Men who like women: help me shatter my traditional dating stereotypes!
June 20, 2018 2:23 PM   Subscribe

I know it's 2018, but so much advice still focuses on the idea that men want to chase, and they will not really like it if a woman makes those first moves. I need to hear from men specifically, because I won't believe women when it comes to the male experience. Deets below.

Okay, so a friend and I have been digging into a more-than-friends vibe...but after many months of subtle looks and long conversations alone about anything but our feelings, he still has yet to do so much as touch my hand.

I am now at a breaking point. I feel as if I am knocking on a door that may never open. I have done my best to respect his pace and his boundaries, but I need to walk away if he is not really interested in me. At this point, I think I need to make that first move, or give up.

A couple of things:
1. YES, he knows I like him. I've said things like, "I really like talking with you, " "I'd like to spend some time with you," and we've shared a couple of smoldering looks across the room when we are with friends.
2. I have been initiating most of the time already. I asked him to hang out alone first. I texted him first. I always seem to start the conversations.
3. He is a very deliberate and slow type. Extremely risk averse, and slow to act in almost every area of his life.

For my own mental and emotional health, I need to reach out and touch this man to see if he will reciprocate or stiffen (not in the good way). I am okay with taking that risk, but I am DEEPLY worried that I will be sabotaging what could have been good if I just chilled out for longer and waited for him to make a move.

This fear comes from the (literally) hundreds, and maybe even thousands of stories, advice columns, books, blogs, etc. that suggest that when a man finds a woman he wants to be with he WILL muster the courage to make that move. Those stories have me thinking maybe he is just not sure, or not that into me, or not interested at all. After all, if he really wanted to be with me, he'd overcome the internal barriers to making a move, right?

So, here's my ask: Please, tell me that I'm wrong. I want to hear stories of men who LOVED that a woman made the first move, and that never felt that they missed out on the chase. Or, tell me about how men really can hold back even when they really like someone.

He may respond to me or he may not, but I don't want to be afraid that me breaking the touch barrier was a death blow that could or should have been avoided.
posted by Dr_Janeway to Human Relations (58 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I would, depending on the circumstances, be very hesitant to ruin a friendship even if I wanted more. In this era where it's pretty constant hearing about women being harassed, I'm sure my younger, tentative, extremely shy self might never have broken through.

Just ask him out and use the word date or say you want to kiss him.

Oh, you want a specific story. There was a woman who worked at the fancy pet store I bought cat food at. She would always try to talk to me, but I was shy and awkward. I finally realized that she maybe? MAYBE?! liked me when she remembered that I had said I was going to visit a cousin and asked about it a few months later. I finally went there with the intention to ask if she'd like to grab coffee or something, but chickened out and basically bought cat food then rushed out of the store. I said NO, YOU HAVE TO DO THIS and marched back in. Apparently, this was both adorable and strange because I looked like I was upset about something... I was later told on our actual date.

It is possible that I once did an AskMe on if it was okay to ask a woman out while she was at work. I assume the answer was no. I refuse to look at my history! I sure wish she had just asked me out and saved us both a lot of time.

oh also this
1. YES, he knows I like him. I've said things like, "I really like talking with you, " "I'd like to spend some time with you," and we've shared a couple of smoldering looks across the room when we are with friends.

You aren't a mindreader. None of those are saying you are romantically interested even if that's what you mean. Say what you really want to say.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 2:30 PM on June 20, 2018 [17 favorites]

My first long time gf, 19-27 years of age, made the first move on me. I loved it. Could not have been more flattered. I am still friends with her and we both still tell the story to people from both our perspectives and we both still love it.

The woman I a married and was married to for 19 years sort of made the first move. We met at a party. I got her number from her friend the next week. I then did not call for a week. Finally, she called me and asked if I was ever planning on calling her. I told her to hang up. Then I called her. Then we made plans for the next weekend which she had to break. She broke the next plans too. (For good reason). I finally told her to call me when she was ready. She did a few weeks later. We married 19 months later.

The woman I am dating now asked a mutual friend to set us up. I told her if we were to ever get married one day, she would be doing the asking.

My take is to go for it. You will not kill something that might have been had you waited. It may not work out, but it won't be because of you doing the ask. He may just be shy. Go for it.
posted by AugustWest at 2:31 PM on June 20, 2018 [5 favorites]

Please, tell me that I'm wrong.
I'm here to tell you you're wrong! Touch him, for you own mental and emotional health.

After all, if he really wanted to be with me, he'd overcome the internal barriers to making a move, right?
Nope! He doesn't know how you feel.

Or, tell me about how men really can hold back even when they really like someone.
He may be as afraid of scaring you off as you are of him. The fact that you have not expressed a clear and unambiguous ( and I mean CLEAR AND UNAMBIGUOUS, not this 'we look at each other sometimes' stuff you're writing here. I understand you gave him a look filled with longing and affection. He doesn't.)
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:33 PM on June 20, 2018 [19 favorites]

40/m here. After my divorce, I delved into the world of dating for really the first time in my life (ex-wife and I met through friends and the relationship developed naturally). So, like, I would need two hands to count the number of women I sent triple-digit messages (!) to before mustering up the courage to ask them to meet up for the first time.

