I have a crush on my boss and he’s being standoffish

A reader writes:

A few months ago, I started working at what’s basically the perfect company for me (introvert, diagnosed autism, possible undiagnosed ADHD). It’s a very small company. I enjoy the work, I’m good at what I do, I get my own space and lots of alone time, and there’s no customer interaction.

Thing is, I still crave the occasional good conversation, even though I’m not that interested in meeting new people. So I get most of my social stimulation from everyday settings, like work. This has led to me feeling left out at my current company. My two supervisors (both male, near my age) have interesting and animated chats about current events, that weird dream they had last night, relationships, and business ideas. When I’ve tried to join in, I’ve felt like an annoying kid instead of a smart, interesting woman. My two coworkers are pretty nice, but they’re still working on their English, so conversation is somewhat limited.

It turns out my direct supervisor and I share the exact same taste in music and an interest in politics. We had some good spirited discussions, and of course I got a crush on him. I made a cautious first move with a text saying I was moved by a certain album we both like … and of course he became standoffish and distant towards me, though still professionally appropriate (not surprising; no guy I’ve ever shown interest in has wanted me back).

I’ve continued being a competent and punctual employee and interacting with my supervisor-crush in a friendly but professional way. Something of our former fun interactions returned. Lately, though, there’s been none of that. It seems he’s always ready to chat with his fellow supervisor, my coworkers, our very attractive PR person, the UPS guy — everyone but me. Instead of being flattered when I ask him work questions (things he’d already told me a few times but I’d forgotten; where to find things I could have found myself if I’d looked a little harder), he’ll kindly tell me I should figure things out on my own. Now I not only feel ugly (I’m a woman and got rejected by yet another guy), but I have no one at work to talk to.

I love my space, but I also want to connect with the people I want to connect with. I don’t want my feelings to affect my work performance. Any advice for me?

This is easier said than done, but the key will be to stop the crush from affecting how you interact with your manager … and, if you can, to stop taking his lack of interest personally.

I know lack of interest does feel personal! What could be more personal? But he’s your manager, which means he 100% absolutely under no circumstances can date you, and even having a flirty relationship would be inappropriate.

Any good manager knows they absolutely cannot date someone they manage (and in fact, most employers prohibit it). At a minimum, it creates the appearance of bias and special treatment, and at worst it opens the door to abuses of power and even charges of harassment down the road. It’s not okay to do.

My hunch is that your manager pulled back from your interactions because he got the vibe that you might be looking at the relationship in a way that isn’t okay for him as your manager. When a manager gets the sense that an employee might be romantically interested — or is just crossing the boundaries that need to be in place for managers — they should pull back. That’s the exact right thing for them to do, because the hope is that that’ll reset the relationship back into the right place without any need for an awkward conversation about it. In fact, that’s the kindest way to handle it. (And this isn’t about how you look — a good manager would do this even if you were a supermodel.)

Hearing that your boss might be trying to politely deflect your interest might feel embarrassing. But truly, there’s no reason for that. People get crushes and they misread signals, and decent people on the receiving end of that don’t look down on them for it. It’s just a fact of life. Ideally the target of the interest sends out cues that reset the dynamic, the message is received, and everyone just moves on.

So, the best thing for you to do is to take the cues he’s offering and reset the way you’re interacting with him. For instance, it sounds like you hoped he’d be flattered when you brought him work questions that you probably shouldn’t have been asking (things you should have remembered or figured out on your own). But no good manager would be flattered by that; to the contrary, in a work relationship, that’s actually a performance concern. Similarly, don’t text him about music — that’s too much for most manager/employee relationships. Be friendly, but keep it in the same boundaries you’d use with a manager who you had good will toward but zero attraction.

If you reset your boundaries with your boss back to a friendly-but-not-friends / warm-but-not flirtatious level and then give it some time, it’s likely that you’ll return to being able to have friendly (but appropriate!) conversations with him at some point.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 374 comments… read them below }

  1. Sloan Kittering*

    Oh OP, sincere sympathies. You should lonely. Two things, a) remember that the fact that your manager is withdrawing isn’t even necessarily because rejecting you for being not attractive, or whatever! There is no reason to bring that host of insecurities into the conversation – even if he found himself very attracted to you, this is how he would rightfully need to proceed, because it would be inappropriate for him to do anything else – he’s doing his job and being professional, that’s all. b) it sounds like you might benefit from talking to someone about your self esteem and ways to get more engagement outside of work?

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      Yes, this. The best way to get over a crush is to spend your time and energy on something else. Find a regular, real-world thing to do outside of work. Build relationships that are not tied into work. Learn to play an instrument, or join a political group, or do weekly DnD sessions, or find a ‘fans of This Music’ hangout, or start training for a marathon.

      Find something in yourself, your skills and interests, that helps you feel better about yourself, building your self-esteem on traits you respect, not on how others look at you.

      Whoever may or may not be into you for whatever reason, your boss *should not* be, because he has power over you. A good boss, and a good person, will understand that and keep things coolly professional.

      1. wittyrepartee*

        Yeah. Find people who you don’t have a power imbalanced/economic relationship with. It may be extra hard for an introverted person with some significant neurodiversity to make a concerted effort to reach out, but you need to have social groups outside of work for this very reason.

        1. valentine*

          OP, you may want to simply move to a job where there are more people and where you get more interaction, so you’re less likely to imprint on anyone. I’m wondering if you have limited romantic experience with a foundation of media where the slightest, especially negative, interaction between a man and woman means they were and/or will become sexual partners. Maybe someone can suggest reading or viewing materials for how to move away from this framing.Even if your supervisor thinks the PR person is attractive, your jealousy and sexualization of them and playing dumb as a means of flirting are inappropriate and immature. Developing what Captain Awkward calls a Team You outside of work will give you a chance to create appropriate relationships.

          You’ll want to nip this in the bud, OP, to avoid reaching the extreme in this CA letter: https://captainawkward.com/2019/05/08/1198-how-do-i-deal-with-work-burnout-and-make-my-partner-happy-my-partner-my-boss-who-is-a-partner-in-the-law-firm-where-i-work/. (There was later an update.)

          Also, you might explore why you feel like a child when chatting with both supervisors. Does the dynamic change so much when you join, does the other supervisor condescend, or is the phone call coming from inside the house?

          With your coworkers, learning phrases in their language may move you closer to common ground.

              1. Xanna*

                For anyone else who’s interested – I couldn’t find a substantive update but in September Short Answers Pt. 1 Captain wrote :

                “*Happy Update: The LW from post #1198 wrote to me recently things are much better, which was such a relief to know. I linked the post above not just for the “insecure overachiever” material, it also has the links to all the “how do I leave my stressful job” archives including specifically the legal profession ones”.

                Big hugs to that OP as well – such a rough spot to be in :(

          1. solitarywalker*

            Hi valentine, LW here. Yeah, I was raised feminist and everything, but my romantic experience is… pretty limited.

            I definitely don’t want to leave my job – I do good work there, and I generally enjoy my days (especially because I’m now out of retail). And I haven’t been playing dumb – I probably didn’t make that very clear in my question. When I ask my supervisor questions, they’re genuine, although I do occasionally need to be a bit more confident in finding solutions on my own. Most of the time, I’m pretty darn competent at my job!

            I don’t feel I’m being condescended to, or excluded, on purpose. It just feels like a dynamic, but the calls could very well be coming from inside the house.

        2. GreyjoyGardens*

          Absolutely agreeing. I know that whenever I’ve developed crushes on “inappropriate” men (that is, married or my supervisor) it meant that I needed to enrich my life outside of that crush. I think women, especially, are told that if they find The Perfect Person that it will complete their lives and that is so not true.

          While people should *be friendly* at work, the workplace is not where one should have one’s primary friends or, God forbid, romantic outlets. LW absotively, possolutely, needs an outlet outside of work. Find people you have common interests with and go from there. (Board games? Join a group for that. Animals? Be a dog walker or cat socializer at your local Humane Society. Books? Book club. Etc.) Find romance through Tinder or Bumble or Match.com. NOT WORK.

          Think of work as a paycheck and maybe doing something you like to do. Not like college where that is your whole world and friends and romantic partners are provided to you by being in the group.

          1. Jdc*

            I agree. And I do think it’s possible to find the right person for you at work. I read that a very large amount of people meet their spouses at work, but you can’t date your boss obviously and you really need to have one of you move jobs for it to be ok and just to work. Trust me you DO NOT want to spend all day every day with anyone let alone someone you date.

          2. solitarywalker*

            LW here. I guess I’ve always been kind of socially lazy – my parents and their friends somewhat filled the role of friends for me growing up. School and college do force you to be around people, and you just slide into casual friendships with the people right upstairs in your dorm.

            I tried OKCupid several months ago, and quit after getting more and more disappointed. Sent out some first messages, most went nowhere. It’s not like being super into someone in the real world, and having them fill your thoughts in that frustratingly wonderful way. Probably not healthy; I know.

            1. EventPlannerGal*

              It’s not that it’s not healthy, it’s that it’s not realistic. I really hope this doesn’t sound too harsh, LW, but you said it yourself – you do sound quite “socially lazy”. You aren’t pursuing much social interaction outside of work, you’re giving up on online dating because there’s no instant spark (even though the nature of online dating is that it takes more effort to get to know someone), and as a result you’re developing crushes on guys in your workplace who aren’t available to you and spiralling when that doesn’t work out.

              Honestly, even though you identify as an introvert etc etc I think you likely need more social interaction than you think you do. (I say this not just because of the crushes but also because of your feelings about being left out of your supervisors’ conversations.) You obviously experience romantic desire but you aren’t giving yourself anywhere for it to go, except towards your coworkers. Give yourself more channels for social interaction (online dating, hobby groups, volunteering, meetup.com, whatever) and the romance will follow. And when it comes to online dating, well, you probably won’t get that combination of physical chemistry + banter until you meet up in person, which you say you haven’t actually done.

              It’s a you-can’t-have-it-both-ways thing. You can’t say, well, I don’t want too much social interaction because I’m an introvert, but I also don’t want to date online because the instant IRL chemistry isn’t there, but I also am going to spiral about my self-esteem and attractiveness if my workplace crushes reject me. Or, well, you can if you want to! But I don’t think that’s healthy for you and it’s not going to get you what you want.

              1. MsSolo*

                Just to add on to your point, it’s worth bearing in mind that though “introvert” and “extrovert” are useful for social framing, they don’t hold up scientifically. They aren’t personality traits because they aren’t fixed: people’s needs for social interaction change based on a wide variety of stimuli, and though you-LW may have felt more introverted when social interaction was readily available that does not mean being an introvert is an incontrovertible facet of your personality – your situation has changed, and the amount of social interaction you need has changed accordingly.

                1. selena81*

                  I’ve heard it defined as ‘an extravert gets energy from social interaction, while for an introvert it takes away energy’. Which seems about right to me.

                  I certainly agree that one’s need for social interaction will change over time, but i’m irritated when people talk about ‘coming out of your shell’ and act as if introverts just need to ‘get over it’ (not that you are implying that, MsSolo).
                  As a huge introvert i do see the use of ‘social tricks’ to help one blend in more easily: look at people without staring, what questions to ask to keep a conversation going, etc. ‘basic personality trait’ does not equal ‘i am this way, need no improvement whatsoever, everyone else must bent over backwards to accommodate my oddities’

                  It kinda comes across to me as if you want the best of both worlds: to be left alone right until you don’t want to be left alone (because there is a hot guy, because someone has an unusually interesting conversation, etc). Which falls under the ‘it would be great if real life worked that way’ umbrella.

                  Maybe it helps to get over your boss when you redefine these feelings as something hormonal: we girls (and boys to some extent too) are genetically hardwired to feel sexual attraction to ‘the alfa person’. Falling in love with an inappropriate match is not a betrayal of feminism, but spending your love-life chasing only guys that are clearly above you on the social ladder is awkward if you truly believe in the equality of genders.
                  For me the best way to get over unwanted crushes is to simply ignore them: keep interacting with the guy as if nothing is going on (or in your case: pull back a little). Maybe make a list of ‘why this guy sucks’. And i wholeheartedly agree with all the ‘try not take his “no” personally’ and ‘try to meet other people’ comments.

              2. Oh So Anon*

                Just to add on to this, the amount of social interaction you need doesn’t necessarily correlate with the number of people you need to have available to you socially.

                You get people who assume that introverts often only need one person in their life, but no one person can satisfy a wide variety of relational needs in a sustainable way. Introverted people sometimes hit a wall where they “wear out” relationships because they invest too heavily in one person at a time. No one’s saying that you need to have a ton of friends or potential romantic partners, but socializing will become a lot less fraught if you try to diversify where you get your social interaction from.

                1. selena81*

                  I can understand the counter-arguments, but i believe 1 or 2 friends/relatives *can* be enough if they are the right match.
                  I think the biggest problem is with ‘uneven relationships’: where someone is your only friend, but they have dozens of friends. With that set-up there is a big risk of the relationship becoming stalkerish over time: as you dump an ever bigger portion of your whole life on them and they are too polite to push back (for a while at least)

              3. Librarian1*

                I’m not the LW, but this advice is helpful to me. I hate online dating as well because you won’t know if you actually like someone until you meet in person and I feel uncomfortable with the type of social interaction required to date online plus it requires a lot of effort and then I just give up, but yeah, if you’re not meeting people IRL, you kind of need to go online.

            2. LadyofLasers*

              Hey LW,

              I also have ADHD and it makes me sad to see you beat yourself up like that because I can relate to your struggles. It’s actually a super-duper common struggle for people with ADHD to struggle with making and retaining friends. It takes a lot of executive skills to remember to follow up, to be able to be present in conversations, and to pick up on social cues! For me, I kept my social life really simple as a survival technique: I could only focus on too many things at once and I sacrificed my personal life for school and my career. And it royally sucked. Now that I’m diagnosed, I’m learning easier ways to handle all my stuff, and I’m able to branch out a bit more in a way that’s really rewarding.

              Long story short… you are not lazy! I don’t have personal experience with Asperger’s, but just from the ADHD side, this stuff is legit challenging for you and takes a lot more energy than it does for most people! And this doesn’t mean that you are doomed to be alone forever; it just means you need to find the right help. That could mean therapy (which I highly recommend, it’s made such a difference in my life), it could mean doing reading, it could mean finding mentors who have been where you are now. I love the book ‘A Radical Guide for Women with ADHD’, and honestly I think it could be useful for any woman who feels overwhelmed.

              The dating stuff is just hard, and I could go on a whole other rant on it alone: you’re gonna get more misses than hits by nature. I’m honestly of the camp that it’s better to meet potential dates in person, just because you can quickly gauge if the chemistry is there in a way you can’t virtually.

              But good luck, and give yourself some self compassion. Even if this guy can’t reciprocate your feelings, you are still worthy of love and happy reciprocal feelings.

              1. Tau*

                FWIW, I have experience with the Asperger’s but not the ADHD side and all this is also sounding reeeaaaally familiar. And +1ing “you are not lazy!” I basically banned the word ‘lazy’ as a self-descriptor after a certain point; it wasn’t right, wasn’t useful, and was just a tool for me to beat myself up with.

            3. Blueberry*

              One of the reasons why it can be easy to make friendships (and crushes) at work is because it’s a shared interest involving a lot of time spent together. Most of the friendships I’ve made in the last mumblety years since I left my parents have been formed around shared interests that involve in-person meetups. Figure out some interests you’d love to join a group for (Book Club, volunteering, whatever) and meet like-minded people there!

          3. EngineerMom*

            Oh, man, you absolutely hit this on the head with the last comment:
            “Think of work as a paycheck and maybe doing something you like to do. Not like college where that is your whole world and friends and romantic partners are provided to you by being in the group.”

            This is a really difficult transition for a lot of young adults. Until one graduates from college, school has usually been everything – your “work”, source of friends, source of romantic relationships, etc. Work after college shouldn’t be that.

      2. Fortitude Jones*

        All of this. I recently misread signals from a colleague last year and (embarrassingly) broached the subject with him since we talked about very personal things with one another, and I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me whole, lol. Still, upon reflection of that situation, I realized that I only felt that way because there was something missing in my personal life, a void I was trying to fill with the nearest person, who happened to be him at the time, and it wasn’t really about him at all – I needed to get back out into the world and make my own friends and associate with other people outside of my small work group. Once I did that, I got over both my humiliation and my “attraction” to him. I also pulled back from him and kept things strictly work-related, which he didn’t like (and he ended up telling me he missed our friendship), but in order for me to be mature and move forward with my life, I had to cut those ties.

        1. wittyrepartee*

          Good for you!

          And hey, we’ve all done embarrassing things. Your embarrassing thing didn’t hurt anyone and moved you to make your life more full.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            Yeah, and I tell myself that my embarrassing thing also served to help me not obsess over the “What if’s” of the situation (which is amplified in me thanks to my OCD) – I put myself out there in a respectful manner, he sidestepped it respectfully, I understood that he was politely rejecting me, and then I went home and cried about it and then moved on, lol.

      3. Minocho*

        When I moved to Houston I had no one except my brother in the area. I am a DnD loving nerd, and so I decided to search for gaming groups using meetup.com. It was nerve-wracking to go to a big group of strangers, but it was a huge public place, I felt safe, and I met someone who introduced me to a great gaming group. I found other people through this hobby, and while not every group worked out, I found enough of “my people” that I’ve built some nice friendships and have regular games to look forward to, even if I’m at the age where we have to balance leisure activities with kids and other responsibilities.

        As an added benefit, the navigation of social situations has helped me to the point I wonder sometimes if I actually am an introvert (I think I am, but less heavily so than I thought), and it has helped me improve my social and emotional intelligence, which has helped my career.

        I will second the suggestion that you find someone to talk to about things. It sounds here like you may be forgetting how amazing you are sometimes. Finding a way to regain that can help in so many ways. Good luck!

    2. fposte*

      Yes, maybe I’m primed by the lunch thief post to think in this way, but it feels to me like OP is in a scarcity situation, and that she pegged her hopes on the boss as a solution. But the boss is *never* a good solution to that, and it doesn’t sound like her workplace really offers her other solutions. I think she needs to up her out-of-work peopling to compensate.

      1. solitarywalker*

        Scarcity situation, and rebound, maybe – I’m still not over my last crush: a charming, wonderful man at my previous job.

        1. Blue Anne*

          If getting crushes on men at your jobs is a pattern, I think you really need to make an effort to be socializing outside of your job.

        2. Rainy*

          “Don’t shit where you eat” is a truism for a reason, and if you are repeatedly crushing on people you work with, you need to A) adopt a very strong “people at work are not my dating pool” attitude and B) get out there and start meeting more people.

  2. The Tin Man*

    All of what Alison said – he handled it the only appropriate way. It is not about you, it is about him wanting to be a good manager. which involves maintaining a certain distance with his employees and being “friendly but not friends” as Alison noted. And like Alison said – don’t act worse at your job to get his attention. That is only going to be bad for your career. I could be wrong but I read that as possibly following advice for a woman to act helpless to a man so he feels flattered and good about helping her, which is bad enough advice in a normal situation.

    Best of luck OP. I have struggled with feeling on the outside looking in in workplace social situations before and know how that can feel.

  3. Sal*

    Yeah, you’re not allowed to make the first move on your supervisor. He is not someone in your social circle who is romantically available to you and he should not be in the mental category of “guys who do/do not want me back”, for all of the Extremely Good Reasons Alison discusses.

    If you want someone to talk to (platonically! Keep it platonic at work, especially when talking about different levels of hierarchy!), perhaps the other supervisor, your coworkers, the PR person, or the UPS guy would all be good choices.

    1. Parenthetically*

      he should not be in the mental category of “guys who do/do not want me back”

      Absolutely. Came here to say basically this.

