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Did I read the signs wrong, or am I being lied to?
August 18, 2008 5:29 PM   Subscribe

I just got rejected by a girl whom I was certain had wanted me to make a move. I am very confused now. If anyone wants to venture a guess as to what happened I would appreciate it. Long story after the jump.

I’m a 22 year old male. All of my life I’ve suffered from a confidence deficit in my relations with women (girls), mostly as a result of believing that I am too ugly to win the affections of an attractive girl. I’ve had one serious girlfriend who is also the only person I’ve had sex with, and that relationship ended roughly three years ago. Since then I haven’t shared contact with the opposite gender outside of friendly conversation. I’ve made an art and bad habit out of unrequited love.

Recently I’ve been investigating the power of positive thinking and the notion that the scenes of our life are not external and separate from us, but are actually mirroring our internal conditions. From this line of thought I came to the realization that my lack of confidence and expectation of failure was what was keeping me from the relationships with women that I wanted. From this perspective the history of my repeated failures with the fairer sex (as I remembered it) seemed completely different to me. Before this paradigm shift I had seen myself as a hopelessly ugly and inept victim, doomed to long for the beautiful and alluring specimens of femininity that crossed my path but never deserving to see those feelings returned. And now, when I revisited those scenes from my past I saw that many lovely ladies had been well within my grasp, and most likely waiting for me to reach out to them, to “make the first move,” which my fear (grounded in my certainty of rejection) prevented me from ever attempting. I imagined the scenarios as I remembered them from the other person’s perspectives, and became aware that I actually may have been hurting these beautiful people and calling myself the victim!

Moving along: Last school year I started hanging out with this guy, who I will call Tom, and he is now one of my best friends. Tom has a girlfriend named Martha. They met first year of college and have been dating steadily for nearly four years. They are very close, each other’s first lovers and all that. Because of the young lovers’ affinity for each other, I soon found myself hanging out with both of them fairly often, and the three of us have spent a good deal of time together over the past year. Martha is a beautiful girl, and very sweet, yet somehow I managed to conduct a platonic friendship with her without ever developing an infatuation, which is historically what I’ve done in similar situations. I was happy enough just being her friend, without wondering if I would ever hold her in my arms, and I enjoyed hanging out with her and Tom enough that those kinds of questions never bothered me.

Earlier this summer Tom was out of town for a month. During this time Martha made several unsolicited visits to my roommate and I’s apartment (Martha’s apartment is just down the street, about a ten minute walk). The first time was on a Saturday, and she was wearing what I perceived to be a very sexy outfit. I thought it odd that she was so “done-up” on a weekend when her man was out of town. Also, Martha had never come by our place on her own while Tom was around, it would always be in her presence. My roommate and I joked that it seemed like Martha was looking for some love while Tom was gone. I tried to put it out of my mind, but a day later Martha sent me a text message asking if I wanted to watch a movie over at her place. This is also something that had never happened previously, let alone when Tom was around. I thought that the invitation seemed like a hook up line. Martha is a great girl and I would be privileged to be with her, but ultimately I sided with loyalty to my friend, as I couldn’t in good conscience make a move on his girlfriend while he was away. Martha came by again one evening after work while I was home alone. We talked for a while but I was careful to not intimate anything beyond platonic interest. She excused herself to leave as she had to be up early the next morning, and when she got to the door she paused and turned around and sort of arched herself toward me in a gesture that I interpreted as very suggestive body language, and said, “By the way, Tom is getting back next week, not this week.” Then she left. Now, maybe I was projecting what I wanted to see onto what Martha was actually communicating, but that statement sounds to me like she was saying “Why don’t we have some fun while my boyfriend is still out of town?”

As far as opportunities for great spontaneous sexual relations go, this scenario was a perfect storm. But I did what I thought at the time was the right thing and resisted temptation. So Tom returned and things got back to normal more or less. He did seem somewhat ill at ease with the information that Martha had been coming by my apartment while he was gone, which indicated to me that he had the same suspicions about her motives as I had. I never mentioned any of this to Tom, since nothing had happened from it and I didn’t see the purpose in telling someone “Hey, I think you’re girlfriend was acting real slutty while you were out of town.” As time went by, however, I began imagining what things would’ve been like if I had responded to Martha’s advances, and I started to regret that I had let what seemed like a golden opportunity to be with someone I really like pass me by, leaving my already uneventful romantic life unchanged. This regret festered inside of me until I made the decision to seize the missed opportunity, or at least create a second opportunity.

Tom left town again last week, and the same day that he left I messaged Martha to ask if she wanted to get together over the weekend as I suddenly and unexpectedly had a house all to myself. She got back to me a couple of days later and said that she was going to make some popcorn and watch a movie and that I was welcome to join her. Doesn’t that sound like a ‘date’ scenario to anybody besides me? Well I got it into my mind that I was going to finally close the deal with this beautiful girl who I thought had been begging me to make a move. With confidence in myself and love for all sentient beings everywhere in the universe I drove to meet her.

We chatted while making popcorn, watched some Olympics, and then tried to start the movie but the disc was not cooperating. I interpreted this technical malfunction as a sign from the universe to quit stalling and make my move (an interpretation I also ascribed to an Olympic commentator’s use of the phrase “first erection” to describe a gymnast’s maneuver). Sitting beside her on a loveseat I turned to face her and said, “Obviously I’m terrible at making the first move, so is it alright if I kiss you?” And she said “No,” which I had not expected. I asked her why and she said, “I’m with Tom. I just couldn’t do that to him.” At this time I wasn’t hurt or broken, but I did feel something that I think must be akin to shock. I just couldn’t believe it. I had been so confident of my success, and so sure of the signals I thought she had been sending. After a moment of thought I asked her, “But weren’t you coming on to me while Tom was out of town?” She said that she hadn’t, that her visits had all been made in the spirit of friendship, and that “I guess everybody just perceives things very differently.”

Now, I believe that we all view the world through a “reality tunnel” that filters our perceptions in accordance with our beliefs. I am inclined to agree with a Mefite who commented on a post recently that “reality is spontaneous and unique to each of us.” I am versed in the writings of Robert Anton Wilson, and I think I understand that “whatever the thinker thinks the prover proves,” that we all live in separate realities and that all perception is gamble and so forth, but her assertion that I had hallucinated all her advances was truly mind-blowing to me. I also want to mention that during this exchange following my bid for a kiss Martha remained remarkably composed. She hardly stirred or batted an eye after my question, almost as if she had expected it or something similar. She didn’t seem upset, didn’t raise her voice or ask me to leave after I revealed my intentions, which also seemed strange to me. I didn’t challenge her version of events any further however because I was stunned, mind reeling and what not. So I have been trying to figure out what the “truth” behind his scenario is. Perhaps I am dangerously crazy, and my perception of reality is more hallucination than I had considered before; that I had seen Martha making come hither advances toward me simply because that is what I wanted to see in my heart of hearts? Perhaps she is crazy and wasn’t aware of the messages she was transmitting; or perhaps she was subconsciously seeking male attention, consciously unaware of her actions. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt; I have always thought of Martha as a sweet girl, and I don’t want to give credence to the conspiracy theory that she conducted this elaborate game with my emotions just to be able to deny me and revel in my humiliation. Should I have just moved in to kiss her instead of asking? What happened here, where did I go wrong?
posted by thescientificmethhead to Human Relations (94 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
Your first instinct was correct. Fuck the mixed signals, fuck the anxiety, fuck what she may or may not have meant. Your obligation is to your friend first, as is hers, and whether she in fact intended to breach that obligation does not relieve you of yours. Incidentally, you now have another problem in that you have to explain your recent action to Tom, having alerted him to your earlier suspicions about Martha. FWIW, I think she was pulling your strings - not because you're particularly gullible, or ugly, or anything like that - but because she's an attention whore and you're a heterosexual guy and while her boyfriend is away she feels incomplete with out a guy - any guy - to fawn over her and make her feel important. Ask Tom to introduce you to some other girls and let Martha dig her own grave without your involvement.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 5:44 PM on August 18, 2008 [5 favorites]


I was about to say exactly what Inspector.Gadget said; it's altogether possible that she just wanted attention while Tom was out of town, and she knew you would give it to her. She wanted to feel wanted, but she didn't necessarily want to do anything about it. It's possible she's insecure, or maybe she's just an attention whore. Either way, it sounds like this wasn't about you at all, so don't feel bad.
posted by JMOZ at 5:46 PM on August 18, 2008


The power of positive thinking does not trump ethics.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:49 PM on August 18, 2008 [19 favorites]


where did I go wrong?

When you tried to make a move on your buddy's girlfriend.

She could have wanted something more from you, or could have just been flirting, or you could have imagined everything. Who knows? It doesn't matter. Next time, stick to single women.
posted by grouse at 5:52 PM on August 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oy. I agree with InspectorGadget.

A few other things:

- If you're gonna hit on your friend's GF ( which: don't, just don't), you have to be prepared for rejection.
- Maybe it's just me, but you seem to have sort of an old-fashioned perspective on women, wondering why Martha is getting dressed up when her fellow is out of town, referring to her "slutty" dress, etc. If you really want to be friends with women, you might want to adjust that perspective.
posted by lunasol at 5:53 PM on August 18, 2008 [14 favorites]


Well, the first place you went wrong was in making a move on your best friend's girlfriend, but that's beside the point, I guess.

It seems very possible that she was coming onto you before, and then realized that that was a very bad idea. Maybe she was having a rough patch with your friend and decided to cheat, and then, after you didn't respond to her advances, she changed her mind. Frankly, there's no way you can know now.

I will say, though, that you're clearly not over your issues with women if you think that the most available girl you know is your best friend's girlfriend. Do you interact with women who aren't dating your friends at all? Do you have any female friends, or even acquaintances? These are the questions you need to be asking yourself right now. Also, I can't believe this isn't anonymous.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:53 PM on August 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


You tried to make out with your friend's girlfriend who wasn't interested in you. She may be one of those women who unconsciously send signals that they are not aware of-- but that's not the issue.

Men are evolutionarily prepared to see signs of availability in women even when they are not there-- because the consequences of not trying when she would have said yes are usually worse than the consequences of trying when she was going to say no (In other words, you'll reproduce more if you tend to interpret more negatives as positives than vice versa-- this doesn't mean you'll feel better or get rejected less).

Anyway, most women are not going to think messing around with their boyfriend's friends is a sensible way to have casual sex or to get a new boyfriend. If they want to cheat, they aren't likely to do it in a way that's going to be so messy, basically. If a woman *does* go for you in such circumstances, is she really someone you want to go out with?

And there is an objective reality that you cannot will away by force. There's a good possibility that this woman wasn't going to be interested in you no matter how confident you were. You might not be her type, for example.

More confidence and not acting like you are expecting rejection will help with women who are potentially attracted to you--but it won't do anything to get a girl who likes skinny men to go for a fat guy or to get a woman who only likes brilliant men to go out with a dummy.

You make your own reality is a gross oversimplification that makes self help authors rich but does little to help most people most of the time deal with this complicated world.
posted by Maias at 5:54 PM on August 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Or seen from a very different perspective than the previous posters:

Doesn’t that sound like a ‘date’ scenario to anybody besides me?

No, absolutely not.

Martha sent me a text message asking if I wanted to watch a movie over at her place. This is also something that had never happened previously, let alone when Tom was around.


