Relationships with boys are tricky — especially for teen girls who are still figuring out who they are themselves. In her book “Boyology,” Sarah O’Leary Burningham offers a crash course in understanding boys.
Chapter 3: I ♥ You: When You’re Head-Over-Heels In Like
You’ve finally met that one-in-a-mil guy. He’s smart and sexy, and every time he turns around and meets your eyes during chem class, your heart practically stops and you realize you’re holding your breath. He’s definitely the guy for you. Only he doesn’t know it yet.
In the animal kingdom, flirting is an intricate dance — sometimes literally. One bird, the male rainbow lorikeet (a really colorful parakeet), woos his mate with a series of wobbly steps that resemble footwork from “Saturday Night Fever.” As soon as he sees a potential girlfriend, he busts a move. If the female bird is into it, she’ll nuzzle up against him and let him smooth her feathers. If she’s not interested, she moves on and he finds someone else to flirt with.
It’s the same thing with you. You’re dancing around your feelings, opening up a little but not completely, and testing the waters with the other bird. If he’s interested, he might let you smooth his feathers. And if not, at least you know so you can move on to a different, worthier dance partner.
Get Your Flirt On
Since bird-mating moves aren’t likely to work on McDreamy, you’ll need some other ways to let the flirting fly. And as with all things, some ways are better than others. Here are a few good and bad ways to perfect your “dance.”
BAD: Making eye contact by staring at him.
GOOD: Catch his eye and hold his glance just a little longer than usual. Then give him a little smile.
The key to eye flirting is keeping it light. If you stare at a guy, it will seem like you’re either staring him down or acting stalker-ish. Neither is good. Just a quick glance (with the essential grin) is flirting — even without saying a word!
BAD: Laugh at every word that comes out of his mouth. You want him to know you like his jokes, right?
GOOD: Laugh when you think he says something funny.
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Laughing hysterically every time your crush says something is a surefire way to come across as insincere. Fake laughter is as transparent as clear lip gloss; he’ll be able to tell that you don’t mean it. Instead, smile at him when you think he’s being cute, and when he says something funny, feel free to give him a wholehearted, utterly sincere giggle.
BAD: Hanging on him every time you’re together. You have to touch him to show you’re interested.
GOOD: Occasionally brushing up against his shoulder or touching his arm.
In flirting, a little contact goes a long way. You want to show your crush that you’re into him and get a sense of how he feels about you. Does he smile back when you flash your pearly whites? Does he step closer to you when you whisper something? Draping yourself all over him does not constitute flirting because you really won’t be able to gauge his feelings if you’re suffocating him (or vice versa). Instead, stay cool and keep it playful — flirting is meant to be fun!
BAD: Gush over every little detail, like his sweater, hat, jeans, shoes, socks—you get the picture.
GOOD: Compliment him on something specific, like his new iPod. You love the green color.
Guys love a little flattery (who doesn’t?), but keep it sincere if you want to make an impression. Going overboard and complimenting every little thing about him makes it sound like you’re putting him on a pedestal, which can be totally overwhelming. Focus on one or two things you really like about him. Considering he’s your crush, you shouldn’t have a hard time finding something!
1. Find out what you have in common. If he spends time after school at the gym and you’re a total yoga buff, suggest you start working out together. Hanging out in the same places and doing things you both enjoy will give you more time to get to know each other.
2. Start a real conversation by asking him a semi-personal question. Don’t ask him something he’d only share in therapy, mind you, but something to get him talking about his interests and what he likes to do. A basic question that requires more than a “yes” or “no” answer, like, “What did you do last weekend?” is a good way to get things rolling.
3. Stand closer to him than you have to. Don’t stand so close that you’re going to lose your balance and fall over, but close enough that he can feel you there. Believe me, he’ll notice!
4. Do something spontaneous (but not crazy). Did it just snow? Suggest you go make snow angels. Is it superhot? What about taking a run through the school sprinklers? Guys love it when girls are willing to try new, silly things.
5. Be a good friend. By being there if he needs to talk or wants a study-buddy, you’re showing him that you really care. Just remember not to forfeit your own life for his. You don’t want to be the kind of person who is always hanging around, like the third wheel.
6. The good-ole music mix. Make him an iPod mix or burn a CD with some of your favorite songs. As DJ AM says, “The best way to get closer to a guy you have a crush on is to have a music-listening session together.”
Guys Tell It Like It Is: What’s Hot and What’s Not
“I think it’s hot when I see a girl and she smiles at me. It’s like she wants me to come talk to her.” — Patrick, 16
“It’s a total turnoff when a girl has a dirtier mouth than I do. It doesn’t make you tougher to swear. It just makes you look pathetic.” — Evan, 16
“I love it when a girl wears my baseball hat.” — Zach, 16
“Any girl I go out with has to like my dog.” — Carter, 16
Grant on . . . Spontaneity
I loved dating girls who were up for anything. I remember, when Sarah and I were first dating, we were on a hike and I convinced her to go swimming underneath a waterfall. The waterfall was actually runoff from a glacier, and the water was so cold you couldn’t breathe. There were tons of people around, but no one would dare get in the water. I waded in and, after feeling how cold it was, told her she didn’t have to do it, but she dove in headfirst anyway, and I had newfound respect for her. None of the other girls I’d gone out with would’ve ever had the guts to jump in.
