Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Super-Long Post Giving Dating Advice That I'm Unqualified to Give

To my extremely great astonishment, I received a rather interesting email the other day from one of you, and I have obtained permission from the sender to answer it on here. I've edited it only for length and to get rid of identifying details. Here it is:

Hey Jennie,

I read your blog and this may sound a bit funny but I just wanted to know what you thought about this situation I'm in, if you don't mind. I just thought you might have some interesting insight. There's this boy (right, so what else is new). I first met him a few months ago when we worked together and we became friends. I think he initiated the friendship, but since then the only consistent thing he's done is been flaky. That includes in texting, showing up, etc.

The thing is, although he is inconsistent, he actually does text me a lot, and I find that I get upset if I don't hear from him. He tends to overshare emotionally in a way that confuses me, and I go from thinking he likes me one day to being convinced that he is not interested the next. Then he admitted last night that he has been told off in the past for misleading female friends into thinking he's interested when he's not. So now I'm annoyed at myself for being conned, but I can't quite bring myself to leave it at that.

So... what to do? I mean, what do you think? He has said that he is still a little hurt over his last relationship. Does that change anything?

- Frustrated in Friend Zone (btw this name was her suggestion)

P.S. He just texted me twice in 20 minutes asking me about my day because I didn't text back.

So after I picked myself off the floor and reveled in like an entire evening of egomania, I wrote a response, which goes like this:

Dear Frus,

If you want to take my advice, please just know that I am pretty much the opposite of a dating expert. However, I will nonetheless of course be happy to tell you what I think about this situation, which I have been in many times myself. From your description of this guy's behaviour, I suspect that he is what the brilliant Natalie Lue of the blog Baggage Reclaim calls an "emotionally unavailable assclown." While Baggage Reclaim is directed at an audience of heterosexual women, anyone can actually be an EUA (that's emotionally unavailable assclown, remember). But I'll just say "he" when I'm talking about an EUA since the questioner is a heterosexual woman.

OK, now that we've got that PC bullshit covered, let me tell you exactly what an EUA is. He is a person who cannot commit either to being with you or to being without you so he tries to keep a foot in your life and a hold on your attention without ever giving you reason to believe he is interested in having a real relationship. You may rest assured that if he is being an EUA to you, he is not available to anyone. So please do not go using this as a reason to feel bad about yourself.

Now, you may be thinking "but he's just flirting with me, what's so big a deal about that?" I am in fact well aware of the societal messaging that says that flirting with someone in whom you have no sincere romantic interest is harmless, even if your flirting is extremely consistent, aggressive, or shameless. However, I will tell you that behaving in this way is the domain of an EUA. A person who is emotionally available will not do it.

In spite of this, however, I am personally not a believer in keeping your feelings inside when someone you like has been flirting with you, and I am also a believer in holding assclowns responsible for their behaviour, so I would advise you to make your feelings known. After all, you don't know for sure whether this guy is an assclown. It's just a hypothesis and you have to test it out.

So you don't have to be dramatic, just ask him if he wants to go for a coffee, and make sure it's just the two of you. You should do what you have to do to communicate what you mean by this, because I can tell you right now this guy has never taken a hint in his life. Just call it a date if you think he won't get it any other way. If you think that's too weird or something, then just say whatever you have to say so that he knows what you are feeling.

If he agrees to this, gets (for sure gets) your intentions, and is actually NOT an assclown, then he will help you take the next step, i.e. you won't have to keep nervously sticking your neck out. However, if he agrees to the coffee, seems to get it, but then makes it like you're just friends when you're out together and keeps texting you afterwards (likely), or if he gets all freaked out and says he didn't mean anything like that (possible), then you have your answer: this guy is a bona fide certifiable emotionally unavailable assclown.

If this is the case, then you are not to be in touch with him. The next time he shamelessly texts you or tries to get in touch with you, you must firmly tell him that you will not continue to be in flirtatious contact with him, and he will not be in a position to question you because he said no to your offer of a real relationship. With him not in touch with you, you will be in a position to move on. And if he continues to hassle you after you've done all this and told him to leave you alone, you will presumably see him for what he would be in that case, which is an immature idiot who doesn't respect people's boundaries. And you would just ignore him, and he would know why. But all of that is the most extreme case.

I know it sounds scary to just ask someone out or tell him that you're into him, but you should respect your own feelings so that you will have closure in this situation one way or the other. This is about putting YOU and your feelings and boundaries first. Allowing this guy to occupy so much space in your head when you are not in a relationship with him will erode your self-esteem very quickly. You must do what you have to do to avoid this outcome.

