February 26, 2010

In a recent discussion, I chatted with two guy friends about whether girls or boys should be making the first move in dating. I am completely and totally on the side where guys should always make the first move. That’s probably because I would never make any kind of move. Not saying girls shouldn’t, but I personally wouldn’t. One of my friends, however, thought the opposite (I bet it’s ’cause he’s a guy). His reasoning was that girls don’t give off crystal clear signals. And because guys will, for the most part, approach only girls they would potentially be romantically interested in, it should be up to the girl to make the first move. In short, while girls often say “no”, guys will more likely say “yes”.

Sadly, I couldn’t really argue his point. As a girl with many guy friends, I’ve always been one to doubt the ladder theory – where guys are always somewhat interested in their female friends. But not being a guy, I don’t think my opinion counts in this argument. Beyond that though, I was slightly annoyed at the idea that girls don’t give clear signals. Yet on further inspection, it’s so true and even as a girl, I can’t interpret correctly all the time. That’s terrible. What’s a girl to do? Especially those girls who want to give clear signals but still be friendly (and make new friends).

First, the situation where the girl is actually interested. I think this is relatively easy. Giving signals to indicate interest is much more obvious than when you’re just trying to be friendly. The only tricky part would be when you hit unexpected snags. For example, you actually end up sick when you have a date scheduled. Any reason to get out of a date seems like a made-up excuse, whether or not it’s true. And in that case, as the one who’s canceling, you should be the one to suggest a reschedule. Then there’s no possible misinterpretation of signals.

Then there’s the situation where the girl’s not interested romantically but is interested in being friends (because girls have two ladders).  This is the worst and I’ve determined there’s no good solution. You can’t accept any kind of invitation for fear that it will give the wrong signals. But if you decline, it looks like you’re not interested at all. Group activities, while good middle ground, may or may not work as expected. Plus, in my opinion, getting invited out with a group of friends when you only know one person – well, it can be awkward and unpleasant.

Last is when the girl is not interested. It’s not so hard to give clear signals on this one. The biggest issue is how to convey that idea without being mean. Unexpected first moves make it even harder to say no; it just doesn’t come to mind right away. As confirmed by a friend, significant hesitation is a good indication of non-interest. Might make for a bit of awkwardness, but it does the job. Apparently a fake number is also a possibility – though I personally think it’s awful. Most likely, it’s just one of those times you have to hurt someone’s feelings. Better to do it sooner rather than later.




  1. First thought is that I don’t agree with the ladder theory. I have plenty of female friends that I don’t want to have sex with.

    What about when you have a good friend that you are interested in. If you make a move is she going to think that your intention the entire time of the friendship was sex? I don’t think there are any signals for that.

    As far as who makes the move, I don’t think that is a gender specific role. And the major problem with signals are, if you are good (or bad depending on how you look at it) you can flirt with someone to get them to do something for you, or boost your own self esteem. The person sending the signals doesn’t always have the same intent as the person receiving the signals.

    • Ha! I think you’re the first guy who has told me ladder theory is wrong.

      To the good friend you’re interested in – well, once the first move is made, you can discuss the basis of your friendship. But really, when/how do you make a move? If you’re good friends and you ask her to dinner, is it dinner as friends? Or is it dinner as more than friends? If she says yes, thinking it’s dinner as friends, things get very awkward very fast. And then, was she not being clear in her signals because she accepted but isn’t interested? Or are you not being clear because she thinks you’re just a friend?

      Way too complicated. My advice is don’t date friends. 🙂

      • If I ever ask out a friend, I have a standing rule that I make it very clear that I’m inviting them out on a date if that’s what I’m doing.

        I believe in the ladder theory, but it’s not an obstacle that I face with every girl. I mean, I guess most guys probably think about any girl they know at least once (or maybe that’s just me), but I’m not seriously interested in most of the girl friends that I have.

  2. it’s so hard to balance the “friendly but not interested romantically approach” If a guy approaches me at a bar and starts chatting, I feel like I’m being rude if I’m cold, but I also feel like I’m being rude if I lead him on, but it seems pretty conceited to begin every conversation with “I have a boyfriend, (which I feel obligated to tell you because I’m sure you’re interested in me) so you don’t stand a chance, but if you’d like to continue chatting knowing this, that’s fine” i guess this would all be solved if someone would put a ring on it…

    • I feel exactly the same way and I don’t like being rude to strangers.

    • Some of my friends who are girls have hilarious ways of saying that they have a boyfriend, like telling a guy that something he does, drinks, or the way he looks is “Just like my boyfriend”. Always makes me laugh when I see it. Being clear is always best, even if you think it’s cold or rude because otherwise you’ll keep receiving attention. If you want the attention, you don’t have to hurry to turn a guy down.

  3. I don’t understand why there needs to be rules about this stuff… rules are what made this complicated in the first place.

    “Oh, I should wait for her to come talk to me” “It’s totally his turn to IM me.” “What are we suppose to do on the third date again?”

    Blah.. just be clear and straight forward, and you filter out all sorts of messy relationships/ friendships later on.

    • But if there were rules, girls could focus on giving clear signals without having to worry if they should be making the first move or if he would! And there could be rules for what definitely counts as a date and not just hanging out as friends! It would be perfect! 🙂

      But really, being straightforward is much easier said than done. For instance, in Liz’s comment, I could just mention I have a boyfriend in every conversation; that’s very clear. But who’s really going to do that? It scares off any guy who would be hitting on you, but it’s a total turn-off for any guy who was just being nice.

      • Here’s a rule that’s always worked for me the few times I’ve asked out someone that’s already a friend:

        “Hey, wanna go on a date this weekend?”

        I can guarantee there won’t be any “Oh.. I didn’t know that’s what you meant…” when/if she shows up.

        Also, so what if you scare off the guy hitting on you? If that’s all he was there for, then you just saved him(and yourself) a lot of insincere chitchat.

        Likewise, if some dude is actually trying to be nice, hearing you mention your boyfriend once or twice isn’t going to send him into a fit of rage. Guys who aren’t interested in you wouldn’t have problems with listening to you talk about your boyfriend anymore than listening to you talk about your siblings.

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