Yeah, because dude, her boyfriend is out of town for a month. She's bored and lonely.

I thought that the invitation seemed like a hook up line.

That perception is almost... quaint... but also completely bizarre.

“Hey, I think you’re girlfriend was acting real slutty while you were out of town.”

What? Standing in a doorway so you can project your wants onto her is really slutty?

Do you have any friends who are, you know, girls? Because your reading of this woman seems either highly influenced by fantasy or simply inept. It's reading a lot like you are having difficulty interpreting the friendly interactions with this girl as anything except sexually charged. I'm wondering if this is because you're lacking in routine, casual social interactions with women, so that any attention paid to you is interpreted by you as being overly charged with possibly non-existent under currents.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:54 PM on August 18, 2008 [27 favorites]


My 2 cents, as a random girl on the internets:
* She was around a lot when her boyfriend was out of town because she was bored, lonely and wanted company (ie things she gets at home when her boyfriend's around)
* She might be a flirt, she might just be looking for some male attention, but it doesn't mean she wants to act on anything. Some people just get off on attention from the opposite sex.
* She's attached. She knows you know she's attached. If she really wanted to get with you, she would've made a move, something you would not have missed. Something more direct than getting dressed up a bit and making offhand comments about when the boyfriend gets back. If she wanted to be kissed, she would have kissed you.

Sorry, but you were seeing things that didn't exist.
posted by cgg at 5:56 PM on August 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


you went wrong when you decided to seek a "golden opportunity with someone you really like" who is also in a relationship.

i don't think you spend any more time searching for the meaning of reality and our individual experience of perceptions when it comes to this situation. i think you need to grasp some simple truths that are far more accessible than your epistemological ponderings: you should seek romantic relationships with other single people. don't hit on your friend's girlfriend. even if you think that she might be interested, don't do it. not only is it wrong, but why would you want to be in a relationship with the sort of person who has no qualms with cheating on her boyfriend?

so take the classic dating advice and join some activities, volunteer and get to know (single) women with the aim of getting to know them as persons, not just as a means to a relationship or sex. if you meet someone you fancy, ask her out if she wants to go on a date with you. simple as that.

and stay away from Martha.
posted by buka at 5:56 PM on August 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Y'know, the phrase 'plate of beans' has passed into folklore around here for a reason...

In answer to your ultimate question, "where did I go wrong?": you've been overthinking things.
posted by Pinback at 5:58 PM on August 18, 2008


Imagine, if you will, that Martha was a gay friend of yours. Would any of her behaviour added up to hitting on you? I don't think so. Martha visited you, like any friend might. She kept you up to date with another friend's activities. She assumed you were offering entertainment, as any friend might when their social life is lacklustre due to a partner being out of town. That's pretty much it. You thought she was saying, "hey come fuck me while your friend and boyfriend is out of town." You're lucky she was so gentle with you and didn't tell you to fuck off. Sounds like a better friend to you than you are to her, or Tom.

In any case, don't make moves on buddy's girlfriends, it can only end in tears.
posted by b33j at 5:59 PM on August 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


You are trying to apply logic to aspects of humanity that aren't often logical.

In other words, women are crazy (and to most women men are crazy too!). You may never know her true intentions. Just because you might have thought you had moments of chemistry, or even if she was toying with you doesn't necessarily mean you were going to be able to "seal the deal." Maybe she just wanted to see if she could have you.

Regardless of her intentions, I think you are overthinking this. In my experience, the more I think about a future hookup, the more of a chance it won't not happen. Things like that kinda just happen, and usually not with a friend's girlfriend.

If I were you I'd evaluate how important these friends are to you, because you could easily lose both of them.
posted by OuttaHere at 6:01 PM on August 18, 2008


I have a few points to make.

1. Totally agreeing with Inspector Gadget when he says that your first duty is to your friend. Despite everything else, making a move on his girlfriend was wrong. But then you probably already know that, so... yeah.

2. You clearly like to overthink things. I used to be a lot like that when I was single and chasing girls. If there is one thing I have learned, now that I am 30 and engaged, it is that you shouldn't overthink when it comes to girls and The Chase. Reading through your novel up there, I can't help but think that had you not overthought this one, you might have saved some face.

3. Another thing I have learned, and this advice comes from the women I have dated (and the woman I am marrying) is that girls, especially young girls, like to flirt, even if they're with someone. This does not mean they're sluts or whores or anything else like that, nor does it mean that they want to cheat on their boyfriends. They just like to flirt, and that's that.

4. Another thing I have learned is that women know when we men are interested in them, whether we know they know it or not. So obviously I think Martha knew you were into her and this, coupled with her desires to flirt, led to a toxic brew.

So forget Martha. She's not interested in you and she doesn't sound like the kind of girl you would want to be with anyway (despite what your other brain is telling you). And in the future, remember points #2 and #3. If you do, you'll know when a girl is interested in you, you'll know when she's just flirting with you for fun, and you'll know when to make your move.

Oh by the way... re making a move. In the future, just make a move dammit, a piece of knowledge that was imparted upon me by one of my exes. I know it seems so hard to do but let me tell you, the amount of times I look back at my interactions with the opposite sex, armed with the knowledge I have now, I see so many missed opportunities because I didn't make a move. You don't want to be sitting in this chair by the time you're my age, trust me.
posted by Effigy2000 at 6:03 PM on August 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


i just noticed the "am i being lied to?"

it seems you've got some issues with women.
posted by buka at 6:04 PM on August 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


One other possible factor is that she knew Tom was one of your best friends and she figured she was safe in having a good time flirting with you and you wouldn't expect it go any further out of respect for Tom.

My question is what do you think would have happened if you had had sex with your best friend's girl friend? Did you think you would forget how great the sex was and not want any more? Did you think Tom wouldn't find out? Did you think she would suddenly fall you and dump Tom? I just don't see any happy ending to that story - you were lucky she just calmly said no. (And smart to ask with words instead of just starting to kiss her)
posted by metahawk at 6:04 PM on August 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


Thanks to everyone who has responded so far. There's a lot of feedback already for such a block of text. I agree with the sentiment that I shouldn't have reneged on my loyalty to my friend. And lunasol has struck something in pointing out that my perspective of women is "old-fashioned." I think there's a lot of truth to that. Yes, Pinback, I've overthought things, but I'm sure your interpersonal relationships seem more important to you than a plate of beans. I am trying to keep perspective here.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 6:06 PM on August 18, 2008


This might have been one of those uncomfortable scenarios where doing what you're supposed to do (confirm interest first) contradicts the desires of both parties. Anecdotally, this happens somewhat frequently. Why these situations occur is a subject of speculation. I found this discussion of the problem of "common knowledge" interesting. (Or, you might tell the speculative story that Martha wanted something to happen between you, but that she wanted it to "just happen" rather than be planned and explicitly negotiated.)

So it's entirely plausible, though not certain, that you read the signs right. It sounds that way from your description. That would imply you were "lied to," in a sense, but it was a lesser kind of lie, I think, and Martha doesn't necessarily deserve the kind of disapproval invited by inspector Gadget. She may have simply judged that direct, verbal expression was the wrong way to conduct these negotiations. (Compare the institution of flirting generally, which is about expressing interest but almost completely eschews direct verbal expressions of desire.)
posted by grobstein at 6:14 PM on August 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


There is one glaring difference between the first out-of-town batch of get-togethers and the second out-of-town situation, a difference that one one hand, I wish didn't exist because it makes for an unfair comparison, but that on the other hand, might be a useful difference in figuring this out, and that difference is: the second time, YOU initiated contact.

There is of course no way for us to know what's going through her head, but based on a lot of behavior I've seen and have even engaged in, it sounds like she likes male attention, and it sounds like she might like the feeling of being able to control men. Believe me, this is fun. It's nice to have a guy to call up to keep me company and lavish me with attention when there are no other guys around to do so. Unfortunately, it's not very nice.

So the first time Tom went out of town and she instigated all these get-togethers, she was in control of the situation. She had you to flirt with, on her terms. But the second time, you immediately jumped on the situation (the DAY Tom left town, and notice that she didn't reply to you until a couple DAYS later?) and it just wasn't anything like the first time. She didn't get to initiate on her terms, and then you went and ruined it by actually making a move, when all she wanted was to tease you.

As I said, I can't know if this is the case. But as a 30-something woman, believe me, I've, uh, seen, this behavior in women, and it's not particularly uncommon.

I hope you can all still be friends.
posted by iguanapolitico at 6:14 PM on August 18, 2008


You need to get out a lot more and interact with a lot more women than your best friend's girl. Being intellectual about it is fine, but you need to complement your abstract theorizing with real life experience. The bottom line is you are desperate enough to stab your best friend in the back just to make a score. The only thing that will cure that desperation is meeting. new. women. Or perhaps developing an internet pornography addiction, your call.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 6:16 PM on August 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't disagree with most of what's being said, but...I also think she was flirting and teasing you, you didn't make this up whole cloth. "By the way, " sexy lean into the doorway, "my boyfriend's out of town another week...." ?!?! That's flirting, folks, hardcore, too.
posted by tristeza at 6:19 PM on August 18, 2008


"By the way, " sexy lean into the doorway, "my boyfriend's out of town another week...." ?!?! That's flirting, folks, hardcore, too.

But that isn't what she is reported as having said. The reported words were: “By the way, Tom is getting back next week, not this week.” As in, "Hey, by the way, that guy you live with who you thought would be back this week? Is delayed. Thought you'd want to know."

Sexy is in the eye of the beholder. Sometimes a lean is just a lean.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:29 PM on August 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


I can imagine her behaving the same way toward you if you were female, actually. The "sexy" gestures/poses are possibly you own interpretation, possibly not, but her objective actions -- spending time with you -- are what one would do with a friend.

Was she flirting with you? Maybe. Maybe she's not, or you're not, quite sophisticated enough to play-flirt without the potential for massive miscommunication. If she can forgive you, you should forgive her and forget it.
posted by amtho at 6:32 PM on August 18, 2008


Positive thinking, in the definition you're subscribing to, is nonsense.

Looking for absolution from a broken DVD player, an Olympic commentator, and the cosmos in general is more nonsense.

Your misstep was the first step you took down the path to what was (in your mind) sex with your "friend's" girlfriend while he was away.

End of story.
posted by aleahey at 6:35 PM on August 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


Friend's mate? Not cool. Not cool at all. But you seem to know that. Or you have been told here.

I agree that some women are into the "power over men" (dun dun duuuuun) thing, but I have known too too tooooo many men who read things that just aren't there. So, while you will run into women who like to flirt to assert their control (they are rather easy to pick out), you will also meet women who like to flirt because it is fun, and women who aren't flirting at all but are almost always read that way.

I had a friend who was model-beautiful but also accessible-looking (an odd mix; she was exotic but short, friendly but not overeager, and just plain really, really good-looking). Men habitually thought she was hitting on them. She would ask for someone to pass her something at a dinner party--"Man, did you see Betty?! She was all leaning into me, looking at me...". She could be sick and at a store buying toilet paper, and a mutual friend's friend would see her and talk about how they connected at the store the other day and he almost asked her out (true story). The best was one night at a bar, she happened to mention that she had a dream where she a number of people from our circle of friends were in a burning barn trying to save sheep from dying. One of my male friends, who was totally into her, turned to me later and was like "Come on, she totally wants me. She told us she had a dream about me!"

