Dear Auntie Seraphic:
A friend of mine is newly single, and seems to be paying me extra attention. I’m not sure whether he just wants more emotional support, or if he is crushing on me, but knows enough not to jump into a rebound relationship. Either way, I want to discourage him. He’s a wonderful person, and we have some nice things in common, but he is a bit too young for me, and just not someone I am attracted to in that way. I really cannot ever see this going beyond friendship.
This is someone I see nearly every day, as part of a small circle of friends who share class and social time. We are all in our mid to late twenties. I want to continue my relationship with the group as a whole, which is very supportive and important to me. Yet, when he is there, I feel more constrained and not quite able to be myself because of my suspicions.
I know that in the end, I can’t stop him from crushing if he’s bound and determined to do so. But I know how much it can hurt when someone leads you on…or even when they are oblivious, but kind of dumb about their boundaries. Is there any way I can be clear that I’m not interested in him without confronting him directly? Do your male readers have any tips?
Don't Crush on Me
Dear Don't Crush on Me,
Just as you cannot make a man fall in love with you, you cannot make a man not fall in love with you. This is the annoying thing about men: they do not come with a remote control.
One good thing about men, however, is that in many countries they are not allowed to touch you, take you out to dinner or marry you without your consent. They can think and wish whatever they want, but they can do nothing involving you without your permission.
It is not a tragedy that your young friend is paying you extra attention. At best, it is a compliment and at worst, it is slightly boring. But you can discourage him as soon as he gives you the first opportunity, e.g. when he actually asks you out on a date, if he ever does, or actually tries to hold your hand. The only "middle ground" I can think of--where it is not clear that what he might be feeling actually affects you in any real way--is if he is staring at you. If he is staring at you, go ahead and say "What?" in an aggrieved tone.
Continue to be just yourself, and for heaven's sake don't blame him for having a crush on you. A crush is as ordinary, and can be as brief, as a cold. Meanwhile, the best way to keep the group together and happy is NOT to create a drama out of this situation by talking about it to the group. For his sake, your sake and the sake of the group, don't gossip about your suspicions. And, of course, don't go out of your way to text, email or call him, for an extraordinary gesture is what is most likely to make him think you like him back.
Never forget that the magical words "No, thank you" keep you from going on dates or having to hold Mr Wrong's clammy hands. All you have to do is wait for the opportunity to use them.
I hope this is helpful!
Grace and peace,
One of the joys of people-watching is realizing who in your set has a crush on whom. There is, of course, an ethical dimension in trying to read the minds and hearts of those around you, so whatever you think you find out by observation, you should keep locked in your head behind the barrier of your teeth. The lesson to be gained from the exercise is that almost everybody--not just you--comes down with crushes, and also that people recover from their crushes, often very rapidly. It is very embarrassing when you discourage a guy with a crush on you, only to change your mind two months later and then discover that he has completely recovered.