Hax: Finding courage to ask him out

The Washington PostApril 23, 2013 

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Carolyn: Can you recommend a surefire way to find out if a man is interested in you without embarrassing yourself too much? I believe men don't dally when they want to be with someone, but I've only known this guy a few months and we're both in a Ph.D. program that leaves precious little time for romance.

I thought he was interested in another woman, so I stopped initiating contact and decided to mentally move on, but he responded by being more engaged and flirty than ever. At my age (30, sigh) I don't want to spend another semester wondering what he really thinks.

Any ideas or kicks in the pants? I've never had success being the initiator, which is why I now wait for the guy to come to me.

HAD WE BUT WORLD ENOUGH, AND TIME

I can't say this is universally applicable because I'm concocting the theory as I type it, but the answer to any question that takes the form of, "How do I X without causing Y?" isn't about the X at all. You can't have X without Y, or else you'd have figured out how already.

By not trying for X, then, you're really saying that avoiding Y is more important to you than having X.

Try posing yourself this blunt question: Which is worse, risking Y or doing nothing to have X?

Would you rather make yourself vulnerable in ways you find unappealing - with possible rewards for taking the risk - or would you rather keep assuming all men really do act on their interests immediately, instead of treating each as a unique individual? The latter is how you'd want this guy to treat you, no?

Morphing into someone you're not is never a plausible answer, granted, so if you're happiest as a sideline-sitter, then stay there. There's considerable range, though, between a careful "What did you think of that lecture?" and the sexually self-possessed Band-Aid rip of "Hey, you wanna (date idea here)?"

Either way, a shrug and an "OK, thought I'd ask" works better than lyrical self-flagellation if the answer turns out to be "no."

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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