You Asked It

Just Wondering

Advice about class privilege, finding a drummer for your band, and being friends with boys.

Can you help me figure out how to modify my behavior so that I put out a more sexy/flirty (but not desperate) vibe, and less of the quirky-best-friend-just-there-for-comic-relief vibe I’m currently broadcasting? I’ve worked really hard to get my male peers to see me as an equal (e.g., by not showing off my body in any way) because I’d rather that any guy—friend or romantic interest—be interested in my brains, not my body. But obviously what I’m doing isn’t working, because I am never seen as a romantic prospect, and I really want to change this, because I want to start dating. How can I move into this new state of being without compromising my personality or my values? —I Can’t Stand Being Called “Cute” One More Time

OK, here’s how you know I’m on your team and that I’m gonna try to be as straight with you as possible, my friend: I didn’t open this answer with some bullshit joke like “Hey there, cutie!” So I hope you can trust my continued frankness as I get one thing out of the way here at the start: The kind of dude who thinks females are vapid or otherwise unequal to him if they choose to show skin is not your peer. He is actually beneath you and/or whatever person he is unfairly holding in contempt for making her own choices about her clothes. If you prefer to keep yourself covered for your own reasons, that’s rad and you should do you, but it won’t somehow subtract from your cumulative banked intelligence if you decide to subtract some inches from your neck- or hemlines at any point in the future. The myth of being either “sexy” by showing skin OR smart/funny/kind/otherwise a person with subjectivity and character traits is just not true to life. Please do not, under any circumstances, read this as my being judgmental or saying, “SO JUST TAKE YER SHIRT OFF ALREADY,” as I want you to make yourself happy and comfortable in everything you do, including but not limited to getting dressed. I just had to bring it up before we get involved in the answer you actually asked for, because I don’t want you to look at your or other girls’ bodies and feel anything even tangentially related to shame, ever.

Now, on to your question: I spent many of my early teenage years feeling like I was always the sidekick, never the…not…side…person (I am a ~very eloquent writer~, I know) and scheming about how I could solve that. I detail parts of what I (and other Rookie staffers) learned about the sacred art of ssseduction in this piece, but it seems like you’re asking more for ideas about how to change your image than suggestions about how to pick people up. The first thing I’d like to suggest to you is not very original, but it’s the only thing that I know for sure about making people want to be around you: Being happy, fulfilled, and confident in who you are on your own makes people want to be around ya, and that includes dudes who are looking to date you up. That’s not very SEXXXY, I know, but it’s the gol-durned truth, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t let you know, first and foremost, that having a life that you actively like, regardless of who else is up in it, is the most attractive thing that there is. The thing about people is that they’re actually really impressionable: If you tell them that you’re rad just by BEING rad in front of their faces, they’ll agree—and then, sometimes, ask you out for ice cream floats or what have you.

But I know that this is the kind of thing you can hear and know to be correct but not actually feel until you’re ready to feel it, so let’s look at some other, quicker ways to project confidence and babe-itude into the world without having to do a top-down self-esteem overhaul. One thing that makes me feel good about how I’m presenting myself to the world is feeling “done up” in terms of how I look when I leave the house. This doesn’t necessarily mean I’m wearing a slinky sex-jumpsuit (not sure if this is a thing, but whatever) with perfectly blow-dried hair and a full face of makeup—just that I look like the person I picture myself as on my best days. Sometimes this means I’m wearing an apron over my skirt because I think it looks cool, or I did my eyeliner in that weird and awesome way I saw online and kept wanting to try. For you, it might mean doing a cool braid or a red lip. What makes you feel polished or put-together? Do those things! People can tell when you know you look good, regardless of how covered-up you want to be as part of that. And remember how said people are mad impressionable? GO FORTH AND IMPRESS THOSE HANDSOME DOPES WITH YOUR INIMITABLE STYLE AND PANACHE, ALREADY!

