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#242: Can I Tell Guys I Don’t Want to Date Them Before They Ask Me to Date Them?

“Casual lean, engaged! Precision eyebrow raise, activate! Look over here, over here, OVER HE-” Oh, hi I didn’t see you there.

Dear Capt. Awkward,

So, I’m a 25 year old lady. Like a lot of your readers (I think?) I’ve never really had a lot of dating success, and definitely have never had a boyfriend. This sometimes makes me feel a little sad, but I’ve never really gone out there in pursuit of a boyfriend, and in general don’t have a lot of guy friends/acquaintances as a dating pool, so most of the time I don’t worry about it too much. I relate it only because it’s sort of relevant, I guess? My problem, though, is actually from a different quarter. It’s happened repeatedly, and it’s stressful. What happens is that some guy I know a little bit will start acting weird around me. I’m pretty bad at unspoken social thingies, and I know my threshold for putting up with dudely awkwardness is a lot lower than that of most ladies my age, but I think I’m not wrong that these dudes are Interested in me. However, usually, I am Not Interested in them … actually, a lot of the time, I am like, “why are you interested? we have few things in common and you are hard for me to talk to! please leave me alone!” A lot of the time they are guys I don’t even particularly want to be friends with. I’m terrible at flirting and all that, so I don’t think I’m unintentionally giving them signals that I don’t mean to, or anything. But, the thing is, they never come out and say that they are interested, so I’m not sure. I feel like this never gives me a chance to flat out say “no thank you” and then I have to live with all this, like, unspoken intention looming at me uncomfortably and it makes me feel very trapped and grossed out and want to shrivel up inside and do everything I can to avoid the dude in question under any circumstances. If they ever ask me out, it’s always in the most noncommittal, low-risk way, like with lots of other friends, or “just for a beer to talk sometime,” so even then it’s not clear — is it a date? is it not a date? are you just being friendly? or are you hoping for something more?  So I feel like I can’t reject them without seeming egotistical and like I think everyone wants to have sex with me. Uncool!

The Rock would like you to know that The Rock does not approve of these passive-aggressive shenanigans.

The most recent dude to do this is a coworker whose desk is next to mine. He has a girlfriend, but was in the past definitely, um, got around with the ladies, and he and the girlfriend are having a tough time right now. He’s a nice enough dude, but very weird and passive-aggressive, and in talking to him about his girlfriend (who is an acquaintance/semi-friend of mine) it’s pretty clear that he’s been trying to make her jealous with other ladies recently, going on coffee dates and so forth. He just sent me a FB message that was like “blah blah, know you’ve been having a hard time lately, just want you to know that I think you’re great and awesome and also beautiful, sorry if that’s awkward,” and my alarm bells are pretty much at red alert. I mean, most of my “regular” friends don’t send me that kind of message when I’m having a rough week, let alone some dude. He also asked me to have a beer with him last week … which, not interested. I can’t imagine anything I could talk to this guy about for longer than five minutes at a time, and I REALLY do not appreciate potentially being used as a jealousy-creator for someone I’m friends with.

So, am I being oversensitive here? How can I avoid this (I know on some level I can’t, right? only responsible for my own actions and all that jazz), or at least deal with it more gracefully? I feel like if I ask outright if they “like” me, they will backpedal immediately whether or not they were hoping something might happen, to save face. Most of the time I don’t care about staying friends with these guys, often they are people I still have to work with (or in the past, go to school with) so I’d rather things stayed smooth and low key, although if they don’t, that’s okay. I definitely don’t like confrontation, so some of that is contributing, but I also honestly just don’t feel like I ever get an appropriate opening to say to these dudes that I don’t like them in more than a merely polite and friendly way. Is there something about me that is catnip for socially awkward passive-aggressive dudes? Why can’t they just ask me out like regular people? What am I doing wrong here? Please help me.

Sincerely,
I’m Just Not That Into You

Howdy I’m Just Not That Into You! CommanderLogic, here.

You’re not doing anything wrong, and you’re not being over-sensitive. Okay?  You’re just being terrifyingly amazing, and some people cannot even begin to deal with that.

From your letter, I think you’ve got a collage of problems that you can solve with two actions:
1 – Only acknowledge and act on what is actually said out loud.
2 – Let go. You are not responsible for other people’s emotions.

What is this supposed to mean? You’re sitting on something uncomfortable? There’s a popcorn kernel in your tooth?