I'm delighted when a woman makes the first move because I'm mostly terrible at reading signals. Once in a relationship, I've got no problem initiating things but that first time is too fraught with misunderstandings for me.

But that's in a clearly dating scenario. For your situation, I think you need to be blunt and tell him that you'd like to explore a relationship with him deeper than friendship. As stated, you may lose the friendship over it so you need to decide if that's worth the risk.
posted by Twicketface at 2:41 PM on June 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

So many times, from maybe 16 years old right up into my 30s, I passed up on romantic opportunities where a woman had made her interest very clear, and I was just too shy or awkward to take the very big hint. And in most of those instances they were women I'd have loved to have dated, had I been able to overcome those 'internal barriers'. I missed some great opportunities.

That stupid taboo that says that a man must be the one who does the asking seems to be on its way out, thankfully. Give it a good kicking for me, just to help the cause, will you?
posted by pipeski at 2:44 PM on June 20, 2018 [25 favorites]

45/m here who has learned to be much more forward in asking and initiating relationships and still loves it when I don’t need to. I’d try to get past any expectations based on what you’ve said and just ask. You need to know. Be gentle and be ready to genuinely move on if he isn’t interested; your friendship can even survive a rejection.
posted by meinvt at 2:48 PM on June 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

It varies by person! I (straight, cis male) have always enjoyed having the other party initiate, when that happened.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 2:49 PM on June 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

I want to hear stories of men who LOVED that a woman made the first move, and that never felt that they missed out on the chase. Or, tell me about how men really can hold back even when they really like someone.

Younger me was low on experience, shy, afraid of failure, and working through what being a feminist or good man really meant (sorting through what was toxic and what was not, gaining confidence in my questioning of status quo). I did the smoldering looks and silence thing for years with women who didn't think it was their role to make a move. I was relieved when a woman finally did. My first three or so girlfriends made the first move.

Sometimes good men don't pursue because they see other guys all around them prey on women and act badly and they know that's wrong, but they're still figuring out what to do and how to do it in a respectful way that feels comfortable and not awkward for everyone. Often there aren't good role models. There can be a lot of baggage to sort through if you're someone who's conscious and self-aware about trying to be better.

Anyway, I say make a move, he sounds like a good guy and he'll probably be thrilled!
posted by naju at 3:02 PM on June 20, 2018 [11 favorites]

Tell him tell him tell him

As a man who has many times not been brave enough to "make the first move", I urge you to go for it. Confidence is a great thing, and you shouldn't worry about what society keeps echoing at you. You sense this guy feels something for you. Then go with your feelings and tell him you want to take things further. It might be all he needs to feel confident and together you can make the move :)

I don't want to make generalisations about men and women today, but I have often had the voice in my head telling me "No way, she couldn't possibly feel that way about me. I don't want to bother her. I don't want to pressure her." It is a confidence thing.

Give him a push. Do it. Feel good about it.
posted by 0bvious at 3:02 PM on June 20, 2018 [5 favorites]

I am a woman (sorry) and made the first move on two men who I eventually married. Both were shy and awkward and said they were relieved I'd made the first move as they did not know if they would have ever gotten up the courage. After we got together, neither man cheated on me or chased other women or acted as if they were anything other than thrilled that I was easy... lol.

I do think it is harder these days when you start out as friends. You hear so much about guys being friend-zoned by girls who treat them as boyfriends in almost every respect but then recoil when the guy makes a move or asks for a date. I know all the friend-zoning "myth or fact" arguments and I am not looking to start a discussion of that here. But whether it's a real thing or not, a lot of men have the perception that it is and so asking out a friend becomes fraught with a whole 'nother level of anxiety than asking out someone you've met some other way.

The only thing that concerns me is this: He is a very deliberate and slow type. Extremely risk averse, and slow to act in almost every area of his life.

That almost sounds like a guy who might be going to give you misery even after you start dating and blame it on fear of commitment and bad past relationship experiences and whatnot. If you do manage to get into a relationship and find he is real foot-draggy and excuseful and crazy-making about moving the relationship forward while you are ultra-sensitive to his feelings and worried about scaring him off or triggering him by being "pushy" (aka asking for what you want and holding him responsible to give you a direct answer) I'd back out of it sooner rather than later so you don't become the person writing lengthy Ask posts laying out the tiniest details of his every word and deed and gesture trying to discern what his "real feelings" are and why does he not want to move in/get married/stop sending 100 texts a day to some other female friend, etc.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:06 PM on June 20, 2018 [10 favorites]

I'm a 41/m and I would love to have a woman make a move on me.

Either A) I'd have reciprocal feelings and would happily date her or B) I'd not be interested, but would feel flattered and better about myself for the next week or two.
posted by tacodave at 3:09 PM on June 20, 2018 [6 favorites]

There are definitely some men who are quite forward and assume that any interaction is an invitation. There are many men who aren't as forward who don't make that assumption.

There are regularly threads all over the web where men share the signs they missed, only to realize much, much later. Some of those stories are literally so obvious it hurts. Be more obvious than that - cause some dudes can be really, really clueless.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 3:25 PM on June 20, 2018 [4 favorites]

If he was the type to initiate, he would have initiated by now. But he hasn't. Waiting longer isn't going to improve this situation.

