Time to meet that sexy beast you’ve been messaging for weeks. You’re feeling pretty good about this one. Toured with a musical improv troupe AND works in a linguistics research lab? Ding-dong the bells are gonna chime! (Okay, maybe that’s only my fantasy.) Either way, the messages were great, the pictures are eye-scrunchingly adorable, the date is set. Oh God- you just remembered that the reason you are single is that you are TERRIBLE AT FLIRTING. (Again, I may be making this all about me.)
Never fear! There are some actual, actionable things you can do to let this gorgeous creature know that you’re interested.
Before the Date
In the moments before the date, I highly recommend a little power posing for confidence. Throwing your arms in the air for five minutes before you head out for a date might feel a little stupid, but it’s your apartment and the neighbors have seen you do far weirder things so go for it.
During the Date
I’m not going to get into some of the unconscious stuff we do when we flirt – like mimicking each other’s movements – because that’s some creepy biz if you do it on purpose. Instead, let’s go through the stuff you can choose to do to show your date that you’re down.
Keep your posture open. Folded arms and crossed legs signal disinterest. Even if you’re nervous, try to keep your arms open. Avoid the temptation to crouch and instead, sit up straight or lean in. Honestly, this was very difficult for me when I first started dating. I practiced with friends first and I found that the conversations went more easily. Nervousness makes us close up, which has the unfortunate side effect of shutting down signals of attraction.
Practice smart eye contact. While doing research for this piece I read a lot of very complicated “do this for X number of seconds and then look back for Y number of moments, or until he blinks or scratches his nose.” It doesn’t need to be that tough. Maintain friendly eye contact. Too little and you signal that you’re not interested. Too much and it’s Steve Buscemi. Glance away, look at the menu, back at the eyes. Boop. Done. NO SMART PHONE!
Smile. This seems obvious, but books and websites and youtube videos are dedicated to how to smile and how to interpret smiles. There’s no need to pretend to be happy if the date’s going terribly. You probably don’t want to date that person – get the check and bail. If nervousness is interfering with a good time, though, give a smile. Research has shown that smiling can actually make us happier, and you’ll be signaling that you’re having a good time, too. It can be hard to remember at times, but this dating stuff is supposed to be fun.
Play with your hair. This one seems a little twee to me, but the experts promise it’s a thing. I’d say it has to do with hair being an indicator of health over the millenia and by touching hair reminds your date that, ya know, you could make a baby together. I guess. Either way, I’m going to try this on my next date. I’ll let you know how it goes. I have a lot of hair so I might not see you all for a while.
The Bottom Line
Most of this flirtation body language stuff is hard-wired. We flirt because we have evolved to flirt, and unless you have some ulterior motive (money? fame? discounted tickets to the musical improv show?) there is no point to employing any of this unless you’re really interested. But if you’re someone like me, who went to a single-sex high school and suffered from crippling insecurity for years, flirtation doesn’t come naturally. There’s no harm in practicing conscientious body language choices when your gut inclination, even after years of dating, would be to curl up with that bucket of poutine in the corner or break into an uninvited freestyle rap battle. Get out there, smile, and let Sexy Beast know you mean it.