How do I find out whether he likes me?
February 9, 2007 2:28 PM   Subscribe

Is he gay like me? Will it work out? The messy process of coming out ...

Hi everyone,

I'm facing a dilemma in my life right now and I could use some general advice. I am 23 years old, a virgin, and just recently came out of the closet to my socially conservative Christian parents (as well as two liberal-minded, supportive friends). I used to be quite religious and when I had my first crush on a guy in college, I opted for "ex-gay" reparative therapy to no avail. Five years later, after experiencing romantic feelings for a guy slightly younger than me over the summer, I realized I had no other way of finding happiness except by coming out of the closet and leading a gay life. But things are still complicated.

The guy I met over the summer at an academic study program is attractive, smart, funny, friendly, etc. I really felt in the first few weeks that he was taking an interest in me that was more than platonic by staring me down (it seemed like he was checking me out) on more than one occasion. When we finally got to introducing ourselves to each other and talking, I sensed that he was quite interested with what I was doing with my life in general (though at this stage neither of us mentioned relationships). When I added him as a friend on a social network site, I saw that he was in a relationship with a girl. At that point, I told myself I must have been wrong and that maybe he was just staring at me in a completely platonic manner. It happens sometimes.

But that's exactly when things started to get rather tense and awkward between us. The remainder of the summer involved jealous competition in academic terms mostly from his end: it seemed that he was often trying to prove that he was better than me at the subjects being studied. There were days when I would say hello and though he would be standing right in front of me and hardly preoccupied, he refused to respond. The following day, as if to make up for being rude, he would be very chatty and friendly. Things went back and forth like this. Sometimes he seemed flattered that I was conversing with him one on one; he would turn bright red in the face and smile. The staring continued and there were times when he'd return my glances with a deliberate grin. If I was ever in a bad mood, he seemed slightly hurt by my being cold and I felt that I had to say something nice or neutralizing to let him know that I wasn't upset with him. Towards the end of the summer, he would openly compliment my choice of dress and seemed keen on eating dinner at the same table as me and even seemed intent on following me to wherever I would go after dinner. I also observed that he would reciprocate a lot of different behaviors. If I brushed him on the shoulder gently to say Hi, he'd do the same a day or a few days later; if he saw that another friend of mine was dumping his muffin crumbs in my tray because that person didn't use a tray, he would do the same the following day; if I was in a bad mood and wasn't cheerful when saying hello, he'd be just as cold shortly afterwards; and so on. Towards the end of the summer, he seemed to be indirectly asking me about my sexual orientation: he asked me whether I frequent a certain part of the town I live in that is known as a gay hotspot, and later, in a broad conversation about relationships, he asked me rather abruptly what I wanted with my life at that moment. When I mentioned that I haven't had as much independence as I would like because of my parents' conservative expectations, he seemed insistent on reminding me that I know what I want and that's really what counts. Of course, since I wasn't emotionally ready to come out, and since I knew he had a girlfriend, I just said I wasn't ready for a relationship and needed to figure out what to do with my life career-wise. He seemed impressed by my artistic capabilities since he has an appreciation for the performing arts himself. One day, he was sitting on a couch studying and I ran into him and started talking about different things. When I was about to leave for my room, he seemed disheartened and placed his hand on the spot next to him to indicate that I should sit there and study with him. Since my feelings for him had been growing all along, I was nervous a lot of the time and politely said I should return to my room to get work done. I felt bad about that later and returned to his study spot and just continued to talk about different things. When a mutual friend of ours randomly brought up the issue of gay marriage and how she believed that two men or women who love each other should have every right to happiness, we both looked at her as neutrally and placidly as possible, and then looked at each other at the exact same moment as though we both suspected that the topic being discussed was personally relevant to both of us. The tension was palpably thick.

