your dislike of the other girl. Keep your interests and keep your wit, but realize that it comes back to questions like, Are you confident in yourself? Are you fun to be with? Do you smell and look good? Can you have a conversation about something other than yourself? Are you (when things get to that point) fun to kiss?

These aren't nerd vs sexy issues — they are basic questions of whether someone would make a great girlfriend or not.
posted by Forktine at 10:48 AM on August 25, 2008

This post- kkokkodalk at 6:06 PM

Slight derail: Don't forget that people are in different time zones, so what looks like 6:06pm to you, is 12:06pm to me
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:55 AM on August 25, 2008

From the link twiki mentioned, which has always seemed the case to me:

When you first meet new people, their initial impression of you will be based 55% on your appearance and body-language, 38% on your style of speaking and only 7% on what you actually say.

So, the indie band content doesn't really much matter. It's how you say it that does.
posted by meerkatty at 11:01 AM on August 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

if you're still hoping to snag a nerd (and please say yes - guys like me need more girls like you!), don't worry about being too cerebral. There's no such thing. The nerdy IS the sexy! We just need explicit signs of encouragement sometimes (okay, most of the time) to let us know you're into us, and not just interested in hanging out and talking about books or films. Get close; make accidental-on-purpose physical contact; break out the innuendo. Use your brain AND your body. Also, alcohol helps, at least for me; I get talkative when I'm buzzed.

Maybe I'll get shit for this but one thing you might want to think about is how into feminism you are and how much you talk about it around guys you're interested in. (warning: anecdote alert) I dated this girl once, who was great - big into books and films, politically active, sarcastic, the whole deal - but she had a slight tendency to go on about how, for example, all pornography was absolutely 100% evil because some of the women in it might have been exploited. I agreed with her on much of what she said, but the way she brought it up and how forcefully she discussed it sometimes could make things a bit awkward.

Anyway. Don't worry about your friend Susan and this guy you're talking about. Susan is a pretty shitty 'friend' if she'd do something like this to you. And if this guy likes the good girl/bad girl thing, which doesn't come natural to you, then the two of you probably wouldn't've lasted more than the summer anyway. I know it sucks, I've had the same thing happen to me only with the genders reversed.

I don't think I have a point really, just some more input for you. Good luck with everything.
posted by xbonesgt at 11:05 AM on August 25, 2008

Wow. People are being way too nice to you.

Your problem is that you are incredibly self-absorbed. You have this odd notion that attraction boils down to adding up two people's interests and taking the difference - a symptom of the fact that you clearly think of your own intellectual pursuits and artistic tastes as somehow special (hint: they aren't, you're a garden variety pretentious college student).

You also engage in the exact kind of social stereotyping that you are presumably rebelling against. Your characterization of your friend Susan as a "Madonna/whore" type is appalling and shows that you don't think in terms of individuals, but rather as tightly defined stereotypes that you can then project your insecurities onto. You did the same thing with your romantic interest: you weren't interested in him, really, so much as you were interested in dating a "nerd". The way you characterize your interactions with him give this away - all in terms of your own little idea of what it means to be an ironic hipster college student, never in terms of two autonomous individuals having conversation and exchanging thoughts.

Your problems will continue until you learn to separate yourself and your romantic/friendship interests from whatever archetype you feel you must adhere to.
posted by downing street memo at 11:25 AM on August 25, 2008 [13 favorites]

Read Intimate Connections.

It isn't the big things that are causing you the problem, it is the small ones. You probably are not actually engaging him in that way at all. You need to make lots of eye contact, smile a lot, etc. All things very hard when you have intense feelings for the guy. It takes work for all of us. The more you do it, the better you get at it.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:28 AM on August 25, 2008

OK, at the risk of rehashing something else amidst the 55+ other comments...

The best advice I ever got for dating was the same advice I'm sure you've heard at one point or another: be yourself. Go the places you go, do the things you do, live the life you want to live. It's that simple. More often than not, like attracts like. The brain doesn't usually feel fulfilled at a (usually) intellectually deficient bar, and the body doesn't (usually) feel fulfilled at a D&D meet.

Worry less about the 80+% or so that comprise the mainstream of guys in college. If you're into mainstream guys you'll have no problems finding them... Just remember what WYSIWYG in most cases... and the kind you'll probably end up being happiest with isn't the typical sort... Maybe he's the nerd sitting in the stacks, or enjoying the open mic at the coffeehouse in between studying quantum physics and advanced something-or-other.

