#412: One “Slow Fade” Textbook Example coming right up!

Hey Captain!

My question is on the ‘he’s not that into you’ theme, and in particular about how to respond appropriately.

I recently decided to try to reconnect with an old friend. We used to be flirty and have some pants and head feelings for each other, but I wasn’t ready for a relationship so nothing ever happened. As far as I know there was no animosity, but inevitably we lost touch, saw other people, blah, blah, blah. Several years on I thought it would be nice to see how he was doing and dropped him an email. Our few brief initial exchanges were very light-hearted and friendly – smileys and everything – and he suggested meeting to catch up. However, his emails about arranging a date suddenly became very abrupt and infrequent and lost any markers of enthusiasm. Going by your awesome maxim that people that are into you (both friends and dates) are easy to arrange things with, I figure he’s changed his mind and doesn’t want to meet up after all. No biggie – I’m happy to leave him be! And yet he’s still going through the motions of trying to arrange it, thus leaving an y actual decisions and responsibility about whether or not we do meet up firmly in my court.

Now if he does want to meet then I think it would be nice to catch up, but I certainly don’t want to sit through an awkward evening of small talk with someone who doesn’t want to be there but can’t admit it. 

Is there a script I can use to ask him to use his words? Or even to bow out gracefully without looking like a trifler? Is ‘Actually, you don’t sound like you want to meet up’ too weird or pressurizing of an email to receive from someone you barely know any more?

Thank you!

It took me and Samantha about 6 months to actually break bread together, but I give most new/casual acquaintances two attempts to make plans before I write it off as not meant to be. You: Want to get together sometime? Me: Sure, howabout x? You: No, that won’t work. Me: Howabout y? You: No, that won’t work either. Me:  (inside my head): Okay, cool, no hard feelings, and I will still totally hang out if you ask, but also it is now TOTALLY ON YOU to make something happen and I am done thinking about this. Me (outwardly): With a potential date? Total radio silence, because I assume it’s a no-go. With a potential friend or networking contact?  “I’d love to see you, so please do get in touch and suggest something when you are free!

To further prove the point that a momentary hiccup will not get in the way when people actually want to hang out together, a brief story: When my now-boyfriend wrote to me on the online dating site where we met, I was a bad combination of sick, busy, and intrigued by a different dude. So I wrote some version of “You’re neat, now is not a good time, can I write to you when my sinuses/schedule clears?” and he said “Sure” and we paid each other no mind until a month or so later when I said “Hey, can we have that date now?” and he said “Sure!” He still single, and luck was on my side, but honestly it was Just. Not. That. Hard. for two people to meet up for a sandwich and a drink. He was confident enough to trust that if I was into him, I’d make the effort, and I liked that he gave off zero Nice Guy “I BET YOU’RE JUST SAYING THAT” pressure. If we’d spent a month emailing back and forth vaguely trying and failing to set up a first date it would have been off like Hasselhoff.

So, Letter Writer, I think you are very smart to realize that if this were meant to happen it would be much easier to make a plan. Someone who is perpetually too busy for you or impossible to nail down or who never takes the initiative to suggest a plan is not that motivated to hang out with you. However, emailing this guy to preemptively break things off is a bit presumptive and will leave you feeling weirder and more exposed than you do now. “It sounds like you don’t really want to meet, that’s cool, let’s bag it!” is as honest and low-pressure as it gets on the surface, but it risks turning that breezy maybe-flirting thing you had going on into unintended pressure or sour grapes, especially since you were the one who resumed contact.

So, I get that this is itching you and you’d like it to be a settled question but also remain open to possibilities. “Closure” is really hard to get from someone else but actually simple to claim for yourself if you really want it.  You are allowed to say to yourself “Self, I am done worrying about whether this guy actually wants to get together, so I am done making any effort here.” BOOM.

If you want this to be resolved, decide that it’s resolved and don’t contact him to actually set anything up. A bunch of time will go by and then neither of you will worry about it any more. There is no need to do any more work than that.

If you want to give getting together one more try, write to him suggesting a specific date, time, and place. If your suggestion doesn’t work, it’s his job to suggest an alternative, not yours to continually audition options for him. So if he says “That doesn’t work for me, but I’d still like to see you” do not respond until you see something from him with a specific date/place/time. Without one of those elements, this date does not exist in time or space, ergo, it is not real, ergo, you can’t really be bothered about it. He knows how email works and he knows that meetings must take place somewhere on the space-time continuum in order to actually, like, happen.

To clear up some potential misunderstandings:

a) Despite the “He’s just not that into you” reference, gender is incidental here. I don’t think that it’s the guy’s job to make plans or do the pursuing in order to bring you down like a delicate gazelle. The same advice applies if the genders are reversed or if everyone is gay.

b) In your last communications, it may have technically been “your turn” to respond or your turn to suggest something, so it feels like it will technically be “your fault” if you fail to get together at this point. I sense this is where at least some of your frustration lies. There’s also the paradox where both people could be trying to play it ultra cool and risk having their faux coolness read as total disinterest by the other person, or maybe he really IS just that busy, or maybe he forgot, or he is naturally non-committal, or is trying to defer to you about everything, or, or, or, or….Minus the bad evo-psych and gender essentialism, the “He’s just not that into you” author is totally and utterly correct when he suggests that you  stop wasting your time obsessing about those possibilities and look at the person’s actions.

