This Is Why You Fail (Or: What’s Holding You Back In Dating)

Let me paint a common story for you: It’s been a while since you’ve started trying to get better at dating and it seems like you’re no further along than you have been before. If anything, you’re actually getting worse. The more posts you read, the more approaches you make… none of it seems to be working. You’ve plateaued. You’ve stalled out. You’re not getting any responses from your online dating profile. You’re getting nowhere meeting people in person.

You’re angry.

You’re depressed.

You’re frustrated.

The longer this goes on, the more you’re becoming convinced more than ever that this whole dating/sex/talking to other people thing is something that other people do and you’d be better off weighing the pros and cons of a monastic life of quiet desperation and a poetic death via alcoholism interspersed with self-pitying and slightly arch animated gif parades on Tumblr1.

“Thanks Doc, you’re really helping here.”

In short: you’re failing miserably and you don’t know why.

Trust me, I know that feeling; it’s something everybody goes through when you’re trying to get better at anything, especially something as personally defining as dating and relationships. As far as I could tell, I was doing everything right, so why the hell was I fucking up every. God. Damn. TIME??

Well, as it turns out, it wasn’t a case of my technique being bad2 or women being bitches or any number of other things I told myself to explain my failures away. I was sabotaging myself in a number of ways that I didn’t even realize… and until I took the time to recognize this and actually address these issues, I was never going to get better.

Over the years I’ve seen these issues crop up again and again; I’ve seen them in friends, in the letters I’ve gotten as Dr. NerdLove, even in myself in different aspects of my daily life. The things that hold us back in dating almost always systematically bleed into the other parts of our lives as well and it’s only when we can be honest with ourselves, confront and address these issues that we can manage to move forward and start making the progress we know we can achieve.

So I want to present a list of the most common3 reasons why you fail.

You’re A Bundle of Negativity

As I’ve mentioned before: negativity is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

An attitude of “This sucks, this will never work, I’ll never_______, only _____ people get to do _____,” only guarantees that you are indeed correct; it won’t ever work, nor will you ever do whatever it is that you’ve been hoping. They’re self-limiting beliefs – beliefs that you allow to take over your life and restrict you from achieving what you hope to achieve. Your attitude literally limits you because you make it come true.

When you tell yourself that you will never ________ because only X guys do _______ and you’re not X, you’re artificially cutting yourself off from any and all possibilities. If, for example, you believe that only “alpha” – for a suitably mistaken definition of “alpha” men get women, then that will be part of your reality. Not because it’s true but because that’s what you believe; everywhere you go, you will find continuous “proof” that this is true. Nothing but miles and miles of assholes with the women you want as far as the eye can see…

Or so you think. Your negative belief is causing you to fall victim to a common fallacy  known as “confirmation bias” – the tendency to only notice or pay heed to that which confirms your pre-existing belief. If you believe no woman could possibly find you attractive, you will elide over all evidence to the contrary – women flirting with you, giving you the “come-hither” stare or even just smiling at you – and focus like a laser on every incidence of negativity. You will see every interaction in the worst possible light: “she doesn’t like me, she’s clearly repulsed by me, she’s only being polite, I’m misreading the signals”

This apparently unending stream of reinforcement will only serves to perpetuate a vicious cycle; your self-limiting beliefs cause you to overlook evidence to the contrary, thus reinforcing the belief which, in turn, continues to make it impossible to see the truth. Your negative attitude will seep into everything you do; it will affect your attitude, your self-image, even your posture… all of which will serve to work against you.

You need to make an effort to be positive.

“OK, I’m positive this doesn’t work.”

Breaking negativity can be difficult; it takes time and effort to willfully decide to take a positive attitude and belief and stick to it. But the fun thing about confirmation bias? It works both ways. Believing in yourself – that you’re attractive, that you have a lot to offer others, that you can and will succeed – can actually help you.

Just ask yourself: would you rather a world where everything confirms your worst fears or your fondest fantasies?

You’re Trying To Be Someone You’re Not

There’s a reason why “just be yourself” is one of the most annoyingly useless advice cliches out there. After all, it’s likely that “being yourself” hasn’t exactly gotten you to where you want to be.

But there’s a point to it.

When we look at people who have something we want – whether it be material success, a skill or talent or even just a hot girlfriend – it’s only natural to try to be more like them. Whatever they’ve got going for them worked for them… why shouldn’t it work for you? And after all, whatever you’ve been doing hasn’t exactly been working out for you so far.

The problem with this approach is that, frankly, that’s not who you are. Trying to be someone who is diametrically opposed to who you are inside is a recipe for frustration and failure.

Nowhere was this more apparent than in the early days of the Pick Up community, when people assumed that one of the secrets of success with meeting women is to “peacock”; that is, dress up in exotic or even outlandish ways in order to get attention. Suddenly, you couldn’t swing a dead cat in a bar without hitting someone trying to rock a fuzzy top-hat and black nail polish or a shiny silk jacket, spiky earrings and New Rock boots.

Er… not that I would know anything about that.

The problem of course is that while Mystery was able to get away with dressing like a Hot Topic jumped him in a dark alley, he’s a professional magician; dressing weird comes with the territory. Everybody else was hoping that their outfits were going to do most of the heavy lifting for them and generally looked like idiots.

Similarly, it’s inadvisable for an introverted person to try to force themselves to act like an extrovert, especially in the dating scene. It’s incongruent with who they are; they’re quite literally pretending to be someone they’re not in hopes of better results. Not only will others feel the unnaturalness of their pose, but the stress and strain of keeping up the act only serves to wear them down faster, leaving them drained and upset… and not any closer to finding a date.

Not everybody is built to be a club-hopping player – and yet that’s what PUA culture directs men towards. Not everybody is cut out for traditional monogamy, for polyamory, for kink, for vanilla sex… but that doesn’t stop them from trying to force themselves into the model because they think that’s what they should be.

Using someone as a role-model is a good idea and one I advocate. However, too often we tend to try to model ourselves after what we think we should be like, which is often at 180 degrees from who we really are. Trying to fit into a personality type that’s so diametrically opposed from our real self is like trying to force yourself into shoes that don’t fit; you’re uncomfortable at best and the potential benefits are vastly outweighed by downsides.

When you’re trying to build the life you’ve always dreamed of, you need to do so in a way that’s harmonious with who you are at your core. You need to find the path that works for you4 , not for who you think you’re should be.

You’ll Take Anyone.

There’s nothing less appealing to a potential partner than feeling as though that they’re nothing more than a warm hole or body that’s filling a slot marked “girlfriend”. The more desperate you are to get what you want, whether it be sex or a relationship, the more likely it will slip through your fingers.

The metaphorical scent of desperation is the antithesis of attraction; much like negativity, it suffuses everything about you, from the way you speak to the way you act. It’s an ugly and unappealing. It screams of low self-esteem and equally low regard for the person on the receiving end of their attentions. After all, when you’re coming off as desperate, you’re telling the everyone around you that you don’t care for them as a person so much as what they represent: a featureless mannikin dressed up in entitlement and frustrated desire.

It can be tempting to rationalize this away: after all, why wouldn’t someone take being desired as a compliment? But then: when you say anyone will do, you’re saying that you don’t give a damn about the individual. They could be swapped out for the nearest stranger. Nobody likes feeling like an interchangeable, anonymous cog, easily replaceable and ultimately unmemorable.

On a practical level, desperation hurts you in a multitude of ways. You’re less likely to meet someone you would actually find success with as you blunder through looking for the first person to say “yes”. Even worse, your odds of turning a potential “yes” into a definite “no” skyrocket by pushing too far, too fast. Your desperation will cut you off from potential partners – the ones who would consider you will be turned off when they realize that any warm body will do and still more will assume that there must be a reason why you’ve been refused so often.

In short: your own desires are sabotaging your efforts to slake them.

As paradoxical as it may seem, you will never have better success at getting laid or finding a relationship by not desiring it.  Think of it as an exercise in zen: only in being desireless can our desires be fulfilled.

What is the sound of no hands fapping?

By being outcome independent – taking the focus off of finding sex – you are better able to relate to a potential partner as an individual rather than a walking, talking masturbation sleeve. You will be able to be in the moment and to appreciate women for who they are rather than what they represent. Your body language won’t tell her that you’re seeing validation through sex or that you’re measuring your self-worth whether or not you have a girlfriend.

The Tao of Steve had it right: you get laid more by not trying.

You’d Rather Argue Than Try

There will always be those who will say that they want to improve… but they’ll argue with every single suggestion or piece of advice they’re given. There’s always a reason why they already know that this, that or the other thing simply won’t work and that their initial belief is right.

To which my usual response is “how’s that working out for you?”

This tends to be classic ego-protecting behavior; we value being proven “correct” – and thus, sheltering our egos from the admission that perhaps we were wrong – even over getting what we supposedly want.

Yes, “we”. I used to be a classic example of this sticking point. No matter how badly I wanted to get better with women, I was steadfast in my belief that I was right all along and that it was the world that was wrong. Nevermind that I was the one looking for help in the first place;  I would argue and nitpick and try to catch anyone who would help me out in logical inconsistencies in order to prove the rightness of my position because I was right, dammit! 


Small wonder that it took me so long before I could make any progress. And no, it wasn’t working out terribly well for me.

I’m a fan of the (admittedly, medically inaccurate) saying: “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”. When the same behavior and efforts result in failure over and over again, it should be a signal that it’s time to try something different. There is value in trying a new approach – even if it feels as though it’s “not you” at first. Just because something is the way you’ve always done things doesn’t mean that it’s the right way.

“It’s not who I am” can be as much of a crutch as it can be an assist.

If an approach isn’t working, then it’s time to try something new and learn from the results… and then apply those results to your next attempt until you find one that actually works.

You Don’t Take Responsibility

This is a subject I’ve covered before, but it’s worth reiterating: you can’t improve until you’re willing to take ownership of your life. It’s entirely too easy to put up barriers and blame to shield yourself from responsibility. You’re not where you want to be because women are hypergamous and only want X type of men or because you’re beta or because this, that or this other thing… but it’s not your fault!

This attitude will always hold you back; until you can take ownership of your mistakes, you can’t make progress towards your successes.

Taking responsibility means removing negativity from your life. When you are able to admit your own involvement in your failures rather than finding excuses, you empower yourself to get better. You remove the pre-excuse for failure by removing “try” from your vocabulary.

“Said this before, I have. Listening this time, are you?”

You strip “can’t” from your internal dialogue. You may fail to do something. You may choose not to do something. But saying “you can’t” becomes another way of blocking yourself from making the attempt in the first place. I used to say that “I couldn’t” go up and talk to strange women, maybe get their number and a date… until I had to admit that I could, I just chose not to.

Until I was willing to take responsibility for my choice.

You Don’t Want It Badly Enough

Much like being desireless, this particular sticking point can seem paradoxical. Of course you want it badly enough! You wouldn’t be putting in all of this time and effort if you didn’t right?

But what, exactly, have you been doing? Have you been going out every weekend and trying to meet people? Have you been approaching as many people as possible? Have you been going out and making an effort to be more social at every opportunity? Have you been putting in the hours of self-reflection and study, trying to find your sticking points, break your bad habits and negative beliefs? Have you been swallowing down your fear of rejection, of humiliation and making a move even though you knew you didn’t have a 100% guarantee of success?

Or have you been doing a lot more reading and a lot less doing? Hours of research on the internet finding blogs like mine, lots of time spent talking about what you’re doing, dreaming of what your new life as a ladies’ man will be but less and less spent out practicing and taking the risks and making the sacrifices necessary to improve? Have you been finding any number of perfectly understandable reasons why you couldn’t approach the woman you had your eye on at the party? You couldn’t go out last weekend, you had too much to catch up at home. You may have only approached one woman last week, but you were tired!

The more excuses you make, more it becomes clear that you just don’t want it as badly as you think you do.

When it comes to achieving your goals, whether it’s getting better at dating, losing weight or even something like “writing that novel” or “travelling the world”, you will never actually accomplish them until you hit your tipping point. Until your goal moves from aspirational – “wouldn’t it be nice if I had/did this?”  – to necessity – “I need to do this”, you simply don’t want it enough.

Don’t get me wrong: success or failure isn’t an indicator of how badly you wanted it. This isn’t The Secret; the act of wanting something badly enough isn’t going to send out woo-woo vibes into the universe that guarantee you success and failure doesn’t mean you didn’t want it enough.

Wanting it – for whatever value of “it” you care to give –  badly enough means that you’re willing to do what it takes to get there, even if it’s going to take far longer than you’d prefer. You quit talking about writing that novel and start putting words down on paper; maybe not a lot, maybe just 400 words a day, but you do it consistently until one day… well, by God you’ve got yourself a 90,000 word novel sitting in front of you. You quit making surface changes or dieting and instead start making the lifestyle changes that lead to gradually losing weight and being able to maintain it. You start living on a ramen and miso soup diet while you sock away your money for that trip to Tokyo.

Or you start approaching 5 women every day, documenting your every interaction, gathering feedback and moving your way towards greater social proficiency.

I’ve never said that getting better at dating is easy or quick. It takes months, even years of effort and practice to break the habits and self-limiting beliefs of a lifetime. There’s a saying in PUA circles that I find apt: “The first 1000 rejections don’t count.” Until you’ve made those 1000 approaches and have gotten rejected 1000 times, you’re still a beginner, trying to learn the basics, the emotional equivalent of learning to crawl before you walk. It’s the same as making the free-throw a thousand times or practicing a single sword stroke over and over again until you’ve mastered it. You can’t sink the basket without having spent all those hours shooting and missing.

When you want it badly enough, you’ll be more than willing to rack up those thousand rejections – you’ll be ready to blast through those and a thousand more if that’s what it takes to get better. You’ll be willing to try new things, even if they seem strange or “not you”. You will be willing to go out, talk to people you never imagined you would ever approach in a hundred years even though you know that they may shoot you down. You’ll be willing to take the hits, endure the sting of rejection until you realize that rejections don’t actually hurt and you have more to learn from them than you ever realized.

And then – before you know it – you’ll realize you’re not being rejected the way you used to be. In fact, you’re starting to get more phone-numbers… and then more dates… than you thought you ever would a year ago, even a montago. You won’t be able to believe how frustrated you were, at how impossible it all seemed and how natural it all seems now.

All because you were willing to face your sticking points. Because you were willing to put in the time. You were willing to make the sacrifices and all the effort.

Because you finally wanted it badly enough.

  1. That’s still a thing, right? Tumblr’s like the new LiveJournal, ya? []
  2. although it definitely needed work []
  3. that is, the ones I’ve seen most often. This isn’t intended to be a comprehensive list. []
  4. please note very carefully that I said works. I will come back to this in a moment. There will be a quiz later. []

  • Sam

    "Um, yes, we were led to believe there would be punch and senpai?"

  • Sam

    I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to bastardize a South Park quote

  • Karla

    Also, just because you get rejected it doesn't mean your approach was a failure!

    It may just have been bad timing and she's flattered and you brightened her day. Not a total loss to bring a smile to someone's face even if they're not interested in sexytimes.

    • guest

      or you are, you know physically unattractive

      • Trooper6

        Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Christina Hendricks is married to a guy that many don't find physically attractive, but she clearly does. People you might not consider physically attractive get dates all the time. Also, even beyond physical attraction there are other modes of attraction–emotional attraction, moral attraction, charismatic attraction, and on and on.

      • Juuuuuulia

        that should say:

        or, you know, that particular person did not find you physically attractive.

        (whereas, in reality, you are sexy and you know it.)

        • guest

          its just that there are some people who are simply preferred by more- how often have you heard women proclaim their desire for men who look like George Costanza? People who look closer to Chris Hemsworth, Johnny Depp, even that guy who plays Edward Cullen will get many more dates much easily with much more 'conventionally' attractive(tm) women than most of the readership here will in the course of their entire lives. Also exceptions dont disprove the general rule.

          • Anonymoose

            "Also exceptions dont disprove the general rule."

            I've tried this before, it doesn't work around here.

          • Anonymoose

            Hey, I'm still holding to that one, minus-er. Christina Hendricks may have an ugly husband, but she's an exception, the average Hollywood Starlet doesn't.

          • eselle28

            Yeah, I think that's fair. But as a fellow single person, I suspect we've all heard enough people telling us to lower our standards. I'm not sure if DNR has specific advice on how to do that, or if it would fit in with his aspirational tone. It seems like most of his advice is focused toward helping people take care of stumbling blocks that aren't related to their physical appearance.

            That being said, I would say that if finding a girlfriend who looks like a Hollywood starlet is someone's goal, I'd question his priorities.

          • Anonymoose

            You have to be attracted to them to be into them.

            Not Hollywood starlet level, but still, she needs to have something (curvey) going for her physically (because I have big palms).

          • Becelec

            So…. are we bitching here about women having physical standards for the men they like but then saying of course men should have physical standards for the women they like? How about we let everyone have whatever standards they like and stop bitching about it then? Equality for all, etc.

          • Anonymoose

            Nah, I just like the "exceptions don't disprove the rule" thing (THEY DON'T), and had to chime in on the "If your standards are Hollywood starlets/priorities" thing.

          • Mel

            Since you like using that phrase so much, you might want to read this article. The key point: "The problem with how the phrase is currently used is that it justifies an inconsistency without further examination. People use it to dismiss concerns about something that has been stated as a rule, without examining why the inconsistency exists."

          • Anonymoose

            Will read, but I'm currently going in between the Giants/Cards game and the comp.

          • Trooper6

            Go Giants!

          • Mel

            Technically it's about the more commonly used version of the phrase, but I think the points raised still apply in many ways.

          • Anonymoose

            I'm missing something, this seemed more like a grammar lesson.

          • Becelec

            Ah ok cool. But just a point, your "exception don't disprove the rule" thing, if exceptions exist, surely it would not be a rule then and it would only be a theory? Because something that's considered to be a general trend is just that, right? A trend, not a rule. Plus there's a lot more Hollywood actresses with ugly husbands than Hollywood actors with ugly wives. And I would still say the latter is only a trend, not exactly a rule.

          • Anonymoose

            I tend to see it as deviations from the norm vs the norm. Exceptions are rare and hard to find, and finding yourself in such a situation isn't likely.

            What does Christina Hendricks husband even do? If he has some kind of high-status job or somesuch thing, then it makes up for his uggo looks. An agent will have his clients best interests at heart, and I'm sure if you make it in Hollywood you're gonna have people screw you around once or twice, so the guy who's always looking out for her seems like an obvious choice. A true deviation would be just a truly average guy.

          • Trooper6

            Christina Hendricks husband is an actor, though not as famous as she is.

            By the way, I'm an average guy (though some might dispute that) and when I date people I have my partner's best interest at heart…as my partner did mine. That should be standard…not something special…and all decent average guys should also have that quality.

          • Guest

            Sigh for nerds you people have no grasp of statistics- just because that once in the blue moon event happened, does not mean you should COUNT ON IT just like you should not count on winning the lottery to pay debts- just because Hendriks chooses who she chooses does not mean the rest of womanhood follows even remotely the same path.

          • Mel

            I'm not sure what your point is. How do the choices of actresses relate to the path of the "rest of womankind"? Most women don't look like actresses, and they don't expect their dates to look like actors.

            The trend generally observed is that people tend to be friends with and date people of a similar level of attractiveness to themselves. Since most women are normal (not exceptional)-looking, that means normal looking guys should have no problem.

          • Anonymoose

            I think he's saying "Don't let an exception make you believe a hot redhead with a giant rack is at the end of the tunnel if you self-improve like this. You're likely not going to end up with one even if you do everything right."

          • Becelec

            Yeah but no one was saying self-improvement leads to Christina Hendricks. She was used as an example to show that women find different things attractive, and that what one person finds physically unattractive another might find that same thing incredibly appealing. Not sure how that got turned into bitching about everyone's grasp of statistics.

          • Mel

            Yes to what Becelec said. Guest's original complaint was that guys who look like hot actors have an easier time getting women's interest than guys who look more ordinary. And I'm saying it doesn't matter, because even if women think Brad Pitt or Johnny Depp are hot, the women who aren't actress-gorgeous (which is most of us) are generally aware that they're not going to date guys actor-level hot, and are perfectly capable of finding more ordinary guys attractive too. Otherwise most of us would never date anyone! So ordinary guys aren't actually at a disadvantage the way Guest seemed to be complaining.

          • Gentleman Johnny

            The funny thing is that a lot of "hot guy" actors aren't that much amazingly better looking than everyone else. They just have the luxury of spending six months with a professional staff of hair, makeup, lighting etc people so that you see them at their absolute best for two hours a couple of times a year. Give me those resources and I'll be hotter than %TEEN_IDOL.

            Most women know that, the same way most men know that Playboy centerfolds are impossibly perfect. Quit competing with imaginary people and worry about how to be more attractive with what you've got.

          • Gentleman Johnny

            One in a billion events happen to seven people a day.

          • guest

            And people also win the lottery everyday- your argument is invalid

          • eselle28

            Of course this is true. Dating is easier for some people than for others. Being good-looking is a benefit.

            Juuuuuulia's phrasing is still more useful than what you proposed. Very few men look like Chris Hemsworth, Johnny Depp and Robert Pattinson. Lots of men look like George Costanza. Most of the guys in the second group will still find some women who find them appealing and who want to date them. Those women may not look like Angelina Jolie, of course, and it does require a little more looking to find both someone who finds you attractive who you feel the same way about. But it's not like it's an impossiblity.

          • Juuuuuulia

            Also, very few men look like Chris Hemsworth, Johnny Depp and Robert Pattinson at the same time. I think the women that like men who look like Chris Hemsworth don't necessarily like guys who look like Johnny Depp. Either way, you're not trying to score with every single person you approach — you're trying to score with a non-zero amount of people (whom you find attractive), which was the point of my photo example. Yes, Robert Deppsworth might have a better success ratio than you, but it doesn't really affect your strategy.

          • Anonymoose

            It does affect your numbers, though.

            It's not just guys who have entitlement problems, either.

          • Juuuuuulia

            Numbers? Also presumably if those dudes are so attractive, presumably they're not even in the game most of the time, yeah? They're like, taken.

          • Anonymoose

            Dating numbers. The amount of women who will date you just based off of the first interaction or so.

            And it's the other way around, women are throwing themselves at guys like that just to get a piece of him. Even been suggested that women won't mind "sharing" a guy like that.

          • Juuuuuulia

            I think few women will date you based of the first interaction. I actually think few women would actually *date* a famous guy from the first interaction — they would just want to get his attention and then be kinda overwhelmed if they realized dating was happening. I think women would be just as cautious with a hot, non-famous guy as an average-looking one. They'd just WANT to think he's more okay.

            The problem is it's very hard to know if someone is good to date until you actually try it. So whenever you meet someone, there's a little of this going on.

          • Anonymoose

            Okay, wait. If they won't date on first interaction, how do you date people you randomly meet if you otherwise have no reason to hang out together?

          • Becelec

            I suppose you'd need to find someone who's ok with dating someone randomly. Plenty of woman would never go on a date from a first interaction (myself and the majority of my friends are like this). So I guess you'd just have to hope that the woman you've approached isn't one of them, coz otherwise there's not really going to be anything you could say or do to change their mind.

          • Juuuuuulia

            You get their number/email/etc and then contact them to hang out?

          • Anonymoose

            But… isn't that a date?

          • Juuuuuulia

            Oh. Yes! =)

          • Anonymoose

            But then aren't you getting a number and then asking for a date based off of your first interaction.

          • Robert

            I think Julia's "Oh. Yes!" response is a little misleading. In my eyes, there's a difference between "hang out" and "date". One has an implied romantic context and one doesn't.

            That said, if you do successfully get a number and a date based on the first interaction, then you've (deliberately or otherwise) executed the first step: finding a woman who will date based on the first interaction. How likely are you to find such a woman? Unless you're not going out there and meeting people (in which case the probability is 0), I personally have no idea what your chances of finding a woman like that are.

          • Juuuuuulia

            Yeah, I had a number of dudes ask to "hang out" and then attempt to commence gropage. Which was frustrating because in some of those cases, I would have said "yes" to a date if they had asked. But because we were "hanging out", I was like WAIT WHAT I NEVER SIGNED UP FOR THIS.

          • Anonymoose

            You can grope them as long as you call it a date?

          • Juuuuuulia

            If you call it a date, they will assume gropage may be involved and then decide to say yes or no. If you call it "hanging out" they might not realize it was even on the table, and be pissed of to find that it was and they weren't notified.

          • Anonymoose

            I'd never even think of groping on a date. 😐

          • Juuuuuulia
          • Delafina

            I disagree pretty passionately with this. I do not assume I'll be groped on a date, and find it pretty offensive if a guy tries it when I haven't clearly invited it.

          • Juuuuuulia

            Well I was exaggering somewhat. On a first date, it's accepted that you can try to kiss them at the end? But if you're "hanging out" then you really can't start anything physical without asking first and having a conversation about it.

          • Delafina

            I think we come from pretty different backgrounds. Where I'm from, you try for a goodnight kiss after you've been out together a few times, not on the first date. 🙂

          • Juuuuuulia

            Really? I had a guy go for it without asking and there was a bike in the way. Even though there was nothing to suggest a romantic interest beforehand. Awkwardbuckets. ^_^

          • Delafina

            Well, there are always guys who won't respect boundaries. I was talking about what's considered standard. 🙂

          • Juuuuuulia

            Well, he was from the internet. So I think he was treating it like a first date and I was treating it as just meeting a stranger, so he thought it was a perfectly chill thing to do with no notice whatsoever.

          • Juuuuuulia

            I think when in doubt, ask nicely!

          • Anonymoose

            Kinda makes me lol thinking of how to say "Can I grab your ass?" in a nice way.

          • Trooper6

            Maybe. It depends on framing and pressure. I find it is a bit easier to convince a person to have a hangout after first contact–which doesn't have the pressure of maybe smoothies afterwards, than framing the follow up as a date.

            Date is a bit loaded…so sometimes I find it a bit better to have a second (and sometimes third) interaction be framed as a getting to know you hangout–without the pressure of romance. And then, if the groove is good for both of you, you call the next encounter a date with the air of romance.

            I think this is a bit of an important distinction because of date creep. What I mean by that is, in the past dating was seen as much more casual than it is today. People would go, on dates with multiple people simultaneously, go,on a date or two, and leave it at that, etc. But now that sex happens more regularly and casually than it used to, "dating" often implies something a bit more serious, more like what would have been called "going steady"

            Dating protocol and the pressures around it has changed, so sometimes it is just a bit better to depressurize a bit.

          • Juuuuuulia

            Yes, as Trooper6 said — it's very case-by-case. If you said "wanna hang out?" then you're hanging out and it's a little uncool to start assuming the person is romantically interested when they said yes. (It is not necessary to assume romantic disinterest, but it is not okay to immediately commence gropage.) Now, if you say "will you go on a date with me?" or (confusingly) "will you have dinner with me?" then there is a cultural implication of romantic interest. In this situation, it is more okay to try to kiss them when the date ends.

          • trooper6


            And if I just met you, I don't know if I want to kiss you…and framing something as a date right away, could be too much. On the other hand, some sort of daytime get together takes pressure off, gives you time to figure out if you might want to go on an actual date, but still keeps the interactions just a bit charged–if you do it right.

            A hangout, pre-date sort of thing would not be: come to my house to play video games or watch videos…I also like to avoid the: come hang out with a group of my friends. I prefer meeting up for lunch, coffee, or something in the daytime, in public, one-on-one, that is low cost, allows for lots of talking, where anyone can leave at anytime because they have to get back to work/class/etc, but you can really get to know someone a bit better and judge if there could be a deeper connection.

            Because, this is important, both people in this instance should be trying to figure out if they are interested in more contact. It isn't that men are beggars for affection who will go out with any woman, and women are in the position to decide yes or no. Both people should be talking, getting to know each other, and deciding if they want to go out on a romantic date. Both people should be assessing.

          • Trooper6

            Of course there are women who are entitled, and when they go on self-help shows like Tough Love they get yelled at by Steve and told to lower their standards.

            And also, I have to say, a lot of Hollywood starlets are dating people who aren't Hollywood hot. Lots and lots if starlets are, and have historically dated their manager or lawyer or publicist or some other actor dude who isn't leading man material.

            I think Diana Rigg and Angelina Jolie are super attractive, but that doesn't mean I'll only date people who look like them…because there is only one Diana Rigg or Angelina Jolie. Women are the same way. They make think Brad Pitt is hot (though many don't), but that doesn't mean they will only date Brad Pitt. And some other heartthrobs are desired because they look like the guy next door, Justin Bieber looks like an average kid with an early Beatle haircut. Speaking of the Beatles, women went gaga over them and most of them were average looking (Paul being the "cute" one). Lots of women loved David Duchovny or Matt Smith…or any of the Doctors Who.

