Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Auntie Seraphic & Just a Male Friend

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

I think I have inadvertently given a Nice Catholic Girl the idea that I may be interested in her romantically. The fact is that I'm not; she's a nice girl who I enjoy talking to, but there just isn't that spark of attraction on my part.

I would be lying if I didn't say that this lack of attraction is mostly physical (though I'm a great believer in your axiom that men find attractive who they find attractive; most of the women I've been really into were not conventional beauties but were extremely beautiful to me all the same). Attraction is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for a relationship.

There's also the fact that she occasionally runs herself down in conversation, mentioning out of the blue that she wasn't popular and didn't have many friends in high school. Those things don't matter to me, but I'm very wary of girls with obvious self-esteem issues because it's hard to love someone when they don't believe they are lovable.

Anyway, I'd like your advice as to how to back off as gracefully as possible, with a minimum of hurt feelings.

My story goes like this: in the last couple months I've been frequenting a young adult Catholic group in my area. They meet weekly and I go [irregularly but often]. I knew a couple of the people who run the group from being in the wider [local] young adult Catholic social network, but I didn't know them particularly well. I consider myself to be a slightly extroverted person--I very much prefer to go out and be social than to sit at home alone--but I'm not a social butterfly and need time to warm up to a new group of people. When I do make friends, I tend to take a while to branch out.

I first remember meeting this NCG when about six of us went [somewhere] as a group-sponsored social gathering. We had a long wait in line, so I asked her about herself and we talked for quite a while. Later, at regular meetings of the group, I'd talk to her because I'd already gotten to know her better. She friended me on Facebook. A couple of weeks ago, at our diocese's Theology on Tap, she manned the hostess table. I must admit that I spent nearly all entire time talking to her (she, one of her friends, and I closed down the place).

Lately, I've been getting the vibe that she's into me. She encourages me to stay out later for the post-meeting social activities. She "likes" a large number of my Facebook status messages, even inane ones like "Happy Thanksgiving." She greatly encouraged me to show up to an event that the young adult group sponsored.

This may sound like thin gruel; perhaps I'm over compensating for past incidents when I failed to comprehend that a woman who asked for my phone and put her number in it at a party was interested in me romantically. I'm trying to trust my gut on this one.

I don't think I should just stop talking to her because, from what was discussed on your blog this weekend, that drives women crazy, apparently. I would like to continue the casual friendship that we have, but I think I need to act differently to avoid giving her the wrong impression.

Thank you so much for hearing me out. I eagerly await your advice.

Just a Male Friend

Dear Just a Male Friend,

How happy I am that you have written in, for we all love a guy's eye view and we all want to know what turns guys off. Wrong physical type. Check. Runs self down. Check.

I think your gut has got it right. Encouraging you to stay later and avidly following you on Facebook, complete with constant "likes" (including to "Happy Thanksgiving"), are indeed indications that a woman is into you. And as she friended YOU on Facebook, she obviously does not read Seraphic Singles because I hold that asking an eligible young man to be your "Friend" is just as bad as calling him up on the phone.

However, the girl may have got the impression that YOU were into HER because sometimes she seems to be the only person you speak to at events. I am shaking my finger at you. On the other hand, she ought to have introduced you to other people to speak to. If she did, though, I am shaking my finger at you again. Even though you knew she wasn't your type, neither she nor the people around her knew that. Without realizing it, you have may have been "making her conspicuous with your attentions", to use an ancient phrase.

Fortunately, your gut has told you what is up, so it is time to let the poor girl down as gently as possibly. Subtle is good. Women understand subtle. Therefore, I recommend that you change your status update to read "....is looking for a woman just like Rita Hayworth" or any other screen siren who very much takes your fancy and does not look at all like this girl.

The beauty of this is that you are stating who you DO want and not who you don't want. It is entirely honest yet positive. And this girl, who reads your status updates avidly, will not be able to prevent herself from comparing herself to Rita Hayworth or whomever you have chosen. (If the girl has red hair or is Hispanic, make sure you do NOT choose Rita Hayworth!) If she is a girl's girl, she will ask her female friends what they think, and the loving-but-unthinking ones will say you are shallow, and the loving-and-thinking ones will say, "Well, men love whom they love and not whom you wish."

