I suck at reading men and he's like Gravity's Rainbow
March 3, 2011 1:44 PM   Subscribe

Hi. This was me eight weeks ago. I still have a crush on my coworker and I am still pretty certain he feels something too, but he's acting hot and cold and I can't decipher WTF is going on. Please help me catch or release.

So the coworker that I was crushing on in this question has got me all tied up in knots.

Before I go any further, let me please explain that I am actually not 18 years old as you might have guessed; I am actually a 30 year old woman, but I ended a 10+ year relationship a while back and so was out of the dating world for, uh, most of my adult life. Therefore I have a bit of trouble deciphering signals. However I am not completely socially inept; I'm actually quite bubbly and self-confident, just a bit unsure as to how to read men. So this will be long and infuriatingly beanplatey.

With that said: this guy I'm dealing with seems to be running totally hot and cold and I now have no idea what is going on. On the advice of some wise Mefites from my last question, I backed off a bit on this guy and decided I would just try getting to know him before jumping into his lap. We've had several nice lunches and coffees, and I've discovered that in addition to hot hot sexy chemistry, we also seem to have a lot in common, shared interests, and just generally we get on well. Oh and he IS single, or at least not married (he could potentially be dating someone though I don't know of anything serious). Here are a few other relevant points:

- he listens extremely attentively to me and remembers tiny details of conversation we had - and will ask questions in our next conversation that follow up on what we talked about previously.

- he asks questions about me, about what I want from my career, about my vacation plans, etc. I told him I was really into modern art and he expressed what appeared to be a genuine interest in it; after our conversation he also emailed me a link to an exhibition he thought I'd like

- his body language seems totally attuned to me; he leans in really closely when we talk, stands just that bit too close, and is constantly looking at me if we're in the same general area

- he laughs a lot when I say something vaguely funny. He also has almost a perpetual smile on his face when we're alone together. He also sometimes laughs for what seems like no reason; if I ask him what's so funny, he just kind of smiles and doesn't answer.

- once I saw him standing with his group of colleagues in the lobby of our office. He waved at me and smiled; I didn't wave back, but just kept my eyes focused on his with a steady flirty smile as I walked towards him. He seemed to have some sort of nuclear meltdown...for a long second he held my gaze, but then finally dropped his eyes, started frantically fidgeting with his cufflinks and his tie. I approached his coworkers to say hello, but he dashed off so quickly that he nearly knocked someone else over. He actually came to my office the next day and apologized for having walked off so quickly but offered no explanation for why he'd done so.

- he often does favors for me.

- he IS still flirty; when I call him about something, he'll often play around for a few seconds or tease me before he gets down to business

So that all sounds positive, right? The problem is that he seems to go in cycles; we'll have a great lunch / coffee / meeting / whatever. It's flirty, or its genuine and sweet, and I'm feeling encouraged... but almost like clockwork, right after that happens he seems to flip a switch and for a week or so afterward, any direct contact I have with him will be stilted and weird. He will be ultra-formal and almost just barely polite; if I ask for a favor, for example, he will grant it but when I thank him he'll ignore me. And he is almost always aloof if his (all-male) team is around. I get the impression they make know something because they all seem to smirk a bit when they see me, especially if he is around.

The thing is, I'm really turned off by the hot-cold routine. After our most recent coffee, for instance, we had an amazing conversation and what I thought was a lot of fun; the very next day, when I called to ask a question, his voice was icy and he acted like I was wasting his time. I was very put off, because I'd actually started to think about asking if he wanted to come along to this art exhibition I'm going to at the end of the month (as mentioned, he seemed to take extra pains to ask me about my interests and then even followed up on them).

So what to do? I'm still interested, but the on-off routine is getting tiresome. I don't understand why he would do this if he were genuinely interested. It gets me second-guessing what I said in our last conversation (was he mad that I casually mentioned that guy that was flirting with me at the grocery store? did I insult him when I said I didn't like sushi?) All I can think is that his aloofness does seem to be somewhat linked to his colleagues being around, but nevertheless that seems a bit immature.

OH and one last thing: I might get some flak for this, but I'll mention it anyway in case it's relevant: I'm kind of considered the "hot new girl" at my office. It's a relatively big company, and I'm not that new anymore (eight months in) but I'm in a high-profile position and so I get a fair bit of male attention. Sorry if that makes me sound like an asshole, I promise I'm really a nice person.
posted by supermetasock to Human Relations (52 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Here's the deal: ask him out.
posted by pwally at 1:48 PM on March 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

That act would turn me off, too. Especially the gendered weirdness. I would maybe invest in some other dating possibilities and if he ever makes a move, fine. If not, fine.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:48 PM on March 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Without a clear mandate, I think you have to assume that - please forgive the phrase - "he's just not that into you."

