Should I try to undo this?
June 12, 2014 6:48 PM   Subscribe

Well, here is a little more of me being neurotic about romantic relationships. (I have long forgotten about the crush I asked my last question about.) Yesterday, I was surprise asked out by email by a guy I have met a couple of times. I hadn't thought of him that way, and had no idea he was interested, but thought about it, decided my evaluation of what I knew so far was that he seemed like a sweet person, and said yes. (And then changed my mind.)

We emailed back and forth a bit about logistics. He said he liked me (obvious from the asking out, but nice to hear). I didn't reciprocate that exact sentiment since I realize I don't actually know him at all, but said him asking me out was a nice surprise. Then in his next email, he wrote, "By the way, I'm assuming then that you like me, too. That makes me feel good."

That really weirded me out for some reason--I barely know you, and you are already asking me to declare my feelings about you? It seemed like a combination of pushy and insecure. This morning I wrote him back and nicely explained that I had changed my mind, and got a polite/friendly response.

Now I am second guessing myself. Maybe this was my gut telling me something valuable. Or maybe it was just an awkward comment intended as flirting? English is not his first language (which could explain why it sounded odd). I am also somewhat overwhelmed with my life right now and the idea of getting together with someone I barely know for a date was anxiety-inducing when I was thinking about it this morning. Although maybe it would be fun.

So I have two questions:

(1) Was his comment as weird as I thought it was? I mean, obviously it was cringe-inducing to me, but how would you have taken it?
(2) Let's say I decided I did want a date with this seemingly nice, attractive person after all and was going to try to salvage the situation: what would you say if you were me?
posted by picardythird to Human Relations (28 answers total)
I think the boat sailed, either way.

It is 50-50 whether he's weird, or just has poor English writing skills.

You say you don't have time or inclination, so maybe stop second guessing yourself?
posted by jbenben at 6:55 PM on June 12, 2014 [8 favorites]

Honestly, I cringed a bit on reading that too, so I understand where you're coming from. And it sounds like you weren't too jazzed about the whole situation to begin with, so I'd just let it go.

The good news is that there are plenty of other fish in the sea. And hey, if you see this guy socially, then maybe once you get to know each other better, you'll change your mind, and then you can ask him out!
posted by lunasol at 7:00 PM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

You're making me feel anxious just reading this question. Just relax, take it down a notch. This hyper-analyzing doesn't get you anywhere. Maybe he's a creep, but I wouldn't let one comment that could just be awkward send me into a tailspin. It's fine to tell him no, but also realize language is meant as a unit and when you parse every little thing, you're often missing the whole point.

So maybe he's not for you, but from my awkward person view I assume if someone agrees to go on a date they have at least some interest in me too. I wouldn't want to date someone who was pitying me. So maybe think through your thoughts before acting so you're not so wishywashy and can take more of an active role, instead of going on pure impulse.
posted by Aranquis at 7:09 PM on June 12, 2014 [17 favorites]

How old are you guys?

There was a point in my early 20s when I transitioned out of declarations of Like and into expressing my interest through my actions. Is it possible this guy just isn't quite there yet, and doesn't get that there's no need to inform the other party that you Like Them.

All of the above said, if you don't like him, don't go out with him. It's kind of obtuse to date someone you're not interested in. Defaulting to saying yes to a date simply on the basis of not knowing the person well is not a great idea. Either you're attracted to this person or you're not. And it sounds like you're not. In a sense it's good that this guy expressed that he liked you, since it seems like the two of you are not on the same page about what dating is about.
posted by Sara C. at 7:10 PM on June 12, 2014

Sara C.: I am in my late 20's. I think he's around 40? Which probably added to it sounding weird. It seemed childish.

And it's not that I think I should date people I don't like, I just tend to think there's room for giving something a chance if you don't know either way--going on a date is a way to get to know whether you will hit it off with someone or not.
posted by picardythird at 7:27 PM on June 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

1. His comment was weird and would have put me off a bit.
2. Your reaction to it (canceling the date) may have been revealed your gut, but based on your vacillations here, just as easily signals a tendency to second-guess yourself and change your mind. I think it was an overreaction.
3. As to salvaging the situation, I think your part in this exchange has proven the weirder, and I would leave this be.

The guy may have been a little odd, or at least expressed himself oddly, but I think neither he nor you benefit from pouring a possible date back on the waffle iron.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:30 PM on June 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh, he's 40 and saying that?

posted by jbenben at 7:42 PM on June 12, 2014 [12 favorites]

I would have said, "Well, we'll have to see...I feel like I hardly know you yet! But looking forward to getting to know you a bit better next Tuesday. :)" or something like that.

Now the ship has kind of sailed. Let it go.
posted by amaire at 7:42 PM on June 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's happened several times in my dating life that a guy has said something like that, and every single time the guy has turned out to be needy, quick to label us gf/bf without any sort of discussion, and boring.

