Making love out of nothing at all.
April 22, 2010 2:17 PM   Subscribe

Geek dating filter: I (female) have a guy friend who I'd like to make into something more.

I've known this guy a while, but we've recently been hanging out together more and more, both solo and in groups. We're both some of the only geeks in our 'hood (and I'm the only single female geek I know for miles). I've come to the realization that I want to date him, but not only do I suck at reading men, I also don't know how to express my interest. Because we're friends, I can't seem to figure out how to do this.

The things that make me nervous:
1. He's said more than once that he never makes the first move because he's afraid of rejection. I like the way he looks, but he doesn't have the best self-esteem when it comes to his appearance. He's tall and a little over weight.
2. Most of the women he's been interested in the past have all been better looking than me (in my opinion). I'm cute and pretty, but I'm not hot, and I have no idea how to be hot. Like I said: geek.
3. I like him enough that if I lose his friendship over my crush, it'll suck.
4. He's "cooler" than me. I've had plenty of boyfriends in the past, but this is the first guy I've ever felt was out of my league.

I'm not so much concerned about whether or not he's harboring some secret crush on me - in fact, I'm fairly certain he's not - but I want to know how to successfully transition from being friends to being more. Do I have to drop hints that I'd be open to dating him before I make any kind of move? How do I figure out if he's also open to that possibility in a way that won't destroy our friendship in case he isn't? I keep having fantasies in which he discovers I'm into him and is completely horrified by it - how likely is this to happen?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (22 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Go have dinner with him, alone. Then go to your place for a movie. Get cuddly on the couch. If he seems receptive to everything so far, try and kiss him.
posted by craven_morhead at 2:26 PM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Does he value you as a person, and a friend? Do you think there is any remote possibility that he doesn't like you a a person, finds you despicable/disgusting/whatever? I'm guessing no.

Him being horrified by your admission that you like him seems rather ridiculous to me. Look, we can't know for sure if the guy likes you or not (since you say the two of you share seemingly rare interests and he might just like hanging out with you). But unless you profess your crush in a completely creepy, psychotic way (I'm thinking stalking him for a month and then serenading him in public on bended knee, or stuff of the sort)...if he is interested, or if he hasn't thought about it but is open to the idea, he won't take your admission of a crush badly. Really. Even if he's not interested--and if he isn't, the best wooing techniques in the world won't make a jot of difference if he's just not interested in dating you--he'd likely find the notion flattering.

I mean, really. A friend of yours says that he really, really digs you. As long as he's not creepy and whatever and you generally like him as a person, would you be horrified by the admission? Really? I think not!

So stop worrying about that and take the pressure off of yourself. Short of being creepy, I don't think there's many ways you can go wrong here. I'm assuming you guys already do some hanging out in public/groups since you're friends. If you haven't asked him for a coffee date or a lunch date, it's something simple and low-pressure that's not a Grand Romantic Gesture or anything. If this is something you guys already do and you're still not sure if he's feeling the romance or not, step it up to a dinner date or something. Just spend a lot of time hanging out with him one on one.

And then, if you two already do that and/or you're still not sure if he knows you're interested, just tell him. "Hey, I really like you. Do you want to go for a date Friday night?" That will absolutely give you an answer. (Or you can just kiss him as suggested above, but I'm personally leery of that kind of physical contact unless I see clear signs that it wouldn't be uncomfortable for the recipient. Your mileage may vary.)

Yeah, it might get awkward for a bit, but I doubt you'd lose him as a friend as long as you are able to shrug to yourself and say "Okay, too bad, but we can still be friends" and mean it. (Ie. not pitching all your efforts thereafter into Changing His Mind, but just be okay with being friends.)

I have asked out one of my friends in the most unromantic way possible (we were walking to the bus and I just asked him "Hey, awkward question, don't flip out on me. If I ask you out on a date, would you be interested?"), and yeah, it was awkward for a bit, but I was ultimately okay with not dating him; it probably factored into why he remained my friend and didn't go all "Aw man, we can't be friends because she likes me, this is awkward".
posted by Hakaisha at 2:33 PM on April 22, 2010

Geek guys, possessing (typically) less than average aptitude at reading body language and subtle signs that a woman is interested in them, are likely to be receptive to a direct inquiry.

You: "Hey, y'know, I really like you, and I'd like to explore having a closer relationship with you. Is that something you're interested in?"

Him: (Surprised, thrilled, probably so shocked he can't speak.) Uhhh...

