Is a homemade gift a good way to show a guy I'm interested?
October 31, 2012 9:08 PM   Subscribe

I like a guy. I don't know how he feels about me. Would it be weird to make him a gift?

So I have known this guy socially for about six months, though we're not super close, we do run in the same/similar circles. He's an outgoing and flirtatious guy, and I can't figure out whether he likes me or just is a nice, flirtatious, but uninterested guy. He has done various things that made me feel like he might be interested and others that indicate he might not be. Every time I am presented with an opportunity to find out, I become frozen in abject terror and completely unable to act or speak. (Already in therapy so don't even). I would really like to show him that I'm interested without making things awkward or unfomfortable for him/ our future, unavoidable interactions if he's not. I haven't yet gotten to a place where I can ask him out.

He was recently in a minor car accident and has been having some neck and back pain. I want to make him an oat-bag. I thought I could add some EOs to make it smell a little bit like his favourite ice cream. Is this a good idea? Bad idea? Too subtle? Not subtle enough? Too "friend"ly and not "I realy like you"? Coming on too strong?

Yes, I know I am overthinking this because my fear has caused me to lose all perspective. Please offer some perspective for me. Anonymous because I get incredibly, painfully embarassed and sensitive and terrified about my feelings with these kinds of things.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (35 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I think it's a good idea. Ambiguous but thoughtful, so he can interpret it however he likes without feeling awkward.
posted by DoubleLune at 9:09 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have no idea what an oat bag or an EO is.

Either way, I think for something like this, a gift that is thoughtful but doesn't look like you spent very much time or money on it is the way to go.
posted by empath at 9:13 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think the gift is a great idea, but if you're interested in him you should talk to him about it. Don't say it with gifts.
posted by sweetkid at 9:13 PM on October 31, 2012 [24 favorites]

I think an oat bag is like a soft pain relief thing, and EO = essential oils. Guessing on both.
posted by sweetkid at 9:14 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is a subtle, yet considerate gift idea. But, beyond that, it doesn't actually say "hey, I like you! do you like me too?" and for that, you're going to have to share how you feel.
posted by rylan at 9:19 PM on October 31, 2012 [7 favorites]

Guys are very slow to recognize hints. Talk is better than a gift.
posted by anadem at 9:25 PM on October 31, 2012 [19 favorites]

I think you shouldn't make him a gift before you've made your interest clear. Guys are clueless as a rule and won't necessarily make the connection; plus, if for some reason he really isn't interested, and he understands that the gift is a declaration of interest, then receiving the gift becomes awkward.

I think the gift itself sounds charming. Save it for once you've established a dating relationship.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:31 PM on October 31, 2012 [4 favorites]

That's a really sweet idea, but I wouldn't think it was a romantic gesture if someone gave that to me. Saying it with words is really the way to go; if you're not ready for that, you're not ready for a relationship. (However, if it is just a terrible fear of rejection in this specific circumstance and everything else is fine...throw in a mix tape. That's less ambiguous.)
posted by lemonadeheretic at 9:33 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I can say even in my pre-married days, if you made me something like this, I'd think you were a total sweetheart but not make the jump to "I bet she's into me." It could just be me but my female friends were (and are) pretty giving and it wouldn't be out of character at all to do something like this just as a nice thing to do, so that's how I'd read it.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:34 PM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

Echoing fingersandtoes. If he is interested, he'll worry that this gift is purely platonic. If he isn't interested, he'll worry that it ISN'T purely platonic.

Also, some people are weird about scents, i.e., I don't like anything that smells like a thing that isn't actually that thing.
posted by supercres at 9:56 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with the other commenters, aside from the belittling men part (guys don't know how you feel if you don't tell them how you feel - somehow this makes them clueless?) - if you want to give him a gift, do it because you want to give him a gift; if you want to know how he feels about you, ask him how he feels about you.
posted by destructive cactus at 9:59 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Give him a gift because you're a thoughtful person who likes giving gifts, and he'll see that you're a thoughtful person who likes giving gifts, and when you get around to asking him out, one of the things he'll consider is how thoughtful you are.
posted by davejay at 10:01 PM on October 31, 2012 [16 favorites]

Two points.

1. I had girls give me gifts when I was a young man but I never connected it at all to their interest in me. OK, I was more than a bit obtuse when it came to "signals" but that doesn't make me unique. It makes me male.

