First off, I wanted to thank you for your work–it has really been the first time that I’ve found realistic and opinionated articles for guys (especially those like me who are missing maybe just one or two aspects that would really help them step up their game).
Anyways, my question: I want to start out that I’m going into college next year, and am really looking forward to it as a positive transition for my life — less parents, more opportunities to become the man I want to become–however while I’m still in High School, I have the same ambition. I want to be the guy who can show up at a girls house and take her to IHOP at midnight (I have dozens of dates just planned out, waiting for that girl), but I feel limited based on where I am. I know that I’m susceptible to that routine wrap-up — get up, talk with people, get through school, go home, do homework, TV, sleep, repeat. But I hate it. But its what my family seems to want out of me.
So really, I know I attract girls. I know that there are those who want me, and who I want, and that there is nothing I would rather do more than test out the dates I’ve been wanting to take girls on, but I just can’t seem to pull the trigger. It’s truly a case of lack of trying. Sometimes, I get so close to making that move, and then just let it pass. Of course I hate myself for it, but somewhere, it seems like something is holding me back. But I don’t want to having anything holding me back. I want to be ‘that guy’ who can completely throw caution to the wind and do things, but whenever I try to legitimately change that, I just fall back into my routine with the idea that “college will be better.”
Part of me says I’m just getting off the boat from the train-wreck called Middle School (you know, glasses, pimples, complete lack of pectoral muscle) and am still playing catchup, but the other part says that that excuse is timeworn and complete BS. So my question is, how can I get out of the rut before college? I have dated before, and I know I can do it well, but what is holding me back from it -now-? Its not that I want to bring a girlfriend to college or anything, but I’d love to have the experience with my last 6 months of being a high school student — maybe a summer romance, or anything, just so I can affirm to myself that the best has yet to come (damn I wish I could sing like Sinatra) but also to tell myself for now I’m doing okay, and that I am working toward that precipice of knowing what I was doing at all times. Any thoughts?
Big Little Man On Campus
I’m glad you’re emailing me now, BLMOC, because you’re kind of setting yourself up for some serious disappointments down the road. Granted, they’re the ones that you’ll look back on in your 30s and shake your head and wonder “what the FUCK was I thinking?” but between now and then is going to be some seriously rocky roads, heart break, self doubt and depression. Because you see, right now you’ve got Fantasy You in your head. Fantasy You is the hero of every romantic comedy. Fantasy You is the unholy spawn of Ryan Gosling and John Cusack, suave in that Rat Pack kind of way but also a bit adorkable. Fantasy You is the one who goes off and has the sorts of romantic adventures that are usually reserved for car commercials, where you, your bros and your girl just go careening down the road in your convertible with nothing to do and adventure waiting for you just around the corner. And while Fantasy You is great, Reality is waiting around the corner with the Spiked Bat of Life, waiting to pull a Nancy Kerrigan on Fantasy You’s knees.
There are a couple things you need to consider here. First: it sounds like your fantasy – being the guy who throws caution to the wind, shows up at a girl’s house for a midnight pancake run – isn’t who you actually are. I mean, let’s be honest here: how often are you taking off with your male friends on crazy adventures just because one of you got a wild hair up his ass and decided that by God there was a Krispy Kreme SOMEWHERE in this city with piping hot donuts rolling out of the oven at 4 AM and you were going to find it? Because if that’s not what you’re doing already… well, it’s already pretty far out of your comfort zone.
(Incidentally, I’ve actually done that. In my defense, I was in my mid 20s, trying to finish up my computer animation final project and also high as balls.)
Also: dude, we have a word for guys who show up at women’s houses at midnight trying to get them to go out on a date and that word is “creepy”. Shit’s cute in the movies, not so much in real life.
Your dating issues – including Fantasy You and all your pre-planned Fantasy Dates – all stem from the same place: you’re not comfortable with who you are. This is pretty obvious from the way you talk about middle school. You were this stereotypical nerd and now you want to put it all behind you and pretend that it never happened and you’re now Dirk Chestmeat, coolest of the cool. Except I suspect that you want yourself to be further along than you actually are. It happens to all of us: we want to be better – especially with women – and we want it to have happened yesterday. This is why you want those high-school romance fantasies: because if you get to experience it now, it’s confirmation that you’ve left your old life behind and you’re 100% New You.