Taking Matters into Your Own Hands: How to Ask Him Out
After two months of flirting during physics class, you can barely take it anymore. Why can’t your lab partner just man-up and ask you out?! Sometimes guys are so shy, they might never get up the nerve to call and ask if you want to hang out on Friday night (like it’s that hard). You might have to be the one to take the plunge.
Some girls don’t think it’s cool to be the one doing the asking, but remember that we aren’t living in the early 1900s anymore. Our feminist sisters didn’t fight for our rights for nothing! So unless you are seriously opposed to women asking men on dates, take a deep breath and make the call. It’s not like you’re asking him to spend the rest of his life with you. It’s just one night. And if you’re super nervous about letting him know you’re into him, ask him to come hang out with a few people. Remember, there’s safety in numbers.
Girl Talk: Would You Ask Him Out?
“If you’re a girl, and you’re brave and confident enough to ask a guy out, I say GO FOR IT!” — Lindsay, 14
“I used to wait for guys to make the first move, but now I’ve found it’s better to just do it myself so I won’t have to sit around waiting and playing games.” — Lyndie, 17
“[The issue of] asking guys out is one of those things that makes me an embarrassment to the feminist movement. I never ask [guys] out on dates. I think the guy should make the first move. Otherwise, what is he? Shy? A pushover?” — Heather, 16
“I don’t ask guys out on dates. I try to give enough hints, gestures, and contact to let them know that I’m interested, and then they pick it up from there.” — Jessi, 15
When Teen magazine asked JJ from NLT how he’d feel if a girl asked him out, he said, “I think it would be absolutely adorable because it shows that she really likes me and doesn’t care what other people think.” What a guy!
Video: A teen girl’s guide to boys (on this page)
How to Ask Him Out Without Actually Asking
You know you like him, and you think he feels the same way. At some point, someone’s going to have to make a move. Here are a few ways to suggest that the two of you get together without spelling out the fact that you’re dying to go on a date with him.
How to Ask Him Out Without Actually Asking
1. Pick up some movie passes and, the next day at school, pull them out of your bag while he’s around. Mention that you’re dying to see the latest Jessica Alba flick. Maybe he’d be interested in tagging along?
2. You’re going to a party and want to make sure he’s going to be there. A simple text saying you’ll look for him that night says it all.
3. Bump (yes, literally) into him before lunch and say you’re running out to grab a bagel. You’d love some company. (And what guy can turn down food?)
When He Won’t Take the Bait
You’ve tried everything and still can’t seem to get through to the guy? Either he’s going blind (in which case you’ll have to rely on your melodic voice and passionate conversational skills to win him over), or, more likely, he’s “just not that into you.” Harsh, but you don’t want to waste your flirting finesse on someone who’s not interested. Here are a few telltale signs that it’s time to move on:
He blows you off on a regular basis. Whether he forgets to call you back, doesn’t return your e-mails, or ditches out on Saturday night plans, if he’s not reciprocating the communication, it probably means he doesn’t care to communicate at all.
He tells you what a great friend you are. By reinforcing your “friend” status, he’s saying he doesn’t want to take things to the next level.
You see him flirting with other girls. While this might not necessarily be directed at you, it’s a definite sign his heart is somewhere else.
She’s Been There
“I really liked this guy, and for a while I thought he liked me back. We talked a lot and kind of flirted in class, but every time I asked him to do something, he already had other plans. Then one night I asked him to go to this party with me, and he said he had a family dinner. I skipped the party since I didn’t have a date and went to a movie with my mom. Guess who was there on a date with another girl? I just wish he wouldn’t have led me on if he liked someone else.” — Cassie, 17
Part of the fun of crushing on someone is talking about it, but remember to be discreet and refrain from posting all your feelings on MySpace. Telling the whole school you’re in love with your lab partner could get embarrassing, both for you and the guy. It might be cute at first — what guy doesn’t like being the object of someone’s affection? But after a while, it will just get annoying and seem really junior high. (Not to mention, you don’t want your former feelings following you around forever once you’ve started crushing on someone else.) Instead of blabbering about him to everyone, just keep it between a few good friends — but feel free to gush to them all you want!
Grant on ... Flirting
The first phase of any flirting is eye contact, whether you’re twelve or twenty. It’s tough being a guy because you’re always afraid of putting yourself out there. You don’t want to be rejected. That’s why girls have to step up a little. If he’s giving you sidelong glances, he’s into you, but he’s trying to play it cool. If you’re interested, smile back or something, so he knows he’s not about to look like an idiot when he comes up to talk to you.
