I used to scoff at seemingly shallow dating apps such as Tinder (and its less popular stepsister, Hot or Not) that blatantly tell you whether or not someone thinks you’re attractive. But now, I’m starting to understand the appeal.
Not only do they prevent you from total humiliation when you confess your unrequited feelings to someone, but they are also a huge time-saver. After all, who wants to invest tons of energy and time trying to plan the perfect outfit and upload the cutest pictures to social media only to find out there was never a possibility of landing a certain someone in the first place?
But what do you do in real life when you can’t swipe right, and you just aren’t sure if this thing you have with your heart’s desire is in your head? What do you do about the dreaded mixed signals?
This dilemma has been especially pertinent in my life lately. For the sake of this column, I will confess that I have been — well, I’m reluctant to use the phrase “lusting after” — I have been intrigued by a certain man on a certain sports team.
Technically, he is quite athletic, but do girls like me really care about his sporting… skills? Not particularly. It’s obvious that he can catch a ball, but I care more about whether he’s a catch himself — oh, and whether he looks good in his uniform.
(Update: he does.)
When I happened to attend a few games, I couldn’t help but gaze in his direction, and the weird part is that the gaze seemed to be reciprocated. There was eye contact, there was smiling, and there was definitely smizing. The first time it happened I shrugged it off as wishful thinking; when it happened again and again, however, I was nearly certain.
Something was there.
The following week I excitedly donned a stylish outfit, applied lipstick and brushed up on sports terminology (that last part is a lie). When I arrived I must have looked more fly than usual because a few guys turned their heads.
Weaving my way through the packed seats, I glanced over at my man — he didn’t seem to notice. As the game progressed, I saw that he not only didn’t notice but he also didn’t care. Gone were the days of dreamy stares. Instead, he looked at the ground as he passed me, and I swear that he deliberately angled his body so that he was facing away from me.
I suddenly felt like a little fool, although not a beautiful one. Why was I spending my day freezing only to be frozen out? I was — and am — confused. Did I do something wrong? Was my developmental psychology professor talking about love, too, when she taught us about habituation? Has he become bored to the stimulus? He is clearly a 10; am I just a D-III?
Angry but fascinated I decided to use this disappointing experience as a research opportunity. (This is Hopkins, of course.) I interviewed the friend I idolize most, a gorgeous inside-and-out graduate student in Paris, and asked if mixed signals were real.
“Yes,” she replied. “And they’re awful.”
Most of the other results were similar: “Of course they are,” another friend said. “Just look at that pickup artist website.” A few online articles were different, though. Elite Daily claims that there is no such thing as mixed signals — we should know when a man is interested, and if we don’t we’re in denial.
But then it hit me: What if he is just as tormented as I am? Maybe he can’t read me any better than I can read him. With that in mind, I’ve realized that trying to passively interpret signals from this athlete won’t win me any points. Instead, it’s time to make a play.