Several years ago, at a house party with the guy I had a crush on, a several-drinks-in Chelsea decided that it was a good idea to woo him by pretending to be a huge fan of his favorite band. (I had never listened to a single one of this band's songs, let alone seen them in concert twice, as I tipsily told my crush.) He called me on my bluff, asking me my favorite song, and I made up a song. I Made. Up. A. Song. And off to the party laptop we went, to look on the host's computer for this mythical song I loved that he, the superfan, had never heard of. This dragged on for a painful 20-or-so minutes before I claimed an upset stomach, and went home.
We never dated, but that was sort of a bullet dodged, as he turned out to be something of an asshole.
The moral of the story is that we are socialized to do very dumb things to impress men. Yes, people of all gender and sexual identities make embarrassing gestures, too; That's just what happens when you're crush-drunk. But women who are seeking the attention of men have a unique additional inclination to go the ill-advised extra mile: We are taught to transform ourselves entirely to adapt to the tastes, interests, and desires of the man we're into. Most women, when I approached them with the question for this article, began gushing with cringeworthy stories of the dumb things they had done to get the affection of a guy who very quickly ended up not mattering at all. As we grow, yes, we become more comfortable with ourselves – and therefore less likely to do this stuff – but it's important to acknowledge just how unnecessary and limiting our socially-normalized attempts to change our personalities for a crush are. Let us all free ourselves of this burden to impress, so that we may love ourselves better (and maybe even find someone who loves that person too).
1. "Recently I met this British guy, Harry, in line for the bathroom at the bar and we started talking. I loved him. Like, I was head over heels infatuated. He was like a tall Diplo with a British accent and the nicest skin I've ever seen on a human. And so when he brought up where he was from in London, I was like, 'Oh, I've been there! My best friend is from there!' and he was like 'Oh...well actually that isn't a town, that is a stop on the train. No one really *lives* there. Are you sure you've been?' I was like 'Yeah, definitely. Absolutely. I stayed in like a hostel there? At that stop? Because my friend, my best friend, is from that town.' And it turns out that no one actually lives there, but I convinced him that he was crazy, and there was a hostel there he didn't know about." - Caroline, 24
2. "I became really obsessed with this guy I found via his acting videos on YouTube. I found him on Twitter, and basically offered my services to him as a graphic designer for free as an excuse to get to know him. Long story short, he had a live-in fiancée, and I ended up getting sucked into four months' worth of free work for some bad actor's website just because he was hot." - Sydney, 27
3. "I was in love with this married guy and convinced myself, him, and everyone else that I was totally okay with being his mistress. I accepted becoming the other woman for like six months to get him to see me, because I was convinced that if he got to know me, he would fall for me. Long story short, his wife found out about me, he stayed with her, and I am still single." - Julia, 33
4. "I learned Russian to impress this really hot Russian guy I met through work. We only ended up dating for like two months, but most of that time was spent with me listening to Russian lesson podcasts on my commute and practicing on Duolingo." - Naomi, 25
5. "I casually drop, during the first few dates, the fact that I used to take pole dancing classes and be a gymnast. If they really press me, I have to reveal that it all happened during high school, which makes it a lot less sexy." - Olivia, 26
6. "I used to have a bad habit of telling some little white lies to make my past seem more interesting, as if i needed to impress someone with an exciting history because i was worried my present reality wasn't enough." - Paula, 28
7. "I cut my own bangs, because he liked girls with bangs. It looked terrible. It doesn't get lower than that." - Annie, 26
8. "When I was first dating my boyfriend, I talked this huge game about how much I loved to dance (because he had casually mentioned something about loving dancers), when the truth was that I had been to one free salsa class in my entire life, and I wasn't even good at it. Over the last few years, I just kind of never brought up the dance thing again. Occasionally he'll be like 'Oh! A dance thing! You should go to that!' and I'll awkwardly change the subject." - Nadia, 30
9. "I once pretended to like Dr. Who. That was my darkest moment by far, because I haaaaaated it and wanted to know nothing, but this dude I liked looooved it, and I made the mistake of saying I did, too. And you cant just lightly love that dumb fucking show. You have to like, live inside that show's body cavity, so I would just troll Tumblr for info so I knew wtf he was talking about. So dark." - Lea, 23
10. "I pretended to be one of the girls who preferred 'hanging out with guys, 'cause girls cause drama.' I betrayed my entire gender (and my real-life girlfriends, whom I love) for some awful, boring dude." - Katie, 28
11. "I met this guy at a wedding and so we had, like, a two-day span to get to know each other, which was really unusual. Usually if you meet someone while at a bar, you hang out for a few hours max, and you can go on a first date later. But we spent an extended period of time together, and I became quickly obsessed. Like I honestly thought I was going to end up with this guy. So when he told me all about his really impressive job, I embellished my career to the point that it was a total lie. I could basically never see him again (or even add him on Facebook), or he would know that I was an enormous fraud." - Kellie, 25
12. "I went to a terrible music festival and stayed in a tent with this guy in our friend group because he was so hot, and was finally showing interest in me. But it was a huge tent, and it became the "hangout" tent for a lot of the guys, so it ended up smelling so bad after two days that I couldn't even be in it. I literally had to sleep with my head hanging out of the tent because it smelled so much like balls. And the guy still tried to have sex with me through all this, but I was no longer interested at that point." - Heather, 22
13. "I pretended to know how to code. I dropped every "tech" term I vaguely knew -- CSS, HTML, Java -- and he quickly realized that I was totally bullshitting. Humiliating." - Chloe, 26
14. "I became really obsessed with this guy I found via his acting videos on YouTube. I found him on Twitter, and basically offered my services to him as a graphic designer for free as an excuse to get to know him. Long story short, he had a live-in fiancée, and I ended up getting sucked into four months' worth of free work for some bad actor's website just because he was hot." - Sydney, 27
15. "There was this guy in my sociology class in college that I was obsessed with, and he was one of those teacher's pet types who always had the best grades and the answer for everything, so I tried to impress him by becoming equally invested in the class, and in sociology in general. We started to get closer over the course of the semester and, long story short, he convinced me to change my major to sociology (from art history, so at least it's not like I was destined for millions). I now have a degree in sociology, even though I never really liked the subject that much. I work retail, if anyone is curious." - Sara, 27
16. "I let a hot Irish couchsurfer basically live in my apartment rent-free while he illegally stayed in New York and 'tried to get together a visa situation.' We finally had sex after like three weeks, and it was terrible, and he lived with me for another three weeks because I felt too guilty and involved to just throw him out on the street. I think he found some other girl to basically squat with while he looked for a job." - Dahlia, 30
17. "I pretended that I went to an Ivy League school on a first date to impress this really WASPy type, without even considering that that basically meant we could never have a serious relationship, because it was based on a huge lie." - Rachel, 24
Image: Summit Entertainment