Read an Excerpt
How do I get someone to go out with me?
What should we do when we're out together?
None of us know intuitively how to tell if someone is interested, or how to deal with the possible rejection, or what to say on a date. These things are learned through trial and error.
Potentially embarrassing? Yes. Because part of the thrill of going out with someone is feeling accepted. It's like winning a People's Choice Award. You feel like jumping up and saying, "He likes me. He really, really likes me!"
But the risks of dating -- or trying to get a boyfriend -- are much lower if you approach dating not from the attitude of "How can I get someone to go out with me?" but "What do I want from this?" Never thought of it that way, did you?
This chapter will give you a handle on how to work out the balance between boys and your life without losing your mind.
Crushes are bittersweet. They can make your day tolerable.
But one-sided yearning can also be painful. The object of your passion may never give you the time of day. Which is why, ultimately, this state of being is called a crush (as in demolish), not a boost.
I have a crush on this guy at school,and he's all I can think about.
DR.MARLIN: When you have a crush, you think you're in love but you're not. Okay, so you can't stop thinking about the guy and your heart beats a mile a minute when he's near.
But this passion is based on fantasy. After all, what do you really know about this guy other than that he looks good?
Sometimes this sort of fantasy love is much better than the real thing: He's perfect. It's fun to indulge. It's easy to read love signals into his every move. It can even be a confidence booster because you convince yourself he's drooling over you when he really has no interest in you.
Decide if you'd rather stick with the fantasy or if this is something you want to try to make happen. Not all crushes are worth acting on, especially if the person is someone off-limits like your best friend's boyfriend.
Here's how to decide: Do a reality check on your crush, in which you find out at least five true things about him.
Are these qualities you would want in a boyfriend? For instance, if you find out that he dumped his last girlfriend over the phone or that he's always goofing off in class, he may not be right for you.
If it turns out that you are still interested in him, you might want to go for it -- gently. If you did your reality-check homework, you have some idea what he's interested in and if it interests you, too. Act on that. Talk to him about whatever you have in common.
LAURA: It's not easy to just approach some guy who you really like, let alone talk to him. You have to connive the situation a little by putting yourself in his path. I really liked this guy who was in another grade, so there was hardly any opportunity for us to connect. Then I found out he was taking an architecture class that I'd been planning to take the following year. So I signed up right away.
Okay, we didn't end up going out. But we did become great friends, which can be another bonus of crushing on a guy.
There are lots of not-so-obvious opportunities to get near him. Hang out at a friend's locker near his, go to the candy store where he goes, or try to get next to him on the lunch line. Eventually make eye contact and say something. If there's the slightest chance he's interested, he'll start talking, even if it's just a grunt. If he's picking up your signals and doesn't send one back, then take the hint and move on.
Getting a Date
In poll after poll, guys say the same thing: They hate fake. In other words, wanting to be in a relationship so desperately that you act in a way that's not you is the number one turnoff. The only thing you can do to make yourself sizzle is to be real. Here's how:
Know you are important with or without a boyfriend. A desperate girl attracts a different kind of attention than a proud one does. Guys, like girls, want to be with winners. A confident girl gives off the aura of worthiness: "I respect myself and expect you will respect me, too."
Don't just agree. And, for God's sake, don't play dumb. When you speak your mind, you stand out as an interesting person. Don't worry if he sees things differently. Guys -- well, anyone you'd want, anyway -- are attracted to women strong enough to hold to their own opinion.
Stay active. Becoming more involved with things around you -- whether sports, mentoring, or art -- advertises you as a fun and interesting person. Guys don't want some one-note chick they have to entertain all the time. Hey, would you?
Look good. Take a long, honest look at yourself to figure out how to make the best of the features you have -- including the physical ones. In other words, don't hide your growing breasts. They're part of what makes you a woman, so stand straight and wear clothes that fit. Instead of hiding behind your hair or trying to disappear behind layers of makeup, get a beauty makeover (free at most department stores) and a haircut that shows off your face. Stop buying into the system by being a fashion victim. Wear shoes and clothes that let you feel comfortable and move like your normal self (see Chapter 4 for instructions on finding your own style).
