Monday, February 3, 2014

(Mis)Reading the Signs

A couple months ago I wrote about a guy that I had a crush on, who snubbed me. But he recently said some things and acted in a way that made me think that maybe he did like me. I won't specify what they were, but I thought maybe he was flirting with me.

I've never been very good at reading those signals. In Chicago, I routinely get harassed. Some creeps are aggressive; not only will they yell out profane things to me, they'll lunge at me (some succeeded in grabbing me, and a lot of screaming and running on my part was enough to shake them off). It annoys and scares me. Stuff like that doesn't just happen to me; it happens to a lot of women, not just in Chicago, but everywhere. That makes me keep my guard up, so that I keep my head down, avoid eye contact with strangers (some creeps view eye contact as an "invitation," which it's NOT, at least not for me), and I don't talk to strangers who hit on me.

When the nice guys, like my crush, flirt in much more subtle, less aggressive, and not-at-all creepy ways, my guard is still up and I usually miss the signals they're sending. More than one guy has flirted with me (one guy even casually asked me out), and I didn't even realize it until it was too late.

I've never been very good at flirting. It's difficult for me to ask a guy out in person. I've done it in the past. A few guys said yes, but more guys said no. It was easier to express interest in a guy when I was doing the online dating thing. At least on a dating website, most people's intentions were clear: they were online because they hoped to meet someone they could date. So after exchanging a few e-mails with a guy, it was easy to invite him for coffee or dinner (or sometimes he'd ask me out first), because from the first wink or e-mail we'd already made it clear to each other that we were interested.

But my crush wasn't someone I met online; like I said before, he's someone I've known for a while. I didn't even see him in that way until recently. When it seemed like he was flirting with me, I hinted that I was interested too.

I kept making excuses for why he hadn't asked me out. He's busy with work. Maybe he's as shy as I am. Maybe he thinks I'm not interested. After a while, I thought to myself, He's NOT as shy as I am, and I've known him long enough to know that for a fact. If he really liked me, he would have just come right out and said it. But he never did.

I started going back over all our most recent conversations and saw everything (including him) in a new light. Maybe he did like me. Maybe it was just a flirtation that didn't mean anything to him. But it meant something to me, and I felt angry and foolish for thinking that it meant more to him.

My first reaction was to lie in my bed with the shades drawn and replay Adele's songs. I also couldn't help resenting him, even though he didn't do anything wrong. He can't help what he doesn't feel. As they say, he's just not that into me, and I'm just not the type of woman to try and change his mind.

Even though I have dated more guys than I care to count, I've also been rejected by many more guys, particularly on online dating sites. I built a wall around myself for protection, not just from the creeps out in public, but also from the guys I liked who didn't like me back. Due to all those rejections, I even pushed away the nice guys that were interested in me because it was difficult for me to believe that they could like me. So I felt angry at my crush for breaking through that protective bubble I kept around myself. He was the first person I felt anything real for in a long time.

When I finally started to think that nothing would ever happen with him, the walls started going up again. I started to avoid him. Being a workaholic is comforting sometimes, because I can withdraw into my work and escape from those feelings that make everything complicated. It's how I kept my heart closed off for so long.

But one good thing about this whole situation is that my crush on this guy is proof that that part of me is still alive. So it didn't work out with him, but maybe it'll work out with someone else. Maybe I'll join another dating site eventually, or maybe I'll try going to more events around the city and meet someone that way. Or maybe there ISN'T someone out there for me, and at least that way I can focus on my work, which truly is and always will be my passion. You don't have to be unmarried to be successful, of course, but I do know of many successful, happy workaholics out there who stayed unattached. Maybe I'll be one of them. Or maybe not.

What about you? If you're single, what do you think of flirting? If you're in a relationship, did you flirt with your significant other (or vice versa), or was one of you more direct and just asked the other out?


  1. My husband and I were set up by mutual friends, and he was pretty clueless to flirting.
    I'm sorry about your friend. But the right person is out there, and you'll meet him in the right time. For now, enjoy being single! Some times I miss having the place to myself, not having to share the TV, not feeling neglectful if I decide to read for three hours straight. :)

    1. Hi Rachel,
      I think it'd be difficult for me to share the TV, because I'm addicted to crime dramas, especially Elementary. I wish I could read people's minds so that way, the next time I have a crush on someone, I'll know whether or not he's interested. Actually, if I was Sherlock Holmes (like the actor on Elementary), I'd have the gift of analyzing people.
      Thanks for the advice! It helps. :)

  2. Good questions... I never really flirted that often. Even now the word "flirting" makes me cringe, because I keep picturing batting eyelashes and laughing at stuff you don't find funny... If flirting involves that sort of thing, I've never done it. I'm also not too good at avoiding foot-in-mouth disease... So I guess if a guy could put up with my weirdness beyond our first meeting, and I liked him back, that was good enough for me :-)

    1. Hi Deniz,
      I especially love your last line about a guy putting up with your weirdness; I'm pretty weird too, so it'd be nice to find a guy who was also weird, funny, and kind and then we could be weird together. :)
      I don't like flirting either; I don't really like to do it because I don't want to lead anyone on.

  3. Darn. That stinks. I think it would be so tough to date these days. I met my hubby in middle school, and the rules were so different then. I think I'd be a total hermit if I were single now. Hang in there, girl.

    1. Hi Julie,
      Thank you! Actually, I fear I may end up a hermit at some point; I'm already an introvert, and making all these failed attempts at connecting with people has made me become even more introverted. I think I will try online dating again eventually, but this latest situation makes me think that I'm going to need a little more time to get over it first.

  4. I commented on this, and it disappeared. I said that I'm so bad at flirting that I don't realise a guy is interested in me until our second kiss, because the first kiss might have been an accident :-) Does that make you feel more confident?

    1. Hi Annalisa,
      Sorry about that! I'm not sure why your earlier comment disappeared; Blogger is weird like that sometimes. But your comment does make me feel more confident, though I must admit I giggled when you said that the first kiss might have been an accident. I wish I could say that I got to kiss my crush at least once, but I didn't.