Real Live College Guy Dale: Is it Friendly or Flirty?

We all need a little guidance now and then, so whether you’re stressed about a fling gone wrong, a recently wrecked relationship or how to handle a stage-five clinger, Real Live College Guy Dale is here to help you navigate the college dating scene.

I am terrible at telling whether or not guys are flirting with me. I just can't tell. I've known this guy for years and just realized recently that I have stronger feelings for him, but I can't read his signals. He hugs me, pokes me and always looks deep into my eyes. But maybe he means it in a friendly way. How do you tell the difference? He always says we have to do all these things, and then we never do, and he always just drops from the conversation over text. But in person, we never stop talking and laughing. What does he want from me? Does he like me the same way? I just don't know how to tell. –Oblivious at Oregon State


Ah, yes, the “friendliness vs. flirtation” dilemma. I used to have this problem all the time. Is the barista flirting with me, or is she just being nice because I’m a customer? Did the bartender pour me extra because she thinks I’m cute, or because she can see I’m stressed out? Where does the line get drawn, and just how thin is that line?

It’s pretty thin, Oregon, which explains why so many people get it confused.

What does any of this have to do with your case? Deep stares and hugs don’t always equate to wanting someone romantically. As a guy, I can fully testify to just staring off into the distance sometimes. On occasion, a certain barista might be in that field of vision and think I’m staring at her. Sometimes I am (if she’s super cute, I can’t help it), but most of the time, I’m just thinking. Deep, unfocused stares can get misinterpreted as deep, loving stares depending on who walks by.

As far as the hugging and poking, sometimes people are just super friendly, and that’s how they show their friendly affection.

I’m not saying there aren’t signs that a guy might be interested in a girl, but I don’t believe there are blanket signs of interest. Smiling, laughing, consistent physical contact—sure, those are things that could be signs of his interest, but it’s hardly a guarantee. This goes for both sexes, though; I’ve had girls tell me they had been dropping hints long before I ever made a move.

But don’t get discouraged! I have good news: He might actually like you! The only downside with that is that he probably doesn’t know how to address it, because, as I’ve said many times before, many men are afraid of getting shot down. A lot of men tout the, “Nah, bro, you just gotta go up to her” attitude, but when push comes to shove, they feel just as bummed when a girl walks away from them.

I’ll take a break from my usual lesson here (“You should make the first move instead!” and, “You’ll never know if you don’t ask him!”) and just tell you to keep doing what you’re doing, but maybe push him to actually follow through on these theoretical plans. If anything, you should try turning up your “flirt volume” a little bit.

Just because things drop off when you’re texting doesn’t mean the chemistry isn’t there. What you should be focusing on is the fact that you two have great IRL chemistry! Keep that going, and I’m pretty sure that he’ll eventually gather up the guts to make a move. 

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