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Friend or romantic interest with a younger man?


New member
I recently got re-enrolled in University after 12 years of working in professional career as a legal consultant and being very successful in it. I am South East Asian woman raised in Canada. I recently came out of a 7 years relationship with younger asian man who is 7 years younger than me. I was very hurt because I loved my ex very much and also because we were good friends for 5 years before we cohabited. I not only lost a partner but a dear friend both at once.

Last Thursday I visited the University where I was going to start classes in January to volunteer to wrap presents for the kids for a party on Friday. The party was organized by mature students association.

Upon attending the present wrapping party, I noticed a Chinese young man in the room who is good looking (which also means a little nerdy by my standards). I was surprised to see him there since the room was filled with older more mature students and he looks like he is around 20. I started to talk to him first. He seemed a little shy at first but then started to ask me many questions, seemingly quite impressed that I spoke 4 languages and had owned my own business for 7 years before returning to school. After talking to him for a bit I found out he is a transfer student and came there to volunteer. He lives on campus and just started attending in the fall. After talking for not so long I asked him if he was going to the party. He said he wasn't sure. I told him that going would be a good break from his studies.

The next day he showed up at the party and the following happened.

1. Upon showing up he directly went towards me and reported: "I'm here!"

2. He said he had planned to stay for a little and go back to study (this is exam week) but ended up staying up late (from 6pm till 2AM).

3. He sat beside me in the same table all night, even though he had been volunteering at the organization since September and likely know more people there. *He didn't get up and mingle with anyone or move, even temporarily to another table. * Basically, He and I were the only constants people on our table who didn't move the whole night at the party. * Everyone else got up and moved at certain time. * The only time He got up was to get food, to show me to the washroom down the hall and get water at some point. **

4. *When I teased him during our table board game Jenga, I told him to pull a block that wasn't good. He listened which made the tower almost fall and I laughed and said that he was too gullible; he blushed hard. *

5. *He was asking me a lot of questions, he was very interested to get to know me, impressed that I had traveled to 40 countries, did almost everything from climbing the pyramids, parachuting to winter camping and ice fishing. He said: "You've done a lot of things wow."

6. *When I grab a dessert cake plate said I couldn't finish my cake alone and offered to share it, he put the piece of banana bread from his plate onto my dessert plate and ate half of my cake. *

7. *He cleaned the table and my plate. *He was attentive and thorough.

8. *He and another older Chinese transfer student went to get a beer with me and we talked for 3 hours at the pub until 2AM. *

9. *He said that a seven years age gap between me and my younger man ex was a minor difference in age (I was really surprised by this statement, because for Asian this kind of age gap is huge). *

10. *He told me his astrological sign (dog), that he was surprised he was still carded at the pub (he's 22 years old and the legal drinking age in Canada is 19)

11. * He asked me why I was so friendly with guys (which I replied that I grew up with 90% of my friends as guys). *

12. *He and the other guy walked me to the bus stop on campus to pick up the bus to go home (he doesn't drive and I live 10 minutes by bus from the university, also drinking was involved). As soon as I got home I called him on facebook messenger (this was at 2AM) and we proceeded to talk for 1 hour before hanging up. (I was very buzzed and felt like this was a social paux pas, regretting it the next day)

13. *When we texted two days later, he said would bring hot pot sauce from asia back since he is returning to asia for two weeks of Christmas holidays (I told him I like hot pot and hot spicy food in passing. I also asked him if he was bored of on campus food since I done the on campus living before I know it gets tiring after a while. When he said he missed home cooking, I suggested that I don't live far from the University in passing). I guess he hinted to remind me of my early statement in inviting him for home cooking so I text and invited him over my house to try my cooking (I usually do this with friends), which he said "Let's eat after I come back".

I am 41, although with the Asian youthful look, I can pass off as 35, but still I cannot be mistaken as a girl in her twenties. This guy is 22!

I had the longest running relationship with the last boyfriend who was 7 years younger, longer than all my previous relationships with older men or men my age. For whatever it was worth, 5 of those 7 years were really happy and our breakup had nothing to do with our age gap. I never loved anyone before that even though I dated lots and usually at 2-3 years spurts at a time. I am rarely single for long since there was always a "friend" who secretly has a crush on me that would jump in and court me when I am available. When I was young, many times I had to make an effort not to have rebound relationship since I wanted to learn from the break up. Now after 2 years had passed, I am ready to move on. I did hookups while I didn't want to be in relationship, I don't want that now.

