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Ask Jono: Dating, For Shy People

Ask Jono: Dating, For Shy People

Dear Jono,

I'm 17 and have been on a total of one date(s). People are usually shocked when I tell them this, and ask why "a girl like me" hasn't really dated and possesses the flirtation skills of a two-by-four. The truth is I WOULD like to have more guy friends and start dating around, but it's hard for me. I'm a naturally quiet person, but if I get to know someone well enough I open up. The thing is guys don't really pay attention to me because I'm reserved. They do pay attention to the out-going and loud girls, but I'm practically invisible to compared to them. So I guess my question is for all shy sparklers, (and manklers really): How can shy people date?

"Shy" can mean anything from "I feel dandy but I'm kinda quiet" to "I can't leave the house, there are humans outside." You seem like you're the former, but I'm going to try to make this applicable to everyone, even the people who just go OH NO BLAUGH and dive into a pile of coats at the sight of the opposite sex.

There are two parts to this whole dumb sweaty mess: getting the dates in the first place, then surviving them with only several embarrassing disasters. If you were hoping for zero embarrassing disasters, abandon that pipe dream right now. In fact, you may just want to bring a cheesecake to your first date and blop it directly onto your date's lap, because something like that will happen anyway and you might as well just get it out of the way early. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Part 1: I Only Thought Of Two Ways To Get Dates Because I Stink.

1.) Activities
Guys aren't attracted to loud girls, exactly. They're attracted to girls who are fun, or girls with whom they have stuff in common, and being outgoing can communicate that stuff. If you could just wear a signboard that says DATE ME I'M FUN, you'd... well, get sent to a counselor, but you'd probably also get dates. The point is that you don't have to be arm-flailingly wacky; you just need to smile and say a few words so people don't misread your shyness as boringness or grumpiness.

Being forced to socialize in some new context is one way to find people who are like you, and to show people what you're like. I have personally been hit on in a photography darkroom, under the pretense of being asked about the developing process, on two separate occasions. Of course all I did was go OH NO BLAUGH and dive into a pile of coats, but the point is that the activity, photography, gave everyone a reason to hang out in a non-class setting. Clubs, drama, co-ed sports... if you're doing things that are legal with alive humans, you're on the right track.

2.) Through friends
I know this is more of a grade-school thing—someone whispers that someone said that so-and-so likes you, then so-and-so pushes you in the mud and calls you gross, and you are officially dating. As flawed as the system may be, it remains a no-pressure way to gauge someone's interest without risking actual rejection. Of course, it's just as likely you'll tell your friends that you like someone and they'll tell someone and that someone will tell no one, and then everyone, collectively, has accomplished nothing. But if you're super shy, it's still a way to test the waters.

Part 2: Someone Considers You At Least More Dateable Than The Blob; Now What?

Once you've met people, or if meeting people was less of a problem for you than actually following through, keep these three things in mind.

You have to take risks.
This is the hardest thing to do if you're shy. What if you ask someone out and he says no? You will die, and be dead forever, because you are a terrible failure. What if your date goes badly? Dogs will poop on your forgotten grave, which will just say "RIP, IDIOT."

But of course none of that will happen. You're only nervous about something insofar as it's unfamiliar to you; this is why alligator-wranglers can wrestle alligators for a living, while the rest of us will panic over how to shoo a mouse out of the kitchen. Rejection and date failure are not fun things, but nor are they the end of the world, and it's easier to shrug them off once you've experienced them a few times.

Know what to expect.
Once you've landed a date, you can't just show up and go DATE MODE: HAPPEN! and suddenly be engaging in cheerful banter. The beginning, after the hi-how-are-yous, is the hard part; there will be awkward pauses and nervous laughter and grueling conversations about absolutely nothing, which brings me to:

The concept of practicing for a date will sound certifiably stupid to non-shy people. "What are you talking about??" they will ask, bewildered. "What, are you going to forget your date's name and accidentally eat your spoon instead of your food??"

Yes. Yes we will do that.

If you're shy and have never dated, be prepared for the fact that you will have to get over your nervousness long enough to say words with your mouth. Practice this by trying to be more outgoing and talkative with the people you're already close to (friends, siblings) because if you can't manage an easy, casual conversation with them, your date will be conversation torture. "That's a nice scarf," you date will say. "Thunk you very much, I knitted self... it... myscarf! Myself." you will manage, before missing your face entirely and dumping coffee wildly over your shoulder.

I'm sorry I don't have more to give you here. Maybe there's a way to woo a dashing gentleman just by saying the exact right thing or making sultry faces, but that's not really my department, and if you took my advice on flirty looks you'd scare everyone away and sprain an eyeball. Besides, Auntie has covered that. In the end, all I can tell you is to put yourself in a position where people will notice you and where you'll warm up to them, and don't get discouraged.

What do you talk about on dates?

Related post: A Guy's Guide to Mastering the Movie Date

Topics: Life
Tags: flirting, dating, shyness, advice, ask jono

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