So let’s talk first about all the guys who are “conveying” at you.  If they cannot put words together to express their feelings, that is not your problem.  One reason they are probably not putting feelings into words is so that you can’t reject them, and they have plausible deniability if you do, because if you call attention to it YOU’RE vain and full of it and the bad wrong one. Gross. But! that sword cuts two ways, and you will never go on a date with them unless they ask you on an actual date.  So, until such time as they can say words, try to act like nothing is wrong except maybe they have a piece of spinach in their teeth.  Their inability to act like humans is not your fault or your problem, just like that bit of spinach.  If they are making you uncomfortable with something they are actually doing or saying, then it IS your problem and you can say “I feel like you’re leering at me, and it makes me feel gross. Please stop.”  “You’re standing too close. Move.”  “I know you think it’s cute to talk about my hot ass, but it’s really demeaning.”

I know you’re thinking now that “OMG CONFRONTATION! I AM BAD AT IT!” Nope. This is not confrontation. This is being assertive.  This is speaking the thing that occurs to you WHEN it occurs to you, which can be super scary and definitely takes practice.  Fortunately, you can practice being assertive by being positively assertive. “I love that t-shirt!” “You are super funny!” “I need to pee, can I get you something while I’m up?” “I know you don’t like this song, but I love it.”  All of that? Assertive. It’s good to have a brain filter, but a lot of the time, we have way WAY too many filters, and second guess ourselves in a pinch. Practice removing the filters from positive assertions, and then when something comes up that requires negative assertion (You’re weirding me out. You’re in my way. You don’t get to say that to me.) maybe it will get through.

Now! Let’s say one of your conveying friends actually does ask you to a “thing” “sometime.”  First off, unless there’s a specific event at a specific time, this is not even a friend-date.  You can reply: “I’m busy ‘sometime’, but thanks for the invitation.”  “*Shrug* I don’t know. We aren’t that close.”  I like this second one because it pretty much forces the conveying friend to be more specific about his/her desires.

If a conveying friend actually manages to work out an event and a time, don’t worry about if it’s a date or not.  That really, REALLY doesn’t matter.  Focus on “Do I want to do that thing in the presence of this person.”  If the answer is yes, go do the thing. If the answer is no, say “Thanks for the invitation but I’d rather not.” “I’d rather not, no thank you.” Repeat until he goes away. If dude starts getting shirty about it, he’s just handing you reasons to continue to say no.

Above all, just be as direct as you wish that the conveying dudes would be.

And about that co-worker dude. Yep, he’s being a creep and shitty to his girlfriend, your friend.

Jim and Pam demonstrate the horrors of crossing the professional and personal relationship streams.

Were I in your position, I would email or tell him something like:
Yes, it’s pretty awkward to tell your girlfriend’s friend that she’s beautiful. It’s also pretty awkward to tell your co-worker that. I strongly prefer to keep my personal and working lives separate, so I don’t go have drinks or outings with anyone at the company, including you.  Thanks for the message and the invitation, and I hope you and [Friend] have a wonderful weekend planned!

It’s not your fault or your problem that this guy is a creep and shitty to his girlfriend.

Finally, a special bonus round suggestion:

I would like to recommend an online dating project for you. Not a find a boyfriend and couple up forever project (We at Captain Awkward Enterprises are fully cognizant that the rest of the goddamn universe is pressuring you to couple up and make with the babies. That pressure is not on you here. You are already a full and complete human being. Do whatcha want!).  This is more of an assertiveness and flirting practice project (for science! YouScience!).  What I’d like you to do is spend a month on a dating site, and go on three or four first dates with guys or gals outside your friend group.  Find out what it’s like for you when you are on an Official Date.  Find out what sorts of rules you have that you didn’t expect you had.  Heck, maybe even scratch a Dating Horror Story notch in your cocktail chatter belt. At the end of your project (either the month or 3-4 dates, whichever you choose), delete your profile and go back to being single if you like!  It’s for science!

Whether you do the project or not, good luck out there.

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49 comments
  1. Admiral Backward said:

    +100 to Commander Logic.

  2. Sheelzebub said:

    OMG yes, this, all of it.

  3. karinacinerina said:

    My 9 months on OkCupid were among the most educational and revelatory of my entire life! (Not hyperbole!) I found out so much about simple rules of assertion and cue-reading, about myself, my needs, my triggers, with the bonus of finding new bars and restaurants I never heard of. And funny stories and nice folks and wankers too.
    No pressure – go into it like an armchair anthropologist – but you will LEARN SO MUCH.
    And it’s pretty fun too. FOR SCIENCE!