Do some work. Don't be that guy.
posted by oflinkey at 6:40 PM on August 18, 2008 [12 favorites]


To DarlingBri: the 'lean' was definitely sexy in nature, and the way she said that her boyfriend was delayed was not a purely informational tone. However, as I didn't ask her to clarify her intentions at the time, the gesture and statement is ambiguous enough for her to be able to claim that she meant nothing more than to inform.

As for everyone concerned about my friendships: I know Tom well enough to know that he will get a laugh out of this story. As for Martha, I've been realizing that she has been a better friend to me than I had thought before (as evidenced by how cool she was after I asked if I could kiss her), and that I make a fool of myself when I thought of her as a sexual exploit and not someone whose friendship I really do appreciate.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 6:44 PM on August 18, 2008


Doesn’t that sound like a ‘date’ scenario to anybody besides me?

No, 'cause it took her a couple of days to get back to you. If she wanted you, she would have contacted you much sooner. Also, if you want to ask someone on a date, specifically include the word date, as it'll make your intentions crystal clear and lets the other person make up their mind.

What happened here, where did I go wrong?

Back when you made a pass at your best friend's girl and then later when you're trying to analyze it and finally now, where you're actually writing long letters to still try and figure it out.

Stop that. Let it go. You wanted to get laid, go get laid. If Martha doesn't want to lay you then go find a Debbie, Betty, Stephanie or some other girl who wants to have sex with you. There is nothing wrong with you than 15 minutes of bump and grind can't fix.

It doesn't matter what Martha wanted or wants now, you know she's not going to have sex with you, she's Tom's friend so don't hit on her and really, you just want to have sex, right? So stop thinking about someone who you can't have sex with and move on.

And next time, don't try and fuck your friend's girl, no matter how willing you think she is, that's just shitty. Be better than that.

On preview:

Darling Bri wrote:
But that isn't what she is reported as having said. The reported words were: “By the way, Tom is getting back next week, not this week.” As in, "Hey, by the way, that guy you live with who you thought would be back this week? Is delayed. Thought you'd want to know."

You're mistaken Bri, the OP is not living with Tom, he has another roomate, re:

During this time Martha made several unsolicited visits to my roommate and I’s apartment (Martha’s apartment is just down the street, about a ten minute walk).

and

He did seem somewhat ill at ease with the information that Martha had been coming by my apartment while he was gone,
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:44 PM on August 18, 2008


"By the way, " sexy lean into the doorway, "my boyfriend's out of town another week...." ?!?! That's flirting, folks, hardcore, too.

Since none of us were there to see this scene play out, I beg to differ. There's a good chance she wasn't exactly leaning over like Barbarella looking for action from the Orgasmatron... she might've said her boyfriend wasn't coming back for another week because she thought he was coming back sooner. Maybe she was lonely and missed him and brought him up, assumed his best friend might miss him as much as she did. Who knows. I mean, the one thing the OP has in common with this girl? Is Tom. And it may well be that's exactly why she was keeping in contact with him while Tom wasn't around... that familiarity gave her comfort when she was feeling alone and vulnerable. She felt safe with him.

I'm sorry, but there's a BIG gap between someone who's feeling lost without their significant other and someone who's a conniving, skanky whore who's trying to lure her SO's best friend into sex. Despite what Penthouse Forums want you to believe, I tend to believe that the latter scenario is probably more rare than the former. The main issue here is that the OP went ahead and projected his own sexuality into the scenario which, if he was a good friend, he would never EVER have done.

And if the OP ever gets a girlfriend and then has to leave town someday, I hope he has a best friend who's a better man than he. Sorry to be harsh, but think about it, dude.
posted by miss lynnster at 6:45 PM on August 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'm sorry, but there's a BIG gap between someone who's feeling lost without their significant other and someone who's a conniving, skanky whore who's trying to lure her SO's best friend into sex.

See, right or wrong, avoiding this kind of label is a reason someone might want to send signals but still have deniability.
posted by grobstein at 6:54 PM on August 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


I just got rejected by a girl whom I was certain had wanted me to make a move.

The fact that she wanted you to make a move and the fact that you were rejected are not logically incompatable.

I suggest you read Intimate Connections by Dr. David Burns.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:55 PM on August 18, 2008


"By the way, " sexy lean into the doorway, "my boyfriend's out of town another week...." ?!?! That's flirting, folks, hardcore, too.

Since none of us were there to see this scene play out, I beg to differ.


Completely fair enough. I assumed that the relation of that scene was 99% true (of course colored by the dude's hormones), and that was my interpretation. But fair enough.

And, yeah, Tom doesn't live with OP so I still think her coming over and being all up in his grill is flirting.
posted by tristeza at 6:57 PM on August 18, 2008


As for everyone concerned about my friendships: I know Tom well enough to know that he will get a laugh out of this story.

Really? You said before that he seemed uncomfortable when he found out his girlfriend had just been hanging out with you while he was gone. How is the info that you made a move on her the next time he was out of town going to turn the situation into a laugh fest?
posted by warble at 7:01 PM on August 18, 2008


I know Tom well enough to know that he will get a laugh out of this story.

To be honest, you don't seem that great at predicting the reactions of your friends. Do let us know how this turns out.
posted by grouse at 7:06 PM on August 18, 2008 [7 favorites]


"i just noticed the "am i being lied to?"

it seems you've got some issues with women."


Huh? It sounds like he has issues, yes. But asking if we think someone, who happens to be female, is lying to him turns him into a misogynist??? Ugh.
posted by gjc at 7:06 PM on August 18, 2008


My question is what do you think would have happened if you had had sex with your best friend's girl friend?

I'm wondering that, too. For someone who is overthinking the before, you're underthinking the after, to the extent that you tried to make a move on a girl who has a boyfriend, and the boyfriend is your good friend. That is a textbook case of setting yourself up for rejection. In the future, try to think past the OMG HOOKUP!!11 part of the fantasy to check for iceburgs. Positive thinking isn't going to make someone's boyfriend, child, or emotional baggage disappear so they can magically be with you. You need to push your romantic energy into encounters with women who are available.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:20 PM on August 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


It sounds like you, Martha, & Tom hang out frequently and Martha considers you her friend. When Tom is out of town, it would make sense that she would still want to hang out with you. I'm not saying there weren't any flirty undertones to your interactions, but I don't think the fact she initiated getting together while Tom wasn't around necessarily means there was anything more to it than her looking to do something with a friend.

Also, Tom might be amused by this whole story, but you might want to prepare yourself for a less cordial reaction. After all, Tom might think he knew you well enough that he could assume you wouldn't make a move on his girlfriend, regardless of what signals she may or may not have been giving you. I'm not saying this to chastise you, but you talked about how shocked you were by Martha's response, and it might be helpful to anticipate a variety of reactions when Tom hears about this.
posted by katemcd at 7:27 PM on August 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


Another thing to consider-- women are not all in continuous, perfect control of their levels of flirtiness. Some of people (of both genders) aren't able to calibrate their flirtatiousness much at all-- and I believe that the percentage of folks who haven't figured our how to work the flirt-control nob increases as age decreases. It may well be that she was leaning in the doorway like Liz Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and that she said something smokey and come-hither to you. It's also possible (if not likely) that she only realized how that looked and sounded after the fact, and that she walked home in blazing halo of embarassment, hoping to high heaven that you didn't notice. That kind of thing happened to me all the freaking time when I was in my early- and mid- twenties. And in my experience, it's much, much more likely to happen when the SO is away, and you're a little lonely, and the normal social constellations get a chance to shift a bit. The fact that she turned you down doesn't mean she isn't attracted to you-- she may well be, to one degree or another. It just means that she's a decent person who's able to keep a lid on her id when she has a chance to stop and think about it.

You're all young. Stupid things were done. That happens. Consider sending her a quick e-mail or text message telling her that you're sorry you made a move on her and that you feel like a complete tool. (Assuming that's true.) And next time, be a mensch and don't try to make out with your buddy's girlfriend. Even if it'd been great, it would have been awful. Trust me.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 7:29 PM on August 18, 2008 [11 favorites]


Just a couple of quick things that haven't been pointed out:

1. Whether or not this is a mis-reading of signals, everyone goes through a situation like this.

2. On that same line of thought, you say you're inexperienced and perhaps you are. If so, then, well, you should prepare yourself for the fact that you're going to have to get through the things your friends did many years ago.

I dunno. I think you're being hard on yourself and I think some of us are being hard on you. I am a late bloomer and, at 18, went through something like this. I was terribly embarrassed by it. Looking back on that even, some 19 years later, I see it as a positive experience that has helped me in innumerable ways.

Lastly -- and this is just opinion -- be careful of pop-psychology fixes. They can help _and_ harm.
posted by tcv at 7:31 PM on August 18, 2008


Regardless of her intent or desire you were wrong. Being the kind of guy who turns on his friend and thinks that wearing a "slutty" dress equals practically begging for sex is your problem. I agree with posters who say you need to learn to treat women respectfully and have REAL friendships with them. You aren't capable of that now, much less having a positive sexual relationship with one.
(your writing is creepy too. work on that if it bleeds into your interactions with women.)
posted by slow graffiti at 7:46 PM on August 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


You've had a lot of great advice here. I want to do something really off the wall and talk about your writing style. People might flag my remark as off-topic, but I think it actually has something to do with your situation.

I know (or suspect) you're trying to lighten your drama-filled post with humor, so some of this may be for comic effect, but a lot of your writingreads to me like dialog for the Comic Book Guy on "The Simpsons":

From this perspective the history of my repeated failures with the fairer sex...

doomed to long for the beautiful and alluring specimens of femininity that crossed my path

I am versed in the writings of...


...leaving my already uneventful romantic life unchanged.



As far as opportunities for great spontaneous sexual relations go, this scenario...


Arg! by "opportunities for great spontaneous sexual relations," do you mean "chances to fuck"? Please stop being Mr. Spock or whatever you're being. Read some Hemingway or Raymond Carver.

I'm not trying to give you an English lesson; I'm suggesting that you're allowing yourself a defense mechanism -- a distancing from real life and its blunt problems; a distancing from the fact that we're animals and that we like to eat and fart and fuck.

I suspect this because I was once you, and my therapist had a really hard time breaking down my wall of courtly nerd speak. It affected my dealings with women and with everyone else (except for my few nerdy friends, who were grateful for my big words and elocution, because they were as ill at ease with bluntness as I was). Girls will be attracted to you when you learn to be yourself. So stop being The Comic Book Guy, call a spade a space, and as someone said earlier, when you're making a move, make a damn move. Just not with your friend's girlfriend.
posted by grumblebee at 7:47 PM on August 18, 2008 [38 favorites]


Grumblebee's comments about nerd-speak are wise. You are trying really hard to distance yourself from human interactions, when in fact you should be immersing yourself in them

As for Martha, ... I make a fool of myself when I thought of her as a sexual exploit and not someone whose friendship I really do appreciate.

Why would you think of anyone as a "sexual exploit"? Maybe this is a language issue again (cf Grumblebee's comment, as above), but I think you setting up a really weird dynamic in your ideas about women, their behavior, and their interactions with you. It's not about being "traditional," it's about being objectifying.

That said, what you describe is totally normal. We've all done it, at least somewhat. Misreading signals is really easy, and is easier if someone really is flirting but maybe isn't wanting to do more than flirt.

