Is this flirting?
February 5, 2019 5:54 PM   Subscribe

I had a night out with some coworkers recently and I'm wondering whether I was being flirted with by one of them.

Like a lot of men who are interested in part in women, I have a lifelong inability to gauge whether I'm being flirted with or not. I've gotten better at this, but it's still hard.

For some background: I'm new at this place, I've had one or two lunch conversations with her at the same table with some other folks that ended up going beyond the prosaic intro stuff to talking about music and making jokes, but nothing more than basic friendliness. To be honest, I think she's very attractive personally and physically, but prior to this event, that was just something that I registered as an impression I had about this person that had no bearing on our apparently amiable but entirely professional interactions. I figure as a mature human being that you can have that internal reaction to someone in a professional context and just acknowledge it and move on.

Anyway, recently, a group of us left from an after-work event to go to a bar and all sat down at a big table. The last open chair was next to her, so I sat down there. I am certain that I wasn't making any physical contact with her at first, even though space was tight, because I make an effort to respect the physical space of others, especially in the context of being aware of the ways that men intrude on the personal space of women in basically any context and how shitty that is. Pretty soon, though, without my moving, our adjacent legs were touching entirely, and I was already too far over to inch away any more than I was. It stayed that way for a good while as we talked and joked in a group, and then we adjourned to a patio, and different subgroups gathered, but we ended up in the same one for a bit and kept on the same patter. After that, we moved on to another place and she elected to ride with me (I was watching my intake and did not drive drunk, I promise) and sat in the front seat, and on the way we had some playful banter about music choice and unlocking my phone so she could play things on the speakers. She left there after not too long, since she lives in a different city in our metro area that's a moderate distance away, and someone else who lives there was driving back. Today, we briefly talked about making it back okay, but nothing out of the ordinary.

So, to me this all seems like the thinnest of evidence and I'm definitely prepared to hear that none of it means that much, but again, I have a long history of not recognizing body language that other people tell me is blatantly flirtatious behavior, so I'm trying to get a gauge on this because after that time spent talking I think she's a lovely person that I'd be interested in dating. FWIW, it's a small company, with what seems to me like a culture that is very explicit about not being a boyzone, but in which coworker romances aren't uncouth (there are a few couples who met as coworkers there). Still, in a professional context, I feel like it's an imperative for me to aggressively favor her right to a comfortable work environment over any romantic intentions of mine towards a person who might not even be projecting interest, so it'd be great to hear some interpretations of what was going on from some third parties.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Based on your account, she talked with you for a while and her leg was touching yours when you sat next to her at a full table. There's no evidence that she was flirting. She might have been trying to you/might like you, but also, she might not.
posted by bearette at 6:01 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]

It’s impossible to tell, not having witnessed it, but this does not seem like flirting to me.
posted by greermahoney at 6:03 PM on February 5

Sounds like she was being friendly. I’ve acted like this to coworkers, male and female, who I like as a person but am not interested in romantically. So, no evidence here except that she doesn’t abhor you.
posted by umwhat at 6:04 PM on February 5

It doesn't sound like it to me, but even if it was, it doesn't really matter. Lots of people mildly flirt without intent.
posted by metasarah at 6:22 PM on February 5 [17 favorites]

Maybe you have chemistry, maybe you don't, but I feel like if she was deliberately cozying up to you during a work dinner you'd have gotten a much clearer sign later on. Could be that she doesn't notice such things, it really was that crowded, or the person on the other side had terrible B.O. Who knows.
posted by acidic at 6:23 PM on February 5

I'm also going to have to with "not enough information to conclude flirtatious intent." Maybe she was flirting, maybe she wasn't. But whatever the case, from your description, I don't think there was anything signifcant enough for you to act on. I would recommend maintaining your professional stance.
posted by mhum at 6:32 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]

It seems that she is comfortable around you, but that's all that is apparent from her behavior.
posted by calgirl at 7:12 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]

You just started this job, you’ve had 3 conversations with this woman, and the only things you really know about her is that she’s hot and has musical preferences?

Focus on your job. The work hottie is not there to be your romantic opportunity. Do not fish in the company pond, at least not without getting to know these people much better, so that you have a good idea about what they’re like as people, whether something might be flirting or not, and if Work Hottie is remotely interested in you as a dating prospect. Right now you’re doing the white-collar equivalent of wondering if the barista wants to date you, because she smiled and wrote a smiley face on your cup next to your name.
posted by Autumnheart at 7:40 PM on February 5 [23 favorites]

Who knows. Since this is a work context, I would assume she is not flirting and would keep assuming that unless she explicitly says something like "let's go on a date" or something very clear.
posted by sockermom at 7:46 PM on February 5 [4 favorites]

Ask Dr. Nerdlove has this covered.

Also, even if she was flirting and was very interested, it's a horrible idea to date at work. This just sounds like neutral friendly lady behavior to me anyway, but don't complicate it with penis feelings.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:18 PM on February 5 [4 favorites]

If she likes you, she’ll let you know. There’ll be something else. Sit tight. In the meantime, don’t be That Guy.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:00 PM on February 5 [6 favorites]

Nobody else has said it, so I will. It sounds like you're conscious of That Guy, and working hard not to be him. Good for you! (Now don't fuck it up. If she is interested -- even though you work at the same place -- and she had any degree of awareness, she'll understand she needs to make her interest explicit.)
posted by kate4914 at 9:49 PM on February 5 [4 favorites]

If she is interested -- even though you work at the same place -- and she had any degree of awareness, she'll understand she needs to make her interest explicit

but if she's the kind of generally decent person who doesn't want to make co-workers uncomfortable, she definitely won't, for the same reason he hasn't.

anonymous, the whole point of flirting is you can't prove anything. if a third party could identify flirting easily from a secondhand report, it wouldn't be flirting, it'd be making a move. She did not make a move.

