DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I am not your “typical nerd girl” as per the men at the comic book shop I frequent, which is obviously, bs. I’m also newly (1 year ) single after seven years from my uni boyfriend who was also not your “typical nerd” despite both of us loving comics, cosplay, anime, sci-fi, D&D and video games, we also loved sports, I studied fashion and went to the gym.
Now, I don’t want to be back with my ex and this isn’t about this. This is background to say I have never dealt with quieter, more nerd stereotype men before-that I am interested in and would like to date.
There is a man I am interested in at work (large business, different departments, no one supervises each other and relationships are okay), who has never been my type, physically. I think he’s super cute, and the fact that he wears suits to a laid back office, is great. The issue is I don’t know if he’s interested in me.
We worked together on a project, a few months ago. We have a lot in common, books, movies, D&D, etc but he’s quieter, more introverted and shyer that I’m used to. I’m also not used to not knowing if someone wants me. I know he’s single, I know he got divorced two years ago (so he obviously knows how dating works), and there is a bit of an age gap (I’m 27, he’s 32) and he keeps on doing things that almost seem like he’s interested but not quite.
He started showing up to work baseball-something I love, and he hates sports. I was streaming the NBA finals while we had a meeting and he decided to read because the rest of us weren’t getting work done. He’s brought me coffee twice, but he brings his entire team coffee, and sometimes other people.
He’s asked me what I’m doing Friday night, when I said I have no plans, he says okay and then changes the conversation. He remembers and asks me about things I’ve mentioned months ago; for example, I love Audrey Hepburn movies so he would tell me that some Youtuber did a review about Charade.
All of this points to being interested, but when I low ball openings “Hey I owe you coffee next time, when’s a good time”, he brushes me off. “Hey, wanna grab drinks after baseball with me and so-and-so” he’s busy.
It feels like he’s interested, but it also feels like he’s just being nice. I’m trying to use my words, but because we work together-even tangentially, it’s hard to be as direct as possible without rocking the boat.
So advice, help? I’m not used to trying to guess if someone is into me or not?
Reading the Tea Leaves
DEAR READING THE TEA LEAVES: Here’s the problem a lot of folks have with trying to gauge interest: there is rarely a point where you will know with 100% certainty whether someone is into you or not. Even at times when it feels like someone is all but screaming “TAKE ME! TAKE ME NOW YOU RAVISHING SUCCUBUS”, it’s entirely possible that this is just how they are with everyone.
This is going to be doubly true with men in a work environment. While I’m the first to say that no, the #metoo movement did NOT ruin flirting, folks are a lot more conscious about the dynamics of dating and flirting while on the job. As a result, some people are going to be doubly and triply cautious about not wanting to make women uncomfortable or come off as the office creeper. So it could well be that he’s interested but afraid to take things forward in case you aren’t interested.
But by the same token: he may just be friendly. Some guys are good at remembering what folks are into; his telling you about the YouTuber doing a deep dive on Hepburn movies may have been a case of seeing something and realizing “Oh hey Reading The Tea Leaves might dig this”.
Alternately, he might be gun-shy; even after two years, a divorce can throw folks for a loop. He may legitimately be interested, but not be in a place where he feels like he can date yet. Or he’s just so shy and introverted that he didn’t recognize an invitation when you lobbed it low and slow over the plate.
But at the end of the day, there’s only one way to know if he’s into you as a potential date: ask him out on one. Since he seems to be missing the clues you’ve been sending — and in fairness “grab drinks with me and other person” doesn’t sound like the lead-up to a date — if you want a date with him, you’re going to have to be blunt. That means making it clear that you’re asking him out on an unambiguous date. Not “to hang out some time”, not “get together”, but a date. Use the word; say “Hey, I really enjoy talking with you and I’d love to take you on a date some time. What does your weekend look like?”
It’s understandable that you’re afraid of rocking the boat at work, but being subtle isn’t working. If you want to make this happen, you’re going to have to be willing to risk the possibility that he may not be feeling it or that work could get a little awkward for a short time afterwards. But as I’m always telling men in your shoes: the key to avoiding the awkward is to not make it awkward. If you make it clear that it’s cool for him to say no, you take a “no” with grace and continue to treat him exactly as you had before you asked him out? It’s much easier for the two of you to power through the awkward and get back to being work buddies again.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)