Is He Being Flirty or Just Friendly?

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Over the weekend, a Facebook friend hosted an informal gathering of writers. Feeling brave, I RSVPd yes. I’m interested in meeting people who have a similar schedule to mine, as I do most of my writing at night.  Plus, the host was someone with online magazine experience and I wanted to introduce myself. My plan was to ask her if I could take her for drinks and – for book research purposes –  get an insider’s perspective on the industry and learn about the various responsibilities involved with being an Editor in Chief.  I also needed more experience pitching my novel, and being among writers sounded like an ideal way to achieve that goal.

I arrive at the Lower East Side bar about an hour into the soiree. By then, everyone there had consumed at least one cocktail and had loosened up. I decided to use the knowledge I’d gleaned from a Whiskey tasting a few weeks before and ordered a finger’s worth of Johnnie Walker on the rocks. Normally, I’d order a Merlot and nurse it, but it was a holiday weekend and I’d given myself permission to slack off.

“Bold choice,” said a voice next to me. I turned my head to see a lanky man wearing jeans and a black t-shirt. With dark hair graying around the temples, he looked about forty.

“Wish me luck,” I said. “I’m a Whiskey virgin.”

As I waited for the cubes in my drink to melt and water down my scotch, I learned more about him. His name was Max*, and he’d just completed his first novel and was in the process of querying agents. Max asked me my one sentence pitch for my book (“It’s a story about risk and resilience”) and nodded in approval, adding that he wanted to know more.  I told him about my struggles with finishing the draft and said I was getting frustrated.

“Feel free to reach out and vent,” he said. “You can find my profile through [a Facebook writer’s group we both belong to.]

The next morning I looked him up in the group directory, found his page, and took a peek. Most of it was private, but in some of the photos the same woman appeared. I clicked through to her page and learned very quickly that she was Max’s girlfriend.


Continuing on with this theme of disappointment, I showed up for my running class today and not one but both of the men I’m currently crushing were on the treadmills next to the one I’d reserved for the class. The first one, let’s call him Luc, was just finishing his run. He was cooling down and I was warming up. We made small talk about the class and I suggested he join us next week. He leaves and there’s an empty treadmill between me and the other guy I’ve been “flirting” with. We’ll call him Paul.

“Did you bring your workout bagel?” Paul teased.

“No, smarty pants. After you bagel-shamed me I switched to low-fat yogurt and a banana.”

We made small talk about a class we both want to try until a woman showed up and took the empty treadmill between us. Side note: The thing I enjoy about this class is that it’s pretty much the same people every week. We all know and encourage each other throughout the class.

We finish the class and the instructor says he’s noticed an improvement in my endurance. I tell him I credit my Friday yoga class for that. Paul joins the conversation and we start talking about yoga. He mentions that most of the early morning classes don’t fit with his schedule, as he has to get his daughters ready for school.  Since I’ve never seen him wearing a ring, I assumed that meant he was a single parent.

“Is it just you?” I asked.

“No,” he said. “My wife and I both get them ready.”

Dammit! It never occurred to me that many people remove their wedding bands before working out, as the ring can sometimes get in the way. We talked some more and parted ways. The whole time I was doing my core exercises, I wondered to myself if the flirting I’d thought had transpired in previous classes and floor encounters was all in my head. I always thought I knew the difference between a guy being friendly and a man being flirty. Apparently, I don’t, and it really bums me out and makes me feel foolish.

With online dating, you know when someone is flirting with you. There’s no question. You’re on a dating site, so of course if they’re messaging you that means they’re interested. But what about real life? Have I been online for so long that I don’t know how to recognize when a man is just being friendly? I think back to my “dates” with Michael and how I was sure – so sure! – he was interested in me. He wiped crumbs from my mouth with his finger, for God’s sake! But there again, I was wrong. He just wanted to be friends.

I work on two speeds: awkward wallflower and seductive siren, with no in-between. Now I’m totally rethinking every interaction I’ve interpreted as flirting. Max was never flirting with me, he was networking. How stupid am I? Paul was probably just being nice. Am I really that stunted that I take any attention from men as flirting? Is that how starved I am for affection?






