To friend or not to friend
January 10, 2018 2:31 PM   Subscribe

I recently started hanging out with an old male friend from high school. I am a gayish female. The second time we hung out, he put his arm around my waist (unsolicited) and asked me if I wanted to make out. I feel mad and sad and awkward and I don't know what to do now.

I was friends with a guy in high school (10 years ago) we'll call John. John hung out in the same circles as me and we both worked on the school newspaper. We were never close, but we always got along really well and shared a lot of the same interests.

A few weeks ago, John Facebook messaged me asking if I'd like to hang out sometime, since it seemed from our FB posts that we still had a lot in common. I agreed, and last week we went out for drinks and had a nice time. We both still have a lot in common, and the conversation flowed very easily.

A few days later, John messaged me again to see if I wanted to go to a concert of an artist we had talked about, and I said sure. We each bought our own tickets and met up for a drink before the show last night. Almost as soon as we got to the show (a few drinks in), I started getting the uneasy vibe that John thought this was a date. This was problematic for me because I consider myself a mostly gay, mostly asexual person, though in high school I considered myself straight.

Toward the end of the show, John had had a few more drinks and was obviously pretty drunk, and he put his arm around my waist, tight, for several seconds. I didn't say anything, just stood there kind of shocked. I excused myself to go to the bathroom.

When the show ended, I offered to drive him home, and we stopped for drive-thru. While we were waiting in line, I said something about how the food was taking forever, and John said we could pass the time by making out. At that point, I very politely told him that I dated women, and that wasn't something I was interested in. John seemed really embarrassed and apologized. He texted me again this morning to apologize and say that he does really like hanging out and hopes we can continue to do so.

I'm really torn and this whole situation is making me feel terrible. Terrible that I have to deal with this kind of thing as a women, and men don't. Terrible that I may have led him on. Terrible that I feel terrible that I may have led him on, because all I wanted to do was have fun at a concert. Terrible because someone touched me in a way that I don't like to be touched, even by people I know very well. Terrible because he seemed so brazen about it.

I know that he feels bad and I don't think he's a bad guy, but I just feel so uncomfortable about the whole thing. Am I overreacting? Should I give him another chance?
posted by anotheraccount to Human Relations (28 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I would not hang out with him alone for a while, no. Group things, sure, why not - that'd be a decent way to see if he stays super fixated on you or if he really just wants to hang out.

This is one of those classic faux pas (on his part - you did nothing wrong) where he did not actually use the word "date" or check in with you in any way about whether you had romantic feelings. I've been on that "date" in high school and it was super awkward and sadly kind of killed what was otherwise a nice casual friendship, mostly because I think we both felt so awkward about it that we couldn't get past it. But if you have a social circle he might fit into, you could invite him along on a group thing if you really felt like it might be worth it. He seems to have handled the rejection just fine, as these things go.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:37 PM on January 10, 2018 [23 favorites]

It is perfectly reasonable for you to not ever hang out with him again.

I'm glad he's apologizing and he should feel embarrassed--maybe it will give him pause if he tries to guerrilla date someone again--but you don't need to have any part of his rehabilitation.

You can wash your hands of this guy, if you want. Totally and definitely okay. You never need to feel bad about choosing to not do things that make you uncomfortable.
posted by phunniemee at 2:42 PM on January 10, 2018 [12 favorites]

He wants to continue hanging out, but do you? The answer to this question should guide your decision here.

I agree with Phunniemee: you don't have to feel bad about abandoning the people and things that make you feel terrible or uncomfortable.
posted by singinginmychains at 2:49 PM on January 10, 2018 [3 favorites]

You definitely don't have to hang out with him again, but for what it's worth it does sound to me like he genuinely misinterpreted the situation, and that his behavior was generally appropriate when he realized you weren't on the same page (i.e., he stopped the problematic behavior and apologized not just in the moment but also again the next day). Still, if you don't feel comfortable being around him, you absolutely should not feel like you have to be his friend.