I could go on with other examples. I really got the sense that he was probably in the closet (at the very least bisexual) since the behavior I observed tends to be associated with behaviors resulting from an attraction. Of course, it's also possible that he's just a sensitive, competitive straight guy with whom I had some very awkward personal chemistry. Two months after the summer ended, his girlfriend left him. They had been planning an elaborate vacation for the winter holidays but those plans got scrapped. He told me about two months afterwards about what had happened and admitted that he was still in denial about the whole thing and that he would "check back" with me later. I couldn't help but wonder whether what had happened over the summer had anything to do with his girlfriend of two years suddenly deciding to walk out on him. He never struck me as the kind of guy that cheats (though, admittedly, she could have left him for any number of reasons). I'd say the two most important pieces of evidence against everything I'm saying is 1) that he has never once initiated communication with me electronically (he's geographically too far for in-person communication) since the summer ended, though whenever I got in touch with him, he was always warm and friendly and occasionally seemed really happy that I was talking to him. At one point, when I mentioned my plans for next year, he said, "Maybe we won't be that far apart. At least compared to now anyway. lol" and 2) that he mentioned that he was looking forward to traveling to the location he and his ex-girlfriend had been planning to visit. Of course, the fact that he's had a girlfriend for so long would have made me write him off from the very beginning except that, as I said, it was after I found out that he had a girlfriend that I began to see signs of a possible romantic attraction.

The good news is I'm planning to meet him in person in a short while (and he seemes excited about this) and I mentioned to him that I needed a chance to talk to him in private at some point. He agreed. I plan to have a conversation which involves me telling him that I'm gay, that I fell for him over the summer, and that I also thought there were at least a few reasons for me to believe that the feelings were mutual. I might be wrong about him being gay or bisexual, but I'm also positive that he sensed that I was attracted to him (because I could see how uncomfortable this made almost on a daily basis). So, I don't think he'll be super-shocked to hear that I'm gay or even that I was attracted to him. On the other hand, the bit about the feelings being mutual is rather heavy, awkward stuff for a conversation with someone who is at the present time just a friend. I realize that I risk endangering our friendship with this conversation and I plan to tell him this very frankly at the outset. I sense that he knows that this conversation is coming. My question to all of you is, how should I go about the conversation? If I just say I'm gay and avoid bringing up the issue of my feelings or his feelings, then the conversation will revolve around me: I'll be doing all the talking about coming out, religion, conservative parents, etc. and he'll be doing all the listening. But the point is to get him to talk and tell me once and for all whether he was or is interested in a relationship. I've waited for months and I need to move on with my life by getting either resolution or closure on this matter. This is why I feel I have to bring up what I thought unfolded over the summer and let him do most of the talking. Your advice would be greatly appreciated =)

posted by cscott to Human Relations (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You know, this has nothing to do with being gay, and everything to do with the age-old conundrum: do you risk a friendship by confessing your feelings? Is it even possible to have a friendship with someone you carry a torch for?

Just tell him you like him now! Don't complicate things by trying to suss out what happened over the summer.
posted by footnote at 2:35 PM on February 9, 2007

It's pretty impossible for us to tell you if he's gay or not, but the fact that you needed such a long posting to tell us about it says something, and it's not what you think.

When you're interested in someone and you don't know their sexual orientation, but want them to be gay, you can read into a lot. Too much. Most of the time, they're just straight. This has led me to adopt the rule that I don't even consider someone unless I know (one way or another) that they're gay.

My advice to you here is this: congratulations on coming out, and by all means come out to him. Don't expect him to be gay. Expect him to be straight. If he comes out to you, great. Otherwise, enjoy your life, because you'll be meeting a lot more guys soon.
posted by awesomebrad at 2:44 PM on February 9, 2007 [2 favorites]

Frankly, that reads a lot like you trying to convince us of something.

I don't think I see why you have to have A Serious Conversation with him about this. Mostly because, if he's not interested in you, that's going to be a really awkward, highly-loaded moment. ("So... I'm gay, and I have a crush on you. Want to go steady?" doesn't leave much room for saving face.)

Why does it have to be a big giant thing? Why not just casually let drop that you're into boys, and then see if he picks up the (sorry) ball?
posted by thehmsbeagle at 2:54 PM on February 9, 2007

I have an addition to awesomebrad's excellent advice. He might be gay, but he might not be ready to come out yet. You knew you were gay long before you finally accepted it was true, right? The same can go for this guy. Pushing him by telling him you "think he's gay" isn't really a good idea.