            Even in the land of celebrity there were women who thought Humphrey Bogart was hot–including Laren Bacall. Our society, as a whole, allow a wider range of things to signal attractiveness and desirability in men than in women. As men, when it comes to beauty standards we have got it much easier.

          • Anonymoose

            Beauty standards, yeah, but if you're not hefting around some power or celebrity of some kind, you're almost being left in the dust.

            Which I guess is why Doc focuses on becoming hypersocial so much, because that is something that can be done without needing to be rich, famous or powerful.

          • Juuuuuulia

            You don't HAVE to be hypersocial. But then you're choosing to live with the numbers. Like if you have a 25% success rate and you randomly meet one girl a week, then it'll be (on average) four weeks before you meet a girl that doesn't reject you. But if you go out to a bar (or party / class / social event) and meet 20 girls, then you have a chance of meeting 5 girls that don't reject you in one night. If you're cool with one girl in four weeks, you're perfectly welcome to take that route. ^^

          • Anonymoose

            Exactly. You can't control fame, you can't totally control rich, but you can control how many people you bother. It's seemingly a choice between social power/hypersocial or "scraps" (that's a poor word for it, but you get what I mean).

          • Juuuuuulia

            Haha, if you pick the ones that don't look busy / grumpy, you're technically not bothering them. =]

            I've actually found a good social situation for talking to people is checkout lines. Like in smallish shops where they aren't separated by smelly aisles of gum? Because you can always ask "is this the end of the line?" or "is this line shorter?" "do you think that line's moving faster?" blah blah…

          • Robert

            Actually, I don't get what you mean by "scraps". Could you explain?

          • Trooper6

            But this is not statistically possible what you are lamenting. The vast majority of men are not powerful or full of celebrity or rich. You are letting the media warp your view of reality. Which it also does for women..until people wake up a bit.

            Let's break it down a bit.
            Fallacy 1) Women only date guys who make over 100k a year. But only 7% of Americans make over 100k a year. A little over 50% of the country are women, not 50% of the population are dating the that part of the 7% that are men.
            Fallacy 2) Women only date guys who look like Brad Pitt. There aren't many guys who look like Brad Pitt…even Brad Pitt doesn't look like Brad Pitt…ah, the wonders of make up, good lighting, and photoshop!
            Fallacy 3) Women only date powerful guys. Powerful guys won't date regular women, why should they?
            Fallacy 4) Women only date celebrities. Celebrity guys don't date regular women, why should they?

            Regular women who live in the real world date regular guys who live in the real world. You do yourself no favors to imagine you are up against men that neither you nor the women in your life will ever even meet.

          • Anonymoose

            True, but if they look for qualities that are similar to famous crushes, I don't actually have many of those. Having some semblance of some of those things makes it (look) easier to get anywhere, and when you don't have them, holy fuck dat being left in the dust.

          • trooper6

            Two points:
            1) Not all people are looking for qualities in real life that are similar to their famous crushes. You may fantasize about the crazy free spirit, but not not want to date one in real life.

            2) Many of the qualities that people enjoy in their famous crushes are qualities that are very, very available to regular people: fidelity, altruism, charm, being a good parent, being funny, kindness, being a good listener, etc. Women who like Ryan Gosling aren't just liking him for his abs. I'd like to think you can cultivate some of those qualities, they are certainly not out of your reach.

            My first celebrity crush was Mrs. Peel. I loved that she was so smart and emancipated. Smart and emancipated women exist in the real world and I look for those things. I also loved that she was a spy who could kick butt with Kung Fu and could fence with a sword. I'm not really looking for that in people in real life.

            You aren't going to be left in the dust because you don't have abs…because do you know who is a celebrity and who also has abs? The Situation, and I know no woman who wants to date him…because he doesn't have other attractive qualities…nor do my female friends even imagine he'd be good in bed.

            People often have a range of qualities. If their preferred qualities are only manifested in unattainable celebrities, then it isn't *you* who will be left in the dust, it will be that woman who won't be dating anyone because her standards are too high. And then she'll go to some other website and complain about not ever being able to find some guy and how hard her dating life is, and the people there will tell her she has unrealistic standards.

            But most grown-up people have realistic standards attuned to the world they live in.

          • Gentleman Johnny

            +1 just for the Emma Peel reference.

          • Gentleman Johnny

            You said earlier that appearance will have an effect on you "numbers", ie the number of positive responses you get from your first interaction. This is true but (importantly) it has much less effect on how many people will want a second or later date.

            Being sociable by being able to make conversation and being genuinely interested in other people will do more to make you interesting in return than the best body money can buy, a gold plated private jet and a prime-time TV show. Yes, someone with all those things might have more "success" (ie sex) but is also much more likely to attract women with no real interest in him as a person. If you want someone who will give you sex, stroke your ego and take your money, call an escort service.

            Its all a question of how you define success.

            And again: please note that somehow the human species continues and yet we're not all descended from hyperattractive, rich people.

          • Trooper6

            This is a really great point.

            Many of those famous people have a real hard time finding people who actually are interested in them as people rather than their money/looks/fame/etc. Being used by people you thought really liked you sucked.

            And also famous people have a hard time dating, too. Jennifer Aniston…she who dated Brad Pitt…has been famous for not being able to get a stick with a guy post-Pitt. I think Olivia Munn similarly is unlucky in dating. While on the other hand, I know people who are plain, surly, and poor…and they find love.

            We don't know the inner lives of people who are not ourselves. We don't know if those other people are happy even.

            Side Note: Emma Peel for the win!

          • Jody S

            I always thought it was funny that Paul was considered the "cute" one, when George was much more conventionally attractive. But it had a lot to do with their respective personalities, as well as how they were marketed.

          • LeeEsq

            This is gets into my idea that sex appeal is the deliberate cultivation of innate traits. Good looking people tend to attract positive, and to be fair sometimes negative, attention from other people from childhood onward. If the physically attractive person likes this attention than they cultivate the social skills that are needed to attract more attention from other people. By the time the person becomes an adult, they have sex appeal.

          • Juuuuuulia

            Okay, suppose I'm not very photogenic, but I come out looking pretty good on about 25% of photos. If I want to maximize the number of good photos of me in existence, I should (a) hide from the camera because there's a 75% chance I'll looks silly in this particular photo? or (b) take more photos, because the more I take, the more good photos I will accumulate?

          • Trooper6

            For every Chris Hemsworth there is some gnarly looking dude who gets to be a sex symbol because he is "rugged"–we don't have any rugged female sex symbols.

            As for George Constanza, not very much because he is framed as insecure and neurotic, John Goodman? That I've heard a lot. I've also heard Charles Bronson…and any other number of guys who aren't all that pretty. And lots of gnarly looking musicians.

          • Anonymoose

            Famoussss peopleeeeeeeee. We're not famoussssssss

          • Becelec

            Yeah but it's not like people have famous crushes just because they're famous. It's all the qualities their persona projects. If it was just because they're famous, then we'd have crushes on everybody who's famous.

          • Anonymoose

            But you can also get away with a lot more while famous, and have people rationalize it as something attractive. If Jim Morrison has giry hair and an eating disorder, the ladies swoon. If I have girly hair (I've had it before), and an eating disorder (a very fast metabolism, actually), then I'm some skinny fool with a girly haircut who can't make a girl feel safe with my skinny arms etc etc etc.

            Also I use Jim Morrison because I have no idea who or what is famous in pop culture these days.

          • Trooper6

            What made Jim Morrison a sex object was not that he was famous. What made him a sex object was that he had crazy charisma and talent and confidence and interesting hobbies like writing poetry. And these qualities are what made him famous.

            Now, you say you had a "girly" hair cut (it wasn't' a girly haircut in the late 60's/early 70s), and were skinny…but do you have charisma, charm, talent, write poetry?

            Morrison was desired for a large number of qualities…many qualities that you don't have to be famous to get.

            Also, that thing about "scraps" you mention up thread is super insulting to the women you place in the scraps category.

          • Anonymoose

            +1 for "sex object." Symbol, man, symbol.

            And yeah, I didn't mean scraps as in the leftovers, I was trying to find a word for just a small portion of people available due to not being super social, but couldn't think of one.

            And hey, some of those qualities are actually god-given. I can't sing, as an example.

          • Trooper6

            But what does "being able to sing" mean? There are people who don't have traditionally beautiful voices and they are still famous singers…Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Tom Petty, Jimi Hendrix, random dearth metal dudes or punk rockers, and on and on…and again there is a sexual double standard here. It was more acceptable for men to have less pretty voices with less of a range than women…which they to get to have under the category of "rugged" voices.

          • Artimaeus

            Yeah, female performers are generally forced to emphasize their sex appeal more than males. But if you look at markets that are specifically trying to appeal to woman, there are plenty of generic, vocally competent pretty boys.

          • Mel

            I don't think the point is that there aren't physically attractive but only generically talented male celebrities placed to appeal to women. The point is that male celebrities generally have a wider variety of molds they can fit into and still be considered fame-worthy. Where are the female Larry Davids, Steve Buscemis, and Thom Yorkes? How many female celebrities are there out there that most people would agree aren't traditionally attractive by any stretch of the imagination, but they're "just so funny/talented/creative/etc."?

            Being physically attractive is pretty much a prerequisite for a woman to become famous in any sort of entertainment-related industry. A man can get by on charisma, humor, uniqueness, and/or skill.

          • Juuuuuulia

            I think they meant statistical scraps. Like very small probability interactions.

          • Becelec

            But it's not coz they're famous that they're swooning. They're swooning because that's the type of guy that they like, he appeals to them on some level. And that appeal transfers across to guys in real life. For example, I went through a phase where I adored Michael Cera, and as a result I found guys who had inherent Michael Cera qualities that made me find them ridiculously attractive. It wasn't that Michael Cera could get away with being a dork because he's famous, it was because I found that sort of persona really appealing and so when I saw it in real life I would become very attracted.

          • Gentleman Johnny

            Wait, you're a skinny guy with long hair? Who hangs out with geeks? And you think appearance is your problem? Brother, you're barking up the wrong tree, I promise you that.

          • Dr_NerdLove

            Indeed. Tom Hiddleston, anyone?Or for that matter, Tom Smith or David Tennant for that matter. There are hordes of women who love skinny dudes with floppy hair.

          • Juuuuuulia

            You're still awwweeesooommeee!

          • Sera Sera

            People usually become famous because they're really good at something. That IS something you can control. And in any case, I don't think it's fame that makes most people attractive so much as it is the fact that they are *good at what they do* – whether it's sports, acting, music, business, comedy, etc etc.

            If you don't have a hobby or career or passion, get one, and work at it. You don't even need to become famous for that to turn into an attractive trait. Whining that you're not famous is kind of exemplifying the Doctor's point here.

          • Anonymoose

            Famous actors are mostly luck of the draw, but yeah at the rest.

            It's not whining about fame (do not want), it's more that famous people set the standard for the rest of us and can get away with more because of said fame. The only way to make up for it is rich or being hypersocial. And yadda yadda yadda rest of the conversation.

          • trooper6

            But they don't really set the standard for us in the real world. Because they don't really exist in our real world. That woman is not going to get very far demanding you be Brad Pitt because she is no Angeline Jolie. She is not going to get far demanding you be rich, because very, very few people all. Many women don't like hypersocial people.

            You are psyching yourself out.

          • Anonymoose

            "You are psyching yourself out."

            There's a chance this could be 100% true.

          • Mel

            I don't know any women who expect the guys they date to look or act like famous people, or who see that as a standard to measure the guys around them by. Do you expect that you'll date women who are as beautiful or charismatic or whatever as the actresses you find attractive? Presumably not, because you're smart enough to realize that what we see of famous people is skewed and exaggerated and hardly anyone's like that anyway. Give women some credit–the majority of us are smart enough to realize that too.

          • Juuuuuulia

            I still think most people don't want a relationship with famous people. They just want their attention. So if they see [famous person] walking by, they'll be like OMIGOSH HI PAY ATTENTION TO ME!! Even if there's a "have my babies" in there somewhere, it still translates to "pay attention to me" and not that you're willing to … work on having a good relationship and be nice to them or whatever. In fact, it's pretty objectifying. o_O

          • Anonymoose

            Or to… have their babies?

          • Juuuuuulia

            Babies are difficult and expensive to raise. Shiloh Jolie-Pitt is gender non-conforming!

  • Colin

    I've found reading this blog makes me feel less hopeful and inspired and more suicidally depressed.

    • …. Why?

      • Kylroy

        Because it reminds Colin that every person’s romantic success is ultimately on them. It reminds him (assuming Colin’s male) there is no argument or excuse you can present that will cause the universe to generate gratfying romantic/sexual companionship for you. And the blog repeatedly emphasizes that if you fall into the stereotypical “nerd” form of dateless, you probably have a lot of hard work and rejection ahead of you before you can find a good relationship.

        • Delafina

          Why on earth did this Kylroy's comment get down-voted?

          • Kylroy

            It got downvoted because it's negative.

          • Delafina

            It's not negative — it's just about taking responsibility.

          • SomeGerman

            Yes, but exactly that can make you more depressed and inert.. at least in my experience. Not that im arguing against taking responsibility, but admitting your mistakes, your failures and that noone else but oneself is responsible for them can bring you down and quite depress you quite a lot. And it doesnt always help to get things moving because the thoughts of being responsible for failing again and again and missing out on so much coupled with the passing time make a nice catch 22. It tells you even more that one is not normal, and intensifies the fear and negativity even more

          • Gentleman Johnny

            OK, so you're responsible for your life. That means all the terrible mistakes you made are your fault. Now that you know it, though, it also means that you can change it instead of just letting life happen to you. Yeah, it can be depressing to admit that you're bad with women/don't have a job/whatever else and that its not just that fate hates you. Once you ackowledge that, though, you can change it. It might not be quick or easy but it can be done. That's a lot less depressing (to me) than just being stuck with your problems.

    • Cat

      Um… see above?

    • Colin

      Whoops, I just noticed I accidentally posted this in the wrong place. Need to pay more attention next time.

  • Okay okay here I am doing the "Arguing" one BUT I hope you'll consider this a legitimate question…

    When is an observation negative, and when is it fact? When can something be changed, and when can it be set in stone?

    For example, is it negative to say I will never get into a decent grad school without incurring massive debt? This may SEEM negative at first, until you look at the fact that decent grad schools require a high GPA in order to not just allow admission but if you get any financial aid outside of loans. I could potentially (maybe) raise my GPA by going back to school for yet another bachelor's, but then I am still amassing a lot of debt. So, is the original statement negative or accurate?

    I just get really confused when people label things "negative" that just seem actually more like "truthful observations." What if your truth IS negative? What if you are kind of a jerk, and don't have a lot to offer a partner? Is saying that out loud or to the mirror somehow being negative if it's accurate?

    • Karla

      The "fact" may be negative or a "truthful observation". If the "negative" is something identified, you can work on improving it. If you're a jerk (hypothetically of course!) you can work on changing your responses.

      Most things that you want to change will be negative – for me it's crippling shyness which comes accross as bitchy aloofness and uncaring. So I try to do differently, but I'm not always successful.

      • Right, but what if you can't change? Like my grad school example…. I could not change that without incurring massive amounts of debt. So, is it negative to say that I can't get into grad school?

        • Dr_NerdLove

          In your example: you CAN go to grad school. You just choose not to.There's a difference.

          • Oookay, so I could go to grad school, if I go $50,000 in debt. People could date, if they go plastic surgery and completely changed their personalities. (Going to extremes on that last example for argument point.) Are statements still negative if they say "I can't do X until Y" if Y is a very extreme change?

            If the only way you could date is by being someone completely different than who you are (emotionally, intellectually, physically, whatever), then is it still negative to say they can't date? Is it not acceptable to be sad/negative about the fact that I can't go to grad school/you can't date without making such an enormous sacrifice?

          • enail

            It's definitely okay to be sad about things that can't be done, and there are things that can't be done or for which the cost is too high, but I think the idea is that a lot of these Xs don't actually require impossible Ys.

            For grad school, the debt is big deal and it would be reasonable to decide that it's a deal-breaker in the end, but it's worth framing it in a less negative way, b/c that will let you consider the fact that for some people it IS worth it to take on that debt, any possibilities to reduce the burden etc.

            Your example of dating illustrates the problems of negativity – someone who's thinking in a more positive way wouldn't feel that they need to chnage themeselves so fundamentally and drastically just as a basic qualification before dating – you've closed off that option mentally by thinking of the barrier as so high there's no way you'd want to meet it. Chances are good that you don't actually need to completely change your personality or looks to date!

          • Mel

            Of course it's "acceptable" to feel sad or upset if a goal you want to achieve seems very difficult to get. I'd say it's totally normal. The problem is when a person starts wallowing in that negativity rather than taking ownership of their life and choices. Are you willing to make the sacrifice? That is your choice. If you step up and make it, you can move on, either by preparing for the sacrifice or by finding other goals to fill your life that aren't as difficult to reach. As long as you avoid committing to one option or the other, you're not getting anywhere and you'll just stay sad.

            I'd also say I think the number of people who are so physically and/or personally unappealing that they have no hope of finding a romantic partner without changing everything about themselves is very very small. I think a lot of people start assuming they're one of that number without trying most of the many other strategies that exist to improve their dating life, the many less-massive changes that can improve their situation, because assuming they just are entirely unappealing because that's the way they are is easier than doing the work to see if that's really true.

          • At what point can someone objectively say they HAVE tried everything and it still isn't working? At what point is it fair to count themselves in that number? At what point are they allowed to "give up" without being shamed* for it?

            *Shamed as in being told they should try harder, do this, do that, stop being negative, etc.

          • Mel

            To be honest, I think that's totally under your control too. If you truly believe that you've tried everything you can that seems reasonable, and you want to stop trying to find a romantic partner because you believe the sacrifices you'd have to make are too huge, that's fine. But then you have to own that. If someone asks you "haven't you found a boyfriend yet?" you say, "I've decided I'd rather focus on other parts of my life" or some such. If they keep badgering you about it, even though you've cut off the discussion, they're being a jerk. But as long as you keep reiterating that it's a decision you've made, and don't get pulled into a discussion of why, they can't tell you to try harder or stop being negative or whatever because you're not being negative and you're not talking about trying.

            But if you start talking about your troubles with dating (in person, or on a blog like this), you're indicating that you haven't made that decision yet. You haven't actually given up–you're still hoping to find a way to date that won't require making that sacrifice you don't want to. So people are going to give you advice of what to do and what not to do. That's what this blog is for.

            You are the one controlling whether you get into those discussions and get advice that feels like "shaming", or take those discussions off the table and move on. You are the one controlling whether you keep coming to dating advice blogs looking for advice, or decide you're not going to try to date any more and stop reading this stuff. It's up to you.

          • eselle28

            Unfortunately, shaming single people is a cultural issue and it can't be completely escaped.

            You can reduce it to some extent by telling your most understanding friends that sometimes you just want to vent and aren't looking for advice, and by not bringing up the issue around your broader social group. It's sort of natural for people to try to fix things when people they care about aren't happy, and people don't always mean it badly.

          • Gentleman Johnny

            That depends on the specifics. Its worth noting that all 7 billion people in the world have two parents who had sex at least once, though. If romance were a rare and unusual thing, the species wouldn't have made it this far.

          • guest

            or that one man had sex with his harem of women and fathered several children

          • Dr_NerdLove

            DNA says otherwise.Even the most prolific of gene-spreaders – Ghengis Kahn – only accounts for less of .5% of the population.However, ALL of humanity gets traced back to one of seven matrolineal ancestors…

          • Gentleman Johnny

            Dear guest,
            How many parents can you name where the father has a "harem" of women? I know one man who has two women in his house who have both fathered children and that's it. Then again I know a woman who has children by two different fathers, too. While I don't have the numbers in front of me, I'm inclined to believe that it roughly averages out. The point is more that the sheer number of children in the world tells you that it can't be just, rich, handsome alpha males getting sex. The rest of the mongols didn't give up just because they were in an army with Ghengis Kahn.

            Having said that I want to hit the initial question about getting shamed, since I kind of dodged it. I'll take two and three year breaks from dating just because I'm not interested at that time. There's no shame in it and I can't think of a time I was shamed for it. If you want out, that's your decision. I think the people who get shamed for being single are the ones who say they want to be while their actions and/or attitudes say something else.

          • Eh I guess that just goes back to "wanting it bad enough."

            Maybe Dr. NL should write an article on how to stop caring about wanting relationships. This is not a snide remark, I mean it, because it DOES seem to always circle back to," If you don't care, you'll succeed, and when you care too much you won't." So maybe it would be helpful to advise readers on how to STOP wanting a relationship/a date?

          • eselle28

            My usual trick is to imagine myself in a relationship with one of my least favorite human beings, and then to imagine myself as being one half of the most unhappy, dysfunctional couple I know, and then to imagine myself being back in my least happy relationship (that one only works if you've had an unhappy one, of course). Then I pour myself into something else. It's not perfect, of course.

          • eselle28

            The general goal is to remind myself that while relationships can be awesome, they're not "things" to be obtained and automatically enjoyed. It's good to work on dating skills, but finding someone to date isn't a magical thing that automatically makes all other problems and frustrations go away, and it can add to them if it's with the wrong person.

          • Anonymoose

            But you also have to care hard enough to try but not care hard enough to want results.

            I think?

          • Mel

            Giving it some thought, I'm inclined to say it's not so much about caring vs. not caring, but *what* you care about. If you care a lot about the things you can control and work on, then you'll have the motivation to keep at it and improving your chances. If you care a lot about the things you can't control, you feel more and more out of control and desperate, which is where you run into problems.

            In dating, what you can control? The things you say and do, the times and settings when you approach people, the way you handle the responses you get, what kind of life you have outside of dating to share with people. If you want to have more success at dating, you have to care about making the effort to interact with people, and about talking and acting in ways that both you and other people seem to find enjoyable (which you determine by paying attention to the responses you get).

            What you can't control? Whether any particular person will want to keep talking to you/give you their contact info/go on a date with you/get into a relationship with you/have sex with you. The more you focus on just wanting a date, any date (or any relationship, or any sex), the more that's going to distract focusing on the practical things you can do to have more generally enjoyable interactions with people in general, which is what leads to getting those dates.

            The biggest shift I saw in my dating life was when I switched between those two modes of thought. For a long time, I really really wanted a relationship, so when I tried to do the things that were supposed to get me a relationship, like putting myself out there more and socializing more, the whole time I was interacting with people I was focused not on the interaction but on whether it seemed to be leading to that relationship. Which I'm sure made me come off as less appealing to others, and also made me feel worse about myself because any interaction that didn't lead to a relationship felt like a failure.

            Then there was a point when I realized that I didn't *need* a relationship. I wanted one, but I could be happy without one. I still cared about being in a position where I might have a relationship, but the important thing wasn't "finding a relationship", just "meeting cool people, and who knows, maybe one of them could end up being a romantic partner." As soon as I adjusted my thinking to focus on the actual things I could control (meeting people and enjoying my time with them), I suddenly started enjoying dating a lot more, and getting more interest for other people.

          • Beth

            I wish I could plus a thousand this comment.

          • Tosca

            Ah, yes, this is the heart of what I was trying to say below, but you nailed it much better than I. It all comes down to what you can and can't control.
            Going to grad school is controllable. Maybe you need a loan or scholarship, maybe you need to wait. Maybe you need two or three jobs! Maybe you need to study more or whatever. These are all concrete, quantifiable things you can actually DO to work toward that goal. And as long as you meet the requirements, grad school will not decide that it doesn't like you and there's no chemistry and kick you out.
            People don't work that way. No matter how awesome you are, you can't control peoples' reactions to you or whether they like you. Depressing, but true. It's a crapshoot. Sure, you can do concrete things to make it more *likely* that people might like you (like fostering a positive attitude), but it isn't any sort of guarantee.

          • Juuuuuulia

            One effective way to stop wanting relationships too much is to have an extravagantly BAD one. Then, you can always go "oh well, I'm single right now, but at least I'm not with [horrible abusive jerk]! I can actually have friends now! And free time!".

          • KungFuTreachery

            Finding something else to distract you usually works

          • Cat

            The question then becomes: Is it *worth* incurring the debt in order to go to grad school? Will that degree put you in a better position on the job market, and increase your earning potential, thereby making you able to more easily pay back the debt after graduation?

            To move that into the dating category: Is it *worth* making the changes you need to in order to be successful in dating? (And, honestly, I think that the plastic surgery example is a little hyperbolic. I know plenty of people all along the attractiveness and weight spectrum who have been successful in dating and marriage.) Will the cost (personal, financial, or otherwise) be worth the benefit?

          • I think if you need to a full personality makeover to get a date, then there is something much more serious going on there, because you should be able to to get a date if you're a decent human being, but that might mean lowering your own standards.

        • Karla

          Hmmm maybe try reframing?

          I see the problem is that you'll have a large amount of debt if you go to grad shool, not that you CAN'T go.

          You not going to grad school is one possible result of your thinking, but there are others. Other possible decisions are taking on the debt, or having a job during grad school to offset some of the costs.

          If you jump just from lots of dept -> can't go, you're not evaluating all of your options.

          Will that help?

        • Mel

          IMHO: Thinking "To get into a decent grad school, I'd have to incur a massive amount of debt" may very well be a fact, and an unpleasant one. But it's not a negative belief… It's just a fact, and you can decide how to handle that fact. (Either you can decide it's worth taking on that debt to go into grad school, or you can decide you won't go to grad school and instead pursue careers that don't require it. Or you could decide to postpone grad school until you're saved up enough money that you wouldn't have to go so into debt, or to look for financial aid options that don't require repayment, or whatever else is a possibility.)

          Thinking "I can't get into grad school" full-stop is a negative belief. Because it's not a fact–there are ways you potentially could, they're just not pleasant and/or require a lot of effort.

          Recognizing that you have a choice, even if neither option is ideal, is important, because it allows you to take responsibility for your life and feel more in control of what happens to you, rather than treating problems as something you can't do anything about.

          Make sense?

          • Somewhat, though I still wonder if either choice is awful then does it really matter if I have a choice? In terms of dating, if I have to change absolutely everything about me, is that really helpful? Yes, I can make the choice to not change and still be alone, and then I am responsible for my misery. But then I could make the choice to change everything about myself, and be successful in dating, but be miserable because I'm not myself, and be responsible for THAT choice as well.

            I guess I just don't see how responsibility or choice really negates negativity. I dunno…. there are just some things I have NEVER been able to do, no matter how much I try and what I change, and so it gets frustrating to hear "Stop being so negative!" when I flat out say I can't do something (because I've spent years and thousands of dollars trying.)

          • Mel

            I think where making choices and taking responsibility is helpful is in allowing you to move on from that problem and find ways to make your choice for your life as pleasant as possible, as I said in my comment in the other part of this thread. If you never really make a choice, you just stay in the same spot being sad about the fact that the choice is so hard, of course you'll be miserable. At least if you pick one direction and move on, you have a possibility of finding positive things to offset the bad parts of that choice.

            Say you really are so unappealing that you couldn't date without totally changing your personality and appearance (which I think is unlikely, but for the sake of argument). If you decide to totally change yourself, yes you may be unhappy about that, but once you've given yourself a chance to and let go of the "old you", you might enjoy certain aspects of the "new you". And if you are then getting dates and connecting with people romantically, that's a positive too. If you decide you don't want to change and would rather just not date, you can start looking for other ways to find emotional fulfillment. People can survive and be happy without a romantic partner. You strengthen relationships with family and/or friends and/or invest your emotions in a career or hobby you care about or whatever else does suit your personality.

            If you never choose one route or the other, you have no chance at the potential positives on either side. All you have is the negative.

          • Juuuuuulia

            So the things you were never able to do. Were they things you wanted to do? Or things people shamed* you into doing? Are they personality-changing things or permanent things or like offhand things? Here's a weird metric I came up with off the top of my head:

            I think most of the Doctor's advice are things you would be able to do on a … (weird metric) … properly negotiated bet. For example, if someone paid me $10, I could definitely go up to the hot guy/girl and say some embarrassing line. For maybe $50 + equipment, I would maybe wear some uncharacteristic clothing to a bar that I would never normally wear. None of these things are lifestyle changes. But they're fun and worth a shot and the bet is like a fall-back. Like, even if I don't get a date wearing a cowgirl outfit that night, I'll get $50. Or maybe someone will use it as a conversation starter and we'll get to know each other, etc etc.

            However, if (shamey) people are telling you to make lifestyle changes, like a boob job. Or they are telling you to (magically) lose a ton of weight (and to "stop being so negative!" when it doesn't work), then those are definitely things you get to veto and people who pressure you to keep doing them are jerks. Unless you really do want a boob job. Or maybe you try it briefly and decide that you don't like it or need it.

