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Real Live College Guy Joe: How to Tell if He’s Flirting

Ever wonder what guys think, how to deal with them, or whether instead of listening to you they just imagine you naked?  Our Real Live College Guy Joe will answer all your questions about men and relationships with wit, clarity, grace, and physical attractiveness (can you tell he wrote this intro himself?) all while imagining you fully clothed!  Well, usually – he is a college guy.

In casual conversations, how can you tell if a guy is just being friendly or if he thinks you’re cute and is interested in more?  I often have trouble telling whether or not a guy is flirting with me so then I don’t know if I should be flirty back or not or if he is just a nice guy.  What is the difference?  

       –   Hesitant at Hofstra

I am pessimistic about these things.  I think every guy you’ve ever met has flirted with you in some way, from the doctor who pulled you out of the womb to the writer of this article.  You should always have a bit of that pessimism in your interactions with men; it keeps you on your guard.  Sometimes you’ll find a truly nice one, but even he wouldn’t object to a little nookie under the bleachers. 

Plus, if you operate under the Permaflirt Assumption (trademark pending), your decision whether to be flirty or not flirty will be much easier.  If you’re interested in him, be flirty – like I said, he’s already a step ahead of you.  And if it turns out he actually wasn’t flirting with you, oh well, you tried.  If he was really just being nice, he’ll probably interpret your flirting as just being nice, too.  At any rate, he won’t make fun of your failed attempts to impress him with your a cappella rendition of Ludacris’s “Fantasy,” or whatever parlor tricks you girls use these days.

Of course, you’re a girl, so you want an answer with a little more nuance to agonize over.  Below are a few common themes of boy-girl interactions: physical contact, topic of conversation, etc.  I’ll show what iterations of these themes fall under the “Friendly,” category, and what crosses the line into “Flirty.”

  • Physical contact: He’s just being a Friendly if he only hugs and kisses you at the beginning and end of your interaction; only plays accidental footsies with you once and very briefly; and bumps into you very infrequently while standing up from a table or walking.  He’s being Flirty if he touches your knee and shoulder more than necessary, even if it’s just to “make a point;” is “accidentally” hitting your foot under the table so much you might as well be in a king-fu movie; and if he jumps at every opportunity to hug you, hold your hand, bump into you, or sniff your hair.
  • Topic of Conversation: He’s being Friendly if he keeps the conversation focused on what you do for fun, where you go to work or school, what you did over the summer, or if you want to join his Best Friends Club.  He’s being Flirty if he asks if you’re currently dating someone, what you like in guys, and, if you are dating someone, what his greatest fear is.  And if you have a lot of cutesy inside jokes, like, “Oh my God wouldn’t it be so funny if we were like dating?” you’re probably on the express train to His Bed Central.
  • Placement in a Crowd: He’s being Friendly if he’s comfortable sitting a few people apart from you at a big table, or if he’s not always walking next to you when you’re with a group of friends.  He’s being Flirtyif he’s on you like white on rice – also, if he uses stupid similes like “like white on rice.”
  • Payment: A little more complicated.  If mutually decided to go out to eat, he’s being Friendly if he lets you pay for yourself, or if he pays for you because you got the last one or you don’t have money on you.  And if he invited you to eat, paying for you is the right thing to do: you’ll have to decide his Friendly v. Flirty Ratio (trademark also pending) based on his other actions.  But if he always insists on paying for you, even if you invited him, he is Flirty as they come.
  • The Walk Home: Walking you home is not always a sign that he wants to come up for some coffee and stay for some sex.  He’s being Friendly if he doesn’t fake-whine about how long his own walk home will be, get all romantic about the stars, or walk overly close to you.  If he truly doesn’t want to wake up in your bed in the morning, he will initiate the hug goodbye, will not linger by your doorstep, and set off into the cold, cruel night with a smile.  He’s being Flirty if your hands brush together a lot, if there’s that slightly awkward feeling of anticipation, if he makes small talk about how strong his hip-flexors are, and if he makes any kind of self-referential joke, like, “Oh man, I’m walking you home.  Guess that means we’re gonna do it, right?”  Finally, if he lingers at your stoop or makes ANY moronic reference to key jingling, he’s a-houndin’ for some poundin’.  Ew. 
  • Asking for Your Number: Tricky.  You’ll have to rely on his actions in the aforementioned fields, as well as any future text messages he sends you.  For guidance on how to judge his messages, read “Post Hook-Up Etiquette” by that dashing, erudite Real Live College Guy Joe.  I just love him.


There you have it.  I’ve left out obviously flirtatious moves, like if he reaches for your hand, dances with you the entire night, or surreptitiously removes his pants.  The same goes for the obvious signs that he wants to stay in the friend zone, like if he is in a relationship or if he will not be a “he” for much longer.  Otherwise, with my basic guidelines you’ll be well equipped to tell if he’s trying to flirt with you or not.  Then it’s up to you to return the favor, or not. 

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