Preventing the slow, painful slide into friendship
July 17, 2008 12:39 PM   Subscribe

Recent acquaintance and I, definitely clicking, but things are headed into friendship waters. Can this be diverted?

There's a girl I've recently met. We travel in the same circles, so probably see each other once a week. Some obvious mutual attraction there, but as we are around each other more, I feel things slipping toward that worst of all things, the friendship level. Short of coming right out and saying it, what can be done to keep the door open for romantic entanglement, as opposed to becoming regular, vanilla chums?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (46 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
I have a brilliant idea: ASK HER OUT ON A DATE.
posted by mudpuppie at 12:43 PM on July 17, 2008 [9 favorites]


Um. Ask her out on a real date?
posted by advicepig at 12:44 PM on July 17, 2008


Life is short and unpredictable. Take a risk!

Find out if she has a boyfriend first. That is a strong possibility and may be the reason things are heading towards friendship.
posted by Flying Squirrel at 12:46 PM on July 17, 2008


It's already been said, but I think it needs to be repeated: Ask her out on a date! It doesn't have to be anything too elaborate, but just do something to show her that you're interested in being more than simply her friend. Hopefully it will work out in your favor, but if not, at least you'll know that you tried and you won't have to keep wondering about what possibly could have been.

Good luck!
posted by sabira at 12:48 PM on July 17, 2008


Ask yourself: what would you like someone to do to let you know they're interested?

Do that.

...best of luck!
posted by 2oh1 at 12:51 PM on July 17, 2008


Isn't making friends with her a reasonable first step toward mutual romantic attraction? Unless you're looking for a one night stand, of course. If you're looking for flirting advice, that's different.

Not sure what to tell you in terms of how to spice things up - maybe with more information?
posted by puckish at 12:53 PM on July 17, 2008


yeah, waiting for the magical moment when she lets you know in no uncertain terms that she fancies you is probably a losers game. ask her out. make sure she knows it's a date, but keep in informal. if she denies your request DON'T say you were just kidding or any of the other lame lies used in that situation to save face.
posted by nadawi at 12:55 PM on July 17, 2008


I have a brilliant idea: ASK HER OUT ON A DATE.

I'm not Anonymous, so I'm channelling him here, but... this advice on AskMe always frustrates me. It might be useful for people and/or cultures where men and women don't go on totally platonic one-on-one social engagements all the time, but me and my friends certainly do. I'm always asking female people for a drink or food with no romantic intent. Signalling the romantic intent in this context is trickier.

So, maybe — tips for the Asker on making it clear it's a date? "Do you want to go out on a date with me" just seems kindergartenish.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 1:05 PM on July 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


@game warden
How about:
"Hey, we should go out sometime for a drink or something, just you and me, you free this weekend?"

And please tell me where you went to Kindergarten, so I don't send my (as yet non-existant) kids there!
posted by Grither at 1:09 PM on July 17, 2008


tips for the Asker on making it clear it's a date?

Hit on her right before asking. Not just flirting, but actual hitting on her. Can be subtle and sweet, but compliments involving looks, brains and spirit would do the trick.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:09 PM on July 17, 2008


I feel things slipping toward that worst of all things, the friendship level.

You know, I hate to get all Contrary Elvis on you, but in my grizzled old experience, opportunities for sex are multitude in this world. There's always more around the corner.

Friends, on the other hand, are rare and valuable.

So I think you should consider that before throwing anything away.
posted by rokusan at 1:11 PM on July 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


ask her out and offer to pick her up. classic date move.
posted by thinkingwoman at 1:12 PM on July 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hit on her right before asking. Not just flirting, but actual hitting on her. Can be subtle and sweet, but compliments involving looks, brains and spirit would do the trick.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:09 PM on July 17 [+] [!]


Um, I'm not sure what "actual hitting on her" is... but I'd say flirting followed by an invitation to go out as a twosome definitely rings true as a hard-to-miss date invitation.

So, with that slight change, what Ironmouth said...
posted by IAmBroom at 1:13 PM on July 17, 2008


After you ask her out to something romantically inclined (dinner at a nice restaurant one-on-one? drinks together on a friday night? I'd be very surprised if she interpreted that as platonic.)

say, "Great! It's a date." (you can make this a question if you want) to drive the point home.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 1:14 PM on July 17, 2008


Nice advice, but game warden has a point. I have a daughter with a busted heart right now because a guy she was interested in was acting as if he were romantically interested but it turns out he was just wanting to be friends and not realizing that to her asking her out to the movies sure sounded like a date.

