Care to play Cyrano?
August 20, 2014 11:13 AM   Subscribe

A dear friend is very anxious about writing someone who once declared his love yet who now ignores her. What might be the proper etiquette here?

Many years ago in college, while she was with someone, a mutual acquaintance casually mentioned one day, "You know, I've always had a huge crush on you." She was so shocked that she doesn't recall how she responded. They moved to different parts of the country soon after without ever having another chance to speak and she's thought of him many times over the year.

Fast forward to three months ago when she found him on facebook and and sent a brief note, which he ignored. He's single and facebook indicated he received it so she's naturally wondering what might be going on for him. It wouldn't be like her to say something hurtful after his declaration but she's even considering hypnosis to find out! We friends are encouraging her to tell him how she feels but she's terrified of appearing to be "a stalker." We think that his heartfelt statement forever exempts her from this possibility. She seems to have decided to write again but she's having trouble putting her feelings down. Would you write a second time and, if so, what might you actually say?
posted by R2WeTwo to Writing & Language (56 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I don't quite understand. How does she feel about him?

It seems to me that the ball is in his court not hers. If he doesn't return the serve, them's the breaks.
posted by Think_Long at 11:17 AM on August 20, 2014 [9 favorites]

A dear friend is very anxious about writing someone who once declared his love yet who now ignores her. What might be the proper etiquette here?

I'd tell her to write the letter with pen and paper, read it a few times and then throw it into a fire.

Sometimes you don't get to feel good about things; doing the right thing means you don't get what you want.
posted by mhoye at 11:17 AM on August 20, 2014 [13 favorites]

Wait I'm confused, what does she want? Is she just curious about his life or does she want to ask him out or something? What ARE her feelings?

If she really just wants to know what's up with him, then I definitely wouldn't write again. He knows she contacted him, he chose not to respond. If she wants to profess her love for him, then she's just going to have to put herself out there and be prepared for rejection (or no response).
posted by brainmouse at 11:18 AM on August 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

What she should say depends on what sort of response she wants to elicit. What sort of response does she want to elicit?

That said, I don't mind the "throw it into a fire" suggestion.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:18 AM on August 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't write him a second time. If he's read what she wrote and ignored it, it wouldn't be worth my time to be bothered any further with whatever might be going on inside his head. Also many years have passed and things change over time.
posted by SillyShepherd at 11:18 AM on August 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yeah. Don't reach out any further. Ew.
posted by jbenben at 11:18 AM on August 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

He had a crush on her in college "many years ago" and now lives in a different part of the country? I have to say, I would be a bit weirded out if a crush from ages ago showed up online and declared his/her devotion to me, based on something I said so long ago. There are other fish in the sea. Local fish.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:19 AM on August 20, 2014 [14 favorites]

If she and this former classmate are not friends on Facebook, the likelihood of him seeing her message is very small because of the filtering preferences Facebook makes available to users when it comes to receiving messages from non-friends. If they are friends and he's ignoring her, she needs to respect the boundary he's set. Period.

If it were me, I would be encouraging this friend to stop living in the past and curb her dramatic, romantic views of what she seems to think is a love lost. I would also encourage you and her friends to stop indulging this airy fairy approach to reconnecting with classmates. It sounds like she only wants to connect with him to stroke her ego about him having a long ago crush on her. You are all grown ups now. Stop playing college-level games.
posted by Hermione Granger at 11:20 AM on August 20, 2014 [10 favorites]

We friends are encouraging her to tell him how she feels but she's terrified of appearing to be "a stalker." We think that his heartfelt statement forever exempts her from this possibility.

This is not true; off-hand comments do not then free the other person of all social norms for communication. Please do not encourage this sort of obsessive thinking in the future.

She seems to have decided to write again but she's having trouble putting her feelings down. Would you write a second time and, if so, what might you actually say?

I would not write again. I have, unfortunately, both sent and received such messages; they are almost never responded to. That is the stopping point.
posted by RainyJay at 11:24 AM on August 20, 2014 [6 favorites]

Facebook relationship statuses aren't always updated/accurate. Just because some tick box on the internet says he's single, doesn't mean he really is. (Or that he would still be interested in her... if that's what she wants?)

She should consider his non-response a polite "no thanks, I'd rather not get back in touch with you right now."
posted by snorkmaiden at 11:24 AM on August 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

Jeez, no. Just because someone says they had a crush on you "many years ago" does not give your friend free rein to keep contacting him if he's already ignored her once.

