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What Are the Rules? (More Adventures In "Dating") [Nov. 20th, 2006|09:25 pm]
Young Geoffrey
For that matter, are there rules anymore?

Saturday evening, I had a young woman over for dinner, a woman with whom I have now met in person 4 or 5 times. She is beautiful, she is passionately intellectual, she is more talented than she gives herself credit for and she can be very funny indeed; we enjoy one another's company and typically find ourselves surprised the time has passed so quickly.

She is also (yes, again) a great deal younger than I am, and one who is not, apparently, given to easily-readable body-language. She tends not to look me in the eye, she holds herself close.

From the tangible facts, I know that she likes me. We have gone out a number of times and she came over to dinner on Saturday. She also knows that I think she's beautiful (which, to me, implies an interest beyond mere platonic friendship). She has a boyfriend (of questionable long-term prospects), but also told me she considers herself polyamorous.

But beyond the tangible facts, I have no idea what she thinks of me.

What does it mean, ladies, when a man invites you over for dinner? Does it mean anything? Do you expect a pass? Think a pass might be made?

Am I an idiot to even be asking the question? (It's true: had she been within 10 years, with all other factors the same, I would have made a move. Am I being condescending in being so much more careful simply because the woman in question is so much younger than I am?)

I am curious as to whether you, my gentle readers, have insights into the general question - what are the rules? Is an invitation to dinner an invitation to dinner, or a tacit understanding that it is also at least a willingness to explore the idea of taking the relationship to a physical level?

When we were sharing a couch, should I have made a pass, or should I have waited for at least some kind of explicit signal she wanted me to?

I have, by the way, expressed my regret (at having not taken the chance) to the woman in question, so I expect I will soon know what she thinks of my questions - and of my cowardice/gallantry. But I am nevertheless curious to know what others think is the proper behaviour in such a situation.

And of course, I am terrified of checking my email. But checking it compulsively I am nevertheless.

If nothing else, I feel wonderfully alive.

Cheers!
linkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: justred
2006-11-21 02:35 am (UTC)
When in doubt don't do the dance: ASK MAN! Don't drive yourself nutty by analyzing all the facets, impressions, nuances etc. Just ask her.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2006-11-21 02:38 am (UTC)

I Did, I Did ...

... but by email. I'm kicking myself because I didn't ask in the moment. I think know I'm too damn polite (or cowardly - take your pick) for my own good.
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[User Picture]From: justred
2006-11-21 02:40 am (UTC)

Re: I Did, I Did ...

I think the world is shy. And perhaps a little afraid of rejection since it kinda sounds like you have some feeling there. ;)

Be gentle with yourself.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2006-11-21 02:45 am (UTC)

Re: I Did, I Did ...

Being gentle with oneself is over-rated. Besides, I've posted this for the world to see; it's too late to be gentle with myself.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2006-11-21 02:40 am (UTC)

Incidentally ...

... you should come have a drink me with, so I can not make a pass at you, too.
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[User Picture]From: justred
2006-11-21 02:46 am (UTC)

Re: Incidentally ...

LOL. Not this week, but I'll see about the next. Damn overtime.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2006-11-21 03:19 am (UTC)

Re: Incidentally ...

Let's do that. When was the last time someone who was a attracted to you didn't make a pass at you anyway?
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[User Picture]From: justred
2006-11-21 11:31 am (UTC)

Re: Incidentally ...

I honestly can't say.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2006-11-22 12:28 am (UTC)

Re: Incidentally ...

Well come to think it, I suppose you wouldn't be able to say, would you - unless it was a charming blabbermouth such as myself.
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[User Picture]From: sabotabby
2006-11-21 02:58 am (UTC)
You're not going to like this answer, but it really depends on the man. Did the four or five meetings seem like dates? What was her body language like? Was there other furniture in the room where she decided to share a couch with you?

I'm a bit shy when it comes to romance unless I've had a lot to drink, and I usually do expect the guy to make the first move (yeah, yeah, patriarchycakes), and I can usually tell when a guy is going to make a move. I have a lot of totally platonic male friends, many of whom are older than me, and I've been shocked more than once when someone's made a pass within a relationship that I considered completely non-sexual. Again, because I'm shy, I seldom make a move unless I know the guy's attracted to me.

Sometimes an invitation to dinner is just an invitation to dinner. But asking is good. It doesn't so much demonstrate cowardice as it does respect, IMO.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2006-11-21 03:15 am (UTC)

I Don't Mind Your Answer At All

Did the four or five meetings seem like dates? What was her body language like?