Also, you don't have to decide right now. You can respond neutrally and then see how you feel in a few days once you have some more space from the event.
posted by something something at 2:50 PM on January 10, 2018 [89 favorites]

It took me a long time when I was younger to realize that when a man wants to hang out with me, it is usually because he’s sexually attracted to me. What really drove the point home was when I entered a serious relationship and became totally unavailable as a sex partner to other people. Suddenly all these guys I thought were my friends didn’t want to hang out anymore. I’m telling you this so you don’t beat yourself up for not knowing ahead of time of John’s intentions. You were just trying to hang out! He made it weird, not you! So, I think it is totally normal to feel intensely emotional after being sexually assaulted. So I suggest you give yourself some time to clear your head before you decide how to proceed.

If you want to never see this person again, that is totally your right. You have no reason to feel guilty. And just because he apologized doesn’t mean you have to hang out with him. And if you want to hang out with him again, that’s fine, too.
posted by shalom at 2:53 PM on January 10, 2018 [7 favorites]

You're not overreacting - your reaction is your reaction. But it does sound like this may have been a good-faith misinterpretation on his part, and his reaction upon learning of the misinterpretation sounds like it was pretty fitting/appropriate. Go with your gut - if you don't want to hang out with him any more, don't, but if you do, do.
posted by craven_morhead at 2:54 PM on January 10, 2018 [17 favorites]

You absolutely don't have to see him again. You also should not feel guilty about being uninterested and turning him down.

But since you asked, I will say that I think you are overreacting a bit. I don't think he necessarily did anything wrong. You went out together twice, but it was never explicitly stated that you are gay or only want to be friends. (To be fair he did not state his intentions, either). He made a move by putting his arm around you. He seemed to not take a hint, which may have been influenced by being drunk, so later on he suggested making out in a joking way. You explicitly turned him down and he no longer made any advances. In fact, he followed up with an apology immediately AND the next day.

Standing from here, it seems like an uncomfortable situation but nothing close to a #metoo moment.
posted by daisies at 2:54 PM on January 10, 2018 [61 favorites]

Give him another chance at what, exactly? Does he want a friend, or does he want to date you? Or maybe he just wants to make it up to you, somehow, which really means he's looking to assuage his embarrassment, in which case I'd say don't bother because that's a waste of both your time.

If you want to hang with this guy as a friend, talk to him and find out if he does. Maybe he doesn't, and that's on him; you move on.

After that, think about what kind of communication you can offer, and what kind you can demand, in the event of future potential friends who are oriented to be into you. You didn't do anything wrong, but some proactivity on your part can help avoid these situations, and save the fun times for friends who aren't trying to get with you, or the ones who you're trying to get with.
posted by Sunburnt at 2:56 PM on January 10, 2018

I agree with Restless Nomad and Something Something. It seems like there was a human error and an appropriate apology. In any event, give it a few days and I'm sure you'll know what you want to do.

I have to deal with this kind of thing as a women, and men don't.

Please reconsider this statement. It's not unusual for a woman to misinterpret hanging out as a date, and hit on the guy or think romance is ahead, just like in your case.
posted by JimN2TAW at 2:58 PM on January 10, 2018 [52 favorites]

Another chance at what?

This probably really was all inadvertent, he thought you knew he was asking you out and and you thought he knew it was just friendly, which OUGHT to be the default state anyway. But you don't want to go out with him, and that's what he wanted you to do, so you no longer have much reason to interact with him aside from going back to FB-friendly.

It is fine for you to be uncomfortable and feel bad, things happened to you that sucked. It doesn't have to be malice on his part for it to be unpleasant on yours. And even if it wasn't "malice", he absolutely did that bullshit wishy-washy thing where he left it vague enough that you did not know it was a date, which uuuuugh. Like dude, I was not sitting around just waiting for you to ask me out, it loomed a lot larger in your head than mine.

You probably will feel less awful and more ready to decide what to do in a few days, but seriously there's nothing inappropriate with how you feel about it. It sucks and it's embarrassing and it's creepy and it feels bad.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:03 PM on January 10, 2018

To me it sounds like an excellently clean-cut misinterpretation. He was showing his interest in you and asked you if you wanted to make out. You said no and explained why. He realized his mistaken assumption and apologized. Nobody else in your social circle or his social circle was involved. He doesn't hate you. You don't hate him.

