By far the most common question we get from readers, for our various You Asked It columns, is some variation of “I like this person. But I’m scared to talk to them. How do I let them know I like them?” So, while articles on “How to Make HIM Notice You” aren’t really our style here on Rookie, we also couldn’t ignore this trend, and we sure don’t have anything against crushes and love and turning your make-out fantasies into reality. So we thought about this question and realized that there’s no one good answer. How best to make a move on the person who occupies your brain space during the majority of your waking hours depends on what you feel comfortable with, so it’s different for everyone. So we thought about it some more, and talked about it as a group, and asked some of our friends, and finally came up with a few ideas to help you out, you little vixens to be.
“Flirting,” as we see it, doesn’t have to be as overt and corny as, like, the ol’ Elle Woods “bend and snap” method (on what real-life planet would this work?). It’s more about being at ease while interacting with people in a way that’s a little more suggestive and fun than your average conversation would be. Flirting isn’t necessarily about engineering the perfect situation that’ll make somebody want to jump on you—it’s about teasing, joking, laughing, touching (sometimes!), and complimenting. And being comfortable doing those things.
Again, not all of these methods will apply to every person. These are just some techniques that we’ve found useful when we’re feeling crushed out and nervous and excited and shy.
1. Ease into things. Start small—as much as you might want to share with your crush object the Helga-from-Hey-Arnold!-style closet shrine that you’ve made in their image, it’s a lot more fun, and usually more successful, to make conversation and build attraction (not to mention sexual tension, aka the best thing ever) over time. Says Hannah, “The more often you talk and hang out, the better you’ll be able to judge if there’s chemistry and whether it’s going somewhere. Trust your instincts!” If you’re reading this and inwardly going, “UGH, how am I even going to have the courage to approach this person more than once without completely bugging out and proposing marriage?” don’t worry. It’s totally OK to be a little more direct. To wit:
2. Just blurt it out. Anaheed shared this tactic: “In college, I was SO shy and awkward, so I would counteract my inner desire to flee and hide with the most aggressive approach possible—I would go up to a boy that I liked and say, ‘Listen, you don’t have to do anything about this, but I just wanted to say I have a crush on you,’ and then I would RUN away. And it worked. Probably because I liked boys who were just as shy and awkward as I was.” I think this sounds pretty adorable without seeming skeevy—because even though you’re putting your feelings out there, it’s not in a way that puts your crushee on the spot (well, not too much). You’re giving them space to think about it and then respond to you when they have their thoughts in order, although I wouldn’t recommend physically sprinting away from them. Instead, once you’ve put it out there, just say something like, “I just wanted to let you know I was interested. I’ll see you later,” and calmly go about your business while freaking out and congratulating yourself inwardly. This technique works on Arabelle, by the way: “Confidence,” she says, “is the only way to get in my pants. I’m always attracted to super-cute shy girls, but I’m way too unsure of myself, gamewise, to approach them. I’m way into when a girl approaches ME and is like, ‘So, I don’t know if you’re into girls, but I think you’re really cute and here is my number OK bye.’”
3. Ask. Krista says that if she could do high school over again, “I would GO FOR IT if I was fairly certain a girl was being more than normal-friendly with me. It’s all right to ask people, ‘Hey, is this OK?’ if you feel like holding hands or putting your head on a shoulder.” This approach is so respectful, and I recommend it, because, again, it’s giving people room and permission to say they’re not interested, and you don’t look like a creep.
4. Be out. For those of us who identify as LGBTQ, it can be tough to meet people you want to date in high school, or to even feel comfortable trying. But, conversely, says, Krista, “If you’re out (WHICH IS SO BRAVE), it’s sometimes EASIER to get girls, as they come to you. The only lezzer at school = lots of curious friends.” Krista has these further tips for queer kids:
• Widen your net. Join a club, team, or group that isn’t through your school. You’ll meet new girls, and it’s nice to have a lot of options, community-wise, when you’re first coming out.