            Either way, no one knows EXACTLY what you need to do to "land a relationship". So you can try stuff out that people say and then decide based on whether or not it made a positive impact on your life.

          • Hmm I quite like that perspective, thank you.

          • Juuuuuulia

            Crap, did I guess correctly? Are people telling you to just do this difficult and expensive thing and it will help you in dating?

            I will march over and smack those jerk peoples. T_T

        • Trooper6

          I'm going to address grad school thing, hopefully by deconstructing your grad school thing, you might be able to take some of this into other parts of your life.

          Background Disclosure: I grew up poor, my single mom was on welfare when I was young before she met my step dad. She didn't graduate from high school, my dad never went to college. I was smart in school, but didn't home work and graduated high school with a 2.8 GPA. I joined the Army for the GI Bill to help pay for undergrad. Through a very good writing sample, and good SATs I got into a very good liberal arts college where I excelled. Now, I have a PhD from a top program and teach on the tenure track fat a very good university. Nowadays, I often advise undergraduate students on the grad school journey.

          So first: What sort of grad school do you want to go to? What degree?
          I ask this for the following: With the exception of Law, Medicine, and Business (all degrees that promise high paying jobs afterwards), most top PhD programs are not going to charge you…indeed they will pay you. MA programs, on the other hand often charge you for the degree. So what are you looking to do? Can you you go for that PhD rather than the MA in order to get funding? You may be missing out on options where you get paid rather than vice versa.

          2) For many grad programs (law, medicine, business, again tend to be exceptions), your GPA is not the end all be all I. The application process. When may colleagues and I look at applications to our MA program, undergrad grades are not our first or main criteria. We check out grades and GRE's together as a form of basic check. As long as both aren't miserable, we move on to the real determinants. If the grades are, eh, but GRE's are good or vice-versa, especially if the grades in the classes that are relevant to our program are good, we don't think too much about it. Having great grades or great GREs is a bonus, but not the most important thing. The important thing is writing samples, personal statements, and letters of recommendation–and fit for the program. If those things are great, we don't care that they have a 3.3 GPA, or whatever.

          3) a good PhD program should pay you to go to school, that won't be dependent on your GPA. My program is an MA program, which means that you'll have to pay. We have some financial aid available…we don't decide who to give it to based on GPA, we decide based on how much we want the person at our program, which again is based on personal statements, CV, writing samples, letters of recommendation, and fit. Personally, I tend to believe that all admitted students should have equal financial aid regardless–which is how grad program did it. I'm still working to convince my colleagues of this policy…which again means if you get in, you are getting financial aid regardless of your undergrad GPA.

          4) Going into some debt is an investment into your future. Many people from the working class are very wary of going into debt for higher Ed, but considering the long term increased wage earnings, it is the investment with the highest return. It is worth it to Invest in yourself, as long as you are investing intelligently.

          I could advise you more if I knew more about the details of the situation, but your view of impossibility of grad school is very likely not accurate, but a product of you thinking negatively without all the information. Earlier you said that no one would find you attractive…but you don't know what everyone else thinks. Similarly, your assumption that all that grad programs care about is undergrad GPA, shows that you don't know what we professors are thinking or what we value…which means you are doing a lot of self sabotage…and convince yourself there is nothing you can do about it because it is out of your control…and it isn't. But you have to do some work. And not only external work like doing more research and networking regarding the grad program you are interested in (for example, if you want to get into a field that has national conferences, then you should go to tat conference and see if you are actually interested in that field in the way advanced degree folks do it…but also use that opportunity to introduce yourself to faculty from the programs you are interested in). But also the I ternal work to decide you are worth it, and get a better attitude about yourself

          Going to grad school is very much like dating. You are getting into a long term relationship and you won't be attractive if you are desperate, if you aren't treating each institution as individual and unique, if you havn't gotten to know each one…if you "just want to get into grad school" without thinking about fit with a particular grad school…that isn't going to be so good for your chances. You also hacpve to have standards.

          Well, the are a lot of things I could say about this, it would go onto long. But I would say, that much of the advice on getting dates through self improvement tat DNL lays out in this post also apply to getting into grad schools.

          • Orv

            Random aside: the legal job market is as horrible as it has ever been with something close to half of all graduates not even getting jobs that require a law degree, much less bar passage, so I would certainly not refer to law as a degree that promises a high paying job. To stress that, there are maybe 10% of the number of high paying jobs that there were even five years ago.

          • Orv

            Also the value of an MBA at a program that is ranked very well nationally and a program that is unranked are very different things and unless you have experience in an industry and are getting the MBA specifically to give yourself an edge against similarly experienced candidates in that industry the MBA may not do all that much for you. Not having an M.A., PhD, or any sort of medical degree the only thing I could say along those lines, is that you should figure out what you can expect to make with your current degree… versus what you are likely to make with the graduate degree, and use that to figure out if it is worth the cost to you. I think a lot of students who majored in a field they don't want to work in look at a graduate degree as a way to make themselves more employable, then go after a degree that doesn't bring them a concrete benefit. /end off topic.

          • Trooper6

            Oh, I know how terrible the law job market is…it is terrible! You have better chance to get a job as an English PhD than a JD…but the law schools justify their high fees through the "promise" of a high paying job…it is not a promise they are fulfilling, and let's be honest, it has never been a true promise because even when the market was better, most lawyers are going to make 1 million a year. I think MBAs also work off of a bunch of false promises.

            But the promises are still dangled in front of prospective students to justify them not providing much or any aid.

          • Delafina

            As someone who narrowly escaped becoming a lawyer, and who has friends with law degrees and high GPAs from prestigious law schools who have yet to obtain a paying job, I'm not sure I'd advise anyone who isn't independently wealthy to go to law school right now.

          • Trooper6

            I want you to know that you have inspired me to make an Intense Debate profile.

            "I learned if from watching you Delafina! I learned it from watching you!"

          • Delafina

            BWAHAHAHA COME TO THE DARK SIDE! We have cookies. 😉

          • Trooper6

            Ooh! I hope chocolate cookies! I love chocolate cookies!

          • Well I could only get funding if I was desirable enough that they would pay me (though my professors did say that they'd accept me but NOT pay me if they didn't expect to succeed.) But if I have a low GPA/average GRE scores, I would not be desirable enough.

            So I would need to go back to school to raise my GPA, which can only be done through another Bachelor's, which means I'd have another 4 years of college debt on top of my previous debt. (Colleges will let you take courses for a fee, but these courses will not count towards your GPA because you are not a degree-seeking student.) So, either way, more debt.

            So what I was trying to illustrate with grad school as the example is that it IS impossible for me to go to grad school (with low GPA/GRE scores) without inadvisable amounts of debt/personality changes. Now, maybe for some, $60,000 in debt is not a problem… just like changing your entire personality or body is not a problem for some people in dating.

            My question is where do you draw the line, and at what point are you allowed to say it IS impossible for you without being labeled negative?

            Also, finished statement: I am very sad about never being able to get into grad school even though it is impossible, and I have no idea how to "get over" it. I imagine this is similar for people and dating…. they feel like they've tried everything and it's impossible, but they don't know how to scrub away the desire for a family/relationships.

          • Trooper6

            What discipline do you want to get into grad school for? The advice I'd give you if you wanted to go into Biology is different than if you wanted to get into History.
            What was your Undergrad GPA? What was you GPA in the area you want to go to grad school for?
            What degree are looking wanting to get?
            How long has it been since you graduated Undergrad and what have you done in the meantime, anything that you could frame as making you better equipped for grad school?

            What I've noticed so far about you is that you tend to go really negative and frame that negativity as objectively impossible…when often it just doesn't seem that way from the outside.

            My program accepted a student for our MA program who had pretty terrible grades and only average GRE'S…but everything else about his application was very strong. We offered him 50% financial aid (which is our standard).

            You've decided that going to grad school is impossible…and I'm just not yet that is convinced that is true of you.

          • Cultural or medical anthropology PhD (my profs said an MA is worthless unless it's getting you into a PhD program.) I graduated from college about 4 years ago. My undergrad GPA was a 3.4, with my major (History) being a 3.7. I did not get a degree in Anthro but took enough classes to qualify for the minor (without getting the minor… long story) and I averaged about A- to B+ for each course.

            Since then, I've done IT work (and not the fancy programming kind.) Sooo… probably not a way to frame that as getting me equipped for either grad school OR Anthropology.

            *Shrugs* I just calls em like I sees em.

          • talbiz

            I'm in Grad School, I didn't think I'd get in (good GRE, horrible GPA 2.98), but I did the apps to the best of my ability and I got into a school, and a pretty good one. I'm up to my ears in debt, but that is worth it for me. Dating, grad school, pretty much everything, you don't know until you try and the worst that can happen is they say no. This is what I applied for 5 schools and got into 1, I was out about $200, that's all that happened. If you're asking someone out, as long as you don't say something that can get you slapped or arrested, the worst thing that happens is they say no. Bottom line, is it worth it? what are you possibly getting out of grad school? The money you borrow, will it be worth the time needed for paying it back? is it what leads you to your dream? Asking someone out, you might get exactly what you want in life, or you might not. Which is worse for you, a definite no and not being surprised or a potential no that sneaks up on you? I hate to go all Wayne Gretzky sports cliche here but you miss 100% of the shots you don't take.

          • Trooper6

            But your seeing is colored by what seems like poor self esteem and negativity. Your GPA isn't that bad at all–certainly not something that would get you disqualified from grad school.

            Your professors are right, an MA is useless unless it will get you into a PhD program, but a good MA program might be just what you need to get you where you want to go. But you may not even need to do that–you may be able to go right into a PhD program…but just like dating, you have to project confidence and worth in your application…which you aren't doing right now.

            Steps to take:
            1) Start reading the academic journals in cultural and medical anthropology. Take a note of the professors whose work you really admire and note what institutions they work at.
            2) Go to one of the Anthropology professors form your undergrad and get recommendations of a few core books to read. Read them.
            3) research the schools that have the faculty you are really excited about (any program you are looking into should have at least 2, preferably 3, faculty you'd like to, work with.
            4) Start strategizing who you'd ask to write you letter of recommendations now…because you'll need to reconnect with them so they can write a good letter. Asking them for advice is always good.
            5) go to the national meeting of the American Anthroplogical Association and/or the society of Cultural Anthropolgy. Catch the papers of people you find interesting, get a sense of what life is actually like for academics, do some networking…maybe even volunteer to work at the conference. Go to the papers of faculty in programs you want to apply for. Ask a smart question, introduce yourself after the paper, talk to them about how you are applying to their program, talk anthroplogy, make a good impression. Go to the parties of the programs you are interested in, mingle and get the low down from grad students.
            6) Apply to grad schools.
            7) remember you can frame everything to your advantage. Taking time off has allowed you to mature and really decide what you want to do with your life and that thing you want to do if cultural/medical anthroplogy (you'll have to figure that out before application). Time off to mature–and tomdomself study on the field–always sounds good.

            There is no one holding you back in this topic but yourself.

            PhD programs are going to invest lots of money and many years in you. Indeed, once/if you graduate you will be affiliated with you for the rest of your career…they want to make sure that you know what you want, that you are going into this with realistic expectations, that you are ready for the serious commitment and work, that you are creative and thoughtful, and that you will make them look good by finishing and then doing great things. Those are not things they can tell by your GPA, those are things they tell by your application materials and your letters of recommendation. So you just need to makes really good application…which you won't be able to,do if you don't believe in yourself.

            Grad school is in your ready, but you have to be willing to put in the work, to believe in your worth and to be able to project that confidence. Which pretty much aligns with DNLs dating advice.

          • And if I've done those things and failed?
            I actually applied to 5 graduate schools my last year of undergraduate (4 PhDs and 1 MA), after doing lots of academic reading and research. I got letters of recommendation from the 3 professors who liked me best (2 others turned me down.)

            The closest explanation I could get was that my GPA was too low and I lacked "experience." Sadly, the only way I could get "experience" was by doing an unpaid internship… which there is no absolute way I can afford. I could barely afford college on my own, and that was with me working 30+ hours a week in addition to a full load AND loans.

            I appreciate your advice, but when you've already done everything and taken all the advice you can find and STILL fail, there gets to be a certain point where it IS impossible. A human being can try and fail only so many times before it just starts to look like self-abuse.

            I'm not trying to be obstinate. It's just that I am exhausted of trying and trying and trying….

          • eselle28

            I'm probably a little closer to your situation when it comes to something I'd like to do (not dating related). I've tried to find a way to make it work, and while there are some things that are technical possibilities, they'd be very difficult to make work on a practical level and very unpleasant even if I could pull it off.

            On days when I'm not feeling crabby and complaining, I try to look at it as being something that's not achievable RIGHT NOW. Could it be possible later? I have no clue. But I can at least keep it on the long term goal list. A lot of people have been very up on the going to grad school idea, but based on what you've said, it might be a good item for the NOT RIGHT NOW category. Will it be achievable in a few years, when you're more experienced and financially stable but also perhaps less interested in more school? I think that's something you can leave for then and focus on other things (paying off your student loans, getting better work experience) that have short term as well as long term benefits.

          • Trooper6

            Here's the tough love time. One of two things are going on, 1) you don't grad school enough or 2) you need to develop skills to handle set backs or you will have a hard time with any part of you life.

            Why do I say this? Because, by your admission, you applied to grad school once. Once. You didn't get in anywhere so now you think it is impossible. That is about you caving when the going gets tough, not about the possibility or impossibility of grad school (or dating, or whatever).

            One of my advises, she wanted to get into a PhD program. E first year she applied, nothing. The second year she applied she only got into an MA program (the one I teach in). After getting her MA she applied to PhD programs again…she got in no where…even though her peers did. She spent the year networking more, making her CV better by presenting at a conference, refining her application…and then she applied again…and she got into a really great PhD program. Did she give up after the first go? No.

            Another student out of my MA program was super great. Applied to many programs…got into nowhere, didn't quit. And now is in Harvard.

            Or how about this? I have a colleague who got his PhD and went on the job market…he got no permanent position for over seven years. He got some adjunct work, had to go back to TA'ing, he was getting nothing. Did he give up and think it was impossible? No, he kept at it, kept working on making himself more attractive. Now he has a really good job at a really good school.

            You said you get tired of trying and trying and trying…but with regards to grad school it looks like you only tried once and then you quit.

            The measure of your character is not what you do when you win, but what you do when you lose. Do you pick yourself up,get creative, and try again?

            If you want to give up, that is your right to do so. But your dreams (getting a date, getting to grad school, etc) are not impossible…you have just given up.

          • Those are success stories. What about all the people who kept trying and kept trying and eventually had to give up because it no longer became practical or even healthy to try?

            How often do you try before you SHOULD give up? Is it "negative" to say I will never be an Olympic athlete? No, because baring some biological miracle, I never will be. So why isn't the same true in dating, or your professional life…. that maybe there are some road blockages that just are not possible to transcend?

          • Trooper6

            Well, you should definitely try more than once, which you didn't do with grad school, before you decide it was impossible.

            To get things you have to work for them and dedicate yourself to it. Now, you might work for something and not get it, but if you don't try you definitely won't.

            As for your question, when should you give up? When you don't want it anymore.

            And if you keep trying, and try to enjoy the journey, you never know what you'll achieve…and you'll achieve nothing if you quit.

            About the Olympics. Actress Geena Davis was not athletic growing up, then in 1997 at the age of 41 she got introduced to archery nod two years later she made the semi-finals for the American Olympic team.

            Bonnie Raitt toiled without major success for decades, but she didn't give up and she ended up with Grammys.

            If you think to yourself, I don't really want to date anyone…then quit. if you are happy not dating, then quit trying. If you are fine with not being in grad school, then quit. But if you are complaining and unhappy about not dating or not being in grad school, then don't quit.

          • ArsAutomatica

            Hey d00ds (long-time lurker, first-time commenter).

            Not to pile on, but Trooper6's advice is spot-on. A couple of additional things to consider:

            1)I realize that the plural of anecdote is not data, but here's some more food for thought. I did my undergrad at a fairly prestigious technical Institvte, and I can say absolutely that grades and tests are not the primary determining factor. My freshman roommate was not a particularly good student in the traditional sense (i.e. grades and test scores), but he was an AMAZING engineer; dude could build ANYTHING. I actually spent part of a summer break helping him build a plane (ultralight) in a barn on his property in Tennessee, which he now flies regularly from a landing strip that he maintains in a field next to his house with a ride-on mower. My friend was admitted on the basis of his demonstrated aptitude, ability, and PASSION for engineering. When faculty members see applicants that have demonstrated aptitude and especially PASSION for their subject, they take notice. Keep in mind, faculty members’ goal is to produce skilled PRACTITIONERS in their field, not people who can pass the GREs (which I think many academics and admissions officers now freely admit are really not that great at measuring much other than your ability to put up with a lot of bullshit).
            2)Building on point 1, you say that you want to pursue graduate studies in anthropology, but how do you actually KNOW this? I ask only because graduate-level work (where you’re actually out doing research on a day-to-day basis) has a very different feel to it than taking classes as an undergrad, at least in the hard sciences. (I unfortunately discovered this the hard way, and ended up switching fields after getting my MS to something that now suits me better). Trying to get some experience working in the field you want to study won’t just improve your CV, it can prevent you from making a serious error in choosing what you want to do with your life.

          • ArsAutomatica


            3)You had A-s and B+s for you minor in anthro. Those are fine grades, and I have a hard time believing that they alone would be responsible for your getting rejected (no one gets rejected for a few B+s). I think it’s much more likely that admissions officers chose someone else over you NOT because they were rejecting you per se, but because someone else had probably done more/better research in the field that made them stand out as a particularly strong applicant.
            4)If you are serious about pursuing a graduate program, I would recommend that you seriously consider taking a job somewhere that will allow you to gain experience working in the field. I’m not sure how anthro works, but at least in the physical/experimental sciences, many labs employ research technicians that handle many day-to-day operations in the lab. These jobs generally require only a BA/BS (possibly with some additional training once you’re hired), and they give you an opportunity to participate directly in research/sausage-making. Does anthropology have something similar? Do they do field work? If so, do they need additional support in-field beyond profs and grad students? It sounds like you’re not that into the job you have now; is there some position like this you could try to get at a research institute near where you live? I know several people who have taken lab tech jobs for a year or two (precisely to gain some experience and perhaps some publications) before reapplying (successfully) to grad school. In addition to the pragmatic opportunity to earn some cash doing something you actually like, it puts you in a close working relationship with someone who can evaluate your aptitude AS AN ACTIVE RESEARCHER/PRACTITIONER, not just as a student (a much more passive role). Furthermore, I can’t stress enough the importance of good rec letters (again, that can speak to your research aptitude). Generally speaking, there are maybe about a dozen guys at the top of any one field in the hard sciences, who are all on a first name basis with one another. If one of their colleagues sends them a prospective student with a strong letter of recommendation, those individuals will give that student very serious consideration on the strength of that recommendation alone (coming from someone with an obvious mastery of the field).
            5)Finally, I know that the suggestion that you restructure your life (possibly changing jobs, really?) probably sounds like a serious undertaking, and it may very well be. But you know what? I’ve actually swallowed this particular bitter pill myself. I switched fields by stone-cold dropping out of the PhD program I was in at the time (that’s how I got my MS :-P) with no immediate job prospects and no acceptances (at the time) into any other PhD program because I realized that no matter how much the next couple of years might suck before I could get my life back on track, they could not possibly suck as much as spending 5-7 years of my life treading water training myself to do something that I wasn’t excited about when I woke up in the morning. No matter how intimidating it might feel contemplating upending your life like this, it pales in comparison to the satisfaction that comes from taking the first steps towards actually realizing what you want. Seriously, it’s like a huge weight being lifted off of your shoulders.
            Sorry for the novel, but this situation is something that I can empathize with quite strongly. I just wanted to let you know that you absolutely CAN DO THIS. Good luck; I’m rooting for you :-).

          • ArsAutomatica

            Also Trooper6, I've seen several of your comments now, and you are awesome. A tip of the hat to you :-).

          • trooper6

            Thanks! And Marty, listen to Ars–that is great advice!

          • *Sigh* I am completely going to be labeled a Negative Nancy, but…. sorry Ars, anthro just doesn't work like that. A lot of the grad students I've spoken to got experience through unpaid internships, and you just can't get a job in the field without certification, mostly because there are so few jobs. I think it's really hard to describe, because it sounds like both you and Trooper are more in the Hard Sciences line, and it's comparing apples and oranges.

            I am also sorry I turned my comment into a discussion of grad school, that was not my point…. It was more meant to be illustrative that sometimes things ARE impossible. Sometimes, you're just not going to be enough for your dream…. rich enough, smart enough, talented enough, etc. So when rubber meets road…. when you aren't enough, and never can be…. how do you give up the dream, and how do you deal with the frustration of trying and failing and yet being told to try some more?

          • trooper6

            I'm actually in the Arts/Humanities, and there are more options for you to get experience in Anthropology than there are for budding people in my field. Because in my field most people don't even use research assistants…which does happen in Anthro. Getting a professorial job? Of course not. But what do professors do? They teach, research, present, and write. You can't teach with your current qualifications, but you can begin researching and presenting and writing.

            And there are interships:
            many of them are unpaid…but do you want to do this? If you do, there are ways. Maybe you could apply for a Fullbright? Or some sort of fellowship. There are 2-3 week summer programs you can apply to and use your vacation time to do them. Or ask your job if you can have two weeks off unpaid.
            Have you taken any Anthro courses? Maybe you take some at the community college to get your basics down if you don't have it and make more contacts. Have you been to the National Conferences? You could try to work with your Anthro professor at the community college if they'd help you go through the process of a conference paper.

            But this is not just about grad school. Grad school seems to be illustrative of a larger thing with you. You give up. You haven't tried and failed over and over with grad school. You've tried once and then quit, convinced yourself it is impossible and now just feel miserable because the narrative you have in your head is: "I want this but I can't have it because life is unfair and impossible–all out of my control."

            You've convinced yourself you aren't good enough, but do you have any idea how many not smart, not talented people are in PhD programs? There are a lot. They aren't smarter or better than you. They just didn't give up. Similarly, do you know how many people who are more *insert negative thing you think about yourself* than you who are in relationships? They haven't given up. You have.

            If you want to give up, that is fine. But then you need to own that. You need to say: I choose not to date. I choose not to go to grad school. Those are your choices. Not, "no one will date me no matter what I do" "no grad school will take me no matter what I do" Because that isn't true.

            There are things you can do. You choose not to do them. Because it seems your dream is not as important to you as insulating yourself from the possibility of failure. If you recognize that you are not willing to put in the work/risk of failure to get the dream, then you can realize you don't really want that dream as badly as you thought and you can start looking for a new dream you are willing to put the work/risk of failure in to achieve or accept that where you are in life right now is where you prefer to be.

            And if you find you are unwilling to put in work/risk of failure into things, ask yourself. This is a place of my own making do I actually prefer being here? Do I prefer the safety of convincing myself that I am powerless over this things in my life over the vulnerability of risk? Am I good with that? If you are really good with it, then there shouldn't be a problem. If your family asks you about dating or grad school be honest, "I prefer being single over putting myself out there in the dating world." "I prefer staying in IT over trying to get into grad school." Tell people who ask that you are not going to try to attain things because you prefer where you are at.

            If you, however, don't prefer where you are at, then you will need to work with a therapist over your resistances.

          • enail

            It IS true that there are things you can't achieve, or can't achieve without a too-big sacrifice, and it's silly to pretend that it's not true or that it's not really hard to deal with. I think it's good to set aside a little time to grieve, just let yourself be sad, bitch with friends, listen to sad songs…

            And then pick yourself up and tell yourself that yeah, life is hard, and it's time to get back to work on creating a life you can be happy to live with, even if it's not what you'd thought was your dream. Brainstorm things that will meet some of the needs that made you want your abandoned dream, make a plan to do something every day that will improve a skill, advance a goal or make your life more like the life you wish you had. Be nice to yourself: trying to live a happy life is hard! So maybe do some things that don't feel like a struggle too, things you just plain enjoy – those can also be a path to a good life, and no one can spend all their time on the hard stuff!

          • trooper6

            It's the Reinhold Niebuhr quote: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

            Some things you can't change. Realizing that can be a bit sad, but empowering.
            Some things you choose not to change. Realizing that can also be empowering.

            I am infertile. That is just an objective true fact and I can not change it. I have to accept that and I have. But not being fertile doesn't mean I'll never be a parent if that were something important to me. There are other parenting options, they just take more work and if that is important to me, then I will do that work.

            When I was in the Army, I wanted to stay in, but I wasn't willing to do the sorts of things you would need to do to stay in and remain closeted. That was too big a sacrifice, so I left. Sometimes I'd get wistful, but it was my choice–and being in the Army was clearly not more important to me than my integrity. So in the end sometimes while I'd get wistful, I always felt good in the end knowing that I chose integrity.

            I find if you choose not to pursue something actively, because you value something else more, that reframes the choice as something positive and it is much easier to accept and come to terms with. ("I choose not to go to graduate school because I do not believe in ever having debt and I will not compromise that value")

            On the other hand, if what is going on is a lack of courage to change the things one can, that I think where a lot of the trouble comes in. I find I often know it deep down that my inaction is due to lack of courage and find myself with regret, sadness, shame, and frustration. It is harder to get over because I know I could have done/could be doing something. That is the hard situation.

            In that situation I need to reassess my values and the stories I tell myself. If I find the thing is worth it or I don't like being driven by fear, I need to work on my courage–probably with aid of a therapist. If I find the thing isn't worth it or my fear is important to me to keep me safe…then I need to reframe that in a way that will not make me feel badly about myself, I need to be gentle with myself and acknowledge I am currently vulnerable and in need of safety. Then I need to go to a therapist to work on the things that are going on with me that cause me to need so much safety that I won't follow the things I want.

            Through this process, either I will work on that so I can gain the courage to change the things I can. Or I will embrace myself as a person who does not.

          • But it's also important to be practical. And not to be too aggressive here, but there is a lot of social shame placed on "trying and giving up"…. even if giving up is the practical thing to do. It is ridiculous to take on enormous amounts of debt, take on unpaid internships at the sacrifice of a paying job, and work for years for an advanced degree in a field that doesn't have a lot of growth. If you have to struggle for years and years just to get into a school, it doesn't seem likely (or practical) you'll have very much success OUTSIDE of school, where you're now deep in debt and without job prospects.

            It's well and good to strive for a dream, but telling people to "keep trying" at the expense of their financial security, their future, and (sometimes) their sanity, and then when they finally give up that they "haven't tried" is…. heart-breaking. It's goddamn heartbreaking, all right? When you KNOW you have done everything within your control, and fail, and people who are not inside your life tell you you "just don't want it enough."

            Don't you think that's just a little patronizing… to be told that a person hasn't "done enough" or doesn't "want it enough"? How can you know that?

            Grad school was merely my example, but I HAVE spent years and years trying and failing at dating/social situations. I still enjoy reading Dr. Nerdlove, and hope to find something I HAVEN'T tried, but it gets exhausting to be told I shouldn't be "negative" when I've tried everything and still failed. It's exhausting to see people who haven't tried nearly as much and have succeeded.

            For myself, I have not yet developed that wonderful skill in which I can fill in the voids left by broken dreams. I said it before, but I wish Dr. Nerdlove could write a little on that…. wanting something desperately, but still being unable to achieve it, and how to deal with that. And telling someone who is heart broken to "keep trying; you just don't want it" is NOT the solution.

          • Beth

            If what you're asking is "how do I mourn a dream" then there is lots of good advice out there. Two of my favorite sources for that sort of advice are Captain Awkward and Cary Tennis. Captain Awkward would tell you to do things like: gather a Team You that includes a therapist and friends/family who you trust and who will be good to you, get plenty of sleep, get exercise, go outdoors, eat well, avoid drugs and alcohol for a while, give yourself some time and space to grieve and don't judge yourself for feeling what you feel. Cary Tennis would write a long rambling passage that would likely include something about practicing meditation, and learning to just sit with your feelings and acknowledge them, and maybe something about your subconscious. Doctor NerdLove's advice is pointed more to people who want to be told "don't give up" and "you can do it if you try". So the fact that you're commenting on DNL's site makes it seem like that's what you are looking for too.

          • enail

            If you have people (real life people, not advice blogs, b/c writing about problems you're having on an advice blog is an implicit request for advice in solving them, which assumes 'keep trying') tell you all that crappy stuff, could some of it be in how you frame it? If you tell them "I'm really disappointed about it, but I don't think pursuing it under these circumstances would be good for me," it's harder for people to give you unwanted advice b/c you're showing them you're on top of it and not looking for advice.

            With people you don't know very well, sometimes people work really hard to keep the conversation positive by giving "encouraging" advice, b/c casual social interactions aren't usually comfortable for people to reveal much vulnerability. Again, framing it in a more positive/in charge way can deflect this.