1a. This doesn't mean the gift is a bad idea, just don't put too much emotional stock in the impact it might have.

2. Your fear stems from an unconscious, perhaps even genetic, risk analysis that has calculated this guy as a strong candidate for, you know. That part of the brain is saying the loss of such an opportunity would be horrible/devastating/end-of-the-world.

You can get around that by pretending (to the unconscious risk-calculator) that this guy is just a friend. At least long enough to get more comfortable around him.
posted by trinity8-director at 10:03 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I did a fair amount of gift-giving-with-subtext like this in my 20s. I don't recall a single time where it got me what I wanted, though I do recall plenty of times where it didn't.

So yeah, give the gift if you can give it simply as a thoughtful gesture; nothing wrong with that. But don't expect it to successfully transmit any message beyond that.
posted by scody at 10:51 PM on October 31, 2012 [8 favorites]

One of my now best guy friends was as you describe - turns out he loves me, and did, but not like that - if you catch my drift here.

That said, my lovely husband is super shy and might not have ever asked me out on a date if I had not asked him to a friendly-type get together that he very quickly turned into a date by leaning over and kissing me!

You have a 50/50 shot if you are interested in this guy. Be prepared for either response.

As per my experience, it might work out well no matter which way this guy sees you. At least, that is my experience.

posted by jbenben at 12:11 AM on November 1, 2012

This is a nice, thoughtful gift idea and I'm sure he will appreciate it. Because he is in need, I'm not sure he'll consider it more than friendly.

But in general, whenever you want to tell a friend you like them like that, grand gestures are not a good idea, for your sake. I have learned this the hard way: it is really rough if the person gets what you're trying to say, and doesn't reciprocate. It is embarrassing that you went to such effort, makes you seem way too invested, and you may wish from that embarrassment that you had just used your words. Give this gift as a friend, but use words when you want to get your feelings across.
posted by houndsoflove at 3:57 AM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nthing that something like this would be thoughtful, but in no way a clear indication that you were romantically interested (I don't even think it's a "guys are clueless" thing - I'm female and wouldn't have realized it meant romantic interest, either). This Reddit thread (which I found thanks to Mitheral's Metatalk post a few days ago) may be illustrative of the importance of being direct rather than relying on hints.
posted by DingoMutt at 5:11 AM on November 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

houndsoflove: This is a nice, thoughtful gift idea and I'm sure he will appreciate it. Because he is in need, I'm not sure he'll consider it more than friendly.

Yeah, I would argue that a small, thoughtful gift in a time of need tilts the needle toward "Friendship" and away from "Hot Monkey Love". There is no magic incantation you can say or do that will give you all of the reward with none of the risk when it comes to making your feelings known for someone. If you are truly paralyzed with terror at the thought of just telling this person how you feel, then friendship is probably the best thing you can aim for right now. Maybe the friendship will blossom into something more over time?
posted by Rock Steady at 5:34 AM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Are you sure he likes smelly things? Many people do, but some don't -- if you gave that gift to me, I would say thank you and then put it out in the garage or toss it, because I tend to really dislike scented stuff. (I also don't know what an oat bag is, some kind of man-bag for carrying things around made out of a feed sack?)

In other words, this gets back to how well do you know him, know his desires, and can be sure that your gift will be received as you are intending? My guess is that a card or an offer to take him out for drinks/coffee/whatever would go further, but that's me making guesses and stereotypes and of course you know him and I don't.

At heart, my concern is that making presents like that can skew really easily towards the "Look, I knitted you a sweater!" skits of bad romantic comedy movies, and that's not a place anyone wants to be. But presents are awesome and crafts are awesome, so if you think he'd like it, go for it.
posted by Forktine at 5:41 AM on November 1, 2012

You can give it to him with a note that says, "when you feel up to it, lets go to dinner." If you can muster the courage, actually speak the words. But if not, put them on the Get Well Soon card.

You can't let this drag on though. Why are you so terrified? Either he says yes or no to going out on a date. If he says yes. Neat. If he says no, move on. The more you fixate the more you're going to waste your time. He may be interested in you, but if you don't encourage him, he may decide that you aren't interested and pursue someone else. Or he may have no feelings for you whatsoever, but if you ask him out, he may become interested.

A gift will not tell him that you like him, your mouth will do that. Or a note in a card.

