We’re living in a feminist world — with a great potential for a woman president in the next few months — so the talk of “catching a guy’s eye” can be pretty hard to swallow. Not to worry, we’ve done the mental gymnastics to come up with a middle ground: somewhere between playing too hard to get and playing way too submissive.
What we’re trying to say is, you can totally be a feminist while working your way into a relationship (whether super-serious or not). And even better, these tips will still get you somewhere, regardless of the gender you’re dating, because it’s a human fact that everyone loves the thrill of the chase.
Here’s how to make that air of mystery work to your advantage in the early dating days:
1. Express yourself
Madonna sang about it, and it might as well be the oldest advice in the book. But seriously, there’s something to be said for putting your weird and wonderful personality out there and seeing what comes back to you. Dr. Gail Saltz, psychiatrist and the host of “The Power of Different” podcast, says, “You are an interesting and complex person with multiple areas of interest; share them. Men like women of substance and who provide food for thought.”
2. Fake it ‘till you make it
If you’re still working on that whole individuality thing — and aren’t we all — at the very least, you can try exuding confidence, known to be catnip to the opposite sex. One of the most attractive qualities to a man is confidence, Julia Bekker of relationship recruiting site Hunting Maven says. “A woman who is secure with herself carries herself in a way that is magnetic and irresistible to her admirers. A woman who loves and values herself is not afraid of being alone; she is powerful yet humble and is not jealous or needy. Know your worth, and he will too.”
3. Get inside his head
No, no, we don’t mean stalking his or her Facebook to find out all pertinent likes and interests so that you can become the carbon-copy of his “type.” (Although we won’t fault you for a little Facebook reconnaissance before a big date.) Jennifer Seiter, general manager of Exboyfriend Recovery, recommends taking the psychological approach to snag a guy’s interest — namely, the "ZE" (zeigarnik) effect. According to Seiter, “Human beings remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed ones. Therefore, the more you can effectively start and end a conversation prematurely, you will create an open loop that will continually keep a man coming back for more.”
4. Sack up
Sorry, but it had to be said. We are women of the new millennium, and we don’t need no Sadie Hawkins dance to ask out the man or woman of our dreams. Dr. Saltz recommends calling up your love interest and asking them on a date (no matter how much the idea makes you want to throw up into your shoes). Not every time, but sometimes — because feeling wanted and desired makes you want to stick around, she says. “You shouldn’t always wait for him to do the asking.”
5. Don’t be the booty call
And here’s where the art of restraint comes in if you want to really “hook” your catch, i.e., steer things into more serious relationship territory. Don’t put up with being treated like a booty call, and you most likely won’t be one, Dr. Saltz explains. The hard truth is that men don’t want to keep dating someone who they view as easy and desperate (not to mention you feeling used). “You need to assume you will be treated with respect and appreciation and not behave in ways that belie otherwise,” Dr. Saltz says.
6. Act like a partner
We may be talking about playing your cards right to move forward in a relationship, but a successful match isn’t all about silly mind games. As Bekker points out, if you want to be a partner, then you need to act like one whenever you’re given the opportunity. “Men want to know that the person they are with can be a good partner — someone they can rely on, someone who can bring something to the table,” she explains.
Try alternating who pays the bill at dinner or buy a few rounds of drinks. Surprise the guy or gal you’re dating with tickets to see their favorite band or sports game or even bring over some of their favorite ice cream when you know they’ve had a bad day. Showing up and making those small gestures speaks volumes, Bekker says. And it also shows that you’re ready and willing to enter into a relationship.
Originally published Aug. 2011. Updated Sept. 2016.