I’m very attracted to a man I see in my local supermarket, I’ve seen him in there many times over the past year and we acknowledge each other, smile etc. unfortunately I’m too shy to ask him face to face if he would be interested in meeting for coffee or having a beer. I have found him on an online car forum and I’m not sure whether I should try sending an email through the online forum or whether that would that be stalkery and rather creepy? Any thoughts?
P.S. I’m in my mid 40’s and he’s a similar age.
If you are not already a recognizable, regular posting member of that forum, where he would know who you are if he saw your username, I vote “creepy.” Mildly creepy, maybe “vaguely off-putting” rather than “creepy”, but my advice is: Don’t do it.
I don’t know this guy, maybe he, specifically, would be flattered. Maybe some people reading this would be flattered and have great stories for you about how they handled something like this. To me, it’s risky stuff. When I was single, I had people do this, and I never liked it. It made me feel surveilled, not noticed in a good way. Even if I liked them from knowing them from around the way and would have maybe gone out with them if they’d asked me directly, something like this always felt like a dominance display and was a deal-breaker for me. “I am too shy to talk to you, but I know how to find you and am going to show off how much I know about you.”
In the social media age, our info is out there (largely put out there by us). My dating site username was…CaptainAwkward. I was super-fucking-findable. I’ve totally looked up my online dates before going on dates with them because I am a curious person and for safety reasons. I wanted to have a reasonable reassurance that they are who they say they are. I assume they looked me up, too. That’s okay, because we were already talking and making plans to hang out (through the medium of the dating site) and there was a mutual context for that to happen. But I think there are limits around this, and one of those limits is that if you want to spend more time with someone you know from a certain context, it’s way better to interact with them a little more within that context than to show off your advanced research skills. I know there are a whole subset of dating guides that are all about how to get someone’s contact info and prove that you are into them by showing that you made the effort. This site exists partially to run screaming from advice like that.
I made a movie about this FYI.
Dear T, if you want to meet this guy for coffee sometime, it’s time to quit Firthing. Use one of your business cards (or make one if you don’t have one, or write your email address on a slip of paper), walk up to him, and say “Hi, it’s always so nice to run into you here. Would you ever want to get a drink? Here’s my info, let me know.” If he’s pro this idea, he’ll carry the conversation the next little way. If it’s confusing or weird, you can walk away, no harm done. He’ll get in touch or he won’t. Even if he’s not interested, he will likely be flattered and glad to be asked. Good people do not take sincere invitations as insults.You can do it!
120 thoughts on “#676: Romantic or creepy?”
I think its kinda creepy . Asking him face to face would be so much better . 🙂
I think asking him face to face would be better 🙂
If he doesn’t respond warmly to your invitation can you start shopping elsewhere to avoid future uncomfortable run-ins? I’m timid, so I would probably gauge that before making the advance.
Once upon a time I volunteered to be an artist’s model for a good friend of mine and now when my name is googled some of the semi-nude paintings of me show up in google images. I think the paintings are totally awesome but I do wonder sometimes *who* is googling me and what impression they get from it!
Depending on how common your name is and how recognizable you are, it probably ranges from “oh those wacky Google images!” To “intriguing? Maybe I’ll ask about that a few dates in.”
My name is uncommon. People with common names really get off the hook on this!
My name is super-common, which means if you Google [the Awe Ritual] in [the State of No. Reason], you’ll get two people, neither of whom are me, both of whom are about half my age and neither of whom are making particularly helpful-to-their-future-selves choices. “My” mug shots have been brought up at job interviews. So it’s not all anonymous bliss and popcorn-worthy glimpses into people’s love lives when their wives (gah) send tearful six-page letters begging “me” to stop destroying their marriages by sleeping with their idiot husbands.
Lol – I have a super-common name as well… when I get comments like, “I’ve seen your photography…” or “You are an excellent ballet dancer…”, my answer is typically something like: “Do you really believe there is only one [SpinachInquisition] in [City withheld]?”.
Plus, I most definitely do not have a ballerina’s body. Just sayin’.
I may or may not have decided to take my spouse’s name when we got married at least in part because it took me from having a name that literally no one else findable through Google has (way to go, Ellis Island misspellings!) to having a name that is so common in certain parts of the world it might as well be Michael Smith. Perhaps an overly practical way of making that decision (and also I lost some serious feminist street cred among my friend group), but I can honestly say I’ve never regretted the name change. There’s something really delightful about being un-Googleable after years of having random facts about me launched at me by new dates/interviewers/etc. when I wasn’t expecting it.
Yep! This happened to me right around the time I graduated from college and started going on job interviews. This teacher who slept with one of her students HAD to go and use her middle name when she was arrested so it was HerFirstName MyFirstName MyLastName. When you Googled me, you got her mugshot and all these articles. This went on for years, until another lady with my exact name started doing really well in life. Now we’re vying for the top spot on Google. She seems like a cool person with a successful business, so I don’t mind at all! You go, other Diane!
My name is not especially common in the country where I live but extremely common in Latin America. If I google “Firstname Lastname” I get 10,000 hits and none of them are me. However, two of my doppelgangers are bikini models. I worry that non-Latin Americans might think my name is unique and assume those search results are me! I always use my middle initial in professional correspondence, but it still worries me…
My name is pretty common (in Germany, I seem to be the only me in the UK nowadays) and now I’m wondering if I need to expect questions about my exciting double life as a riding instructor or a goldsmith at interviews!
Yeah, my last name is super duper common, so right now I’m escaping most of the googling furor. However, since I’m going to shortly be changing my first name and middle name legally from [birthname] to [actual name], I’m also debating adding my mom’s last name. Because I’ve wanted it since I was 3. I love that name, and as a kid I expressed a lot of displeasure at my parents for going with my Dad’s really boring, common name. However, mom’s last name would put me as a google-able person, and if you google just her last name, 100% of the results are relatives, and my name is super not common so googling it would just result in me. Which I’m not thrilled about, and it’s complicating that decision.
Wow. I have a mildly unusual name; luckily for me it’s also an old-fashioned name, and most of the google results that aren’t me are obituaries or genealogical records. Not much confusion possible there.
I have a surprisingly common name — like, it’s not surprising there are a lot of [Ostropoler]s here, but who knew so many of them would be named [Hershele]? It’s worse/better for my sister, since it’s entirely unsurprising that [Ostropoler]s would name their daughters [Hershsister]*, especially given how many [Hershsister]s there are period, Jewish and not. I once went to a doctor’s office and found on the sign-in sheet other patients, apparently a married couple, named [Hershele and Hershsister Ostropoler].