    • OKCupid for all the cheap daters out there! (Like me) Whoot! :D

  4. Great idea. Online dating is way easier than having to meet people first and then work up to a date. Skip the hard part! Try it out and see what you want in a date.

  5. Case-in-Point said:

    There’s also something strangely comforting about practicing dating with strangers from across town who you never have to see or speak to again if things go badly. And then, too, you know that any beginner’s blunders you make will not find their way into your personal circle’s gossip mill.

    I wholeheartedly agree that the thing to do about these situations is to practice assertiveness. Once you get used to speaking up in both a positive and a negative fashion, you’ll also start observing and picking up more advanced moves from other people. It’s just about practice and getting comfortable with it. If practicing with everyday life and everyday people makes you unduly nervous, you might try taking an acting class so you’ll meet people who won’t find it weird if you want to practice your lines on them.

  6. Leery looks are super creepy and hard to ignore or deal with especially when the look of desire doesn’t come with a verbalisation of said desire, but CL is right, there is absolutely nothing you can do about it and confronting it just gives the passive aggressive creeper an opportunity to project something shitty onto you because they have been “conveying” and you are preemptively rejecting them.

    However if someone is doing some hardcore conveying that you want to put a stop to, you can always put on your most concerned face and ask them if they have constipation/the wrong lens prescription/a general sense of confusion about your face. As for the slimy co-worker he knows that his compliment and invite for a beer date isn’t awkward but wildly inappropriate. Don’t be afraid to FB message/tell him so.

    Good luck LW!

    • Ask if they’re constipated! That’s brilliant. Passive-aggressive rejection is great for passive-aggressive flirting; they know you know exactly what they’re doing, but they can’t call in the plausible deniability. Awesome.

      • It’s like a passive aggressive battle of deniability, which is of course ridiculous because everyone involved knows that the other person involved knows that they know that everyone knows that no one is saying what they really mean (what a dizzying sentence). Alas when co-worker and mutual friend relationships need to be maintained without a big flashing open REJECTION hanging over their heads it can be quite effective.

    • LW said:

      Oh man, I wish it was only leery looks! They might be there, but if so, they definitely aren’t registering with me. But I will remember asking if they’re constipated as a good defuser, should I ever notice someone leering at me. Ahahah!

  7. Katie said:

    I want to congratulate the LW for avoiding these dudes where possible. That’s also a perfectly legitimate response, and one that is super helpful if one is still working on the use-your-words part of the plan.

  8. Stephanie said:

    The Rock gives the best eyebrow raise EVER!

  9. Vlad said:

    Why not go on a dating site to find people to date instead of wasting other people’s time using them as “practice?” Seems silly to go into a situation knowing that you’re just going to see them once or twice and discard them after you’ve completed flirting exercise #4.

    • JenniferP said:

      Vlad, I’m going to answer your question sincerely. If you turn out to be some MRA bullshit or a big annoying whiner, I will ban you in a flash. But in the hopes that you are asking a sincere question, I will respond in kind.

      Most people that you go on first dates with will not turn out to be romantic or sexual partners. Love is rare. Attraction is subjective and unfair. You will like people more than they like you. They will sometimes like you more than you like them.

      If you approach dating, esp. dating-site-dating first dates, from a standpoint of expecting that every first date must lead somewhere (or else it is a waste of time, or the other person is “using” you for practice), you are bringing a sense of entitlement and unrealistic expectations to it from the very beginning and setting yourself up for disappointment. Dating will always be a serious audition.

      If you keep your expectations hovering around “Will I meet a nice new person and have a good time for the next few hours?” with a dash of “That person gave great email and was very easy to talk to and plan things with, so I’m excited and really hoping it goes well” you will mostly be pleased. Many people will not be for you, but you will get out of the house and practice your own conversation/flirting skills, discover new bars & restaurants and parts of the city, and learn more about what you are looking for from a partner, and once in a great while maybe something really awesome will happen. I personally believe in going on many, many, many low-key, inexpensive, Dutch treat first dates in a “let’s see what happens, maybe it will be really neat!” frame of mind and very, very few second dates and even fewer third dates.