I don't think she was flirting either. but if she was, she didn't press it and she did it with a light enough touch that you can write it off as meaningless if you don't want to dwell on it. that's the only ok way to work-flirt with a near stranger. that's as true for her as for you. it's great that you don't want to be That guy, but gendering courtesy too much makes you unable to notice or appreciate it when a woman offers it back to you.

if you are interested, you can mirror and be receptive but do not escalate. the person who is unsure if anything mutual is even happening is not the person who gets to take a potentially disastrous step forward. so, maybe not her but definitely not you. you will have to know her much, much better to get an idea of what is normal friendliness from her and what is special attention. not everybody likes to get to know someone very well before making a move or asking them out, but with co-workers, you have to.

and the best and most likely case is not that she was deliberately engaging her subtle flirt mechanisms, but that whether or not she's attracted to you, she simply likes you to some degree, and it naturally shows. that will happen.
posted by queenofbithynia at 10:54 PM on February 5 [5 favorites]

I kept reading waiting for the bit where she might have flirted with you. I didn’t find it. She certainly likes you as a friend! But romantically? Ehhhh not really there from what you wrote.
As much as you have gone to lengths to sound aware and respectful, I think the level of attention and focus on her interactions with you is a tad much. I would recommend trying to fixate a bit less on her.
posted by like_neon at 1:17 AM on February 6 [2 favorites]

Flirting doesn't always have to mean "I want to date you." Sometimes it's just lighthearted and fun. There's a lot we're missing here as far as her tone etc that could make a big difference in interpretation.

Personally I wouldn't sit so that my legs were completely touching someone else's legs unless either 1) I was into them 2) I didn't have room to move. But, I'm hyper-aware of touching and that's gotten me very confused about other people's intentions before. Some people are just naturally, easily friendly and not so aware of physical boundaries.

In short, we can't tell you. If there's some kind of romantic possibility here it has a lot more casual conversation ahead. I'd make a mental note and then put it on a shelf in the back of my head and get on with life.
posted by bunderful at 5:27 AM on February 6 [2 favorites]

Perhaps I'm more reserved than some commenters here but the leg touching thing definitely reads as flirting to me.

However, flirting in itself doesn't really mean anything- she could be a flirty person, she could have had too much to drink, she could have been trying to make someone else jealous. Or she could be super into you.

If you weren't co-workers I'd suggest you ask her on a date and find out. As you are co-workers, I would keep being friendly and professional and see how things unfold. Try to avoid getting swept up into a crush, because that will cloud your judgement. You'll being seeing each other regularly, you have the time and space to get to know each other and feel her out before jumping into something potentially career limiting.

I know a lot of people are very strict about avoiding office romances, and I can certainly see their point, but the fact is lots of couples meet at work and end up happily ever after. I do think a higher degree of caution is a good idea for work place relationships, because the consequences of things going wrong (and most relationships do go wrong) are potentially devastating.

It's great that you're aware of how men intrude on the personal space of women and you're conscious of not doing that. I'd encourage you to think about other ways power dynamics between men and women play out, including how women are socialised to be deferential to men, and how men are socialised to feel entitlement to women's bodies and attention. Even if you're not physically threatening someone, these dynamics can make it hard for a woman to say no.

Finally, and I say this as a chronic over thinker who reads too much into everything, you're coming across as pretty invested in what sounds like very mild flirting. It's actually pretty normal not to know if someone you've just met is into you. That's kind of the point. You're not uniquely bad at reading body language, she probably doesn't even know herself.

Try to enjoy getting to know this person, rather than needing a definitive answer to how she feels about you. Learn to sit with uncertainty. This might turn into something, it might not. That's true of many things in life. You can't fast-forward the difficult (but fun!) stages of learning who someone is.
posted by Dwardles at 7:05 AM on February 6 [6 favorites]

In your efforts to not be That Guy you're revealing your true inclination. It is extremely weird and creepy that you were monitoring your coworker's every move like this, judging what the motivation is. Women are people. We're not oracles or treasure chests that need unlocking with the right combination.

Maybe she likes you and maybe not, but none of the things here provide any insight and all I see is a woman being human. Stop trying to decipher women's behavior like this, it's gross.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 7:40 AM on February 6 [4 favorites]

I don’t think it’s creepy that you noticed your legs touching. That’s something that I would be acutely aware of if I were in your place. But I would not consider anything to be flirting if there was alcohol involved.
posted by Ruki at 10:32 AM on February 6 [6 favorites]

Insufficient data for meaningful answer. She is obviously comfortable with you, which is a start. The question I have is eye contact. It is the giveaway here.

Try a *little* direct eye contact next time when you are speaking with her in a social setting the next time.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:14 PM on February 6

I don’t think it’s inherently creepy to be hyper-aware of a hottie in the vicinity, and overthink their every move and “what it all means”. People get attracted to others and ruminate on the uncertainty, I’d say that’s pretty normal. As long as you keep it under maximum security lockdown in your own head and don’t let it bleed into your professional behavior, when said hottie is a coworker. The creepy part isn’t liking someone and thinking they’re attractive, it’s acting on it in an inappropriate context. Work + barely know the woman = not an appropriate context for acting, IMO.
posted by Autumnheart at 5:30 PM on February 6 [5 favorites]

In my experience, I wouldn't say she was flirting with you. You've only known her for a short time? It seems to me like you find her to be extremely attractive and trying to interpret any friendly interaction with her as her flirting. It's best to get to know her and become her friend. Then if she has any feelings towards you, you'll notice it clearly. At this moment, I'd say you're misreading the signals.
posted by sewbee at 12:32 PM on February 10

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