How do I ensure things stay platonic, but friendly, with this guy?
December 16, 2012 6:07 PM   Subscribe

I just got asked by email to meet for drinks by this guy in my Meetup group. He's a nice person, and I'd like to be friends. I have a boyfriend, and I don't think he knows this. How do I politely deflect?

The situation is made a little more tricky by the fact that it's not clear whether "drinks" actually means "date." Does it usually mean this? And, I'm the organizer, so I'm trying not to alienate nice members who have attended before, or make things awkward. I'm wondering if my enthusiastic friendliness to new members was mistaken for some kind of flirtatious interest.

He's a cool person and in a field I'd like to network in, so I don't want to just decline inexplicably. I have many platonic guy friends and there's no weirdness. I was thinking of saying something like "I don't really drink except with my boyfriend. :) But I'd be down for coffee sometime." Would this be too direct?

I just don't want him to have mistaken impressions. Should I just go hang out and *then* say something if it appears he's flirting? Have you had this situation, and what worked best?
posted by iadacanavon to Human Relations (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
"I don't really drink except with my boyfriend. :) But I'd be down for coffee sometime."

Perfect, you answered your own question.
posted by John Cohen at 6:10 PM on December 16, 2012 [11 favorites]


That is a bit tricky. Did he ask you for a specific day? Perhaps you could say "I have plans with my boyfriend then, but would love to meet another time."
posted by three_red_balloons at 6:10 PM on December 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


"I don't know if this is what you meant with the invitation, but just so you know, I have a boyfriend. I'd like to hang out as friends, though; does the offer still stand?"

I think I (as a guy) would be ok with that whether I meant the invitation as a date or not.
posted by supercres at 6:11 PM on December 16, 2012 [36 favorites]


"The next few days are pretty busy because my boyfriend's parents are in town. How about coffee after that? I'd love to hear more about your work."
posted by cranberrymonger at 6:11 PM on December 16, 2012 [24 favorites]


"Sure! Just so we're on the same page, I'm not single, and this is friends-only. If you're ok with that, I'd love to grab a beer. When works for you?"
posted by Fig at 6:16 PM on December 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


As a guy I like supercres's more direct response than slipping the word boyfriend in a sentence somewhere. It would be sort of embarrassing to me to feel like you thought you had to be indirect like that---and you don't. I love "does the offer still stand". One other thought is that I would do more second-guessing that you were just being polite about the offer to hang out later as friends. I'd be less likely to follow up.
posted by spbmp at 6:17 PM on December 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Another observation: I find it totally obvious when a woman, you know, just casually mentions something about a boyfriend. (Not that it's happened to me more than a few times or anything...) It's passive-aggressive in a way. I for one appreciate straightforwardness, and it gives him a chance to honestly tell you that's how he meant it, or not. Or he could lie, which is totally valid too.

Offering to turn a date-date into a friend-date is a nice gesture, even if he declines.
posted by supercres at 6:17 PM on December 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'd like to second straightforwardness. As a guy who's been on the receiving end of the "casual-boyfriend-mention" a few times myself, it sucks. I can't help but feel like my character and intelligence are being insulted.

Just be straight with him. It sounds like you're in kind of an awkward spot already, so what's there to fear about being up-front?
posted by Chutzler at 6:33 PM on December 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


It never ever bothers me to hear a casual boyfriend drop because I understand that women unfortunately have to be careful and subtle when rejecting guys to avoid dangerous situations. So mentioning that you have a boyfriend and not being totally direct is ok too if you're more comfortable doing it that way.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:45 PM on December 16, 2012 [20 favorites]


Cool, thank you. I'll be direct!

Also, whoa there, phaedon. No need to be hostile. Why is it manipulative to want to minimize awkwardness/alienation of a nice person and potential friend? One thing I maybe should have mentioned was that he friended me on LinkedIn right before this exchange, which suggested more of a networky vibe.

