Navigating My Relationships With Men I Didn’t Want to Date

He was funny in his own way, and we enjoyed nerdy banter about our mutual interests in movies and books.  I felt that it was unjust how nobody was ever nice to him and treated him like a weirdo.  But I understood why they did—they were scared. He seemed harmless, but unstable.  

He was hovering around me more than usual.  His conversation was nervous.  His jokes were struggling.  And finally the look came—the look of, he’s about to get the flu or ask me out on a date. Yeah, I wish it had been the flu.  

He thought our friendship was progressing toward a romantic relationship. I did not. I needed to make sure he knew there was no way dinner for two was ever going to happen.

“Ummm … I’m pretty sure I’ll be busy in March—the whole month,” I said when he asked me.  

Not one of my most convincing excuses.  

For about five years, I seemed to have a knack for getting these sorts of guys to fall for me.  Being asked out on a date is generally not a bad thing.  But for me it was horrible.  I never seemed to attract men I would want to date. In hindsight, it was my own fault.  I befriended every stray, every outcast, every underdog.  

Now, let me clarify: There is nothing wrong with befriending people others consider weirdos. It’s exactly what we should do. Besides, who is to say what’s odd and what’s normal?  I know I’ve been considered a “weirdo” many times. There are always going to be people in our lives that the majority rules as nerds, weirdos, or freaks.

The problem was that my friendship was often perceived as more than it actually is.  I never defined the lines of my friendship with these guys before they could get the wrong idea.  I was always too passive.  I was always too NICE.  I didn’t want to hurt feelings that had already been hurt so many times.

I had a very naive understanding of how the male mind works. I realized many guys think any female attention indicates romantic attraction.  I saw individuals in need of friendship and I gave it.  That’s a good thing.  What I should have made clear was that romance with them wasn’t part of that equation.  

I realize now that I could have made my intentions clear without being hurtful.  It doesn’t take harsh words or ill-intent to clearly explain to someone that you are headed in a different direction. When I see a guy is being singled out and generally not accepted, I say a few words to make him feel accepted and equal.  He might start thinking right at that moment that I like him, but a few words could clarify where we stand. For example: “I know a great girl who would get along with you really well—I should introduce you sometime.”

There’s nothing mean about that. No hurt feelings, but the guy will understand that I am not interested in a relationship with him. If I had made that really clear early on, our relationship would not have been such a mystery to the guys in question. 

I could have avoided a lot of stress, and those poor guys might not have had their egos bruised and their hearts broken if I had made it more clear I wasn’t interested in a relationship. Once I finally understood my mistake, my relationships with men got a lot less complicated.

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