If a guy is really into you, will he always pursue?
September 23, 2004 4:18 PM   Subscribe

He's Just Not That Into You, from two writers on Sex and the City, posits the theory that a man who sends mixed signals to a woman just doesn't like her enough to step up his game with her, so she shouldn't bother waiting around for him. Examples of behavior from the book where the guy is not really that keen on you (and possibly wants to avoid a difficult or emotional confrontation): You invite him up after a date and he bows out saying he has an early day tomorrow; he says he's afraid of risking the friendship by dating you; he's recently divorced and afraid of getting involved again; he emails you or even calls you and flirts but doesn't ask you out; he gives you his number in a bar and tells you to call him, etc. Also, in the phrase, "I love you, but I'm not in love with you," the first 'I love you' really means "I don't want to hurt you," and the second part really means what it says. MeFi, is this true? If a guy is really into you, will he always pursue?
posted by onlyconnect to Human Relations (47 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Wouldn't it be amazing if their theory explains the entire rolling vague country of "mixed signals"? For all guys everywhere.? I kind of doubt it.
posted by crunchburger at 4:22 PM on September 23, 2004

All I know is that in my 20's I met a bunch of guys like the ones you describe and even though I was able to hammer out some pretty okay relationships with them, at the end of the day, they just weren't that into me. However, the strange part is that guys who aren't "that into you" may date you for extended periods of time, have a lot of sex with you, get serious with you and heck, maybe even marry you, if they're just on auto-pilot and you're a strong-willed woman who can overlook a lot of the "not into you"-ness. I never did figure it out but definitely decided to get out of the game. Who needs a bunch of late night conversations with friends where you say "well, I don't know... he invited me to meet his family, and yet....."? I think of it more charitably as just different "what you say versus what you mean" styles than guys out and out lying to women just to avoid hurting their feelings, but I may be being overcharitable there.
posted by jessamyn at 4:32 PM on September 23, 2004 [3 favorites]

If you are looking for a man who will continually seek your attention and approval and who will let you be in control as the one who loves least, then yes, follow this advice.
posted by Space Coyote at 4:38 PM on September 23, 2004

Also, some guys are just stupid when it comes to these things. I am prime example #1 of this condition.
posted by LionIndex at 4:38 PM on September 23, 2004

If a guy is really into you, will he always pursue?


He might be too shy.
He might expect you to say no, or dump him soon, etc.
He might really be afraid of getting involved again.

He might be sending a mixed signal hoping for a positive one back, in short.

This doesn't touch some of the specifics in there, though. I'd think some of those things mean the same thing as when a woman says them.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:38 PM on September 23, 2004 [1 favorite]

>MeFi, is this true? If a guy is really into you, will he always pursue?

How about this:

If you hate someone will you always firebomb their car?

If you love someone will you always buy them a diamond ring?

If you simply disdain someone, will you just ignore them?

The entire idea of one-item-fits-all descriptions of the human psyche is a joke.
posted by shepd at 4:39 PM on September 23, 2004 [1 favorite]

we men will pursue anything that makes it self available.
posted by jonmc at 4:40 PM on September 23, 2004

"I love you, but I'm not in love with you"

Does anybody really ever say that?? I think these examples are pretty simplified and overgeneralized and wouldn't place too much weight on them. ... But then maybe I'm one of those guys.
posted by TBoneMcCool at 4:42 PM on September 23, 2004

Was there a link to an article that my browser refused to show? Firefox 1.0PR1, in case you're wondering.
posted by billsaysthis at 4:43 PM on September 23, 2004

Response by poster: Here's a substantial excerpt from the book via USA today.
posted by onlyconnect at 4:49 PM on September 23, 2004

No, for the simple reason that women seem to avoid men who obviously like them too much. (for many reasons, and I'm not human psychologist enough to work it out) There's a weird evolutionary / feedback / chaos feel to human attraction, and most people seem able to tread a super thin line on the surf of this mystery. (Not me though, and that's a story for a sadder day)