So, sure, ask her out but it might not totally be enough to communicate the idea to some people. OTOH if you just met my daughter, she'll totally take the hint.
posted by konolia at 1:16 PM on July 17, 2008


"Do you want to go out on a date with me" just seems kindergartenish.

I used exactly this line with my current girlfriend. She said (later) that she really appreciated the directness of the way I asked. I like that approach because that way it is absolutely clear what is being asked for. If she says yes, nobody is confused about whether or not it's a date. If she says no, well, that's a pretty clear message that she's not interested.

It seems to me that once high school is over it's time to stop pussyfooting around and trying to ask someone out without making it sound like you're asking them out, or trying to find out if they like you without indicating your own interest beforehand. Just ask her out.
posted by number9dream at 1:23 PM on July 17, 2008 [9 favorites]


that worst of all things, the friendship level.

I have to disagree with that. I understand what you're getting at, and how frustrating it can be to have a crush on someone who only want to have a platonic relationship, but being friends is hardly the worst possible outcome.

To answer your actual question, I'll agree with those who say "ASK HER OUT!" If you need tips on how to make it clear, try something like "Can I take you out to [dinner/movie/picnic/whatever] this weekend?" I think that "take you out" implies it is a date date, as opposed to "Want to go eat some pizza friday night?" Obviously, since you're asking for the date, you're prepared to pay.

Best of luck!
posted by owtytrof at 1:31 PM on July 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


So, maybe — tips for the Asker on making it clear it's a date? "Do you want to go out on a date with me" just seems kindergartenish.

If you want to go out for food, say ¨Lets go on a dinner/lunch date on [day of week]¨. For drinks, ¨How about a date? Drinks, [day of week], [classy bar with quiet dark areas you can talk in]¨.

¨Do you want to go on a date with me?¨ is not great as a standalone statement. Asking for a date should be asking for a date at a specific time and place. Pick a place that seems more romantic if there is room for confusion, don´t go on a date to the same bar you hang out at all the time with friends. If you don´t know the area at all, at least name a general category of place where you would like the date to take place.

game warden to the events rhino, you must have grown up fast if you were asking people out on dates in kindergarten.

Dearest OP: Many women assume a man just wants to be friends until he shows some sign of romantic interest. If you don´t come out and say something, you will either be the ¨just friends¨ guy, or possibly ¨guy who is just a friend but always flirts with me even though he isn´t really interested or else he would have asked me out on a date¨. Possibly you could be ¨guy who I´m attracted to but can´t stand being around any more because he only wants friendship but keeps flirting with me, I´ll avoid him until I have a boyfriend¨.

There´s no secret way where you keep here from thinking you just want to be friends while you keep secret that you have a romantic attraction.

In conclusion: ASK HER OUT ON A DATE.
posted by yohko at 1:31 PM on July 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm always asking female people for a drink or food with no romantic intent. Signalling the romantic intent in this context is trickier. So, maybe — tips for the Asker on making it clear it's a date?

"So, do you want to go out to dinner with me on Wednesday?" = possibly no romantic content. This is how I ask existing friends to go to dinner with me.

"I'd like to take you out to dinner. Are you free Wednesday night?" = clear it's supposed to be a date. I miiiiight use this wording with existing friends who I was celebrating something with, like a new job. But I'd never say this to a new acquaintance unless I wanted a real date.
posted by 23skidoo at 1:37 PM on July 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


I feel things slipping toward that worst of all things, the friendship level

Being friends and being lovers are not mutually exclusive.
posted by Neiltupper at 1:39 PM on July 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm a woman, and I agree with game warden.

One time a couple of years ago, I went out for drinks and dinner with a guy, and it didn't become clear to me until the end of the evening (when he tried to hold my hand) that he considered it a date. Looking back on the way he asked me, he was very clearly trying to make it a date. I think he said something like , "why don't we go out to dinner on Friday, just the two of us, so that we can talk alone?" when he asked me. And I just didn't pick up on it, because in my circle of friends, I have dinner alone with male friends frequently on all nights of the week without giving it a second thought.

So yeah, this can be awkward.
posted by decathecting at 1:41 PM on July 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Do you want to go out on a date with me" just seems kindergartenish.

