Hi Dr. NerdLove,
Your column here and on Kotaku have helped me a lot in the past and I’m now in a situation where my friends are giving conflicting advice and I felt like this was the best place to turn for clarity.
There’s some context before I (she/her) get into this particular situation: I’m currently a graduate student in a program with a pretty small class size and that’s resulted in a somewhat toxic atmosphere where gossip reigns supreme. I’ve actually seen people lie to undermine one another in some bizarre popularity contest. I’ve managed to stay pretty under the radar with a fair amount of work, keeping my personal life totally private, deflecting questions, and making it clear I don’t tolerate BS when it comes to work. The worst my relationships with classmates gets is the level of distant but cordial coworkers.
I became close with only a few classmates and realized a few months ago that I have feelings for one of them. I was planning on talking to him about it and seeing if there was any chance he’d be interested, but recently things have happened that have made me question how well I know him. He and I are friends, but we’ve known each other for less than a year and recently he pulled some shit that prompted a lot of class gossip. I’ve heard about 5 different versions of events. Some have pretty clear, deliberate lies, some pretty obviously directed at his friends to see what our reaction would be.
A few of us were hurt by what happened, but we’ve talked to him about it. It was a really honest conversation and we’re all still close. I thought I had worked through it since the hurt was unintentional and what happened was all a collection of accidents and honest stupidity. The whole story was not even that bad it was just a series of stupid decisions in the worst possible circumstances.When we talked, he also seemed to realize that a lot of his actions came from the very typical guy thing where he didn’t unpack a lot of his reasoning before just diving into things. He seemed to be serious about trying to be better and to thank before he acts. However, I’m still hearing different accounts about what happened from different people, and some friends who don’t know everything have pretty negative opinions about him now.
My question is this: should I still have that conversation about dating with him? I still have kind of strong feelings for him, and I do trust that he told me the truth about what happened. But every time I hear a new story I have to question my evaluation of him as being just not the brightest with people versus actually manipulative. Plus I’m worried about what my friends would think if it works out. I don’t want to get sucked into this weird middle school drama my program has going. Is it selfish to be worried about my reputation? I really just want clarity but is that worth all the potential hassle?