As far as changing up your actual interactions go, I have two words for you: BREEZY TOUCHING. These are subtle, casual moments of contact where you put your hand on someone’s arm while you’re emphasizing a point or lightly grazing their leg with yours under the table when someone in class says something dumb but you can’t laugh out loud about it. BTs shouldn’t feel invasive or forced, but should instill the idea in your love-target’s mind that you could potentially be flirting with her/him—or maybe not! Maybe you’re just affectionate! They don’t know!!—but they’ll probably want to, nahmean? When deployed correctly, BTs can work wonders. Probably stay away from butt-based BTs at first, though, unless you happen to be Tina Belcher (in which case, get it, girl).

The final part of alla this for me, which also relates to the “desperation” aspect of your quandary, was learning that some parts of my personality, when I turn them on full-blast right away, can be a little unsettling to other people. For example, when I like someone in a romantic way, it’s all I can do to not be like HEY HI WHAT’S UP DO YOU WANT TO SEE ME RIGHT NOW I KNOW IT’S 12:41 AM BUT I MISS YOU I CAN JOG OVER TO YOUR HOUSE REAL QUICK all the time, because I’m egregiously enthusiastic about the things and people I like, once I like them. I had to learn to curb that impulse—not entirely, just enough to convince people that I wasn’t, in fact, an eternally available and desperate backup plan if they didn’t have anyone else to hang out with (I spent a lot of time as the “best friend” of dudes I was desperately in lust with as a young teenager). Being self-aware about that aspect of my personhood was definitely an enormous factor in my going from,”Huh. Why didn’t he return my 12 caps-locked IMs?” as I did when I was adolescin’, to having a normal and not way-too-intense-right-away interaction with whatever Love Hottie I had my bugged-out eyes on at the time. Once I got more familiar with someone, I could show them that part of me more fully without scaring him or her away.

You are probably not as overeager as I was, but is there a (generally wonderful) personality trait of yours that you notice changes the interactions you’re having from potentially date-spawning to just “friendly”? Are you quick to jokily put yourself down when someone pays you a compliment, or can you not help correcting people when their grammar is less than sterling? You might be sabotaging yourself without realizing it, so sometimes it’s helpful to examine the ways in which you interface with people and check out their reactions. It was only when I took a very clear-eyed look at how my crushes were responding (or, more often, not responding) to my chronic over-communication was I able to rein it in. Be your own LUV DETECTIVE, and you might figure out what the friends-only deal is on your own.

So that’s what I’ve got for you: Go into the world feeling fresh as hell as only you know how, BT (but refrain from the B[UT]T), don’t text/IM away your dignity, think about what you’re projecting to people and whether you even care what they think, don’t spend time with dummies who police other people’s clothing, and, if all else fails, go have an ice cream float on your own, because it’ll taste just as good and make you probably even happier than 98% of dudes, anyway. —Amy Rose

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30 Comments

  • gr-ass January 21st, 2014 11:31 PM

    i feel you so hard on being called cute. im 4’10 and the only thing people say when they see me is “omg youre so cute!!” and i should be flattered at the compliment but im so sick of being called cute all the time! i wanna be thought of as hot or sexy or beautiful not cute yknow

    • Anielica January 24th, 2014 9:39 AM

      I hate those sorts of compliments that just end up being a bit insulting. Like constantly hearing, “you’re so cute!” or “your face is so tiny!” or “you’re so skinny!” It’s especially been annoying because I’ve got pretty low self confidence and a lot of the time I find myself ugly and unattractive, and hearing ‘you’re cute’ when I wish I could be told I was beautiful or looked pretty is pretty awful.
      PSA: Even if you mean it as a compliment, think twice. I also look a bit younger than my age, so I’m sensitive about being called cute b/c I’m trying to look older, not little and cute! Ugh.

  • Emily January 21st, 2014 11:52 PM

    To the girl who was looking for a drummer, Nirvana went through like six drummers before they found Chris Novoselic, and they’ve been nominated into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. So keep looking but don’t freak if you don’t find the perfect one at first. Good luck!

    • froctopus January 22nd, 2014 2:20 AM

      Nirvana’s drummer was Dave Grohl, now lead singer of the Foo Fighters. Chris Novoselic was the bassist.
      But I agree, drummers come and go from bands like crazy sometimes. Don’t give up on the search, it’s well worth it being in a band.

