Guys, This Is How You Leave the Friend Zone

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Chiara Atik Modern Dating

In this age of ambiguous hangouts, it can be difficult to tell when you’re hanging out with someone, and when you’re…

…you know…

…hanging out with someone.

(Or, as we adults sometimes like to refer to it: dating.)

If you like someone, and you’re spending time with them, but this time hasn’t necessarily been initiated with romantic intent, figuring out whether the person you’re spending all day with/seeing a movie with/installing their air conditioner with is actually interested in you can be agony. You can either let it go on indefinitely (and GChat your friends about it ad nauseum), or you can make a move, and find out for sure.

Plus: How to Have the ‘Define the Relationship’ Talk—Minus the Awkwardness

For some guys — the ones with all the dating confidence in the world — this isn’t a problem. They simply go in for the kiss (or the slightly-less-ballsy handhold), and if they’re turned down, they shrug it off.

As for the rest of the population, well, you guys have Ethan Hawke!

In a world of Ryans Gosling and Lochte, Shakespeare-loving Ethan Hawke has been unfairly overlooked as a paradigm of Guys with Game. But, as blogger Nick Notas points out, Hawke in Before Sunrise — or rather, his character, Jesse — has game in spades.

The scene starts with them on a bus. Right away, Jesse sits next to Céline instead of across from her. He positions himself close, which instantly creates an romantic dynamic and allows for easy physical contact. He doesn’t hide his intentions by sitting opposite her.

He rests back in the seat and looks damn comfortable. He drapes his arm around her seat which again creates closeness between them. He holds strong eye contact. Then he rolls into…

Jesse: Alright, I got an idea. Are you ready?
Céline: Okay.
Jesse: Alright, it’s Q&A time. We’ve known each other a little while now, we’re stuck together, so we’re going to ask each other a few uh, direct questions. Alright?
Céline: So, we ask each other questions.
Jesse: And you have to answer 100% honestly.
Céline: Of course.
Jesse: Okay, alright, first question.
Céline: You.
Jesse: (Speaks in a German accent, or what Americans would consider “Freudian.”) Describe for me. (Back to regular accent.) Yes, I’m going to ask you. (Freudian accent again.) Describe for me your first sexual feelings towards a person.

So, straight up asking a near-stranger about her sexual fantasies is only going to work in very charming scenarios, but what Hawke (or rather, his character) does right is A) sitting close to her, B) maintaining eye-contact, and C) bringing up sex, albeit in a joking manner. In his case, it doesn’t matter that he put on a goofy accent and asked something weird, because it’s Ethan Hawke. Just kidding! It doesn’t matter that he put on a goofy accent and asked something weird because the point is to veer the conversation towards sex. And when two people start to talk about sex, (especially two people of compatible orientations), then they start to think about sex. With each other.

Does it mean that in two minutes they’ll be having sex? No. But it starts to move things in the right direction.

Of course that’s not exactly enough. As the scene progresses, Hawke leans in and brushes the hair out of Celine’s face. Sexy! Intimate! GIRLS KNOW WHAT THIS MEANS. If a guy I’m not interested leans over to brush the hair out of my face, I take about 10 steps back and instantly change the topic to the least sexual thing I can think of. If I like the guy, I proceed as normal. (Or maybe move closer, or whatever.)

Once Hawke gets the subliminal green light (she is willing to talk frankly about sex, she is willing to sit close to him, she lets him brush the hair out of her face), he can feel free to be even more direct with her. (If he hadn’t gotten the green light, he probably would have ramped things down, switched to safer topics, and veered things safely back into Good Friends territory.)

You probably know how to take it from there, but if you’re interested in seeing how Hawke closed the deal in Before Sunrise (and why it worked), read this excellent analysis.

But to recap:

Start with small feelers, read her level of engagement (or lack thereof), and once you get the all-clear, be direct, and leave her in no doubt of your interest in her.

Good luck!

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