A DuckDuckGo search on my name gets a huge number of links to/about one particular individual, a handful about another, and one or two of my cousin, whose middle name is my first name.
*Not Jennifer, though I’m sure the Captain has a similar experience.
I share a name with a major news site, a gubernatorial candidate, a former congressman, and two law firms, so I used to be un-Googleable at all, until Google changed something in their search programs and I suddenly appeared.
I keep my birth name as my legal name, despite having used a different name in my personal life for a couple of decades now, because my birth name is so common as to make me not appear in Google results for the first ten pages or so. Good luck, employers! No, I am not the dentist, the real estate agent, the Olympic skier, *or* the actress. Thank you for your interest, though!
@Marriedtomyboat – If you have any sort of Google account, it’s probably filtering to make results that it knows (or thinks) are you when you search. Unless other people are searching and getting you as well?
My FirstName LastName combination is unique on the internet and always has been. As a result I am super careful about what goes up there against my actual name (mainly work and professional stuff) and I don’t routinely give out my full name to someone I’ve met through online dating either because of the stalking potential. While I actually like my name, I sometimes wish I had a bit more cover for my online persona.
One of the reasons I don’t fret too much about people Googling my name. My legal name *is* Mary Sue. Whole lotta hits before you find me.
Plus it gives you so many opportunities for jokes!
The last time I Googled myself I found over thirty of me before I got tired of looking.
*nodding* My passport name is shared by a human rights attorney, a midwife, several jewelers, a photographer, a LOT of genealogy records — and most of the hits are in the UK. Which I am not.
My name is uncommon but is also the name of a famous dead person, which means that no matter how much I outright state my full name on the internet I am more or less un-Googleable. Which is occasionally inconvenient in itself.
I am kind of jealous of people with common names. I have a friend whose name is like Mary Johnson – extremely common first and last names – and she just can’t understand how different things are for me. We’ve talked about it and she just doesn’t get it. I have an uncommon first name, and nearly everyone with my last name is related to me. My name is literally unique. *sigh*
My name is also the name of a character of a popular TV show, which is now the number one hit for my name, but also the source of lots of dumb jokes from people I introduce myself to, both in personal and professional situations.
I thought my name was literally unique. Then I heard from another Vicki Lastname. The last I checked, there are three of us visible online, all living in the U.S.; one of them is a photographer, with lots of hits if you do an image search.
I wound up sending Florida Vicki an email saying, among other things, that I am bi and poly and that’s likely to turn up if someone googles, so she might want to be prepared to say “oh, that’s the other Vicki. Weird, huh, I used to think I was the only one” instead of “huh, what?!” if someone says “I didn’t know you were bi” or “what’s that about a girlfriend in Boston?”
@Vicki I would be fascinated if another person with my name appeared online. I google my name occasionally and, with quote marks, everything that comes up is related to me or my immediate family (mostly it’s those people finder websites, but still). Without quotes, a few not-sure-who-that-is (but-they’re-probably-a-relative) links pop up, but it’s still mostly me and my immediate family. It’s….really just me. I try not to put my name online too much, especially in public places. It’s just so weird and uncomfortable.
My boyfriend’s brothers use the same fake last name on FB because the only [real last name]s in the US are their immediate family and paternal first cousins. The best possible situation for googling is to have a last name that’s either a common one or a common word. 😀 😀 😀
I live in a country where my name is very difficult to pronounce for most native speakers here, and for years I had to repeat my name several times before most people could even approximate it (I don’t really care if they get it exactly, but it’s nice to be in the ballpark). Then over the past decade, a VERY famous comic series started including a character with my last name, and a woman with my first name became a famous TV personality, so suddenly everyone can pronounce both of my names! This is awesome, but it does also mean that it’s suddenly quite easy to remember the spelling of both, so I am suddenly extremely easy to google. There are plenty of people with my whole name in the world, but I believe I’m the only one in this country. I don’t actually use my whole name online much anymore though, so it hasn’t caused a problem.
As for the LW’s main question, I’m just going to join in with the huge chorus in the comments and agree that I’d stick to talking to him in person, and that I don’t think it’ll mean you have to switch shopping locations even if it doesn’t result in a date!
I live in a very small country. Before I got married, there were at least two people with same surname and last name who I got occasionally mixed up with, despite my old name being rather uncommon.
I took my husband’s name for various reasons (including that I always disliked my last name and it’s not really a family name since most of my relatives don’t share it).
After the name change, I became literally the only living person with this particular name combination 😀 No-one outside my country has this surname, everyone in this country who has it is a blood relation of my husband.
I had to make my linkedin and facebook profiles public, because googling my new name turned up only my husband’s long-dead ancestors from genealogy sites. (They are… the sort of family who know their ancestors like WAY back in time :))
“I’m dead” is surely not the best impression to give to googling recruiters 😀
In the ‘only one person with that name’ I once had a customer purchase an item with LastName as a Recognizable Fandom Thing. Something like I was shipping to ‘Jane Obiwankenobi’. I was curious, and discovered through google that yes, it had made minor fandom news a few years ago when they had changed it. It felt a bit like I was selling to a celebrity.
This was the kind of thing that would never have occurred before the internet, but now my professional name is the same as another lady and we seem to have similar Google-Fame levels. However, my notoriety is that of a mild-mannered Cat Guru, and she is a rabble-rousing political activist. And we are different races.
In a comic book, it would definitely be a Secret Identity/SuperHero situation.
You could of course shop elsewhere, but that seems excessive. The worst thing this guy could say is most likely “Hey, no thank you.” Then he will want things to be as non-awkward as possible.
Of all the times I’ve ever asked people out within the context of their being someone I saw through the course of my day, I’ve had exactly one person make it awkward. I asked them out (in person), they turned me down, and then they subsequently made it abundantly clear that I was supposed to have dropped off the face of the earth and never entered that place again, which seeing as I had been going there for years prior to that, did not happen. Eventually they got over it. Obviously, look at your own behavior and make sure you’re not being creepy, but don’t feel like “turned me down” = “I can never, ever come here again.”
Yeah… I’m a photographer, and as part of my master’s thesis, I shot a bunch of *very* unflattering naked self-portraits. I also have an uncommon name. Which is in general a good thing, because I am proud of my portfolio, and it’s easy to find. But I also have a really uncomfortable relationship with those particular photos, and it totally weirds me out to try to flirt with someone who’s already seen me naked (in, like, the WORST way), so I’m always hoping that the people I’m trying to date are bad at google. And I’m extra wary about giving out my Facebook or email or anything else with my last name.
