Less attractive than I think?
November 22, 2011 7:29 AM   Subscribe

I know the general practice for women is to date guys who seem into you, but what if guys don't seem into you?

I think ("think" being the operative word here) I'm an interesting, smart, funny, good looking, curvy (not fat, but not thin) female... but guys never seem into me. There's literally one guy I've ever dated who's seemed sexually interested in me, and that was just friends with benefits.

There's one guy I see regularly who I want to pursue romantically, but every time we meet, I get more and more discouraged. Three months ago, he ended a long-term relationship. He wants someone serious next (and so do I), but, for instance, I saw him tonight and our legs touched under the table, and he jerked away. It's things like this that make me think he wouldn't be receptive if I was like, hey, i'm into you. (I don't mind being rejected, but I mind making a friend uncomfortable to the point where he won't want to hang out with me anymore.) Generally, I think I'm bad at flirting -- I'm very nice and extroverted, but I can't tell if someone wants to date me, and men rarely approach me unless they're gross guys on the street.

I guess what I'm asking is, 1) how do you know you're less attractive than you think you are? and what should you do about it? date guys you're less attracted to? 2) how do you make it obvious to someone you have feelings for them without making it awkward if they reject you? 3) how do you meet people who seem genuinely interested in you if you're someone post-college? I have several guys friends I'd potentially be interested in dating, but I really don't think any of them would be interested in me.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (31 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Have you asked? If you don't ask, you're just assuming, and that's sure to be influenced by your own self-perception.
posted by xingcat at 7:31 AM on November 22, 2011

I don't have an answer to the rest of your questions, but I can't see anything good happening by reducing your own perceptiveness of attractiveness. As long as you're not cocky (and you certainly don't sound like it here), your confidence about your looks can only help.
posted by smirkette at 7:31 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah ask him directly, don't just try to guess.
posted by delmoi at 7:39 AM on November 22, 2011

Expressing your interest in a perfectly good, nice guy who is bad at dating will make him uncomfortable and make it seem like he's not into you. The thing is that "awkward with the ladies" and "not into you" can seem really similar.

Take that leg-jerking incident: maybe he doesn't dig you, or maybe he psyched himself out so much he had to get out of the situation he wants to be in because you might stand up and yell OH GOD YOU CREEP and run out weeping. Realistic? No. Thing that goes on in the head of a dude who is just bad at these sort of things? Very yes. Instead of trying to flirt, just ask the dude if he wants to a date. Give him the chance to be in an environment where it will be totally okay to flirt back.

Of course, the problem with that is being rejected. And it is always awkward to be rejected. That doesn't stop. Except things being awkward isn't going to hurt you. In fact, the more you get rejected, the more you'll realize that a bit of awkwardness it's No Big Deal, and the more brave you'll be about asking out the next dude.

Never assume you are less attractive than you feel. In fact, you're probably better off assuming you are more attractive than you feel. That will give you confidence, and confidence wards off creeps and attracts guys with good hearts. You like a dude? Ask him on a date. He says 'no', play it cool as best you can and put him out of your head as a potential boyfriend or whatever.
posted by griphus at 7:40 AM on November 22, 2011 [8 favorites]

Preface that first sentence with "subtly."
posted by griphus at 7:40 AM on November 22, 2011

1) I'm not sure; that's so subjective that it's really impossible to answer.

2) Unfortunately, putting yourself out there is always a risk and it will always be potentially awkward; the best thing you can do is to get used to the awkwardness (easier said than done, I know). At least, by asking directly, you'll have an answer.

3) Online dating. Depending on your social group, your age, and where you live/work, it can be really tough to meet people. Online dating helps to remove some of the obstacles that might stand in your way. It can also reduce the potential for awkwardness. If you send someone a message and they reject you, well, at least it didn't happen face-to-face.

Also: you may be getting more attetion from men than you realize. My fiancee seems to think that guys rarely check her out; I see the opposite when we're out together. She doesn't see the attention that she gets, but I do. Maybe you're just not recognizing the fact that you're getting attention.
posted by asnider at 7:41 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Ask your friends for help? They might be better able to see whats going on than you are. Don't be afraid to have someone give you a firm but loving crituqe? Or watch Millionaire Matchmaker or that other show about Why Cant I get a date or whatever it is.