My guess (and it is a total guess, because I wasn't there) is that she was coming onto you at first, but you failed to strike while the iron was hot, and when you finally got the balls to make a move her feelings had changed and she was no longer interested.

But even so, by making the move you were giving a great big "fuck you" to your friend Tom. Trying to make him wear the cuckold's horns isn't what a good friend does, at all.

What I mean here is that it's not your relationships with women that sound limited here — it's you relationships with people that are problematic. I think you need to reconsider what it means to be a good friend (whether to men or women) and how not to be an asshole. Because let's face it, you were an asshole this time. Once is kind of ok, but keeping it up is definitely not.

You sound to me like someone who is still in search for himself; I think that this particular experience could be a turning point in that search.
posted by Forktine at 8:19 PM on August 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


As a female, my reading of the original telling of the story is that all flirtation was imagined. The OP is friends with Tom and spends quite a bit of time with Tom and Martha and when Tom is gone for a month Martha stops by 3 times. To me this sounds like a successful transitive friends relationship--you were friends with someone, you hang out with their friends/girlfriend frequently, and with luck and effort you get to become friends with their friends. There was nothing in the original post that suggested flirtation to me--no touching, sexy glances, blushing, normal signs of flirting. The "evidence mentioned was stopping by, text messaging, watching movies, and relaying factual information. And possible "very suggestive body language" before leaving.

That being said, don't let this discourage you from being able to make a move on an available girl you are interested in. A big benefit to positive thinking is to give you the confidence to do things that make your heart race. It doesn't matter whether anyone in the past wanted you or didn't, or whether you should have asked them out or shouldn't. If you meet a (available) girl you'd like to date, don't worry about any reasons she might not want to date you, think about what you really like about her, project that, and ask her out.
posted by ...tm... at 8:20 PM on August 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the input everyone. I really appreciate the variety of perspectives. Obviously there are a lot more ways to look at the situation than I had first considered. The comments about my writing style have also been interesting...the "nerd speak" also characterizes the way I talk, so the fact that I come off as "creepy" could be a big part of my social problems as well. And yes, grumblebee, I meant "a chance to fuck." I sent an e-mail apology to Martha tonight. Paraphrased for interested parties: I said I was sorry for asking to kiss her, that I felt like a total tool (thanks, palmcorder-yajna), and that both her and Tom deserve better from their friends. The answers in this thread have given me a lot more to overthink, like that I'm an asshole, can't manage friendships with men or women, and my verbal mind is creepy and offputting. Seriously though, thank you everybody. This experience and the ensuing reflection have been enlightening. I feel much better now than I did last night. And Forktine, I think you're right that I'm still searching for myself. Let's hope so anyway.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 9:00 PM on August 18, 2008


Everyone has already given good advice about your specific situation, so I'd like to make a couple of general comments:

I agree with what grumblebee said about your writing style -- if you talk the same way that you write, then you're going to have problems getting really close to people.

One thing about your question which struck me, and which others have alluded to, is that your view of women seems a bit superficial. Right off the bat, you talk about your fears of being "too ugly to win the affections of an attractive girl", and you describe Martha primarily as beautiful. This, combined with your remarks about "the fairer sex" and Martha's sluttiness, make you come across as shallow and misogynistic. Granted, physical attraction is important, but I don't think a woman's looks should be your most important criteria.

Also -- and this is related to the preceding -- could it be that you're too picky for your own good? This seems to be a problem for certain types of nerdy men.
posted by ambulatorybird at 9:08 PM on August 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


What the CRAP is going on here?

You have written a couple of pages ruminating on the nature of positive thinking, the evolution of your dating philosophy, the analysis of Martha's actions and yours, and the possible meanings of the details of said actions.

And through this goddamn novel, you are skipping one very, very obvious point: YOU WERE TRYING TO FUCK YOUR FRIEND'S GIRLFRIEND. "Blah blah blah positive thinking in love with the sentient beings of the universe blah"--no, no sir, forget that, you were trying to fuck your friend's girlfriend. This all-encompassing love of sentient beings, did it include your friend, Tom? Or did you assume he would just be too overjoyed at you overcoming your three-year dry spell, even if it was with his girlfriend?

Maybe you failed not because you were misinterpreting her signals, or made the move at the wrong time, or improperly applied your self-help mumbo jumbo, but because you were trying to fuck your friend's girlfriend and she didn't want to cheat on him.

Jesus, do you have any idea how fucking self-absorbed this whole post is? No apology, no regret, no guilt--you write the whole event as if your skeevy bastard behavior was a good thing! Why, the only problem here, the only reason you wrote this in the first place, is because you didn't get laid in the end! With your friend's girlfriend!

And I hope to God you don't use this as an opportunity to feel like a poor victim in this whole thing, or martyr yourself in the "Oh I'm such a terrible person!" fashion rather than using it as an opportunity to improve.

You fucked up and built an elaborate sexual fantasy on a pile of shit. Next time, instead of running with the ridiculous overanalysis of signals and shit, first ask yourself "Is this a good idea? Am I going to hurt people by pursuing this action?" And if the answer is "Yes", then don't fucking do it.
posted by schroedinger at 9:15 PM on August 18, 2008 [39 favorites]


firstly, i agree with grumblebee's assessment of your nerdspeak. it's painful to read that kind of overblown speech because nobody talks like that in real life. given that you wrote like that, i'm sure, in an attempt to sound intellectual, i'm surprised you let fly this grammatical travesty:

…Martha made several unsolicited visits to my roommate and I’s apartment…

what? sorry if no one agrees with me but i do feel it a duty to point out bad grammar. there are several ways in which this can be stated correctly (and i won't bore anyone further by writing them all out here) but I's is never correct, as a possessive or as anything else. it literally made me wince.

***
that said, you have overanalyzed this whole situation from beginning to end (and by end i mean, actually writing about it here), and i suspect that came from your unconscious need to justify a) the fact that you really just wanted to get laid, and b) you tried to do that with your good friend's lady—and i agree with everyone else's opinion about those points.

i also think oflinky got it when he said that guys misinterpret girls all the time–especially girls who just trying to be friendly. i (a girl) once gave a book to a guy i was friendly with because, from previous conversations, i thought he might be interested in the subject. he pretty much literally interpreted it almost as if i had said, "i want to marry you and have your babies." what? yeah.

or you could be right and martha may have been flirting with you. but flirting with one's bf's friends isn't uncommon—especially if one is of the opinion that flirting does not necessarily always have a goal beyond making both the flirt and the recipient of the flirting feel good (i.e. the goal of a date or sex, etc). after years of being told so, i am aware that i am a pretty unconscious flirt—and i flirt with everyone: guys, girls, friends, strangers.

where you went wrong is that you allowed your desire to get laid to over-ride any accurate interpretation of the situation as well as the ethics of trying to sleep with your friend's gf. as others have said, there's nothing wrong with trying to get—just don't shit where you eat, as the saying goes.

also: I know Tom well enough to know that he will get a laugh out of this story.

again, i think this is you trying to justify yourself. i don't know any guy who would be cool with a "good friend" of his trying to bone his girlfriend—and especially when you've already stated he was uncomfortable with the situation the first time he was out of town. so seriously.
posted by violetk at 9:25 PM on August 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm with DarlingBri and the others who think you imagined way more than was there.

quoted for incision: your reading of this woman seems either highly influenced by fantasy or simply inept. It's reading a lot like you are having difficulty interpreting the friendly interactions with this girl as anything except sexually charged.

Also, dude, you're not "creepy and offputting" as much as just really, really young. A.k.a clueless and self involved and without much experience of a cold, cruel world. This too shall pass. Chalk it up to experience and don't brood about it. Go out and make new mistakes and learn from those, too.

Every time I start to feel old, AskMe makes me so glad I aint young.
posted by CunningLinguist at 9:27 PM on August 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


Your elaborate preconceptions are confusing you and leading you to wrong conclusions. Discard them.

Then there is your 22 year old male libido. It is confusing you and leading you to wrong conclusions, too. Try to be more aware of this process as it is happening.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:36 PM on August 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


You're mistaken Bri, the OP is not living with Tom, he has another roomate,

Yes, you're right, Brandon - sorry about that.

Re-reading, although they are not room-mates, the OP and Tom are best friends, or at least "one of my best friends" was mentioned.

In attempting to astral project myself back to my distant early 20s, I think that "hanging around with one of boyfriend's best friends while boyfriend is gone FOREVER, like, AN ENTIRE MONTH!" is pretty much something I would have done. I probably did do it, in fact, because I was both somewhat dependent and very invested in my status as Girlfriend at the age of 22.

In any case, what I was really trying to underline is that "my boyfriend's out of town another week...." and "By the way, Tom is getting back next week, not this week" are not the same statements. One is arguably suggestive while the other seems simply informative to me. I know the OP maintains the lean was definitely suggestive, but - no offence - hasn't proven to be a very accurate interpreter of observed events, so I'm taking that with a grain of salt.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:15 PM on August 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Lots of what may seem harsh commentary and advice here, but that's the beauty of faceless Internet people - you can take it without any real lost face. Take it as a learning experience. Talk and analyze less, do more. You'll enjoy life more, and spend less time crafting AskMefi tales of woe.

Even if it would have been a mistake in hindsight, there's something to be said for taking the initiative and living in the moment once in a while for someone like yourself who likes to hide behind "reason" and analysis. Allowing "reason" to hold you back on a regular basis is insanity.

Be an asshole, once in a while. Being an asshole on a regular basis makes you an asshole, but doing so occasionally in a self-serving way could help you break through your shell. There's definitely a balance here, and it's ok to be human-enough to reach this balance, Mr. Comic-book Guy. Part of the challenge is knowing when to stretch and when to be conservative, as you can easily dig yourself deeper into a hole with no reward for the trouble.

One thing no one has brought up, however, and something that relates to being direct and in-the-moment, is that you EMAILED her an apology. Email is SO weak.

Grow some cojones next time and resolve things in person. It will be tough, but you'll feel stronger and more confident afterward. As long as you don't make a complete ass of yourself in the process, but then you have another data point on how not to act in the future.

Unless you don't really care that much to apologize in person, then it doesn't matter.

Go watch the Tao of Steve, with a grain of salt.

good luck, brother.
posted by schmoppa at 10:40 PM on August 18, 2008


The answers in this thread have given me a lot more to overthink, like that I'm an asshole, can't manage friendships with men or women, and my verbal mind is creepy and offputting.

Welcome to the human race. We're pretty much all like this, so I wouldn't beat yourself up about it.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:52 PM on August 18, 2008 [4 favorites]


You know, if you were female then you might have avoided this solo beanplate overthinking, by getting together with your friends and analysing the entire situation & all of its developments to the nth degree as they progressed. In essence, that's kinda what's happening here, only in hindsight. Shame you didn't have the opportunity beforehand, because it sounds like you created a bit of a pressure-cooker-echo-chamber in your own head.

Having said that, there's a lot of fun to be had in overthinking things like this. I'm sure it's a not insignificant reason why so many of us are regularly drawn to relationshipfilter threads like this one. However, it's important to maintain a distinction between an abstracted puzzle, and what's actually going on in real life, and not to let any overwrought speculations cloud your judgement in the actual moment.

