Originally created 01/26/99

The dating game

Everyone has been through it. You know ... the feeling you get when your crush walks into the room -- the clammy palms, the heart-thumping, throat-closing fear that overtakes you at the mere prospect of just speaking to your beloved.

If the thought of saying "hi" gives you hives, you may think you'll never be able to utter those fearful words, "You want to go out sometime?"

But it's a fear that most teens eventually overcome, and, while scary, telling your crush how you feel can be rewarding.

Passing a note to her eighth-grade crush worked for Emily Crocker, an 18-year-old senior at Butler High School.

"I just asked him if he'd like to get to know me," she said. She never expected it to turn into anything serious -- just that they'd become better friends, maybe have a few dates -- but now she has been dating her boyfriend Brandon Strong, also an 18-year-old Butler senior, for four years.

"We were just going to have fun," she said. "But it just grew, and we started caring about each other, and we learned how to communicate with each other."

She was nervous about approaching Brandon.

"Girls approached him all the time," she said. "I was kind of shy, and he was, like, Mr. Popularity." She said she was surprised she actually went through with it.

But it turned out that he was a little nervous, too -- he took a while to respond to her note. When he did he "said something about not wanting to play games," Emily said. And when they finally went out on their first date, he was so nervous he walked into the girls' bathroom at the movie theater and forgot where they were sitting after buying a Coke.

The written route is a good alternative for folks who tend to clam up when confronted with their crush. Whether it's a cryptic "Do you like me? Check Yes ¤ or No ¤," or a two-page tome on why you'd be great together, it gets you off the hook of actually having to look the other person in the eye and admit your feelings.

And if your affection isn't returned, you won't have to stand there feeling awkward while the other person struggles for a way to say no without crushing your feelings.

"If you're too nervous to talk to them," says Josh Hamann, 18, a Butler senior, "write them a letter. It's easier than talking. Tell them how you feel."

Josh, who describes himself as "kind of shy," said he hasn't asked anyone out in a while.

"Girls ask me out," he said. The attention is flattering, and it takes some of the pressure off him.

It has become more acceptable in recent years for girls to make the first move. But Sonya Hawthorne, a 17-year-old Butler senior, says she prefers the old-fashioned approach.

"I'll never tell a crush I like them unless they ask me first," she said. "I want the guy to make the first move."

But she will do little things, like making sure she looks good, making it a point to talk to him, asking what he likes and dislike. "That way you also know if they like things you do," she explained.

She has been dating her current boyfriend for about four months. Before they started dating, she said, he had his sister find out if Sonya was interested in him.

"I was like, if he wants to get with me, he needs to tell me that himself," she said. "And he did, finally."

The straightforward approach, while more scary than note-writing or using a go-between, wins points for bravery.

"At first you'll be scared, but you just have to get over it and go ask them out," says Robert Francis, a 17-year-old Butler sophomore. "Then it's just words that flow out your mouth, and the right things just come."

Avoid cheesy pickup lines at all costs.

"Don't say things like `Are you tired? Cause you've been running through my mind all day,"' said Larry Brown, an 18-year-old Butler senior. "That's just wrong."

And above all, don't take it too seriously, says Brandy Flowers, 17, a Butler junior.

"You're just a teen. You don't need to get that serious about anybody when you're young. Teen dating is a learning experience -- you're learning how to communicate, and what you like and don't like. You're not looking for marriage or anything."

Emily Sollie covers teen issues. She can be reached at (706) 823-3340 or esollie@augustachronicle.com.


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