            Of course, some people are just jerks who'll expect you to stick to one goal all your life no matter how bad that would be for you, just b/c they don't want to change the way they think of you.

          • Beth

            "My question is where do you draw the line, and at what point are you allowed to say it IS impossible for you without being labeled negative?"

            You are allowed to choose which path to pursue at every point. That is always your choice. You can't control whether other people think a path is possible or impossible, and if they think it's possible they may think you're being negative. Other people don't get to control which path you choose, but they do get to control their own thoughts about what you say to them. You can have a desire for something (grad school, dating, whatever) and you can choose whether to pursue it or not and how to pursue it if you do. You don't need other people's permission or approval to decide what path to take in your own life.

          • enail

            It's always allowed to say something's impossible. But it's more helpful if you can get into a mindset of thinking about options rather than things that are simply impossible.

            For grad school, maybe the thing to do would be to decide that it's not feasible for you for now (though if it's still of interest to you sometime down the road, the ways to get into grad school tend to be a little different for people who've been out of school for some time). Instead, start thinking about the reasons that you want to go to grad school, and think of other ways you could meet those needs. The same is true for dating, if you're finding it frustrating, decide to take a break and find some other ways to meet needs (work on opening up emotionally to your friends to feel more supported, make more friends of different kinds to feel less lonely, try some fancy new sex toy etc.)

          • enail

            I don't think I'm explaining myself very well, so I'm going to ramble a little more.

            As someone who tends to be pretty negative (or, as I like to call it, "realistic"), what I've found works is to not think about what's realistic, but what's useful. If you're a pessimist, it's easy to find some stats and examples that say that you'll die in a ditch, impoverished and alone, and justify yourself into depression. But if you set aside the question of realistic or not, you can consider what's the most useful way to approach your life. Real is irrelevant.

    • Sam

      Observational fact: 9 out of the last 10 people I approached rejected me.
      Negative feeling: Because of that, I can assume 9 out of 10 people will reject me.

      • So, what happened to that 1? Do you need to date EVERY girl? You need to date ONE girl.

        • Sam

          I should specify: These are not real-life situations, I was giving hypothetical examples that would explain the difference between a fact and a negative feeling.

      • I'll elaborate. There's a couple of kinda low-caliber guys that hang out a bar I frequent. Not nerdy/geeky, just low education. These guys hit on EVERY girl. I go outside for a smoke, and it's like "hey mami! Why don't you come over here and lemme see that ass" (Sidenote: comparing a girl to your mom is weird, don't do it). They also get rejected probably 29 out of 30 times. But, they keep trying. They keep thinking they are hot shit. And guess what, every once in a while I see a girl (I'm gonna assume with very low self-esteem) totally go for it.

        I'm not saying a woman needs low self-esteem to get with you, but I'm saying if these douchebags can catch a break, I'm sure you can too, if you keep trying, because you're not a douchebag.

        • Sam

          Sorry if this is a repost, but it doesn't seem to have posted the first time. I should specify… I wasn't listing real-life situations for myself, I was giving examples that demonstrate the difference between fact and feeling, in response to Marty's original comment.

      • Juuuuuulia

        That is a good example. The trick is to recognize that the negative feeling is a feeling. It's not reality. In reality, the only thing that happened is that 9 out of 10 people rejected you.

        They were all different people! They all probably had different reasons! You can't just extrapolate the opinions of those 9 people to the rest of the world. So that's why the next batch of 10 people will likely be different.

        (Unless they all directly tell you otherwise, which they might if you like forgot to shower or something. Or picked your nose while talking to them. All nine of them.)

        • Robert

          Not to mention that if 9 out of 10 people rejected you, that means 1 out of 10 did not reject you.

      • Gentleman Johnny

        Positive feeling: I don't really want to be in a relationship with ten people at once anyway. One is about all I can handle.

    • enail

      It can be both – it's a truthful observation, but the angle you're looking at it with is negative, b/c it's shutting off that line of thinking. I think a good way to be realistic but still positive is to end your thought on a question.

      "If I go to a decent grad school, I'll incur significant debt. Is this something that's worth it to me?" I"if I want to go to a decent grad school, how can I reduce the amount of debt I have to take on?" "…are there other grad schools I haven't been considering that might be more affordable and still good?"

      And then, even if you do come to a conclusion that's technically negative, you can keep your outlook positive by continuing with questions. "I just can't take on that kind of debt, so grad school's out. What is it I actually wanted from grad school? How else can I get the skills and experience I need, etc."

    • LM

      Look for schools in another country, like Germany or Norway where tuition is free and still have many programmes taught in English.

      You’re setting limitations yourself.

      • Cat

        Getting OT here, but…

        The problem with foreign schools is that, frequently, in the US, the degrees granted there are not accepted as being at the same level as grad schools in the US (I looked into it when I was applying to grad schools). They might also have residency requirements in order to meet the requirements for reduced or free programs.

        The thing is: Most grad schools in the US (at least, academic programs – I can't speak to things like MBAs) will cover your tuition if you attend full time. It's your living expenses that you have to worry about, and that's where the loans and debt start to pile up.

    • x_Sanguine_8

      Scientifically speaking, observations simply are: "the sky is blue" – it's the conditions and interpretation which are important*.

      "i will never get into a decent grad school without incurring massive debt" – is this statement true? well, it depends on a whole bunch of factors. How much do you have saved up/on hand? What are your grades like? are your parents wealthy and willing to aid you? Have you achieved a scholarship or sponsorship for study? do you intend to attend full time or part time?
      If the statement is true, then you can start considering other factors "going to grad school will put me in massive debt. What do I intend to do about the situation?"

      Most people don't really make observations (especially in matters of the heart), but move very quickly into (usually negative) judgements and assumptions. Borrowing from Sam below: "9 out of the last 10 people I approached rejected me. Because of that, I assume 9 out of 10 people will reject me. And the tenth is likely to do so as well. That's not fair. I'm a good guy, etc..".

      *on earth, on a clear day, except at sunrise, sunset, during storms, etc…

    • Tosca

      I'd say that grad school isn't comparable to dating non-success. With the grad school, it is a provable fact that it costs X dollars. There are hard numbers and the school and bank can back you up. You aren't just *thinking* it is expensive, you *know* it is.
      So in cases like this, you have to decide whether the benefits of going outweigh the risks of debt. You may decide to go for it, to NEVER go for it, or to merely put it off until a better time in your life.

      But with dating, people try to pretend that other people are as provable as a bank loan amount. People's feelings, behavior and motivations cannot be proven like this, merely guessed at. It's why the Cheat Code method of getting dates doesn't work. So people will have these beliefs about huge segments of different people, without any quantifiable proof. That is what is limiting.

    • Camelopardalis

      Marty, I am the sole voice that thinks things can be both negative and accurate. I'll give a better analogy than grad school, one which is more similar to dating, which is getting along in corporate America. I am an engineer. The dominant engineering culture in corporate America values a particular type of personality – extroverted and, well, psychopathic. I'll let you do the googling for all the traits that so-called successful leaders share with psychopaths (charisma, likeability, blah blah). I do not have this personality type. I am quiet, I muse things over before I comment, I keep to myself, I take things at face value only meaning I am very literal and don't understand people when they are indirect, and I'm just not that interested in being friends with everyone I work with (seriously, is that even a reasonable expectation?). Basically, I do not have Asperger's, but I share many personality traits with someone who does have Asperger's. I should add that I'm neither introverted nor anti-social, I am simply not extroverted or charismatic. I get constant criticism at every job (except one, which we will get back to) for not speaking up in meetings, for being terse, for being too quiet, etc., etc. It doesn't help that I am female in a larger culture that expects women to be social and to help people get along. I also have a peirced nose and dye my hair colors never found in nature.

      Over many years, I have developed what I call my cheerleader persona which I pull out at networking events and at other select times. But you know what? I am not a cheerleader. I will never be a cheerleader. That cheerleader persona is draining b/c it's not who I am. In short, I will probably never climb the corporate ladder or be the go-person for technical leadership b/c I just don't fit in.

      Back to that one job where I didn't have so many problems – I lucked out. I happened to hire into a group who didn't care about nose rings, who thought funky hair was cool, and who I happened to almost all get along with. It wasn't anything I did to make myself more likeable or better adjusted. IT WAS LUCK.

      Is that negative? Yes. Is it accurate? Also yes. (STFU assholes who think I am just not trying. You are part of the problem.)

      And dating can be like that. There are people who want a partner and who can't find one well into late middle age. There are people who want a partner who never find a partner. At some point, just as one realizes that one is never going to make a living selling one's artwork, one should admit the possibility that they might not find a partner. You don't have to like this admission, and I'm not saying that anyone has to be happy being forever alone. But it does happen. And can happen to anyone.

      • Camelopardalis, just wanted to let you know that I know what you are talking about. ALL OF IT. If you substituted the words "graphic designer" for the word "engineer" it would be word for word my experiences. Like you I have my fake persona that I use in the same way you do (only with my new job, its now a daily occurrence, sadly)

        I also wanted to say that I agree 100% with your last paragraph. Thank you for saying that.

    • KMR

      I was totally in your situation with grad schools until about a year and a half ago. My undergraduate GPA was poor (because I slacked off like an idiot), and I never really made connections with people who could be references for me. I still wanted to go to grad school (especially since I couldn't find work in my field at the time), so I went back to school for a second bachelor's. I actually finished the second degree in only a year and a half, because many of my credits transferred and counted toward almost all of my general requirements, and I also studied through the summers (which are cheaper), so it didn't set me back nearly as much as the first degree did. (I also went to a less prestigious university the second time, so it was way cheaper because of that as well.) I improved my GPA and got a few references (although they were from people who still didn't really know me that well).

      Unfortunately, even after all that, I didn't get into any of the grad schools I applied for because, although my academic record was better, it still wasn't very competitive, and I was applying to competitive programs for which I probably should have realized I was not quite qualified. So after that, I kind of assumed I wouldn't be getting into grad school ever and put that goal aside. But through some social networking and a hell of a lot of luck, I actually got an opportunity for a graduate assistantship at my local university that would pay my tuition. It wasn't in the program I had initially planned to study, but it was one that was still related to my interests and which I've now come to truly enjoy. And I was able to get into the program, because the standards were lower than the ones I had previously applied to. So I pretty much went from thinking I'd never go to grad school to, all of a sudden, actually being IN grad school.

      Now I realize that my situation was a lucky one and not typical. Still, even a situation that SEEMS impossible may not be quite so impossible. If you want to go to grad school debt-free someday, there are things you can try to make that goal more attainable. If you don't want to go back to school for a second bachelor's like I did because of the extra debt, you can try to get a job in your chosen field to build up relevant work experience and get some good references from employers. This can really help to counterbalance a poor GPA. You could keep an eye out for the programs that you're interested in that offer assistantships to pay for your tuition and try to apply periodically, especially if you have some good references that could back you up. And, if you really want, you could look into other fields of interest that maybe have grad programs with lower requirements than the ones you've been looking for so far. In my case, the differences in admission requirements between my initial choice (PhD programs in neuroscience) and where I ended up (working on MA, soon to be upgrading to PhD program, in educational psychology) were quite substantial.

      I understand that my singular experience may not necessarily give you a sudden ray of hope, but your situation is just so similar to what mine was that I couldn't help but want to share my story with you.

    • Delafina

      Yes and no.

      If it's something you're saying to others, I feel like there has to be a good reason to speak a potentially hurtful truthful observation. Truth is not its own excuse.

      As far as what you say to yourself, you create your own reality. There are studies that show that depressed people have a better understanding of their own capabilities than those who are emotionally healthy.

      Think about that for a moment: confidence is a minor form of insanity. To be happy is to be ever so slightly delusional. And yet happiness produces confidence which produces success which produces more confidence…etc.

      So you can choose what you believe. And ultimately, part of that is deciding what you want to focus on. You can define a truth (grad school costs a lot of money and you'll probably have to get loans) as a negative truth, or you can define it as a challenge for which you need a strategy. The difference may seem like semantics, but — for me at least — it's also the difference between feeling depressed about something and feeling energized by it. And as far as the people around you go, one approach makes you seem negative, while the other makes you seem confident.

  • LeeEsq

    I'm sorry but a lot of dating seems to be a Catch-22 where you need success with women to get success with women. I've been doing a lot to improve myself over the past three years. I've learned to dance and gotten so deep in the dance world I've entered competitions. I work out frequently including with a trainer. I've taken classes I've gone to event after event, approached women, tried dating services, and sent countless messages out online. My social life has improved considerably but still haven't been able to convince any women to go on more than one date with me. Right now, I just feel burned and tired but with little choice but to go on and try again and feel positive about it because showing any negativity or desperation is bad thing even if you feel that way. This means I just end up interanlizing a lot of it and its eating me up.

    • eselle28

      I've been there. When that happens to me, I generally try to take a break from dating until it starts to seem a little more exciting again. I'm actually considering going on one again soon. It seems like nothing ever works out very well when I've internalized a bunch of frustration, presumably because I tend to give off bad vibes in ways I don't notice.

      (If you want some positive reframing, which may not be useful at this point, it sounds like you've at least gotten the "meeting women" bit down. That's one part of the issue solved. The next step is likely looking at why first dates – especially those with women you met offline – haven't been going well.)

    • Lee,

      The only detractor I’ve heard you mention is your height, which I don’t see making that much of a difference, because I know many women that date shorter men. Do you live in a small city/town? Why are you trying to convince women to go on dates with you? Try taking advantage of hook-up culture. Ask female friends to just hang out (I know this is counter-intuitive to what DNL says about avoiding the friend zone, but this is literally how every relationship I’ve ever been with got started), relax with a beer and some Game of Thrones or Doctor Who (DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES PUT ON LAW AND ORDER: SVU). Don’t make it a date, just hanging out. Just talk. Keep having her over and talking and getting closer. Sometimes things will progress in the right direction, sometimes they won’t, but a lot of women are uncomfortable with traditional Dating with a capital D, trying to sit across the table and making awkward conversation over dinner. It’s stressful for us too. Seriously, my first bf, I didn’t even find attractive, but after 2 weeks of watching futurama together every other night, we were making out like crazy. Let women get to know you before they agree to date you.

      • LeeEsq

        In the only relationship I've been in, which wasn't that succesful, we were friends for about five years before we began dating. Likewise, I have done the same with other women but without success. If I ever get into a relationship with a women it will probably with somebody who knew me for a consider time first but its rather frustrating and slow-moving. I have a feeling of needing relief and needing it now.

        And no, I don't live in a small town. I live in NYC, which has its own difficulties.

        • I don't really know how else to help you, other than write you scripts to talk to women- Cyrano style.

        • Anonymoose

          What kinds of things make NYC difficult? I live in a small-ish west-coast town (30-35k people) and it seems like going to the big cities would increase your chances. Here, most girls are either attached (and will only unattach when they have someone else lined up), married or just out of high school and working towards moving somewhere bigger.

          • people in NYC have a rep of being unapproachable. I tend to disagree, because I'm there about 2 times a year, and everyone is overwhelmingly friendly to me!

          • LeeEsq

            The problem is the paradox of choice. When people do not have a lot of options they get frustrated from lack of choice. When they have a lot of options than they get indecisive becuase the always think that they might find somebody better, somebody that fits what they are looking for more.

    • Jess

      You might be trying too hard and scaring people away with the intensity of your desire for "a relationship" instead of them specifically. You've got to embrace the zen. Enjoy the fact that you dance without seeing it as the be all end all magic band-aid of your dating life. Dancing is awesome, enjoy it on its own right without expectations.

      Then stop thinking that you have no success with women and start watching out for those sly glances across the ballroom. I bet they're there or they will be there if you can turn the intensity down.

      Once you start noticing them, enjoy your interactions with women the way you enjoy dancing. Each dance is fun in its own right. Each conversation should be fun in its own right and not a means to sex.

      Take a deep breath and get your head in the moment. I bet things turn around.

    • Ainuvande

      So, you've found new passions, your "social life has improved considerably" and you're going on dates. That's not it's own kind of win? having a girlfriend is not an endgame. Just a different level. Stop and smell the roses, Lee. It sounds like you've got a really nice life in general full of fun hobbies, good friends, and occasional forays into romance. I've had a couple of instances where my life was torn down to job, me, and a couple of long-distance acquaintances. What you've done is freaking hard, and -with or without a girlfriend- is sounds like you have a really nice life.

      • I agree, my life is pretty much down to work, school, write, sleep, rinse repeat. Enjoy the richness you've cultivated, I'm seriously jealous of it right now.

      • LeeEsq

        I am well aware that I have a nice life and that there are countless people much worse off. This doesn't change that fact that I feel lonier than ever for some reason and that I'm feeling some rather strong biological urges, to be polite, that kind of need somebody else to be fulfilled.

        • I recommend your right hand, your left hand, or investing in a fleshlight. We all do it. I have at least 3 vibrators, for different types of moods, and I've even learned to tie myself up (kinda) on occasion. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Or you can always get a hooker.

          • Anonymoose

            Don't use masturbation for loneliness or to quell biological urges. That's a downward spiral waiting to happen.

          • If he is unable to find a partner, how else should he quell biological urges? If no willing partner exists other than oneself…

          • Anonymoose

            Personally, masturbation has only made things worse. You get a temporary reprieve, then it comes flooding back in an even worse way. And not only that, but if you get used it, you'll become drained of hormones and chemicals that make you a more vibrant person, and you start subconciously giving off worse body language than you did before, potential partners become a thing to fear and the spiral continues.

            Better to control the urges.

          • Mel

            Masturbation may have caused problems for you, but it's not true that it's unhealthy for the average person. Quite the opposite! As noted here… (a summary that draws on the results of scientific studies), it can help improve sexual functioning and alleviate stress. "There are no harmful side effects of masturbation. Medical science has debunked many myths formally associated with masturbation, such as… that masturbation will drain excessive energy from the body."

            Better not to treat your personal experiences as facts that apply to all people.

          • Anonymoose

            There's testosterone and other hormones in sperm and it raises your resistance to dopamine (and therefore, the things that can make you happy).

            Best not to treat something as harmless when it can be way the opposite.

          • Trooper6

            Mel provided evidence for her position, do you have any actual evidence for yours?

          • Mel

            Do you have links to actual research that proves this? I did a search on masturbation and resistance to dopamine, and the results I found a) had no citations of actual research to back them up and b) talked specifically about "ejaculating excessively" or "porn addiction". Obviously if you do anything to the point of excess or addiction, it's not likely to be healthy. I don't see any reason to think that masturbating a few times a week is going to have ill effects for the average person.

          • Mel

            After some further looking around, what I've gathered is that the main concern is not masturbation but porn. There seems to be some evidence (though nothing super concrete) that frequent viewing of porn (whether or not you masturbate/ejaculate to it) can desensitize you to the less novel and less exciting varieties of sexual and emotional stimulation that may be available in your real life. But this is based mainly on the novelty, variety, and intensity of the stimuli available in porn, rather than your physically sexually stimulating yourself.

            So I can see an argument for not masturbating regularly to a variety of porn, but masturbating without porn doesn't seem to be a real concern.

          • Anonymoose

            I haven't heard of too many guys masturbating to nothing. It's either porn or thinking pornographic things.

            And I'm providing the warning because I have used masturbation when nothing's been available and as something to take my mind off of loneliness, and experience tells me it has horrible side effects that are not harmless, that can make things worse and that people do need to be aware of. It's a lot like the way that not everyone will get addicted to drugs or alcohol, but it can happen.

          • Mel

            There's nothing wrong with providing a warning that something can be problematic. I only took issue with your presenting the negative side effects that you experienced as the definite consequences of any type of masturbation for all people. If someone suggested a person try having a drink before getting into a social situation because it might help them relax, it's one thing to say "Just be careful you don't end up drinking too much, or you can end up making a fool of yourself" and another to say "If you drink, you'll lose control of all your inhibitions and behave horribly. You should find other ways to relax."

            Re: porn, nothing I read suggested that using one's imagination was a problem–it was all about the vivid visuals of having actual film and photographs.

          • Anonymoose

            Imagination was really just the gateway, in my case. I had thought up things that I didn't even know had names before eventually getting on the internet, and then seeing them for real was a pretty powerful/reinforcing rush.

            And yeah, it's not true for everyone, but I bristled when the idea of "just fap" came up along with loneliness and need to release. That's the time I think you should be masturbating the least.

          • Tosca

            It doesn't stand up to logical scrutiny, anyway. Your body produces sperm *to be let go*. That is it's primary function and destiny. It doesn't make sense for the release of sperm to cause you serious problems.

            And, yeah, actual evidence would be nice. This just sounds like so much old wives' tales to me, like going blind or growing hair on your palms.

          • Guille

            Although I'm inclined to think that masturbation may be of psychological consecuences when done as a replacement for a relationship when you're feeling really, really lonely, I'm not fond of the idea of ejactulating frequendly being too dangerous. When you have a happy relationship with really good sex, it's only natural to assume that you would ejaculate a lot, and supposedly much more than when masturbating. So, unless we're talking about masturbating way more frequently than say -once a day?-, I can't think that there's a clinical issue with it. Nevertheless, the studies I've heard of meassured the physiological consecuences of masturbation, and I haven't heard of studies specifically addressing masturbation as a clutch for loneliness, or correlated with wether the subject also had sexual intercourses or not. (Note: I'm no doctor, psychologist or anything related).

          • Anonymoose

            My personality changes if I don't do it for a few days. And then it changes again if I do. I'm inclined to believe there's psychological things going on. Also masturbating and having sex have two different chemical process outcomes because of the other person being involved.

          • Trooper6

            Where is your citation that there are two different chemical processes going on? Cite your facts.

          • OldBrownSquirrel

            It's only a downward spiral if you're no longer interested in meeting women afterwards, if that's all you see women as good for. If you're interested in their company or their conversation, it can be very useful to get that other business out of the way in the short term. If you approach a woman, and you're all pent up, you'll come across as nervous and flustered… and creepy and scary. If you approach a woman, and you're not pent up, you're more likely to come across as relaxed and confident, and she's much more likely to enjoy the experience. Also, going on an actual date (especially a first date) while pent up can become physically uncomfortable.

          • Anonymoose

            I've found pent up only lasts a few days and then afterwards you've got a ton of energy and a feeling of more control over it.

          • LeeEsq

            This isn't working to relieve the biological urges, I'm not quite into anonymoose's negative characterization of it but it looses its effectiveness after awhile.

        • Ainuvande

          I wasn't intending to imply that you never get to feel lonely. Only to remember to enjoy the good things, too. And totally own the successes you have. You have every right to say "I don't have a girlfriend, but look at everything else I've done with my life. That was hard. I am an awesome person for accomplishing that!" Because you are. Relish that on-top-of-the-world feeling. You deserve it.

          (the harder part is recalling that feeling when in a "meeting potential girlfriend" setting. Remember, you're awesome. You have a pretty sweet life. Is she cool enough to be worth sharing that life with- as a person? You'll meet a lot of women who it will turn out aren't. You can change your mind about a woman you've approached just as easily as she can decide she's not at $PLACE to get hit on.)

          Even if you don't do what's in the parentheses and choke up around every pretty girl (or forget that you're awesome match might not have a 10 body), you still have every right to remind yourself that you're awesome, and to do things that make you happy in the moment.

          Besides, once you're in a relationship, you won't have as much time to enjoy all those things that you love doing that make you awesome. So enjoy them now.

        • Juuuuuulia

          Can you do those separately? =/

          • Juuuuuulia

            The problem that is even a girlfriend is not guaranteed to relieve your biological urges whenever you have them. 🙁

            Loneliness, maybe? But really those are two separate concerns.

          • LeeEsq

            I know this is true and that she might not want to have sex even if I want to. Different opinions about the physical aspect of the relationship are pretty much what ended my only previous relationship. Its just that I'm feeling a tremendous pull of urgency regarding this aspect of life right now and its a good time in my life for a romantic relationship but its just not happening regardless of what I do. My fear is thats its going to happen when I have absolutely no time for it because work and all the other hard aspects of life overwhelm anytime for a relationship or that there is going to be too much of a difference that my perspective partner is going to be looking for somebody to marry and start a family with when I'm no where ready for that.

          • LeeEsq

            And another thing, if I get a woman its going to be highly likely that she did everything I want to do with somebody else first and this sounds incredibly sexist and traditional but this depresses me immensely. A part of me is always going to be wondering whether she actually enjoys being with me or is there an element of going through the motions in order to humor me and get to the type of relationship she wants.

            Another fear is that I'm not going to be loved the way that I want to be loved. What really gets me jealous is when I see women actively demonstrate to the world how much they love their boyfriend. They light up when they see him, they prance and shower him with affection in public to show the world how much they love him. Its this very demonstrative type of love is what I'm looking for, its something that I want very badly even if I only get to enjoy it briefly but I'm deeply afraid that the type of women that will date me isn't the type that will love me this way, the way I want to be loved.

          • trooper6

            A couple of things.
            1) So what if she has sexual experience. Hopefully she does, that means she'll know better what she likes, which means that you'll end up with a better experience. Two people, neither of whom know what they are doing is not the highpoint of sexual experiences.
            2) Your fears that she won't like having sex with you or love you…that is low self esteem talking. You should work on that. Do you want to know how I think about it? I don't think, "I'm afraid the only woman who'll date me won't love me!" What is that?! I think, "I will not date anyone who won't love and respect and desire me as I deserve to me loved, respected, and desired. And I will not lower that standard."

            You are a person who deserves to be treated with basic decency. Don't date someone who won't do that.

            If you can internalize that you deserve basic decency and won't date anyone who won't give it to you, that makes you less fearful, less desperate, and more attractive…and therefore more likely to get what you want.

            Someone once said that we get the love we think we deserve. You need to raise the bar on what you think you deserve.

          • LeeEsq

            I'm working on my self-esteem through constant attempts at self-improvement and therapy. In real life I don't come off this whiny but this blog and therapy are the best places for me to vent my fear and frustrations. Its not so much the sexual experience thing that bugs since its really to be expected. Nor do I really fear that a woman won't love me. My fears are as I said, I want a very demonstrative love. Its what I see and like and want. What I'm worried about is not getting the type of demonstrative love that I want.

            And bloody hell, its really hard to have high self-esteem if you want something so much but can't get it. Its a damn if you, damn if you don't situation.

          • trooper6

            I don't know what you mean by "very demonstrative"–since that is a subjective phrase. You might be wanting what other folks think of as normally demonstrative, but because of your background seems way out of possibility for you. In which case, relax.

            On the other hand you may want a lever of demonstrativeness that is rooted in insecurity, fear of abandonment, co-dependency, clinginess, and unhealthy fixation…and you may have a hard time getting it…and if you do, if may be really unhealthy for you.

            So I don't know where this is for you. You might want to ponder that with your therapist.
            If your preferred level of demonstrativeness is within the realm of healthy, then you can find it, just don't settle for someone who doesn't share you preferred level of demonstrativeness…because it won't make you happy and it won't make her happy.
            If your preferred level of demonstrativeness is not within the realm of healthy (talk about this with your therapist), then you need to work on the underlying issues that are causing you to need an unhealthy level of demonstrativeness and work on that so you can recalibrate.

            As for self-esteem. It is *self* esteem, not I-have-a-girlfriend-esteem. Your self-esteem is about yourself. It is has nothing to do with you have a girlfriend or not. Look at it this way. Are you an honorable person? Having a girlfriend or not doesn't have anything to do with if you are honorable. Are you a good friend? Having a girlfriend or not doesn't have anything to do with if you are a good friend. Are you honest? Having a girlfriend or not doesn't have anything to do with if you are honest. Are you a good listener? Having a girlfriend or not doesn't have anything to do with if you are a good listener.
            If you are only honorable when you have a girlfriend (or money, or a job, or whatever external thing), then you aren't really honorable. It is the same thing with self esteem. It is yours and it belongs to you. It is not granted to you when you get a girlfriend or taken from you when you lose one. If so, then you don't have self esteem…and your relationship with your girlfriend will end up being unhealthy.

            You have to have a core belief in yourself, you have to love yourself and honor yourself and esteem yourself even when you are alone in your room…especially when you are alone in your room.

          • Corsair

            Agreed. Self-esteem doesn't magically appear when you get what you want! It's just not how it works…

          • Delafina

            You rock so hard, trooper6.

            "So what if she has sexual experience." A million times this. What on earth does it matter? Barring your partner having kids, an STI, committed a crime, or a traumatic experience that has resulted in triggers, why do you even need to know?

          • trooper6

            The Delafina-Trooper6 mutual admiration society continues on apace! It is lovely to read you comments, as always!

          • kilo

            Is this a rhetorical or an actual question? I agree that it shouldn't matter from the perspective of fairness and respect for other people's life choices. But there are some reasons why it can feel that way.