She saw him online, got a free bite at the apple to drop a note, got dissed. End of story. Move on.

Having a crush on someone in college is pretty much nothing; I'd certainly be loath to have people I had crushes on--even declared having crushes on--hounding me today.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:26 AM on August 20, 2014 [10 favorites]

We don't actually know that he ignored her. I have sent messages to people on Facebook only to hear back a month later "Oh hey, I don't really do Facebook, sorry, just saw this!" It's easy to accidentally click on the message box and get the message a "received" tag without really reading/processing the message. It is not a reliable method of communication. We also have no idea what's going on with his life. Not everyone in the world updates their status when they start dating someone new. And he could very well have any number of things going on that places "Facebook message from someone I knew years ago" in a low priority category for spending time reading, much less responding. While she is clearly obsessing over this, it may not really even be on his radar.

Regardless, I would let this go unless and until he chooses to write back. This is a random person who once had a crush on you in college. If every person I had a crush on before the age of 22 decided they now suddenly wanted to start up a relationship with me...well, there would be a lot of people, and I would also have absolutely no interest in dating any of them. (Not because they are bad people! Just...most people change a lot as they get older, we move on, etc.) I think it's fine to throw a dart and the dartboard and see if there is a response, but it is not okay to continue to contact the person if they do not actively choose to engage, for whatever small or large reasons they might have to do so.

Also: I am curious what is up with your friend if she is seriously considering hypnosis to determine if she hurt someone's feelings YEARS AGO. It strikes me that there is probably something else going on with her that should really be the thing she is dealing with. It's not really your job to uncover this, but I don't think a gentle "What is this really about?" is misplaced.
posted by rainbowbrite at 11:28 AM on August 20, 2014 [6 favorites]

He's not interested in communicating with her, not even to say hi. Don't involve yourself, except to express empathy about her disappointment.
posted by wryly at 11:28 AM on August 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

If they are not Facebook friends yet, her message likely went to his "Others" inbox which no one ever checks.

If she hasn't seen him over the past year, the person she's been thinking of is not the real him but her idea of him. She's not longing for an actual person but for the road not taken.

A friend request and a message saying "Hi, how's it going, what have you been up to, I've been up to (list no more than 3 things), how about you?" is the extent of what's appropriate. If he remains silent, there's your answer. If ignored, she shouldn't renew the friend request. Her instincts about coming across as "a stalker" are probably correct.

Before you or your friends encourage her further, please consider that real people's actual feelings could get hurt here.
posted by Pallas Athena at 11:31 AM on August 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

We friends are encouraging her to tell him how she feels but she's terrified of appearing to be "a stalker." We think that his heartfelt statement forever exempts her from this possibility

Stop that. Trying to reach him past the point you describe is inappropriate and you're not being good friends to her by encouraging her, and you're not doing him any favors either. An offhand remark many years ago doesn't give anyone carte blanche to repeatedly bug someone with romantic intent.
posted by griphus at 11:32 AM on August 20, 2014 [9 favorites]

OK, so me. I can count on numerous fingers, though less than a full hand, the number of times this has come up in my life. I feel I am qualified to answer this question.

Here's a flow chart:

Does she have a good reason for contacting him?
No, just curious about how he is doing.
Friend on facebook, do not send message, let him make next move.
Ish, want to apologize for not responding better several years ago.
Do not friend, do not message, this would be 100% about you and would be a lame/selfish reason to contact him.
Yes, something came up recently that reminded her of him, and she wants to be friends.
Send facebook message saying "hey, saw this thing, reminded me of you, etc."
Yes, want to declare romantic intentions.
Will you be in the same city soon?
Yes: send message, ask out for drink, ball is in his court.

No: step away from the computer, this is not helpful for anyone. Do not send a message, just move on.

posted by phunniemee at 11:33 AM on August 20, 2014 [15 favorites]

I think you, her friends, are giving her bad advice. Very bad advice. Telling him how she feels will accomplish nothing. If he was open to ANY sort of friendship or relationship with her he would have replied to the message. He didn't, so he isn't. She needs to respect that. An message from a person you don't want any contact with is always going to be an unwanted message, heartfelt or not.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:33 AM on August 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

Y'all are elevating this to crazy extremes. "his heartfelt statement forever exempts her from this possibility"? The possibility of being a stalker? Because he once essentially said she was kind of cute?

