In some ways, dating has changed so much — today, we’re replying to our crush’s Instagram story with a heart instead of asking them to join us at the corner malt shop. However, one thing hasn’t changed much, especially for queer women: it can feel excruciatingly difficult to tell whether someone is actually interested in us romantically, or whether they are “just being nice” or wants to be friends. It can feel daunting to navigate, but it’s far from impossible to decipher — here’s what I suggest looking for if you’re wondering whether a interest in your life sees you as potentially more than a friend.
They ask about your availability/relationship status
It’s not uncommon for relationship status or dating life to come up as you’re making new friends — but there’s a difference between someone asking if you’re seeing anyone just to make conversation and someone who makes pointed eye contact to ask if you’re single.
If someone is asking pointed, direct conversations about your relationship status — or maybe asking about what your “type” is, if you’re on the dating scene right now, etc — there’s a good chance they’re interested. This goes double if they makes a point of explicitly mentioning that their single, too. Of course, if they follow this up by trying to set you up with one of their friends, or launch immediately into sharing dating horror stories and commiserating with you about what kind of dates you’re going on, it’s possible that they’re just trying to bond as friends. But if they don’t — or if they’re asking around the topic of whether you’re gay or whether you date women — you’re likely being scoped out as a crush.
They generously compliment you or your appearance, touch you and respond enthusiastically to what you say
Some things never really change — and one of them is how we flirt with each other. While it’s common to share small, low-stakes compliments with new acquaintances or casual friends, we tend to focus these compliments on innocuous elements that the person we’re complimenting chose for themselves, like clothes, accessories, etc. “I love those shoes, where’d you get them!” or even “You have such great style.”
When we’re romantically or sexually interested in someone, we’re more likely to compliment their body, affect, or physical appearance — things that are fundamentally “them.” If a woman is complimenting your actual self — your eyes, your smile, your laugh — there’s a good chance she’s flirting with you. For queer women, complimenting someone’s hands or voice can be especially suggestive; someone who compliments your perfume or makes a point of telling you you smell good is likely flirting as well. If these compliments are emphasized by someone physically touching you — for instance, running a hand down your arm while they tell you how cool your tattoos are — is sending strong signals.
Part of flirting is also responding to the other person’s cues — if the person you’re interacting with is making a point of laughing at every joke you make, asking deep follow-up questions to every anecdote you tell, and giving you tons of positive feedback — “that’s so smart!” “You sound like such a great friend!” they are likely flirting (or just an outrageously warm and supportive person).
They’re following up or reaching out
Keeping in touch with even our closest friends is increasingly hard for all of us in a busy, overwhelming era. If you’ve exchanged Instagram handles or phone numbers with someone you meet at a party, a group dinner, a professional networking event, etc and they actually reach out — not just “connecting” with you on LinkedIn, but getting in touch proactively, they may be making overtures. Just saying they’re glad to have met may or may not be flirting, but adding more to the message — sharing a specific thing they liked or enjoyed about you, using smiley faces or emojis, intimating she’d like to make plans in the future — is likely flirting.
The same logic can be applied to social media interactions. Mutual follows on Instagram can be a mundane part of meeting a new person that doesn’t mean much on its own, depending on your social media habits. If you’ve both followed each other, and she’s actively seeking out interaction with you, this could be flirting. This could look like commenting on your posts or stories, starting a conversation based on what you post — “Oh, is that your cat? What’s his name?” or “Oh, I’ve been meaning to try that restaurant! What did you think?” This is true even if you haven’t met in real life; if an Instagram follower is getting friendly in this respect, they’re likely trying to shoot their shot.
They suggest further plans with just the two of you
Staying in touch is one thing; staying in touch in order to make in-person plans is another. While many of us are working to make social plans more intentionally — building a network of friends as an adult is hard! — what makes the difference between a platonic social hang and something that might be in the neighborhood of a date is the nature of the plans.
Invited along to a group hang already planned to go to a movie or a hike, or joining standing casual plans like a movie night? That might be platonic. But if you’re getting asked to make social plans that are just between the two of you and seem catered to your unique interests — especially if they’re more intimate, “date-like” scenarios like getting drinks or dinner — that may well be someone who’s interested in you.