(Funny story, though, one time a friend of mine got those photos as a result of a google image search of HIS name)
(They have to be REALLY bad or uninterested in google, because [first name] + [photography] + [my university, where I now work] = NAKED ME.)
I agree with the Captain. I vastly prefer communicating by email so I definitely identify with the idea as a way to get around the really scary in-person asking, but I’d be alarmed by it in this situation, if someone did it to me. I like the Captain’s idea of being really casual with a “Let me know if” rather than waiting for a response in the actual moment; I’d hand over the contact info (probably my email address!) and then be all “Must run! See you around! *fleeing the scene*”
Seems like a good place to drop this: when I was searching OkCupid one night, I noticed that one of my matches looked familiar- he was a coworker of an ex boyfriend who I’d met in passing a few times. Knowing that they were having their Christmas party the next week and assuming he would recognize me, I dropped him a note that merely said I hoped he had a great time and I would love to get a drink at the bar I lived above. However, this guy who had NO web presence by design and did not recognize me thought that I was a total wacko. Luckily I sent another email after said holiday party that namedropped a mutual friend and he put it all together. We made plans and on our first date, I got the rest of the story- he had been on a date at the aforementioned bar the night before my first email and he was legitimately concerned that I had been there eavesdropping. Now we laugh- we ended up married!- but thinking back, it DID look like I was a stalker. A creepy, creepy stalker.
TLDR: Say hello in person, mention your interest and let it progress from there.
Oh wow. This is a great story with a great ending, but the object lesson I would draw is that it’s ALWAYS smart to start off a note like that with “Hey [X], I don’t know if you remember me, but I’m a friend of [Y] and we met at [Z]…” :-}
AGREED. Like I said, we laugh now, but, oof. That could’ve ended very differently. 🙂
LW, I totally get why an online message feels like it would be less awkward than approaching him in person, but in practice I think it would probably work the other way around and end up being much more awkward; and yes, I do think it would come across a bit creepy.
Apart from anything else, his context for knowing/recognising you is the supermarket, so approaching him in another setting not only means acknowledging that you’ve been sort of following him around the internet; but also involves a certain amount of having to explain who you are, which might not click outside the setting where he usually sees you (‘I’m that person from the supermarket. Remember? We nodded to one another in the cheese aisle last week. Um, I wear a red coat?’) – all of which would probably make you feel even shyer and more awkward about things (‘He doesn’t even notice who I am!’) when actually he’s just not in supermarket mode because he’s thinking about, I don’t know, exhaust pipes or something. I don’t think that’s actually easier. Whereas if you approach him in the supermarket, he’s got all the context to place you.
This is so true. I’m terrible about sorting people into context specific silos; when I meet them elsewhere, there’s often a long pause as I flip through my various mental rolodexes.
Ugh, this! It’s one of the few things that bothers me about Meetup; I can cheerfully introduce myself to someone at an event sponsored by X group and get an awkward pause before they remind me we already met last week at one of Y group’s (completely different type!) events.
As someone who has done this before… don’t. I feel super creepy in retrospect.
Captain is 100% right. I had a crush on someone who worked at my local grocery store, gave him my business card, we went on one date, didn’t really click, I went right back to shopping at that store and we gave each other polite but vague nods if we made eye contact over the baby carrots. It was fine, no one exploded or anything.
I definitely, definitely would NOT get in touch with him over the forum. The LW isn’t clear if they have even spoken to this guy or know his name. Having someone find you in a way that makes it clear that they were looking for you before you’ve even spoken is creeeeeepy. I model for a large arts studio that is close to my house and ended up having a few sketches of me in one of their brochures, and every once in a while someone will come up to me in a restaurant or store in my neighborhood and mention it, and it’s fine, but I had someone contact me on OKC and ask if I was the person in the sketches, and it was just…off-putting. Probably they stumbled across my profile and just recognized me, but it was a little creepy.
Tl;dr, if you are thinking, gee, this might come across as a little creepy, err on the side of not doing it! I’d personally far rather put myself out there a little and risk rejection in person than make someone feel uncomfortable.
I’m seconding the “pass him a card/note” idea. I’ve done this a lot due to having a lot of awkwards and never had a problem. Be sure to leave an email because that can be less imposing than having to call and talk (or even texting because it forces them to give out their number). I’ve met dates/partners that way, been kindly told no that way, been told no for a date but they’d like to be friends that way… when is how I reacted when my now-best friend slipped me a similar note over ten years ago. To my mind it’s even less imposing than trying to strike up a conversation with someone just trying to buy their eggs and cheetos and go home. It suggests that you respect their space. I get creeped/squicked out easily, and that’s one approach that never bothered me. Go for it!
I did that once, and all I can say is I regret it tremendously. That doesn’t mean it would be the case for you, but the potential for regret and creepiness is definitely there and is not insubstantial.
Maybe it’s because I was just talking about almost this exact same thing in therapy, but would it help to recontextualize this situation as “meeting new people practice?” If you’re just shy and comfortable with the fact that that’s who you are, that’s of course perfectly fine. But for my part, I’ve always felt a little sad about my anxiety about meeting new people and wanted to change it. The therapy advice I got was that there’s no shortcuts and no cheats, you just have to power through and keep practicing until you’re good at it and the anxiety simmers down somewhat. Don’t see every meeting with a stranger (meaning here “potential friend/date”) as a do-or-die obstacle to overcome, but just one of many, many, many people who are also trying to navigate social situations and are more than likely nice about some awkwardness. If you shift your thinking from “this is the ONE PERSON” I want to be friendly with to “this is a person I want to practice my people skills on because they seem cool” it becomes a lot easier to do it, and to forgive yourself if you get all flustered and say something weird like I do. I spent most of my life trying to cheat my way around the face-to-face cold introduction, which the social media age is making very easy nowadays, but the only way to get better at actual people-meeting skills is to forge ahead, just do it, keep doing it, and forgive yourself if it doesn’t go perfectly right away. It’s a acquired skill, it takes practice for everyone.
Maybe this isn’t your situation at all, in which case I apologize for the unsolicited advice, but it seemed relevant.
Best. Advice. Ever.
I think the Captain is right. Also, something to think about:
You did not have his contact information, but you found a way around that (online research). Try approaching your shyness as a similar roadblock: something that initially stops you from making contact with him, but can be worked around. It may mean something as simple as rehearsing what you’re going to say. Try running through mental scenarios in which he says “I’m not really interested in getting together, sorry” in order to desensitize yourself to that possibility and become more comfortable with the risk. Plan out what you’d do with the rest of your day if you tried and it didn’t work: see a favourite movie, or take yourself to the museum, or hang out with your best friend.
