I am a man and I have a problem: I’m a creep.
I’m 30 years old, and I haven’t had a whole lot of romantic experience. I’ve been shy my whole life and dealing with anxiety and depression since my teen years, so I haven’t put myself out there as much as I could have, and haven’t had the self-confidence to be a good prospect in the past. My social skills have been getting better, and I’m getting treatment for my mental health issues. I think I’m capable of dating now, and I’ve met a few interesting women to connect with in the last year or so. These days, I even manage to gather up my courage and ask them out/confess my feelings. However, I never to seem to get a straight “yes” or a “no”, and I end up responding in a bad way. Some examples:
I met a friend-of-a-friend a few times before, and we had flirted with each other, so I was feeling confident about our connection. Our group went to a party a while back, and I ended up asking to kiss her when we alone at one point. She said “I don’t know” and it looked like she was nervous and didn’t know what to do. I backed off physically, but I pressed the point: mostly questions in the “why not?” vein. We parted without incident, but met back up at the end of the party (the group was riding back together). For some reason, I tried to flirt some more, and I just ended up creeping her out. I’ve had enough self-awareness to keep my distance ever since, though the damage has already been done.
Another scenario: I saw a woman on a regular basis at an activity. I liked her, and told her so one day. Confronted with the news, she became very awkward and didn’t give a clear verbal response (“oh…uh…”). We ended up having a good conversation (about
everything else), but my declaration was left hanging. Before I saw her again, I e-mailed her to ask to talk again—I had been flogging myself for not knowing what to say. Her response was a clear “no”, and it was obvious that my e-mail had been unwelcome. I was glad to get the straight-up answer, but I had to push her boundaries to get it.
There have also been a couple of recent instances where I’ve asked a woman out and didn’t take her “I can’t make it” as an “I don’t want to”, and have ended up pestering them again.
It’s clear that I’m establishing a disturbing pattern: I get interested in a woman; I make a move; she gives a non-committal response; I don’t take it as the brush-off it is and end up making unwelcome contact (i.e. asking for a date again, “but why?”, continuing to flirt beyond its welcome). I know intellectually that getting a non-answer in these situations means “no”. It’s also clear in retrospect that I should’ve just backed off in these cases, but I seem to panic in the moment and not act on that knowledge. Through some combination of wishful thinking, inexperience and brain weasels, I’m pushing women’s boundaries and acting like a creep.
Any thoughts, Cap’n? I feel so guilty about these instances, and I’ve reaped the personal consequences—burnt bridges and cold shoulders—but I’m still not getting it right. How do I remember to bow out gracefully in such a moment?
– Don’t Wanna Be A Creep