Cut this one loose.
posted by ErikaB at 1:50 PM on March 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

I agree w/ ErikaB. Your signal has been transmitted and received, the response is "meh".
posted by shino-boy at 1:54 PM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

He might be really into you, but the hot-and-cold routine indicates he's probably not a good fit for you. That's kind of douchey behavior. It also makes me think there's something going on under the surface-- like that he's actually taken and is feeling guilty after flirting with you, thus the immediate cold shoulder the next time you chat. Walk away.
posted by joan_holloway at 1:55 PM on March 3, 2011 [8 favorites]

His reward cycle is positively Skinnerean. Consciously or not, he's stringing out the positive moments in such varied intervals that you keep coming back. Time to put the cards down: ask him out in terms that use the word "date" and gauge the response. If it's anything but what you're looking for, take it as a sign to move on.
posted by itstheclamsname at 1:57 PM on March 3, 2011

It's very simple, ask him out on a date.

We can second guess what's going on in people's heads all day, but in reality, he may be trying desperately to figure out if you're into him. If you want a date, ask him for a date. If you want to give up on it, cut off contact.
posted by advicepig at 1:57 PM on March 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

No, don't assume this is douchey behavior! It's possible he really likes you and is trying desperately to tone it down because of the office complications, or because he's not sure you're into him. If you're willing to risk rejection, you should ask him out on a date. If he says no, no big deal: at least you'll know the score, and after a tiny bit of initial awkwardness, it might actually make your working relationship more comfortable.
posted by yarly at 1:59 PM on March 3, 2011 [7 favorites]

Sometimes romantic dramarama can feel kind of exciting, and it can lend some thrills to an otherwise boring workplace. But in my experience, a person who is really interested in you (romantically, for friendship, even for a job!) will often let you know in a clear way. Because they're really interested. And if you're confused, it's okay to ask for clarification. Endless dancing around the topic is not necessarily because someone is AFRAID OF INTIMACY or WORRIED ABOUT MESSING UP THE FRIENDSHIP or whatever you tell yourself to make the hot and cold routine okay - they may just be a person who likes drama, or who enjoys flirting a little but has zero intention of ever asking you to get a drink.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 2:00 PM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's possible that he's a manipulative jerk. It's also possible that he likes you, he really enjoys the lunch spending time with you, and then he snaps back to reality, where he's sworn never again to date a coworker, and is totally embarassed that all his departmental buddies think there's somthing going on, and is being extra-icy to try to ensure that nothing's going on. That's not bad news, assuming that this kind of attitude is acceptable in a guy that you want to date.

My vote would be to ask him. You don't have to ask him out or make the conversation about dating. You don't have to tell him off for being rude, or call him out for misbehavior while he's being rude. BUT, if you simply tell him that it's hard for you to tell when he does and does not want to talk to you and you'd like to know if there's something you've done, it's highly likely that the question of dating and the question of friend-inappropriate rudeness or office-inappropriate friendliness will come up. It would be a fruitful conversation. Talk to him.
posted by aimedwander at 2:00 PM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

It almost sounds like he's interested, but is trying to maintain distance for professional reasons. Many professionals have their own personal rule against dipping their pen in company ink, so to speak, and sometimes, it's a good rule. It keeps things clear, doesn't add stress to work if/when things don't work out, and minimizes the risk that you'll be the subject of water-cooler gossip.

The direct flirty eye-contact thing can also be naturally intimidating if you maintain contact a little longer than may be comfortable. It's not surprising that a guy might back down, or that he didn't expect your response to a smile and a wave at work, with his colleagues?

Perhaps at lunch you can discuss whether co-workers can ever date, and whether there's a policy. If he's open to it, then you can look into that art exhibit. If he's not open to it, then refile him in the "friends" category, and fish in other waters.
posted by Hylas at 2:01 PM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

and I can't decipher WTF is going on

That's because these is no decoder ring you're missing or anything. There isn't a secret bat signal for this. The best way to figure out what is going on is to put on your big girl pants and ASK HIM.