Being shy is not a character flaw, and it’s not something that needs to be “fixed.” However, if it is getting in the way of your particular goals, it’s still a good idea to have strategies or coping mechanisms for accomplishing, with minimal discomfort, social interactions that lead to your goals. Think of this not only as a chance to maybe get to know this guy, but also a chance to build up your social toolbox. Even if it doesn’t work out with him, this might be an experience that makes it more likely it’ll work out with the next guy.
This is an excellent point – if you’re shy and find social interactions challenging, practice really does help! When I started dating again a year or so ago after eight years of coupledom, the first few dates were really hard and I bombed a lot, because I was soooo out of practice at things like small talk and flirting and gracefully figuring out who was going to pay, but eventually it came back and now I hardly even get nervous before a date.
Even if he says no, it’s still a win – you asked someone out! Buy yourself a congratulations cupcake or bubblebath or something.
I used to have a little stack of “business cards” that I made specifically for hitting on people, since I’m pretty shy when I have a crush. The cards simply said, “Ann thinks you’re a cutie!” followed by my phone number. People thought they were hilarious, and it worked out pretty well for me.
I LOVE THIS
This has happened to me the opposite wa, online to real life. Someone messaged me on OKC, I wasn’t interested so I didn’t respond, and a few days later I got a second message asking if they had seen me at Bar the night before. They had, and I was creeped out.
I actually have a weird memory for faces (not names, lord help me) so I’ve been there a bunch, too – I recognized my landlord, who I’ve met once, on Tinder. So the weird factor to me isn’t the fact that they recognized me, but the fact that they didn’t just file it away in their “huh, small world” folder in their head.
Wait, did this thread under the cuntess? Sorry for confusion, it was supposed to be separate.
I misread that as “did this thread under the cuteness?” Which seemed appropriate, since the “business cards” sound cute as hell!
They do sound super cute. Definitely borrowing this idea if/when I’m dating again.
For the longest time, I actually thought her handle was cuteness von fingerbang. In fact, I only realised a few months ago that that is not what it says.
Ha, I actually did this to someone once. Very freshly single and about to move to a new country and city, I did a bit of speculative exploration of online dating sites to see if there was anyone interesting in the place I was moving to. Then the first week I was actually there, I met one of the (very few) dudes from the site in person, and was drunk enough to be like “…wait, are you on [website]?” Happily he didn’t appear to be freaked out by it, we hooked up a couple of times but it turned out I wasn’t interested in him romantically; nine years later, we’re still good friends and just a couple of weeks ago I had dinner with him and his serious girlfriend in the totally different city that both of us have coincidentally and independently moved to (neither of us had even BEEN to said city when we first met, and now we live ten minutes’ walk from each other. It’s an alarmingly small world sometimes).
Aaaaaaanyway tl;dr it worked out nicely in this particular situation but I would still VERY MUCH not recommend it as a strategy!
I love this idea!
I have card with my name, number, and email on it, along with a blank space in the middle. I write down why I am giving them my card in that blank space: ‘knitting plans, weaving stuff, coffee, etc’. It works really well.
We give a version of these out at the Meet & Geeks.
So cute 😀
I’d be interested to know what “I found him” means in this context. As LW presumably didn’t know this guy’s name, did xie stumble on this information by accident, or was xie searching every local based forum xie could find to see if his pic came up in an avatar? Advice is good anyway – approach in person, be cheerful and friendly, don’t make it weird if he says no.
“… or was xie searching every local based forum xie could find to see if his pic came up in an avatar?”
See, that’s the danger of approaching someone online who you have no real-world connection with. Maybe the LW *does* have a normal, non-stalky reason for knowing who he is, but the potential for him to think “OH MY GOD, this person has invested WAY too much time and energy in searching me out” is so, so high.
First of all, DEFINITELY ask in person and not through random-forum-where-you-happened-to-find-this-guy. For lots of people (self included!) forums are safe spaces away from their “real life,” and it would be very disturbing to have a stranger intrude into that space. (Heck, I sometimes feel weird about recommending CaptainAwkward to IRL friends because I get concerned they’ll figure out that I post here, but I still recommend because I figure chances are small and also I’m usually recommending to people close enough to me that it wouldn’t be the end of the world even if they “found” me here, but still, I’d be weirded out if all of a sudden someone replied to one of my comments with “Hey! are you [Realname]?”)
As for how to actually ask this guy out, I think you may want to take what I think of as the “drive-by” approach. So for you, I might go with something like “Hey, this is a little awkward, but you seem cool/interesting/whatever-adjective-that-is-flattering-that-makes-sense-here, and I was thinking maybe we could grab coffee or something sometime. Here’s my email address/phone number, hope to hear from you.” And then carry on with shopping (or leaving – you can always time this for the end of your trip and/or a day when you’re not getting that much stuff so you’re not in the store for another hour after this). I think it’s key not to put the other person on the spot by expecting an immediate yes/no – basically, you’re giving the guy all the information he needs to contact you if he feels the same, but not standing there waiting for an answer, which could be awkward for both of you. You can do this!
I have this fear as well.
Glad I’m not the only one; I have a letter that I’ve been composing and re-composing for a while that I’m afraid to send because I’m afraid the subject of said letter might read it.
Don’t worry about it. They won’t figure it out unless they know your pseudonym, and just use a different one for every site. People aren’t stalking you. If you think about this too much you would stress yourself way out.
I live in a small town and seeing people I used to date is a normal occurrence because it’s 5 miles square. Sometimes you go years without seeing people, then sometimes you see them twice in one week. The internet is also like that, some sites are small, but the internet as a whole is huge.
This is a great resource as a website. It’s great to recommend it to friends, in my opinion, because people have some messed up opinions about life and I’ve found it helps them deal.
Hmmm, but people do tend to write stories about their lives on here. I know I have done. And some stories are really distinctive, particularly as we’re talking in the context of someone who knows you already reading your comment. Some of my stories would be really recognisable to certain people in my life, even with pseudonyms. It would be awkward if they saw them because `I might say something unflattering about them, or just a perspective on what happened I never told them. It’s not something that keeps me up at night, especially as I’m confident the people I would really hate to find comments where I’m recognisably talking about them are also unlikely to find those comments, but I totally see where MellifluousDissent is coming from here.
This is why I would not write extremely specific stories if you are worried about being found, or use a VPN or change your pseudonym.
With privacy, you can’t have it both ways. I’m not saying your worries are not valid if you have cause to worry, I’m just saying this is a paradox; you can never be totally private on the internet. But at the same time, being completely paranoid is not healthy and I personally believe that the majority of people are good and not out to get you.
