Dear Em & Lo,
How does one gracefully say “Thanks, but no thanks”? It seems to happen a lot to me: I treat the guy like a friend — meaning I don’t make innuendo (no puns please!) nor banter, etc., I just converse fercrissake! — and a few weeks (or months, or hours) later he’s dropping heavy hints and gazing at me with That Look. I then try to avoid any situations that may lead him on; i.e. refusing a drink together, though I wouldn’t mind having a friendly one. Also, I don’t want to lose friends who suddenly want to move it a notch further than I really want. Any ways to let them down gently?
— Unwilling Goddess
This could be happening through no fault of your own — perhaps you’re simply too gorgeous for guys to take you seriously as a drinking buddy. Then again, perhaps you just don’t realize that you’re flirting (or don’t want to admit it to yourself or to us). After all, male friendship can be quite an ego boost. You get to crack him up, enjoy being his “buddy,” punch him playfully in the arm while pounding cans of Bud, feel good about yourself for being able to hang with the guys — and simultaneously know that he can’t help but notice your tight jeans.
Even if you’re not attracted to him, it’s always nice to be noticed…until it turns into That Look. Also, we have a sneaking suspicion that men are hardwired to misread, misinterpret, and overestimate women’s signals–perhaps it’s some weird evo-psych method of increasing the number of women they hit on, and thus the increasing the chances they have of mating.
So the most important thing is to be clear from the get-go that you’re not interested in him sexually. Do this by talking about your love/lust interests, mention past and current boyfriends, seek his advice about someone you’re pursuing, talk about the sex you just had last night (not in salacious detail, just that you had it and you really really really like this guy, blah blah blah). Ask him about his prospects and tell him who you think he should hit on, go out with, fuck — and then throw in the line, “It’s so great to have a guy friend I can talk to about these things without worrying about getting hit on. Thanks, man.”
Be warned, though: More than a handful of men will still manage to interpret this sentence as “It’s so great to have a guy friend I can talk to about these things. Now would be a really good time to hit on me.”
Another thing you can do is befriend more women. Maybe you’ve unknowingly slipped into the habit of encouraging feel-good male friendships at the expense of nurturing female friendships. Again, we get it: when that elusive hottie you’re supposedly seeing hasn’t called since you slept with him, a guy friend telling you “he’s a jerk for not calling” is way more comforting than a girlfriend saying the same thing.
Or maybe you think women are too gossipy or girly or bitchy or cliquey or whatever. If so, then we’d be inclined to suspect that you really are a glutton for attention from men. After all, not all gals are like that. And if you’re looking for a long-term friendship commitment, the ones who don’t think of the occasional roll in the hay as a possible perk of friendship are gonna be your best bet.
— Em & Lo