I have a really vibrant sunny personality although I am introverted (but not shy at all). Many of my friends tells me I am very charming and attractive since I exude confidence, a good witty sense of humor and intelligence.

My guy friend said that this young man is definitely interested in me and not in a friendly way. He said that maybe that young man secretly likes older woman, since he question the motive of him belonging in a Mature Student Club when he is so young and could have joined any group or fraternity. His excuse saying he is a "volunteer" and that "only this organization is taking volunteer on campus" doesn't sit right with me when there are 300 clubs in the university.

I want to make some friends on campus (or eventually date) as I don't have any friends locally, but I am unsure about this younger man. I find myself very infatuated with him since he is the type of guy I usually fall for and would have normally dated in my twenties (good looking, shy, smart and intelligent.... a little nerdy). He is very attentive towards me in conversation which is something I really find attractive in a man. He also understands my witty jokes that sometimes people miss. For an exchange student whose English is not his first language, he is very intelligent. The problem is, he is 19 years younger than me!

I find myself obsessing over him and my hormone is going nuts! I don't think I can think straight and I hate it when this happens. I don't want to be some college kid notch on the bedpost or conquest story.

Is he just being friendly or is he interested in me?
What should I do?
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New member
He's definitely interested in you

It's possible he's only interested in being a friend, but I think it's much more likely that he's interested in you romantically. I assume there were other women at the party who were somewhat closer to his age, but he singled out YOU to spend pretty much the entire party with. And he's making an effort to bring back something from China that you'd like. My hunch is that he's wondering whether YOU could possibly be interested in HIM, or whether you're just being friendly. I'd definitely let him make the first move about taking it to a level other than friendship, but I suspect he'll be doing that after his return from China. Good luck and keep us informed.


New member

I sent him a picture Merry Christmas greeting on Facebook Messenger (I send all my friends this) on the 24th, and he replied from China on Christmas Day. Since then we have been texting back and forth once or twice a day for about 10-15 minutes. I teased him a little via text and he seemed to like it. We agreed to meet for food at my house on the 3rd or 4th as soon after he gets back.


New member
It's sounding more and more like he's into you. It also sounds like he's missing you while he's on the other side of the Pacific. Absences can have a way of clarifying feelings one way or the other, and it definitely doesn't sound like he's getting less interested!

I hope things go well when he gets back from China. I'm thinking they probably will.


New member
Hi Lotus!

I assume he's been back from China for a week or so. How are things going? I hope they're going well.


New member
He says he's gay!

He came back from China and we somehow didn't get a chance together for dinner. He was very awkward and uncomfortable around me because I flirt with him on texting. We still kept in touch and meet each other at the mature student lounge. I was panicking because I took a statistics course and I wasn't good at math. I haven't done math for 15 years. So hearing that he was working as a tutor in Statistics because he got an A+ in it. I asked him to tutor me proposing to pay him whatever hourly compensation he receives from his work. He said it is weird for him to charge a friend so he proposed that I bring him home made food instead each time I see him. So since January 14, we been meeting for 2 hours on Monday for tutoring session. We texted back and forth almost daily with each other about each other's day. He never not text me back.

On January 24, during our tutoring session, I was curious and asked him if he was gay twice. He said no, but then later texted me and said he had dated both girl and guy. He said he is 75% gay and 25% bi. Ok, I thought: "I am safe, not nerve wracking anymore."

I started to relax around him, telling him more personal stuff, being more myself. He also started to open up more too. I notice he is very attached to me and when going to another mature student association lunch party, he just sat across from me and didn't really talk with anyone else. I contributed to him being shy and a little socially awkward. In passing texting back and forth almost everyday, he asked me why I didn't flirt with other guys at the mature student association? I said because he's gay and safe. I mentioned one time I didn't even flirt with a young man, but just played music with him, the guy got turned on which I had to end the music jamming session. Then he told me: "Don't flirt with me again, I am too shy for that." I thought that was weird since he should have said: "I'm too gay for that."