    2. WellRed*

      So inappropriate!
      OP, I wonder if most of your attempts at connecting with the opposite sex have been in circumstances where you really shouldn’t be trying to make that connection.

      1. Vicky Austin*

        I recommend that the LW talk to a counselor or other professional who understands autism. They can help her understand how to communicate with people without inadvertently crossing boundaries. People on the spectrum know that it’s wrong to cross boundaries, but they don’t always realize that their behavior is boundary-crossing.

        1. Loubelou*

          Yes, yes, came here to say this. A support group for your particular neurodiversity could also be really helpful as it seems you are struggling with finding people who understand you.

          Honestly, I may be reading you wrong, but it sounds like your insecurities go far deeper than this situation. You say ‘not surprising, no guy I’ve ever shown interest in has wanted me back’. I wonder have a number of your crushes been on unavailable guys? In my experience, those of us who are depressed or have deep insecurities tend to choose unavailable people so we can ‘prepare ourselves to be rejected’ rather than take a more real risk with someone who could say yes.

          Everyone I’ve ever known using such self-deprecating language has hugely benefited when they took the time to look after themselves and particularly to get professional help. Get a counsellor or find a support group. But also, as so many others have said, find a group of like-minded people and enjoy spending time with them outside of work. On top of all the great suggestions others have given I can add: join a choir! Singing with others has been proven to improve mental health and speed up community bonding. There are all types of choirs and you don’t necessarily need to be a singer when you start!

          Best of luck, OP, and let us know how you get on.

      2. solitarywalker*

        You’d be right about that, WellRed (LW here). Coworkers and supervisors, mostly. But people still meet and date at work all the time – guess I’m just not that kind of person.

        1. The Other Katie*

          I think the problem is you’re just not working at that kind of company. With only four co-workers (at all? in your team?), the pickings are pretty slim, and chances are good most or even all of them are poor choices for some reason. The problem isn’t that you’re not successful fishing in the company pond. The problem is that your company pond is in fact a goldfish bowl with a single occupant.

        2. wittyrepartee*

          People still meet and date at work- but that’s a situation that takes a lot of finesse and the right circumstances. A lot of people who date at work are dating within a big organization. So- professors who don’t work in the same lab (and often who work in different departments), or people on different teams at Google.

          It’s not a good place to be exclusively looking for your people.

        3. Daisy*

          You can’t have it both ways. It sounds like you’ve deliberately sought out a job in a small company with little contact with external people – which is fine, but then you can’t really turn around and complain that it’s not a good dating pool. People who like a big social aspect to their job tend to go to big companies which hold parties and lunches. (And even then, dating your supervisor is a pretty terrible idea).

        4. Oh So Anon*

          Well, in addition to what everyone has suggested about your company itself not being really well suited for that, something else to consider is that it’s a lot easier to navigate those kinds of relationships when you’re not dependent on work (and your small work team in particular) to get your social needs met.

    3. Ayko*

      I cringed SO HARD when I read that. OP, in terms of professional norms, one never dates within their line of reporting (so no managers dating the employees they supervise, and no employees dating their manager or any manager above their own, or anyone who has authority over their work/job); and especially in a small organization, it is a Really Bad Idea to date within the company. Find another dating pool — your managers and coworkers are there to work, and attempting to change that dynamic makes things really awkward and can introduce some serious conflicts of interest. Most people will view a coworker “making a move” as really, really inappropriate.

      As a general rule, it’s a pretty good idea to keep personal stuff out of the office. Conversations should focus on work first; secondarily you can talk about the weather or your favorite TV show or similar surface-level things, but nothing deeply personal since it’s TMI for the type of relationship you have with the people you work with. Remember that spending all day every day together is only semi-voluntary — you choose your friends, you can’t really choose your co-workers. There are exceptions if you need to request accommodations under various anti-discrimination and labor laws, such as ADA or FMLA, but even in this case there will be a defined process and specific people (HR, your direct manager) who are designated to handle it, and personal info doesn’t need to be shared outside of that process.

    4. anonagain*

      “Yeah, you’re not allowed to make the first move on your supervisor.”

      And your supervisor isn’t allowed to make a move on you. This is a no-moves situation.

      I know that’s implied in your comment, Sal. It just seemed worth restating clearly in a situation where there’s some misunderstanding about appropriate boundaries.

  4. Jamie*

    We had some good spirited discussions, and of course I got a crush on him.

    Nothing to add to Alison’s advice, but the above jumped out at me. If I’m reading this correctly, like the OP assumes it’s par for the course to develop crushes based on interesting conversations that could be something to address.

    I have had close work friends and interesting conversations with people I like a lot where there was absolutely no hint of romantic feelings on either side.

    If I misread that and it was just another factor in the equation then ignore me.

    1. theelephantintheroom*

      That caught my attention, as well. It came across to me in almost the same manner as a customer who thinks a cashier saying, “Have a good day” means they’re flirting. I’m also an introvert, but it made me wonder if OP should consider getting out and socializing more so she doesn’t confuse polite conversation with romantic interest in the future.

      1. Lynca*

        Honestly I don’t think it’s an issue of getting out more. These are really common things that people with autism/ADHD deal with. OP doesn’t say when they were diagnosed but it may be they need some therapeutic help with this if it was recent or if they’ve been out of treatment for a while. I have ADHD so dealing with a lot of the social issues it can cause is almost always a continuous work in progress. I’ll get to a new stage in my life and have different challenges compared to when I was in college for instance. Similar to a lot of my friends with autism.

        Not that broadening their social outlets is bad! It’s very good advice because OP shouldn’t get all their social interaction at work.

        1. solitarywalker*

          LW here. Diagnosed with Asperger’s as a young teen in the mid-90s, and didn’t get treatment (I don’t know if it existed back then if you were considered high-functioning).

          1. Else*

            There are social skills groups now that can be helpful for this. The good ones will tell you about the norms and rules that exist, and give you a safe space to practice them with others who are also learning. I know some people I know also have found Toastmasters helpful, if speaking in a group or to others is a thing for you. That’s not specifically for people on the spectrum, but they said that thought it was especially useful because they were. I think otherwise treatment is basically just for any of the common comorbidities – anxiety, depression, etc.

          2. selena81*

            i’m your age and i just want to say ‘thank you’ to all the high-functioning autists of our generation who forced the world to stop looking at us as ‘stupid and unemployable’.
            We are the generation where the difference between an early or a late diagnosis could easily mean the difference between highschool-dropout and university-graduate (seen it in my family): all on account of different expectations.

            You having a job you seem to genuinely like is already quite something for those of our generation. Now on to get the rest of your life figured out.

      2. Jdc*

        My moms best friend is like this. My mother even having a how’s the weather chat with the grocery clerk at checkout she assumes is flirting. What!! Some of my best conversations are with just friends.

    2. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

      I read that as “of course this stroke of bad luck would happen to me,” but it’s true, good conversation is available from many people who aren’t romantic prospects. Finding it can be a challenge under certain circumstances and for that I empathize with OP, but the root problem isn’t the boss’s behavior, it’s the expectations of what coworkers (and managers) “owe” in terms of social fulfillment. The rule for managers is friendly but not friends, and if friendly slips into something inappropriate, then cordial.

      1. Emily K*

        I read it the same way, like, “So I dropped my bagel and of course it landed cream cheese side down directly on top of my cat, because I am cursed to endure such things.”

      2. CmdrShepard4ever*

        You are correct coworkers/managers do not owe the OP the type of social fulfillment they are looking for. But as a fellow introvert I do know what they mean. I think that being an introvert my level of social fulfillment requirement is a lot lower than most people. Often just everyday normal coworker/boss interactions will meet my level of social interactions. Once I leave work I often want to just spend time with my spouse or by myself.

        I know that I can’t bank on work always meeting my social fulfillment. So I do have friends that I enjoy spending time with, and I know that I need to cultivate those relationships to keep them active. But a lot of times when I have the option of hanging out with a friend or spending time by myself after interacting with people at work, being by my self does seem very appealing.

        1. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

          And there’s nothing wrong with that, and I’m the same way, and I suspect it’s pretty common. But OP is feeling isolated by the lack of social interaction she’s getting at work, which is different from hitting social interaction capacity at work and being ready to decompress when you get home.

          1. Emily K*

            I think CmdrShepard may have been meaning that for a deeply introverted person, there can be a large gap between light socializing at work, which can completely meet our social needs, to extracurricular social activities, which are often more than we want. If the light socializing needs aren’t being met at work, the extracurricular options might still feel like too much, leaving a gap of unmet need.

            Like him, I generally prefer to be alone but have a few friendships that I maintain semi-dutifully because I know I don’t want to be without them, even though that often means socializing more than I’d like or at times I’d rather not, much like I make sure to water and weed my garden at regular intervals even when I’d rather be doing something else – because in the big picture I want the garden/friendships to be there and I know they’ll wither without cultivation. And I think perhaps that’s where the advice lies – it’s great if you can get your light socializing needs met at work and be done with it, but since that isn’t the case, maybe an alternative is to have a small number of cultivated friendships that you tend to the way you tend to a garden.

            1. Dust Bunny*

              I was just thinking that part of the problem might be that maintaining two “pools” of people with whom to interact might be exhausting. Because it can be, well, exhausting. But it’s a thing that needs to be figured out if somebody wants friendships/romance but also has to work.

              1. GreyjoyGardens*

                It certainly does – because work is not where one should find friends and romantic partners. Work is work. Friends are friends, and the two provide separate benefits. (Your friends would never give you critical feedback the way a boss would or put you on a PIP, for instance.)

                As an introvert, I find that making sure I am well rested, eat a good nourishing diet, and get some exercise is vital for me to have enough energy for work *and* friendships. It’s possible that if someone doesn’t feel like they have the energy for anything but work and sleep and “vegging out” that there is something physically wrong, as well. Thyroid problems are common in women, for instance. If OP feels drained by just living her life, it might be good to get a checkup just to be sure there are no background problems.

                1. solitarywalker*

                  LW here. I’d probably have more energy for a life outside of work if I got more sleep. I rarely get 8 hours unless I don’t have anywhere to go next morning, and can sleep in (or fall asleep in the afternoon, if it’s a weekend. Occasionally, anxiety about something specific keeps me awake, but often it’s because I’d rather stay up online, researching/watching videos on whatever topic I’m into.

            2. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

              That’s good advice but I’m pretty sure we’re saying the same thing. If you’re looking to your coworkers for social fulfillment and they’re not responding the way you want, the answer isn’t to try to squeeze social blood from a workplace stone. The answer is to continue being friendly, pleasant and professional, and then find your social fulfillment outside of work. This is true even if your coworkers are friendly with each other, which is painful to be on the outside of, I get it. They might warm up with time, and I hope they do, but there is no magic key to get them to interact with you the way you want them to.

              “Extracurricular social activities” can be whatever you want them to be that works for you, which doesn’t mean it won’t be challenging to figure out what works or how to put it into practice. Maybe for OP, what works is the small number of close and carefully cultivated friendships, or maybe it’s occasionally volunteering someplace local and establishing a friendly rapport with some of the animal shelter staff/librarians/whoever, or maybe it’s finding an online community relevant to her interests.

            3. Turtle Candle*

              Yes. That’s one of the things about friendship–you need to be there for the friendship sometimes when you don’t want to be, to make sure that it’s there for you when you do want it. It’s absolutely true that it’s very difficult to keep people on tap for an hour or so of pleasant conversation when you feel like it… but if you want that, you may need to put in more than that hour to make sure you can have it, more or less.

              Some friendships/relationships need more, um, maintenance than others, and you can sometimes find a generally low-maintenance person who requires less of you than someone who wants a lot more from you (though low-maintenance people are also often in demand as friends because they’re low-maintenance, and, contrary to what a lot of people assume, they’re also not infrequently extroverts). So you can hunt for friends who match your social needs better and that helps a lot.

              Work friends often seem like a workaround (I already know these people, we have something inherently in common, and the socializing will generally be briefer because we all do in fact have jobs to get done), but they aren’t, not really. Relying on work friendships is actually more socially complex than finding and maintaining outside friendships. It just seems easier at first because the people are right there in front of you already.

              (This was actually a huge adjustment for me when I went from school to work. At school, you are basically expected to fulfill most of your social needs via other students, and it’s a lot easier than adulthood because they’re right there. But the dynamic is radically different even though the trappings–people with whom you are together all day–were similar.)

              1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                @Emily K hit the nail on the head with what I was trying to explain.

                @Turlte Candle you are right that work friends are a different category. I don’t have anywhere the same kind of conversations/interactions that I do with “regular” friends that I do with work friends. I will have more than a few alcoholic drinks with “regular” friends, or could see myself having a fake orgasm contest, but never with work friends even at a happy hour. You are also right about school from the age of 3-5 when we enter school till the age of 22-28ish (undergrad-PHD) we have a built in group of people, that we almost have to be friends with, that make is very easy to be friends. But once you graduate a lot of those friends will disperse to different locations. With work the one thing you probably spend most of your time doing around other people you can’t have the same kind of friendship.

    3. sacados*

      That jumped out at me as well, but I understand the impulse. If you’re someone who feels somewhat starved for interaction and also has a lot of insecurities/low self-esteem, it can be very easy to attach more meaning to conversations/relationships than is warranted. If you’re someone who often feels overlooked or like an outsider, then someone coming along to offer friendliness and warmth feels special and important!

      Still, the long and short of it is that OP still should take to heart some of the excellent advice from other commenters — reframe this “rejection,” try and find more outlets for social interaction outside of work, and try to bolster her self-esteem.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        That jumped out at me as well, but I understand the impulse. If you’re someone who feels somewhat starved for interaction and also has a lot of insecurities/low self-esteem, it can be very easy to attach more meaning to conversations/relationships than is warranted. If you’re someone who often feels overlooked or like an outsider, then someone coming along to offer friendliness and warmth feels special and important!L

        Godalmighty, I think I can see the skeleton of my twenties crawling out of its grave to haunt me in this comment.

        1. TechWorker*

          I am in my (late) 20s and I can count 4 close male friends I pined for *badly* at the start of our friendship. I totally believe men and women can be close friends but in my case I seem to fancy them first then get over it*… I do have other male friends but only a couple as close!

          *3 out of 4 partly because they started dating a close friend of mine. All those couples are still together many years later so clearly worked out correctly!

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          This was me as a kid and how I quickly grew into that kid who had a “crush” on everyone who was even remotely nice to me.

          Sadly after I got older, it turned into assuming everyone was just playing a prank on me if they were nice, they were clearly punking me. So by my 20’s I was just a total hermit to protect myself from further damages.

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        This feels so completely true. I can think of three guys off the top of my head that I got crushes on in my grad school/early career days, mostly because they were single and paid small amounts of attention to me, and I didn’t know very many single guys who I could talk to.

        Widening the acquaintance pool can really help with that. You’re less likely to get a case of “oneitis” if you know more than one interesting single person in your preferred gender. For an introverted person who wants a small amount of human interaction without opening the floodgates, I’ve found that signing up for an activity based class can work wonders. You have time before and after class and on breaks to meet people and get your limited amounts of socialization, but the bulk of the time is devoted to learning to play the piano/build a birdhouse/tap dance/etc.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I was a little concerned about that, as well. Not that OP “of course” developed a crush, but that there’s some language that suggests OP is recasting issues in the extreme, especially around relationship rejection. For example, feeling like an annoying kid, stating “no guy I’ve ever shown interest in has wanted me back” and “I . . . feel ugly (I’m a woman and got rejected by yet another guy).”

      OP, at the risk of overstepping, it may be useful to take a step back and reframe your relationship interactions with others. It sounds like you experience a lot of worry/anxiety that you sometimes turn inward on yourself as a weapon to undermine your self-worth. No outside person—romantic crush or otherwise—can make you feel beautiful or worthy. You’re the only person who can do that for yourself. You’re self-sabotaging yourself by throwing out interest and waiting for someone else to validate your desirability as a friend, coworker, romantic interest, etc. Don’t give other folks power by letting them occupy so much of your brainspace.

      And I think it’s worth investing in yourself and what you think of yourself, because this sounds like a very normal and low-stakes interaction that has sent you spiraling. That spiral sounds disproportionate to the situation, and it sounds like it may be hurting you and your ability to develop healthy relationships at work.

      This is definitely a bit of a bummer situation, and I’m sure it’s difficult to balance. I’m sorry you’re going through this.

      1. BRR*

        “recasting issues in the extreme” is a perfect way of summing up how I feel about this letter. Likely because I recognize so much of myself in this line of thinking.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Fwiw, that intense investment in a special interest is something I associate with autism; it might help OP to look at it through that lens.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Yeah, and it’s also associated with OCD (which I have). This letter felt so familiar to me, so I truly sympathize with the OP.

      3. Oh So Anon*

        OP may want to google “rejection sensitive dysphoria” – the term itself is controversial, but the idea is that people who struggle with executive function, regardless of the diagnosis that leads to that, often find that their executive function issues play into their emotional responses to situations, including catastrophizing. It’s a phenomenon that can make it challenging to have healthy interactions with others if you don’t recognize what your brain is doing.

        Please delete if this isn’t okay to mention – it seems germane if only because the OP discussed their diagnoses.

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          Catastrophizing is *exactly* what my son (also ASD) does. He likewise is being treated for OCD. I just want to hug all the people who do this and tell you all that you are so much more awesome than you see yourself!!

          1. WomanFromItaly*

            Huh. I don’t know anyone besides me who has ASD and also OCD. If anyone tries to make me an aspie I shall smite them vigorously with a stick until they go away, but the OCD is really genuinely unpleasant.

            I was always very much to the other extreme—I worked in a very small subfield of my profession (sidebar: I am the only mental health therapist I have ever even heard of with a diagnosed ASD. I am the specialest of all snowflakes?) that was awash with crap boundaries and I wouldn’t even make friends with coworkers. No personal relationships that could impinge on work. At all. I think OP might benefit from a dating exclusion zone like that.

            Also OP if you like board games, trivia, or pinball, look up local events because there will be guys, and they will be nerds, who are often (though not always) awesome.

      4. DashDash*

        I’ll add on as a reply to you (because I love and respect all of your commenting), PCBH – it’s a fairly common Autism spectrum effect, which I have struggled with in a lot of situations, to initially not recognize the difference between a crush, and the excitement that comes from someone being engaged and interested in good conversation. That, or, that engagement and kindness and connection may leads to a crush that quickly fizzles out once we know the person better than “those positive interactions that were very kind”.

        So sometimes, it is a little par for the course for good rapport to turn into a crush, and then later realize it was just the warm fuzzies of feeling included and heard, and they’d actually be a terrible partner. Still not typical, but not as concerning as it sounds without that background.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          All these comments are super interesting, and I’m learning a lot!

        2. Pommette!*

          This is an important thing to keep in mind (and a great description)!

          I’m not on the spectrum, but I have, and have always had, serious difficulty with social interactions. My social circle is tiny, and I have a hard time having meaningful interactions with people I don’t know well. The result of this is that the rare times that I manage to have an interesting conversation (or string of interesting conversations!) with a new colleague or acquaintance, I get positively giddy. The excitement and euphoria are really similar to the excitement and euphoria of a new crush. In my younger days, I would become emotionally invested in possible future friendships or relationships when this happened, only to feel personally rejected when it turned out that my new possible friends or crushes saw me as just an acquaintance or colleague. It took me way too long (and too many fun collegial relationships ruined by my ensuing awkwardness) to realize that this was happening.

          OP, your description of yourself, and your “of course I developed a crush on him” make me wonder whether you share this tendency. Being aware of tit makes it easier to manage it. You get to enjoy the excitement of new interactions without building relationships up in your imagination, and without building inappropriate levels of emotional investment, or turning your colleague’s response into a test of your self-worth. Good luck!