I'll echo the fact that you're 20 years old. Twenty. years. old. I'm 26, male, and have yet to feel any pressure into finding 'the one' or even a relationship that'll last more than a month. How do young people flirt in 2008? In their own way. Too many go with the flow, and make the mistake of not seeking what they truly want until years later. Be confident, go boldly, ask the guy to dance every now and then, and have fun.
posted by chrisinseoul at 11:37 AM on August 25, 2008

When I was younger (I am all of the old age of 23, so take that phrase with a grain of salt), flirtation to me was sarcasm. Quips, poking fun, insults, trading jabs. It seemed like it was intellectual foreplay, but I realize now all that sarcasm and insincerity was me trying to hide the fact I was desperately, desperately afraid of rejection. It takes some serious balls to tell someone you like them, to really show them you are interested, because that gives them the chance to outright reject you. Easier to joke around and say "Hey you want to go to coffee? No? Oh, well, j/klolj/k hahahaha I didn't mean it!"

You don't have to go up to every dude you like, grab his balls, and scream "I WANT THIS!" (though it might be hilarious to do!). But you do need to be a little more direct than just insulting. More physical contact, more honest expressions of how much you enjoy his company, etc, etc.

BUT--do keep in mind this may not get you all the guys, because you are at that age when yeah, guys ARE afraid of intellectual girls. Just as you're still a girl, not a woman, they're still boys, not men. Many boys that age want what's easy and pretty and giggly and (seems) fun.
posted by Anonymous at 11:49 AM on August 25, 2008

I see a lot of advice above to the effect that you shouldn´t change yourself, that you are not confident enough, etc.


You´ve noticed that something about your life (your lack of flirting knowledge) isn´t working for you, and you are not confident at it because you have enough self knowledge to know that it´s something you don´t know a lot about or a high skill level in. It´s not your personality, it´s just a skillset that you need to acquire, and want to acquire, and I don´t see any reason to dissuade you from learning that skillset. Don´t worry that this will be a big change in who you are that will carry over into all of your interactions with people, getting to the point of first date/first kiss/first whatever requires a course of action that doesn´t need to be repeated during the course of that relationship, in much the same way that the clothing you wear to a job interview isn´t necessarily something that you would ever wear once you actually get hired.

Check out this flirting guide, and try these things experimentally with men, not men you necessarily would even go on a date with or want to have a longer conversation with. This is practice for guys you are more interested in. It´s not changing your personality or who you are any more than doing a practice interview before a big job hunt. You just need to learn a few other things to say and do to convey interest, and you can still keep all the other parts of you, just as you would if you learned some other new skill.

Although you might want to wait and talk about feminism after you have already made it clear that you like a guy and are interested in dating. Depending on what aspects of feminism you converse about, you could be giving the impression that you would have no interest in connecting with a man romantically. It´s a tough subject to discuss in a flirty way, although I suppose you could ask a man how he feels about women asking men out (leaning over and touching his arm lightly at the same time), and then asking him out.

Susan doesn´t sound like a great friend, but you might be able to learn from her. Don´t start drinking a lot just because she does, but pay attention to how she interacts with people, and the differences in how she interacts with men she finds attractive v.s men she doesn´t. Going shopping somewhere with a lot of male employees can be good for this.
posted by yohko at 12:05 PM on August 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Hmmm, if you're as nerdy as me, you may not know how to flirt. It seems most people know how instinctively, but geeks like me (us?) are missing that gene. Maybe you need to brush up on the body language that most people cue into to recognize that you're flirting:

1. Make eye contact briefly, then drop your gaze.

2. Mirror the other person's body language subtly.

Helen Fisher's book Anatomy of Love has some interesting discussions of flirting behavior, for a geeky approach to understanding things that most people grok without thinking.

P.S. I still don't know how to flirt, or want to, but eventually I found a very sweet guy and married him. There is hope!
posted by Quietgal at 12:16 PM on August 25, 2008

Don't change who you are because you think it's going to impress someone else. It won't work and it will make you unhappy. It sounds like you're a bit of a geek - and I mean that in the most complimentary way. Geek guys can be socially awkward and passive when it comes to pursuing women, so your answer may be to make your feelings more explicitly known.
posted by cnc at 12:21 PM on August 25, 2008

"Don't change who you are because you think it's going to impress someone else."

