DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: recently confessed to a cute new guy at my school, we share the same class, our class in particular has a groupchat on a messaging with all our classmates inside. Prom is coming up and he asked someone else(let’s call her Elise) who is a known aromantic and not really likeable.
After my confession to him in his DMs, he replied by saying I was super cute and asked me out to prom(in which I said yes), but thinks that we should keep it a secret because of how awkward it would be if everyone knew. We were really close friends before my confession, but after I confessed, he immediately stopped talking to me during school and would only text me. He wouldn’t directly ignore me but he’d avoid me and avoid conversations.
In art class, he hung around Elise and everyone started to ship them together as a couple, and he continued to hang around her and approach her. I’m a little jealous but he did tell me when I confessed to him, that he only asked Elise out for fun, that it was nothing serious. The thing was, he asked her to prom in the class groupchat, while he told me to keep it a secret.
I gave him paper roses I made late last night, and just put it on his table when no one was there, everyone started teasing him and saying Elise made it for him, which I felt a little heartbroken at that time. A few hours later, my friend has told him that I was the one who made the flowers, not Elise. He just said “ok” and had no reaction.
My question is, is he playing me/am I a backup plan? Or does he truly like me?
High School Drama Club
DEAR HIGH SCHOOL DRAMA CLUB: I’m not a fan of just “confessing” one’s feelings, HSDC. It’s the sort of thing that makes for drama in CW teen shows and shoujou manga, but in real life it’s not terribly helpful. Leaving aside the framing – as though being attracted to someone is something that needs to be “confessed”, like it’s a secret shame – what you’re doing is functionally offloading responsibility onto the person you’re confessing to. You’re telling the other person “hey, I have these feelings about you. Now go do something with them.” Even under the best of circumstances, you’re essentially asking somebody to decide in that moment whether they want to explore a relationship with you. Not a lot of people are going to want to make a snap decision like that, especially if you two don’t have much of a relationship beforehand.
This is why I prefer just asking someone out on a date. To start with, it’s a much easier lift to decide if you want to go on a date than to decide if you feel the same way about someone in that moment. Dating is essentially a way of determining if you both think there is enough there to make a relationship work and if you’re compatible on that level. Asking someone on a date gives them something they can say “yes” to without feeling like they’re committing to a great unknown. Plus, the “I like you” is part of the ask; people rarely ask folks out on dates if they’re not at least somewhat attracted to the other person.
Now that rant aside, let’s talk about what’s going on here.
If I have the timeline correct, it sounds like your crush asked Elise to prom before you told him you liked him. Now, going to prom with someone isn’t exactly a promise of a lifelong commitment, but it does make telling him after he publicly asked her something of a bad move on your part. Even without some of the other issues – and we’ll get to those in a moment – you’re asking him to take backsies on his prom invite, and that’s not a great position to put somebody into. Suddenly turning around and saying “you know what, never mind, I got a better offer” is rude at best. So if he likes you back… well, his choices are either coldly drop her like fifth period French or go to the dance with someone else even though he’d supposedly rather go with you. Again: great for teen dramas on streaming, not so great for real life.
But it’s the rest of what you say that makes me think that maybe you should just let this one go. Whether Elise is aromantic or not – known or otherwise – is kinda irrelevant. The fact that he supposedly asked her out for the LOLs is… well, that’s kind of a dick move. It’s one thing to ask someone to prom when you’re friends and you’re going AS friends. Asking someone, again, publicly, as a goof? That’s just cruel.
That is, admittedly, assuming that is what he did. Because the whole “hey I like you too, but let’s keep this on the down low” part? That seems like someone who’s either playing you for laughs, or who wants to have his cake and eat it too. There can be legitimate reasons to say “hey, let’s keep our relationship secret for now”, but they’re relatively few and far between. And going by the way he’s behaving? Well… I’m going to go with “doesn’t have good reasons for this”. The fact that he says he likes you in private but ignores you in public while cozying up to someone who he supposedly asked out as a joke doesn’t say good things about him. Either he’s lying to her – which, again, is cruel – or he’s lying to you, which is dickish. And if he really is hoping to keep you as his backup choice in case he doesn’t have the magic wand that’ll turn Elise from being aromantic into a lovey-dovey dance partner? Then that’s even more dickish.
And if he’s hoping to have it both ways – something public with his aromantic friend and you as his sidepiece on the down low so he can get his rocks off? Well that’s beyond dickish and well into “called shot to the balls” with workboots territory.
While I don’t expect teenagers in high-school to be the most adept at handling nuanced relationship issues, none of this sounds good. His words say one thing and his actions say another. When you have a dichotomy like that, you should believe the actions. And his actions say that either he’s not into you, or you’re his fallback plan at best. At worst, he’s playing both of you.
Do yourself a favor: chalk this up to a learning experience. Some guys seem nice but end up being a classic Crouching Nice Guy/Hidden Douchecanoe who think they’re slick enough to keep multiple balls in the air without dropping them or letting the others know. If the way he’s acting isn’t who he really is, then he’s got terminally poor judgement and a lot of growing up to do. If it is a representative of his true self? Well, not dating him is a bullet dodged and a lesson learned.
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