Just a friend?
November 17, 2009 4:38 PM   Subscribe

More-than-a-former-coworker-filter: How do I know whether a former co-worker is more than a friend? Lengthy, quasi-insane description/details follow.

So, I've started hanging out with a former co-worker a fair amount lately. While we worked together, she was a superior of mine (only one level up), but we had a good relationship--we would go to concerts together, grab drinks, etc. Our interactions were generally more on the friend/co-worker side of things, but were sometimes flirty. Since I've left the company where we worked together, we've been hanging out more often and in situations that I typically wouldn't hang out with 'just a friend.' Now, I'm having difficulties trying to gauge the nature of where things are going.

To provide some background, I'm a 25 year old male and she's a little less than 4 years older than me. She's been very career focused in her life and doesn't seem to have a huge amount of non-work friends, which is one of the factors confusing things for me (does she just enjoy having the company of someone she doesn't work with?). Also, at first, she also comes off a bit militant/asexual, but I think that it's more of a defense mechanism being a woman in a very male-dominated industry.

One specific situation that I thought might "mean something" was a few weeks ago when I received a seemingly drunk "Hiiiii" text message. I responded (perhaps a bit too quickly), but didn't hear a response for a couple of hours. She wanted to grab a drink--it was rainy, so I suggested just having some beers at her place. I went over, she was in pajamas, we had a few beers and watched TV for a few hours. A couple of times, I almost got up the courage to make a move, but wasn't really getting any vibe that that would be okay. Immediately upon getting home, I felt like an idiot for not having done so.

We didn't hang out for a couple of weeks after that, but we'd exchange emails every once in a while and set up a couple of "dates"(?) to see some upcoming concerts. Then, last night, I got a text asking what I was up to--she was on her way back from the airport and wanted to grab a beer. I had just gotten home from work, but met with her for a few. Conversation is always easy, which is a good sign, but tends to focus on our former co-workers (a bad sign). Another weird/hard-to-interpret thing about our interactions is how we say goodbye. With most of my girl friends, when we depart, it's usually a kiss on the cheek, goodbye, see you soon sort of thing. With her, we just part ways with no sort of kiss, hug or contact, really. At this stage, I don't read that as no interest, I read it more as her being a bit shy/awkward about the situation (and me being a bit shy/awkward about it, as well).

Another thing worth mentioning happened months and months ago while we were still working together. She came with me to a friend's bday party. We both got very drunk. Walking her home to her apt, she asked if I thought an inter-office romance that was occuring between two other co-workers was weird. Oblivious, I said it was a bit weird. She subsequently said yeah, you're right, and went up to her apt. I'm pretty suave, in case you haven't picked up on that yet.

So, I'll be hanging out with her next Sunday in all likelihood to see a concert--should I be more aggressive? Should I just let things run their course? Should I say something?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (34 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
It's a Wonderful Life:

"Why don't you kiss her instead of talking her to death?"
posted by stubby phillips at 4:41 PM on November 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


What do you want to do?

If you're interested, make a move.

If you're not interested, enjoy the company.

But yes, she's probably interested.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:42 PM on November 17, 2009


Kiss the girl already!
posted by Lutoslawski at 4:42 PM on November 17, 2009


And don't get drunk
posted by Postroad at 4:44 PM on November 17, 2009


What if, instead of an all out "move," you just try a few more subtle gestures--like putting your hand on her arm--to see how she responds?
posted by Original 1928 Flavor at 4:45 PM on November 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, jeez. Just ask.
posted by runningwithscissors at 4:49 PM on November 17, 2009


Ask her on a date. Use the word date. Take her to a romantic restaurant with candles on the table. Bring flowers. Kiss her. These are all cliches for a reason.
posted by desjardins at 4:51 PM on November 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yes, she's interested. All the answers above are correct.
posted by rokusan at 4:55 PM on November 17, 2009


Right now, you're friends.

It does seem like she's interested in having some kind of romantic or sexual relationship with you, and you with her, but you're each too shy to make the first move.

