How do you stay flirtatious, witty, and mysterious when you REALLY like someone?
June 4, 2008 9:42 PM   Subscribe

Help me Don Juan Kenobi, you're my only hope; or How do you stay flirtatious, witty, and mysterious when you REALLY like someone?

So here's the deal, I'm in my mid 30s, and when I end up meeting a member of the opposite sex that I find attractive, I feel as though I can be charming, witty, funny, flirtatious, etc. It greatly helps when the other person is even moderately interested in me and plays along... Generally, said person will then pursue me, or I pursue them, and we'll go on a few dates. One of two things eventually happens: either I (or they) will break things off if I (or they) don't end up developing stronger feelings, OR, I develop a MoNsTeR sized crush on them (more on this later). Anyway, I can easily be "my self" around the people that don't entirely turn me on. For some reason it's just easier to totally relax in their presence, which sometimes raises their interest level in me for at least the short tem, but eventually things fizzle either way.

My dilemma is when I date someone that DOES fill me with passion that I end up developing a huge crush/strong feelings for. These are the people that turn my dial up to 11. What happens is that my brain completely turns to mush. I stammer. I can't think of anything witty to say whenever I'm around them. I pretty much can't think of ANYTHING to say around them. It's as if I've been given a frontal lobotomy. My entire vocal style goes from lively and uplifting, to completely monotone. This happens EVERY time someone I have a crush on shows interest in me. I then completely lose my cool and end up showing TOO much interest in them, removing all elements of mystery. Then they run for the hills because this version of me is extremely un-interesting, and even a bit creepy. I don't do anything stalker-ish, but I just make myself too available to them and when we hang out I end up doing a great impression of Lennie from Of Mice and Men (rabbits, anyone?). Sometimes, I feel as though I can stay witty for the first one or two dates before I develop a crush, but as soon as that crush is set, it's as if my IQ drops by at least 30 points and I completely forget how to be flirtatious, talkative and charming. I am totally taken out of my game by these people.

So here's my question to you - what are some ways/tricks/techniques you use to stay cool and suave around the people who REALLY turn your crank? Is this a common dilemma? I understand the "you've got to just play it cool" concept, but for some reason I always turn into a spaz, no matter how hard I try not to. Is there a name for my 'crush-spaz-itis' disease? I see a shrink once in a while, and I plan on asking them too, but I figured I'd tap into the hive mind as well.

One thing to note is that several years ago I decided to get into a monogamous, committed relationship with someone that I was moderately attracted to, and had lots of fun hanging out with, but we DID NOT share any deep passionate feelings for each other. It was easy to 'be myself' around this person. Both I and this other person were honest with each other in our feelings, and we both postulated that maybe holding out for 'passion' would only lead to perpetual single-ness, and eventually I'd like to have kids/a family, and all that jazz. After a few years though, we both realized that we were just friends at best and decided to amicably break up. Thus, I'm now back at square one. Also, I have tons of hobbies, friends, lifestyle stuff, etc, so it's not like I'm looking for someone to fill some massive void in my life. I could easily settle down with someone who doesn't turn me on, but I'd rather not settle, ya know?

Throw away email:
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (12 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Honesty can work. Say, "you know, this is usually when I'd try to say something witty and charming, but I actually feel kind of tongue-tied and shy. I really like you. Let's go to a movie so I don't have to talk."

See if admitting your feelings makes them easier to deal with.
posted by prefpara at 10:35 PM on June 4, 2008 [3 favorites]

Being witty, charming & flirtatious is dead simple if you have little or no interest in the other person. That's just one of the ironies of life.

The best I can suggest is that you cross your fingers & hope that the object of your affections shares my view that people turning to stammering pools of jelly are actually quite cute & endearing.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:58 PM on June 4, 2008

I ran into one of my favorite singer/songwriters in Whole Foods last month. This gal just so rocks -- great songs, great albums, I send people her music when trying to show them what Austin is, or can be, whatever, I went and saw her live -- anyone can do anything on an album, you gotta see if they've got the jam or not -- and damned if she doesn't have the jam. Yeah, her voice rises soft and gentle and beautiful, poetic lyrics but goddamned if she can't rock the house, too. She's amazing. Plus, she's a bitty redhead, 11, maybe 12 inches tall, she's all freckled up, she's darling as can be, and I've got her built into this goddess.

I know better than to have a crush on an artist; the art is separate from the artist, that whole deal. Picasso painted amazing paintings but trashed peoples lives, etc and etc. So it wasn't so much that I had a crush on her, more that I wanted to tell her that I'm glad she's alive, how much her music moves me, how important it is to me. Plus you want to be polite, let the woman buy her groceries, and not be on stage all the goddamn time, sortof an unwritten Austin rule. But she's just so hot, so the crush thing was still -- apparently -- on the scene. As follows:

I approached her, there in the vegetable section, sauntered up, casual, cool, maybe did a bit of a lip curl (Hey baby -- I'm so fucking cool!) and said to her ... I don't actually remember what I said. I forgot her name. I stood there, stammering, a large streamer of drool hanging down, probably. I shifted from one foot to the other, and then back, very suavely. I believe I scratched myself. I may have scratched her; I'm not certain. No telling.