It sounds like you feel too awkward or uncomfortable to see him again, so don't. Take it easy and have a great week.
posted by Iron Carbide at 3:03 PM on January 10, 2018 [17 favorites]

I agree with something something, it sounds like John honestly didn't know about your sexuality until you told him and it sounds like he was genuinely apologetic. People change a lot in 10 years and he may have been interacting with what he remembers as the "high school" you as opposed to "present day" you. The exception to this interpretation would be if you said on your Facebook Page that you are interested in women or have pictures/memes/posts that clearly indicate you date women and not men. If that's the case then it should have been clear to John that making passes would not be welcome and he's a jerk and you should write him off.

That said you are well within your rights to not have to hang out with anyone for any reason. You get to set your own boundaries and expect people to respect them. It seems like maybe your boundaries weren't clear to John. And while it's not fair, and awkward, and annoying to have to set boundaries explicitly, in personal relationships, I think we have some responsibility for being clear about what we want and what we are comfortable with. That goes for boundaries with family, friends, and romantic partners.

If you want to give t this friendship another chance, then I would give yourself some space to let the discomfort pass, to give yourself time to process, and to definitely talk with John about what you want. And yes, maybe do things in groups for a bit before any one-on-one stuff.
posted by brookeb at 3:05 PM on January 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

Maybe it would help if you didn't look at this situation as one in which you are either "overreacting" or not. None of us get to pick how comfortable we are with other people expressing sexual attraction, and none of us get to pick how close our boundaries are to what's considered acceptable behavior. On top of that, there's no real way this relatively common situation wouldn't suck for both of you, it just so happens that it sucks for you real bad right now because he inadvertently stumbled into a significant boundary of yours.

You can still feed bad and he could not have done anything "wrong" and you're not going to talk yourself out of how you feel just because we as a society (or website or whatever) come to a consensus that he didn't do anything "wrong." Try to accept your feelings, move on from them when you're ready and then you can figure out what you're going to do with John when you're not feeling ten kinds of terrible.
posted by griphus at 3:18 PM on January 10, 2018 [7 favorites]

He should know not to grab people without asking or make propositions out of the blue! That's basic adulting!

You can not want to hang out with someone even if they aren't a dyed in the wool villain. Basically, I feel a little bad for John that his lack of social skills torpedoed a friendship - if I were John's friend, I'd validate his sadness and embarrassment like I would if any friend told me they were sad about a mistake they made, not think he was a giant monster. The unfortunate thing is that sometimes we hurt people without meaning to and we can't undo it - if they forgive us and want to stay friends, that's great, but sometimes they can't.

You don't have to hang out with the guy. As to whether you should give him another chance, I think that depends on whether part of you wants to. If you're feeling, "he seems like a nice guy, this sucks, I wish we could be friends, why did he have to ruin it", maybe wait a month (or whatever time feels good) and then get back in touch. If you really just don't want to at all, then you shouldn't do so out of obligation.
posted by Frowner at 3:20 PM on January 10, 2018 [4 favorites]

He was wanting to hang out romantically with you from the first Facebook message. It's up to you if you want to be friends with people who initially were interested in romance, but don't mistake the reason for the hanging out. He might be really glad to change gears and be just friends or he's hoping after more time you'll reconsider.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 3:20 PM on January 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

I agree that this sounds like a legit miscommunication and 100% the right response on this guy's part when you pointed out his mistake. However, you're still totally allowed to be grossed out by it and never want to see him again! You don't owe anybody dates or hangouts or anything for any reason, including because they did or didn't do the "right thing."

If you're unable to relax around this guy because of this incident, that's all the reason you need not to want to see him again. There may be nothing he can do to assuage your anxiety around him. Hell, if you don't vibe with someone you have no obligation to hang out with them, even if they are a perfect gentleman at all times and have never and will never make any kind of mistake w/r/t your relationship.