He will never guess.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:08 AM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

A wheat bag is an excellent thoughtful and not over-the-top gift to anyone, friend OR more, given this situation. If a friend knew I was having problems with pain and gave me one, it wouldn't even cross my mind that the source of the gift was more-than-platonic intentions - even if I DID like them that way.

So: weird, not at all. A good way to show interest: no, not even in the slightest.

If you want to give him the gift to help him feel better, go for it. Beware scented things, though, depending on the person. Don't make the gift contingent on anything - don't imply accepting the gift is a bribe to go on a date. If he's not interested, he might feel he needs to turn down the gift - unless that's your intention.

If you want him to realise you're interested, a note or message might work for you.
posted by Ashlyth at 6:53 AM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is a homemade gift a good way to show a guy I'm interested?

No. You need to tell him. The fear of it is like being afraid of getting a shot at the doctor's - the anticipation and fear are a thousand times worse than the actual event, which at worst is a momentary, passing discomfort. If he's not into you, it's not a huge thing, and it doesn't have to be uncomfortable or weird in the future if you don't make it that way.

The gesture is indistinguishable from something that a friend would do for a friend. Don't fall into the Nice Guy (or Girl) trap. Giving him a gift would be thoughtful and kind and would accomplish pretty much nothing that you want it to, and might muddle things.

Is this a good idea? Bad idea? Too subtle? Not subtle enough? Too "friend"ly and not "I realy like you"? Coming on too strong?

I boldfaced this part because it's really important. The question you're asking here is "How can I tell a guy I really like him - that is, how can I send a clear and unambiguous message that I like him in a more-than-friends way - without actually using those words?"

Tell yourself (because it's true) that there's really no difference here, with the exception that the gift might not be understood the way you want it to be, and if you're okay with saying it one way, it might be okay to say it the other way, too.

The sooner you tell him, the better. It doesn't have to be some big dramatic declaration, and the longer you leave it, the more cache it will accrue in your head until you start mythologizing him and your crush on him. Stop thinking of it as Asking Him Out. If you do this in a completely chill, no-pressure way, there will be pretty much no bad fallout at all and the possibility of very good results.

I know that's hard and I know you're scared, but it's going to get harder and scarier with each passing day that you don't just bite the bullet and go for it.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 6:59 AM on November 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

Mod note: Clarification from the OP:
An oat bag is a shaped bag filled with oats (or wheat or rice or whatever) that can be put in the microwave to make a heating pack, or in the freezer to make a cold pack.

EO's are essential oils.
posted by taz (staff) at 6:59 AM on November 1, 2012

If you'd give the same gift to a platonic friend in a similar situation, go ahead. Gifts with hidden messages are rarely a good idea. At their best, the message just goes over the recipient's head; at their worst, they can come across as manipulative.

As for telling him you're interested, there is no substitute for the direct approach. It can be scary and awkward, but it's the only way to know for sure.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:26 AM on November 1, 2012

Odds are that this guy will not pick up on your message, but there's a also the risk that he is one of those men who sees 'homemade gift' and thinks 'ZOMG SHE WANTS BABIES WITH ME!!1!!' and then things will be really awkward.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:40 AM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you give him the gift and nothing ever happens, are you going to feel resentful about having made the gift and given it?

I used to give lots of gifts to, well, everyone. But I noticed that even so, when I made gifts for my "unrequited" or just unresolved love interests, it was always fraught and I'd end up feeling used and drained. The gifts never, ever got my interest across or caused him to reciprocate it.*

nthing that you just are going to have to eventually use your words. It's sucky and scary, no way around it.

*And eventually I just had a super-Pavolovian reaction to gift-giving, and hated giving gifts, and now I have to force myself to do so even for my dearest friends and relatives--it sucks! I'm not saying this will happen to you, but just that attaching emotional reactions to a neutral action can backfire...
posted by like_a_friend at 9:18 AM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

If a guy likes you you will not have to wonder about it. And do not try to buy a man's affection through a gift in the early stages before he has even professed his interest. Let him do the work because usually when a man likes you, he is not going to waste time NOT telling you that. The message would be quite clear.

Take a card that is a little more than friendly. Nothing more
posted by pakora1 at 10:10 AM on November 1, 2012

I think gifts should only be given out of friendship and disinterest, or after a more intimate bond has been established. If there is any agenda at all behind the gift, he might sense it. In any case, the scented oat bag sounds adorable, but probably won't get you the outcome you want. Wait until he feels better and either drum up the flirting or just ask him out (but DON'T confess feelings).