You: ...

Him: Um, yeah!

Everyone's afraid of rejection on some level. It's hard-wired into us as a survival mechanism, and you can't ever get it out of your system entirely.

Tr this: Just close your eyes and visualize for a moment what your life would be like if you put the question to him and everything turned out wonderfully. Project yourself five or ten years into the future, with an amazing relationship and a happy little family. How does that experience feel to you?

Then take a moment visualize what your life will be like five or ten years from now if you never say anything, and the both of you just continue on oblivious to your feelings for each other, perhaps drifting apart as your lives take different directions... How does that feel to you? Which one do you want? It's up to you, now.
posted by brain at 2:33 PM on April 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

Say: "Remember how you said you never made the first move? Well, you aren't the only one in the world with self esteem issue and fear of rejection, boyo. (and you really do have those, you know? who told you cute and pretty wasn't enough?) But somethings got to give, so if you don't want me to destroy my ego, and get depressed for weeks, and be to embarrassed to ever look at you again, speak quickly."

Then count to three - no, two and a half - then try to get your tongue around his tonsils. If he has any class at all the worse that will happen is the two of you will laugh and hug. If he has no class, you don't need that kind of friend really. And the best that could happen, is the best thing that could ever happen.
posted by Some1 at 2:33 PM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

I keep having fantasies in which he discovers I'm into him and is completely horrified by it - how likely is this to happen?

Unlikely. Seriously, it's flattering when a nice, non-creepy, non-awful person expresses interest in you. There's no guarantee he'll say "yes," but very little chance that he will run away screaming in terror.

I'm with C_M's suggestion of bringing him over for a movie. Open a bottle of wine (but don't overdo the drinking -- one bottle of wine for two people, or a few beers, over a long evening is plenty; you want to be happy and slightly relaxed, not puking or passed out). Take the initiative and be slightly cuddly -- rest your feet on his lap, or lean on his shoulder, or hold his hand. Sit on the floor in front of the couch he's sitting on and ask him to rub your shoulders, or vice versa.

And watch his body language -- if he squirms and looks uncomfortable, chill it out and just enjoy the movie; if he's happy and relaxed keep on with the touch.
posted by Forktine at 2:37 PM on April 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

I've dated a bunch of dorks (my favorite type of guys actually!) and the sure fire way to determine interest is to engage in mild to moderate cuddling and see where it goes. Obviously, just asking him is probably the most direct way to do it, but feeling him out a little bit as others have mentioned above should give you a pretty good idea too. Also, the idea of who is in whose league is way, way overrated and it would be more productive to stop worrying about that. I'm sure you're awesome--go with that sentiment. Confidence is HOT.
posted by Kimberly at 2:56 PM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Don't you think it's just as possible that he thinks YOU are out of HIS league?

He sounds like a great friend and so do you.

Since you think you are both poor at getting signals, you coud just say something like you know he is slow to make the first move, and so are you, but you think you should both think about taking things beyond the "just friends level" because if not, you both might miss out on something very worthwhile.
posted by mmf at 2:56 PM on April 22, 2010

He's said more than once that he never makes the first move

Do you think maybe he's mentioned this more than once because he wants you to make the first move? Why else would this even come up in conversation? Hmmm?

Go for it. I recommend the "on the way to the bus" method, too. Saves face for you in case of rejection, and doesn't make him feel as bad for doing so.
posted by wwartorff at 3:11 PM on April 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

n-thing the movie suggestion. It's a classic move in this situation. Life is short. Go for it. As a male geek, I think that female geeks are hot and female geeks making the first move are even hotter. Your guy may well feel the same.

In an attempt to shore up your confidence, I'll attempt to address your concerns point by point.

1. He's said more than once that he never makes the first move because he's afraid of rejection.

Well, that sounds like an excellent reason for you to make a move, doesn't it?

Also, is it at all possible that he would have mentioned that as an invitation to you?

2. Most of the women he's been interested in the past have all been better looking than me (in my opinion). I'm cute and pretty, but I'm not hot, and I have no idea how to be hot. Like I said: geek.

Yes you're a geek but according to your question, HE'S A GEEK TOO. Like attracts like.

3. I like him enough that if I lose his friendship over my crush, it'll suck.

That is a risk, and it would suck. If he's just flat out not interested, you probably wouldn't lose him as a friend, because why would he want to stop hanging out with you just because you tried to cuddle once? It is possible that you'd lose him as a friend if you dated for a while and things ended badly. But in retrospect, I've often been proudest of myself when I was bold enough to take a risk to make myself happy.

