Hi, Dan. I'm a twenty-something lesbian and I have an odd situation... I recently made this friend, we were Internet friends, we became real-life friends, it's not something I normally do. We hung out maybe ten times, maybe half of those just one-on-one, and I found out that she thinks we're dating. There's no reason for her to think we're dating... We haven't kissed. I think we hugged once, and it was an A-frame, pelvises away, platonic hug, and I think once I put my hand on her knee. That's literally all the physical contact we've had, and I didn't think we were dating! We never called what we were doing dates, and we weren't really flirting. I've hung out with her with other friends, and they think it's absolutely insane that she thinks we were dating. [Caller continues describing how the girl presents as straight, how she found out about her misconceptions about the dating originated when the girl's friends referred to her on the phone as "her other half," and other specifics, until call fades out]Dan's response, also poorly transcribed and edited for brevity:
Maybe she would have told her herself that she thought you believed that you two dating if she had been able to get a word in edgewise... The problem's very simple. All you have to do is tell her that you are not dating and you don't know how she got that impression and you don't mean to hurt her, and if you did anything to mislead her or make her think you were dating you apologize, but, "just to, like, clear the air and settle the matter, you and I are not an item." The end! Very simple. ...There's no way to avoid hurting the delusional fantacist. She needs to get hurt, in this instance, to get over it, meaning misappropriating friends and relabeling them as girlfriends and presenting them that way to other people.Lulu: So here's my thing about this one. How did these people meet online? It matters! Was it though a message board, online game, or fandom, for example, where it's about some common interest, or was it through a "meet people" website like OKC or CL? If they met on OKC and the girl assumed they were dating when they kept hanging out, that doesn't seem that unreasonable.
Ashley: I don't think it makes her a crazy person to assume that, certainly.
Lulu: Even if the caller's profile said she was only looking for friends and activity partners or whatever. Nobody reads anyone's entire profile. Maybe she got to "6 things I could never live without: Cuban food, my family, ninjas, ninja stars, classic NES games" and just had to message her.
Ashley: You have experience in this area?
Lulu: Not at all. You know, even if it was an interest-based friendship like they were PM'ing each other on the official Friends of the Daily Jumble Chat Room, it's not necessarily insanity. I mean, the girl knew the caller was gay, and she seemed to be affectionate; maybe Quickdraw Dategirl assumed she would be the one putting on the brakes, if anyone one. Maybe it didn't occur to her that the caller wasn't interested.
Ashley: You have experience in this area.
Lulu: For sure. Look, it's weird meeting people from the internet. There's no official protocol. Many people have exclusively dating-based experiences. Even those who don't might start to feel like it's a date just because of the nervousness and pressure of this weird one-on-one meeting that you usually don't encounter in a casual friend type scenario. The expectations for how datey a particular meet-up is going to be vary wildly.
Ashley: And lesbians are weird.
Lulu: Right, I mean both the internet meetup thing and the lesbians thing create levels of ambiguity because the unspoken social rules are not as well established as for straight meet-through-friends-or-at-the-grocery-store type dating. So like yeah as a hopeful internet dater, you should not assume you are in a relationship with people without a clear green light from the other person... but I get how the signals could get crossed.
Ultimately, our advice is pretty similar to Dan's--make the situation clear, if you haven't already--gently, even apologetically, but firmly and unambiguously.
And yes, if you meet someone you'd like to date from the internet, the onus is on you to be clear about your intentions (and not to assume the other person is on the same page). However, if someone you meet from the internet appears to be flirting, or if you're not sure, it couldn't hurt to bring up the topic. It doesn't have to be a The Talk, especially if you're not sure what they're thinking. Here are some terrible examples!
"I've met some really great people through my profile. I'm glad I put 'friends only'; it really takes the pressure off meeting up to know it's not going anywhere romantic." [NB: only if you met through a "friends only" profile.]
"I was skeptical about meeting people from online, but we've become such good friends... I still can't imagine dating someone I didn't meet in person first, though." [NB: only if you do not have an active dating site profile.]
"So I've been seeing this awesome girl..." [NB: This may be too mean.]
"I really love being single." [NB: This may also be too mean, and may backfire if the listener perceives it as a coded way of saying "I really love casual sex."]
Or a variation of this one, which worked on Lulu: "It's so important to meet people in person. You can email and email and never know if it's a friends vibe or a dating vibe. Then, you see the person, and you pretty much both know instantly if you're going to end up making out that night."
Or even: "You're such a good friend." [NB: Definitely too mean!]