Pexels @Vera Arsic
I was seated at one of those uncomfortable, hard, high school desks. I can even remember the class: it was Spanish II.
The classroom was sparsely populated, 11–12 people. We had a new, difficult teacher who only lasted one year, being chewed up and spit out by also-difficult students.
This was a cliquey, upper-income school with, in typical insecure high school fashion, distinct social lines drawn between hot and not-hot.
On this day, there was a girl sitting about 15 feet to my right, with several empty desks between us. She was very cute, short, with blonde hair, and thick dark-rimmed glasses. I never observed her with any ambitions but I had eyes, I could see what was obvious.
It was the mill around time before class started. She was seated a few rows over. With innocent intentions, I remember saying, “Hey-” to get her attention. She turned and looked at me. I made a quick joke, one that I knew was funny and always got laughs.
And more than 20 years later — I still remember her reaction to my joke: a scrunched up, repulsed face that stung so bad I never spoke to her again. It was as though I’d just told her I’d peed my pants, or if you had suddenly turned the wrong sides of magnets toward each other.
In a hallmark of my own innocence, her response perplexed me for some time. (“Why did she look so annoyed at me with that joke? I was just trying to be funny?”)
Worth mentioning, although I was nice, I was in a severe awkward phase, where parts of my body grew long, I developed big hands and feet, and yet parts of me stayed boyish-looking. I was a goofy patchwork of child and adult, sort of like those awkward phases that Great Danes go through, where they are all legs, accidentally kicking over furniture, and tripping over their own feet.
I also had a pretty tragic first set of eyeglasses. Note the long arms and big hands:
My point being, I wasn’t exactly at the top of the Most Shaggable Boys list in those days. There were no hookups behind bleachers or after school makeout sessions in my immediate foreseeable future.
However, I was still a boy at heart. I didn’t even have that stuff on my mind. I’d subconsciously written off that part of life. So I stuck to being the nerd and making people laugh.
Experience has now taught me something that it hadn’t taught me then. I now know why that girl looked mortified. She was mortified because, as I sat there, making that joke, she didn’t think I was trying to make her laugh.
She thought I was trying to flirt with her.
Her leaned back, scrunched up face, was the physics of rejection in action. Her reaction was guided by what she thought my intentions were, not what my actions were. That much is obvious now.
Let’s fast forward a few years. I had filled out. I’d become an athlete. I definitely looked better and carried myself with more confidence. And I don’t say that with any sort of arrogance. I say it is to transition to my next point:
You can now cut from the scene of the girl being mortified at my joke, giving me the “Eow!” face, to another girl, hanging on my every word, laughing at whatever I was saying, even when I wasn’t trying to be funny, even when I was just trying to get a sincere thought out.
And around that time, I began to pick up on the fact that receptiveness to my humor was somewhat correlated to a person’s perception of me. The overweighted value of our appearance in society became even more apparent.
Our memories are rich with these lessons. You don’t have to look far to see those learning moments. I’ll give you one last one.
A few years after that previous scene, I remember being at the bowling alley with a group of fellow college students. We were goofing off and having fun on the weekend as kids our age did.
I was trying to flirt with a girl that I liked. She seemed receptive. But it was still in the air.
At some point in that evening, my friend Danny showed up to hang out with the group. If my chances with this girl were a stock graph, (stock symbol: CHNC) you could draw a vertical line through the middle of that graph for Before Danny and After Danny, with my chances dropping precipitously after that line.
When Danny arrived, the girl suddenly changed. She began to acting nervous, checking her appearance, preening herself. And I quickly became invisible. She eventually went on to date Danny shortly after that. I was bummed. But, hey, you can’t win them all, right?
Taking a step back and speaking in broad terms, across the entirety of my single life, the third huge factor I’ve seen in figuring out if a girl likes me is one of distance.
If you are with a group of people at a party, or even in one on one settings, if she is making it a point to move closer to you, to be on your side of the room, to sit closer, it is a strong sign in your favor.
Sometimes, and without even thinking about it, she will even go to stand in your eyesight so that you will notice her. When we like someone, powerful forces within us begin to drive our behavior.
Sign 1: laughter is often an unconscious or nervous action to endear ourselves to someone. If the girl you are talking to seems very jovial and laughing at everything you say, or even better, if, when the group laughs, she laughs and looks at you, it is a great sign.
Sign 2: if you walk in, and from the corner of your eye, you see her adjusting herself, preening her hair, seeming concerned about her appearance, or if she suddenly acts “behaved” around you, it also a great sign.
Sign 3: proximity is always a huge, huge part of attraction. We often move to be closer to someone we like. They become magnetic to us. If she repels away or is avoiding being close to you, that is the other answer to your question.
Finally, and as a necessary add-on, consider these signs exactly what they are: signs. Outside of asking someone directly if they like you, you can never know for sure.
The last thing I want is for a guy to read this post, then go out into the world and think, “Hey, she totally just said hello to me, I should ask her out!”
Remember, some people come off as flirty with everyone. Others are very hard to read. Get a baseline for the person you are dealing with. Then take in all the information you can and consider it as a whole through that prism.
It’s a form of risk aversion. It lowers the risk of you getting rejected. And it lowers the risk of her being put in the uncomfortable position of unwanted attention.
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