I’d be weirded out too, which is why even though I’ve had moments where I am CONVINCED that another commenter is my cousin/former co-worker/neighbor/archnemesis, I say nothing. I can’t be sure, but I’ve been reading this blog for a while and I think the commenting community is cool enough here to not out someone’s privacy when they’re using a pseudonym.
Yeah, I definitely don’t actually think anyone here would out me, it’s more in the “there are gremlins under my bed and also it can’t ever be entirely dark because as long as there is a night light on I’m safe from the serial killers” camp of fears.
I accidentally (and posthumously, but still) revealed something private about someone in a blog comment once. I had to e-mail the blogger and ask that the comment be edited, though chances are anyone who would recognize the person from my description already knew the private thing.
I have a version of this fear – I already HAVE recommended Captain Awkward to a billion people, and am therefore super scared to ever comment about anything remotely personal, for fear that someone will recognize me in the details. There have been threads that struck deep personal chords with me, and the stories people were sharing made me feel so relieved that I wasn’t alone, and I wanted to share my own stories back, but this fear has always stopped me. It’s a shame.
I agree with this. Unless you’re already interacting with him regularly on the car site, don’t ask him out there. This is going to be particularly weird if he hasn’t actually told you his name (it’s not clear whether the acknowledgement is ever verbal). I’m guessing he’s using a photo of himself in a profile pic/avater and that’s how you recognized him and that seeing him there was completely random. But from his POV it’s going to be really weird that you could find him without even a name to go by.
Apologies to Commander Banana, I did not refresh before posting.
Super, super definitely ask in person and not online–I’d be very upset to find a relative stranger was researching me on the net.
That said, maybe it would be less scary if you didn’t *lead* with the ask? You say you regularly walk by and smile–what if you tried first just to strike up a conversation? Something light–the weather, your day, etc. If you both seem to have fun chatting for a few minutes, that leaves a perfect opening at the end to go “Hey, I had fun talking with you. I’ve got to get going, but would you ever want to grab a coffee or something?” If the conversation is a bit flat that day, you’ve still upped your level of contact so if you ask next time it won’t be out of the blue for him.
Yeah, i was trying to think of a way to say this. It’s for both his and your benefit, LW — it’ll feel more natural and less uncomfortable for him, and it gives you a chance to work up to it. BONUS: If after a few minutes of chatting you’re thinking, “Heurgh, this guy is not as amazing when his jaw is flapping,” you can back away from the invitation.
This is a great idea!
+1 I think this is definitely the way to go.
Yes! This seems much less startling/abrupt than the zero-to-business-card approach.
Yeah, this is also *much easier* than trying to ask him out online! Doing it online is like some weird romantic comedy b.s….. it would just go on forever and be all weird. Nobody ever asks anyone out on online car forums. You know you’re not going to either!
It’s either going to happen in real life or it won’t happen. So work your nerve up and do it. Just be polite and honest.
Yes, definitely this! He may, after all, be a super-attractuve douchebag, and it would be good to scope this out in a low-stress interaction before potentially going on a date with him.
I agree that you should make a small gesture of some kind in person. If I got an email or private message on a forum board from you my reaction would be, “Well if they see me in the store all the time, why don’t they just come up and say something?” Even weirder, “If they spot me at the store…why are they contacting me on a hobby forum?”
I think your question is akin to being back in gradeschool where you tell your best friend to go across the playground to tell a boy that you like them. In this case, you want technology to tell the guy you’re interested for you and that’s just not the way adults should operate.
I was grocery shopping in Northern California one time many years ago, and this super cute hippie guy and I kept making eye contact around the aisles. He ended up across from me in the fruit section, and at one point we locked eyes and smiled, and he playfully tossed a lemon over to me. I wasn’t expecting it and it fell on the floor, and when I picked it up, I was blushing, and he looked embarrassed and said, “Sorry!” And then we both laughed. And then my mom came around the corner and gave him The Hawkeye, and the moment was ruined forever.
Not that I’m advocating throwing produce at strangers, but It was actually pretty funny and cute, in the moment.
You could always sidle up to him with your cart and say, “Excuse me…but there’s a big sale on Oreos in aisle 5. Word to the wise.”
Or nod when you see him and say, “So…come here often?”
Or: “I feel like I know you from somewhere. Maybe it’s just that I see you here a lot? Anyway…hi…I’m LW.”
Best of luck to you!
Another possible option if LW wants to keep the car thing relevant, or be open about it, might be along the lines of “Hey, odd question, but do you post on [car forum]? I stumbled across a guy on there whose avatar really looks like you, and I was just wondering!”, and then you can use the car connection to spur some friendly chit-chat which can then lead up to “Coffee sometime?”
Of course this will work a lot better if LW did randomly stumble upon the guy’s profile while looking at the car forum for their own purposes, than if they were specifically hunting for this guy online and just happened to find him in the context of a car forum.
I like this advice – I mean, don’t start throwing stuff at him, but maybe try to have a conversation that doesn’t have to be “will you meet me for coffee?” Supermarkets are full of things to chat about, even if “so what’s your favourite potato?” doesn’t feel super slick. Ask for recommendations of what to cook for dinner, maybe.
I don’t know where the LW is from, or how widespread this is, but over here we have a thing called the Data Protection Act. It’s long and complicated and scares small businesses, but what it basically comes down to is “if someone gives you personal information for one purpose, don’t assume you can use it for other purposes”. I think that’s a pretty good rule in general: here, the guy has agreed to his contact information being used to arrange car pooling. Don’t try to use it to arrange a date, because that might creep him out.
I’m definitely on the “do not pass go, do not contact him online” wagon. I have had some REALLY weird moments where I’ve found someone I know on *sensitive website* and I cannot hit that block button fast enough. I mean, presumably that’s a little different than a car forum, because if someone you know finds you on a car forum you’re like “cool… we both like… cars?” but it’s still pretty uncomfortable to be found/sometimes to find people.
Relatedly, finding compromising pictures of someone you know online is the WEIRDEST. I can’t interact with one acquaintance anymore because the feels of “I’ve seen you naked, and you don’t know I’ve seen you naked, and that makes me feel like the creepiest creeper that ever creeped” were WAY TOO STRONG. He wasn’t the sort of acquaintance/friend that I could say “oh hey funny story I was on *website* and you will never guess who I saw, haha it was you no worries, I am just trying to make this not awkward” to. To be fair, I don’t think it would be something I could say to anyone without feeling like a massive, creepy douchecanoe.