I've never had a date.
DR.MARLIN: Yet. You've never had a date yet. I know. This seems like the same old line and not yet usually feels like never. However, the main thing isn't to live life looking for a date but to keep on reaching out and making some friends.
The more situations you put yourself in where you are doing things that grab your attention, the more likely you are to connect with people you click with -- and that includes the opposite sex. You don't want to go out with just anyone who asks you. You want someone who is going to be right for you. And the only way to find that person is to do the things you enjoy and stay open to meeting new people.
LAURA: Society still has a way to go to change its expectations of the male making all the date arrangements. But girls aren't hanging around the phone hoping he'll call anymore, either. So instead of holding your breath waiting for some guy to do the asking, why don't you take some risks? Approach someone you're crushing on and pop the question yourself.
I'm not saying it's easy. But lots of guys are shy, too. I know my guy friends hate that they are always expected to make the first move.
Otherwise, you're saying you'd rather ask yourself "And what if..." "If only I had the guts to..." So my advice is to just do it and get it over with. Don't make a big deal of it. The best line, according to guys, is, "Wanna do something sometime?" The guy can't panic and blurt out, "Sorry, I'm not free," because you haven't set the time yet. In fact, you haven't even asked him for a date yet! Nothing's official, so if he wants to back out, he can, without leaving either of you feeling too embarrassed.
Check out his reaction, too. If he mutters something about not having any free time for a long time, quit while you're ahead. Simply say something like, "Well, maybe another time," and let it go at that.
Remember, guys get this treatment all the time and bounce back. As one of my guy friends says, "When I get rejected, I can't think it's me, or I'd never ask a girl out again. I just think that it means the girl wasn't right for me and I'm better off without her."
If he doesn't outright reject you, follow up with, "So what do you want to do?"
Boys only see me as a great friend.
DR.MARLIN: This is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, there's real value in boys seeing you as a friend.
If you're a close friend, you're probably seeing more of your guy friends as their authentic selves than any girlfriend would. It's unlikely that they would be as completely open with her as they are with you because they're trying to impress her (think of how you act around friends versus a guy who you like). Also, as their friend, you are developing a strong foundation of trust.
All these things are great precursors to a solid romantic relationship. In fact, many couples in solid relationships say getting to know their partner as a friend before they got romantically involved helped keep them strong as a team because they already had a connection that went beyond sexual attraction.
LAURA: Although it may seem like guys only think of you as a friend and can't see you as a potential girlfriend, that might not always be true. If a guy is comfortable around you and likes spending time with you, he may like you and not know it yet (look at Dawson and Joey. It took him a while, but then he fell head over heels). I would also use this time to find out what guys really think about things (like what kind of girl would they like to date vs. hook up with). You can get some great insight that could come in handy with boys that you really like.
Why is it that only the guys I don't like ask me out?
DR.MARLIN: Simple. They're the ones you are able to be most comfortable around because you're not interested in them as potential boyfriends.
Unfortunately, we tend to get more nervous and sweaty when we are near someone we have a crush on because we try so hard. And the guy picks up on that and thinks this is your normal self.
The way around it is to remind yourself that as cute as a boy may be, he is just a boy. Repeat this mantra when you start thinking he's too cool for you: "He's just a guy. Maybe a cute one. Maybe a funny one. Maybe a cool one. But he's just a guy, like I'm just a girl." When you can transform your crush back into human terms, you'll be able to calm down enough to become your regular self.
LAURA'S TIP: One thing that works for me is to remember how I act when I'm with my guy friends just hanging out. Did I tell a joke or story they liked? Then I'll repeat it when I'm with a guy I like.
If you want the guys who you do like to ask you out, try spending time with them as a friend so that you can be really comfortable around them. It may or may not develop into a boyfriend thing. Chances are that the guys who might make better boyfriends are the ones you can talk to naturally rather than always worrying about saying the right thing.
I like a boy who isn't cute and I'm afraid my friends will make fun of me if I date him.
