Dear Captain Awkward,
I’ve really no idea how to sensibly start this story. I’m in my early twenties and I’ve never had a boyfriend before. In fact no one has ever been interested in me. And then I met this guy. We met on a drunken night out and while nothing but holding hands and hugging happened, he was obviously attracted to me. I didn’t really know what to think about this and it really only hit me when he asked me out a couple of days later.
Despite initially agreeing to go out, I backed out for various reasons a couple of times (some legitimate reasons, some lame excuses) because I was nervous and scared. We saw each other informally a couple of times as we’re in the same group of friends and we initially had a very high level of other communication, text, email, Facebook, all of it. I wasn’t sure what to do, how to handle the situation or how to reply to his advances. It took me a while but I am starting to really like him.
Recently we went for our first proper date (as opposed to just casually hanging out). We went for drinks and as we were ordering, he asked what I wanted, I told him, he got it for me. It didn’t seem like a big deal. However, later, through the grapevine and completely unrelated to our date, I found out he was opposed to treating women differently, for example offering women a seat etc. Our conversation level has recently dropped and I feel like he’s not giving me much back when I initiate a conversation (electronically). However, I have before gotten the impression that he had given up on this when we couldn’t see each other for a while for reasons beyond our control. This time however, I’m worried I may have offended by not insisting I get my own drinks etc. I really like him and would like to see him again but I also am really shy about this whole thing and inexperienced, which is why I took things so slow to begin with.
I couldn’t bring myself to directly say these things but I need to convey to him two things. That I am interested and that I am not one of these girls who expect their date to pay for everything. I went by the logic that if he offered, he must’ve meant it, it wasn’t anything big, like a whole meal or a theatre ticket, it was a first date and I was really nervous so it seemed easiest to just go with it!
Do you think I offended him and what do you think I should do?
I don’t think you offended him. Because if you did offend him by letting him buy you a drink after he offered to buy you a drink, that would be a giant reason to not go out with him again.
Let’s review Drinks 101 :
- If I go out for drinks with another person, and they offer to grab me a drink, I say “Thanks” and I drink my drink. Then I get the next round (if there is a next round), or I pay for the movie we go to later (if there is a later), or I offer to pay the next time (if there is a next time).
- If I go out for drinks with someone and I offer to get the drinks (which I will certainly do, especially if I did the asking out), I assume I’m buying the drinks for that round. If there is never a next round or a next time, I write it off to “expenses of having a night out with a possibly cool person, also, beer is delicious” and forget about it.
- There are exceptions to this, of course – bosses should always buy the drinks for their subordinates, you’re not expected to pay for all the drinks in a large group of people or where there is table service with a check (vs. getting drinks from the bar), and each small friend microculture might have their own rules about money and how things work that they’ve worked out over time. Good will, fairness, and reciprocity rule. Keeping score drools.
If it’s you and one other person you like and who likes you in a bar, you should be able to trust that the question “What can I get for you?” will not be a heavily loaded test. And if you can’t get through one lousy round of drinks with this guy without it being An Issue What Involves Backchannel Gossip Among Friends, Assigning Disproportionate Cultural Baggage, and Majorly Keeping Score, that would be a red flag. Three red flags, in fact.
The other red flag for me is that your letter contains nothing about why you like this guy. You mention your own shyness and inexperience and the novelty of having someone attracted to you, which is a perfectly fine reason to go out on a couple of dates with someone and figure out how you feel (and you should also feel okay taking your time to figure that out!), but you never say whether you are attracted to him. I trust you that you’ve liked him the more you’ve gotten to know him, but your letter isn’t making the case that he or your connection are super-fantastic, and I think you might be talking yourself into liking him more than you actually do (which is also totally okay and normal, especially as you start figuring out dating).
Congratulations! I suspect you’ve unlocked the “First Date that Fizzles” achievement. I will have Intern Paul get to work designing the badge. You will go on many of these perfectly benign, pleasant, fine dates with perfectly acceptable people who like you okay and who hold no obvious screaming dealbreakers but still aren’t going to be your boyfriend. In the process you will learn about yourself and what you are looking for in a partner. It may help you to study the questions my friend B. asks herself about guys she dates:
a) Am I describing my date with words I would also use to describe a Toyota Camry?
b)Am I actually making pro and con lists? And am I cheating on the pro column, by adding things like, “he didn’t do xx annoying thing”?
I love that she recognizes that once you are making pro/con lists, you are not destined for true love.
If we put the drinks thing aside for now, there are two paths you can go by:
- Chalk it up to a lackluster first date, stop looking for things you did wrong, go back to the friendly acquaintance level with the guy. No harm done.
- Use one of the myriad e-communication methods available to you, send this guy a direct request for a second date. “I really enjoyed going out the other night. Can we do that again soon? Howabout (place) on (day/time)?” And maybe the next time you hang out you offer to get the drinks, and maybe you convey that you really like him even though you are shy and inexperienced and not so good at showing it. In the meantime, stop all attempts at casual chitchat. If he says no to a direct request, you know that it’s not going anywhere. If he says yes, you get another shot at figuring out whether you really want to date him.
Path #2 might seem as pleasant as having a giant squid attached to your face, but it has the advantage of clearing the air, earning you some dating experience points, and scoring one for the forces of gender equality by not expecting men to do all the work of pursuit. But Path #1 is pretty good, too, and one you’ll tread regularly in this mixed-up world we live in.