Can I ask this person out?
July 29, 2017 11:10 PM   Subscribe

It's been 20 years since I was last on a date, and while I was never a complete jerk (at least I hope), mefi has helped me realize there is a time and place for everything, and that the consensus seems to be asking out someone in a retail job where you're the customer is not cool, and I can definitely see that. But I'd like to know what y'all advise just in case I might be a special snowflake. (Ron Howard: "They weren't")

The person who cuts my hair and I seem to get along well, and I think they're really attractive. It's not just that they're cute--I love talking to them, they're smart and have a sense of humor. We're contemporaries--I'm right around 50, and while I don't know their exact age, from conversations with them, their oldest kid is at least 25, so I'm assuming they're close to my age as well.

I only know this person (for roughly three years now) via them cutting my hair. We always have a pleasant conversation about our lives, at the level you share at when in that situation, though perhaps a bit deeper than that--I'm not sure, never having been a conversationalist while getting my hair done, it's only been a thing with this person for me.

They know I'm (now) single, and while I am reasonably confident they're not married, they've never mentioned a current partner in any conversation...but that's also none of my business and have never directly asked. If I thought they did or had that vibe this would be a non-issue.

It has been 20 years since I've been on a date, having several months ago broken up with a long-time partner. That's all done and the ex and I are still friendly; while I'm sure I'm carrying some baggage, none of it is particularly heavy. I don't think I'm particularly amazing looking, but not awful, either, though this person would definitely be thought of as the looker of the two if we were out together.

This last appointment, a week ago, was the first time since my split where I was attracted to someone and excited at the prospect of maybe going on a date again. I tried to be aware of any dangling "invitations" in our conversation, didn't spot any...but I am also completely clueless in that regard. I checked my impulse to ask them if they'd like to grab a coffee while in the chair, remembering what I've learned here about how it's a crummy position for someone who is partially paid to be nice to you to find themselves in.

(For the last week have been kind-of beating myself up for not asking them out and at the same time kind-of congratulating myself for not being an arse.)

Where they work complicates things, especially since I don't know their exact schedule. It's a small salon, at the very end of the small strip mall it's in, right next to the entrace/exit, and the handicap spots for the mall are the only spots directly in front. There is no way any sane person would park outside the mall and walk in. I wouldn't want to ask them in a situation which might be (even more) awkward for them, in front of customers, or the other stylist. It's a small place, though, so it's just as common to find them as the only person present is things are quiet in the battle against hair.

The mall itself unfortunately does not contain a business which I could realistically patronize in a regular way, being mostly service or once-per-year type businesses. Besides, now we're talking about weirdo stuff, really. Either do this or forget it, eh? Though I think I'd be ok with a pretend errand ("Did I leave my _____ here last week?") which everyone can see through but also gives everyone "plausible deniability", as they'd say in DC, if that is enough "space" to make this possible.

I can honestly say while it would be a bummer to be turned down, I would be fine with them doing so and could accept that with good grace. I'm not in the depths of a huge crush, but am surprised with how excited I am at the prospect of going on a date this particular person. It it matters at all, this is hetero stuff and I am a "he".

Hm. Now that I've typed that all out, it looks like I have my answer, and that this is probably not tenable in a way which doesn't trample on their right to not be pestered at work. But let me know if there is a path here, or in similar situations if I find myself once again in the same spot. It's a mystery and marvel to me how I'm now halfway to a century, and have not figured any of this out!

(I could also learn to use fewer words!)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (21 answers total)
Could you, after your next haircut, say "I really enjoy talking to you. I'd love to ask you out on a date but I don't want to make you uncomfortable at work"?

Then there's a decision tree whereby:

She goes "Oh, that's sweet but I'm seeing someone" and go "Of course!" you all smile and move on.

Or she goes, "Oh, I can't date customers" and you go "Of course!" and you all smile and move on.

Or she goes "I like talking to you too! You should ask me out!" and then you ask her out on a date.