At the end of the day, you're probably not going to be able to tell if the man of your dreams is the man of your dreams until (for better of for worse) it's too late. To make it simple, this is because you don't want the man of your dreams to know that he knows that you know that he may not know that you may not know that he knows that you know.... (expand until infinity, or the pudding has been ordered)

Sometimes, when I'm feeling lonely and misanthropic, I'll just be plain mean / unkeen to women, because I know that I'll get from it, an extra dose of desire & attention. It doesn't mean that I don't like you, it just means that the cynical devil on my shoulder has taken control, and I'm pandering to the fact that, like it or not, many women like a bastard.
posted by seanyboy at 4:58 PM on September 23, 2004 [1 favorite]

One time I had an early start the next day so I bowed out, but then it was because I had an early start. I jumped her as soon as possible though.
Does anybody really ever say that??
I don't think anyone says pursue either... makes me think of Dick Dastardly and Mutley in one of their fantastic flying machines.
posted by holloway at 4:59 PM on September 23, 2004

What seanyboy said.

I've given mixed signals, and I've given definite signals. Mixed signals lasts longer than definite signals, even though the girl isn't usally as "right". Next experiment: Waiting till I find someone that's totally "right" and giving mixed signals.
posted by SpecialK at 5:19 PM on September 23, 2004

The two writers want some money, so they're saying "this is how guys are, ladies." If the writers told the truth and said something like "some guys we know tend to act this way, ladies" they wouldn't make any money and wouldn't be on Oprah.
posted by shoos at 5:30 PM on September 23, 2004

This is all wrong, onlyconnect.

The book (and women's magazines, and that stupid mars/venus guy) suppose a class of beings called "men". One of the things about these "men" is that by definition, their behaviour is inscrutable and can only be decoded with the help of the book (magazine, talkshow guest, radio expert, your friends). They then provide a bunch of made-up examples of "male" behaviour with explanations that fit the model of "male" psychology they present.

The purpose? To make you doubt your own insight sufficiently that you will continue to (buy books, watch tv, be dependant on your all-wise friends, comfort yourself with chocolate when it all turns to shit).

In other words, you ask "what does it mean when a guy does X"? It depends on the guy, and it depends on you, and it depends on what you mean by "mean". Those cigars are often just cigars. When I say I'm tired, often, it's because I'm tired.

PS: "I love you but I'm not in love with you" is the classic "let you down gently" line. Always has the opposite effect from intended (ie drives the recipient nuts and hurts them worse than telling them "I like you, but not as much as you would like", which is what you're really trying to say).

PPS: on preview, what shoos said.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:35 PM on September 23, 2004 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Translation:

You invite him up after a date and he bows out saying he has an early day tomorrow;

This is somewhat neautral, there could be many reasons for this.

he says he's afraid of risking the friendship by dating you; he's recently divorced and afraid of getting involved again;

This means he does not want to date you.

he emails you or even calls you and flirts but doesn't ask you out;

This means he does not want to date you (at least right now); most likely just wants to be friends.

he gives you his number in a bar and tells you to call him, etc.

He wants to date you.

Also, in the phrase, "I love you, but I'm not in love with you," the first 'I love you' really means "I don't want to hurt you,"


(these are, of course, gross generalizations)
posted by falconred at 5:54 PM on September 23, 2004 [1 favorite]

This is going to sound hostile, but:

(1) I hate being called "men." There's only one of me, and if we're having this conversation, then it's possible I haven't ruined your life (yet).

(2) There are a lot of people for whom these traits are very much real (stereotypes don't sprout from nowhere), but I don't see them as gender-specific at all.

I've had my heart broken, in a few different ways, by a few "distant" women who didn't feel like committing or who maybe had someone else they were waiting on or any number of other quite-valid reasons that sometimes they'd come clean about and sometimes just keep hidden.

I know guys do this. And I also know that the Sex And The City people (and the Mars/Venus guy, and all the dating-reality show people, and much of the magazine industry, etc etc) have a vested financial interest in keeping the two genders as far apart as possible. So they perpetuate these traits as if one sex were the only ones capable or able to do this. Spare me.