Oh, and btw, "being hurt over a last relationship" is one of the hallmarks of an EUA. Know this: it is very likely ONLY in his version of events that he was completely emotionally available in that relationship. If you get rid of him, Lord only knows the laughable things he may tell people about his inability to get over you. (That doesn't mean he has suddenly become available to you, obviously. You still need to stay away.)

Good luck with this situation and much xox,

P.S. One more little thing: please don't go thinking "but I want to be in touch with him even if he doesn't want to date me!" I mean, do you really, for any reason other than continuing to feel validated in fantasizing about him? Be honest.


  1. "Emotionally unavailable assclown" is an amusing turn of phrase, but I doubt its accuracy. There may be men who are truly emotionally unavailable for anyone, but I think those would be pretty rare.

    In truth, a man's emotional "availability" will usually vary depending on the woman. If he thinks the woman is mildly attractive or pretty fun but not really girlfriend material, he'll hold himself emotionally aloof. For another woman he finds much more attractive or with whom feels a more palpable spark - someone he sees as real long-term girlfriend material - he might be perfectly willing to invest himself emotionally in the relationship.

    In this case, it sounds like the boy is flattered by Frustrated's affections and enjoys the attention, but doesn't really see her as a potential long-term girlfriend. If she initiated something physical he would probably reciprocate, and might even date her for a brief period, but would probably stay aloof and break it off when he found someone he thought was better. For that reason, I agree with you that Frustrated should probably cut off contact with this fellow, unless she thinks a fling would be fun without being painful. But I sort of doubt that we can put this guy into some category and predict how he'd behave with a woman of whom he had a much higher opinion.

  2. Jennie,

    This post completely reminds me of a convo we had in which - I not only spotted a potential celebrity chef - but also think I sided more along the lines with Steve's thinking. While I agree that there are definitely some people (male or female) who are emotionally unavailable in general (and even for that matter sociopathic), I think that it is also possible that potential-EUA is also just confused about how he feels about "Frus" and is sending mixed signals (which is understandable, although definitely unfair to Frus), or possibly what Steve indicated, or possibly something else etc. etc. That being said, I regardless of how one may or may not want to categorize people (and their capacity to be cruel, whether knowingly or unwittingly) the advice you gave was sound. Honesty is the way to go. In fact, I think that the most important advice you gave was about self-respect. If "Frus" knows she likes potential assclown man enough to want to be in a relationship with him because it will make her happy then good, she should tell him. And, if their original 'friendship' was really just code for -I am getting to know you well enough to decide whether or not you are someone I want to date- and he concludes the process by letting her know that the inclination to date is not mutual, then yes, she should definitely cut him off. Anyway, I'd be interested to hear an update and wish her the best!

  3. PS Kudos on becoming dear abbey aka dear jennie!!! =)

  4. This guy is consistently flaky, managing her by text, veering from oversharing to walls, he's ambiguous, he has got previous form for misleading, and he claims to be hurt over his previous relationships. Oh and he also goes into a frenzy of contact when he feels out of control and she is jumping to his beat.

    He is indeed unavailable. If he was available and interested, he'd be asking her out, not making excuses, and actually making an effort.

    This is text messages - no great shakes in the effort department. It doesn't matter whether he's temporarily available or habitually unavailable, he's unavailable. If she keeps hanging around and carrying on like the crumbs he has to offer are great, she'll devalue herself in the process while being kept in his back pocket as an option for an ego stroke, shag, or a shoulder to lean on. It would be better to find someone that's not a texting and effort cheapskate.

  5. If he was into you he'd be doing something about it.

    However, I know that's not really easy to accept, because you'll be second-guessing yourself, your judgment of the situation, and everyone else who has provided their judgment here every time he does "something" to make you think there is still a chance.

    If you want to know in no uncertain terms, ask him. Don't pussyfoot around the issue - ask him face-to-face in simple terms. It may also be an idea to just ask him at an unexpected time so he doesn't have time to "concoct" a response that will leave you hanging. I have found that people are usually so shocked when you don't mince your words that they'll usually just blurt out the truth. If his response is unsatisfactory, kick his emotionally unavailable ass to the curb.

    Honesty really is the best policy.

  6. He's just insecure, and trying not to be too available to you because he's worried that if he makes himself too available, then you won't be into the chase any more.

    If he texts you, he's into you.

    This is how he is, at least for the time being. If you don't want to get into a relationship with somebody like that, talk to him.