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Should guys stay alone in their unsuccessful social situations?
May 22, 2010 9:24 AM   Subscribe

Relatively unfriendly guy, exceedingly caring and friendly with good-looking girl. Help me understand this social behavior -- and should I do anything?

So there is this guy I know in some social circle, who mostly behaves like "you mind your own business and I mind mine" with everyone and either avoids or flees conversations about personal stuff where he's not in a position to give advice or flaunt some success of his own.

Despite perduring presence in the group, he has not grown very close to anyone and the friendships with him have stayed very casual (so far I know).

Now recently this gal joined the social circle, smart funny and single, and aforementioned guy has the obvious crush on gal. Now he's acting very loving, very caring and very considerate with everyone (her especially), but mostly only in her presence (i.e. still quite cold when she's not around).

Hence my question: 1) is this "adapted" behavior in presence of said gal a normal thing for straight guys? Is there a name for it? Is it typical? 2) how does this kind of situation usually develop? (I'm quite socially inept myself, so I need some education here) 2) given that said gal is already visibly trying to divert the crush but doesn't succeed very well so far, should I say something to guy to point out the obvious?

I think that if I was in her position I would feel under pressure and get bad vibes of dishonesty, but then I have no social training as good-looking girl who probably has been on the receiving end of flirting for years already. So I don't really know whether it's appropriate to say something, or if I should just stay as a bystander and say nothing.

To complicate matters more, I had myself a crush a few years ago where I was behaving batshit insane in the presence of the special party, with everyone annoyed and myself not realizing what was happening. It took three months before a considerate friend pointed to me the situation, and me realizing at that point how ridiculous I had been. Back then I'd have preferred to get some help sooner.
posted by knz to Human Relations (21 answers total)
 
is this "adapted" behavior in presence of said gal a normal thing for straight guys?

Courtship

People adapt their behaviour all the time. Unfortunately his behaviour may not be good for a real relationship with this person, if it is not his "norm".
posted by jkaczor at 9:32 AM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


If he's acting very loving, very caring and very considerate with everyone (her especially), but mostly only in her presence, then why does he need to get some help? It sounds like being around her makes him a happier, more generous person. Whether anything happens between them is no one's business but theirs-- for now, why not just enjoy it when your friend's being nice for a change?
posted by oinopaponton at 9:45 AM on May 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


Maybe "relatively unfriendly guy" is finally realizing that there is more to life than being unfriendly. If he does manage to get into a relationship with this girl, he'll have to adapt more permanently or lose the relationship. Either way it will be a growth experience for him so I wouldn't be worried about it.
posted by TeatimeGrommit at 9:47 AM on May 22, 2010


Like in your typical 80's movie, a guy sometimes tries to be what he wants to be in the presence of a great woman, because he realizes what he could be, even if he hasn't attained it yet. Sans woman, there may not be the same motivation to perform for other people. Except at the end of an 80's movie, the guy usually wins the girl by winning a ski competition or something. That doesn't sound like it will happen here. But I'm not sure it's your place to say anything, if the girl involved is capable of standing up for herself, and the guy isn't dangerous.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:51 AM on May 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Altering behavior to score a mate is a cornerstone of biological life. Yes its normal - although often its more transparent (it can be a red-flag of neediness, and people like to avoid that.) No - you should not say anything...pretty-girl is an adult and doesn't need you watching out for her. She's likely used to this...
posted by jnnla at 9:52 AM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure what you're asking or what the nature of this "social circle" might be. Why should she feel under pressure and get bad vibes of dishonesty, and why should you say anything to her about it? It sounds like this guy is kind of a grumpy introvert who finds himself attracted to a girl. From what you've described, there's nothing crazy about his behavior, and nothing you should feel the need to involve yourself in.
posted by wondermouse at 10:10 AM on May 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Are these people adults? If yes, you should treat them as such -- let them handle their own lives without trying to guide them down the path you think is best.
posted by Houstonian at 10:20 AM on May 22, 2010


This is completely normal. Also: adorable.
posted by lunasol at 11:32 AM on May 22, 2010


It's a fascade. The thing about fascades is they take effort to maintain, and the longer you try, the harder it gets. Perhaps they will become a couple. They'll get familiar. He'll go back to being his unpleasant self because that's his natural state, and they'll break up. I've seen it enough times to have lost count.
posted by klanawa at 11:43 AM on May 22, 2010


...avoids or flees conversations about personal stuff where he's not in a position to give advice or flaunt some success of his own.

...given that said gal is already visibly trying to divert the crush but doesn't succeed very well so far


I missed these two points when I posted my above comment. On first reading it sounded like he was just a shy, reserved guy who came out of his shell when she was around. Given the above, it's a little bit less adorable, but still pretty normal.

And it still isn't really anything you need to get involved in - it'll work itself out.
posted by lunasol at 12:20 PM on May 22, 2010


Anything you do to intervene will backfire on you. Don't do it.
posted by 2oh1 at 12:45 PM on May 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's a fascade. The thing about fascades is they take effort to maintain, and the longer you try, the harder it gets. Perhaps they will become a couple. They'll get familiar. He'll go back to being his unpleasant self because that's his natural state, and they'll break up.