What I mean by that is that it sounds like you worked yourself up into such a lather over whether or not she was sending signals to you, that you probably completely overlooked the fact that she was not in any way flirting with you at the time you asked if you could kiss her. If she had been up for it, you would've known in a far more direct & visceral way than having to ask the question.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:03 PM on August 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


A few things that haven't been mentioned (or asked): Martha is a friend, and also a neighbor; stopping by to chat, or offering to share popcorn and a DVD with a neighbor friend is very typical, ordinary, every-day non-sexual behavior. It only seemed different because Tom wasn't with her, and Tom wasn't with her only because he was out of town. If you imagine everything else being the same - the clothes, the lean, the offer to watch a movie, but Tom is standing right beside her... does any of it seem like unusual behavior on her part? I'm guessing that it probably doesn't. She was probably acting/dressing/speaking pretty much the same as she would if she were with Tom, but you were filtering it through a "Woman Alone (and therefore possibly accessible)" lens.

Also, some women/girls (guys too, but we'll keep this situation-specific), especially when they are young, let their other friendships die on the vine when they are in a relationship. They spend all their time with their S.O., and his friends become their friends. If she doesn't have close girlfriends that she spends a lot of time with, it's even more likely that she was just feeling lonely for company. She might not have her own social support system aside from Tom.

There is some chance that she really was coming on, but I'd say it's unlikely for several reasons. Foremost is that they've been together for four years; people who jump at the chance to seduce their boyfriend's/girlfriend's friends (or anyone else) as soon as he/she isn't looking aren't at all likely to be able to maintain a successful long-term relationship. Also, if she were really plotting what you suspect, I feel pretty sure the outcome would have been much different (as long as you were willing - and shame on you that you were); how inept would she have to be to botch such a gimmee? If she wanted it to "just happen" (plausible deniability) as some have theorized, she certainly wouldn't have relied on ... what? Popcorn and a malfunctioning DVD player? Honestly, it would be child's play to set up a more successful scenario, and still be able to say "omg, how did that happen?" afterwards. She would have made it work if she wanted it to happen.
posted by taz at 11:57 PM on August 18, 2008 [4 favorites]


Let's change the scenario so she's single, and instead of opportunities being your friend being away, they are times when she is in town.

And now let's say that despite this change, exactly the same things happens! WTF?! What happened?

It could be anything, so basically, you'll never know. But here's an example: She likes you. So she turns her flirt on, and you basically don't respond. This is a bit of a slap in the face for her - why didn't he respond?! Does he really not think that much of me? Does he think he's better than me? Why do I even care what he thinks anyway? He's just a guy, heck I could do better if I wanted! Dumb boy doesn't know what he turned down! And thus, since you're not available, she prefers to cease desiring you than to want someone who isn't interested. Then when you do make the move, she's already over you and not interested.

That said, that's probably not what happened here - I'm going to assume you misread some cues, but my point is that even if you didn't misread the cues, this sort of thing can still happen, and you may never know why.

And with THAT said, don't change a thing. I'm not an expert, but I think being willing to make a move and going through with it may be more important than always being able to read the cues accurately. The WORST thing you could do would be to let the burn cost you your nerve.

(And in future, get yourself burned (and you WILL be burned) by people WHO AREN'T DATING YOUR FRIENDS - while you still have friends left!)
posted by -harlequin- at 12:13 AM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I know Tom well enough to know that he will get a laugh out of this story.

Not to add any further to the pile-on, because I think you know where you went wrong, but I would be really careful running with this sentiment--I know lots of easy-going, low-intensity guys, whose reaction to their girlfriend telling them "Um, so your friend made a pass at me when you were out of town" would be spectacularly out-of-character. This is the sort of thing that riles otherwise-mild-mannered 22-year-old dudes to violent action. Make no mistake: this is not a minor faux pas, and you should probably get to work on damage control as quickly as you can.
posted by Mayor West at 5:02 AM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I know this isn't nice, but I'll tell you something, because I know from experience.

If I was Tom, I'd kick your ass. And then I'd wring you from every social circle I could. Dick move you made, man...
posted by saysthis at 5:11 AM on August 19, 2008


When we get older, we sometimes grow and sometimes look back on situations like this with grace, humor and wisdom.

When we're in it, extremely hard to get that perspective.

I would hope that you learn today that despite your world-perspective, despite the grace with which you try to approach the written word, you are, at times, an asshole.

That's actually a good thing. I think that people who are reasonably self-critical get a lot more interesting after they discover that they are sometimes assholes. It grounds them, makes them more human, less disappointing, and less patronizing - high horses are really hard for other people to take - this is what makes The Comics Guy so infuriatingly funny.

Forget taking personally the really negative comments you've gotten, except to the extent that it gets you closer to realizing that you cannot always be courtly and sometimes your needs drive you to doing asshole things.

Now, knowing that you were an asshole and that you have time to try to repair things with your friend and your friend's girlfriend, get to it. Bring some of that honest humility to bear, because you'll need it.
posted by kalessin at 5:27 AM on August 19, 2008


and you should probably get to work on damage control as quickly as you can

Which should have included not putting your apology in e-mail where he will inevitably eventually see it. Dude, you didn't even actually try to kiss the girl, you asked and got shut down - this might all have blown over if you just let it drop, and if not you could at least have claimed you were in a somnambulistic Ambien fugue or some shit. Now, not so much.
posted by nicwolff at 5:45 AM on August 19, 2008


A few data points about people who are women:

They are constantly told that how they look is of utmost importance, that looking good is the solution to feeling bad, and that not having a boyfriend around feels really bad. She dressed up, and you thought it was for you. Odds are, she either felt low because Tom wasn't around and decide to put on a brave face (read: dress nicely even though she felt like shit), or she just enjoys looking good. Nothing to do with you.

Women often try to get to know their boyfriend's friends and turn them into their own friends. They often watch movies and eat popcorn with their friends, and when their friends live in the neighbourhood, they pop in to say hi. They get lonely when their partners are out of town. They try to keep their boyfriend's best friend informed if he's going to get back a week later than expected. Sometimes they bring it up and don't sound "purely informational" because they're bummed about it or annoyed by it.

I thought of her as a sexual exploit and not someone whose friendship I really do appreciate.

Women are not resources to be exploited. They are people. This person was already your friend. Do not objectify her the second her boyfriend's out of the room. Always think of her as a person, as a friend. In fact, don't separate sex from friendship. Have friendly sex, not exploitative sex. Even in BSDM or whatever, you treat the other person with respect.

And you're still not thinking of her as a person. Nothing in your question addresses the position you've put her in now. You think Tom's going to be happy about this? Maybe he's the jealous type and he'll get angry with her for your dick move. Maybe he won't 'let' her be alone with guys in the future. Maybe he'll suspect that she was really coming on to you, and feel threatened. Maybe she won't want to mention it at all, because she knows you're friends and she doesn't want to mess with that, and then he'll find out later and be much more suspicious because she didn't mention it.

The fact that you thought she'd cheat at the drop of a hat says a lot about your opinion of her. I would expect her to be rather guarded around you for quite a while.
posted by heatherann at 5:51 AM on August 19, 2008 [17 favorites]


I'll be in a minority here, but I don't think what the OP did was a "dick move" at all. By his admission, he's an inexperienced, self-conscious guy with body issues and, historically, a total lack of courage. For a lot of people who never have to experience serial unrequited love, you'll be unable to relate to the gnawing pain that gets locked into your gut and the outlook on the world it provides.

Into this mix we throw a woman who, if we believe the story, specially and repeatedly invites the OP into contact only when her boyfriend is out of town, and after he's been careful not to overstep any boundaries during a visit, arches herself suggestively toward him and says something that is quite frankly unmistakable in any context.

The "dick move" was from her, not him. Any tension or drama or problem with her and her boyfriend's relationship stems directly from her actions and her words, not with the OP's willingness to follow up on them. If the boyfriend is angry, he should be angry that she would act in such a manner with his friend -- who she almost assuredly knows is essentially primed for falling hard for the first smile that happens to him.

It's possible that the OP invented details, but given the story as written and assuming that he didn't, the first person to cross "the line" (as most would call it) was the girlfriend, and she crossed it hard.

Another thing: there's a lot of "his girlfriend" being tossed around. I'd ask people to think about that construct and evaluate it. If she's acting in this way, then she's already saying "I'm not his."

And lastly, keeping his friend may be worth more to the OP than the chance at romantic love that he thought he had -- but that is not necessarily axiomatic. It creates all kinds of special complex relationship problems, but who among us has never been with someone while they were still closing down a prior relationship? Just because someone is "taken" doesn't mean that they're displaced to a magical plane where love and lust don't exist.
posted by felix at 6:27 AM on August 19, 2008


OP, start meeting women and by meeting I don't just mean dating. You'll see women are people too. Other than your moral failure* keep in mind that a relationship is safeguarded by both parties' dedication to it, not by each other playing watchdog.

*Which is more important than sophistries about perception. Think that you decided a quickie was more important than your "ill at ease" friend.

On preview: or what heatherann said
posted by ersatz at 6:29 AM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't think I've ever commented in a thread just to say "so-and-so has the right answer," but: please listen to schroedinger! He/she is right!
posted by Who_Am_I at 6:42 AM on August 19, 2008


You used to interpret everything negatively. Now you’re interpreting everything positively. Extremes are never good.

Stop taking everything as a (positive or negative) sign – the movie, the DVD, the Olympics. When you find yourself frantically assigning a hidden meaning to something, stop.

Maybe the DVD broke because you were meant to be making out, but isn’t it more likely that it just broke? Perhaps Martha was hitting on you, but isn’t it more likely she’s just bored, naturally flirty, & thinks of you as a friend?

Relax. Let events occur without judging them and assigning them value. Relationships (platonic and romantic) are confusing. Maybe you need more experience? Make some female friends. Listen to what they say and watch what they do...without over-interpreting.

Also, you may want to spend a little time thinking about why you want to be the guy who hooks-up with his buddy’s girlfriend while he’s gone. In a way you seem to be using signs (the DVD, the Olympics, the girl’s actions) to excuse your (bad) behavior. That’s not good.

Take responsibility for your behavior. Do what you think is right and you won’t have to worry so much about interpreting the signs correctly.
posted by fiore at 7:04 AM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Dude, at some moment in our lives we have all wanted to shag our friend's girl, or mom, or sister, whatever. The male libido can be a powerful impulse, but you have to be the master of yourself, and never ever follow up on that impulse when it involves going behind your friend's back. Just jerk off and move on.

In any case, you are right about positive thinking, it's very important; but beware of overthinking, that can get you in trouble.
posted by Vindaloo at 7:06 AM on August 19, 2008


felix, I don't think the OP is a bad guy. I have a lot of sympathy for him. But what he did was wrong. It really doesn't matter whether or not the girl was coming on to him. (If she was, then she was wrong, too. But you know what they say about two wrongs...) It doesn't matter whether or not the OP is lonely or has body issues. Those thing do matter in terms of our sympathy for him. But they don't make what he did any less wrong.

He made a pass at his friend's girlfriend. I don't think this is on par with treason, rape or murder, but it's still wrong. Why is it wrong? (I can't believe I'm having to explain this.) Because it's a betrayal. Friends are people you trust. If someone is my friend, I expect him to be fair to me. Because I expect this, I let my guard down around him. He knows I let my guard down around him, so if he dicks me over, he's being an double asshole.

