Happy Valentine’s Day! February’s Writing of the Month comes from Jordan Myers, Age 18, of Alexandria, VA. Jordan admits to being a science geek and tries to make sense of love in his Gold Medal-winning Humor piece by developing a theory to explain the dating process. Learn about his journey below and listen to him discuss his work here!
Dating is confusing to those unfamiliar with its rules and regulations. The strange signals that are used by both sides, the inevitable miscommunications that occur, and the discouraging awkwardness that permeates the environment, all conspire to make this vital component of life so difficult to obtain. It appears that each gender has a dissimilar set of standards and perceptions in which they operate, which only serve to maximize confusion. This article describes the author’s attempts to develop a theory to explain the dating process.
After several trials of attempting to successfully navigate the dating scene, the results are inconclusive. There are no observable patterns to love interest; there is no rational process that can describe how love operates; and no logical theory could be induced. The many variables and lack of honest feedback makes understanding dating behavior nearly impossible. Love refuses to be quantifiable.
Love is an odd component of human life. No matter how much one tries to study, rationalize, or change its composition, the body still has an innate fear of this desirable emotion. For example, based on the strict logic of behavioral actions, there is very little to lose from asking someone out. Best case scenario, the suitor lands a date which will lead to a relationship. Worst case scenario, the suitor feels the minor emotional sting of rejection and moves on. And yet, the fear is still paralyzing.
Through rational theory, it is reasonable to surmise that if a male likes a female and that female reciprocates this feeling, then they will spend more time with each other and a relationship will form out of mutual desire. Oddly, this is not the case in the author’s experience. The frequent outcome is: first, the female displays interest and the author attempts to reciprocate. Second, frustration ensues as each misinterprets the other person’s signals. Third, conversation is attempted and ruined due to awkwardness. Fourth, both parties avoid each other to alleviate the discomfort.
The author devised two theories of why high school dating challenges him. (1) The pulchritudinous appearance of the author might intimidate females, resulting in nervous behavior, or perhaps they do not try to pursue the author because they (wrongly) assume that the author knows what he is doing. The assessment of beauty was determined through the following methods: (a) The frequency and duration of female gazes upon the author were noted. The data suggest with a high probability (p < .01) that the author is desirable to see. (b) Comments on the author’s appearances were inconspicuously collected from unbiased sources to determine relative attractiveness. Statements such as “Wow, look at him. He must be the hottest guy in school” lead to the calculation that the author is in the top 0.1 percentile (there are roughly one thousand males in the subject high school). (2) Females do not like the author for social reasons. The author admits that he is socially-challenged in that it is difficult to sustain a long conversation with mere acquaintances. It is difficult to ascertain what females even want in a relationship. By inspection, it is true that sexuality is not the only factor (if it were, the author would not be having these issues). What is the desired balance of romantic and emotional interest? It is not the same thing, as one female was overheard whispering to another after approached by the author, “He’s hot, but I would never date him.”
To test the above theories of dating, the author conducted a series of experiments. In each subsequent dating attempt, the author used the following methodology designed to test both theories of dating. If theory 1 is true, then showing interest in the female should alleviate the tension from interacting with someone of high attractiveness. If theory 2 is true, then females that show romantic interest in the author should be willing to hold conversations with him.
Dating advice was collected from various sources and compiled into a four-stage plan. Each stage is designed to minimize ambiguity and risk of rejection.
Stage 1, Confirm: The first stage consists of confirming the female’s interest in the author. This is broken down into three sub-steps. (1) The classroom is visually scanned to check if the female is staring at the author. If she turns away, this may be due to shyness; the scanning continues until confident the gaze is genuine. (2) Social contact was initiated by talking with her. If she seems friendly, then it is presumed safe to continue. If she is distant or confused, then it is recommended to abort. (3) Her reaction is monitored by eavesdropping on conversations between her friends. For readers that have an ethical objection to this step, please note that this is for assessment purposes only. If she reveals that she is uninterested, then time will be saved for both parties. On a side note, it is amazing what people will say about someone even when that person is within earshot—almost as if they want you to hear it.
