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Taking first place in the dating game

At a workshop last week entitled “Dating 101,” speaker Kaia Calbeck recalled a statement a man once made to her in a bar.

“He said to me that my behind was like an onion,” she said. “He said it was so sweet that it made him want to cry.”

Calbeck, a psychology intern at the Counseling Center for Human Development at USF, shared that comment to an audience of about a dozen, calling it an example of the kind of pick-up line that usually sends women walking out the door.

Calbeck’s workshop served to dissect the elements of flirting and relationships and to offer suggestions on dealing with problems once a relationship has been established.


“I always go up to a woman and say ‘How are you doing, espresso delight?'” said Peter Odion, a sophomore a biology pre-med major, said. “Then I say, ‘I’m Sexual Chocolate. Do you want to get together and mix a special kind of flavor?’ They usually laugh at me at first, but then they tend to like me. Women usually like someone with a sense of humor.”

Calbeck said different approaches will work for different people, but in genera,l “women usually like more direct, innocuous lines.”

Junior Marsha Campbell said she doesn’t like when men compliment parts of a woman’s body.

“It might make her self-conscious,” she said.

What worked for her recently was a man that walked up to her at church and said he had a lot of questions to ask her.

“The first was what my name was,” she said. “He gave me all his numbers, his cell, his home and said he would ask me the rest when I call him. It sparked my curiosity.”

Calbeck, who formerly taught a course in dating, parenting and coupling at the University of Miami, said flirting can be conducted without any conversation at all.

“A three- to five-second stare is scientifically proven to be a flirt,” she said. “Women tend to attract attention to their faces by playing with their hair, and men puff up their shoulders and swagger. The whole point is to draw attention to yourself and entice others.”

Calbeck said single men and women should follow a sort of golden rule in flirting.

“It’s a good rule of thumb to keep in mind what you would like and then do that,” Calbeck said. “Usually, people like someone that is open, friendly and positive.”

Michelle French, a freshman majoring in psychology, said she finds herself running her fingers through her hair when she’s trying to get a man’s attention.

“It just comes naturally,” said French, who added she can usually pick up on signals from the opposite sex quite easily. “They talk to you, and they brush up against you. You can just tell when they like you.”

On the Web site, therapist and author of 101 Ways to Flirt, Susan Rabin, names location as an important element in dating.

“Get out of the house,” Rabin said on the site. “Watching ‘Love Connection’ and actually making one aren’t compatible.”

Once in a flirting environment, single men and women should be confident and assertive, Rabin said.

“Take the initiative. Give others time to get to know you and smile, smile, smile,” Rabin said. “Someone is interested in you.”


Psychologist Leonard Kirklen, who also works at the Counseling Center, said college students are often still getting to know themselves, which can cause problems in a relationship.

“College students sometimes have difficulty in knowing what they want,” Kirklen said. “They are still in a stage of figuring out what they want and what kind of lifestyle they want. What they want in a partner usually changes. In general, this is a very risky time (for most college students), because people change very dramatically from 18 to 25.”

Kirklen also said when a relationship is new, the man and woman usually enjoy spending a lot of time together. After a while, though, this will change and one or both will want to have time alone or with friends.

Oftentimes, it is the woman who has trouble dealing with this.

“I think it is more common that women lose themselves in a relationship rather than men,” Kirklen said. “Women put more of their self-esteem and identity into a relationship and are more likely to identify themselves as someone’s girlfriend.”

For that reason, Kirklen said, it is important women maintain a sense of self.

“Balance is very important,” Kirklen said. “Time is going to be spent on the relationship, especially in the beginning, but it is important to make time for academics, separate social lives and personal time to exercise or for hobbies.”

Sophomore Annie Bowers said that losing sight of one’s self can be detrimental in more ways than one.

“If you’re just spending quality time together with your boyfriend, that isn’t bad,” she said. “But your friends might start to miss you because they’ve been so used to hanging out with you. Once you get involved (in a relationship) you still need to remain focused, and don’t let it take up your whole world.”

For a relationship to be successful, Eddie Gilley, area director for Baptist Collegiate Ministries, said compatibility is a must.

“You need to have a similar faith basis to operate from,” he said. “If you don’t view the world in the same way you will continually have issues.”

Kirklen agreed and said college students sometimes discount how important their beliefs are to them, but as they mature that changes.

“You really do need to have similar goals and values,” he said. “Students tend to minimize their beliefs about religion and spirituality, but when they start to think about marriage and how they want to raise their children that changes.”

Kirklen said beyond compatibility, it is communication that will make or break a relationship.

“If the communication is not good then they will tend not to solve problems, and they will tend to grow apart,” he said.


“Break ups are very painful events to many people in dating relationships, especially if they are unilateral,” Calbeck said. “Many emotions are present during a break up, including feelings of loss – of direction, of self, of purpose, of a loved one, hopelessness, sadness, loneliness, anger.”

Though break ups generally are not easy, Calbeck offered a few guidelines for both the person ending the relationship and the one who has to accept it.

First, Calbeck said the “break-upper” should think clearly about why the relationship isn’t working.

After giving the subject a lot of thought, if the relationship still has potential, the “break-upper” should try and resolve the problems and possibly seek counseling.

Kirklen said the sooner a couple asks for help, the better.”The couples that I’ve seen who have really benefited came (to the Counseling Center) as soon as they noticed the problems. They don’t wait before it’s out of control,” he said.

Again, Calbeck said honesty and communication is crucial.

“Tactfully discuss your feelings and doubts with your partner as truthfully as possible,” she said. “Try not to place blame on the partner if you want to be heard.”

If the “break-upper” still wants out of the relationship, action should be taken immediately.

“Fear of hurting your future ex-partner is not a valid reason to continue an unsatisfactory relationship,” Calbeck said. “So do not postpone a break up in order to save the other’s feelings. You are not doing that person any favors.”

With the break up done, Calbeck said, keep it that way.

“Break off cleanly,” she said. “Do not do a pseudo-break up by trying the on and off relationship pattern. It will only make it worse.”For the man or woman on the receiving end of this news, Calbeck said, it is important to listen and try to understand what the other is saying. Then all there is to do is to accept the relationship’s fate and wait.

“Don’t try to force the continuation of the relationship. Forced relationships aren’t satisfying,” Calbeck said. “Losing a close dating partner is sort of like suffering from the death of a loved one, only you still have to deal with the fact that she or he may be just around the corner or a phone call away. Wait a while before you get involved in another relationship. Give yourself time to heal.”Gilley said he always reminds the people he counsels that the world is a big place.

“There are other people out there,” he said. “When it becomes so much of a stress on a person that he or she is totally unhappy, then it is probably time to let go. I tell them that even though they are emotionally attached now, and it’s going to hurt, those feelings will come back only with another person.”

Contact Rachel Pleasantat