Credit: Liz Ridley / Mustang News

Neta Bar is a business senior and Mustang News opinion columnist. The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang Media Group.

Reader, allow me to be forthright; this here is not an opinion article, but a research paper. Something akin to an academic journal, if you will. I’m diving deep into the plight of the woman in delusion, and the symptoms that might arise. I’m not here to write about the basics, the supposed “tell-tale” signs. You’re being left on delivered all day? He’s “really busy,” except for in the wee hours of the night? These are the cues that are universally understood, there is no room for alternative interpretation nor the endurance of hope. 

I’m here to discuss the behavioral subtext of male indifference; even once he’s passed the threshold of basic interest, there are still crucial subtleties to discern. It is as humbling to write this article as it was to live it. Stay safe out there. 

1. He’s really (really, really, really) friendly with your friends 

At first it’s vague, imperceptible, maybe he really does just get on great with all your friends. “Oh, he just has a flirty personality!” I can assure you, he knows what he’s doing. What’s astounding here is that he is not flirting as a means to an end, but rather, simply because he can. You watch him with your friends, and suddenly you’re privy to a charisma that’s been dormant since you first met him. 

Of course, this man isn’t crass; his flirtation will be modest, yet still palpable to all parties involved. He cunningly dances on the line between being noticed and getting caught. This way, you can’t call him out. You just bite your tongue and watch. 

2. He is scrolling on dating apps while in your physical presence 

You’re watching a movie and glance over at his phone screen – not because you’re nosy, you’re just observant that way. Maybe he’s checking his Canvas notifications; perhaps texting his mom! Much to your chagrin, he is not doing either of these things. Indeed, you look over, and he’s swiping right, right, left, right, left, left, right. Dating profiles with grinning photos and unvarying bios flash onto his screen as quickly as they disappear. 

He is not being secretive about it, but it’s not been a topic of conversation, either. You two aren’t explicitly exclusive, but your gut tells you this has got to break some moral code. Do you say anything? Choose to ignore it? Succumb to the primal urge to knock that phone out of those unashamed hands?  

3. You are stuck in ‘situationship’ for longer than 3 months 

For clarification’s sake, the concept of ‘situationship’ in this case is not the problem; I stand in solidarity with those who are more than friends and less than dating. Within reason. Reader, I implore you: there must be an expiration date to this demeaning state of limbo. I have been forced to stand idly by and see the most brilliant minds of this generation destroyed by the longer-than-three-month-situationship. 

It is not so much an issue of commitment, but of human decency to one another, of basic respect. The lack of an answer takes form as a parasite in your mind; the ambiguity grows legs, mutating, making it impossible for you think about anything – or anyone – else. If it’s been more than ninety days and he’s refusing to acknowledge the state of your union, consider making that decision for him (and for yourself). 

4. He is mean to you 

I know I gave a whole preamble discussing how I would not be delving into the obvious warning signs, and I know how this header initially reads. But have no illusion, this here is not as rudimentary as you might think. Around the world, across generations, women fall prey to infatuation with a man who is, plainly, not that nice to them. 

This phenomenon eludes even the most critical of female minds. This may be because there is no universal pattern of behavior to search for. Is he interrupting you? Generally unenthused by your input, no matter what you say? Undermining your every opinion, trivializing any feeling you may work up the courage to share? Regardless of how his unwarranted harshness shows up, if that man is unabashedly mean to you, he does not care whether you live or die. 

5. You’re frequently anxious 

What your heart refuses to acknowledge, your nervous system knows. When you’re with a man that doesn’t actually like you, every moment is imbued by a constant low hum of anxiety, largely untraceable but increasingly disruptive as your feelings for him grow. This experience is disorienting by nature in that it’s intoxicating – you become addicted to the uncertainty. There’s a thrill to the absence of security, and as long as you can’t predict his next move, you’re obsessed.

Not knowing when he’ll surprise you with a moment of sweetness, nor when he’ll withdraw his affection next, you stay hypervigilant, with this man perpetually taking up a substantial piece of real estate in your mind. If you take anything from my sermon, let it be this: if you need to put your phone on Do Not Disturb and lock it away while you wait for a text back, there’s a possibility, just a sliver of a chance, that he may not be the one.