Are You Dating a Boy, or a Man? 9 Ways to Tell

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I’ve finally gotten around to reading Mindy Kaling’s book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? One of the things that struck me the most is her chapter about the difference between men and boys. She reveals that until she was in her 30s, she only dated boys because men scared the shit out of her:

“Boys are wonderful in a lot of ways. They make amazing, memorable homemade gifts. They’re impulsive. Boys can talk for hours with you in a diner at three in the morning because they don’t have regular work hours. But they suck to date when you turn 30 …Men know what they want and they and they don’t let you in on their inner monologue, and that is scary.”

I related to Mindy a bit too much. I think she really nailed what is scary about dating a grownup: he knows what he wants. A woman. Am I one? I wonder sometimes. Boys certainly don’t care about dating a woman. They barely notice you. In a way, dating boys can be easier because you know they have no clue what they want, so it’s hard to take it personally when they don’t want you. Actually, you kind of expect them to confuse the crap out of themselves and screw everything up, so it doesn’t hurt so much when it happens. But dating a man? I wouldn’t even know what to expect from him … or what he would expect from me. And that’s the scary part.

I’ve cobbled together a handy guide for telling boys and men apart (for those of us who are still figuring it out).

Plus: 9 Reasons You Suck At Relationships And How To Get Better

An Invitation To Meet Friends Or Family

Boy:He gets twitchy about it. He thinks it means you want to get serious and he’s not sure yet if he’s looking to get serious. So, you have an hour-long conversation about why he can’t be your date to your brother’s wedding, because he’s not sure where he’ll be in his life six months from now.

Man: He says yes without thinking. He doesn’t even flinch or twitch or break eye contact. He doesn’t overanalyze the meaning of your invitation. He wants to meet whoever you’re willing to introduce him to because he’s comfortable in his skin.

Making A Date

Boy: He wants to hang out later but he’s not sure what time he’ll be done grocery shopping at the food co-op and he’s also possibly supposed to hang out with his friend later and jam, so he’ll have to text you later and play it by ear.

Man: He’ll let you know the time and meeting place the night before. If he’s really on his game, he’ll give you options.

You’re Sick In Bed With The Flu

Boy: If he’s germ-o-phobic, he can’t see you until you’re way past the incubation period because he doesn’t want to get sick for his upcoming snowboarding trip.

Man: He checks in to see how you’re feeling and offers to bring you sick supplies.

Someone Insults You

Boy: He slinks away, not sure what to say, not wanting to get involved in the drama, maybe even playing devil’s advocate.

Man: He also hates getting involved in drama, but he’s not going to stand by idly while someone insults you. He knows you can defend yourself, but he’s on your team if you need backup.

Plus: 7 Signs That You’re The One Who’s Emotionally Unavailable

A Tough Conversation

Boy: He avoids the conversation at all costs, but when you do finally nail him down to talk, he’s twitchy, confused, distracted, trying to change the subject and/or has nothing to say on the topic but, “I don’t know.”

Man: He doesn’t always say the right thing, in fact, sometimes he says dumb things (so do you!), but he’s as honest as he can be, knows how to apologize if necessary and ultimately wants to make you happy.

Your Special Event

Boy: Something always seems to come up for him at the last minute. He said he would be your date for your company Christmas party, and just like he did for your art opening, he’s not going to be able to make it because he stayed out really late last night and he’s just too tired.

Man: He understands when something is important to you and come hell or high water he will be there to support you.

Social Situations

Boy: If he does make it to your best friend’s birthday party (it’s a miracle!) he wants to bail immediately if it’s not his scene.

Man: He’ll make the best of it, even if your best friend’s bday party wasn’t his first choice of social engagements for the evening. He’ll make conversation and be pleasant and not whine about missing the game. If he said he would go, he’ll go because he honors his commitments. Of course, this means you’ll have to watch the game with him later. But you don’t mind.

Plus: Myths About Dating Older Men Debunked


Boy: From work, to social engagements, to dating you, his word doesn’t mean all that much, even to him. His promises are pie crust promises (“easily made, easily broken” to quote “Mary Poppins”) and he crumbles when things get tough.

Man: His word is everything to him. You can count on him. If he says he is going to do something — pay a mortgage, work a job, show up at your best friend’s birthday party, then he will be there, dammit. So, stop questioning him!

Personal Growth

Boy: He’s unwilling to look honestly at his issues. All of his problems are external — caused by other people, shitty circumstances, bad luck. He’s not yet taking full ownership for the things that happen to him in his life.

Man: He is man enough to know what he needs to work on and takes action (without coercion) to become a better person. He can admit his faults even if it means swallowing a Big Gulp’s worth of pride. This means that he’s looking at you, too. He’s going to call you out on your BS and expect you to be just as willing to change. Touche.

— Ami Angelowicz

This post originally appeared on The Frisky.