DR.MARLIN: It's time to take some risks. Never let your desire to fit in stop you from acting on what you want in life (see Chapter 6). After all, real friends want you to be happy. Besides, a boyfriend should never be an accessory -- something you wear on your arm to complement the image you want to project. He should be a person you love to spend time with, no matter what other people think.
LAURA: Okay, Mom, but it's still really hard to move outside of your clique. It can make you feel isolated. You don't want to think your friends are talking about you behind your back, and you also want to be able to think that you and your guy and your friends can all hang together without feeling weird.
I'm not saying you shouldn't go for it. But your relationship is going to be under a lot more pressure than most because you will be hyperaware of the criticism.
Sound your friends out on the guy -- maybe saying how he seems sort of cute when you look past his height or whatever else they are criticizing. It's easier to change their minds so that they see him in a new light than it is to ignore your own heart.
On a Date I never know what to say on a date.
DR.MARLIN: Stand out and be someone. The key is to be yourself. After all, that's who he was attracted to in the first place and that's who he asked out.
If you're not sure who that self is, think how you are when you are with your friends or your family. Talk about the same things you would talk about with them.
Say something that will get him talking. Try asking him about himself -- his summer plans, how big his family is. This isn't about the male ego dominating the conversation, just getting him to converse so that it's not all on you.
Just don't ask him too many intense questions too soon, tell him your life story in the first 10 minutes, get too heavy about why you're crushing on him, or complain about anything too personal. Guys just aren't com-fortable with the same kind of personal conversation that girls usually use as a way of bonding.
LAURA: I always ask questions because that keeps me from talking too much and helps to get him talking. Ask open-ended questions so that he doesn't just grunt a reply. But don't hit him with nonstop questions or you're gonna sound like Ricki Lake.
And if you can't think of any questions to ask him, just pretend that you're talking with your brother or your best guy friend. In other words, act like your normal self.
I like two guys and can't choose.
DR.MARLIN: Who says you have to? It's sometimes hard to know whether a guy is for you until you've gone out with him a few times. And even then, you may find there are things you like about one guy and things you like about the other. I actually think it's a good idea to date more than one guy at a time. Here's why: You refine your taste by getting a sense of what's out there -- brains, humor, sensitivity, self-confidence -- so you can Boy Nerves Boys actually get worse date jitters than girls. A study of 3,800 undergraduates at the University of Arizona found that 37 percent of men compared to 25 percent of women were nervous during a date. That's why so many guys seem to sit there like a mute when you're out with them. decide what qualities are essential to you in a relationship. Think of it as "comparison shopping."
However, it can also be stressful. One or both of the guys may not be so happy with the idea of sharing you and act jealous. This might sound like fun -- having a guy get territorial over you -- but do you really want to Be asked to account for your every second when you are away from him?
If you think you can handle it, then there are some ground rules: Be straight with yourself and with the guys -- they don't have to know about each other, but you do need to inform them that you're not interested in making an exclusive commitment, so that neither thinks he's your only one.
Also, don't: date guys who are friends; overlap them or see them on the same day; gossip about one to the other; go with one where you think the other might be; or date one boy just to make another jealous.
LAURA: I hate the whole you-go-out-with-someone-once-and-now-you-have-a-relationship deal. It's much more fun to hang and see a few guys at once. After all, there's plenty of time in life to get married and settle down.
Don't forget to let it shift. Remember, people change, situations change, attitudes change -- sometimes daily. So be open to the possibility that after a few dates you may realize that you prefer one boy to the other or even that you're not crazy about either of them. In which case, do the right thing and let the rejected guy(s) go as gently as you would want to be dropped.
The guy I like has a girlfriend. He says he loves her, but he keeps flirting with me. Why does he do that?
DR.MARLIN: Because he's confused and doesn't know what he wants, or because he's a two-timing bastard. Either way, let it go. You can talk to him, but I don't think it will do much good. It seems like he will keep on vacillating about what he wants.
