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Love Letters: Footsie or restless leg?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  March 3, 2009 11:19 AM

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Should she make the first move? Let's help a nice reader get back in the dating game.

Q: I am recently divorced but ready to test the dating waters again. I'm in my early forties and don't often meet available men. In the past, I tended to be more traditional and to wait for the guy to ask me out.

I met someone the other day in whom I'm interested. Should I contact him? My male friends suggest that I ask him out. My female friends suggest that I follow the advice of He's Just Not That Into You and don't bother because if he really wanted to see me, he'd do it.

One possible caveat: I met him in a business setting with another person present and there was no flirting so I couldn't gauge his interest or lack thereof. That said, he was facing me and tapping my chair leg with his foot the entire time. Granted, it may be a nervous habit or restless leg syndrome. Also, we will never work with each other, so that will not be a deterrent in any way.

-- Older and Not Much Wiser, Boston

A: Welcome back, OaNMW. Dating hasn't changed much. Except for all the stupid text messaging.

You can tell your female friends that the self-help book "He's Just Not That Into You" does not recommend that you play mind games or shun your crushes if they don't immediately profess their love. You're allowed to show interest. You're allowed to ask him out for a meal. This guy may have no idea that you're hoping for a date. No idea that you're trying to decide whether he's playing footsie or if he has restless leg syndrome. He'd probably be pretty flattered. The bonus of dating in 2009 is that you're allowed to let him know.

If he doesn't respond to your invite or seems wishy-washy about the request, then sure, hit up your local library, check out "He's Just Not That Into You," and give it a read. But let's not get defensive before we have to. Dating is scary. You'll be putting yourself out there for possible rejection. But he might just feel the same way.

You won't know until you ask him. Your male friends are right.

Readers? Do you agree? Is he playing footsie? Should she ask him out? Share your thoughts here (and be nice, please -- this reader is newly single). Read yesterday's letter from an Aussie here. Spill your own guts here.

- Meredith

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26 comments so far...
  1. Guys like being asked out.....my advice - do what YOU want to do....

    Posted by spaceman March 3, 09 11:47 AM
  1. Get in touch with him and set up something, you really have nothing to lose and everything to gain. The lowest-risk meal is lunch, especially if you work in the same building or close to each other. Just keep it casual and see where it goes, don't get in too deep right away.

    Posted by J March 3, 09 11:52 AM
  1. Meredith, I think you're spot-on with this one. Too many women have been jaded with the release of the book and movie and fall into the trap of letting great men pass them by because they're expecting them to make the first move. Maybe you're dealing with a guy who has been burned in the past, or he's shy, or maybe he just can't figure you out in his women-are-a-total-mystery male brain.

    I say ask him out for a completely friendly, no-strings meal. Start off with business chat if it makes it less awkward. Take it slow. He very well COULD be that into you. Good luck!

    Posted by Meg March 3, 09 11:52 AM
  1. Yeah, I agree with Meredith here. "He's Just Not that Into You" doesn't apply here ... yet. Go for it, if you felt a vibe, what do you have to lose? Lunch is a great idea, especially if you initially met him in a business setting. If nothing else, maybe you meet a good lunch buddy who might know people he could introduce you to.

    Posted by andrea March 3, 09 11:58 AM
  1. re the foot tapping:

    As a male this doesn't feel like flirting to me. And I think it's a good thing that he wasn't flirting by tapping his foot. Frankly, it would be a weird way to flirt. (Personally it would drive me crazy and make me less attracted to the other person, but that's just me).

    Also, I would ask him to lunch or find another way to express your interest. Your "he's just not that into you" friends are wrong, because of the setting where you met. If you had met in a social setting, it would have been appropriate for you to signal your openness to his interest, and he would have been more open to expressing it. Here the environment where you met means that neither of you was able to express your feelings; so I think you should break the impasse.

    Posted by eduardo March 3, 09 12:25 PM
  1. The first time my beloved and I went out I asked him out. And that was 15 years ago and counting. Worked out just fine for us. BTW...I invited him out for coffee and it was much less pressure for both of us.