Tell him "I'm interested in you romantically. You should ask me out."

Why this approach, instead of you just asking him out? This gives him some ostensible agency in making the move, so to speak, which may or may not matter to him. It also offers a little bit of a face-saving buffer for both of you, should he decline to ask you out and you still want to continue being friends.

If he doesn't ask you out more or less on the spot, he's either not interested or sufficiently "risk averse" as to be useless as an adult partner. Either way, you won't be stuck in limbo anymore.
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:29 PM on June 20, 2018 [18 favorites]

If a guy is offended by you making the first move, then you have a pretty good idea of what the relationship would have been like.
posted by TheAdamist at 3:52 PM on June 20, 2018 [39 favorites]

YES, he knows I like him. I've said things like, "I really like talking with you, " "I'd like to spend some time with you," and we've shared a couple of smoldering looks across the room when we are with friends.

Unless you’ve left out the part where you’re both in junior high, these actions do not count as clearly and explicitly communicating your romantic interest.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 4:04 PM on June 20, 2018 [22 favorites]

All the most obvious hints can be missed, I know from experience.
posted by salvia at 4:12 PM on June 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

I've said things like, "I really like talking with you, " "I'd like to spend some time with you,"

I say these exact same things to people I'd like to have as friends and nothing more.

and we've shared a couple of smoldering looks across the room when we are with friends.

I've looked at people also. What is a "smoldering" look, anyway? Any look that's "smoldering" could also be just observing someone. I've also had my intentions misread by people who thought I liked them/liked them when I just found them momentarily interesting.

I think it's entirely possible that you haven't really been clear, sorry...
posted by amtho at 4:45 PM on June 20, 2018 [7 favorites]

I remember being on a date - very obviously a date, since we met on a dating website - being invited back to her place, and spending what felt like two hours on her bed not touching her because I wasn't comfortable crossing the touching line until she had made it perfectly clear that she was okay with it by initiating. (Once the line was crossed, things progressed quickly.)

Inviting me to her house; inviting me to her bed; she probably thought that she was giving me the loudest, clearest signals that have ever been given by anyone. Still wasn't clear enough for me, and I wasn't comfortable initiating.
posted by clawsoon at 4:56 PM on June 20, 2018 [12 favorites]

I spent some time trying to answer this from the personal anecdote angle, but really:

If this guy enjoys the chase, then he's just not that into you because he's not chasing you.

It follows that if this guy is into you, he doesn't enjoy the chase (or has other perfectly good reasons for eschewing it).

Given the circumstances, it falls to you to make the first move here, or you'll just never know. At this point (assuming your depiction of the circumstances is accurate) the chances that he's still working up the courage to initiate the chase are nil.
posted by bricoleur at 5:04 PM on June 20, 2018 [4 favorites]

I am a man who likes women.

"Men want _____" is as silly a concept as "women want _____". People are individuals with different wants.

A lot of what's in those relationship advice books / blogs / columns is really gross, gender-essentialist generalizations. A friend of mine is really into that stuff -- some of it's ok, I guess, but I keep having to talk her down from nonsense notions she keeps gleaning from it. "Men want to chase, and they will not really like it if a woman makes those first moves" is very much within that category. Some guys are like that, I guess. I don't happen to know any.

This is one of those things where if you want to know what's going on inside someone's head you have to ask that particular person.
posted by ook at 5:11 PM on June 20, 2018 [11 favorites]

Couldn't agree more with ook and bricoleur. Is he a perfectly stereotypical man? If he's not, then stereotypical dating advice won't apply. Have you seen him pursuing anyone the way that a perfectly stereotypical man would? Sounds like you haven't. Sounds like stereotypical dating advice doesn't apply.

(It doesn't apply to a large number of men. Sometimes that's for individual reasons, and sometimes that's for cultural/subcultural reasons. Many of us were raised to never purposely do anything that might make a woman uncomfortable. It's an approach to dating that's better suited to a church in a small town where the older ladies busily set up all the young people with suitable matches and people are expected to marry once and just once. It's not so suitable to modern dating in an urban environment. Nonetheless, that's how many of us were raised, and modern dating comes as a culture shock.)
posted by clawsoon at 5:23 PM on June 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

I appreciate the responses so far, but I would like to say that belittling me and the non-verbal communication that has gone on between me and this friend ('junior high', etc.) doesn't help me or address the question I've asked here. I'm honestly a bit discouraged by the judgmental nature of some of these responses. I tend to think of MF as a place for thoughtful, candid conversation. Some of this thread is very clearly focused on people's perceptions of me failing to communicate rather than my actual question.

I appreciate the perspectives that the things I've said might still not be clear, and especially the examples of more obvious and glaring signals that went unnoticed. The things I specifically mentioned saying ARE vague, and I can see how he may be unsure - though I do think he is pretty sure of my interest.

Could we go back to examples of men who did not mind being on the receiving end of the first move?
posted by Dr_Janeway at 6:28 PM on June 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

Since you're talking about me, or someone much like me, let me say that your guy probably does both really like you as a friend, and also has feelings for you, especially if he continues to want to hang out with you when you invite.