You picker might be broken. And your flirting skills/flirty radar. How approchable are you? Not really sure what else to tell you. Best of luck.
posted by Jacen at 7:58 AM on November 22, 2011

The guy you describe could be unsure of what you want from him, and he's conflicted about wanting to date you, and wanting to stay your friend, and wanting not to creep you out, and on and on. If he seems uneasy, it's probably because he is.

You should use words, not actions, to tell him what you want. If you're into him, you think he's sweet, and you want to go on an official date, say exactly that: "Hey, I'm into you, I think you're sweet, and I want to go on an official date." If you're worried that asking him will mess up your friendship, you can say that too, and you can both talk about it. He may have similar worries.

Don't obsess about whether you're hot or not. You don't know what this guy finds hot anyway, and guessing and obsessing about it is crazymaking.
posted by fritley at 8:03 AM on November 22, 2011

Confirmation bias. Even if you aren't the most attractive person out there, guess what? Neither are most other people. If guys only held out for supermodels, none of us would ever go out with anyone.

Sounds to me like one of a few things may be going on. First, you're not in college any more, and the dating field really thins out once you leave school. In college and grad school, you spend most of your time surrounded by people in or near your age cohort, most of whom are single and childless, meaning that the vast majority of MOSS are at least potentially eligible for romantic relationships. Once you leave school, not only do you wind up spending more time around people who aren't anywhere close to your age, but you'll find that lots of them are married or aren't eligible for other reasons, e.g. they're in jail or whatever.

Second, and related to the first, depending on where you're currently located, there may just not be all that many people around to date. I live in a small Midwestern city, and lemme tell you, the number of eligible women in this town is vanishingly small compared to other places I've been. There isn't really much of a population of young professionals, and to the extent that there is, they're almost all married with kids. I could lock down the single mom market if I wanted to, but I don't, which severely restricts my options. If you're not in a major urban area, you may just not have the numbers in your favor. As only some subset of guys were going to be interested in you anyway, cutting the total number in half is going to proportionately reduce the number who are interested.

Third, you may need to expand your horizons a bit. I've got a female friend who desperately wants to be in a serious relationship but unfortunately hasn't quite met that successful physician who has no kids, stands 6'2", plays rugby, leads youth group hiking trips, paints, plays guitar, speaks fluent Spanish, and does summers in an orphanage in El Salvador. Or rather she has, but he's married to a corporate attorney who used to play professional basketball, is lead singer in a local indie rock band, teaches third-grade Sunday School, and still does the odd modeling shoot just for kicks. I'm not saying that she needs to lower her sights as much as she needs to expand the miniscule set of guys she'd even consider dating. I'd be surprised if there weren't more than a couple guys that you actually know who would date you in a heartbeat if they thought you'd give them time of day, several of whom also happen to be great guys even if they aren't rock stars.
posted by valkyryn at 8:06 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Are you sure that you're not sending subtle rejection signals and are just not aware you're doing it? Maybe you're sending signals and the guy is picking up on them, so then he acts a certain way. Or maybe he just likes you as a friend and doesn't want to mess up a good friendship.

I don't think it really matters if you're less or more attractive than you think you are. Some people will think you're attractive and others won't be as into you. I know my idea of what is attractive has changed a lot over the years. I would say just concentrate on looking good for yourself which will give you confidence which is almost universally attractive.
posted by fromageball at 8:08 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Don't sit around thinking about whether you're attractive or not, it's unhelpful and meaningless. Different people are attracted to different things. I could sit around all day worrying that my breasts are "too small," or I could go date a guy who thinks small breasts are really hot. Some men only like "big beautiful women," so if you weigh less than, I dunno, 250 lbs, they won't be into you. Some men are only attracted to women who may be taller than you, or blonder than you, or who have mohawks, or whatever, and you just can't be all things to all people. Plus, y'know what's basically always attractive? Confidence. You're incredibly good-looking to some people, and those are the people you need to date. Just be yourself, what you want in a partner is someone who loves you for who you are as you are, and who you feel the same about.