It's not heartfelt. In college guy speak, what he said was "I'd have sex with you" not "we shall be bonded together for the ages by a mystic thread of finest gossamer."

He probably didn't get her message if they aren't facebook friends (it goes to a buried folder if his settings let him receive it at all), but if she wrote him in iambic pentameter he might just be all whoa, nope.

What is it exactly that she "feels" for this guy? She doesn't know him, so she can't love him or even be interested in him. She can have fantasies about him, which you guys seem to be feeding into.

Is this some sort of group psychosis? Stop tormenting your friend, find something else to keep you all busy.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:39 AM on August 20, 2014 [21 favorites]

Response by poster: Sorry I wasn't clear. The thing I left out is because it's so much a part of our discussion. She definitely does have feelings for him.
posted by R2WeTwo at 11:48 AM on August 20, 2014

It sounds from the question that she is going to write anyhow. I agree with the comments arguing that, rather than rejecting her, the guy may just have forgotten to reply to his FB Other Messages.

It is worth either a follow-up "hey what's up" message, and after that, nothing ever again. I would console your friend that only upon sending a third message will she need to fear being seen as having chosen the path of the stalker.

However, if we are going by the title of your question, and she wants to go large because you only live once, she could just channel the letter from Jane Austen's book Persuasion.

“I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death [BE SURE TO SWAP THIS PART]. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in F. W."
posted by johngoren at 11:48 AM on August 20, 2014 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: I'm surprised by the responses. Her message three months ago was a casual, "Are you the Bill who went to...." Perhaps he felt this was TOO casual after his declaration and ignored it for this reason but might respond differently to something real. This is how we—her friends—see it. I fear I've not conveyed the situation clearly at all.
posted by R2WeTwo at 11:51 AM on August 20, 2014

Even if she has feelings for him - they are not requited. They are connected on FB, so he knows how to use a computer and where to reach her - and he hasn't. He made a throwaway comment about an attraction to her in the past and never followed up with it. He sounds like he's a flirt with no interest in pursuing anything. Even if he does respond to a flowery letter, does she really want to have to cajole him into dating her? Please make her watch the Sex and the City episode of "He's Just Not That Into You" before moving forward.
posted by whenbynowandtreebyleaf at 11:51 AM on August 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

She definitely does have feelings for him.

Like Lyn Never said, she does not have feelings for him. She has feelings for the guy who he was many years ago. Unless he's so unfortunate as to not have changed between college and now, he's very likely a much different person. It's not out of the ordinary that she could have feelings for the person he is now if she were to get to know him, but as things stand you and your friends are encouraging her to pursue a crush on a dude who doesn't exist.
posted by griphus at 11:52 AM on August 20, 2014 [15 favorites]

Continuing to contact someone who doesn't want to be in contact is always a terrible idea. His lack of a response was a clear, legitimate response (as cruel as that might be).
posted by marimeko at 11:52 AM on August 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm surprised by the responses. Her message three months ago was a casual, "Are you the Bill who went to...." Perhaps he felt this was TOO casual after his declaration and ignored it for this reason but might respond differently to something real. This is how we—her friends—see it. I fear I've not conveyed the situation clearly at all.

His "declaration"?

"I have a crush on you" is not a proposal of marriage, undying devotion, or anything of the kind. In college, as stated above, it basically means "you are nice and I would fuck you."

And no sane individual who WAS in five-years-later love with her despite never reaching out to her once would think "the love of my life messaged me, but it was too casual, so I will not respond!" Like, what?

She should friend him on Facebook if she hasn't already, because it is possible that he never got her message in the first place, but I would bet $100 that he has not given her a passing thought in the past year.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:54 AM on August 20, 2014 [11 favorites]

I'm sorry, but this whole thing is kind of blowing my mind. This feels like a big pile of drama mongering. Even your phrasing and the way you wrote this question makes this out to sound way more dramatic and akin to a romance novel instead of a situation rooted in reality.

