For the longest time I agonized about how to say certain things. How do you ask a boy if he likes you? How do you ask for freaky things in bed? How do you tell your friends, when it's relevant or it's just gnawing at you, that your love life is a little different? How can you possibly communicate these concepts?
The answer, I'm finding is, "in so many words." Just say it. So how do you find out if a boy likes you? Turns out the magic words are: "[Boy], do you like me?" There's no trick to it, there's no secret code; the way to say a difficult thing is simply to say it.
What I was really asking, of course, is how I could say these things without taking any risks. I didn't want to know how to tell if a boy liked me, I wanted him to like me. I wanted to know some magical way to ask that the answer would always be yes. My pretended difficulty in asking was really a difficulty in hearing the truth.
There were two separate difficulties within that: the fear of opening Schrödinger's box, and the fear of asking wrong. The first fear is real, but useless. It's the feeling that "right now there's a 50% chance that he likes me, so I can enjoy the feeling of being theoretically 50% liked! If I find out for sure, he could say "no" and the waveform will collapse and I'll have 0% of a boy!" I was so afraid of finding a dead cat that I never looked in the box and ended up with no cat at all.
The second fear, that of asking wrong, was even harder to get over. This is the idea--the hallucination, really--that there's a way to phrase the question that will make a "no" into a "aww, you're really sweet but I don't feel that way right now, but things are still developing"; and another way that will make a "no" into a "no way, not ever, how could you even ask, in fact I hate you." Or worse yet, that the way I asked could somehow in itself make the difference between "yes" and "no."
But the truth is, I think, that people aren't really that subtly and dramatically influenced by my phrasing or timing. People's opinions aren't subatomic particles; they aren't irreparably changed by being observed. Even a clumsy question will get a sweet response out of a sweet guy, and there's definitely no remotely honest way to ask that will turn a "no" into a "yes." The question is simply "do you like me?" and the answer has already been formed in his mind and all your previous interactions.
The search for the magical phrase is over. The search for the way to suss things out without asking asking is finished. The way to say a thing is to simply say it, and whether things go your way or not (sometimes really not), at least you know what the hell is going on.