... I'm probably overthinking this.
October 15, 2014 5:01 AM   Subscribe

I am a single woman, all of whose straight male friends are taken. I find that this is the only kind of opposite-sex friendship I can cultivate, but when the guys in question are single, it's different story. I find it difficult to get to know or be friends with guys when they're single and I'm single. Thought I'd ask the Hivemind for your ideas.

I grew up with 2 brothers, but I didn't really mix with guys outside the family as a kid (went to an all-girls school).

I date around casually but am not in an established relationship at the moment. Currently all my male friends are either gay, or are the partners of friends or married co-workers so the lines are very clear.

There are a few guys I've met recently through friends or extended circles whom I don't want to date but they're nice people whom I'd like to get to know better. But they happen to be single, and straight. (One of the guys in question is a distant friend's ex, so I really don't want him, his ex, or anyone in our shared circles thinking I'm actually interested in him. More drama than it's worth.)

I am not sure how to approach these single, ostensibly straight guys while making it clear I'm only interested in hanging out. I'm very used to Facebooking a woman or a gay man going "It was so nice to see you at X's party, let's grab a coffee when you're free" but I feel like saying the same thing as a single straight woman to a single straight man would read as "Let's go on a date"? While at the same time it would be really awkward and embarrassing to say "I'm not interested in you romantically"?

I feel a bit stupid asking this question, this feels a bit like Socialising 101 but for some reason I've just never mastered this.
posted by sockandawe to Human Relations (16 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Would it really be that awkward and embarrassing to say "I'm not interested in you romantically"?

I'm a woman in my early 20s. I'm a gregarious, moderately attractive person. If I spend time with single straight men, I know my behavior can come off as flirtatious. The only way for me to be unambiguous about my intentions (or lackthereof) with single straight men is to be unambiguous. Some people find my saying "I enjoy spending time with you but I'm not interested in a romantic relationship with you" a bit brusque but it saves a lot of trouble in the long run.

Alternatively, if these are men you know through your social circles, could you continue to interact with them in decidedly unromantic group settings?
posted by quadrant seasons at 5:23 AM on October 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

What about inviting them to group hangouts, at least at first? I would find it weird if somebody preemptively announced that something wasn't romantic, even if it does make logical sense.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:30 AM on October 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yeah, the preemptive "I'm not interested in you romantically" is a bit unusual. It's like you're putting the cart before the horse in that he hasn't even expressed an interest in you, period.
If they drop the hint, you squash it immediately but with kindness and move on.

I'm with Sticherbeast in that I believe that group activities, MeetUps, or some such would be the way to go.
You get your single male friends itch scratched and there's no Is This A Date Or Is This Not A Date weirdness.
posted by John Kennedy Toole Box at 5:49 AM on October 15, 2014 [6 favorites]

To be fair, if quadrant seasons' strategy works for her, then maybe it's worthing adopting. As a straight male who was once single, I just haven't had to receive such preemptive notice myself. It will of course depend on manner and context - could be fine, or maybe not, it all depends.

Either way, after you get to know one another a bit, it'll be easier to arrange a non-date hangout, because hopefully you'll share a mutual understanding. If it's clear that you're not yet on the same page, then of course will be ways to dissuade or disengage.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:21 AM on October 15, 2014

Best answer: I've been on the receiving end of "I don't want to have sex with you" a few times. I was somewhat bothered by it. It seems a little presumptuous to me, almost like the person saying it is so full of themselves and sure of their attractiveness that the fact I'm taking to them means I want to have sex with them. I'm sure that people aren't generally doing it for that reason, but it does weird me out a little when it happens.

That said, if someone is actually flirting with you or otherwise displaying sexual interest, then it's good to make things clear. Saying it as part of your opening email invitation is perhaps a little premature.

Invitations to group things are a clear sign that you're not up for shenanigans. Or you could ask the person you're inviting to bring a friend along. Or go on non-date activities, like going to a football game or hiking or something, where there is a focus on something other than each other.

There are definitely guys out there who are going to think that you showing an interest in them means you want to have sex with them, and you're wise to be aware of them. Personally, I would avoid such people, rather than befriend them.
posted by Solomon at 7:17 AM on October 15, 2014 [8 favorites]

nthing invite the guys to group things.
posted by sweetkid at 7:19 AM on October 15, 2014

Group outings or hangouts leave much less to be misinterpreted, until you have a certain level of understanding with other single friends you don't want to date. "Let's grab drinks and play some Cards Against Humanity! We need at least 3 more people. Let's invite..." or "Let's rage!" or "Let's see who we run into at X-bar/y-coffeeshop/z-cooking party" are perfectly acceptable to me without being blunt.

One of my best friends is really into going out... she will unrelentingly invite people until they come out and have a good time until the wee hours of the morning. Obviously, she could go out into a sea of strangers and make new friends, but she's really cool about pulling her companions along for the ride. It's a social event that you'll remember. With her, I get the impression that she is going out to carve new experiences out of the night with friends, rather than singling me out to get to know me better or have sex.

Once you reach that friendship rapport and just do cool stuff (drunken cartwheel contest in parking lots at 4am!), those one-on-one catching-up-with-you coffee outings are much easier.
posted by TreeDodger at 8:02 AM on October 15, 2014

Only invite them to group events.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:13 AM on October 15, 2014

I think the key to getting to know these single, unattached men is to be explicit about your intentions when you invite them to one-on-one hangouts or group activities. Tell them you are looking for new friends or think this could be the start of an excellent friendship. You absolutely have to use the words "friends" or "friendship" to make your intentions clear; if you use any other language, these dudes may assume it's a date.
posted by emilynoa at 8:41 AM on October 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

You would think I'd be better at answering this question as I have a lot of female friends and I'm a single male.