Guess what? Sometimes people don't get what they want. Sometimes by no fault of their own. Sometimes there's no fixing things after an innocent mistake. Everyone but cis-het white (assuming) dudes knows this in their bones. The sooner it sinks in for them, too, the better.
posted by Krawczak at 3:26 PM on January 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

On this:
Terrible that I have to deal with this kind of thing as a women, and men don't. a datapoint, I'm a woman, who dates men, and I've done this to someone. Misinterpreted some signals, thought we were on a date, made a gentle but date-like move, turns out he was gay. I felt SO awkward and flustered (and I'm pretty sure he did too) but...we're still good friends. Once it was cleared up and the awkwardness wore off, we laughed it off and I recalibrated to "friendship" and that was that. Sure would have been nice to get it out in the open beforehand, but unfortunately I'm not immune to the [problematic] cultural narratives about leaving things unspoken to be ~cooler~. Honestly your guy sounds significantly more mature than I was about it, since I just wanted to crawl into a hole and die so I certainly didn't send a friendly and clear message the next morning (would have been great of me, though!)

You're entitled to your own reaction and your feelings are valid and I don't mean to take any of that away. I'm just trying to say, this may not be as big an abberation as you think.
posted by mosst at 3:30 PM on January 10, 2018 [61 favorites]

I would have assumed that he was asking me on a date. I think he didn't do anything wrong here but you're ok to not feel obligated to be friends with him too.

If you have such strong feelings about not being hit on or flirted with I think it is partly on you to a) not accept ambiguous invitations and b) clarify those up front. A simple "this isn't a date is it? Because I'm not interested in dating" prevents a lot of awkward situations from arising. Otherwise people your age who ask you to hang out one on one? Are probably looking to initiate flirtation
posted by fshgrl at 3:39 PM on January 10, 2018 [9 favorites]

As a woman, I have hit on men who were not interested in me personally or who don't date women.

I know it sucks that other people aren't mindreaders and sometimes we have to say uncomfortable things to each other. I know there are people who manage this gracefully, and I believe you can find and model these examples.

It also takes practice! Don't beat yourself up! It sounds like everything you did was great except for assuming life interacting with others can be awkward-free. If only, right?
posted by jbenben at 3:57 PM on January 10, 2018 [11 favorites]

Sounds like you handled it really well.

You don't ever have to hang out with him again if you don't want to.

As a data point, I would say that what he did would probably be ok in my books personally... but my books aren't your books and it DOES NOT NEED TO BE OK BY YOU.

But in case it's useful to you, here's my thinking:
It's a bit awkward, but not totally unreasonable, for him to have assumed it was a date.
Putting his arm around your waist is an ok tactic as a first pass- maybe a little forward for the (nonexistent) signals you'd likely given him, but if you were into him in that way, it might have felt nice.
It's not ideal that he asked to make-out after you'd rejected the arm on your waist.
But to his credit, he did ask to kiss rather than just try to kiss you, and he did apologize, it sounds sincerely from how you described it.
To me he sounds awkward, rather than predatory..... BUT you are allowed not to want to hang out with awkward people, and you don't need to feel shitty about that.

In my life when friends have made non-aggressive drunk passes at me, my solution is to explicitly say no, maybe avoid seeing the person for a couple weeks, and then next time the opportunity to hang out arises, I'd probably give them another chance by hanging out in a group or in a brightly lit, non private, and maybe sober environment (like probably not a movie, but maybe a games night or going to the art gallery or something).

And in my world, after I express a hard no, if the person ever made another pass (without significant behaviour changes on my part to strongly signal a new attraction) I'd cut that person off without remorse. Which, again you can totally do right now with no second chances if that's how you feel.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 3:57 PM on January 10, 2018 [3 favorites]

I'm not seeing anything especially out of line in John's behavior. It seems that the whole awkward situation can be explained by the fact that you both made assumptions about the nature of your time together.

I'm guessing that he's been considering these times to be dates and - prior to your response when he suggested you make out - it doesn't seem that you did or said anything indicating otherwise (even though you suspected as much earlier that evening). Putting his arm around your waist at the concert seems like a simple gesture of affection - something that I would do with a friend or a date - unless, of course, they asked me not to. I seriously doubt that I would assume your reaction, i.e. excusing yourself to go to the restroom, meant that I was touching you in a way you don't like to be touched.