  • sadie lidji January 21st, 2014 11:59 PM

    Amy Rose u r the best

  • honorarygilmoregal January 22nd, 2014 1:10 AM

    Rookies always give the best advice :)

  • RisainSanFrancisca January 22nd, 2014 1:34 AM

    This is perf <3 especially love the privilege stuff, being a well-off white person gives me a ton that I'm always checking myself on and making sure I'm not being accidentally racist/classist/etc.- at least as a lesbian I just have to worry about my friends! The response on not changing yourself for anyone else was so necessary for me right now too, thank you so so much for these rookie!! <3

    http://manyrisas.tumblr.com
    http://manyrisas.blogspot.com

  • AndreaGG January 22nd, 2014 2:13 AM

    I don’t hate being call cute that much, but I do hate never being a dating prospect, to anyone, ever. I’m known as the smart kid who people like and trust and are impressed by because I’m involved in a lot of stuff, like music, church, university, ans I can actually make it through. But when a guy friend come to me an says “You’re like a little sister to me, and so smart and nice and cute” and call me pet names and at the same time they’re checking out a girl butt, I just know I’m being friendzoned by him an everry guy in a 500m surrounding area, forever. And I don’t like it.

  • TessAnnesley January 22nd, 2014 3:52 AM

    wow i’m a drummer and now i feel really weird… dude, surely we aren’t that rare haha

    • zoeah January 23rd, 2014 4:28 AM

      completely unrelated but NO FREAKIN WAY YOU HAVE THE SAME SURNAME AS ME AND I’VE NEVER COME ACROSS ANYONE ELSE WITH MY SURNAME BEFORE WHO WASN’T RELATED TO ME

  • Kirthi January 22nd, 2014 6:01 AM

    I just have to say the one about the no platonic relationship is so ridiculous! And the most amusing thing is that we have it just the opposite. In India arranged marriage is dominant, so dating and romance and other lovely things are normally frowned upon. When we are seen with a boy we have to explain that “he is just my frrrrrreind.” So ironic !!

  • soviet_kitsch January 22nd, 2014 11:37 AM

    lol i’m barely 5 feet and look hella young and i’m so tired of the whole “you’re so cute!” attitude. although in my experience, essentially everyone who calls me cute turns out to be a raging asshole in a lot of other ways, so i guess it’s a good way to weed people out.

  • spudzine January 22nd, 2014 12:12 PM

    I was shocked at how many of these applied to me. I was called cute a lot a couple of years ago, and it bothered me to a stressful extent. Because others couldn’t see my other qualities(ya know, the ones that weren’t just “cute”), I chose to see those qualities myself. Same for the sex-appeal situation. It was only when I got more comfy with myself did boys(REALLY REALLY CUTE BOYS)start checking me out, THANK GOD. And I’m still the same bubbly, geeky girl I was before they checked me out. The only difference was was that I’ve been working on liking myself more, and that somehow projects radiates off of me and gets hotties to check me out. So yeah. Just do you, and all will fall into place ;D

    http://spudzine.tumblr.com/
    http://emotwins.tumblr.com/
    http://rockogirl.tumblr.com/

  • strawberryhair January 22nd, 2014 1:59 PM

    ANAHEED. That was so. good. <3

    • strawberryhair January 22nd, 2014 2:09 PM

      Also Amy Rose be my big sister ugh it’s not even okay how cool you are

    • Anaheed January 22nd, 2014 2:29 PM

      Aww, thanks, hair-strawb!

    • AnaRuiz January 22nd, 2014 10:01 PM

      I agree. I guess it’s too early to say that your answer changed my life, but it at least helped me channel some feelings that I didn’t know how to put into arguments.

  • taste test January 22nd, 2014 7:36 PM

    Lola, your answer on privilege was really great. I’m pretty solidly middle-class, so I’m better off than a lot of people, but I’m going to a private college with some very rich people- and it’s also a very liberal college, so class privilege is an idea they have some familiarity with. a lot of them either bend over backwards to reassure the world they aren’t THAT rich (“yeah, my family has a couple summer houses, but they’re small and we share them with all my cousins’ families so you know no big deal lol”) or act like they hate their lives (“I wish my parents would stop buying me things and give the money to charity instead, I don’t deserve this, ugh”). it’s annoying as hell tbh. I know they’re trying but it’s unproductive and also kinda comes across as humblebragging. I wish I could print out your article and show it to them because “you can just be grateful” is something they really need to hear.

    http://xyzzyzzyzx.blogspot.com/

  • Anya N. January 22nd, 2014 7:56 PM

    amy rose is the only person that gives LEGIT, HELPFUL ROMANTIC advice FO REAL FO REALZ. she’s the real-life LUV doctor im tellin u. hahaha just think of how this compares to seventeen omfg i laugh, i laugh.