This could go on forever if one of you doesn't make the first move.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:12 PM on November 17, 2009


One of you needs to ask the other out on an unequivocal date. You can do this! "Would you like to go on a date, to <>place or thing > on <>day of week > at <>time >?" Her answer will be one of three possibilities, two of them positive for you, but either way you'll know:
"Yes." This means she's interested.
"I can't <>place/thing/day/time > but <>counteroffer >?" This means she's interested.
"No." Perhaps hard to hear, but at least you'll know.
posted by Houstonian at 5:19 PM on November 17, 2009


"Can we do that pajama thing again," you text.

"What do you mean?" She replies.

"You know, the one where you invite me over and you are wearing pajamas." You write.
posted by bz at 5:35 PM on November 17, 2009 [12 favorites]


I was in a similar scenario a few years ago with a former coworker of mine. I was in a relationship at the time, but he asked me out on a date, saying it would be just for fun, no pressure, etc. We were hanging out at his house watching television and made his big move by holding my hand. It was a big risk he took, but I'm glad he did, because he is now my husband. YMMV.
posted by Dr. Zira at 6:12 PM on November 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


"You know, the one where you invite me over and you are wearing pajamas." You write.

This would confuse the fuck out of me. Is it a reference to something?

"Would you like to go on a date with me?" would be much clearer.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:22 PM on November 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


No more talking. Kissing now.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:46 PM on November 17, 2009


"You know, the one where you invite me over and you are wearing pajamas."
This would confuse the fuck out of me. Is it a reference to something?


It's in the question above.

It's not a bad idea, since she seemed to be looking for him to do something there.
posted by rokusan at 7:25 PM on November 17, 2009


set up a couple of "dates"(?)

With that "(?)," you're basically asking for a slew of comments telling you to start using the word "date" around her. Frankly, I find that offputting and not really the norm. In my experience with dating, people rarely utter the word "date," and I think there's a reason for that. It's useful to maintain a bit of ambiguity, flexibility, nonchalance.

I don't think your main problem is ambiguity -- it's that neither of you is moving things forward. But maybe that's OK for the time being. Take things at a comfortable pace that feels right to you; you don't need to take orders from internet commenters. We're not there observing the real-life feel of the moment -- you are. You're more capable of making the judgment calls than any of us, as long as you stay persistent and confident. I don't really think you have much of a problem here. If there's real potential here and she's perceptive enough to see it, things will work out.
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:29 PM on November 17, 2009


Count this as a vote against bz's suggestion and all suggestions asking her on an official date.

See, if she's into you the same way you are her, then she'll probably feel like you've been on plenty of dates already. If she's comfortable enough to be around you in her pajamas, she either thinks you are harmless (possibly gay?) or is somewhat interested. Thus, you need to just make a move.

Asking her on a date would be akin to asking if you can kiss her which is a major no-no since it shows a lack of confidence.

Go for a kiss on the lips and she will either be A. pleasantly surprised and reciprocate B. unpleasantly surprised but understanding of your confusion over mixed messages or C. unpleasantly surprised with demands to never talk to her again. If she doesn't reciprocate but you have feelings, just end the "relationship" since it sounds like you don't have much in common besides people you USED to work together with (which only serves as a valid conversation topic for so long). Cut your losses and move on.
posted by Elminster24 at 7:30 PM on November 17, 2009


Oh, and am I the only one that thinks texting her "You know, the one where you invite me over and you are wearing pajamas." is cheesy as hell? I'm the king of cheese and even I think that one is pretty bad... (no offense bz).
posted by Elminster24 at 7:31 PM on November 17, 2009


Oh, and am I the only one that thinks texting her "You know, the one where you invite me over and you are wearing pajamas." is cheesy as hell?

No, I agree --- it's cheesy and could possibly be off-putting.

But then again, if she's interested in him, she would probably forgive that.
posted by jayder at 7:50 PM on November 17, 2009


"You know, the one where you invite me over and you are wearing pajamas."
This would confuse the fuck out of me. Is it a reference to something?

It's in the question above.

It's not a bad idea, since she seemed to be looking for him to do something there.


Pajamas aren't actually a come-on. I didn't even connect the first thing with the second thing.

