Alcohol is to dating what DIY extractions are to skincare—it might seem helpful at the time, but if you overdo it, you’re generally faced with a big ol’ mess the next morning.
News flash, right? But even though we all know flirting under the influence is often a bad idea (um, beer goggles), doing it sober is still enough to make lots of women break out in a cold sweat—even those who are confident in every other aspect of life.
What gives? “I think it’s because we’re afraid of being seen,” explains meditation leader Biet Simkin. “We’re afraid that if people find out who we actually are, they won’t like us.” Alcohol, she says, helps dull that fear. “It allows us to truly be authentic.”
And although it feels awesome to be so open in the moment, that false sense of security can backfire, since it makes you way more likely to overlook red flags. “Going in [to a date] sober allows you to stick to your guns,” she adds. “What you actually want in a partner doesn’t have to go out the window, like it often does when you’re drunk.”
It’s an intriguing prospect, to be sure, which is why Simkin and The Numinous founder Ruby Warrington created Club Soda—a quarterly event series designed to help the sober-curious navigate a social life without alcohol. “We wanted to create a place for people to explore sobriety,” says Simkin, who notes that 100 percent teetotaling doesn’t have to be the end goal to attend. (Even just taking a month off from booze has some crazy health benefits—dry September, anyone?)
The next Club Soda event, taking place in New York on August 23, is all about sex. Cool-girl psychic Betsy LeFae will be talking about cultivating intuition, Warrington will be riffing on the conscious approach to drinking and sex, while Simkin, who’s been sober for eight years, will lead her signature Center of the Cyclone meditation and dole out tips on cocktail-free dating. “When I started flirting in real time, without a drink in my system, it was like, ‘This requires massive amounts of confidence,’” she says. “I used to drink to feel that powerful.”
Luckily, she says, confidence is like a muscle—it gets stronger with practice—and she’s sharing some of her best advice with Well+Good.
Keep reading for four keys to mastering the flirting game—without the aid of alcohol.
1. Remind yourself of how rad you are
“Flirting comes from a place of remembering how beautiful and valuable you are,” explains Simkin. “You’re basically saying, ‘I’m a hot commodity—and if you’re lucky, you get to hang out with me.”
Problem is, many of us don’t always think of ourselves that way (at least not without the aid of alcohol)—and if we aren’t 100 percent sure of ourselves, it comes across as, well, a little awkward.
The solution? Before your next party, says Simkin, take out your journal and write down all of the reasons why you rock—and then practice embodying those things. “Most people walk into a dating situation thinking, ‘Once I get this boyfriend, I will be happy and confident,’” she explains. “We want to turn that around: ‘Now that I’m already sexy, confident, and brilliant, I get to have whatever the fuck I want. There’s nothing this person can add to me.’”
She says it’s also important to take note of reasons why you don’t feel valuable, and to flip the script accordingly. “Think about how cool it is that [your story] isn’t so perfect—because you get to have the journey of growing through it.”
This one should come as no surprise—is there anything meditation can’t do? But Simkin says it really is crucial before sober social situations, since it keeps your nerves at bay (and acts as the “pause button” that prevents you from breaking down and reaching for the rosé).
It doesn’t have to be complicated, she says: “Just sit still for 15 minutes with a candle and breathe.” If guided meditation is more your jam, try this one that Simkin created for Lululemon.
3. Don’t get hung up on your sober status
It can feel a little weird to be the only one sipping kombucha when everyone else is hitting the harder stuff, but don’t let that dim your swagger—the object of your affection probably doesn’t even notice. “People aren’t thinking about what’s in your drink. They’re just living their lives,” stresses Simkin.
And if your date does end up getting a little too tipsy, whatever you do, don’t judge the person, says Simkin. “Simply observe how that’s not you—you get to stay [rooted] in your values,” she says. (And you’ll be hangover-free the next day—score!)
4. Go where the other sober people are
I get it—there’s nothing less sexy than someone slurring their words, which makes flirting while sober an even more difficult task (at least, at your average party). But take heart, says Simkin: “If you go down this path, you’ll notice more and more sober experiences will be revealed to you. It’ll lead to an all new community and epic adventures.” Pass the La Croix, please!
Finding success with your new flirting skills? Here’s how to have a fling the healthy way. And if you end up getting into something more serious, being emotionally responsive and getting enough sleep equals better sex, according to science.