Easier said than done I know... so nthing what everyone was said about how it really is hard to meet people and how online dating can be fun.
posted by fireflies at 8:22 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think you are not seeing something. All the men I have ever gone out with have pitched a tent sometime during the date and I'm not that good looking, very average. Either you are missing their signals or you are doing something that is scaring them off. The only way to find out is to ask the people who know you best. Ask your guy friends if you are 'do-able'. Ask your girlfriends if you come off as too needy or desperate. Ask your mom if you have a weird body odor or teeth issues. Research this and find the answer.

I promise you that you are not repulsive. Guys wouldn't even be friends with you if that was the case. You are probably just inexperienced and aren't picking up on signals.
posted by myselfasme at 8:24 AM on November 22, 2011

Why all the friends that you want to date? They either are friends because they're not into you, or they're friends because they think you're not into them, or both. Unless you just got out of a long relationship (or several) and they had no chance to ask you out, you are barking up the wrong tree.

Go out and find some new guys.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:33 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Based on my personal experience:

1.) Although I agree that confidence and character are key, you'd have to let us in on a lot more of your inner world and behavior for me to help you on that one. However, I believe you can determine how you rate on the physical attraction scale by looking around at certain women in your peer group-- the ones most everybody considers attractive. What specific qualities do you share with these women? What qualities are different? Is your hair shorter, dress size way larger, are your clothes frumpier or your teeth worse? If so, what can are you willing to about it? You say you're good-looking, but it's hard to know what that you mean specifically. Since you're now questioning your ability to judge your level of physical beauty, maybe you need to look around and figure out where you really stand.

I know comparing yourself to others and then conforming blindly isn't a strategy for attaining romantic true bliss-- my point here is there are certain characteristics (long hair, nice teeth, no glasses on dates, manicured nails, fit body, great skin, figure-flattering, stylish clothes) that *most* men really like-- the more of these you flout, the smaller your dating pool will probably be, especially under 40. If you don't have these traits, there is a way to adopt them in a uniquely personal way which won't make you feel like a sell-out. It's not about trying to be a supermodel-- it's about trying to be as beautiful as *you* can possibly be. It's up to you if you want/need to do this. In my experience putting max effort into this makes all the difference in the world. Example: when I was 25 lbs heavier (still not overweight), had short hair and wore a lot of shapeless black clothes, I got 20% of the male response I get now. Everyone said I was good-looking then, but obviously not in the specific way that attracts the male gaze.

Dating guys you're less attracted to shouldn't even have to be an option if you can objectively say you're at the top of your game.

2.) When a man recoils from being touched by you physically, he is either incredibly jumpy/awkward or not into you. I'd say you're onto something with the knee, touching, hand-brushing/holding, etc. approach as long as you don't try to play it off as though it was a *total* accident. Just own it. This is flirting, and you *can* do it. If you put out a feeler, successful or not, you should give yourself a pat on the back because that takes courage, and is proactive. If he's into you at all you really shouldn't have to ask flat-out-- you should be able to tell. Putting both yourself and him on the spot is so awkward and unnecessary. This isn't the third grade; you have lots of other methods of diving romantic interest which won't make you feel so exposed.

3.) Agree with the internet dating suggestion. Depending on where you live, you may also want/have to join groups, do the meet-up thing, etc. to find men who share common interests. Sometimes it really takes effort.

PS Not sure if this is you, but a lot of my friends/acquaintances who would describe themselves as smart and funny are also loud, and that can create a bro atmosphere for whatever reason. It's a real attraction killer for a lot of people.
posted by devymetal at 8:49 AM on November 22, 2011 [8 favorites]

Don't overreact to the table incident. He may be skittish about giving you the wrong impression about his intentions, or just weird. Limited data set.

I hate to cast doubt on your whole inquiry, but I think these are personality and relationship questions that are terribly difficult to answer online and without knowing you or knowing those reacting to you. Sometimes attractive people think they're hot when they're not, or radiate a repellent self-confidence; sometimes attractive people think so little of themselves that they actually diminish their attractiveness to the level of their own self-assessment. This is so hard to know without seeing you, talking to you, seeing those around you, and so forth. There are few shortcuts to making a clear-eyed self-assessment or relying on the counsel of a candid and trusted friend.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 9:06 AM on November 22, 2011

Dating is a numbers game. As others say above, this idea of "men" not finding you attractive is not something to be concerned about. Some will find you significantly attractive right off the bat. Others will find you pleasant looking and come to really adore the sight of you as they grow emotionally fonder of you.