It sucks when all you want is to be someone's favorite for a little while.
posted by chicobangs at 5:54 PM on September 23, 2004 [2 favorites]

Not me. I want to be my someone's favourite forever. :-)

The trick with men, IMO, is to realize that they're just people. Takes a whole lot of mystery out of us, I'm sure, but that's the truth so far as I can see.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:21 PM on September 23, 2004

If you're getting relationship advice from the people who write Sex and the City then there are probably dozens of reasons why guys don't call you back.
posted by bondcliff at 6:40 PM on September 23, 2004 [1 favorite]

If you have other passions besides scoring or being adored, that's attractive. I would hate to feel pursued. If you've got the time to write letters in copperplate and strum songs outside my window every night, you're underscheduled, or in high school.

Which isn't to say a grand romantic gesture isn't lovely. Do write me a poem -- I'll keep it, and I won't read it to my friends unless it's accepted in a respectable quarterly. Surprise trip to Barcelona -- let me clear my schedule! But when it feels like you're pitching woo with one hand while reading The Player's Guide to Pants Invasion, or worse, Mars/Venus = Mons/Penis, I'm going home.

Every so often, you meet a stranger, there's great conversation, it leads to something, and chances are, it fizzles. If it doesn't, it's because it evolves from infatuation into friendship.

For me, feeling doesn't spring from ideas of Man and Woman. There is me, there is you. If you have a full and interesting life, and are kind and funny, we can be friends. Out of all the kindness friends do, and the good times they have together, love can happen. I met my husband eight years ago. I was with someone, he was with someone. Then we weren't with anyone, and we were good friends to each other for a quite a while. Then, fade out, insert sunset and firework footage, because that part's between us.

You just don't pull this shit on a friend unless you are truly confused or truly cruel. You don't do this to someone you think of as a human being first. That's the only way I know to end run this stuff.

Avoiding love advice from today's modern media helps, too.
posted by melissa may at 6:47 PM on September 23, 2004 [4 favorites]

posted by kenko at 7:33 PM on September 23, 2004

Bondcliff nailed it.

"I love you, but I'm not in love with you" has come from my mouth, and meant exactly that. (Unfortunately, now I *am* in love with her, but we're back to being friends...)

As far as the giving of numbers and "I'll call you" goes: If I give my number, I really do want to be called, but I'm still too shy to ask for her number.

"I'll call you", without a specific time, in my experience has meant, "you're interesting, but I've got another date tomorrow night--if that goes better, adios, motherfucker."
posted by notsnot at 7:47 PM on September 23, 2004 [1 favorite]

It has been my experience that many -- though obviously not all -- women respond with more enthusiasm if some negative signals are mixed in. When I realized this, it informed how I interacted with women who wanted to take an interest in me.

I certainly can't speak for all men -- nor can the authors of some book -- but I suspect the entire premise is wrongheaded.
posted by majick at 8:12 PM on September 23, 2004

At the other end, between the women, a youth lay in bed. He was grinning and thrashing his legs about under the covers. The Handsome Woman stood at his bedside, eyes vacant, hand on his pillow. As the engineer looked at her he became aware of a radiance from another quarter, a "certain someone" as they used to say in old novels. There was the same dark-browed combed look he remembered. Again a pang of lover pieced his heart. Having fallen in love, of course, he might not look at her.
(Less relevant but a good quotation:
Then why not pick up the telephone and call her up and say, what about seeing you? Well, he could not exactly say why except that he could not. The worst way to go see a girl is to go see her. The best way is not to go see her but to come upon her.
Both from The Last Gentleman by Walker Percy.)

You can't underestimate the capacity some people have for second-guessing themselves, for over-caution, for reading discouraging signs into what's innocuous, or for just plain shyness. ROU_Xenophobe's not to be ignored.
posted by kenko at 8:13 PM on September 23, 2004 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I was just thinking about this the other day, although not in "what do men mean" terms. But basically, someone was clearly flirting with me and I was trying to rebuff him but I also didn't want to hurt the person because he's a nice guy and I'm likely to see him around and I don't like being mean, or come across as egotistical to accuse him of flirting etc...