(I'm plucking this out as an example of the "Don't change a thing! Just be you!" commentary going around. It's not you specifically I'm responding to, cnc.)

Very very right. Change who you are because it makes you happier and brings you closer to doing the things you want to do. Don't change just because people tell you to or because you see someone else acting differently. And most importantly of all, don't keep yourself from growing just because people on the Internet hold some unattainable ideal that doing things the same way you've always done them is inherently better than learning from your experiences, and that adhering to that ideal self will be rewarded by some mythical right person coming along.

That's magical thinking and it doesn't work.

(I don't mean to imply cnc is advocating any of the straw men I put up there; I just used the comment as a jumping-off point).
posted by majick at 12:41 PM on August 25, 2008 [5 favorites]

Give it 3-5 years. Seriously. There are lots of guys into smart girls and they increase exponentially with age.

I have so many guy friends who tell me about how when they were younger they only dated the "ditzy girls" or the "bitchy girls" or the all time favorite "bat shit insane girls" (I had no idea how incredibly attractive "crazy" could be to a guy and after all these years of working out) and while I hold back slapping them when they tell me this, I'm happy to see that they came around to their senses after graduating from college and getting out into the real world where non stops fights and inane conversation doesn't seem so hot all of a sudden.

While I would agree you are totally over analyzing the situation, it really can be boiled down to the fact that most people when they are young are at least a little stupid and shallow, or to be more charitable don't really know who they are yet or what will really make themselves happy.

Also, keep in mind that even the most intelligent, well read people don't generally want to discuss feminism at 11 pm on a Saturday night. There is a time and a place to dumb it down a bit and just have fun.
posted by whoaali at 1:16 PM on August 25, 2008 [3 favorites]

Although you might want to wait and talk about feminism after you have already made it clear that you like a guy and are interested in dating.

I've found it to be a fantastic (though not infallible) IdiotFilter myself.

For the people who are saying "Don't tell her not to change herself!": The OP might want to change her communication style, I agree. But that's not changing herself--that's changing the way she presents herself.

Believing that any change in your communication style is a betrayal of your "true self" is one of the Geek Social Fallacies, isn't it?
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:46 PM on August 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm too lazy to read all the responses so this has probably been said before, but what you need most is to increase your confidence in yourself, by being true to who you want to be. This is a bit different than just doing whatever the hell you've been doing, because obviously that's not gotten you very far. You know you're too loud and sarcastic, and you know that's pushing people away. Would you rather be sarcastic or witty? Don't factor in what others think. How do you want to be? When you start feeling like you're being too obnoxious or silly or whatever, stop, take a breath, and choose to be something else. It's about creating an authentic atmosphere around yourself. Not an act, but more like an aura.

Susan's possibly just as insecure as you are. I knew plenty of "beautiful" women in college who'd have drunken sex every weekend and absolutely hated themselves. The grass always seems greener but it's often just as full of weeds.
posted by desjardins at 3:59 PM on August 25, 2008

I'm obsessed with books, feminism, and pop culture - but is it scaring the mens away?

You've had a lot of good advice already but just to answer this specific question: no. There's a good chance you may be scaring the boys away, but really, who wants to date boys anyway?

Date men. They tend to like women.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:21 PM on August 25, 2008

I have a similar personality, and when I was younger it was a big problem for me as well. You might not be ready for this, but you might consider checking out an online dating site ( used to be pretty cool, don't know how good it is now). Online dating offers the following main advantages: 1) everyone's intentions are fairly clear from the beginning, and 2) you can actively filter to find people who have similar interests to yours. YMMV, of course, depending on the size of the city you live in, but I'd recommend trying it out.
posted by designmartini at 4:37 PM on August 25, 2008

As I commented recently in another thread, treat flirting like improv comedy. Don't deny. Use "Yes, and ..." instead of "Yes, but ...". Always keep the ball rolling, but pay attention to where it's heading. You can make minor course corrections without losing momentum.
posted by Araucaria at 4:45 PM on August 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

You don't say if you ever told this guy how you felt, or if you ever used physical touch in your flirty conversations. If you didn't, there's a good chance he never knew of your interest.