Every once in a while repeat the Rita Hayworth theme, e.g. "....is still looking for a Rita Hayworth of his own " or "...saw a woman just like Rita Hayworth but wearing a wedding ring, alas" or "...wonders what the Aga Khan had that he doesn't have." That should do the trick.

Of course, it may not, and having derooted herself from reality and now floating amid the clouds of dreamland, this girl may ask you out. If she does, then you will be forced to say the dreaded, "Just as friends, right?" And, mortified, she will say, "Yah, of course!" And then you will say, "Great! Who else is going?" And it will be turned into a group event, and as she will not talk to you once anyway, feel free to cancel your own involvement.

P.S. to Female Readers: Five points:

1. You are somebody's type. Not everybody's, but somebody's. Imagine my excitement when I discovered that funny blogger Benedict Ambrose had had a lifelong crush on singer Dame Emma Kirby, who has fuzzy red hair and could have been my aunt. That was an awesome moment.

2. Never run yourself down in front of a man. Are you insane? High school is over, and unless you are now engaged to a man, mention only the good parts or not at all. Nobody wants to hear about how unpopular you were. Zzz.

3. If a man is interested in you, HE will befriend YOU on Facebook.

4. If you are single, and you inanely press "Like" to all his comments, he might start wondering if you are into him.

5. Never give a man more than half an hour or so of your time at a social event before he asks you on a date. Introduce him around. Excuse yourself to talk to other people. Be nice, be hospitable, but for heaven's sake don't be so darned available.


Andrea said...

What if you mentioned, briefly and not as a focus of the conversation at all, that for a time you had no friends in a particular social setting (church) but then added you believe it was really nobody's fault and then further added you had plenty of friends in a different social setting (school)?

The tremendous capacity of the female mind to second guess. Yeeeesh.

IA_ said...

Auntie Seraphic,

From a guy's point of view he may not be able to post ANYTHING in his facebook status about Rita Hayworth. Any respectful male friend who sees it will call him "gay."

Seraphic Spouse said...

Andrea: But why mention it at allllll?

IA: Um... Are we assuming that his male friends are all in the sixth grade? One of my red-haired girlfriends' devoted boyfriend is a big Rita Hayworth fan, which is why I thought of Rita in the first place.

Andrea said...

It was a conversation under the theme of "things churches do wrong." And one of those things is to use such exclusive church language (without ever explaining it) that non-Christians who come are socially ostracized, thereby defeating the purpose of being a church. Come to think of it, I think I'm off the hook. :-) (Not everything is all about me.)

Seraphic Spouse said...

And it would be news to me that Rita is a gay icon. I could see my reader struggling how to express his smoldering attraction for Judy Garland or Joan Crawford without being misunderstood, but that's about it.

Seraphic Spouse said...

Andrea, now I am really confused. Non-Christians going to a Christian church where they feel ostrasized by non-inclusive language which defeats the purpose of being a church? Wha....?

MB said...

Dear JAMF: Thank you for writing in, and giving us your perspective. V. helpful!

Auntie Seraphic: Thank you for posting JAMF's letter, and for all the good advice. It's satisfying to hear wisdom on interesting topics!

some guy on the street said...

Hmmm... after all the denunciations of game-theoretic seduction, I'm not entirely sure what to make of this "subtle" approach... it seems terribly like "Game backwards" to me.

What I'm getting at is that Game as described and reviled previously had two things against it: 1) its usual object --- seduction --- was illicit, and 2) its chosen means were a kind of dishonesty.

Now I'm not saying that declaring a movie-star crush is dishonest, although it's got other problems; but is it too much to hope for a less-sneaky tact? For instance, at an up-coming social event, Mr. Friend might make an effort to actually include other lady folk in his conversation, and introduce the NCG in question to other men of sense. Both of these have the features of being good things to do in themselves (I think?), helping her with PS Point 5, as well as emphasizing the fraternal character Mr. Friend expects in his friendship with Miss N.

Catholic Pen said...

Alas, I think I have recently been on the other side of the story. I thought a guy was sending "I am interested" signals, but seems he didn't know that is what they were and was just being friendly...or maybe I am just really bad a reading signals! Sigh....

Catholic Pen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Seraphic Spouse said...