  1. Honestly, some people, attached or not, flirt like they breathe, a friend of mine is like that and 9 times out of 10 it means nothing. Disappointing but I don’t think it’s just you and your senses being of at all…. It might have been flirting, they’re just otherwise attached.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Is this the guy who teased you about the bagel? That seems awfully flirtatious. He might just be a guy who harmlessly flirts or he’s looking to cheat on his wife. At least you know his situation before getting too invested.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think the line between flirty and friendly can sometimes be thin. Some people have a flirty way of speaking without the actual intent to flirt. Other people like to outright flirt, without any intention of taking it further. Best to not take anything said seriously until the flirty/friendly person asks you out.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think flirting is not an either you are or aren’t thing. It’s more of a sliding scale. Men can be committed, engaged, or even married and still flirt, it just doesn’t MEAN the same thing as a single guy chatting you up.
    I think the key to determine if it’s flirting is the butterflies or a sense of “charged air”. Do you feel a sort of weightless, easy agreement, or does it feel more like friendly banter between coworkers? With flirting, a lot of guys will have this sort of…focus. Only the most accomplished of flirts will make it feel like Jude Law is delicately giving you the come hither signals. Usually guys will try to impress you or ask you questions to determine your status or compliment you. Those are my giveaways. If some guy is like “Oh, I bet your *boyfriend* blah blah” he’s flirting. If he’s like “oh, hey, nice storyboard, where did you learn to do that” eh…not flirting.
    I would say a good way to walk through life is to accept the sliding scale in all ways. Some days we get asked out, or hit on. Other days a cute guy says a few sentences and brightens our day. Some days the FWB asks to get serious, or the boyfriend proposes. Some days a store clerk says “great shoes”. They are all great, just some more than others!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. These days it’s not as straightforward as single and married. I know my share of married couples that stay together for the kids but agree to lead separate lives outside of co-parenting. Then there are the divorced couples that still live together for financial reasons or are on the DL about being open. Then there’s the cheaters. I don’t buy the excuse men give about taking off their wedding band to work out. Besides, you were taking a running class. What’s that got to do with his ring?

    If you think a man is flirting with you he probably is.


  6. A guy wiping crumbs off your face is flirting. Doesn’t mean he is interested though. Does sure as fuck mean he wants you to think he is interested.

    Married and fianced and girlfriended men flirt all the time. Trust your instiincts


  7. I think men often flirt as the default because they’re not sure how else to interact with women. So just because Paul is married and Max was networking doesn’t meant that they weren’t flirting.

    Also, I take my ring off before the gym all the time, and throughout the day, like if I’m moisturizing my hands or cooking. So there’s that. And then there’s the possibility that Paul’s ring was being re-sized, or that he never had one in the first place.


  8. I get that people are “naturally” flirty, but I call bullshit. These men deliberately spoke to you and engaged in banter with you, and one man touched you. I think these men like the attention that other women give them and feed off of it, and seek out women that they can do that with. I would have to be a really secure woman to be in a relationship with a man who constantly pushed the boundaries of constant flirting and question his intent to pursue other women. There is a difference between being engaging and gregarious and obvious flirting. Trust your instincts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This. I’ve seen this scene play out a hundred times with both men and women instigating some pretty aggressive flirting until the object of their flirtation escallates the exchange to a date invitation when they are suddenly taken aback, “What?! I can’t. I’m married.” Yeah, you can and you did because you need constant validation.


  9. It’s not about telling the difference between being friendly and flirting, it’s about telling the difference between “just flirting” and “flirting with interest/availability to take it further”. I think you can trust your instincts that these guys were flirting, don’t doubt yourself there.


  10. Why not just simply enjoy any flirtations and frendliness directed your way, and not have any expectations about what these may or may not lead to ? Or what these may or may not mean to the other person ? Flirting and friendliness is supposed to lift your spirits and make your day a tad more bearable so why fixate something meant to make you smile and lift your mood even for a short while ? Men who flirt certainly take this attitude – do we want them to stop and have all our interactions with them cold and business like ?


  11. I don’t think the question is whether or not they were flirting – they were – but whether they were doing it with intention. They have to ask you out for you to know that.

    Hell, I used to have a guy friend who would greet me with a kiss on the mouth. Eventually, I asked him on a date and he was genuinely mystified and said he “didn’t like me that way.”


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