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I’m a few months shy of my 26th birthday, so I can say with confidence that I have spent at least the last 14 years talking seriously with my friends about the boys and girls they (and I) find attractive.  Some common complaints continue to arise and I’d like to list some of them.

I’m addressing this to the gentlemen in the audience since that is the direction in which I incline and have personal experience, but I really think all of us, of all sexual orientations and gender identities, could potentially get something.  I’d also like to say I’m not the best at practicing what I preach.  I’m starting to try to do better, though, so perhaps there’s hope for me yet.

Point one. Some of us suck at remembering names and/or faces. If we’ve only met once or twice before, and you come bouncing up to me all excited, only to deflate because I seem distant or less friendly than before, please keep in mind that I may simply be trying desperately to remember your name or at least where we met. It doesn’t mean I’ve entirely forgotten YOU. Take it as a compliment that I was so dazzled by your first impression that I failed to pay sufficient attention to details like names and locations. Trust me, that’s how I want to play it, because I’m embarrassed.

Point two. Some girls really, truly can’t tell when someone’s interested in them.  I know this is not just me, since I’ve heard others say it, but I seem to be worse at picking up on cues than almost anyone else I know. Believe me, there is not much more depressing than someone saying some equivalent of “Gosh, I used to find you so attractive.”  So gentlemen, I know it’s soul-crunchingly terrifying, but if you like me, SAY SO.  Do not make use of subtle hints, because I am very stupid in this arena and my reaction will be to think that you’re just a rather nice guy, not that you’re interested. Remember the scene early on in the Big Bang Theory, when Sheldon doesn’t get that Penny’s being sarcastic, so Leonard stands behind her and holds up a sign reading “SARCASM” for Sheldon’s benefit?  Yeah, I’m talking that level of not-subtle.

This is an area where I’m dreadful at taking my own advice, by the way. The last, oh, dozen or so crushes I’ve had have not been told by me that I had any interest. One confronted me (with rejection) and one I told long after the fact (rejection after the fact isn’t much less hurtful), but the other ones… well, whether they guessed or not is a mystery to me, but I never told them.

Which brings me to Point three. Yeah, yeah, I know women are all empowered and stuff now, and we don’t have to wait for you lads to make the first move. I KNOW. Thing is, some of us have started to feel that boys take advantage of that and fail to do any of the work..  If you like someone, pursue their company.  Invite them to stuff, even if it’s not a traditional “date.” At least make it clear that you enjoy their company.  The problem here is that when dates are not traditional, both parties start to wonder if they are, in fact, dates, rather than two friends hanging out. So if you want something to be a date, either say so, or MAKE A MOVE. (Again, here I stink at taking my own advice.)  None of us want to be stuck in the dreaded Friend Zone.

Point four. Most girls I know claim to identify with Elizabeth Bennet from “Pride and Prejudice.”  I’ve always identified with Elinor Dashwood from “Sense and Sensibility.” Primarily this is due to her adherence to propriety, a word and a concept that have both sadly faded from everyday consciousness.  It is more than good manners.  Propriety involves a way of behaving, in speech, expression, and body language, that combine to mandate how to respond to almost any situation.  Elinor does not just adhere to propriety, she wields it to protect her sisters, her mother, her friends, and herself.  It is a shield that protects her wounded pride and devastated heart when necessary, allowing her to mourn and heal away from the gossiping claustrophobia of her world.  The point I want to raise here is that not all girls flirt the same way.  Not all of us are touchy-feely or fond of bars or inclined to wear revealing clothing.  Some of us cling to old-fashioned propriety as a way to protect ourselves from the repeated hurt of rejection.  If you’re interested in someone who’s shy, or old-fashioned, or quiet, pay attention to the ways she interacts with different categories of acquaintances.  And remember that with such a woman, you may have to lead for a little while until she feels safe.

This post is a little rough, because I’m feeling a bit ranty, and I apologize if I offend anyone. Like I said, I address this to the lads because that’s where I incline, but I also acknowledge we could all learn from this.  And I’m trying, I really am – it’s so very hard to break from personality and habit. But I also am getting royally sick of the endless opposing-armies feeling of romance today which seems to rely on protecting oneself long enough for the other person to slip up first.