Claire’s eyes are a pale shade of yellowy green. I’ve been staring into them for four seconds and I’m so focused on not blinking that my eyes start to water. Claire shifts in her seat and I play with my necklace. We both laugh awkwardly.
We’re both here for the same reason; to learn the art of flirting, and this exercise is meant to dispel the fear of maintaining eye contact.
The class has been in full force for about an hour now, and so far it’s not what I’d expected a lesson on attracting potential partners to be like. Rather than dishing out tips on how to make men fall at my feet with a wink of an eye, psychosexual therapist Cate McKenzie is teaching us “internal skills to help us open up to opportunity”.
“Flirting has a bad name for itself which is such a shame. It’s just about being warm and connecting in life,” Cate, who offers one-on-one sessions or group workshops to help people open up to love, tells us.
“It ain’t the most attractive people who get laid, it’s the people who send the signals.”
The room is packed, but the clientele don’t look like the kind of people who need to be here. I’m surrounded by beautiful, confident, successful women (and a couple of men) all in their 20s or 30s. There’s April who works in HR, Helen who is a photographer and, of course, Claire, who works for a charity. When I ask about this later, Cate explains that most of the people she helps in her one-on-one sessions fit the same criterion: very attractive women with brilliant careers who can’t seem to maintain a relationship.
At first the class seemed like some kind of religious cult. We all chanted in unison when Cate has told us: “Put your feet on the ground and say ‘yes’ if you want to let go.”
“Do you want to let love in?”
“Do you deserve love?”
We’ve also learnt some exercises to do in the mornings to help us “warm up.” Moving your hands out in a big circle starting from your chest apparently “opens up your heart”. Standing in “Superwoman pose”, that is with your feet apart and your hands on your hips, for a few minutes each morning should help you build your confidence.
I feel like I’ve been transported back to my year nine-drama class, and Cate’s stint as theatre teacher, before she became a relationship coach and therapist 20 years ago, has become apparent.
We’ve also had a go at meditation, as Cate places a lot of emphasis on the need to relax. In the meditation process we visualised a flower bud in our hearts, we opened up this bud up into a flower and “found the diamond within it.”
As strange as this seemed to a sceptic like me, with her flash of red hair and big eyes, Cate is the sort of person you trust immediately. She tells us: “You must be relaxed and open to opportunities in life at any place at any time. 93 per cent of communication is body language, tone and pace. It’s not what you do but the way you do it.”
So rather than teaching us to mimic Joey from Friends’ classic line "how you doin?” Cate tells us three golden rules.
The first of these is to have fun. “Have as much fun as you can, you won’t find the one by looking for them, you’ll find them when you’re enjoying life,” she says. “Take 15 minutes and write down the things you think are fun and then go and do them!”
She tells us an anecdote of how she met her husband after going to three festivals on the trot, because she was in her element of fun.
That seems simple enough: more eating out and getting pissed with my friends.
The second rule is to release. “Write down all the heartbreaks you’ve ever had, they don’t have to just be from romantic relationships. If you’re holding onto things you can’t let love in. Find the gold from these relationships; the lessons you’ve learned, say thank you and release them from your heart.”
Again, another step that seems rational.
Love and sex news: in pictures
Love and sex news: in pictures
1/13 Timetable of Love
A new study has revealed that Sunday at 9am is the most popular time of the week for Brits to get busy in the bedroom. Our weekends tend to be a lot sexier than our weekdays, with three of the top five most common times for sex falling on a Saturday, at 11.30am, 10.30pm and 11.30pm
2/13 Singletons judge potential partners on their phones, says new study
A new study has found that women are 92 per cent more likely than men to judge a potential partner negatively for having an older phone model.
3/13 Online dating risk
A new report by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has found that last year, singles were conned out of £39 million by fraudsters they’d met on dating sites and apps. Con artists are increasingly creating fake online profiles and tricking people on dating sites into handing over often large sums of money.
4/13 Sainsbury’s sells same sex valentine’s day cards for first time
For the first time, Sainsbury’s is selling a range of Valentine’s Day cards that represent same-sex couples. The simple designs feature illustrations of a woman and a woman, and a man and a man, with the caption ‘You + Me.’
5/13 Mother's blood pressure before conception could influence sex of child, study suggests
Pregnant woman measures the blood pressure with automatic sphygmomanometer.
6/13 Couples oversharing on social media do so to mask relationship insecurities, expert suggests
Couple sitting on couch with their phones in their hand
7/13 Injection of ‘romantic’ hormone could help treat psychosexual problems
8/13 One in ten British women experience pain during
9/13 Erectile dysfunction 'linked to risk of early death'
Men who suffer from erectile dysfunction (ED) are 70 per cent more likely to die early, a new study has found. US scientists believe that the disorder may be linked to poor cardiovascular health, and suggested that men with ED should be screened for health issues that could cut their lives short
10/13 Watching porn does not cause negative attitudes to women
The average porn user may have more egalitarian views towards women than non-users, a contentious new study has suggested. Researchers at Western University in Canada have even argued that many pornography fans might be “useful allies” in women’s struggles for equality in the workplace and in public office. They reported in the Journal of Sex Research that the 23 per cent of people who said they had watched an “X-rated” film during the previous year were no more or less likely to identify as feminists than those who did not watch porn.
11/13 The characteristics of men who pay for sex
Men who pay for sex share similar traits to rapists and sex offenders, according to new research. A study from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), claims that men who have sex with female sex workers feel less empathy for them than men who do not buy sex. Part of this reason is due to the fact that they view them as "intrinsically different from other women,” according to the authors.
12/13 Heartbreak can actually change the rhythm of your heart
Losing a loved one really can break your heart, research suggests, although not for ever. People who lose a partner are at an increased risk of developing an irregular heartbeat for the next 12 months, scientists found. The risk seems to be greatest among the under 60s and when the loss of the partner was least expected
13/13 'Weird' sexual fetishes are actually very normal
A number of sexual fetishes considered anomalous in psychiatry are actually common in the general population, a study has found. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), sexual interests fall into two categories: normal (normophilic) and anomalous (paraphilic). Researchers asked 1,040 Quebec residents, representative of the general population, about their experiences of sexual behaviour considered abnormal by the DSM-5. The study, published in The Journal of Sex Research, found that of the eight types of anomalous behaviour listed in the DSM-5, four were found to be neither rare or unusual among the experiences and desires reported by men and women
Finally, Cate says her third golden rule is commitment: “Say ‘you know what? I’m doing it!’” By this she means actually showing up when you arrange to go on a date, actually giving opportunities a go, and not shying away for fear of getting hurt.
People around me are nodding in agreement and opening up about their own
insecurities. Tess, who works in banking, explains how she finds it hard to smile at people, as she’s scared they think she has desperate written all over her.
Cate explains that someone smiley and warm comes across a lot less desperate than someone hiding in the corner.
All these steps are meant to make us ready to meet people and exude an approachable, warm persona. And, to be fair, by the end of the session I do feel a lot more relaxed and comfortable. What I’ve learnt has been useful, although I’m not sure I’ll practice it all. Plus, I’m still short of a good pick-up line.
As the class draws to a close Claire and I are set the task to stare into each other’s eyes for the third time this evening. I’ve cleared up with Cate that I am allowed to blink.
It still seems odd, but certainly easier. At the end of our four seconds Claire tells me “I feel like I could look into your eyes anywhere now” and I couldn’t agree more.Reuse content