As I sometimes tell my students who are having trouble keeping up with assignments, having a major crisis and not giving a fuck look completely identical if you don’t tell me what’s going on. A person who gives a fuck can tell you what is up (and set up a fucking lunch date). A person who gives a fuck wants you to know what’s going on so that you can make good decisions. They don’t make you do all the work of deciphering their intentions.

Where his head might be and whose turn it is to email back doesn’t matter. What matters is your interest level in actually making plans and remaining engaged with this person.

  • Do you want to really try to make plans? Then try it a maximum of one more time. If  at the end of 48 hours/3 texts or emails you do not have an actual, viable plan for meeting up, abandon ship – either he’s not interested, or he is literally too wishy-washy and irritating for you to hang out with.
  • Do you really need him to make the plans in order to feel reassured of his interest? Then it’s okay to need and want that reassurance and to hang back and see if it is forthcoming.

If he doesn’t reach out, give yourself a high five for correctly reading his lukewarm interest for what it is. If you decide to stop reaching out, give yourself a high five for saving yourself the headache.

High-fives all around! Fade accompli.

84 thoughts on “#412: One “Slow Fade” Textbook Example coming right up!

  1. Well said! It took me a while to learn that if I’m the one making all the effort to try to meet up, then perhaps meeting up is not meant to be. The give it one last try before saving yourself the headache of trying to schedule a hang out is fantastic advice.

  2. Ooh, this is really good! I’ve been on both sides of this before and I really like this strategy of dealing with it as the… ack, would the LW be the fader or the fadee? Anyway, love it.

  3. There is also the possibility that he’s enjoying planning several dates and trying to give you the minimum amount of attention for you to still be interested while really liking someone else more right now. Or just likes to e-flirt.

    Anyway, whether I’m right or not, that doesn’t change the Captain’s advice.

    1. That might be true, but I feel like worrying about that is just spending time and effort figuring him out. Women are expected to do that, even if they’re not inclined to, because women do the Emotional Work(TM).

      It doesn’t sound like the LW cares much. I don’t care? I don’t think this guy has to be manipulative to have just started flaking, he could be hosed with work or travel or a dying grandmother or the latest video game or anything else. Doesn’t matter at all.

  4. I have nothing to say, but feel like I should comment just because of the last line. Uh. I agree with what the captain said!

    1. Sorry I accidentally stole your awesome username for a bad pun at the end of post. Keep on awesomeing! 🙂

  5. The related truth is that nobody’s ever really too busy to date you, they choose to prioritize other things over dating you. They get to do that. You get to decide if you are okay with being at that priority level in their life.

    It doesn’t always Mean Anything about how they Feel About You, either. Sometimes what a person is doing with their time seems really stupid to you, but what they’re actually prioritizing is some internal requirement that you do not see or understand. Such as: I Get To Decide What I Do With My Time! or I Am Too Depressed To Actually Make Plans.

    Whether this guy is working full time to put himself through med school while being a single father to triplets or a guy with a chill 40-hour-a-week job, a short commute, and a cleaning staff, he gets to set his priority level for the other people in his life, and decide if he is Too Busy For You.

    Happily, you also get to decide when you are Too Busy For Him, even if all you’re doing is watching reruns of Top Chef: Belly Lint. Do you feel too busy to deal with his vague whateverness? You can stop doing that!

    (Again, I totally have to remind myself about this, especially when I am grumpy about stuff like my Ex, Who Had No Time For A Girlfriend, Of Course It Wasn’t About Me, He Never Wanted To Settle Down Anyway, But Then Married The Girl After Me, I Guess It Was About Me After All.)

    1. This. All of this.

      Also, Carbonatedwit, I’m sorry about your EWHNTFAGOFCIWAMHNWTSDABTMTGAMIGWAMAA, He sounds a little douchey and if you did that, probably a good thing you didn’t marry him anyway.

      1. Oh yeah, I dodged a bullet there and married a man who actually (GASP) wants to spend time with me! What a concept! Thanks!

        That particular guy is the only one I broke up with over the phone because he was so conflict avoidant he wouldn’t get together for like two months, after we had been a regular weekly thing. I also hung up on him in that conversation, which is the only time I’ve hung up the phone on someone who wasn’t a telemarketer or harasser.

        But he’s not a terrible person, just someone with some serious WTF issues. I wish him the very best, and I wish his wife magical psychic powers.

        And still despite all that I sometimes get those twinges of OW and GRR, and I suspect a lot of people do about something that happened that hurt a lot or hit a particularly sore spot.

        Mostly I talked about him to make space for us all to remember that sometimes this stuff is easy to say but hard to do, and is a kind of hard-earned wisdom.

    2. Internalizing the maxim “you have the time for the things you make time for” made my life easier in a lot of ways.

  6. Hi, LW. I have nothing to add to the advice, which gives you some nice options and choices in the context of possible two-sided ambivalence.

    If he suggests specifics as CA suggests, and you go, it won’t necessarily be awkward. But, an exit strategy can be helpful (I.e., make it so that you can only stay one hour, because you have some real plans later on).