I remember her sortof edging away, maybe picking up a gourd to clop me with.

I remembered her name, after she got away, and brightly said "Hey, you're Xxxxx Xxxxxx." I know that impressed her. More edging away.

I do this less than I did younger but I still do it. Gawd. I've never known anyone who didn't do it; they might say they don't, and maybe they haven't. Yet. Put the right person in their path and they will end up scratching themselves, all in a sweat.

"Is there a name for my 'crush-spaz-itis' disease?"
I don't know a name but the best description of it is in an old book by Scott Peck, wherein he describes ego boundaries collapsing upon falling in love with another. It's an altered state, to be sure, and awkward, and nothing to do with real life.

The way out? prefpara got it -- cop to the fact of it. "I'm scared witless -- I will probably do stupid things if I don't get this out, if I don't tell you about it." Something about the humility in that seems to do the trick, sometimes, takes the power out of the whole dynamic.
posted by dancestoblue at 2:00 AM on June 5, 2008 [5 favorites]

I think everyone does this - you certainly are not alone, as dancestoblue's hilarious anecdote illustrates. If you are anything like me, you get the added bonus of replaying the awkward, embarrassing scenes in an endless loop in your head for days afterward.

Probably two things will help: the first is to well and truly believe that you are a person worthy of love and happiness and equal to everyone you encounter. Confidence in yourself as a deserving human with your act together helps you over the rough patches like this. You said nothing to indicate you have any lack of confidence in your post, but I think when we take time to remind ourselves of our innate worthiness and place on the planet, that radiates from within. Practicing that also allows you to "act as if" in the situation.

Second: remember dude's just a dude. He's just a person. He is probably worried about the hair starting to grow from his ears or something. Even the most crushy-crushtastic man has his own set of insecurities. Capitalize on these. Kidding. Remember that he's worried about what you're thinking, too, especially if he has any experience with your scintillating side. I also think if you mentally practice witty repartee when you're not around Mr. Hotdog that you'll be more likely to shine when you are with him. I use mental practice, or imaging, or whatever you want to call it for work, sports, and everything. It really works. I guess that's my trick to offer you.

You didn't ask this, but I do think there's a time to move off-stage so to speak and be really honest as mentioned above - maybe once y'all know you dig each other and want to move forward - and I think a good relationship is impossible without really, really being able to be yourself. But you already know that and I know you're asking about the initial stage.
posted by frumious bandersnatch at 4:14 AM on June 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

Yeah, it's normal, everyone does this to some degree.

But it doesn't have to control you, any more than being nervous about public speaking (which is normal) needs to turn you into a gibbering mess (which isn't so normal, and there are techniques to prevent).

Basically, I'd suggest learning a few techniques to calm down (like what actors sometimes use before going on stage -- breathing exercises, etc) to help with the moments when you get the most keyed up; imagining yourself as an actor or another person and "faking it until you make it," acting like the cool and collected person you wish you were; and making a choice to look for interactions that play to your strength -- if one-on-one is the most stressful, go to bars and parties and chat to people there, or go on dates where the activity is something that can distract you just a little bit (as compared to the intensity of a candle-lit dinner), or whatever.

Honestly, a lot of it is confidence -- unless you can believe that you are bringing a lot to the situation and have a lot to offer that other person, it is hard not to freak out like this. Confidence, though, comes over the long term, and in the short term you have to just fake it and try hard to look confident, and the results of that will bring the confidence you need with time.

Owning up to it can be ok sometimes, but it raises the emotional pressure in the room ("woah, he likes me enough to be a stammering mess of hormones?") and puts the onus on the other person to finesse the social discomfort you have created. It's better to be in sufficient control of yourself that you are maintaining good manners and keeping that person comfortable, than to rely on them to resolve the situation and put you out of your misery one way or another.
posted by Forktine at 5:43 AM on June 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

I think this is normal and it happens to all of us. I do think that the best way to handle this is to keep on putting yourself in the situation as much as you can. If you have a huge crush on someone try to have activities where is really easy to break the ice (here in NYC if the girl is up to it I could "literally" do this by going iceskating)...maybe going to a bar and having one or two drinks (but not a whole lot more than that) can loosen you up.....find situations where you are comfortable and YOU are in control (like restaurants you've been to before, places you where you know exactly what will be the outcome)........Keep on dating women that you like and afterwhile it becomes the norm and there wont be any difference...oh yeah...if it helps starts engaging on small conversation with strangers...this helps you a lot with starting small talk and releasing your witty self.....oh yeah dont forget...the girl has to show up to and she has to bring whatever she has to the table in order for things to work out, by this I mean that she has to be able to be charming and witty as well.....
posted by The1andonly at 7:08 AM on June 5, 2008

Here's the thing: when you're all flustered and awkward over someone, do you let yourself enjoy it? Or are you pinching yourself under the table and looking miserable?