      I realize there are lots of layers of Hollywood & gender expectations to punch through here, which is one of the missions of this site. I don’t expect men to do all of the asking out, the planning, and certainly not the paying for dates. I advocate things being easy, inexpensive, and shared. And along with Commander Logic who wrote the post, I advocate that you figure out dating (if you’re new at it and nervous about it and trying to figure out what you think about it) by trying some low-stakes dating. Write to some people on a dating site. Go on a few dates. If you find a connection, by all means, pursue it. If not, don’t worry – that’s normal and actually the default state.

      You don’t have to carry serious or permanent intentions into dating and make every date a high-stakes enterprise. That’s why, for example, OK Cupid lets you say whether you are interested in serious (long-term) dating, casual (short-term?) dating, etc. so you can find people who are into the same thing you are. If you only want long-term, serious prospects, say so and interact only with people who want the same thing in return, knowing that even then a lot of it is just blind luck and subjective feelings that you can’t plan for, force, or control.

      • Vlad said:

        It was a sincere question and I appreciate your answer. I’m a bit of an online dating vet at this point and the idea of going into a date with a “let’s see what happens” attitude and no expectations is great. I usually try to do that. My problem was with the idea that someone go into a date with a specific objective in mind (i.e. practice only) and not be open to anything else. I see that this approach wasn’t being advocated so thanks for clearing up that misunderstanding.

        I suppose this misunderstanding combined with ongoing irritation stemming from the fact that because of where I live, I have to drive an hour + to a big city for dates. It’s NEVER inexpensive, even if the date is. But that’s no one’s problem but my own.

        • commanderlogic said:

          Just because you’re practicing doesn’t mean you can’t jump on a good catch. I’m a veteran of online dating myself, and met my husband on OKCupid. What we’re trying to do is lower the anxiety around dating, and since the LW hasn’t done much dating outside a small circle, it’s a good idea to go on some low-stakes dates. Women in particular are hit with a ton of messages that all dates can/should lead to relationship-marriage-babies or they’re a failed date, and that’s a lot of baggage to take into meeting anyone for the first time.

          So! I advocate for going on a ton of first dates for EVERYONE. Meeting more people means you’re more likely to relax about this being your one and only chance at twu wuv or hott sexx, because the evidence shows that it isn’t your one and only chance. You’ll be more yourself, and more likely to have fun.

          Now, it’s entirely within the realm of possibility that LW will go on her first first date and they’ll be perfect for each other and birdsong-rainbows-unicorns. She doesn’t have to keep going on dates.

          For you, Vlad, the hour+ drive is irritating for sure. I drive 45min-1hr each way every day for work, and it blows goats. You didn’t ask, but I’d like to recommend a slight mental shift about your dates: make them about doing something awesome in the city that you would do on your own anyway. Would you drive 1hr to go to a concert? A museum? A special restaurant? On an errand? Then make the trip to the city about that, and if you meet up with a lady for a first date while you’re doing that thing, it’s a bonus if you hit it off and no big thing if you don’t, ’cause you’ve already done the awesome thing that you came to the city for.

          • That’s a great point. I have to drive far too, and you have to have the right mindset or you’ll just be frustrated forever.

          • Natalie said:

            That is a great way of thinking about things. I also live an hour away from the major city where most of my online dating prospects come from, and having to drive that far to meet someone can really kill my interest in expending life energy on dating. Doesn’t help that saying “hey, you could come to me” appears to be the same as saying “hey, you could be eaten by wolverines!” I’m going to work on implementing your strategy.

        • Briz said:

          This actually happened to me, I was the online dating vet who went on a casual date with a guy who was just easing out of a long-term relationship and had the specific objective of “practice only.”

          I had my typical “He seems neat, let’s see what happens” attitude, and if it didn’t work out, at least I got some sushi and good conversation. He (and I didn’t find this out until later) was just dipping his toe into dating after a really bad break-up and (literally!) set up the date with me to get used to going on dates and handling rejection.

          Instead, it quickly turned into a six-hour date sprinkled with “Holy Sexual Chemistry Batman!” Now we’re that couply-couple who flirts and at times have a hard time keeping our hands to ourselves. So, there is hope! You can’t control their attitude, only your reactions, but sometimes (despite things) it clicks!

          Good luck!

          • commanderlogic said:

            1 – Excellent story!
            2 – (unrelated) Whenever I hear the phrase “Holy [phrase] Batman!” I immediately envision whatever that Batman would look like. I would LOVE to have a Holy Sexual Chemistry Batman figurine. I envision a bishop’s miter, a lab coat, and a test tube full of lube.