All but the first - which was a "we've known each other online for ages, let's meet - could have been Dates, could have been dates. In my mind, they were - sort of - let's see if this leads to Dates, then became, I really like her, I wonder what she thinks?

Her body language has always been unreadable, at least to me. She is either very reserved, or she's not interested at all. (Ooh. I don't like the sound of that, last, clause.)

Was there other furniture in the room where she decided to share a couch with you?

She moved to the couch. I - after much internal dialogue - joined her there. She neither welcomed that move nor recoiled from it. So far as I remember, her body language didn't change.

...I've been shocked more than once when someone's made a pass within a relationship that I considered completely non-sexual.

Had they previously made it clear they thought you were attractive?

Sometimes an invitation to dinner is just an invitation to dinner.

And - god bless complexity - sometimes it's both. A great deal of my hesitancy was due to the fact that I was (and am) afraid that making a pass might make her run from me entirely. I like her. I want to get to know her - and to continue to know her, whether or not something sexual and/or romantic happens between us.

But asking is good. It doesn't so much demonstrate cowardice as it does respect, IMO.

Well, I suppose - here comes that fucking complexity again! - it was both respect and cowardice. And good old fashioned manners, come to think of it - a good host doesn't want to put his guest into an uncomfortable position.

(Sometimes I really do love livejournal, you know?)
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[User Picture]From: sabotabby
2006-11-21 03:30 am (UTC)

Re: I Don't Mind Your Answer At All

Had they previously made it clear they thought you were attractive?

Sometimes, sometimes not. In one case, it was a guy I'd been friends with for years and thought of as a mentor. He'd never said, "Oh, I think you're hot," but he did compliment me on my brains and good politics, qualities that he valued above looks. ;) But since I thought of him as a friend and a mentor, not as a potential lover (and when we met, we were both in serious relationships with other people), I didn't take this as an indication that he was attracted to me.

In another case, I totally should have noticed and didn't. But in fairness, I flirt with a lot of men—and women—and a lot flirt back, without any party intending anything more than that.

This said, unwanted passes don't scare me off friendship, unless either a) I make it clear that I'm not interested, and the guy doesn't take the hint and gets all creepy, or b) it's clear that he's interested in me only as a lover and not as a friend. Otherwise, people are attracted to other people all the time and it isn't always mutual. It doesn't hurt to try.

Best of luck, by the way.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2006-11-22 12:31 am (UTC)

Re: I Don't Mind Your Answer At All

<...> unwanted passes don't scare me off friendship, unless either a) I make it clear that I'm not interested, and the guy doesn't take the hint and gets all creepy, or b) it's clear that he's interested in me only as a lover and not as a friend. Otherwise, people are attracted to other people all the time and it isn't always mutual. It doesn't hurt to try.

That last sentence is why I'm kicking myself, of course. I hope she feels the same way, now that I have tried, in what is probably the most unromantic way possible.

Best of luck, by the way.

Thanks. I fear I'll need it.
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[User Picture]From: fingeringsolace
2006-11-21 03:07 am (UTC)
i'm also with everyone else on the asking - normally, i'm a huge fan of try and see what happens but given you have no body language to read to judge the outcome, asking is the safest bet.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2006-11-21 03:18 am (UTC)

Good Point

...given you have no body language to read to judge the outcome, asking is the safest bet.

That makes a lot of sense. One of the things that confuses me, is that I have a long (and irritating) history of mis-reading body-language - so I distrust my instincts.
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[User Picture]From: fingeringsolace
2006-11-21 03:22 am (UTC)

Re: Good Point

haha - i've always been told that i am either
a) impossible to read
or
b) incredibly easy to read

which may explain why i am also one to misread body language ;)
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[User Picture]From: stolen_identity
2006-11-21 03:36 am (UTC)
I'll tell you a story, and then you can decide for yourself...

When I was working on Hockeyville, there was a guy that I worked with who was a good... 25 years older than me. But we really clicked as people. He was super fun to hang out with... and being on location, there were only so many people that you could hang out with from night to night. We were slightly flirty, and I actually told him a lot about my love life.

Anyway... it was all fun :) So, one day in the summer, after Hockeyville was over, we decided to do dinner and a movie. He treated me to the movie (I tried to pay, but he wouldn't let me... I think I bought snacks) ... and then instead of going out for dinner, he decided to make me BBQ on his smoker back at his place (we had many discussions about the smoker LOL) ... this whole scene developed with neighbours calling firetrucks and whatnot (don't ask LOL) but he called me over to where he was standing, further in the apartment... and then asked if he could kiss me. I said I didn't think that would be a good idea, because we might have to work together in the future, etc etc.
At that point, we hadn't eaten dinner yet. I'm not sure why, but through dinner, he decided to make me *completely* uncomfortable, though I tried not to let on... I would laugh 'n stuff, by saying stuff about how he wanted to fuck me, and how I'd be a great lay, and all this other stuff. I was pretty floored, cause I *SO* wasn't expecting that.