You got very good advice 8 weeks ago. You didn't do anything about it. Here you are two months later, no further ahead and with no more clarity. Thinking about maybe asking him to an art thing four weeks from now isn't moving things along either. Possibly he's starting to run hot and cold because he's frustrated not being able to read you or getting flack about his secret luncheon girlfriend or is an asshole.

Guessing isn't going to resolve this. Communicating clearly like the 30-year-old grownups you are will resolve this. It doesn't have to be high-risk: "Would you have any interest in getting a proper grown up date drink with me after work?"

Seriously, shit or get off the pot. Take responsibility for the clarity you seek.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:02 PM on March 3, 2011 [22 favorites]

I didn't wave back, but just kept my eyes focused on his with a steady flirty smile as I walked towards him. He seemed to have some sort of nuclear meltdown ...

That's because you just hit him with a variant of the Greater Death Stare while he was flat-footed. No wonder.

He could be aloof when his team is around for fear that he's going to dissolve into quivering jelly or otherwise make a fool of himself in an office-inappropriate manner.

You are not going to know what is going on until you ask him out. And maybe not even then.
posted by adipocere at 2:02 PM on March 3, 2011

nth-ing ask him out, and everything advicepig said.
posted by Handstand Devil at 2:03 PM on March 3, 2011

Please help me catch or release.

You have used a fishing metaphor, so let's extend it.

Reel that sucker in! Ask him out on a date. On your date/in your canoe, this is the phase where you look at him, measure him, determine if he is a keeper. If he rejects the date/breaks the line, then you'll have a concrete answer. If the date goes well, you fry him up and eat him for dinner.

...I'm hungry.
posted by Mizu at 2:11 PM on March 3, 2011 [6 favorites]

I would probably act like this with a girl i liked that I had to see a lot, confident one second and freaking out about whether or not I should have made a move or am just getting worked up over nothing. And, just because someone acts hot and cold, the cold might not be anything to be taken personal at all (and, after 8 weeks, i'd probably be just internally trying to make myself move on).
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 2:22 PM on March 3, 2011

If it's a coworker flirtation and it's anything but 100% simple, obvious, seamless, and TOTALLY meant to be, screw it.

I don't normally set much stock in the "if you're coming to AskMe with this, it's not meant to be" line of reasoning. But in this situation I think it's dead on. If you're writing a 1000 word essay including bullet points (from a sock puppet account, no less!) on AskMe, this is already a lot more complicated than it needs to be.

(FWIW, I had an inter-office thing once. I asked him out. It turned out he had a girlfriend. We both moved on and it was only minimally awkward. So maybe ask him out?)
posted by Sara C. at 2:24 PM on March 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

All of your interaction with him has been at work? Then the hot/cold routine might means nothing You know who else gets the hot/cold routine at work? Me. From almost everybody I've ever worked with. In very few office environments are you able dDuring the 9-5, to give people the personal attention you want -- but most of the time you don't notice because you aren't parsing every little interaction.

This used to drive my boyfriend crazy. He'd call me at work and sometimes I'd be the sweetest god damn motherfucker in the world. But sometimes he'd call me and I'd be busy... or a VIP or client would be around or what-have-you and I'd seem cold. But it wasn't that I was being cold -- it's that I wasn't being hot. In relative comparison, it might seem like I was pissed off -- but I was just being professional/working/not able to give my full attention.

You've got to do something or let it go, but keeping it in the zone you're in now is just asking for more and more miscommunication and hurt feelings that probably mean nothing.

Good luck.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:29 PM on March 3, 2011

Guessing isn't going to resolve this. Communicating clearly like the 30-year-old grownups you are will resolve this. It doesn't have to be high-risk: "Would you have any interest in getting a proper grown up date drink with me after work?"

This, this, this, this.

The only way to get an answer from anyone other than the AskMe Peanut Gallery is to ask him. If he says yes, you go on a date and take it from there. If he says no, you nurse some hurt feelings for a little while and move on. Your only other choice is to keep doing what you're (not-)doing, which is self-evidently unproductive and crazy-making.
posted by scody at 2:29 PM on March 3, 2011

Dunno, you could ask him out, but do you really want to ask someone out who's playing games, alternates between hot and cold, pretty damn annoying, and generally exhibiting all-around immature douchiness? You sent out obvious feelers, he damn straight got them, and hence sending you not-100% interested signals.