          • That is literally the same thing that happened to me, right down to the sushi dinner as my date’s first toe-dip in the water after a bad break-up.

            It’s been a fun three months. In a lot of ways we are still practicing on each other, but we are kind and as honest as we can be, and have a great time.

  10. This is excellent advice, and the only thing I would question is this:
    “Were I in your position, I would email or tell him something like:
    Yes, it’s pretty awkward to tell your girlfriend’s friend that she’s beautiful. It’s also pretty awkward to tell your co-worker that. I strongly prefer to keep my personal and working lives separate, so I don’t go have drinks or outings with anyone at the company, including you. Thanks for the message and the invitation, and I hope you and [Friend] have a wonderful weekend planned!

    I would ignore his message altogether. Hopefully he’ll get the message that you’re not interested in getting involved in his drama, but if he doesn’t, my version of this email would probably be:
    “Thanks for your kind words. However, it is awkward for you to tell a co-worker that they’re beautiful, particularly one that is also friends with your girlfriend, and I’m sure that’s not what you meant to happen, so I will delete your message and let’s both forget that it ever happened. I value our professional working relationship.”

    In a previous job, a co-worker asked me out and I told him that I didn’t date people from work. This was an outright lie, as I had previously dated people from work and would potentially date them again, although I had my own personal rules about what was/wasn’t appropriate and whether it was worth risking the possible fall-out from a work relationship going wrong. When he found out that I had previously dated people from work, he got hurt and upset and sulked for quite a while. That was clearly his problem, but I wish I had found a way to say no without lying to him – it put me on the back foot and I felt as though I had done something wrong. If it happens again, I will say “I’m very flattered but I would prefer to keep our relationship professional” and do my darndest not to explain or justify myself any further.

    You don’t owe it to your co-worker to explain why it is inappropriate to send you messages like this or to give him a reason why you don’t want to date him. Once you give someone a reason beyond “I don’t want to”, you give them the opportunity to start challenging that reason with LOGIC! (“but you dated someone from work previously!”, “but you always hang out with the office crowd after work on Fridays, so why won’t you go for a beer with me?”) and then you end up either having to find new, even less convincing reasons why you can’t do this one thing with this person OH GOD I REALLY WISH I COULD IF ONLY THINGS WERE DIFFERENT WHAT A TRAGEDY, or getting annoyed and telling them the bald truth (“Look, I don’t find you attractive, your message was hugely inappropriate, I think you want to cheat on your girlfriend who is also my friend, and I’m really angry that you put me in this position, which is now making me feel uncomfortable at work, so BACK OFF!”), which is satisfying but also doesn’t give them an out by which they can retain their dignity and might make your working relationship difficult.

    One of the most useful things I learned about assertiveness (but also one of the most difficult to put into practice) is that it’s actually more effective not to justify not doing things that you don’t want to do, but just to turn them down politely without a reason. I had to train myself to say “Thanks for the invitation, but it’s not something I’m interested in” or “I’m sorry, but I’m not available. Thanks for asking me, though”. I still fail on this one regularly, because we are socialised to be nice and pretend we wish we could accept the invitation if only if only if only, rather than risk anyone feeling rejected.

    Deborah Cameron’s excellent book The Myth of Mars and Venus (which is all about how male/female communication differences have been vastly exaggerated) explains that people do recognise when they’re about to get turned down:
    [R]efusing an invitation – even one that is much less sensitive than a sexual proposal – is a more delicate matter than accepting one. The act of inviting someone implies that you hope they will say yes: if they say no, there is a risk that you will be offended, upset, or just disappointed. To show that they are aware of this, and do not want you to feel bad, people generally design refusals to convey reluctance and regret. Because this pattern is so consistent, and because it contrasts with the pattern for the alternative response, acceptance, refusals are immediately recognisable as such. In fact, the evidence suggests that people can tell a refusal is coming as soon as they register the initial hesitation. And when I say “people”, I mean people of both sexes. No one has found any difference between men’s and women’s use of the system I have just described.
    You can read extracts here, here and here, if you are interested – be warned, it does discuss rape in the second extract.

    Hmm, epic comment is epic. Sorry about that!

    • MissPrism said:

      All excellent advice for Awkwardeers!

      I have a situation at the moment where I am not sure whether someone is doing the socially-acceptable-excuse dance. It’s a professional situation and not a social one: someone is telling me “I cannot do (thing) because (problem)” and I am unsure whether they want me to solve the problem or are just too polite to say “I don’t want to do (thing)”. I would be fine with either, but I need to know which and it is making me tetchy.