I like the answers I've gotten and they allow for all possibilities.
posted by iadacanavon at 6:46 PM on December 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've gotten "do you mind if my boyfriend tags along" from girls in the past when I was in a similar situation and didn't feel like an idiot for having asked.

Under no circumstances should you hang out one-on-one and drop a casual boyfriend mention during that outing. Before is waaaaay better.
posted by moviehawk at 7:16 PM on December 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Your original idea is the best one, IMO. That way, he doesn't have to show his hand in terms of whether or not he was interested in you like that. He can say, "sure, coffee sometime. we'll figure it out after the holidays" and never follow up if that's how he feels.
posted by tk at 7:30 PM on December 16, 2012


Yes, the casual boyfriend mention is pretty obvious, but it's also a nice face-saver for both of you. I prefer the line "my boyfriend's parents are in town so I'll be busy for the next few days", as I've never come across that one before and it doesn't sound too forced. To me, saying "I only drink with my boyfriend" sounds forced and insincere.

On the off-chance that he's just trying to network with you and isn't interested in dating you, he might be offended if you address the boyfriend issue directly. I'm female, so maybe this colours my perception a little bit, but I think I'd be quite taken aback if I was just trying to set up a casual friendly meeting with someone and they not only assumed I was interested in them but felt that they had to spell it out for me that the feeling wasn't mutual.
posted by RubyScarlet at 7:46 PM on December 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


Also, whoa there, phaedon. No need to be hostile. Why is it manipulative to want to minimize awkwardness/alienation of a nice person and potential friend? One thing I maybe should have mentioned was that he friended me on LinkedIn right before this exchange, which suggested more of a networky vibe.

Well apparently we can't have a conversation where we temper each other's views because my comment got deleted - for what, being too harsh to merit even the slightest consideration? - and then I'm supposed to take it to MetaTalk where I get summarily shut down.

Anyway, I think it's a great relief when people are honest about subtext, and some of the best relationships are forged out of being brutally honest. I just don't think you should be embarrassed about being direct. I say nip it in the bud. Didn't mean to come across hostile.

Then again, I've worked in an industry where "let's get drinks" unequivocally means "let's network," so I guess that's another issue you might want to factor in.
posted by phaedon at 8:07 PM on December 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm a woman and I've NEVER had a guy ask me out privately for drinks like that and mean it in a purely platonic fashion. Often they don't have the guts to actually say they're asking you out on a date upfront, but they're always hoping something will happen. Always.

A man asking a woman to meet for networking purposes will make that very clear up front, he'll ask you to meet for lunch during the workday and he'll mentions his wife and kids. Plus he'll ask about your husband or something really obvious like that meant to establish that y'all are just good colleagues. Professional men are typically very good at establishing they're not looking for sex before spending time alone with a woman colleague.

This guy is asking you out.
posted by fshgrl at 8:13 PM on December 16, 2012 [10 favorites]


Interesting answers. I totally agree with RubyScarlet and fshgrl.

Any man who asks a woman out for 'drinks' is asking for a date, IME. Or if he's not, he'll make it very clear that he's not.

I don't see how the mutual-face-saving approach is at all insulting. I thought the 'boyfriend's parents are in town' line was quite brilliant, actually. If I asked a dude out for drinks and he said 'I only drink with my girlfriend', I'd feel as if he thought I was hoping for a night of drunken sexytimes debauchery with his sweet girlfriend-exclusive ass. Ugh.

But I'm not a guy, so I defer to the judgement of those who are.
posted by Salamander at 8:50 PM on December 16, 2012


Yes, Salamander has totally nailed my reaction to the "I only drink with my boyfriend" line. It just sounds icky to me. Like "I couldn't possibly put myself into a situation where alcohol might be imbibed if my boyfriend isn't around to chaperone me - who knows what you might try to do!". It's terribly condescending and also sounds like BS even if it's actually true. I don't know anyone who reserves drinking activities for their partner only.
posted by RubyScarlet at 9:47 PM on December 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


Have you had this situation, and what worked best?