The crucial point is if she doesn't pick up on your opener, be prepared with something else to say to move the conversation away from the subject briefly before leaving. i.e. YOU are responsible for doing the emotional labor of getting the conversation away from weirdness.
posted by bimbam at 11:37 PM on July 29, 2017 [43 favorites]

The person above made a good suggestion. Note: my previous hairdresser moved away after marrying a client so it does happen...
posted by bquarters at 11:53 PM on July 29, 2017

Remember that barbers and hairdressers' very jobs depend on their ability to be warm and friendly confessors. There's a reason barbershops are famous for their conviviality, and as an epicenter of gossip and community. That warmth, it's a business skill only a notch or two below cutting hair well.

That said, I think it's okay to ask her out if--crucially--you're on your way out the door, change in hand, no waiting customers tapping their feet in the corner to overhear or hurry her. Then, all casually, use bimbam's script above.
posted by tapir-whorf at 11:53 PM on July 29, 2017 [17 favorites]

If you ask, you will need to find a new salon no matter what the answer is - don't set her up to have to act like everything is fine in future encounters, that's one of the worst parts of being asked out at work.
posted by carbide at 12:16 AM on July 30, 2017 [39 favorites]

I think you could ask her out in a really low key way the way bimbam suggests, and my only addition to that advice would be to give her a built-in out, like "I definitely understand if you don't date customers." (Sometimes even in the best of circumstances when people ask you out unexpectedly and you want to say no it can be hard to think of the right words on the spot, and given the circumstances here providing her with an out would be a considerate thing to do.)
posted by trig at 1:41 AM on July 30, 2017 [21 favorites]

I don't think you can have your cake and eat it too in this case. You can ask her out, but will probably need to switch to a new salon, or you can keep the salon but without the dating.

Honestly it sounds like you gave her every opportunity to give you a hint of availability in your last conversation and she didn't. I'm not seeing a clear green light here, to the point that you don't even know if they are single.
posted by Dip Flash at 2:36 AM on July 30, 2017 [9 favorites]

When I was a single lad, I'd always ask them, with (hopefully) a twinkle in my eye, and not a lecherous tic, "If I asked you out on a date, what would you say?"

If they said "I'd say yes!", then roger dodger, you are good to go, and you ask them out.
If they say something in the negative, then you, again, with good humor, say "Boy, I'm glad I didn't do that!" and you both laugh.

This gives her an easy and gentle way to say no.
The bonus is that if she does say no, you still have someone awesome to talk with and cut your hair once a month.

When I was a dating coach, I'd recommend this to my clients, and they always had good success with it.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 3:36 AM on July 30, 2017 [6 favorites]

Not a special snowflake. You met someone you're attracted to, which is a nice experience for you, but nothing in your post indicates that they have a personal interest in you, but are being typically friendly and professional with a longstanding client as their job dictates. Please do not ask them out. But, consider that this is a signal that you're ready to dip a toe in the dating pool, and look for someone where you wouldn't have to navigate a conflict of interest.
posted by Autumnheart at 4:52 AM on July 30, 2017 [10 favorites]

I am not at all knowledgeable about this, but it occurs to me to wonder if asking a co-worker of hers whether they think she might be interested, then following up with that co-worker of hers at a next appointment, might be a reasonable -- but somewhat elaborate -- way to get the information you want without putting her in an awkward position. Mind you, the co-worker would have to be good at navigating this, and the way you posed the question would have to be well considered, but it seems possibly a more delicate approach.
posted by amtho at 5:05 AM on July 30, 2017

I know mefites generally recommend calling a date a date when you're asking someone out, but this is one case where I think it makes sense to take a more oblique approach.

Assuming this person is doing an amazing job on your hair and you'd prefer not to switch stylists if you don't have to, you could, at your next appointment, try something like this:

You: There's a new coffee spot over on 45th and York.
Her: Cool, I love coffee.*
You: Well, I was planning to go check it out this weekend, want to come with?

I would not consider this a date, just an opportunity to spend time with her outside of her workplace and see how that goes. If she says yes, then go have coffee and have fun and *then* ask her out on a proper date.

If she says no to that it's a safe bet that she would say no to a date, and you have plausible deniability as you didn't put her through the awkwardness of turning down an explicit date request from a client. Say "OK, cool" and move on. Continue having your hair cut and seek out other prospects.