Also, I don't know if the men in my life are just exceptionally tough or self-negligent or what, but they usually don't take painkillers when they're in pain, refuse things like heating pads and scarves, etc. In other words, the bag might smell to him not like essential oils but like unwanted mothering! Tread with caution.
posted by ziggly at 10:54 AM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm pretty dense, but I think I'd pick up on such a personal, thoughtful gift. However, it's ambiguous enough that it wouldn't necessarily push me to make a move.

You should give him the gift... It's very sweet and thoughtful. But you should also tell him you like him.
posted by cmoj at 11:14 AM on November 1, 2012

I don't think that giving someone who was in a car accident a "get well" kind of gift like this can be guaranteed to send the message you want to send. I mean, he might be able to tell what's up based on his ability to read you, but this is also a gift that a platonic friend might give in similar circumstances.

Your real problem here, I think, is that you seem to want to send an ambiguous message with this gift. You want the plausible deniability and to avoid risking rejection, and I get that, really I do. But messages from things like this can be interpreted many different ways. You will actually wind up risking both creeping him out (if he doesn't like you back and knows what you're up to, as you're not leaving him an easy option to turn down your advances and shut this thing down) and having him completely miss your message (if he thinks this is just a get well, friend thing). Unless he responds by asking you out, you will be in no better position to know how he feels, and in fact you will be in a more complicated and difficult position.

If you're not able to ask him out or talk with him (and if you can't talk with him, how will you ever have a relationship with him even if he reciprocates your feelings?), unfortunately, you're not likely to advance your cause well with this kind of action. The best thing might be to wait and see if things progress, or to move on.
posted by J. Wilson at 11:24 AM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you want something in return for a gift, it's not a gift, it's a trade.

If you are not giving this guy a gift that you would give any other friend in the same situation and everyone knows you are the giver of oat bags, then you are really asking "is it appropriate for me to engage in a trade with this guy without him knowing the terms up front, wherein I give him a handmade gift and in response he gives me the affection I long for from him?" And the answer to that is no, it's not appropriate, honest, or fair to the other person.

I would really like to show him that I'm interested without making things awkward or unfomfortable for him/ our future, unavoidable interactions if he's not.

Life is risky, but worth the risk.
posted by headnsouth at 11:54 AM on November 1, 2012

Honestly, doing stuff like this without the person knowing that you're into them as a way to secretly hint that you're into them...way, WAY more likely to make them uncomfortable than just saying "hey, let's go out some time". As a somewhat gregarious and flirtatious person, I find the "you're in a bad way, here's a gift" to be the least charming of all possible approaches, because it feels weirdly manipulative. That might be a gender thing, though.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:48 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, the way to do this in a flirty way is to offer to bring him a movie to watch together. Bring beers. Voila.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:49 PM on November 1, 2012

A lot of people seem to think there's absolutely no overlap between friendship and romantic interest.

To me, this is a very strange mindset, but never mind.

Doing your friend a kindness by giving a thoughtful gift is always a Good Thing to do, no matter what your hopes or the future outcome. You should do it without hesitation.

It may be that he won't interpret from this that you are romantically interested, because hints often don't work[*]. In this case you'll need to be more direct - but give the gift regardless.

[*] Why hints don't work - see recent thread[s] on why women don't like being approached in public places etc. If a guy has misinterpreted body language/a casual remark/whatever as a hint in the the past, and received a hostile reaction in response he will [if he's not a jerk] be careful to avoid interpreting similar interactions as hints in the future. Being direct is your best option to avoid misunderstandings.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 6:35 PM on November 1, 2012

I think it's a nice gesture, which is likely to make you closer friends, which may in turn lead to more or may not but you're moving in the right direction. I think it's a small and inexpensive enough gift that you don't get into much weirdness where one person feels obligated to reciprocate. Definitely don't do anything fancy to it and don't also show up with take out and beer. Or only show up with take out and beer and no gift. Don't go nuts. Don't act like his girlfriend when you aren't even if you would like the job.

I have to say in situations like this I do not favor the so-called direct approach. It doesn't sound like you two really know each. He may like you or he may have no idea yet whether he likes you. Finding ways to spend more time together or ramp up the level of contact is important to figuring that out. Especially since you say you freeze up around him, you need more time to open up and get to know him.
posted by whoaali at 3:40 PM on November 2, 2012

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