Because honestly, seeing a guy happily, giddily flustered over a new crush is loads of fun. Being that new crush is even more fun. It's hard not to be attracted to someone who's radiating joy and goofy excitement from every pore. When the mere sight of your face makes someone break into a lopsided, unashamed grin, it's better than any pickup line.

What turns people off is desperation, shame and self-loathing. If you're kicking yourself for showing your cards too soon, or hating yourself for not being Cassanova — or, yeah, if you're keeping a tight lid on your feelings and coming out all monotone and hyper-intense — that's when it turns creepy.

You need to trust that you can take the lid off. It'll be okay. You'll smile too wide and laugh at dumb jokes and it'll still be okay. Anyone who's turned off by pure happiness isn't worth dating anyway.

(Oh, but you wanted practical advice. It'll sound silly, but try meditation. Not to help you "relax" or suppress your feelings — because, let's face it, if you shut your eyes and start breathing deeply every time your crush turns up, you're back into creepy territory — but to teach you how to accept your feelings, even the awkward goofy giddy ones. If you can sit quietly on a cushion and just be okay with the fact that your heart's beating a million times a minute, then you'll be prepared to accept the same feeling on a first date.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:56 AM on June 5, 2008 [10 favorites]

I'm all for the honesty part. Just let him or her know how you feel in a less stressed moment. "You seem to make me lose my cool." is a good one. One girl I briefly dated before she returned to her home country got an email from me in her language stating that my heart beat faster when she was around. I thought I was doomed when I got a response that the dictionary said meant that she was "flattered." I was crushed. Until I asked my roomate what it meant and she lit up "very good, this is very good."

So putting it all on the line can really work. When it doesn't, you get to release that tension and you are better anyway.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:28 AM on June 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

I had this problem. I have found two ways to combat it.

1. Alcohol. Obviously, be careful not to overdo this option or it could exacerbate the problem.
2. Take them off their pedestal. This one took a long time to figure out, but once I realized that no one is all that and a bag of chips (when it really comes down to it everyone has flaws and problems), it helped greatly in not turning into a blubbering mess. It was easier to see this after actually succeeding with people I had crushes on, and realizing they were no different from anyone else I'd been with.

No one is any better than you. Act like it.
posted by rooftop secrets at 10:37 AM on June 5, 2008 [4 favorites]

More practice by approaching/dating more people you find really attractive?
posted by curiousZ at 2:46 PM on June 5, 2008 [3 favorites]

Perception and pedestals. When you go on a date and the person seems amazing, it's easy to forget people are generally on their best behaviour and maybe even trying to impress you. I've never met a person that wasnt at least a little f**ked up in some way. Sometimes its a dealbreaker. You really have to wait until the penn(y)ies drop to be certain of them. By the time you've gotten to this realization, if you're still into them, you ought to have gotten comfortable enough around them not to "loose your head" so to speak.
posted by browolf at 2:16 PM on June 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

I tend to experience something similar. (I also have this problem with job interviews...I seem to ace the ones that I am simply not that excited about.) Although I am by no means over it, I can tell you what has helped my situation.

1. Alcohol (or in a situation where this isn't appropriate, benzodiapenes, which your doctor may prescribe for anxiety). Solution numero uno and easily the most effective.
2. Dating as much as possible. This takes the pressure off because eventually it seems like each date is "Just another date" (or in my case, "Just another date that probably won't turn into a relationship" haha).
3. Not to be graphic, but reminding myself that the person I am dating goes to the bathroom every day and gets stomach problems sometimes like everyone else, if you catch my drift.
4. Examining the problem more deeply. Could your subconscious be telling you something? Could you be protecting yourself from the risk of emotional intimacy?

For the last item I will relay a personal example. I had a situation where I got asked out by a guy I had a crush on for months. I was so excited I couldn't believe it. However, our dates were awkward and slightly painful until several glasses of wine were imbibed. Normally a chatterbox, I couldn't think of what to talk about. Conversation was stilted. I didn't feel good enough for his friends.

I assumed this was indicative of a deficiency in ME since he was obviously so great. I was "too shy" or "lacking in confidence." Then it dawned on me. HE wasn't that good of a conversationalist. Our chemistry was NOT that great. His friends WERE slightly arrogant. The shyness I ascribed to my own flaws and insecurity were in fact, I believe, due to not having feelings of trust...and I think this was because I could sense on a deeper (subconscious) level that we weren't compatible, even if on the surface I was trying to convince myself that we were. When I thought about it more I realized that all along I had been attracted to him because I thought he was too good for me. This is one way to protect oneself from developing true intimacy.

So guess what, I decided to stop seeing him. My decision was helped by the fact that around the same time I started dating someone with whom I developed both a crush AND could communicate easily with. Even though it didn't work out, I realized that it's possible (although maybe rare) to have both.
posted by mintchip at 4:15 PM on August 5, 2008 [4 favorites]

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