Below is an email I received from a reader recently about a guy who initiates, but barely – just enough to put the ball in her court.
I gave it my best shot, but I really have no clue about the psychology in this case. Maybe there’s sense to be made of this, or maybe the guy is just a weirdo. She likes him, though, so please take a look, read my response, and help her out by debating it or adding to it in the comments.
I’m hoping you can help me figure out some male psychology. I have no idea how to interpret the messages I’m getting from a guy, and at this point my friends are just as puzzled as I am.
I met Adam in the summer of 2008, when we were both swimming instructors at a summer camp. I was 19 at the time, going into my sophomore year of college. He was 24, between his first and second years of law school. He was always friendly, not just to me – to everyone. He seemed like a good guy and we got along well. I should add that he is extremely good looking, and all of us had a mad crush on him. Sometimes he would joke about being an “old man” compared to me, teasing that I should hang out with him soon, before he got too feeble. He never actually proposed hanging out, though. The summer ended and we said friendly goodbyes.
From time to time he would send flirty texts and over break he invited me to a couple of gatherings, though I never made it. Once again, he joked that I was avoiding him because of the age difference. Actually, I would have said yes to a date in two seconds, but he always tried to initiate in a way that would mean my dragging friends along to some venue where we wouldn’t know anyone except him. It was just super awkward.
This went on for a couple of years. He would periodically text to comment on my school’s athletic performance or some trivial thing. Once he texted to say that I looked like one of Tiger Woods’ hookups (!!!!) and jokingly volunteered his services as a lawyer. If it was summertime he might say, “Let me know when you’re around” or “How come I haven’t heard from you?”
Last summer I finally turned 21 and I wanted to see if there was a real attraction between us, so I texted and said, “Are you around this weekend? I thought I might make time for an older man ” (Bold, I know. That was the result of two hours consultation with my two closest friends.) He replied enthusiastically, but kept it really open, suggesting we meet up when we were next both out.
That Saturday night he did text, and came to see me where I was with my friends. We hung out all night and I really enjoyed talking with him. When the bar closed, he asked, “What now?” I’m not gonna lie – I wanted to make out with him – so I said, “You tell me…” He looked panic stricken.
He hailed a cab, and we climbed in. He hugged the door, and gave the driver his address, which was nearby. He was so uncomfortable! I quickly gave the driver my address as the second stop, feeling humiliated for having been shot down. At his apartment, he got out and handed the driver $30 to see me home safely. I was mortified, and tried to refuse, but he insisted, and then called half an hour later to make sure I’d gotten home safely. I didn’t hear from him again before I returned to school. I thought it was pretty clear he hadn’t been attracted when he saw me again.
Now it’s a year later, and he continues to send flirty texts from time to time, always putting the ball in my court. “Call me when you’re settled in to your new apartment” or “We should really meet up…” I just got this last text a few days ago.
What on earth is going on in this guy’s mind? Is he a total player or a shy beta? Can a guy that good looking possibly be unaware of his effect on women? By the way, he is very inactive on Facebook, with only a hundred friends or so. I can’t get any good info there. It has occurred to me he might be gay, but why not say so? And there is one ex-girlfriend, I recall that.
Is it the age difference? He’s now 27 and I’m 22, and I’ve settled in the same city as him. If he’s not interested, why stay in touch? If he is, why is he always putting the ball in my court?
Obviously, I have little emotional investment in this. But I still hope he’s a good guy, and I really would like to go on a proper date with him. I’m not going to initiate again though – it was such a disaster last summer. If he’s trying to play me I don’t want to make it easy or give the wrong impression. If he’s interested, I want to be encouraging. And if he’s LJBF’ing me I want to be left alone!
(P.S. I’m a girl.)
Wow. That’s a pretty unusual story, I haven’t heard one like it before. Honestly, I’m as puzzled as you are. Let’s take this apart and see if we can make some sense out of it. Perhaps I can at least shed some light on the situation. Here are my thoughts, in no particular order:
The Age Difference
An age difference of five years, while not particularly scandalous now, must have seemed pretty big when you were a college sophomore. His joking about it from the start indicates that he felt uncomfortable about it.
From what I’ve gathered from the men here, bringing around a college student that much younger would be regarded as odd by his own friends as well. If he hadn’t been attracted to you, though, I don’t think he would have even brought up the theoretical possibility of hanging out.
Player or Beta? Slight advantage beta. A player would have dragged you behind the nearest tree.
The Good Looks
Plenty of shy guys are good looking. They may even know it, but they’re introverted by nature. However, Adam sounds like he was social and obviously exhibited enough friendly self-confidence to get all the girls buzzing.
However, you don’t mention his acting like a player at all among the other girls. He clearly didn’t have a reputation for being a ladies’ man.
Still, most guys who get that kind of female attention learn to handle it, and would not feel that awkward about making their interest known.
He deserves credit for inviting you to join him in a group – it was something, anyway. It sounds like he was trying to hang out without asking you on a date.
Whether this is the age thing, or he just wanted to be friends is hard to say. It’s possible he thought you were cool, and figured it would be good to introduce some new girls to his own scene. But I can certainly understand why you would find it awkward to put together a group to join his friends when only you and Adam know one another.
On the other hand, the guys here at HUS mostly don’t buy the platonic friends explanation in general, and I don’t think guys text for four summers with women they hope to know platonically.
It’s possible these invitations are just a very low-risk way of his testing your interest. If that’s the case, then he probably was discouraged.
Player or Beta? Perhaps neither? Platonic friend move? If not, then Advantage Beta.
Putting the Ball In Your Court
Tough call, it’s on the line!
Seriously, this could go either way. A Player loses nothing by broadcasting texts like this to a bunch of women at once. On the other hand, a Player would be following up at least some of the time with texts along the lines of “Come over to watch a movie.”
A beta guy might do this to be attentive without risking anything. If he’s good looking, he may be used to more assertive women doing most of the work for him. Perhaps what you’ve got here is a standoff.
Player or Beta? A Player would be looking to consummate this thing. Advantage Beta.
Which brings us to:
The Cab Disaster
Panic stricken? That is Beta. He may have worried you were trying for a fast hookup, which would give him performance anxiety at the least, and might have made him worry that he was wrong about you as well. “You tell me…” sounds pretty adventurous, even if you were only thinking of canoodling.
Also, a Player would not have coughed up $30 to see you home safely, and followed up with a phone call. A player would have had you in his apartment and sent you on your way without worrying about cab fare.
While it’s possible that he didn’t find you attractive, it seems unlikely. For one thing, you worked together in bathing suits, he knows exactly what you look like. Unless you’ve packed on the libs, I’m not seeing it. Also, he’s still texting and suggesting that you two meet up!
Player or Beta? He didn’t go for the hookup. Advantage Beta.
So what do we have here? I don’t think he sounds like much of a Player. On the other hand, I’m not really buying the full beta/shy guy explanation either. If he just wanted to be friends, why wouldn’t he suggest friend-type stuff, like going for a run, grabbing a burger, whatever?
Let’s put this to a vote. And readers, help us out here! What, if anything, should she do? Ignore his texts? Tell him to grow a pair? Ask him when and where he would like to meet up?