But he also is operating from a perspective of not wanting to fuck up a lovely platonic friendship by trying to ask if you're into him in "that way." It happens all the time. It really does. If he's trying to be a good feminist and a good friend and not come off as creepy AND he's also naturally reticent and slow to act, it might be years before he gets up the nerve to say something.

I think it's fine if you say "I'd like to have a serious discussion for a moment. I have the beginning of feelings for you that are more than just friendship. If you feel the same way, let's talk about where that might go. If you'd like to keep our friendship platonic, that's great too." And then listen.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:41 PM on June 20, 2018 [7 favorites]

Here's a story. I (F) was in the same situation you are with a (M) friend, and it was getting really weird, but he still had not made a move. So I just said, "Hey, I want to clear the air here. You know I'm into you, but I get that you don't see me the same way. It's all good! We can just be friends, and I won't make it weird if you won't." Well, he was completely gobsmacked, and stammered and whatnot, but I felt that I had done a hard but necessary thing, and I was glad to feel like a friendship was possible. A few days later, he walked up to me and said, "Actually I feel the same way." And kissed me. And then we got married.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 6:44 PM on June 20, 2018 [11 favorites]

man of a certain age that likes women.

i have been on most all sides of this equation. I stopped being patient after getting run around for several months about an actual date for someone I really liked. that was so miserable i made a rule to ask early on to go out on date (not easy for an introvert). however, in my last relationship, i would have never asked (reasons) even though she flirted quite aggressively with me. she had to call me and say "hey dummy i don't care about reasons, come over." that was very flattering and it never crossed my mind that her asking was some sort of negative.

it's impossible to tell why he is reticent unless you talk to him. good luck.
posted by lescour at 6:59 PM on June 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm a man, and my now-wife made the first move. I had little (okay, no) relationship experience at the time, and I didn't really have a framework for thinking of myself as attractive to someone else, so I don't think I would have ever initiated. I love that she did, and we've been together ever since.
posted by biogeo at 6:59 PM on June 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

I like Neil Gaiman's advice for seducing a writer:
In my experience, writers tend to be really good at the inside of their own heads and imaginary people, and a lot less good at the stuff going on outside, which means that quite often if you flirt with us we will completely fail to notice, leaving everybody involved slightly uncomfortable and more than slightly unlaid.

So I would suggest that any attempted seduction of a writer would probably go a great deal easier for all parties if you sent them a cheerful note saying “YOU ARE INVITED TO A SEDUCTION: Please come to dinner on Friday Night. Wear the kind of clothes you would like to be seduced in.”

And alcohol may help, too. Or kissing. Many writers figure out that they’re being seduced or flirted with if someone is actually kissing them.
And maybe or probably your fellow is not a writer, but at the very least here is a man saying, in an admittedly indirect way, that he is quite in favour of the other person making the first move.
posted by spindle at 7:07 PM on June 20, 2018 [9 favorites]

For a not particularly attractive guy I have been lucky enough to do ok in the romance department even though I have rarely made the first move. I've either just kind of fallen into a relationship by some unspoken mutual consent or the woman has had the guts to make the first move herself. I've just generally been terrified of being laughed at for having the effrontery to declare my feelings and desires to someone by word or action. Once over the threshold things have proceeded pretty swimmingly.

Thank GOD for those women who've taken the chance on doing what I've not had the courage to do! I would have lived a much lonelier life if not.

Here is how it went a couple of different times.

One time in my twenties this kind of new friend/interest and I were hanging out at my place and drinking wine and shooting the shit and listening to music. In retrospect the air was saturated with sexual possibility but I was just not laying any cards on the table. She eventually said something like "Well, I guess I better be going now..." And I said something like "Well you could crash here..." hoping and hinting but prepared to retreat to having meant "crash on the couch". And she said "If I stay here I am for sure going to jump you!." And that was it. We were off to to the races.

We were together two years.

Another time, a couple of years after that a co-worker and I were at her place pretty late. She asked me one after the other what I thought about the different women in the restaurant we worked at. Eventually, she was the only one we hadn't talked about. I wasn't going there on my own initiative because, well, she was pretty amazing and I was very attracted to her. So she asked me "What do you think about me?" And I then confessed something about how amazingly hot I thought she was and how much I liked her. That one thing led to another. You know the story.

We were together five years.

I remember another time I was really attracted to this woman. We were hanging out downtown. I remember later on in the evening we were sitting on a low wall on a darkened street talking for a long time. I really wanted to kiss her. I never said or did anything about it. In retrospect, I'm pretty sure she wanted me to. I'm still a bit stuck on that missed opportunity.

There were other times that now i can see them in retrospect were missed opportunities. There is nothing sweet about a regret like that.

I am so grateful for the women in my life who have taken the lead.

Enough about me. Reading what you've written, my take on things is that you are saying you really need to find out how he feels and that you will always regret it if you don't find out. That comes through loud and clear. Even if no one here was telling you how great it was when the woman "made the first move" it still seems to me that you need to find out and that means you need to make the move. There's a risk the relationship will go South as a consequence but I think it's a risk you might regret not taking.
posted by kaymac at 7:08 PM on June 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

Whoa! 29/F, I am reading this thread with interest and I identify/feel for your frustration.