  7. It sounds like this guy might be doing the thing where you make a suggestion, and then he shoots it down and/or gets nonresponsive, and then you feel like it’s your turn to make a suggestion again. Which is super frustrating, because you put forth all this effort and all they have to do is potshot your ideas, but it always feels like the ball ends up back in your court.

    If that’s what’s going on, I second what the Captain says. It’s fine to either say nothing and wait to see if he initiates, or say, “Okay, well, let me know when you’re free!” and leave the ball firmly in his court. You aren’t obligated to keep being the motivating force indefinitely.

  8. Not to disagree, but a plan B?

    If the setting a date is in your court, then whack that ball! Stop worrying if he does or doesn’t want to. He’s a big boy, he can say no, his enjoyment and enthusiasm is not your responsibility or worry. This isn’t sex, it’s meeting for a cup of coffee, and if he says yes when he wants to say no, then that’s on him, and you don’t have the responsibility to go all Jean Grey and read his mind and make the tough decision for him. Him making the ‘wrong’ decision is on him, not you, because only he knows all the details.

    That said, have a graceful exit strategy. If you’re stuck making awkward small talk and want to leave? Leave! “Well it’s been nice catching up with you, but I have to run.” With “Feel free to drop me an e-mail!” added on or left out at your discretion.

  9. As I sometimes tell my students who are having trouble keeping up with assignments, having a major crisis and not giving a fuck look completely identical if you don’t tell me what’s going on. A person who gives a fuck can tell you what is up (and set up a fucking lunch date). A person who gives a fuck wants you to know what’s going on so that you can make good decisions. They don’t make you do all the work of deciphering their intentions.


    I’m an editor and I assign work to a lot of freelance writers. I also run a section of a volunteer organization where I assign work to several other volunteers. My one iron-clad rule for both is “If you’re going to miss a deadline, TELL ME”. I hate chasing people down. Hate hate hate.

    I once had this exchange with a freelancer (who’s also a friendly acquaintance, or I wouldn’t have taken quite this familiar tone) that shed a bit of light on the other side of the experience:

    R: This is two weeks late. Please turn it in ASAP.
    F: *sends me the work with no apology or other comment*
    R: Just so you know, most of my freelancers apologize when they miss a deadline, especially by that much.
    F: I was embarrassed and didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything.

    So now I’ve started giving new people a “sorry, I’m going to miss this deadline” script (thanks for that idea, Captain) that they can copy and paste, to avoid the “didn’t know what to say” problem, and I explicitly promise them that I won’t yell or scold or shame them for missing the deadline, in case they’re worried about provoking some sort of confrontation and would rather sit very very still like a field mouse hoping the eagle will fly right on by. My priority is getting the work done, not causing them emotional pain because they’ve caused me some inconvenience. I just need them to let me know what’s up so I can find someone else to pick up the ball they dropped.

    Same exact principle applies to breaking a date, or scheduling a date, or… a whole lot of interactions, really. LW, I think this guy is pretty rude to leave you hanging and make you chase him down. If your priority is getting a date scheduled with him, then ping him with an explicit request for a place, date, and time to meet up; it may be that he’s the one who needs the script, not you, and if you’re feeling generous then you can provide one. If your priority is knowing what the fuck is going on so you’re not leaving your entire calendar sort of vaguely open, then either ask him “Dude, what’s going on? You don’t seem really into this idea of getting together” or decide that he’s not worth leaving your calendar open for and move on.

        1. Thanks! I try to be very clear about my habits and expectations up front so that the ones who won’t like working with me figure it out and drop the gig fairly quickly; all the ones who are left seem pretty happy.

      1. It occurs to me that some freelancers, students, and others here might find it handy, so here you go, modified for more general-purpose use:

        Hi ____,

        I’m very sorry, but I won’t be able to ____ by the deadline.

        [Optional: “Would it be possible to have an extension until ____? I can definitely get it done by then. If not, I’m afraid there’s just no way I can do it.” Note that if you ask for an extended deadline you had better get the job done by then or your reputation will take a very big hit. Ideally you will get it done well before the extended deadline to demonstrate your dedication. When in doubt–as always with freelance gigs–underpromise and overdeliver.]

        [Optional: one-sentence description of the situation, such as “I’m dealing with a family emergency” or “I had a heart attack”. Again, this is OPTIONAL and useful mostly for giving the recipient a sense of when you’ll be able to get back on track. You are never obligated to reveal the details of your personal life to an employer or client.]

        [Pick one:

        This is a one-time situation and I will definitely be able to make the next deadline as usual.
        I need to take a temporary hiatus but will be available for further assignments beginning ____.
        I need to take a break for a while. I’ll let you know when I’m available for further assignments.]


        1. I think you may be my new heroine. I’m a student with an ongoing mental health problem and that script is now STOLEN. Thank you!

          Also you sound like the best boss ever. Please teach all other bosses to be as awesome as you!

          1. You’re very welcome! I too was a student with an ongoing mental health problem, so please let me be the first to reassure you that things may be hard as hell right now but there are wonderful times ahead for you.