This subtle approach is for a man to hint to a girl that he's not interested in a way that cannot reasonably hurt her feelings. "I'm into blondes" is the fastest way for a brunette to get a message, and yet it doesn't attack her directly, if you see what I mean.

Believe me on this one. I am an expert on girlspeak.

Jessica said...

Hmm, I'm also not a fan of the facebook status approach on this one. On the other hand, I have my own stories of misinterpreting guys' interest, so I appreciate Mr. Friend's care.

Does Mr. Friend have any NCB friends that he could set up with NCG? Even to talk about in conversation: "Yeah, so that's my brother Andrew. You know, I think the two of you would be really good together. You're totally his type."

As a girl, that would burst my bubble pretty quickly. It's hard to envision a future with a guy when you know he's picturing your future with someone else!

IA_ said...

I don't think Rita Hayworth is not a gay icon. It is just I think young men can be very immature when not around young women. Being tongue-in-cheek mean to each other is part of the bonding experience of many youths. No need to give your compatriots ammunition. I don't think your line is a bad idea, but I think if my buddies saw it I would get no end of grief. (Of course that may say something more about my selection of friends than anything else.)

Dating would be so much simpler without facebook.

Clare C said...

The kindest way to discourage a girl is any way that conceals the fact that you know she's (THAT) into you.

I think that's one of the most painful/mortifying part of having a crush dashed.

some guy on the street said...

Dear Auntie, I wouldn't dream of contradicting you on what you of course know most intimately; if you didn't understand very well how and what young ladies think, how they process the words of young men (with and without a crush) I'd be surprised and worried! But I think that underlines the difficulty I perceive rather than smoothing it away; is it actually a good thing to concoct some (true but irrelevant) public statement calculated to discourage attention as indirectly as possible? Is that a proper way to use one's understanding of female psychology?

maybe I'm worried about nothing, but I'd like to know what others might have to say.

Domestic Diva said...

I think Auntie's point is that while guys tend to be very blunt and not be hurt by it, girls pick up the point from far more subtle clues. Bluntly telling a girl outright "I'm not interested in you; sorry you thought so," can be painfully humiliating. To subtly let a girl know that she has misunderstood a person's interest is being both truthful and sensitive to her emotions. This is different from "game," which deliberately manipulates someone to think the gamer is in love (false) so the gamer can use the other party in some way.

She shakes her finger at JAMF because he's (unwittingly) given subtle clues that any interested girl will quickly interpret to mean reciprocated interest. I'm not sure I'd recommend an outright lie, but I really like Jessica's suggestion of introducing the girl to other guys: it lets the girl know that the guy isn't interested, protects the girl from the humiliation of knowing the guy knows she's interested, and potentially opens the door for her to make other male friends (and more-than-friends).

Anna said...

Is there any other REAL girl that JAMF is interested in? If so, he could mention her at some point the next time he talks to her. And yeah, don't talk to her as much! Or when you DO talk, don't compliment her, or mention how cool it is that she knows how to do X or certain facts about Y (X and Y being hobbies and something that can be found in an encyclopedia). Just watch what you say and how you say things.

And as for point #5, do men in the real world REALLY ask a girl out within 30 minutes of meeting her and talking to her?? All the Catholic men I know who are dating or have dated took anywhere from 3 to 7 MONTHS before asking their girlfriends on a date. They took time to get to know her as a friend, then took it to the next level.

Laetitia the Lurker said...

Lurker chiming in to say: It really is kinder to be subtle. A friend of mine who once thought I was getting the wrong idea took a more direct approach - not even as far as telling me in person, but asking someone else to discourage me. Looking back, I realize he meant well, but at the time I was horrified, humiliated and absolutely furious. I refused to speak to him for a week, and was bitter about it for quite some time thereafter.

As it turned out, everyone got over it sufficiently and then some - otherwise, I suppose, I would not now be engaged to marry him - but even so I do occasionally think back on it, get annoyed all over again and give him a bit of a hard time about it, poor thing.

So please don't be blunt! No matter what happens later on, it won't serve you well. ;) Think of being subtle-yet-truthful like speaking Chinese to a Chinaman: a gesture of courtesy, not manipulation.

theobromophile said...

I love the idea of fixing her up with a male friend or brother!