And, I simply can't NOT jump in and say: this thread hasn't gone anywhere near judgment or calling out a failure of yours. There really truly is no way to parse someone else's non-verbals accurately without verifying verbally. That's all anyone is trying to point out with some good natured poking.

I'm only bringing this to light because I think whatever defensiveness you might have about knowing with certainty exactly what vague scenarios mean, not trusting other women (yourself?), and being so quick to see judgment/unfairness, is probably all aspects of a worldview that holds you back in dating scenarios as well. My oblique tip is to work on these things and see what shakes out. But hey, I'm just a woman, don't trust me.

(By the way, none of what I am saying is personal to you, and it's definitely not a judgment- we all have our limited lenses through which we see the world.) Good luck with the dating- I know it can be rough out there.
posted by seemoorglass at 7:23 PM on June 20, 2018 [34 favorites]

Guy who loves to be approached first here. I've thought about this a lot. It's not that I'm shy. I used to be, but my job kind of trained me out of that into more of a "say what I mean" type.

But the problem is, contrary to popular comedic depictions of men, I'm not always thinking of that. I can like someone--a LOT!--without fantasizing about kissing them all the time. And I've been told by more than one woman ruefully that I had in the past missed some pretty blatant flirting. I've also been tempted some times but not been sure and don't want to be "that guy". Once you've confessed you're thinking that, there's no taking it back to pre-confession friendship; it's always slightly different.

I guess my advice would be, same as for men, it's not a binary thing, nothing nothing nothing, then KISS AND GROPE! Try small escalations. Smoldering looks, good! Maybe next a lingering touch on the hand, slightly too long to be an accident. Maybe then a walk and put your hand in his.

The nice thing about gradual escalation that is if you're paying attention, you can tell early enough to not make it weird if your approach is unwanted and stop without too much embarrassment. And best case, it IS wanted and the escalation is super-sexy.
posted by ctmf at 7:38 PM on June 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

And for me, nothing, nothing is sexier than being wanted. Far from being a bad thing to tell me you're interested (first), it's an automatic million attraction points.
posted by ctmf at 7:43 PM on June 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

mrs eustacescrubb made all the first moves. We were friends, had been for a few years, & after she got out of a relationship we ran into each other at an event. I thought we'd chat and catch up like always but she turned on the flirt. End of the night she tells me about her current apartment- an old NYC tenement with a toilet shared by the entire floor and a clawfoot tub right next to the kitchen sink. "Wanna see it?" she asked.

Three years later we borrowed the apartment for one Saturday and got married standing in that tub with 35 of our favorite people crammed into that apartment.
posted by eustacescrubb at 8:14 PM on June 20, 2018 [5 favorites]

My wife mostly made the first move. I was the one who asked for a number, but when I was ready to leave she came over and said that she'd like to go out with me tomorrow and she'd call me tomorrow afternoon to suggest something.

If I was okay with that.

I was very okay with that.

I'm sure there are plenty of guys who would hate the woman to make the first move, but I am not one of them.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 8:30 PM on June 20, 2018

I'm older, and very married for over 36 years, and my wife didn't make the first move. But it would have been fine if she had. I had a girl make the first move on me way back in high school, and it thrills me to this day to remember it. I've always been a bit shy -- very easy for a woman to get to know and become friends with, but not at all confident in making the first move. I was happy to moved on back then, and I would happy to be moved on now, if I wasn't taken.
posted by lhauser at 9:03 PM on June 20, 2018

Particularly in today's climate, some guys have been socialized to be more careful with unwanted touch - as they should, but it's led to some people being over-cautious, it's all on a spectrum. Personally I've been both, as a guy - you'll find scenarios where I've been overly touchy and sometimes not touchy enough.

I think there's a lot less risk if the girl makes the first overt move - if a girl I've met for an hour moves in to give me a deep hug or puts her hand around my waist, I might think that's odd but hardly an issue worth mentioning. If a guy did that (and it was unwanted) it's a much more uncomfortable situation and even verging on harassment. From a risk perspective I'm all for preferring the girl to make the first move.

I'm not sure if by "breaking the touch barrier" you mean you've been avoiding touching him at all. Body language and physical touch is a huge channel of communication in itself that contains a lot of information. I could tell, for example, when a girl hugged me, depending on the body language she employed, whether there was a likely chance she wanted to sleep with me or not. She could either do that, or we could talk for weeks and still come no closer to knowing the answer. People like to be touched, generally, and they will reciprocate, whether they are single or they have a partner, and like conversation, it's a skill that only really comes through practice and making mistakes. Touch doesn't have to be exclusively romantic in nature, but it does open more doors of communication.

Anyway, some people tend to think "friendships" are more fragile than they are, I am of the view they're not like some glassware that shatters at the first problem and is never put together again. It's not that I treat friendships with disregard, I think that the amount of work you invest into nurturing a friendship should create something more resilient. I could (in rare occasions) be honestly pissed at someone and tell them straight up why their behavior is unacceptable and not be worried that it would end our friendship, and I am also confident enough in my friendships with people of the opposite sex that if I made some minor social gaffe it wouldn't "ruin our friendship" or "ruin our chances" if we were truly meant to be together.