So I was just trying to sort of get the point across but still be friendly - and I realized I was acting in much the same way as someone acted toward me a year ago. I had interpreted that person's responses as "mixed signals" at the time, but it seemed clear to me after this that a "nice rejection" is just going to feel like "mixed signals" - that's just how it is. Unless you reject someone really harshly, rejection feels mixed. And it's hard to be harsh when you genuinely like someone but just not in "that way".

so yeah, oversimplistic, certainly not particular to men responding to women, but in general "mixed signals" are probably mostly nice rejections, and if they're not, well, then you have a communications problem from out of the gate, which isn't a great scenario, so probably you should just try to get over it. (not to say if you're unsure what someone means after one date to ditch them - just that if "mixed signals" persist, don't get stuck in your fantasy of what it might mean.)
posted by mdn at 9:30 PM on September 23, 2004 [3 favorites]

If a guy is really into you, will he always pursue?

Maybe not. At least not in the way you desire/expect. I for one have never hit on women terribly aggressively because I don't want to come across as some kind of lech. I'm also a shy person by nature, and in the past have always tried to get to know someone a little before putting even the slightest moves on. I used to have a personal rule about no sex on the first date. Settling that in my mind made me more relaxed on the first date, because I knew it would only go so far. This worked well for me, but it did mean that, on occasion, I would say goodnight when there was the possibility to stick around and screw. This had nothing to do with how much I liked the other person. It was just the way I felt comfortable approaching dating.

Is it always incumbent on the man to drive the courtship forward?

Not anymore. People will insist otherwise, but gender roles change, and this is part of it. It's also no longer totally incumbent on the man to pay for the date. Some people are even letting go of entrenched traditions like insisting that he be the one to propose marriage. I know one or two genuine house husbands who stay home while their wives work. They're not all losers, either, they're fathers, part-time career types, good gardeners and cooks, home-schoolers... They're just not the breadwinning types.

There's a big difference between not staying overnight on the first date, and giving someone the "I love you but I'm not in love with you speech." The arguments quoted in your post are all over the map, and come across to me as pretty neurotic, even pushy. I assume you phrased the question rather baldly so as to open conversation up really wide, but I'm guessing you know it's probably more complicated than the Sex and the City folks have made it out to be.

The more interesting question is what you think should happen. Whether a guy likes you or not (in his heart of hearts), if you want him to pursue you and he isn't doing so, then it's just not a match between you. Some women still insist that the man pay for everything, however antiquated that expectation has become. That's what they want, and, for them, that's fine. But be clear about the fact that you're going after what you want, not judging other people on what men are supposed to do.

Hesitation doesn't always mean he doesn't like you, or that he's not a real man or whatever. There's no objective truth about the way men and women behave, in practice, and how to read them. But people have their expectations, and you should be as clear with yourself as possible about what yours are - if you want to avoid ambiguity and disappointment.
posted by scarabic at 9:41 PM on September 23, 2004 [4 favorites]

What ROU_Xenophobe said. And mdn makes sense too (as usual).

we men will pursue anything that makes it self available.

That is most certainly UNtrue, but thanks for perpetuating the stereotype.
posted by rushmc at 9:42 PM on September 23, 2004

There are a variety of reasons for giving out mixed signals, seanyboy's probably being the most common. (Although generally when I'm giving out mixed signals it has more to do with my cynicism about anything good coming out of relationships and my consequent inability to put much heart into things.) However, the actions mentioned in the original post are largely not mixed signals; they are pretty clear 'No' signals.

If you're getting relationship advice from the people who write Sex and the City then there are probably dozens of reasons why guys don't call you back.

Indeed. It's right up there with getting relationship advice from people whose idea of a good time is hanging out on MetaFilter.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 10:19 PM on September 23, 2004

If a guy is really into you, will he always pursue?

Too shy? Probably.
Expect me to say no, or dump him? Why would I do that? If you've been sending me signals and I've been responding positively, wtf are you thinking? Do you have no esteem?
Afraid of getting involved again? Most likely.
Mixed signals? Oh please. Like I'm not already all mixed up!