    Posted by Janice March 3, 09 12:26 PM
  1. In most western cultures, chair tapping is considered a mating ritual...Great News. Since he's already sent you a message of 'come hither', you should feel invited to make the next move...take the next step...shoot an arrow in his direction. Of course, if there was a code metered out to either inform his co-worker of a negotiating strategy or a simple SOS or ode to Sam Morris in the form of dots and dashes to proclaim his intentions, I don't know. So what have you got to lose? If you were on-line dating, your intentions would be clear. Why not make a friend? He has no way of knowing your situation. Don't be like Laura Linney in "Love Actually" where, for 3 years she can't tell the guy she's into that she's all about him. Don't go in as a date...go in as a chance to make a friend. Then let him do his part.
    ..||||||| . __ . .|||__ __ __ |||. __ __ __ ||||. ||||||| __. __ __|||__ __ __|||..__|||||||

    Posted by valentino March 3, 09 12:40 PM
  1. I would suggest finding out first if he is single. Perhaps you can ask a colleague. It could be embarrassintg to put yourself out there if he isn't. As a nely returning dater, you don't want to lose confidence by trying to get a date with someone not available.

    If he is, then suggest lunch or coffee. Good luck!

    Posted by rose March 3, 09 12:57 PM
  1. Keep in mind also that the politically correct have put the kibosh on anything that can be remotely construed as sexual in the workplace. While this is mostly a good thing, it definitely puts the damper on asking anyone out or flirting. With someone else in the room, he is likely to be on his best behavior in order not to somehow get himself in trouble and keep the visits from Sexual Harassment Panda to a minimum.

    Posted by J March 3, 09 01:33 PM
  1. As a guy, I'd say go ahead and ask him out (provided he's single). It could be something like having some hot chocolate at Burdick's.

    As for foot tapping, you wrote he did that "the entire time." I'm sorry but that's not playing footsie, more so when it didn't involve *your* foot. I've played footsie and considering "tapping the chair leg the entire time" as footsie is news to me - unless he is into some kinky stuff, or as 'valentino' implied, was practicing Morse code.

    Posted by Amit March 3, 09 02:10 PM
  1. Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying.
    Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day.
    Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now!
    Michael Landon
    US actor (1936 - 1991)

    Posted by Lucky March 3, 09 02:21 PM
  1. Rico says:

    Find out if he is single and play it cool if he is...shoot him an email or "bump into" him somewhere and suggest meeting for a cup of coffee or lunch sometime. You have already met so saying hello shouldn't be too weird. If it is in person, smile and don't be too forward but a little arm touch is ok to let him know this is a chance for more than just coffee if you hit it off. If he is not single then I suggest you check out something like first fridays at the MFA or getting involved in a charity or other group activity like biking, running, softball etc...I met a lot of nice people running and biking and at other charitable functions. You may not meet the man of your dreams but you may meet the person that will introduce you. Trust me, Rico knows what he is saying.

    Have a ncie day and enjoy the spring.

    Choose gears not gas...ride a bike people!!!

    Love Rico

    Posted by Rico March 3, 09 02:24 PM
  1. Yea i agree w/ Rico. You should definitely try and make the first move if he is single. I would suggest sending him a breezy, casual email that is still a little flirty. Mention that you would like to meet up and chat again. I would resist mentioning lunch/coffee/dinner since meals tend to make some guys feel uncomfortable at first. Guys still want to be the ones to pay for that so I would suggest letting him pick the location.

    Posted by hotpancake March 3, 09 02:55 PM
  1. It would drive me crazy if anyone tapped the leg of my chair with his foot for an entire meeting. GAH! Tap your own chair!

    If he's single, make the first move by suggesting you two see each other again outside of the work environment. If he responds positively, then great. If not, he's just not that into you and move on.

    Posted by CD March 3, 09 03:12 PM
  1. Careful... maybe he's got a little Larry Craig in him.

    Guys like to say they like being asked out, but I think deep down we like to be the hunters. Do what feels natural to you, but be aware that a lot of guys I know don't feel it's natural to be asked out. Keeping it low-key (I like the coffee idea) to start might be a good way to break that ice. Or maybe I'm just a neanderthal.

    If flirting isn't working, ask him out. What have you got to lose?

    Posted by Caveman March 3, 09 03:24 PM
  1. make sure he's single. then go for it.

