‘Is My Crush Just Leading Me On?’

Illustration: Pedro Nekoi

This column first ran in John Paul Brammer’s Hola Papi newsletter, which you can subscribe to on Substack.

¡Hola, Papi!

Has anyone ever confessed that the most annoying part of law school is the dating? I’m a first-year student and have developed a crush on my classmate. He’s just my type: very kind, very smart, very cute. I’d be good friends with him even without any romantic interest. I’m totally unabashed about the whole thing (as in, I’ve told him he’s cute and have explicitly referred to him as “my crush” in front of him).

He’s suggested to me that he returns my romantic interest, but is (1) a naturally way more reserved person and (2) understandably nervous about getting into a relationship with someone he shares multiple classes with. 

It feels like he’s resolved this problem by bread-crumbing the hell out of me. He’ll call me smart or occasionally say I’m pretty, but will hardly ever talk to me unless I talk to him first. At what point am I supposed to cut my losses and realize he’s not that into me? Am I setting a bad precedent for a possible future relationship? Am I being too “anxious attachment style” and should I actually just be focusing on 1L?

Yours in nervousness,
Confused Classmate

Hey there, CC!

Look, I’m going to level with you here as someone who also suffers from the affliction of “being attracted to men.” This is based purely on personal experience, so take from it what you will. When a guy is interested, it tends to be pretty obvious. Sorry to “do gender” here, but it must be said: Broadly speaking, men are fairly obvious creatures. Fascinating, but obvious.

Sure, it can be hard to tell if a guy is making eyes at you at the bar. It can even be difficult to recognize when you’re being hit on. I personally struggle with this, and I more or less need to be repeatedly hit over the head by the Frisky Flail before I understand what’s happening to me. Attraction can be murky, and our own anxieties and insecurities only muddy the waters further. I get it!

But you know what I also get? I “get” being left on read, sending flame emojis in response to his thirst traps on Instagram with no apparent end game, reaching out to set dates that keep getting postponed, and getting “yeah for sure” in response to “let’s hang soon.” I also “get” being on the other side of all this! I, too, am a demon! Maybe society should fall and be rebuilt. Maybe it deserves to burn so that something better, or at least something different can emerge from its wretched ashes.

Sorry, what was your question?

Oh, right. This is all to say that I think you should trust your gut. If you feel like he’s being wishy-washy or like he’s leading you on, you’re probably right. Let’s say he really is conflicted and trying to calculate whether or not he wants to go out with you while sharing classes with you and being busy with his homework, or whatever they call it in law school. That’s still not a great scenario for you. I feel like you should date someone who is jazzed enough about the idea that they aren’t deliberating about it for months. More law terms for you there. This is the kind of customization you won’t get anywhere else.

I don’t know what 1L is and I don’t want to find out, but, yes, my advice is to focus on that for now and try to find a first date with someone whose intentions are clearer. But since we’re embracing stereotypes today, I should also warn you that nothing gets a guy’s attention quite like losing interest in him.

They are like cats in this way. Try to beckon them over, and you get ignored. But start doing work on your laptop, and suddenly they’re trying to distract you by lying down on the keyboard and rubbing their faces up against the screen. Men love doing that. They can sense when their presence would be maximally inconvenient for you, and that’s typically when they show up.

Whew. Thank you for entertaining my “men be like” Netflix stand-up special there. It was all very cathartic for me. I feel better now, and isn’t that, in the end, what this column is all about? Making me, specifically, feel good? I thought so too.

In any case (another law term), you’ve already presented him with all the relevant information he needs to ask you out. Do your own thing, and keep an eye out for other prospects. Who knows? Maybe he’ll come around, or maybe you’ll end up in a nice friendship, but pushing for it too hard will only waste your time. Meanwhile, I wish you both a very happy “sporadic Instagram compliment around the holidays.”

Okay, court adjourned. Gavel, gavel.

Con mucho amor,

Originally published November 27, 2023.

Purchase JP Brammer’s book Hola Papi: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessonshere.

‘Is My Crush Just Leading Me On?’