So go ahead, ask him if a hug would be ok the next time you meet, maybe do some other subtle touchy things, tell him what you're really feeling, if it was me I would really appreciate your honesty.
posted by xdvesper at 9:13 PM on June 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

You know how statements that stereotype women [like all women are xxx] are sexist?
So are statements that stereotype men.

You should read this: Lead me to my people for many stories about guys like your friend [and me].

In a nutshell: Subtle hints don't work. Obvious hints don't work. Flat out statements with no circumlocutions have a better chance of working, but even then you may need to hit him over the head with it [sorry - it's happened to me].

However what will not happen is that he'll be upset because he "wants to chase". The application of a little logic will demonstrate:

Hypothesis: He wants to chase
Observation: He is not chasing
Conclusion: He is either not interested, or "He wants to chase" is untrue.

In either case you have nothing to lose by making a move, and in his situation, I'd love it if you did [even if things didn't work out].

Good Luck
posted by HiroProtagonist at 9:21 PM on June 20, 2018 [6 favorites]

Man, married to a woman (so I finally figured this out, after some trouble)

Q. Do men like to chase/be the first mover?
A. I would say lots of men do, yeah.

Q. Do men dislike it if someone they kind-of-sort-of are interested in pursuing make a move before they do?
A. It would't bother me at all. If I'm interested I might kind of feel like I messed up—like I took too long—but that wouldn't put me off, it would just make me feel like I had to make up for it somehow. If I weren't interested, it wouldn't make me less-than-not-interested. If I were on the fence, it would just push up the time of me making the decision, which would probably be good for both of us.

I say go for it. My wife and I ended up both kind of making the first half-move, in part because I was very reticent and awkward about the whole thing. I'm obviously very glad that she took half-a-step out to meet me where I'd gotten stuck.
posted by Polycarp at 9:35 PM on June 20, 2018

I'm a man in my late 30's married. Absolutely no problem with a women who initiates things. Games...yeah people play them. But games/rules...all a bunch of hogwash. If he likes you and you make the first move...I assure you that's not going to cause him not to like you. If he doesn't respond positively ...he probably wasn't interested in a relationship in the first place. Life is short. Take a chance. You could get hurt but at least you'll know.
posted by ljs30 at 9:46 PM on June 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

Trust me, guys can be idiots.
posted by xammerboy at 10:29 PM on June 20, 2018

Counterpoint (as a woman who has been in your shoes and resoundly rejected when I made a move): what worries me in your question is not that he hasn’t made a physical move, but that he doesn’t initiate conversations/hangouts.

I’d be very guarded about investing in a potential relationship with someone who isn’t investing emotional labor in getting to know me and spend time with me.

Yes, maybe he’ll like it (I did a bunch of initiating in past relationships), and maybe then he’ll keep expecting you to do that work to keep things moving.
posted by itesser at 10:36 PM on June 20, 2018 [12 favorites]

Anecdotally, I’ve been completely fine with women making the first move, or proactively helping things along regardless of whose move is first.

But more generally, how confident are you that what you describe is actually clear communication rather than infatuation? The description you gave is ambiguous. I would still say to give it a try (because really, what is there to lose?) but overall it isn’t completely clear how it might go.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:07 AM on June 21, 2018

Having grown up as the school fat kid, and therefore trained all my life to think of myself as inherently and irreparably undesirable, I was completely taken by surprise when she asked if she could kiss me.

"Can I kiss you?" she said. Just like that.

"I don't know," I said, the idea that any such thing might ever happen being so completely alien to my worldview that I was just flummoxed. I had also failed to ascribe any significance to the fact that it was just the two of us, with nobody else around, at midnight on a river bank under a full midsummer moon, because she'd arranged for it to be that way.

And she looked kind of confused and sad, so I followed up that first amazingly smooth response with "I guess so. Nobody's ever done that before. How does it work?"

And she showed me.

And we were a good thing for three years.
posted by flabdablet at 1:23 AM on June 21, 2018 [9 favorites]

"Could we go back to examples of men who did not mind being on the receiving end of the first move?"

It's not just that I "don't mind" - there's hardly anything I like more.

When I am romantically or sexually interested in someone, I find it hard to act on those feelings. I need almost absolute clarity, in that I need to know whether someone wants to be with me - whether I am being desired - before being able to express my own desire. Verbal clues work best, because I have been known to misread or miss even the most obvious non-verbal hints; even if I'm almost certain that someone is interested in or flirting with me, I still need the clarity of a "I like you, do you like me too?". Basically, I need a clear invitation (which doesn't keep me from sending hints, but they're so subtle that I wouldn't be able to pick them up myself).

A few months ago, I invited a woman I liked to go and see La La Land with me (a date, I guess? I wasn't sure myself). In the movie, at some point, the two protagonists are sitting in the movie theatre and you see a close-up of their hands, inching towards each other. I couldn't help to look at my own hand, almost touching hers, but I felt like I was paralyzed, even though I was almost certain that she was thinking the exact same thing. It was quite romantic, actually, and something we referred back to a couple of weeks later, when we eventually got together. (Also, this scene is a welcome alternative to the conventional image of the man as the bold seducer.)