When we meet for tutorial in the Chinese new year, he brought me a lucky envelope with a present in it. I thought it was weird since in Chinese and Vietnamese customs, only older or people of higher ranking in hierarchy give those envelop to those who are junior to them. I didn't even give him one but brought him new year food festive cakes instead. I was so embarrassed that day since because of Lunar New Year, I attended the festivities events and didn't put in the time to do the regular exercises and chapters I should have. He said it is ok, "just do them in the next 2 days" and scheduled an extra tutoring session to help me out two days later.

This past week, I had Stats exam on Thursday. Last week he asked me when my exam was and scheduled another day on Wednesday to help me with review from 9:30AM to 11:30AM. When we didn't get everything done, I still had questions, he stayed with me until 1:30PM which is 4 hours in total on Wednesday and 2 hours on Monday.

After meeting him for four hours on Wednesday I went home. Later I slept and woke up texting with him again. I said I had finally have a good sleep in 4 days. In passing I mentioned I had a good day that the guy I casually dated recently visited me at home that day. Right away he asked me questions like: "Did you sleep together?".... which I kinda said yes.... but not really because there was no sleeping involved. Then he asked: "Ohhh....So after you slept alone?"... then... "how old is he?"..then...."I wanted to say: It seemed like you'll have a new relationship." Which I told him "No, not really. It's college fun."

In the same texting conversation he mentioned: "I have 1 exam this week and 2 next week, I am very busy because I also have finance and accounting assignments, I arrange all my work tutorials on this Sunday and next Monday, and I wont accept any more classes next week except you."

Ok, I was so stressed out with studying that day and sleepy, I responded to those questions without thinking, but after my exam I realized that the conversation was weird. He was prying way to much and too strange. No friend talks to each other like that, not even my closest guy or girl friend before who grew up with me. For an Asian Chinese guy, who is shy and awkward, that is way to weird and forward. I had relaxed around him and opened up with him quite a bit since finding out that he is gay and "safe". We have good rapport and I found him to be very nice in tutoring me since he paid a lot of attention to it even thought he doesn't make any money from it. He did the booking of the study at the library, showed me how to do it, then reminds me when I forgot to book it. He prepared 4 chapters in advance and made notes for me to study.

After my exam, which I didn't I do very well in and was kinda depressed. He told me he felt bad that he didn't really help me to get good marks. Told me that he needed to put more effort in tutoring me.

Honestly, this shy, supposedly gay man is making me all confused. What I am finding strange in myself is that for the last 3 years that I was single, I was so scared to open up to men and talk to them to make an emotional connection. Since finding out he is gay I have let my guards down and talked to him pretty openly as well as being really myself, secret shyness, awkwardness and all. I became so comfortable with him that I stop hiding my shyness or awkwardness around him and just be me. Sometimes we would be so comfortable with each other we would both be blushing around each other when we joked and joked about it. Without thinking sometimes I do little physical gestures to him and I felt after it was inappropriate but he seemed to be really comfortable with it. Once I gave him my home made green juice to try, he drank it but left a little dot of pulp on his lips. I saw it and took my finger to brush it off. Or another time I couldn't resist pulling his dress shirt collar out from beneath his round neck sweater because it was weird to wear it like that and I told him. Just yesterday he was carrying something when his cap got dislodged, I just took it off straightened it and put it back on for him. He did not complaint or displayed any uncomfortable response. Matter a fact I felt that he seemed to be more open and relaxed after I did those gestures.

BTW.... he has exam this evening and when I brought him some food on campus this afternoon and we had lunch together, he asked about me and the other guy again and if I was seeing him. He was so forward about it it made me blush. So I told him its inappropriate for friends to ask about the other friend's dating or sex life if I don't volunteer information first.

This time I caught him checking me out. When we have tutorial he usually sit beside me while we did my weekly assignments on the computer so I cannot tell, but this time while having lunch we sat across from each other I saw him checking me out. We spent 2.5 hours having lunch and just talking when he would be having exam at 6PM.