*New wine bar, music festival, museum, outdoor movie, etc. Hopefully after several years of hair-cutting you know what she likes well enough to pick something that she would find interesting. However if I was open to dating someone and they suggested we do something I wasn't into, I'd make a counter-suggestion rather than flatly turning them down.
posted by bunderful at 5:10 AM on July 30, 2017 [13 favorites]

I think the most you can do is drop better hints and ask better questions next time. My hairdresser always asks me what I'm doing this weekend, etc., so it's really easy to say "I'm doing X, are you into X, have you ever been to Y," etc. Trust me, if she's an attractive female hair dresser working on male clients, you are not the first (even that day) to hit on her and she'll be able to take a hint.

I think it's really telling that this was the first time since a big breakup that you've been attracted to someone. That might make it feel urgent to you, but to her you're still the same customer. It doesn't change the dynamic of paying client asking out service provider.
posted by kapers at 6:13 AM on July 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

Upon reading, I think the real takeaway from your question is that you're ready to date-- this is encouraging, but make sure you're not lasering in on the first woman to touch you and laugh with you since you became ready.
posted by kapers at 6:25 AM on July 30, 2017 [16 favorites]

I'm going to vote yes. IF you can pull off the casual approach, and can laugh after receiving a no. And I don't think you should wait for your next haircut. Go in, use the "did I leave my ___ here?" approach. And use "get coffee" instead of "go on a date". If she says any variation of no, you need to give her a big smile and say " had to give it a try, but I promise not to make it awkward!" Laugh heartily, leave asap, and do your best not to make it awkward.
posted by raisingsand at 6:49 AM on July 30, 2017

I think it's fine, particularly if you give her a graceful "out." Like the above suggestion of "I totally understand if you don't date customers, but I have to ask: would you like to have a [coffee or glass of wine] with me sometime?" And I agree it would be ideal to do it when she's not cutting your hair. I don't think you need an excuse to walk in, it'll be obvious why you're there once you ask her out.

Of course it is her job to be nice to customers. But this is not a situation where you've decided the 18 year old barista is into you because she smiles. This is a woman your age, whom you've known for years, believe is probably single, whom you find attractive and interesting. This is a good person to ask out, as long as you're careful not to make it weird for her if she says no.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:14 AM on July 30, 2017 [6 favorites]

I know mefites generally recommend calling a date a date when you're asking someone out, but this is one case where I think it makes sense to take a more oblique approach.

Yes, I think that's a very good idea.

I worked in customer service for a long time, and a long-time customer enjoying the conversation and asking if I'd like to have a coffee outside of work sometime to continue that conversation would come off as friendly and nice/flattering to me, rather than creepy. Especially if you also give her the out that you understand that she maybe doesn't socialize with customers outside of work.

I would hold off on asking for a bone fide date, because at this point, you've still got the client/professional hump to get over. Just ask her to socialize with you in a very low-key context outside of work. One thing at a time.

Personally, I would ask right after giving her her tip. That's a reasonably private moment, and then she knows that the tip isn't contingent on the answer, and neither of you have to deal with that awkward conversational lull that is bound to happen after she answers yes or no to seeing you outside of work. Also, if she says yes, try to set the date and time at that point so that you don't have to trade phone numbers yet. Definitely don't slip her your phone number, that comes off as sleazy (in my experience, anyway).

In any case, I don't think you should drop her as a hairdresser because you like her and would like to socialize with her. This is her livelihood. Why should she be punished financially because you enjoy her company? Just make sure, no matter which way your request goes, to keep it light, take no for an answer if the answer is no, and remain professional with her at work.

Good luck :)
posted by rue72 at 7:19 AM on July 30, 2017 [7 favorites]

"Have you ever dated a client before?"
posted by rhizome at 11:18 AM on July 30, 2017

I agree that regardless of the outcome, if you ask her out, you're making a decision to find a new spot to get your hair cut from that point onward.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:01 PM on July 30, 2017

No. Full stop.

I used to work as a massage therapist, and working as a hair dresser is similar, in that being friendly with customers is *part of the job*. Your hairdresser has engaged in normal friendly conversation that is part of her job, that's all. There is no indication that she wants to date you. Please don't be the tiresome creepy client who mistakes friendly banter for flirting.

