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Clueless in romance

Gary Caruso | Friday, February 15, 2013

Midnight’s toll officially ended Valentine’s Day – the most romantic day of the year – dividing us into two camps: those nursing a love-induced hangover versus those still starved for affection. For the famished on campus nibbling on half-priced chocolates today, coincidentally National Gum Drop Day, alarms begin blaring to step up your romantic game or face another failed flirtatious semester. This moment establishes your deadline for a short-term, semester-long game plan to catch someone for whom you currently have a crush. Otherwise, your chances precipitously dwindle each passing day beyond tomorrow, “Do a Grouch a Favor Day.”
Avoid procrastination when conceiving a plan to snag your crush. Until my last semester at Notre Dame, I mistakenly overthought my romance dance roadmap into a conundrum until each semester’s waning weeks. I repeatedly failed to entangle potential love interests into noticing me. Seven long-gone, sub-par semesters passed before I hatched my plan early enough to succeed senior year. I began on the Ides of February (today), the semester’s two-minute warning that pushes limits on yielding dates, romances or even an “MRS” degree.
Romantic gameplans are like any in sports. They evolve with the times, but the premise remains constant – to score. A good generic model plays to your strengths, studies the opposition, exploits your opponent’s weaknesses, employs accomplices and utilizes cutting-edge technologies. The perfect gameplan wins with enjoyably convincing scores like last month’s BCS National Championship Game won by a team whose name shall not be mentioned here.
After completing your opposition research homework, pick your home field. The hardwood becomes a great basketball player’s romantic domain, especially if she beats him one-on-one playing a game of “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.” Most every subtler environment can equally conquer your crush. A classroom is the most conducive milieu to draw your battlefield lines, followed by the dining halls, campus activities (where your interests already intersect) and with social opportunities rounding out the field. Regardless of your chosen turf, arrive ready to impress your potential companions with humor or knowledge while sprinkling a few mild-mannered academic, religious and sports challenges to pique their interests.
Employ the military’s two-pronged pincer strategy along your front line in the classroom. First, find a signature item other than your smartphone’s annoying ring tones or your neon paisley patterned rain boots worn on drizzly days. Carry a conversational piece to class to tempt your targeted crush, but avoid acting like Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone), the good-natured, but superficial girl in the movie “Clueless” who sent herself chocolates. Rather, utilize something that doubles to divert your eyes from your professor’s searching glare.
You could defensively control eye contact from either your crush or professor through sips from a boring Starbucks thermos. It would be better to fully utilize your offensive and defensive arsenals simultaneously with a star-powered prop like a premium organic Kombucha mug displaying icons of its live bacteria and yeast components – mushroom cultures, acids, scoby and mother ingredients – summoning images of a wonder drink that detoxifies and energizes bodies. That uniqueness can conjure conversations but possibly limit your pool of potential interests to the health-seeking crowd. So anticipate potential pitfalls in your tricky trek that tries to rely on a fad featuring a concoction of effervescent fermentation in a sweetened tea.
Your remaining double envelopment tactic requires studying your crush’s schedule without becoming a stalker to find optimal opportunities to interact. Entice your crush to interact on topics of mutual interest, most notably homework, that may eventually lead to hanging out together. Interaction before class assures less awkward moments when you can complain about your agonizing homework. After-class encounters, however, heavily rely on pacing yourself to your crush’s tempo, which can wildly vary from chill to frenetic. Ideally, when your crush is less rushed or lingers to speak with the professor, you may slowly gather your Kombucha mug or loudly text or adjust your ducky boots while awaiting a conversational opportunity.
Finally, masterminding a comprehensive game plan must also incorporate human allies and technologies. Find a sidekick – not fatalistic Thelma and Louise, perhaps Sonny and Cher (not Silverstone’s “Clueless” character), or simply like Kelly Rowland and her BFF Beyoncé – any relationship complements your ability to triangulate against your targeted crush. Moreover, making friends in class further lessens your social awkwardness to ask a crush to hang out. Friends also advance your three-degrees of separation through the dormitories and on Facebook where obtaining a coveted Facebook friend request with your crush is like making a first down a foot from the goal line.
Classmates become great allies in facilitating your social networking. On Facebook they stand as decoys to distract your crush depending on how desperate you are or how late it is in the semester. These new mutual friends create a common bond to help clarify homework assignments, initiate party invitations and with that, provide a way for your crush to more easily friend-request you directly.
Master your game plan now, and by semester’s end you will speak a new Romance language, “Adios solitarios.”

Gary J. Caruso, Notre Dame ’73, serves in the Department of Homeland Security and was a legislative and public affairs director at the U.S. House of Representatives and in President Clinton’s administration. His column appears every other Friday. Contact him at [email protected]
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.