You know, if you're sending mixed signals, just suck it up and tell me.

Do you like me, do you not? Do you like me 'in that way'? Do you not?

Just tell me for bob's sake!

I'm too old for these games.

Trust me, anyone over the age of 27 is too old for these games.
posted by kamylyon at 11:10 PM on September 23, 2004 [1 favorite]

Here's another angle - mixed signals indicate mixed feelings. However, there is no telling what feelings comprise the mixture.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:12 PM on September 23, 2004 [4 favorites]

Expect me to say no, or dump him? Why would I do that?

Because you're obviously too good/cool/interesting/etc; nothing that good happens to someone like me. Ergo, something must be up, and the situation is Not To Be Trusted. Like kenko sez, don't underestimate people's ability to discount themselves or be overcautious.

You know, if you're sending mixed signals, just suck it up and tell me

You first. You go out on that limb there. G'won. I'll be down here where it's safer.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:22 PM on September 23, 2004

Best answer: a man who sends mixed signals to a woman just doesn't like her enough to step up his game with her, so she shouldn't bother waiting around for him

I actually think watching the behavior of a person is a good way to gauge an interest level -- and indeed, there's no shortage of those who give advice to men who 'd tell you this... a man who calls himself Dr. Love makes one of the foundations of his advice .

And it is mostly specific and semi-obvious things: when you meet a woman does she ask you your name, after you ask hers? When you ask for her phone number, does she give you a home phone number or a cell? Does she break dates for anything less than illness or crisis? Does she respond with indifference when you tell her you're leaving the country for a few weeks, or that you'd like to move? Does she brush off conversation about a future? These are obvious ones to some people, but the thing is, some guys (me included) will think of endless justifications to give someone a second or third chance without confronting the possibility that there's a low interest level.

But let's face it: reading behavior by itself is a poor communication if we're talking about person-to-person. It's probably the limit between dolphins and people, and horses and people, but it's got to be only a supplement for any real try at a human relationship. Because signals are as easy to misread as to mix. We can all probably come up with a dozen examples from our own lives or the lives of those around us: there's the girl I wanted to kiss before she got out of the car, but didn't because she didn't look at me (I found out later she was totally game). There's the guy my friend A was dying to go out with, but thought that he wasn't interested, when in reality he was only intimidated, and once she asked him out to a concert he dumped his then-interest and started asking out A quickly. There's the woman I was dating who thought my taking a trip to Australia with my brother (though I called her every 2-3 days) and getting an apartment with some friends rather than with her meant that I wasn't interested in her -- when in reality she kept my heart for a long time after she left a few months later.

The best way to deal with mixed signals is to engage in conversation about what's in question. If it's too early in a relationship for that or there's other barriers, then I think the best alternative is sending positive/encouraging (but independent and non-desperate) signals until your interest wanes. And that can happen sometimes: I recently met a woman who I had a good deal of initial interest in, and she showed some definite signs of interest in return -- making an effort to single me out for conversation at group socials was the chief sign. But every time I asked her out, she was busy with something else. That can happen to genuinely busy people, so I kept trying, and in the meanwhile, tried another test: I would simply go over to her condo once a week or so to visit, and she'd always invite me in and apparently enjoy the conversation, and we exchanged email which she was always good at answering. Still... after a while, she stopped making an effort to single me out in groups, and never got better at accepting invitations, and even though the conversation was enjoyed, I got that feeling that it really wouldn't matter much to her if I was part of her life or not. And so I let things peter off. Although I might have been better served at that point by bringing it up casually, and actually saying "I like talking to you, and think we should be friends, and maybe more, but I'm having a hard time gauging interest. Any pointers?" or something to that effect.

