I hear it all the time–from my friends, on Facebook, and of course from Reddit–guys whining about how they always “get friend zoned” or how “that &!+(# was totally leading me on.” I’m one of those women who have mostly guys for friends because, well, I don’t get along with other women. I am also notoriously bad at reading people. This has led to several, shall we say, “misunderstandings” throughout the years, from high school on up to months after I started dating my now-husband. Want to spare yourself some pain? Here’s a quick little guide to what does, and does NOT, count as “leading someone on.”
She’s Not Reacting to Your Signals
So you let her win at Mario Kart. You invited her to some rally for a cause you’re both into. Maybe you even called her pretty. Some women see it right away; others are blissfully unaware because those are things any good friend would do. If you want something to happen, then sack up and be forward. And don’t wait months to do it either. Then you’ll get “friend-zoned” and you’ll just feel like she was stringing you along the whole time, even if she had no idea. And if you are forward with her – asking her out to a two-person activity, finding a chance to put your arm around her, etc., and she’s still doesn’t seem to be getting it, chances are she’s noticed and she’s avoiding the subject because she doesn’t want to hurt your feelings. I know the truth hurts, but the best thing to do at this point is move on. If she really does have feelings for you, she’ll follow up with you.
You Read Too Much into Her “Signals”
“I looked in the mirror and said I was hideous, and she said ‘Come on, now, you’re not hideous.’ That means she wants the D, right?”
No, it means she said you’re not hideous. I cannot stress this enough–and this goes for the ladies too: in male/female friendships (or gay male/gay male friendships or human/cyborg friendships or whatever permutation of sexual attraction): take everything at face value. A nice girl is going to be nice to you no matter what. It could be lots of reasons, including three common ones: she’s sincere, she’s kind, or she feels sorry for you.
You also might hear a lot about what a good friend you are. This is NOT code for “you’re such a good friend that I want something more.” Whoever started spreading that idea around, screw you. When you get the “good friend” line, especially with a lot of emphasis on the word “friend,” that’s code for “it’s never gonna happen, bro.”
She’s Not Even Sending You Signals
My sophomore year in college, I started hanging out with this guy in my co-op building – although in retrospect it was less “started hanging out” and more “he started showing up wherever I was.” I was taking organic chemistry and I just couldn’t figure it out. Co-op guy was good at it. He offered to help, and I accepted.
That’s where the key disconnect took place. In his head, the conversation went:
“Man, I’m so into you and bad at organic chemistry.”
“I got an A in it. I’ll help you . . . with my penis.”
“That would be great, thanks! Have sex with me!”
You’d think that, after having had several male friends who ended up wanting a relationship and/or sex, I would have nipped it in the bud and not let a guy do favors for me when he supposedly wants nothing in return. You’d think I’d have seen the warning signs like how he just always seemed to be around, and offered to do weird things for me like laundry.
Here’s the thing: he knew I had a boyfriend. He had met him in person. So I wasn’t worried about it. Then all of a sudden he got all “that guy doesn’t deserve you, you need a real man, I’d take better care of you blah blah blah,” and when I said thanks, but I wasn’t interested and I was happy with my boyfriend, he got all “THEN WHY DID YOU LET ME HELP YOU WITH YOUR HOMEWORK, YOU &!+(#, YOU USED ME!” Helped? Oh, you mean that one time, where you mostly just talked $#!+ on my boyfriend and I still have no grasp of the key tenets of organic chemistry?
After that, I had to put up with him snarling at me whenever we crossed paths in the co-op.
Yes, there are women who use men for money and back rubs and carrying their stuff in exchange for the vague idea that someday they’ll put out. These women do not make up the entire female population. And remember this: no one’s making you do anything. If you freely offer something to a female friend and she accepts it, that’s on you, buddy. Don’t just assume she’s going to “get you back.” This brings me to my next point.
She’s Not Even Available
As I mentioned above, this is a dumb idea. First of all, it’s just in poor taste. Secondly, it generally does not end well. I mean, sure, there’s that one time out of a hundred when she realizes how badly her boyfriend treats her and runs into the arms of a friend who’s been waiting in the wings, but most of the time it just makes you look like a giant douche. Ladies with SOs, if you think you might be getting hit on, mention your SO early in the conversation. I know guys that get pissed if they start talking to a girl and she immediately goes into “blah blah blah my boyfriend my boyfriend blah blah,” but they’re doing it to spare you, so be grateful.
So, for review:
- Don’t be subtle. Don’t just wait for something to happen. The longer you wait, the more it’s going to hurt if you get rejected.
- When she compliments you, react like you would as if a guy had said it.
- Don’t offer favors and pretend you don’t want anything in return. It’s just a dick move, man.
- Stay away from women who are already in relationships. I don’t care how awful you think the guy is, it’s just bad form.
- And I hate feeling like I have to mention this, but please NO RAPING. Whatever she’s wearing, however much she’s been drinking, NO MEANS NO. Passed out also means no. Conscious, but incapable of making an informed decision means no.
Beppy Huls is a freelance writer currently residing in Overland Park, KS (and if you make a Wizard of Oz joke she will cut you). She is in the process of becoming just a writer and not an administrative assistant (and if you call her a secretary she will cut you). Beppy’s favorite movie is Bowfinger and her favorite food is falafel. You can follow her on Twitter at @beppy.
For more advice on how not to act, read How to Date (Like a Jerk) and Date Online (without Being a Tool), pt. 1: Your Profile.