You know, when I'm talking to my buddies at the motorcycle club or the weightlifting club, I don't talk much about my passions for classical dance and contemporary poetry.

And when I'm talking to my friends at ballet, I figure they aren't all that interested in how I'm restoring my chrome or what I found was wrong with my flasher module.

I've got other interests that I don't talk about with either of those group. No doubt, if someone from one social circle turned up in another, they would see me behaving in a manner inconsistent with what they expected from me - but I'm not sure it would be a façade.

I guess what I'm saying is: He may be acting in a manner inconsistent with his past behaviour, but perhaps he's showing a side of him that has always existed, but that he just hasn't shown you before.
posted by Mike1024 at 12:49 PM on May 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


It sounds like this dude acting nice to everyone doesn't have any obvious downside. If he's secretly a jerk, this woman will realize soon enough. If not, maybe this is a good excuse for him to adapt his behavior and be friendlier in general. Either way, I don't think you need to say anything, and certainly not to her. That would probably come off as creepier than his behavior. If you really just can't stand staying quiet about it, maybe just mention something casually to him like "gee, you sure have been awful friendly lately."

Just my two cents dollllllllaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaars.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 1:02 PM on May 22, 2010


To me it would feel like the guy were pretending to be nice to everyone including me to score with the girl and then drop it as soon as she's out of sight. I'd feel used as an extra in his charade and it would annoy me terribly! Still, no good comes of saying anything. Try and avoid talking with him if you don't want to help him act Mr. Nice.
posted by Omnomnom at 2:26 PM on May 22, 2010


Maybe he's so gaga on the girl that he posted a question about “how can I stop being so alienated and awkward and out of the loop” and get this girl to notice me, and then he followed the advice?

Maybe is his mind he not “still quite cold when she’s not around,” but instead he is what he considers “relaxed and comfortable” with people who he imagines have accepted him.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 2:55 PM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I agree with Lesser Shrew.
posted by Drexen at 3:51 PM on May 22, 2010


It's a fascade. The thing about fascades is they take effort to maintain, and the longer you try, the harder it gets. Perhaps they will become a couple. They'll get familiar. He'll go back to being his unpleasant self because that's his natural state, and they'll break up. I've seen it enough times to have lost count.

As a younger woman I was on the receiving end of this countless times. It was frustrating and caused unnecessary heartache, as yes, the men (boys, really) in question did eventually return to their selfish behavior, but only once I'd been won over. By then it was too late for me, and I couldn't understand why they were acting like uncaring jerks.

So in answer to your question - I think his altered behavior is due to his immaturity. He must know he's acting different, and believes that he must in order to win the girl. Realistically he'd be a lot better finding a woman that likes him who he is, and I'm sure there would be a couple out there.

As to your other question... It doesn't sound like you have a very close relationship, and you don't know how he'll react to your perception of his behavior. I think you should let him learn his own lessons. If you see him do this a few times over then perhaps you could give him a heads up.
posted by skauskas at 3:59 PM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've been That Girl a few times, and even when I was younger and fairly socially inept myself, I could see right through it. It was never someone I was interested in, so it was annoying. Mostly this seemed to come from guys who didn't have good social skills, so when they tried to be "nice" they way overdid it. She can't really shut it down without running the risk of seriously hurting the guy's feelings, but there's no harm in letting him be nice. Maybe some of it will stick?
posted by zinfandel at 7:09 PM on May 22, 2010


This is DEFINITELY a Mind Your Own Business Moment. Enjoy/ignore the spectacle as you choose.

If you truly believe she needs "help" extricating herself from his attention, you could entertain yourself by running interference on his conversational gambits. This is really about them, though, and you're definitely a third wheel.

Interference will net you his ire. If you're wrong about her interest, it will net you her ire too.
posted by Ys at 7:51 PM on May 22, 2010


This sounds a lot like how I met my husband. Everyone had also seen him as a little aloof (okay, a lot aloof) and not very friendly or romantic. He was very shy, reserved and didn't often contribute to conversations in general and certainly wouldn't talk about feelings with friends.

Then I came on the scene and he wanted to date me very badly, as so began to try to push himself to try new things and new patterns of behavior in order to make that happen. It wasn't fake, it was growth. Sometimes personal growth does have to be "faked" a little at first as a way to manifest it. A shy guy wanting to make an impression on a very outgoing girl may have to be forward and talkative in a way that isn't natural but that eventually will become comfortable.

I think the judging of this guy as just being "fake" or manipulative are likely to be wrong. He may just be showing you a part of him that he sees as vulnerable (a guy being caring and kind, talking about feelings etc.) but is willing to risk ridicule now because he likes this girl.

Also, I too avoid talking about feelings when I don't have advice to give or a personal anecdote that relates to tell... maybe I am a weirdo too, but I think that's fairly normal.
posted by Saminal at 12:05 PM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks everyone.
posted by knz at 2:03 PM on May 23, 2010


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