        2. I love that script too! I haven’t missed any deadlines, but if I knew I was going to, I’d be freaked enough, I’d be worrying that I’m causing the End of the World.

          1. One of the reasons I sent it out to my entire mailing list of volunteers was to make it plain that missed deadlines totally happen, but because I plan for them–by bringing on enough people that if one person drops out the rest can take on their work without getting overloaded, by making things “due” well before I actually need them so that when someone asks for an extension it’s easy for me to say yes–they are absolutely not doom. Not fun, but not doom.

            Everyone misses a deadline sooner or later. I wasn’t kidding about “I had a heart attack” as a reason for being late; I have actually gotten apologetic emails from freelancers who were in the hospital and feeling bad about not being able to get their work done. These things happen. Don’t stress yourself over it. Just let the client know and do your best with the reality you have.

        3. OMG! You rock for sharing this. I signed in for the single solitary purpose of saying so.

          While I’m here I’ll totally cosign CA’s advice. I don’t chase people. I value authentic connections, platonic and romantic. So chasing someone down who is clearly not interested feels really creepy and stalkerific. Vulcan that I am, I prefer not to field hints or ambiguity when using ones’ words will do. Though I begrudgingly accept that many people have not done the personal work to develop those skills. So I usually do the slow fade if I don’t know a person well. I may be more direct in a kind and copacetic way if we know each other; but only for the purpose of fostering communication, not forcing someone to act in a certain way.

        4. Borrowing, with much thanks! I have previously managed volunteers in situations with deadlines and may do so again in the future and something like this would have been awesome to give out.

          1. Nesting has run out, but … let me say again thank you (this time for permission to tweak and *distribute*) – I know others who manage volunteers in this situation (and don’t always have any prior management experience) and they may also benefit. WOOT.

        5. Ooh, thank you! I am someone who sometimes needs extensions on assignments because of Reasons, but I never know how to ask. So then I sit and get flaily and panicky and think things like OH MY GOD MY ASSIGNMENT IS LATE I NEED AN EXTENSION WHAT IF MY LECTURER THINKS I’M JUST LAZY OR HOPELESS EVERYONE ELSE THINKS THIS IS EASY FAIL FAIL FAIL. (And then I sit there, breathe a bit, remind myself that I am not everyone else and it is perfectly reasonable to ask for help if I am having trouble despite my feelings of great inadequacy, and send out a formally worded and perfectly sane email.)
          A script on how to ask would help cut down on the flaily panicky time. So thanks!

        6. Oh man this would have been SUPER useful for me this semester. I had an avalanche of badness happen that made it impossible for me to write one of my papers and actually I missed a lot of deadlines in general this semester. I am yoinking this script in case something like that happens again next semester, or, really, ever.

          Thank you!

        7. Rose Fox – you are the awesome. Like, for serious times a million!

          it took me forever to figure my script out for not meeting a deadline (my Jerkbrain just didn’t want to let anyone down) – I’m sure you’ve spared many many people the agony of figuring out what to say w/o saying too much or too little.

        8. Oh wow, thank you so much for sharing this! I wish I could post it for all my students to see! Especially the one who came to me with a long story about why she couldn’t make it to class AFTER the term was over and I’d already failed her. Sorry, but I had no way of knowing your absence in an early Monday morning lab (that LOTS of students were missing each week) was due to longterm illness rather than hangovers – because you Didn’t.Tell.Me.Anything. And after the fact it sounds too much like a flimsy excuse.

  10. It’s not very direct, but what I’ve done in situations like this is respond as though I’m the one with the time issue. “Hey, I’d love to get together, but my schedule is not going to be even close to open until November of next year. I’ll let you know if something frees up before then! Have a great day, blahablahblah.” The pressure is off of me to come up with something else that can be refused and I don’t have to be bothered responding to his going through the motions. If the other person really wants to get together, they can try again in November.

    Being direct is all well and good, but what I try to remember is what I want to come from this interaction. In this case, I’d just want to not have to be bothered with him going through the motions to hang out when he has no interest in it at all and wouldn’t care that he didn’t learn how utterly annoying he was being.

  11. “As I sometimes tell my students who are having trouble keeping up with assignments, having a major crisis and not giving a fuck look completely identical if you don’t tell me what’s going on. A person who gives a fuck can tell you what is up (and set up a fucking lunch date). A person who gives a fuck wants you to know what’s going on so that you can make good decisions. They don’t make you do all the work of deciphering their intentions.”

    Damn straight.

  12. So, how does this work if all the dudes/friends are long distance (i.e. someone has to catch a plane or multiple planes)? Same difference? My mother is all up in my face to chase after these dudes, and I am so lazy I can’t be bothered to keep after people who show little to no interest.

    1. What’s lazy about not wanting to talk to some dude who doesn’t care enough to keep up his end?

      I say this as someone who is super mega awful about maintaining long-distance friendships! I have been very sad about losing some of these friendships and yet I have still not managed to hold up my end if the other side isn’t making strong overtures and doing more work than they should have to. (I do the “Oh hey we’re in the same city and friends again yay!” thing really well though).

      You’ve totally got better things to do than to howl into the void. SRSLY.

      What is up with your mom, though? I mean, does she think you need to GET A MAN or something? Because I don’t think you do. I think you should have your life and put your energy where *you* want to put it.