1. Telling someone they have a crush on them is not "declaring their love for them".
2. "his heartfelt statement forever exempts her from this possibility" is buckets of crazy. He said he had a crush on her, and you think that now obligates him to interract with her whether he wants to or not? Or maybe you think that obligates him to act on those feelings that he probably doesn't have anymore? Either way, that is insane.
3. If she wants to contact him to tell him she now has a crush on him.... what the hell! She hasn't spoken to him in ages, has had no contact, so what could a crush possibly be based upon?! This is years ago. YEARS. Just because he once said that he had a crush on her doesn't mean he MUST still harbour feelings for her. Again, this does not feel rooted in reality. If there was any chance he still harboured any feelings for her he would have replied to her message, lickety split. But he didn't. That is a clear message. Take it for what it blatantly is.

And I know you feel you don't think you communicated clearly what the situation is, but I actually think you did. You have basically described a situation you and your friends are working extremely hard to read so much in to this situation that you are convinced there is some romance novel story line at play. I'm sorry, but there isn't.

Here is what your story actually is:
YEARS ago he said he had a crush. YEARS later she contacted him and he didn't reply.
The end.

And I am not trying to be mean or harsh. This kind of thing is something I fell victim to when I was younger. I really hope I can help you to skip all the insanity I had to go through in order to learn the lesson that life is not a romance novel, people are usually pretty cut and dry, and that exaggerating things (ie. thinking a crush = declaration of love) and reading so much in to things is the way to upset and hurt feelings and (frankly) coming off nuts.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:55 AM on August 20, 2014 [19 favorites]

Perhaps he felt this was TOO casual after his declaration and ignored it for this reason but might respond differently to something real.

Most people who get a super intense message after a many-year separation don't see it as "something real" but as "something crazy". This would set off too many alarm bells.

Have your friend just friend request him and reconnect naturally. She doesn't get to act like this is a second chance to respond to his college confession.
posted by Think_Long at 11:56 AM on August 20, 2014 [5 favorites]

Perhaps he felt this was TOO casual after his declaration

I've got to agree with some people that you are overplaying this "declaration". It was a casual mention of a crush (I could not agree more with Lyn Never's assessment of it as "he once essentially said she was kind of cute"), not a heartfelt outpouring of love. There is a 99% chance he only sort of meant it then and has forgotten about it by now. You guys are overplaying this like crazy.
posted by brainmouse at 11:56 AM on August 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

Given the exact content of her Facebook message, an extra question comes up: is she sure he is the Bill who went to ...? If it's possible he isn't, his non-response could well mean "Um, no, I'm not that Bill."
posted by snorkmaiden at 11:56 AM on August 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

Perhaps he felt this was TOO casual after his declaration and ignored it for this reason but might respond differently to something real. This is how we—her friends—see it. I fear I've not conveyed the situation clearly at all.

You've conveyed the situation with perfect clarity. Take it from a guy who went to college and probably said something along those lines to any number of young women: something more "real" would be incredibly offputting if something casual was ignored. If you have no proof he's playing hard to get save for what y'all want to be the case, then you can be reasonably sure he's not waiting for her to say the magic words.
posted by griphus at 11:57 AM on August 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

He did not make a declaration. He once said a thing that people say all the time in a passing way.

YEARS have passed. He is not interested in her. He never really was.

Your refusal to understand that this was casual talk and not a commitment made to last multiple lifetimes scares me for your friend.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:58 AM on August 20, 2014 [14 favorites]

She definitely does have feelings for him.

A lot of times, when single and in your coughcough20s and surrounded by happy fucking people getting fucking married and having chubby fucking babies errday, your brain will latch onto people/things from your past that sort of worked or could have worked or that were at least nice to you.

That dude who used to take the train at the same time as you who smiled at you once? TOTAL missed opportunity, you could have been married by now.

High school boyfriend of two months who wrote you absolutely horrendous poetry who was unbearably clingy at the time? UGH, if he didn't have twins due in a month you would so jump that shit.

Guy from college who straight up told you he liked you? THAT ONE IS FOR SURE A LOCK, no way to fail there, never mind that it was 6 years ago and you haven't spoken to him since and anyway you barely knew him even then.

My point is, this is a pretty normal and shitty thing that brains do when they're lonely and bored. Please encourage your friend to date realistically obtainable people and to form relationships based on reality and not pretend wondervisions of things based on fantasy. Exactly like Lyn Never said, your friend does not know this person, not any more at least, and her feelings aren't based on anything substantive. She's not crazy or delusional, she's just operating at the whims of douchebag brain chemistry.

What you should do for your friend is take her out on a pretty day and take a bunch of bomb ass photos of her for her new OKC profile which you will help her set up, and encourage her to go out and get some strange and forget about this college guy.