If you're in the market for serious rather than just wanting to catch someone's eye and get them into bed immediately then you don't need to worry about this. You might want to make sure you present yourself in an attractive way to the kind of person you want, but that's so subjective. And I'd never suggest you dress/groom yourself in a way you find unpleasant anyway.

When I was young and awkward (now I am just awkward) I had a real problem with stopping my brain from having these relationships with people before I actually, you know, was in a relationship with people. You need to stop thinking ahead and focus on "this person is attractive to me and what little I know interests me, let's see about spending time together."

If you're finding you can't tell if these men you already know don't seem interested it may just be that they're assuming you've already decided you're not interested because enough time has gone by in this platonic manner that they don't think you're interested in them that way. You may need to just ask them to spend some one on one time.

Side note: please ignore anyone who prattles things to you about friend zone/ladders. You might need to make it clearer what you're interested in but this concept of people are machines is insulting to everyone.

I'd seriously suggest you not focus so much on just this small pool of folks you already know. Spend time at activities you like where you can meet new people. Make sure you accept invitations from your friends where there will be other people they know who you haven't met yet. Not only will you improve your odds but it'll give you a chance to practice the non-verbal communication.
posted by phearlez at 9:28 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Why all the friends that you want to date? They either are friends because they're not into you, or they're friends because they think you're not into them, or both.

Another vote for this. After college there's not so much casually bouncing around your group of friends, picking ones to date. In fact I think you'll find long term that it is much harder to make non-romantic friends after college than it is to find people to date. I know it's a rough transition, but that's usually how it ends up. So in fact your non-boyfriend guy friends will ultimately be more valuable to you.

As to how you can find guys to date, try online dating. There are a zillion sites and so there are probably at least 1 or 2 that are compatible with your approach to dating and general vibe. If that really wigs you out, try meetups, volunteering, stuff like that - basically any place you are around new people and expected to talk to them.
posted by rkent at 9:31 AM on November 22, 2011

1. how old are you? It sounds like you're on the young side- cause it is totally totally normal to be less experenced than you think you should be at pretty much any age. People seem to think that everybody is getting a lot more play than they are- and often this is not true and confidence killing.

2. You are not unattractive. You would know if you had a hatchet face, and even if you did there are dudes that are only interested in hatchet-faced individuals.

3. A lot of this stuff is mind-set. Knowing that you are a catch, that you are fun to date and that other people would be lucky to date you- but most importantly- There are people who you are meeting right now who probably would be into you if you two got a chance to know eachother is what helps you bridge the gap from fun- to - flirting.

I'm backing everyone up in the Online Dating thing. I think it's a little less stressy because it's already a structured thing. Everything will be fine.
posted by Blisterlips at 9:50 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Lady, I like your attitude. I like the positive words you use to describe yourself (and the interesting, smart, funny part is confirmed by your charming post), and I like your "hey, I like you" line. I think you're on the right track.

Do you know how people sometimes train themselves to go to their "happy place" when they're getting upset? With practice, anytime you start to freak out, you can get yourself to visualize like a mountain stream our whatever and it has a visceral calming effect. I want you to try what I do when I'm trying to attract a man: I go to a place in my mind where I'm this incredibly fascinating sex bomb and I just believe the hell out of that. These days I'm able to call it up pretty quickly. It helps.

The guy you described may or may not be into you, but I think there's no harm in asking him. Sometime when you're alone, go like, "You know, I really like you. Do you think you and I could go grab a drink sometime, just the two of us? Maybe Thursday?" He will probably be surprised. He'll probably go, "Uh..." And then you should add, "If you're not interested, it's cool. I just wanted to put it out there." Smile as you say this. Laugh a little if you're nervous. He'll probably laugh too, and then give you an answer, and if the answer is no, try it on your other handsome friends.
posted by milk white peacock at 9:51 AM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

As a guy who apparently doesn't give off signals nearly as strongly as I'm trying to, it'd be really nice if you asked. Like, really nice.
posted by cmoj at 9:54 AM on November 22, 2011

Is it possible that you speak negatively about men as a joke? Some guys are repulsed by this and the poor women think they're funny and flirting.

