#420: Did that date go well? I can’t tell.

A magic 8 ball that says "Reply hazy, ask again later."
I’m awkward, I’m not oracular.

Dear Captain Awkward:

So I went on a second date with a guy and am unsure of next steps. Context: both dates were Sunday walks where we were bundled up like marshmallows. End of first date – he’s very specific with his plans for following up. End of second date – a hug and ‘we should do this again sometime.’ Given his approach to the first date, I interpret this as ‘friends,’ but then he went out of his way to come back to my car and give my dog a treat. What’s your interpretation?

-Shy One

Dear Shy One:

My interpretation is that, while none of the interactions you describe sound like a brushoff, you are asking an impossible question.

There is exactly one person in the universe who can tell you about this guy’s feelings, hopes, plans, and wishes re: You and what he intended certain words and actions to convey beyond their literal surface meaning. He gave your dog a treat, so I assume he wanted to give your dog a treat. I don’t know the meta-meaning of dog treats or whether they carry some deeper Jungian significance for him or whether he was doing some subtle conveying in your direction. Also, you were there! If you can’t tell what the vibe was like, how can we?

Good News: You’ve met the person who holds the key to this secret. They will be easy to contact!

Bad/Scary News: It’s this actual guy!

So, do YOU think the date went well?

Did you have fun?

Did you enjoy talking with him?

Do you WANT to see him again?

Do you have feelings about him?

Are some of those feelings located in your pants? Is there at least a twinge of curiosity about his manly, well-formed hands inside those giant mittens or the pleasing lips you glimpsed through one of the holes in the ski mask?

Are you unsure about how you feel and think you need to spend more time with him to make a good decision?

What would happen if you emailed him right now and said “I had a great time seeing you the other night. I think you are very handsome and fun to be with, and my dog also likes you. Can we plan another date soon?

Pretty much the worst thing that would happen if you sent that message is that he does not feel the same way and does not want to go on another date. That was always a possibility (as it was always possible that you would not like him), so that possibility is eminently survivable, right? Look at you, surviving the idea that some random dude isn’t all that into you. Well done, you!

A second possibility is that he’s WAY into you but after another date or seven you decide you’re not into him. Also survivable; consider it survived.

Third possibility is where the maybe-happy maybe-risky maybe-good stuff happens. I don’t think anything you have told me takes that off the table. So be awkward and see what happens. But stop examining every word and action as if they are sheep’s entrails. Sheeps’ entrails don’t tell the future. Nor do a bunch of totally innocuous and routine social interactions from someone you just met.

Okay, I’m making some fun of the question, but I want to say: There are a jillion sites and quizzes and articles that purport to decipher routine innocuous interactions and tell you what He/She Is Really Thinking, or, Signs He/She Likes/Doesn’t Like You That Way. Unfortunately, these publications employ total dipshits to explain enforce gender norms. Behind anyone claiming to translate Boy into Girl or vice-versa, picture the proverbial emperor dancing around in his tighty-whiteys.

Good news! You’re definitely not stupid for wanting help processing something you’re not sure about or hoping that we might have reassuring answers! Bad news: Reassuring answers on what this guy intends are backordered, arriving never. Do people communicate desire in confusing, indirect, and nonverbal ways? Yep, all the time. Should you try to decipher all of those behaviors and look for “signs”? Nope. You’ll make yourself nuts. If you can’t tell, and they haven’t told you, and you want to know, ask. You may or may not be an object of this guy’s desire; you get to be an agent of your own.

24 thoughts on “#420: Did that date go well? I can’t tell.

  1. LW, I think it’s your turn to make a plan, if you would like to spend more time with this guy. You can do that by thinking of something you would like to do, perhaps something indoors, if you do not want to be marshmallows together again*.

    You might consider something involving food, or something involving pretty things to look at, so that you have things to talk about.

    If you have not already expressed the interest level of your head, heart, and pants, you might find a moment during such a time to do so, and see what he says.

    *Or something outdoors with a planned arrival at somewhere with hot chocolate so you can Come In From The Cold together, that’s often a lovely moment.

  2. I agree with Carbonated Wit – instead of asking whether the two of you can have another date, suggest something specific. The type of guy you want to be dating will be happy that you’re taking some initiative, I promise. 🙂

    1. Yes, it occurs to me that he may also be wondering if you’re into him, and hoping you’ll come up with a plan this time. Maybe not, but if you can be unsure and wonder, so can he!

  3. Once I had a friend who spent a least a half an hour analyzing whether or not a guy purchasing a slurpee for her represented his secret interest in transforming their FWB into actual dating despite his stated intentions. Do not do this.

    Ask people questions, believe what they say, any other way lies madness!

    1. ‘Ware the Slurpee of Intention! It cannot be parsed, only slurped, and the subsequent brainfreeze is brutal.

  4. I am always puzzled by these sorts of things. I haven’t dated in ages, but has it become so brutal and so full of douchecanoes that the slightest kind or even polite gestures are picked apart and analyzed for signs of it being a budding romance? If so, that’s very scary!

