Ask Dr. NerdLove: Somebody To Love

Hey Doc,

I have a couple of odd little problems that you might be able to help me out with.

I’m a college senior in a good small school in a big American city.   I’m a classic geek (D&D, Magic the Gathering, Firefly, indie games, comic books, anime, hell, even LARP– I’ve done them all) and also a pretty serious intellectual (science! art! contemporary and classic literary fiction!  poetry!  history!  social science!  I love it all!).  I’m also a closet Asperger’s sufferer (with a childhood diagnosis from a real psychologist and everything!), but I’m generally a good enough showman to hide it.

Romantically, high school was monastic for me, and freshman year was rough.  Most of college, however, has been kind.  I’ve gotten laid, developed a sense of style, pushed my interest in acting further, discovered and embraced by bisexuality, gotten over my anxieties about performance in bed, and developed a nice sense of self-confidence (although some might say I have a bit too much of that now).  I feel pretty good about approaching and talking to just about anyone at school, and I talk to strangers pretty regularly.  I’m better at picking up brush-offs than I once was, and I do get them every so often, but I just take them in stride and move on.  Now, I’ve noticed that girls and guys who I meet seem much more interested in me, and I rarely go to a party without finding some sort of hookup.  In a lot of ways, life is good.

At the same time, though, I feel like I’ve lost something.  Throughout my adolescence– and into the beginning of college– I built up huge passionate infatuations like a Goethe character or a Final Fantasy protagonist.  These big burning passionate feelings often hurt, but when they were reciprocated, I felt like I was on top of the fucking world.  I would find myself thinking about people nonstop, always eager to see them.  I never had trouble being an affectionate, demonstrative boyfriend.  My relationships really felt like they enhanced my life.  When they broke, it hurt, but that pain was proportionate to the joy that I took in them.

I haven’t felt anything like that for over a year.  I’ve had at least three relationships break apart as I found myself having trouble getting myself to want to spend time with the other person– even to have sex.  I’ve met plenty of people who I clicked with as friends, and plenty who I’ve wanted to fuck, and a few who were a little of both, but never the double-barrelled shotgun blast to the head of intense romantic love.  I felt like it might have been starting to happen over the summer, but she left me, and, two days later, I found that I didn’t really care.

In the words of a man whose voice is liquid golden sex, “Can anybody find me somebody to love?”

Is something wrong with me?  Is this just what growing up is like?  Or do I just have to be patient and go out and try to meet more and more people?

The other question is about personality and image.  I know that in less than a year, I’m going to be shoved out of the protective cocoon of undergraduate life and into the bright sunshiney daylinght of reality (or grad school).  And at that point, I’m going to get a chance to redefine myself again.  

I feel like I really am, at heart, a consumate pop-culture geek and an intense pan-disciplinary  intellectual.  At the same time, I worry that my esoteric tastes and interests will alienate many potential friends and partners if I focus too much of my attention on them.  And I really don’t want to be lonely.  I could see myself drifting towards being a high-rolling offices-and-suits guy, cheerful art-loving hipster craft beer drinker, or flamboyant gay man instead, in order to appeal to a wider crowd.  How should I negotiate this?  I’m tall, brilliant, energetic, cheerful, funny, and, I’m starting to think for the first time in my life, handsome.  How should I use that to shape myself to present to others while remaining true to what I really love?

Thanks a bunch.


Not Freddie Mercury

Congratulations, you’re a grown-up complaining that he’s not 15 any more.

When you were young(er), dumb(er) and full of cum (er…), everything seems different. You were in the throes of puberty, your hormones were going apeshit and you were in the seething cauldron of social bullshit that was high-school. You were surrounded by your fellow burbling sacks of sex-chemicals in the middle of just how one is supposed to mash those weird dangly bits together and your particular role-models were Tidus, Sora and Clound Strife.

I’m not terribly surprised that you were the emotional equivalent of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.

You’ve grown. You’ve matured. You’ve got some social skills and – critically – you’ve made the leap from fantasy (imagining an EPIC LOVE THAT WILL LAST FOR EVERRRRRRR! with your high-school crushes, jerking off alone in your room, picturing that girl in your Victorian Lit class doing things you’ve only ever seen on RedTube) to reality (real dates, actually having sex with another person in the room). And now that you’re an grown-ass man… well, you’re kind of wishing you could go back to the way things were when you were dealing with fantasies.

There are couple of things going on here.

First: you’re having a problem that lots of nerds – myself included – had; you’ve confused passion for love. It’s actually a very simple mistake to make, especially when you’re young and relatively inexperienced. Your heart races, your palms sweat, your mouth goes dry, your body shakes with nervousness and anticipation when you’re near someone you’re attracted to… these are all the symptoms of true love, right?

Nah. Not really. It’s mostly arousal and the anticipation of possibly actually getting someone else to play with your boner for a while. But when you haven’t had much experience with serious or sexual relationships, it’s pretty easy to mistake the two. And while passion is an important part of attraction and romantic love, it’s not the only part… and it’s also the part that fades fastest. In fact, the half-life of that initial rush that leaves you twitterpated and annoying all your friends by constantly talking about how adorable your crush is when she’s chewing her food is about six months to a year.

Passion is like the tide; it ebbs and flows. And it tends to roll back out at the six month mark… to be replaced by intimacy, emotional connection and companionship, the real hallmarks of loving relationships. A lot of people mistake this change in their relationship for a problem and freak the fuck out, assuming that it means that they’ve fallen out of love and their relationship is some how flawed or ruined. It’s not… and that passion will come right back too.

The other problem you’re having isn’t really a problem. You’re just going through the dating process, same as everyone else does. Not every person you meet is going to be your One True Lurrrve and you’re not necessarily going to be hit with a swirling storm of cartoon birds and singing rainbows with every girl you’re attracted to. Some you may have a great physical connection with. Some you may get in your head… but not your pants. This is how dating works; you keep looking, keep meeting new people and trying ’em out for size. Some relationships don’t work… that’s how it goes. The girl who you didn’t care about dumping you was just one more person you ultimately weren’t that into. Big fat hairy deal. Dust yourself off and meet some other folks. And keep an open mind; you may be very surprised to wake up one day and realize that somebody you thought was just a friend is, in fact the love of your life. You just didn’t know it at the time because you kept waiting for that double-barrel shotgun blast right from the jump.

As for your second question:

You’re overthinking things. First of all, have you seen the readership of my site? Folks are into all kinds of weird shit. We’ve got otaku, Bronies, comic geeks, horror nerds, Browncoats, Trekkies… being a nerd isn’t that uncommon, nor is it a handicap. No matter where you go, I’m fairly certain you’re gonna find some nerds, even if they’re on the down-low. But rather than worrying about whether being a nerd is going to alienate future friends, spend more time getting to know who you are and making sure you have an interesting, well-rounded life. Just because you’re leaving the protective ivory tower that is college doesn’t mean you’re done learning and growing. Engage your intellectual curiosity, pursue some areas that you might not have realized that you were interested in. And when you’re hanging out with your non-nerdy friends, you’ve got an opportunity to introduce them to some of the things you like already… provided you don’t roll them out like you’re explaining how you caught a communicable disease.

So, TL;DR version: you’re a grown-ass man remembering what things were like as a teenager. Calm down, meet more people without expectations of world-shattering passion and learn to roll with who you are.

You’ll be fine. Trust me.