            – People who have little or no experience at 25, 30, 40 etc. will often feel like they have missed the window of opportunity for youthful, mutual exploration into something completely new that many (though not all) people with more experience have had, and be unhappy about that. A partner who is inexperienced as well means that you can at least attempt at recreating something resembling such situations and emotions.
            – Inexperienced people will often have some sort of shame about their situation. With two people in a similar situation, this is not as bad – after all, the other person knows what it's like.
            – Inexperienced people will often worry that their abilities will be inadequate and not meet the demands of their partners, as they know things only in theory (from books, websites etc.) and not in practice. It's similar to social dance scenes, where many people will be happy to dance with people who are at a similar level, but are afraid of asking people who are much better (and in some cases even feel like saying no when the advanced dancer asks them).
            – Inexperienced people will often know that their odds of ever having a relationship, sex, or just a kiss are pretty bad, and are getting worse every day. This means that a person who is interested in them will be giving them a great gift; it makes sense that they would want to give that person a great gift in return. If both people are in similar situations, this feels much easier.
            – One could also reformulate the last points in terms of power. It would make sense for any intimate relationship that the people involved should be equals, but it is quite likely that with large experience mismatches, the less experienced person feels inferior.

            Now, I'm not saying that these feelings and desires are good or true, but that does not mean that they are not real. And of course, that may be part of the problem.

          • Corsair

            From the things you wrote just now, it seems like maybe it would be good to find some professional help? Are you seeing a therapist, maybe? I really don't mean to offend.
            It's just that the things you are feeling now don't seem like they would just disappear if you suddenly found a partner. Even if she loved you like crazy. Insecurity can be really damaging for relationships, specially if one person is always doubting the other's affections….
            I really don't know if going to therapy will help you with dating, but it might help with how you are feeling right now… And probably will help any future relationships.

          • Delafina

            It really sounds like you feel like you need public validation of your desirability right now. Which is understandable, given that you feel like you've been trying hard at the whole dating thing and not having any success. I think, given where you are right now, that your feelings are completely natural.

            It's fine to like PDA if that's just your personality, if you feel constrained if you can't be affectionate in public, if it's something that comes naturally to you and that you have to watch yourself all the time in order not to do it, and it's fine to want a partner that mirrors your style.

            But if it's because you want the whole world to know you finally got a woman, well, it's not going to make you or that woman happy.

          • LeeEsq

            Honestly, its both. My personality is very affectionate and I really like to touch and be touched and to show affection and be the subject of affection. At the same time, yes I'd like the whole world to know I've finally got a woman, which I realize isn't a very healthy thought and in its darker forms takes the shape of wanting something like romantic vengeance, the need of some sort of revenge against all the other men who enjoyed relationships first.

          • Delafina

            And that vengeance thing will turn off any emotionally healthy potential partners, so honestly, do whatever the hell you need to to get past it.

            It comes from a sense of entitlement — the idea that the universe owes you a partner. It doesn't. And once you accept that, you'll be happier for it. Think about it: if you are owed a partner, you'll be resentful as long as you don't have one, because dammit, you're owed one. And when you do have one, you won't be as happy as you could be, because you're only getting what is yours by right. In this scenario, not having a partner is a negative situation, whereas having a partner is a neutral one.

            Versus if you let go of that sense, not having a partner doesn't become a cause for resentment — it simply becomes a neutral situation, whereas having one becomes a positive. If you're not owed a relationship, then you haven't failed in not having one — you just haven't found a way to get this cool thing yet. When you do, you're not merely getting what you're owed, you've actually succeeded, not broken even.

            You don't deserve to have a partner. You don't deserve *not* to have a partner. "Deserving" is not part of this equation. Go after what you want because you want it, not because you're owed it.

            As Marcus says in one of my favorite Babylon 5 quotes: "I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, 'wouldn't it be much worse if life *were* fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them?' So now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe."

            It's a pretty cynical way to put it, but at the core of it, I think it's pretty helpful: get angry about unfairness when it's something you can change; when some individual is treating you unfairly. When it's just life/the universe/humanity in general/etc. being unfair to you, though, you may as well stop thinking in terms of fair/unfair, as they'll just make you miserable.

          • trooper6

            Loneliness is internal. I know people who are in relationships and are terribly lonely, because while they had a partner, there was no intimacy. There is something really lonely about having sex and a life with someone who doesn't know you and with whom you can't be your full self.

          • LeeEsq

            I know this. This isn't anything I don't know. I know couples like this. I've experienced it with my ex. I've had to listen to people moan about this.

    • Delafina

      Don't internalize it. Learning from failure is different from dwelling upon it. If you have a day where you absolutely can't be positive, then take the day off from dating. Tend to yourself. Do something that revitalizes you. Hang out with your friends or family or other people that love you. You don't have to flog yourself into action when you have no energy to put into it — you just have to be careful to not let "I have no energy" become an excuse. You do have to get up off the mat at some point, but no one's saying you're not allowed to catch your breath first.

      • LeeEsq

        Well quite frankly I have no idea what I'm doing wrong no matter how much I analyze it. I know from OkCupid's system that my initial message is usually enough to get a woman to check out my profile, which is a start, but something in my profile turns them off and they don't respond. Sometimes they will recheck my profile weeks or months latter but still not respond. On the times I'm getting a date, they just say they felt no chemistry even if it was a very fun date.

        Women seem to approach with a lot of hesitancy and doubt, a sort of feeling that well "Lee's okay but maybe I could do better" or they view me as weird and eccentric, not the type of man you through yourself at. Yet at the same time, they don't hate me. They like me as person but don't seem to see me as potential partner for themselves but seem to think I'll be a good one for somebody else. And I have no idea how to change this and its the constant feeling of falling down and getting up again is at best annoying at worse heat-breaking. I seem to be destined to go through every type of heart-break possible and can't stand it anymore. Its so easy for other people but I have to fight and struggle for every small victory and I still get rejected sometimes in favor of somebody else. I don't want to be Don Juan or Casanova just want somebody.

        • Delafina

          "And I have no idea how to change this and its the constant feeling of falling down and getting up again is at best annoying at worse heat-breaking."

          This is life in a nutshell. It isn't easy for anyone. The thing you find hard may be easy for someone else, but the reverse is also true. You do stuff. You fall down. It hurts. You get back up. But at least if you're mountain-climbing, the scars you get end up being souvenirs. You're going to fall either way, so it may as well be while you're doing the sort of things that make good memories later. The things that are scariest while you're doing them are the ones that give you strength later, and a lot of the times that are horrific to live through end up being the stories that make you laugh at yourself later.

          But the falling down and the having to get up happens in everything. You don't get to opt out. As long as you have things and people in your life that make you happy, most of the falls aren't that bad. And with the ones that are, you'll have those joys and those people to help you up. It sounds like you have a really rich, full life, but you sound burnt out on the dating thing. So take a break from it for a bit. Focus on doing things you love with people who care about you. Just live for a little bit without doing things that feel like you're trying really hard and analyzing. And then come back to it. But don't let yourself get into a worry loop about it.

        • trooper6

          You have evidenced a lot of insecurity and self-esteem issues in some of your posts, that could be putting people off.
          The "I just want somebody" is a bit desperate and that can also put people off. For example, I would never date someone who desperately needed to date someone. I only want to date people who want to date *me*–if you see the difference.

          Anyhow, I'd be happy to check out your OK Cupid profile and give you feedback. If you are worried about anonymity, you could post links to three profiles, only one of which is you and not tell us which one, and then we could give feedback on all three.

          • LeeEsq

            I'm more discriminate in real life and the only woman I know that I really want to date rejected me twice, has a boyfriend, and I 'can't avoid either of them without completely changing my life.

          • trooper6

            Unrequited Love sucks. It has happened to me and it is never fun. But, since it is not going to happen with this woman, I recommend working really hard to get over her–because you are not doing yourself any favors by continuing to pine for her.

            How do you do this? I don't know how other people did it. These are two things I did:
            1) Do not allow myself to self-indulge in fantasy. The minute I start fantasizing about her…I tell myself. "No. Not going to happen. I'm over her anyway. Move on." And then I stop fantasizing about her.
            2) Change my internal dialogue. Stop with the "If only…" "She's the one…" etc. Start with the, "I am getting over her. I don't want to date someone who doesn't want to date me." "We would not be a good match because…"

            This will be a lot of discipline and willpower, but it is possible. There are studies that show if people act happy, they become more happy. If they act sad, they get more sad.
            You need to act like you are over her until you are.
            You also need to keep reminding yourself why a relationship with her would not work.
            Over and over.
            And really watch your internal dialogue about this

  • Sam

    Well, shit. Looks like the first one did post after all.

  • OldBrownSquirrel

    I'm in the process of divorce, and I'm not bothering to try very hard to date while I'm in the process. The divorce will be final in a couple months, and there's nothing I can do to move it along faster. In the meantime, I get the impression that most sensible women, whether due to morals or an aversion to drama, would prefer to date someone who is divorced, full stop, rather than someone who is in the process. In the meantime, I'm settling into my apartment, getting some exercise, socializing a bit with no romantic expectations, and just killing time waiting for things to change. What makes this situation unusual, I expect, is that I think I have a better excuse than most to procrastinate; there will be a major change in the near future, and taking a few months off isn't seriously self-defeating in my case. Yeah, I'm using it as an excuse, but it's only going to be a valid excuse for a little while longer.

  • Don’t Stop Me Now

    What’s the sound of no hands fapping? That’s easy: It’s sexy times.
    But seriously. I like your advice about not wanting it enough. I think you nailed me on the head with that one. 5 approaches a day sounds like a lot but it’s worth a shot. Heck, this sleaze ball I live near found a girl but he tried and apparently found success. He got his ass out there and if he can then I definitely can. No question.

    • Alberich

      5 approaches a day does sound like a lot, unless you're going to a bar every night. Keep in mind the places and situations in which you might be approaching these women. Don't be creepy.

      • Anonymoose

        I don't even see five women within my general age bracket every day.

        • Juuuuuulia

          Talk to strangers! They are fun and interesting. It will make it all that much easier to talk to a girl when she DOES turn up. =)

          • Question here… OK. I'll take the step, talk to strangers and man up taking the unbearable pain (I'm major depressive, so the pain is real: rejection hurts about as much as that last time an abscessed tooth woke you up at 3 am, and the structure of the pain is the same)… but, after all, pain is there to be endured, and I have the most brutal ego boost in my life since I've been learning to fly and actually been complimented by my instructor who's a 15,000-hour Army gunship veteran…

            The problem is: Will it be worth it? I have repeatedly been told that almost all women want stable, long-term relationships with at least the possibility of reproduction, and that women make contact with men with these expectations in mind. To be brief, no thanks. I do not want children, I do not want to marry, I do not want to live together, and I don't think I will last more than a year. This is an ethical problem for me, because every time I go out with a woman more than 2 times, she tries to make me conform to her ideas, even though I spelt mine out clearly and honestly. I do not want to hurt people (yes, it's for an egotistical reason: I'm too emphatic and their pain makes me hurt too) and I do not want to repeat the mistake I made earlier (burying my principles because of my hormones).

            So… the question is: Are there really women who like casual sex/short-term friends-with-benefits arrangements and don't want that to "become something more"? If so, then I will bite the bullet, dress stylishly, hit the bars, and take my chances with these 1000 rejections (the worst than can happen is that my tolerance to pain will reach inhuman levels **ROFL**) ; But if it is true that ALL women want something long-term, then I won't even try. It would be no use, it would bring pain to people who don't need it and it would make me a liar.

            I would like to hear from women (The opinions I have heard otherwise are from women and I really want to have proof that other opinions exist among you).

  • Juuuuuulia

    I just wanted to clarify the self-fulfilling prophecy example in a more nerd-friendly way. My friend had a really bad case of oneitis and she would constantly say "I'm sad that he doesn't ask me to hang out because it obviously means he doesn't think I'm a good friend." She would also facebook-stalk his wall and find evidence of him hanging out with other people and then say "See! He thinks they are better friends than I am!"

    To which I would always respond "or he's busy", "or they just asked him spontaneously", "or he doesn't feel like it", "or he doesn't know you want to hang out because you never actually told him", "or he thinks this particular event is not your thing" "or he doesn't feel like it right this minute" — what it comes down to is, you never really know what's going in someone's head. And if my friend were to confront this guy (which she never did about anything) directly with a question like "Why do you never ask me to hang out?!!" he would have no answer for her! It probably never even crossed his mind!

    So the point of the self-fulfilling prophecy is — you'll never really know why they don't like you / reject you / don't ask you to hang out. Even if you ask them! And since you'll never know, you might as well pick something positive or neutral. Because if you instead pick "he doesn't think I'm a valuable friend" then your attitude will color all of your interactions. If every time you talk to this person, you're thinking "during this whole conversation, he will not ask me to hang out because he thinks I am a worthless friend," you will not have a fun conversation.

    • In the case of your friend, what would you suggest in order to turn this into a non-negative situation? What positive reason could he have for not hanging out with her? Couldn't the negativity perhaps help in that it gets her over her Oneitis by realizing he doesn't like her (thus never wanting to hang out with her)? I mean, if you color it as positive or neutral, the consequence might be she misses the social hint of "I don't like you that much."

      • Juuuuuulia

        So after a year of this stuff, I have come to the conclusion he didn't want to hang out with her was for the purely neutral reason that it never crossed his mind that she wanted to. Because they were kinda like "school friends" and they'd gone to lunch spontaneously a few times, like "hey, wanna grab food after class?" but whenever she interacted with him, it was mostly to talk about school things and ask for … favors. Like one time she came over to his apartment because her water was out and she expected him to -guess- that this was because she liked him. But she never said things like "You're really fun to hang out with!" or "I miss hanging out with you!" or "Facebook tells me you're having a party, can I tag along?" So I'm pretty sure he just wrote her off as the girl who wants to compare notes and use his stuff. He had no idea that she was stalking his facebook for his every move and using it to pass judgments on her "friendship" with him.

      • Juuuuuulia

        To answer your question, I think the positive aspects of the situation were that she hadn't tried everything. She hadn't tried inviting him to things or speaking up about wanting to be invited or generally expressing the feeling that she thought he was a fun, awesome person. (She just kinda operated in excuses to talk to him; very middle-school style.) If she had done all of those things, he might have wanted to date her!

  • Anonymoose

    Don't know what to sayyyyyyyyy.

    To either.

    • Juuuuuulia

      "Hi, wanna talk about something?"

      • Anonymoose

        "Sure, what?"

        • Juuuuuulia


          "Sure, what?"

          • Anonymoose

            "What's awesomeness?"

          • Juuuuuulia

            This is feeling like one of those not wanting it enough situations. Can you not pull anything random out of your brain? =P

            Awesomeness is walrus hugs.
            Awesomeness is a warm walrus.
            Awesomeness is having an even number of socks.

          • Anonymoose

            It's usually blank in those situations. I don't do ADD/random that well. Always been a better listener/responder than a conversation starter. I don't have anything to say to people I don't know because I don't know them enough to have anything to say to them.

          • Juuuuuulia

            "What does awesomeness mean to you?" Easy! =P

          • x_Sanguine_8

            well, fill it with something, silly 🙂
            maybe ask about her favourite food, or if she watches sports at all and if so, what? how is her family? if she could have any superpower in the world, what would it be? listen to what she says, then follow up with your own response and next question, or if something she says reminds you of something, lead in with that. let the conversation flow places, rather than sticking to one solo topic – it's introductions, after all. The whole point of icebreaking is to make some connections with the person during the conversation.

          • Anonymoose

            Hrmmm, it's easy to come up with things now, but in the moment, total blank (not just women, everyone). I'm not sure how to adjust this.

          • Juuuuuulia

            I think my thing didn't post. I would say pre-decide your openers so that they lead into either 1) a subject you know stuff about and want to have a discussion about or 2) a subject you can ask a lot of open-ended questions about. So like, if you see a girl in a shop! The puzzle is: How do I start a conversation? How do I transition it fairly quickly to (1) or (2)? And then NOSECONDTHOUGHTSGOGOGO!

          • Anonymoose

            A true gentleman never leaves a puzzle unsolved.

          • AFC1001

            I'm going to …. do my utmost… to make this post while following Doc's rules (no try, no can't) and my own (do not say anything I do not know to be true without loading it up with enough qualifiers that it's clear that I don't know that it's true). I find I have a similar problem to Anonymoose regarding conversations. I recall very few conversations (right now I struggle to think of one) in which my contribution has been anything other than inane. I think that the problem has been that there is nothing I understand deeply enough to talk about it in a worthwhile way. I've started learning or doing things that I hoped would make me more worthwhile but I find I plateau very quickly and the fact that I'm struggling to achieve even the most basic results, combined with the feeling that what I'm doing is not what I'm meant to be doing, but rather something I'm forcing myself to do for the sake of doing *something* makes the cost of continuing seem much greater than the benefit.

          • trooper6

            1) You don't have to know everything to have a conversation. Indeed, being a no-it-all can be a conversation killer.
            2) You know stuff. Also you have feelings about stuff. Look to that.
            3) Interest in the other person also goes a long way.

          • enail

            Most people don't approach conversations with an attitude of "how much knowledge is this person able to convey to me?" – in fact, someone whose idea of conversation is conveying a lot of knowledge is probably a bore. A conversation can be a mix of sharing experiences, opinions, a little bit of info, asking advice, etc.

            You don't have to be perfect to have good conversations! Even doing things that you suck at can be fodder – you're having experiences you have thoughts on, you're interested in things. If someone asks what you've been up to, you can say "I just started learning fluglehorn. I'm amazingly bad at it. I have wild fantasies of someday mastering a basic scale." (with enthusiasm, not like you're trying to start a pity-party) Maybe the other person plays fluglehorn and will give you tips, or maybe they've never heard of a fluglehorn and are curious, or maybe they play a different instrument and you can talk music, or maybe they can commiserate b/c they love dancing but are terrible at it. The conversations are just as interesting as if you said "I've become a master fluglehorn player. I'm awesome."

          • Beth

            I think the "amazingly bad at fluglehorn" conversation sounds much more interesting and fun than the "I've become a master fluglehorn player. I'm awesome" conversation, actually.

          • AFC1001

            In my experience the "Amazingly Bad at Flugelhorn conversation tends to go:

            Me: "I've been learning the flugelhorn for about a month, and I still haven't managed to do a scale all the way through".
            Them: "Flugelhorn? I picked one up once. Isn't it incredible how the bridge on song X is so much different on flugelhorn than on zither?"
            Me: "I uhh wouldn't really know. Like I said, it's taken me a month to get half way to a scale"
            Them; "oh." *awkward silence ensues"

          • Juuuuuulia

            Dude. "Oh, really? I didn't know that! Can you teach me to play song X sometime? What's your number?"

          • enail

            Or how about "Did playing the zither made it easier to pick up flugelhorn? Do you play other instruments?" or "Curse you for being so talented! Come on, tell me something you're bad at now to make me feel better about myself!" (said jokingly)

            The key is to try and say things that give the other people something to respond to.

          • Gentleman Johnny

            AFC, this is a great example of being interested in people and things. I'm going to quote the example here to start with some side notes:

            Me: "I've been learning the flugelhorn for about a month, and I still haven't managed to do a scale all the way through". (Presumably this comes after a bit of back and forth about music or something. One does not simply. . .mention the flugelhorn without prompting)

            Them: "Flugelhorn? I picked one up once. Isn't it incredible how the bridge on song X is so much different on flugelhorn than on zither?" (This happens to me all the time on all sorts of subjects. When I mention in previous posts talking to women about art history, philosophy, Old English literature and the like, this is hw it happened)

            Your way: "I uhh wouldn't really know. Like I said, it's taken me a month to get half way to a scale"

            Johnny's suggested variation: Haha. I'm not even sure I'd know a zither if I saw one. (This is completely true, BTW) Do you play that, too/tell me about it/is it easier than the flugelgorn? (Pick any one)

            Them: Oh its great, its like. . .

            Lather, rinse, repeat.

          • trooper6

            But you said upthread that you also don't share things about yourself because you are afraid of judgement. This makes conversation difficult…because you can't just be a listener…especially if you aren't actively participating by sharing. That person doesn't get to know you and you end up not getting to know them.

            I'm going to post more about conversations lower in this thread.

          • Anonymoose

            You'd be surprised. I think the majority of my friends throughout my life approached me, they talked, I responded if it was something I knew something about, if I didn't or if it was personal stuff, one word answers or "I'm listening" noises. More than one of them ended up telling me over the years that I was the only one of their friends who hadn't told them some secret or confided in them something.

    • trooper6

      Anonymoose, having a conversation is not that hard as long as
      1) you are interested in learning
      2) you are interested in sharing
      3) you have some interests
      4) you are up on the world.
      5) you remember that conversations are back and forth and try to connect them to your stuff and connect to theirs.

      On Saturday I was at a cafe working on an article I'm writing, I had my iPad out. An older couple started a conversation with me that ended up going on for about two hours. How did they start it?

      Them: Is that an iPad?
      Me: Yes it is. (not certain I want to get drawn into a conversation with strangers at the moment)
      Them: How do you like it? Do you recommend it?
      Me: Oh I like it very much, and I do recommend it highly. (Now, because conversations are about sharing as well as asking, I add…and know I'm in). I find it very useful for when I'm teaching a class or doing research. I can have all of my books and articles on the iPad and it lessens the amount of stuff I have to carry around.
      Them: (Clearly wanting to continue to engage) Oh? What do you teach?
      Me: I teach blah, blah, blah…(here's where good the back and forth has to come in) what do you to do?
      Them: Oh, he works in computers, she works in banking.
      Me: Oh how interesting….what exactly do you do? Do you program? What do you do at the bank?
      and so on…

      Topics of conversation are context specific, here are some one's I've found generally work:
      -Where are you from? Then I ask about that place. Bonus if I have some more detailed question to follow-up with. If you are from Detroit I can ask about deindustrialization. If you are from Florida, I can ask about its swing state status. If you are from the Mid-West I like to ask how they define the borders of the midwest. If they are from Texas I mention I was stationed there when I was in the Army.
      -What are your hobbies? (Follow up asking them more and connecting yourself to the conversation by sharing)
      -What are you watching on TV right now? (Follow up asking them more and connecting yourself to the conversation by sharing)
      -What do you think about *current event*? (Follow up asking them more and connecting yourself to the conversation by sharing)

      Then there are the life phase specific ones:
      When I was in the Army–What is your MOS? Where have you been stationed? What unit are you in? (Follow up asking them more and connecting yourself to the conversation by sharing)
      When I was in College–What is your Major? What classes are you taking? Do you like Dining Hall A or B better? (Follow up asking them more and connecting yourself to the conversation by sharing)
      Now that I'm working–What do you do for a living? (Follow up asking them more and connecting yourself to the conversation by sharing)

      There are location specific ones (this is about taking something specific from the moment and commenting on it)
      Grocery Store–Oh, do you recommend the Triple Ginger cookies, I've never tried those yet? (Follow up asking them more and connecting yourself to the conversation by sharing)
      At the movie theatre–I'm really excited about Looper, have you seen Brick by the same director? (Follow up asking them more and connecting yourself to the conversation by sharing)
      At the Oscar watching party–I can't believe they gave that Oscar to Helen Hunt! What do you think was the biggest undeserved Oscar? (Follow up asking them more and connecting yourself to the conversation by sharing)
      At the music venture–I love this band, I saw them in Boca and they gave a great show–everyone sang along and there was fire, have you seen them before? (Follow up asking them more and connecting yourself to the conversation by sharing)

      Anonymoose, what are you hobbies?

      • Anonymoose

        That actually sounds hard as hell.

        • trooper6

          You didn't answer my question. What are you hobbies?

        • trooper6

          And which part sounds hard to you?
          Asking, "What's your hometown?"
          Asking a followup question about their home town?
          Sharing your hometown?

          Asking, "What's your favorite movie?"
          Asking a followup question about their favorite movie?
          Sharing your favorite movie?

          • Anonymoose

            Well, to use your examples:

            I live in my hometown.
            I probably don't know a thing about your hometown unless it's somewhere big.
            Why would I be asking personal information like that from someone I met seconds ago.

            I probably haven't seen your favourite movie, because I don't watch many of them.
            So I wouldn't ask either way, that's walking into a dead-end.

          • eselle28

            Sometimes a question about the general situation works well. "Hey, have you tried the new lunch special here yet?" "Oh, I see you're reading Popular Book. Is that any good?" "Oh, is that the new iphone? How do you like it?"

            I'd also add that you don't have to have seen someone's favorite movie or read their favorite book to make a little conversation about it. People enjoy talking about themselves and what they like, and you can respond by mentioning something similar (or, if it's really not your sort of thing, indicating that you don't watch a lot of action movies but that the one she described sounds interesting).

            I'd add that I think Mel has a point that approaching strangers in person isn't for everyone. Online is always worth trying, though it's harder in small towns. Sometimes it's a better strategy to seek out ways to get to know more women in the course of your daily life. What are your interests, anyway?

          • trooper6

            Okay let us look at your reaction to my questions.

            I asked you what your hometown is. Your response: "I live in my hometown." You completely avoided answering my question, refused to share anything about yourself, which shuts down the conversation. Furthermore, you've already decided that you don't know anything about my hometown or couldn't come up with an interesting follow-up question–though you don't even know what my home town is–and you haven't even asked…shutting down conversation.

            So if you don't watch movies, what are your hobbies? (Notice I asked this question before, and you still haven't answered–thus shutting down the possibility of us having a conversation again).

            Repeatedly you are avoiding engaging in any sort of conversation by 1) not sharing basic things, and 2) not showing any interest in basic things about me.

            As for personal information the following things are usually considered standard "personal" things to ask people:
            Where are you from?
            What do you do for a living?
            What do you do for fun? (Some permutation of this is also acceptable, like what are your favorite movies, music, books, etc)

            These may not be your "opener"–that is usually context specific, but that is generically where you can start to try to get to know a person better and open an opportunity to share so they can get to know you better.

            So, I'm going to start again. Beginning with the context specific.

            Hey, Anonymoose! I see you are frequent poster on the Doctor Nerdlove site. Me too! Do you consider yourself a nerd? If so, what sort of nerd are you?

          • enail

            I would say that most people don't consider "where is your hometown" uncomfortably personal. Would you find it uncomfortable if someone asked you that? If so, could I ask what about it would make you uncomfortable?

            To a certain extent, you do need to be willing to open up a bit to get to know people (whether strangers or acquaintances), though there are ways you can deflect questioning that feels too personal while still keeping a conversation going. If we had a sense of what kinds of things you don't like to share and why, it might be easier to give helpful suggestions.

            A big part of conversation is just keeping things going, like keeping a balloon up in the air. Was it this thread or a few days back that someone brought up the improv comedy concept of "yes, and…"? Very useful. To a certain extent, it doesn't matter if your response to their hometown is "Really? I spent a year there!" or "Oh wow, I've never lived anywhere cold before" or "I don't know that place, is it a big town?" – what you're doing is showing you're interested enough to help the conversation continue.

          • Anonymoose

            Because it's the internet, and I don't want to randomly run into people from here or who have family here or who've lived here, even if it's a freakishly small chance.

          • enail

            Fair enough. If it were an in-person conversation, would that be an okay question for you?

            If you were chatting with someone online and didn't want to give it out, how about responding with something informative but not too specific like "it's a pretty small town in southern France," or "big city in the Midwest." You could follow that up with a little about what it's like, just a short sentence to give the other person something to hang onto.

          • Anonymoose

            If it was an in-person conversation, we'd be in the place I live.

          • trooper6

            But presumably not everybody in the place where you live has that place as their hometown. I don't live in my hometown, for example. So I often ask people here in this place where I live, "Are you from here?" If they say yes, I can share that I'm not from here and then conversation moves forward with new things to talk about. If everybody in your hometown is from your home town, then the standard opener becomes, "What do you do?" instead (or "What is your major" if you are in college, or "What's your MOS" if you are in the Army).

            Some of the things that define us in general broad strokes are:
            Where we are from.
            What we do for a living.
            What we do for fun.
            Our family.
            Our Politics.
            Our religion (or lack thereof).

            The first three are pretty neutral to ask about. The last two are not considered polite to avoid asking directly about, though you can broach by flagging, "I was talking to my Rabbi the other day who said a thing that relates to what you just said"/"I was watching the debate last night, and I loved that horses/bayonet line Obama used." That broadcasts something about your politics/religion but doesn't press them to respond, they can engage or drop as they will. Keep it neutral and no pressure…unless these things are important to you, you might want to wait until later interaction to bring it up. As for family, I find that is pretty personal and generally something to ask about in later interactions. Although I often here this question, "Do you have any brothers or sisters?" used as part of the general getting-to-know you line of questions without making people feel uncomfortable or getting too personal.

