When I meet a person of interest there’s one thing I need to know before I even consider considering (I said that right) spending any amount of time or energy on them. Very early on I ask,
“Are you available?”
I don’t preface this question with anything. I don’t add any disclaimers or buffers. I ask it flat out with a straight face and no expectation.
Disclaimer: We’re talking about someone I could potentially see romantic ties with; not friendly exchanges.