I want to be a little crazier
April 9, 2010 6:14 PM   Subscribe

How do I stop giving people the impression that I'm totally boring?

So I'm 24 year old female Indian grad student at a top university in the US in a scientific field. The university is not in a major city but in a fairly small (but really cool) town. I tend to be as liberal and open-minded as they come but I take a loooong time to open up to people. Today a friend in the department asked me if I knew what a beer bong was and had I ever done it. Then he sort of answered himself and said, oh you don't seem like the kind of person to have done that right? And I said no, but I've done a keg stand, does that count? And after that we got to talking about keg stands and times people had gotten super drunk and so on. But anyway, that was the impetus for asking this question now, which I've been mulling over for a while. I get the sense that I give others the impression that I'm boring or wouldn't be up for crazy things. Which sucks, because I'm definitely not boring and would not like to be ruled out of crazy stuff beforehand.

Sometimes I feel like I either make the jump to getting to know someone really quickly or I don't get to know them at all, and just remain at this sort of friendly acquaintance level for ages. I think I'm boring people, but I also have other friends with whom I'm friendly and open and talk a lot and am generally quite entertaining. These friends are either those who I've known forever or those who I met when they were new in town (i. e. they didn't really know their way around and I was happy to show them around and we got to be good friends in the process) or they're such friendly free spirits themselves that it was impossible to be guarded and I just let myself go, trusting them to take things the right way. I think the problem is, I need to get over this hill of openness; if I don't get over it, I'm constantly monitoring everything that comes out of my mouth and keep saying the most inane and stupid things. I can feel myself doing it and it really sucks.

I think my appearance doesn't help. I've got dark skin, long black hair and glasses and am about a size 12. I dress well but fairly conservatively -- about equally jeans and skirts/dresses. On Halloween I wore a blackish blue wig and crazy tights and a short red skirt for my costume, and I found that people reacted to me completely differently. Guys seemed much more willing to show interest. I don't think I'm unattractive, because I get plenty of responses to OKC ads and the like, but I definitely am giving off some sort of vibe in real life that seems to tell guys that I'm not likely to say yes if they asked me on a date. I also wonder if the stereotypes about Indian girls are working against me in this regard -- that they're not interested in dating foreigners and will eventually go back to India to marry a nice Indian guy. I guess there isn't much about my appearance to correct that impression.

So what should I do to look and act a little crazier and more fun?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (25 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
It's all cultural. University students are actually fairly conservative and have poor communication skills. If you're not sending out the "right" signals, it can be a turn-off for a certain segment of your peers.

I speak from experience. My wife is from Japan, and I am from Canada. For a year or so we lived together in Canada while I was getting my second degree. I had a tight social network from my days at uni five years before, and I liked going to parties.

My wife hated going to parties. She didn't know how to interact with people (conversation styles, topics of interest, etc) and she's introverted (even for a Japanese person) to boot.

My friends came to resent my wife's perceived standoffish-ness. We stopped going to parties, and then we returned to Japan where we stayed for five years. It was a real turnoff to them, and some of my "friends" made bitchy comments about my wife.

When we came back to Canada we settled in my hometown (the only nice part of Canada, as far as I'm concerned!), and many of my old friends still live in town.

This time around, though, I didn't pick up where I left off. Instead we made new friends, mostly Japanese-Canadian couple with children, who shared the same experiences we did. We also have friends from Korea, Russia, France and China.

You just need to find a group of people on campus who have international experience, and understand that not everyone has a North American (ie, self-absorbed) communication style.

People who have lived in different cultures are going to be more patient and more understanding than North American college hipsters who care more about the latest Simian Mobile Disco video.

>I'm constantly monitoring everything that comes out of my mouth and keep saying the most inane and stupid things. I can feel myself doing it and it really sucks.

You just need to be yourself.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:31 PM on April 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

Ramones t-shirt.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 6:38 PM on April 9, 2010 [21 favorites]

It's not because you are Indian. I know plenty of Indian women who come off as wild. It's due to the vibe you give out.

It's daunting to try to change your vibe suddenly, so I recommend experimenting. Halloween provided a good excuse -- no one will judge you when it's just a costume. Another great everyday excuse is alcohol. Next time you go out, get tipsy. (I know you drink, since you said you've done keg stands.) Walk around with a drink in your hand, and take off your outer layers of clothing. Experiment with flirting with guys, talking to strangers, making dirty jokes, blurting out the first thing that comes to mind. Do all the things you would feel uncomfortable doing in real life.

Take comfort that if it comes off stilted, people will write that off to the alcohol. You'll probably get some comments like "you're such a fun drunk" or "wow, you really came out of your shell last night" or "you should come drinking with us more often".