    Posted by linda March 3, 09 03:24 PM
  1. "Except for all the stupid text messaging. "


    Posted by bk March 3, 09 03:46 PM
  1. wow! Meredith, you've got two in a row! Only caveman seemed to disagree a bit. I think she should definitely show more interest and maybe suggest coffee or something. I have found though that, as caveman said, most men don't like being formally asked out. You have to make them think its their idea. Lots of luck to the letterwriter

    Posted by ba1525 March 3, 09 04:16 PM
  1. I second Rose's comments. EASY does it, here. First step, without a doubt, is determining if he is single. Plenty of ways to do that...get creative if you must but always be discreet. If he is single, hopefully you exchanged business cards so you can do a follow-up "was nice to meet you" e-mail. If he responds, then and only then should you consider a follow up e-mail suggesting grabbing a coffee sometime. But that's it. You're finished and can sit back and wait. Don't put anything else on the line because there is a professional relationship to preserve here, despite not working directly together. Not to mention your understandably fragile ego after a divorce - I kow how you feel.

    By the way, the foot-tapping was nothing more than a nervous tic, and I agree with my fellow posters that it would annoy the heck out of me!

    Posted by Jetta March 3, 09 04:23 PM
  1. As a guy whose seen far too many single female friends in their late 20s-early 40s struggle to find and/or keep men, please let me give some general advice: if you want to make sure that you spend the rest of your life single, there's no better way to do it than to buy "He's Just Not That Into You" and "The Rules", and then follow their "advice" religiously.

    Posted by DaveR March 3, 09 04:28 PM
  1. Call him up and tell him your morse code skills are a little rusty,"Just exactly what were you trying to say.Because you were making me Blush"Ball in his court.

    Posted by Anonymous March 3, 09 07:45 PM
  1. Ask him out - go for it - guys are just as dumb as ever - you have to show/teach them everything. Married for years and still teaching!!!

    Posted by pocketbooks101 March 3, 09 08:03 PM
  1. The writer didn't say why she was interested in this guy, but I guess I'd wonder how much info she could have after (what sounds like) just one day...Which would also mean he knows nothing about her. Why not try to arrange some kind of group activity, business-related or non? Low-pressure situation which would give you a chance to just watch the guy, get a better sense of him, maybe even find out about his foot-tapping. In other words, a chance to figure out if you really are interested in each other.

    Posted by Davita1111 March 3, 09 09:13 PM
  1. Why shouldn't you ask him out? The idea that women shouldn't ask men out is pretty archaic. If you're interested, just say something like, "I really enjoyed meeting you the other day, and I was wondering if you'd like to grab coffee/lunch sometime." Maybe he'll say yes, and maybe he won't, but that's how dating works.

    Also, I don't think the foot-tapping was anything.

    Posted by sabend March 3, 09 09:51 PM
  1. "WHAT DO YOU THINK THAT MEANS?" It's the most pathetic 6 words in the English language because it is used by so many women to create the illusion that there is interest. It allows many women to live in a fantasy filled with convienient interpretation while kibbitzing with their girlfriends over a glass of wine and a tin of cookies. I know the fantasy world is easier than finding out the truth because in a fantasy you can control something. So let's start with taking the drama of one sided relationships out of the equation and replace it with directness and self-confidence. It may not have the legs of a fantasy, but you'll be that much closer to a fulfilling relationship.

    Posted by rudolph March 4, 09 08:08 AM
  1. Thanks to everyone for your advice! Rudolph, I truly appreciate your directness. I have plenty of girlfriends who overanalyze interactions with men and it tends to drive me crazy, so I shouldn’t be a hypocrite! That said, I haven’t dated in over ten years and I’m not exactly bubbling over with self-confidence in terms of dating. Divorce can really affect a person! However, I’m certainly not throwing myself a pity party and am trying to get back out there. After having been married for eight years and given birth to a wonderful son, drama is not my thing either. I have very limited time as it is. Just curious- have you been divorced or married? And by the way, I didn’t see “what do you think that means” anywhere. Tin of cookies?! Wine doesn’t go with cookies and we women don’t sit around stuffing ourselves with bonbons or cookies. Weighing in at 100 pounds (achieved by running and not sitting around!), it’s hardly possible.

    Posted by Older and Not Much Wiser March 4, 09 04:02 PM
ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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