Nothing venture, nothing have

bù rù hǔ xué yān dé hǔ zǐ

The previous section introduced the importance of smiles and eye contact in the flirting pro­cess.[1] At this, it only covers the very first visual touch between two people, one showing interest in the other and waiting for a positive response. What the chapter does not mention, however, is what should happen once a mutual personal appeal has been effectively confir­med. Of course, the two actors could continue to smile and wink back at each other, but such superficial exchange might not be enough to substantially develop the relationship. Dee­per interaction becomes necessary at this stage, which is where things become com­plicated for many men and women. Indeed, people tend to be intimidated by the idea of moving onto the next steps once the initial contact has been established. “What shall I say?”, “What opening line does not sound too cheesy?”, “How is he going to react if I invite her to a coffee?”, “Is it all right if I rub my arm against his now?”, etc. are the types of ques­tions that may cross the mind of someone facing the situation of how to prepare for the next step. Such moves can be daunting as they do not always turn out well. Every first chance could also be the last one.

At the same time, the unpredictability of the results can be extremely exciting and stimu­lating. The fizzy anticipation of the other party’s reaction, the hope, the butterflies, the unknown, etc., all of these factors contribute to making coquetry a thrilling, sometimes addic­­tive, pursuit (one, by the way, that many couples miss once they are happily settled). In this regard, the proverb presented here invites people to take risks when attempting to get closer to a man or women they are drawn to. “Nothing ventured, noth­ing gained”[2] is the credo. Uncertain as the outcome may be, there is no way you can succeed and “get” the girl (or the guy) if you are afraid of making decisions.

In spite of all motivation and encouragements, procrastination in the course of approaching a romantic interest is both normal and understandable. The stakes are high (happiness vs. sadness, triumph vs. failure, pride vs. humiliation), and many people remain wary of this undertaking, which requires them to put their mood, reputation, or dignity on the line. Who has never been snubbed by a friend, classmate or colleague we had a crush on? This kind of experience hurts and can have traumatic consequences, preventing the victim from repeating the venture too soon. After suffering a blow, men and women need time to digest the defeat, recover their self-esteem and feel good about him or herself again. Once they feel secure about their own attractiveness to others, they are ready to take action again.

Biology itself offers explanations for dating nervousness and the embarrassing flirting bloo­pers that accompany such discomposure. Similar to what was mentioned in the section des­cri­bing the consequences of infatuation[3], the human brain is exposed (respectively pro­duces) all kinds of chemicals when we are in the presence of someone we like or find appealing. The effect is surprisingly analogous to what happens when we are high on drugs. The cocktail made of neurochemicals like serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine (adrenalin), etc. then launches a head trip that can ultimately lead to the impediment of our judgement or ability to make rational decisions.[4] Moreover, a Dutch study revealed that the mere infor­mation that a female would observe him while he carries out a relatively simple task was enough to affect a man’s performance negatively, leaving his cognitive functioning impai­red.[5] Inversely, a 1974 experiment established a connection between anxiety and sexual attrac­tion, showing that men were inclined to undergo higher levels of sexual stimu­lation when exposed to fear-arousing situations.[6]



[1]See chapter 23 “A smile will gain you ten more years of life”.

[2] The originator of the Chinese saying presented in this chapter is known to be bān Chāo, a general, explorer and diplomat of the Eastern Han dynasty (25-220 AD). His words are quoted in the Book of the Later Han, Biographies of Ban, Liang (Volume 47, 后汉书 班梁列传hòu hàn shū, bān liáng liè zhuàn). The proverb is prominently featured in chapter 117 of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, (三国演义, sān guó yǎn yì), one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature (see also chapter 1 “Men are like mud, women are like water”). Attributed to early Ming dynasty writer Luó Guànzhōng (罗贯中), the story belongs to the most widely read historical novels in late imperial and modern China, remaining a beloved work of literature across East Asia.

[3]    See chapter 11 “A lover’s eye only sees his love’s beauty”.

[4]    See chapter 11 “A lover’s eye only sees his love’s beauty”.

[5]    Karremans / Verwijmeren / Pronk / Reitsma (2009)

[6]    Dutton / Aron (1974)

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