Finally, he apologized in spades. I don't understand why you wouldn't want to pursue a friendship with someone who shares your interests and is easy to talk to.
posted by she's not there at 4:02 PM on January 10, 2018 [5 favorites]

Terrible because someone touched me in a way that I don't like to be touched,

I'm sorry this happened to you and sorry that so many people are treating it as a nothing. Calling the cops would have been an overreaction. Punching him would have been an overreaction. Telling him he's a jerk might have been an overreaction. Feeling terrible because someone took hold of your body and held it tight when you didn't want them to, didn't ask them to, and didn't get asked first isn't an overreaction. Other people might not mind this at all; good for them, they don't have to. you mind what you mind.

It speaks well of him that he apologized sincerely after you told him No in the car. It speaks badly of him that he took you not screaming or running away earlier as a positive sign of interest -- like you said, women more than men have to deal with people assuming they're both heterosexual and available (what straight guy has trained himself to automatically suspect that an invitation from a male friend to meet up at a concert and get drinks might be a date?) and in particular we have to deal with people taking a freeze-response to frightening or just shocking physical contact as consent. of course you're right about that. and it is impressive that you were so polite but also so clear in telling him no. You handled it very well and you don't have to pretend it wasn't unpleasant just because he didn't mean it to be.

He sounds like a fine person, overall, but this is about what's best for you, not him. "Giving him a chance" makes no sense -- a chance at what? don't hang out with him because he's not awful or because you feel like you should reward his apology or pretend you don't feel how you feel. Hang out with him because you want to, because you still like him, and because you feel completely confident that he'll never do this again. If you don't feel all of those ways, don't do it.
posted by queenofbithynia at 5:19 PM on January 10, 2018 [13 favorites]

I'm so sorry. I've been in a slightly similar situation before and it was profoundly awkward and uncomfortable.

I'm not sure when this happened but I'm guessing it was pretty recent, and it definitely brought up some intense feelings for you. I think that if you give yourself some time you'll know what you want to do. Maybe journal about it and the stuff it brought up for you, spend some time not thinking about it at all, etc.

There's no reason you should be friends if you don't want to. If you decide that's something you might be open to, then I agree with above suggestions to not hang out with him one-on-one again for a while, and see how the friendship chemistry is now that you are both on the same page.
posted by bunderful at 7:06 PM on January 10, 2018

Am I overreacting?
Maybe a little bit, but so far, your actions have been right on the money.

Should I give him another chance?
No. Unless you’ve decided he is a good prospective makeout partner?

Your idea of what was a friendship doesn’t match his. Giving him a chance now would not mean converting him to your way of thinking. He might think it means that you changed your mind, or that you will in the near future. Best if you both take steps back, if you want to maybe repaproach it as friends.
posted by RainyJay at 12:01 AM on January 11, 2018

This sounds like a pretty common mix up, that was handled moderately well. When you told him you weren't interested, he apologized and was embarrassed. As he should be, because he was making the assumption that it was a date. It is annoying that the assumption was made, but that is not an abnormal assumption in our society.

You did not "lead him on".

Should you give him another chance ? If you want to be friends with him, hang out with him again. Now that he knows exactly what is happening, give him significantly less room for error. If he he seems to be confused as to what you guys are doing again, ditch him forever.

Terrible that I have to deal with this kind of thing as a women, and men don't
Men do as well, it is not strictly gender based. Saying it is makes it harder for men to talk about when it happens to them. Let's not make it worse for others who have had similar experiences just because of their gender.
posted by Oceanic Trench at 6:38 AM on January 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

I dunno....seems like you're making a mountain out of a molehill, ESPECIALLY since he apologized multiple times after the fact. This can be something you laugh at in hindsight together in 20 years (ask me how I know). I have absolutely hit on my gay friends before (before knowing they were gay, or before they solidified it for themselves) and now we laugh about it. If you don't like being touched (friends do put their arms around friends) tell him that specifically.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 1:42 PM on January 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

that I have to deal with this kind of thing as a women, and men don't.

Actually I have had a lot of unwanted attention from women before. The difference is I don't have to worry about a woman overpowering me physically.

For that reason I suggest that if you do want to meet up again, start the first time at a safe place.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:48 PM on January 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

How would it benefit you to see him again? Not him, you. Be selfish and do what feels good to you and you alone.

All this pressure that oh, he sounds like a good guy, he apologized, it's a normal misinterpretation, etc doesn't matter. Only you matter.
posted by medusa at 4:14 AM on January 15, 2018

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