Stage 2, Reciprocate: Once the target female’s interest is ascertained, the author displays his affection in two steps. (1) Stare back at her in class. A warning to readers: there is a fine line between being mysteriously sexy and undesirably creepy. Staring at her with a side glance fosters the former image. (2) Seduce her by talking to her and conveying your interest. Compliments always help. If Theory 1 is correct, then this should reduce the female’s fear of approaching the author because she knows the author is interested.
Stage 3, Connect: Establish a personal connection by inquiring about her personal life, such as her hobbies, opinions, etc. By forming a social relationship, it will be much easier to move into a romantic one. If Theory 2 is correct, then creating this connection with the female will improve the author’s social standing, and thus his romantic desirability as well.
Stage 4, Request: When a reasonable association has been achieved, validate the relationship by asking the female on a date. To reduce pressure, the request was made privately and nonchalantly. If accepted, then the relationship is official.
Results and Discussion
The experiment was run multiple times and has achieved different stages with different subjects. For some trials, the author barely got to stage two before being blown off. On a few accounts, the experiment was shut down at stage four. No attempts have been completed successfully. Due to the ambiguous nature of dating attempts, an exact number of trials are unavailable, but it is estimated to be twelve, plus or minus three. The most notable cases have been included below.
Data Point #1
Samantha was the ideal specimen. She was as pretty as she was intelligent—that is, a lot. Prior to taking interest to her, the author enjoyed wonderful conversations with her about several deep topics. Another catalyst is that she was overtly interested. Unlike other infatuated females, Samantha openly stared at the author (she did not turn away when her gaze was returned) and she mentioned him by name when talking to her friends (instead of using an indefinite pronoun). Stage one (confirming her interest) became unnecessary.
The experiment began at stage two. The author scanned the room and rested upon her gazing eyes. Eyes locked and a mutual understanding of affection was secured. After class, the author approached her and began a decent conversation. Unfortunately, this good standing did not remain as stage three was executed. Interestingly, the fact that the interactions were now romantic in nature changed the mood dramatically. What used to be easy conversation turned awkward and she became noticeably uncomfortable. It seems that the pressure was unbearable; she started avoiding the author 1.5 weeks later.
Even this girl who once privately proclaimed herself to be obsessed with the author could not stand him when she got the chance to date him. How discouraging.
Data Point #2
Sadie is delightfully peculiar subject. Although she is verbally very quiet, she expresses herself in her musical talent and intriguing fashion sense. The author tried to ascertain her attraction, but did not get conclusive results until a certain day.
The class was in a barely supervised study hall during the televised speeches for class officer elections. Naturally, the author was ignoring the speeches and playing card games with friends. Sadie, dressed in a cute skirt that complemented her top, sat in a chair near the corner silently observing. After a particularly impressive game, the author rose up to celebrate his victory. At that moment, Sadie lifted her skirt, revealing her dark blue panties, while staring directly at the author. He instinctively licked his lips, and blood rushed to his face (and elsewhere) as he tried to regain his composure. She smiled at the reaction and quickly lowered her skirt. The author, thinking that even he could not misinterpret the meaning of Sadie’s actions, decided to skip to stage three.
Establishing a personal connection proved difficult. Despite her indiscreet attraction to the author, Sadie was distant during conversation. Is there something the author is doing wrong? Is the author so awkward that it is easier to flash him than hold a conversation? This data defies conclusion.
Data Point #3
Josephine was a mysterious target. Her cute face with intelligent eyes often hid behind long, dark flowing hair. She was also bold enough to advance the process herself. During the social contact part of Stage 1, she pulled out the chair next to her, signaling the author to take it. Unfortunately, he was too caught up in the conversation and did not pick up on this cue until later that day. The author recalls thinking to himself, “Why did she pull that chair out? Was she expecting someone to sit there? Oh, wait a minute…” Regardless of this mishap, the female has shown her interest and it is safe to advance to Stage 2. The next day, the author indicated his interest by occupying the chair Josephine had indicated the previous day. Contrary to prediction, this resulted in an awkward moment. Did the author make a mistake? Was there a misinterpretation of her gazes at the author and her worshiping the author to her friends? Why was this so much more uncomfortable than it was just yesterday? Now she seems resistant (perhaps playing hard-to-get?).