      • thegirlfrommarz said:

        Hello MissPrism – I used to love your comments on Shapely Prose (I am actually thegirlfrommarz from the ‘Prose, but for some reason WordPress logged me in with the name of a defunct blog I no longer use)!

        I hate that “what do you actually WANT??” dance too – when I am in that situation, I know with gloomy inevitability that I’ll pick the wrong one and then person will be doing (thing) because I have fixed (problem) while secretly hating me for making them do it.

        • MissPrism said:

          Hello! Lovely to see you again. Quite the SP reunion around here, isn’t it?

      • thegirlfrommarz said:

        Aargh! Anyway, what I was trying to say is that criminal_reviewer above is also me (thegirlfrommarz).

        I’ve been working in internet-related stuff since 1998. You think by now I’d be a little bit good at it. :)

      • My suggestion, if you want it, would be to ask “Would you like some help [solving problem], or is it better to just leave it as is?” If you know them fairly well, you could add “I don’t want to be a pain about pestering you to do something you’d rather not.”

        Btw, I’m also Other Becky from Shapely Prose.

    • commanderlogic said:

      No problem! I actually DO have a personal prohibition on being friendy-friends with my co-workers, so my bias, let me show you it. :)

      We are totally on the same page that you don’t actually have to give any sort of reason when you reject someone, and it’s better if you don’t. “I’d rather not,” is all the reason a polite person should need.

      • “I’d rather not” is such a good way to word it – short, simple and leaves no room for manoeuvre!

        • LW said:

          Yeah, this is something I have been working on. I want to give people reasons because I LOOOOOOOOVE reasons! But reasons are easier to argue with than no reasons.

    • General Expression said:

      Wow, those extracts from Cameron’s book are excellent. Thanks so much for linking!

      • I’m so glad you like them – I love that book!

        • And AGAIN I fail at WordPress login… :(

    • LW said:

      I did end up responding, because it was pretty clear from how he was acting at work even in the face of my best icy grumpiness that he was NOT getting it (and he hadn’t asked me to hang out again or anything else I could flat out reject), and unfortunately I probably was too out-and-out and didn’t leave enough room for backpedaling, oh well. You are SO right about giving reasons/not giving reasons, though. I lurve reasons, but they’re so easy for people to argue with, and that’s just stressful and annoying and makes things more difficult, in the long run. Fortunately, other than having a desk next to his, our jobs require basically no actual mutual working together! Yay for that.

      Thank you for the book extracts … I’ve read bits of it elsewhere and it seems like a book worth picking up. Many high fives for Ms Cameron!

  11. The Shorter Dinosaur said:

    Totally had the LW’s worst nightmare play out on me the other week. I went to pick up some take-out after having lots of drinks with friends (on foot!) and bumped into an acquaintance I had long sensed was into me. I had been ignoring the conveying.
    Acquaintance led with, “we should hang out”
    “Oh, ok, that would be fun” (truth).
    Followed up with, “like a movie or something”,
    “oh, umm, yeah, maybe, I don’t think there’s anything good out at the moment.” (shields up)
    “And maybe we could get dinner or something too since we’ll be downtown,”
    “ummm… uhhh… that sounds awfully like a… awfully like a…” (red alert)
    “like a what?”
    “[awkwardvention] Nevermind! Ok, bye. [rapid patter of my feet]“. Bear in mind I was drunk or would have used my words but I definitely didn’t have them handy at that point in the evening.

    I got a text from him a few days after where he finally stopped conveying/playing plausible deniability. So I then said I didn’t want to mislead him and just didn’t feel a connection. He totally backpedaled to save face—he was *never* asking me out. And then, and I think this was a sweet gesture, in order to avoid insulting me, he forwardpedaled at speed to say that he “knew” he’d “never have had a chance with me anyway”. I said it was just about chemistry, and we text-parted amicably. It was all awkward all the time.

    Anyway, awkwardness will sometimes find you but I do feel that even if you start out wrong (TUI—talking under influence) kind, direct rejection once the conveying becomes actual words can leave you feeling ok about situations. “Thanks for the invitation, but I’d rather not” will be written on the back of my hand from now on when I venture out for the take-out. Seriously.

    P.s. CL’s comment that “If dude starts getting shirty about it, he’s just handing you reasons to continue to say no” makes me wonder if that can be converted to a script to deal with people who try to Mr./Ms.NiceGuyGUILT you: “…so are you now giving me additional reasons to know that ‘no thanks’ was the right choice?”