          1. DJ*

            I sometimes had a hard time distinguishing between finding someone interesting as a person and having a crush when I was younger. I find that it helped a lot when I really started thinking about and defining what I actually wanted from a romantic partner because then I could more easily recognize when I was actually romantically attracted to someone versus when I just enjoyed their company.

        3. Oh So Anon*

          Thanks for mentioning this – I didn’t think of how the alexithymia angle might play into all of this, but it makes a lot of sense.

        4. Mocking Jay*

          This is so true. To this day I still struggle with this a bit – the whole “getting a crush on people who are only being kind”. I’ve reached the point where I know I usually just need to wait it out and see if I’m just happy they’re being warm (which is the case most of the time), but it is hard to get to this self-awareness and sometimes I still need friends to help me calibrate interactions properly. So, you’re right, it’s not typical, but it’s definitely something that happens and – like anything involving social interaction for people in the spectrum – needs some training to deal with.

        5. Arts Akimbo*

          I was like “Doesn’t everybody do this??” and then I was like “O wait I am also on the spectrum!”

    5. AnonymooseToday*

      I just want to point out that this isn’t that unusual, it’s actually called demisexual, or an aspect of it. It’s just most people can probably recognize when it is appropriate and when it is not, and OP seems to be struggling with that aspect.
      (I just wanted to this here, because a lot of people haven’t heard of it, I hadn’t until a few months ago, and I actually identify with it, and it really helped me to put a name to it, instead of feeling broken that I don’t immediately find people physically attractive like a lot of people do.)

      1. Oh So Anon*

        So what you’re describing from your own experience – not immediately finding people physically attractive and then getting into them once you connect intellectually/emotionally – is demisexuality. What the OP’s experiencing might not be, though? It sounds like they’re a bit socially starved and thus quick to equate building normal platonic/professional rapport with romantic interest.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Right. I think the situations are slightly different here. She didn’t say she doesn’t feel physical attraction to people first, just that with this particular person she fell for his taste in music since it was similar to her own and her crush spiraled from there.

        2. Vicky Austin*

          This can happen to people who aren’t demi, too. The difference is that this kind of crush is the only kind that demis get.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            yep – the ‘pants feelings once you know them’ is how I feel about some women, which is why I think I’m somewhere around 2 on the Kinsey scale. Figuring out how that worked, and how it sometimes applied to men, was probably the most important thing about figuring out my sexuality.

      2. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

        Hmm, I’m demi but not so much in a way of “connection=attraction,” but that an attraction/crush is impossible without a connection

      3. Person from the Resume*

        I don’t think experiencing this one crush means the LW fits a “demisexual” identity. Demisexual is not getting to know someone, finding common interests, and developing a crush. In fact this crush on someone who has likely shown only a professional face to the LW is kind of the opposite of demisexual. The LW really doesn’t know their boss that well.

        I think Demisexual is on a spectrum heading from sexually attracted to people based on looks/superficial interaction toward asexual (i.e. not attracted to anyone).

      4. Quill*

        Aro and ace spectrums make flirting weird as heck no matter where you fall on them – people think you’re flirting when you’re not (because no interest) or you suddenly develop feelings and have zero idea how to flirt… or you’re the demisexual or demiromantic stuck pining after the friends who are all operating under “dates and friends are two separate categories, I don’t date people I already know well.”

      5. Xanna*

        I’m also somewhere on the grey-ace spectrum, but I don’t know if this necessarily works as an explanation here – lots of people seek emotional connection, common values/interests, ect. ect. in a romantic partner. I think demi makes the most sense as a sexuality label when you’re actually talking about the way one experiences sex/desire instead of crushes/romantic ideation. To some extent nobody really bases crushes solely on aesthetic value alone – look at how many people are into firefighters/doctors/nurses/veterinarians/ humans in uniforms – part of it is how physically attractive someone is, but it’s also so so tied to ideas of virtues we find attractive – bravery, responsibility, intelligence, the ability to provide/protect, ect. ect.

        Finding a name to put to an atypical way of experiencing attraction and sexual experience has also been helpful to me, but I’d be careful about pathologizing a very normal way nearly all people seek out romantic partners and develop crushes. If the feelings-first/demi thing does resonate with the OP though, they should definitely make a list of the things they find desirable about Boss and see how they can go about finding someone who ticks the same boxes (kindness, outgoing personality, similar interests, impeccable taste in charcuterie plates, whatever) in a less fraught environment and start building the kind of connections they’re looking for.

        1. Tinuviel*

          This whole comment. The vast majority of relationships are based on knowing and liking someone as a person. I don’t think demisexuality is a helpful term past the crush stage, or is really at play here.

    6. Classic Rando*

      That struck me as well, still not sure if she means “this was inevitable” or a “just my luck” that Kalros mentioned. With the way the letter progressed after that though, I lean towards the former. It sounds a bit like OP has put all her eggs in one basket, which is leading to crossed boundaries and mismatched expectations.

      I’d definitely recommend finding some other outlet for socialization. Social anxiety is a beast, but I’ve had some luck doing things with a specific purpose, like art classes, so you can hide in your work for a bit and get used to a setting before engaging too much with everyone else. OP may benefit from finding something like that to build connections outside work.

    7. Blue Anne*

      That stood out to me too. Of course? Wait, why “of course”?

      Also – nice to see you here, Jamie, I feel like it’s been a while.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        It’s really hard to tell if it’s an “of course” as in “this is an obvious consequence” of course, or an “of course” like “of course I woke up with a cold the first day of my long-awaited vacation” eg snarking at Murphy’s Law in action type of “of course”.

    8. solitarywalker*

      Well, it was interesting conversation + physical attractiveness (I have a pretty wide range of body types I find attractive). If those two things are present, yeah, I’ll probably get feelings for the guy.

      1. Rainy*

        This is another good reason to start meeting more people, because if I caught feelings for every physically attractive person I had a great conversation with, I’d have no time for anything else. If nothing else, getting out more will help you stop confusing “I want to have more great conversations about preindustrial silver mining techniques” and “I want to rip your clothes off with my teeth”.

  5. Can't believe it's not butter*

    I’m wondering if he might also be a bit annoyed with being asked questions he’s already answered in the past.

    If you hate small talk, it’s tempting to drop into asking work related questions to make conversation. I did this at a past job, figuring it was better than the unrelenting sound of silence…and was very surprised to find out that it made my boss think I was not bright enough to look for the answer myself instead of asking.

    1. Joielle*

      I was coming down to say this as well. I feel like OP heard the advice that “if you want someone to like you, ask them questions” and misapplied it here. Asking the same question repeatedly, or asking questions when you could find out the info yourself, makes it look like either you’re not good at the job or you don’t care about it very much.

      1. Aspergirl*

        Yes definitely. The “ask people questions” tends to mean getting them to talk about their interests and themselves. In the right contexts. Whereas people find it very annoying to be asked to give info you’d already given a person. But it’s hard for autistic people to parse social instructions. We all have our strengths weaknesses in that area. So I don’t know if OP is just hoping that her real questions will be a bonding point or is going out of her way… but it seems like a misunderstanding

        1. Joielle*

          Yeah, and it’s also not black and white, which I could imagine makes it even harder. Because you CAN try building relationships with coworkers using personal questions – but not too personal, and probably not with the boss unless you tread really lightly, and you have to watch for cues that the person finds the questions intrusive… like you said, it depends on context. It’s daunting!

      2. Myrin*

        It’s also the wrong kind of questions – that advice usually means things like “ask the other person questions about their unique hobby/awesome new shoes/cute pet lamb”, not “work questions (I already should know the answer to)”. Even if I didn’t go the “annoyance” or “that person sure has a bad memory” route, I’d still never consider it to be flirting in any way!

        1. Emily K*

          Right, the reason asking questions can be flattering is when they’re signaling that you either have interest in something that makes them unique, or you see the person as a source of expert insight/wisdom that most people don’t have. Nobody is flattered by being asked, “What time does the bus come?” which is a simple fact that anyone with access to a bus schedule can answer, and a substantial chunk of people will be some degree of annoyed that you’re outsourcing this basic schedule-reading task to them when you could do it yourself.

          The kinds of questions people are flattered by are more like, “If I need to get from here to the airport during rush hour and will have some bags with me, what’s the best transit option that isn’t obscenely expensive?” which signals that you think of them as a person who has a deep understanding of how to get around that enables them to offer a best solution to a complex problem with many variables, for which there is no simple or definitive answer. It’s not the question itself that flatters them, it’s the confidence in their unique abilities underlying the question.

        2. Joielle*

          Yes, this too! It’s a tip for building the personal aspect of a relationship, not the work aspect.

      3. Gymmie*

        Definitely this would put me off as a manager. I would start to think that the employee was not competent and annoyed my time was being used that way. I’m not sure why it would be flattering.

        I also noted in this that the OP referred to the PR persona as “attractive” in just general context. I think there is so much going on here involving self worth and esteem. Be happy this manager knew to respect boundaries. It would be so inappropriate for him to take advantage of this situation.

    2. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Was thinking this as well. It’s not “flattering” to have to repeat yourself all the time, though I’m guessing OP thinks boss should be seeing it as flattering that people think he’s knowledgeable and thus go to him with questions.

      1. Friendly Comp Manager*

        That is probably the first thing that jumped out at me, expecting him to be flattered that she was asking him questions.

        I really hope all of these responses help her re-frame this situation!

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      It reminded me of the 1950s’ advice to pretend you don’t know how to do something you know how to do, and ask guys to explain it to you.

      1. Emily K*

        Or my favorite line from the 2005 remake of the Reefer Madness propaganda film:

        Teenage boy: You know, my pop says Roosevelt is a labor-appeasing, Supreme-Court packing Bolshevik.
        Teenage girl: Well, I don’t know about all that boy stuff!

      2. Turtle Candle*

        And even for that it’s a little bit of a miss, because IIRC the point was to have a plausible excuse to spend time with them while they tutored you in math or showed you how to change a tire. Simple inquiries weren’t quite the thing even with that (sexist, outdated) advice.

      3. TL -*

        This is still a thing I see women (mostly) doing to flirt with (mostly) men – asking questions and making a big deal out of the dude knowing the answer (regardless of if it’s right or wrong). It’s usually in pretty small ways – but it’s pretty irritating nonetheless.

    4. Kes*

      Definitely – I have been on the other end of this, where someone I was training clearly had a crush on me and was asking me things he should know/be able to find out himself in order to talk to me more. However, I was not attracted to him and it was honestly kind of annoying (he also would just try and make conversation in general, but I didn’t really want to talk with him since it was awkward and I didn’t want to seem to encourage him). Eventually he told me he liked me, I explained that I did not return the sentiment, and the questions dropped off sharply afterwards back to information he actually did need to get from me

      OP, I get that feeling rejected sucks, but you need to move on and recast/reestablish your *work* relationship with your boss – and look elsewhere for additional socialization and romance

    5. solitarywalker*

      Arrrrgh! LW again. I just wanted to clarify, for everyone, that I have NOT been asking my supervisor questions as a way to “play dumb”. It’s more me wanting to know the exact thing to do so I don’t make a mistake (which is, in itself, something I need to work on). There have been times, though, when I could have asked a question of my coworker, instead of my supervisor.

      1. DreamingInPurple*

        I think some of the point that folks are trying to make is that it can look very similar on the outside to what you’ve referred to as “playing dumb”, especially if you’ve already made overtures. If your supervisor interprets it that way, he may continue feeling uncomfortable when you do it because he sees it as potentially being a continued attempt to flirt. Either way, the best thing is to reserve your work questions to him for issues that really warrant them, because it will give him a stronger impression of you as an employee. It sounds like you know that already and are trying to act on it, so keep going!

  6. Play a doctor on TV*

    I also have had the problem of no guy I’ve been interested in reciprocating and it can be tough. I tried online dating and I was actually really good at it and it helped a lot with my self-esteem. I also treated it like a more serious hobby – I met up in a safe place as soon as possible and kindof forced myself to meet a couple people a week. And even though I was only looking for a boyfriend, I actually married someone I met and we’ve been together for over 10 years.
    I would definitely stop making work your socializing/dating pool. It sounds like you might be crossing boundaries you’re not even aware of, especially if your autism makes it difficult to read people. You don’t want to add the stress of losing a job on top of everything. Maybe sign up for a club that meets right after work so you have something to look forward to.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      The second paragraph is really good advice. I’m not against workplace dating in general (I’m married to a coworker), but romance at work has a whole bunch of extra pitfalls that can be really tricky to navigate, particularly if you have trouble reading social cues and people’s reactions. For the OP it’s probably best to declare work a romance free zone, and work on casual, completely platonic interactions with a variety of coworkers, and to dial back the interactions with her supervisor to polite but professionally focussed.

      1. Tau*

        Absolutely agreed here. I’m autistic myself, and one of the ways I manage social stuff is that I do my best to avoid particularly difficult/tricky social situations. Basically: stick to easy, maybe easy-intermediate mode interactions and stay way the hell away from hard mode. Romance at work is super hard mode with the difficulty cranked up to 11, what with the potential power imbalance, the fact that you’re both in an environment you can’t really escape from without risking your livelihood, the danger of bringing your personal life into your workplace. I’d stay well away.

        And the same also goes for deeper platonic interactions at work. It’s good to be on a friendly basis with your coworkers, but a lot of the above issues still apply to anything non-casual. I totally sympathise with OP’s idea that she can just get her social needs met at work – I tend to come home in the evening desperate to curl up somewhere and not have to interact with anyone for a while myself – but I’d still recommend seeking out some contacts outside of it. Much, much safer for everyone involved.

        1. solitarywalker*

          Yay, another person on the spectrum! (And another upthread as well.) What if easy-intermediate mode is super boring? Low risk, but low reward? I once had a date lined up with a kind-of-cute guy from OKCupid, but canceled because I didn’t feel like getting out of the house, and just wanted to lay in bed and order food and watch YouTube videos instead. Is that just fear talking?

          1. Joielle*

            Idk, that just sounds like… dating… to me. I’m not on the spectrum but am not super outgoing, and I’ve always hated going on first dates. There’s a risk of being awkward, not knowing what to say, saying something wrong, mixed signals… as the date approaches, it starts to feel like more work than it’s worth. I don’t think I’ve ever been really excited for a first date, even with someone who seems awesome. Just gotta think of it as an investment in your future happiness (or at the very least, an opportunity to practice making small talk).

          2. Liz T*

            I’m unclear–you canceled the date because it seemed boring? Or laying in bed is what’s boring?

            It could well be fear talking, and/or self-sabotaging, or it could be bog-standard “dating sucks” stuff. It’s the kind of question that’s really really good to talk out with a therapist.

            (Reminder that seeing a therapist doesn’t have to mean dumping your whole life story at once–you can go at your own pace!)

            1. solitarywalker*

              I meant the upcoming date seemed boring. Or maybe somewhat interesting, but not compelling enough to compete with pizza and internet.

              1. Liz T*

                Well, then that’s just a choice you made. Makes me think of the speech from Rick & Morty about how repairing, maintaining, and cleaning aren’t adventures. Going on a first date with a potentially appropriate partner who’s expressed interest in you isn’t “exciting” in that it’s way less likely to blow up spectacularly than, say, hitting on your boss. But IF what one wants is a nourishing romantic relationship, one has to do some things that aren’t immediately exciting.

                Like, the goal of a first date might not be “have a thrilling evening.” It might be, “take necessary first steps towards finding a long-term partner.” That doesn’t mean one has to accept every date one is offered, but if the REASON you’re rejecting dates is that they’re not challenging enough, than yeah, you’re probably not going to be in a loving romantic relationship that often. (And, if you happen to stumble into one, you probably won’t like it much, depending on how narrowly you’re defining “adventure” and “challenge.”)

              2. Alton*

                I think some of that is a challenge with dating, especially online dating. It’s not always realistic to feel invested and connected before you’ve met the person, so sometimes you have to give yourself a push to give them a chance. You don’t *have* to, of course–you can choose to wait to hit it off with someone as friends first. But that will lessen your options.

                1. wittyrepartee*

                  The boring dates can be really instructive too. “huh, this person is intelligent and he’s still boring the bejesus out of me. I guess I’m also looking for someone with a quirky sense of humor.”

              3. wittyrepartee*

                Most first dates are boring. It’s important to go on them though, because sometimes they lead to non-boring dates. Sometimes they end up being not boring too.

          3. Oh So Anon*

            It may be helpful to have dates that are structured around an activity that you (both) enjoy?

          4. EventPlannerGal*

            I think you need to think about both what you’re looking for and what you’re able to handle in a healthy way. Those two things may not overlap much, and you need to figure out some way to bring them into alignment.

            Easy mode can be boring and unrewarding. Anyone who’s ever done online dating can tell you that. But hard mode is hard for a reason – it’s fun and exciting, but it can also go terribly wrong. Can you handle that? You just tried playing on hard mode, and now you’re writing to AAM to talk about how no guy is ever interested in you, you’re ugly, you’re scared you’ve messed things up with your boss, etc etc. That doesn’t seem like you’re emotionally ready to start playing on hard mode, and if you choose to keep playing by using your workplaces as your main social/romantic outlet, this is what it’s going to be like more often than not. That’s a choice that you need to think over and make for yourself.

            (And just saying, “office romance” and “OKCupid coffee date” are not the only choices. You can look for dates in many places that will offer higher rewards without screwing up your work life. I’d suggest starting there, and also looking into a way of working through the negative feelings in your letter. Good luck!)

          5. Tau*

            So when I talk about easy-intermediate vs hard mode, I do mean in terms of social interactions. Like, easy mode might be interacting with someone new in a defined space with a defined subject which is low-stakes for both of you, like a one-off class or the like. Opting out of social interaction isn’t any sort of mode since you’re not playing at all.

            And… your story about canceling the date is actually reminding me very strongly of me right now. I have major, major issues with executive function in the form of actually initiating tasks which I blame on the spectrum. I quite regularly end up stuck in my house unable to leave because I just can’t muster the energy/can’t face going outside and putting my NT face on/for some reason putting on my shoes is suddenly an insurmountable obstacle. I’ve missed a number of social events due to this. I also used to convince myself that the reason I did this was because I didn’t want to do these things, because I didn’t have any other narrative for “inexplicably does not go to event I planned to attend” and I was out of touch enough with my emotions that it seemed plausible (yay alexithymia – also a common spectrum thing).

            (Oh yeah, and add on difficulties with new situations and unknowns that mean that almost every time I have to venture someplace new or meet unfamiliar people I find myself flat-out terrified beforehand and try to talk myself into staying in my nice shiny comfort zone where everything is under my control.)

            So… that story of yours sounds exactly like something I might do, and for me this is never a good or healthy course of action. It doesn’t have to be the same for you, obviously, but I still think it’s worth digging into this sort of thing, potentially with a therapist who’s familiar with the spectrum. (I’m currently trying to find such a being myself.) Some questions to get you started: why make the date in the first place if you didn’t really want it? And – if you ever push past the “I’d rather just lay in bed and watch YouTube” feeling and force yourself to go to the thing instead, do you afterwards feel it was worth it?

            Lots of sympathy from over here, by the way. This shit is hard. I hope you figure out something that works for you!

    2. EH*

      This! I spent years unable to find a guy who was 1) attractive to me and 2) interested in dating me past one or two dates. When I finally did find one in my mid-twenties, I married him – which was a huge mistake.

      Play a doctor has a good approach. There are SO MANY PEOPLE in the world – if you meet enough of them you’ll find at least one you click with.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        There are SO MANY PEOPLE in the world – if you meet enough of them you’ll find at least one you click with.