• If you’re attracted to one of your friends and she has told you that she’s curious about girls, go for it.
• BRAVE STEP: Join or start an LGBTQ group at school. Even if you don’t find love (or sex), you’ll have created a new community and made new allies. Always cool.
5. Collect rejections like badges of honor. As Lesley wrote in her latest advice column, it’s OK if your crushee gives you a weird look and quickly scuttles away after you approach them. You are REALLY RAD for making a move in the first place, and this experience, however disappointing it might feel in the moment, will help you with future crush situations. The only way to stop fearing rejection is to have it happen and realize, whether it’s an hour or a week or a month afterward, that it didn’t kill you. In fact, you’re just fine. You can do it!
6. Share some pithy observation. The key to having a nice conversation with not only a person whom you want to french, but basically anybody in the world ever, is observing and building on a common experience. If the person is someone you see often, like in class, in your youth group, or at play rehearsal, you have time to create a friendly rapport with them that has the potential to get them just as interested in you. Since you’ve both already shared some experiences from this thing you both do, like the weird, overzealous way your band teacher pronounces staccato or how tough it can be to memorize a Shakespearean monologue, you have things to talk about that aren’t just “I LOVE THE WAY YOUR PANTS FIT YOUR BUTT, WHICH IS INCIDENTALLY A VERY CUTE PART OF YOUR BODY.” If you can tear yourself away from mooning over being near the person for a few seconds (and I know this can be tough, of course), you’ll notice the funny, weird, and specific things going on around both of you and be able to make a little joke about it. And here’s a major life truth: inside jokes = foreplay. Having a secret little something between you (a) is hot and (b) will come in handy later on—you can reference it to start another conversation with this person later.
Even if you only see this person in passing, I guarantee you can find something to work with. Anna’s advice can help you with this: “Whenever I see a guy wearing a T-shirt for a band I like, I have to comment. It’s a good go-to because then you have something to talk about, and everybody wears band T-shirts. Generally, finding any sort of common ground: ‘How ’bout that pep rally today? That sure is a thing that happens in contemporary high schools attended by the youth of America!’” It sure is! You can talk about basically anything, as long as you’re not trying to mold yourself into someone’s OMGDREAMGIRL based on what you already know about them, or what you learned from snooping on their Facebook info page. Emulating what you think they want never turns out the way you want it to; instead, it usually seems transparent and weird, even if your intentions are good. “Anonymous” (IT’S TAVI SHE’S JUST SHY EVERYONE MAKE FUN OF HER) says, “In my experience, people who aren’t so self-serious like being challenged about the things they like, like if you have some kind of playful argument over a band or how to feel about the new season of 30 Rock. People generally think it is cool when other people know about things and have opinions about them. They are impressed, and then curious as to how you feel about other things, and then you have more reasons to talk to each other.”
Some crushes, of course, are more spur-of-the moment, so you might be wondering how to talk to someone whom you don’t know. If this person is someone you’re seeing for the first and possibly only time, like from across the room at a show, it’s OK to be a little more forthcoming with your attention. Again, you’re in a situation where you’re having a common experience, so muster the courage to stand up as straight as you can if you’re able (it sounds silly, but confidence is sexy), casually walk over to the person, and say something like, “Wow, that last song was amazing. Have you seen them play before?” during a break in the set. Or if you think the show sucks, say that! Then see where the conversation goes.
7. Be an interviewer. An actual professional interviewer, Ira Glass (friend of Rookie, husband of Anaheed), has this suggestion: “I don’t know if this is just a cliché, and I fear that it is, but the main flirting technique I know is just to act very very interested in the other person and ask lots of questions and just talk to them about them. Try not to seem desperate when you do this. I was very awkward around other people when I was little and I remember consciously developing the technique of asking lots of questions to get any conversation going. Only later did I learn the importance of also talking about yourself. But asking questions and giving opinions about their situation is pretty straightforward, even for a spaz like I was.”