Things I have done that resulted in dates/relationships:
The cute boy in my grad class that I didn’t talk to the entire semester – I googled him, found his website, and sent him an email asking him out the day after the semester ended. We dated for 9 months. Turns out he thought I was cute too and was also too shy to talk to me and he had also broken up with his girlfriend the day I sent the email so good timing.
I facebooked searched the career counselor I had met with (also a grad student) and sent him a message asking him out, but that was because I was getting serious vibes during our meeting. We didn’t click but he wasn’t creeped out (I know this because he wanted it to continue and I was the one that ended things).
On the other hand, I had a guy message me on OKC that he had seen me at certain bar the night before, and had recognized me from the sight. My friend had actually noticed that these guys had my picture pulled up on their phone and were pointing at me. No one approached me in person tho. That was MAJORLY CREEPY. Which of course I told the guy and of course he told me I was a bitch but you know.
I think for the LWs situation, it wouldn’t be weird if you had a pre-exisiting relationship. Like if you regularly chat in the super market, and if you actively use the forum, it wouldn’t be weird to message him on the forum to say hi, leaving the asking out for a couple messages later. However if you only smile at each other in the store, and you don’t use the forum that would be veering into stalkery territory. Definitely could go either way depending on the guys personality. Like personally if the situation was reversed I could see myself reacting positively or negatively to that depending on the creepy/non-creepy vibes I was getting from the guy, but its better to avoid the possibility of being creepy, especially since you can ask him out in a non-creepy way!
I know this is a result of our sexist dating culture, but I have never ever gotten a bad response from telling a guy I think he’s cute and asking him out on any medium, even if it didn’t end up going anywhere, guys are really not that used to women making the first move, and are usually very flattered. You can do it!
Yeah, I’ve had relationships start online also, but when they did, I didn’t know the person in real life beforehand… I just met them online.
The poster’s side of it is that you know the person in real life, but you *also* want to take it online because of akwardness, which is where it gets weird. And what’s puzzling is that it’s actually easier to just ask the person out in person, if you already know them in person and live in their town. Being direct is always good.
I have a story that seems relevant. I once started talking to a random person on a forum, from a different username than the one I normally used. We had a really nice interaction for a long time, sending weird messages with funny or poetic wordplay and stuff like that. I liked being anonymous for once. But then I figured out she was a friend of my boyfriend and it felt weird not to tell her we actually knew each other in real life. Once I told her it got really awkward though, as if I’d known who she was the whole time and pretending to be a stranger just to stalk her. After that we stopped talking on the forum and every time we’d meet it was awkward.
So the lesson here is still don’t write him on that forum, talk to the person face to face. I know it’s scary, really scary, but do it anyway.
I would be super freaked out if someone “found” me and contacted me online, even if I knew them pretty well in real life, so I wouldn’t go that route. FWIW, I was actually asked out at random in the supermarket a few months ago (I said “That’s very flattering, but I don’t think I’m up for it,” and the guy said “OK, just thought I’d ask, have a good day!” and carried on with his shopping) so it’s definitely something that people do. I do think it would be a good idea to take the suggestion a few comments back and try to have a casual conversation or two first – even just a “hi, how’s it going?” or “we’re both here again, must be Saturday morning! “- just to make a more natural segue into asking him out.
For all the reasons the Captain says: it’s creepy. Don’t do it.
She’s right about the card or scribbled piece of paper too. If he’s into you, he’ll contact you, if he’s not you can both quickly forget it.
I once got a stray pm from somebody i had once sold art to at a craft fair. I responded along the lines of client service norms, happy to talk about the work and some other chitchat (that I hadn’t recognized as flirty) and thank them for sending the email. A few responses later, I stopped. Not because I was creeped out, just that I had ran out of context with this person and felt any more pm’s would be way too much client servicing and so trailed off without thinking about it. Several months later I met this person at a social event. it turns out there was a bit of ”interest” and we soon began to date. Turns out her initial pm to me had been her way of getting things going–but you see? It didn’t even work. I didn’t take it as a romantic enquiry since I had only met her through selling art work so our initial pm correspondence died on the vine.
Now that I think about it, this was an extraordinarily forward move on her part. Not necessarily ~creepy~ but still, trying to flip that correspondence into an actual ”meeting” is a difficult trick.
“You look like an interesting fellow… ” Might be all you need to say. Really. Whatever happens or is said next, puts the ball in play.
Hey LW, I’m also a very shy and awkward person, and there have been a few times in my life that I took the plunge and asked someone out that I had only encountered in passing in public places. The first time I said something like, “Hey, can I tell you something if you promise not to laugh? I have a really big crush on you.” He did laugh (of course!) but he also gave me his number and we dated for over a year. Thinking back, I like that I came up with that opener because it acknowledges how strange and silly it is to tell a stranger you like them. I also like the idea of just striking up a casual conversation and seeing how that goes before you work up to asking them out. Think of it as practice! Good luck, LW! I’m rooting for you!
And by casual conversation, you can also figure out if they’re nice to look at, but off-putting. Saves you awkward disengaging later.
Hell to the yes on this one. And there’s the plus of getting the extra signals that happen in IRL interactions. If there’s chemistry, that’s where it will be. Conversely, if there are flags like a patronising tone, that’ll be apparent IRL too. A little casual conversation gives you a nice run-up to asking them if you’re anxious, and also gives you a little wiggle room to dodge the bullet if they say anything that squicks you.
A friend of mine got a message on OKCupid once that said something to the effect of, “Oh, you’re the cute waitress from the vegan restaurant, winky face”….she was so creeped out by that she deleted her profile.
While that may not be a representative sample, it’s still definitely not the response LW is hoping for, and I would caution against online messaging someone you don’t really know to talk about their meatspace activities.
I accidentally scared two people by knowing more about them than they expected me to before I learned better. I don’t usually worry about that sort of thing, because I am a very non-intimidating person in many ways. I am small, short, physically weak, and generally non-violent. So, I am not physically intimidating. It turns out, that even with all of that on my non-scary side, having info, even info that was easily publicly available, but that I was not expected to know can creep people out. So, while he might not mind, I’d definitely say err on the not accidentally scaring someone side.
Yes to this! It is really easy for me to remember unusual names, details about people from friends’ stories, put things together about people, etc., even when I’m not trying to, but I’ve learned to not mention too much. “Oh, I recognize your name from this group listserv! Were you also in this performance that the group put on? Are you organizing with them now?” sounds like being friendly by expressing curiosity and starting a conversation when I think it in my head, but I think it freaks people out to feel “known” by someone they just met. When I think about it, the couple times that it’s happened to me have also felt weird, so I understand.