On preview: lots of good advice in this thread, some of it much more succinct than mine. Mixed signals can mean mixed feelings, and "men" can be as different from one another as they are from women. What's really going on... well, you will probably have to prove to find out. : )
posted by weston at 11:47 PM on September 23, 2004 [6 favorites]

You know, I just read the linked excerpt, and it's a hypothesis worth considering when you're not pursued, but frankly, it's a load of crap as the full story. There are any number of reasons a guy might not ask a woman he has some genuine interest out. Intimidation, being shot down one too many times recently, being drained from stress in another area of his life, misreading signals from the woman he's interested in. I've failed to make my move for all those reasons at one time or another, when any pre-emptive encouragment from said interest might have pushed me back in the right direction. And likewise, I've had relationships kick-started by an invitation from a woman.

If it's the start of things, and a woman isn't sure of a guy, a single clear invitation is probably enough to get things moving.
posted by weston at 12:04 AM on September 24, 2004 [1 favorite]

You first. You go out on that limb there. G'won. I'll be down here where it's safer.

I went out on that limb.

I'm still hanging here.
posted by kamylyon at 12:20 AM on September 24, 2004

Sex and the City. Those women have better relationships with their shoes than they do with other human beings. People are so various that you can't really set up any rules or guidelines about them, but you can for yourself. If you find yourself being hurt in certain types of situations or by guys who seem to share common characteristics, modify your own behavior to seek different situations, different sorts of guys. If you seem to be experiencing the same unhappy scenarios time after time, break it down and figure out what the common signals are and what they mean. You are the only one who is really in control of your love life.

For me, personally, most mixed signals would be a no-go. "Players", cynics, or emotionally rigid or fearful guys will never ever click with me, romantically, so I would never want to pursue anything past a friendship level. I fell in love with a man who is sincere, honest, confident, and open, and always made it clear exactly how he felt about me. This has made me happy every day for 15 years. Coy or slippery behavior could be intriguing to some in the beginning of a relationship, but imagine how tiresome that would become over the long term. But that is just my preference; some others would certainly find my non-screaming, non-fighting, non-cheating, mutually supportive relationship monotonous in the extreme.
posted by taz at 12:24 AM on September 24, 2004 [6 favorites]

Yo, you gots to learn the the Cold, Hard Dating Truth from my homie Greg.
posted by shoos at 4:22 AM on September 24, 2004 [1 favorite]

Whlie Sex in the City was certainly an interesting and entertaining show....sometimes....I am of the opinion that it has done more damage to romantic relationships than, well, anything I can think of. Except maybe Cosmo.

By glamourizing the characters on SitC, the producers of the show also glamourized their worst behaviour. They told the big lie that it is OK, even desirable for women to be overly analytical and neurotic, continually questioning every aspect of every relationship they have.

I could elaborate, but I'm at work, so I have to stop now. Please, someone else - run with it.

Regarding the actual subject of this post... Mixed signals are typically the result of one of two factors:

A. Either the man really just doesn't know what he wants.
B. He's terrified of fucking it up.
posted by jaded at 5:51 AM on September 24, 2004 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Until the pudding has been ordered, seanyboy? I am so stealing that.

I don't necessarily disagree with you about SaTC, jaded, but much of the point of this "he's just not that into you" ("HJNTIY," for ease of reference) thing is that it's supposed to STOP all that overanalysis. If you take it seriously, HJNTIY actually would completely liberate you from being "overly analytical and neurotic, continually questioning every aspect of every relationship [you] have," because if he doesn't call, you write him off and stop thinking about him. Alot of people above are saying that's way too simplistic, and that's fair. But I disagree that the problem with HJNTIY is that it makes things too complicated.

To me, one of the biggest problems with this idea (besides the fact that sometimes maybe he really does have an early day tomorrow) is that it doesn't allow for the possibility of feelings growing and changing over time. According to the authors, your SO must be sure of his/her feelings for you almost from the get go, and act accordingly. I'm sure this happens, but I'm not sure that's necessary for a good relationship.