I am very confused now! What the heck is going on? Is this guy just a harmless gay friend or is he slowly creeping up on me?
BTW he did bring a fancy bag of Sichuan hot pot sauce from China and finally gave it to me yesterday. I have a feeling that he is attracted to me but doesn't really know what to do with it. It is hard enough being a gay man in the closet without your family and friends knowing (He said I am the first one he told), it is worse to have to deal with being attracted to a much older woman when Asian culture outright condemns it. I feel like he is hiding his attraction to me. Am I wrong?
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New member
Well, that was certainly a surprise!

But if he told you he's "25% bi," that means he's bi, not gay. You'd have to ask him what he meant by the 75% gay/25% bi split, but it sounds like he's more often been attracted to guys than women, but that he's been attracted to both sexes. He's still pretty young, and it sounds like probably pretty inexperienced, so he may not know for sure himself about how attracted he is to members of the two sexes.

FWIW, the wife of New York mayor DeBlasio once wrote an article, before they met, declaring that she was a lesbian. But she says that once she met him, she realized that she had met the love of her life. So it's pretty clear that even though she considered herself to be a lesbian, she was really bi and just hadn't yet met a guy to whom she was attracted.

My feeling is still that he's probably interested in you as more than a friend (or at least thinks he might be), but is sufficiently awkward and embarrassed that he doesn't know quite how to communicate that to you. That would certainly explain his interest in whether you're back in a relationship with your former boyfriend. How you handle the situation depends entirely on how much ambiguity you can stand for how long.


New member
He's telling you he's bisexual. I've never heard someone break it into a percentage, but as earl_wh said, I would take that to mean he's predominantly attracted to men, though he has been attracted to women also.

I'm a little confused about how you feel at this point though - you went from seeming interested in him to treating him as your "safe" gay friend immediately. Are you interested in this guy? If so, I'd skip the continued ambiguity and confusion and just ask him out.


New member
I am just as shy and nervous... but a little better!

Sorry for being so painstaking slow with everything.

I am myself very shy when it comes to personal relationships. I have learned to be very open, appear extroverted and friendly in social situations because my family got me attending scout/girl guides for 10 years exposing me to many social situations and leadership roles. I was also in Toastmasters and public speaking competitions in my early twenties so I learned to hide a lot of my nervousness and anxiety quite well. No one would see me and guess that I am shy, because I appear so warm, friendly and extroverted.

One of the last area I don't do really well is in romantic relationships. I can't seem to formally date because I get so anxious and nervous, I feel so uncomfortable around men who makes aggressive passes at me or show blatant interests. It had been too many times that I would go on dates and disappear because I felt so uncomfortable and nerve wracked. Especially with extroverted men who can't seem to catch on to subtle suggestions of respecting my boundaries. It would always have turned out that we’ll have a couple of good dates then my date does something for me to feel nervous and I disappear.

Last week at lunch he asked me: “Did you always end up dating friends?”. I basically laid out to him the gist of how I get into relationships: “I always feel too nervous or shy going on dates, it doesn’t turn out well. So I ended up in relationship with people I know for a while, who I am comfortable with like my friends or long time acquaintances. We kind of hang out with each other for coffee, doing something together then one day we realized we had fallen in love.”

Last week when standing in line to buy coffee for me at Starbuck, he said: “You were thinking of going for a party/ dancing after midterm? How often do you go?”

I told him I was just looking to blow some steam after exams, I don’t really go often. Then he mentioned that he went to dance club in Asia before and he felt so awkward and uncomfortable since he can’t dance. I told him it is good exposure therapy to be in social situations.

We were talking about me being his tour guide during reading week and taking him around the city for 2 days to places he likes to get to know. He seemed really interested. I brought up dinner at my house to enjoy hot pot again (which is my favorite dish), he mentioned asking a guy we both know to come. I asked him if he was still scared of being alone with me, he brushed it off and said it is more fun with more people.

It seemed he doesn’t like to be put on a spot like me, I got over most of this shyness in my younger years but some of it still remains. I still feel very self conscious in weekly Hip Hop dance class whenever we do groups and recorded it. That’s when my seemingly good flowing routine gets awkward and missteps happens.

