Got a two-fer for today from my female readers, both asking a variation on the same question… “How do I let guys know I’m not interested?”
We’ll start with Not A Prize To Be Won:
As a girl, I would like to know how to be obviously off the market. Uh… let me give you some background information:
I am definitely a nerdy girl. I’m relatively attractive and I can gush on about Star Trek for hours to anybody stupid enough to let me. I’m probably one of those girls that has an overinflated ego because of how geek culture generally views women and how easy it is to be like-able.
I WANT to be liked. I’m sure most people do. I don’t want to stop being liked.
The problem is, I’ve stumbled through some relationships recently that range from absolutely horrible to just damn annoying (a few that used my intense need to be liked to manipulate the hell out of me and one that seemed to view me as the prize you get if you win the dating game). I’m just absolutely sick of dating and the complications that come from it. I’m sure that feeling will eventually fade, but in the meantime I want to be able to make friends and be liked without being some kind of mythical sex goddess unicorn to every new guy I meet (this is obviously where the ego thing steps in, I do know that I’m not THAT attractive to everybody, really. I also know that sometimes I am.)
How can I and anybody else in a similar situation make it obvious that we are not currently looking to date? Is there a way to avoid the hideously awkward “Look, I don’t know if I’m reading you right but no thanks, its not you its me.” conversation?
– Not a Prize To Be Won
And a similar question from Off The Market.
I wanted to ask…as a female that happens to be a geek how do I approach new male friendships? I try to be a social person and venture out-or even through friends of my friends on random outings. I connect to people that like what I like. As a female that likes video games and comics I find it hard because I either run in to the very males you describe “male privilege”. ( Mind you, I do have female friends and I’m just as happy encountering new female friends.) It’s just when I DO find someone who enjoys gaming and happens to be male I feel I have to weigh out the possibility they are just hoping to get something other than friendship with me. I’m not a flirt and I make it plain that:
1) I have a boyfriend
2) I am only interested in friendship
3)I have a boyfriend
– Off The Market
These aren’t the only questions I’ve received on the subject. It’s a surprisingly common problem with women in geek circles; a lot of women join a group of like-minded individuals, whether it be the local anime club, a gaming group, a fandom organization or whatnot and find that they have to establish boundaries fast. Geeky guys like geeky women and those can be a little thin on the ground. As a result, there can be a lot of probing and testing for relationship status, unfortunate crushes and awkwardness all around.
It’s not entirely uncommon for the less well-socialized amongst my geeky bretheren to see new women joining their group as potential girlfriends first and new members second. The tricky part comes in establishing that, no, you are in no way looking for a date, boyfriend, White Knight, would-be henchmen or general hangers on without any attendent drama causing friction in the group as a whole.
My usual suggestion is to be painfully blunt,1 about the matter. But I’m willing to bet that you already know this technique and are looking for a better strategy.
Most geek guys will get the hint early on. Early on, casually establishing that you aren’t interested in dating – “God, I just got out of the worst relationship ever. I’m swearing off dating anybody from now on,” – or regularly mentioning your significant other should be enough to let guys know that you’re not available.
But since you’re writing to me, I’m guessing you’ve had more than a few occasions where they didn’t.
Geeks can be very good at selective hearing, especially when a crush is involved. You say “I’m do not want a boyfriend,” they hear “…yet.”. If you say “I don’t want a relationship,” they hear “…but maybe you can change my mind.” It’s the 500 Days of Summer effect: they will ignore reality in preference to the fantasy, and they will read meaning into your word choice.
This can get especially annoying if the geeky guy in question develops oneitis.
If for whatever reason you are just not on the market – whether it’s because of heartbreak, relationship fatigue or having a significant other in the first place – then you need to be aware that geeks who want to date you2 will be going over everything you say and do like it was the Zapruder film and they’re going to prove who really killed Kennedy. If you say “I’m not looking for a relationship right now,” they are going to focus on the “right now” and take this as a sign that you will be looking for one in the near-future, and if they just hang in there just long enough they’ll have a shot and then start trying to build the groundwork. Mentioning that you have a boyfriend (or girlfriend, really) right off the bat will ward them off at first, but they will be constantly watching for any signs of an imminent collapse of the relationship so they can be there to be your shoulder to cry on, ears to complain to, and penis to rebound on.
In these cases, you need to be aware of the prism that they will be viewing you through; anything that they can interpret as a sign that you’re starting to like them will be taken as reason to hang on to hope. Maintaining a physical distance from them, avoiding casual touching – especially if you’re a touchy or huggy person will help. Avoid agreeing to anything that sounds like it could be interpreted as a “date”. If they ask you out, don’t make up an excuse as to why you can’t go that night… once again, that will be heard as “… but I’ll be available other nights.” If it’s something you’d be interested in doing, then bring a friend. Preferably a male friend.
I’m not saying be cruel, just to keep certain boundaries. If they start crossing them – trying to find a reason to, say, take your arm, – then take a step back. If they try to flirt, don’t engage them in it. Treat it almost like a reward system. They act like a friend, you act like a friend. They start making a move towards “but… but I like you”, then you pull that friendship back a little. They’ll get the hint.
And if they don’t, then you can go scorched earth on ’em.