    Maybe I’ve just been out of the loop too long…

    1. Don’t accidentally buy anyone a Slurpee of Intention! Or, you know, just use words and hope that other people do too.

    2. I feel like the people have done this for quite some time, especially the young people, as feelings and uncertainty have always been scary!

      1. Agreed! Look at Austen’s Persuasion, with the constant fretting over who sits next to whom in the barouche-landau. Slurpeemancy is nothing new.

    3. That’s not really brutality or douchcanoes, I think, it’s just Hopefulness and Anxiety About Possibilities.

      It’s just “Does he like me, or, like, Like-like me?”

  5. This site has tipped me from the side of Slurpee-analysing to the side of using my words, and it is so much better over here.

    I emailed a guy on a dating website and and we emailed for a couple of weeks. Then we met up for drinks, hung out for over four hours, had lively conversation, and had many things in common. He offered to walk me to my bus stop even though it was in the opposite of his train station and he had at least an hour of travelling to get home.

    And in the Slurpee-analysing days, I would have built everything up into a great blossoming romance that was destined to be awesome because all these signs were amazing. And I would have described all this to my girlfriends and they would have said, “Yes this does sound promising. Yay!” And I would have told my internet friends, and they would have said, “Yes! This is awesome!”

    But I did not do that. What I did instead was, a couple of days later, I sent him a text saying, “I enjoyed hanging out with you on Friday. Would you like to go out again sometime?”

    And he texted back that he did not want to date me.

    So I thanked him for being up-front about that. And he thanked me for so nice about it. And we both moved on with our lives with maybe five minutes of awkwardness. It was awesome.

  6. I don’t know beans about dating. Is second-date-ending considered “bad?” He could be a guy who moves slowly. He could have been all filled with snot because ’tis the season, and not wanted a kiss. He may not have had anything specific in mind. He might just want to be friends.

    Yup. Gotta vote for using your words. I’d call him up and make a specific date for something (hey, there’s a handful of good date movies out right now).

    Also, the Slurpee of Intention is now my new favorite phrase. I too shall be on guard against its inevitable brainfreeze.

  7. As much as the advice and support you (and the awkward army) give to people in shitty situations and as helpful as those posts are to me, sometimes it is nice to see a totally cute squee post about happy things. (And still full of good life advice.)

  8. This can easily become uncharted territory and following everybody’s advice to actually create a map rather than simply writing “there be dragons” and creating fables is actually pretty sensible. I a guy who never really dated much in his teens, shacked up with a couple of women in my twenties without ever dating them in the traditional sense, and suddenly am in my mid-thirties floundering around on OKCupid. My strategy has been to just be myself, try to portray myself accurately online, and assume that I honesty will eventually pay dividends. Sure I have had some seemingly pleasant dates with women who wouldn’t return my calls but it will all work out in the end and I try not to get bent out of shape by the process.

    It is pretty dam confusing for me too. I’m not blessed with excess emotional intelligence and non-verbal cues are often lost on me. It is well worth fortifying yourself to be willing to take the lead, communicate your interest in a non-subtle way, and suggest a date that will take things in the direction you are interested in. Anything else is just an opportunity to drive you-self crazy. If it doesn’t work out you can be ready to pounce on the next guy.

  9. Ever so slightly disappointed that question #420 wasn’t about pot.

    But as usual this is most excellent advice from The Cap’m.

  10. This letter totally reminds me of two things:

    1) Every romantic interaction I had from 14-26. Every one.
    2) The “mix tape” song from Avenue Q.

  11. My own Slurpee of Intention was a tub of Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food. I was enjoying an indoor movie night with a friend I had a crush on like whoa, and I passed him the ice cream tub, and got this funny tingly apprehension in the pit of my stomach when he took up the spoon I’d been using. I blurted out, ‘D’you want me to get you your own spoon?’ (like, hello, it’s his house, he knows where to find a damned spoon if he wants one), and he was all, ‘Nah it’s cool,’ and started nomming, and I was all OMG HE WANTS MY SALIVA ON HIS TONGUE, IT IS ON LIKE DONKEY KONG. And half my friends agreed when I obsessively relayed every detail to them, and the other half said that maybe I was reading a bit too much into the Power of the Spoon, and I should maybe look for further signs before committing myself totally to his love, in case I got hurt?

    Cue an unhealthy number of months spent dissecting every interaction to try and figure out whether the guy was totally into me, or if I was just Reading Too Much Into It. My opinion swung wildly back and forth in a very unpleasant way. It took me more than a year to figure out that the ‘mixed signals’ were coming from a place where he didn’t want to be romantically involved with him, but liked to shore up his insecurity by having me hanging around gazing at him all starry-eyed like he was something special. FOR MONTHS.

    My words. I should have used them. /facepalm

  12. I’m a relatively new reader, but I just wanted to say the idea of expressing interest, then setting the planning on the partner seems like a wonderful idea. Much better than wondering if the person is trying to avoid, or if they actually do have other plans

    My last relationship was born and died on the “slurpee of intention” mistake. I use “take care” as a generic goodbye, and an ESL co-worker interpreted that in a far more intimate way. The good news is that it led to an actual relationship, as her sudden interest in me got through my dense skull. The bad news is that it was a good indicator of the communication hurdle we would continue to trip over for the rest of the relationship.

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