Also, learning to flirt... I had to do this. I watched a lot of movies that featured strong, vibrant, and flirtatious women... I changed my style from a little bit granola and a bit overweight... I lost a stone and chopped my hair into a crop... Edie Sedgwick/Jean Seaburgy would describe it the most. I also went on the hunt for the dress of all dresses- the one that would make me seriously stylish and unique...

Flirting now is second nature- When I was single and out on the town, I would lock eyes for 2 seconds (with my huge cat eyes) , then go back to focusing on my wonderful drink and my interesting friend... if they look again, then i walk by on the way somewhere, they usually came and found me on those mini solo trips.

... on a date or in the first chats... I just become this "amazing person" I kind of pretend that I'm famous, I feel like I'm radiating this amazing glow of mystery, class and amazement at the true wonder of this beautiful world, I have a light smile, bat my eyelashes, laugh and I enjoy being there....and I'm in that amazing dress.

I got A LOT of practice from online dating...and dancing (though never met anyone of substance at a club) but its still good practice!
posted by misspony at 9:59 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Just a piece of affirmation that is so true that it's probably even true for an internet stranger, sight unseen. You probably are perfectly attractive. You may not be the first person people hit on, BUT unless you are really EXCEPTIONAL in some way, you're probably attractive enough for, at minimum, 1/3 of the guys at the bar to want to date/screw you. (I'm not saying you want to pick up dudes in bars. I'm talking about the Guy off the Street.)

That's the good news. I myself was unaware of it for many years. I thought I was extremely ugly.

The BAD news is that since it's NOT your baseline physicality, let's rule that right out, it's probably something else that is interfering with your playing the field. What is this? Who knows.

Let's put aside serious depression and self-esteem issues. Those may be at play, but then you would already know that.

PROBABLY a big part of the problem is that you're not used to seeing yourself as the kind of woman guys hit on/want to date/screw. You know how annoying magazines, where women are always getting into relationships after a brief dry spell of no more than 1 year, have this trope of the girl with boyfriend who is suddenly irresistible to all men? There is some truth to that one, for sure, in my experience. Suddenly it becomes axiomatic that a random guy might want to fuck you because one of them just did that very thing on Tuesday.

To GET this kind of perspective, try getting out of your normal context. Easier said than done. When I was single, I went to a ton of meetups, craigslist activity partners GROUP stuff, and similar. It helped. You will find that men who DO NOT KNOW you are flirting with you. Even if it doesn't lead anywhere, you need to see it IRL to believe it.

With regard to male platonic friends, my luck has never been good there. Other people may have different experiences, which is fantastic, but in my time with the NERDIEST of nerdy dudes, if he's interested, he'll make it known. It might be better to spend your emotional energy elsewhere, like, God help us, on meetup.com. Hang in there!
posted by skbw at 10:08 AM on November 22, 2011

Is it possible that you don't move in the sort of social circles that encourage "dating"? For a long time, I wasn't meeting a lot of new people. Although I had a lot of friends, they were mostly all from two or three places, and it just so happened none of them were interested in me like that, and I wasn't mingling a lot with people outside of those circles. I found that online dating was a good way to meet the sort of people that I should have been meeting at dinner parties or something.

I'm also not discounting the possibility that I lacked the social wits/courage to present myself in a way that was conducive to "dating" (I put it in quotes because it is still kind of a weird and mysterious thing, for me); online dating made it far easier to meet someone in an environment that specifically stated "we are on a date and doing date things." When meeting people in that specific environment, it provided a more comfortable space for me to act like I was, kind of like misspony said, all radiant and charming and a thing, instead of "oh hi you know my friend and you saw me eating corn on the cob at a potluck." Once I got a little more comfortable with that idea during those dates, it was easier to take that mode back into the "real world," and learn to turn up charm a little for folks I thought were interesting.