Besides suppose you didn't do anything, and years later, you found out that he was just dying for you to make a move. Wouldn't that suck worse?

4. He's "cooler" than me. I've had plenty of boyfriends in the past, but this is the first guy I've ever felt was out of my league.

Oh let him be the judge of that. It's not your job to decide whether he ought to date you or not.
posted by sesquipedalian at 3:14 PM on April 22, 2010

He's said more than once that he never makes the first move

Yeah, I totally agree with other posters who see this as his way of telling you to make the first move.

Geek dating filter: I (female) have a guy friend who I'd like to make into something more.

This made me kind of hope you were talking about building an awesome cyborg boyfriend.

posted by elizardbits at 3:15 PM on April 22, 2010 [13 favorites]

I don't know you, and I don't know the guy, but I can pretty much guarantee that he is not out of your league. And you know, even if he were, those things can work out.

Life is short. Fortune favors the bold. And all that good stuff.
posted by adamrice at 3:21 PM on April 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

You're risk averse — I am completely and totally down with that. Nobody enjoys rejection, but it's especially bad for some, and you fear the impact would be compounded by your already working friendship. If you would like to gauge his interest without gambling for the grim, unforgettable verbal turndown of your fantasies, this is a job for some non-verbal communication. The ambiguity is revocable and face-saving; if he does not respond positively, or at all, he will have a weird, vague feeling about a few things but nothing firm enough to ruminate upon.

You've got some basic preening behavior, which men do, too, but differently. Straighten out your hair. Play with your necklace as see where his eyes go. If he looks embarrassed, smile warmly and let your eyelids go a little soft and heavy. Blink a little slowly. That says, "I like it that you looked at me." Assuming you are shorter than he, putting your chin down and looking up through your lashes is coy but still solid. Anything to neaten your grooming and draw attention to appearance counts.

The arm-touch-for-attention is cliched but still effective. Quiet, slightly long looks into his eyes with a half-smile say, "I like looking at you."

Play behavior is also important. Stand to his side and do the hip-bump to see how he reacts. Follow up: Very light verbal teasing, with a half-step scamper away is a way to pretend that you're about to get swatted on the arm and is an invitation to do just that. An example I have had is an acquaintance watching me slightly compulsively straighten up some Legos at a friend's place. "You could clean my apartment for me." She's just out of reach but scoots closer. Later, "Soooo, the vacuum is in the hall closet." She leans towards me, then back. She's teasing me, so I take a very light swat at her arm. She would repeat variations on this theme every so often to elicit a response, always with a smirk to indicate that she was not serious in her request for a neat apartment. I will pull your tail if you will chase after me.

Touches on the small of the back are definitely edging closer to serious interest. If you're sitting facing one another, place one of your feet just between his feet. All of these are about dancing in and out of someone's personal space and gaze comfort, just enough to provoke tension, but not anxiety. Kept light, you can feel his unconscious responses one way or another. Heavier tension will provoke more aware action.

At all times you should be on the lookout for changes in respiration, posture, sweating, flushing, and general body language. Should he keep reciprocating and responding to you over several evenings, you have your answer. If he pulls back or shuts down, continue on with your friendship disappointed but without embarrassment.

If you've had repeated positive responses, you can ask him out with lowered risk than if you had not at least tested the waters. If you're overwhelmed with passion and still feeling non-verbal, then by all means, go for a kiss. Note: these can effectively paralyze some men, so use with caution. You can do either the Lesser Death Stare (stand too close, nearly expressionless, tilt your head to the right and put your chin out a little while locking gazes even as you go into bedroom eyes mode), which is a prompt for a kiss, or just go for the Greater Death Stare, which involves starting the expressionless stare while walking straight towards him with your best basilisk strut, signifying by your lack of slowdown that you are not going to stop until you are an inch away from his skin.

Have fun and remember to breathe!
posted by adipocere at 3:38 PM on April 22, 2010 [29 favorites]

If he has told you he has trouble making the first move, that is a clear sign that he wants you too. There's really no reason he would tell you that multiple times otherwise. He's thinking exactly what you are in his head right now. "Gee, I'm into her, but I'm scared of coming off creepy and ruining our friendship. I sure wish she'd take my subtle hints that I'd be into it."