And in fairness: change is hard. Your old life has carved a deep groove in your brain. You’re basically trying to break old habits and form new ones and those take a long time; most experts estimate it takes about six weeks of constant practice to build a new habit. And you can’t rush that process along, no matter how much you really want it. And when it’s something that is 180 degrees away from who you currently are… well, good luck with that. You’re trying to tackle something huge and you’re trying to do it nownownow and that’s a recipe for heartache and frustration.
So here’s my prescription for you: quit worrying about romance. Let Fantasy You and your fantasy dates get put on the backburner. Trying to push yourself to get your ideal romantic experience before a deadline is just going to make you insane; wanting it as proof that you’re no longer a loser is even more insane… and unfair to the women you’d be dating besides. It’s just another form of external validation and one that’s unhealthy for you. What you should be doing is focusing on having an awesome life. You’re at an ideal time to experiment with your life and your identity, finding out more about who you really are and what you’re actually into. This is a time to try new things, especially things that you’ve always been curious about but never thought you could manage. Take a martial arts class. Find a gym that teaches parkour. Volunteer at a politician’s election campaign. Join a code gym or a maker-space and learn how to build cool shit. Spend less time wishing you were somebody else and more time doing new things. Those new experiences will unlock new ways of seeing the world and new sides of yourself that you never believed existed… and those accomplishments will give you more of the self-worth that will make it easier for you to pull the trigger and ask someone out.
Will they make you into Fantasy You? Maybe. Maybe not. But as you find out more about yourself, you’ll come to realize that Fantasy You isn’t necessarily who you wanted to be anyway..
Dear Dr. NerdLove,
I feel as though there is something wrong with me. At the time of writing, I am twenty years old, and I can say with honesty that I’ve never truly been in love.
That isn’t to say that I’ve never been physically attracted to a girl; there have been several that I liked. But I’ve always recognized it as fleeting lust/infatuation and for this reason (along with my lack of self-confidence, surprise surprise) I have never attempted to act on it or even openly state my feelings. In retrospect, this was a good thing; spared me the embarrassment and the sort of relationship I wanted would be unlikely. (This was high school, mind you)
As it stands, I’ve never been interested in casual sex; I don’t want sex without a relationship. (Is this an unreasonable expectation?) The problem with this is that I have never met a girl that I can truly say “yes, I’d like to spend my days with you”. I’m concerned that my (non-physical) standards may be a bit too high. (How can one tell?)
As it stands, I’m obviously not in a relationship at this time, and I know for a fact that I’m not ready. There are a few things that I would like to improve about myself before I really put myself out there. But I want to try to figure this out before that day comes. What is so wrong with me that I’ve never felt this way about someone?
Young Heart, Old Soul
Dude, you’re 20. Chill out. There’s nothing wrong with you, you’re just inexperienced. It’s like complaining that you’ve never learned how to swim when you’ve never so much as dipped your toe in the water. Most people don’t wait to fall in love with somebody before they start dating them; they find somebody they’re attracted to and go on dates to get to know them better; love comes as part of the whole process, not as what starts it in the first place. Love at first sight isn’t love, it’s limerence; you don’t know anything about that person, just what you think you know.
If you feel like you’re not ready to date, then take the time to improve the stuff you want to improve; just don’t let it become an excuse as to why you’re not putting yourself out there. It’s easy to keep saying “I’m not ready yet, I’ve got to do more,” when what you’re really saying is “Dating scares the piss out of me.”
Dear Dr. NerdLove,
I’m a female artist trying to date a math genius. Of course genius is relative in nerd terms, but this guy just recently landed a job at my university teaching both mathematics and engineering. He’s a little out of my league, but we connect sharing ideas about art theory, perception, and science. However I think I’ve made a mistake. I just need to know if I’ve completely blown my chances or if I just need to wait it out:
We’ve been talking on and off for about a month or so. He seems really busy, so I’ve been the one texting more. The only problem: he never asks me out. We could text for days about food, but he’ll never get the hint that maybe we should go eat. We’ve hung out a couple times, but otherwise it’s just texting. So I drew the line. I couldn’t tell if he’s shy or busy or just careless. He seemed like a sincere guy, but I don’t really know him. I told him it was over, that if he doesn’t have time for me and cannot communicate that he can just keep his geometry. He didn’t respond
Now though, I really miss him. A part of me doesn’t care if he’s out there in Mathland, spaced out on variables and solutions, because he changed my perspective on the world around me.
