Dear Shy Mingler,
First of all, let's get this straight: Life is too short to spend time doing things you don't like. I mean, some things (like showering, paying bills, and calling your mom), you do have to do. But in terms of free time? If you don't like spending your precious leisure time scrolling through an app, you don't have to - and you won't die alone if you refuse to do so.
One caveat: part of dating (the part Baby Boomers always talk about when they went on multiple dates with multiple men before "going steady") is just practicing dating. There's no harm in striking up a conversation and going out for a walk, a drink, a museum tour, etc. with someone on an app. In 2022, even if you find that most men assume that casual sex comes with casual dating, you can be the change you wish to see in the world! There's no reason those two things have to go together, and you can be the feminist all-star who challenges men on why they think they're entitled to an invitation to your bed after a night or two of chatting over dinner at a wine bar. (Let me know their answers! Genuinely curious.)
So if you feel like practicing flirting, how to handle paying for dinner, how to give people a chance, how to turn them down kindly, and how to talk about your faith, family, or future hopes and dreams with a stranger, there's nothing wrong with picking up your app and swiping right – or leaving your number on a napkin for the bartender. Part of living is embracing risk and the failures and rejections that come with that. Dating is a great way to practice the communication skills that are part of any friendship or relationship.
In 2022, let's let go of patriarchal ideas of initiating. There are ways you can signal interest in a guy that are super feminist: you can be coy, patient, or direct.
Invite your crush to grab coffee or to check out that immersive Van Gogh exhibit that seems to have popped up in every city in the United States. Don't know him well enough to invite him on his own or just feeling shy? Invite two mutual friends and make it a little group outing. Get to know your crush as a human and see what you think.
And enlist some friends! Telling a few trustworthy ride-or-die companions that you like someone can help you have support in setting up situations to get to know them. Friends can also be a helpful gauge of whether or not someone is interested in you when your own feelings blind your natural receptors.
After testing the waters as little or as much as you feel comfortable, you can always just tell someone you're interested and see how they respond. There are no more admirable or sexy qualities than honesty and courage.