When I was sixteen, I had no idea how to talk to boys, especially ones I liked. I once found myself alone with my crush in the library’s teen room for half an hour and I barely managed to say hello. Unsurprisingly, nothing developed between us.
This is all to say that — while I’m now capable of an Olympic-level of small talk — as a teen I deeply related to the main character of my novel Eight Nights of Flirting. Sixteen-year-old Shira would rather be stranded in a snowstorm than talk to her crush. As it happens, she becomes stranded at Golden Doors on the first night of Hanukkah with Tyler, her very handsome, very popular neighbor who she can’t stand. But Shira soon realizes there’s a silver lining to not caring about Tyler’s opinion; she feels comfortable enough to ask for flirting lessons from him, so she’ll be ready to talk to her crush when he arrives later during winter break. Shira’s story is my take on the holiday romcom, something I never saw as a teen and that I desperately wanted.
Here are eight tips I’d give – not just for flirting, but for all important relationships.
1. Be confident
This was the single most prevalent piece of dating advice in magazines when I was a teenager, to which I say – ha! Had they ever met a teenager? As a teen, I was only confident in my style choices, and I probably shouldn’t have been.
But it is, in fact, good advice. Confidence comes from being comfortable and assured you can handle a situation, which gives you the space to let your personality shine. To build up Shira’s confidence hanging out with boys, Tyler takes her on a whirlwind tour of wintry activities on the island of Nantucket where they’re spending the holidays: from sledding, to snowball fights, to drinking hot cocoa and building gingerbread houses.
2. Be yourself
Shira is nervous with most people outside her family — she’s always worried she’s going to put her foot in her mouth. But with Tyler, it’s easy to be herself – sarcastic quips and all – since she hardly cares what he thinks. (Why would she? He broke her heart years ago). As for Tyler, he doesn’t bother maintaining his polished carefree façade, because he knows Shira won’t like him anyway. I wanted to show how honesty and openness can go a long way towards bringing people together. These two teens find out they’re more alike than they thought when they let down their walls.
3. Make eye contact
Why is it that as soon as someone mentions eye contact, it is immediately impossible to maintain it?
4. Have fun
Do things you genuinely enjoy. Like, say, putting up Hanukkah decorations or attending Christmas Eve parties or baking babka. Or, perhaps, helping your triplet cousins stage a Hanukkah play that interweaves the stories of the Maccabean Rebellion with that of Judith (It’s hilarious, I swear).
I had so much fun writing this book, and I want reading it to also be fun, especially for Jewish teens. Growing up, I devoured holiday romances, but never felt truly connected since none were about my holidays. I sought out books with Jewish characters but at the time, representation was focused on Holocuast narratives. When I was writing Eight Nights of Flirting, I wanted to create a cozy, festive feeling in the book, with all the Hanukkah music,food, family, and friends that were so normal to me, but that I rarely saw reflected in literature.
5. Ask questions
Asking questions is a very Jewish thing to do, which might also be my personal excuse for being nosy. And while you definitely want to ask the person you’re dating a lot of questions to show you’re interested, it’s also fun to ask questions together. Aka, what’s in this mysterious box hidden under the attic floorboards that we found when looking for Hanukkah decorations? What happened to this ship from the 1800s? Did my great-great-great-grandmother have a secret love affair with a sailor who died in a terrible shipwreck? Inquiring minds want to know!
6. Give compliments
Who doesn’t love compliments? Especially on things that matter to you deeply, or that you’re proud of doing well.
7. Don’t have a meltdown
Things that should melt at the holidays: Candles. Actually, that’s it, that’s the whole list, the only other meltable thing is snow and I like winter wonderland with deep drifts and bright starlight (I’m from New England). Meltdowns of any kind are generally not advised, especially if you’re yelling at the boy who taught you to flirt because you’re both feeling a tad jealous. That’s not flirting. That’s bad.
But it’s kind of fun to read about, no?
8. Laugh together
I read an article – okay, a headline – that said one of the best techniques for dating is humor. Honestly, I think it’s one of the best techniques for living a happy life. Laughter heals and it uplifts, and it can be a much-needed light in the darkness.
That’s why I write romantic comedies. I believe laughter and optimism are wildly important, and I hope Eight Nights of Flirting brings both into readers’ lives. I want readers to feel joy, and I want them to feel seen. If young readers, in particular, feel a little more confident and comfortable in their friendships and relationships after reading my book, I’ll consider that the cherry on top.
Hannah Reynolds grew up outside of Boston, where she spent most of her childhood and teenage years recommending books to friends, working at a bookstore, and making chocolate desserts. She received her BA in Creative Writing and Archaeology from Ithaca College, which meant she never needed to stop telling romantic stories or playing in the dirt. After living in San Francisco, New York, and Paris, she came back to Massachusetts and now lives in Cambridge.