It would have been preferable to strengthen the relationship before Stage 4, but the impending school dance compelled premature action. The request was made with an obligatory offering of cookies. She declined on the grounds that she “is not going to that dance.” When asked why not, she simply said “I just don’t like dances. I’m sorry.” Presumably, this was a falsehood to mitigate the feeling of rejection, although ineffective because the intent was obvious.
Against all reason, the author persisted to court her. Evidently, Josephine’s volatile affections—she would express interest on some days and exhibit disfavor on others—caused addictive feelings in the author. This was against his better judgment, as a similar situation has occurred before (not discussed in this article) that only resulted in distress. The agonizing cycle with Josephine continued for one month before the author decided to cut his losses.
It seems that the signals used to confirm her interest in stage one is misleading. Josephine still employs her seductive gazes, which elicits a feeling of torture. She was tantalizingly close, but always just out of reach.
Data Point #4
Wendy has a beautiful face and figure and a fine singer. She is introspective, often seen staring at the distance, but can hold a conversation when she wants to. She resembles the author in that respect. Her audacity is admirable; she has made several advances, which the author did not realize until later. Her reliance on signals will prove to be trouble later on.
Wendy caught the attention of the author when she began seeking conversations with him, which is impressive because few females converse with the author before establishing friendship. Then one day, she sat in the author’s bus seat. The tacit seating chart on the bus made this action highly unusual. It was evident that she held affections for the author but she did not reveal any clues to her behavior. She did not look up, and she left her backpack next to her on the seat. Confused, and taken off guard, the author sat in another seat. There were many components that confused the author: Was she expecting the author to sit next to her? If so, why doesn’t she look inviting? Does she want to experience being won over? The probable reason is that she wanted to have deniability in case it doesn’t work out. Later that day, the author asked Wendy for her rationale for sitting in my seat. Her response: “What? Oh, no, I just saw that the seat was empty and so I took it.” The author concludes that it is inexpedient to address a female’s rationale directly.
This confusing signaling system leads to misinterpretations on both sides. The author took a gamble and sat next to Wendy the following day, but the result was undesirable. She barely responded to small talk and seemed downright uncomfortable. After three days of this, she decided sat at the front of the bus with the rationale, “Oh, I like sitting at the front of the bus. I would do it all the time if there were room.” It seems that displaying interest is not sufficient, nor was the author’s interpretation of signals. This is useful information to remember.
Both theories proposed regarding the author’s inability to date have been proven false. Theory 1, which states that the author’s beauty intimidates females, is unsupported by the data, which indicates that showing interest in the female, which should alleviate that fear, simply causes more fear. Theory 2, which states that females dislike the author for social reasons, is unsupported by the fact that females that have shown interest in the author are prone to avoiding the author without explanation.
The results support the following conclusions: (1) A female staring at the author does not make it easy to approach them. (2) A female discussing how attractive the author is does not indicate desire to date him. (3) A female flashing the author does not designate interest. (4) Even when the female makes the first move, pursuing her is futile.
There does not seem to be a theory on how to understand this complex yet critical behavior known as dating. It is unfortunate that the females in this study will not provide honest feedback. Josephine was later overheard telling her friend what she told the author when she rejected him, to which her friend replied “Wow… that’s the biggest lie I’ve ever heard.” Relying on this type of feedback is demoralizing and only exasperates the problem. Reliable data is critical to any endeavor, and without it, any scientific inquiry becomes guess and check without the checking part.
It is getting harder to keep repeating these trials—most scientists would have given up by now after so many failures. One must ponder if these females know how much their actions affect the male sex and know that every action imprints that feedback as a data point in life. In conclusion, it seems that love is an uncertainty the author, and everyone else, will have to endure.
*Paper is formatted to meet the requirements of standard science article writing.