Ask Dr. Nerdlove by Harris O'Malley

I Feel Awkward Around My Date and I Don’t Know Why.

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’ve been hanging out with a girl for a while now. We’ve known each other for two years via mutual friends. She’s a very upbeat, open person, and oftentimes we’d have fun dancing in nightclubs together. A couple of months ago, however, after we both went through our entrance exams for university, she asked me out for drinks. I got a little excited, as I’ve never gone that far with a girl before, but I kept my cool. When we met up, we found out things about each other, and it really seemed we had a lot in common. We shared a similar mentality about life and politics, though she is not that into politics for important reasons I will explain later (neither am I really, doesn’t bother me). In any case, I felt much more comfortable around her than even with my friends. We hugged goodbye after our night out.

In the  month and a half (we were on vacation with our families) between the first and second time we met up for drinks, I started developing rather strong feelings for her. I began really looking forward to meeting up with her again. I just really liked how friendly she was, and how less emotionally detached she was compared to my other friends. That rush died down a bit a few days before we met up, which I chalked up to being confident (I still feel a bit that way).

When we met up again, things were going well. She was talkative as usual, and I felt at ease, too. We were having some semi-small talk, which didn’t bother me, stuff about friends, what have we been up to, etc. Then, after a while, things went deeper. She talked about how her mother seemed to like me (I met her briefly while at that girl’s place in the country – she invited me there). I told her about how my mom seemed to like her as well, and that she noted what an emotionally open person she was. Then the girl told me that she doesn’t always feel that way, because of her relationship with her dad. Her dad is a rather emotionally detached person, and spends most of his free time talking about politics with his buddies at the bar, never really making time for her. Because of this, she said, she never really knew how to express love to other people. She feels that she either overdoes it, because she worries her friends will get offended (and I have noticed first-hand that those friends need way too much of her attention), or that she doesn’t express it enough (she is not very active when it comes to messaging). She also said that that was why she’s more comfortable hanging out with men (our mutual friends) because she is more at ease with them and has more space. I gave her advice, telling her that she needs more emotionally available people in her life, and that people shouldn’t completely ignore her needs. She agreed. I know about stuff like this, because it was my dad’s experience with his parents as well, in fact it was even worse. I thought to myself that this was good, that she was comfortable enough around me to open up.

Then the conversation died down a bit, and she moved on to small talk again. This is where I started feeling weird. Bearing with what she told me in mind, I got the feeling that she was talking just to fill in silences. I’m generally a pretty quiet person, but not awkward. But I did start feeling awkward after our intimate conversation, and I felt that she wasn’t being so genuine with me. I told my own mom about this, and she says I’m overthinking it, that she was just a bit nervous, that she also seems to overthink like I do and that I should continue hanging out with her (we already agreed to meet up again, but, again I am worried she was just being nice). I’m starting to have mixed emotions about pursuing a relationship with her. I’m not obsessed with it, and I don’t wanna force things, but I simply feel less at ease with this girl now, despite her opening up to me, which was a great thing per se.

For what it’s worth, we’ve also been pretty handsy with each other. She’s short and likes the presence of larger, taller guys like me. She likes to grab me and lean into my arm sometimes, at one point at a party she even asked me to lift her up and she entwined her legs around me while I held her. During our drinks together she’s been a bit more serious but we still touch each other by the arms.

I also gotta mention that I’ve never been in a relationship before.

Uncomfortable Silence

DEAR UNCOMFORTABLE SILENCE: You’re overthinking things, US and you are definitely reading way too much into everything. Here’s what happened: she trusted you enough to open up and get real with you. You two’ve hung out enough and have enough emotional chemistry and intimacy that she feels like you’re somebody that she can trust and rely on. So she did something with you that I suspect she very rarely does: she let you in and shared some things that were deeply personal and meaningful to her — things that explain much about who she is as a person. The fact that she felt secure enough to open up and be vulnerable with you is pretty significant. That’s a very real testimony to the kind of guy she thinks you are and the kind of relationship she feels like she has with you.

The fact that she moved back to small talk after all that deep realness? Well, partially that’s like a pressure valve, letting off a little of the steam. You had some heavy conversations about life, the universe and everything and now going back to silly pointless stuff is a way of relieving the pressure and intensity of the moment. In a way, it’s like a joke in a horror movie; it’s a release that keeps everything from being just too much. But the other reason is that, in all likelihood, she was a little embarrassed. Letting your guard down with someone, even someone you trust and feel comfortable around, can be uncomfortable. It’s more than a little like suddenly realizing you’re naked. Now that she’s had that moment of realness, she’s kinda babbling because it’s a way of trying to push past the awkward and not dwell on the fact that she just gave you some serious realness about her and her inner life. If you’ve ever made jokes after having realized you said something that was a little too revealing, then you know exactly what it feels like.

So I’m not entirely sure why you’re suddenly feeling weird about things. There’s nothing in this that sounds like she’s just being nice or just filling the air with flack, nor does it sound like she was no longer being genuine with you. It’s that it’s hard to stay that vulnerable and deep unless you’re already in a pretty intimate relationship… and while you’re clearly close, it doesn’t seem like you’re there yet.

I think the best thing for you to do is just slow your roll my dude and accept that you’re reading things into that conversation that weren’t actually there. There really isn’t any reason to be uneasy around her; she clearly likes and trusts you and wants to see you again. I don’t know if this is necessarily going to lead to a romantic relationship, but it sure as hell sounds like this could be the start of a beautiful friendship.

Good luck.

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