It sounds direct and to the point to me. And really, as others have said, if you want to signal to her that you're interested, being direct is probably the way to go.
posted by chunking express at 1:44 PM on July 17, 2008


Paul J. Wilczynski:
With rare exceptions, women are not offended if you make a pass at them, as long as it's done with some amount of taste. In fact, after a fairly short period of time (mileage may vary), women draw an important conclusion if you don't make a pass. And that conclusion is that you're not terribly interested in being more than a friend. Let me explain that I consider 'make a pass' to be a very broad term ... it can be something as non-threatening as putting your hand on her arm briefly and telling her that you think she looks especially nice tonight.
posted by russilwvong at 1:45 PM on July 17, 2008 [6 favorites]


Don't hide that you're attracted to her. I'm not saying you should "make it obvious," but don't do the faux-casual, pretending-to-be-friends thing that so many guys do lest someone notice they're into a girl. Look her right in the eye, look at her often, smile as much as is natural. Give her a compliment or two... not "You look beautiful," but something specific that she can believe: You look nice with long hair, your hair looks glossy in the sun. If you can smell her shampoo or if she's wearing perfume, tell her she smells nice. Friend-boys almost never say things like that. Hair, eyes, color of clothing, unusual style of clothes or shoes --those are all safe.

To approach asking her out, say something like, "You want to do something Friday night," or "some night?" Say it with a smile or a semi-smile... you don't want to show dread :-) If she says, "Like what?" take it as a yes and answer "something fun." And then the two of you can discuss what might be fun. You don't have to have an activity or event already planned, but you should suggest a few things like dinner, ice cream, music, or...? If, after compliments and eye contact and smiles, she doesn't know you're asking her on a date, then she either hasn't thought about you that way or she's unusually oblivious.

Now, if she gets a hesitant look when you ask, that doesn't mean no... so keep going as if you're assuming she will say yes. And if she says she's busy, keep smiling and say "Some other time then," as a statement. Then ask her again, several days later. (If she says no then, drop it.) After that, be friendly when you see her, but don't hover.

If she's not interested, it's okay and even charming to express disappointment. I turned down two guys in my college years and then months later changed my mind. When I told the first guy I had a boyfriend, he said, "Damn it! Of course you do! I'll try to get over it," but smiling a crooked smile. The other one, when I said I wasn't looking for romance, said, "Oh, that's a bummer. I am." So you don't have to act like you don't care.

Then, when it's date night, dress a little nicer than usual, and comb your hair if it needs it. That alone can be a dead giveaway of non-platonic intent. You absolutely must compliment her at least once during the evening. And for some reason, self-deprecating humor is employed more often by men in pursuit... so try a little of that, if you're up to it.

You definitely don't want to wait until you're really firmly in the friend category and then reveal your true feelings. That way lies awkwardness and no lovin'.
posted by wryly at 1:48 PM on July 17, 2008 [9 favorites]


My current partner and I were in the same situation for a while--sexual tension, but in a larger friend group that regularly produced close platonic friendships.

We were at a bar, we were flirting, and he asked me if I'd like something to drink or eat, went up to the bar, got a beer and a snack for me, and paid. When he asked me later if we could go out, we were sitting very close. That plus buying for me earlier made his intentions pretty clear. He also paid for the first date. (We took turns after that).

I usually don't go for the "oh the guy has to pay for everything on every date" but it's a good way to make your romantic intentions clear.
posted by sondrialiac at 1:56 PM on July 17, 2008


You don't have to have an activity or event already planned,

Please, please, please do. You don't have to, but it makes the conversation a lot less awkward. It also makes you seem proactive and organized, like you're willing to do some legwork to make the relationship happen.
posted by sondrialiac at 2:01 PM on July 17, 2008


Since you have mutual friends, perhaps you can ask them what her "story" is. Ask the mature ones who aren't likely to go all 6th grade and blab about you to her.

It's hard to say whether a certain movie or restaurant constitutes a date, but wherever you go, attempting to kiss her on the lips afterwards will certainly let her know where you stand (probably).
posted by girlmightlive at 2:10 PM on July 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Please, please, please do. You don't have to, but it makes the conversation a lot less awkward. It also makes you seem proactive and organized, like you're willing to do some legwork to make the relationship happen.

Not only that, it also makes you seem like are more complete person. You don't have to have reservations, your suit already picked out, or any crap like that. Just know what you're going to suggest. A phrase as simple as "dinner at this japanese place I really like, you have to come with me and try it!" You go out, you like to do things, and you want to bring her along.

