A maudern body language explainer. Skip to content

A maudern body language explainer.

A maudern body language explainer.

How, when, and if you should read the signs.

Dating advice is frustratingly contradictory: look at what they do, not what they say, but take what they’re saying at face value, and don’t forget that some people don’t say anything, because their Love Language isn’t words of affirmation.

This confusion makes a case for observing our crush’s subconscious body movements instead, an approach supposedly backed by peer reviewed research, with cultural references much sexier than the stumbling, ambiguous storylines of movies like “He’s Just Not That Into You,” where people flail and fail to decode their lovers’ verbal cues. Meanwhile, popular “body language” media includes shows like “Lie to Me” and “The Mentalist,” stories of attractive protagonists who enter law enforcement and use their refined skills in “observation” to catch bad guys and get laid.

If only body language science were so consistently reliable. Unfortunately, most popular studies on the topic—addressing eye contact, arm crossing, pupil dilation, and the like—are small and outdated. In the last 20 years there have also been studies on body language differences between cultures, genders, and diagnoses, so the opportunity for certainty in the domain of “observation” is pretty much non-existent.

Now, with a healthy dose of skepticism, we can briefly entertain this game of body language, exploring three of the author’s favorite dating guidelines. These guidelines are standard and boring, but they must be, else they enter the domain of the paranoid amore.


If someone’s touching you a lot, it’s probably safe to assume they are interested in touching you. Look out for a hand on the arm, a palm behind the back, a pat of the knee. And if a hand is placed firmly on the knee, it is surely cause for celebration.

Leaning in

The degree of lean will vary depending on what may be obstructing physical contact, like a table, or an intense social anxiety. But let’s just say: they may be interested if they lean in, or scoot closer, into a space your friends would never enter except to tell you the occasional secret. (Warning: if the venue is loud, this one may not apply).

Eye contact

You probably have a sense of approximately how many seconds is too many seconds of platonic eye contact. Pay attention to that churning of the stomach you may get after, I don’t know, 3.2 seconds of silent staring. Eroticism lives therein! Maybe!

When it comes to assessing someone’s interest, we have to relinquish certainty. Your beloved may give you a farewell handshake on the first date and then run home to journal about your future together. Or they may ghost you after chasing your Uber in the pouring rain for one last goodbye kiss. Both are unlikely, but we must accept the alarming realities of new intrigues. There is freedom in knowing the only sure thing about a date is how you feel afterwards. If you honor that feeling, it will guide you in the direction you need to go.
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