I am sitting in class, wating to take my first midterm (Sociology). Then this girls sits down a seat away from me. Ratyionally, she is moderately attractive, but I can’t stop looking at her. She is very well-dressed, with multiple layers of contrasting fabrics and colors that yet somehow manage to work together. Midway through the test, she puts her legs up on the seat in front of her, Her legs and feet are entirely covered by clothing, yet again I am drawn to them and looking at them fills me with that feeling that feeling — I don’t know what it’s called — where your throat sort of feels a little prickly and the muscles in your upper chest start vibrating a little.

She rally takes her time with the test — long enough for me to do both the multiple choice and the essay (you’re given both and supposed to pick one to do) and read the honor code. Finally, I get up to leve — she’s still not done. I walk over to a nearby building to see if the professor is around. She’s not and so I walk back. But as I walk back — and this is the part that’s key — I see her walking toward me and that chest-vibrately feeling starts up again (it’s starting up now just thinking about it) and then she looks up at me and smiles and my heart just totally explodes as if she zapped me with her eyes.

This is the second time this has happened to me. The first was at driving school. I wondered if the girl felt it too so I started sitting closer to her, but she just ignored me, from which I concluded she didn’t feel it. As we had more classes, I discovered she was sort of a screetchy and annoying girl (not that it dimmed my feelings about her), so perhaps it was just as well. (Notice how neither of us ever says a word in the story above. Fortunately she’s far too well-dressed to be screetchy and annoying.)

Why does this happen? Does it happen to anyone else? How should I react?

With my stunning inability to make friends my own age — not counting the two girls down the hall who frequently stop by to chat — I’ve stasrting hanging around professors. I wander over to see Larry Lessig and my Sociology teacher around office hours to chat. It’s fun, although it bothers me to bother them.

Speaking of those two roommates (their names are Kat and Vicky), they (presumably Kat, the one with the blog) discovered I had a blog and — despite my explicit requests not to — started blabbing about it, though fortunately I don’t think anyone understood what they were saying. However, I now feel free to link to the wonderfully genre weblog Kat has.

There are always posters for odd movies around school. They must pay some sort of student group to post them or something. For example, when THX 1138 recently came out on DVD, soem really cool posters started appearing in odd places. For example, there’s one white one nearby our dorm on a signpost. It’s all white except for the sort of outlines of a man in white neeling in pain and a man in black with a big stick. Big thick letters read “WE ARE ONLY HERE TO HELP YOU”. It’s really great.

There’s also posters for “I ♥ Huckabees” around. Judging from the reviews, I suspect the movie’s main purpose was to force movie reviewers to upgrade their systems to support Unicode so they could say ♥. (Side note: You can do a Google search for I ♥ Huckabees, although it also picks up I Heart Huckabees — although apparently not vice versa.)

Speaking of ♥, I think it’s really badly named (its unicode name is BLACK HEART SUIT). I mean, I sort of get the idea that they wanted to have all the card suits, but it’s really more appropriately called SOLID HEART/HEART OUTLINE or something like that, because if it was printed in white on a blackground () it would still be the same heart.

This has been another edition of Unicode Characters Are Fun And Take Your Mind Off Serious Issues.

☢  ☢  ☢

posted October 27, 2004 11:39 AM (Education) (24 comments) #


Stewart on Crossfire
Stanford: Day 27
P2P Politics
The World Is Watching
The Politics of Lying
Stanford: Day 39
Stanford: Day 40
Stanford: Day 41
Philip Zimbardo on the Psychology of Evil
Stanford: Day 42
Stanford: Day 43


NP: Daft Punk, Digital Love

posted by Jamie McCarthy at October 27, 2004 12:33 PM #

Your frankness is jaw-dropping… in any case, sitting closer won’t help anything—say “hi” or (in this case) “how’d the test go” (etc.) next time she smiles at you.

(That ‘feeling’ is called infatuation.)

posted by Firas at October 27, 2004 12:46 PM #

Aaron, quite obviulsy you are ATTRACTED to this girl and should ask her to go out. Of course you may have doubts, just read something like http://www.catb.org/~esr/writings/sextips/ can be pleasing because of the obvious tips and is targeted at hackers so you will surelly understand it.

