Dear Pink Hair Girl,
I’ve developed a crush on a guy friend of mine, and over the past month I’ve been flirting with him like crazy. Or at least, I’ve been trying to flirt with him. Every time I make a pass or try an innuendo, it’s as though it goes way over his head. He doesn’t ever flirt back. I wonder sometimes if maybe he’s just not interested, but he doesn’t avoid hanging out with me, and he’s still friendly around me. When I ask my friends about it, they say that all geek guys do this–they can never tell when a woman is flirting with them. But at this point, I’m not even sure if I should try to be more forward, because if he’s this oblivious, he might just miss every signal I give him in the future. Do I have to beat him with an “I like you” stick every time I wanna convey my feelings? Or does this just sound like a matter of him not being into me?
Future Mrs. Clueless
What’s funny about this is that, when I talk to my geek guy friends, they tell me that they often have no idea when a woman is flirting with them. This is partially confirmed when I talk to geek girls about it; what I generally hear from them is that A) boys have no idea when girls are actually flirting with them, almost as much as B) they take friendly gestures as sexual advances. It’s as though they’re living in Bizarro Land, where trying to attract a mate is some sort of cruel joke.
According to a study recently conducted by Indiana University, men on average scored much lower than women when detecting social cues. (SURPRISE!!!!) They showed the men images of women being friendly, seductive, sad, or rejecting. Men mixed up seductive and friendly a whole bunch, apparently. So instead of this notion we have about men wearing sex-colored glasses when talking to women, the study suggested that “men seemed just to have blurry vision of sorts, overall.”
The study looked at average university-aged students and not just geeks. But my theory is that geeks in general tend to have an inhibited sense of social cues compared to their non-geek counterparts. This is just a generalization, of course–I’ve met geeks who are amazingly empathetic, but not nearly as many as those who have the emotional observation skills of a rubber chicken. On top of this, geeks tend to have lower self-esteem, an unfortunate side effect of regularly being picked last for dodgeball in elementary school (and other such traumatic events). As a result, many claim that they just have trouble imagining a scenario in which a girl would actually want to hit on them. So, when the reality of this situation is upon them, they can’t even see it. Like a muggle who misses it when wizard children walk through platform 9 & 3/4, it’s too implausible for them to even consider the possibility.
(Don’t even get me started on the geek guys who go in the opposite direction–the ones that think that the 3 girls dressed as Yoko at the anime con are doing so because they all want to go out on a date with him, and desperately want him to keep asking them out.)
But this is the truth we face. My guess is that your love interest is likely a victim of blurry boy-vision. If you want to move it forward, you will have to bust out the “I like you” stick. And here are some things to consider while you’re doing it:
- See if it’s enough just to break the ice. While you’re making your next attempt at flirting (for our purposes, we’ll say your crush’s name is Garrus), bust out something obvious. You know, something like, “Garrus, you do realize I have a really big crush on you, right?” This might shock him, and he might still imagine you’re kidding; so if he seems unsure or brushes it off, don’t back down. “I’m serious, I really like you (and I totally dig your scars).” After you’ve made it clear in his mind that the way you’re acting around him is because you like him, that might be all it takes for him to kick into “flirt mode.” Occasionally, sending the obvious “I want you to flirt back to me” signal is the kick in the pants a guy needs in order to pick up the slack. But if, after you put it bluntly, he’s still talking about how he’s gotta go do some calibrations, then you may have to try harder.
- Ask him flat-out if he’s interested in dating you. Actually, now that I think about it, maybe he’s not interested in dating, or in women. Make sure. The best way to do that is to be forward and ask him frankly. (Well, you can ask him frankly about whether or not he’s interested in dating you. You may want to be a bit more gentle when asking if he’s gay or not. Some boys are touchy about that question if they are indeed straight.) The point is, some men will just be terrible at picking up the ball and running with it when it comes to conveying their interest or affections, and the only way to confirm them at the beginning will be by asking. Yes, this means setting aside your romantic notions of him sweeping you off your feet. He’s not Edward Cullen. (Actually, now that I think about it, have you ever seen him step out into the sunlight? Make sure.) At the very least, most men aren’t quick to actively gush about their feelings and undying obsession with how good you smell, or spend all night watching you sleep while writing piano sonatas to try and capture the essence of your beauty. You’re gonna have to let go of the idea that men will read your mind and automatically understand your body language and hints. You will have to tell them what it is you want before they can even begin trying to give it to you. This is a fact of life, for all women.
- Decide how much affection you need from a guy. You mentioned your worry about his oblivious nature being an indicator of future behavior, and you may be right to have that concern. It’s possible that your needs and his abilities don’t match up. Even if it turns out that he does like you back, and even if it happens that you guys start dating, his lack of response to your flirting might just be a matter of his style. Perhaps he’s not an affectionate or flirty person. But really, the only way to find out is to try. Maybe it just takes him a while to warm up; and once he’s confident that you’re into him, he opens right up and showers you with affection in return, without you prompting him or beating him with an “I like you” stick. That’s not an uncommon phenomenon in geek guys; they’re protecting themselves emotionally until they feel secure enough to invest in the relationship, because they’ve been let down before.But it’s also possible that his quiet reservation is how he behaves all the time, and that no matter how much you want to be a cuddly or cute couple, it’s just not his thing. If you guys manage to start dating, just make sure to be aware of your needs. If you start to feel like his daily way of showing affection leaves you wishing for more, then it’s probably best to just admit that you have different styles of showing love, and go separate ways. Ending things might seem extreme, and it’s tempting to just ask a guy to be more affectionate, but in practice it rarely works long-term. Asking him to show more love is just as valid as him asking you to be happy with getting less. It doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t necessarily mean your feelings for each other aren’t there, it just means you have incompatible ways of expressing them. No one’s fault. It sucks. Move on.
To some extent, any girl who grew up watching Disney movies has been expecting a guy to know what it is that makes us happy without actually telling him what we want. The phrase “You should just know!” rings in my memory as something I believed when I first started dating. And instead of saying what we want out loud, we have a tendency to drop hints–imagined, blatant or otherwise. But having a successful relationship with another human being requires that we let some of this go. We have to tell them explicitly what we want, and ask them to tell us how they feel about us if we want to know. And for the record, no, staying together for a long time doesn’t cause a man to eventually figure you out and gain the ability to read your mind. To some small extent, you will have to beat them with an “I like you stick” for the rest of your romantic life. That’s not to say they won’t return affection of their own volition. Some men will just be better at this than others, and you have to decide how important this skill is in a mate for your own happiness.
So go ahead, tell Garrus in no uncertain terms that you’re nuts for him and see where it goes. Sure, you may have to hand him a manual to outline the things that make you happy, but crazier things have happened.
Pink Hair Girl