Wednesday, May 9, 2007

HTT, how can I tell if he likes me?

Dear HTT,

After living in Raleigh for nearly two years, I recently returned to DC, where I spent my undergraduate years. I never felt at home in North Carolina and I had a hard time meeting people. (I know, I know, I didn’t try very hard and I lived in a soul-less apartment complex that you tried to warn me off of.) Anyway, I’m thrilled to be back in the Capitol and I’ve even started to hang out with a guy I met through work. Just to be clear: we don’t work together, although our paths cross once in a while because our companies do similar stuff. We share some interests and believe me, it’s not easy finding a sci fi geek who likes rock climbing! I’m starting to take a shine to him. He seems to like me, but I’m not sure how much. How can I tell?

16th Street and Loving It

Dear 16th Street,

I have no idea.

Good luck!!!

No, seriously, can’t I help with a question about finances or parents or bad hair…or bad sex even?

Yours is a situation I’ve found myself in innumerable times. Given my vast experience in the Friend Zone—that iffy territory between “he likes me-likes me” and “he’s just not that into me"—you’d think I’d have it all figured out by now. But you’d be wrong. And judging from the number of heated, hopeful conversations I’ve had with friends, both men and women, about this very topic, I’m not the only one who has trouble reading the signs or lack thereof.

Attempts to figure out one’s status seem to boil down to three key strategies:

  • The Band Aid: This is the rip it off and get it over with approach, whereby you take a risk, express your feelings, and hope for the best. Oddly, this approach seems to be favored both by those who are depressingly used to rejection AND by those who have never been turned down for a date in their entire lives. Oh, and by people who have attained an uncommonly robust degree of mental health and resilience. Benefits: saves time, saves friendships (because your friends won’t have to listen to you agonize about him for weeks or months), shows maturity and courage. Drawbacks: potential for humiliation (no matter how short-lived) and awkwardness, cuts into your fantasy life should things not fall out as you hoped.
  • The Toe Dip: You know how some people run full throttle into the freezing surf? And then there are the others, who wade in, step by tentative step, splashing a little cold water on their stomach and arms? Well, the Toe Dip is for those people. And if you are one of those people, you continue to hang out with Mr. Star Trek-Rock Climbing Guy, enjoy his company, get to know him more, and see what happens. Benefits: less potential for humiliation; you spend time with someone you like, engaged in activities you both enjoy; if a relationship ever does unfold, it will be based on a solid foundation of friendship. Drawbacks: requires great patience; can cause you to become even more fond of someone who ultimately might not share your ardor; if you and he are both shy Toe Dippers hell could freeze over before you figure out if you’re “just” friends or more than.
  • Combination Toe Dip – Band Aid: As you can probably surmise, this approach entails toe dipping until you can’t stand the suspense, and then ripping off the Band Aid once fear of rejection is less agonizing than the wondering.

Believe me, I wish I had a fool-proof answer. But you’ve got to determine what your constitution can handle and what feels right for your situation. I wish for you the courage for the Band Aid AND the patience for the Toe Dip.

Let me know what happens,