On the other hand, not knowing what you want to do can cause a conversational roadblock and isn't all that appealing.

"Hey, you want to go out sometime?"
"To do what?"
"Well I dunno..." and by that I mean that I don't actually want to spend meaningful time with you, I just want to go somewhere with you as a precursor to sleeping with you.

See that? Don't let people fill in the blanks.. be interesting and have something to talk about.
posted by crunch buttsteak at 2:15 PM on July 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


whoooops,

*a more complete person
posted by crunch buttsteak at 2:15 PM on July 17, 2008


"Do you want to go out on a date with me" just seems kindergartenish.

I don't know what kindergarten YOU went to...

This is actually as simple and straightforward as it gets-- but tou could be even less passive about it and say, "I would like to go on a real date with you. What are you doing this Saturday?"

Actual manhood may be required.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 2:20 PM on July 17, 2008


I found (married now), that's it best to express interest by saying "Hey, I'm interested in being more than friends with you, would you like to go out on a date with me?" Depending on the situation, vary the wording, but for god sakes, make it crystal clear that you eventually want to snuggle up to these person and let them decide if they like that idea.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:24 PM on July 17, 2008


Don't hide that you're attracted to her.

That's exactly what I meant.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:34 PM on July 17, 2008


Wow. Looking over what Wryly said is a pocket guide to dating women. Follow that and you are bound to be successful somewhere.

Especially the looking them in the eyes part. It is amazing how people of either sex can draw you in that way.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:38 PM on July 17, 2008


To approach asking her out, say something like, "You want to do something Friday night," or "some night?" Say it with a smile or a semi-smile... you don't want to show dread :-) If she says, "Like what?" take it as a yes and answer "something fun."

Oh man, maybe some guys could play this right but I can see it coming out creepily so, so easily. It sounds like asking for a one-night stand. I second the idea that it's good to have a plan.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 2:41 PM on July 17, 2008


you must have grown up fast if you were asking people out on dates in kindergarten.

OK, I regret the use of the word 'kindergartenish'! I was trying to convey that "do you want to go out on a date with me" seems a clunky, childish phrase, adding extra embarrassment and awkwardness to a situation where embarrassment already lurks around every corner for both parties. I totally agree with everyone who says the OP should make his intent clear. But it's OK to want to do that in a way that's still moderately subtle, I think, and completely unvarnished directness might startle/embarrass quite a lot of people, that's all. There are some great suggestions for moderately subtle directness in this thread.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 2:58 PM on July 17, 2008


Just know what you're going to suggest. A phrase as simple as "dinner at this japanese place I really like, you have to come with me and try it!" You go out, you like to do things, and you want to bring her along.

I'm getting back into dating. I cannot tell you how sick I am of going to coffee. Don't just have "a plan," please have a fun or interesting plan.

Last night I went to see the release of sea turtle hatchlings that was inspired by somebody having noticed I have a Sea Turtle license plate on my car. So, notice something about her. Live music, interesting food, and hands on type activities are usually a good bet, if they're connected to something she likes. And it's just the two of you.
posted by bilabial at 3:14 PM on July 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Being straighforward ("will you go out on a date with me") sounds like you are desperate and have nothing else going on. Even worse: the afore-mentioned "do you want to do something"- which is code for "I'll do anything to go out with you."

You should have already worked the prospect of doing something together into your conversations by now, if she hasn't done it already on her own.
posted by Zambrano at 3:20 PM on July 17, 2008


I think "do you want to go on a date with me" would be very well-received by anyone who was into you and wanted to go on a date with you.
posted by sondrialiac at 3:58 PM on July 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is sort of cheesy and transparent, but also seems to work very well. Do the
"God I feel like doing something tonight but I just don't want to go out. Want to come over and watch a movie, order some take out?" I feel like that's the universal, but non offensive and non pushy, invite to come over and make out.
posted by whoaali at 8:46 PM on July 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh and I second having something planned if you are asking her out. I hate to be asked out with a guy and it's pushed for me to "do whatever I want" and then it feels like I then have to almost ask the guy out, Want to go for sushi tomorrow, or you have plans, or how about this weekend, yeah ok, it's just awkward.
posted by whoaali at 8:55 PM on July 17, 2008


Tequila.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:30 AM on July 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


I hate do be bald-faced and contradictory (sorry, whoaali), but I've concluded (from experience, sigh) that a movie is a slippery-slope-to-the-friend-zone activity, simply because it's not an obvious date activity. You want to say to her, "Hey, would you like to go with me this weekend" for some X that "just friends" wouldn't do. Especially good if there's a little adventure involved and/or it provides lots of openings for getting better acquainted. Comedy show, theater, art museum, planetarium, making candy, dancing: Date activity. Let me repeat about the dancing (the kind with a partner whom you hold): I mean, short of actually saying "Let me get close to your body and we'll see how we like it," ...