By all means, come out to him, but don't plan out a whole "I'm in love with you speech" until you suss out what his feelings are.

Who knows, you could tell him your gay, and he could just jump all over you (in a good way!). It happened to a friend of mine...
posted by muddgirl at 2:55 PM on February 9, 2007

Paragraph breaks, please please please. Please?

I agree with awesomebrad. Here is how the conversation went about ten years ago when I came out to a guy about whom I could have written a similar post:

Me: "Hey, there's something I want to tell you."
Him: "Yes?"
Me: "I'm gay."
Him: "Well, you know I'm not, right?"
Me: "Hahaha. . . Yeah, of course."

(I hadn't known. I was hoping against hope he was a homosexual and had convinced myself that in all likelihood he was.)

When you tell him you're gay, his reaction will tell you how to proceed. I'm not sure how you can plan out this whole conversation in your head without knowing what he's going to say.

Finally, you have to accept the reality that even if he is attracted to you, he might not be ready to admit it to himself or to you. In other words, you can truly be picking up signals that he might be into you and the conversation could still go the other way.

Best of luck.
posted by veggieboy at 2:57 PM on February 9, 2007

Yes, come out to him.

No, do not go past that.

some men, even men who think they are open minded, can react very negatively to what they think is men trying to pick them up.
posted by Megafly at 2:59 PM on February 9, 2007

others are flattered, even if they're straight.

but I agree, come out to him and don't really go much past that. and good luck.
posted by matteo at 3:05 PM on February 9, 2007

It's possible he's gay, but he's still in a hetero relationship. If he is gay, the way he acted around you means he's feeling it out. It doesn't mean he's going to dump her and run to you though.

I've been in situations where guys with girlfriends have sought me out in large groups, arranged private time (class assignments in university) and flirted up a storm, talking about sexuality classes and making lingering eye contact. All this before casually mentioning their girlfriends.

I didn't pursue those guys because those issues were more trouble then they were worth. It just wasn't a situation I wanted to play a part in, I felt like I was being dragged around so these closeted guys could get a whiff of gay sexual tension.

It wasn't worth it for me, but there's a slim chance it could happen for you. As others have said come out to him, and play it from there. Don't expect anything and don't get your hopes up, he has a girfriend after all.
posted by yellowbinder at 3:23 PM on February 9, 2007

Thanks so much for all the helpful comments. In response to the last post, he no longer has a girlfriend because she left him. But your point still holds. That he had one for so long is evidence of heterosexuality, but as I said, one which I only called into question because of everything I observed. I'm not expecting anyone here to be "convinced" that he's gay or bi because none of you knows him. I was just recounting my observations so that it's clear that the conversation is happening for a reason stronger than "Well, my gaydar sort of sensed that he might be gay."

I think it's best I come out to him and see how he reacts and take things from there. There are so many possibilities. He might be 100% straight. He might be gay but in denial or not ready to come out. He might be bisexual. Etc. There will have to be some uncertainty and spontaneity to the conversation and it's bound to be awkward to one degree or another simply because homosexuality is being discussed. Thanks again, everyone!
posted by cscott at 3:58 PM on February 9, 2007

Let me just add one more thing, regarding the guy I mentioned in my above tale: Ten years later, he and I are really good friends.

Come back and post to let us know how it goes.
posted by veggieboy at 4:04 PM on February 9, 2007

Corey, you sound like you have a really good head on your shoulders. It's an awkward moment, especially one of the first times you come out. The best thing to do is sputter it out as best you can and take it from there. One thing I have learned is that you can almost never reliably predict reactions. Best of luck. Keep us posted!
posted by sneakin at 4:41 PM on February 9, 2007

That he had one for so long is evidence of heterosexuality.

Eh, not really. A good friend of mine dated a girl for 4 years. They had "teh sex" and everything. Turns out, he's very gay. He was just dating her because that's what was expected of him.
posted by muddgirl at 5:19 PM on February 9, 2007

I was going to point you to an earlier thread about falling for maybe-straight guys that this reminded me of, but then I saw that you were the asker there, too.