  • rhymeswithorange January 22nd, 2014 11:25 PM

    Amy Rose, the verb “adolescin’” hahahaha amazing

  • pizzaface January 23rd, 2014 5:07 AM

    I love Amy Rose’s answer, it’s so uplifting and helpful and full of ‘you go girl!’ vibes

  • Monroe January 23rd, 2014 10:15 AM

    As someone who grew up, and still is to be honest, very, very poor I feel compelled to comment.
    Lola, what your roommate did was not cool. I would never bring down a friend who was excited about something just because I don’t have the same privilege.
    I don’t believe in guilt tripping people for the crime of being born into a family who is fortunate enough to be able to provide them with things that makes them happy. It would be nice if we could all live that way. Unfortunately we can’t. Life is sort of a gamble, and through whatever chances of fate or decisions that end badly, some come out on top and some don’t. It is impossible to change this.
    I have NEVER resented it. I don’t believe in deluding myself that if others had less I would have more.
    Growing up I would listen to my friends gush about their vacations in Hawaii and see them take for granted their ipods and American girl dolls and designer clothes while I had no plumbing and was sleeping on the floor.
    And I was fine with it. Its frankly ridiculous and selfish to live your life expecting everyone to hide their financial good fortune from you and wallow in guilt because they committed the CRIME of being happy and having privileges that some people don’t.
    Should I cry over every plate of food because there are places in the world where children go hungry? We should always try and help those who have less but in between helping live your life, be happy and grateful, and don’t waste your time in useless pity that doesn’t help anybody.

    • champagnecoast January 25th, 2014 12:15 AM

      Thank you for this comment! I agree, what your roommate said wasn’t cool at all. For me it comes down to “don’t make other people feel like crap for being born into their circumstances” (whether that be wealth or otherwise)

    • January 25th, 2014 3:43 AM

      Completely agree (I grew up poor too). It wasn’t even like she was bragging about her parents buying her cool stuff, she’d saved up to be able to do cool stuff, and that’s a real achievement and I wouldn’t call anyone who can’t celebrate my achievements with me a friend.

      • nellie79 January 27th, 2014 6:27 PM

        I agree as well (also grew up poor), she clearly wasn’t bragging and the dude shouldn’t made her feel bad just cause she was born into a privileged family. Believe me, I have lots of friends who are upper middle class and I’d never make them feel bad about being excited for something they saved up for or if their parents are doing for something for them.

        Honestly I’m happy to see someone who is privileged and trying to become more aware regardless.

  • elliecp January 23rd, 2014 1:20 PM

    to the first question…I’ve found people often have opinions that do not agree with my own morals. The best thing to do is accept that that is how they feel, but basically take no notice and live the way YOU think is right. Don’t stress about it, and trust your gut.

    http://roseandvintage.blogspot.com/

  • chameleon22 January 24th, 2014 8:35 PM

    Hey Anaheed, I just wanted to mention that your answer meant a lot to me. in fact, I am commenting now because I returned to this page several days later to reread it. As someone who’s constantly falling in love with their friends, your advice was so comforting. Thanks.

    • Anaheed January 25th, 2014 12:33 AM

      Thank you so much for saying this! It warmed my heart. Constantly falling in love with your friends = evidence that you have a huge heart and haven’t let life reduce your capacity for love.

  • verosaysmoo January 25th, 2014 12:31 AM

    WONDERFUL. Thank you Rookie!

  • AmeliaWM January 29th, 2014 2:03 PM

    Thank you Amy Rose! I loved reading your response. You hit all the right notes and even pulled on a few o’ my heart strings :’) xoxo