I also have a freakish memory for faces, so I will remember someone I met in passing like five years ago and they will have no idea who I am. So I err on the side of being reintroduced, but then there are the occasional times where I’ll try to pretend I don’t remember someone, in order to not come off as weird, and it actually comes off as rude. So, um, still not sure how to navigate that one.
I get that! Though my memory isn’t for faces, but for conversational details, names etc…so occasionally someone will say something like “why would you pay so much attention to X and Y that you’d know that” as though I’m a weird loser for remembering a detail, when it’s not like I spend hours on this stuff…it just happens to stick in my brain!
I’ve many times run into this in my life – I remember a lot about the stories people tell me about others, and sometimes too much. I once told the wife of a coworker, “Oh! I’ve heard a lot about you,” upon meeting her, which clearly creeped her out – after which I realized she probably hadn’t actually heard anything about me (since the coworker and I had only worked together for a very short time, during which he happened to tell me some relevant stories about his wife’s work). After that and a few other times I’ve learned to keep quiet and let other people tell me about themselves at their own pace.
Thank god I’m not the only one. I have a terrible memory for names but I can remember details for years about people I only talked to for 15 minutes. I’ll be (re)introduced to some friend of a friend of a friend at a party and be like “oh yes, we met a couple of years ago. You were doing a PhD on Francis Bacon and your sister was going away to live in France for a year. How’d all that turn out? What’s your name again? [because my brain is unable to retain names for any length of time beyond about 3 seconds]” Meanwhile the person is looking at me bewildered, clearly with no memory at all of our conversation.
I went on a couple of dates with a guy I met at a mutual college friend’s party–we talked a lot at the party but I was too shy to exchange numbers before I left, so I found his contact information on our alumni database and contacted him later by email. I never told him how I got his email and he didn’t seem creeped out by it, but I did regret not just giving him my info in person when I had the chance. Why create the added stress of wondering if what you’re doing is creepy if you don’t have to? Although this situation worked out okay for me, I definitely wouldn’t recommend this route, and if this situation ever comes up again, I hope that I’ll be more confident and just speak up in person!
Having read all these comments, my advice to the OP is…. ask him out, and I would do it before he leaves his job at that supermarket. Because if he does, you will probably always regret not doing it, and you won’t have a way to contact him if he does leave it.
It might be possible he wouldn’t mind being contacted online. Ideally we would all have emails and contacts online we wouldn’t mind being searchable. But that’s not always the case, and you can’t know that. Simple, direct action is the best idea if you like the guy. Who knows, he may really like you and be feeling the same way.
Worst case scenario, he turns you down and you know instead of having been left forever wondering ‘what if.’
If he actually works at the supermarket, don’t ask him out: customers asking retail workers out has a high creepiness potential, because the worker may not feel safe saying a straightforward no, and may have trouble walking away from the conversation.
I read the original letter as meaning that the LW and the person they’re crushing on both shop in the same place, so LW sees him there fairly often. In that case, talking to him or asking if he’d be interested in getting coffee sometime needn’t be creepy.
As a person who has been on both sides of this – too shy to make the ask sometimes, and approached by strangers i see in public other times – I feel like this situation needs more transition, as it sounds like she’s never even spoken to him. The next time you see each other, in addition to the smile, say “Hello,” and keep moving. Do that a few times. Then, when that seems normal, make an innocuous comment (“Looks like more snow this weekend!”) Eventually, one of these friendly remarks may turn into a conversation. (Or the first one, if he’s just been waiting for an opening.) This will give you opportunities to gauge his interest and comfort before jumping right in with we’ve-never-spoken-but-let’s-go-out.
Can’t speak for everyone, but for me, I would need the established interactions to feel comfortable.
Yeah, sorry, but that would be totally creepy.
Once a guy messaged me on okcupid. He had the word “sparky” in his username so as a way of getting conversation going, I asked him if he was an electrician (which I am, too). He said yes, and asked me if I had recognized him from the union meeting (which had occurred two nights ago).
This freaked me out, because out of 150-300 people who attend union meetings there are only a handful of women, so it was obvious that he had (1) noticed me at the meeting, but not said anything (2) found me on okcupid (3) hit on me THERE instead of in person.
So now this random person hitting on me is someone who knows who I am in real life, but I have no idea who the $&#* he is! Given the kinds of things men write to women on okcupid that feels super, super unsafe.
I got really freaked out and suddenly had ZERO desire to talk to him, whereas if he had just walked up to me at the meeting and started a conversation, or straight up asked me out, I would have said yes if I’d found him at all interesting/attractive.
To me, confining interactions with someone you don’t know very well to the sphere in which you actually know them (especially if they are romantic-intended interactions) is just basic good manners. Yes, the info may be out there publicly, but my fellow union members are not the intended audience for my okcupid profile. It is for people I haven’t met who may be interested in dating me. If you’re interested in dating me and are a person I HAVE met, ask me there.
That would have me blocking him with a quickness. He might be a perfectly nice guy- but that approach is pretty much guaranteed to have me running away because of the “gotcha!” feel.
My guideline for this kind of thing is “how would this make me feel?” And being stalked to a car forum by someone who smiles at me in the supermarket would be pretty creepy.
I also like to keep context in mind. What is the context I know this person from? If I want to hit on them, I should do it IN CONTEXT. If I know them from a context where hitting on them is not okay, I DO NOT HIT ON THEM.
Person from work: no. Person I see at bar all the time because they work there: no. Person I see at bar all the time because we are both patrons: yes, at bar, in person. Person I know from online dating: yes, on website, with polite message. Person I know from online dating but happen to see on bus and have not yet contacted them with polite message: NOPE. etc.
Face to face is best, the captains right with context-specific advances.
I had a guy on a dating site who ended up popping up on tumblr and my blog and eventually emailing. I never replied in the dating site (as I never know what to say to say no but thanks) so it was a bit creepy to me. But his interactions www replies to posts and now we chat over email about geeky stuff and it’s it’s own seperate sphere and he never mentions okcupid nor do I. I do enjoy chatting an there is nothing romantic at all so I’ve put y boulders down from about my ears as he seems harmless. But if he’d had any romantic subtext I’d be very creeped out. It’s highlighted how easy I am to find anyway which is revealing.
So…yeah. Friendly research can make people initially uneasy until they decide you’re safe. Add romance to it as it’s creepy. Try to keep in context.
From my years of experience with online dating, it is literally better to say nothing at all if you’re not interested. Just delete and let it pass as though it never happened.
I was on the receiving end of this once. This was a same-sex situation, so my experience might not apply to a male-female caste of characters.