I think the real answer is you have to befriend men who have no attraction to you. The women I'm friends with are people who I had no romantic interest in from the beginning or, shortly after meeting them, all romantic interest on my half died.

A lot of people, male and female, have no interest in being around people they are romantically interested in, but who aren't interested in them. It can be a painful experience. So, I'd just like to say if you find that some of these guys don't want to be your friend after you make it clear romance is off the table, please don't pull the "He's only interested in me for sex" thing as a way of insulting them.

Good luck.
posted by bswinburn at 9:30 AM on October 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd say whatever I wanted to say in the first place but casually add "if you are interested in a new friend" or "not as a date, just to hang out" somewhere in there. I get how there is the potential for offense but personally, if someone of the opposite gender facebooked me something like:

Hey Z, it was nice to meet you at X's party! I really enjoyed talking with you and would love to hang out again! Hope you are open to making a new friend? Coffee some time?

... I would feel that they are socially adroit rather than presumptuous or full of themselves.

Granted, there's no guarantee the guy will not misinterpret or willfully ignore your "friendzone prenup" anyway, but at least you've put it out there.
posted by rada at 9:40 AM on October 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sticking to group invites is one way to get the result you're trying to achieve, but I also don't think it's unreasonable to cultivate a one-on-one friendship with someone of a complementary gender/orientation if that's something you want. The key word you want here is "friend". I would say this is a signal of platonic interest that is pretty unambiguous to all but the most socially bumbling. Well, creepers might take the F-word as a challenge to play the Nice Guy game, but they'll do that anyway, right? Something like "It was great to meet you the other day, we should totally be friends!" seems to me like an effective way to communicate platonic interest to a good faith actor.

(Personally I believe that you should be friends with your sexual/romantic partners and that they're not mutually exclusive, but something about the word friend feels quite explicit to me.)
posted by threeants at 9:42 AM on October 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Seconding threeants. How about trying to insert small "friendship only" tokens into your conversations and interactions.

Use "friend" "dude" "bro" "buddy" (whatever is applicable to your geographic region and subculture).

Talk to these guys about dates you're going on, ask their opinions. Ask them if they know any single guys.

Don't flirt with them, obviously, and keep your interactions platonic.

There's no guarantee that this will deter them from being into you/possibly hoping you're into them, but it significantly decreases those chances. They're big boys, they can handle it from there and you shouldn't worry about it.
posted by christiehawk at 10:20 AM on October 15, 2014

I have a tendency to end up in bed with actual friends and I married a guy who was part of my gaming group. For that and other reasons, I don't think it even really works to decide up front that this is "NOT a romance, and never will be -- I just want to be friends." and, also, hanging out in a group setting is not some magic bullet that ensures no sparks will fly. So here is what I do:

I try to make it clear that I am looking for friendship. I try to find ways to reassure men (whether single or in a relationship) that I am not hitting on them and not a threat in any way to them -- that I don't have designs on them or an agenda, other than just wanting to talk to/spend time with another human being. If things do get awkward and they seem to be romantically interested or it is ambiguous or whatever, I try to have a nice little chat with them and clarify what their intentions are and what my intentions are. That sometimes goes over really poorly (tending to lead to Not Friends Anymore territory) and sometimes goes just fine. When it goes just fine, the friendship is strengthened and we can both relax more around each other, having clarified that "nope, I am not hitting on you." That way we don't need to be all weird and walk on eggshells about racy jokes or whatever.

I generally have made an effort to put out the word that I am currently not available for romance. That is just not on the table for me at the moment with anyone at all. I feel that helps remove the sense of rejection that a man might feel if I tried to approach him in specific to say "I just want to be friends, BUT NO ROMANCE!" I, personally, do think that comes across kind of weird. My personal firsthand experience is that even if a man is not interested in romance, that kind of upfront announcement just feels personally rejecting and typically hurts their feelings and ego.

So, instead of taking the position that "I am looking for romance, just NOT with YOU in specific" I try to position myself as "I am not looking for romance with anyone at all (it's nothing personal -- it's me, not you)" and then if sparks just happen to happen with someone with whom trust has been established over time, the message they would get would be more like "I am not looking for romance, but you happen to be special and I am willing to reconsider my position."

This is an approach I have thought about a lot over the years and it is currently working well for me. But that's in part because I really am not looking for romance. That's not just some bullshit cover story.
posted by Michele in California at 10:29 AM on October 15, 2014

Best answer: This isn't difficult for you as a result of you somehow personally doing something awkwardly or wrong.

It's awkward because a majority of men still sort females in their approximate age group to whom they are not related into three categories: would date 'em; wouldn't date 'em; "belongs" to my buddy. Since as a single woman, you're not in the third category, entirely too many men will either see you as date material (even if you say that's not what you want) or not date material (and hence won't spend time with you.)

This is not an intractable problem, because there are, in fact, plenty of perfectly decent dudes out there fully capable of having platonic friendships with women of the opposite sex. You're just going to have to be as up front as you can while also accepting that a) it will send some guys the other way and b) some men who say they are okay with not dating you will still see your friendship as a prelude to potentially dating you. Or even c) totally get it, but hat one time, that one weekend, there was alcohol and loneliness is hard, so just checking.

Note: I am a dude.

It's not particularly fair that things are like this, but the only way this changes is by women insisting it does, and making the whole hanging out with women you aren't trying to sleep with thing seem as normal as it really ought to be.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:38 PM on October 15, 2014 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks! I foresee a couple of group-outings in the near future! :)
posted by sockandawe at 5:08 AM on October 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

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