Women are not particularly vocal about their feelings early on (although I don’t think men are either), and it’s because they don’t want to put themselves out there too early and risk 'scaring off' a man.
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Q: How can a man tell when a woman has feelings for him? By this, I mean on all levels, not only when a woman truly loves a man, but when she has a "crush" on a man, when she has sexual desires for a man. One of my main issues with women has been knowing how they feel as they typically are not particularly vocal about their feelings in the way that men are.
A: “People always say you should be yourself, like yourself is this definite thing, like a toaster or something. Like you can know what it is even.”
This is one of the Angela Chase quotes I remember most clearly from My So-Called Life — the one that I think most directly ties into how I feel about love and its definitions.
As a corollary to this, and to sort of answer your question (emphasis onsort of), I think that when you are in love with someone, you just… know. Every fiber of your being knows. You look at them and are overwhelmed with a sense of… I don’t know, goodwill seems a silly word, but also fairly accurate. It is newness intermingled with an inexplicable sense of familiarity, wrapped in blanket of fuzziness and pheromones. That being said, I guess what I mean is that there aren’t really totally universal, completely specific signs (although much of the bits documented throughout time and literature, like “butterflies” and “heart swelling” and so on seem to exist in all people in love). But even though it’s not easy to pinpoint the exact symptoms that indicate that you are in love (cue symphony and cartoon hearts shooting from eyeballs), you do know when you are. It’s faith, not science, so even though it can’t be proven, you still know. And if you don’t know, if your whole being isn’t contaminated with this person, if being apart from him or her doesn’t actually sometimes physically hurt, then it might not be love.
The truly f*cked up thing is that people try to put parameters on this very unwieldy thing. They try to assign it correct timing, as if it’s something you can pencil into your Moleskine to arrive at an appropriate date in the course of a relationship. Especially as women, we are taught that we are not allowed to be in love with someone too early on in a relationship, because that makes us come off as crazy and scary. And even men don’t want to seem like wusses or whatnot by dropping the L-bomb. Which is sad, really.
Imagine if artists and poets throughout time subscribed to this modern day school of thought. If Romeo had just been “pretty into” Juliet or Jay Gatsby had simply sort of admired Daisy in a noncommittal way, would those stories even have mattered? Art is full of instances of immediate love, love-at-first-sight, irrational, overtaking, crazy love. That’s what makes it beautiful.
I think maybe what people don’t understand is that the love you feel in the very beginning is amazing, but it’s not the same as the deep love that only appears after time, and even this deep love continues to deepen and grow and change over the course of a relationship. Or as my pal and fellowCultist Jane puts it “I'm always discovering new ways of being close and intimate, and I wish there were more ways to say 'I love you' that could represent the evolution of my love.” (Gross right? But also awesome). Love is not a fixed state, it is a spectrum, but that doesn’t mean the beginning bit is any less valid.
I’ve meandered a bit (a lot) off topic here, so let me try to rein it in and answer your question. As you’ve pointed out, women are not particularly vocal about their feelings early on (although I don’t think men are either), and it’s because they don’t want to put themselves out there too early and risk “scaring off” a man. Which is completely silly really, because if you tell someone you love him or her and it scares them off, you did yourself a favor and saved yourself a lot of trouble. So if you love a woman, and sense that she loves you, tell her. Make her feel comfortable. It doesn’t always take months or years to know you love someone; sometimes it takes days, or even hours. And that’s OK.
But if you do still feel too uncomfortable addressing early love with your lady, you can try what my pal Mish did when she and her boyfriend said “I love you” too fast: they swapped in the phrase “Happy Birthday” instead, and to this day they still say it to each other. So even if you say “I heart you” or “pickle juice” or “fuck off” in its place, know that it’s still there, and instead of worrying about its early arrival, remember how lucky you are that it ever arrived at all.