Dear Captain Awkward,
Geeks of the feather, flock together. It’s an obvious thing within my wonderful friends circle, but it’s not horrible. All the people I consider to be good friends are socially inept and awkward somehow. Not to a debilitating or super-creepy level, but we’re all definitely the oddballs who will miss a handful of “normal” social cues. However, we’re all “odd” in different ways and aware in others so we all balance each other out.
There has been a more recent addition to our circle, let’s call him N. In my opinion, he’s a genuinely great guy. Though super nerdy, he’s well aware of his own social failings and actively seeks feedback to improve himself. We bonded while planning for a group camping trip; we both went through similar patterns of depression from similar bad habits of social ineptness. We also both learned to “fix” ourselves and function better with a lot of hard work. Basically, we hang out and compare notes on how stupid we once were, how much progress we’ve made, and how much farther we have to go in some departments.
Lately though, I’ve been getting odd cues from him. When it’s just the two of us having lunch together, he sometimes tells me some deeply personal things, such as hooking up with a girl at a party and then regretting it. Worrying about family stuff. Worrying about putting up a front. And, more recently, having to reject a coworker who confessed to him because he “likes someone else”. That last one was a pretty strange; he had a really hard time explaining why he rejected his coworker because of other feelings. It took him nearly 5 minutes to get out the word “Because I like someone else.”
I assume I’m getting all of these “confessions” because I seem to be a trustworthy person. Which I honestly don’t mind, because less than a year ago, no one would tell me much because I was “unreliable”. Since improving my “reliability factor” other people have been confessing things to me because they say I don’t judge (I honestly try not to), I don’t slut-shame (I HATE slut-shamers!), and I don’t try to “fix” people (because I need fixing myself!).
But there’s a small, bothersome feeling that’s been floating around my head lately in light of all of N’s “confessions.” And it’s “Does he like me? As in LIKE LIKE me?”
I am horrendous at reading people and social cues when it comes to romantic relationships. Once there was a guy who had a crush on me; I never noticed until after he got a girlfriend and she confronted me about his 4 year longing for me. The last person who liked me ended up having to announce it online to the world before I KNEW. I cannot tell in any way whether N likes me as a friend or a potential romantic partner! Add nerd social awkwardness to my inability to read, and it becomes a mess! For example when everyone hangs out together, N tends to sit across from or next to me, sometimes maintaining good personal space and sometimes getting a bit close; however, he’s accidentally encroached on others’ personal spaces too. Then, he’s gotten me and a few other people free concert tickets; however, he’s only offered to get me more should I be interested.
As of now, I am unsure of my own feelings for N. I wish I knew if I was the “someone else”. I’m basically suspending my feelings over a giant vat of molten lava, ready to push a button to submerge it to its doom because I’m almost certain I am not this “someone else” and there’s no point in crushing on someone who likes someone else. However, I can’t bring myself to push that button yet because I don’t know if I’m reading this whole situation wrong.
What’s your take Captain? Should I smash and burn any potential feelings I might have for N in case I’m just a friend? I would like to think I have my feelings under control and they aren’t coloring the way I read the situation.
Ready to convert, now where’s my Cyberman suit
Dear Ready To Convert:
I am confused. Are you into “N”? Does he delight you? Do you find yourself looking at his face and thinking “He is going to make a fantastic old person…wait…did I really just think that?” If you know you’re going to see him, do you take a little extra time to look pretty and smile and hum songs to yourself all day? Do you find reasons to see him or talk to him? Are you committing acts of mentionitis? When he smiles at you, do you feel a little click in the universe? Are there daydreams? Are there feelings? Or FEELINGS? Are some of those feelings…in your pants? Maybe “feelings” is too strong a word – would you be comfortable with “interest” and “curiosity”?
Having feelings (or curiosity, if you prefer) doesn’t obligate any action on your part (or any feelings/action on his part). Some crushes are just crushes; they light you up for a little while and then they pass. That’s totally normal and ok! Also, it’s important to say that friendship – real friendship – is pretty damn resilient and forgiving of passing awkwardness. Having feelings won’t ruin your friendship. Speaking up about or asking directly about feelings in a timely, cool, low-key manner won’t ruin a friendship. If you’re trying to logic yourself into having feelings for him because he’s “suitable” in some way or because he might have them for you? Or if you hold onto your crush for years and then send FEELINGSMAIL? THAT’S how you ruin a friendship. So yeah, sort out your own desires and feelings first. As long as they are real and true everything will be fine.
And the next time he mentions liking “SOMEONE ELSE” say “You’ve mentioned that several times now…care to elaborate?” or better yet grin and say “IS IT ME?” and take your chances. You can’t get to love by way of logic and certainty and control. Someone has to take the first tiny step into awkwardness and risk, so why not you?
“It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another — but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good…And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens … Nothing good gets away.”