(The Frisky) -- Dear Wendy:
I recently moved out of the country, and am in the process of making new friends. Every so often a new male stranger will strike up conversation with me. Since I'm new here and could use as many friends as possible, I'm always receptive and try to be engaging.
However, it always reaches the point where the guy will ask for my number. Unfortunately, nine times out of 10, I'm not really into him enough to date him -- rather I'd be more interested in being friends.
I'm finding that by engaging in conversation with them, they think I'm flirting or somehow into them, and that later when I say I'm not, they think I'm a b****. How can I let them know right away that I'm not interested in dating them, without hurting their ego and immediately ruining the possibility of becoming friends?
-- New Girl in Town
Dear New Girl:
I realize I'm probably going to get reamed for over-generalizing here, but I'm gonna say it anyway: Most (straight) men who strike up a conversation with a female stranger are not looking to make friends with her, they're looking to date her.
Of course, there are exceptions: breaking the tedium while waiting in a long line (maybe); killing time on a long flight; legitimately asking for directions. But, I would say the overwhelming majority of straight men who approach female strangers are looking for more than a buddy. And they're going to assume that you, as a female stranger, know that about them, since it's kind of a given.
So in that sense, there are two conversations happening when a guy approaches you. There's the one on the surface -- the one that's about the weather or how long the line is or what you do for a living -- and then there's the real one -- the one that happens between the lines and starts as soon as the man opens his mouth. It doesn't matter what he's saying out loud.
What he's truly communicating is: "Hey, you're cute. Do I have a chance in hell with you?" And if you engage him in conversation -- if you're friendly and smiley and ask questions or whatever -- it doesn't matter what you say out loud back, because all the guy is going to hear is: "Yeah, you do have a chance! Keep on talkin'."
So, where does that leave you? Well, if you want to avoid sticky situations with strange men who think they have a chance with you because you're being friendly, you should probably focus your attention on building the female side of your social circle instead.
Once you have a few female friends, you'll eventually meet guys through them you can become friends with -- hopefully, without the awkwardness of them thinking you're a b**** simply because you don't want to date them. But if you're still intent on befriending the male strangers who keep approaching you, you're probably going to have to just get used to hurting their egos when they realize you aren't into them.
That doesn't mean they won't get over it and be your bud anyway, but the likelihood that you can just skip to that part without a little awkwardness first is pretty close to zero. Sorry.
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