And for the record, I'm happily coupled right now, but I saw this 2 nights ago on an Oprah rebroadcast, and it seemed to explain some things from my twenties, and maybe even some of my own behavior then. (I regret phrasing this as a "men doing blah to women" question; I think weston and mdn and others make good points that behavior can be the same, though I will say I do still think pursuit is approached differently.)
posted by onlyconnect at 6:40 AM on September 24, 2004 [3 favorites]

While it has about as much veritas as a couple of sitcom writers, the Ladder Theory (debated and dissed here), if you take out the whole "womens be money hungry biznatches who wanna fuck bikers" bitterness, offers a sort of explanation. If guys have a single "I wanna do you" scale while gals have a "sex" and "friends" scale, then an interested guy might not pursue until he finds out where he stands on the semi-pursued's scales. Mixed signals are attempts to gather more information and test boundries.

The direct approach ("You. Me. Dress. Off."), while it cuts through a whole bucket load of crap, can backfire horribly and cost a guy a whole lot of standing in his social group ("Did you hear what he said to Cindy?"), so is best left for a Sure Thing or folks outside the regular social group. Those that don't care about impact (Sleezy guy at bar, construction workers) will go for it anyways, because who knows? Maybe she's always wanted to fuck a guy in a garbage truck.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:06 AM on September 24, 2004 [1 favorite]

If a guy offered me his phone number instead of asking for mine, depending on how he did it, I would be much more likely to interpret that as a gesture of kindness. A lot of women don't feel quite comfortable giving out their home phone numbers to a guy they've just met in a bar.

Also, it puts the ball in your court, instead of (perhaps) pressuring you to cough up a number even if you might not be that interested (because you don't want to be mean, you want to be nice), and then waiting around maybe dreading if the guy actually calls, or getting hurt because he asked then didn't call. A guy that is willing to take on the uncertainty that by giving you his number, you may not call him, is a pretty confident guy I would think. And maybe even chivalrous, too, by not putting you on the spot.

Turning down invite up because of a desire to take things slow/afraid of risking friendship/recently divorced and afraid of getting involved again are all legitimate concerns I have known cautious men (and women) to have, no matter how interested they were. I can see how "giving a line" could be a sign of a lack of interest, but I can also see how it would just be honest. Flirting without asking you out could be scared to make the first move; after all a lot of people hide their insecurity behind a joking/flirting facade. I've even actually heard (and used) "I love you but I'm not in love with you" with real meaning.

I think it's one of those things that sounds superficially like it makes sense but when you dig a little deeper, interaction and signals are more complex than that. People enjoy being able to classify and have a "road map" to help them figure life out, so this is attractive and definitely simplifies things, but at the risk of missing more subtle meanings. I can see it being useful if you are very set on needing someone that is direct in a way you can predict, because it would weed out all the people you have to second-guess. After dealing for years with an uncommunicative ex, my husband was a breath of fresh air to me because he did not hesitate to let me know he was interested in me, or what he was thinking when, and I didn't have to play guessing games anymore.
posted by Melinika at 7:16 AM on September 24, 2004 [2 favorites]

I should add that, against this book's advice ("Men, for the most part, like to pursue women. We like not knowing if we can catch you. We feel rewarded when we do. Especially when the chase is a long one"), my husband gave me every sign that he was interested in me, but still left it to me to make the first (sexual) move. I held off thinking that such an assertive man would want to be the one to make the first move, then realized if a guy showing this much interest would be offended by me initiating things, it wouldn't be worth it anyway. It turned out he was waiting for me to show I had as much interest as he did that I would pursue it too instead of leaving it all to him, because he wanted an equal that would be as direct as he was.
posted by Melinika at 7:31 AM on September 24, 2004 [2 favorites]

is that it doesn't allow for the possibility of feelings growing and changing over time.

This might also just have something to do with individual philosophies of love, so to speak... for some people the spark is essential; for others the stable partnership is the bigger thing. I don't think you can "grow" a spark. I'm not saying it's completely impossible, but - I dunno, I doubt it happens often.

And I think that's what people mean with the "I love you but not in that way", which may be befuddling to people who aren't committed to the spark, but which seems perfectly straightfoward to me, and is very clearly rejecting a romantic relationship for a specific reason (so no "mix" there). Absolutely doesn't mean s/he doesn't love you as a friend. Basically there's just the chemical facts thrown in which you can't really control, even when you can't explain why one person seems more or less intriguing in any sort of objective terms.