No, certainly don't do that, OP. The last time you went over her house and she was wearing pajamas, you sat around and watched TV. Saying "Let's do that again" isn't an unambiguous signal of any kind, it's ridiculous and confusing.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:57 PM on November 17, 2009


I mean, it depends on the pajamas. Sexy see-through chiffon pajamas might be a come-on. Cozy flannel pajamas or cotton pajamas with Hello Kitty on them are not a come-on.

Still voting for "that's confusing."

Also, yeah, when people are dating they rarely say "Come on a date with me," but when people have been ambiguously hanging out, saying "Come on a date with me" is a good way to unambiguously signal your intentions.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:59 PM on November 17, 2009


Seconding Elminster. It's like you've hung out too much to just ask for a date out of the blue. Oh, don't get me wrong, you could still end up going on dates with her, but if I was in your shoes and my friend started dropping d-bombs everywhere, I'd be thinking "Why, all of a sudden, is the word "date" being used? What happened? Whoawhoawhoa" And that's even if I liked the girl. Here's what I suggest:

1) Next time you see her, make a move.
2) If not shot down, be the next one to initiate some sort of activity. Make another move.
3) Still not shot down? Then say "I'd like to take you out on a date."
posted by 23skidoo at 8:42 PM on November 17, 2009


"but when people have been ambiguously hanging out, saying "Come on a date with me" is a good way to unambiguously signal your intentions."

Wrong. When people have been ambiguously hanging out, saying "Come on a date with me" is a good way to communicate that you lack the confidence to take a risk and just make a move. Asking them out on an "official date" simply shows you don't have the confidence to kiss her and in my experience, her sensing your lack of confidence could kill any chance you might have had prior to that and is more of a risk than simply making a move. "Asking someone on a date" that you've hung out with to the extent the OP has is a high school move...plain and simple.
posted by Elminster24 at 9:00 PM on November 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Make a move. Show her what you want. In my experience the easiest way to do this is by starting with innocuous physical contact and intensify as seems appropriate. This gives them a myriad little chances to affirm or discourage your move and generally keeps things comfortable for all involved.

Note: I've been in situations like this and generally they are due to people having lots of things on their mind and overthinking things. Like maybe she doesn't really know what she wants, or is still getting over a past relationship or something. Don't worry about this! Just be aware that things might be more complicated than they seem and be open to communication.

I've always had trouble reading people but I figured out this distinction a while ago that I like: there is a difference between how people act toward you, and why they are acting that way. Worry about the former, not the latter, because the latter is exponentially more difficult to figure out. (in fact, it can be close to impossible unless they tell you or you know them very well)
posted by ropeladder at 10:02 PM on November 17, 2009


The converse of the cultural diffusion of the meme "No Means No" is the idea that "White Noise Means Yes".

Girls have learned by now to say no and mean it. No games. No means no, everybody gets it. Everybody knows it. (If a girl says no and wants yes, forget her and her idiot mind games anyway.)

By exclusion, mixed messages in contemporary society are not unclear noes, they are unclear yesses. If I am wrong, she'll tell you, clearly. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. You want the peaches, you gotta shake the tree. You regret the things you don't do, not the ones you do. Strike while the iron is hot. Ad nauseum.

Capice? Kiss her already.
posted by Xoebe at 12:35 AM on November 18, 2009


"Come on a date with me" is a good way to communicate that you lack the confidence to take a risk and just make a move.

This and other nitpicking advice that attempts to lay down some golden rule is just bullshit. If she likes you, it's not going to matter a whole lot what you do, as long as it's an earnest attempt to connect with her. She'll think it's sweet or funny and tease you about it months down the road.

If asking her on a date signals something negative to her even if she likes you, then she's probably not going not the attendant drama of dealing with her.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:11 AM on November 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's the spirit of the pajama line that makes it good. The idea is to start turning on the fun flirting, exiting the caution bubble, however you do it.
posted by yarly at 7:10 AM on November 18, 2009


Next time you're with her, touch her arm. She if she responds in any detectable way. Does she lean in, smile, make eye contact, touch you, uncross legs, turn toward you? All positive signs. Does she lean back, cross her legs, turn her body away, break eye contact? All signs that she's uncomfortable. If you get an uncomfortable sign, back off and try touching her arm again later (10 minutes to an hour, not a month). If you get uncomfortable signs a second time, she's not interested/ready to move forward.