        I’m still patiently waiting! Lol

    3. Old Biddy*

      I’m the same way – didn’t date much in my teens/20’s, but did fine once I started using internet dating in my 30’s. I had a active social life with lots of hobbies and friends. Looking back I think I just don’t exude ‘date me’ vibes when I’m going about my daily life.

  7. Artemesia*

    Time to look to your English learner colleagues for some chat — helps them and helps you. You may think your expression of sexual interest was subtle, but it wasn’t and you are lucky the boss shut it down, but you need to stop coming up with excuses to interact with him.

    1. President Porpoise*

      This is my read as well. OP, I mean this kindly, but you appear to be coming off as a little desperate for affection while blaming yourself for failed overtures. Your boss likely read your interest and desperation, and rightfully backed off. He should not date subordinates (assuming the PR lady is not in his chain of command, she may be a possibility for him, but that’s between them and you shouldn’t interfere in any way.)

      What you should do is back off as well, and take some time to rebuild your confidence. Perhaps this means going to some sort of therapy – nothing wrong with that at all, and it could help enormously. Perhaps it means joining a group to meet people, or getting a hobby. Perhaps it means having some casual flings on Tinder or something. Perhaps it means spending some time or money on your physical appearance – haircuts, spa treatments, etc., and whatever – if that’s an area that you feel insecure about. But know this – you, as you currently are, are worthy of love and affection, and as you find solid ground under your feet, you can find someone else to be with, in time. You deserve to be happy. But dating your boss won’t do that for you.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Perhaps it means having some casual flings on Tinder or something.

        I would not advise this for someone with low self-esteem and autism – that would only exacerbate her issues.

        OP, try joining Bumble for Friends if you’re seriously having trouble meeting people. I’m not sure exactly how it works (I was only on the site for the dating feature), but it may help you to broaden your reach of different people you can meet up with. But yeah, no hookup apps right now.

        1. wittyrepartee*

          Going and meeting a bunch of people for coffee might be ok too. Go in with the mentality that they’ll probably be uninteresting. It was a horrifying and excellent experience for me.

          1. Artemesia*

            There are lots of meetups where social interaction that is relatively uncomplicated can be had. I enjoy science fiction and when I moved to a new city I joined a SciFi book meet up — I never made a friend outside the group in that group (did in other meet ups) but they were an interesting diverse bunch and it was fun to do the reading and discussion — we met in pubs in the evening and it was a nice social event. Pick some things in your areas of interest and you get at least the social evening and you may find others whom you can develop longer term friendships. The workplace is a risky place to develop romance in the best of times — and disastrous when it involves a manager.

            1. GreyjoyGardens*

              A lot of times, going to a group or volunteering for something that you have an interest in will help you meet people. For example: if you like dogs, volunteer as a dog walker for your local humane society. If you like cats, be a cat socializer. If you like gardening, work in your local community garden (or start one).

              Social outlets built up around common interests are especially nice for the socially awkward because there is a built-in topic of conversation. “I had an orange cat growing up!” “Wow, what a lot of zucchini!” You won’t be fishing around to try to find something to talk about.

    2. MistOrMister*

      I agree re talking to the coworkers. OP might find there are a lot more depths to plumb there than she’s(?) expecting. I had a coworker who spoke Spanish ans very limited English. We didn’t have any deep conversations but he clearly appreciated someone taking the time to talk to him and I found a nice guy to chat with here and there.

      And I also agree, it is likely things weren’t as subtle as they seemed. To be fair, even if they were, once the boss picked up on any interest, as Alison said, he had no choice but to pull back. The fact that things went back to normal for a bit and then he pulled back again makes me think perhaps OP started flirting once they seemed to be getting back to regular and the boss was like, oh crap I thought we’d squashed this, abort abort!!!!

      OP, maybe you could look into some interner interactions. Not necessarily online dating (although, certainly its an option). But something where you can speak with other people at your leisure. You might be able to get your conversation fix there and depending on how those relationships are, you can talk to the people on a schedule that works for you.

      1. solitarywalker*

        MistOrMister, you may be right. I’ve been deliberately avoiding purposefully flirting with him, but I’ve kind of been holding out hope for more. Maybe he senses that.

        1. MistOrMister*

          I’ve had crushes where I would swear up, down and sideways that in no way did I betray my interest. And maybe that’s true in some instances. But I reeeeaaaally bet in others I was staring or doing something I didn’t realize that tipped the other person off. I think it’s easy to do that kind of thing without meaning to and probably happens to a lot of us. Could be something like that happened in your situation. (I am now thinking back over possible crushes and assuming what I thought was subtle behavior was really me waving around a neon crush flag…thanks brain!!!)

          I hope you can get to a more comfortable place within your office. Crushes can be annoyingly difficult to get over sometimes. I would say for now at least, it might help to avoid the boss completely unless absolutely necessary for work. Not being rude or anything, just limiting your exposure in hopes of allowing the crush to wither on the vine. Good luck!! I think a lot of us are rooting for you =)

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          Having been on his side of this (I hang with geeks, family and friends on the spectrum), yes, he can tell. Even that ‘asking him a question instead of a coworker’ is a tell, once you’ve put yourself out there with the music text.

          Take that energy and put it into some non-work area. That music you like, do you ever have live shows of that band or others in the genre in your town? If you can get to 3 – 4 small shows, you’ll start to see familiar faces and make connections, and the common ground is *built in*.

          1. solitarywalker*

            Ha! So much for the standard Reddit advice: “Guys don’t get hints! What you think is obvious interest is unnoticeable to us! You’ve got to hit us over the head!!!”

            1. Parenthetically*

              There have actually been some interesting studies that demonstrate that this is just flat out not true. Men and women are equally capable of picking up on, for example, a “soft no” in pretty much all social situations — but men have been socialized to ignore and push past a “soft no” in romantic situations. Some humans are clueless, but it’s not divided by gender.

              1. DreamingInPurple*

                Yep. “Guys don’t get hints” often actually means “guys aren’t expending the social intelligence to act appropriately on what they notice”.

            2. Tau*

              This line of argument always makes me want to breathe fire. The average guy is neurotypical, I am autistic, why on earth am I suddenly supposed to be the super socially skilled one whose arcane hints are too complicated for the poor men?

            3. wittyrepartee*

              Hmmm. Have you not had a huge amount of contact with men in a friendly capacity? Things like this are pretty offensive to men, same as statements about “women are ___”. Men are people above all. They can be made uncomfortable by things like inappropriate crushes, and will notice subtle signals that other people give off, especially if they’re on high alert because they’re trying to avoid an awkward situation.

          2. solitarywalker*

            Ah. So much for the standard Reddit advice that “Guys don’t get hints! What’s obvious to you is unnoticeable to us! You’ve got to hit us over the head!”

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              Some do, some don’t. I have totally watched women walk up to Mr. Jules and hit on him; one (male) friend at a bar looked at me and said, ‘he doesn’t realize she’s hitting on him, does he?’ and I laughed because no, he didn’t realize. But I’ve also had people tell me after that someone was hitting on me and I didn’t get it, so it’s not just a man thing.

              I think a big part of it is whether the person (male or female) is scanning the interaction with that possibility in mind. Managers do that to make sure they’re not being inappropriate with their reports, so your manager picked up on it. Mr Jules and I were 2 – 3 years into our relationship, and given our bad tendency towards PDA (little Jules it *traumatized*, I tell ya, *traumatized*), we figured that everyone knew that, so we didn’t notice. Geek life….

              I hope we hear from you later – would love to hear what you decided to do once you digest all this input. May I also recommend Captain Awkward forums and meetups? Good for support and interesting things to do.

    3. many bells down*

      Yeah, I’ve started a new job and there’s a guy there from Turkey with limited English skills. But he makes jokes! He’s really funny! And we had a conversation the other day about Halloween candy (he’d never seen a candy-corn pumpkin before and he thought there was a rock in my candy dish, lol).

      1. many bells down*

        Oops hit the button by mistake. I was going to say, Try chatting with them, OP. Just because their English is limited doesn’t mean they’re not smart and funny and interesting. After all, they learned another language well enough to get a job there.

        1. Quill*

          I have a great rapport with my latin america based colleagues because my spanish is exactly good enough to hold a conversation, not quite good enough to have the whole work day in, so we actually communicate very carefully and with a lot of humor.

        2. JustaTech*

          I had a coworker who I had a very hard time understanding when we were talking about work stuff (science), but when we were just chatting about things like him mom not wanting his kids to watch Sesame Street it all flowed so much better!

      2. wittyrepartee*

        Isn’t it amazing when you see someone’s personality emerge from beneath really limited language skills? It’s like “I see you in there! I can’t wait to fully meet you!”

        1. solitarywalker*

          LW here. I like that idea, wittyrepartee! I recently realized I’m not the most patient with people. I talk fast and use big words (not in a show-offy way), and want other people to keep up with me. (Wow, that sounds self-involved.)

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            hahahaha – I grew up being teased for my ‘dollar words’, and it was great when I found people my age who knew them (late high school / college). My geeky friends have never had problems keeping up with me, but I’ve been working with ESL coworkers for a decade now, and consciously cut down my word length and complexity around them. It’s called code switching, and it’s a very useful skill.

            The pause to think about the right word has also kept me out of trouble, since sometimes I’m even able to stop myself from saying… awkward things.

    4. Pommette!*

      In such a small office, it’s a good idea to make sure that you make (at least) as much of an effort starting conversations with your colleagues who are still learning English as you do your other colleagues. You don’t want to make them feel dismissed or discriminated against.

      In my experience with language barriers, things can improve really quickly when you start to build a relationship with someone. You learn to understand one another’s accents and speaking styles, and you develop your own shorthands (miming!) that work for you. So even though your/their language level won’t go up much in a month, your ability to communicate really does. You might be pleasantly surprised.

      1. solitarywalker*

        Good point about feeling discriminated against, Pommette!. I wouldn’t want anyone to make me feel that way – and I’m the one whining here about people not chatting with me, for goodness’ sake.

  8. Aspergirl*

    Reading this, I found myself feeling a sympathetic response and also saying “oh honey no no no.” I hear you on rejection, on feeling awkward and out of place, on developing intense feelings when you discover points of deep shared interest.

    But. Alison is 100% on target here. Dating your boss is absolutely not ok. And it’s his job to chill out of that relationship or otherwise shut it down. I’m sorry, it hurts. But killing the crush and treating him as an acquaintance with a shared interest is probably your best bet. It’s hard, if you’re like me, then you feel crushed with the intensity of autistic “special interests.” It sucks and you’re not alone in this.

  9. Celeste*

    OP, that’s a lot of negative self-talk and comparing of yourself to others. Have you ever considered a short course of therapy to talk about that?

    At work, I think it might help to focus just a little less on relationships and more on getting really great at what you’re doing. It surely stings to get told to figure it out, and wouldn’t it be great to get compliments for being so on top of it?

    As far as your social needs go, I also think you should work on getting them met in other situations. If group activities are problematic, what about online forums for things that interest you? Or possibly a meet up of a small group catered to your interest?

    I’m glad the job is a good fit, and I really hope you can get more comfortable there.


    1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      I was also thinking therapy too, an adult with “diagnosed autism and possible ADHD” likely needs to be receiving therapeutic support in social skills and executive function skills.

      The negative self-talk struck me as a sign that she wasn’t getting adequate assistance and support to develop these skills. If you do not know how to read social cues correctly, in fact you have a diagnosis that prevents you from doing so, you are going to get some weird reactions and not understand why you failed yet again. You are going to get onto reductionist trains of thought, ex: I had a pleasant conversation with a member of the sex I’m attracted to, that means it’s meant to be LOVE, and then not understand why you are rebuffed.

      1. CR*

        Yes, I think a lot of the problems in this letter boil down to needing support in executive functioning and social skills.

      2. solitarywalker*

        Ugh. You’re probably right. Got my Asperger’s diagnosis in the 90s (high-functioning enough to slip under the radar for awhile), and I don’t think they were really flagging girls and women for ADHD back then (who knows, I might not even have it).

        1. Quill*

          I got sent to be tested in the mid 90’s and the diagnosis I got was “there’s something related but because she’s a girl, not obviously avoiding socialization, and makes good grades there is literally no way that a formal diagnosis registered with your school will actually do anything.”

          So who knows what the family brainweird that I just got a more noticeable version of than my mom is?

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          Yeah, I have a close female family member diagnosed in her 30s in the 00s. There’s a lot of useful tools out there now for women with autism / ADHD that there weren’t 25 – 30 years ago.

        3. Adultiest Adult*

          Hi solitarywalker. I figured I would put in another plug in support of finding a therapist who specializes in adults on the autism spectrum. They can be challenging to find but they’re out there (I am one!) And I think it will be hugely helpful to you to navigate your social and executive functioning needs with someone who won’t require a lot of explaining as to why they occur the way that they do. Wishing you the best, and hope you are able to find “your people.”

        4. Mb*

          Oh I would say there’s still a high chance that you are autistic. Or something else that makes it really hard for you to pick up on basic office social skills

    2. Washi*

      I agree about getting social needs met elsewhere. OP, I’m not autistic but definitely relate to a lot of your letter! One thing I joke about is “I love having friends but I hate meeting new people.” It’s great when work can meet your social needs, but that won’t always be the case, and sometimes just trying harder won’t fix it. In fact, you may find your relationships with your coworkers improve when you pull back and don’t need anything from them beyond work stuff, since I wonder if you’re coming on a little more intensely than you realize.

      If you want to jump straight to serious topics, maybe a book club or other discussion group would work well? Good luck to you!

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        It’s also not healthy to rely on work for all or most of your friendships. It not only prevents you from evaluating if another job might be better and would leave you bereft if you were fired or laid off, but it only develops the part of yourself that’s who you are at your job. Your other interests, causes, and hobbies are just as important to pursue and you should try and meet people through those too.

        1. Washi*

          I definitely agree! I can’t tell if the OP is even looking for friendships though. From the way she phrased things, it almost sounded like maybe she just wants to chat with someone about her interests for 10 minutes a couple times a week, which is something that could happen naturally in a workplace. But regardless of whether the OP is looking for friendship or just a little social chatting, that doesn’t seem to be happening for her at this particular workplace.

      2. Colette*

        Agreed. The OP doesn’t want to meet new people, but that doesn’t mean work is the right place to go for social interactions. (A little bit is fine, but not in depth conversations or close relationships – even if she wants that, her coworkers aren’t obligated to provide it, and it isn’t a great idea in a work setting, even if you ignore the power differential.)

        So that leaves her with 2 choices – either decide that she doesn’t need that sort of connection or make an effort to develop more of a social circle outside of work (volunteer, join a book club, go to concerts, etc.). In my experience, it’s easier to make friends if you have a common purpose, so the focus is on doing something, not just making friends.

      3. Quill*

        Seconded on the book club. I’m not an introvert (I’m an extrovert with a fear of people!) but book club, especially a local library one, will provide socialization with a wider variety of people than maybe are around at work. Plus, being Very Into the book is a feature there, not a bug.

        … and sometimes if your library runs a book club you can slip purchasing requests to the librarians directly, especially if you do them favors like “could you please just check out this whole series and then return them later? I’m trying to win a fight with circ about whether it’s worth replacing the missing middle book of the series.”

    3. Sleepytime Tea*

      OP I agree with this here. You come across as having some problems with insecurities and a negative self image that I think are beyond the scope of your workplace. If you haven’t yet, trying therapy here is a really fantastic idea. Because frankly, it is not healthy to develop crushes like this in an environment where it’s inappropriate and then take it so harshly when it’s politely deflected.

    4. EventPlannerGal*

      This, absolutely. It’s concerning to me that the OP is taking this so very personally; of course it hurts to be rejected, but in this situation there is a very good and obvious reason for it and he appears to have done it in a pretty reasonable way. This all sounds like it’s tied up with a lot of much bigger issues the OP feels about inclusion and self-worth, and it’s not healthy to pin all that on the romantic interest of one guy.

      And OP – this guy not being interested in you romantically, regardless of his position as your manager, does not make you ugly. It just doesn’t. It actually took me many rejections and several relationships to get this into my head, and I still struggle with it! But even if he was not your manager, regardless of your common interests or your fun conversations or your attraction to him, he might still not be interested in you *and that is fine*. People want who they want. It kind of sounds like you think that by dint of being female and attracted to him he *should* be attracted back and there’s something wrong or lesser about you if he’s not, but that’s not how it works. Think of the guys you know – I’m sure you know men who you share interests with and have fun talking to but who you don’t want to date. If one of them asked you out and you said no, would it be because you secretly think they’re horrible ugly trolls? Or would it be because you’re just not interested in them that way?

      I know it’s really hard not to take such a personal thing personally, but I mean, you just have to. However you can get to that point, you have to try or you’re setting yourself up for a world of hurt.

  10. Jaybeetee*

    Oh OP, that’s rough. Like everyone else has said, your manager is behaving correctly and professionally here – if he actually reciprocated or encouraged your own interest, he would be a bad boss, and not the kind of person you should respect or admire anyway.

    I’m not autistic (as far as I know), but I have always struggled socially, and know that feeling you describe, of always feeling like a child butting into a conversation, instead of an interesting person who is part of the conversation. I also know what it’s like to be a woman who gets rejected romantically (though I
    daresay many/most women experience some romantic rejection, even if some circles believe that impossible). I encourage you, if possible, to get some help with your social skills so that you can feel less lonely, socialize more easily, and find an appropriate and reciprocal romantic partner if you want one. It doesn’t have to be this way.

    1. Shhhhh*

      I’ve always struggled socially too. OP, you’re far from alone–even though I know from experience that it probably feels like it’s just you, it’s not. You’re getting a lot of very good advice from Alison and the commenters here. Let the boundaries with your manager be re-established and find things to do and ways to meet people outside of work. I know that’s easier said than done, but it would probably also be really worth it.

    2. call centre bee*

      ‘feeling like a child butting into a conversation’

      Man, I’m older than my entire team and I always feel like that. OP, you’re not alone but these feelings won’t be solved by a romantic relationship, they’re about self-esteem.

  11. jiminy_cricket*

    In this case “rejection” at work is simply healthy boundaries. OP, it sounds like you might benefit from widening your social circle outside of work? I know it’s easier said than done, but is there anything you’d feel comfortable doing outside of work to get those needs met in a more appropriate setting? Online groups, dating sites, joining a club or a gym, or something that makes sense for you. It’s not great for you or your work relationships to rely on them this wholly (and it doesn’t feel good either).

  12. Falling Diphthong*

    OP, I want to point out some cause-effect:

    Things are normal and pleasant.
    You indicate romantic interest via text –> he draws way back.
    Things slowly move back toward normal.
    You indicate romantic interest via asking for his attention on stuff you should be able to work out on your own –> he draws way back.

    I don’t think any of your interest is landing as subtle. And he is right to shoot down any romantic overtures here.

    (Also, he is allowed to be romantically uninterested, or friend uninterested, full stop. He should be civil as a coworker, which he is. Statistically, most of the people one is interested in for romance are not interested back, and so you have to sort until you find someone where the interest levels align and you both want to make it work. Even with friends, sometimes the people you are interested in interacting with are not interested in interacting back, either at all or at the level you want, and one moves on and looks elsewhere. This job maybe isn’t going to work out as the only place you need to look for friends.)

    1. Parenthetically*

      Yeah, the last paragraph is so true. It took me many years of adulthood to see another party’s lack of interest romantically or friendship-ly as neutral and allowable and not an indictment of me OR them. We so often frame those things in really negative language — either in terms of “I’m not good enough/cool enough/hot enough” or “that person is such a jerk/doesn’t know what he’s missing out on/can’t see what’s right in front of him” — but in reality, it’s just a personality mismatch that has absolutely no moral component whatsoever.