I mean, she can send him facebook messages if she wants, but it's really and truly a longshot.
posted by phunniemee at 12:01 PM on August 20, 2014 [45 favorites]

Perhaps he felt this was TOO casual after his declaration and ignored it for this reason but might respond differently to something real.

As in: "Many years ago in college, I told this woman I had a crush on her. Now she's found me again, but only wants to know if I'm the same person she thinks I am. And I am! But while I've continued to pine for her since then, her email was so off the cuff that, despite my continued interest, I will ignore it on principle. All those years of unrequited longing wasted! Alas!"

I really don't think that's likely. Kids in college say all sort of ish. Your friend should move on and you should stop encouraging her to dwell in this fantasy.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:03 PM on August 20, 2014 [8 favorites]

I have had HUGE crushes on many, many people over the years. The vast majority of those people, I would not now consider dating, much less long-distance dating. Are you seriously suggesting that you would date everyone you have ever crushed on?

What makes this guy better than every single man in your friend's actual town?
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:07 PM on August 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

Crush vs. huge crush. Yikes.

For heaven's sake already, if she's FB friends she should write, "WHAZZUP?" on his wall with a picture of a funny cat and see if he responds.

If they're not FB friends she should STEP AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER and move on with her life.

People say all sorts of stupid stuff in college. And after college. And before college. You can't hold him to anything.

It's nuts to recall a line from years ago and try to make it into something dramatic and a Hugh Grant/Julia Roberts movie.

**and not everyone checks FB or their messages that often, if he hasn't responded I go back to just drop it. This isn't some epic love affair.
posted by kinetic at 12:09 PM on August 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

Mod note: A couple of comments deleted. OP, don't fight with people offering advice; just take the suggestions that seem helpful and ignore the rest, this isn't supposed to be a debate or a chat.
posted by taz (staff) at 12:13 PM on August 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

No matter how serious he was at the time - and certainly, I was very seriously and unrequitedly in love with someone in college - it's been years. From your other questions, you are of an age to be married and have kids, so you're at least in your late twenties, maybe in your thirties. No matter how strong and sincere his feelings were at the time, your friend can't just drop back in to his life, or expect him to welcome her with open arms.

Consider - I was just thinking of my sad unrequited college love the other day. Now, I loved this person, and it altered my character immeasurably for the better. I still miss them. I still think it would have been awesome to have given things a shot in college. But this person has a life now - a career far away, a history of life experiences very different from mine, a community also far away, life-changing family events. I have had my experiences. We no longer have the shared life of college, the shared intellectual obsessions, etc. Instead, we have many years of becoming other people who no longer have shared lives. While it would be cool and awesome and romance-novel-like if they moved back to town and we ran into each other at the bookstore and hit it off and got together, I would never actively pursue or wish for such a thing. It would be just like wishing that I'd run into [random famous intellectual] and we'd hook up - it's a fantasy based on my projections about what they're like. It's a cute daydream, but it is vanishingly unlikely in real life, to the point where it's not even something you'd actually wish for. Like, I don't wish that I could become Judith Butler's younger girlfriend, even though she's cute and brilliant - that's an idle daydream, not a wish.

And lord knows, although I had a lot more that a crush on College Person, I would be very, very weirded out if they came back into my life and assumed that I had been pining away for them all these years.
posted by Frowner at 12:16 PM on August 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

I remember saying that sort of thing in my late teens and early 20s, and I can't say that I still have feelings for any of the people I said it to at the time. I would be perfectly happy to have one of those people say hi, how're you doing, what're you up to, but I would be uncomfortable if I knew that years and years later, any of them would be apt to describe themselves as "having feelings for me". I have fond memories of them, but I don't still have feelings for them, and more than that, I don't even still know them.

Reconnecting is a different thing from going into it like there are already feelings on the line. I have a family member in her 60s who is now living with the guy who was her boyfriend in or shortly after college, and they're deliriously happy about this, but when they reconnected it was just as friends for several years before they established that, yes, the thing that had felt possible when they were younger was still possible.

