By: Jenny Foughner

All throughout history, humans have looked to the past to teach them about the future. The mistakes of our forefathers paved the way for our successes, just like our transgressions will hopefully make it less likely that future generations will engage in questionable activities that have disastrous results. For example, the fall of Rome taught us not to be cocky buttheads, the Great Depression taught us to keep our money in our mattresses, and that ship no one thought would ever sink taught us not to ride on boats unless we could afford first-class accommodations.

More powerful than all these, however, is the one cautionary tale that defines an entire generation: the saga of Dawson and Joey. I’ll save you the details (as if you don’t know them already), but basically, Joey (girl-next-door/secretly hot tomboy) and Dawson (brooding blonde manchild with all-consuming ambitions to become famous auteur) were bff’s until Joey started having these feelings, feelings that made her heart flutter and her knees weak and inspired her to wear makeup on a semi-regular basis. Dawson, meanwhile, blissfully ignorant as he was, spent approximately 40 seasons not knowing that his best female friend was butt-loco in love with him, which in turn facilitated some very uncomfortable close-ups on Katie Holmes crying. That’s not the point, though. The point, good sirs, is that Joey had to date Dawson’s OTHER best friend (holy love triangle! and not the good kind!) just to get Dumbass to notice that she was actually trying to date him. THEN, when Dawson FINALLY realized that he loved Joey, SHE WASN’T EVEN AVAILABLE TO HIM.

The fact that some of us still haven’t gotten over Dawson’s Creek notwithstanding, the moral of this tragic tale is that your best friend might be in love with you, but if you’re too focused on other stuff, then you might not realize it until your window of opportunity has closed. This can have dire, dire consequences (not least of which is millions of broken prepubescent hearts), especially if you suddenly realize that you have similar feelings for her. If she’s doing some (or all) of the following, then you have an important decision to make, and fast. Don’t be Dawson, people. Don’t be Dawson.

She’s wearing more makeup and/or dressing better than she used to around you.

I find it rather humorous that male animals have all the fancy plumage and whatnot in the animal world, because in the human world it’s the females who prance around in their finest finery upon identifying a desirable mate. Thusly, if your female friend has suddenly upped the wardrobe ante – that is, if she always looks like she has a hot date to get to or a cocktail party to attend – on nights she’s only hanging out with you, then it’s pretty safe to assume that she’s angling to reduce the distance between the two of you on the couch during your reality tv-a-thon. Think about it: if she didn’t want you to want her, then she wouldn’t get dressed up just to hang out at your apartment, she’d wear sweatpants and talk about farts with you. Ewwwww. But, yes.

She no longer talks about other guys in front of you.

A sudden drop-off in your bff’s tendency to over-share about her romantic exploits is a pretty tell-tale sign that this particular girl friend wants to be your legit girlfriend. Most girls crave a reliable male perspective on all of their emotional entanglements, so a girl who views you as nothing more than a trusted friend will be quick to ask your opinion about every guy she ever meets, even if it’s just a dude who glances at her on the street. If she unexpectedly stops doing this, then it’s probably because she can’t ask you about the guy she’s currently sweating. Because it’s you. Haha! See how that works?! Magic.

She (uncharacteristically) texts back right away.

Infuriatingly, most people don’t respond to texts right away. They could be busy, or in jail, or trying to fish their phones out of the toilet. It happens. So when a friend who happens to be a girl suddenly happens to start responding to your texts immediately – and when she attempts to keep the textversation going – then there’s a good chance she’s been thinking about you and waiting for you to initiate contact. Texting alone isn’t a reliable indicator of interest (some people are just natural-born text fiends who really hate it that other people take their sweet-ass time to write a two-word response), but a sudden increase in her textability could mean a sudden increase in her desire to get naked with you. Proceed with caution, but proceed nonetheless.

She gets super sensitive about things that used to be No Big Deal.

For a woman, one of the worst things about discovering Feelings for a certain guy is the tendency to become hyper-aware of every little thing he does and what it might mean for The Potential Relationship. I capitalize to signify importance, men, so pay attention. It’s like there’s a magic freak-out switch that gets flipped in the girl brain when emotions become involved. For example, your friend probably used to joke right along with you about her fugly man toes, but that was when you were Just a Friend. When you become a Crush and/or Potential Relationship Partner, she begins to worry that your innocent jokes about said fugly man toes mean you’ll never EVER be interested in dating her, and in fact think she’s a lot like Cameron Diaz’s character in Shrek. She might even go home and cry about it to her roommate.

Her friends give you knowing looks.

This is like a subtler form of lionesses hunting, in which the prey, once identified, must be scrutinized by the entire pack to determine whether or not it is suitable for consumption (and weak enough to be slaughtered). That is to say, once a girl tells her girlfriends that she’s into a guy, they can’t help but stare knowingly at that guy (especially if they know him) both to size him up and, I think, to clue the poor bastard into what’s actually going on. I think it arises from the female desire to see happy couples have happy endings all the time, which brings me right back to where I started, stuck in a pit of despair because Dawson never got his crap together.

She’s always making excuses to hang out with you alone.

Girls aren’t so different from you (aside from the extra anatomical features and slightly better smell). We don’t love hanging out in groups any less than you do, and we don’t want to waste time on people we don’t care about any more than you do. Just like you (probably) wouldn’t make a move on a girl until you got her alone, a girl who’s into you (especially one who knows you well) won’t even try to act on her feelings until she’s alone with you (and even then she’ll probably be wishing you’d just make the first move anyway). If the same female friend who’s exhibiting most or all of the above behaviors repeatedly looks for ways to hang out with you alone (as in, you suggest meeting up with other friends at a bar, while she offers to come to your place with a bottle of Jack and your fave stupid movie), then it’s time to make a move. Either that, or risk watching her drunkenly and awkwardly throw herself at you, or worse, miss a golden opportunity to get it on with your hot female friend. I shouldn’t have to say it, but neither of these are desirable options.