Reading the Coffee Grounds

Women aren't the only ones wondering whether their date is really "into" them

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I recently received this note from long-time Pure Sex, Pure Love reader, Phil, a 26-year-old in Iowa. In a previous column, I’d suggested to readers that simple body language is a good way to tell if someone is interested in you. Phil took that test to the next level and asked: If a woman refuses to let me pay for her coffee on a first date, is she sending me a signal that she’s not interested?

Hi Dr. Whelan,

I think that I have found a variant of the salt shaker test. As you have written in your column, that is when you are on a first date and you put a salt shaker (or something like that) on your date’s side of the table. From what I recall, how they react is suppose to indicate whether they are into you.

If they play with it, they are subconsciously inviting you into their personal space. If they put it back where it was before, they are subconsciously rejecting your intrusion into their space (or something like that).

Anyway, I seem to notice a similar reaction when I offer to pay for my date. Letting me pay would be like them inviting me into their personal space. Rejecting my offer would be like putting the salt shaker back. That’s how it seems anyway.

Maybe I’m too old fashioned for modern dating, but it just seems like there isn’t much potential for a relationship if a girl won’t even accept my offer to pay for her $3 cup of coffee. Am I mistaken about this?

Girls, you think that you’re the only ones who worry about whether he’s “into” you? Think again. Guys are wondering how to interpret your signals, too. And this was such a great question, that I wanted to put it to you, the readers of Pure Sex, Pure Love, for your thoughts and experiences.

“Maybe I’m too old fashioned for modern dating, but it just seems like there isn’t much potential for a relationship if a girl won’t even accept my offer to pay for her $3 cup of coffee. Am I mistaken about this?” — Phil

There can be a number of ways to interpret a woman declining a man’s attempt to pay for her. She could be expressing her ability to pay her own way as a sign of independence and liberation. She might be concerned that having a guy buy her dinner or an expensive meal might lead to an indelicate situation where he feels she owes him something sexually in return. (I experienced this myself in my single days — and lemme tell ya, it’s not a fun conversation.)

At the same time, if it’s just a cup of coffee, these arguments may seem rather stale. Is she really saying, “I don’t want to see you again and don’t want to be beholden to you, even for $3”?

What do you think?

When do you really know someone is not into you? What signal do you use to say “thanks but no thanks”? Should paying your own way be interpreted as one such signal?

And, from Phil’s perspective, if a woman won’t let him buy her coffee, how much should he push to get her to fall for him? Have you ever fallen for someone because they were persistent?

Post your comments below in the comments section and I’ll follow up on this piece with a roundup of comments — and some research you can take into the dating minefield with you.


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