I'm not criticizing. I've been there too, and I still don't have all my stuff in order. But if this one doesn't work out for you either, I might humbly suggest you try looking for love in places where the sexuality question has been resolved up-front. :)
posted by brett at 5:58 PM on February 9, 2007

I don't really have any advice that hasn't already been said. I just want to say I'm rooting for you. You sound like a thoughtful and smart person and no matter what happens with this guy I hope you find happiness.
posted by loiseau at 6:12 PM on February 9, 2007

Thanks again, everyone. Just for clarification, Brett, the guy in the post I put up in September is the same one. Nothing ever got resolved back then, and I'm still in this mess right now. That's why I planned to see him so I could get everything sorted out. You're right, if this doesn't work out, I'll confine myself to a world of guys who are openly gay.
posted by cscott at 7:50 PM on February 9, 2007

"Confine" is such a strong word. :)

Just one addition: If you do hook up with someone who's just exploring a bit, or just coming out, be sure to take care of yourself emotionally. Don't get too heavily invested in that kind of situation too quickly; those guys can disappoint you badly if you fall for them too hard and too fast.
posted by mediareport at 10:31 PM on February 9, 2007

Corey, no matter what happens with this man, you need some supportive GLBT friends. Through school or other resources, find yourself some gay buddies to talk and do stuff with. Otherwise, you're likely to feel that a relationship will give you all the outlets you need in life. (This advice is from a 60+ lesbian who didn't have a support network and relied too much on her partners.) Good luck!
posted by Carol Anne at 5:16 AM on February 10, 2007

Come out to him first. If he reacts badly to this, then it's a fair bet that he wont be OK with you liking him romantically. If he is OK with it, then it might be worth telling him how you feel about him, but tread carefully.

Lots of gay guys can't handle being straight for whatever reason, and you giving him the glad eye might force him to deal with things that he just isn't ready to deal with.

In an ideal world, you come out to him, he comes out to you, you form a relationship and go skipping off into the sunset to live happily everafter. Unfortunately, life doesn't always work like this. He might be gay, he might even want a relationship with you, but he still might not be ready for one.

Take your time, and don't rush things, or him. Good luck, and I hope it works out for you.

I'd also like to 2nd what Carol Anne said - find some supportive friends. I had a major crush on the first guy I found who was in the closet. It ended badly. I'm not saying that your situation is the same, but just be careful. :)
posted by Solomon at 6:19 AM on February 10, 2007

some men, even men who think they are open minded, can react very negatively to what they think is men trying to pick them up.

That's a really big bummer of a way to live your life. Don't be scared. Be honest. It will be less debilitating and exhausting than what you're doing to yourself now.

"You know, I've kind of got a crush on you. It's OK if you're not interested, I just felt like you should know."
posted by miss tea at 7:38 AM on February 10, 2007

I've just thought of something else I'd like to add, though I'm going to be repeating miss tea. It comes from a fantasy series I once read, called Women On Fire. One of the characters (Ethir, male) is interested in another (Wriana, female), but he is loathe to mention it to her because of their working relationship (he is her lawyer). Another character, Theamh, gives him this advice;

“I don’t know if she wants you or not, Ethir, I’m just saying you won’t know till you’ve asked. Worst that can happen is that she’s made uncomfortable for a little while and you get disappointed. Wouldn’t it be much worse to find out years later that you could have made each other happy but you weren’t eithanta* enough to take the first step?”

Tell him, if you think he can handle it. Not all men can.

*This means courageous.
posted by Solomon at 8:25 AM on February 10, 2007

Thanks for the quote, Solomon. I have taken the advice to tread carefully to heart. To be honest, I really got the sense that he knew I was attracted to him over the summer. It was just clear in how awkward and uncomfortable his behavior seemed whenever he was around me. Since he also seemed to indirectly ask me about my sexual orientation a few times, I got the hints that he at the very least strongly suspected that I'm gay (even if he isn't himself). Mind you, this is not because I was being excessively flirtatious: I would be friendly and interested but never touchy or feely or deliberately femmy to make a point about my sexuality. All of the sensing and reacting were in vibes and signals rather than overt gestures.