It is now on my NopeList of dating behavior.
posted by phunniemee at 7:50 PM on June 12, 2014 [6 favorites]

1.) It was creepy and presumptuous.
2.) Your gut was right.
3.) He's old enough to know better.
4.) There are other fish in the sea.
posted by quincunx at 8:08 PM on June 12, 2014 [5 favorites]

I would have canceled.
posted by unknowncommand at 8:09 PM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hmm, yeah. Little creepy. I guess the perplexingest part is him saying, "That makes me feel good" (like as in 'thanks for the compliment'?) about something you didn't actually say. Him being out of decade range age-wise and you being in your twenties, also creepy.

But why are you second guessing yourself? The 'maybe this guy deserves a shot!' thing seems kind of like you are open to or on the fence about creepy guys which is probably not good.
posted by mermily at 8:21 PM on June 12, 2014

I feel sort of bad for the guy. The way I read it is, he said he liked you, you gave a non-answer, it made him insecure and he sort of fished a little. It's not the wisest way to cope with a new interest, but it's certainly not unfathomable that somebody would respond that way. It's a little awkward, and it gave you pause, and of course you canceling as a result of that pause is totally OK. But I don't think it makes him creepy needy weirdo guy.
posted by dithmer at 9:23 PM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Let it go. Trust your gut. Focus on taking very good care of yourself.
posted by Gray Skies at 9:31 PM on June 12, 2014

I think "English is not his first language" is the key. This guy is trying to communicate about a delicate matter in his second language, via e-mail. If he had said it in person, I doubt it would have sounded creepy, although still certainly awkward, it could have been awkward in a cute way.

You don't sound like the type of person who would find this type of communication awkward in a cute way, so you probably shouldn't be dating someone who isn't completely fluent in English language/culture/relationship norms.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:06 PM on June 12, 2014 [9 favorites]

Let's say I decided I did want a date with this seemingly nice, attractive person after all and was going to try to salvage the situation: what would you say if you were me?

I guess it really depends on how easy it would be to just cut this off cleanly if it goes poorly. If it would be awkward, then I'd just leave it where it is. If you never have to see this guy again if the date sucks, then:

"Hey, maybe this is just a cultural thing, but I was a bit bothered when you assumed that I liked you already. I don't know you well enough for that. BUT, I am willing to go out with you so we can get to know each other better."

Something along those lines. Just be upfront about it.

Maybe he'll be super offended, and hey, your instincts were justified. Maybe he'll say, 'sorry, it was just a misunderstanding, i understand what you are saying'. Chances are you guys aren't really compatible anyway, but you can at least salvage a date with less chance of misunderstandings if you're upfront with him.
posted by empath at 12:20 AM on June 13, 2014

Having been close to some non-native English speakers, I'm definitely with treehorn+bunny here. Written communication is difficult at the best of times, but when there are language &/or cultural issues (and they tend to come as a pair in my experience) it is incredibly easy to get the tone wrong. Having had those experiences and in the absence of any other contra indications, I would have given the person a pass on that, but, for whatever reason, it didn't feel right for you and that's fair enough.

When I'm making important decisions I find it helpful to monitor my feelings at various points and especially so after finalising one. I usually feel relieved, happy or something similar after a good decision and the opposite applies too. It isn't always obvious, but there is generally some indication there if I search for it. Something inside me knows.

So, I would say that if you felt better after saying no then it was the right thing to do. From your post it seems like the opposite was true at the thought of going on a date with this person, so it seems like you did what was right for you. When I look back on all the successful connections I've made with people over the years, they survived small missteps easily. On the other hand, situations with people that I'm not sure about have tended to readily falter.
posted by mewsic at 1:09 AM on June 13, 2014

You don't want to date this guy? Cancel the date.
At this point, all you need to say is "I don't want to date you."
No explanations required.
You don't want to is plenty enough.
posted by Pudhoho at 3:50 AM on June 13, 2014

Was his comment as weird as I thought it was?

Knowing that English isn't his first language, and can sometimes be a difficult language even for native speakers, I would probably have given him the benefit of the doubt. It's possible that he was being creepy and hiding behind the fa├žade of "I don't know how to say it properly", but I think it's also possible that he expressed his excitement in a clumsy way. He might be thinking "why would she agree to a date if she wasn't at least slightly into me", and assuming that if you weren't actually interested, you'd just say no.

Let's say I decided I did want a date with this seemingly nice, attractive person after all and was going to try to salvage the situation: what would you say if you were me?

You said, yes, then you said no. That's totally cool. You used your agency and said clearly what you want. If you say yes again now, looking at this from his POV, I would be raising my eyebrows and seriously considering what it was that was going on here. I don't think there are any words that would make me think that you were being serious, because I would have a voice in the back of my mind saying "is she going to blow me off again in an hour?".

You totally have the right to change your mind. You totally have the right to say "no". Absolutely exercise those rights as freely as you want to.

If you vacillate like you're doing now, you're going to put people off. I would think very carefully about asking for a date when you've already said yes and then no, because you've already set up the fact that your behaviour can be a little erratic.

