DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: How can I look less intimidating and scary and more open and friendly? Or more interested in dating in general?
Thing is, I am 21 years old virgin who have never been in romantic relationship before. I suppose I am late bloomer – I haven’t been interested in guys, dating and sex until very recently. There also have never been many guys around (my majors both in the University and high school were to do with liberal arts which meant that most of my class-mates were girls) so I am kind of not used to communication with them and to be honest a little bit afraid of them.
But apparently they are afraid of me even more. Or so I’ve been told many times. It appears that by first impression I always look like I am made of ice or iron, very reserved and strict as if I am silently judging everyone and generally hard to approach. Which is not true at all, I am very happy if people approach me at parties and the likes and love to meet new people in general. Still, it seems guys of my age find courage to talk to me only after consuming lots of alcohol. (Older men is another story though, I’ve been told that I usually behave not like my age but much older and that seems to attract men over 40 who usually have wives already).
How to change that? Smile to everyone around me? Change something in body language?
Also, many people seem to assume that I already have a boyfriend. Maybe I look so uninterested that people think that I’m already attached? What one should do to show that they are interested in dating?
I don’t think that I am unattractive, rude, mean or that socially awkward yet I am single. My parents and friends pressure me a little bit to find someone and maybe I do feel a little lonely while watching romcoms and yearn for some affection. That’s why I decided it’s time to do something about the impression I have on people so when I finally make myself go to those magic places where you can meet a lot of single guys I keep hearing about I’ll be ready.
I would appreciate any advice and would like to thank you in advance!
PS: I am sorry for bad grammar; English is not my native language.
DEAR IRON LADY: Without seeing you in person, it can be hard to diagnose the problem… in as much as there is one, anyway. To start with, it could depend on the people you’re hanging out with. A lot of liberal-arts types are often shy or introverted, possibly even a little intimidated by you; a lot of guys get anxious over the idea of approaching someone they find especially attractive because they fear they may not measure up. If you’re especially driven and ambitious, they might worry they have to be at least your equal or you might not consider them “worth your time”. As a result: it takes a little booze to ease the anxiety and serve as a little social lubricant. Older men tend to be more secure in themselves, especially with younger women; they’ve frequently worked through their hang-ups and often feel that their age gives them a leg up, status-wise. This may be part of why so many older gentlemen feel comfortable approaching you; they feel like they’ve got less ego on the line.
Keep in mind: this is their problem, not yours. If a guy is intimidated by your accomplishments – perceived and actual – then they need to work on their hang-ups.
I suspect though that at least part of this has to do with the fact that you’re a late bloomer yourself. You haven’t had much social experience and you’re more a little intimidated by guys yourself. This may be causing you to come off as uninterested or reserved when in reality, you’re actually just a little shy. I would start by checking your body language. I’m guessing you tend to stand a little pointed away from other people, possibly with your arms crossed. This tends to read as “closed-off”; holding your arms across your torso – crossing your arms, holding your drink like a shield, etc. – is often a defensive look that says you’d rather people keep their distance. Pointing your body away indicates that you’re directing your attention elsewhere, which carries the message that you don’t have any interest in what they have to say. Letting your arms hang loosely at your side, letting your body relax so you don’t look like a soldier at attention and angling your body towards the people you’re talking to will come across as much more open and approachable than someone who seems like they’re inspecting the troops.
I also suspect that you may not be smiling much, or at least that your smile isn’t necessarily being “read” as a smile to others. You’ve almost undoubtedly have heard of “Resting Bitch Face” used to describe people who seem angry or stern when they’re not making the effort to smile. It’s obviously a term that was coined for comedic effect but there are people – women and men – who come off as stone-faced or even angry without intending to. In fact, this is a problem I’ve had to work on; I may be having a good time, but people think I’m upset because I look so serious. I’ve had to make a conscious effort to smile more – a wider, more obvious smile than my usual sardonic smirk or solemn mien.
It seems silly, but practicing holding a friendly, inviting smile can help, especially if you’re not terribly expressive on a day to day basis.
Now, one thing you can do in social situations where you’re looking to meet people is to give what some call “approach invitations” – in this case, meeting someone’s eyes and then giving them a smile. Some folks respond well to the classic “meet the eyes, look away, meet the eyes again and smile”. Both of these are natural signs that you want them to come over and talk to you.
But while this is all well and good, I’d also advise you to take your social life in your hands and approach guys you’re interested in rather than waiting for them to notice you. If they’re afraid that you’re cold and unfriendly, coming up to them and saying “Hi, you seem like you’re cool and I wanted to meet you, my name is Iron Lady…” is going to let them know you really are a warm and caring person they should get to know. Don’t be afraid to be willing to make the first move, including asking them out on dates; luck tends to favor people who make their own opportunities rather than waiting for them to happen. It can be a little nerve-wracking at first – ask any guy about how nervous they get about approaching someone they’re attracted to – but experience and practice will help you get more comfortable making the first move and getting to know awesome people.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)