If your friend reaches out with just being friendly and doesn't get equal excitement from the other party, then reaching out romantically is not appropriate.
posted by Sequence at 12:18 PM on August 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

guy may just have forgotten to reply to his FB Other Messages

This is the Occam's razor answer to this question. Any message from someone you're not friends with goes into the Other category, and Facebook does not flag messages in the Other tab or send you any kind of alert. A few weeks ago an acquaintance wrote me back about a message I'd sent her six months ago that had been sitting in her Other folder, and that she didn't even see after we'd mutually Friended each other and exchanged several messages.

In fact, I just opened up my own Other folder, and there's a message in there from someone from the Rescue Org we got our dog from asking how she is. Apparently it was sent in June. Who knew.
posted by deludingmyself at 12:34 PM on August 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

We friends are encouraging her to tell him how she feels but she's terrified of appearing to be "a stalker." We think that his heartfelt statement forever exempts her from this possibility

This is madness, you are all giving her terrible advice.

Actually you are getting defensive enough over this that I am starting to suspect that the "friend" is really just you. Either way, leave it alone, he hasn't been in a prolonged decades-long sense of longing and despair; he probably doesn't even remember the incident. Not because your friend is unmemorable but because IT WAS COLLEGE.

Also tbh I would feel a little creepy if the guy responded and said unironically something like I'VE WAITED SO LONG, because that kind of obsession isn't healthy for anyone.
posted by elizardbits at 12:38 PM on August 20, 2014 [12 favorites]

Would you be able to tell us how far "back then" is? It would be relevant to the answers to know how long ago that person said those words.
posted by griphus at 12:42 PM on August 20, 2014

Facebook is a red herring.

I've run into old crushes in real life, in person, all "ohhh... hey" with someone I was head over heels crushing on in college. Ten years on, I just wanted to run away. I was cringing at the thought of being around this person. God forbid, his friends had told him my fervent admissions of a having had a crush meant he could call me, message me, pursue hypnotherapy to find out how he'd made me feel...

Whatever happened in college, was in college. Whatever didn't happen in college, never happened at all. If they had gotten together, they could still have drifted apart, and he could still be the one that got away.

Your friend needs to focus on the future, on new opportunities.
posted by RainyJay at 12:47 PM on August 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Mod note: R2WeTwo, please see email and do not get in arguments with mods in here.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:47 PM on August 20, 2014

I'm super confused about how the supposed casual nature of the message would be responsible for the lack of response. What would that have to do with it? If his response to such a message is to think 'Well, that was way too casual-- I'll bide my time to see if she sends something more formal, perhaps with her family's seal' then that is a person to be avoided.

If it is in fact the same dude, he may not remember your friend from college in 1936 or whenever-- or if he does, he is almost certainly an entirely different person. If he's not an entirely different person than he was in college, then that is a person to be avoided.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:50 PM on August 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

Perhaps he felt this was TOO casual after his declaration

I had crushes on a lot of people back in college, and told some of them about it, too. I would be beyond flabbergasted if any of them decided that umpteen years later, when we've not been in contact at all, I feel the same way and would unquestionably welcome a comeback from a former crush. I no longer have crushes on any of the people I had crushes on back then.

Y'all need to quit it. Seriously. You are giving her bad advice. My only caveat would be if by "many years ago" you mean like two.
posted by rtha at 12:56 PM on August 20, 2014 [7 favorites]

OP, I am suggest something that I rarely suggest to people in real life, or in metafilter, even though this is a metafilter trope at this point.

If this were my friend, some of the questions that I would ask are: Why is your friend reaching out now/responding to the statement from several years ago vs. the moment many years ago? I would wonder if something else is going in her life (anxiety about other areas of life, dissatisfaction, etc.).

If your friend truly wants to pursue this lost love, instead, I would recommend that she works on getting the skills that she might not have had several years ago now, which is responding in the moment to a crush comment if she has mutual feelings. This would likely require therapy, or some way to improve communication skills. Because one of the few ways that I can interpret this is she also had a crush and wants to respond now, many years later?

Then she can do two things to address that pent up anxiety, either now or post-therapy:

-Okay, write a letter to that person (but you don't have to send it). Maybe she write the letter to him with the things she wanted to say in the past, then she can write back a reply with her older post-therapy self as to waht lessons she has learned and how she will respond in the future. But you don't have to mail things, just write them out to address her feelings.The real person she is conversing with at this self is her own brain.

-Make friends and date locally.