Anyway, for me, it wasn't a huge deal. I pretty much forgot about it within a day or so. But every time I emailed him after that (I sent maybe 1-3 over the past 4-5 months or something) he never wrote back.


So, honestly... I really don't know the answer to your question. Maybe it makes me a tease that I was being flirty with him, etc, but when it came down to it, wasn't open to something actually happening? Maybe I thought we were both on the exact same page, and I didn't think it would actually come to a head? Maybe once you cross the line, there's no going back? Who knows...
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2006-11-22 12:52 am (UTC)
Anyway, for me, it wasn't a huge deal. I pretty much forgot about it within a day or so. But every time I emailed him after that (I sent maybe 1-3 over the past 4-5 months or something) he never wrote back.

One of the things I've learned over the years is that, once you're out of school, friendship is hard. It takes time to get to know a person and it takes even more time keep knowing them.

When you two were working together, you hung out. After, you had dinner and he decided to act on his (more than understandable) attraction to you. I'm guessing that, when you turned him down, he just decided to cut his losses - not out of anger, but out of busy-ness.

As a counter-example, I've met a number of people in person via livejournal. I've liked each and every one of them, but have only had repeat meetings with a few (hi Sean!). And even there, when both parties are working, when there is no social group in common, both parties need to decide that a non-sexual/romantic relationship is worth pursuing.

And when I count the number of friends I had in high school who have just ... drifted out of my life, well, the mind boggles.

Maybe it makes me a tease that I was being flirty with him, etc, but when it came down to it, wasn't open to something actually happening? Maybe I thought we were both on the exact same page, and I didn't think it would actually come to a head? Maybe once you cross the line, there's no going back? Who knows...

Who knows indeed. Only he does, I guess.

In the case of Girl Saturday, I think I would pursue a platonic friendship (which, more or less, is what I've been doing), if she is willing to deal with the tension of knowing that I am also interested in her in other ways. But, to be truthful, I would also probably put less energy into it.

Life really is too short, you know?
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[User Picture]From: tacky_tramp
2006-11-21 04:05 am (UTC)
You have a lot of good advice here, so I'll just add this: If you ever do decide to make a move when the signals are unclear, make sure it's a move that can be gently rebuked with some ease. That is, lean in slowly, rather than launching yourself across the couch. There's nothing more awkward than suddenly finding your lips smothered by the lips of someone you like but don't like like -- one wants to exit such a situation gracefully, but in the moment the instinct is a shove and a slap.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2006-11-22 12:55 am (UTC)

Oh Hell Yes!

I am 41, you know? My teeth are too brittle to risk an awkward collision. (All right: in actuality, my teeth are the teeth of a healthy 15 year-old, but I trust you take my point.) "Launching myself across the couch", although a lovely metaphor, is not my modus operendi.
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[User Picture]From: wickedgiggle
2006-11-21 09:02 am (UTC)
Here's my say:

If she is anything like me, (which she may not be so this is not as much advice as possible insight) then she may just be waiting for the mood to be right. She may be on the fence about you for whatever reasons and not want to try to sway you in either direction, but may be pleased to find you interested in her, provided you show it in a pleasant way. This can be a delicate thing, for me it's a mixture of sublety and honesty-- which sounds like a contradiciton but is not. You can be subtley honest about your feelings for a person rather than overbearingly overt, or sneaky and dishonest.

As far as the age gap, to me it just makes me a bit weary because sometimes I question the motives of the person in question, but it doesn't make a pass from them altogether unwelcome, it just necessitates a certain finesse that I might not require of someone in another age bracket. (I tend to admire awkward youths but require a bit more grace in someone who is more mature.)

Probably not all that helpful, because it's just my point of view and this girl sounds slightly different than myself-- I tend to be more overt with my body language, if coy. (Coy is still different from non existant) But, I thought I'd put my piece in.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2006-11-22 01:04 am (UTC)

Honest Subtlety, Subtle Honesty

If she is anything like me...then she may just be waiting for the mood to be right.

That's what frustrates me about (a) my incompentence at reading people's body-language and (b) her exceptionally neutral body-language. I honestly have no idea at all whether she is or is not interested in me "in that way".

This can be a delicate thing...