Forget anything as lofty as a girlfriend. Imagine you're my friend, you want a Macbook, I invite you over to my house -- because I trust you -- and you steal my Macbook. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. The fact that you're poor and really really really need a computer doesn't change anything.

(I'm not equating a girl with a Macbook. I totally agree with heatherann's comment about the OP's treatment of the girl.)

When I was 22, I was almost exactly like the OP. Worse! I was still a virgin and had never had a girlfriend. I was convinced that I was unlovable, ugly and doomed to be alone forever. And I'm not one of those people who feels great on his own. My natural state is coupled. I was depressed from adolescence to about 25. I was depressed and lonely every hour of every day. Believe me, I feel the OP's pain.

I'm not a hypocrite. If a friend's girlfriend had come onto me (I'm not saying that's what actually happened to the OP), I might have given into temptation. I probably would have. But that wouldn't have made it right. Had I done that, I would have been an asshole. People aren't just assholes because they're assholes. Every asshole has his reasons. So what?
posted by grumblebee at 7:34 AM on August 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


If there was a button I could push to favorite a comment a gazillion times, heatherann woulda earned every single one.
posted by miss lynnster at 7:39 AM on August 19, 2008



They are constantly told that how they look is of utmost importance, that looking good is the solution to feeling bad, and that not having a boyfriend around feels really bad. She dressed up, and you thought it was for you. Odds are, she either felt low because Tom wasn't around and decide to put on a brave face (read: dress nicely even though she felt like shit), or she just enjoys looking good. Nothing to do with you.


Quoted for truth. I'm in a long distance relationship. The fact that I'm neither interested in bagging the people around me or trying to impress a significant other has nothing to do with whether I'm allowed to wear a skirt, or makeup, or whatever. I do not dress up for men, and neither do most of the women I know. I do it for myself. Do not assumed that every woman who looks nice is that way for the benefit of a man, namely you. Seriously.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:41 AM on August 19, 2008 [8 favorites]


Assume, rather. I got all passionate and carried away!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:43 AM on August 19, 2008


grumblebee, you make good points. The point I was trying to make was that, all else being equal, it was far less his fault than hers. And while it will earn a million favorites every time to say "Women are not resources to be exploited" in bold, there's no indication anywhere in the OP's post that he considered her a resource to be exploited, or was thinking misogynistically. Immaturely, and possibly not in the best interests of his friend, but his language about her is entirely not about objectifying her.

Rather, he was careful despite his yearning to react appropriately; she sent a signal that was one step short of an outright invitation; and his reaction to that followed fairly naturally.

The impact to his relationship with his friend is an outside problem -- again, one which he appears to have gone out of his way to honor. In the heat of the moment, he decided that going for a chance at happiness was worth more than his friend was. Maybe he was wrong, maybe he was right. I don't think it boils down 100% always into he's a vile jerk.
posted by felix at 7:56 AM on August 19, 2008


Having said that, here are a couple of suggestions (from a guy who was in your shoes, OP, and eventually learned to walk in them) that will hopefully be more constructive:

1. You sound like you're into drama. I'm guessing this from your operatic question and from your self-flagellating responses. If I'm right, that just means you're a typical young person. Most young people want a boyfriend or girlfriend (or even romantic problems) at least partly so that they can take part in The Great Story. The Great Story is that thing you've been watching on TV and hearing songs about since you were little: boy meets girl; boy loses girl; boy has unrequited love.

Suggestion: never use phrases like "unrequited love." (First of all, are you really in love?) Maybe that phrase accurately describes your situation, but it's romantic and loaded (and a bit cliched). Just say, "I like a girl and she doesn't like me back." Or "I want to fuck a girl but she's not into me." Strange as this may seem, I'm suggesting that you de-romanticize romance.

Being lonely sucks. Feeling ugly sucks. Companionship is great. Sex is fantastic. Love is awesome. (Also, by the way, companionship and love can be complicated and sex can sometimes be lousy.)

There's nothing really wrong with drama and romance, but if that's what you're into, admit it's what you're into. Of course, you could want a girlfriend AND drama. Fine. Then admit that, too.

I think most people who have successful relationships have them when they mature enough to get tired of the drama part. When they look forward to taking out the trash with their wives and husbands. When they feel happy sitting with their girlfriends or boyfriends going over bank statements together.

Frankly, I couldn't have given up my Drama Of The Lonely Life at 22. Maybe you can't, either. Okay, then. It's a goal. You'll get there eventually.

2. Look around you. You'll see tons of examples of beautiful women with ugly men. Women are into looks, but they tend to find other things attractive, too. So even if you're as ugly as you think you are, there's hope.

But that means HARD work.

When I was your age (I can't believe I'm so fucking old I'm saying things like that), I went to therapy because I thought I was so ugly no girl would ever like me. My therapist immediately rejected that and told me, point blank, that if I didn't have a girlfriend, it was because there were problems with my personality.

I fought her for a long time. I clung to the ugly theory. I now realize that as agonizingly painful as it was to think of myself as ugly, I did so because it was the easy way out. It was easier blaming my problems on something I couldn't change than something that I could -- but that I'd have to work really hard on.

Don't be me. I wasted a lot of years due to laziness and ego. (The younger me would have been flabbergasted and offended by the "ego" part. What? Me? Ego? But I hate myself! I'm rougher on myself than anyone else! I'm horrible with women! I'm ugly! But thinking I was so special that no woman could ever love me -- as twisted as that kind of "special" was -- was a kind of ego. And I also thought that under my frog skin, I had a perfect personality. "If only some girl could see the real me INSIDE!!!" That was ego, too.)

Here are three things you can do. You're a geek, so these things should be easy for you. Approach them systematically. Use reference books, etc.

1. Learn how to dress and groom yourself. (There are books for men about this stuff. It would be great if you had a female friend to help you, but if you don't, go with the books or ask questions on this site. By the way, if you do have a female friend, definitely ask her for help with this. She'll probably be thrilled and have the time of her life helping you.)

2. Dive into projects. Become an interesting person by doing things. Travel, read a lot (not just sci-fi and fantasy), build things, whatever. Don't do interesting things to attract girls. Do them because they're interesting.

3. Learn about female anatomy and sex. Do this so you'll be liked once you're in a relationship. Even if you're not in one, if you feel confident that you can please a woman, it will show. Please don't try to learn this stuff from porn. Go to a bookstore and find some serious books about sex. I recommend "She Comes First."

Good luck!

It's hard to be a 22-year-old nerd. You're a bit immature and the girls your age are, too. In my experience, girls start maturing around 25. By that time, they've tried the good-looking football guy, he treated her terribly, and she's ready for something different. So many nerdy guys miss this. They miss this because they are bitter because girls ignored them when they were younger. They look at the 25-year-old girls and still see them as 20-year-old girls.

If you're going to take advantage of the fact that women mature, you need to mature, too. So start working now!

I recently got back in touch with 20 of my high school friends (on Facebook). We were the nerdiest kids ever. I'm not exaggerating: not ONE of us had a girlfriend in high school! (I never even had a date!) Now, without exception, we're all coupled.
posted by grumblebee at 8:06 AM on August 19, 2008 [9 favorites]


felix, I think a lot of women are reading his list of her behaviors, seeing nothing unusual and wondering why he jumped to the florid conclusions that he did. The fact that she reacted as she did when he asked to kiss her suggests his conclusions were indeed wrong.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:09 AM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I do not dress up for men, and neither do most of the women I know. I do it for myself.

I didn't understand this dynamic as a young man, because I didn't dress to please myself. Honestly, if I could have gone to school in pajamas, I would have. If I could have worn the same underwear for ten days in a row, I would have.

Something else I really didn't get until I was married: girls often dress to impress other girls. That doesn't mean they're lesbians. It means that there's immense social pressure within female culture to dress well. (I'm generalizing, of course.) And "dressing well" can mean sexy, depending on the specifics of a particular woman's environment.

I honestly thought -- and I suspect many guys think this -- that if a woman wore sexy clothes, the ONLY reason she did so was to attract men. I think it IS often true for men, that if they dress well, they do it to attract women. It's hard to understand a mindset that's not the same as your own.
posted by grumblebee at 8:14 AM on August 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


I agree with this: It's also possible (if not likely) that she only realized how that looked and sounded after the fact, and that she walked home in blazing halo of embarassment, hoping to high heaven that you didn't notice. I do that all the time. It's incredibly annoying. You don't know the thoughts that led up to her saying what she said, and you don't know what she thought afterwards. All you saw is one blip.

Something that confused me in the original post:

I was happy enough just being her friend, without wondering if I would ever hold her in my arms, and I enjoyed hanging out with her and Tom enough that those kinds of questions never bothered me.

Earlier this summer Tom was out of town for a month...


I don't understand when the leap from "content to be friends" (which is an awesome place to have been, by the way, congrats) to "I have to have some romance with Martha" happened. Tom leaving town shouldn't have changed it.

Even if, upon reflection, you were pretty sure she was coming on to you, the next response could have been not, "How can I take advantage of this?" but, "I will forget that it happened and treat her as a friend no matter what." If reality is in your own head, then you have been making up a pretty unhelpful reality. Make a new one, where you are an ethical and valuable person. Because you are. If/when someone like Martha does this for real, you can be prepared to still not make a move. Also: You can get through life without having sex, and I disagree with the recommendation to just find someone else to quell that urge with.

Also, re: nerdspeak or whatever, I also noticed it and was put off. It felt pretentious. I totally understand how it can make you feel safer, but in my experience, it's a distancing mechanism that separates you from reality. It also, for me, makes awful things feel less awful. The truth is, though, that bad motives are bad motives no matter how beautifully you write them. Let the flowery writing go for now and see who you are underneath.

But good luck. It sounds like you tried getting out of your head and it got messy, but that's what happens. It sounds like you've made a lot of progress in the last few years. Please keep trying things out in real life. And: unsolicited advice from someone who also overthinks: if I were dealing with all of these responses, I would just write down a few key points, including this one, and never look at this page again.
posted by ramenopres at 8:23 AM on August 19, 2008


I remember a big turning point for me: I was about 23, and I saw this woman at a gas station, bending over to check her tire. For a moment I actually thought, "Man! She knows EXACTLY what she's doing! She's bending over to show off her ass. What a flirt!"

Then I woke up to reality and realized that she was bending over to check her tire. And I realized that in the past, I'd interpreted a plate of beans into all sorts of innocent behaviors. Could it be that women actually go through their lives, move about, wear clothes, have those breasts and lips and legs just because they're living their lives and trying to get things done?

The tricky thing is that, innocent or not, the sight of a woman bending over, of cleavage, of a short skirt, etc. has such a hugely profound effect on a heterosexual male. To a young guy, seeing something like that and not thinking it's intentional is like seeing a city destroyed by a tsunami and not thinking it's an act of God.

Except it's not an act of God. It's just the weather.

You can pray to God and ask him not to destroy your city. Or you can be smart and prepare for hurricane season. You can think of women as flirty manipulators. Or you can realize that they're people and learn how to relate to them as such.
posted by grumblebee at 8:23 AM on August 19, 2008 [19 favorites]


felix, I think a lot of women are reading his list of her behaviors, seeing nothing unusual and wondering why he jumped to the florid conclusions that he did. The fact that she reacted as she did when he asked to kiss her suggests his conclusions were indeed wrong.

