July 5, 2013 at 12:15 PM ET
It's nerve-wracking isn't it? No matter where you meet a guy—at a bar, a friend's house or even church—the facts remain: You have to wonder what he's thinking and figure out how to tell if he really likes you. But did you know that men are pre-programmed to send out physical clues when they're interested in a woman? Read this excerpt of Superflirt by Tracey Cox and learn how to read any guy's body language with ease.
Legend has it that men make the first move, then plead, cajole, wine, dine and basically bribe (via chocolates, flowers and dinner dates) women into their bachelor pads to either a) have their wicked way or b) get down on bended knee. Women—sweet, passive, delicate little flowers that we are—start out strong by defying his attentions, until sheer persistence breaks down our resistance and we agree to...a sherry. Meanwhile, we fill our days by reading romance novels and peering from behind closed curtains, on the watch for knights on big white stallions.
What a load of crap. Women have always made the first move and orchestrated the pace, flow and direction of romantic relationships. Masters of intuition and emotional manipulation, adept at body language, able to gauge the emotional temperature of a room quicker than our nipples stiffen in a breeze, you can bet on it that if he's on his way over, armed with courage and a pickup line, you were the one who lured him.
Women choose from no less than 52 moves to show men they're interested. The average man chooses from a maximum of 10 to attract a female. Good news then, that the average female is usually very good at deciphering body language. Just in case you're not, I've included the obvious, along with signals that are more subtle, secretive and (occasionally) downright loony.
He'll serve you an eyebrow flash. When we first see someone we're attracted to, our eyebrows rise and fall. If they like us back, they raise their eyebrows. The whole thing lasts about a fifth of a second and it happens everywhere in the world—to everyone regardless of age, race, or class. Lifting our brows pulls the eyes open and allows more light to reflect off the surface, making them look bright, large and inviting. A flash might be easy to miss but they're so reliable, if you do spot one, you may know someone likes you before they've even registered it themselves. Deliberately extend it for up to one second and you've drastically upped the chances of him getting the message you're interested.
His lips part. If he likes what he sees, his lips will automatically part for a moment when your eyes first lock.
His nostrils flare and his face generally "opens". The raised brows, parted lips, flaring nostrils and wide eyes give the whole face a friendly "open" expression.
He'll try to attract your attention. For some men, this might mean a subtle tie adjustment along with a silent prayer that you'll notice the flash of movement. Others turn into Bippo the Clown and become so loud and boisterous, they're practically juggling and doing handstands. Any exaggerated movement or gesture usually means he's trying to stand out from the group. Another giveaway: he'll unconsciously detach from his friends by standing slightly apart, hoping to be seen as an individual.
He'll stroke his tie or smooth a lapel. We all know what these preening gestures mean. They're the equivalent of the female lip lick—"I want to look good for you."
He'll smooth or mess up his hair. Which gestures he chooses depends on his hairstyle and what's going to make it look more flattering. Guys do this involuntarily and more often than you think. Glance back next time you trot off to the restroom and I bet his hands will be on their way to touching his hair.
His eyebrows remain slightly raised while you're talking. A slightly surprised, quizzical expression means he finds you fascinating. Or completely nuts. Quite frankly, either are preferable to a man who looks at you with a smooth, relaxed brow and eyes. That one simply finds you boring.
He'll fiddle with his socks and pull them up. In the old days, men only dressed up on special occasions, and while the suit might have survived months in mothballs, the socks invariably continued to get worn (to death). Hence, why he spent half the night pulling them up, in an attempt to look the part. It's an extension of preening and it's astonishingly accurate. If a guy pulls up or adjusts his socks in your presence, it's an almost 100 percent sign he's interested and trying to look his best.
Everything is erect. Ahem. What I mean is he'll stand with all his muscles pulled tight, to show his body off to best advantage. He'll also stand directly in front of you to show full attention and lean forward to get closer.
He'll let you see him checking out your body. Some experts call it "visual voyaging"—his eyes take a little cruise around your body, stopping momentarily at the prettiest ports. Don't kid yourself: he scanned your body automatically the second he laid eyes on you. The difference here is that he's letting you see him do it. The message: I'm considering you as a sexual partner.
He'll spread his legs while sitting opposite, to give you a crotch display. He's letting you have a good look at what's on offer. Hopefully, he still has his jeans or pants on at the time.
He'll stand with hands on hips. This accentuates his physical size and suggests body confidence. It's also a pointing gesture. We point with our hands at our own best sexual assets and also at the parts of our body where we'd most like to be touched. If he spends the night with his hands on his hips, fingers splayed and pointing downward, he's willing you to look, touch and admire the part he's proudest of. All subconscious, of course. Well, it is in most cases...
He'll play with the buttons on his jacket, buttoning and unbuttoning it. It's a displacement activity (fiddling) because you've made him a little nervous, plus an unconscious desire to remove his clothes. The next stage is to push the jacket open and hold it there by putting his hands on his hips. If he takes it off completely, he's imagining his shoes under your bed.
He'll touch his face a lot, while looking at you. If he's interested, he'll stroke his cheek up and down with the back of his fingers, touch his ears, or rub his chin. It's a combination of nervous excitement, preening and autoerotic touching. When we're attracted to someone, our skin (most noticeably our lips and mouth) become increasingly sensitive to touch and other stimulation. If you smoke, you'll take more drags on your cigarette. If you're drinking, you'll take more sips. You start touching your own mouth more because your lips are ultra sensitive and it feels good. Plus, it plants the idea in the other person's mind that it could be a good idea to kiss you.
He'll start squeezing his glass or can or roll it from side to side, slightly squeezing it as he does so. When men are sexually interested, they start playing with circular objects. Why? They remind him of your breasts: his body is "leaking" what's happening in his subconscious mind.
He'll perch on the edge of his seat to get closer. And if he crosses his legs, the top leg will point in your direction.
He'll guide you by putting his arm on your elbow or in the small of your back. The arm guide isn't just good manners and a polite way of guiding you through a crowd; he's making sure he knows exactly where you're going by taking you there. He doesn't want to lose you! It also shows you're being "taken care of" so no other men need volunteer. Along with the arm guide, there'll be lots of accidentally-on-purpose touches.
He'll lend you his coat or sweater. Few guys would be happy to return from the bar to find their girlfriend's evening dress covered by another guy's jacket. Never mind if her teeth were chattering from life-threatening hypothermia. He wants it to be his jacket because it's a protective, sexy, ownership gesture. It says "what's mine is yours," something that's been close to their skin is now close to yours (and vice versa when you give it back). It smelled of him to begin with; it'll smell of you when you return it. Plus, it links you: he has to hang around to get it back.
Tracey Cox is a contributing writer for iVillage. Follow her on Google +.
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.