Yeah, sure, he may be shy, he may be cautious, but usually, when a guy acts not 100% enthusiastic about hanging out with you, chances are he's not 100% enthusiastic about you. And while the both of you might fall into a not-100% relationship from this, eventually you're going to end up on AskMefi again with a do-I-want-this-not-100%-relationship?

Wish someone told me all this when I was younger.
posted by moiraine at 2:30 PM on March 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

So the AskMe consensus seems to be somewhat clear: ask him out.

Fine! I don't have a problem asking him out. I was thinking of doing it anyway, especially after our last great coffee... the thing is, it's awkward to ask now because he's back in one of his pulling away phases. Plus, the project we were working on together is finished for the time being, we have no lunches or coffees scheduled and so therefore pretty much no likelihood of interacting organically.

So do I just hope to run into him? Send an email? Call him? I never just "drop by" his office and we don't work in the same area; we often see each other at lunch but it would seem awkward to just approach him out of nowhere since he's normally either with his ridiculous male posse or just eating with someone else.

(Yes, I really am this pathetic and clueless. I have never asked a man out before, please take it easy on me no matter how ridiculous you find me... I already think I'm pretty ridiculous - why else would I be shamed enough to do this via a sockpuppet?)
posted by supermetasock at 2:33 PM on March 3, 2011

I am also going to throw one other thing out there that I should have mentioned long ago: he is European (I'm not going to specify which country but it's mainland Europe), I am American, and he is a non-native speaker of English. His English is very good but he does still struggle sometimes.
posted by supermetasock at 2:39 PM on March 3, 2011

Just freaking call him or go over to his cubicle or whatever you crazy kids do in office world and ask. Either he likes you or he doesn't. (And this being a more "dormant" period between the two of you is actually a good thing, because this means he can't misunderstand it as a work thing.)

If you can't do it, you don't like him enough.
posted by Sara C. at 2:40 PM on March 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Ask him out now. If you have little likelihood of interacting organically from now on, that gives you a great excuse - "Hey, I've really enjoyed being able to hang out so frequently while this project was going on. I'd be interested in a proper date sometime - how about [X thing coming up]?"

If he's really into you then he'll leap at the chance. If he's not, then he won't and you can move on. There is no circumstance I can imagine where he would say yes if you asked him in the magic week and no if you didn't (unless he was all drama-y or manipulatory, which makes him not worth dating anyway).
posted by forza at 2:42 PM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Maybe he's gay and likes you as a person?
posted by Carol Anne at 2:51 PM on March 3, 2011

supermetasockPoster: Plus, the project we were working on together is finished for the time being, we have no lunches or coffees scheduled and so therefore pretty much no likelihood of interacting organically....

Perfect! This transition is an a great time to ask! Email is fine. Forza's wording would work well IMHO - it's clear but low key. (I write all emails as if they are going to be circulated, but I'm very circumspect that way.) "Hey, I've really enjoyed being able to hang out so frequently while this project was going on. I'd be up for a proper date if you're ever interested in grabbing drinks" would be the level of casual I could live with.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:54 PM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, and ask him however you want, even if it's by some means that you don't normally employ like dropping by. Think about it this way: you don't like the current pattern you're in. So break it.
posted by forza at 2:54 PM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

... the thing is, it's awkward to ask now because he's back in one of his pulling away phases. Plus, the project we were working on together is finished for the time being, we have no lunches or coffees scheduled and so therefore pretty much no likelihood of interacting organically.

Good Lord, woman! The thing is...ask him out. No more excuses. If he is genuinely interested there is never a "bad time" to ask him out, phase or no phase. At this point you win either way...you either get a date or you get to put this issue to bed and regain your sanity.

Go to his office towards the end of the workday, ask if he wants to grab a drink. If he says yes...date. If he says he has plans...tell him to let you know when he is free because you'd like to get together and leave the ball in his court. If he says no...you're free.
posted by jnnla at 2:57 PM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Maybe he's gay and likes you as a person?

Maybe, but there's really no way to know unless she asks.

Tomorrow is Friday. Just go over to where he is close to the end of the day and be all "Hey, I was wondering if you wanted to get a drink after work today."
posted by 23skidoo at 2:57 PM on March 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

Asking him out will garner more of the same. Sounds like you've had enough "dates" or actual dates for him to step up.

Whether or not he likes you is irrelevant - he can't/won't do anything about it.

Believe me - it took two years for me to learn that lesson. Find someone better - which is to say, someone who can show up.

