Carolyn is away. The following appeared in 2003.
Dear Carolyn: You said recently that "good is someone who's eager to make time for you." Here, then, is my question: As a confident, extroverted college freshman with a lot going for me, should I pursue boys I want, or make them come to me? I'm not good at playing hard-to-get or being girlie — I grew up with the company and hand-me-downs of two brothers. But boys' lack of romantic interest in me breaks my heart. How do you feel about playing games, about playing the coquette? I know there's a middle road here, I just need help finding it.
Carolyn says: My reaction to playing the coquette involves a middle something else.
And it's not the coquettishness; it's the playing I deplore. Actually, it's the coquettishness, too, but that's just my little peeve. More important, playing undermines the player — that would be you — as well as the person you play with.
Pretend to be girlie when you're not, and you'll either fail and end up looking like a tomboy in drag, or, worse, you'll succeed and find some guy who digs that you're coy. Then what? He finds out who you really are? Or you fake it 24-5? (You'll need two days off if you're faking.) Or some squabble-filled blend of the two?
Plus, by assuming an altered identity, you're declaring that you don't believe your personality is attractive as is. I don't know anyone confident enough to undermine herself that way and still come out feeling good. Besides, not attracting people in high school often means you've done something right.
So. That middle road. Whatever you do, don't travel it just to attract guys. Do it to become someone you like and feel good about, and from there the right kind of attention from the right kind of people will follow.
Specifically — if you feel you're more feminine than your upbringing allowed, explore that. Not by grabbing the nearest stereotype and wearing it to a party, but by looking around and noticing there are as many interpretations of femininity as there are women. Be patient, be judicious, be yourself, and find yours.
And in the meantime, treat boooyyyys as you would treat anyone: Approach them when you're interested, and then give them room to respond. Some will, most won't, some hurt, most don't — and that's true for everyone, even coquettes.
Short attention span
Dear Carolyn: I'm dating the greatest girl I've ever been with, but I'm starting to get sick of her. In every single relationship, after about six months I get sick of them, no matter how happy I am. What's wrong with me and how can I make these feelings go away? I've been told by friends that these feelings go away if you just ignore them. Is that true?
Carolyn says: AGH. No. Egad.
These friends wouldn't by any chance spend inordinate quantities of time making excuses not to go home to their partners, would they?
Try spending time with women you find interesting, vs. attractive, and as friends first, vs. as dates, and see if you develop chemistry that kicks in at six months, vs. sputtering out by then. It's also possible you're not ready to be, or meant to be, monogamous; nothing wrong with that.
E-mail Carolyn Hax at email@example.com.