Is it too late to say I’m sorry? Or should I just realize that the program is unresponsive and force quit?
Missing His Beautiful Mind
Um, Missing? Here’s a random question but… did you ever ask him out? Because he may well have been clueless and just not picking up what you were putting down. Or your hints were so subtle that most people would never have picked up on them. Regardless: if you want to go on a date with him – instead of just “hanging out”, then there’s really no reason why you couldn’t take the initiative and ask him instead of waiting for him to catch a clue.
Beyond that: he may well have been picking up all of your hints that you wanted more and just wasn’t into you that way. He liked your company and talking with you but quite possibly wasn’t attracted to you romantically or sexually and didn’t necessarily want to make a big deal out of telling you “thanks but no thanks” for fear of risking the friendship. So he may have been deliberately missing your hints and hoping that you would take the hint and stop asking him out.
I’m not surprised that he didn’t respond; if you hadn’t actually been on any dates and were just hanging out a couple of times, blowing up at him like you did is going to seem kinda random and out of the blue. But since he didn’t protest or say “what’re you talking about?” then odds are… well, he wasn’t that into you in the first place. You can try apologizing, but to be perfectly honest, I don’t think you’re ever going to actually end up in an actual relationship with this dude. Better to just accept it and move on.
Long time reader, first time writer. I got a situation that I hope you can give me some advice on. I’m in college and was interested in this girl who was more or less an acquaintance earlier in the year. I was quite infatuated with her and I asked her out, but she didn’t really seem interested and declined. She then started a relationship with someone else sometime after that. But recently, it seems like she’s broken up. And it might be just me, but she’s been doing things like waving me down on campus when we see each other, going out of her way to chat, and always asking me what I’m up to. I don’t know if I’m reading tea leaves.
The main thing is that I’m conflicted about what I should/can take things from here (even if I’m just completely misreading the situation).
There’s a voice in my head that says I should keep some self-respect and move-on. After all, she had her chance right? But another part of me wonders if I should let my ego/pride get in the way of a potential relationship. I mean, people can change their minds. I don’t really know what to do. And I admit, there’s that whisper in the back of my head that says I’ll never find anyone like her again. I don’t really know what best to do.
Please advise. Thanks!
Kind of Conflicted
KoC, you’re missing a third option: she’s trying to be your friend. Just because she turned you down when you asked her out doesn’t mean that she doesn’t think you’re a nifty person and fun to talk to. There’s always the chance that she’s trying to reconnect with you because she likes you platonically and wants to hang out. And frankly, if you can avoid trying to use a friendship with her as a way to backdoor yourself into a relationship, there’s no reason why the two of you couldn’t be awesome friends and have a great time together. Not every woman in your life has to be somebody you’re trying to bang, y’know?
In this case however, you’re struggling with a bit of incipient Oneitis, which is part of why you’re hoping that she’s trying to let you know it’s cool to hit on her now. The best thing to do would be simple: take it slow and be friendly. See where it’s going. You can test the waters by flirting a little and seeing how she responds; if she does… cool, perhaps she’s starting to realize maybe she is interested in you. If not… well, you’ve got another friend and more friends are always cool to have.
And by the way: the appropriate response to someone turning you down isn’t to yell “YOU’RE DEAD TO ME!” and never having anything else to do with her again. Just because someone didn’t want to date you doesn’t mean that you have to avoid them or not talk to them any more. In fact… it’s kinda weird and off-putting when folks act like that. It tells them that either you can’t handle rejection – in which case, it’s a good thing to find that out now – or that you only liked them as a potential partner, which is a sign the relationship wouldn’t have worked anyway. People do change their minds, circumstances change and attraction can grow where it didn’t exist before. In fact, being cool about somebody turning you down and being able to continue being an awesome guy even in the face of rejection is much more likely to change somebody’s mind over time.