We became acquainted in an online forum that was not gay-specific, and met in person when there was an offline event. Later he came across my handle in a gay interest group. This was when he first realized that I was gay and might theoretically be open to it if he expressed his interest in me. So he emailed me and asked if I was in the second group. Things took off from there.
The important thing is that he contacted me in the context where we first met. It would have felt awkward if he had contacted me through the second group. So I’m seconding what numerous others have written here–getting in touch with the guy through the online forum where you found him may come across as stalking.
How did it turn out between us, you might ask? Well for various reasons we were not suitable to be long term partners, but we have been non-exclusive friends with benefits for several years. 😉
as a long-time user of OKCupid, it’s not that unusual to come across someone by accident that i recognize from somewhere else. friend of a friend, from the hiking club, volunteering, played against them in frisbee, etc. So i don’t think a “hey, don’t i recognize you from…” is horribly creepy in that context.
if i only recognize them because we take the bus at the same time, or go to the same coffee shop.. then that seems a step too far to mention right up front. maybe once you’ve met and things are already going well, you might say “you know, i think i had noticed you on the bus before i saw your profile” or something. and somehow by you already liking each other, it’s made cute and not weird.
i think it *is* creepy that “sparky” didn’t lead with that, if he recognized you. and the waitress example as well, that’s a terrible way to put it. makes you sound like a fixture rather than a person!
i think you all are spot on about sticking with the “original context”. although i actually kind of like Emma’s script if LW did just stumble across their picture, and if they do have a mutual interest in the forum topic.
So, one of my superpowers is that I’m pretty good at talking to people, including strangers. My approach is not for everyone — I’m a big loud woman with a direct and forthright style. But here’s what I would do if I was cold approaching him in the supermarket. First, I have great cleavage and I’d pop a button/tug down my shirt once I realized I was in the same store with him at the same time. (This is clearly only applicable if you both have cleavage and want to rock it. But do something to make yourself feel attractive.) Second, I’d think for a second about local/relevant/timely topics that are harmless and have a bit of small talk ready to go. Third, when I saw him and we made eye contact/recognition, I would do a big really happy smile. Not the cute, head-duck, glance away one. Sounds like y’all have proceeded past that stage. Instead you want the “OMG I am SO happy to see you/recognition” smile. He will smile back. It’s hardwired into our heads to smile back when you do that big happy smile. Then, I’d say, “You know, I see you around all the time. Hi! I’m Dame Bodacious!” And thrust out my hand. He’ll respond in kind. (This is what social rituals are for, imo. Dealing with that awkward bit.) Then I’d pull out my small talk. I live in a city buried under all the snow, so it would probably be something like, “Nice to meet you, [repeat name so you remember it]. I’m stocking up for the next blizzard! Can you believe this winter?!”
The next bit would be gauging his interest. It’s not tricksy, really. I would look at his body. Is he facing me, smiling, making eye contact, and answering in full sentences or is he still looking at the groceries, answering in one word sentences, etc? (If he’s not engaged, I’d wave and say “Have a great day!” That wouldn’t mean my chances are shot, just that he might be racing to get home in time for an appointment or he had a bad day. Then I’d have broken the ice and I can wave and smile and let him try to engage me. ) If he does answer with smiles and full on eye contact, I’d keep going. Sometimes I’d have this initial conversation and the attraction dies on the vine because man, he’s just not ringing my bells. But if he is and the conversation is good, I’d continue it until I felt it was right to, “Hey, I’ve got to run. But I’d love to continue this conversation some other time. Here’s my card!” (I actually do have those cards. They are “mom cards,” and have my kid’s picture and name, though, thus making them less useful for picking up dude in the grocery store.)
This, btw, is very like how my husband and I met. We crashed into each other in a parking lot (bodies, not cars), rather than me introducing myself, but after we bumped, I was like “Whoa, 6’5″ red head. Be still my heart!” and I did all of this and we’ve been married almost 15 years now.
If a woman I wasn’t interested in started tugging down her shirt to expose her cleavage to me in a public place I would feel very threatened.
As tempting as is it to initiate contact through the comfy-safe distance of a forum, the whole situation would end up so much worse if his answer is “No.”
Asking in person: It is a little uncomfortable and you avoid each other in the store instead of saying hi
Asking through a forum: He looks at you with fear and makes sure all of his facebook settings are on private.
I’m wondering why LW is skipping straight from “smile and acknowledge each other” to “asking him out”. Wouldn’t it make more sense to engage in some low-level conversation first? Say something about the weather, or the produce you’re standing in front of, or [local news item] and see how he responds. Maybe the next time mention something a bit more personal. Ask if he’s read this book / seen that movie / etc. This has the advantage of letting the two of you find out more about your potential compatibility, and allowing things that might prove to be deal-breakers to come up BEFORE they become awkward or embarrassing — say, if he mentions a girlfriend/boyfriend (I’m assuming LW has already checked for the absence of a wedding ring), or if his political attitudes are radically not in line with yours.
It may be that he has reasons for not wanting it to go any further, including but not limited to “you’re nice, but there’s no spark”, and the advantage of a low-key attempt to escalate is that if he doesn’t respond, no real harm has been done. OTOH, it may also be that he’s shy too, and is wondering how to make the first move! In which case taking the lead in a low-key way is less likely to scare him. I agree that in this situation, contacting him via the forum is Right Out.
If you have a though about something you could do, and your next thought is “wait, is that creepy?”, the answer is probably yes. If someone sent me a message via a hobby community that a-they obviously weren’t a member of and had signed up just to contact me and b-I hadn’t brought up to them previously that this was an interest, I’d be pretty creeped out. Another baseline for “is this creepy” is to imagine your response if you would feel creeped out if you were contacted by someone under the same circumstances. And I don’t think, LW, that you are a creepy person, or you are being creepy, but I think there’s a high risk of it all feeling that way to the other person. You know the logic and reasoning behind sending the message (and how you found them in the first place wasn’t you deliberately searching every website you could think of until you found a trace of them-I’m getting the impression that you just wandered onto a website for which he has a profile, rather than you scoured the internet looking for him, but I could be wrong), but they don’t because they can’t read your mind.
I think the suggestions to work up to making small talk from smiling at each other first before jumping immediately into “let’s date” are good. It will feel less out of left field to both of you should you progress to the “let’s get coffee sometime” point, and nobody finds themselves in a situation where they’ve felt pressured or creeped out by a stranger chasing them down. And who knows? Maybe having more of a conversation at the store will change your opinion of him (for better or worse).
There’s no risk that you’ll lose anything by talking in person, but there’s a big risk associated with randomly messaging his random profile you found online.
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