      1. Oh she basically told me YOU’RE GETTING OLDER AND YOU’RE NOT MARRIED. I WANT TO YOU TO PURSUE THESE DUDES. These men send generic form interests and I get no response when I respond. Or they send interests with no message and they have the most generic profile (i.e. no to little details) and I’m supposed to jump all over them because of what they say they do. I am older than Jesus. I’ve had guys run after me way harder when they were merely trying to get into my pants or just talk to me. She complains I act like I’m doing her a favor. I feel like I am doing her a huge favor since she’s made it abundantly clear that she will give me no emotional peace if I don’t date/marry someone from an acceptable socioeconomicracialreligious background to her. She even wanted me to bug this guy who I had to chase down in my hometown by calling three times, when I had made three calls/texts to set up a coffee date that he was slow to respond to, even though he “forgot” to text me his email afterwards. It makes me feel desperate and slimy. She reminds me that I can’t be picky because I’m underemployed and older. And frankly, they’re not warrior-poet billionaire supermodels or whatever (I have never dated or tried to date a WPBS), so me and my lack of libido (and brokeness) can’t be bothered. (It gets bad: I start itemizing the amount I’d have to spend to be dateready and I’m all meh, I’m not into you.)

        1. That sounds like a really ungood situation. There needs to be a point where a parent realizes that their child’s life is not their life and to just let that go. It’s too bad your mother hasn’t done that in your case. :/

        2. I agree with Puck. Im sure that she thinks that she is trying to help you, but that is actually just, well, awful. Mum’s can show their love in weird ways but you are allowed to say ‘please stop harrasing me about this’. I did this with my Mum, and its amazing what can happen when you finally Use Your Words!

    2. Long distance doesn’t mean you’re being lazy by not chasing people who don’t answer you. If anything, the distance is an incentive for planning further ahead, because you need to block out larger amounts of time, and may need to get airplane or long-distance train or bus tickets, which can sell out. (If I’m going to see someone by subway, the MTA isn’t going to turn me away because I just turned up. Amtrak might. Air Canada might. Even Greyhound might.)

    3. Yeah, though I’ve been thinking of areas where you’d have to tweak it.

      I’ve been listening lately to acquaintances from Punjabi families talk about this kind of thing. The single women are under ginormous pressure to get married just because the social blowback on unmarried women in their communities are pretty horrendous, so they’re supposed to spend a lot of time on dating websites or visiting home communities in India to find a husband. In that case their parents would be saying, “Oh, they don’t like you because you haven’t marketed yourself enough–go show them what you have to offer and they’ll pay attention.” (I think a lot of Awkwardian advice wouldn’t work with them, just because their community specifically discourages the disengaged/independent style CA advocates)

      In those cases, the tactics they use with their families tends towards “I don’t want to look desperate, that I’m chasing after people I’ve hardly talked to,” or, “That would mean spending a lot of time and money that’ll probably be useless, I’ll wait until I’ve got some better leads.” The emphasis is that they’re going to keep looking until they find someone really worth chasing after.

  13. LW, Captain America’s advice is spot-on! I’ve been in a similar situation, and this is a great way to handle it.

    I want to clarify something, though. I can understand your urge to say, “Actually, you don’t sound like you want to meet up,” but as the Captain says, such words are not very helpful and will lead to weird feelings. That’s because they are Bomb Words. Those are the words that clarify your frustration and annoyance at this person but they are presumptive and unhelpful. They are like a smoke bomb you throw down when you’re annoyed and you can escape the situation through a smokescreen of “UGH WHATEVER!” (which in this case is that you’re too annoyed with the person to care about meeting up) because it feels too awkward to just leave (where you’re leaving because the situation isn’t going anywhere).

    Basically, Bomb Words ruin the situation and make it more awkward (*cough cough* “Did LW just use a smoke bomb to escape me?”) because now what else can that person say? “No, wait, I do! I’m sorry, I am really busy…which I said already.” or “No, I guess not.”

    It may feel like saying those words will set you free because they are the Truth, but they are based on presumption and annoyance, not actual communication. Actual communication is what Captain Awkward said: trying, then letting the record show that you tried, and then leaving.

    1. Awesome comment, but I keep getting distracted because I am now imagining Captain America’s advice column…”Have you tried throwing your shield to him with this script attached?”

      1. Haha! I’m so glad I’m not the only one who envisioned that.

        “Have you tried dressing in a spandex suit or participating in a government program to turn you into a superhuman? Often, when I’m up against an unfathomable enemy (such as the Nazis), I find that thinking of my patriotic duty to inspire the people of America can help steer me toward victory.”

        1. Totally off topic, but I wanted to let you know that I love your new avatar alot (bad, bad pun intended). 😀

          1. Haha! My New Avatar Alot loves you too 😉

            I’m also really entertained by the Avengers Blog turn this comment thread has taken… I’m seriously tempted to steal the idea and apply it to my blog.

            (I would of course, give full credit and a link to this thread on each and every post.)