  12. kilo said:

    This is good advice, but I dislike some of the current running through the question and the discussion. There are some things that are only mine: My body and my feelings. I share them with who I want to share them with, and with no one else. People should not be shamed for exercizing this fundamental autonomy.

    Now, of course, my rights end where those of other people begin; and if someone’s actions make another person uncomfortable a solution must be found. If concrete problematic actions by that person, whether as single instances or in aggregate are involved, by all means call them out and assert your boundaries; preemptively reject them if you want (I think it’s absolutely ok). But you’re not entitled to have anyone ask you out or tell you their feelings.

    • JenniferP said:

      Kilo, can you restate this in three sentences (max) using very small words? I have no idea what you’re on about.

      • I think it’s along the lines of: “I am allowed to awkwardly crush on whoever I want and even if my conveying makes them uncomfortable, you can’t stop me conveying because I have the right to feel however I want.” Well, that’s what I read.

  13. A smidge of self-promotion here: I did the “get out there and find out what a date” is like challenge (before it was a challenge! Woo!) and have been blogging heavily about it.

    Go have a look see!

  14. klactoveedsedstene said:

    Responding to both the letter writer and the commenters, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with sounding someone out a bit before you go ahead and ask them out. I also don’t think there’s anything wrong with asking somebody to casually “hang out” and have coffee first before asking them on a “real” date. Sometimes you’re not sure if you actually want to get involved with someone, and want to get to know them a little better first. Or you know that someone just went through a breakup and you want to give that person space, while still remaining in touch. Or you want to give the other person a chance to know you better. I doubt such behavior would read as “creepy” (frustrating, maybe) if one was actually attracted to the person doing it, and I am a little bothered by the judgemental attitude (“creepy” is sort of a judgemental word) that Commander Logic and some of the commenters seem to be taking here. Being attracted to someone who isn’t attracted to you isn’t a crime, and neither is wanting to avoid or minimize the embarrassment and humiliation of being rejected.

    (And just to be clear, the LW’s co-worker sounds like he either wants to cheat on his girfriend but doesn’t want to make the first move, or he wants to hit back at said girlfriend by flirting with one of her friends. Whatever the case, the guy’s intentions are probably dishonorable, and the above is in no way intended to condone or excuse his behavior.)

    P.S. This is my first comment, but I have been reading this blog for a while, and for the most part I think the writers are very perceptive and entertaining, and that the advice is usually very good.

    • LW said:

      Yeah, I think, in all fairness, aside from the FB message, nothing this particular guy (or past dudes I wasn’t interested in) has done was really out of line, and that’s probably what I’m having a hard time with. Add to that that I’ve never been asked out by someone I was attracted to (and, admittedly, once pulled the same sort of thing on one guy I was attracted to, with naturally not-great results and a lot of embarrassment on my part once I realized what I was doing) and that I sort of can’t quite believe that somebody, especially somebody who has a girlfriend already (because that situation has happened more than once), would actually be asking me out, and … yeah, I definitely have a whole pile of nasty personal stuff to unpack around dating/getting asked out/etc. But I’d still like to have a way to deal with this situation without making things awful and uncomfortable, if possible. And CL has provided!

    • commanderlogic said:

      Sure, sounding out and talking to someone is fine, and we’re all about the coffee/drink/hangout first date in these parts. BUT if you want to get to know someone, you have to ask them to do a specific thing at a specific time or it’s not going to happen.

      Incorrect: I just thought that maybe we could hang out some time?
      Correct: Would you like to grab a cup of coffee at [place] on [day]?
      Correct: I just got Diablo, want to come over to my place on [day] and play?
      Correct: I’m going to the [band] concert on [day], do you have tickets?

      All of the above can be either DATEdates or friend-dates, but they have specific goals and times, and can therefore be negotiated. If someone comes at me with “hang out sometime?” then they are putting the responsibility on me to come up with a plan. It’s saying that they like me but they want ME to risk the rejection of my theoretical plan. Not awesome.

      If I’m coming off as judgmental, it may be because I don’t truck with wishywashyness. If a dude or dudette can’t get it together to form a simple plan, or even tell me the way in which they like me, maybe I don’t want to hang out with them after all. And “conveying” is creepy as hell.

