Q. Dear Meredith,
I have a huge crush on a friend at college. I sit by him in class, and months ago he started to move his desk toward mine and flirt. We began to text for hours at a time. It was all there: eye contact, smiles in class, inside jokes. Mutual friends said he often talked about me.
Once, I needed a ride home from a final. The test went overtime so I told him not to wait, but he did, and we spontaneously decided to get lunch and had a lot of fun. Something about spending time with him felt so right.
Recently, at a party, my crush got drunk. The crush and I watched a movie on the couch, and he put his head on my shoulder. Then we went to a nearby park and he put his arm around my shoulders and gave me his sweat shirt when I was cold. We talked for hours, and he held my hands between his.
The next day, he told a mutual friend that he felt bad for leading me on and that he liked me as a friend but nothing more. I am genuinely confused. My intuition has never been wrong before. What does it mean that he seemed interested in me? Was it wrong to jump to conclusions about his actions? How do I avoid being led on in the future? Is there any hope for us?
— A confused girl
A. “Was it wrong to jump to conclusions about his actions?”
Guessing games are never quite right. If you had questions about his intentions, you could have just asked. Asking is scary, but it yields better results.
“How do I avoid being led on in the future?”
See the answer to your first question. We’ve spent a lot of time debating actions vs. words in this column, and I’ve come to the conclusion that one helps you understand the other. You can try to interpret small actions — hand holding, heads on shoulders — but you have to use words to figure out if you want the same thing.
“Is there any hope for us?”
Again, I’m sending you back to answer No. 1. If you doubt your mutual friend’s story or have questions about what was said and how, please talk to your crush to get the answers you need. Otherwise you’ll keep reading into the meaning of moving desks and hand touching. Let this letter be the last time you do that.
You’re like 17. Don’t give your “intuition” too much credit; you’ve barely driven it off the lot.
Some of this is unavoidable. Some people like the chase, not the catch. Some people are just flirts. That’s life, grasshopper.
Look, the guy was flirty and cuddly when sober, but he never made a real move. People act differently when they’re drunk.
Girls are WAY more emotionally evolved at your age than boys. So while you may have more of an ability to understand your feelings, he probably doesn’t. I think his flirtations are sincere, but that’s also about all he can handle.
Don’t play telephone with other people when trying to start a relationship. Stop letting your friend be your conduit.
boston.com/loveletters. Send letters to email@example.com.