DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I have a friend that I’ve known since college and we’ve kept in contact well after I graduated. However, due to our own responsibilities, we had times when we wouldn’t contact each other for months at a time. But when we did reconnect, it was almost like that hiatus never happened. I consider this person a close friend who loves the same nerdy things even more than I do.
Recently (I’d say over the course of a year and a half), we’ve been talking more frequently. In October of last year, he invited me to spend the day with him at NYCC (New York Comic Con). Had a dope- ass time with him. I actually hung out with him at his place for about 4 hours last week and I had a great time. He said he enjoyed having me over as well. We didn’t do anything except game and chat (we are both fairly introverted). During one of our conversations, he told me that as long as I let him know when, I can show up at his place pretty much whenever. He even mentioned that I could also spend the night if I wanted, something that no male has ever offered to me. I’m someone with no dating experience, so I’m not sure what would be the proper way of thinking about his offer.
He has since invited me out to other events and for me to come over to his place again. And honestly, he’s an awesome dude to be around, and I even developed a bit (that’s putting it mildly) of a crush on him. I’m keeping all of my expectations low, in case it turns out that he just likes hanging out with me.
That being said, deep down, I believe that he is developing feelings for me. I’ve hung out with him multiple times at his house. We’ve moved on from just gaming to watching movies together. During the movie, I even sometimes catch him staring at my face, and when we have conversations, he positions himself facing me and maintains eye contact. It actually sometimes get awkward. My recent visit had him complimenting my hair, which I totally wasn’t expecting. He opens up to me a lot as well. And when it’s time for me to leave, he seems reluctant to let me go.
So, yeah, I’m here asking for advice; how would you interpret this behavior? Please help a poor, inexperienced soul out.
Thanks in advance.
Reading The Tea Leaves
DEAR READNG THE TEA LEAVES: It sounds like you have an awesome friend, RTL, and someone who clearly values you and your company. The fact that you all can pick up like no time has passed is a gift. One of the things that we never like to talk about is that most of our friendships are transitory. People drift in and out of our lives over time and friendships rise and fall. This isn’t because we aren’t good enough friends or because we didn’t put enough effort into them; it’s just because we all grow and change as time goes by. Many of our friendships are right for who we are at the time. As we grow, our needs change, our lives change and our friendships come to their natural conclusion.
Friendships that last past major life changes like graduation and long distances are rare and precious and should be valued as the treasures they are.
Now with all that being said: nothing in you’ve described in your letter strikes me as anything above and beyond a close friendship with somebody who enjoys seeing you whenever your schedules allow. Giving someone an open invitation to visit – with sufficient notice – is fairly common amongst my social circle and many folks I know as well. Same with offering them a place to crash; if we’ve got the room, why notlet somebody stay over, especially if it’s late or more convenient than trying to catch a cab or Uber back to their place?
Some of what you describe could be borderline, while others sound more like a reach to me. Facing you and making eye-contact is… not exactly something I would describe as a sign of interest, to be honest. It’s far more standard behavior for conversation. Watching you while you’re watching a movie together, on the other hand, could go either way. It could be that he’s entranced by you and is taking a chance to watch you at a time when he thinks you wouldn’t notice. Or it could be that he wants to see your reaction to what you’re watching. This is especially likely if you’re watching something he loves or has significance for him. I mean, just ask anybody who’s significant other showed them their favorite movie; they tend to spend more time watching their partner watching the movie.
But on the balance, I’m inclined to say this sounds like a close friendship to me.
You’re clearly very close and emotionally intimate, but evidently platonic. And that’s fine. A close and loving friendship isn’t any less valuable or less important just because there isn’t a romantic component to it. Now this doesn’t mean that there isn’t potential for anything to grow out of this. I mean, my wife and I were friends for twenty years before we ever got together as a couple.
If you want to know if there’s anything there, there’s only one thing to do: use your words. Tell your friend that you’re really enjoying the time the two of you are spending together and how the two of you have been getting closer but you’re starting to feel strongly for him and you’d like to take him out on a proper date.