I spent a long, long time thinking my personality or my looks were the problem. It turned out my problem was that I didn't let people I liked know, in no uncertain terms, how I felt. I didn't take risks because I was too afraid.

When I started taking risks, did I get rejected? Yep, more often than it worked, honestly. But when it worked . . . well, wow. I know there have long been worries that feelings will "ruin the friendship", and this is what held me back for a long time. When I started telling friends if I had feelings for them, I never saw the friendship dissolve---not when the state of things wouldn't have ruined the friendship anyway. Yeah, it's awkward for awhile if you're shot down. But you live, and usually you can finally let it go and go after someone else. And you don't always get shot down :-)

(And not your question, but ditch the friend who went after the guy you like. Jerky move.)
posted by lacedback at 4:46 PM on August 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

It doesn't sound like you actually did anything beyond making friends. Some guys expect that you'll jump them if you like them, especially guys your age, especially geeky guys. Why do you imagine flirting skillz should manipulate some guy into acting?

Also, there isn't any shortage of guys who like intelligent girls with opinions, even ones your age. So I don't see any issues with conversation topics. But such guys have not spent their teenage years thinking about getting into women's pants. I don't agree that "more" guys decide they like intelligent girls after 25. Those guys have always liked intelligent girls but learn dating quite late. So you need to make the move yourself.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:47 PM on August 25, 2008

I feel the same way, Maskedwonder, but I've had tons of meaningless sexual encounters and don't feel any better off. I'm working on an MSW and have a fast car and a full time mental health job. I've had guys say my job, sarcasm, independence, __________, intimidates them. I'm not in a relationship right now but I've been in good ones... They do exist! The best (albeit not profound) advice I've ever gotten was from my father.

"Guys are like buses. You miss one and there will be another one in 10 minutes."


"Whaddaya wanna go out with that asshole for anyhow?!"
posted by ShadePlant at 6:04 PM on August 25, 2008 [3 favorites]

I haven't read through all the responses here, but I just wanted to say that your question could have been written by me after my freshman year of college. I had a huge crush on a guy on my floor, who was nerdy and witty (just like me!) but also outgoing, popular, and quick-witted in public (not like me!). He acted like he was interested -- always hanging out in my room, agonizing over what to get me for my birthday, being sarcastic and funny with me -- but when it came down to the wire, he hooked up with a string of dumb but pretty girls who always wound up breaking his heart. I threw myself at him in the most obvious ways I could, but I never actually told him that I liked him. (I'm guessing he could tell, though.) I felt like Margaret next to Laura Danker.

The next year, I met a guy (through a shared campus activity) who was also nerdy and witty and popular and quick-witted in public, but it was a totally different experience. We hung out and were sarcastic and funny together, but we also were honest and curious and unabashedly intellectual and angry and genuinely happy. He was attracted to me because I was smart and funny and strong, but more importantly, he appreciated the fact that sometimes I was dumb and serious and weak. You can't always be "on."

Anyway, to make a long story short, we've been together for four years now, and we still stay up late into the night talking about random things. And that other guy? I now see that he was too frenetic, too outgoing, too theatrical for me to ever have been happy with him. It would have exhausted me. Guys like that wind up with boring women because boring women don't try to match their freneticism.

So I guess I'm saying two different things:

1) A lot of people seem to be calling you out for being loud and sarcastic and standoffish -- but what they don't mention is that when you meet the right person, you WON'T be loud, sarcastic, and standoffish, or at least not all the time. With the right person, you feel comfortable cutting through all the social bullshit and being earnest. Which isn't to say you can't still be brash or sarcastic, but you do it for the right reasons and not because you don't feel accepted enough to let down your guard.

2) Improv guys will break your heart. Avoid them at all costs.
posted by pluckemin at 7:49 PM on August 25, 2008 [2 favorites]

I agree with pluckemin. The guy in my earlier post "Do Guys Really Mean "Just Friends?" in ask MeFi was actually a guy from my improv class. The cooking class thing was a lame cover.
posted by ShadePlant at 9:21 PM on August 25, 2008

Keep on keepin' on. This guy was not the guy for you. You just have to keep moving, keep meeting people, keep trying new "strategies". You sound like you've got your head on straight; perhaps most importantly don't beat yourself up over this one guy. More fish in the sea, and all that.
posted by zardoz at 10:57 PM on August 25, 2008

I realized I didn't really answer your main question, which was about whether you're flirting properly. This I do know a little about -- in my younger, unattached days I was quite the nerd magnet, and I've never done any drunken hooking-up (or any drunken anything, or any hooking up for that matter). It is VERY possible to flirt with your brain -- with sarcasm, intellect, and witty banter -- but the key is keeping things playful. I've seen women who think of themselves as "sarcastic" and "feminist" flirt by just saying the crudest things they can think of and insulting their romantic prospects, but that isn't flirting; it's just being obnoxious. It doesn't sound like you're doing this, though.