I agree -- there's more than a little Rashomon in this thread. But I do wonder if the explanations for the doorway episode are more founded on the episode as described in the OP, or on some different episode that meshes better with the notion of this guy being a misogynistic user. Occam's Razor suggests that, assuming the episode was as described, she played the first move in a courtship game and then changed her mind. Certainly there's no reason to suggest that she erred and walked home in a blazing halo of embarrassment, besides hope that she wasn't a "bad person."
posted by felix at 8:52 AM on August 19, 2008


Oddly enough, you're getting yourself in trouble because you're not taking the power of positive thinking FAR ENOUGH. Of course Martha wants you -- but so does every woman you meet! So if you have endless choices in hookup partners, which you do whether you realize it or not, why on earth would you hook up with a girl that's going to complicate your life and hurt your friend? She can flirt all day long -- doesn't mean you should act on it. Be a man -- your reaction in this scenario should have been "Cool it, sweetie."

Your frame of mind should NEVER be, "She wants me, so let's hook up." It should be, "I want her, let's hook up." (Which you don't, in this case, because she's your friend's girlfriend.) It's assumed that she wants you; what's in question is whether you want them. Learn yourself, learn to exert your own will, rather than simply reacting to the desires of women.

Further: Hot girls have hot friends.** So... befriend a hot, "unavailable" girl, invite her and her boyfriend to your get-togethers, and at some point she'll bring her hot friends along and... pick one you like!

My own dating-ethics ruleset wrt other relationships -- take it or leave it, but it has served me well:
1. Never hook up with a girl who is romantically involved, on ANY level, with your guy friend -- even if they're just fuck-buddies and he explicitly says he doesn't mind. A roll in the hay isn't worth screwing up your friendship. If she shows up on your doorstep naked, give her some clothes and send her home. Seriously.
2. Never hook up with a girl who is in a mutual loving relationship. Love is sweet and wonderful and why would you ever want to screw that up? Be happy for the couple and look forward to the day you find the same thing.
3. Never hook up with a married girl. Again, too complicated.
4. (Here's where I buck the conservative trend) If a girl has a boyfriend, you need more information before deciding whether to proceed. It's very likely that a girl who "has a boyfriend" doesn't love him at all, is just dating him to avoid being alone, and in fact wants to leave him but doesn't want to hurt him. Those are fair game. (You are, IMO, actually doing the bf a favor: Every man, every woman deserves to be in a mutual loving relationship. This one-sided relationship is emotionally trapping him, preventing him from finding that.) You may have to deal with angry/hurt ex-boyfriends, though -- it's up to you whether you're okay with that.
5. Yeah, single is best -- but keep in mind that a lot of single girls will say they "have a boyfriend" because they equate being single with being a loser, undesirable, etc.

Hope you haven't messed things up with your friend. In the future, if you doubt your resolve, don't put yourself in a romantic, alone-together with her.

** They have to. Imagine a hot girl going out with a bunch of ugly friends. She's going to get all the male attention; her friends will get none. Awk-warrrd! Replay this scenario 50 times, and the pretty ones stick around and the ugly ones bail out (or learn how to use makeup, dress sexy, etc.).
posted by LordSludge at 9:14 AM on August 19, 2008


It's very likely that a girl who "has a boyfriend" doesn't love him at all, is just dating him to avoid being alone, and in fact wants to leave him but doesn't want to hurt him. Those are fair game.

Huh? Really? When someone asks my status I don't say "Oh I'm gloriously in love, I have a firmly established romantic partnership" I say...I have a boyfriend. Dude, if she has a boyfriend and wants to hookup, fine. But don't assume that most girls with boyfriends are wanting to be alone and staying with someone out of pity. Bad things come from thinking like this.

5. Yeah, single is best -- but keep in mind that a lot of single girls will say they "have a boyfriend" because they equate being single with being a loser, undesirable, etc.

Equally weird advice. You know what? Yea, a lot of single girls say they "have a boyfriend" because we WANT YOU TO LEAVE US ALONE.

The myths about women that are being perpetuated in this thread are scary and disheartening (and thanks to those dispelling them.) Please, take women at their word. More often than not women will say what they mean. Don't read too much into every little thing...overthinking causes more drama than its worth. Give us the same respect and courtesy you want us to give you and take us at our word, OP. That's step one to understanding the fairer sex.
posted by Eudaimonia at 10:46 AM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Huh? Really? When someone asks my status I don't say "Oh I'm gloriously in love, I have a firmly established romantic partnership" I say...I have a boyfriend.

Ya RLY. Those words are 20% of the information of the real-life statement. Depending on the tone, your body language, eye contact, etc., that "I have a boyfriend" could mean anything from "You disgust me; go away!" to "I'm flattered, but I'm deeply in love with someone" (aw, congratulations!) to "I have a jealous fuck-buddy who has fallen for me and now I can't get rid of" (ugh, been there...) to "I want you... but I have to at least try to push you away a little, esp. here in front of my friends, or I'll feel like a slut if we end up hooking up."

But I wasn't implying that a guy should ever ask if a girl has a boyfriend. He shouldn't. It implies that you already want to fuck her (and forces her to declare "yes"/"no" to you right then -- which will meet with all the success of "hey, wanna fuck?), which you should really screen her a bit before reaching that decision.

Equally weird advice. You know what? Yea, a lot of single girls say they "have a boyfriend" because we WANT YOU TO LEAVE US ALONE.

If a girl says "I have a boyfriend" while giving you positive body language, just ignore it -- she's either lying or she has a boyfriend she's not that into. At most give a chuckle and a "haha, nice...". (If she's truly not into you, you should have read that by her body language and excused yourself before she has to blow you off.) Especially if she's attractive, she's used to getting hitting on by shitty, awkward, drunk, insecure, clingy guys and may blurt this out automatically to avoid the predicted uncomfortable interaction.

Last girl I dated told me "I have a boyfriend" within two minutes of meeting her -- I went a little overboard with a boisterous belly laugh, knee-slap, and a "NO YOU DON'T!!!", but we still got together... eventually. Turns out she did have a "boyfriend"... who she was not at all in love with. No problem -- been there, done that myself.

Give us the same respect and courtesy you want us to give you

Yes. Most guys put beautiful girls up on a pedestal before even meeting them. Even drop-dead beautiful girls are just people, no better or worse than OP. And, duh, they want sex just as much as us guys do.

and take us at our word, OP.

No. LORD no. How I *wish* that were true. Words may convey what they're thinking (but not always), but body language conveys what they're *feeling* -- much more reliably than words, which are so often dictated by social pressure, circumstances, etc. So if the words are congruent with the body language, then fine -- take them at their word. But if the two are in conflict, then believe the body language.

Women interpret men via their body language all the time -- instinctively, I think, and generally much better than men. They can tell an insecure vs. confident guy from across the room by the way he sits, the way he holds his glass, the way his friends respond to him. A big part of success with women is not only learning to read their body language (simply reading her level of attraction is HUGE), but also learning to control your own.
posted by LordSludge at 12:54 PM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Please, take women at their word.

The fact is that we are blind when it comes to those we are interacting with. They may be telling the truth, they may be telling the truth as they would like to believe it, or they may be telling a lie. The important thing is to remember that you cannot read their minds. Ever. You can guess, and guess right, but you cannot read their mind. This means that your best bet is treating people with respect, respecting obvious social boundaries, and make your intentions clear from the get go.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:23 PM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


If someone says they have a boyfriend, please take that as super secret girl code for "back off a a bit please."

My wife gets this shit all the time. She mentions she's got a partner, and the guy who has read the same smooth-mover books as some of the dudes above hears that and leans in to make his move. It's not smooth — it's disrespectful and creepy. (And they all laugh first, just like in LordSludge's example — I'm not sure if it's step five in the book, or if it is one of those leftover aggression codes from when we were apes, but she uses that as a clear signal of the skeeviness that is about to come.)

All you have to do is back off a bit — if she said "I have a boyfriend" but meant "I think you are really hot and I want your sperm NOW!" she will find a way to tell you, really, with words or body language. And if she means "yes, I really do have a boyfriend" she will be happy you are backing off. It's a win-win situation.

Flirting is awesome, and everyone should flirt more. Flirt with me, flirt with my wife, flirt with my wife in front of me. All is good with the world. But the pushiness and casual disregard for all the "back off please" signals is not flirting — that is aggressive and unpleasant.
posted by Forktine at 2:42 PM on August 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


I wanted to elaborate on something I considered after noting that I thought your writing was odd. I think there's a small chance you may have been reading stuff that's making your problem worse.

Please, please, please, poster, do not start reading any books by anyone who claims to let you "master" women, using some fancy "linguistic programming" seduction techniques or whatever. Those are scams designed exactly for guys like you and I hope you're smart enough not to fall for them.

Don't buy into the "reading body language" crap that some guys on here seem to believe in. As a girl, I can tell you it's been attempted on me. It does not work on anyone with at least moderate intelligence and good taste. I might laugh with you when you try, then leave, and then go tell my friends later what a creep you were.

If you listen to people who claim to know a secret for seducing women, you'll only cement whatever negative attitudes towards women you're already cultivating.
posted by slow graffiti at 4:15 PM on August 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


But I wasn't implying that a guy should ever ask if a girl has a boyfriend. He shouldn't. It implies that you already want to fuck her (and forces her to declare "yes"/"no" to you right then -- which will meet with all the success of "hey, wanna fuck?), which you should really screen her a bit before reaching that decision.

Okay, so I assume LordSludge is talking from the point-of-view of a guy in a bar trying to get laid. He doesn't want to waste his time with a girl who actually has a boyfriend. He'd rather move onto the next one. He's not interested in a friendship. He just wants a girl to fuck.

I'm not knocking that. We're built to want sex. But it's hard for me to project myself back into that mindset. Maybe that's because I'm in my 40s. (Though I could have written this fifteen years ago.)

When I first read sludge's comment, I was baffled. How could you not know whether or not a girl has a boyfriend? Surely it would come up during the time you spend getting to know her as a friend or co-worker... and then I realized sludge is in a whole different world from me. I don't go to bars and try to pick up chicks. I didn't when I was single. I didn't try to get laid (though I love sex). I tried to make friends. Some friends turned out to be girlfriends or potential girlfriends, others "just" turned out to be friends.

If you want to go sludge's route, I'm sure you can find drunk girls who'll let you fuck them. I think it's a lonely route in the end, but that's just me.


and take us at our word, OP.



No. LORD no. How I *wish* that were true. Words may convey what they're thinking (but not always), but body language conveys what they're *feeling* -- much more reliably than words, which are so often dictated by social pressure, circumstances, etc. So if the words are congruent with the body language, then fine -- take them at their word. But if the two are in conflict, then believe the body language.


No. If you respect someone, you take her at her word.

Well, again, I guess you don't if your whole goal is to get laid. In which case you don't respect her. You might act like your respect her to get something from her, but in the end, you don't think of her as a person, just as an opportunity.

If you respect people, you take them at their word. You know that they MIGHT be lying to you, but you take them at their word anyway. You give them the benefit of the doubt. You only make passes at the girls who say they don't have a boyfriends (and who show interest in you).