If you must, stopping this nonsense will get him to step up his game. So there's that. You'll shag, he'll still being doing this crap, you'll still be confused and work will be a nightmare. Enjoy.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 3:36 PM on March 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Look, I'll be honest, I've been this guy, in this situation. You don't want to date me. The hot/cold thing means I'm happy to have you around when it's convenient for me, but otherwise shut up and get out of my face.
posted by tumid dahlia at 3:40 PM on March 3, 2011 [6 favorites]

Send him an email. Use the word "date." Do it tomorrow. Problem solved!
posted by J. Wilson at 3:50 PM on March 3, 2011

He probably is into you, or else wants you to think so in order to bait you into embarrassing yourself at work.

He's not doing anything about it despite ample opportunity. He may be attached, but really the reasons why not are irrelevant. IMO by this time he's in the He Had His Chance And He Blew It zone.

If you ask him out don't do it by email or any recorded text or voice medium.
posted by tel3path at 4:07 PM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

He may be just as nervous and confused as you are. Maybe he pulls back because he's worried he's coming on too strong and will scare you away. The work thing is complicated. I've been in your shoes on the male side and I've wished for a clearer signal from the object of my crush, one way or the other. The advice to go ahead and say something sounds like good advice to me.

One other note, when this happened to me, I thought my interest could not have been more obvious, but many years later I was finally able to talk about it openly with my former crush object. She had no idea.
posted by Noon Under the Trees at 5:14 PM on March 3, 2011

Much as I hate to defend a guy who runs hot and cold, it sounds to me like he likes you, and THEN remembers that "oh, I shouldn't date a coworker" (or some other reason) and then he starts avoiding you.

Whether or not you want to deal with that or not is up to you.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:25 PM on March 3, 2011


- It really really really sounds to me like this fellow is previously involved and folks know it. Or he has some other equally good reason to keep his distance... like office politics, sexual preference, etc. He's keeping his distance for a very good reason and you're not listening!

- Please don't date where you work if you can help it. Lots of Askme's on this subject and personal experience tell me to tell you: DO NOT ASK HIM OUT.

- The hot and cold thing is bad form for a potential mate and indicates you will get more of the same from him even if you do get involved. By asking him out, you are telling him this sort of treatment is OK with you.

Conclusion: If he wanted to, he would have made a move by now. Release!
posted by jbenben at 5:30 PM on March 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

Ask him out tomorrow. Set a time for yourself (I suggest 16:00) and just march into his office and get this done.

Who cares if you wouldn't normally visit him, or it's not organic? Buy him a coffee and take it to him.

Now you have a purpose and a destination and a deadline - and a weekend to cringe and cry if it doesn't go well.

Please update the thread regardless of what happens.

Your internet friends believe in your grace under pressure and in your ultra-confidence. Make us proud!
posted by cranberrymonger at 5:47 PM on March 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Ooh, cranberry's suggestion is a good one. Bring him a coffee and an offer. That way you can know and get it the fuck over with.

I was having hot and cold flirting with a girl not quite that long ago. I finally couldn't take it anymore and asked her out. She turned me down, and the relief of knowing was way greater than the disappointment in being turned down. It meant I could move on. So really, there's no downside.
posted by zug at 5:57 PM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

So I'm seeing this lady on and off, who works at a couple of the bars I frequent. We're quite social outside of work, but when I see her at work, we have short conversations (she's almost never my server) and generally act like we're casual acquaintances. Part of that is her, because, y'know, it's work and she's busy. Part of that is me, because I tend to prefer a certain public decorum, that's just the way I'm wired culturally. I can run pretty hot and cold sometimes myself, but it's not because I prefer my own convenience or whatever else is being suggested. I'm pretty introverted and I need to recharge periodically, because while I can be the life of the party and interesting, intense, all that, that takes a lot of energy for me.

I'd consider a few things. First, it's possible that he's trying to maintain a professional distance but failing occasionally cause he's just so into you, which causes him to snap back into ultra-professional. Second, his cultural parameters and signal-reading may be different than yours, so what seems like ice-cold behavior to you seems like a clear sign of interest to him. He may also be nervous about taking a chance on asking someone out, just like you are, for all the reasons you are. Or, maybe his European experience is that "fraternization" is just peachy but he's heard stories about what a horror show American office romances are (there are plenty of cultural differences here, really) and he doesn't know what's acceptable. He may just not want to be, or want you to be, a topic of gossip for his all-male team, because all-male teams can occasionally be privately rude and he doesn't want to get into that or have them making smirking remarks about you; that they're smirking whenever you show up is bad enough. If he's wired to keep his personal life and his professional life as separate as possible, that might be pretty uncomfortable for him personally and on your behalf. Maybe he's confused by what seems like hot and cold behavior on your part to him, even though it doesn't seem at all like that to you. Maybe even though he's 30+ or whatever, he's just as green and unsure of himself in this area as you are.

