Ask Dr. NerdLove: Love Is A Contact Sport

Dr. NerdLove is on vacation this week, so we’re keeping things short and sweet. Besides, sometimes a question doesn’t require a dissertation in response…

Dear Dr.Nerdlove,

I seek your guidance.  I’m 18 years old going on 19 in college and I’ve just experienced my first crush.

Before I go on keep in mind. I’m somewhat of a sheltered child. I’ve spent all my life in private school and I’ve never really found any attraction to any one, I’ve just been more focused on just  being friendly. My friends and I came to the conclusion that I might be Asexual. Or so we thought up until now.  Now the girl I have this crush on I’ve known for the last four years. We’ve become good friends and we even do a comic book podcast. Now this crush wasn’t at first glance. It’s something that just sort of developed. But here is where  I seek help. As I’ve pointed out I’ve never been in any relationship in the romantic or sexual manner.She’s just recently broken up with her boyfriend back in January. An the cherry on top of this is she’s 5 years older then me. Approximately 23 going on 24. We’ve planned to hang out this summer but I don’t know how to treat this. I know not to force the idea of a relationship outside of our friendship. But this annoying little voice in my head keeps insisting be direct and just ask.  So do I listen and just see if this is something she wants to do and let her decide? Or do I just shut the little gnome up and play it safe?  

Look, dating is a contact sport. If you’re going to play, you have to assume that there’s going to be riskPlaying it safe is only going to ensure that nothing happens.

To switch to a different metaphor entirely: if you’re planning on dating at all, then eventually you’re going to have to leave the metaphorical nest and try to fly. You may make it on your first try. Most people don’t and end up crashing to the ground. It’s part of the learning process; you have to be able to handle being rejected or breaking up if you’re going to be trying to have a mature adult relationship. If you keep waiting for the “perfect” opportunity where you have 0 risk of things going wrong… well, you’re going to be single for a long, long time.

You’re interested in her. She’s single. Man up and ask her out on a date. The worst thing that she says is “no”, in which case… well, it sucks to be you, but at least you tried. Laugh it off, go back to being friends and look for a new Ms. Right.

Good luck.

  • Nikki

    go for asking her out but be wary of the huge age gap. You're young and ready to be eaten alive by older college students who will want to use you. Get to know her more first before asking her out and don't let her take advantage of you in the end.

    • Orcus

      I would agree be wary of the age gap, but disagree that it's huge. I've seen larger gaps that worked(and just attended a wedding for one), but it's not to be ignored.

      You're just barely pass the "half plus seven" rule, and while you two definitely seem like you share interests, maturity/comfort/expectation/experience differences might be pretty wide at your stage.

      However, they might not. As the doc says, you don't know until you try.

    • Shockingly, Nikki & I agree on this.

      She’s been your friend for HOW many years?? Tell her how you feel, but be aware that while she may not intend to eat you up, she may not know what she wants right after a break-up… however, 5 months is better than a couple weeks. Depending on how good or bad the break-up was she may say “Yes” then decide “No” when her emotions drop back to normal.

      Nikki’s advice is quite succinct for college dating… or ANY dating, really. Beware of the girls who think it’s fun to serial date, if that’s not what you’re wanting.

      Tell her you want to treat her to a date & accept whatever she decides.

      • Anthony

        While Nikki may have said some…inflammatory…comments before, I don’t think we need to say ‘Shockingly’ when we agree with her. Kinda just reinforces negative feelings.

  • Firecat

    5 years? That's not a huge age gap. My husband of over a decade is 13 years older than I am. My parents have been married for over 40 years, and Dad is about 10 years older than Mom. An age difference doesn't, in and of itself, need to be a big deal, provided that both parties are adults.

    That said, the difference between 18-19 and sheltered and 23-24 and possibly more experienced with relationships, etc., can be greater than the difference between, say, 25 and 30. It depends a lot on the people involved; shared interests and experiences make a big difference. It makes a difference to be out on your own, paying your own bills, maybe learning to live with roommates, choosing friends from a broader group, and so on. I know that I changed a lot during my college years (ages 18-23), and more when I started working full time and so on. Not true for everyone, of course, but there is a lot of learning about yourself and the person you want to be that can happen during those years.

    That said, I still think you should ask her out. If she says yes, you two can have fun together (whether or not that includes sex), maybe learn a lot from each other, and maybe it lasts and maybe it doesn't. And if things do progress to the point that you decide to have sex, be safe, no matter what. If she says no, she's still taught you that there are people out there to whom you are attracted, and that's an important thing to know. It might help to think about why she is so attractive to you, too; I think it's good to understand at least some of things you find attractive.

  • Skelly

    Oh, man. I feel for you. I was a presumed ‘asexual’ (textbook schizoid personality disorder, actually) till I was seventeen and suddenly and rather unexpectedly developed a sexual orientation. I had no idea what to do with myself. This sort of thing isn’t easy to pick up, late in the game.

    I don’t know that the age gap is a big deal, so long as you are both out of high school (or about to be). The only real across-the-board difference between people at 18 and 23 is lifestyle and life experience, especially if she is living away from home or holding down a steady job, and you are not. Other than that, I can’t say that there is much of a difference, in terms of maturity, that can be judged except on a case-by-case basis. Certainly, I wouldn’t allow that to be a deciding factor in your decision. If it bothers her, she is adult enough to tell you ‘no’ (with or without giving her reasons).

    Go ahead and ask. And keep in mind, the more direct and matter-of-fact you are, the less likely this will damage your friendship, regardless of her answer. Be genuine. The worst thing you could do, in a situation like this, would be to ‘set up’ something weaselly to try to soften it or influence her decision (people don’t mean to do this, but all too often they do, without knowing it). This girl clearly knows you well enough to come to her own conclusions, and you should respect her enough not to sidle into this sort of thing.

  • What can I say? I fully agree with the others: man up and ask her out. Do not plan too much, just DO IT. It won’t end well if you give to your brain too much time to elaborate! I think that this website is already full of good dating advices, in case you need some ideas. For sure you won’t regret it, especially if you play it fair!
    And do me a favour: if you successfully ask her out, kiss her before the date ends. It is a waste of time otherwise!

  • Taro

    “I’ve never really found any attraction to any one.”

    I can relate to that, albeit in different, ugly way. Surfing through internet porn has caused me to develop…lets just say, an unrealistic standard to reach libido.

    …I should seriously look into lowering my standards.

    Anyway, reading this made me think. Up to this point, I thought that my lack of interest in most girls was due to my current ambitions (dream career and all that), and the aforementioned internet porn (plus, I’m not one to believe that being sexually attracted to another is, by itself, a good reason to start a relationship). Perhaps I’m missing another variable, though. Perhaps I need to meet and talk with another girl in a scheduled manner to start feeling emotionally attracted to her. Seeing that my career doesn’t involve with dealing with other people all that frequently, this makes sense.