I have another younger man who is 15 years younger than me, very extroverted, being a friend who talks to me often. I refused him a few times because he is not my type and I feel very nervous uncomfortable around extroverted guys. Also, it is one thing to be with a man who been with older women before, who seeks out older women. It is another to seduce a younger man who seemed reluctant. I feel like I am preying on you guys like a cougar (which I find the term very derogatory). This is probably why I hesitated and tried to squeeze him into a “friend” box. It seemed I felt less awkward and nervous that way.

He told me he never had experience with an older women and that our age gap is too much... but it seemed he's getting more and more attached to me. He really listens to me when I told him not to use the phone around me, because it is considered rude. So he pretty much ignores it when he is with me. He asked me to correct his English pronunciation and expressed frustrations that people can't understand him when he speaks to them. I told him it is because he is a Chinese guy speaking English with a British accent in North America.

When I told him that you don't ask your friend or pry into their personal life and ask "are you sleeping together" with another guy. You come off like a jealous boyfriend. He said it is normal that guy and girl does that in China without sex involved (which I know he is lying because I've been travelling extensively in Asia). So he asked me to correct him if he was being inappropriate. When I suggested him to go to grad school for better planning of his future and immigration in North America, he actually took that to heart and is planning to get into grad school. He started to tell me about how much he is making in his part-time job as a tutor, the details of that job and the concerns he has about it. It seemed he is really starting to trust me.

He tells me he is not sexually attracted to woman and even with his last girlfriend, he got to 3rd base with her, he loved her very much but didn't really feel sexually attracted to her. Yet I caught him checking me out last time we met (ok, checking was an understatement, he was outright staring). We are both giving each other mix signals since I tried to date other guys in the last few weeks just to get my mind off him and told him about it.

This weekend, because he has 2 exams and I have some major studying to do before my last exam beginning of next week, so I made food enough to last us both 3 days and brought it to him. I said since I cook and my mom is away so I save him the trouble of cooking and me the pain of eating leftovers more than once. He was very touched by the gesture. He said he doesn’t know what to say.

He booked the room for our tutorial on Monday even though I forgot. I told him I won’t have enough time to spend with him on Monday. Actually, I am getting very nervous now that I saw him checking me out last time we ate lunch together.

I think I should just take it easy and go on a few friendly outings to see what happens. If I get too nervous, I am afraid I will do something awkward or weird. Somehow I just have this lingering doubt that he is just being friendly and I would make a big fool of myself. The embarrassment would really do me in! I guess that is why I am leaving things ambiguous.

In Asian culture, the age gap/ difference between older woman and younger man is a big deal. In my mom had a problem with me dating younger men more than she did with my brother being gay. She had no problem with me marrying a man 11 years older but has huge problem with me being with a man 7 years younger. Even our way of addressing each other denotes hierarchy (Vietnam and Korea way of addressing each other certainly is). To break that norm is a huge break in social conventions and norm. It was more acceptable for men to date and marry a much younger woman (like my uncle who married a woman 25 years younger) but not the other way around.

Moreover, now that I know he's a virgin with women (dated a girl), never had experienced with an older woman, or had any real experience dating a guy (He admitted it was just sex with guys). I am hesitating a lot to make a move. He is so inexperienced, thus the shyness and the awkwardness. At least with my ex-boyfriend of 7 years, he was 25 by the time we were together, dated many younger girls and got tired of them.
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In Latino culture there is also a big cultural convention against older women with younger men. When I introduced my now husband as the man I was going to live with, my mom threatened to disown me. I stood my ground and told her that I had been a good daughter all my life, and if she wanted to disown me over this, she was free to do so. I told her it was my time to be who I wanted to be and with whom I wanted to be. And that was it. She and I never had any other problems.

I am like you, shy on the inside while appearing extroverted.

I hope you have a great time with your new friend and let things happen.


New member
In Latino culture there is also a big cultural convention against older women with younger men. When I introduced my now husband as the man I was going to live with, my mom threatened to disown me. I stood my ground and told her that I had been a good daughter all my life, and if she wanted to disown me over this, she was free to do so. I told her it was my time to be who I wanted to be and with whom I wanted to be. And that was it. She and I never had any other problems.

I am like you, shy on the inside while appearing extroverted.