      1. Colette*

        And sometimes it’s not even a personality mismatch – it’s a mismatch of availability or lifestyle. All of us have limited time and commitments already in our life; we can’t always pursue relationships of any type that we might enjoy in other circumstances. And if someone comes along who makes it clear that they want more than we have to give, it’s sometimes easier to just shut it all down rather than going through the process of repeatedly setting boundaries.

        1. Parenthetically*

          Absolutely! I would LOVE to have time to be friends with a number of people, but my social calendar is just about as full as I want it to ever get.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          That last line is a really good point I think often isn’t made in discussions about holding boundaries. Constantly setting and holding them can be exhausting, and if people have the option to just not interact they may leap on it.

          1. Colette*

            And if I think someone wants more from me than I want to give, I always have to be on the lookout for signs that they’re reading too much into what I say/expecting more than I’ve committed to – and that means I no longer enjoy being around them, because hyper vigilance is not fun.

      2. 4Sina*

        Same. I sympathize with OP so much, especially if they are younger because that was my (admittedly unhealthy) thinking well into my 20s. The dichotomy of the supervisor turning his interest to other people, especially the attractive person in HR, versus the letter writer really underlines that. His interest in you or other people is not a zero sum game, but it is also something you cannot control. You CAN control how you move forward professionally – chalk this up as a learning experience but let go of anything that isn’t strictly professional – you’re putting yourself and him in an awkward situation.

    2. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

      To your last point, I’d also add that someone’s romantic disinterest doesn’t mean you’re “ugly” or undesirable. People just have different tastes in partners and friends, and most people aren’t romantically attracted to everyone they consider good-looking and/or interesting. It stings to be rejected, but it isn’t a “no one will ever love you” because one person (who is romantically unavailable anyway because of the reporting relationship) does not love you.

      If your workplace provides the bulk of your social interactions, OP, I can see why this has such an impact – but your boss is in a difficult situation, too. He probably enjoyed your friendly/fun conversations as much as you do, but he’s mindful of boundaries, as he should be. Any chance you might be able to find a low-commitment hobby or volunteer position for a couple hours a week that might put you in the orbit of some like-minded people without the dynamics of a workplace?

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, this. I have many friends who are not conventionally good-looking but are great people and are in high demand as romantic partners. I’m not terrible looking but don’t get a lot of attention, mostly because I have epic RBF and am not approachable.

        However, it took me a long time to really grow into this realization. I suspect I’m quite a bit older than the OP.

  13. The Green Lawintern*

    Alison didn’t say this outright, but I feel that as a general rule it’s better to avoid office romances, even among coworkers. There’s too much potential for messiness if things go south in the relationship.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      Romantic partners at work is high level social skills, a level that most people can’t manage. It’s *easier* to look outside of work. I dated exclusively from my friends / hobbies acquaintances, but now there’s all the on-line tools to help sort out people with similar interests…

      1. Oh So Anon*

        Yup. Lots of people I know have dated at work (including me, although I’m not proud of it) and had it not implode horribly, but it takes a lot of social savvy and political acuity, as well as maybe being in a work environment where you have some professional (and maybe even physical) distance from whoever you’re dating.

        1. wittyrepartee*

          A good friend of mine dated someone on another team at her work. Despite my friend being pretty socially savvy, it was a ROUGH BREAKUP.

          1. Oh So Anon*

            Yeah, breakups are going to be a garbage fire regardless of your ability to navigate the situation. This is when you hope that someone just gets a job elsewhere to solve your problems for you.

            I was thinking more of the courtship and actual dating phases as being where social skills and situational awareness really matter – it’s those parts where they make the difference between slowly and discreetly building rapport with someone versus heading into a potential sexual harassment situation.

            1. wittyrepartee*

              “make the difference between slowly and discreetly building rapport with someone versus heading into a potential sexual harassment situation”

              The breakup was less a garbage fire and more of a long term painful smolder for my friend. This is with both parties behaving relatively well.

              1. Observer*

                That makes a lot of sense. One thing that really helps people to get over break ups, especially when they are emotionally fraught, is avoiding triggers, which generally means things that remind your of the ex or that you did together. When WORK is one of those things? That’s going to be brutal.

    2. Mbarr*

      Agreeeeeed. I made the mistake of dating a coworker before. It was my decision to break up, but it was soooooo awkward afterwards. So awkward he ended up transferring to work out of another office. (Addendum: Okay, so I can’t verify that *I* was the reason he transferred – maybe I’m being narcissistic.)

      (Second addendum: The awkwardness was all caused by me. Blargh.)

  14. Blisskrieg*

    Awww. I feel for you, OP. Not so much for the background on the boss–I agree he’s acting very appropriately, but with some of the other comments you make about yourself in the thread. You–as with everyone else–deserve to meet others and potential romantic companions if you want. Work is often (usually) not the best place. I am betting you can find a likeminded group somewhere–maybe online? Lots of introverted and autistic people out there and I am hoping you can find a group with which to network (quietly). You deserve to!

    Keep us updated!

  15. Close Bracket*

    when I ask him work questions (things he’d already told me a few times but I’d forgotten; where to find things I could have found myself if I’d looked a little harder), he’ll kindly tell me I should figure things out on my own.

    This is not a rejection of you as a dating partner. This is expected development of you as a direct report. You *should* be figuring things out on your own! Separate natural boss-direct report distance from your feelings of rejection. This has nothing to do with your appearance or date-ability (which your boss shouldn’t be evaluating anyway).

    I also want to connect with the people I want to connect with.

    It is the sad truth that desire for a particular type of connection with a specific person is not always reciprocated. An important adulting skill is learning to move past the disappointment and interact with the person appropriately.

    I’ve had minor boss/senior person crushes in the past. The way to deal with them is to ignore those feelings entirely. Note them, and move on. Do not act on them. Eventually, if you don’t feed the feelings, they fade (although it can take months).

    1. Uni-corn*

      “I also want to connect with the people I want to connect with.”

      This line jumped out at me, too. We all want to connect with the people we want to connect with! Unfortunately, they are under no obligation to connect with us, no matter how much we may want them to. I lost a very good friendship because he thought just because he was interested in me “like that” and I didn’t feel the same way, that I was now a bad friend who had strung him along. I didn’t want us to “connect” like that and I’m allowed to feel like that, no matter what he wants. He didn’t feel the same way and it cost our friendship.

      I’m not saying, OP, that you are approaching all of your potential friendships like you are owed some kind of romantic response. But just be aware that we can’t demand people respond to us they way we want them to.

      1. Parenthetically*

        “I’m allowed to feel like that, no matter what he wants.”

        This is another huge component of maturity, IMO, that some people never quite reach, in part because of the weird societal things we have around this concept — I remember being taught it was rude to turn a boy down at a dance, for example. He’d worked up the nerve to ask you, so you were obligated to dance with him. But in reality, “I’m interested in this person” doesn’t actually DO anything, and it certainly doesn’t REQUIRE anything from the other party.

      2. solitarywalker*

        Yeah, I was feeling pretty ranty with that line, and maybe even a bit… entitled? Ugh.

  16. Dracarys*

    Maybe he could possibly just not personal texts from people at work. But also, he’s probably just not interested and thinks by talking to you more could lead you on. I’ve been weirded out by people in a professional setting by getting unwanted attention from them and ended up avoiding them at all costs. Just remember, if it was a male trying to pursue a female in the office, there would definitely be different advice here.

    I’d also like to add — refrain from texting your boss! Always keep texts professional, like directly related to business updates or giving him a heads up if you are going to be late/out of the office.

    1. Anonanon*

      “Just remember, if it was a male trying to pursue a female in the office, there would definitely be different advice here.”


    2. Close Bracket*

      ” Just remember, if it was a male trying to pursue a female in the office, there would definitely be different advice here.”

      Wait, what? I believe the advice would be exactly the same — your boss was right to pull back, and you should not pursue them.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        Agreed. I don’t see how the advice would be any different if the situation were reversed.

      2. It’s sunny where I am*

        I didn’t read Dracarys comment as the advice would be different. It’s spot on. I read it more as the gender dynamic at play with LW is a little different and if this were a young man writing in about his struggles around using his female boss as his (sole?) emotional/social outlet, we would not only provide the advice we are giving but we would also try to educate about how women are not meant to do the emotional labor for men. Especially in the workplace. Especially if they are your boss.

        1. Close Bracket*

          “I didn’t read Dracarys comment as the advice would be different.”

          Just remember, if it was a male trying to pursue a female in the office, there would definitely be different advice here.

          They flat out say the advice would be different! It’s not even a question of “reading it as.” There’s no subtext there — it’s right in the text!

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          The male counterpart it reminds me of is a classic letter where OP (young man in his 20s) did not want his boss to talk to her husband on the phone in a way that reminded him he was not in a relationship. No “Love you hon, bye” or similar.

          1. valentine*

            I think it was a wife, but he wasn’t interested in her. He just expected his female boss to walk eggshells and punished her with the silent treatment.

      3. Amber Rose*

        Yeah, there is no double standard here. “Don’t pursue your boss as a romantic interest, a good boss will not reciprocate” is not gendered advice.

    3. Anonymeece*

      That last bit – yes. I have an employee who texts me, generally about work stuff, but we also have similar interests so sometimes he tells me about a book I might enjoy or recommends a movie. I respond, but I have to be on the watch for if things go into more “friend” territory than “friendly employee”. I’ve had to pull back a few times to reset the tone when it veered too much into the former.

      OP, even if your approach were subtle – and it might be, or might not have been, can’t tell from the letter – then a manager has to be extra careful about what it might be. Your supervisor is doing the right thing. It might feel like a personal rejection, but it’s not. And even if he wasn’t in that position, he’s allowed to not be interested in you.

      I get that you miss the interaction, but you need to find something else to focus on and leave him alone. Whether he’s not responding because he’s your supervisor or because he’s uninterested or both is irrelevant.

  17. Person from the Resume*

    So many things, but this jumped out at me.

    Thing is, I still crave the occasional good conversation, even though I’m not that interested in meeting new people. So I get most of my social stimulation from everyday settings, like work.

    Nope. Work is not the place to look for close friends or romantic partners. Please look for friends outside work by joining groups related to your interest and count on that for stimulating conversation.

    Your boss is acting completely appropriate for business. It sounds like you were fairly unprofessional by making your romantic interest obvious to him and possibly everyone in the office. You are taking his professional response so, so, so personally and twisting it to be rejection because of your personality, looks, unattractiveness. I recommend that see someone about this which seems like anxiety and low self-esteem.

    1. wittyrepartee*

      I’m going to elaborate on this a bit.

      OP, I understand that on a day to day basis you don’t NEED more than just the conversation and social stimulus that you get through work, it’s still important to find people outside of work as a social group. Why? Because long term you need things out of people from work that aren’t healthy to expect/look for there. There include: Romance, A place to vent, Someone to watch the cats. Some people are pretty socially talented and can manage to mix the work groups and friend groups without causing a bunch of drama, but that’s a very high level social skill- and despite being pretty socially savvy at this point in my life, I don’t do it.

      There’s another reason that this is important though- work friends are not as durable as out of work friends. Most of one’s interactions with work friends are out of convenience, and if you leave the job both people will have to be willing to try and construct a friendship outside of work. Having work be both your social and economic support means you’re putting all your eggs in one basket. This makes it hard for you to grow professionally and socially.

      1. Oh So Anon*

        Agreed. Damn, this is one of the most well-articulated explanations I’ve seen on this topic.

        Whenever I see someone provide “don’t make friends at work” advice, I wonder if the OP thinks to themselves, “but lots of people have close friends they’ve met at work, and some people meet their partners at work too!” Well, yes, but…

        I’m someone who has friends I’ve made at work, and has had those friendships persist after we’ve left our jobs. It’s totally normal and common to make friends with people who are peers at work, but it’s also *really* important for them to not be at the nucleus of your social life, especially your romantic life and emotional support system. It prevents you from being free to make decisions that are good for both your social and professional life. The other bit is that it places fairly significant emotional labour demands on the people you work with – remember, if there is conflict in your non-work relationship, your colleagues can’t escape dealing with you at work, which can be uncomfortable.

        Do I sometimes hang out with some of my colleagues outside of work? Yes. But it’s also important that, especially if we spend most of the workweek together, that they’re not my first call to vent, or that they’re not my go-tos for hanging out on the weekends. Cultivating an inner circle of people who aren’t my colleagues has, in the long run, been a lot healthier for maintaining friendships with people I work with.

        1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

          > It prevents you from being free to make decisions that are good for both your social and professional life.

          Exactly this. I’ve seen so many letters to AAM from people who:
          – don’t want to leave their awful workplace because that’s where their social life happens
          – don’t know how to manage a team of their friends after getting promoted over them
          – don’t want to compete with a friend for a promotion
          – don’t know how to end an unwanted friendship with a workmate
          – don’t know how to deal with a work friend who is a terrible colleague

          Etc. Etc.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            All of this. This is why I remain friendly with people at work, but don’t consider them real friends. And once I leave a job, I pretty much don’t make the effort to stay in touch. If I bump into them out and about, I’ll wave or even stop for a bit to chat, but that’s about it. I don’t think that’s an uncommon approach, either.

          2. GreyjoyGardens*

            Yes, yes, yes! Any and all of this happens, and it can make it that much harder to keep one’s career on track AND to maintain a fulfilling personal life.

        2. wittyrepartee*

          In general, healthy relationships are about both people wanting to be there. If you can’t escape them, and they can’t escape you- you’re not going to be able to share yourself as openly, and/or you’ll be bringing an unprofessional version of yourself to work.

        3. SarahTheEntwife*

          This is also a case where working at a larger company can make the dynamics less fraught. I have good friends that I met at work, but most of them aren’t the people I actually interact with every day. If something got weird and we weren’t friends anymore, we could easily avoid each other until the awkward wore off.

      2. Colette*

        Yeah, the thing is that proximity is a big factor in friendships – so it’s easy to be friends (or friendly) with people you work with. But as soon as one of you gets a new job, there is no easy way to keep the friendship going. Sometimes it happens – and that’s great – but the vast majority of the time it doesn’t.

        I have numerous colleagues who I consider friends, but I rarely see them because we don’t work together anymore. That’s not anyone’s fault, it’s just how life goes.

  18. voyager1*

    My 3 rules in dating LW:
    1. Never date people from work
    2. Never date a friend
    3. Never date a family member of the above two.

    Follow those three rules and you will avoid situations like this I promise.

    I get you feel lonely but try and find something social outside of work. People at work aren’t really your friends even if it feels like they are sometimes because of the amount of time you spend with them.

    1. SarahTheEntwife*

      Woah, not dating friends is a very individual thing! I find the idea of dating someone you’re not even close enough to to consider a friend terrifying and weird.

  19. Oh So Anon*

    OP, I know that this will be a bit harsh to read, but:

    If I sense that someone who is a bit socially awkward kinda has a crush on me in circumstances that make that problematic, I will probably be a bit more likely to keep them at arm’s length to make boundaries clear than with someone who I suspect can more easily read social cues. Maybe your supervisor approaches things this way as well?

      1. Quill*

        Unless you got the shiny hypersocial variant of autism cousin symptoms… (I’ve known quite a few girls and young women whose family clearly has a lot of autism cousin traits but either they, or their brothers, are hypersocial and therefore unlikely to be diagnosed. The girls are unlikely to be diagnosed just by virtue of being girls or not having any early academic struggles…)

        See also, my mother. “I don’t know where you got all these symptoms!”
        Mom, I got half of them from you, half of them from dad, and then I got them stuck into a mental health blender. :/

        1. Oh So Anon*

          Hypersocial but not-reading-social-cues is still…apparent. In my experience, it’s more that people assume it’s related to the hyperactive kind of ADHD than they do an ASD. To be blunt, it’s the kind of awkward that people will often read as merely an annoying set of personality traits rather than an actual neurocognitive thingy.

    1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      “I will probably be a bit more likely to keep them at arm’s length to make boundaries clear than with someone who I suspect can more easily read social cues”

      Those who are socially awkward are less likely to understand that your offish behaviour is an attempt to define boundaries. It would be more effective, and probably kinder, to be direct.

      1. Oh So Anon*

        You are right about that! I’m well aware that being direct would often help these people redirect their behaviours. The challenges with that are:

        -I’m a woman, and being direct means going against a lot of expectations and socialization; this gets even more complicated when it’s a socially awkward woman I’m dealing with.
        -In my experience, being direct with someone who is a very binary thinker sometimes serves as more a chilling effect than anything else if they struggle to calibrate their behaviour, especially if they struggle with tone and subtext.
        -To that previous point, sometimes these issues can’t be solved without more of a coaching conversation that isn’t appropriate for me to have with a peer.
        -Me being direct to a person who struggles to read indirect social cues would, to outsiders, appear cruel and hurt my social and political capital at work, especially in environments where no one is direct with socially awkward people.

        1. Aurion*

          Excellent points above, and I’ll also add: being direct is much more humiliating/confrontational because it’s direct. It leaves no room for doubt, no doors half open. But since the OP and their boss are still going to be around each other every day, it’s a lot more face-saving for everyone involved if they all read the room/subtext and let this one go.

          There are, of course, people who can accept frank rejection but not take it personally, and not have it affect their existing relationships. But the OP is feeling stung that their boss isn’t “flattered” by a work question so they are likely not one of those people. If I were their boss, I’d be trying to let them down gently, too.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        There are a LOT of reasons that the boss does not want to have a “Gretl, I can see that you have a crush on me. You need to stop. Here are all the boundaries, carefully explained in writing and diagrammed” conversation with his direct report.

        1. Anonymeece*

          Especially if the overture wasn’t overt. If it were more of a, “Hey, wanna go on a date sometime?”, that conversation – directly – would be easier. When it’s just a “feeling” that you have, it’s harder to articulate that directly, because part of you is thinking, “Am I wrong? Am I being narcissistic? Maybe they didn’t mean it that way…”

          While I generally believe in being direct, there are good reasons not to be, and being standoffish isn’t necessarily the wrong thing to do.

      3. Turtle Candle*

        In addition to what others have said, being direct about some of these things requires effort, emotional labor, and generally quite a lot of it (it’s rare that someone hears a direct statement like that and doesn’t at least try to argue the point). It’s also sometimes really, really painful for the person being direct–especially for people with social anxiety, as far as that goes. If someone directly asks me out, yeah, I’ll be direct about, “I’m sorry, I’m not interested.” But if they’re just getting too chummy, seem to be flirting, or even they want to be close friends and I’m not really looking for friends, or just don’t like them that much… it’s acutely painful to have to say, out loud, “I’m sorry, I don’t want to be friends” or “I don’t like you that much” or “you keep taking over the conversations and it’s annoying” or “I really only want to casually chat with you once every couple days, stop pushing for more.”

        And when it’s a feeling backed by plausibly-deniable actions (you aren’t hitting on me… exactly… but it’s coming really close to flirting… but it’s not overt…) it’s hard to know what even to be blunt about. “Nothing you did was exactly wrong, but the gestalt was weird and uncomfortable, so stop doing some vague set of things or maybe stop talking to me altogether except about work?”

        It’s painful because we all have been trained not to say those things, and people with anxiety or histories of abuse even more so. It’s painful, too, because most of us have had the experience of being perhaps blunt, even slightly blunt, and getting a response that was full of anger or tears–in my case, even from people, multiple people, who had told me to be blunt. What they theoretically wanted (clear direction) was at odds with their immediate emotional response (why don’t you like me???) and I was left with someone weeping or storming out or whatever, when what I’d tried to do was the kind thing–or at least, what they’d told me was kind. For a manager, I have to assume the optics would potentially be even worse.

