I’m a newcomer to Beijing. When I arrived I didn’t speak a word of Chinese, had no idea where my Fifth Ring apartment was, and figured out too late that my collection of d’Orsay pumps would live a short seasonal life. Talk about a post-college adventure! Despite the difficulties, I’ve settled in rather well, with the help of a certain someone. An older guy I met through friends has been enthusiastically showing me around. At first, I thought he was just the welcoming type, but I soon realized he has a “thing” for me. I’m not attracted to him and we’re at different stages in our readiness to commit, but frankly, it’s nice having someone to hang out with in this big metropolis. My problem is I can’t shake the nagging feeling that I’m “leading him on”. Yet he hasn’t done anything to give me an opportunity to define our relationship as “friends only.” It’s been a few months of dinners, late night movies, and other chummy stuff but he hasn’t so much as tried to kiss me goodbye. What should I do? Keep enjoying the benefits of his friendship guiltily or not worry about it until he makes a clear romantic proposition?
Dear Platonic Patty,
I don’t know how you figured out Mr. Welcome-to-Beijing has a “thing” for you but I’m going to trust your womanly intuition. I believe that once we get past grade school age there are few purely platonic relationships between men and women. With most girl/guy “hang out’s” one or the other is hanging around because he/she wants something and hasn’t gotten it, or had something and wants more of it. Take your best guy friend from middle school who finally confessed his secret love for you before senior prom. Or the ex-boyfriend that you’re ok being “just friends” with, but occasionally kiss when you’re both tipsy? There is almost always something that keeps mixed gender friendships going that’s a bit more than just friendship. (The exception being my best guy friend who has known me since I peed in my pants at his birthday party in elementary school. There can be no romantic attraction after that.). So, is it wrong of you to know this and keep up the friendship? I think not, as long as you make it clear that you’re definitely not interested. He’s a grown man and can take a hint. If you casually bring up topics like meeting guys in Beijing or what kind of man you’re attracted to, then he’s been fairly warned. If he does brave up and make an overtly romantic gesture, it’ll give you the chance you need to define your relationship clearly. Ahead of that, it seems presumptuous and awkward to force the discussion. Meanwhile, it would be healthy for both of you to diversify your hang out’s. Even if it’s easy to just chill with him, force yourself to make time for new friends, or even to be alone. You’ll be less likely to lead either him or yourself into a romantic relationship of convenience.