            But maybe you do not interact with other human beings ever except on the internet. In which case conversation advice is not going to be initially helpful. There would be other things we could tell you that would be helpful. But we'd have to know you a bit more…which you don't want to let us do. Which is your right. Never do things that make you uncomfortable–but know that you probably won't get the things that would best help you since most of the things we say won't be relevant to your special situation.

          • trooper6

            You don't want anyone to know who you are in real life. That is fine, and can be managed, while still allowing yourself to make some sort of connections.

            If your sometime was a medium or big-sized place this shouldn't be problem.
            It goes like this:
            Anonymoose: Trooper6, where's your hometown?
            Trooper6: I grew up in San Francisco. (While San Francisco isn't the biggest city in the world, it is big enough, no worries about disclosing).
            Anonymoose: Oh really? Me too! What part? (Now, I don't want Anonymoose to know who I am, but we are currently in no danger)
            Trooper6: The Richmond district, what about you? (The Richmond district isn't huge, but chances are we don't know each other, I've shared general things, but nothing that would ID me…but now we have a whole bunch of things we can potentially talk about: Earthquakes, the Giants, tourists, etc)
            Anonymoose: I grew up in the Sunset–West side! Did you go to George Washington High?
            Trooper6: (Still safe considering George Washington High has 3000 students and Anonymoose and I are probably not the same age). I did! Where did you go?
            Anonymoose: I went to MacAteer School of the Arts.
            Trooper6: No way, I applied and got in, but decided I wanted to go to Wash instead. What was your art?
            Anonymoose: Sculpture.
            Trooper6: (At this point there is nothing that has identified either of us or traces us to actual people) That is so neat? Who are your favorite sculptures? (Note I'm moving away identifying things, but keeping it in a space where we can learn each other)
            Anonymoose: Oh, hey, I know this is random, but did you know Jane Doe? She went to Wash, she did some shows there? She was in Flower Drum Song?
            Trooper6: (Now, let's say it turns out that not only did I know Jane Doe, but I dated her. So what do I do? Well, if I actually want to make connections I might take it to email and continue. If I don't want anyone to connect trooper6 to my real self I say:) Nope, never heard of her. The school is really big and I don't think we went to school at the same time.

            Now what happens if you live in a really small town, such that if anybody is in your age range and from that town they'd know you? Let's say, for example, you live in French Gulch, California–population 346. And you think that would be too much information to reveal. When I ask you your hometown, you say: "A small town in way-Northern California" that should be good for most folks, but if they are interested, rather than saying, "French Gulch" say "Redding." Which is the nearest largest place and a place that if you lived in French Gulch you would be very familiar with, since there is nothing to do in French Gulch.

            You can also, of course, slightly fictionalize your persona (rather than being from San Francisco, you are from Berkeley), to help you practice having conversations and help you get good advice without opening yourself up to actual identification.

            As a side note, I ended up sharing the place I lived with some folks on one of my gaming internet forums, we all met up for lunch (in a well lit public place), and now they are good friends and are part of my RPG-gaming group. Good times!

          • enail

            It's even okay to say that you're not comfortable giving out your location online if they press past your generalized responses. Just make sure that if you do that, you follow up with something friendly, a change of subject, a question about them, or some non-identifying discussion about your location. That way they know that your shutting them down on one question isn't an indication that you're not interested in talking to them.

          • enail

            To clarify, it might seem pretty personal if you were talking to a stranger you'd stopped on the street or in the grocery store. It wouldn't generally if you were talking to a stranger you'd met in a class or at a party.

            And if you find conversation difficult and stressful, I'd steer away from starting conversations with strangers on the street, which I'd consider an advanced conversational challenge. In contexts like classes, parties and interest-related gatherings, people are expecting to interact and are much more open to meeting people (maybe even hoping to!), AND the activity itself provides an easy starting topic for conversation.

          • Anonymoose

            Don't have access to those kinds of interest-related events.

          • Mel

            If you live in a town so small there aren't any events related to your interests, and too far to make day trips to a bigger city, then I'd recommend moving or making a plan to move if you can. It's hard to feel happy and like you fit in when you live in a place that doesn't cater to the things you enjoy, even without getting to the point making friends. I live in the biggest city in the country–I find it hard to imagine how I'd have built up my socializing skills if I was somewhere much smaller with fewer resources.

          • Anonymoose

            Which requires money and roommates. No can do.

            I've said this somewhere else, but this site seems to be really aimed at people living in big cities.

          • Mel

            You can save up money, and you don't need roommates to get a cheap bachelor apartment.

            I think a lot of the advice is most easily used by people in places with a larger population (not necessarily a "big city"– there are many smaller cities and towns with lots of social opportunities, as long as you're in one that fits your personality and interests) because it's easier for everyone to find like-minded people to hang out with and date if, y'know, there are more people around to pick from.

            Some people are fine in small towns, because they do feel they fit in and enjoy socializing with the people there. I just strongly believe that if you're not finding what you need where you are, you should do what you can to move somewhere else that's a better fit for you. And I strongly believe just about everyone can find a place where they fit in. It can be a hard thing to do, definitely, but so worth it for most people in the long run.

          • enail

            It sounds like you're really unhappy in your location, so maybe it would be worth making moving somewhere else a goal? Work on saving up money, developing good skills for job-finding, and on your own mental state so you'll be in a good state to handle going somewhere new where you don't know anyone.

            In the meantime, it might be worth really digging deeper into your area, searching for others who don't quite fit in there, broadening your interests a bit to find classes or activities you might be able to enjoy or that would help you meet people in in your area, making the effort to travel to nearby towns for stuff to do.

          • eselle28

            I live in a small town, and I think a lot of it is generally applicable with a few tweaks here and there. I don't know just how rural the place where you live is, but even very tiny villages will typically have a book club and a couple of volunteering groups. Go a little bit bigger than that, and there should be some clubs – not necessarily ones as specific as an anime club or a group devoted to a specific fandom – but some where you might meet people who share some of your interests (it's hard to make specific suggestions without more information about what you enjoy).

            I also suspect that if there's a larger town within an hour or two of yours, a lot of younger people are spending some time there. If day trips aren't in your budget, getting to a place where they're possible may be a worthwile priority.

          • eselle28

            Oh, and since definitions of small differ, I'll be a little more specific: I live in a town of perhaps 15,000 or 20,000 people. It's a very blue collar sort of place, but there are still three or four activities (one of the many book clubs, roller derby, some learning-related events) where somewhat geekish folks congregate. If the place where you live is larger, I suspect there are more groups than you may realize – it's worth at least checking out bulletin boards around town.

          • Anonymoose

            Maybe I do need to look around a little harder, then.

        • Mel

          You know, I find that kind of getting-to-know-you with strangers really hard too, and I think it's worth noting that it's okay if you don't want to be doing that all or even most of the time. The vast majority of the time when I'm out in public, at places that aren't specifically for socializing, I don't really want to talk to strangers because I do generally find it draining and not particularly enjoyable. If someone starts a conversation with me and brings up a topic of interest (I've had a iPad conversation similar to trooper6's example with a woman on the subway), I'll engage because I am enjoying it. But for the most part I'll just give a few polite answers and then go on with my day. And that's okay.

          When I want to socialize beyond my existing friends, I specifically go out somewhere I know I'll mainly meet people with similar interests to mine, so that I'll find the majority of the conversations will be enjoyable. And I go out with the intention to talk with people and get to know some new people, and so I'm prepared to expend that energy. I still manage to get to know quite a few people this way, and more of the strangers I get to know become actual acquaintances because we have enough in common that we end up seeing each other and wanting to chat again in the future.

          It does make dating harder, because you aren't getting to know as many people as if you were chatting up five strangers a day or whatever. But I think it's important to know your limits and your comfort levels, and find ways to work within them and stretch them here and there, rather than trying to push yourself way past what feels comfortable all at once. I never went on very many dates; every guy I've been on a date with or gotten into a relationship with, I met online (either through a dating website or through other social forums where I happened to run into someone from the same area). If I hadn't met the guy who became my husband when I did, I probably would have continued to stretch my social comfort levels so I was going out more and meeting even more people. But I don't know that I ever would have gotten into the habit of chatting people up in random settings, and I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing, because I'm probably at my worst in those situations. When you find socializing draining in general, I think it can be better to focus your social energy on settings and situations where you'll come across at your best (relatively speaking).

          • trooper6

            At the moment, my concern is not about Anonymoose chatting up random strangers, but having conversations with acquaintances at all. Anonymoose has said that he doesn't share anything even with friends. Being able to have a back and forth conversation is a skill to cultivate even if you never use it on total strangers.

          • Mel

            Oh, definitely! It's just many of your examples sounded like how you'd start conversations with people you'd never talked to at all before, and I thought that might be what he found intimidating about it. I know I tend to blank on how to continue a conversation about home towns or careers or other standard getting-to-know-you topics if it turns out I know relatively little about what the other person's saying, so focusing my socializing in contexts where I will have something important in common with the other people there has really helped me get more comfortable with it.

          • trooper6

            I generally like more context specific questions as well, but I find I regularly have to have lots of conversations with people I've never or barely met but who aren't "strangers on a street" and I have to start somewhere. I rarely talk to strangers on the street–because, intrusive!–but I am regularly being introduced to new people I have to talk to. And so I have had to increase my skills in "getting to know people" and conversation flow even if I've never talked to a person. It generally involves having some opening questions, and having some opening things I'm ready to share.

            Recent examples:
            I was at a colleague's birthday party full of people I've never met but we were all expected to socialize. My main two questions became: "How do you know colleague?" and "What do you do?" (I also knew the answers to these questions for myself, because I assume they'll ask)
            Captain Awkward Meetup: "Who are you on Captain Awkward?" "What do you do?" (I also knew the answers to these questions for myself, because I assume they'll ask)
            The Students Meet Your Professors Event I attended: "Where are you from?" "What are your academic interests?" "Have you declared your major yet?" (The students wouldn't ask me these questions, but they'd probably ask what department I teach in, what my research is, and what classes I teach. I was ready to answer those questions)
            The recent Colloquium by feminist scholar (so mostly other academics): "What department are you in?" "What is your research on?" "What did you think about the speaker?"
            I most recently when to a Game of Thrones Dinner at a restaurant: "What do you do?" "How'd you here about the event?" "if you could choose to have any profession in the World of Ice and Fire, what profession would you have and where would you live and why?" (Okay, now we are getting into a better context…but they were still strangers).
            At a conference: "Are you presenting?" "What is your area of research?"

            I like to ask questions that will get them to talk about things they are interested in, which lets me learn about them and keeps them engaged. I like to add some things about me that are interesting and that would cause them to ask about me.

            If you do it enough, it gets to be much, much easier. You know the basic questions, you know some stories you'll tell. And you can "get to know" people in a general way and then move on to other conversation partners (or step outside of the event if you need some introvert recharge time).

          • Anonymoose

            What the hellllll, why do you go to so many things

          • trooper6

            I'd prefer to go to fewer things to be honest, because I really need to be writing right now rather than fulfilling social obligations–and next academic year I know I'll be hit with lots and lots of social obligations. But oh well. Going to things means meeting people. You are not going to get a date if you don't ever meet anyone else. (Note: I did not include in that list the things I do that are more context tailored to me, like the German class I attend on Saturdays, or that I like to game…and I just met a brand new gamer the other night while playing Fiasco).

            So, are you doing things that bring you into contact with other people? What sort of things? What sort of people? How often?

          • Anonymoose


          • trooper6

            So you aren't doing anything that brings you into contact with other people.
            How do you expect to date people if you never come into contact with them?
            Do you want to date people at all?
            If you don't want to date people, what do you hope to gain from this website?
            If you do want to date people, you need to come into contact with them first. What concrete, real world steps are you taking to make that happen?

            Since conversation and getting to know people is so important to the process of making friends/dating…if that is indeed your goal, may I suggest you start working on some of those skills here. For example, I asked you some questions. You responded with "Nope." A one word negative answer shuts down conversation and doesn't help build a connection between us. You could have responded with "Nope" and then more information about yourself. What information to add? Well, anticipate the follow up question and volunteer so that your conversation partner doesn't have to do all the work. What is the logical follow up question? Do you talk to other people? Nope. Why not?

            So rather than a one word answer, you could have typed: "Nope. I currently telecommute and my job forces me to work 80 hours a week. So I never see anyone in person, have very little free time, and when I'm not working I'm usually sleeping or exhausted."

            Now you've given your conversation partner some insight into your life, we get to know each other a bit better, we make a stronger connection, and my follow up to you can be more tailored, less generic, and more likely to result in a successful continuance of the conversation. Because rather than the list of questions a put above, where are still trying to find out something about you so I can give better advice, I can riff off of what you told me.

            I could show empathy to your specific circumstances, give some advice and get an opening to get to know you even better. I could say: "80 hours a week of telecommunting? That is really rough! What kind of job is it? How long do you expect to have work hours like that? Because that can't be healthy! Do you like your job? Are they paying you for all those hours, or do you feel like your are being taken advantage of? Maybe you could put out feelers for a job that allows you to have a better work-life balance so you can date…or even have friends!"

            At the moment you aren't really engaging in conversation under the protection of the anonymity of the internet. You aren't taking opportunities to practice the skills of learning about others and sharing a bit about yourself in this space. And really, this is an advice forum, and it is hard to give people advice if they don't share much about themselves.

          • Anonymoose

            I know what the one word negative does. I said it because I'd rather not tell anyone why or let anyone in for a more in-depth answer. It's not a good thing, therefore I don't want a new person knowing about it.

            Dating… I dunno. It seems like a magical fantasyland where everyone else has fun at it, and if I don't try to do it sometime soon I'll have completely missed my shot at it. But then there's all these pre-reqs to be successful at it that I plainly either don't have or never thought of as important before, which means that not only is my "shot" winding down, I'm way behind the starting line. Or that's at least what it feels like.

          • trooper6

            Look, why are you here?

            You don't want anyone to know anything about you…including why you don't socialize, why you don't have access to interest-related activities…nothing. Yet you are still wanting our help. But we can't help you if you don't give us some access. And here's the honest truth: we don't know you in real life and we probably never will. Which means you can tell us stuff that you can't tell people in real life. Because it'll never get back to the real you as long as you remove the identifying specifics.

            So let's say, for example, you are currently in prison. You got sent to prison at the age of 16 and now you are 27 and are getting out in a year and are stressed out about learning how to interact and date. Well, that is a) some relevant information that could help us give you better advice, and b) we don't know you so we don't know the *you* in prison. The actual you behind Anonymoose is still safe. We are only interacting with your online persona.

            You won't "miss your shot" at dating if you actively pursue it–but you seem to have something that is stopping you from actively pursuing it…maybe…you are vague on this matter. If we knew we might have ideas for workarounds or other options.

            There are those folks who get married to their high school sweetheart, they are married for 20 years, and then at 38 they get divorced and have to start all over. Say we are talking about the woman. She is 38, she's now a single mom of two kids, she doesn't have a great financial situation, she has no dating skills and feels like guys only want young hot women. She might think she "missed her shot" — but people like that find romance all the time.

            You seem to want help. But you are so vague with us…you won't tell us what your problems are. Indeed, you won't tell us anything, even what you think your positive qualities are. How can we help you or even give you meaningful encouragement if you won't let us in–even to your anonymous virtual persona?

            Maybe you don't want help. So why are you here? What are you hoping to get from this space?

          • Anonymoose

            Hrm, no, you're right. I don't want help.

          • Juuuuuulia

            I would totally wing for you! =P

          • Mel

            Then why are you commenting here? Honest question.

          • Anonymoose

            Thought I did want help.

          • Anonymoose

            Had another think. I was looking for an achievable direction that's anywhere but where I'm at currently.

          • Mel

            Okay, that sounds like a totally reasonable goal. I think the problem is that when you're unwilling to give us even general details of where you're at currently, it's very difficult for us to give you applicable suggestions of directions to try.

            Trooper6 made a good point that you can really tell us quite a bit without any of those details behind identifying. We don't need to know your exact location or anyone's names or a play-by-play rundown of your situation. We just need the basics. And even if you think the basics are so awful that you couldn't stand other people knowing them… We don't actually know who you are. In the unlikely circumstance that you get a really bad reaction, you wouldn't even have to leave the blog–you could start commenting under a totally different name and we'd have no idea you were the same person.

            I suspect if you're really really nervous about saying anything on a public blog like this, there are even people here who'd be willing to talk to you one-on-one by email if you'd be comfortable with that and you honestly want help with your situation. I would. I think most of us who comment here want to help each other as much as possible, not to judge anyone. From what I've seen, people here are a lot more critical of those who close themselves off to advice and feedback than those who admit they have issues and are willing to talk through them.

          • Anonymoose

            – I'm in the pacific northwest, in a place with under 50k people and a population that leans more towards older than younger. Mid 20s age bracket.
            – My parents instilled in me an almost "you're on your own" kind of quality. Bad early experiences with friends and potential friends (the kind of people who you would tell something to and the next day find out everybody knows) reinforced it. I've been able to tell some people I've known via the internet a few things mostly because they can't affect it and I can choose to ignore them if it goes wrong, but keeping to myself has been a way of life IRL.
            – I had bad teeth and eventually braces for them, nerd glasses, and a super skinny frame up until about Grade 9/10. Always got rejected any time I finally built up the courage to ask someone out. I may have derped into a few physically attractive qualities around then, but the damage had already been done. I went through high school (never went to college) and since dateless and now figuring it's probably too late to put the training wheels on, everyone else already knows how to ride the bike.

          • Anonymoose

            – I've never had a dream or a passion that I needed chase, so I never went to college. Haven't gotten a job because I figure without pre-existing experience or showing a drive for something, it's auto-reject time, because just like women or potential friends, employers are only looking for the best.
            – Interacting with anyone socially will always bring some of this up. So I either have to stumble my way through it and give vague answers that offput them, or tell them the truth and receive pity and/or scorn from people I barely know, or straight up lie about it and just set myself up for further future offputting.
            – Watching sports, playing video games, reading novels and comics, watching cartoons and anime etc are things I do but most of them are just time wasters. I could probably only name less than a handful from each that I truly care about. And most of these activities will turn the average person off more than not due to the manchild stigmas attached to them.

          • Anonymoose

            – I also know that the main response to any of these is "You really need to work on yourself first/figure it out for yourself before you can do anything." Which, really, is just another way of saying "You're on your own." All I end up thinking is something snarky like "No kidding." I've been well aware that I've been on my own for quite awhile now.

          • Trooper6

            Anonymoose, and I mean this in the nicest way, you are special in your hardships. I was told I was ugly and brutally bullied every single day in school. Every single day. I never dated in high school. I didn't get that experience you say everyone got.

            The truth of the matter is a lot of people don't date in high school, have never had sex by their mid-20s. You are feeling depressed and despair and self-pity because you think you are so different from the rest of the world…but you aren't so different. Many people have had your experience, and many people have not only survived but have thrived.

            Some concrete advice:
            Get therapy to deal with your alienation from other people. There are good people in the world, find people in the real world you can confide in and who can confide in you. Now that is going to take a while…baby steps on that one

            You need to get a job. It doesn't have to be your career or your passion. Get a job at Starbucks–it doesn't really matter. Why? A job does a couple things for you. 1) It will get you interacting with people, out of your house…that will help your sense of aloneness. 2) doing work takes you out of your head some and can make you feel better about yourself, 3) you will earn some money, which will make you less dependent on your parents which will boost your self esteem and will give you more options down the road.

            If you smoke a lot of pot, stop. Smoking pot dulls your mind and puts you in malaise…robs your drive…robs your passions…and you need to reconnect to your passions.

            Start doing some small things that will move you forward. Rome wasn't built in a day as they say. Then you don't have to have any shame about where you are at, because you are in motion. People are very sympathetic to: I'm not where I want to be, but I'm moving forward.

            Also, if this is your hometown, then the ghosts of your old self are still everywhere…think about saving up and moving to a bigger town where you can reinvent yourself. Go to Portland, or Seattle. You don't have to do it know…but start fantasizing a bit.

            What do you think might be a cool thing to try out? Being a bartender? Doing some theater? You don't have to have your whole life figured out right now. You still have time to explore and find yourself. Go do some stuff. Find some things you like. Find some people you like. Find some people to have adventures with, so you aren't on your own.

          • kilo

            "If you smoke a lot of pot, stop. Smoking pot dulls your mind and puts you in malaise…robs your drive…robs your passions…and you need to reconnect to your passions."

            I hate to be all drug-negative, but this. I smoked a lot of pot for years, because at first it helped me feel happier even when sober, and later it helped me feel ok at least. That was a bad time for me, essentially wasted years. I'm not saying never ever do it, because it can be a lot of fun, but be very careful. It easily becomes a surrogate for something else, and that is a very bad place.

            To anyone who's in a similar position to me: as far as addictions go, it's probably one of the easiest to kick, and it doesn't even mean that you can never ever do it again. I've done it a couple of times in the years since then when offered, if I was in exactly the right place at that time. More often I found that I didn't really want to, so I didn't. Much, much better.

          • AFC1001

            And all this time I thought I was cutting myself off from creative passion by not smoking pot.

          • Mel

            First, I don't think any of this is awful or insurmountable. And anyone who's going to put you down or think less of you for it is a jerk.

            To address your points in sort-of order:

            -People are really, really horrible to each other when they're young. Junior high school age in particular is just a mess of jockeying for social status and manipulating your peers to feel better about yourself and all kinds of crap like that. Not all, but a lot of those people grow out of that behavior as they move through their teens and into adulthood. So your bad early experiences are probably much more representative of the age you and those "friends" were at than how the average person in your current age rage would act. Which is not to say it doesn't make sense that you're wary, but maybe it'll help to know that.

            -I have seen people on various advice blogs and the like talking about not having a date, not having ever kissed someone, etc. until well into their twenties or even later, and still moving on to have a satisfying dating life. It's not too late; not everyone else knows how to "bike", and among those who do, there are many who won't care that you lack experience if they enjoy spending time with you.

            -I think your lack of a passion, which has led to not getting a job, is probably what's holding you back the most. Which is where we get into the "work on yourself first" stuff you were anticipating. I'm assuming no job means no income which means you're still living at home? Which is going to be a setback for a social life for any mid-twenty-year-old. And yes, no job at that age is going to look odd to a lot of people and make them wonder why and possibly put them off. And it's obviously making you feel insecure because you have it hanging over you.

            You can definitely get work without existing experience, though it would probably be minimum wage not-very-pleasant work. But if you found a field you were interested in, you could start out doing unpaid volunteer work in the area, which is much easier to get and still gives you experience and references, and move from that to a paid job. So it seems to me the real problem is that you're not really interested in any field.

            I'm going to assume you're not happy with your situation. You'd like to be making money, have your own place, etc., whether for its own sake or because it will open up more opportunities (socially, changing where you live, being able to afford more experiences in general)? I think you have a few routes you could take. You could grin and bear it and apply for the sorts of jobs high school students with no previous work experience normally do, and use that experience to either rise through the ranks to a more "respectable" position (store manager or whatever) or to get an entry level position in a more "respectable" field. The work will probably not be fulfilling, but it'll serve as a means to an end. A lot of people treat their jobs this way. A lot of people don't have a real passion–some not at all, and many for something they just can't make a career out of, so their paid work is just for covering the bills.

            Or you can try to discover a passion. You do have at least a few interests you care about. Maybe you could work with those. For example, you consume a lot of different types of media. Would you be interested in creating games/novels/comics/animation? Marketing it for a company? Working in a store that sells it where you can be surrounded by it and recommend it to interested customers? etc.

            Or maybe you really don't care very strongly about anything, in which case I think your best option is to talk to some sort of professional. Maybe a career counselor. Maybe a therapist. Maybe a psychiatrist. Even in a relatively small town, there are probably resources for people who can't afford to pay for this. I'm not sure what the health care system is like in BC (you are in Canada, yeah? I'm guessing from the moose in your name and the hockey talk in the other post), but here in Ontario at least, the provincial health plan covers psychiatry completely if you're referred by a family doctor, for example. Community support organizations also often offer free or reduced cost counseling.

            Possibly you need an objective outside opinion to help you talk through your options and interests and stir things up, to help you find options that might not have occurred to you on your own. Or possibly you need a little more than that. There's a chance the reason you feel disinterested in most things is you're depressed. Many people assume to be depressed you have to be mainly sad, but depression can present itself primarily as anhedonia–that is, an inability to feel really enthusiastic or interested in anything. When I was depressed, I felt that way myself. I just was lucky enough that the depression didn't set in until I was in my early twenties and already knew there were things I was passionate about and that there was something really wrong that I couldn't seem to care about them anymore. If that is part of your problem, depression can be treated.

          • Mel

            -There are lots and lots of people (men and women) in their twenties who enjoy sports, video games, novels, comics, and cartoons/anime. You wouldn't want to be friends with or date someone who thought less of you for enjoying those things. There's nothing wrong with enjoying those things; you just need to find the other people who also enjoy them. (Which is where we potentially get back to the whole moving to more varied community issue which is dependent on the job issue, but I figured it was worth saying.)

            -Ultimately, every person is on their own. We are all each responsible for our own happiness. But that doesn't mean there aren't people who will help. There are volunteer coordinators who'd happily give you a chance to build experience. Counselors and other job support people who took on those jobs because they wanted to help people struggling to find job paths of their own. And so on. You've ended up in a situation that's not the best because of a variety of factors, many of which you had no control over. That sucks, and it's not fair, but all any of us can do is make the best of what we have. You responsible for your happiness, but you also get to decide what you're going to make of your life. That's a good thing. You get to decide what you want most, what's worth putting in the effort for and what's not. Even if none of the options are easy, at least you get to decide which one is better for you.

          • Dr_NerdLove

            “There are lots and lots of people (men and women) in their twenties who enjoy sports, video games, novels, comics, and cartoons/anime.”Also in their 30s. (koff)

          • Mel

            Heh, yes, I would be among that number too. 🙂

          • enail

            Anonymoose, you sound like you're really depressed. That makes it very hard to work on making connections with people or improving your situation, but it can be done. Lots of people have depression and manage to have awesome lives!

            Do you think you might consider talking to your doctor about depression? I know you said your parents weren't the supportive type, but might they be willing to help you get a counsellor? It's true you might need to 'work on yourself' before you can do a lot about the more concrete aspects of your situation, but that's something that you can get help with. You don't have to do it alone.

            And counsellor/therapist-y types are safe people to tell stuff to because they don't know you personally and it is their job to not go around telling people your secrets or making fun of you!

          • Shaj

            Not only is it their job, they're legally prohibited from telling others the things you tell them.

          • Anonymoose

            It's not an option because there'd be too many people asking where I was going and what I was doing. And if they were ever to find out, that's that. Branded as crazy or "doctors don't know what they're talking about" or etc etc etc

          • Anonymoose

            That should read *one too many people

          • Mel

            So you'd rather avoid the off chance of someone finding out you're seeing a psychiatrist or counselor (I mean, if people ask, you can lie, you know–they'd have to catch you going into the office or something) than get help it sounds like you really need to find enjoyment in your life and work through an addiction? You admit that you don't trust anyone in your life, and it sounds like you don't like any of them all that much either. So who cares if they have stupid ideas about therapy? Anyone who thinks going to therapy makes you a bad or weak person is not worth being around anyway. At least if you got some sort of help, you'd have a much better chance of getting on your feet and finding people who actually would support you.

          • Anonymoose

            It wouldn't be an off-chance, I'd have to get bus-money or rides from the family I live with, and they are the ones I especially don't want to know anything.

          • Mel

            You don't have any money of your own? How much money does it cost to take the bus two ways once a week? If you literally have no money and everything is paid for directly by them (rather than them sometimes giving you money to pay for things, in which case, make up another reason you need bus money or other-thing money), sell a few things you own on ebay or via Craigslist, or get whatever the easiest part time work you could get is (mow lawns? shovel people's driveways once the snow starts? get one of those no-experience jobs that's been mentioned?) and use that money.

            It sounds like you're not happy at all where you are, and you need this to get anywhere else. I highly suspect it'll be worth whatever effort it takes to get yourself some real help.

          • Anonymoose

            Money is one of the many reasons I don't want to consider it, yes.

          • Mel

            Well, I pointed out some ways you could get money. I mean, seriously, if you would really rather continue the way you are than put in the energy it'll take to change things, then that's up to you. But then it's not because no one here or elsewhere was willing to help or had useful advice to offer, just that you decided not to use that help.

          • Anonymoose

            No, I get it and appreciate the suggestion, but that specific one is something I don't want to deal with or consider dealing with. At all.

          • Mel

            Fair enough. You'll probably get less argument if you just say things like that rather than giving excuses that people can then offer solutions to. 🙂

            I will point out, though, since you're very big on biochemical explanations–what if a lot of your problem is some weird neurochemistry going wrong in your head? What if taking a pill for a year to get that straightened out would make everything else significantly easier? I mean, if you're strongly against medication for some reason, that's your position, but I hope it's not just that you feel getting help for a psychological issue is necessarily any different from going to a doctor because your leg's broken or you've got stomach ulcers or what have you.