I once said when the invitation was issued face-to-face, "Is this a good time to mention that I live with someone?" He kind of laughed and went, "Oh, I'm disappointed." It was a little bit awkward and I think now I would be really direct and say, "Forgive me, I can't tell if you are asking me to hang out, or for a date," and then go from there. AskMe is full of people who are not sure if they are going/went on a date, so it's a common problem not to know.
posted by BibiRose at 6:25 AM on December 17, 2012


The reason us dudes dislike the "subtle" mention of a boyfriend (hint: its not subtle) is that now we have to quickly think of a way to back out of our invitation. Like if you said "mind if my boyfriend tags along?" the onus is now on him to not respond like a jack*ss, even though no, he really would rather your boyfriend not tag along.

He's very obviously asking you out, and the best recourse is to be up front. The notion that he'd somehow be insulted (that you had the nerve to think that he'd ever be asking you out) is absurd in itself.

The "subtle boyfriend mention" is also another tactic that single girls use to say No to dates rather than just saying no honestly. Men know this and sometimes react worse to having their intelligence insulted than to a simple honest rejection.
posted by el_yucateco at 12:13 PM on December 17, 2012


I like supercress's advice a lot, because it leaves room for him to decline gracefully, or to go out as friends even if he DID want to date you but would be fine with being friends too.

Another observation: I find it totally obvious when a woman, you know, just casually mentions something about a boyfriend. (Not that it's happened to me more than a few times or anything...) It's passive-aggressive in a way. I for one appreciate straightforwardness, and it gives him a chance to honestly tell you that's how he meant it, or not. Or he could lie, which is totally valid too.

The problem here is that this happens all too often:

Guy who is very clearly hitting on girl:
"Do you want to get drinks?"
Girl:
"No thank you, I have a boyfriend."
Guy, desperately trying to bolster his fragile masculinity:
"God, who said I was asking you out on a DATE? You must be really full of yourself, do you think every guy is just dying to fuck you? Jesus that's pathetic."

I am fully aware that the vast majority of guys do not act this way, but it happens often enough that many women find it easier to do the casual boyfriend slip.
posted by showbiz_liz at 3:23 PM on December 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Showbiz Liz is right, guys, unfortunately. This has happened to me a lot. So I too, have learned to casually drop in the boyfriend (real or imagined) line.
posted by Jandoe at 4:27 PM on December 17, 2012


FYI - I used almost exactly the wording supercres suggested last night, totally direct and stating I have a boyfriend, just in case, but I was up for a friends hangout over coffee next month if the offer still stands (since I'm actually going on vacation).

He never had to say what his intentions were, and responded today that coffee sounded good and he'll check out another meetup soon. I'll be happy to go, but won't won't be offended if he doesn't follow up with it. You're all probably right that it was an ask out. Painless and non-awkwardness-inducing. Thanks again! Very helpful.
posted by iadacanavon at 7:26 PM on December 17, 2012


I don't understand why men are trying to get into single women's heads when they say no by slipping a boyfriend into conversation. Who cares whether it's true or not. They don't want to date you. Respect that choice regardless, right? How is it suddenly so personal that we're insulting your intelligence? Talk about insecure. Sometimes it's unsure what the intent is, so if you slip the mention in there, you avoid a MORE awkward situation than if you were like "I'm sorry, I'm not interested." I don't understand the need to deconstruct her thinking when she chooses the slip method. That's creepy.
Showbiz_Liz has it, and I agree with movie_hawk that you need to mention the boyfriend before you hang out one on one. To do otherwise is just cruel.

I don't intend to derail, but some of these comments are infuriating.

I really wish Meetup had a looking/not looking section on your profile.
posted by Sayuri. at 7:57 AM on December 18, 2012


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