Yes, that means you'll miss some opportunities with girls who are playing hard to get or whatever. That's the price you pay for showing some general respect. Honestly, it's worth it in the end. You'll wind up having REAL relationships with girls who are mature and honest and who respect you back.
posted by grumblebee at 7:15 PM on August 19, 2008 [7 favorites]


OP, you made a mistake, but what you have to say and your responses in this thread make you sound like a much cooler guy than anyone who would write the kind of baloney that Lord Sludge has. What may suck in the short term is how your friendships with Tom and Martha may play out; there could be a whole bunch of drama in the near future. I feel like you're going to be OK though. You mostly sound to me like a smart, thoughtful guy who made some jerky mistakes, but everyone does that. Smart, thoughtful girls like smart, thoughtful people. So just work on that part a bit more.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:40 PM on August 19, 2008


Stop taking everything as a (positive or negative) sign [...] When you find yourself frantically assigning a hidden meaning to something, stop [...] Perhaps Martha was hitting on you, but isn’t it more likely she’s just bored, naturally flirty, & thinks of you as a friend?

Something I forgot to add previously, talking about reading signs & overthinking: you'll be far less likely to get anywhere with anybody unless you do perform at least a bit of overthinking, so ignore anybody who says "stop trying to read things into things".

Women do this *all* the time - both in the sense of hyperanalysing (often with friends) every last tiny detail of an interaction with somebody of interest to them, but also (maybe to a lesser extent) actually planning & deploying signals (then conferring back again on the results), then rinsing and repeating.

The difficulty from a guy's perspective, as you've discovered, is that the signs (or apparent signs) can be ambiguous. eg in this case, maybe she dressed up to 'tempt' you, maybe she wanted to feel good about herself while her boyfriend was out of town. Maybe something else. It's hard to know, and there can be a lot of false positives, especially if you try to talk things up in your favour.

I forget which, but there's a principle in Agatha Christie or Sherlock Holmes or something that says "once you've eliminated the impossible, everything else must be considered as a possibility". That's about the extent that your overthinking should take you. According to that, for every interpretation you come up with in your favour, I'd suggest you spend some time specifically seeking out alternative interpretations - positive, negative or neutral.

This doesn't mean you should abandon positive thinking, or ignore the possibility that people might be coming onto you. It just means that you should take it all with a massive grain of salt unless it's blindingly obvious, and play it by ear, without letting your wishful thinking get the better of you.

Better yet, if you can find yourself some good platonic female friends, discuss it to death with them. They'll soon set you straight, or confuse you further, which is often pretty much the same thing.

(apologies for any gender-based generalisations; i find it to be more true than untrue, on average. also, read the above blurb alongside occam's razor: the simplest explanation is the most likely to be correct)
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:14 PM on August 19, 2008


Thank you to everyone who has parsed my plate of beans and offered your thoughts. You’re all beautiful sentient creatures. Every response has been beneficial, and the variety of perspectives has broadened my scope of the situation.

A quick update: I called Tom today (yes, I would’ve preferred an in-person apology, but he is out of state still). We talked about how his drive went first, then I told him that I had called with a purpose. “I kind of stabbed you in the back,” I said, “I made a pass at Martha this weekend,.” His immediate response was something along the lines of “Oh really?” or “yeah?” I don’t recall exactly (it was the second time my heart has raced in nearly as many days). I continued by saying I was really sorry, that nothing happened of it, and that it was no fault of Martha’s. He said “Don’t worry about it, man,” or something similar, which I couldn’t believe, despite my earlier confidence that he would react with a chuckle. When I continued by referring to the incident as a momentary lapse of reason or whatever he said “Don’t explain yourself, man” and changed the subject by asking what else I’ve been up to. He never sounded upset, didn’t declare our friendship finished, and wasn’t interested in hearing any of the details of the incident or how it came to pass. I chalk this up to him having a much greater understanding of what kind of person Martha is than I do, enough that he doesn’t need to probe for more information. But at least my friendship with Tom does not seem to be seriously affected by all this drama.

After considering the comments made in this thread, and talking to some real-live women about it, I’ve developed some beliefs about the scenario that I will call “tentative models” rather than “conclusions”:

1. Hoping to fuck my best friend’s girlfriend was a shitty, super-shitty thing to do. If I had remained steadfast in my loyalty to my friend(s) then this whole mess could’ve been avoided.
2. I think Martha was deliberately “leading me on,” even if she never meant it to go any further than toying with me. If all this stuff about women craving male attention and wanting to know if they could have someone is true, then I gave her everything she was looking for and more. My lengthy original posting has been referred to as a “novel,” but I could greatly expand it with all the nuances (and additional encounters and messages not mentioned here for the sake of brevity) I picked out from my interactions with Martha during the period in question that lead me to believe she knew she had me by the balls, and knew exactly what she was doing. I’m not saying that she was ever actually interested in me as “more than a friend,” but I think there is enough evidence to suspect that she was treating me as less than a friend for her own gratification. So good for her, she broke me easy and quick.
3. I oftentimes am far more shallow and misogynistic than I like to believe. I also am able to completely objectify a woman while thinking that I am not objectifying her at all. The assertions that I have issues with women are not unfounded.
4. Being an asshole is kind of exhilarating. But branching out of your comfort zone always is to an extent I guess.
5. I never should’ve written “my roommate and I’s apartment.”
posted by thescientificmethhead at 2:45 AM on August 20, 2008


Something else I'd like to add, just because there is something really satisfying about all this self-disclosure on the Internet.

Regarding my "old-fashioned" view of women: my parents are both very repressed and repressive "Christian" southerners who claim to have never touched a cigarette, illicit drug, or naked body other than their spouse's in their lives. I inherited a negative view of women and sexuality from them, and it is something I need to overcome. And my father has a phd and a strictly academic manner of communicating, so my everyday speech really is similar to my writing style and why I seem to be "trying to sound intellectual."
posted by thescientificmethhead at 3:06 AM on August 20, 2008


thescientificmethhead, I was really impressed with your last post, both in terms of self-realization and in terms of its simple, clear prose. Good for you! I hope you continue down this direct and honest road. I'm sure it will be uncomfortable at times, but the payoff will be worth it.

Tom sounds like an awesome friend!
posted by grumblebee at 7:09 AM on August 20, 2008


I still think you're assuming Martha must have some sort of ulterior motive as an evil/misguided temptress? Have you considered that she may be attracted to you but not interested in actually having sex? Human sexuality is not an on/off, pure/impure state of being, and it's perfectly possible you're Martha's type (because heck, you're the sort of guy Tom likes, so you must have something in common with him) and thus she will display every symptom of wanting to jump your bones, but she's too mature to act on every little whim that passes through her body?

I know when I meet a hot guy, I get flushed and happy looking. My pupils dilate; my heart kathumps; and I lean into him to hear what he has to say. If he's particularly hot, you'll probably see me contorted into an S curve, cooing in agreement with everything he says and laughing at his jokes. And if he hit on me, I know I'd laugh it off or make sure he knew I had a boyfriend. 'Cuz just because I like his shoulders and the way he smells does not mean I'd want to destroy two years worth of cozy intimate connection and trust.

Misogyny is the wrong word here, because you don't hate women, you want one the way I want a new laptop. I'd say objectification is more your problem. You simplify Martha's motives and sexuality such that she’s still stuck either being a poor misguided girl who society taught to lead the men on, or a fickle femme fatale who was going to screw you and changed her mind. Human motivation is way more complicated. For all you know the reason why she acts interested around you is that she has a long standing fantasy of watching you and Tom get it on.
posted by Phalene at 7:13 AM on August 20, 2008 [6 favorites]


Novels are a really good way for a geeky guy (I just need to look in the mirror to find one) to learn about women, but you have to stray from genre novels, which are more likely to be about fantasy women than real women. Read Margaret Atwood, Anne Tyler, Lynda Barry, Wally Lamb, Curtis Sittenfeld or Elizabeth Strout. Other people here can probably make better recommendations.
posted by grumblebee at 7:26 AM on August 20, 2008


Assuming for the moment that Martha actually is an evil temptress, still, you were pretty much asking for it. When you treat people like objects, expect some of them to try to even the score. Being objectified can be an infuriating experience.

It sounds to me like you're coming across as both misogynistic and vulnerable. You might as well be going around with a big sign over your head that says, "Attn women! Please mess with my head!" You appear to understand some or all women as objects, not as people; it's not so unreasonable if a woman therefore sees you as breaking a social contract that would require her to be at least moderately kind to you. Through misogyny, you make yourself disposable.

Life will improve if and when you get over your issues with women.
posted by sculpin at 10:35 AM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


But I wasn't implying that a guy should ever ask if a girl has a boyfriend. He shouldn't. It implies that you already want to fuck her (and forces her to declare "yes"/"no" to you right then -- which will meet with all the success of "hey, wanna fuck?), which you should really screen her a bit before reaching that decision.

Okay, so I assume LordSludge is talking from the point-of-view of a guy in a bar trying to get laid. He doesn't want to waste his time with a girl who actually has a boyfriend. He'd rather move onto the next one. He's not interested in a friendship. He just wants a girl to fuck.


Err... huh? Your interpretation is pretty much the opposite of what I wrote, although it does seem that the OP is coming from this angle. (It can be an unhealthy one, I agree.) I said that you should get to know a girl before you decide whether you want to anything more to do with her. Your mischaracterization of me and my motives is pretty offensive, but I have a hard time getting angry at hateful words from strangers. So that's fine; I'm sure you have your reasons. FWIW, I'd love to have a solid girlfriend in a mutual, loving relationship, but I'm pretty happy being single in the meantime. (Came thiiiiis close to falling in love just recently, but there were complications beyond my control.) Memail me if you want to chat?

A lot of people can't fathom that a person could be happy being single; they, themselves, would rather pair up with somebody they feel "meh" about than be alone. (Or chase after somebody who clearly feels "meh" about them.) I've been down that road, and it's a good way to break some hearts. Never again.

"Girls to fuck" are a dime a dozen, if that's all a guy is after. They really are. (And the sooner OP realizes this, the sooner he'll stop doing shitty things like trying to screw his best friend's girl simply because he thinks she wants to screw him! I mean, why do something so sketchy when there are 10 cute girls over here just DYING to hook up with him?) Speaking for myself, though, a quality girl that I can fall in love with is pretty rare, but I try to approach this "dating" thing with an open mind, open heart. In the meantime, there's nothing wrong with a lil hanky panky as long as you're honest and, um, *ethical* (for lack of a better word) about it.

And, seriously, for the folks that can't read body language (and incredulously insist that it's not possible!), you're missing out on a lot. It's not hard to learn, though, if you change your mind.

Glad it worked out between you and your friend, thescientificmethhead. Live and learn!
posted by LordSludge at 11:33 AM on August 20, 2008


@LordSludge

The reason why people are shouting you down is that your views come awfuly close to "Your lips say no, but your hips say yes!" justification used to press unwanted attention on women.
posted by Phalene at 7:09 PM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


LordSludge, I'm sorry if I misunderstood your post.
posted by grumblebee at 7:49 PM on August 20, 2008


grumblebee: Hey, no worries -- you're in good company. Clearly, I need to express myself better. (And probably GMOB.)

Phalene: I think we're on the same page, actually, or at least in the same chapter. I didn't mean to imply that a woman's words should always be disregarded as meaningless, but rather that they only are a fraction of the entire "conversation". Ideally, there should never be ANY unwanted attention. But it's like a dance... the woman pulls back, the man pulls back; the woman moves forward, the man moves forward. The whole push forward, push forward, push forward, thing when it's not wanted is what gives men a bad name.
posted by LordSludge at 9:56 AM on August 21, 2008


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