I do understand the voices in your head and the emotions that one can create in the head by just following those same neural pathways, but ... I think her anxiety/need to reach out the person now could be used to propel her in a direction taht doesn't get attachment to the person in the past, but a person who might be looking for what she is looking for right now.
posted by Wolfster at 1:24 PM on August 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

We think that his heartfelt statement forever exempts her from this possibility.

No. No no no no no. Every single one of us has made heartfelt declarations at some point in our lives, especially at that age. That does not mean we are actually obliged to abide by said declarations for the rest of our lives, nor that the people who were within earshot of said declarations get to enforce them.

What would you advise your friend if she were tracking down, say, her college roommate who declared "we'll be friends forever!" at some point? Would you tell your friend that sometimes friendships actually don't last forever and people move on, and that she needs to accept it? Or would you actually feel that her roommate would in fact be obliged to be her friend forever because of something she said at age 19?
posted by scody at 1:52 PM on August 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

Hey, a dude did this to me once. Once upon a time, I was a teenager who blushed terribly and told him, "You know, I've always had a huge crush on you" when his band played their last show. We didn't interact again at all after that night. But fully seven years later, he texted me -- I've had the same phone number for 15 years -- "you know, I've always had a huge crush on you, too." I ignored it because a) what the hell and b) I didn't recognize the number, but he kept pinging me every few days. Then I got all seriously who is this and what on earth are you talking about, and he told me, but when I stopped responding again, he didn't back down, he escalated. Indeed, when I was fed up to a point that I had to remind him I'd said that when I was 19 and I am definitely not 19 anymore, he responded, and I quote (NB this is horrible, no one should ever say this to another person ever): "What, don't I get your kitten purring anymore?"

So seven years after we last set eyes on each other, dude was still seriously expecting me to, I guess, pick up where I'd left off in that shitty dive bar all those years ago. That's not romantic or star-crossed, it's nutty. It's nutty, it's gross, and it's insulting. That a now-stranger could feel so entitled to my attention and reaction almost a decade after we were even acquainted, just because I'd once told him that I liked him, was quite a shock. It just defies common sense. Being attracted to someone at a given time does not mean you will be attracted to them in perpetuity, just as sleeping with someone once does not mean you have agreed to sleep with them whenever they want you to put out, forever. Years pass, most everything changes, we grow up, we push ahead, and we move on.

You know yourself, you know how much your life has changed over all those many years, and you know how much your friend's life has changed during those years, too. So why do you think he hasn't changed at all, that there's still a chance he's just been quietly pining away for her all along? Why is his life crystallized circa 2003 (or whatever), why are his thoughts and feelings necessarily exempt from the passage of time? Why does telling her that he had a crush on her in college mean that he is somehow duty-bound to acquiesce to her wishes to re-engage in a friendship or relationship at this point in time? That a dude would be, "many years ago," duly moved to confess he had a crush on her did not create any kind of permanent connection between them. His sentiments and feelings were not enshrined in amber for future generations to admire. And her sentiments and feelings are all for a version of him that has not existed in years.

Don't tell your friend to treat this guy like a college kid and spill her guts in a letter, tell her to treat him like a grown-ass adult and leave him alone. If you were my friend, I would want you to give it to me straight: "Girl, I love you, and I know you mean well, but this is nutty. You don't know this dude at all. The years-old version of this guy you are so enthralled with -- the version that has a huge crush on (=/= is in love with) you, the version you now find retrospectively enchanting? He no longer exists. The person you're imagining is, for all intents and purposes, dead. Please reach out to the real, living, current people in your community instead. Now let's go have some daiquiris."
posted by divined by radio at 2:28 PM on August 20, 2014 [15 favorites]

We think that his heartfelt statement forever exempts her from this possibility.

"Held forever to the heartfelt statements you made in college" sounds like a very special circle of hell.
posted by mhoye at 2:36 PM on August 20, 2014 [25 favorites]

Sorry I wasn't clear. The thing I left out is because it's so much a part of our discussion. She definitely does have feelings for him.

I can't imagine how or why. She only found him 3 months ago and he's never responded back to her. Upon what could she possibly be basing these feelings?

It's best to walk away. There are local folks who would love to meet a fantastic person.

Clearly you have something invested in the hive-mind telling you to GO FOR IT! But trust me, that way lies madness. It's a fantasy.

This is a man who graduated and built a life in a completely different city. He's had other relationships and other events in his life that have changed him in a material way.

