Question: Dear Luise: Hi, Mom! OK…there is the guy I work with. He used to mess with me by trying to get my attention by yelling “hey” whenever he saw me pass by and trying to make me flinch, tease me, and try to make me laugh. We used to take shots at each other, but only to each other. That aside, we used to talk a lot. Hang out during breaks and lunches and talk after work. Numbers never exchanged though. Then we had this falling out and didn’t talk to each other for maybe like 2-3 months. Now that the drama is dead, he’s back to his messing with me, taking shots at me, and finding ways to get my attention. Lately he’s been on this whole “men are superior to women” thing and he knows the kind of woman I am. So I’m thinking he’s saying this stuff to get on my nerves or maybe he really believes it. Before, he never tried to say anything like that to me. Now, I don’t understand why he would try to get me worked up, especially about equality. We were discussing it and he was really being attentive to what I was saying. And every time I got loud, because I am passionate in what I believe in, he’d tell me he’s listening to me, calm down, and use my indoor voice. Which I thought was cute. The talks we used to have were about work and life and school. Now when we’re non-jokingly talking, I pull back and do not confide in him like I used to. Like when he asked if I was still going to school, I just smiled and shrugged my shoulders. And now all I really do is smile or don’t really react when he tries to mess with me. We still take shots at each other but most of the time I don’t react and when he’s trying to mess with me. I act like I’m not paying attention and then I just start smiling in his face. We look at each other but I don’t think it means anything. If it does, it means we were just looking around and happened to look at each other. So, I’m at a loss…is it me? I do like him. T.
Answer: Dear T. To make any progress both of you are probably going to have to move up a notch and offer each other some direct communication. All of your horsing around, making eye contact and taking shots at each other may be fun but you are both being required to do too much “reading between the lines.”
Look back at your “falling out ” and see what you can learn from that. It must have been serious to cause you both to pull back for months. Your question refers to how it was “before” that and then “after” that, as if was a milepost of some kind. My guess is that you have never talked it through.
You seem to be stuck in playing games. The attention getting and the fake disinterest are both varieties of communication that leave a lot to be desired. No wonder you are at a loss.
Are you up for a confrontation? If so, invite him out for a burger and tell him that you want to know what is going on with him where you are concerned. Make it clear that you are willing to level with him in return. Call him on it. Offer to go to a new level with him if he’s interested, as in no more taking shots at each other and poking fun at serious issues without any supportive dialogue. Tell him that you would like to move on to a mutually respectful friendship. Also, let him know that it’s OK if he’s not interested in that…you’re just done with the other. Blessings, Luise