Personally I think women should be completely comfortable initiating but I also can't say with certainty that this doesn't intimidate or turn off some guys - but then, why would you want to date a guy who was turned off by that? the thing is not to regret that someone wasn't who you wanted them to be, by thinking "if only I'd gone about it this way..."
posted by mdn at 8:11 AM on September 24, 2004 [2 favorites]

In the immortal words of Fiona Apple: I'll let you win, but you must make the endeavor.

Assuming you are a woman looking for a man, would you really want a man who wasn't up to simply asking you out? Come on, guys, it's really not that hard. Worst case scenario is a no. You'll get over it.

Mixed signals usually mean no. Sometimes they mean that the guy hasn't figured it out himself yet, but again - do you want to be with someone who can't make a decision?

Games are stupid. Don't play them. Be honest.
posted by widdershins at 8:17 AM on September 24, 2004 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It strikes me as either hilarious or ironic that women are finding men hard to read. I thought it was supposed to be the other way around, and that us guys were the large-print, 3rd-grade-reading-level edition.

he says he's afraid of risking the friendship by dating you

That was me, when I was about 20. There was this chick, and although I was too dense to figure it out until much later (my inability to read people plagued me for years), she was interested in me. Eventually I caught some glimmering of that, and by that time, we really were already friends. I felt diffident about risking that. I tried moving things forward, and things kind of collapsed.

he gives you his number in a bar and tells you to call him, etc.

Melanika nails it. I can choose to give a woman my number and deal with it if she doesn't call, but if I ask for hers, I may be imposing on her twice--once by asking, again by calling (if she gave me her number because I put her on the spot, not because she really wanted to). I am amazed that anyone even considers this a mixed message: it can only be one in that involuting world of self-doubt that others described above. The surface (and safest?) meaning is "Here's my number. I'd like to hear from you."

However, "I'll call you" is definitely a code-word for "I won't call you." I found those words issuing from my mouth once when I was 17 and was instantly ashamed.

Assuming you are a woman looking for a man, would you really want a man who wasn't up to simply asking you out?

If you are a woman interested in a man, how does the man know you are interested enough that he should ask you out? What's good for the goose is good for the gander.
posted by adamrice at 9:47 AM on September 24, 2004

I suspect that women often have a hard time reading men because we read into men all the neuroses, overanalysis, and second-guessing that we're doing ("He said X, but if *I* said X I'd actually mean Y, so does he mean Y or does he just want me to think that he meant Y when he actually means Z" -- and so X, what he actually said, gets ignored). For the most part, I've found, guys aren't thinking that much, that way, about the relationship. And the *lack* of overcomplicating things can be confusing.

I will say, however, that while I approve of games to some extent -- why else would flirtation be fun? -- yes, women overcomplicate things, and being willing to say that he's just not into you does solve some of that. I don't always follow my own advice, but "Take him at face value" is my number-one relationship mantra. (Of course, you also have to do the reverse, which is saying what you mean and not getting all passive-aggressive, either.)
posted by occhiblu at 11:41 AM on September 24, 2004 [4 favorites]

In the immortal words of Fiona Apple: I'll let you win, but you must make the endeavor.

What arrogant tripe, ironicaly indicating a huge underlying insecurity! Amazing that you can quote this and then say "Games are stupid. Don't play them" with a straight face.

Assuming you are a woman looking for a man, would you really want a man who wasn't up to simply asking you out?

Assuming you are a man looking for a woman, would you really want a woman who thought of herself as a passive prize to be pursued and won by the most aggressive hunter and was totally unwilling to interact like an equal adult, taking the same risks for the same reward?
posted by rushmc at 7:00 AM on September 25, 2004

a passive prize to be pursued and won by the most aggressive hunter

I've never felt myself to be a prize and while I can take on the attitude if need be, am most certainly not passive.

I prefer gatherers to hunters, equality to being told how to think and level-headed discourse with a like and sympathetic mind.

I take risks and leaps of 'faith' on a regular basis. Once in a while I'd just like some of the reward.
posted by kamylyon at 2:22 PM on September 25, 2004

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