One last thing. Don't assume that someone who doesn't take the initiative now, won't do so later. Once I feel secure in a relationship, I am very touchy and initiate contact often. I would actually like to express this physicality more in a dating context, because it is an important part of who I am, but I find it very hard because I'm so afraid of unconsciously making someone feel awkward. (Also, I'm quite short, which just makes it that much harder to lean in for a kiss or something.)
posted by Desertshore at 2:56 AM on June 21, 2018 [4 favorites]

I'm a guy who likes women, and I got asked out by a woman once. I found her very attractive but if she hadn't asked me out, I don't think I would ever have made the first move. My usual MO was to just hang out with a woman and hope something magically happened.

Did this particular me-getting-asked-out go well? I'd say so. We're celebrating our 21st wedding anniversary tomorrow.

So, on behalf of shy and/or oblivious guys everywhere, I heartily encourage you to make the first move. I would suggest you to make it verbal but clear and unsubtle. That is, don't just drop hints, but also don't just grab him and kiss him without permission. Do say, "I find you attractive and I'd like to kiss you" (or "have a romantic relationship with you" or "go to bed with you" or whatever it is you want.) Given what you describe as his careful and slow nature, don't be offended if he needs to go off and think about it for a while.

I can't promise he'll say "yes." But if he does say "no," it won't because you made the first move.
posted by yankeefog at 3:03 AM on June 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

I don't know if you need any more stories at this point? But I like telling mine so you're getting it anyway. I (f) was having a drink with a really sweet and funny and cute guy and I made the first move to kiss him, and not only was it awesome and he was into it, but I also got to propose to him a while later, we're married now and it's brilliant.

Smash the stereotypes! Not just of women who want to be chased, but of men always wanting to do the chasing! Woohoo!
posted by greenish at 3:25 AM on June 21, 2018 [4 favorites]

Or, tell me about how men really can hold back even when they really like someone.

This is the story of my life. Hi!

I tend to have crushes on people for years and not say anything. I do my best to not give any hints of my attraction whatsoever. If you make the first move, that turns a situation from one where I'd be risking making you uncomfortable into one where I know that you'd enjoy my attention.
posted by clawsoon at 6:06 AM on June 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

We are at a moment of cultural shift where the changes in expectations for acceptable behavior can leave people confused about who should do what, and when. I try not to be a creepy dude. I have a policy of asking permission before making any sort of physical move on a woman unless we have an established pattern of prior physical interactions that tell me that she will be ok with what I want to do. But because I also need to remain aware of the problem of women feeling pressure to protect their immediate physical safety by just going along with what a man wants when he has her alone, I also will not even ask unless we are in a public place where I feel she will not feel threatened.

I am told that many of the women with whom I have been involved have found this frustrating.

My wife (with whom I have been together for seven years) sometimes teases me about the first time we became physically involved, because she had come to my apartment and gotten into my bed and still, still I had not made any sort of physical advance or verbal request to do so. She had to tell me to kiss her.

She says that I should have taken her getting into my bed as a hint. I say that when she says that she is saying that Kevin Spacey did nothing wrong. She glares at me. I am delighted at my own trollishness.

The girlfriend that I had prior to my wife also had to make the first move, although I did not even bother verbally expressing interest in her (and I was very interested). She had been in an abusive relationship when she was younger and was re-integrating back into normal life after having also been in prison for basically the entire length of her adulthood up to that point when we started hanging out. She dropped a bunch of hints that she was interested in me and I was doing the same and I felt pretty sure that she wanted us to be more than friends, but we had a mutual friend who chastised me for reading the situation that way because men often interpret women being friendly as romantic interest and it was really sad whenever a woman thought that she had a good male friend but it turned out that he wanted more and then he disappeared when he did not get it. These are totally fair complaints, but in this particular case it turned out that our mutual friend was incorrect. I went for a hug one night and the woman in whom I was interested jumped on me and gave me a very unambiguous kiss that I was not expecting but was 100% enthusiastic to receive.

I am not even shy, but I feel like even if the women with whom I am spending time are sometimes frustrated by my method it is more important that I make sure that I do things in a way that neither violates nor coerces consent. I have probably missed out on some smooches because of this. Oh fucking well. In any case, I do feel like the relationships that I have had since adopting this policy have been better and ended (in the cases where they ended) on much friendlier terms because I was willing to go through this awkward stage on the front end.

So if this guy is anything like me he will not lose interest just because you initiate things.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 8:32 AM on June 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

> Dr_Janeway:

Could we go back to examples of men who did not mind being on the receiving end of the first move?"

Sure. It was 39 years ago and we're still together. I say go for it.
posted by maurice at 9:14 AM on June 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

Another male here saying you should go for it. However.
You mention that you are concerned with the possible negative consequences on your friendship.
Think about how to phrase your question in a way that gives him the easiest option to refuse. Just ask if he wants to be more than friends. Also, you don't have to make your feelings clear with a declaration of passion. You wouldn't be asking if you weren't interested. I think it is very important when asking to include permission for him to decline or disagree. Make it easy and low-stress for him to be honest. Make it clear you are happy being friends if that's all he wants. Another factor to consider is context. Don't raise the subject at a time and place in which he is "trapped" by the situation to be with you. Better to do it outdoors, on the street, when saying goodbye, so he doesn't feel pinned down against his will.
posted by conrad53 at 12:21 PM on June 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have at times been smooched or touched by ladies. It went well for them about 100% of the time.