Once you get comfortable doing it with alcohol, start incorporating the most successful elements into your regular life.
posted by cheesecake at 6:39 PM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

KokuRyu is right: you just need to be yourself. Don't try too hard to be anything particularly.

And it sounds to me based on this comment -- definitely am giving off some sort of vibe in real life that seems to tell guys that I'm not likely to say yes if they asked me on a date -- that you're interested in dating. You should ask guys that you're interested out on dates instead of waiting for them to ask you! If you're really self-conscious and worried about what people are thinking about you this sounds really hard, but just say "hey, want to grab {lunch, coffee, a drink, dinner} sometime?" Some of them will say no, some of them will say yes.

The same is true for friends. Since you're definitely not boring and would not like to be ruled out of crazy stuff beforehand, try asking people to do crazy stuff with you instead of waiting for them to ask you to do crazy things.

For someone as socially anxious and as initially shy as I am, this is really hard, and I'm also a female grad student in the sciences (somewhere between social sciences and science sciences) so I know where you're coming from. But I have been able to make a few friends here that I can have coffee and lunch with, talk about school/work/movies/music with, or go shopping with. It is a work in progress but the best thing to do is to be a bit proactive and to be yourself.
posted by k8lin at 6:42 PM on April 9, 2010

Mindy Kaling's treatment of her Indianness is quite interesting. She seems like she's seen a beer bong or 2.

don't know if this helps...
posted by k8t at 6:46 PM on April 9, 2010

Oh another thing I learned is that most people (especially graduate students) feel the same way. A lot of us are shy, introverted, awkward, whatever you want to call it. I guarantee that most people are not thinking about you and what you're doing or whether or not you're boring or if you said something inane or stupid -- they're thinking about themselves and what they're doing and whether or not people think they're inane, stupid, loud, annoying, awkward, {insert other negative adjective here}, at least until you get to know each other.
posted by k8lin at 6:47 PM on April 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Not only a Ramones t-shirt, but also that Jemi Hendrix poster. That, or just be interested in other people, rather than speaking about yourself.
posted by turgid dahlia at 6:57 PM on April 9, 2010

What BitterOldPunk said. Not necessarily literally, but "I want to be a little crazier" + "I dress conservatively" -- yeah, the clothes are a relatively easy thing to tinker with and quite likely to tweak the message you are sending in the way you want to tweak it. As a formerly conservative dresser in the process of attempting to reform, I know it's not easy to go from "I dress well" to legible t-shirts, but it is worth a shot.
posted by kmennie at 7:23 PM on April 9, 2010

I think my appearance doesn't help. I've got dark skin, long black hair and glasses and am about a size 12.

I could have written most of the things you say in your question about socializing. I'm a skinny, pale-skinned white guy with short hair.

My point being: just because you're having these issues doesn't mean it's because you're Indian. However, it's possible that people's stereotypes about Indians are a contributing factor. But I don't see how that would really make a difference in how you approach this, since you can't really stop being Indian.

But you could dress more boldly and get a shorter haircut and see if that changes anything.

I definitely am giving off some sort of vibe in real life that seems to tell guys that I'm not likely to say yes if they asked me on a date.

One way to actually be more wild and "crazy" (your word) would be not to assume it's the guys who should be asking you out (if you are making that assumption).
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:28 PM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I agree that the easiest shorthand for telling people what you like, for better or for worse, is how you dress. But I think you can still dress well and give off a less conservative appearance. It doesn't have to be straight to ratty t-shirts. Since you like wearing dresses, I would suggest dresses like these before I'd suggest that. Those particular ones might not be your style, but it's just an option as a type of look you could do.

What exactly you wear depends on what kind of "non conservative" message you want to be sending. I'm assuming you don't want to go to the other extreme and send a message of being a bawdy frat party drunk, though that's fine too if it is in fact what you want. I think it might be a good idea to find a couple stores or brands with clothes you think look good, and are at the same time a bit more reflective of your personality. I like modcloth a lot, that's where the dresses I linked came from. I asked this question a while ago; checking out some of those sites might give you ideas.
posted by Ashley801 at 7:47 PM on April 9, 2010

Also, if you are in fact interested in changing how you dress, you can also go to Youtube and do searches for "haul" videos until you find someone with style you like -- haul videos are just girls showing the camera the results of their shopping trips, and talking about the clothes and where they got them.
posted by Ashley801 at 7:51 PM on April 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm a white girl about your age and give off this vibe often despite dressing pretty non-conservatively. I think it's a matter of eye contact, smiling, engaging with people, etc., aka skills I am working on myself. I don't really have much advice other than that if you're wanting to focus your efforts somewhere, you might work more on the interaction aspect and less on the clothes stuff, which doesn't seem to make much difference in my experience.
posted by ishotjr at 7:57 PM on April 9, 2010

Next time you go out, get tipsy. (I know you drink, since you said you've done keg stands.) Walk around with a drink in your hand, and take off your outer layers of clothing. Experiment with flirting with guys, talking to strangers, making dirty jokes, blurting out the first thing that comes to mind.