Asking a girl can be very enerving action, my personal trick is to make a fist on my hand so that my nails bite into my lower side hand, this causes a bit of pain but helps me concentrate on the task at hand.

Oh, btw, have fun! :)

ps. Of course you may be gay and then what I just said probably doesn’t apply ;)

posted by wind at October 27, 2004 12:49 PM #

PS. About the sitting closer deal, the reason to avoid it before you manage to talk is so that you don’t become ‘familiar strangers’.

posted by Firas at October 27, 2004 12:54 PM #

I think sitting closer to the driving school girl was a good test, but maybe she wasn’t thinking about you at the time. I think a great way to see if someone is feeling the same as you is to purposely attempt to catch their glance. Volumes of information can be communicated by your eyes. I’ve always been awkward and pretty fearful and shy myself around girls, but I still felt like glancing at someone was allowed and was a loophole in the process of connecting with someone. You can reveal your deepest emotions that way, and the effect is instantaneous on the person. You must’ve already done that, since she responded by looking directly at you and smiling!! That’s definitely a good indicator that she’s receptive to you.

The next step should be to say hello and talk a bit, which should serve to give her attention and show that you’re very interested, and also let you say things that show how you’re an interesting person with a good sense of humor (good luck, but just let it come natural). It’s hard to explain, but any kind of body language or quirks or nervousness that you have could be all you really need to start some chemistry going, and the conversation might just come when it wants to, as long as you’re not totally silent. Pointing at things and commenting on them works fine, especially if it involves something of hers.

Finally, and most importantly, so you don’t become “familiar strangers” (at which point the novelty of you being this new person in her life starts to wear off and your meetings become routine), you should ask her if she’s heard about an upcoming event and might be going to it, at which point you could ask if she’d like to meet up for it. Get her into a situation with you where you would feel most comfortable and be yourself, and she’ll see you at your most natural state. For me, that’s often on a walk going somewhere, or doing something fun in itself like a ski trip, or something like that where I’m not afraid of awkward silences because something else is going on. Believe it or not, it’s also happened to me in front of a computer screen, where I have lots of things to show people and talk about. Also, it seems like in college it’s no big deal to invite someone over to your room (if you’re in a mobile, on-foot type university), at which point you might also feel a great deal more relaxed and would have lots of things around you to tell her about and show her. Or go over to her room, and bring something to show her.

If you talk about anything even remotely interesting to the both of you, just ask her for her e-mail address or IM screen name and say you want to tell her more about it later. If you talk to her over IM, maybe you’d feel more comfortable communicating that way and setting up a meeting. Instant messaging broke down some pretty big social barriers for me in college. (When I was in college in the mid-90’s, though, we didn’t have IM, but instead we could send personal messages to someone’s screen over the college’s VAX mainframe, which people logged into frequently to check their e-mail.)

Good luck!

posted by Scott at October 27, 2004 01:50 PM #

Something like “My name’s Aaron. Would you like to go get some coffee or something?” would be a good start.

posted by Adam Rice at October 27, 2004 03:03 PM #

You think its bad now, wait until spring…

posted by tut at October 27, 2004 03:20 PM #

Make sure not to skip puberty in your next life!

posted by pb at October 27, 2004 03:30 PM #

Cmon Aaron… at least say Hi to her… Maybe something can spring from that…. Best wishes.

posted by Jesus at October 27, 2004 03:37 PM #

Jesus I feel old.

posted by Robert at October 27, 2004 04:21 PM #

No matter what the colour, the solid suit glyphs still represent the black suit, so the name seems reasonable to me. Similarly, the hollow suit glyphs denote the red suit. What a pity they ruined it by naming them “white”.

posted by Sean Neakums at October 27, 2004 06:03 PM #

“Fortunately she’s far too well-dressed to be screetchy and annoying.” — watch out, you’ll soon learn that some of the best-dressed can be the most screetchy and annoying.

