Single White Nerd: Date Face
“Gross, Michael, you’re making the Date Face! Stop it!” My friend Elaine and I are sitting at a dinner table. Her friend, a fetching young lady whose name I can’t quite remember, has just left to use the bathroom. Apparently I’ve been making The Date Face at the friend. “Seriously,” Elaine hisses, “Gross.” Apparently the Date Face is gross. Which is a shame.
Date Face, also known as “Listening Face,” has taken me years of trial and error to perfect. The name is a bit misleading because it extends far beyond the face. It’s a full body maneuver. Head tilted at 15 degrees left, body tilted forward. Lips pulled back a little into an attentive, slightly mischievous half smile. The eyes, however, are the key. Squinted a bit to make it seem as if they’re looking straight into the target’s soul. Perhaps a little bit of extra water, as if sensitive-but-manly tears could leak out at any moment. It conveys the impression that I’m listening with 100 percent attention. Listening actively. With compassion.
Date Face, in other words, covers up the fact that I’m not listening at all. I might be making a shopping list or thinking about sex. Maybe both. Whatever I’m doing, I’m almost certainly not registering a single word being said. Don’t get me wrong, I can respond at the correct moment and even ask probing questions. But I’m on auto-pilot, letting Date Face do the work while my mind wanders.
People who know me well can spot date face. It generally creeps them out a bit. I’ve been told that it makes me look like a zombie. Or stoned. Maybe drunk. And now, courtesy of Elaine, ‘gross.’
“What’s gross about it?” I ask.
“It’s just. . .you look like you’re interested, but I know you’re not. I mean she’s not your type. You look like a hungry puppy.”
“But it works on dates.” This, I think, is true. Dates always compliment me by telling me how comfortable they are with me. Usually just after revealing how in love they are with their most recent ex.
“When’s the last time you had a girlfriend?”
Maybe Elaine’s right. Maybe the Date Face Technique isn’t as effective as I’d thought. I’d continue the conversation, but Elaine’s friend returns. I make a concerted effort to keep the Date Face in check.
A few days later, I find myself thinking about the Date Face Dilemma again. I’m at dinner with another friend. She’s probing, trying to get me to explain why I’m single.
“I just haven’t met anyone. Well, that’s not true. But I do, and they’re not interested. Or they are interested, but in being friends. Which is cool, but not really all that sex intensive.”
“Well,” she says, “Are you showing interest?”
“Sure. I mean, I listen. Actively.”
I demonstrate the Date Face.
“Well, there’s your problem,” she says, slamming her hand on the table.
“The Date Face? Is it gross?”
“No, you’re showing too much interest. Do you really look girls in the eye when you’re on dates?”
“No. No no no. You have to look around. Be unavailable. Check your cell phone.”
“Let’s role play. You be a girl and I’ll be a guy. Ok. Go.”
I start talking. And my friend looks away. Is she checking someone out? She plays with her cell phone and I immediately wonder if she got a text from someone cooler than me. I want her to pay attention to me. I want her to like me.
“Ok, ok,” I say. “I get it. But isn’t that manipulative game playing? Why not just be honest? I mean, I don’t want to start a potential relationship off with lying. No. I’d rather be honest and find someone who appreciates that.”
“Riiiight. And that’s why you have the Date Face, hungry puppy thing going on, huh? Because you’re so honest. Got it.”
She has a point. And now I have a decision to make.
I can keep the Date Face. Or I can be honest and, if not interested in someone, just come out and say something like “Wow, bored now.” Or I can adopt my friend’s approved strategy of passive aggressive wooing. None of those options particularly appeal to me.
Ugh. It’s quite a pickle. Anyway, thank you for listening as I just prattle on about this in a fairly unstructured way. I can tell how closely you’re listening because of the way your body is tilted slightly forward and your eyes are squint—. Oh.
featured image credit: MrsMinifig