    • JenniferP said:

      Hey, klactoveedsedstene, you’re right, there is no crime in feeling another person out or getting to know them a little bit. There’s certainly no crime in flirting, and not all flirting has to be a big signal of intent. And there’s no law that people have to be sure of feelings. So I hear you, and this is a good reminder.

      Maybe what you can take away is that the people in the LW’s life are not being all that subtle about showing their potential romantic/sexual interest, but they THINK they are. So whatever they are doing (and I’m not there, I can’t see) is making the LW feel uncomfortable because it is uncomfortable to feel someone Firthing you but pretending that everything is all cool and casual.

      That’s why we are the blog of “Use your words sooner rather than later.” We can often tell when people are thinking about us That Way.

      • LW said:

        This comment has made me realize maybe I was being kind of dishonest with myself about being bad at reading unspoken signals and that kind of thing. It’s very possible that I’m *reallyreally* good at it, and that’s what makes it so upsetting to have a dude who clearly thinks that he’s being very subtle and cool about things when he is really not being subtle or cool at all, at least to my radar of sexy/romantic feelings. Thank you for that!

  15. LW said:

    LW here! Thank you for answering my question, CommanderLogic! Before I saw this, I ended up FBmessaging coworker dude along the lines of “Dude, seriously? You weren’t expecting that to be awkward? I’m well aware of your ongoing relationship drama (since he talks about it at work all the time) and I want NO part of that. Please keep it professional.” and he responded pretty positively, if with a side of “But GF and I are trying to work it out and I was just trying to be friendly! You’re totally misinterpreting things!” I don’t think I am, and I was super tempted to reply that if he would have sent the original message to any of his male friends (he’s straight) or any of his ladyfriends who aren’t single, he can let himself off the hook, and if not, congratulations, he’s being sleazy, whether he knows it or not! And then add some other low blows based on other stuff I know about him. However, rather than be childish, I just defriended him on FB, which is actually kind of a relief, since I usually found his feed to be deeply weird and irritating to read anyway. I haven’t seen him, since he had days off since I sent the message, but hopefully he won’t make things too uncomfortable. I may still send a message thanking him for understanding and that I appreciate his future professionalism, but still undecided.

    Alas, I can’t really call upon the “I’m not friends with coworkers!” thing, since one of the few good things about my work is that the people are generally pretty awesome. Actually, if anything, it contributes to a lot of flirting and sometimes hookups amongst employees, although, personally? ew! Coworker friends are one thing, someone with whom a big awkward breakup might happen? No thank you. But some coworkers are more awesome than others, and not everyone hangs out with everyone else, so it’s usually not a huge deal if we don’t all want to be super besties or anything. I really love “We’re not that close,” and “Thanks, but I’d rather not!” I should get those tattooed on my hands, hah. Unrelated to this particular incident, I’ve been trying to be less passive-aggressive just in general life, since I hate it when other people are, and I definitely do it a lot myself. So that will be good using my words practice.

    Eeeep, online dating! I signed up for OKC once, many moons ago, and promptly became terrified and ran away screaming, but I have been considering giving it another go. And I do awfully like this idea of going into dates with non-expectations. I’ve been finding a lot lately that going into otherwise stressful situations without ANY expectations (not, like, low or lowered expectations, but no preformed idea of How It Will Be or What Will Happen) tends to make life much more fun and less scary. So perhaps I will gird my loins and have another shot at it.

    Thanks again, CL and Awkwardeers. I appreciate the advice from all of you!

    • commanderlogic said:

      Hooray! Glad we could help!

      You did the right thing with co-worker, and I think the continued right thing to do is not to message him at all. Having the last word is not as important as just having this guy out of your brainspace.

      Oh, you’re going to see a lot of sketchiness in online dating (if you choose to do it! It was a recommendation not an order!), but the bonus is that you don’t have to see them in person unless you want to. And a big fat YES to trying to get rid of How it Will Be and What Will Happen expectations! For all occasions!

      Good luck in life, LW!

  16. I’m currently reading back through this blog because it’s so awesome. This is the first time I’ve commented, largely because everyone else has already said what I would have said.

    In this case, there is just one thing I’d like to add for the benefit of the LW. That is this. If you do call someone out on their conveying, and they try to tell you that they’re not really interested in order to save face, one good response (which I’ve successfully used) is to smile and reply, “OK. That’s fine, and I’m glad to hear it. Just wanted to make absolutely sure of that.” They then can’t act all disappointed at you not being interested in them, because they’ve just said they’re not interested in you.

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