This is why when I tell him I don't think his jaw is going to drop. And when I get around to prudently confessing my feelings to him (unless he's enraged, which I don't think he will be), he probably won't be shocked. Anyway, the point about not being able to predict the trajectory of conversations or specific reactions holds. So I'll really just have to play it smart as things unfold. Thanks again, everyone.
posted by cscott at 10:03 AM on February 10, 2007

I was in a somewhat similar situation -- where an ostensibly straight guy kept making prolongued eye contact with me, especially if someone was discussing something like gay marriage; he even began saying things that implied more directly that he was interested in me -- except that I wasn't really attracted to him. We go to college together, and one night when he was drunk as f$#k he called me, asked me to come to his room, and explained that he wanted to kiss me but didn't understand why, since he was sure he was straight. (He also said he was "very inexperienced" with girls...) I told him I was sorry I wasn't interested, but tried to get him to talk to me or someone else about it, to no real avail. He still identifies as completely straight, but I know he's either bi or gay, and I don't dare to tell anyone until he makes some kind of move first.

The lesson from all this? Your guy is probably gay or bi, but is not entirely ready to admit it to anyone; he recognizes that you're interested in him and probably already knows that you are gay. Still, you can't make someone come out of the closet. If he's drunk he would probably try to make a move on you, if he's interested (which he at least was during the summer), or at least tell you that he's gay; but he's most likely not even really admitting to himself his true feelings.

So my ultimate advice just echoes what other people have told you: tell him you're gay, but don't ask him how he feels about you. I suspect he's gay/bi and feels the same way about you, but you must not pressure him. Instead, try to spend a lot of time with him, and share some of your experiences. Talk about when you came out to your parents, or when you came to admit to yourself that you couldn't make your feelings go away. If he has anything in common, he'll feel like he should confess it to you, though it may take a few weeks (or longer!) of reflection before he can admit it and open up. The more you're with him, though, the more his feelings for you--if they exist--will force him to act. If he's gay but closeted, he will be at worst simply curious, at best genuinely interested in you. Give it a shot.
posted by the_arbiter at 11:05 PM on February 10, 2007

Hello everyone,

Unfortunately, I have bad news. I'm about to see this guy in three weeks and I was planning to visit him with my best friend (who's a girl). She was chatting with him the other day and he mentioned that since he's been lonely since his breakup and is seeking companionship (but nothing physical), he wanted her advice on whether to ask this cute girl out. So, it seems that he wasn't in the same boat as me and that I misread just about everything. Still, I am planning to come out to him and we'll see how he handles that. I have to admit that I am surprised because there was so much heated chemistry over the summer almost on a daily basis--unlike anything I've ever experienced with my straight guy friends. At any rate, I have to now accept reality and start to overcome my feelings of disappointment and move on. Hopefully, by the time I visit I'll be in good enough shape to enjoy the time I spend with him. Thanks again, for all your advice!
posted by cscott at 10:32 AM on February 20, 2007

Alright, so I'm not sure whether anyone cares about the outcome of this gut-wrenching story, but here it is. I came out to the guy in question. I thought I'd be in big trouble visiting him because, as I've said above, I figured out weeks in advance that he's not in the same boat as me. However, when we met again, the feelings I once had didn't resurge: he was scruffier than I remembered, his teeth were coffee-stained, and he was quite a bit fruitier than I recalled :) When I sat him down to tell him, he tried to change the subject a few times. He seemed uncomfortable. But once I got to talking rather openly about my struggle, he voiced support. When the visit was over, I reasoned that either he's gay, closeted, and unwilling or not ready to come out or he's an unusually effeminate, sensitive, bizarre straight guy who enjoys staring at closeted gay guys. The moral of the story? If you're fruitier than a bag of Skittles, you're probably straight! Just kidding hehe. I'm glad I'm over this now. I have no regrets about anything I suspected or felt. Although things didn't work out with him, I was inspired to come out against all odds because of this situation. And now I can finally move on with my life at age 24. Thank you all once again for your advice and thoughts!
posted by cscott at 1:46 PM on April 1, 2007

Haha. . . Just happened to check back into the thread. Thanks for the update.
posted by veggieboy at 6:10 AM on May 19, 2007

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