I have made the first move on people far more times with a far lower success rate. Even estimating this number would be really depressing. I think the sample plot for most Het-dudes would look this way.

I'd say in my sample size of one that women actually have a far better shot when it comes to acting first.
posted by French Fry at 1:45 PM on June 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

I grew up a boy among women. Divorced parents, Dad was a geek (and had already made the mistake of marrying my mother, oh the existential dread there), Gramps was just too old and called everybody Brother or Sister. No help there.

It's almost always the girl who has to make the move. Too many stories. They all end up with me being friendzoned or just waiting around hoping the girl finds me interesting enough to make a move. I could lay out half a dozen stories (I'm 48 so there has been plenty of time) of me and girl I'm crazy over and not much happening because she never made that decision.
posted by zengargoyle at 1:56 PM on June 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

My husband, who is by any account a major catch, loved that I asked him out. He said it made him feel good that I liked him. That said, my husband also wanted our children to take my last name and not his, so he may be especially progressive on this front (/husbandbrag). Do it! The good ones like it.
posted by namesarehard at 3:07 PM on June 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

I was painfully shy when I was younger, and the first girl I ever kissed literally told me "You can kiss me, you know" after we'd been sitting on my bed in increasingly awkward silence (other than some background music) for quite some time. That was the only time a woman made anything even approximating the first move on me, and I wish others had. I can't speak for other men, but I always worried that my feelings weren't reciprocated and if I made a move the girl would be offended or otherwise put off; the girl making the first move would have dispelled those worries. Nowadays, looking back on my young love life I can definitely say I should have been more proactive and confident, but I wish that had worked both ways.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:21 PM on June 21, 2018

> I remember being on a date - very obviously a date, since we met on a dating website - being invited back to her place, and spending what felt like two hours on her bed not touching her because I wasn't comfortable crossing the touching line until she had made it perfectly clear that she was okay with it by initiating. (Once the line was crossed, things progressed quickly.)

Inviting me to her house; inviting me to her bed; she probably thought that she was giving me the loudest, clearest signals that have ever been given by anyone. Still wasn't clear enough for me, and I wasn't comfortable initiating.

I had this exact thing happen in my first year of university, except it was a girl in my German class who invited me over to her apartment to "study." When I got there, she cooked me lunch and then we studied in her kitchen for a few minutes before she suggested studying in her bedroom. On her bed. I never worked up the nerve to do anything, and after I left she wouldn't even so much as look at me in class. My wife almost laughed to death the first time I told her that story.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:23 PM on June 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

Another voice here to say that it's fine for women to make the move (M, 45, dates women).

My personal experience has been that of trying to walk a balance between not coming on too strong, and not coming on strong enough. In the past I've erred in both ways, and missed out on what were, in hindsight, some very clear signals.

I don't read people well, either facial expressions or verbal hints, so it's great for me when women are really really clear and direct (and I feel less able to be direct due to the power differentials around harassment/unwanted attention).

Actual examples? My flatmate who spent hours lying on my single bed with me chatting, who I finally got the impression she liked me when she said she was looking for someone who looked like me, with my personality (I still wasn't sure, though...). I've had the "ooh, that person who invited me to their house probably wanted to have sex with me" realisation in hindsight, too.

On the other hand, my current partner, and the few women I was involved with before her, made very clear and unambiguous moves on me. A+++, recommend this approach to you.
posted by Pink Frost at 5:49 PM on June 21, 2018

I want to hear stories of men who LOVED that a woman made the first move, and that never felt that they missed out on the chase

Many of my most satisfying relationships (male, 40s, likes women) have been with women who made the first move. Including a lovely marriage in there. I'm slow and cautious and tend to second-guess; and for a long time I didn't know how to flirt at all. So yes, 100% go for it: IME the only men who would respond badly have messed up gender-role-appropriateness beliefs that would be a bullet you want to dodge early anyways.

The only thing I'd warn about is that there have been a few instances where I responded positively and only too-late realized I shouldn't have, that we were a bad match but I didn't know myself well enough or know how to read compatibility. Men are socialized to be pretty pleased by a woman's attention, and especially to pursue sexual interest, and sometimes that blinds us to people who are maybe not a great match for us overall.
posted by ead at 8:49 PM on June 24, 2018

UPDATE for the curious: I reached out, and made a move. It turns out he was still on the fence about his feelings, so we talked it out. I want to be with someone who is really into me, and it doesn't seem like he is heading there, so we will stay friends only.

It's disappointing, but I am SO GLAD to have clarity. I'm normally a jump-right-in kind of person, and waiting on him to make up his mind has been excruciating. In the end, any answer was better than none.

Thanks for your stories. They were very helpful!
posted by Dr_Janeway at 6:12 PM on June 25, 2018 [8 favorites]

Many years ago I was smitten with a guy and during one of our phone chats I quipped, "So, are you going to ask me out on a date or what?" I think he was somewhat relieved because he later confessed he was a bit intimidated by me and wasn't sure if he could get the courage up to ask me without that prompt.

My husband and I still playfully argue if I technically made the first move or I just merely nudged him to make the first move but whatever, we've been together for over 10 years and I'm as smitten as ever.
posted by like_neon at 3:01 AM on June 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

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