        That’s before getting into the optics of saying that kind of thing where someone might hear you, or if the person reports what you said to others, and then you look like a serious jerk, because… yeah, we’re pretty much all told not to be blunt and direct about some things, and “I just don’t like you that much” or “you’re kind of creeping me out” or etc. is one of them.

        It’s not that I never do it anymore, but given how much work it is for such often spectacularly negative result for me, I really only do it if I’m really invested in the relationship. A good friend, a close family member, a child who I know well (since we do have a social category for that: teaching socialization), or someone whose progress and development is very important to me. Otherwise, it’s a lot of emotional labor, often painful emotional labor, that I can’t (honestly: won’t, or it’d be where all my social energy goes) perform for everyone who crosses my path.

        1. Jaydee*

          “Nothing you did was exactly wrong, but the gestalt was weird and uncomfortable….”

          Might be my new favorite combination of words! I can’t wait to use them.

    2. cheeky*

      Absolutely agree. People who are socially awkward, particularly those with ADHD or autism, sometimes need really explicit cues or clear conversations to know when they’ve crossed a boundary, which is not comfortable for a lot of people to do, because it feels rude (and would be received that way by neurotypical people). I work with a few people with autism and ADHD, and I have to maintain really strict boundaries with them, in ways I don’t have to with my other coworkers, because my time, attention, and sanity would be overrun quickly.

      1. nutella fitzgerald*

        If it makes you feel better, I don’t think this actually exists outside works of fiction. I have friends with traits that could fall under this umbrella (has a three-legged cat/dyes her own yarn, but only shades of red/wears hair in pigtails) but if I had to describe them to other people, I would talk about them being kind, caring, positive, intelligent, or funny before thinking to mention quirky awkwardness.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Seconding that it works better in fiction, where the reaction to the awkward is scripted to be cute and quirky. Awkward behavior is FAR more likely to land as cute and quirky when it comes from people you know intimately and care about. It’s how you describe your young niece, not the new person in Payroll.

          (I also say this re zingers–they land far better in a fictional scenario where you get to script other people’s reactions. Real life efforts are more likely to come across like Michael on the Good Place: “That was devastating. You’re devastated right now.”)

      2. Changing it up*

        Reading your letter and all of the other comments, you just remind me so much of me in my twenties! Can I gently recommend therapy? In my case I had eating disorders on top of everything you mention (though I should say I’ve never been diagnosed – I just recognize myself in what my friends with the diagnoses write about). Even down to the seeking unavailable men (because truly, men in your work are much, much less available than any other men you encounter, and that goes even more for your boss).

        It’s hard to get a good sense of yourself through all the noise you clearly are experiencing, and that’s what you really need to do before you can connect on a real level with someone else. Not have fun conversations, but find someone who wants to be emotionally connected to you. And I know you likely think it’s because you’re not attractive enough, because if you were attractive enough the men would overcome whatever other obstacles you may have… but that’s not a useful line of thinking, and it’s not even true. If the lives of models and Hollywood stars show anything it’s that being attractive does not necessarily result in good relationships. Despite what reddit will have you think, men are real people. Like you. They are all different, they are looking for different things based on their own complicated internal lives, they don’t have everything figured out, and they want emotional connection.

        The only thing you’ll likely need in order to find a relationship is to make yourself truly open to one (and all its associated risks), and stop seeing your interactions with men as judgments on your worth as a person. I’m sorry if I’m completely off-base here, but I just wanted to reach out through the screen and give you a hug. You are worthy.

      3. cheeky*

        The kind of people who are “cute quirky awkward” are just like that, inherently. It’s not something you should aim for as an affectation. Your best bet for making friends and attracting a potential partner is to be authentic, not to try to mold yourself to some idea of what’s attractive.

      4. Beth*

        Is this really what you hold as a goal for yourself, or do you think that ‘awkward’ is unavoidable and ‘cute, quirky’ is the best way to defuse it a bit?

        Awkwardness is unavoidable in that we’re all awkward sometimes, but awkwardness as a core part of your identity definitely isn’t something you just have to accept. Focus on the traits you really want to embody (earnest? Loyal? Good listener? Go-to trivia team member?) and let awkward moments just be moments that happened and then ended.

  20. YoungTen*

    Just by reading your post, I don’t think you were as subtle as you thought you were. Like everyone here has said, find interest outside of work. And a quick tip for work conversations. Take a few days to really listen to the subjects that the other workers talk about and see if you can go back and learn a bit about them. For example, do they talk about a particular tv show, a type of food they like or maybe current events? Go back, study them a bit and next time that topic comes up, you’ll have something to add. As for your boss, He is doing exactly what he needs to do. Being in charge can be particularly challenging and the last thing a good boss wants to murky the waters by crossing boundaries. If you ever find yourself in a leadership position, you’ll quickly realize why boundaries in that type of setting are important

    1. Anonymeece*

      Or ask questions! It’s okay to not know stuff – if they like a TV show you don’t watch, ask them what they like about it. People love to talk about their favorite TV shows and get other people hooked.

      I used to veer more into the “study everything I can about a topic to find something to say”, but that usually backfired and made me seem weird and like a know-it-all. Just ask questions to express interests.

      (Though, yes, not with your boss. This is advice for having conversations socially with coworkers).

  21. WorkIsADarkComedy*

    OP, your work situation, with its extensive alone time, poses a number of challenges for meeting people, both as friends and romantically. As someone who also feels insecure among my peers, I suggest engaging in an environment that plays to your skills and preferences.

    Do you have an activity, a cause, or a passion that energizes you? There are always groups somewhere of like-minded people. Many folks are willing to go way out of their comfort zone in the right context. Plus you have something that can enable you to instantly bond with others: that’s why they’re there.

    Good luck!

  22. BRR*

    There’s some great advice here that I hope helps. My addition is that I think you should try and separate personal and professional. This hits close to home, I’m shy and introverted but also do like some conversation. What I’ve realized for myself is that I shouldn’t lean to heavily on getting my socializing from work because that’s not what work is for. It sounds like because you’re hoping to get a lot of your socialization from work, it’s bled into feeling personal when it’s not.

    Now making friends as an adult isn’t easy. But I think trying to fulfill your conversational needs from non-coworkers will help make things feel less personal.

      1. valentine*

        why should he be flattered that you are asking work questions?
        I think OP has adapted your standard, terrible, “Ask him questions so he feels smart” advice and thinks everyone’s playing by these rules, so lack of flattery equals rejection. And maybe he smiles or laughs when the PR person asks him questions, so OP sees attraction or flirting instead of collegiality, or mere civility.

        1. wittyrepartee*

          Yeah. It’s a disingenuous way to interact with people in general. It also has a very… middle school feel to it? I get it though, when you have a crush you want to talk to the person. Questions are an easy way to talk to someone… Still, in both work and dating it’s better to ask questions only if you’re actually interested in the answers.

        2. solitarywalker*

          Yep, valentine, you’re right on all those points. Ugh. (Except the work questions were genuine, if occasionally annoying.)

    1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      Not helpful! If this was obvious to OP, they wouldn’t be asking these questions

  23. Beth*

    OP, sincere sympathies that you’re feeling left out and rejected–that always sucks.

    But I think a big part of the problem is that you’re looking for things in places where you’re straight-up never going to find them. More specifically, it sounds like you’re treating work as your primary social sphere, without recognizing that work is fundamentally different from hanging out with friends.

    The crush on your manager thing is the most obvious point on this. Getting a crush is fine–feelings happen, it’s not exactly something we choose! But there is absolutely no circumstance where your manager can have a romantic relationship with you, or even flirt, or allow you to think that there’s room for you to flirt. It has nothing to do with how many interests you have in common, how inspiring your conversations are, or how attractive you may be; simply being your manager means that it’s straight-up off the table. It sounds like you didn’t realize that, since you thought there was room for you to make a move, so I want to make it really clear that this isn’t personal. If he got any whiff that you were interested, his ONLY option as a good manager was to step back, reinforce boundaries, and make it clear that your relationship has to stay professional and not personal. It sounds like he’s a good manager doing exactly what he should be doing. You should respond by staying strictly professional for a while; don’t ask questions you don’t need to ask, don’t make excuses to talk to him, just focus on doing your work to the best of your ability.

    More broadly, I’m concerned that you’re making yourself unhappy by getting most of your social stimulation from work. That’s really limiting, especially in a small company! Your supervisors can’t really be your friends for the same reason that your manager can’t be your boyfriend–not because they think you’re an annoying child, but because they’re your supervisors and there’s an inherent power differential there that precludes an equal friendship. You don’t have many other coworkers, and it sounds like there’s a language barrier in some cases that makes it hard to interact. It really sounds like you’re not going to get enough social interaction at work to keep you happy. And that’s very normal! Many people (most, even) have coworkers that they get along fine with, but don’t click with well enough to fill all their social needs. That’s why people have hobbies and friends outside work. I know you say you’re not that interested in meeting new people, but I think you might be happier in the end if you shift your social life so it’s structured around a non-work setting.

    1. Oh So Anon*

      +1. Being an introvert doesn’t mean that you don’t have social/relational needs, or that it’s not “normal” for them to go unmet by simply going to work every day and merely being around people. Introverted people are sometimes implicitly told or expected to not GAF about social needs, which hurts our ability to get to know ourselves and others better over the long run.

      Introverts – especially those who are living alone or don’t have family close by – probably do need to be intentional about developing a support network; this might be a bit different for introverted people who have partners or children who can provide a conduit to a broader community if needed.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        Agree. I’m single and work from home. I do rely on my friends for daily interactions. Sometimes it’s just texts but I also ask for phone calls with them or get together when I need it. I do think I am an introvert, but my life (single work from home) means that I need to consciously seek social interaction when I need it.

        I have a few close friends and less close friends and acquaintances I know through on teams or in groups. I get that close, intimate friendship from my close friends. I honestly don’t have the time and energy for more than a few intimately close friends. I don’t seek that at work, though.

        In my past, I did get most of my social interaction from work and on the weekends I felt like I spoke with no one except a cashier at the store. It worked okay for me. But I didn’t remain close with any of those work “friends.” I at least kept the boundary that we talked about work and rather superficial topics. They didn’t know the real me and I didn’t share deeply personal details. You should keep relationships at work even your interest at a fairly superficial level. I’m not saying it is impossible for people to meet a dear friend through work, but if they do I do hope that development of that deep friendship takes place outside of work and not in the office.

      2. Talking is hard*

        +1. I also can struggle to want to talk to anyone outside of work, even though I enjoy good conversation. But keeping your social life centered around work just magnifies the importance of work interpersonal relationships in a way that can get disproportional. If your circle is wider, then it’s harder to feel like you don’t have any options for partners, conversations, connections, etc., and a wider circle also makes any less-than-ideal work stuff feel less like a big deal because it’s only one part of your life. Like many others, I’d suggest getting involved in something else. To keep it from burning you out, you could look at something that happens regularly but maybe only once a month, or something where how much you socialize can vary.
        (Something like a choir comes to mind–in my experience, you can chat and make friends, or you can just show up to rehearsal, sing, and leave with nothing more than politeness, and you can vary how much of either you do based on your energy for it that day. It’s structured so you don’t have to put the energy into structuring your own time like you would at say, a party or networking event.)

  24. Rainbow Roses*

    He acted as he should by pulling back. I would be side-eyeing any other reaction.
    I can understand wanting a connection but the boss is not the way to go. No good comes from it.

    Perhaps you can go to the library and ask about groups that have the same interests as you. Maybe they even have a music club.

    1. MistOrMister*

      For some reason when I read music club I pictured a group,of adults getting together to play the recorder and thought that was an oddly specific suggestion. And then I realized you didn’t mean that at all. Ha!!

        1. MistOrMister*

          I am not generally a group activity person but I would sign up for that kind of club in a hot second!!

            1. MistOrMister*

              I had to google a melodica and the pictures did not disappoint! I think that is the instrument I have been missing my entire life without knowing it. I would definitely be down for a melodica session.

              How awesome would it be if you could find obscure instrument classes easily?

  25. Drew*

    I was the supervisor in a situation where my immediate report developed a very obvious crush on me. Unfortunately, we shared an office (DID NOT WANT) and so instead of respecting the boundaries I was trying to set, they let the crush grow until it was substantially affecting our interactions. A relatively mild redirection was seen, instead, as a horrible rejection, met with sulking and sullenness out of proportion and inappropriate to the tone of the correction.

    In the end, they changed departments before I had to start termination procedures. I had thought that would be the end of it. Instead, they doubled down because now that I wasn’t their supervisor, obviously romance could follow, right? It did not. Things went pear-shaped, astoundingly quick, and ultimately the employee decided to find a new job rather than deal with the cruel, heartless person who kept poisoning the well against them. (That would be me—and yes, this was all told to me as part of the exit interview.)

    I wish I had been more direct as soon as I realized that this employee was becoming inappropriately fixated, rather than simply friendly. I don’t know that it would have salvaged the working relationship but it certainly couldn’t have been worse than what happened.

    (Caveat: this is a one-sided account and I’m sure my former employee has their own side. But this is my perspective as their supervisor.)

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      I think you handled that as well as you could have and shutting it down sooner would have had the same result, sadly. Some people really don’t understand boundaries and take everything as a personal insult.

  26. Mistresstina*

    I have a mild concern that the OP is conflating some normal work reactions with personal rejection.

    If you repeatedly ask your manager or colleague questions you should already know the answer to they will eventually react negatively. This is a work reaction. It has nothing to do with your desirability romantically.

    Having a few good conversations with someone does not make them an appropriate subject for a crush. Of course it still happens that we get crushes on inappropriate people but you have to take responsibility for that and manage your feelings

    If you are not already – consider working on some of these feelings in therapy. I’m an introverted person and I know that I need support navigating some interpersonal interactions. Therapy could also help you sort out social cues – which ones are personal and which ones are not.

    1. valentine*

      Having a few good conversations with someone does not make them an appropriate subject for a crush.
      This can be a tough lesson to learn, especially if you weren’t raised to see people as temporary or to make a ton of friends, versus one (1) bosom friend, much less how to date, versus waiting around for one (1) guy to magically choose and marry you.

      1. Parenthetically*

        Ohhh boy, yup, recovering Romantic here — I was Anne of Green Gables and all I wanted in life was to find my Diana and my Gilbert. 99.99% of humans do not have those experiences.

    2. EventPlannerGal*

      “Having a few good conversations with someone does not make them an appropriate subject for a crush.”

      This. I wonder if the OP has internalised some rom-com-esque ideas about male/female interaction, where some shared interests and workplace banter are the inevitable setup to a romance, and where men are ‘up for it’ all the time and therefore rejection means there must be something terribly wrong with her. I don’t know what practical ways there are to move past that sort of understanding of relationships, but it strikes me as sort of naive and perhaps speaking to limited experience.

  27. LGC*

    Oh my sweet FSM LW. I feel you. Like, I’ve been in your boss’s position (and…okay, fine, I’ve had work inappropriate thoughts about coworkers) before and…like, I know you don’t mean to be awkward but it just inherently IS. I’m so sorry!

    I’m also on the spectrum and a bit awkward (yes, gents, I’m single AND a catch), so I can kind of see this as…you’re in a good situation for you and your feelings might be getting a bit crossed? Like, you really like your job. It’s a social outlet for you. It’s one of the relatively few you have. So I can definitely see you developing a crush because everything and everyone is so good to you. It happens. (I mean, it’s happened to me.) So just know that you are NOT the first person this has happened to, and you won’t be the last.

  28. Observer*

    It sounds like you are in a difficult place. A few things jumped at me.

    It sounds to me like you could use some coaching – social, but actually more workplace. As Alison and so many commenters pointed out, your supervisor is totally not someone who you should have seen as romantically available. You are seeing the rejection as a commentary on your attractiveness and worthiness, but it really has nothing to do with that. Some coaching might help you navigate these situations a bit better – give a bit more knowledge. A lot of people do not just “pick it up” and if it’s making your life difficult, as this seems to be doing, getting some explicit instruction can be a smart move.

    Also, it sounds like there may be more that introversion going on here. What you are describing sounds like there might be something like anxiety, shyness, self-doubt or something else going here, because introverts who want social interaction generally are not so resistant to meeting new people that they have to limit themselves to interacting with the people they are forced into contact with by virtue of their work. Which is to say that if you dig into that a bit you might find that your horizons open a bit and you get to find your comfortable level of social interaction without having to lean so heavily on the limited options provided by your work.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      OP said she’s autistic, so that’s probably where 99% of this is coming from – her diagnoses has made it difficult to accurately read and interpret social cues.

      1. Observer*

        That’s why I suggested some sort of coaching (or therapy). People on the spectrum tend to need to be taught these things explicitly. But, the thing is that this is not unique to people on the spectrum. So even if the OP can’t access someone who specializes in ASD, they should be able to find someone who can help them with the social cues. Social as in the non-verbal ways in which humans communicate, not “friend group”.

        I’d also guess that the ASD has a lot more to do with her not wanting to meet new people that she’s acknowledging. Like I said, this sounds like more than just introversion.

        1. LGC*

          I think…it depends? Probably one of the things I’ve heard most often in my support group is, “if you’ve met one person with Asperger’s, you’ve met one person with Asperger’s.”

          For what it’s worth, I’d probably pin the misreading of cues on her autism first and foremost. I was going to say that the introversion was less tied in…but it’s just less directly tied in, I think. If I had to guess, she’s just not great at reading boundaries, knows this about herself, and responds by withdrawing from situations she feels at risk. (Ask me how I know.)

          Ideally, she’d have a safe group setting to work this out in.

  29. Naomi*

    OP, what’s happening here is that you’re discovering the problems with expecting work to fill most of your social needs.
    Problem 1: You’re not going to click naturally with everyone, and in a small workplace, this can really limit your options.
    Problem 2: Even when you do get along with someone, professional boundaries outweigh having a social relationship.

    You’re probably going to have better luck looking outside of work for social connections. That gives you a much bigger pool of people to find friends/ romantic prospects, and you can increase the odds by looking for groups based on common interests (as opposed to at work, where there’s no guarantee that you and your coworkers have anything in common). And when you approach someone outside of work romantically, you won’t be endangering any professional relationships.

    But I also second the recommendations for therapy, because it sounds like you have some self-worth issues tied up in finding a romantic partner that are making you very unhappy.

  30. animaniactoo*

    OP, I understand that you don’t see/understand relationship interactions the way that most people do, for some very solid reasons there. However, for someone who is SO aware of that and the steps you have specifically taken – I am concerned about where you are getting your information about what is and isn’t appropriate and how to read those actions.

    The thing about asking him questions so that he could be flattered? It’s such a ploy. In the cutesy-but-dumb kind of way. Dumb, because if it works, one of the two people if not both in the scenario are pretty dumb. Either the person asking to not be retaining the information*, or the person answering not to see through it or to be okay with having an employee who is having that many issues and not doing something about it.

    I’m not sure if you weren’t aware of the boss-boundary line, or are seeing that as playing in your favor in a Sandra Bullock/Meg Ryan rom-com inspired setup. The thing about 90% of rom-coms is that they are NOT realistic… they’re just realistic enough to fantasize about… or enjoy… but not realistic enough to take as cues for navigating the world of work and/or relationships.

    In that context, I also wonder about your previous approaches and rejections, and am wondering who, if anyone, you are bouncing all of your stuff off of for perspective. If you don’t have anyone that you can trust to reliably give you a “real world perspective” of how it works, I would strongly urge you to take this into therapy for a consistent reliable opinion. Because while you may still struggle to understand why some of it works this way, you should have someone you trust be able to explain to you what DOES work this way and get you some more solid footing on how to interpret what the actions and reactions are likely to mean to others, and be able to navigate it better on your own with that information.