      2. That would be an awesome blog and I would totally read it. Just sayin’.

        (And Tony Stark could do guest posts, with a big disclaimer by Captain America at the top warning people to never ever actually take any of his advice seriously. And then maybe Bruce Banner could be talked into guest posts to offset Tony’s unhelpful ones, and his would actually be the most genuinely helpful posts. Wait. I’ve put too much thought into this. And now I’m wondering what a Thor guest post would look like…?)

        1. Thor posts would be something like Feminist Hulk, I’m sure.

          What about Hawkeye and Black Widow? “Don’t Shoot That Guy”?

          1. Black Widow’s guest posts would probably read remarkably similar to some of Scarlet Johansson’s interviews: How to keep your cool when your male teammates keep getting all the good questions, and you’re stuck with “how do you fit into that suit” and ” what’s the est lipstick to wear on a murder spree”.

          2. I can’t answer clodia directly, but this fic was inspired by watching Scarlet Johansson answer one too many stupid interview questions, and the thought of the actors doing a reading of it has helped me through some very dreary days.

          3. @Epiphyta

            Although I’d read most of that fic, I don’t think I’d read that particular chapter, so thank you for the link! Exactly the kind of thing I was thinking!

          4. I get as far as a mental image of RDJ and Jeremy Renner showing off the fit of their trousers for the camera, and fall over laughing every time. And the exchange:

            “I could have handled it.”
            “We know you could have –”
            “– we just didn’t think you should have to.”

            Makes me all sniffly.

        2. Thor’s Guest post: “The Exper Tells You How To: Politely decline sexual overtures from human females.”

          (Sorry, just re watched The Avengers and I’m still all Thor swoony.)

    2. Oh man, Bomb Words. This is an extremely helpful concept for me. I’ve definitely mastered the business of letting go of someone who is not giving many fucks, but I have a hard time resisting the Parting Shot, if I’m given the opportunity.

      Usually I don’t regret setting a Word Bomb off. But reading this just caused me to realize that I only do it when I’m over-invested in the bombed relationship (e.g. I’d built up a nice image of what dating you could be like, or we just broke up and I want friendly overtures as a sort of breakup fee). So, that’s a thing to know for the future. Thanks.

      1. Wow, I love that you guys understand Bomb Words too! And I love hearing your experiences with it! They go more in depth in a way I didn’t know how to say.

        In my case, I used Bomb Words when I was very confused. It also didn’t help that I was hiding my anger and not Using My Words before either. They are extremely hard to sort out because the urge to use them is so powerful it feels like the only option. You can go back to the friendship if you apologize for using them and realize the emotions behind them (in your case, LW, frustration and annoyance; in my cases, embarrassment, anxiety, and frustration), but the latter is easier said than done.

    3. Bomb words. I needed this concept. Because they can really hurt like hell when you hear them from someone you love. And it’s because of the shrapnel, and because, you know, it’s a /bomb/. When hearing, “You clearly don’t love me, or at least anything /I’d/ call ‘love’,” my heart shatters into eighteen million seemingly-unfixable pieces, while I try to figure out what the hell is wrong with me that I’m somehow being interpreted this way when I am in fact /full/ of love, and… yeah. There is no good response to bombs.

    4. I have a question here, if you don’t mind expanding a bit more. How do you define Bomb Words? And how do you tell whether something’s Bomb Words or Using Your Words?

      It seems like a really useful concept, but I’m not sure I’ve quite got hold of it (or would be able to keep hold of it in a pinch).

      1. This is how I see it:

        Bomb words are when you have reached a conclusion, and that conclusion is what you say. The problem is that the conclusion is about someone else’s emotional state and you don’t really have all the information.

        Using Your Words is when you lay out the observations you’ve made. The observations are what lead you to the conclusion, but the conclusion is just what you THINK. Using Your Words is about sharing what you KNOW.

        Bomb Words: “Actually, you don’t sound like you want to meet up,” = “I have made a decision about why you are reacting the way you do. I will state my interpretation and now it’s on you to deny it… which I might not believe anyway.”

        Using Your Words: “I’ve suggested four different times & places, and you’ve turned them all down without suggesting anything different. Do you want to meet up? It’s really okay if you don’t.”

        For me, I use the “actions are louder than words” rubric. As in, “if there’s a mismatch between someone’s words and their actions, the actions are telling the truth.” (I’ve seen the idea before; that exact quote I think came from someone in the CA-verse, and I’ve got it up on my wall here at work.) (And honestly? I use it on myself as well as on other people.)

        1. Man. Bomb words are such a useful concept. My mom totally Bomb Words in response to anyone having the slightest negative reaction/emotion to anything (not good), and seeing this concept laid out is really, really helpful.

          This is also a good breakdown of the difference in Using Your Words to communicate well and using words to make the matter worse. Thank you!

  14. Oh man, this so much!

    I was trying online dating about 10 years ago, and had it narrowed down to two guys in the internet talking stages. Both of them poofed within a week. So I brought out the Bomb Words:

    “Hi there, hadn’t heard from you in a few days. I know we’re just testing the waters at this stage so if you met someone else or changed your mind, good luck to you.”