And as for point #5, do men in the real world REALLY ask a girl out within 30 minutes of meeting her and talking to her?? All the Catholic men I know who are dating or have dated took anywhere from 3 to 7 MONTHS before asking their girlfriends on a date. They took time to get to know her as a friend, then took it to the next level.
I disagree with the 30 minutes, too... I would give it three hours, tops. My most recent is the result of a fix-up by a friend, so I can't use that for comparison, but every other man I've dated recently asked me out within a matter of hours of meeting me. (One took a couple of weeks, but asked me at the first social/non-office event we attended together.) Before that - years ago - men would wait months or years. The newer relationships have been a lot better.

Alisha said...

"Never run yourself down in front of a man...Nobody wants to hear about how unpopular you were. Zzz."

I assume there is a difference between running yourself down and sharing past experiences...particularly if you are a very strong woman, which can intimidate men (apparently, though any guy I've ever talked to about it said they like strong women), wouldn't sharing your past in a non self pitying way be a way of just showing you're human and that not every thing is perfect?

Re: FB - do people really make judgments about whether someone is interested in them based on a Like Button?? I dunno...I like what I like, no matter who posts it; if I pay more attention to someone in particular, it's because they are more likely to be a) close to me or b) post things that are interesting.

"Never give a man more than half an hour or so of your time at a social event before he asks you on a date."

I'm going to whine about this...I just think it's sad to pass up a great conversation just in case the person might be getting the wrong idea. If I like talking to someone and the conversation is interesting, and life giving, I don't really concern myself with time, unless I have to be somewhere else...aren't there other things that can be done/said within the conversation to indicate lack of romantic interest, if necessary?

I'm also not a fan of the "I'm into blondes" or whatever...as luck might have it, he may fall madly in love with a blonde, and make a liar out of himself.
And as for Rita Hayworth, I think any woman, redheaded or not, would feel unable to compete with her - she's amazing! :)

Seraphic said...

Re: Point 5. I wasn't saying that a man would ask you out in half an hour. I'm just saying don't talk to a man AT A SOCIAL EVENT for half an hour unless you are already in a dating (or just-friends) RELATIONSHIP.

I certainly don't expect men to go around asking women out on dates within half an hour of meeting them although of course it sometimes happens.

The idea is that you show you are neither the kind of girl who gloms onto a man or the kind of girl who serves as a social security blanket. You are a friendly, nice girl with something to day, but also other people to talk to. That way if a guy wants to spend more time with you, he'll have to work for it, e.g. make an appointment for coffee.

Alisha said...

I understood that you meant; it wasn't about being asked out...I just meant that I don't mind giving more than a half hour if I like the conversation...(unless of course, I'm being rude to others as a result) but I think I can do so and still do other things to denote I'm not interested in anything other than friendship...like the hints you always say to drop or mentioning your vocation etc

dark but fair said...

@ Some Guy on the Street:

Thank you for posting the link to my blog!

@ Alisha: I respect what you said about somtimes just enjoying lenghty conversation. In college I believed the same thing. I did know some interesting intelligent men who had much to offer in the way of conversation. However, if I had known what Auntie Seraphic said about not giving gentlemen to much of your time at a social event two things might have happened differently. 1) People noticing me with a certain fellow would not have been mislead into thinking I was dating him. 2) I would not have unwittingly mislead a handful of fellows into thinking that I was into them in that way. Consequently I would have spared them some anger and humiliation. Mea Culpa.

@ Theobromophile: I have had fellows make passes at me minutes after seeing me, but usually they were not very pleasant dates and were moving far too fast.


Nowadays people suspect one of SSA for the most mindless arbitrary reasons. Anything from driving a Prius to knowing how to ballroom dance to playing a violin to appreciating Shakespeare can make people raise their eyebrows at a fellow. I do not think that in this supposedly oh-so-tolerant age we should be so afraid at what some bloke we do not know from Adam is going to think if we spout admiration for Rita Hayworth, Judy Garland or Joan Crawford.

Seraphic said...

Well said. But speaking as someone who has the Christian name I have, young men REALLY can't talk about their admiration for Judy Garland without people making assumptions. Joan is not as big a codeword as Judy, but please believe me on the Judy thing. For decades, "Are you a friend of Dorothy's?" was THE password.