I know -- if I am such a big fan of going after what you want, why don't I tell you to go for it? Because there are times when you know in your heart of hearts that what you want isn't really good for you in the long run, and it sounds like this is one of them. Let's say he ends up with you. Would you ever really be sure that he wouldn't pull the same stunt with another girl?
LAURA: It sounds to me like he wants you. The guys I know tend to be more up front in what they do rather than what they say. So I'd say go for it. But go slowly -- just in case he changes his mind again.
Why would a guy say he's going to call and not?
DR.MARLIN: Guys love saying this. It buys them time to think about their feelings toward you.
It could be that he's afraid to call. He may have forgotten. What you interpreted as a soul connection was a casual flirt for him. Whatever the reason, just let it go. You can go over it in your head again and again, endlessly discuss it with friends, and still not be able to figure it out.
Bottom line: Any guy who doesn't want to call you is too much work. And dating should be fun, not an exhausting mind game.
LAURA: Not getting a call back sucks. It's happened to me and it used to make me want to wallow in my bed (which would also allow me never to be more than 2 feet from my phone just in case he did call).
If you absolutely must call him for peace of mind, then keep it simple. Call him only once. Just say you're calling to say hi, or to thank him for the excellent time you had with him.
If he acts distant or unenthusiastic, saying something like "I meant to call you" without saying why he hasn't, or, "I can't really talk right now" without mentioning when he can talk, or if you leave a message and he never gets back to you, then at least you know where you stand.
A guy who's 8 years older than me asked me out.Is he too old for me?
DR.MARLIN: Many girls find older men more attractive and sophisticated than boys their own age. Your body be fully developed by age 12 whereas some boys may not reach full maturity until their early 20s (see Chapter 4).
So you have to ask yourself, "Why is he interested in me?" No matter how talented, interesting, or beautiful you are, his interests and views on life are bound to be different from yours. Chances are he is very immature and/or needs some element of control in the relationship and gets that by going out with someone who is younger and therefore less likely than women his own age to challenge him.
But no matter how mature you are (or how immature he is), the one absolute truth is the bigger the age difference, the bigger the problems. For instance, having sex. He's more likely to be experienced and to expect it as part of the relationship. Fifty percent of girls 15 to 17 who get pregnant are sleeping with a guy who is at least 20.
Also, in some states, where the age of consent is 18, having sex with him could land him in jail for statutory rape -- even if you gave your consent.
I'd say give this one a pass.
LAURA: I know all the guys your age seem really stupid. That's because they are. And it can make you feel really cool to go out with a guy who's older.
But a guy who is that much older than you is also probably way ahead of you socially, mentally, sexually, emotionally. He has a whole different life -- he can drink legally (if he is 21), get into clubs, get a driving license, and vote. He's not worried about your learner's permit test because he's too busy worrying about college or work.
LAURA'S TIP: Think -- would you go out with someone 8 years younger than you? Exactly.
One Last Dating Tip from Dr.Marlin
You do not need a guy to feel good about yourself, although it's tempting to go that route. But you do need to feel good about yourself to find a guy who is right for you. So think about the qualities you really care about in a boyfriend. (If you're stuck on what to write, put down qualities that you like in your friends.)
Looks, too, are usually important to us all (let's be honest), but did you ever notice that when you really like someone and you're happy with each other, you look better (and so does he)?
Prioritize your list. All items on your list are not of equal importance. Some are "absolute musts" and others are "would be nice but not a deal breaker." For example, it might be okay if your new boyfriend doesn't care much about mountain biking (even though you're crazy about it), but maybe it's really essential he be a nonsmoker.
After you've completed your list, look it over carefully. Is it realistic? (In other words, could any one person possibly have all of those wonderful qualities?)
The point is that the best relationships are based on mutual admiration. If you secretly hope that he will eventually change his style, that's a sign that it might be time to move on to someone you really appreciate for who he is (or vice versa if he pressures you to make all sorts of changes).
If, on the other hand, you feel satisfied and he likes the things about you that you like about yourself, then you're onto something really great.
Copyright © 2001 by Marlin S. Potash, Ed.D., and Laura Potash Fruitman