Is this younger man interested?

Good morning.

Dear Meredith,

I am 36 years old and look much younger. In fact, I'm often attracted to younger men and they're attracted to me. Lately, however, one situation is confusing me.

I developed a crush on a young man who is 24. He is amazing in so many ways and I believe he genuinely likes me. We haven't talked much about his past relationships. I do know that he's had a few girlfriends and that he still sometimes hangs out with his most recent ex. They broke up months ago.

Here's the confusing part. He texted me a lot. He gave me lots of compliments. I told him through text that I had a crush on him. He agreed to go to an event with me. It was fun and it seemed like we were close. After three weeks of this, I decided we had to either actually go on a date or I had to move on because I liked him too much to keep the status quo. I finally told him I was really interested in him, and he was SHOCKED! He was embarrassed and felt like a bonehead.

My friends think he's either just that clueless or likes the attention. I had hoped to just move on after that talk, but two days later he asked me to hang out. I figured it was just a way to smooth things over. But he wore cologne and shaved and spent a lot of time just sitting and talking in the shade with me. I even decided to hug him goodbye at the end, and he said he was glad I wanted to.

Am I crazy to think he's still giving out mixed signals?!!??! I know there hasn't been time to get over him and that it's partly wishful thinking on my part, but what's his deal? Why is he acting like this? Is it just me? Please help me shed some light on this unusual behavior. Honestly, I'm still holding out hope and thinking maybe I planted a seed that he hadn't thought of before our talk. But it's so confusing!

– Does he or doesn't he?, Waltham

Twenty-four-year-old guys are adorable, aren't they? Their cute little faces are 24. Their biceps are unbelievably 24. And don't forget about their brains. Unfortunately, their brains are 24, too.

My guess is that he's interested, petrified, attention-seeking, and frantically trying to figure out what it would mean if your relationship became physical. He's probably wondering whether he'd be your boyfriend and whether he'd have to marry you. He's probably wondering what a 36-year-old woman would want from him, what his friends would think, and whether you're both just enjoying the novelty of the 12-year age difference.

My question to you is: Why are you communicating like a 24-year-old instead of forcing him to discuss all of this like a 36-year-old? You're not doing anybody any favors by texting about important things and continuing the passive-aggressive behavior. My advice is to sit him down during your next non-date and ask him if he wants to kiss and/or date you. Ask him if he has concerns about the whole thing. Then tell him what you want. Be specific.

And prepare to answer some of the questions I listed above. Do you know what you want from him? What are you looking for? And can he keep up?

He'll either agree to your plan or he won't. Or maybe he'll offer an alternative. No matter what he says, you'll have an answer that you understand.

Readers? Is he interested? What is he thinking? Should she explain her intentions? Should she be pursuing this at all? Is his ex relevant? Discuss.

– Meredith