    *No offense meant here – some people struggle to retain information – but they consider that a problem and look for ways to resolve it so that their memory problem is not a problem for others. If they are otherwise intelligent people, in general, they do not just throw up their hands and act happy to be a cute ditz.

  31. RC Rascal*

    OP–there is some great advice here from the Commentariat. The only thing I have to add–even if your boss was available to you, these don’t have a happy ending. Years ago a friend of a friend started dating a former boss, after they no longer worked together. She was his secretary for several years, they got along great, he took a job elsewhere, and life went on. Several years later they ran into each other and began dating. The relationship was horrible. The boss/subordinate dynamic never went out of the relationship, because that’s the way it began.

  32. Zap R.*

    Your boss is totally in the right, OP.

    I think the issue here is that you’re desperately looking for some kind of external validation that you’re lovable and desirable. That’s not something your coworkers can or should provide. To quote Mama Ru, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”

    1. solitarywalker*

      I know I’ve got to work on loving myself, but… people with poor self-esteem find loving relationships all the time. (Someone I follow online has serious self-harm and other issues, and they have a long-term person who always holds them while they cry and tells them they’re beautiful.)

      1. Rainy*

        How people show up to the outside world and how they show up in their relationships are often not the same thing. From the outside it’s often impossible to tell what a couple/moreple are like together.

      2. Zap R.*

        You can absolutely find a loving relationship but if you expect your partner to be responsible for your self-esteem, it’s not going to last very long. Also, it’s extremely unfair to your partner. A loving partner doesn’t fix you or complete you; they augment what was already awesome about you.

      3. Oh So Anon*

        That’s correct, but one of the things that helps with that is having a slightly more robust support network in general.

        This is personal, but I’m someone whose had poor self-esteem and had loving relationships. In circumstances where my partner was only one of several people who were part of my broader social/support network, that was fine. When I was a lot more isolated and my partner was the only person I had to rely on for social interaction and emotional support…that makes a relationship crumble.

        A really important component of developing better emotional intelligence is understanding how much emotional labour you’re asking of someone else (both explicitly and implicitly), and recognizing that load management is really important for having positive interactions with people, including having a loving lasting relationship.

      4. Jules the 3rd*

        It happens, but it’s harder. My life and relationships got a *lot* better when I stopped looking for external validation and focused on ‘this is what I like, and it is good.’ Mid-20s, about 2 years before I met Mr. Jules, and my ability to be comfortable with myself has been a big factor in his continuing interest (and vice versa).

        Doesn’t have to be ‘I love everything about myself’ just a ‘I am comfortable with who I am; I’m working on flaws x and y, but I value a, b and c.’ (ie, I am clumsy but I don’t care; I talk too much and am trying to cut down on it [see: this thread = FAIL!], but I’m smart, occasionally amusing, I try to be kind, and I can geek with the worst of them…)

  33. CupcakeCounter*

    Just reiterating a few points:
    1. Your direct supervisor CANNOT be romantically involved with you
    2. That has nothing to do with your physical appearance, personality, interests
    3. You need to stop approaching him with questions of any kind that you already know the answers to or can find easily – as Alison said, that is a serious performance concern and you don’t want to risk your job for a crush.
    3A. This does not mean you can never ask work related questions or get clarification on important items; you just cannot go into his office to ask questions simply to be near him in hopes of getting your feelings reciprocated.
    4. Crushes suck and I really feel for you since it seemed that you could have developed a nice social outlet if those damn romanitcal feelings didn’t butt their way in.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      Yup. My own inappropriate crush feelings towards a coworker was a big factor in why I ultimately took a job someplace else. (But I didn’t really like that job or company, so in the end, it wasn’t that great of a loss. OP, on the other hand, would probably be upset to either lose or have to leave her job.)

  34. blink14*

    OP, I’m sorry this is so awkward for you! All of the above advice sounds great, and here’s my addition. I am also an introvert, but I do crave social interaction and have a small group of close friends, plus family. I think sometimes being an introvert can make one appear more intense, because an introvert tends to be quiet, but has strong opinions and passions.

    After I graduated from college and began looking for a full time job, I made a deliberate choice to keep my personal life separated from my work life. Of course there is some crossover, as you often see your co-workers more than friends or family, but when I am done with work for the day, work stays at work and I focus on my personal life and personal connections outside of work. Early on in my first full time job, I dated someone at the same workplace, and I don’t recommend it. Things ended badly, and that bled into my work atmosphere, and also made things very awkward between us (while we worked for the same company, we were often at different locations, and in the end, only a few people knew about the relationship). I’ve continued this delineation of work and personal through my career to my job now, and it works for me. I do not socialize outside of work with colleagues, except for the very occasional event, and all of my closest relationships are with people outside of work. This isn’t to say you can’t connect with people at work on things besides work, but its good to remember that work should not be your only venue for social connection. That severely limits your prospects for both friendship and dating.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      ditto – I have never dated at work, it’s just too much potential to go Really Bad.

  35. Buttons*

    Alison’s advice is perfect, I did want to add, that he is also doing the right thing by not answering all your questions, especially those he has answered before. You have been there long enough now he is expecting you to at least attempt to find the answers on your own. It feels like a double whammy because it happened right at the same time he started pulling back to reestablish boundaries.
    I know that for a lot of people on the spectrum by the time work is done they feel like they don’t have the capacity to socialize after work with people because it took so much out of them during the day. But work can’t and shouldn’t be your only social outlet.
    You might try looking into meet-ups for people on the spectrum. I have a friend who is on the spectrum and she has a group of women she gets together with to knit and crochet. The social anxiety my friend normally has when getting together with a group of people isn’t there, because all the women in the group are on the spectrum. It allows her to socialize, but also in a way that isn’t too taxing or anxiety-inducing. It has also really helped be able to relax socially when she is with other people. She explained that she felt less need and pressure to make a social connection because she is getting a safe and easier social interaction on a regular basis.
    Good luck!

  36. samecoin*

    Hi all, can we lay off the harsh criticism of OP for 1 second? speaking as someone with a process disorder ( OP mention’s a diagnosis of autism) it can be really difficult to navigate “Normal” social situations, and this is no exception. it seems to me OP sort of realizes this and looking for someone to validate her actions, which Alison refused to do so, appropriately. However that being said, it sounds like the OP is going through a tough time, and maybe the commentariat can be a source of compassion instead a buck of F*** Yous and I Told You So’s.

    1. Amber Rose*

      I’ve read all 103 comments (as of this posting) and have seen exactly one post and one reply that could be considered harsh.

      1. Whyblue*

        I was just going to say that I loved reading the comments on this one. So many compassionate and thoughtful responses to a tricky and very personal letter!

    2. Seifer*

      Where are you reading that? Everyone’s comments have been pretty compassionate. Just because no one is tripping over themselves with making OP feel better doesn’t mean that it’s not compassionate.

    3. Saraphina*

      Also read every comment, there was exactly one rude one, and every other comment was compassionate and understanding…

    4. Oh So Anon*

      Explaining to someone how to navigate social situations in light of the challenges that their process disorder presents isn’t lacking in compassion. It’s what people need to to put difficult times behind them and move forward.

      1. samecoin*

        with my processing disorder neurotypical explanations of situations don’t always come through in the way they were intended, which is not the explainer’s fault ( i understand) but it does not make it any easier to navigate situation and causes an overwhelming amount of unfamiliar information to further bog down my systems.

        1. Oh So Anon*

          I get it. That said, providing less unfamiliar information isn’t in and of itself a kindness to anyone, is it? To the extent that someone has help and guidance to break down these explanations in a way that will work for them and their brain wiring, these comments can be helpful. This kind of information isn’t cruel in and of itself, regardless of whether it is difficult for the OP to initially read and interpret; holding it back would do nothing more than cut off opportunities for their social learning.

          Also, lots of folks weighing in here aren’t neurotypical, and some of the most robust answers have been from commenters who openly disclose their neurodiversity.

        2. animaniactoo*

          okay, so how do you normally handle it when a lot of unfamiliar information bogs down your system?

          is there a reason the OP here cannot do the same for themselves (for however they do it)?

          1. animaniactoo*

            also, if i am interpreting you correctly, you are seeing the kind and number of “i would never think to do that” and “no, OP, strictly off limits” comments as the “FU” and “I told you so’s”?

            if correct, i interpret those as amazement and concern for the op. both for the lack of understanding and the very negative interpretation that the OP has taken as a result of the rebuff, and a desire to reassure OP how unrelated the two are. while possibly painful, frustrating, and embarrassing to wade through (for having stumbled over that damn block again) i would think that it could ultimately be useful for the OP in seeing and understanding how serious a boundary this is, even if s/he still struggles to understand the why.

        3. Observer*

          I hear that. But that does not in any way mean that people are being harsh. And as difficult as this would be for you, if you are being honest and clear about your issues, there is no way to to really read the things that people are saying as “FU” and “told you so.”

        4. biobotb*

          So what do you want people to do? Not provide you any information because it might be unfamiliar to you? The OP can always decide to limit her intake of unfamiliar information coming from the commenters by not reading the comments. That choice is totally available to her.

          And who was saying f*** you to the OP? Or “I told you so”? (And how could they, no one has told the OP anything before because we don’t know her.) It seems like you’re projecting a lot of your own feelings onto comments that don’t warrant it.

    5. AnonAMouse*

      This is a pretty unfair categorization of the comments here. The commentariats seem very sympathetic to OP while offering her some much needed perspective. Being honest does not equal being harsh. In my much younger years (think college) I was a lot like OP and I wish I had the wisdom of coming across people like the commenters here because it would’ve saved me years of heartache and insecurity.

      As for OP, you seem to equate social interactions w your worth as well as being too singularly focused on work being the focal point of your socialization. Your boss cannot and should not be the object of your affections because of professional norms and boundaries. But beyond that, just because someone is nice or have a common interest doesn’t make them a good romantic prospect. I agree that therapy is the best way to resolve these things now rather than have them hamper you later on. Best of luck!

    6. Aurion*

      I’m willing to put money that several of us are advising OP with the wisdom of regrettable experience. I know I am. (I wasn’t even looking for romantic interest, just some emotional validation, but it was still 10000% inappropriate for the situation, and I definitely Made It Weird.)

      OP is behaving inappropriately, or having wishful thoughts in that direction; explaining why it’s not appropriate is not telling the OP “F you”.

    7. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I haven’t seen any comments I’d characterize that way but would want to intervene if I did. Could you flag for me what you’re seeing so I can take a look?

    8. solitarywalker*

      Hi, LW here. I’m actually finding the vast majority of the comments (including some tough-love ones) very helpful. A lot of them are things I sort of already knew, but needed to hear from other people – with empathy, but without sugarcoating. I’m really seeing how much of my social skills, and self-esteem, still need work.

  37. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    Hi OP. I’m sorry you’re having such a hard time.

    I have ADHD (diagnosed) and a family history of Asperger’s (or whatever we call it now) – I’m also socially awkward but far less than I used to be.

    Just the other day I was reading about something called “rejection sensitive dysphoria”. It’s quite common in people with ADHD and basically, “some of us are more hypersensitive to the possibility of rejection than others, and perceive that we are being rejected far more often than we actually are” (according to one of the psychology web sites).

    This really resonated with me… I used to (randomly) feel that close friends didn’t really like me, put up with me because they were nice people and it would be awkward to cut me off. I’ve learnt to recognise that feeling as something that is *only inside me head* and has nothing to do with how those people feel about me.

    I also used to get a crush on almost anyone who was pleasant to me and vaguely attractive. Some awkward situations arose.

    I think that both of these things resulted from an intense focus on other people, an (unconscious) desire for approval and the assumption that they were somehow “better” or that their opinions counted an enormous amount, more than my own. That mindset also creates a neediness that makes others uncomfortable.

    Happily with much introspection I’ve learnt to recognise many of my own thought patterns and triggers, and have trained myself out of a lot of that destructive behaviour.

    Having some firm boundaries in place, like making romantic relationships out of bounds at work, definitely helped because I didn’t need to think each situation through. It greatly simplified my life and made it easier to avoid career limiting mistakes.

    Creating opportunities for low stress social interaction is also a really good idea. An activity like hiking or crafting or volunteering, which gives you ready-made conversation, is perfect. It also means the primary focus is the activity so you can talk as little or as much as you want. Look for something that makes you feel at peace with yourself, where you genuinely stop noticing what other people are doing. For that was pottery :)

    Not sure whether any of this will be of any use to you! Good luck!

    1. Oh So Anon*

      +1. I know a couple of folks with diagnosed ADHD who are, for lack of a better explanation, so ashamed about engaging with their diagnosis that they’ve never really learned how the executive function stuff interacts with parts of their lives other than getting stuff done on time. It sucks to watch them struggle so much with self-hatred and dramatic misreading of pretty benign social situations.

      The people I know who’ve gone beyond getting their Ritalin scrip refilled in shame ever so often and either read self-help stuff or worked with a therapist who understands ADHD seem to have a much better mental model of how the disorder affects their lives, and how to mitigate its effects.

    2. Thrown into the fire new manager*

      Just came to say thank you for this… the rejection dysphoria. I didn’t know it existed and our son seems to fit it

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        My son, too. I feel so badly for him– he interprets the tiniest correction as a complete referendum of his worth as a human being! He’s in therapy, supposedly doing the workbooks, but I suspect even the workbooks feel like some kind of shaming devices. Nobody likes rejection or embarassment, but his reaction to it has always been SUPER over-the-top. I wish I could magic it away, but it will be a long, long process.

    3. Anonymeece*

      Oh. Oh, hey. I did not know this. I’ve been diagnosed with ADHD, among others, and I never knew this. This…explains a lot. I used to think my own brother secretly hated me, but I just figured it was my own whatever.

      Thank you for an insightful comment! I like your suggestions, and I learned something!

    4. it's me*

      I’ve read about this before and think I might have it too; although I’m not clear on what exactly it has to do with ADHD, I can certainly tie it to my perfectionsm, which I also tie to “gifted child syndrome,” so maybe the connection is there.

  38. PolarVortex*

    OP: I’m sorry, this is rough to go through, particularly when you are someone who struggles with social situations. I very much have been in your shoes when it comes to “failing” at human interactions. A lot of people are already making some good points about self esteem and the Big Issues surrounding supervisors and subordinates have about relationships.

    I just want to say this: You deserve to find people who you connect with, who you have platonic and non-platonic relationships. Mark down work as a place that’s always going to be platonic – as the old saying goes: don’t s*** where you sleep. I drew this line in the sand long ago, just so I wouldn’t have these issues with any coworkers I have, senior or junior to me. What that has meant is I have a workplace with a lot of great, fantastic work friends, some of whom have become non-work friends.

    But you have the right to find someone to love and to be loved by. And while as an introvert, work is a great way to get in social interactions, you’ll need to find a secondary place to find romantic possibilities. You like certain things, find places where you can flourish with that. There are meet ups all over that require all us introverts to ovary up and walk into the room, but they’re full of people like us. Join any of those fun activities: board game meet ups, guild meet ups, pick up game meet ups. Or look for community activities like Habitat for Humanity or Humane Society or local community organizations. Or really any passion project: volunteer at a museum, at a garden, at anywhere.

    But I will end this with the PSA of: love is grand, and wonderful, but always make sure you can stand alone on your own two feet, well grounded in reality first. Sometimes people who yearn to be loved find a Disney Fairy Tale romance, not recognizing everything that lurks beneath it that’s covered up by Happily Ever After and the dark origin stories.

    Best of luck to you.

  39. Dust Bunny*

    From another Aspie who has made more social missteps than she cares to recall: Work needs to not be your only social outlet. You can connect with who you want to connect with . . . but at work, this can only go so far. That’s just how it goes. If it helps you take it less personally, remember that no matter what your manager thinks of you personally, he can only indulge in so much–that is, very little–social closeness at work.

    I get along great with my immediate coworkers and my supervisor is like working with my favorite uncle, except a lot less nutty and far easier to get along with than any of my actual uncles. But he’s still my supervisor and there still need to be firm limits on how much non-work energy we spend on each other.

    So, appreciate that you get on well with this person but don’t expect it to turn personal, and start looking for other social outlets that aren’t related to your workplace.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      And I know it’s exhausting to try to maintain multiple sources of people, but you gotta figure out how to do it. Combining work and socializing seems more efficient but it’s not because they can’t, and shouldn’t, fulfill the same needs. Which is not to say you can’t find real friends at work, but it shouldn’t be your first place to look for them. But that’s another reason to set hard limits with coworkers–so you have more spoons to spend on non-coworkers.

      I am facepalming so hard on behalf of myself and all the things I did when I didn’t know better.

      1. Turtle Candle*

        Yes, and mixing social with work is inherently more fraught, and riskier, because you’re crossing two important streams: the connection and interaction and human friendliness that you need to be happy (however small or large it might be), and the work that you need to feed yourself and keep a roof over your head (and, ideally, feel challenged/accomplished/satisfied). If you’re not super extra confident at social skills, that means that you can’t really risk much of the ‘try and fail’ inherent in finding a place with people you connect to, because every attempt also has the potential to impact your work, i.e., your getting a paycheck.

        It’s more convenient to get friends at work, because they’re, you know, there all day, and interactions are inherently brief because you all do have jobs to do. But it’s not socialization: easy mode. It’s hard mode.

  40. Xanna*

    I’ve been there re. the overwhelming loneliness and pathologically low self esteem – something I’ve noticed is it’s so easy to start casting everyone in your immediate social ecosystem into these unfulfilled roles in your life – a nice coworker who also likes reading the astrology column in the break room newspaper suddenly feels like the best friend you’ve always wanted, and every vaguely attractive new hire becomes a high stakes romantic prospect, your mediocre manager takes on this incredibly make it or break it life mentor/long lost parent figure role. I’ve definitely left jobs and looked back months later wondering what I was thinking when the social environment seemed so all important in the moment but when these are the only people you’re having meaningful interactions with over the course of your days – it makes total sense, even though rationally it’s pretty detrimental to your long term happiness. I think we’re all looking for community, and the workplace can feel like very convenient proxy for the village/family/sitcom cast you’re subconsciously hungry for.

    It’s great you love your job but maybe cutting back the amount of importance you give it in the scheme of your whole life could be helpful, at least for a trial run? Reframing to be able to do your job, do it super well, then wave goodbye at the end of the day can feel liberating, and give you the headspace to start curating a social ecosystem (online counts if that feels less overwhelming and still rewarding for you!) that fulfill what you’re looking for, be it partners in intellectual banter, a concert going/music listening buddy, or romantic affection. Once you can stop looking for ~everything relationship fulfillment wise from the people you work with – it can get easier to just appreciate them for the role they do fill in your life as helpful coworkers it’s pleasant to work with.

    All the support to you, things will get better, and now isn’t forever. Also +100000 to others suggestions for looking into help for self esteem, be it professional or self help. I used to think everyone felt like this, but after realizing feeling fundamentally undeserving of and incapable of being liked/loved/wanted isn’t the default, I was able to start slowly addressing it, and I can honestly say my life has gotten so much better even from this time last year.

  41. I'd Rather Not Say*

    Please trust Alison’s advice OP, this is not personal to you, this is your boss behaving appropriately and professionally.

    As to how to socialize outside of work, have you considered taking a class, maybe at a local community college. Maybe something non-work related, where there might be some group projects? Evening classes will mostly be adults, and this will be a fixed amount of time (8 to 16 weeks). As an aside, our community college has an autism social/support group, so you may want to see if any schools near you do, too.

    Also, are there any meet-up groups in your area of interest to you? I realize this might be a challenge as an introvert, but maybe, as others have suggested, do this along with some therapy or coaching.

    Finally, what about volunteering? Do you like animals? The arts? Maybe help at a senior center? It would give you a chance to work on your social skills in a low-stakes environment.

    Good luck to you OP!