8. Look them in the eye. If you’re in a situation where it’s not really appropriate to start talking to a cute somebody without seeming intrusive, like on a bus or subway, eye contact goes a long way. You don’t have STARE at them like a gross person, but flicking your eyes over to them and keeping eye contact for a few seconds will give you a clue about whether they want you to approach and have a conversation with your voices and not just your sensual gazes. (If they hold your gaze for a few seconds and/or smile and/or keep looking back at you, those are all good signs.) Then ask them what they’re reading or listening to, and work from there!
9. Touch them. Here’s Ira again: “[Touch them] on the arm, on the knee, wherever. Their response will often tell you if they’re interested. At the very least: if they don’t move away from you, you’re still in play. If they reposition, you’re doomed.”
10. Don’t suck up. Once you’ve gotten to the point where you’re speaking to your crush object semi-often and everything is going well, first of all, that’s awesome and I’m proud of you, and second, there are a lot of different tactics you can adopt now to keep things cool (and by cool I mean HOT) (ugh, sorry) while simultaneously building up to the result you’re looking for—whether that’s a relationship, something sexual, or just someone snuggly to argue with over what to watch on Netflix. For me, at this point, when I was IN THE GAME, I always stepped off a little. It’s hard to keep someone wondering about you when you’re always RIGHT THERE, so it always seemed better to let them IM/text/call/whatever me first. Jessica can back me up on this: “The only sure-fire things I know for getting a boy’s attention are: (1) Confidence. (2) Ignoring them rather than trying to engineer yourself into being whatever you think their ‘type’ is. (3) This certainly barely applies to only a really tiny subset of girls, but if you write a review about how much you hated his band’s record, all he will want to do is find out a way to get you to like him.” That last thing happened to me a ton when I was a music writer. We’re not saying go out of your way to be mean (doy), but if you don’t kiss the ass of someone who’s used to being treated that way, they notice. This comes in handy especially if you’re lusting after someone who gets a lot of sexual/romantic attention from others. If you don’t suck up, and maybe even back away a little once you’ve established a connection, the person will be wondering where you went and possibly even start fiending you.
11. Just be honest. There are some Rookies who frown upon method #10 and avoid what they call “game-playing” and I call “ssseduction.” Here’s Emma S.: “I try to follow the controversial rule of talking straight.” And Hannah: “I don’t believe in acting uninterested when you’re actually interested. I don’t like the idea of playing games.” And Eleanor: “Acting uninterested actually just makes the person think you aren’t interested.” I’ve only used that method to avoid coming on too strongly after initially showing interest, and it’s always worked great. So, go with whatever feels most natural to you.
12. Practice! There are ways to have fun with flirting even if you don’t currently have a heart-searing crush. Although high-schoolers, especially boys, are sometimes (OK, most of the time) pretty bad at wooing the people they like in a suave way, you’ll still be able to tell what it means when he or she does things like suspiciously pop up at your locker even if his/hers is across the school. Depending on what this person is like, you will find this (a) totally irritating, (b) kind of cute but ultimately misguided, like a monkey playing with an iPad, or (c) endearing enough to entertain the idea of flirting back. If it’s this last one, great! This is a great person to practice on, to figure out what kind of flirting you’re most comfortable with. Important note: I’m not suggesting that you fuck around with someone’s emotions or make them believe that you’re more interested in them than you actually are, but, as you know, you’re probably not about to get married, so it’s OK to have sexually or romantically charged interactions with somebody without getting more involved. It will definitely help to build your confidence.
13. The secret weapon. If all else fails, you can always follow the advice of Maura, my friend Bee’s 10-year-old cousin and, seemingly, a direct descendant of Elle Woods herself. In a recent Facebook chat, she had the following advice to give her lovestruck older relative:
MAURA: pretend you dropped your pencil during class and bump into him so u meet eye to eye, then he will kiss u, it will work
BEE: but what if we aren’t in class? what if we are at a bar?
MAURA: drop something like a cherry out of your cocktail
And there you have it. Now get out there! Good luck, and have fun! ♦