It is illegal in my state for a massage therapist to date a client. Had I dated a client, I could have lost my license. It is possible that it is either illegal or against professional standards for your hairdresser to date clients. You might want to look that up. See what professional organizations she is a part of and what their ethical standards are.

What you would be doing by asking her out would be *at best* making it awkward to have any future appointments with her. At worst, she could lose her job, her professional standing, or even her license, if she goes out with you.

There are plenty of opportunities to meet compatible dates. Use this as a sign that you are capable of being attracted to someone enough to want to date them, and go out and find other avenues for that.
posted by nirblegee at 12:36 PM on July 30, 2017 [7 favorites]

It is possible that it is either illegal or against professional standards for your hairdresser to date clients.
I'm sorry, but this seems ridiculously alarmist. RMTs are not hairdressers; there are myriad examples of friendships and romantic pairings that start in salons.

If you do not have a citation for the idea that it's illegal or professionally unethical for cosmetologists to date clients, then I think you're way off base to suggest it might be the case. It seems more like you're uncomfortable with the idea for other reasons, and wish to shore up your (minority) objection with the spectre of unprofessional conduct.

OP has at least a couple paths forward that are respectful and noncreepy. I wish them well.
posted by uberchet at 8:35 AM on July 31, 2017 [4 favorites]

I know you don't know your schedule, but is it possible to try calling once or twice, say, a few minutes before the place opens when she might not have a client? If you could get her on the phone, you could ask her out without the pressure of being in front of other clients. Or, you could leave a message with your phone number.

"I'm so sorry to call you at work, but I wasn't sure how to reach you otherwise. I really enjoy chatting with you, and I wondered if you'd like to go out for coffee/dinner with me sometime?"
posted by bluedaisy at 1:50 PM on July 31, 2017

Having worked in the service industry and being a young woman at the time, I would have been fine being asked out, honestly. Yes, being friendly was part of my job. No, your experience in service doesn't speak for everyone in service. No, its not necessarily creepy to be asked in and of itself. Its creepy when people would see things that weren't there, were significantly older than me, and wouldn't be okay with a 'no'.

That said, I would have been fine with being asked out, and would have even liked it provided the customer:
  • Didn't put me on the spot or invaded my privacy when asking me. I'd rather receive someone's number than give mine.
  • The customer gave me an out in regards to politely declining, and was ok with me doing that, without taking it personally, or losing their business.
  • They were around my age, give or take a few years. There were a lot of older men that seemed to think I was interested when I wasn't.
  • They knew me pretty well/were regular and we had a camaraderie that wasn't just me doing my job.
Obviously the last one is a tough one to gauge. Sometimes when you start to like somebody, its easy to see a connection where there isn't one, especially when people are really good at being personable and nice as part of their job.I don't think this should deter you though from asking, though, but its a good thing to keep in mind. She may just be really personable, and it may be that you are misreading things, and that she isn't interested. In that case, if things don't work out, you will need to be okay with that, and possibly changing salons, although as someone said above, that would suck to lose a regular client just because of this. I think that mature adults should be able to ask out another human being, or show interest in someone, and be declined without the whole world imploding because of it. You seem pretty understanding to this, and the fact you're asking how to approach this is a good sign.

If I think how I would have wanted to be asked out in my job, then I wouldn't have wanted to just been straight up asked on a date at work. I'd also rather use text or chat so that if I wanted to decline, I could do it without being put on the spot or having to face the guy interested in me at the time.

So I'd rather try and and approach it as getting to know each other better, first. So for example, after you see her next, saying something like, 'It's awesome talking with you, I'd love to grab a coffee sometime and chat some more' and gauging her reaction. If she demures or deflects, she probably isn't interested. If she responds positively or enthusiastically, give her your number and/or facebook details and ask her to text you some time if she likes. Then the ball is in her court. If she isn't interested at all, then she won't contact you. If she does reach out, you can then ask her on a proper date when you reply to her. Actually use the word 'date' by the way. If she doesn't reach out, try not to make it weird or take it personally, though. Ditto if you do meet up, but things don't really get anywhere-- this is a possibility too.

Still, I think it is at least worth a try. Best of luck.
posted by Dimes at 9:07 AM on August 1, 2017

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