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'Nuts and Bolts' revisited: a concrete case


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In an earlier post, I asked about the 'nuts and bolts' of dating - specifically about what rules may exist, unwritten or otherwise, concerning how you move things on from one stage to the next. I've got some responses but still can't say I know much.


But not long ago I had a situation which allows me to put the whole thing in the context of a concrete situation; I acknowledge my original post was all rather hypothetical.


I was at an important workshop in my field, in Italy. While there, I met a woman who seems to have everything: a self-assured, assertive personality, interests which naturally intersect mine, a positive outlook on life free from 'bubbly' superficiality, natural intelligence without the need for every conversation to be intellectual, physical beauty. Not only that, she seemed immediately to be very attracted to me.


Great. After a few days we were talking outside the hotel, overlooking the beach. She mentioned she'd come all the way to Italy and had been hoping more than anything to experience a pizza but had been somewhat dismayed to discover that where we were in Italy didn't seem to feature pizza much in most of the restaurants. As it happens, I'm a old-time visitor to this part of Italy; the workshop is a fixture each year at the same place, and I know the local town almost like a native. So I immediately knew exactly where her pizza fixation could be satisfied (yes their pizza is awesome). My immediate thought was to ask her if she'd like to come with me and I could take her to the best pizza place in the area. You couldn't get a better set-up.


But then what next went through my mind is what always goes through my mind in situations like this: hmm - would such an offer be seen as overly forward, especially since the context of the workshop is a professional meeting? I wouldn't want my actions to be misinterpreted with disastrous results; I was afraid that a negative reaction might result in me being suddenly and roundly despised amongst my professional peers, which would have made the move not only a personal loss but a professional disaster. I hesitated. She suggested we walk down to the beach. Naturally I was fine with that.


That's when disaster (of a form) struck. At the beach she recognised a friend. They started chatting. I could feel the moment slipping away by the second. As you might expect in the end nothing happened between us.


I will never know in this specific situation whether an offer for a pizza would have been well-received. But after the fact it indeed occurred to me that even her mentioning the pizza might have been a way of giving me an opening to make an offer. However the problem is, as I have outlined already in the previous post, I don't KNOW that this was the case and can certainly believe that the possibility exists that no such opportunity was being offered - that it was just a more-or-less casual remark. I know still less if an invitation on my part would have been seen as inappropriate or overly forward.


Every rational part of me screams that of course it would not have been seen in this way, especially since it was quite definitely a heartfelt and perfectly innocent offer. Nothing says I had any ulterior motives - quite the contrary, I can remember my feelings at the time and they were entirely thinking of how I could help to fulfill her wish. Every rational part of me says that even if it had turned out that she had no romantic interest in me, she wouldn't take an offer like that negatively and a dinner could just as well result in a friendship even if nothing more came out of it in any case. Every rational part of me says that all the indications she was showing of interest in me suggests at least the possibility if not indeed the certainty of romantic interest.


The trouble is, I don't *know* this. Not in the intuitive way some people seem to be able to 'know' something, in other words to be able to infer from context the almost-certain probability of a given situation. My problem is that I can definitely envision from the situation as I describe above the equal possibility that 1) her interest in me was purely friendly; 2) that an approach would be viewed as inappropriate in the circumstances; 3) that any such approach would have caused her considerable discomfort, and I am NOT about to be the cause of someone else's discomfort if the reason has to do with advancing my own personal interests. All of this is again the result of me not knowing what rules govern what may be said or done by whom in what situations.


Maybe a general answer to that is too difficult or too broadly-framed to be given, but I'm hoping that in this specific case, even if it is by this point far too late, you can help by answering the following - and this at least might help bring me forward.


1) How likely would it be that an offer to go for a pizza in this situation would be seen as appropriate?

2) How likely do you think it was based on the information given that she had at least potential romantic interest in me?

3) How likely do you think it was that her mentioning the pizza was a way of (if only subconsciouly) giving me an opportunity?


And finally, though this is more general - if the answer to these questions is very high to certain, what do I need to do to overcome that same instinctive reflex that in all situations immediately causes me to question the appropriateness of any action that hints at further interest (whatever stage of the relationship we may be at)?

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Sounds like catastrophic thinking. Asking a woman out for a pizza probably isn't going to destroy your life.


Believe it or not, thinking and being smart may hinder dating. Emotions can, and often are, illogical. You can't think them through and analyze all possibilities with %100 certainty. Same with attraction. We know a lot about it. But still, it's pointless sometimes to spend an eternity analyzing 'is she, or isn't she attracted to me?' Sometimes, often, you just have to go on nothing more than gall.


When she mentioned the pizza, you had an opportunity. Next time take it. Worse case scenario, she would make up an excuse if not interested, so you could save face, and that would have been the end of it.


Act more, think less. Which doesn't seem like a good idea most time. But when in dating sometimes you just have to go for it. Fate favors the bold.

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What's the big deal? Some of your colleagues would have despised you for taking a woman out for pizza? No, not in this universe. Look, I'm a professional and at conferences men and women ask each other out to dinner all the time. No one thinks a thing about it. You, my friend, need to stop overthinking EVERYTHING. It was just pizza. No big deal. Next time, NEVER overthink things. It does no one any good.

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OK good, so this more or less confirms what I suspected. Which may be a bit depressing after the fact, seeing that this means I missed a clear chance, but that was then and this is now.


What your answers do indicate to me though is the reaction that causes me always to question the social appropriateness of a romantic move is irrational. That means 2 things: 1) that probably it actually reflects some subconscious internal fear; 2) that attempting to overcome it based on 'rational' internal arguments isn't going to work (e.g. you can't placate an irrationally angry person (or partner) by appealing to rational arguments).


I don't know exactly what to do next - I can't honestly see how it can be possible to overcome an irrational (especially not a subconscious) reaction - but the fact remains that people do so every day so it must be possible. It is however quite useful to know at least that essentially I'm creating barriers for myself where none exist.


Clearly in any case the chance that an innocent offer will cause offence is essentially zero.

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You didn't necessarily miss a "clear chance." After all, she may not have viewed your offer as anything more than "let's get pizza." People grab food together all the time and it doesn't mean anything.


You have some real anxiety over this. Like you said, it's getting in your way. Have you considered speaking to a therapist? Sometimes it helps to get it all out in a nonjudgmental atmosphere.

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