I've never had a long term relationship with anyone I met through online dating, but I did have some fun actual "dates" and became more comfortable with interacting with people in a datelike manner. If that makes sense.
posted by redsparkler at 10:23 AM on November 22, 2011

Oh, and my assumption is that most normal ladies are totally more attractive than they think they are, with the exception of any woman who uses her looks to put another woman down (I was going to add women with muffintops, but they're still attractive ladies, they've just made really poor pants decisions. I could have muffintops, too, if I made poor pants decisions.).
posted by redsparkler at 10:27 AM on November 22, 2011

1) how do you know you're less attractive than you think you are? and what should you do about it?

Figure out what makes you feel more attractive. Acquire it. Use it. For me, I really like wearing a little bit of perfume. I like Aveda's foot lotion. I like polishing my nails. I like fancy underwear. I like certain colors. I am particular about jewelry and shoes. I really don't care if the guy notices these things or not, because they make me feel better.

2) how do you make it obvious to someone you have feelings for them without making it awkward if they reject you?

As near as I can tell, it boils down to eye contact, pleasant conflict, and listening on a deeper level.

Eye contact - look the guy straight in the eye, a bit longer than is comfortable for you. Don't let one person break contact 100% of the time. If he's breaking early, keep the looks shorter than his sometimes. Try to keep a half smile on your face (like you have a secret joke in your head) so eye contact comes off as friendly and not angry.

Pleasant conflict - don't agree with him all the time, or avoid topics you disagree on. The idea isn't to try to work to convert him to your side, like a debate, but to have a more interesting and varied conversation. Tell him when he makes good points, then introduce your take on the subject. Tease him lightly. Always have a fun attitude about it.

Listening on a deeper level - make little mental notes about the small things that are going on in his life, and ask about them later. Connect the dots behind the facts he gives you. Ask questions that are more personal, rather than casual/polite. It shows you are interested in him beyond his public face. Don't buy presents or go overboard pointing things out (Look that thing is blue and you like the color blue!), but show that you care more than an average acquaintance would.

Give him the impression that he's free as a bird while he's with you. He can get up and walk away, and you'll carry on with your life just fine. If there's some kind of undercurrent of emotional pressure (oh please please please date me or I will go home and cry) it's generally counterproductive. Hints and body language only go so far, though. Once you get him warmed up a bit, comfortable and participating in the conversation, time to be bold and ask. If he balks, continue being warm and gracious and let him go.
posted by griselda at 10:39 AM on November 22, 2011 [8 favorites]

1. Ignore comparing yourself to others. Make yourself feel attractive, and go after who and what you want in the here and now.

If you're really fixated on it and can't figure out anything that makes you feel more attractive to yourself, ask a friend who seems unabashed about fashion and appearance to help you play your strengths. Swap some clothes, get a haircut, pick up sexier underwear, etc. Don't spend a fortune or invest too much in what's said; but sometimes a little input from a friend can get the gears turning in your head.

2. Save yourself time on this man: ask him. Men vary (he may or may not be into you, may or may not be too shy to ask himself, etc.) but most will respond to a direct question. Give him a polite out so he's not forced to say yes.

Also learn to flirt. Many men can't read it -- this one either can't or isn't interested -- but those who can are fun. Others in this thread have described how.

3. Online dating or contexts where there's nothing else at stake. Adult relationships are more complex (people have jobs, families, partners, roles, responsibilities) and can't always turn whatever context you meet into dating-potential mode. Free-form gatherings work better. Online dating works pretty well since it's got "dating" written on the door, everyone knows what's going on.
posted by ead at 10:56 AM on November 22, 2011

Guy here: Couldn't hurt to tune up the appearance if need be, but I have seen sooooooooooo many women who didn't look like models or movie stars, coulda done with that tune up... and they shedloads of guys interested in them because of their smiles, flirting, conversation skills, the way they walked, general vibe and attitude, etc.

That aside, when in doubt, ask him out. If the guy has any kind of maturity and you ask with thought and tact, it won't trash the friendship if he's not interested.