I think the real question is, what turns regular conversation into flirting? Lingering eye contact, smiling (particularly while making eye contact), laughing. It's not an act; when you're with someone you like, you just naturally do these things. It doesn't matter whether you're drunk or sober, wearing a cocktail dress or a sweatshirt, talking about politics or dancing -- there is always the potential for flirting. Different guys like different things, but sooner or later you'll find one (or a bunch!) who responds to your particular combination.

Also, a successful flirtatious conversation is not a game of one-upmanship; it's a collaborative effort that crescendos thanks to the mutual engagement of its participants. Sadly, this relates back to improv -- a bad flirter says "yes," a decent flirter says "and..." but a great flirter says "yes, and..." Damn those improv people and their innate flirting skills!
posted by pluckemin at 11:37 PM on August 25, 2008

One thing that inexperienced people struggle with is timing. For a romance novice, a summer seems to be an appropriate time to flirt. For more experienced people, your summer of sorta flirting would indicate a lack of interest to him. By the time you were ready to move to the next step, he'd already assumed you guys were headed to Friendsville.

Don't rush, but also don't assume that your crush is going to understand your pace.
posted by 26.2 at 4:57 AM on August 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

26.2 has a good point. Once he/she feels they grok your relationship they won't easily change. I mean, you can always try making stuff happen, but it'll take more work. You want your crush to trust you, but not too much. :)

Also, don't buy into all these "This guy was not the guy for you" stories. Ain't no such thing as fate, only chance. People settle down when they are ready, period. Still, you two are young enough that you might not have stayed together. Instead one must ask "What did I learn"? You learned some flirting skillz but you missed the opportunity to learn some relationship skills.

Btw, I don't believe your ever "risking a friendship" by trying, especially if your female. Average people, especially male, don't mind some friend, especially female, being into them. A rejected party may abandon the friendship, especially if they are male, but this usually means the friendship hadn't much time left regardless.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:56 AM on August 26, 2008

...if you're a female dating males who are interested in you for your brains, you have to be willing to actively state 'I think you're adorable/hot/cute/whatever'. Men who properly value intellect in women they want to date typically aren't looking for a submissive partner, but would rather be matched up with as close to an equal as possible. Men who don't aren't worth your time.

Flirting, on the other hand, also means making sure the person you're hunting also knows that you're available and interested. Don't forget subtle flattery, sexy body language (ie steamy looks over your glasses), and if all else fails, flat out telling a guy you think he's awesome.

This is excellent advice.

I'm a bookish female nerd who's been attracted to male nerd types as far back as I can remember. Nerdy and sexy are one and the same in my universe.

Early in life I learned that directness about my flirtatious/sexual interest is usually the best approach with geeky men, assuming appropriate timing and phrasing for the person and situation in question. ("You're hot. Wanna put down that calculus book and fuck?" works very well in some cases, and not so well in others. Odds of success seem to increase in direct proportion to the number of steamy over-the-glasses looks I've exchanged with my lust-object beforehand).

No doubt it can be a challenge to muster up the courage to approach someone like this, and it doesn't always lead to the desired outcome - sometimes they're interested, sometimes they're not - but nonetheless, I think it's well worth it. It minimizes the amount of time I spend waiting, hoping, and wondering, and it quickly weeds out the men who don't appreciate such boldness in a woman (and therefore aren't worth my time anyway).

And here's a nice bonus: any lingering awkwardness that might result from a lack of reciprocal interest can often be smoothed over by jumping right back into geek talk, assuming the topic is of mutual interest. ("Oh, well...can't blame a geek girl for tryin', eh? Now, let's get back to the Mean Value Theorem, shall we?")
posted by velvet winter at 1:52 PM on August 26, 2008

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