            (Not that a single pill is necessarily going to do the trick, but you wouldn't know the possibilities until you investigate them.)

          • Anonymoose

            I'd prefer to try fixing neurochemistry stuff naturally first. A broken leg is mostly an exact science, a chemical imbalance could be a number of things and I've heard a horror story or two about them getting it wrong with medication, and for the worse. I've even heard a doctor say "there are many pills for many ills" with the meaning that immediately throwing meds at something isn't always the best thing to do. It's not something I fully trust.

          • enail

            It's smart to not fully trust it,and it's not the right solution for everyone, but it's a lifesaver for enough people that it's worth serious consideration if depression is causing you suffering.

          • Delafina

            Speaking as someone who's had a lot of friends and family members battle depression, medication by itself is not the solution. Medication + therapy, on the other hand, is generally pretty effective.

          • Dr_NerdLove

            Speaking as someone who DID battle depression, you're correct. The meds (Zoloft, in my case) took the edge off and therapy helped me learn how to keep a handle on things.Good thing too because I had some unpleasant side-effects with Zoloft.

          • Mel

            Some of my comment below got mangled because of the threading. It should say "neurochemistry" not "neurochemist" and "what if" not just "if".

          • enail

            Some health centres with free counselling etc. will even provide bus money if that's an obstacle!

          • enail

            It can be hard and scary risking judgement, but I think you know that the people around you are not people you want to stick with in the long run. You know that the situation you're in is not one you want to stay in. So in essence, getting help means risking making things uncomfortable for a situation that you don't intend to stay in for the long term, so that you'll be able to put yourself in a different situation in the future. Is there any way that kind of investment in the future could be worth it to you?

          • enail

            Could you at least talk to your doctor? You don't have to do what they suggest, but they might give you some options worth considering.

          • Anonymoose

            I remember that I went in for a seperate thing some years ago and a doctor started taking what almost seemed like a psych profile. He mentioned possible depression and told me I needed to get out more. Didn't go back to him after that.

          • Delafina

            Why not?

          • Anonymoose

            Was in denial, and also he wasn't helping with what I'd initially gone in for, which ended up being back and posture related stuff.

          • Delafina

            Then start doing some activity that gets you out of the house regularly, and hide your therapy sessions under color of that activity. But get help.

          • Anonymoose

            I've been (unsuccessfully as of last night) kicking a longstanding addiction that's been leaving me either pretty up or way way down. I don't have anything to distract myself from it sufficiently (passionwise and peoplewise) and a non-existent support system (I'd never trust anyone I know with helping because that would leave me wide open). I've heard this is what break-ups are supposedly like, but in this case you can get back together at any time for another go, especially during a major low when you can't see any kind of worthwhile light at the end of the tunnel.

          • enail

            That sucks. It must be really hard to kick an addiction without support.

            I know you've said the people around you aren't ones you're comfortable seeking support from, but since it's hard for you to meet other people while you're struggling with this, maybe there are ways you could get at least a little bit of support from the people you know without making yourself more vulnerable than you're comfortable with?

            Like, if you're feeling down, maybe you could see if a casual friend wanted to hang out and do something laid back. You don't have to tell them how you're feeling, but sometimes it's nice to have company and get your mind off things. Or find someone who has a similar or related small goal, even a very ordinary one- say "I really want to get outdoors more but I can't drag myself off the couch lately, do you want to go bike riding with me once a week?"

          • Juuuuuulia

            It sounds to me like the first thing to get out of the place you live because it sounds horrible and stifling and maybe you'd be out doing healthy stuff if you had the freedom and weren't worried about everyone recognizing you. In order to get out of there, I think you're going to need money. Therefore, it might be good to consider the crappy job at Starbucks — which is hopefully busy enough and difficult enough to be distracting from the long-standing addiction? Then maybe you can afford to travel out of there.

            ^ Helpful post. Also, if money's really an issue, I bet a bunch of us on this thread would be willing to throw five bucks into one of them kickstarter campaign things.

          • Trooper6

            Does your family know about the addiction? If they do, then Maybe you could say you want to go to AA meetings, and then go to both AA and a therapist.

            I'm going to tell you some things. First off, it does sound like you could be depressed. You had a doctor tell you that and you stopped seeing him…but that isn't the way to go. There is nothing wrong with needing therapy. It doesn't make you weak. It doesn't make you undateable. People have even going to therapy for hundreds of years (though usually to people like their Priest, Bartender, etc rather than professionals). Get therapy and go to AA. This is a priority. You need support, these are safe places for support. And while you are at the therapist, really talk about your family to that therapist, because they sound horribly abusive.

            Now you say you don't have. the money to travel to therapy and money from your family comes with strings.

            So your number one priority should be to get a job…which is hard to motivate yourself to do when you are suffering from depression. But you need to get some time away from your abusive family. You need to lesson their control over you. You need to get some money so you can move away from them. Bonus, if you get that job at Starbucks, McDonalds, a grocery store, whatever, you now have a regular excuse to be out of the house…and then you can go to therapy and let them think you are going to work.

            Getting a job in this economy isn't so easy–which is another reason people won't judge you too harshly for being unemployed at your stage of life–so until you do, I really encourage you todo volunteer work…that will give you a reason to get out of the house and sneak off to therapy, and helping others often helps with depression.

            You need some help. We all do at times in our lives. Your family sounds really awful. Try to work towards getting yourself to a safer and better location.

            If you ever get really, really desperate…and you feel like you have no hope or possibility and it is getting critical…or if you are not physically safe in your family's home, do no self harm and get out. As long as you are clean, you can join the Army and that is one quick way to get out of your family's home and get self-sufficient in a hurry.

            You can do this. My fled her home when she was 16 because her mother tried to kill her. She was a 16 year old alone with no high school diploma…and she made it. In working with gay and Trans youth, I've seen way too many folks who were out on the street at 15 and 16. With some support, those kids made it. You can make it too.

            Strategize like a general. If they give you pocket money, start saving some of it secretly. Build up enough so that you can take care of yourself.

          • Delafina

            Hmm. I was pretty much done with trying to have a conversation with you, but let's give it one more shot.

            "Watching sports, playing video games, reading novels and comics, watching cartoons and anime etc are things I do but most of them are just time wasters. I could probably only name less than a handful from each that I truly care about."

            So those are "things you do."

            What do you LOVE?

          • Anonymoose

            The Vancouver Canucks (I will legit weep if they ever win the Stanley Cup, I just lost some elderly members of my family who watched them since day 1 and never saw it happen). The Vancouver Whitecaps MLS team is a burdgeoning one (There is no other sport that can frustrate or create magic quite like soccer). Daredevil (best nickname in comics: The Man Without Fear, and a well-written Daredevil story is Batman + Law & Order, Waid's current run is magic). One Piece (a bunch of pirates burdened with horrible tragedy who become a surrogate family, giving no fucks as the world tries to stop them. It's been going for 15ish years and the author just doesn't forget details). Old cartoons/anime are fun because you get to see people do more with less (found sub groups that are translating Speed Racer/MachGoGoGo and Casshan, and also found subbed Gatchaman) and in a lot of cases, they weren't burdered with their genres or history, they just threw shit into the script even if it didn't make sense. Gimme a good story and I'll tell you why it's good, gimme a bad one and I'll tell you how it could've been better. That's what immediately comes to mind.

          • Delafina

            Ok, that's something. At least you're capable of passion. Have you considered joining a supporters' club for the Canucks? I don't know anything about them, but here in Seattle, the Sounders have a bunch of different fan organizations that get together both during games and outside of them, and also do charity work (both for the team and for other causes) and fundraisers. That would be a great way to meet people who share your passion for the team, and who view that passion as a positive, not a negative.

            Speaking as someone who's done editing professionally, figuring out how bad writing could be better is what an editor does. If you really enjoy doing that, perhaps you should consider taking some classes and pursuing it as a career.

            Saying that reading comic books and watching sports is something you do makes you sound boring. But those are starting points for having things in your life that are interesting to other people, and make you feel better about yourself, which will also make people like you more.

          • Anonymoose

            Supporters Clubs are more a soccer thing, and I unfortunately don't live close enough to Vancouver to take part in a Whitecaps one.

            I don't really have an interest in grammar and I can't really identify what puts flair into writing or anything like that, more just how the story plays out.

            Like, example: Iron Man 2 was a bad Iron Man movie because 1/3rd of it was just Avengers: The Prequel, which took time away from: 1) developing Whiplash as the captivating villain he could've been and almost was in spite of the rest of the movie (2) putting more oomph into why Tony is the way he is (I hate how they tried to tell the alcoholism story without telling the actual story, but that may have been too heavy for a superhero movie) (3) developing any kind of real Tony/Pepper storyline (they just talked over and at eachother instead of reacting to eachother, and then kissed eachother at the end because movies need a nice ending). Also personally felt the writers were having way too much fun with Justin Hammer at the expense of more important things, but most people seemed to like the character, so maybe it was just me.

            Not sure this kind of thing really translates into editing.

          • Mel

            Speaking as someone who gets edited professionally on a somewhat regular basis–that's *totally* what editing's about. My main editor at the publishing house doesn't focus on grammar (the copyeditor looks after that once she's done with me), and having "flair" is my job. The sort of feedback I get from my editor is mainly things like "this character needs to be developed more [possibly in this particular direction]" and "you're focusing too much on X and not enough on Y" and so on, which is very similar to the sorts of things you're already observing on your own.

            Not that being an editor is an easy career path, but it's definitely something that sounds like a good fit for you, based on what you've said.

          • Mel

            (Obviously I'm specifically talking about written fiction editors here. I don't know how things work with film or TV editing.)

          • Delafina

            Well, having been both a written fiction editor, and a cinematics writer and editor for video games and animated series, the core competencies are the same, but in a visual medium you have to focus on visuals and timing, acting, sound engineering, soundtrack, etc. Which ultimately isn't that different from the questions of pacing and focus in written text — it just involves translating from what happens in your head when you read a story to what happens onscreen when you're watching one. Same concepts, different media. 🙂

          • Juuuuuulia

            ^ That is blog material. Do you has one?!

          • Delafina

            Well, like many people, you're hearing "editing" as "copyediting." There are editors that fix punctuation and grammar issues, and there are editors (often referred to as "developmental editors") that fix the structure of a piece of writing, improve the pacing, ensure that the story makes sense, improve the character development, etc. But generally you do have to be able to copyedit before you get the opportunity to do developmental editing, which is often a senior editor's job. Maybe it's not your thing — if bad grammar doesn't irritate you, you're not likely to get to that point. I'm not trying to sell you on a career as an editor, just pointing out that there are careers for everything, including figuring out what's wrong with stories.

            There's also criticism — not just in the sense of pointing out what's wrong with a book or movie, but serving as a guide through it for the reader, pointing out themes they may not have noticed and serving as a translator between artist and audience. Knowing what doesn't work within a story is a step toward understanding structure, and if you enjoy that sort of thing, you may want to look into a degree in literature or film crit, etc. if you think you may want to become a critic.

            All of this involves channeling your passion into self-discipline, though. You have to really explore the things you like and figure out *what* about them you like, then figure out what skills you need in order to be able to do that as a career (in the case of criticism, expanding your analytical abilities and learning to write well, for example).

          • Mel

            Just wanted to note that while I'm sure some editors start with copyediting and move on to developmental editing (or "substantive editing" as I've also heard it called), the pattern I've most often seen at least at the major American publishing houses is people start as a editorial assistant (which seems to mean they do very little actual editing of any sort, but handle a lot of the more menial tasks the main editors have less time for, like mailing things and passing on sales and scheduling info the the authors, and sometimes reading submissions that come in to see if they're worth passing on to the main editors), who as they prove themselves start to get the chance to act as a secondary editor in conjunction with one of the main editors, until they're promoted to assistant editor, at which point they're still helping editors who are higher up, but may also start taking on their own books. (The editor who bought my first novel was an assistant editor–my book was her first independent acquisition.) And from there you work up to regular editor and senior editor through experience and continued work.

            The copyeditors I've worked with have mainly been independent contractors hired by the publishing houses, whose specific job is copyediting, rather than people in house working their way up through different types of editing.

            There are a lot of areas of publishing I'm not familiar with, though. I just wanted to say that the grammar issue doesn't have to be a sticking point!

          • Commonly known as X

            You sound like you would be good to go to a movie or discuss a book with! Maybe a book or film club could be a good social event for you to practice opening up in? You will have a ready-made way to get into a conversation because you will be asked your opinion about books/films and get to agree or disagree with other peoples's views. You don't have to be into the book/film either, sometimes there is actually a better discussion about plot holes or annoying characters.

            Also, having insights into films, books, plays etc is a very desirable trait, as can be nerd glasses, interest in anime etc. Taken separately, there is nothing in your self description that a hipster would not take as proof of coolness, including your current jobless state – being unemployed and aimless in your mid-20's is miserable, but also practically a rite of passage these days. The real negatives are that you are so unhappy and hard on yourself, but I am hoping that is because we all sound neurotic when looking for help about our love lives.

          • Anonymoose

            We're not a college town, so most of those activities or clubs don't exist here, or if they do, they're more for the elderly. I mostly hit up the internet for those kinds of things.

          • Juuuuuulia

            I second the email thing!

          • Anonymoose

            The which?

          • Juuuuuulia

            Like we'll talk to you on email if you think the public space is sketchy.

          • Anonymoose

            Oh. Thanks, but I guess that's not necessary now.

          • Juuuuuulia

            Unfortunately, that's actually not true. You know how interacting with people is weird and scary and sometimes really tiring? Well dating is just more interacting with that person, except with a bunch of time management and interest management issues thrown in, as well as making sure you don't hurt the other person's feelings too much while not letting them completely walk all over you. If that doesn't sound appealing at all, then maybe dating ISN'T for you? (I personally enjoy getting to know interesting people and figuring out what they think.) It sure as hell isn't always fun and magical.

          • trooper6

            Yeah. Dating is work. Like any relationship is work. Dating also makes you vulnerable. It makes demands on your time. It means you can't be selfish anymore because other people are involved in your decision making processes.

            I quite like dating, because I like other people. But, when I'm not dating I'm also very happy because I've filled my life with interesting people. So I'm currently single, but I'm not lonely because I'm not alone. I've got buddies from Grad School, buddies from the Army, buddies from high school, etc. When I date again it'll be because I've run into a really cool person I want to have a romantic intimacy with and I'm willing to do the work that comes with that.

          • AFC1001

            Apologies for changing the subject, but a Game of Thrones dinner sounds really cool. Was all the food like the stuff on

          • trooper6

            Hello hello!

            Guest what the event was? It was a really awesome book release Banquet in honor of the release of the book by the women who run Inn At The Crossroads! Both the authors were there, and the food was from their website/book. And it was soooooo awesome!!!

          • AFC1001

            I can well imagine. I came to the series late, when I finally couldn't avoid all the hype, and I'm amazed at all the creativity around it, such as the cookbook – have you made any of the recipes yourself?

      • Juuuuuulia


        • trooper6

          Seriously! That is completely true!!! I loved Brick (I'm a sucker for noir), and just saw Looper…it blew me away. Joseph Gordon-Levit is really impressing me, and the make-up was amazing…he didn't even look like himself. I think I need to see the film again.

          By the way, whenever I read your handle I sing the Beatles song in my head: Juuuuuulia, Juuuuuulia? Sea-shell smiles…Lyyyyyyyrics!

          • Juuuuuulia

            Oh yeah, I remember that song! I wasn't thinking about it at all when I typed it but now I am AHH INCEPTIONED. -.-

          • Trooper6

            Muha-ha-ha! Inception works through the Internet! I have succeeded with my ultimate plan!

          • Delafina

            We tried to go see Looper on Friday night (there were five of us), and couldn't find any two seats together (let alone 2 + 3 or even 2 + 2 + 1) so we had to get our money back and go back to my place for board games. 🙁 In retrospect, maybe we should have tried to sneak into Argo. Really want to see it and am annoyed as all get out that we didn't get to — I mean, it's been in theaters for what, 5 weeks now? It shouldn't still be so crowded.

          • Dr_NerdLove

            What about 1 + 2 + 2 +1?

          • Delafina

            Uh-uh. There was only one shot that got the chandelier, so that's one plus two plus ONE plus one.

    • Mel

      I'm going to comment in a separate sub thread here because the conversation has gotten so cramped I can hardly read it.

      Totally understand being cautious about psychoreactive medications. It's definitely an inexact science. I was on one that only worked temporarily and then gave me mild but unpleasant side effects, then on another that worked (over time–it's never instantaneous) but was awful coming off of. I got off the meds as soon as I thought I could and would only go back on if I felt I absolutely had to.

      The only reason I brought it up that was is that, for me, it *was* necessary. The talk therapy helped with my anxiety somewhat, but I didn't really have the standard depressed ways of thinking; I was pretty happy with my life other than the fact that I was feeling so emotionally numb. It mainly seemed to be a brain chemistry thing. I'm not sure if I could have gotten out of that numbness without chemical help.

      This may very well not be the case for you. You may not need therapy at all! We're making suggestions based on only a vague understanding of your situation. I just know from personal experience that sometimes it's unavoidable if you want to get your life unstuck. Which is why I advise against cutting off that possibility completely.

      Getting off that topic, I agree with those saying your family situation sounds toxic, and just getting out of that by any means necessary could be the most important thing for a fresh start. Lots of good advice shared on that already. Another thing you can do regardless of money or social support that helps many people, if you are dealing with depression, is exercising regularly. Endorphins and all that, very good mood enhancers.

      Hope you're able to figure out some sort of solution, whatever happens.

  • Alberich

    I'd like to clarify that there's nothing wrong with, "Not wanting it enough." There's nothing wrong with not being, "Willing to make the sacrifices and all the effort." It's entirely up to you how you choose to order your priorities.

    I think DNL is suggesting that we be honest with ourselves about what our priorities are. I hope he's not suggesting that people who prioritize dating are somehow better than those who don't. Some of the article did come across that way, however.

    • Delafina

      Well, given that it's a dating advice blog, the assumption is that the readers who want to date want to date pretty badly, otherwise they'd be off reading other stuff.

  • Anonymoose

    It's more like I figure I need something show-offable or have at least one of those traits to have that shot.

    • trooper6

      You need to have positive qualities. Presumably you have positive qualities.

      • Anonymoose

        One or two.

    • Mel

      But as trooper6 pointed out, two of those three traits (famous, rich) are very rare, and the other isn't appealing to many women (about half of us are introverts and most introverts don't enjoy being with someone who wants to be socializing constantly).

      You do need to have appealing qualities, that I guess you could say you'd "show off". But that doesn't mean you have to have some spectacular talent or something. The traits my husband had that got me interested in him: a shared interest in certain somewhat obscure anime series, a general appreciation for and participation of the arts (he was in a band–but not a remotely successful band; they're played a few local shows, never ended up putting together an indie album. What mattered to me was he had enough passion for creative things to be active in that world), a respect for my creative pursuits (I can't tell you how many guys I talked to online who talked about writing like a hobby a person grows out of when they have to face the real world 😛 ), and a generally easy-going personality–I knew he enjoyed my company, but he didn't seem desperate for it or like he was putting on a show to impress me.

      He wasn't particularly "successful" in terms of fame or money. I was making significantly more money than he was when we met, actually. But he had things he was interested and he didn't hesitate to share those interests and pursue them because he enjoyed them.

      Most of the women I know are only looking for qualities like that. Like the list DNL offered a week or two back. Those are things that don't require inherent talent or a huge amount of work. It's really mostly about attitude and having some sort of a life you enjoy outside of dating.

      Like I said, think about what you look for in a woman. Do you expect her to have some sort of show-off-able skill or be model pretty? I'm guessing not. The vast majority of women don't approach dating all that differently. The hard part, for both men and women, is finding the person who's just the right fit for your individual package as a person. Those of us with less typical packages (whether in appearance or personality or both) have a harder time of it, but that doesn't mean someone who'll appreciate you without fame or riches or putting on a show isn't out there.

      • Anonymoose

        (Which anime?)

        I guess it's not so much "check this hot shit out" but that I've always been a very insular and introverted person that any outward showing off of a potential positive trait feels like I'm screaming "HEY, EVERYONE, CHECK THIS OUT." It also seems like the afformentioned rich/celeb/whatever guys don't have to call attention to themselves because all that stuff calls attention to them anyways. Guess that's why I focus in on it so much.

        • Mel

          We initially bonded over our shared love of Escaflowne. After which, of course, I had to introduce him to Cowboy Bebop. 🙂

          I think by pursuing a celebrity type career, those guys are calling attention to themselves. You don't go into acting or rock music planning to keep a low profile–attempting to have your face projected onto thousands of immense screens across the country is pretty attention-seeking behavior. And it's rarely just luck. Most famous people had to put in a lot of work to get themselves noticed and prove themselves before anyone would put them on those screens.

          I totally get the problems of socializing while introverted, being a very introverted person myself. I think, though, if it's a trait that's very much a part of you, you won't have to show it off. It'll just be there. If you're passionate about X and actively pursuing it as a hobby or career, it'll come up automatically when you mention to a woman what you were doing that day before you met up with her, or when she asks about your job, or when you ask her about the topic because you want to know how interested she is in it. If you're a respectful guy, it'll show because you'll be making comments that indicate you're listening to her, and talking to her like an equal, and all the things respectful people do. etc.

          If you don't have any positive traits that are going to come across without you forcing it, then you have a problem. But I do think that's a pretty unusual situation, not something faced by every introverted non-famous/rich person. In that case you'd have to figure out why those traits aren't coming across (are you too nervous to really talk at all? have you been holding yourself back from really pursing anything you're interested in, which means there's little you can say about it that shows your involvement? do you have negative traits–like desperation, or arrogance, or lack of confidence–that are "diluting" those positive traits in some way?) and then work on that rather than trying to "show off" more.

          • Anonymoose

            I remember Escaflowne being on TV but never did watch.

            "or when you ask her about the topic because you want to know how interested she is in it." You know, I don't think I've ever done this. Never actively search people to see if they like the same things. They either bring it up or I found out some other way. I don't even like telling people what I've done in the day.

          • trooper6

            You need to be more active in engaging with people (which introverts can do)…so that you can find out if *you* might be interested in *them.* You should be trying to learn about other people to see if they measure up to your interests and standards, not just you trying to prove your are interesting.

            You mentioned upthread that you have some positive qualities (note: this was a bit of a trick question. I never had any doubt that you had positive qualities, I just needed to see if *you* realized you had positive qualities). Like Mel said, you don't have to show off those qualities, you just have to embody them.

          • Anonymoose

            The introvert thing isn't the problem. That's just about warming up slowly.

            It's more that letting them know things leaves the door open for harsh judgement.

          • trooper6

            And that is really going to hold you back from dating (or making really deep new friendships).

            If you keep yourself closed so that no one can judge you negatively, then…no on can judge you positively. And if you are closed, people may pick up on it and interact with you somewhat strangely so you end up getting strange/shallow/off vibes off of them.

            If you want more meaningful relationships you need to let people in. This can make you vulnerable, but it also makes you more honest in your interactions with other. Which not only makes it more possible that you'll have a relationship in the first place, but will also make it much more likely that the relationship you build will be a good one.

            Now you might still be afraid of harsh judgment. So I'll tell you something on this topic.

            I read an article in the Guardian where they asked a bunch of famous academics what their guilty pleasures were. They said all sorts of things like "baseball," "country music," "Elvis," etc. Then they got to famous second wave feminist Catharine MacKinnon whose answer was really interesting to me. She said that she didn't have guilty pleasures. Here is her full quote:
            "Ever since a British journalist wrote that I confessed to the guilty pleasure of reading People magazine, I've been trying to figure out what I stood convicted of. Reading, thinking, and writing for a living makes one in need of humanising in some quarters, meaning bringing down. Feeling bad about what you feel good about, or good because you feel bad – a coy wink indicating addiction or lack of intent to stop – fills the bill. Apparently we don't enjoy what we do when we are being intellectual, high thought being one thing, low culture another. Intellectuals' guilty pleasures thus must be low-brow indulgences.

            While much scholarship badly needs grounding, and a lot of mental life ignores the body and is decidedly uncreative, mine has participated in creating its own field, centred concretely on relations between women and men, focusing on sexual abuse, often representing the violated. People magazine, for that matter, is also sensitive to ordinary life and class politics, unobtrusively but solidly anti-racist, and pursues animal rights. Pleasure here means having nothing to be guilty about. When what you do is unearned, or others are hurt by it – pornography use, for example, or invasion of celebrities' privacy – pleasure becomes guilty. You rightly dislike yourself for what you like. Some intellectuals have had to fight hard for our work, learn what we know from life as well as books, confront power, and find what we do energising and meaningful. Neither elevated nor predatory, human already, its pleasures are not guilty."

            We can argue about some of her specific examples, but overall I think she is right, as long as our pleasures do not harm others, we shouldn't feel guilty about them. This also means we shouldn't feel shame about them.

            I play the banjo. I play GURPS (which is like Dungeons & Dragons). I watch Project Runway and Face Off. I think there are a lot of good songs in Top 40 pop (and I'm an academic music scholar surrounded by people who worship Beethoven).I love the Monkees. I read comic books. I am not ashamed of any of it. I am not ashamed of the things that give me pleasure.

            Because I have embraced the things I love (which is part of embracing myself), then someone else's harsh judgment can have no power over me. If I met a person I found attractive and I told them I was going to play a new video game that weekend and they judged me harshly? I wouldn't take it personally, like there is something wrong with me…because there is nothing wrong with enjoying video games. But now I know that person is not a person I am compatible with. And probably that person is not open-minded person…which is not the sort of people I like surround myself, certainly not a sort of person I'd want to build a relationship with.

            So I find out right away and can move on quickly to finding someone who is compatible with me.

          • Robert

            Harsh judgement isn't something you only potentially experience in the dating world. It's a possibility in almost all aspects of life. Applying for a job, applying to go to college, even turning in a bad piece of homework (or not turning in a piece of homework). I assume you've done at least one of those three (or four) things before. You opened yourself up to the possibility of being judged harshly by whoever it is doing the judging, whether you realised it at the time or not. If you could do it back then for whatever it was, why can't you do it with dating?

          • Anonymoose

            Haven't done the other two, never worried if the homework was bad or if I didn't turn it in on time because I test so well that I'd never fail a class anyways.

          • Juuuuuulia

            One day you will encounter a test where you will have to convince the examiner to go on a date with you in order to pass. Muahahahahahaha!

          • Anonymoose

            Not if I avoid school and examiners in general.

          • Mel

            The dubbed version on TV here wasn't great (as dubs tend not to be), but if you get a chance to see it with subtitles, it's a very enjoyable series.

            I agree with the others here saying you do need to open up more if you want to connect with people. One thing that can make this easier is if you start out by putting yourself in a place where most/all of the people around you are likely to have at least a base interest in common with you. Then you don't feel like you're bringing it up so much at random.

            e.g., I wouldn't ask some random person I started talking to in a coffee shop or wherever if they write, unless something they were doing or said suggested an interest. But when I go to a writers meet-up or conference, "So what do you write?" becomes a perfect opening question. If you like anime, go to an anime convention and it'll be totally normal ask people what their favorite series are. Same thing if you're into SF and fantasy books/movies/TV. If you're into reading more "literary" work, there's always readings and book festivals. And so on. I think you'd find you feel more comfortable, and less worried about your interests being judged, if you know the people you're talking to have at least similar interests.

            Another thing you can do, if you're interested in something that doesn't come up in many public social events, is to find a way to get the people with the same interests to come to you. Before I was published, I started a critique group for writers in my genre–printed out little posters and put them up in likely seeming spots around the city with an email address to contact, had people getting in touch right away. Now there are websites like that can help with that too. Say you really like a certain type of movies. You could start a film club where people who like the same type can get together once a month, watch a movie, and then chat about it. You advertise and they come to you. Again, it takes some of the pressure off because you already know they're into the same thing you are before you even start talking.

  • Anonymoose

    I don't think so. If I'm more open, they'll have more opportunity to hit on something I don't want them to, or they'll hit on things that will turn them off or break-the-deal or such.

    • Mel

      The point is that you can't have a close relationship with someone if there are things about you (that are present enough they could accidentally come out) you're unwilling to share with anyone ever. And the whole reason you open up with people about your interests etc. is to determine how compatible you are. Better to have a few real friendships with people who know you and like what they know, than a whole bunch of superficial acquaintances in which you don't feel you can talk about anything you care about. So what if they stay friends with you because they haven't discovered this deal breaker? You're probably not getting anything out of the friendship if it's that limited anyway.