My recommendation, ask her to coffee.. try Coupa Cafe in downtown Palo Alto, there’s a great atmosphere to the place.

posted by Andy at October 27, 2004 06:13 PM #

Try “I invented RSS.” That always works.

posted by Taylor at October 27, 2004 08:37 PM #

Try “I invented RSS.” That always works.

yeah, just ask dave winer.

posted by anon at October 27, 2004 11:02 PM #

As a girl-freshman in college, might I add the suggestion that you do talk to this girl before asking her out, even to coffee. Just chat in class about homework or the test or something. That way it’s not totally out of the blue, and you can determine whether or not she’s a jerk. PLus then the coffee date would be a lot more casual and painless to ask about if you could just work it into whatever conversation you’re having.

I don’t recommend just walking up to her and asking her out. Because that’s a little weird.

posted by janna at October 27, 2004 11:49 PM #

Yeah, totally don’t ask her out up front. That’s by-the-books shut down territory. Just start talking to her—don’t even bother with names.

Oh, and for Christ’s sake, smile.

posted by Joel at October 28, 2004 07:31 AM #

Jesus I feel old.

My thoughts exactly! I’d say that the advice from others to just give her a smile and say ‘Hello!’ is spot on.

As for feeling that feeling - think yourself lucky, I get it about twice a day, not twice a lifetime, and it’s, well, very distracting.

posted by Jack at October 28, 2004 07:42 AM #

I love your posts Aaron.

posted by Otinia at October 28, 2004 01:17 PM #

True story from 1987. Very attractive woman in my class at college. She’s almost a joke among folks in the theater crowd because she’s somewhat talented and very good looking in that sort of standoffish way that makes her even more so. The joke being that everyone is tingling because of her.

Sometime in sophomore year, I think, I’m working box office at the undergraduate theater. You had to do a variety of work to keep your membership in the dramatic society, like box office. She comes to the window, and says, I have some tickets on hold. I say, sure, and reach over, grab them, and hand them to her.

I didn’t tell you my name, she says. Ulp. Think fast. I worked on Bells Are Ringing last year running the sound board — didn’t you play, such and such? Oh, she says, yes, that was a great show. Cover not blown.

Fast forward to the 10th reunion, and she’s still got some of those qualities, but I have this wonderful woman in my life who I’m married to, who is real, not some strange embodiment, and my college “tingler,” I guess you’d caller, has zero appeal. (She wasn’t a nice person as an undergrad, but that doesn’t make a difference, now, does it.)

posted by Glenn Fleishman at October 28, 2004 06:30 PM #

You’re not one for terseness, that’s for sure.
Anyhow, I commented a while ago about your people hating excersizes. I also mentioned that I was a (verbose) people hating type back in the day, as well as the girl who gave me the tingles (now we live together after a “Love in the Time of Cholera” style incubation). Wow that didn’t sound right.


Here’s the thing: Sometimes it’s just a passing attraction, ephemeral but strong and wonderful. Sometimes it’s the real deal. Either way, embrace it, as they are strong reminders of your humanity.

posted by Dan at October 29, 2004 10:38 AM #

It’s a strange concept I know, but TALK TO HER

posted by jimbo mcmann at November 2, 2004 05:17 AM #

Stanford!! and you can’t spell. OMG.

posted by RON at November 5, 2004 08:20 PM #

I had similar feelings about bothering my profs when I was in college, and I still get them when I talk with certain people, but I’ve learned slowly that people like the sort I don’t want to bother have ways of protecting their time. If you’re still there talking to them and they haven’t walked you to the door, you aren’t bothering them, not enough to matter.

Maybe the hardest thing I had to learn as a post-sixties post-feminist post-teenager was that people didn’t crumple if I handled them. A harsher form of that is the Mort Sahl saying Lenny Bruce loved to quote: “Humility is the worst form of ego.” Eventually, I understood that (in my case) being overly solicitous of others’ feelings was disrespectful to them.

posted by adamsj at November 14, 2004 08:58 PM #

Great piece in Newsweek. I went to your blog right away and it brought back many (mostly good) memories. The rigorous intellectual stimulation multiplied by surging hormones and latent neurosis, truly makes each day away at college an adventure and potentially life molding experience. Look forward to reading more in the future.

posted by jyb3 at December 9, 2004 01:57 AM #

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