I’ve never dated friends, but have started to become attracted to one, and I’m not sure how they feel toward me. We’ve only ever hung out in the company of two other close friends, getting drinks or going to see comedy. Last time I saw them, they wanted to talk a lot about dating and sex, and got a little smile on their face if I moved close, but didn’t return any actions. I think we had a moment of intimate eye contact but then I got scared and looked away. Maybe they’re shy, maybe they just like flirting. How I do find out? This wouldn’t become anything serious, so I’m not feeling super vulnerable, but I want to feel more certain before I make my feelings known.
–Platonic on the Pacific
Oh, if I had a dollar for every brief touch analyzed, prolonged moment of eye contact pondered, half-smile agonized over in an effort to feel “more certain” of what is or is not there, I’d be a gazillionaire.
Here’s the hard truth: there’s no way to know. There are signs, yes. There are “vibes.” There are indicators, circumstances and gestures that often imply romance and sex, but you will never ever be certain (and that’s what makes those interactions sexy).
Part of friendship’s intimacy can come from the fact that sex has been taken off the table. However, some friendships are—well, a little sexier. You seem to fear that your friend may reject you sexually. Very understandable. But when you say it won’t become anything “serious,” I reply: you’ll never know. It seems as though your fear of rejection might be on par with your fear of success. Could it be that you could have something wonderfully intimate and sexual if you dared to smooch your friend? Just a thought…
My “tips “ for you this week are as much about examining your assumptions about the line between friendship and romance, calming your internal monologue and creating circumstances that make you feel sexy as they are about interpreting your friend-slash-potential-love-interest’s behavior.
PUT YOURSELF IN A SEXY SITUATION.
I once invited a friend I wanted to kiss to go to a strip club with me. It was not something I’d do again but I don’t regret it. Why? It made us both deliciously honest, awkward and close in that moment.
REMEMBER THAT SEX IS ALWAYS ON THE TABLE.
if you’re two heterosexuals of opposite genders hanging out then chances are you’ve both thought about it. It doesn’t mean you’ll both act on it or that you both like the idea of it but you’ve probably both at least imagined it. Don’t waste time wondering if it’s a possibility; assume it is, and see how that changes your behavior.
ASK YOURSELF: WHAT’S THE WORST THAT COULD HAPPEN?
When I get anxious about romantic feelings I tend to pick up survivalist literature like Into The Wild and watch tragic TV shows like 6 Feet Under to gain perspective. Sometimes it works. At the same time…
ACKNOWLEDGE THE RISK
It can be terrifying for some people to sexualize friendship. Maybe they don’t have that many friends with whom they can see comedy with or talk about their sex lives They fear that they’ll fuck up something that feels really good. Be sensitive to that. Proceed with a light touch as you venture into uncharted territory.
SEEK OUT SOCIALLY SANCTIONED FLIRTING
Intimate moments in groups, chats in corners at parties, splitting off from the group at the end of the night for a “cleansing beer"—that kind of thing. This public stuff makes me blush.
DON’T PUT ON A SHOW
The only way to “show yourself as open” is to be open. Sometimes when we try to be open, we shut down. Sometimes when we’re oblivious, we act open. You’ll never be able to manufacture the perfect set of circumstances, text messages and gestures to get a certain outcome. Opt for creativity and a genuine curiosity about what might happen.
SAY: “I’M GOING TO KISS YOU NOW
Then do it. You’ll either get a “woah woah woah” or a smooch. That will be very informative.
We think of “platonic love,” as asexual. I looked into Plato’s Symposium, where he wrote on love, and it seems that chastity has little to do with his ideal. Never once does the dialogue disavow sex. Rather, he argues for love as a relation—something which exists between people rather than on its own, “always flowing in” and “always flowing out.”
OK, I don’t know about you but if Platonic love is actually fluid, moment-to-moment, and “in and out,” “in and out,” it sounds pretty sexy to me.
Plato, the grandaddy of chaste love, might have been sleeping with his friends after all.
PS: Join me on Playboy’s Twitter next Wednesday at 2 PM EST / 11 AM PST. Bring your questions and tag them with the #JustTheTips hash-tag. A few highlights from this week’s session:
Just the Tips is Playboy.com’s weekly advice column, with professional matchmaker Katherine Cooper. Have a question for Katherine about sex, love or dating? Shoot her a note at email@example.com.