    One guy replied that he had indeed started talking to someone in whom he was more interested and wanted to see where it would go. Never heard from him again. The other guy? ERUPTED on me. Turned out his dad had suddenly gone in to the hospital and would probably die soon and I got a very angry rant in which many nasty words were said. I told him I was sorry to hear about his dad, and also added that maybe we weren’t in a good place to pursue things further (his words had things like “bitch” and “self-centered” not just expressing frustrations and anger over his situation) and that I hoped that things would get better. “Fuck you, bitch” is what I got back, and I promptly reported him.

    After that, I resolved to never ever say that again. Bomb Words just blow up in your face one way or another, and like it’s been said, if someone wants to they will make the effort. Also, I sorted myself out enough to figure out that asking after someone for disappearing after only a week was just silly and desperate.

    1. *winces* Ouch. Yeah, as someone who grew up around people who used Bomb Words a lot, they’re not actually helpful.

      And also, speaking as an observer who’s seen a lot of Bomb Words, it’s amazing how often they say more about the speaker than the person they’re being addressed to, because people’s experiences and issues often colour their interpretations of a situation…

      1. That was definitely the case here. I’d gotten dumped three years prior, had met a great guy who’d suddenly disappeared into into the ether after two weeks (he was the first decent guy who knew I existed after three years and so my ego which was already frail took a huge bruising)and at the time it just felt like “Oh crap, here we go again, let’s just get the inevitable out of the way.” Not the best outlook…but yeah. I was rock-bottom self esteem wise.

  15. Someone who is perpetually too busy for you or impossible to nail down or who never takes the initiative to suggest a plan is not that motivated to hang out with you. – Wow, by your defenition I don’t want to hung up with ANYONE in the world. And Well… I am not sure what to do about it really

    1. +1 on this, minus the lack of initiative. In a social circle of peeps who all have plenty of friends and things going on besides moi(and I will probably appear the same to them), you learn to just low-pressure blanket-invite and don’t count on more than a handful showing up at any given time. Works wonders both for friends and peeps you’re interested in as more, especially if the American model of exploratory dating is still a tad foreign to one’s country.

    2. Allow me to make a few suggestions, then! (Assuming that you wanted them. I was getting that implication, but since it wasn’t explicit, please skip the rest of this if you didn’t actually want any advice.)

      The key is the counteroffer. If somebody invites you to do something, but you’re ridiculously busy, say so straight out, and suggest an alternative. The alternative might be to check back in two months, or it might be to grab coffee together one Saturday, or whatever.

      If you’re hard to nail down because your schedule is constantly shifting, say so straight out, and suggest an alternative. Again, that might be to check back in a couple of months, or it might be a conversation about how tentative planning could work — at what point does the yes/no need to become ironclad? How does that fit with the vagaries of your schedule? — or it might be that you’re always free on Thursdays after 9:30 so how about a phone date?

      It’s the counteroffer that makes it clear you actually want to spend time with the other person. And if you can’t manage a counteroffer, for whatever reason, throw something in about how you wish you could, you miss hanging out, etc., and drop the person the occasional “thought you’d get a kick out of this” email or whatever.

  16. LW, if you are having “the ball is in my court must respond” feelings, and you’ve already tried to set up dates, possibly something like, “hey, I’m still interested in getting together if you are, if you want to let me know when you have some time we can see if schedules line up”. It puts the ball in his court, but also says you’re not going to chase it (or I hope it does. Modify to make it fit you/your situation/your understanding of words as needed).

    1. I’m not sure if this is too “chasey” but might one last approach be: “I’m going to be at [favorite coffee shop not too near where I live] at [specific date/time]. I’ll be there working on [project] so if you have time to stop by, it would be nice catch up.”

      Be at place, do your thing. If he shows, he shows. If not, you’ve done that thing you were going to do at that coffee shop anyway.

      Sometimes a date certain is easier to prioritize. But again, that may be more effort than you want to put into it, but if you feel that the “ball is in my court” then it might be an approach to try.

  17. Ok, so, sorry if this is long. I felt I must write it down because it’s been on my mind for such a long time and reading this post just made it impossible not to think of it. I hope you don’t feel me intruding on the actual matter here. So. This question just made me think of my own situation for the past two years. Two years ago I started to work with this guy who gave an immediate response in me. We decided it was mutual and there were lots of head and probably also (at least in my case) loads of pent up pants feelings. We decided to meet up but since that spring he had to juggle being a single dad, day care and selling the house with house with his ex he really didn’t have much time to spare, which I understood. After that time just dragged out. We talked now and then but nothing happened. The past year and a half we havent really been close but from time to time we’ve had really deep hear-to-hearts and the feelings never really went away. He has a girlfriend now, and I’ve a boyfriend (my relationship is of the open kind, he hasn’t given specifications of his). We have, over the past six months, decided to meet, with mutual excitement, to meet up. We’ve even set dates, but every time he has cancelled. And I think to just let it go but then he’s the one to get in touch and suggest we should meet up. I just don’t know what to do with this situation. I want him. It feels we have feelings for eachother. But it feels he chickens out everytime we are supposed to meet up, but yet he doesn’t seem to be breaking it off clean with me. Sorry ’bout the long novella. I just feel I need some advice. And this question just set off all of my feelings ’cause it felt so familiar.