I've stayed in contact with folks from high school and college, and in some ways we can pick up where we left off, but mostly because I'VE STAYED IN CONTACT!

I don't know what kind of hubris is involved in thinking that a guy who once professed a crush would pine away for years afterwards, without trying to get in touch periodically, especially in this day and age.

I'd be shocked if this guy even remembers who your friend IS, let alone that he once had a crush on her. But even if he does, it doesn't automatically mean that he's in the right place to reconnect.

Let it go.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:50 PM on August 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

I made a confession or two in my youth. My long-ago youth, which happened about twelve lifetimes ago, to, essentially, another person. Those feelings are as gone, a memory, a memory of a memory.

I've recently been confessed at by people from waybackwhen. I said, "Aw, thanks, very sweet of you to say" and did what I could to avoid them thereafter. It's creepy, dude.
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:18 PM on August 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

She already came to a natural conclusion about this; even if I concurred with your conclusions I would not agree with your insistence that she follow your suggestions.
posted by sm1tten at 4:25 PM on August 20, 2014

"You know, I've always had a huge crush on you." is not a declaration of anything, certainly not 'love'. It's college guyspeak for: "I think you're cute. I'd like to have sex with you. More than once, preferably." It also means he was probably, at that time, open to getting to know one another more and open to what may naturally follow. It does not mean he was in love with her - real life is not a Shakespearean romance.

My favorite part of this question though is the assumption that this guy was so head over heels for your friend (although only acquaintances) that he waited "many years" nursing this one-sided crush and never moved on with his life. Nope, despite moving clear across the country, he's been sitting around for years just waiting for your friend to finally see the light and seek him out - he knew she'd return his feelings some day.

Now, I'm sure your friend is a lovely person and all, but this entire thing is ridiculous. FWIW, I'm a guy and were I in this situation, I would think your friend was a crazy, hard-up stalker - the equivalent of the washed-up 'football star' from high school browsing through his black book so he can try to booty-call the girls that were nice to him or he fooled around with but who he hadn't spoke to since.

Leave this guy alone. I assure you, he has moved on and your friend (and you/other friends) should do the same.
posted by stubbehtail at 4:53 PM on August 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

Agreeing with what others have said here, particularly Lyn Never -- your friend has come to the correct conclusion, that she has done what she can do and should now walk away until/unless he responds to her message. Which she should in no way sit around waiting for, but should get on with her actual life, not her fantasy life about someone the way he was years and years ago.

Stop encouraging your friend to take this any further, and if this is actually a big group friend discussion as it seems to be, the best thing you could do for your friend would be to do some dialing-back or distracting. No good is going to come of some groupthink pressure into having her do something inappropriate that she is not comfortable doing.
posted by Stacey at 5:28 PM on August 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm going WAY against the grain here, but I think your friend should just go ahead and send him another message if she's so intent on doing so. What are the stakes here? Pretty much nil. It's very unlikely that she'll get anything out of it and she should not expect that she will, but it couldn't hurt to say something. She could say something like, "I realize that this might sound awkward, but I don't really have anything to lose here so I'm just gonna say it. I'm sorry that we didn't get to know each other better in college, because you seemed like a great guy and honestly, I'd be curious to catch up. [Insert plausible explanation for why she is thinking about him so many years after the fact.] If you are interested in reconnecting, I'd love to talk. Otherwise, feel free to ignore this." She can follow that up with a friend request.

If he doesn't respond after she says that (which it is very likely he won't), she seriously needs to learn from it and move on.
posted by cosmicbeast at 6:02 PM on August 20, 2014

So once upon a time in high school, when I was a dumb teen, I made a choice between the kind of dorky guy my own age who was sweet and cute but not who I thought I should be dating, and the sexy older guy who was coming on like a freight train.

Six or seven years later, I met up with the formerly dorky guy again. And he was hot, and sexy, and still sweet, and wicked smart, and I'd always kind of felt bad about what I said to him. So I went for it - I told him I'd be interested in dating him, that I felt terrible for what I had done, etc.

And it didn't happen. He said I was really attractive, that he wouldn't mind dating me in other circumstances, but the time that passed and how he'd gotten shut down meant that he hadn't really considered me as a possibility and had gotten over it.

Sometimes things happen that you wish you'd done differently. But you can't always take them back. The ball is in his court. If he doesn't want to contact her, that is his prerogative.
posted by corb at 10:52 AM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

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