An American scientist tried to kill Cupid last week—on Valentine’s Day, ot all days—by publishing an anthropological treatise on love at first sight. It was a clinical analysis that sent chills through the romantic, shivers through the passionate.
David Givens, 34 and, not surprisingly, single, an anthropologist at the University of Washington, spent three years lurking in his alma mater’s cafeteria, studying love among the coffee cups. The result, he says in The Psychiatric Journal, was the discovery that flirtation, seduction and courtship are parts of a process so invariable that it can be categorized.
A cafeteria conquest usually starts with a girl sitting alone. The boy walks in and sits at the farthest corner of the same table and the attention phase begins. He turns so the front of his body faces the girl, but not his head. He looks at the table, then off to the side before his gaze begins to sweep across her gaze. If the glance is returned, both begin tossing their heads and smiling as they adjust the muscle tone of their bodies, stomach is sucked in, posture improves and the chest is expanded. Both begin stretching and they casually groom themselves, hands
touching clothing, face and hair.
If all is going well, the recognition phase begins. The two look at each other and then down in unison. They smile at the same time. They toss their heads and tension builds. “This once was called love at first sight,” says Givens. The couple then move into “submissive posture” in a language “designed by nature" to show that a person is harmless, regardless of intentions
If, at that point, neither has cut off the process by looking blank or refusing to return glances, the two enter into the introduction phase. They talk to each other— but what they say is not important. The nonverbal language continues. Voices become pitched higher than normal, but softer.
Tension continues to build. They stretch. They yawn, they laugh loudly. But each time they laugh, they look away. Their body motions are in close harmony as if they are dancing to the same rhythm.
Alas for Valentine’s Day Says Givens: “There's only one problem with this courtship ritual. As soon as it works, it is discarded.” That apparently is often what’s wrong with marriages: “You can tell established couples because there is none of that interaction. It is very boring to watch.” Unless, of course, they are prepared to play Cupid themselves occasionally.
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