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Avoiding ‘The Creep Zone’

Webster’s define a “creep” as a person who is “disturbingly eccentric, painfully introverted, or obnoxious.” Most people would add: “a MAN who is disturbingly eccentric, painfully introverted, or obnoxious.” For “creep” is a word, like so many, that seems to have been assigned to a gender. A man would never describe a woman as “a creep”, but all women have a mental picture of creepy behavior and consider it a bona fide dating deal-breaker.

A working field definition of “creepy” can be hard to pinpoint. We’ve put together a list of behaviors that might trip the creep-meter for women who are just getting to know a particular man.

For most women, a creep is someone who…

1.    …mentions sex at any point during the first 10 conversations.

We know. Sex is an important part of a healthy relationship and sexual compatibility plays a vital role in building a long-term partnership. That’s all true, and it doesn’t matter. If you mention anything overtly sexual in your first few emails, phone calls, or dates, you’re going to be seen as a person who is fixated on sex and that creeps most women out.

You have to look at things from her perspective. She has met so many men who are only after sex. Dozens. Hundreds. The first thing she needs to filter out is those guys. Most women believe that discussions of a sexual nature are best left for when you know each other quite well and certainly not during an email exchange or coffee date.

Of course many men have been in relationships where they were sexually incompatible, and this usually drives their desire to get some early insight into where she stands on the issue. That’s understandable. But there are no shortcuts in terms of taking the time to get to know someone well. Tackling a topic like sex too early in that process is a fast train to creepville.

2.    …aggressively tries to contact her.

You probably remember that scene from the movie Swingers.

Poor Mike tries to call a woman and ask her out. Through a painful series of mishaps he calls again, and again, and again. Until she picks up the phone and says to him, “NEVER CALL ME AGAIN.”

In this case, it isn’t Mike’s fault. He had technical difficulties that pushed him to annoy this woman to death, but many men seem to believe that they can prove their interest by chasing a woman down – calling, texting, emailing, and following up on each unanswered message with more. Of course, a woman could be flattered by all this attention, but that’s never how it works. Instead, he seems desperate, socially inept, insecure, impatient and creepy. Not a flattering picture.

Men are socialized to be the pursuers and most women like that. But the confident guy sends a message, and waits for an answer. If no answer is forthcoming, he’s learned something important about how interested a particular woman is in him.

3.    …is unable to read her signals.

Here’s a pop quiz.

You see a woman across the room. She seems attractive and fun, so you try to catch her eye. You walk past her. You look at her. You even sit next to her and try to make eye contact. No luck. Your next move should be:

A.    Stay with it. She will notice you soon enough.
B.    Up the ante, just walk up and say, “Hi!”
C.    Take the hint. She’s noticed you and isn’t interested.

Circumstances vary but for most women the correct answer is “C”. If she isn’t looking around and making eye contact, she’s not interested in accepting offers. A man who doesn’t know this, or refuses to believe that it applies to him is making a grave error. So many men engage in the staring contest thinking that perhaps if they lock eyes with a woman she’ll “feel” their stare and look back.

We’ve seen so many movies where the guy won’t take no for an answer and eventually wins the girl that we’ve come to believe it’s true. The idea that you can talk a disinterested woman into dating you is a bad life policy. Body language and facial expressions are excellent barometers for picking up exactly how interested she is in having contact with you.

4.    …has very strange hobbies.

It would be a very boring world if we were all into the exact same hobbies and pastimes. Having an interest that is off-the-beaten-path can make a guy seem different and attractive. But if you’re going to discuss a hobby early on in a relationship you should be confident that it doesn’t make you seem odd in a disquieting way.

For example, a woman here at eHarmony mentioned a very nice man who informed her on their first date that he collected dolls. Not Star Wars action figures, but rather baby dolls that little girls carry. Now, chances are he was a very nice man. But this woman just couldn’t get past the thought of a room full of children’s dolls, and that was the end of that.

Most women are looking for a relationship with someone they perceive to be normal – perhaps a little quirky, but not odd or strange. When you’re a woman and you’re considering falling in love and living your life with a person, it’s just so much more reassuring to not see activity that is far outside the fringe of typical pastimes.

Do you have a fascination with carburetors on 1960’s Italian sports cars? No problem. Do you catalog punk albums? No worries. Do you track Bigfoot on your weekends up in the mountains? Well, that’s weird and maybe a waste of time, but not creepy. Do you have a collection of stuffed squirrels? Check, please!

5.    …have no sense of personal space.

As a general rule, people like at least two feet of personal space between them and others. When two people go on a date that space becomes more negotiable. They aren’t strangers, after all. There’s at least some chance that they will end the night locked in a kiss. Who’s to say how much personal space is appropriate on a date, right?

Wrong. The answer is “two feet”. Early on, your date deserves the same personal space as a stranger. There’s something about assuming that you can move in close that women find so unappealing and creepy. Men are often confused about what makes a romantic date different than just hanging out with a friend. They feel some pressure to turn up the romance so they won’t get dumped in the friend category. This often leads to forcing things in an awkward way.

It’s probably not a good idea to move into her personal space until you get some sign that she is interested in that. Your best bet is to create subtle opportunities and watch her body language. Please note the word “subtle”. Over the course of a night, you lean in to her and whisper something. You reach across her to open the door, for example. You watch what happens as you momentarily invade her personal space. Does she lean into you? Does she lean away from you? Several of those encounters and you’ll know if she is feeling comfortable letting you get closer. Anything else has “creepy” written all over it.