Wednesday, May 14 — Q: There’s this girl in my social circle I’d wanted to ask out for a while. Two months ago, I finally got up the nerve, but she politely declined, saying she wasn't “ready to date yet” after her last relationship. Since then, she’s started dating some other guy, and their pictures are all over Facebook. I unfollowed her from my News Feed, but I still see her with this guy in friends’ photos. Would it be completely petty to unfriend her? I feel like that would make me look even more jilted and bitter. And I still have to see her at parties and stuff.
A: Facebook is complicated. Sure, there are privacy settings and other controls, but these tend to be more porous than the U.S.-Mexican border. In fact, there’s only one surefire way to avoid seeing somebody in your News Feed, and that’s covering your computer screen with duct tape.
Unfortunately, this won’t help you at parties or the supermarket, since you can only unfriend somebody; you can’t unexist them. Well, not without the possibility of life in prison. But take a step back. You’re feeling “jilted and bitter”? A woman you asked out left you in limbo; she didn’t make a run for it while you were standing together at the altar. She also didn’t wrong you by saying she wasn’t “ready to date yet.” Maybe that was the truth at the time; maybe she won’t be ready to date you ever. A person you ask out doesn’t owe you complete honesty — well, except on whether they’ll open the door and come out when you swing by on Friday night or stockpile weapons and barricade themselves in their house.
Chances are, you wouldn’t be so Mr. Resentypants if you hadn’t pined after this girl for eons and “finally” asked her out. Turning her into a months-long project for your ego made getting a “yes” from her way too important. You probably did this because you’re rejection-avoidant. This isn’t to say the rest of us are all, “Yay, rejection. More, please.” But that sort of attitude — constantly flipping the bird at your fears and taking social risks — is how you get okay enough with rejection to live your life like you’ll be dead soon instead of like you’re dead now.
Getting comfortable in Rejectionville is easier if your self-worth comes from the inside. This is something you may need to work toward. But even if you can’t immediately stop seeing every rejection as confirmation of your loserhood, you can at least stop acting as if you do. Just reinterpret each rejection as a sign to go after the next woman. (Acknowledge disappointment, lick wounds, move on.) Before long, you should be bouncing back surprisingly fast. You should also find yourself reserving your scorn for the truly deserving, like if you ask a woman whether she’d like to have a drink sometime and her response is, “Sure I would. Here’s my address. Leave a bottle of chilled white wine on my doorstep, ring the bell, and run.”
Q: I’m a 23-year-old woman who’s clueless about how to flirt with a stranger. I'm not really good at small talk, and sometimes I'll see a cute guy at the coffeehouse and wonder later whether I could have sent some signals his way. All my boyfriends have started as friends, so I never really learned this stuff.
A: Flirting isn't the only way to get a stranger to stop for you — but it tends to be more socially acceptable than shooting a tranquilizer dart into their neck. Flirting from across a coffee shop is an expert-level maneuver and requires time you may not have if a guy is just running in for a latte. Behavioral science researchers find that it generally takes repeated instances (say, three) of a woman making eye contact with a man and then looking away for him to go, “Wait — who, me?”
A better bet is moseying over while the guy is at the coffee fixings bar or sitting down at the table next to his and casually saying something. You don’t need to be good at small talk — just small questions. Ask about something. Anything. His antique watch. His haircut. Where the whole milk ran off to. And then, instead of trying to sell him on you, keep asking him about himself. (When you keep a conversation focused on another person, they’re more likely to warm to you.) Don’t worry if you come off a little nervous or awkward. If a guy’s into you, it won’t matter. Even if he isn’t, he’ll probably be pleasantly surprised by your interest, as men who are not movie stars are rarely approached by women who aren’t begging for drug money or out on the street after gnawing through their bed restraints.
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