Okay, so I've read your columns, Jono—ALL of them, because you're hilarious. I mean really, I almost died of laughter the first time I read one of your articles! But I've read Auntie's columns. And Jono, I must say, there is a guide on how to flirt, but there is not a guide on how to NOT flirt. And somehow, I have forgotten how to function normally in front of the guy I like, and there lies the issue.
I don't really want to pursue a relationship right now; I want to focus on school and music. Therefore, I need to know how to NOT lead on the guy I like, because that would just make me a despicable human being, right? Leading someone on when I have absolutely no intention of pursuing any sort of relationship?
I'm just going to assume the answer is yes.
I'm just used to acting flirty around him, and I can't quite seem to help it. I just start smiling more when he's around and I feel like a ninny for doing it, but whatever. It's practically involuntary at this point. But I feel pretty awful because I think he likes me back and wellllll...I just don't want an actual relationship so yeah, I feel pretty squicky, and I want to know how to stop doing anything that is flirty without seeming to be acting weird, because this has been going on for a while. If I suddenly just started acting different, that'd be..well...weird. I think my friends have already figured out that I like him, even the ones that I haven't explicitly told that I like him. Annnnd I think maybe he knows it, too.
So I guess the core of my question is, how can I make myself suitable only for being friendzoned? That's right. I'm asking how to get friendzoned!!! I bet you don't get many letters like that, eh?
I would be remiss, Sparkler, if I didn't start by asking if you're sure that this is what you want. Before I give you a bunch of advice on how to repel someone you like, which is pretty much my specialty, I have to make sure you think that's the right course of action here. Seeing someone doesn't have to take up all of your time, especially if he's aware at the start that school and music are really important to you, and that "I can't go out tonight because I have to play my tuba" isn't girl code for "I am mad at you for some reason." But that's just my two cents (real world value: no cents). If you're committed to this course of non-attraction, I can help you out.
1.) Brief Hugs
If you two are already very huggy, it would be weird if he went in for a hug and you just turned around and walked away, leaving him to stand there, arms akimbo, like a depressing scarecrow. Instead, just have, like... business hugs. Keep them brief and friendly; break the hug before he does. This might seem like a completely insignificant thing to consider, but I promise you that it's not. It's a very subtle but noticeable sign that you're not looking for anything romantic here.
2.) Share Less
Most of us are more drawn to sharing personal stuff with people we like, particularly if that stuff is vaguely flattering. If a guy you like tells you that your hair smells nice, you're probably going to respond to him; if a weird man on the street approaches you and tells you your hair smells nice, your only response should be "Psssffft," where that is the sound of your pepper spray. I'm not saying you shouldn't be friendly with your dude at all; I'm just saying that you should stop to consider if what you're talking about is going to make him imagine you in a particularly smexy context.
3.) Don't Focus on Him
I'm assuming you two hang out in a group with other friends. In those situations, I would always tend to focus on the girl I liked, to the exclusion of everyone else, regardless of what was happening. Someone would be like "Aaargh I have been hit by a bus," and I would pivot away and ask for her opinions on public transit. You probably already realize this one is a sign of interest, but watch out for it anyway; you can be a genuine friend to him without fawning all over him.
4.) No Miscellaneous Flirting
I get that you can't help smiling more when he's around, but don't make things worse by doing other flirty stuff too. You know, casual physical flirting—touching his arm, resting your head on his shoulder, putting your face on his face and then making out with it like fifty times. These are all things to avoid.
5.) Just Explain Yourself
I know nobody ever wants to hear this advice, because actually confronting someone is hard when you're brimming with so many Feelings and Emotions. But if you think that, despite all your efforts, you're still misleading him—or if he actually broaches the topic himself—just be honest. If you've thought this through, and you've concluded that the best thing for you right now is to concentrate on important life things, then tell him that; it's pretty much the best possible explanation a guy can ever get. Guys are much more used to rejections like "I can't go out with you because, um, psssffft" (pepper spray again).
If you have decided you can't date right now, but you are interested, then I assume you'll want to allow for the possibility of dating him in the future—in that case, you don't want him thinking this is all just a polite lie you're using to let him down gently. You should only bring this up if you feel it's necessary (like, if you are so incapable of reigning in your flirting that he assumes you basically want to get married). If it does come to that, and all of your Machiavellian anti-flirting ploys fail to work, I think he'll be happy just knowing the truth, instead of being hopelessly confused by mixed signals.