If you get positive signs, the next thing to do is touch her hand. Look for the same signs as above. Again, repeat, for confirmation (and to give her an opportunity to express discomfort with escalation of touch). If you get positive signs, then touch her shoulder or back or hold her hand. Positive signs? Repeat.

If you get positive signs twice from holding her hand or touching her upper back, move closer, within arm's length. If she leans back or stiffens or switches conversational topics to sports, weather, politics, back up. If she doesn't do any of those, lean in and kiss her once, gently, on the mouth. Back up a few inches and check her facial expression, unless she lip-locks you. Either way, at that point, you should have your answer.

Have fun!
posted by notashroom at 8:16 AM on November 18, 2009


Girls have learned by now to say no and mean it. No games. No means no, everybody gets it. Everybody knows it. [...] By exclusion, mixed messages in contemporary society are not unclear noes, they are unclear yesses.

Yeah, and nobody's ever conflicted or confused, especially girls. {/}

She might be interested, she might not, she might still be working it out. She might be interested but still working through baggage from a past relationship or working on personal growth or any number of other things that could cause her to be hesitant to explore a potential relationship. Assuming that not-no = yes and jumping directly to a kiss could backfire, when a casual physical escalation gives you both the opportunity to communicate yes/no at each step and back off to friendship without explicit rejection and its attendant complication of friendships.
posted by notashroom at 8:22 AM on November 18, 2009


Brandon, your myopic post assumes that she has fully made up her mind at this point. It is entirely possible (and very likely) that she is still determining whether she likes him or not in a way worth pursuing. So he still has a chance to blow it, and showing a complete lack of confidence would almost assuredly do that unless she's secretly been in love with him forever.
posted by Elminster24 at 8:50 AM on November 18, 2009


This and other nitpicking advice that attempts to lay down some golden rule is just bullshit. If she likes you, it's not going to matter a whole lot what you do, as long as it's an earnest attempt to connect with her. She'll think it's sweet or funny and tease you about it months down the road.

Pot, kettle, black. There's no golden rule that states "If a girl likes you, then nothing that you do will be seen as anything other than endearing".
posted by 23skidoo at 9:43 AM on November 18, 2009


The only reason I mentioned the pajamas thing was that, to me, it appeared to be the only time anything came close to happening.

It is a reminder of, and an invitation to repeat, that situation. If a "huh" came back, I'd consider that a sign that she has not since reflected upon the possibilities of that evening.
posted by bz at 10:17 AM on November 18, 2009


and showing a complete lack of confidence would almost assuredly do that unless she's secretly been in love with him forever.

I don't agree that verbally asking the woman in this situation on date shows a a total lack of confidence, but if it does to indicate that to the woman, I'd argue she's really not worth the time of day if attempts at communicating and clearing the air are a complete turn off. You probably disagree with that sentiment and that's fine.

There's no golden rule that states "If a girl likes you, then nothing that you do will be seen as anything other than endearing".

You're right, that's why I didn't write that. What I did write was " If she likes you, it's not going to matter a whole lot what you do, as long as it's an earnest attempt to connect with her." based on what Elminster24 said about actually asking her on a date shows a total local of confidence. My counter point is that actually do that probably won't matter, not to establish some golden rule.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:38 AM on November 18, 2009


"I don't agree that verbally asking the woman in this situation on date shows a a total lack of confidence, but if it does to indicate that to the woman, I'd argue she's really not worth the time of day if attempts at communicating and clearing the air are a complete turn off. You probably disagree with that sentiment and that's fine."

I do in fact disagree with this sentiment and here is why...

Simply put, any reaction she would have to being asked on a date (vs being kissed) would be at a subconscious level. So she may still be worth it even if she was turned off by what you did because its not really her fault...its happening at a more primal level.

Alpha males exude confidence and would not merely ask her on a date--they would make a move. It is up to the OP to determine whether they will be portrayed as an alpha male, even if the OP isn't really.
posted by Elminster24 at 6:48 PM on November 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


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