I hope you have a great time with your new friend and let things happen.

It took great courage for you to do that. I admire you for standing your ground, SLK, for the man you loved. For us, it's not only age that is different for my man and I, but race too. (He is black). I am the outgoing one and he's the more relaxed one.


It took great courage for you to do that. I admire you for standing your ground, SLK, for the man you loved. For us, it's not only age that is different for my man and I, but race too. (He is black). I am the outgoing one and he's the more relaxed one.
When you really love, giving up is not an option. It just isn't. I wonder if there is more acceptance for interracial relationships now.


New member
It's complicated!

During reading week, he told me that he had a boyfriend that he had been dating for about 7 months. They were hooking up for 2 months and it turned out to be a steady thing that went on.... his boyfriend cheated on him once and although he forgave the guy, he was still bothered by it. He was very insecure about his relationship with the boyfriend and expressed his doubts about the guy's feelings towards him. I didn't know what to think of it but I remained his sympathetic friend to lend an ear and stayed committed to our previous plans of going downtown.

I was acting as his tour guide for the day to downtown of the city. At first he was very reluctant to take pictures, but later after a while I managed to convince him to take pictures and we took many. We managed to be friendly and relaxed for most of the day. During dinner we felt even closer. We share bites of food from our dish to the other person, he asked me which dessert I like so he can order his that is to my liking and share it with me. I was so comfortable with him that I fed him my dessert and he happily receives it. When we went home he was worried about me going home so late and taking a bus route I was not used to. I told him I will be fine since this city is my hometown, I won't likely get lost.

When we exit the platform of the last subway station where we were going to go separate ways and take separate buses. A homeless man approached me and asked for some food. I walked over to the nearest store and bought him $20 worth of food. As I was paying for the merchandise the homeless man said: "Is that your son with you?"

I don't know how my friend responded with his looks, but the homeless man quickly raised his voice in surprised and said: "Oh, I am sorry, is that your husband?"

I turned over to look at my young friend and saw his face turned quickly completely red.
At which time the homeless man asked for some public transit tickets, so I went out of the store to the booth and bought 5 tickets and gave them to him.

As we walked to the bus platform above, my friend face looked really surprised (like "I can't believe you just did that?"). He said: "Most people would have ignored that guy, I would have given him the food but not the bus tickets. You are so patience and kind."

He gave a big warm hug before leaving and we parted for the night. When I got home I saw his text thanking me for a wonderful day.

I showed my male friend the pictures I took together with him and my male friend said: "If you don't tell me that he's gay, I would have thought you two are dating. The pictures do not look like you guys are just friends."

When I described our supposed "friendly date" to my male friend, he said: "You don't feed each other if you are not dating. It is something that only dating couples do. You guys are so comfortable and you are so lenient with him that you completely forget any standard set boundaries. If his boyfriend sees how you guys behaved on that date his boyfriend would have gotten jealous."

It didn't occur to me that our tour of city became a "date" since we didn't kiss or had any overtly sexual gestures. With what my friend said, it hit me that we were acting with gestures that were more reserved for dating couples and couples who are attracted to each other.

My male friend got mad and said: "What is wrong with this guy, he is so ambiguous and not forth coming about his feelings for you. The way he behaves with you is one step away from cheating on his boyfriend."

I was kind of shocked to hear it. We did acted out of the boundaries of how normal friends behave with each other.

It is true that he listens to me a lot. When I told him he looks like 17 years old with the cap on, he never put it on again. When I told him that it is a bad habit being late to an appointment, he never showed up late again, not even for 5 minutes. When I told him that it is rude to text while being with someone or while eating with another person. He never picked up the phone again. When he got sick and I told him to drink hot water and not eat fried food, he followed my advice.

I honestly think that I should just forget about this guy and move on to give the other younger man a chance. At least he is extroverted and very clear on what he wants. He is 16 years younger than me but had been pursuing me actively for 4 months. He doesn't live close to my city but intends to make plans to move near me.

I am pretty confused since I have developed lots of feelings for my tutor.
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I can imagine how confused you are, because you have feelings for someone that will not reciprocate romantically but rather through a beautiful friendship.

Friendship is a treasure but it is not romance.