      • Anonymoose

        In my experience, people can't be trusted with or relied on for the important stuff you share or confide in other people for (or on the flip-side of that, it's burdening them with something they don't need, which will also push them away).

        And really, interests stuff is just superficial anyways. You can like the same things and kill time together doing those things without being compatible people.

        • enail

          It sounds like you've known some crappy people. That sucks. But there are a lot of people who can be trusted and who would likely be okay with knowing and talking about some of the things you feel would be burdening them. It's a matter of finding them, and also figuring out how to tell who you can trust, and then trying out trusting. It's possible some of your current friends would even be those sorts of people if you gave them a try.

          Captain Awkward has some great advice on friendship (tip: read the comments, there's lots of great stuff there too!). This post talks a bit about finding friends who aren't horrible people.

  • Anonymoose

    How would you clearly invite it?

    • SiBian

      Jumping in here because I'm tired of this question being asked as though it's some great mystery. A woman "clearly invites" groping by turning to the man and saying, "You're cute want to make out/I want you to touch me" or any other variant using words that say, I want your fingers on my body parts.
      And Delfina I'm with you. Uninvited groping royally pisses me off.

      • Anonymoose

        It is a great mystery, because we're also told that ladies want us to lead.

        • SiBian

          Some women want men to lead. Some prefer to lead themselves. Some don't care and just want consensual and fun sexytimes.
          By all means, lead if you want. But make your move by asking permission, not by groping.

  • Shaj

    My biggest problem is that I have an emotional reaction way out of proportion to the setbacks I face.

    Generally what occurs is that I find a woman that seems into me, get rejected or otherwise find out she's not interested, and then I crash into a fairly shallow depression for a day or more.

    Which of the above is my problem?

    Also, yes I'm seeing a therapist, and yes I'm on medication for depression and anxiety.

    • Juuuuuulia

      I would say it would help to treat the emotional reaction as kind of like … an allergy? "Today, I handled a cat. Now, I will be sneezing for the next four hours and then it will wear off," as analogous to "Today a nice lady who seemed into me rejected me and it's hurtful, so I will be depressed for a good part of today." So recognize the depressive reaction as a consequence of a painful thing that makes sense and know it's going to pass? Maybe you have coping mechanisms you always turn to for depression symptoms, then allow yourself to do that? But don't treat your feelings about it as a reflection of reality. Recognize that if you feel abandoned and rejected and worthless then it does not mean that you ARE rejected and abandoned and worthless.

      Also, respect the women's reason and keep in mind that they may have a history before they met you. For example, they may have some complex, tumultuous feelings about a guy in their past you don't even know exists and like talking to you because you're refreshing, but they might decide to date him instead. If a woman says that she's dating someone else or decided to not date at all, then try to trust her. If your brain goes "oh, she just said that to be nice but really she thinks i'm worthless and horrible," then kinda firmly tell your brain "No. She said the reason was X; therefore, the most likely reason was X. Shut up, brain."

      Hope that helps!

    • Dr_NerdLove

      You're letting yourself get too emotionally involved too quickly. When I had issues l like this, it was in no small part because I was wrapping my self-esteem up in whether or not a woman liked me. “I'VE GOT A GIRLFRIEND ON THE LINE HERE!” felt awesome but the immediate follow-up of “OH NOES, SHE DOESN'T LIKE ME AFTER ALL, WHY DOES EVERYBODY HATE ME?” lows were painful.A lot of my recovery (and I, like you, had chronic depression issues) involved learning to believe that I'm awesome, I know I'm awesome and the person who wasn't as into me is missing out on the awesomeness, but that's ok, because there're way more women out there who are looking for awesomeness. Time to go find one.It took a lot of effort to make that belief a habit – and beliefs ARE like habits; they take time and conscious effort to form and to break – but being able to make the connection helped. Not only was I not crashing into depression with every rejection, but women were finding the increased confidence attractive as well.

      • Juuuuuulia

        Oops. Yeah, I guess my reply was more about how to train your brain to grow the good habit / believe and tell it to shut up when it feeds you unhelpful thoughts.

      • Anonymoose

        How do you make yourself believe you're awesome when you don't really believe or have evidence that you are?

        Also, that kind of stuff does come with a major "crash" here and there, how do you deal with that?

        • Shaj

          Though I'm a bit loath to agree with Anonymoose, there does seem to be a fine line between confidence and delusion.

          • Juuuuuulia

            I think confidence is just a measure of success? Like in anything. For example, how confident am I about this exam? I'm pretty good at exams so I'm pretty confident. How confident am I at diving off this diving board? Not very; I am likely to land funny and not be graceful at all and possibly pull something.

            In contrast, I think self-esteem <is> delusion. Why are you awesome? You just are. Because I think tying self-esteem to something in reality is going to be painful. If I say I'm awesome because I'm the best at X, then you will constantly be afraid of meeting someone who is better at X. Or being in some tragic accident and losing the ability to be good at X. (So many villains happen this way!) Therefore, you are just awesome anyway. And what this really gives you is the ability to bounce back from rejections or be nice to yourself when life is hard.

            So when the Doctor says be confident about meeting women, he's not really relying on confidence; he's relying on self-esteem. He's not saying "be confident that you will succeed and you will succeed." He is saying, this lady might reject you or she might not — but either way, you're still awesome. The only thing being rejected by this lady means is that this particular lady doesn't want to date you. Big deal! You're still awesome. It's her fault she doesn't get to know how awesome you are.

            I think confidence comes later. Confidence comes when you get good at figuring out how to talk to people and having some sort of statistical record that you'll likely not get rejected / frozen out / etc. This is why the first 1000 rejections don't count.

          • Anonymoose

            So… delude yourself until you're successful?

          • Juuuuuulia

            Nono. Don't conflate the two! A rejection has no effect on your value as a person, so it should have no effect on your self-esteem. So it's ultimately not scary! But also keep doing stuff you're not confident about until you kinda figure out how to get a better success rate and then you will become more confident.

          • Anonymoose

            My head hurts.

          • Commonly known as X

            Anonymoose, you seem to have some confidence. Despite you feeling you can't make conversation, you can talk to people on this forum, and pretty fluently too. You seem quite happy to disagree with people and keep a conversation going and so on. I am guessing this is partly because you don't have to face us in person, we don't know who you are, it is not going to get the real you judged in any way.

            What you need to do is to get some of this openness to conversations to rub off onto your physical interactions, the awareness that it doesn't really matter what a real life stranger thinks. So some stranger was bored by your small talk or thinks anime is stupid – well, you just didn't hit it off. There is not one person in the world that everyone likes. As long as you don't actively insult or assault people, the most common reaction to a stranger is a mild friendliness. The worst you are likely to get is embarrassed which is not fatal. Self-confidence is the ability to brush yourself off and realise a bad outcome is not a reflection on you, and not an indication all outcomes will be bad.

            Obviously we all come across people who are deliberately hurtful to others from time to time, although I promise most people grow out of it after high school. All of us will be insulted by others, just like some of us will get mugged or assaulted, because some people are truly awful. But really, most people are nice and they are more likely to like you than anything else.

          • Anonymoose

            Don't forget that the internet gives you time to think, rethink, correct overthink and correct again when making responses. Most of the times I get myself in trouble (and regret it later) is when I don't do the extra think. I've always found it hard to get it out right the first time, especially in real life.

          • Juuuuuulia


          • Anonymoose

            Some people are easy to mercilessly tease.

          • Juuuuuulia

            Well, merciless is kind of an overstatement. You could have told me that I fail at HTML and will never amount to anything in life and should just quit while I'm ahead because I can't even close an tag properly. Which would have led me to either think you're a total jerk and never speak to you again, or to actually be really hurt and sad and insecure about posting ever again. You didn't do those things! THAT'S SOCIAL CALIBRATION RIGHT THERE. Props.

            Similarly, do you really think I don't open up myself to teasing on purpose? I could have been triple-checking my comments and making sure I made no HTML mistakes so that everyone thought I was super-cool and in control all the time. But that would make me miss opportunities for extraneous conversations. It would make me less relate-able?

            ^ Actually, that principle right there is why I think Gangnam Style is soo popular right now. It's not afraid to be silly! We're used to seeing the really slick characters in clubs with all teh womens that we can never be. But EVERYONE can pretend to have an invisible horse! Sure, it looks silly, but that PSY dude doesn't care; he's having fun! We can try really hard to make fun of him, or we can just join in! *dances*

          • Dr_NerdLove

            You realize this is dripping in irony, right?

          • Juuuuuulia

            Should I fix the HTML because it looks ugly? Or leave it ugly to make my point? =P

          • Anonymoose

            Can't think of you as super-cool now

          • Juuuuuulia

            I am really cool, I'll have you know.

          • Anonymoose

            < I >'ll be sure to keep my < eye > out for your really cool qualities.

          • Delafina

            As I've said elsewhere, if you want to be technical about it, confidence is actually a bit delusional. There's a (pretty depressing!) study that shows that depressed people have a more accurate sense of their own capabilities than emotionally healthy people, who tend to have an inflated sense of their own abilities. Being emotionally healthy is correlated with being a bit delusional about your abilities. But confidence helps you be more capable, so it's a self-sustaining cycle. (Which confirmation bias tends to feed into.)

            So yes, there's such a thing as a healthy bit of self-delusion.

            But let's face it — we create our own realities. I spent some time in a creative role at a fairly giant software company. And I learned that the most important thing in getting a pitch greenlit wasn't how good the potential product was. It wasn't even how good my pitch was from a factual standpoint. It was how much passion I had (and therefore, how much confidence I appeared to have in the product) that determined whether I was successful. Confidence breeds success.

            All of which is really just a long way of saying: Yes. Fake it till you make it. It's a cliche for a reason.

          • My therapist told it like it is: Either you learn to be an escapist like the rest of us or I'm gonna have to commit you. The human brain is not made for looking at reality naked like you want to do. It's not that you can't do it, it's that nobody can do it and remain sane. It's like looking at the Sun with your naked eye; they aren't made for that, so stop trying!

        • Tea

          If you don’t believe you’re awesome, for whatever reason, start looking into what WOULD make you awesome and going from there. If you don’t have any hard proof of your awesomeness, go forth and start manufacturing some. Even if you don’t see yourself as a great and amazing person yet, being someone working toward BECOMING a great and amazing person is a step up from being just some dude with nothing really going for him.

          You also have to keep in mind that what defines and makes an awesome person is A) entirely up to you, and B) not to be mistaken for popular images of success, like having a girl on each arm and one hanging off your six-pack while you stride toward your Porsche to drive home to your Beverly Hills mansion.

          For example, I know I’m awesome because…
          I’ve read the entirety of Homer’s Odyssey and most of Shakespeare’s plays.
          I can draft my own patterns and replicate videogame costumes.
          I can cook a steak to medium rare perfection.
          I am the reigning Queen of Boardgames among my circle of friends.
          … and a bunch of other things large and small, silly and not-so-silly, that are important and cool to me. The fact that I’m good at them makes me happy and confident in myself, even if they aren’t “typical” signs of success or wealth or accomplishment. Similarly, whatever you decide are your markers of awesomeness are things that should make you happy to be yourself, not outside definitions of success.

          The other thing is that all of these things, learning to sew, learning to cook like a boss, reading the fucking Odyssey, were projects that took time and effort to get to the point where I’m proud of what I do. Working toward being an awesome person is hard work. The trick is to pursue things you’re passionate about, so that the work is a joy instead of a chore.

        • enail

          maybe start by trying to believe you're a basically worthwhile human being with some positive and some negative qualities who can achieve some things and develop some skills and form some connections if they work at it? Then, if you can use that to give you some confidence to work on some things, you'll achieve things/develop skills/form connections that can make you feel more confident. Knowing you're someone who can improve by trying is a really great feeling, and even a little start is helpful!

        • Don't believe. That's a good place to start. He who believes abdicates from thinking.

          Think objectively. When that familiar voice is saying "You're the scum of the Earth", ask it "How many children did I murder today? How many millions did I steal from Social Security funds? How many innocents did I order imprisoned today? In my life?" The depressive circle can be very easily broken by one simple fact: There is really scum on this Earth, and they don't post here (your name ain't Bashar Assad, right?)… so you can tell your brain to chill out; yes, you may not be Stephen Hawking, but you're not what it tells you you are. The "YOUSUCK" idea is just as idiotic as the "Care Bears" attitude, because they are both equally false.

          So, #1: You don't suck like your brain tells you. It''s sick, poor thing.
          #2: Okay, you're not awesome; chances are she's not awesome either. But you CAN be awesome for each other. That's all that counts, and from what I gather, you think that the good that comes from being together outweighs the pain from trying to be together (kinda like porcupine sex); So, man up and take the pain! It's gonna hurt like hell, but that, too, shall pass, and out of that pain will come 1 or 2 (or more) great relationships that will make the pain worth your while, just like in sports or any other endeavor where you have to train a lot.
          #3: There will be times when the pills stop working and Hell returns in all its painful and horrible glory. If you have a therapist, call and get some stuff like you would call a doctor for a case of the runs or a broken leg. It's just that: an organic misadjustment. If you don't have a therapist, get one and keep the contact data close by. You wouldn't try to go to work with a broken ankle, would you? Then why try it with a broken brain?

      • Delafina

        Everything, actually, can be a habit. I'm not sure why we are cool with things like sports or music taking practice, but don't expect beliefs or confidence to follow the same patterns. One of the AHA! moments in my life was when a Jewish professor of mine explained a number of ritual behaviors in the religion to me by pointing out that being a good person takes practice, and ritual (whether it's ritual tithing or rituals that make you seriously think about what you're eating) can be a form of that practice. Being a good person in the big moments that matter is easier when you've made a practice of putting goodness first in small moments. Regardless of whether you agree with the tenets of the religion itself, I think it's onto something key with that insight.

        Being a confident person in the big moments that matter (asking someone out, asking for a raise) is easier when you force yourself to assert yourself and act with confidence in the little moments (speaking up when someone cuts in front of you in line; objecting when someone you're close to says something dismissive; accepting compliments graciously).

        Believing in yourself in the big moments — when you've been rejected or had some other sort of failure — is easier when you force yourself to believe in yourself in the small moments (trying something new, taking the time to enjoy small successes, not letting someone's offhand comment affect your view of yourself, etc.).

        Almost everything gets easier with practice, not just the things that we think of as requiring self-discipline. Separating disappointment from discouragement is a big one in that department.

    • Delafina

      I'd say your mistake is in taking the rejection personally. I probably wouldn't want to date you. That doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with you — it just means I have different tastes. Being turned down doesn't mean you're a bad person or worthless or doomed to be alone for the rest of your life; it just means the woman in question likes a different kind of guy than you are. It's worth reviewing what happened as objectively as possible, after you've had a day or two to move past it emotionally, to see whether there's something you're doing regularly that's turning women off, but after that, move on and don't take rejection as criticism.

      • Shaj

        It's even stupider than that. The ones lately have simply already had boyfriends I didn't know about. One in particular recently was a woman I previously knew, who got really drunk at a bar and was all over me, and a few days later when someone told her what happened (she didn't remember herself), she wanted to "clarify her intentions" (ie, friends only). This knocked me down for a few days, even though I really lost nothing.

        • Commonly known as X

          Well, so these women do find you attractive and in different circumstances something might have happened (when they had sobered up, obviously ). That really sounds like the problem was with their circumstances, not you.

        • Juuuuuulia

          This is where you use the Doctor's "oh, I bet your boyfriend thinks …" maneuver!

          • Shaj

            Haven't read that article I suppose. Where is it?

        • Delafina

          Why did it knock you down so hard?

          • Shaj

            As mentioned, I invest too heavily emotionally in these things, and every failure hurts way too much. Doesn't matter that I'm aware of it, it happens anyway.

          • Shaj

            I tend to have a hair trigger. Comes with the depression.

          • Indeed. It's like allergy, or hypersensitivity to noise; the stimulus is the same but the response is unbearable.

  • The Blue Jay

    I had been feeling much like DNL described in the first section. Hopeless, and wondering when I was going to catch a break. Then I offhandedly decided to come on here to see if anyone had replied to a comment I posted on another blog.

    Then I encountered this blog.

    I nearly laughed with joy when I noticed that the exact issue I had been having was now answered (IN FULL!) on DNL's most recent blog.

    Thank you DNL, for giving more good advice, and if not, at least being well timed in my life. I now know how to go about my new college social life.

  • Juuuuuulia

    HTML fail. 🙁

    • Anonymoose

      How confident are you with HTML?

      • Juuuuuulia


  • another Colin

    It seems there's a bit of a bind when it comes to how often you approach potential partners among people you know already. If you only do it occasionally, your overall odds are not good because of the small sample size. If you approach many people, everyone starts to notice, and it just looks like you're desperate (even if there were specific reasons to approach every one of those people). Nobody wants to feel like they're #10 on your list because they know you approached #1-#9 and got rejected by all of them. So it seems you need to create some kind of illusion where you're approaching lots of people, but each of them thinks they are unique or at least somewhat special… except that if you try this, it will fail and people will realise you are insincere.

    It's not such a problem if you're meeting strangers all the time, who don't know your history. But getting to know strangers all the time has its own challenges.

  • Guille

    Of course, you're absolutely right. However, it IS frustrating there is people in this world that don't need to make such efforts to meet women, date them, have sex and build relationships. This is life, we're talking, and of course there will be people that will sing beautifully without any training, or be slim and gorgeous no matter what they eat or dress, or spot a bug on a piece of computer code with a mere look. The limiting thought is, however, that for some reason many of us tend to see dates, sex and love relationships as things we're entitled to. It's a very powerful thought, not entirely our fault: society, books, television, movies, upbringing, everything keeps selling us the image of a successful life *with* a relationship as the most basic human right. Most agree they can live without singing, or without debugging code, but having no relationships is a little more difficult to swallow. The correct concept is of course "you are entitled to PURSUING a relationship", but that's written deep in the fine print. The same way most love stories end with the protagonist getting married or just "getting the girl/boy", implying that the follow-up is easy as cake and unworthy of screen time, society and upbringing sells us the notion that there's always someone right for you somewhere. And it might be true for most of us, of course, but why some seem to find them with little or no effort, while I need to take a thousand rejections before I might get a yes? (from someone I might not even be compatible with, if we get to scratch the surface a little, seemingly getting back to square one). It's a disturbing thought, and I think it's the most difficult concept to overcome to get a happier experience while pursuing a relationship.

    • Mel

      I think one important thing to remember, to put things in perspective, is that you don't actually know that the people who look like they have it easy really have had it all that easy. The people you see who appear to find dates and romantic partners without much effort may have struggled just as much as you did years ago, and put in lots of work to make themselves more engaging and confident. Or they may be very good actors who portray themselves as confident and charming while having to suppress their insecurities or shyness the entire time (which requires quite a lot of effort). Or they may be very good at getting a few dates, but awful at making a relationship last. Etc. So comparing yourself to them is not only going to depress you, it's not even an accurate measure, because you have no idea in most cases what's going on inside them or inside their relationships.

      Society and the media definitely send out a lot of harmful messages, and it's totally normal to get frustrated, and it is difficult to overcome. But you'll get a lot farther a lot faster if you focus on what you're doing and thinking rather than imagining how other people have it.

      • Guille

        I agree with your last paragraph, but your I find your first statement a little simplistic. Must of us will not compare to a guy we see on the streets, bars or on TV (it takes being masochist to compare to Brad Pitt), but compare with family and friends instead. You still might get the wrong impression about their insecurities and such, but you think you know them well enough to tell. It's very hard to hang out with your friends for years and see that they may break up with their boyfriends and girlfriends but get a new one soon enough, or have long lasting relationships, etc. while you're still waiting for your first time. It is true that there is people whose struggles we don't know about, but it's also true that there's plenty of people that don't need to struggle near as much as we do to get to know other people and get into relationships.

        Please don't misunderstand, I don't say this as an excuse for not taking action in changing your (my) life. I'm only stating that this mindset is one more (very important, in my opinion) thing that's holding you (me) back in dating.

        • Mel

          I still think even with most of your friends and family, you don't know exactly how much effort they're putting in. Immediate family and close friends may talk to you about their insecurities and so on, but more casual friends, probably not so much. And even a close friend who you've only known since, say, college, may have been socially awkward in his/her teens and had to work through that before s/he met you.

          But definitely, if you've been trying for a long time and not having success, and everyone around you seems to be having at least a little success, that's hard. I don't think anyone here has ever suggested this isn't the case, or denied that the sort of mindset you're talking about can hold people back. DNL has a whole series of articles on the problematic ideas about relationships that we get from movies. The point is, you recognize that you have this mindset, and it's not a realistic one. So now you need to replace it with a more realistic one. And telling yourself that you don't know how much effort the people who seem to have it easy have really put in is one way of reframing your thinking (even if it's not accurate in every instance).

    • Becelec

      Look I know some people will probably not find this helpful at all, but here's something I've noticed in my own life from my own experiences and the experiences of the people around me: the people in my life (myself included) who never actually seek or actively look for a relationship are the ones who end up finding strong, healthy relationships easily. The ones who actively want and go looking for relationships are the ones that struggle to find anything. This is why I personally have never understood cold approaching/dating people. I think actually wanting a relationship and looking for someone who will do, rather than falling in love with someone unintentionally is not a healthy thing. You put so much pressure on something that should just be occurring naturally, rather than trying to force it. I'm sure not everyone will agree with this but it's just what I believe- you only find something when you stop looking for it.

      • Anonymoose

        How natural are you and the people you know at it? It's not unbelievable, but putting it like that makes it sound effortless, and reading an article or two on this blog indicates there is a lot of effort involved. Are you certain it's not just you and the people around you are naturals at this kind of thing?

        • enail

          I think there are a lot of ways people get into good relationships. One way that seems to work out for a lot of people is to concentrate on having an awesome life and forming non-romantic relationships rather than prioritizing seeking romantic relationships, and just let it happen when it happens. In a way you have to be a natural, b/c it's pretty hard to fake not caring a lot about something, and it'll probably make you unhappy. But in another way, anyone can do this, b/c it's just about trying to live a good life.

          For more socially confident people, just doing a lot of social things and meeting people and going on casual dates a lot, while not getting too serious unless you really like the person, can work. Then there's the Dr. Nerdlove style, which seems more aimed at people who are less socially confident or skilled, but are willing to be analytical and develop skills, and which focuses on actively seeking relationships, getting comfortable with dating and making yourself a more appealing catch.

        • Mel

          I kind of agree with Becelec, and I'm definitely not a natural at dating.

          The important part, I think, is this: "actually wanting a relationship and looking for someone who will do, rather than falling in love with someone unintentionally is not a healthy thing." I wouldn't say people shouldn't actively take steps they hope will lead to a relationship in the long run, or date, the way Becelec seems to be suggesting. But I do think "looking for a relationship" can get in the way of actually finding a relationship. You can end up too busy trying to assess whether you could see things going anywhere (or assessing whether they seem to like you at all and not worrying much about how much you actually like them, as seems to happen with a lot of guys who aren't confident with dating) to really get to know people and develop a rapport with them. It adds all this tension when you hardly know the person and already you have all these hopes of where things might go, rather than just enjoying getting to know them in the moment.

          I think most people are going to be more successful if they focus on getting to know people who could end up being potential romantic partners rather than finding love ASAP. You still use all the skills DNL talks about, you just think of them as a way to widen your social circle and simply get out there into the world (and other people's circles) more, rather than specifically "this is going to get me a relationship."

          I've talked about this in other threads, but I felt a definite shift in how my dates were going–how relaxed I was, how much I enjoyed them, how much the guys seemed to enjoy my company–when I was able to stop worrying about finding a boyfriend right now and just see dating as an end in itself. Something that could be fun even if it didn't lead anywhere. And, funny thing, the guy I married didn't find me through the dating website I was on, but through a more general meet-up site I'd added a profile too more in the hopes of finding more like-minded friends than specifically meeting guys. If I'd been completely focused on dating and not on being more social in general, we might never have met.

          In in-person situations, I suspect a big factor is that when you're there not specifically to find someone to date but just to meet people in general, you take more chances and often show more interesting and engaging sides of your personality because you're not as worried about "screwing up a potential relationship", which then makes you more appealing to people you might end up getting into a relationship with.

          So IMHO, the getting out there (online or in person or both) and just talking to and getting to know people (of both genders) is by far the most important thing, and the more you're doing that, the more likely it is that dating and relationship opportunities will follow.

        • Beth

          This idea that some people are just naturals at this kind of thing, at relationships and social skills, is an interesting one. I think you're on to something but you're not quite right. I think everyone who has social/relationship skills has to learn them at some point, so I don't think there are any true "naturals". But I think there is a significant difference on when people learn them, and a lot of it has to do with the family a person comes from.

          I'll use myself as an example. My parents have a great relationship. They've been married forty years and treat each other with love and respect. They modeled what a good relationship looks like to me and my sisters our whole childhoods. One really great thing they did when we were growing up is that every Saturday morning my dad took one of us kids out for breakfast, one on one (on a rotating schedule so everyone got their time). What happened on those Saturday breakfasts? Well, for one thing, it was great training on how to maintain a conversation and make small talk as well as talk about important things. It was practice on how it feels to sit in a restaurant across from someone who values your company and wants to get to know you better. It was practice on how to behave in public. It was also great for self-esteem and for setting an appropriate standard for how someone should treat you. Those years and years of practice as a kid meant that when I got to be a teenager and started dating, I had a big leg up. I'd done a lot of practice already, so to an outside eye I might have looked like a natural.

          Am I a natural? No. And I still spend time and effort thinking about and learning social skills and relationship skills, but I've had years to practice already.

          Is it easier to learn these skills as a kid? Yes, I think it is, just like it's harder to learn to speak another language as an adult than it is as a kid. But harder is not the same thing as impossible.

          Also, as a note to anyone with kids, I highly recommend the weekly one on one breakfast (or other time) with your kids. It made a huge difference in my life in a lot of ways and I think it's an amazing thing to do for your kid and a great way to get to know your kid.

          • Delafina

            I think there are always, for lack of a better word, prodigies. Some people are born with perfect pitch and find it relatively effortless to learn to sing well. Some people seem to be born knowing how to put words together compellingly. And some people seem to be born to be good partners.

            But those are rarities.

            More common, I think, is that one aspect of being good at these things comes naturally or with little effort (you are born gorgeous, or you flirt well without effort or thought going into it, or you give off a ton of sexual energy), but like everyone else, you have to learn the rest of it through trial and error and practice.

            Having parents who model good relationships and teach you basic social skills definitely gives you a leg up, but I think it most cases, it tends to be a leg up in one or two areas associated with having a relationship, not all of them.

            For the most part, everyone still has to figure out 90% of how to do relationships well by themselves.

  • enail

    But sorry, I think this is getting to be badgering at this point. I'll back off.

  • Juuuuuulia

    HAHA. That should say "an < i > tag". Actually, I can fix it now.

  • I enjoyed the post. When I first actively began to make dating a priority I noticed things got worse before they got better. When I wasn't trying, I wasn't failing, but once I started to put effort in…let's just say there was a learning curve.

    Another thing that surprised me though was success. It was nice on one level, but there was also a letdown. I had built 'being succesful with women' up so much in my mind that I thought if I achieved it I would somehow feel different.

    I didn't.

    So just as its normal to be frustrated with failure, it's also normal to get everything you thought you wanted and still feel vaguely unfulfilled like it wasn't everything you thought it would be.

  • Thortok2000

    Honestly I think this one blog summarizes just about everything one needs to know about being successful at dating. The rest is just the details.

  • Unhappy male

    "Not because it’s true but because that’s what you believe; everywhere you go, you will find continuous “proof” that this is true. Nothing but miles and miles of assholes with the women you want as far as the eye can see…

    Or so you think. Your negative belief is causing you to fall victim to a common fallacy known as “confirmation bias” – the tendency to only notice or pay heed to that which confirms your pre-existing belief."

    Psych 101. I understand very well, as most thinking but congenitally pessimistic adults do, that negativity is a self-reinforcing and perennial spiral. But, it's not as if everything is purely subjective. There are socially ratified statistical truths about what is attractive, what is desirable, etc. etc., and if you are not any of those things, then things will be harder for you, possibly impossible for you. Think of the morbidly obese, the prematurely bald, those born with minor defects to face or bone structure, or a psychological condition. Will all this "you just need the right attitude!" avail them at all? I get so sick of reading this same advice everywhere I look. It's literally in every self-help book, blog, and article ever written. And yet, the majority of our generation (20s-early 30s) is single, are doomed for divorce. And yet, that same majority overwhelmingly wants love and long-term relationships. Clearly there's some kind of major mismatch, and that mismatch is called "expectations." Desperation is about the only thing that gets most people a long-term relationship.

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  • Drew

    Point 3: Stop trying so hard.
    Point 6: Try as hard as you can.