The thing is, we're pretty uniformly terrible at deciphering signals at the best of times, and you're out of practice. I can come up with any number of fairly benign reasons for his behavior, once we stop assuming that he must be a manipulative jackass. It's fairly clear that waiting for him to make a move is not working out the way you hoped it would, so I think either you have to just bite the bullet and be overt about your feelings towards him, or you have to decide that you're not willing to do that and so this isn't going to happen. Either one is fine, really, but you're waiting for him to solve your confusion, and that's probably not going to happen. You're going to have to make your own moves on this one, at least at first.

So, since you're ready to ask him out, how do you do it? Hit him up towards the end of the workday. It's ok that you're not normally in his area, you have business. If he's with people, ask him if he has a minute to talk to you privately. If he doesn't, ask him to find you when he does have time. Once you guys are having a one-on-one, ask him out. If he says yes, go out. If he says no, smile, say ok, no big deal, and try not to treat him any differently other than backing off the flirtiness. If he says maybe, shrug, say ok, you think about it, and then try not to treat him any differently other than backing off the flirtiness because you've just now decided it's not worth your time. Go from there, and good luck.
posted by Errant at 6:02 PM on March 3, 2011

Just one more thing to keep in mind: I was in almost identical situation several years ago. Unfortunately, I was too new to know that the guy who was hot and cold with me had a reputation for going after the "hot new girl" in the office. And there were plenty of them before I came along.
posted by lucysparrow at 6:03 PM on March 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think he is just being friendly, then pulling back when he thinks you might be getting the wrong idea about it. Lots of people remember small things because they can't help it, ask questions and laugh at jokes to be polite, don't mean anything by their open body language, expect politeness in return when greeted, and enjoy doing favors for everyone. I think you should find someone outside of work and stop toying with this guy and yourself.
posted by meepmeow at 6:18 PM on March 3, 2011

Sarah C. has it. What's with the rest of mefi? No one else is jumping on the coworker thing? You're the "hot new girl" at an important position in a big company and the teeniest thought that this could be a huge train wreck that blows up in your face and taints your career forever never occured to you, not even a little bit?

This has "DON'T DATE COWORKERS" written all over it in 12 foot high neon blinking capitals, no joke.

P.S. I just read your first question. Your first impression of him is "arrogant", he jokingly said "everything has a price" when you asked for his help on your project, he "playfully grabbed your arms?"

I think your man-picker is malfunctioning, to be blunt. I would bet money he's actually kind of an asshole and if you sleep with him, it will get ten times worse and your working days will become insufferable. If you want an ego boost and some nice hot casual sex, do it with someone outside of work. If you want soulmate, forever, real-deal LTR, he doesn't sound that promising. Sorry.
posted by Nixy at 10:23 PM on March 3, 2011 [4 favorites]

Yeah. I don't like being alarmist all the time, but... the remark about Skinnerian conditioning is spot on. Blowing hot and cold is a classic seduction technique because it works. It's possible that he isn't doing it deliberately, or doesn't think he is; maybe he's a guy who Just Can't Help Himself Why Does This Keep Happening? But please consider the contrast between your opinion of him on the one hand, and your attraction on the other. He's conditioning you to place a higher value on him than he actually merits.

The smirks from his cow-orkers tell me there's a peanut gallery watching your every move and probably running a book on the outcome. At best. There could be a lot else going on that you won't know until you fall foul of it. One possible reason why he hasn't made a move could be that he wants to make you responsible for whatever happens next, which could be worse than the momentary pain of rejection.

Normally I am all for disambiguation if you're losing your mind. Not this time. I think this is a trap. If he wants you at least let him take responsibility and ask you out. But I think the best thing to do is to mentally cross him off as a romantic prospect, which I fully understand will be extraordinarily difficult. Sorry, it sucks.
posted by tel3path at 1:15 AM on March 4, 2011

He's showing you a preview of how it will be if you do go out and then break up. Which WILL happen. I mean, c'mon, this is clearly not the man you're going to be with forever. Except when you break up it will be 1000% times worse. He can't be polite and friendly to you 100% of the time when he LIKES YOU? Picture how bad this is going to be when he doesn't like you. And yet you see him every day. Where you work. And where all your coworkers know.