Don’t just say “hey I have a crush on you”; just dropping your feelings into his lap and expecting him to do the work from there is more likely to get a knee-jerk move to preserve the status quo. Offering a plan of action – an actual date, in this case – gives him something to respond to instead of asking him to invest more than he may be ready to just yet.
But just remember: if he doesn’t want to date you, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t care for you. It just means that he doesn’t have romantic feelings for you and that’s ok because he’s clearly an awesome friend.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: Thirty-five-year-old male virgin here. Never really been in a serious relationship, mostly because I’m Not Good With People (especially women.) Frequently struggle with depression and social anxiety. Am kind of a mess in general, and that’s at the best of times.
Level with me here. Should I even be trying to find someone at this point? Or am I so utterly behind the curve here that it’s laughable?
Stuck In First
DEAR STUCK IN FIRST: There’s no such thing as too late, SIF. You may be on the far edge of the bell curve in terms of social experience, but that doesn’t mean you’re hopeless. It just means you’re getting a later start than other folks. And you know what? That’s ok, because you’re not in competition with anyone. You don’t win a prize for having had your first Serious Relationship with capital letters in your teens, any more than you get demerits for being a virgin later in life. Virginity in and of itself is functionally neutral. All being a virgin means is that you haven’t had an experience that others have. It doesn’t mean that you’re damaged goods, that you’re lesser or somehow deficient because sex isn’t doled out only to the Worthy. As I’m always saying, women aren’t Mjolnir; women aren’t going around with “whomsoever should part these legs, should they be worthy, shall have the power of Score” printed on their panties.
(And if they are, then somebody owes me royalties…)
The fact that someone does or doesn’t sleep with you doesn’t inherently say anything about you. People have sex all the time for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with the person they’re having sex with. Plenty of folks – men and women both – have slept with folks for their own needs, whether it was for validation, easing their loneliness or trying to send a message to someone else. The only qualification their partner needed was “least objectionable choice in the room at the time”.
Similarly, people date you, the individual, not your romantic resume. Asking somebody on a date doesn’t include submitting your relationship history and at least three references. In fact, most people aren’t going to even ask about your past relationships until you know each other pretty well… and by that point, it tends to be fait accompli, regardless. If someone does ask about your relationship history, all you need to say is “I wasn’t ready; I am now” or “Never met the right person.”
Now what I will say is that if you want to start dating, then the smartest thing you could do is invest in yourself and start talking with a counselor or therapist. Getting treatment for your depression and social anxiety will help you immensely with getting your social life in order. Plus, they can help you work on your social skills and work on strategies for improving your social experience.
But no, you’re not hopeless or behind the curve. All you need to do is decide that it’s time to start and invest in yourself.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I am confused by the term “they”. Perhaps the terms I learned in elementary school in the early 1970s are obsolete, but still. ”He” and “she” are singular terms relating to one person. A group of two or more of either gender or a mix of both would be “they”.
A new genderless identity has surfaced which is neither he nor she. That individual is called “they”. A group of people or a single person now can be identified as “they”? How does one make sense of this. Are the rules of grammar out the window? If so, how does one embrace a new set of rules without getting hopelessly lost?
Drowning in a Sea of Confusion
DEAR DROWNING IN A SEA OF CONFUSION:The rules really haven’t changed, DiSoC. Using “they” as a gender-neutral personal pronoun is recent yes. But the singular “they” has been in use at least since the 14th century, where it appeared in the poem William and the Werewolf. But even modern, 20th and 21st century speakers have used the singular “they” regularly. We use it to refer to individuals where their gender is unknown or irrelevant… or, for that matter, when we’ve wanted to conceal whether they were male, female or non-binary.
In fact, this was a plot point in the movie Chasing Amy, when Joey Lauren Adams’ character – a bisexual woman – wanted to conceal that she was dating a man from her gay friends. One of her friends calls her out for “playing the pronoun game” over her current relationship.
But even though the singular “they” has been in use and grammatically correct for literal centuries, the fact is that the English language grows and evolves over time. The recognition of nonbinary genders and adoption of “they” as a personal pronoun is just an extension of that evolution. This only feels unusual because it’s new. With time and exposure, it’ll feel as second nature as understanding the difference between there, they’re and their.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, email@example.com)