DEAR CHARLOTTE: I met a guy a few months ago, and now every time I see him, we eventually make eye contact, and sometimes he even smiles at me. I’ve consulted my Magic 8 Ball but it keeps changing its mind. And our interactions are limited so I don’t have much else to go on. I need your help. Do you think he likes me likes me? –30-SOMETHING GOING ON 13
DEAR 30-SOMETHING GOING ON 13: I am so glad you reached out to me. Thinking about a question like this, especially in the emotional state of an eighth-grader, can drive you bananas as you consider multiple possibilities and secretly hope he just wants to be your husband and have a million babies.
But as a service to you and other people who obsess of such things, I hope it’s helpful to share three valid possibilities you may or may not have already considered:
1. He has brain damage.
While this may not be a popular scenario, it’s worth considering to temper any runaway fantasies. Neurological damage can create involuntary body movements, including facial movements, that may mirror natural smiling and a friendly affect. You may wish to consider asking him questions next time to gauge whether he’s recently been in an accident, or suffers from a degenerative disease. You may also wish to consider a closer look for a crooked smile (which may be less charming once you know its cause), muscle spasms, and flailing limbs. If he does have brain damage, any romantic connection you perceive may be in your presumably undamaged head.
2. He thinks you’re funny… looking.
Also understandably unpopular, you may also wish to consider that he finds your appearance or personality amusing, but in a manner less desirable for you. If your appearance gives him pause, his smiling may be symptomatic of a nervous energy or fear that you’ll come too close or touch him. One way to test this is to engage in conversation with him over the phone or from behind a wall. If you no longer hear smiling in his voice while out of view, he may in fact be responding to an unconscious desire to suppress laughter and mocking at your expense in your presence. On the plus side, if he’s only smiling he is displaying some self-restraint in your company.
3. He pities you.
Research has shown that humans have evolved to show compassion. Fortunately, or in your case unfortunately, one way to show compassion is to smile. By the upward curvature of his lips and possible baring of teeth, he may be exhibiting facial contractions developed over thousands of years to preserve a sense of community and encourage those less fortunate. Without more information it’s unclear whether he pities you for your appearance, your intellect or your juvenile personality, but regardless you can take to heart that his motives are generous. And that you’re simply living out the laws of science that shows kindness ranks more important than good looks in a romantic partner.
Whether these or other scenarios apply, my advice would be to keep talking to him and get to know him better. After all, more information can never hurt.
Dear Charlotte is written by Woman at Tastes Like Onion. Write “Dear Charlotte” at firstname.lastname@example.org.