Seriously? This is a recipe for date rape. This won't make people think you're less awkward and not boring, it's just going to make drunk frat boys think you're easy to take advantage of. Getting laid by guys who are going to laugh at you behind your back for being the size-12 awkward girl just isn't worth it. Hang out with people who like you for your authentic personality, not some dumbass definition of what's supposed to be cool.

Personally, I don't think beer bongs have any part of the definition of what makes a person interesting...YMMV.
posted by aquafortis at 8:24 PM on April 9, 2010 [12 favorites]

I like the idea of the Ramones tshirt and Hendrix poster, but you don't get to buy them until you listen to the bands proper (greatest hits don't count).
posted by asuprenant at 8:38 PM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm a fairly quiet woman, not conservative politically/socially, but a bit on the conservative side with how I live my personal life, and I've made all kinds of wild friends and been on lots of adventures. My secret: knowing how to listen. If you make eye contact with people when they talk to you, ask them questions, stay engaged in what they're saying, and mirror their body language and emotions, they will think you are amazingly interesting, even if you feel like you have nothing to say -- or at least, nothing interesting to say about yourself.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:49 PM on April 9, 2010 [5 favorites]

Sometimes peer pressure to do "crazy" things is just that: crazy. You just need to accept who you are, and don't be bothered by other's definition of fun.
Do you really think that doing a beer bong makes you fun? ...from your post, it seems not- rather, you just want to blend in. Be yourself. Define your own fun. And sooner or later, you'll be with like-minded, fun people around.
posted by theKik at 9:22 PM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've had similar experiences my whole life and I'm not Indian. I went to Catholic grade school and high school and wearing skirts to work that show off my knees makes me feel uncomfortable. I thought I'd second whoever said that listening to people is key. Most people like to talk about themselves so if you ask questions, it shows you're interested in them and they'll warm up to you. It's hard sometimes and I always feel awkward but you can keep a few basic/boring ones in your back pocket (seen any good movies/read any good books lately? What'd you do last weekend or what are you doing this weekend?) and move on to more interesting ones (Do you have any cool travel plans coming up? Where would you like to go if you could?)

And I disagree with aquafortis. Since when is speaking one's mind is a recipe for date rape? I think having a drink to feel a little more comfortable in social settings is a lot different from doing shots until the room spins. You're an adult. I trust that you know how to drink responsibly. If having a drink in your hand makes it easier to talk to people, go for it. I have family members who take anti-anxiety drugs to deal with social situations - that's not a recipe for date rape. Just realize that it's a crutch and as such, you should be able to stop using it at some point. When I feel like I just want a drink in hand to help me feel more comfortable, I make a point of drinking it slowly - people don't ask why I'm not drinking but I stay in control of the situation. Best of luck.
posted by kat518 at 9:48 PM on April 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you're in a university town, find out about some events that are happening - maybe a band is coming to play? maybe there is pub trivia night? maybe there's a dance party, or a hiking trip, or whatever sounds appealing.... and ask a few people if they'd like to go with you to that event. "Hey, I saw that there's going to be an '80s night at the grad club - I was thinking I might go, do you think you'd be interested?" and if they're not, no problem (though you've sent a message that you are a person who goes out and does things); if they are, go and have fun, and then the next week find something else that's happening and ask a few other people.

Is there a natural hang-out time for students in your department (eg eating lunch in the common room)? Make a point of showing up there a couple times a week and being an active listener, and laugh at stories about crazy things that sound appealing to you.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:07 AM on April 10, 2010

I would guess that it has nothing to do with your appearance/ethnicity and everything to do with how you carry yourself and the vibe you give off. This post shows a lack of confidence and comfort in your own skin, you think a lot about your being Indian and what others might think of that, etc. In fact, I would say it's probably safe to assume that most non-Indian guys you encounter are probably not thinking anything about your going back to India to marry a nice Indian guy, unless you've mentioned it yourself. Americans generally don't assume things like that, in my experience (I could be wrong).

Do you think you'd be happier by just acting a little crazier and more fun, especially if it's not something you do naturally? Personally I think you'd be happier just being yourself and not worrying about it so much. When you get out of college and meet people who are interested in things that have nothing to do with keg stands and beer bongs, you will probably find this a lot easier. I've made it to my late 20s without knowing what a beer bong actually is. I don't even really know what keg stand means, though I've heard of it before. I've had beer from a keg, but I didn't do anything else with the keg.