Do you actually want to date this guy, right now? If he hadn't shown an interest in you first, would you even be remotely considering the idea of dating him? If you wouldn't, then don't attempt to set things up. He deserves someone who is into him, just like you do. It sounds like he wants to date you, and you don't actually care either way.

If nothing has changed in your personal circumstances, re:
"I am also somewhat overwhelmed with my life right now and the idea of getting together with someone I barely know for a date was anxiety-inducing when I was thinking about it this morning."
then consider whether or not you're going to have the same problem all over again. Maybe wait until things have calmed down first, so you can give any new relationship your all and go into it sure that you want to have it.
posted by Solomon at 4:38 AM on June 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think the language barrier may have played a significant role in him writing some things that were clearly awkward and maybe creepy. I think this ship has sailed and you don't need to worry about it, and you weren't too jazzed about going on a date with him anyway so who cares.

You can't write him and change your mind. I mean, you can do whatever you want, but as I understand it you said "I don't want to go on a date with you" rather than "I'm all tied up on Thursday but maybe some other time" -- so, yeah, there's no good way to take that back. You don't want to tell him you thought he was creepy but now aren't so sure and he might not be a creepster after all so you're willing to give it a shot because you're indecisive.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:10 AM on June 13, 2014

Maybe the guy is just a little awkward? Good Lord, it's just a date. You can go and then say you're not interested afterwards. Are you worried he's secretly an axe-murderer and you're not going to make it back alive? I really don't get all the stress over this.

I think you are way, way, way overthinking that comment about liking you. He's not asking you to marry him. He had probably been thinking about asking you out for a while, and was glad that you accepted. I don't think it means anything more than that, although expressed in a somewhat awkward manner.
posted by Leatherstocking at 5:13 AM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

What have you lost? Nothing. If the comment gave you the creeps, you were right to call it off.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:22 AM on June 13, 2014

There's a difference between "like" and "am interested in" in this context. No one goes on dates with people they aren't interested in (or at least they shouldn't), so the latter is true here. But would you understand the fine difference between the implications of those two similar expressions in your second language? I doubt it.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:28 AM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Just a short update: My feeling after the unanimous comments to leave it alone is one of relief. So I guess that's my answer that I did the right thing.

I am a little surprised by how the word "creepy" is getting thrown around--I didn't find it creepy at all (I still think he is probably a sweet guy), just off putting.

The discussion about his comment is interesting and made me realize that it doesn't necessarily matter whether I am right or wrong about what he meant or why he said it. There have been too many times when I have ignored something early on that made me uncomfortable because it seemed like such a little thing--and then it would turn out that the discomfort would fester and it wasn't such a little thing at all. So all in all learning to go with my gut is a good thing; there's no requirement to be "fair" to the other party.
posted by picardythird at 11:35 AM on June 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

Sweet and creepy are not mutually exclusive.

Creepy to me means oblivious boundary-crossing as much as it means purposeful boundary crossing. Sweet and clingy and really nice and romanccccey kind of guys can definitely be creepy and I think it's a fair use of the term. Why else would it be instinctively "off-putting" in your gut? If you just don't want to disappoint someone who's more into you than you are into them, that's fair. That's nice of you. But if you're like, "This guy is clearly going to misjudge how much I like him and err on the side of too much despite my signals and it will make me uncomfortable because I will have to keep turning him down and he may not get it" -well, to me that's pretty much within creepy territory. If he backs off when you say no, it's a good sign. That's why you reevaluated, no? Because he did back off and now you're thinking maybe he does listen or "get it."

But I am not one of those people who thinks "creepy" is a dirty shaming word so take my opinion with a grain of salt.
posted by quincunx at 12:17 PM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

So all in all learning to go with my gut is a good thing; there's no requirement to be "fair" to the other party.

Well, I don't know, I think calling off a social engagement you initially agreed to for such a flaky reason is pretty rude. If you agree to something (especially as low-stakes as a first date), it's usually good form to follow through with it, barring some emergency, unforeseen circumstance, or new information (e.g., you've discovered that he's married or a convicted criminal).

First of all, your "gut" is overrated. George W. Bush operated by his gut all the time, and look where that got us. We have brains for a reason.

Secondly, there is a requirement to be fair to other people. That's called having manners; being polite, thoughtful and considerate; and being an asset rather than a drag on society.

His polite response to your cancelling out on him shouldn't be construed as validation for your rudeness.
posted by Leatherstocking at 3:47 PM on June 13, 2014

I don't think listening to your gut is "overrated" at all, but I do think you're at a point where what's done is done. If you'd flaked for unrelated reasons and knew you really wanted to go out with this guy despite screwing him over, I would say, yeah, just explain or make up a white lie about it and go get that guy! But it's pretty clear that you're not interested in this guy. And you shouldn't date people you're not interested in just out of "fairness".
posted by Sara C. at 3:51 PM on June 13, 2014

Update: I am feeling better about the strength of my gut in this case, as the guy just sent me a "But why???" email coupled with a request for reconsideration, saying we don't have to spend much time and he'd "go however [I] want to go."
posted by picardythird at 10:49 AM on June 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

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