Having a go at those who seem less attractive? Assuming they don't strike you as horrid, what's to lose in spending some time with them and getting a better sense of them? Lotsa people have ended up in great relationships with people who didn't initially make 'em swoon and feel gooey.
posted by ambient2 at 11:23 AM on November 22, 2011

With regards to the guys you know:
(a) do they talk to you at all? Or if they do, is it brief and perfunctory? Or will they get into long conversations with you? If they don't talk to you or barely will talk to you and they are brief and cool, then yeah, I think it's reasonable to assume they are not into you*.
(b) Do they talk to you? Initiate conversations? That go on longer than 5 minutes? Do you see them on their own recognizance rather than you only run into them at your mutual hobby? Then there's potential and you may want to ask flat out.

In my experience, though, most guys are not super great at utterly hiding their feelings for a woman. You usually can tell on some level if they like you. I would say to trust your vibes on who would be receptive or not. I'm not sure if the knee jerk incident means "She's got cooties" or just "I felt kind of invasive there and need to back off," though, so I wouldn't go on that. Go on his other behaviors in the past.

* Or possibly just shy, but in all honesty I don't go for shy because I don't want to spend ages trying to pry into someone's shell to see if anything's there. YMMV on if you want to deal with that.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:28 AM on November 22, 2011

how do you know you're less attractive than you think you are? and what should you do about it? date guys you're less attracted to?

I think you're postulating the existence of a fixed hierarchy of attractiveness, with people pairing up with others from their echelon. It's a depressing thought. For a certain segment of shallow people, maybe that is how it goes (though often with money, not physical attractiveness, as the measure used for the male). But I don't think you would want to pair up with a man who thought in that way--isn't it so much better to find someone who feels that you are one-of-a-kind, not the occupant of a particular level on a hierarchy, but the one person for him? Being passed up by someone looking to 'maximize value' in a marketplace of physical attractiveness sounds like the loss of something not worth having in the first place. I also know that people are attracted to very many different things. Different people find entirely different looks appealing and there's so much other than looks that attracts people.

I would pursue the friend whose knee jerked (I think that was just a physical reflex caused by surprise). If he's not interested, I'd keep going, living the routines of your work and leisure, coming into contact with men, developing friendships, being open to something more developing unpredictably at any time, as these things do.
posted by Paquda at 12:04 PM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you don't ask, you'll never know. The idea that you, as a woman, shouldn't be just as likely to ask a man out as a man is to ask you out... well... it's so last century. Not even late last century. And all of the reasons you have for not wanting to ask him out are reasons he might have for not wanting to ask YOU out. You touched legs under the table and he recoiled? Maybe he's nervous. Maybe he thought he was being rude by taking up your space. Maybe he thought it was an accident. He might totally be into you, but he might also be shy when it comes to dating even if he seems really outgoing.

You may not realize this but men are nervous about rejection too. And we worry about messing up friendships too. You say you're curvy? Curvy = yummy. If you're the sort of person who doesn't realize just how awesome you really are, you also wouldn't realize how easy it is for a guy to think YOU wouldn't be interested in HIM.

Ask. And best of luck to you! I hope he says yes :)
posted by 2oh1 at 12:12 PM on November 22, 2011

The only kind of guys who are ever into me and who I'm into back (bookish, smart but not know-it-alls, quiet but thoughtful, tend towards more obscure interests, more into showing fondness through actions than words, matter-of-fact feminist without being "yeah baby I'm a feminist woo look at me!" about it) are really, really shy and awkward about expressing interest. For years, most of my 20s really, I thought something was wrong with me in terms of of sexiness or something. I had to literally sit my now-husband down one day and say point blank "so I like you, like LIKE like you, uh, so how's about it, do you LIKE like me at all?" and EVEN THEN he was reluctant at first and STILL asked my permission for a kiss (!). It was totally worth it because later I discovered he was super into me, had been from the beginning but didn't want to seem disrespectful or creepy, and now I have the greatest sexual relationship I could ever dream of, where I feel super wanted and hot and whatever else. So in short, you might have to just risk rejection by being more direct. It says nothing about your sexiness that guys you like don't pursue you--it may have everything to do with what kind of gal you come across as, and what kind of guys (not meatheads nor as socially confident at this stage in life) we're talking about.
posted by ifjuly at 2:57 PM on November 22, 2011 [5 favorites]

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