She reads my journal. It might have been a delicate thing, but it sure ain't anymore. ("Can we spell 'idiot' boys and girls?")

As far as the age gap, to me it just makes me a bit weary because sometimes I question the motives of the person in question...

Well, at the very least, I am okay with my motives. Unless I am very drunk in the moment, I don't waste my time hanging out with people I don't respect in hopes of "getting some". If I don't expect to be able to enjoy talking with you over breakfast, I'm not going to try to get you into bed the night before.

And yes, coy is very different from non-existent. I think. Maybe I am so bad at reading body-language that I couldn't tell, come to think of it. I am suddenly remembering when I first realized Laura was interested in me: she had to literally jump on my lap and say, "I'm horny!"
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[User Picture]From: rose_amethyst
2006-11-22 12:03 am (UTC)

You asked for answers, sorry

I am upset with you.
Age is not the issue.
You said she told you she has a boyfriend. That is your answer. Simple. She is unavailable untill she spells out differently.
For example, if she gets involved with you and you are head over heels with her and she no longer "has" a bf, will you ever trust her? Will you ever believe in forever and always? Will you be surprised when she sits on the couch with another man?, etc.
Stop dating women that you don't stand a chance with for a true relationship.
I should say stop looking for love in all the wrong places. Go out with women- date, share dinner, movies but don't expect every date to be the beginning of a love affair that in reality you are making sure won't hapen. Are you really ready?
Think back over all your past beginnings. Did you ever have to plan it? Or did "it" just happen? Didn't you know that you could call her tomorrow and she was waiting for your call?

I don't date men that have a relationship in their lives cuz I learned the hard way that I don't want to be "the other woman" cuz there will always be "the other woman" even if it isn't me.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2006-11-22 01:16 am (UTC)

Re: You asked for answers, sorry

Don't be sorry, but ...

You said she told you she has a boyfriend. That is your answer. Simple.

... she also said, "...she considers herself polyamorous." Which, I think adds a whole layer of complexity to an already delicate pastry. (Ahem.)

For example, if she gets involved with you and you are head over heels with her and she no longer "has" a bf, will you ever trust her?

That is a valid, and very important, question. If he doesn't know she is polyamorous, then, probably not.

I should say stop looking for love in all the wrong places. Go out with women- date, share dinner, movies but don't expect every date to be the beginning of a love affair that in reality you are making sure won't hapen. Are you really ready?

In my defence, I wasn't looking for love, right place or wrong. This is a person whose company I have enjoyed tremendously on fewer than a half-dozen occasions; and for whom I feel a sexual attraction.

The more I think about it (and, by the way, I haven't been obsessing, quite), the more I think I should have. It is the might-have-beens and what-ifs that I regret most when I look back on my life.

Think back over all your past beginnings. Did you ever have to plan it? Or did "it" just happen?

Almost always, "it" just happened. And by "just happened", I mean the women in question were forced - by my unbelievable cowardice/politeness (call it what you will) to make their interest explicit. Considering that, in our culture, men are expected to make the first move, I am probably lucky I'm not still a virgin.
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[User Picture]From: vienneau
2007-01-02 02:28 am (UTC)

If you have to ask whether you should have made a move, then you shouldn't have made a move. If someone is interested they'll make it clear. Make sure to provide openings by flirting, and then go with your gut. When your gut is asking questions or doesn't have a clear answer, that's your brain trying to overrule or out-think your gut.

And even more convincing - the next day you still don't know. I've had situations where I didn't make a move, or sensed things were going well but didn't move on it, but I've always been able to see the clues afterwards (and slapped myself for being a fool). If you're still wondering whether you should have done something, then you did the right thing by leaving it alone.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2007-01-03 01:17 am (UTC)

Not Me

If you have to ask whether you should have made a move, then you shouldn't have made a move.

Sadly, that just doesn't apply to me. Even after she had called me "pretty boy" in an email and invited herself over to dinner, had Laura not literally jumped on my lap I would not have been able to say whether or not she was interested in me.

I seem to lack what for most people seems to be a pretty basic ability to read other peoples' body language. A lack I am not at all grateful for.
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[User Picture]From: vienneau
2007-01-03 02:34 am (UTC)

Re: Not Me

On the other hand, you also seem to have a knack for attracting women who are much younger than you - a skill that I think many would kill for. Perhaps that obliviousness to intent is the secret to luring in the more innocent young ladies?
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2007-01-07 11:34 pm (UTC)

Re: Not Me

Or maybe not. If I do have a talent for attracting younger women, they don't tend to be all that innocent.
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