Monday, January 24, 2011


As many of you know, I go to a small school that isn't known for its casual dating scene. In fact, its lack of a casual dating scene is the cause of much infamy, speculation, and angst. As other students create layers of manipulation and intrigue designed to catch the eye of a special someone, we're usually content to read about layers of manipulation in Machiavelli's The Prince. Inevitably though, every year we have freshmen come in who are unaware of the solitary state of most of our lives, and think that any number of terrible ideas will bring them love and happiness by Thanksgiving.

We've now begun a new semester, so I'd like to offer some helpful advice for anyone (freshman or otherwise) pursuing romance this spring. Beyond the bland "focus on your studies" mantra, if your lonely heart simply can't handle it any more, at least avoid making a few common blunders.

1. "The Hover." Single ladies everywhere have been using this bad idea for years. It consists of being readily available whenever that special someone might need you, because you never leave his side. You're quick to point out that "we're just friends!" even though the whole point of your friendship is to be more than friends.

This is a terrible idea not because friendship is bad (though they might disagree), but because it offers no incentives to change the relationship status. If a boy can see you whenever he wants without having to pay for dates, please explain to me why he'd ever ask you out? You incentivize these things by removing the reward (your unbeatable friendship) until the appropriate action (him committing) has been accomplished.

2. "Playing Mind Games." As fun and exciting as it is to overanalyze every facet of your would-be relationship like it's a Lit Class assignment, it just isn't very productive. We've all done it: drawn an elaborate connection between his glance at you at lunch and how he asked to borrow a pencil, and then carefully planned out a whole conversation about how much you love polo shirts because he wore one last week and will definitely see that it's a subtle hint you're into him.

This is behavior that kills Cupid's invisible hand. See, if someone wants to buy frozen enchiladas, they probably go the grocery store, pick up a box, pay for them, and take them home. This tells makers of frozen enchiladas that their product is good, and it's worth it to keep producing. If someone dropped hints to the frozen green beans that enchiladas were really good, but walked away without a box, that sends a mixed message and seriously hurts the supply and demand market. You reading into non-existent signals usually means you overreact to something he does, because you have a separate narrative running in your head. This makes your behavior strange, mixed, and unpredictable from his view, confusing everyone and making the market rather inefficient.

3. "Fawning." Not actually referring to a baby deer, this is some of the most ridiculous (though sometimes tempting) behavior in the world. Like hoverers, girls who fawn are always by a boy's side. Instead of playing it cool and "just being friends," or risking sending mixed messages like mind gamers, these girls are pathetically obvious. "Haha, Scott, you're just sooo FUNNY!" *Tickle, slap, poke* "Oww! Scott, we all know you're great - you don't have to poke ME to get my attention! Hee hee!"

Apart from the obvious and repulsive kowtowing here, there is an economic principle at work. Market saturation occurs when everyone in a given market niche who wants the product already has it. Fawning is like this. A little bit of flirting and complimenting may be in order. But after awhile, you're just selling flattery to a saturated market. It's time to move on.

Incentives. Clear market signals. Avoiding oversaturation. These three simple steps can help you avoid heartbreak this semester and for many more to come. They may, however, also result in more nights with Aristotle than you originally planned. What can I say? There are always trade-offs.

I was looking out for your heart in:

Black and red geometric print wool pencil skirt, black sleeveless turtleneck sweater, red disk earrings, coin necklace, black tights, and black suede stilettos with bows.