Help, I'm an awkward child! There's a boy in my math and English classes whom (Who? Whom? I'm not quite sure) I like. Let's call him... Zach (*note* that is not his real name. Not even close). He talks to me and flirts with me *sometimes* although I'm not quite sure if he's just being friendly or flirting because, again, I am an awkward (and sheltered) child. Once, he told me (as a joke) that he could make his leg hair into dreadlocks. I'm not quite sure what his intent was, but I couldn't stop laughing. I like Zach a lot but I feel like he might be out of my league since I'm a little bit of a nerdy/quirky girl and he's a popular football player (and no, I swear I did not mean for this to sound like a Taylor Swift song). My question is, are there chances between nerdy girls and popular football players everywhere? Is he just being nice? And how can you tell if a guy is just being nice or flirting?
"Whom." And I'll bet Zach's real name is, like, Zlach, or Zoch, or DJ Zachford. This question seems to be two distinct questions, so let's break it down into two parts.
1.) Nerdy girls and popular football players??
This isn't just possible, it's the theme of maybe one-third of all romances. I would call this theme "Nerdy Girl Removes Her Unconfidence Glasses, Dates Hotsy McBiceps," but TV Tropes has given it the more straightforward name "Beautiful All Along." Of course, in all of these movies, the "nerdy girl" is merely an extremely attractive actress who happens to wear her hair up and actually do her homework. She gets a montage where she takes off her glasses and stops going to museums, whereupon she becomes stunning. She shows up at prom with Hotsy and everyone goes "Huhhh??? Ptooo!" as they spit-take their non-alcoholic beverages all over the gymnasium.
Despite the silliness of this plot, it's not actually far from the truth in your case, because I'm pretty sure this dude already does find you attractive, so the only barrier is the popularity difference. Popularity might seem important right now, but the mere fact that I told you to say "whom" and have dated a nonzero number of girls is proof that nobody cares about popularity in adulthood. Nobody cares whether you play chess or are friends with all the cheerleaders. In fact, I imagine that being friends with all of the cheerleaders would put me on some kind of FBI watch list. The point is, if both of you are mature about these things, you can safely ignore the popularity differential, and go by the rule of thumb I so frequently offer you: if you suspect a guy is flirting with you, he probably is.
2.) Flirting or just being friendly?
If a dude goes out of his way to make you laugh, in a one-on-one conversation, and then you do laugh, there's a good chance you two like each other (or at least could). This is a big generalization, and it is not always true, but usually, dudes don't expend that kind of effort on girls they're not at all attracted to. If a generic high school guy—one who's a little bit awkward, somewhat shy, and uncertain of himself—has to converse with a girl he's not into, he'll just be like "the weather sure is... outside," or "so, how about... nothing," and spend the rest of the time not engaging with you, in polite but unromantic silence.
Of course, there are outgoing, personable people who thrive on banter and attention, as Not-Zach seems to be. I still don't think that's the case here, because he's not just chatting up everybody, he's repeatedly talking to you. But let's assume, for the sake of argument, that Zarch is the most personable boy in the world, and will say flirty-seeming things to anybody and everybody. So forget what he's saying, and concentrate on how he's saying it.
When he talks to you, is he the one who comes over to you? When he does, does he ever touch you (on the arm or shoulder, sheesh)? If you're sitting next to each other, does he pivot his body to face you? Does he look constantly into your eyes, as though he would like to make out with your eyeballs?
The big one: does he learn stuff about you during these conversations and then actually remember it?
All of these are signs of flirty interest, but the last one is the most telling. If you've got that, then it doesn't matter if he throws a tight spiral and you can merely cast magic missile. You like each other's personalities, and you seem like you're attracted to each other, and those two things matter far more than sharing specific hobbies or being popular.
So flirt back a little bit, and see how he reacts—even though I'm constantly implying that all boys are hopeless goons, they do usually realize flirting when they see it, and they won't keep acting friendly and playful if they think they're giving you the wrong impression. If he gets all weird and stuttery and then says he has to leave and walks into a wall, then he was just trying to be friendly this whole time. If he stays friendly and flirty, he's genuinely interested, and since he's pretty outgoing, enough flirtation on your part will probably result in his asking you out. If not, you may have to woman up and do the asking yourself.
Do you agree?