If this all still sounds too boring to you, look on the bright side: when you're a quieter, more reserved-seeming person, people's reactions to finding out there's actually more to you than that is a source of entertainment in and of itself. You get to surprise people! Your close friends know better, which makes their relationships that much more valuable to you and not superficially based on being the crazy girl who does whatever the beer bong thing is.

So dress however you're comfortable and say what you want to say. I think things will work out if you stay true to yourself and stop monitoring yourself so much.
posted by wondermouse at 7:18 AM on April 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

If it's any reassurance, in graduate school I encountered what I would have interpreted in other situations as outright rudeness from people in my program--behavior at parties and outside of classrooms that reminded me of the mean girls from elementary school who said I was weird and refused to talk to me. Over time, I realized that the people in question weren't deliberately being rude; in fact, they were acting normally, for them. Turns out that pushing a bunch of self-conscious, insecure introverts (myself included) can lead to a lot of social weirdness. I wouldn't assume that any of their reactions towards you--not asking you out, for instance--are anything personal.

In order to be more socially comfortable myself in grad school, I went out of my way to bridge the gap--to ask people to socialize, to be the sort of friendly person I wanted to encounter. It helped significantly. If you want to be seen as crazy and fun, acting crazy and fun is a start.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:43 AM on April 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Dye your hair a non-natural color (blue, purple, etc.). If you use Manic Panic it'll come out after a few washes. That is the easiest thing to change that immediately puts you in the "would be up for shenanigans" category. Also, the Ramones t-shirt can't hurt.
posted by klangklangston at 9:17 AM on April 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

throw a party. lure them with cupcakes. (cupcake decorating can be a fun party activity: bake the cupcakes in advance then put out bowls of different colored frostings, candy, cake decorations, small plastic toys, whatever)

changing your look can be hard without feeling like you're wearing some kind of costume...try picking up some very different fasion mags at the newstand, like: marie claire, vogue, nylon, biker chicks weekly...a spectrum. tear out the looks you like, things that you think suit you, things you think you could 'pull off' and stick em on the wall...look at 'em for a week or so and let it sink in. then take $100 and hit the thrift store. that way you can get a ton of stuff and if something doesn't work when you get it home you're out five bucks, not fifty. when you get home, get rid of the two most boring things you wear all the time.

get purple jeans. wear more eyeliner.
posted by sexyrobot at 10:17 AM on April 10, 2010

This problem was solved by Dale Carnegie in 1937. How to Win Friends & Influence People can be read in a couple of sittings. In a nutshell: people will adore you if you can get them to talk about themselves.
posted by neuron at 2:07 PM on April 10, 2010

It seems ridiculous, but the fake-it-til-you-make-it strategy works well for people who are too self-conscious to even begin showing why they're interesting. It's an unfortunately named strategy, because few people want to be fake. I've always taken it to mean that you get a free pass for being inane in the early stages of making conversation, as long as you're moving the conversation forward. Forward to what? To the point where you're both talking about a common interest (you don't have to agree, just find the subject fascinating). Grad students are often passionate about their interests, so if you get them talking about those passions, you're in good shape. They'll be much more likely to remember you and want you at their parties. If you have nothing in common, even drinking at their parties is going to be very dull. Some conversations are just going to lead nowhere; that's the natural result of there being many different kinds of people in your department, some of whom you just won't click with. Don't force a connection unless you want to spend all your time struggling to understand them.

If you just want to go to parties where people play drinking games, then let on in conversation that you like alcohol. A lot of grad students in my program didn't drink on principle, or hung out mostly with people who didn't drink on principle. Even though we thought they were cool people, we weren't sure they actually approved of drinking, and so did not extend an invite until shown that it was okay.

Last bit: social butterfly types are pretty few and far between at grad school; most people are too busy trying to keep up with their work to plan gatherings and shenanigans. On top of that, most people I've met in grad school are just like you--they don't know what to say and are worried all the time about being boring/lame. If you can draw them out and have a lively conversation with them that helps them stop feeling awkward, I'm pretty sure they'll like you. Read that book neuron linked if you need more pointers on making conversations easier; I doubt it as you sound like you're good at this once you start to relax. So, don't assume everyone else is out having the time of their lives; it's a lot more likely that they're in the same boat you're in.
posted by millions of peaches at 7:10 PM on April 10, 2010

Why change your appearance? From my experience, it makes you a much more interesting person when you can surprise people. Plus, it's more fun :) If people think they have you figured out from the way you look, that makes you predictable and "boring."
posted by cm young at 7:45 PM on May 24, 2010

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