Making His Move
Suppose you’re just minding your own business, and a guy you know starts treating you a little differently. What’s the deal? Is he giving you the puzzled look because he’s wondering what you’re thinking, or because you have something in your teeth? When he says “hi” in the hall, is he just being nice, or is he seeking you out? With all the seeming mixed signals guys put out there, how are you supposed to know if he’s hitting on you or just being weird? Here are some signals that are not at all mixed.
He gives you a playful nudge or poke in the side. This is basically left over from his days on the playground when he would punch girls if he liked them. By finding a way to touch you, he’s showing he’s interested, but he’s doing it in a way that doesn’t put him at risk for getting rejected.
He wants to help out. If he’s willing to volunteer with you on a Saturday morning or help you study, there’s a good chance he’s head over heels. Not only is he offering up his free time, but he wants to feel like he’s doing something to deserve you. Such a guy move!
He offers you a ride home. This is a roundabout way of saying he wants to be alone with you and at the same time wants to make sure you get home safely. So cute!
He gives you a nickname. He might as well come right out and say he’s into you, because coming up with a “pet” name, even if it is a joke, shows that he’s been thinking about you and thinks you deserve some special treatment.
Guys Tell It Like It Is: Love Those Pearly Whites!
“The first thing I look for in a girl is a good smile. Then I go for good conversation. If she has both, I’ll definitely ask her out.” — Will, 17
He does something to impress you. Whether it’s winning a basketball game or telling you he aced his physics test, he wants you to see what a hot commodity he is. And as Madison, 17, says, “I like guys that try to impress me. I think it’s kinda sexy.”
Girl Talk: Go for It!
“The best way for a guy to get my attention is if he just straight out asks me out or if he tells me he likes me. Hands down, that takes guts .... ” —Jasmine, 17
“I think it’s really attractive when you see a hot guy, and then he just gives you this certain smile that makes your heart melt. That’s usually when you can tell a guy is into you. Or when they see you or are saying good-bye and give you a hug — not a stupid hug but one that they hold for a little bit.” — Mimi, 16
Video: A teen girl’s guide to boys (on this page)
Texting and IMs will never replace good old-fashioned face-to-face flirting, but they can be a great way to get things going, especially if you get tongue-tied when you chat with a total cutie. Not only is texting super convenient, but it gives you a little breathing room to gauge how he feels, too. A 2007 Associated Press/AOL poll shows that 43 percent of teenagers IM things they wouldn’t say in person. Hmmm. I wonder what they’re saying!
A Few Things to Remember When Text Flirting
Keep it short and simple. Any conversation that’s going to be longer than two screens is too long for a text. Not only can it get annoying to flip through the message, but guys can have short attention spans. If you have lots to say, just make the call.
Don’t send text after text after text. Text messages should be a short version of a conversation, so let him reply to you before sending another one. You don’t want to be the only one having the conversation.
Sometimes text flirting gets lost in translation. Before you flip out because he sends you a “c u” message, make sure you know exactly what he means. He probably isn’t breaking up with you, just turning his phone off for class.
“I do a lot of text messaging. It’s easy to flirt with girls via text. You throw the little Xs, the little smiley faces .... But if the texts continue for more than three or four trades, you’ve got to make the phone call.” — Chris Evans, actor
Quiz: What’s Your Flirt Style?
Answer Yes or No to the following questions to figure out what kind of flirt you are!
1. When you see a cute guy at a party, you go over and start a conversation with him.
2. You ask guys out more often than they ask you out.
3. You have more guy friends than girlfriends on your MySpace.
4. You’re pretty sure the guy you like knows it.
5. If your friend sees a hot guy at a concert, you’re the one who asks for his number.
6. You kiss every guy you go out with.
7. Your friends get jealous because you get all the guys.
8. You check your crush’s MySpace page every day, if not every hour.
9. You know all of your crush’s friends.
10. More than one person has called you a “total flirt.”
If you answered Yes to all 10 questions, you are a CONFIDENT CHICK.
If you see something you want, you aren’t afraid to go for it. Most of the time, that’s one of your best qualities, but sometimes you come across as too confident and too much of a flirt. It doesn’t hurt to leave some things to the imagination. So next time a guy asks what you’re thinking about, don’t say ”you” — even if you can’t get your mind off of him. Keep him on his toes!
If you answered Yes to 5–9 questions, you are a SELECTIVE SWEETIE.
You are the perfect balance of flirty and friendly. You don’t try too hard to be sexy, and you don’t spend all your time thinking about guys. (But you are willing to make the first move if he isn’t taking the hint.) Your mix of flash and modesty is one of the reasons guys think you’re so hot!
If you answered Yes to fewer than 5 questions, you are a BASHFUL BABE.
There’s nothing wrong with shying away from flirting if there’s no one you’re interested in, but make sure you aren’t avoiding it just to save yourself from getting hurt! Love and relationships are risky, but they’re totally worth it. Don’t be afraid to put yourself on the line once in a while! Let loose a little. Flirting is meant to be fun!
Excerpted from “Boyology: A Teen Girl’s Crash Course in All Things Boy” by Sarah O’Leary Burningham. Copyright (c) 2009, reprinted with permission from Chronicle Books.
© 2012 MSNBC Interactive