If you have a third mutual friend, schedule something to do for all of you and then "suggest" that they back out at the last moment. Then segue it into joking about a "date." A little Rom-Com like maybe, but it might help.

Good luck, all signs point to go!
posted by highfidelity at 3:51 PM on April 22, 2010

The word "geek" is all over your question, OP, and it suggests to me that you're viewing all of your experiences with this relationships (and perhaps outside of it) through a lens that can, at times, be very harsh and judgmental. That you and he are "some of the only geeks in our 'hood'" means you and he share a set of common interests, which is a rather good sign. That he's actively interested in spending time with you solo as well as in groups is a good sign. There are probably other good signs that you're missing because you're using a confirmation bias about this relationship - you're a "geek" who currently has a relationship with this guy that's "nothing at all", a guy who's "completely out of your league" and who you don't know how to woo because you "have no idea how to be hot."

The last thing you should do is pretend to be someone you're not. By having a relationship with this person as a friend, you've already laid the bedrock for something more in the sense that you've shown him who you are, what you're in to, etc. You don't need to "be hot" or be a non-geek outside of that.

Everyone upthread is right that he's likely as shy - or even moreso - than you are. A quick look over some of the threads we've had on the blue on men approaching women will give you some of the reasons: geeks in particular are hyper-aware of not coming off like the creep. That's great when you're in a relationship, and great when you don't want a relationship, but it's downfall comes when you want someone to start a relationship. Make the first move.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 4:18 PM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

From "Sh*t My Dad Says" on Twitter:

"That woman was sexy...Out of your league? Son. Let women figure out why they won't screw you, don't do it for them."

9:10 AM Oct 12th, 2009 via web

In other words, just go for it. You don't get the peaches if you don't shake the tree. Be confident. If you aren't confident, then act like you are confident. Play it like you'd play a role in a movie.

Besides, if " He's said more than once that he never makes the first move because he's afraid of rejection." is true, then it's your move. That was his first move. It's a passive aggressive roundabout way of doing it, but that was it. The door is open.
posted by Xoebe at 5:05 PM on April 22, 2010

I think what adipocere is trying to say is:
Flirt with him!
posted by smartypantz at 5:18 PM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Having been in this situation more than once (as a geek guy), being dense is only the half of it :)

Be direct!
posted by tmt at 7:42 PM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

"He's said more than once that he never makes the first move because he's afraid of rejection."

1. Go out for drinks.
2. Kiss him.
3. If he reacts negatively, blame the tequila and never do it again.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:58 PM on April 22, 2010

"He's said more than once that he never makes the first move because he's afraid of rejection."

Why would he tell you this? No, no no no... I mean, REALLY? Why would he tell you this? HELLO!!! He was dropping a hint that he's interested and he's shy too.

Take a risk.

Flirt with him. If he flirts back, FLIRT MORE. Go a little overboard with it because a huge part of flirting is testing the waters to see if the other person finds you attractive. So, flirt! If he flirts back, flirt some more.

The advice above about having too much to drink and going it - kissing him... well, it's not bad advice because YES, it works. But you know what else works? Go for a walk with him. Someplace where you'll be alone (so you won't feel like people are watching). At one point during the walk, take him by the hand and turn to face him... and say "Hey. I really like you." And then kiss him.

At that point... trust me... you'll know :)

Be direct.
Take a risk.
Best of luck!
posted by 2oh1 at 10:28 PM on April 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

You certainly can lose a guy as a friend by making a move, yes indeed. It sucks and you feel terrible and regret ever having done something to make him so uncomfortable that you couldn't be friends any more.

The question is, are you willing to risk it for love? What if you don't make a move and down the road he meets someone else, how will you feel then? Your friendship would probably change if that happened, he might even move away to live with someone else. What if you get a wedding invitation from them, happy you're still friends and never told him how you felt back in 2010? Later on in life, you probably won't be looking back and thinking about how great it is that you didn't ruin your friendship.

I won't try to tell you how to do this, as I seem to be especially spectacularly unskilled in this area. But you should do this, or you will regret that you never did.
posted by yohko at 10:47 PM on April 22, 2010

For bonus points, tell the male geek that it's called the Greater Death Stare.
posted by nihraguk at 11:15 PM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

"That woman was sexy...Out of your league? Son. Let women figure out why they won't screw you, don't do it for them." Applies to woman too.
posted by RawrGulMuffins at 6:27 PM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

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