    1. Oy, two years of this?

      Okay, I’m going to refer you to my comment above. The guy’s got time for what he’s got priorities for. Also, you can see that he’s got time for a girlfriend. So… he doesn’t choose to prioritize you, for whatever reason.

      He probably really does think you’re totally neat. He might even get awesome pantsfeelings. But maybe there’s something, even before the girlfriend; maybe he’s not into open stuff right now, who knows.

      What I know is that right now, with this guy, it ain’t happenin’.

      So…. since he’s the one who contacts you to set another date after cancelling, I think next time you should have a bit of a Talk. As in:

      “I think you’re very cool and I would definitely like to Verb with you. However, every time we’ve made plans to Verb, you’ve cancelled. It’s left me feeling pretty bad. I know how life can be, but I wonder if you’re not in the place to Verb with me right now? Are you willing to talk about what’s going on with that?”

      It could be that he’s got problems that are really just shit happens problems — like, say, he’s developed cluster migraines and you’re just one of the things he’s had to cancel everything of. Or he’s negotiated open things with the girlfriend but it turns out she’s not actually so open and has a Problem every time he’s got a date with you so he has to cancel. Or maybe he’s really interested and thinks you’re amazing but doesn’t have the space in his life and hasn’t figured out that love is infinite but time is not. Or maybe he’s just a croissant: Flaky all the way through but buttery and delicious if you get one in your hands.

      Whatever you do, if you do decide to make more plans with this guy, make them of the sort someone described above, where you are going somewhere you are happy to be if you were going on your own, and it’ll just be a lovely surprise if he manages to show up that time. (And bring a book.)

      Also, and this is the important thing: IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU.

    2. This sounds pretty similar. :/ You may want the guy, and he says he wants to be with you, but his actions say otherwise. At the very least, any future meetup should be some place very convenient for you, so if he doesn’t show again you haven’t wasted any effort.

      His actions say you’re not a huge priority to him. He likes having this person he can have deep conversations with, and can maybe dream about having a relationship with some day, but he’s not putting the work in. He’s not making or keeping dates, following through on commitments, or even telling you what his setup is with his girlfriend. None of those are signs that you should definitely plan on something happening between you two.

      You get to pick whether you’re okay with having an unreliable, flaky paramour off to the side (who you keep around because he’s cute and fun to talk to, even if he can’t keep dates), or whether you want to break it off with him and give yourself closure. But it sounds like those are your options, because you have no control to make him suddenly take you seriously and act on this attraction to you.

  18. OK, I just read through my post over this one and realised it’s full of grammatical errors and lingual awkwardness. Can you forgive me not being a Swede, and not a native english speaker? I hope so.

    1. Your meaning was completely clear. You’ve even got a pretty good handle on English idiom, which impresses the hell out of me. I’d say you have nothing to apologize for. (This comes from someone who can say with authority that there are lots of native English speakers out there whose writing is a LOT harder to understand than yours.)

  19. Can you forgive be, *BEING a Swedem, and not a native English speaker? Sorry about spam. Moderators please remove what you find necessary!

  20. I’m usually coming at this from the other side. Social situations, especially with people I don’t know very well (especially-especially with people that I want to like me, including potential networking buddies and guys from dating sites) make me anxious. And that makes me put off writing a response. And THAT makes me get to the point where after this long, a response would just be stupid, right? Hah…eh…

    I’ve screwed myself out of a few good friendships, and at least one potentially amazing job opportunity like that (and in terms of anxiety, after sweating half an hour on my four-sentence e-mails to said opportunity, I’d still make my roommate read them and okay them before sending).

    But those are strangers, and this is a guy you know. Well….I’ve done it a couple of times with old friends who wanted to meet up again. And it’s not that I don’t–I do. Just…overwhelming stuff happens.

    Anyway. Definitely don’t stress out about it, LW. If there’s a problem, it is not on your end. I guess my point is, if he does get back in touch and seems sincere about meeting up, don’t hold his previous communication screw-ups against him?

  21. “Then it’s okay to need and want that reassurance and to hang back and see if it is forthcoming.”

    I’m really glad you said this. I have this need/want characterized as entitlement and as expecting the person to psychically know the script you have in your head. I don’t think it’s unreasonable at all, especially after one has put in effort of one’s own, to want someone to initiate plans.

    1. My friends have the concept of “compatibly crazy”, meaning that if you’re aware you have particular issues and hangups, it’s entirely fine to look for people who have complementary issues and hangups. If you know that you want other people to reach out to you, it’s completely reasonable to consciously select for people who enjoy initiating contact, and it’s also completely reasonable to step back and give them space to do so. (Many many years ago, I complained to my partner at the time that he never reached for my hand to hold hands while we were walking. “I can’t,” he said. “You always reach for mine as soon as we go out the door.” So I throttled my desperate urgent need for constant physical contact, and he did indeed reach for my hand once the opportunity existed.)

      That said, a single comment along the lines of “I would really like it if you sometimes initiated contact” can often go a long way. But it’s only going to get the desired effect if the person you’re saying it to is already comfortable with the idea of initiating contact and just needs a nudge or some reassurance that you won’t see it as pushiness or grasping desperation.

    2. “I have this need/want”

      Should be “I have seen this need/want”. Brain is faster than fingers.

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