There is a time for the "just being together" dates: When the Just Friends Shack is receding in your rear-view mirror. Similarly, take-out: Friend food. Quirky or smaller and local place: Date food. "I'm cooking. Is there anything you can't or won't eat?": You are the man! Date food!

/single guy probably doesn't know what he's talking about



...the Just Friends Shack
is a little place
where we can get platonic...
Friends Shack, Ba-By!

posted by eritain at 4:10 AM on July 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


This is probably a YMMV situation, in that every person is different and prefers different approaches.

But I've always had the best luck with being clear and direct (which does not mean being crass or sleazy). A lot of guys (and I used to do this, too) will go through the most amazing contortions to avoid the possibility of a refusal. They do the whole self-deprecating thing, they say something like "hey, wanna hang out sometime, but it's totally cool if you're busy, so maybe let me know...", and they suggest things that are really ambiguously "date or not-date" activities.

I say man up and ask her out in a way that requires a clear yes or no. Use a word like "date" that unambiguously signals "I want to get into your pants," and specify a specific activity and time. "Dinner and a movie on Friday night" is great; "do something sometime" is not so great.

If she says "no, I like you as a friend" accept that and move on. But if she is "busy that night," that could be either a nice way to say no or a genuine scheduling conflict -- either say "ok, would Tuesday be better?" or ask her again a short time later -- but if the answer is again "no," accept that she probably isn't interested and don't keep pestering her.

Finally, my experience has been that you need to either man up and do this really early, when the attraction is clear but the stakes for being turned down are low, or you just grow the friendship and let that organically turn into a relationship down the road. The middle path, where you flirt but aren't brave enough to make a move that might get you a rejection, can become more and more awkward for all concerned.

Honestly, a rejection isn't the big deal that we blow it up in our heads to be. By asking her out you are saying "I think you are cute and smart and just generally an attractive person," which is a nice thing to be told. And as long as you ask her out in a way that a) lets her say "no," b) isn't aggressive or sleazy, and c) expresses confidence and self-awareness on your part, there is nothing wrong with the attempt. She may have a boyfriend already that she just keeps forgetting to mention, or she may be about to come out of the closet, or maybe she just isn't that into you. But knowing that that's a possibility is no reason not to ask, and is definitely not a reason to play the ambiguous game where you flirt but don't make a move.
posted by Forktine at 5:19 AM on July 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


Proving that mileages vary, I've been the recipient of invitations like the one whooali describes, and they are almost invariably tickets on the Just Friends Express (often accompanied by "God, I'm so glad I can just be myself with you" which apparently means "I only comb my hair if I think I'm about to get lucky").

Of course, there's some onus on the askee as well. I have asked, more than once, "Is this a date or a friend thing?" and have always been glad that I asked. well, except for that one time in college where the guy flipped out and was like NO I DON'T WANT TO DATE YOU, SRLSY I REALLY JUST MEANT DINNER AND DRINKS AND CONCERT TICKETS, but that was before he came out anyway.
posted by catlet at 11:57 AM on July 18, 2008


Damn. If only I'd thought of catlet's nifty 'Is this a date or a friend thing?' To this day I still don't know what dinner with that one guy was about. Hint: I wanted it to be a date.

Now too much time has passed, and we're stalled at the flirty friend stage. Which is nice, but who knows what would be different if either of us had just said - "I'd love to go on a proper date with you. What do you think?"

Even if he said no, I'd still have a good friend to flirt shamelessly with, and I'd know enough not to take it seriously. To me, that's much less awkward than relationship limbo. Good luck and have fun!

*ponders taking own advice*

posted by Space Kitty at 12:51 PM on July 18, 2008


So, maybe — tips for the Asker on making it clear it's a date? "Do you want to go out on a date with me" just seems kindergartenish.

I would LOVE it if a guy really asked me that. "Do you want to do [blah] is usually so ambiguous I'm not sure whether or not he's actually interested.
posted by timoni at 2:42 AM on September 18, 2008


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