  42. She's One Crazy Diamond*

    Person with ADHD, BPD, GAD, MDD, PTSD, and panic disorder with experience with inappropriate workplace relationships here. I understand from experience that just knowing your crush is inappropriate won’t make it go away, and in some cases can make it stronger (not sure about you, but before I got married and went to therapy, I got off on “forbidden” desires). So here’s what did work in the short term for me. When you have a crush, you naturally hyperfocus on their positive traits and ignore their negative traits, so make a conscious effort to notice things about them that aren’t attractive. I don’t know you or your crush, but some examples from my personal life that I had to consciously remind myself of in the throes of infatuation: he hunted for sport and I’m passionate about animal rights, he went to the bars every night and clearly didn’t prioritize saving money for his future, he showed up late to everything and didn’t respect other people’s time. If that doesn’t work, you might truly be in love, but the odds are pretty low that’s the case.

    In the long term: therapy helps a lot. If you truly have ADHD, you have a dopamine and/or norepinephrine imbalance which can be helped with medication. Even if you don’t have a chemical imbalance, a professional can help you talk things out and develop healthy habits. Also, actively date other people. Lots of people meet their long-term partners on dating apps or websites. Or ask your friends to introduce you to people they know. The more dating you do and the more options you realize you have, the harder it is to be focused on one person who’s not right for you.

    1. Sal*

      Yesss the Carolyn Hax approach to killing a crush dead. Think of them burping/using the toilet/being unappealing, deliberately; add in any other specific-to-you negatives you can think of. Repeat.

    2. Grapey*

      I got over a crush by always imagining the grossest guy possible and associating it with him.

      Mind goes to how nice it would be to make out with him? Oh gross, his face just got replaced with my coworker that farts loudly and sneezes without covering his face.

  43. RUKiddingMe*

    Oh OP I feel for you I really do I spent way more than my fair share of years feeling rejected and embarrassed. The thing is your manager is doing what he should do and it doesn’t mean you are ugly or unattractive or any other thing. It means he is acting professionally.

    I wanted to touch on “but I also want to connect with the people I want to connect with.” We all want to connect with the people that we want to connect with, but this does not obligate anyone to reciprocate just because it’s what we want. That is to say that you can control only you, not others’ or others’ actions/reactions/general behavior.

    I think you definitely would benefit from talking to a professional, sooner rather than later. Maybe it’s possible that when you show an interest in people that you show an interest to the point that “no guy I’ve ever shown interest in has wanted me back.?” Are you coming off as overly enthusiastic, forceful, etc.? Even if I want a manager anyone who came at me that way would get shut down as I backed as far away as possible. These are things you could discuss with a therapist…what is the common denominator?

    Good luck OP. Get some counseling, work on your self-esteem and expectations, and realize that your manager’s behavior is more likely professional than personal.

  44. Quill*

    Many Jedi hugs, OP. Finding humans to be social with is hard, especially when you aren’t sure where to meet them besides school or work, or places where repeat interactions are guaranteed. And the fact that your supervisor is handling this professionally isn’t going to make the sensitivity towards any form of social rejection sting any less, especially if you, like many ND people, have a history of social rejection.

    That said, you need at least one non work person. They don’t have to be a date, (in fact it’s generally healthier for your go-to person, if you’re only going to have one, to NOT be a date, but a trusted friend instead,) but they do have to be someone you can bond with over things that are not work.

    A class, a club, or picking up an old special interest and finding an internet community for it would do a lot to keep work from being your only social outlet: Also therapy for the validation of “here are the steps for making a plan for how to deal professionally with people, no, people might just be busy instead of actively not liking you,” and all the associated brainweasels that come with constant social rejection.

    Also I’d recommend browsing Ask A Manager for advice on what *kind* of questions you can ask your boss that won’t undermine your credibility – “hey, I was wondering why we do the teapot accounts alphabetically instead of quarter by quarter,” versus “Where do we keep the recipts for the teapot accounts? I know you told me last week, but still” can go a long way towards letting things go from everything being awkward to everything being professional, as well as potentially transforming your situation with your boss into more of a mentorship role (which might help smother the crush. Might.)

  45. Autistic anon*

    I’m autistic. Workplace relationships (of any kind, platonic or otherwise) are SUPER challenging for me. As someone said above, they’re up there on the difficulty scale.

    So I manage that risk by having really firm boundaries. I am friendly with my coworkers. I have superficial social interactions with them. I have a firm list of topics I do not discuss, and I am not friends with any of them on social media. I will connect on LinkedIn, but only if I get a request sent to me – I don’t send them. And never in a million years would I consider a romantic relationship.

    This all keeps my job safe! Which keeps me safe.

  46. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    You’ve had a lot of good advice here and I just want to jump in on the emotional support side.

    I’m not on the spectrum nor do I have anything other than extra high social anxiety thanks to being raised around poorly raised children [read they were bullies that learned it from their bullying, snobby parents.]

    You are not going to be rejected by everyone. You will find someone who is your person. It’s hard to learn where to look for these connections and it’s harder to form them when you’re really focused a lot on your career and just getting by happily in your work space. I didn’t actually date until I was 30 due to an internal fear of romantic partnership. I even went so far as to think I was broken and couldn’t figure out about my sexuality since I sure didn’t fit anyone’s mold that’s out there. I found my person a month before my 31st birthday and it’s been a game changer for my life.

    You are you going to be okay and I’m sorry that this hurts so much. I hope that the advice from Alison and the support from the commenters will help you through this situation you’re dealing with. xox

  47. Kat*

    You seem to think your boss should be flattered that you keep asking him questions. But that not something people usually are flattered about. And, in this case, you’re interrupting his work to ask questions he has already answered, which is annoying. It also makes you look like you’re not paying attention.

    I suggest you stop with these attempts to interact with your boss in any way except a professional capacity.

    1. Marley*

      I think a better way to approach this (rather than by chiding the OP) is to suggest a solution.

      To the OP: You need to carry around one of those small notebooks at work and take important notes you can refer to later so you don’t need to ask the same questions over and over. Managers do expect employees to figure out answers on their own after a certain amount of time on the job. Otherwise it turns into micromanaging.

      1. Kat*

        I wasn’t “chiding” the OP. I was pointing out that bosses aren’t usually “flattered” to be asked the same questions repeatedly. Since the OP has trouble reading social cues and understanding why people are not reacting to his/her overtures the way he/she expected, I believe my explanation to be helpful.

        And I did suggest a solution. I think a better way to approach my comment would be if you didn’t chide me for it.

      2. solitarywalker*

        LW here. My mom suggested the notebook thing as well. I have scratch paper at my workspace, so I can jot down notes, which I’ve been doing more of lately (they really help!).

  48. Astra Nomical*

    Shoutout to Alison for being understanding of this person’s personal dilemma and responding in a way that subtly addresses the social aspects of autism, and how they can cause issues in the workplace.
    I read your blog daily but have never commented until now because I don’t live in the US and so the laws/terms/expectations can be different – FMLA and tipping spring to mind.
    I am really, really impressed with your thoughtful response and just wanted to thank you for being kind and considerate when explaining professional relationships.

    1. Barefoot Librarian*

      I second this. Alison frequently impresses me with her kindness and understanding. :)

  49. lilsheba*

    I’d like to know where to get the kind of job where I could just work by myself, in my own corner, with no customer contact. I’m introverted and autistic too and my job in a call center is killing me. I hate it.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Not ‘no contact’ at all but accounting is limited customer interaction if you’re into numbers.

      I only have to talk to people when they owe us money and 99% of my collections are done via email nowadays.

      You could also look for production/auditing positions, where you’re dealing with product and paperwork more than people for the most part. I can’t think of anything without interaction but I can tell you a ton of things that aren’t the hell that is customer service/call centers.

    2. Marley*

      Some computer programming/engineering is just office work with less interaction with people (other than coworkers). I can’t tell you types though. Best to be good at math if you look into this one.

    3. MistOrMister*

      A docketing position at a law firm generally is going to be pretty “left alone on your own corner” and there always seem to be tons of open positions so it’s easy to find an entry level one.

    4. Dust Bunny*

      I’m an archives assistant and it’s not no-contact, but there isn’t a whole lot of patron contact. It’s a lot of time spent organizing stuff and doing finding aids. And a lot of the patron contact is by email, which I prefer.

    5. Jules the 3rd*

      Been there done that, you have my deepest sympathy…

      If you don’t have the training / math aptitude for accounting / computer programming, consider looking for a call center that’s not direct to the public. State and local governments often have local support, it’s easier and better paid. You usually need to know a wider selection of support topics (eg, software & hardware & connectivity), but the ‘not random members of the public’ is a huge improvement.

      Also, database or server administrator is a *very* low contact position, and you can usually get certified within a year at a local community college or online. Don’t do an open-ended program and avoid the for-profit colleges; community colleges are cheaper and usually have great job centers. My local cc has on-line lists of ‘Take x classes to get y certification’ that spell everything out for you.

    6. SarahTheEntwife*

      Maybe something in the data-entry direction? Or if you’re reasonably physically fit, warehouse work or stocking?

  50. Marley*

    Yes, OP, your manager rejected you–but he did it because he is professional and it is definitely not personal at all. In fact, I think he probably would have enjoyed talking music with you (in the work place, face to face during break or something) if he felt there were no chance you were interested. Because he has an inkling you are, he wants to make sure not to give any appearance of impropriety with his subordinates. As Alison said, this is what a good manager does.

    So none of this is a comment on your looks or your personality. I think if you want to try meeting men that have similar interests and could be interested in dating, perhaps you can join a meetup.com group? I’ve gone to these before for that exact reason.

  51. Medora*

    I (a married, heterosexual woman) have a very good, friendly, chatty relationship with my boss (also a married, heterosexual woman). There is nothing flirty or sexual there. And I still wouldn’t text her about music or anything like that. She’s my boss. There are boundaries.

    OP, just keep doing your job, be professional, and I’m sure this will blow over and you’ll feel better about things. Good luck!

  52. The Rat-Catcher*

    OP, I could have written this ten years ago. That was the year I met the guy with whom I wasn’t remotely compatible and dated for a year anyway because it was SOMEONE who wanted to be with me, which I’d never had.
    I cannot of course speak for you, but what I had to do was stop trying so hard. The right person (not The Right Person, but just…a potential right person for you) will not need you to ask fake questions and you won’t constantly have to question where you stand. The best thing you can do for you right now is to be the most badass version of yourself. It sounds like the job is a great fit for you, so shine at it! Work toward your goals! Throw yourself into some interests and hobbies, and interesting people who are appropriate to date will show up. They really will. Please have faith and and don’t flirt with your boss and it will eventually just be a memory.

  53. MPA*

    I have so much sympathy and empathy for you, OP. I had a rough few years where I struggled with depression, being out of work, scraping by on contract work, etc. I self isolated and as a result had very little social interaction. In fact, I really felt like I needed to find a job just to force myself to be around people. I did and that was fine for awhile, but came with a commute and I still wasn’t making friends.

    And then I got laid off and got another job at a smaller company where there were little boundaries. But I loved it. I felt like I was making great connections and I was a part of something. But then due to a bunch of stuff that happened, I went from being in the inner circle to the outer circle and it was so painful. While I didn’t have a crush on my boss, I did depend too heavily on him for emotional support and ended up not being able to really distinguish what was appropriate and what wasn’t. I think if he’d started out as my boss (he didn’t) and if we’d all gone by normal professional boundaries (when he first started working there he was the one that kind of made it more of a friendship than a working relationship by asking for my number, texting me about all kinds of things, etc., but he wasn’t the only one my actual boss/the owner would also do this) it would have been easier for me, but I can’t know for sure. I can only take responsibility for my failure to act appropriately no matter what everyone else was doing.

    It was a complex situation with a lot going on, but reading this and the comments really triggered me, ha. I think actually, it helped me understand things from his POV more, so thanks to everyone for that.

    But if I could say one thing, take it from me, especially since you love your job, do your own withdrawal from him. Talk to your other coworkers. I ended up making some meaningful connections that way. And if you can manage it, try Meetup. If one doesn’t work, try another. Don’t give up on finding the right people. There are a lot of us who are lonely out here and looking for friends. I’m rooting for you.

  54. Married the Boss*

    I am a longtime lurker and have never posted before–I’ve been wondering whether to post my story here or whether it would be better to stay quiet, and I’m still not sure.

    OP, I was you. I had the crush on my boss. Even worse, I was married when it began, and to someone who also worked at our company. The whole story is too long and contains too many identifying details to include here, but I have now been married to boss crush for 10+ years. Somehow none of it blew up in our faces as it was happening, BUT, and I can’t stress this enough, I put my boss (now husband) through hell, because I put him in such a terrible position when I initially told him of my feelings for him. He could not quite bring himself to tell me he didn’t return those feelings, but he also could not do anything about it. Like your boss, he had to step back. Before he stepped back, he did take the *huge* risk of telling me that he did care–and then he went into distant and reserved mode, as was his only real choice. So all I had done was to guarantee that we were both hurting and that our “work friend” banter was over. A job change was impossible for either of us–this was a period of time that literally 2/3 of the people in our industry were losing their jobs, with entire companies folding. For the better part of two years, we barely spoke at work (he became my grandboss around that time, so we did not have to interact much). Our non-work communication was limited to the occasional phone call. It was not the dream relationship I had naively envisioned when I told myself I could finalize my divorce, disclose my feelings, date my grandboss secretly (he squashed that idea immediately), and we’d all live happily ever after.

    We are ten thousand kinds of lucky that the whole thing did not blow up. A company reorg finally took me out of his reporting structure, but even then it was some time before we could really safely, quietly, be together. And we didn’t come through unscathed–it took a lot of work to build a healthy relationship.

    Of course I am glad for how my situation worked out, but there were a lot of tears shed and a lot of sleep lost for years before there was any real happiness, and I can’t say it is a path I recommend. As others have said, you are so much more likely to find those connections you seek (friendly and/or romantic) in non-work places, and there have been some great suggestions about joining a hobby group, or volunteering for a cause or organization you are passionate about, or even setting up an online dating profile.

    My thoughts are with you, OP. Take care of yourself!!

  55. Judy Jetson*

    The timing on this is perfect for me. I am crushing so hard on my manager but I know its ridiculous and inappropriate but I just cant seem to shut it off. Ugh. Why is he so pretty? And nice? And charming?

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      Yeah, my grandboss last year… The way out is to put the energy and focus into something completely unconnected. You can’t shut it off, we’re human, we have The Feels. I’m lucky, Mr. Jules is awesome, so I could take that energy home, but meetups (without romantic expectations!) or concerts or burns or readings or whatever *you* will have fun at will work.

      If you feel that energy, that ‘I am interested and interesting and comfortable and odd and I like it that way’, other people will notice. Liking oneself is the essence of attraction.

  56. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    Oh, OP. Gentle hugs.

    He did not reject you. He cannot date you or be romantically interested in you, period, end of. Even if you both had mad crushes on each other, he still wouldn’t be able to date you then, because he’s your boss. This is not rejection. I hope this helps.

    FWIW, it is infinitely better in the long run to have a manager who draws firm boundaries and keeps his behavior professional, than it is to have one who sees nothing wrong in a little fling with a subordinate. (I’ve had both types.)

  57. Barefoot Librarian*

    I may be completely going out on a limb here and imposing my own experiences onto the LW, but I wanted to share this perspective anyway on the off chance that it’s helpful.

    I’m a demisexual (basically only developing sexual attraction once I like, trust, and respect someone). I didn’t figure it out until well into my 30’s and it caused me all kinds of problems early on. I couldn’t effectively use dating services because I was almost never sexually attracted to people I had just met. I did, however, frequently develop intense crushes on inappropriate people — married friends, bosses, mentors, teachers, etc.

    I finally figured out that I had to focus my attention on building my friendship networks and wait until I developed feelings for someone that was attainable. I couldn’t force it and, left to my own devices, the crushes were almost always going to be inappropriate. I needed healthy friendships with people who were available to increase my pool of potential partners. I’ve been married now for 10 years to someone I met through a film club. Understanding how I developed attractions helped so much.

    Good luck!

    1. Barefoot Librarian*

      I just started working through the comments and it seems that this has been brought up as a possible aspect at play in LW complicated relationship with their boss. Sorry to be repetitive!

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Don’t be, I think the way you brought it up is helpful – I got more from this than from the other conversation.

  58. Hare under the moon with a silver spoon*

    Op, I feel for you – we’ve all been there with crushes – and you are certainly not alone in the search for a real quality connection with someone.

    All the advice given is great – just to add a little to it, moving on from this situation (or any one like this), people tend to take their cues on how to handle any lingering awkwardness around an unspoken crush (or any similar kind of friendship/romantic boundary setting) by how the person being distanced from handles it – nothing is necessarily said or needs to be spoken about, it can be by acting as though the conversations/texts and sheer exhilaration of having the crush around was actually no big deal/has been forgotten about, it sort of allows everyone to just move even if it takes a little longer on the inside for your emotions to catch up.

    Also it may help to see all this as great insight into things you do love – clearly music is really important to you and I am a fairly introverted person who has been to see many bands solo – the only part that was little awkward was bits in between each act, but most people don’t care or are on their phones anyway. And also what many others have suggested meetup groups are great as they are lower intensity for me in some way as there isn’t the pressure for me to have my whole personality “on” but just the part of me that resonates with that particular interest

  59. Solar Moose*

    > Thing is, I still crave the occasional good conversation, even though I’m not that interested in meeting new people. So I get most of my social stimulation from everyday settings, like work.

    You clearly are interested in more/different social stimuli than you are able to get at work.

    It seems that you make the assumption that you’re not interested in people enough to do things outside of work, and then get upset that your needs are not being met by the people at work. People at work have no obligation to meet your social needs, particularly if it involves the high risk of a sexual harassment lawsuit. If you want something closer than what is safe at work, you’ll need to seek it in non-work environments. I strongly suggest you re-evaluate how you view *yourself* – it just doesn’t seem accurate.

  60. 'Tis Me*

    A bit late to the party but if it helps – I met my now-husband on a Harry Potter discussion forum. I was ridiculous levels of ill and very isolated; moving between my bed and the chair at the desk in my room was about all I was up to. Typing to people at my own pace helped me deal with the brain fog, the conversations were in depth literature examinations, fan fiction writing practice, etc, and I’m still friends with lots of people from those days on social media.

    I am also an introvert with no formal diagnosis but some flags that I may be on the autism/aspergers spectrum, and ADHD traits.

    It was a family friendly forum and well moderated, and lots of people formed good friendships there. It was a safe space to talk about a hobby, to interact to a manageable degree with others, and there were areas designed to be more sociable too. I met up in real life with several people I met there, and the now-husband was a trusted friend for a few years before I realised that I fancy him (I’m possibly some flavour of demisexual/sapiosexual so for me the connection comes before the interest… Finding out I wasn’t just pretty slow and this can be a thing was quite nice!).

    We’ve been together for 14.5 years, have 2 children together and a third on their way – and I know he’s completely down with my book-geeky ways <3

    Obviously it's not for everybody. Not all communication is verbal, and you do lose those cues when you're typing/reading. Not all corners of the Internet are safe spaces. But as a less overwhelming way to connect with people with similar interests to you than e.g. joining a club and then having to go there and meet people and remember names and faces and talk to people you don't know, it may be worth considering.

    If there are any people you get on well with who don't live particularly far from you, once you have that connection, meeting up in a public space in a small group may be exciting and fun. Not necessarily for romance – look for friendships first. (You never know what you'll find though, or whether your new friends might end up introducing you to their nice, attractive, available friend/sibling you feel a spark with, even if you and them don't have that chemistry!) But primarily focus on making friends who make you feel welcome, understood, good company, etc.

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