Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Flutter those lashes, girl

A German scientist, Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt, once studied women’s flirting behavior and
found that nearly all women make the same facial movements when they flirt, in the exact same order. They
  1. Smile.
  2. Lift their eyebrows in a fast, jerky motion.
  3. Open their eyes wide (a sign of sympathetic system arousal, which means that the “Hey, pay attention!” part of our nervous system has kicked into gear).
  4. Lower their eyelids.
  5. Tilt their heads down and to the side (a universal sign of submission in the animal kingdom).
  6. Look away.
Sound like anyone you know? These flirting gestures are so universal that Eibl-Eibesfeldt believes they’re innate sexual signals evolved from the beginning of human history.

Interpreting Body Language

Your body speaks louder than words. So does your date’s. How many dates will tell you flat out that they’re having a rotten time? Few, if any. Yet how many will catch periodic glimpses of their watch? Hopefully, not many. In the mating game, women use their heads, and men use their chests. Literally. Women toss their hair or sweep their heads back as a sign of attraction; men simply puff out their chests. It’s a throwback to our primitive pasts when big, burly Cro-Magnon men and savvy Cro-Magnon women were the kings and queens of the veldt. Now, in our modern jungle, the signs are still there. You just have to know what to look for.
If you spend all your time looking at nonverbal cues, you’re not going to be focusing on what your date is saying and you’re not going to be doing your part about spontaneously responding. So chill out here and don’t spend more than a millisecond of your precious time together “studying” your date. If you do, you’ll both be miserable.
Reading body language is far from an exact science. It’s one part observation, two parts interpretation. People cross their arms when they’re cold as well as closed off. Look for consistent groups of gestures or a suddenly inconsistent movement. Look for patterns, but don’t get hung up here. Focus on what you’re saying verbally to one another and look to nonverbal clues only when in doubt.

Flirting Fun

Remind yourself that you’re here to have fun, and your jaw unclenches, your shoulders drop down, your eyes sparkle, your breathing slows, and you’re ready to flirt.
Flirting is a delicious, low-budget, irresistible, safe-sex sort of way to make you and your date feel tingly all over. The essence of flirting is interest. No one ever flirts with anyone they don’t want to know a little bit better. That’s why flirting on a first date can be so alluring. You’re showing your date you didn’t make a mistake. You’re interested and ready to go. What could be sexier that that? (Okay, I know, but not yet.)
Here’s a quick list of what to do (and not do) when flirting with your date:
  • Use your whole body. Talking the talk without walking the walk is utterly ineffective. Don’t believe it? Try telling a woman she’s beautiful or a guy he’s hunky and then shift your eyes away, and see if you’re believed. Flirty body language begins with the eyes and works its way all the way down to the tips of your footsies. Lean forward, make eye contact, smile, bend your knees a bit, and untense your hands and arms. Remember to relax a bit; this should be fun, not like defusing a bomb.
  • Make eye contact. Looking someone in the eyes is very compelling. It makes a person feel like they’ve got your undivided attention, which they should.
  • Smile, don’t smirk. There’s a reason why synonyms for smirk include sneer, leer, and grimace: Smirking is an unattractive and unpleasant expression. Avoid it. Smile openly and sincerely — it’s irresistible.
  • Pay attention. No looking like you’re trying to remember if you fed the cat.
  • Lighten up; don’t bulldoze. Telling your date he or she is incredibly hot isn’t flirting; it’s steering your dating experience directly into a mountain.
  • Focus on your partner, not yourself. Without slipping into a Barbara Walters–type litany of prefabricated questions — such as “Whom do you most admire?” or “If you were a farm animal, what kind would you be?” —make your date feel as though every word is a pearl of wisdom.
  • Don’t think you can’t do it. Anyone can flirt . . . even if only a little. Flirting is a sign of confidence, and even if you’re feeling a teensy bit shaky, give it a try. Practice makes perfect and flirty. You don’t have to be smooth — just sincere.
  • Enjoy yourself. Fun is the flirter’s playground. Once you’re having fun, getting others to play is easy.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Religion Topics in Dating

If the word “Christmas” or “Hanukkah” slips out while you’re relaying a funny family story, so be it. If the Bible or the Torah or a Jehovah’s Witness brochure slips out while you reach for your wallet, that’s a bit over-the-top. Religion and your relationship (or non-relationship) with whomever you may or may not believe in is your own business — at least for now. You don’t want to put your date on the spot. If your date puts you on the spot by asking, say, whether you believe in God, simply change the subject by asking her whether she believes O. J. was guilty.

Politics Topic in Dating

Current events are good conversational fodder. But your position on the death penalty? Abortion? Welfare reform? The president? National health insurance? The Teamsters? Gun control? A bit risky. The potential payoff isn’t worth the risk. If your date shares your political views, is he being truthful or just agreeable? Do you really want a full-scale argument on your first date?
If you show up in a red tie, navy blue blazer, button-down white shirt, khaki pants, and brown penny loafers (or wearing suspenders, a belt, and a bow tie), she’s going to assume that you’re a Republican no matter what you say.
Political hot potatoes to avoid at all costs:
_ Police brutality
_ Immigration
_ National health insurance
_ Women in the military
_ Any current war or conflict
_ September 11 (Geographic location may come into play here.)
_ The designated hitter rule
_ Spanking
_ Body piercing
_ And, of course, Elvis

Talking About Your Exes

If you’re not over your ex enough to avoid mentioning him or her on a first date, you’re not ready to date. Even if you were married to Jack or Jackie the Ripper, or dated Jack or Jackie Kennedy, let past relationships come up naturally another time. Talking about a former lover dredges up a c word even more feared than commitment: comparison. Who wants to start off a relationship wondering if you measure up? Or worse, whether you’ll ever be able to erase the sins of another? Besides, on a first date, three is always a crowd.

Sex Topics in Dating

Even if sex is the first thing on your mind, let it be the last thing on your lips. This covers past, present, and future sexual encounters (both real and virtual). Ditto your sex drive, appetite, and online liaisons. Talking about sex before you know someone fairly well is not only threatening, but it’s also confusing. “What did he mean by that?” “Is she coming on to me?” The last thing you want on a first date is ambiguity. You’re trying to build trust here, not test it. Even animals know there’s a ritual involved before mating. Don’t try to short circuit eons of evolution on a first date. (Which is not to say that your date has to seem like opening day at Celibates Anonymous?

Safe Subjects in Dating

Words can knit a warm blanket or cause an explosion. Your directive here is to create a conversational comfort zone by having a group of icebreakers ready. These tidbits are designed to put both you and your date at ease:
  • Weather: I know, this is so trite it’s almost a national joke. However, comments about the weather have more to do with presentation than subject matter. The old chestnut, “Nice weather we’re having,” is a waste. But confiding that the sky was so clear and beautiful you spent your lunch hour barefoot in the park is another story entirely. (Besides, that data gives you a great chance to talk about a great old Neil Simon movie, Barefoot in the Park, starring Jane Fonda and Robert Redford —and right there you’ve taken your budding relationship to another level.)
  • Location: Where you are right now is a great subject for conversation. Commenting on the colors, smells, sounds, and tastes in a positive way (no griping allowed) allows you to share the experience.
  • Friends in common: Beware of gossip, but establishing links is a very good idea.
  • News events: Be up-to-date; read the paper, a news magazine, People, whatever.
  • Popular culture: Talk about plays, movies, concerts, rock stars, and so on.