Don't touch this one with a ten foot pole. Seriously. And see what gossip people start sharing with you about him once you're not dangling after him anymore.
posted by MsMolly at 10:35 AM on March 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

I asked a question like this.

I went for it. He turned out to be questioning, and thus Not That Into Me (or probably my gender). It sucked to be rejected, although it was the best possible reason, given the circumstances, and it felt GREAT to know for certain. No more over-analyzing. No more wonder. No more endlessly hashing it out with my friends. No more worry we would get in trouble at work (the gossip and questions didn't stop, though).

We had a nice friendship to start with, and after some weirdness, we still do.

Do you have a friendship to fall back on?
posted by jenlovesponies at 1:13 PM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I can't do it, guys.

Jbenben's remarks, while not the most eloquent on the thread, rang the most true to me, along with Sara C...basically, if it's this hard right now, with so much risk, I can't really see the upside. If he makes a move eventually, then great - and I'll let y'all know.

I really do appreciate so much support and kind words; on the flip side, I also have to say that some of the harsher comments, like those from turgid dahlia, epitomize everything that scares me about the dating world. And I'm too old to be so scared. But at least I'm not wrecking my career, I guess. I just got a little overexcited at the idea of a match that I overlooked the obvious red flags.

Thanks all for your comments.
posted by supermetasock at 2:09 PM on March 4, 2011

I would bet money he has a girlfriend. (or boyfriend, if he's gay)

My first instinct on the hot/cold at work is that he is otherwise involved in his personal life.

If you are still getting tingly when you see him - try to take emotion out of it and see it as a very fun, diverting, workplace flirtation that no one needs to take any further.

I'm glad you aren't asking him out! (that would have been my advice) And I hope you meet someone great soon!
posted by rainydayfilms at 2:37 PM on March 4, 2011

I would not ask this guy out if I were you. I've only seen a few responses who have it right in my opinion. His hot/cold behavior reflects what is 99.9% of the time either 1) a player, 2) someone too immature to be in a healthy relationship right now, or 3) the most likely one, he's just not that into you.

I say move on and let him come to you like a man, not a little boy. It's his loss if he never takes the bait. But yeah, you don't need someone else who's as scared and clueless as you are. Someone needs to be able to take the lead. He doesn't seem to be that person. You need an adult to date, not a kid. Sorry.
posted by GeniPalm at 3:19 PM on March 4, 2011

I think you are making the right decision. I'm thinking he either has a GF or is in a LD relationship. Another possibility is that he's just feeding his ego and while he has no real interest in you, he does like the attention you are giving him.

minor derail: As a guy who doesn't play the hot/cold game, if girls who state that they don't like it post 2 Asks and think about the gameplayer for over 8 weeks, it sounds like I might need to change my approach.
posted by screamingnotlaughing at 3:37 PM on March 4, 2011

Okay, wow, this is an update to my update: I'm going out on a date with my coworker. Two dates, in fact.

Here's what happened: He asked me earlier this week to have coffee with him again. We met today, there was so much chemistry and he was so great; I just got this gut feeling that I had to do something, and I suddenly changed my mind and decided I was going to end the nonsense once and for all.

I played it very casual and low pressure; I sent him an email just saying that I had an extra ticket to this art exhibition and was going to offer it up to some other colleagues (which was technically true, I WAS because I'd given up on asking him!) but that I wanted to offer it to him first since he'd expressed interest in the exhibit previously. He emailed me back saying he'd love to join me, but only on the condition that I allow him to take me out to dinner. I told him I accepted, but with a condition of my own: that nothing be discussed with any coworkers. He responded that he agreed wholeheartedly, and that it was neither in his interest nor his style to broadcast his personal life to anyone at the office.

So that's that! AskMeFi, maybe I('m setting myself up for disaster, but the chemistry here was just too great and I had to just go for it. I truly appreciate all the advice.
posted by supermetasock at 1:17 PM on March 11, 2011

YAY!!! See, you ask, you get :) Congrats, and I hope you have a great time!
posted by DarlingBri at 1:47 PM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Very nice. Have a good time.
posted by Errant at 1:59 PM on March 11, 2011

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