DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: Took the step to write to you, because I’m in a situation I want to handle correctly, as I’m trying and focused on changing for the better those days. There’s this girl, who’s a bit younger than me, that I met last year during a concert. We vibed and kept being in contact. So far, she’s become a member of my concert organization and we have a fun relationship. We always had a good relationship, and after lockdown, I proposed to her to come over by my place to have a drink. She accepted and the night was fun. She slept at my place, on the couch because I didn’t saw any “favorable” signs telling me to take things further. We kept in contact afterwards, even if I found her a bit distant.
Yesterday, she asked me to come over to her place to listen to vinyls. She welcomed me in a kind of pajamas clothes, which made me think that she felt safe being “natural” with me. We spent the night talking vividly about music, being really enthusiastic, laughing and sharing intimate anecdotes. The only thing that went wrong was by the end, just before I left. She was looking at her messages quite a lot, so I asked her if she wanted me to leave, which I proposed right away. She hesitated a bit (by politeness I guess) and said yes. When going to the door, we said goodbye but her voice was a bit “cold”, even the look in her eyes, like if she was annoyed by something.
Many signs, like the context, the sensation of closeness between us, tell me that we share something special, having good times and getting along well. But on the other hand, I feel like she doesn’t give me signals of interests, besides touching the tips of our fingers while exchanging the lighter.
She has a great personality, which I like a lot, with strong feminists opinions that we share. But I still feel like something’s going wrong, that maybe she’s waiting for something to happen by my initiative, or that there’s nothing and maybe I am trying to find signs too hard.
By then, I’m willing to know what I’m doing wrong or if I’m just seeing things that aren’t there. The fact is I really enjoy her company and really start to have feelings for her, but I don’t want to mess it up, like I’m used to do.
DEAR CONFUSED KING: One of the most frustrating issues when it comes to dating are people’s attempts to read other people’s signs. The majority of people are really bad at it, for a number of reasons. For one: people tend to put too much importance on one particular gesture or behavior, without any real context for that behavior. Playing with one’s hair or adjusting or fidgeting with one’s clothes is often held up as a sign that someone’s attracted… but just as often, it’s a form of self-soothing or a sign of anxiety. Someone might touch another person on the arm or shoulder, which is another traditional sign of attraction… but they may just be someone who is just very touchy-feely. Without context for that behavior, any particular gesture or “sign” is just noise, without meaning.
There’s also a lot of, well, wishful thinking involved. Guys are especially prone to seeing anything as being a sign of interest because they want it to be a sign of interest. Guys who, for example, really want to believe that the friend they have a crush on is into them will take almost anything as a sign to keep hoping that maybe, MAYBE she’s starting to come around. Did her voice sound a little different when she said “hi”? That’s a sign! Did she not immediately laugh off the idea of maybe possibly hanging out some time? That’s a sign!
Then there’s the fact that some of the signs that guys see are indeed signs… but they’re not the signs they think they are. Men, as I’ve said many times before, have very few emotionally intimate relationships. We’re taught from our early teens onwards that emotional intimacy is equivalent to sexual or romantic intimacy, that it’s something we’re only supposed to have with people we might conceivably f
k. And so we are both starved for an emotional connection and misunderstand it when we have it. Women, on the other hand, are actively encouraged to have emotionally close, open relationships with others. Female friendships are, as the saying goes, face to face; they’re encouraged to connect, to share and to bond. Male friendships tend to be side-by-side; they’re often based around shared activities rather than emotional connections.
When the women in a man’s life offer emotional intimacy, openness and closeness, men have a tendency to mistake that for romantic or sexual interest. As a result: they either think that their friend is treating them like a boyfriend and get confused and upset when she doesn’t want to date them… or they end up in The Friend Zone. Meanwhile their friend gets upset because she was just acting like a friend and doesn’t understand why her buddy put her in The F
(Standard disclaimer: there is no such thing as The Friend Zone. There are just people who don’t want to date or sleep with you.)
So let’s get to your situation, CK. The short version is that I think you’re seeing things that aren’t there. The reason why you’re getting frustrated and confused is because there’s a conflict between what you want to see and what you’re actually seeing. Things like your fingertips touching when you share a lighter isn’t really a sign of anything other than “you’re passing off a lighter”. On the other hand, that sense of closeness, the way she acts with you and the way that you both enjoy each other’s company? Those are all indicators that she thinks you’re a good friend. And y’know what? That’s a damn good thing. She likes spending time with you and feels comfortable with you. That’s all a mark in your favor. That speaks well of you as a person.
And the fact that you enjoy spending time with her doesn’t mean that this is something that needs to be upgraded to romance. It’s good to have people to spend time with, people you feel secure with and that you can be close to. That’s an incredibly valuable thing to have. Having her as a friend is going to bring more good to your life than trying to force it into a shape it’s simply not meant to fit into.
Besides: she may not be into you, but she may well know people who would.
Now considering how confusing signs can be and how easy it is to misread them, let me leave you with the one guaranteed way to know if someone likes you — the way you can be 100% assured of knowing whether or not they’re interested in you sexually or romantically.
Ask them out on a date.
Just say “hey, I really enjoy spending time with you and I’d love to take you out on a date to do X thing at Y time. Are you interested? It’s totally fine if you’re not”.
Then you’ll get your answer — an answer you can be sure of, instead of spending more time trying to read the tea leaves.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org