Last fall I moved across country for school. I met a girl in my class and we were getting along fairly well. We would often talk during class and occasionally text outside of class. Christmas break came and we both went off to be with our families. During my travels home I saw something that I know she would like so I took a picture and sent it to her. She replied back saying that I was officially her best friend. I was okay with this because at the time I didn’t really have any friends having just moved there. A few days before New Year’s I saw that a band we both liked was coming to a venue near our school. I texted her to ask if she wanted to go and she declined “saying she would be out of town.” I found this strange knowing that we would be in class then but chucked it up to her getting the dates wrong. She did in fact go on the trip just a few weeks later. At this point though I thought things were still good between us.
Here is where they start to get murky. After New Year’s but before we went back to school I sent her a text asking if she was enjoying her break. Now sometimes it would take her a few days to respond to a text but she always did. Except this time she didn’t. I saw her in class the following week for only one day (we are in different sessions so we only see each other once or twice a week). She came in and sat down by me and we talked for a few minutes before class started. At that time I began working on a project that had to do with our respective future careers and texted her to see if she wanted in on it. Days go by and no response but I see her in class the next week and she says sorry for not getting back to me and that I should text her the details. I do this but once again she doesn’t respond. She then starts sitting away from our small little group of friends we had. This goes on for a few weeks before I finally decide to just talk to her cause I thought “hey she’s my friend.” We talk and everything seems fine and normal, we even do our thing where we communicate just with looks during class. She also told me at this time that she had been very busy so I figured that’s why she hadn’t gotten back to me on the project.
It’s now about the end of January and we are in class together. During the break I try to talk to her and she seems to be a bit cold and distant. I don’t force the issue and at the end of class simply say good bye. This was the last time we talked. She is being her normally friendly self with other people but she seems to be avoiding me.
At this point I think I should tell you about something I found out about her. After our January class finished she took her short weekend trip and posted a picture of where she was on Instagram. I liked the picture and then searched something that she had tagged and found her tumblr page. On her tumblr page I noticed that she had a lot of similar interests to me, even more than I thought, in fact it almost seems like we are in some ways very much the same. I also noticed that she would post things about getting hurt, feeling alone and wishing she was beautiful. I wanted, and still do, to tell her that I think she is the wonderful, beautiful person but I didn’t know how to say “hey I was creeping on your tumblr page the other day and blah blah blah.”
So, just this past Monday when I got to class the seat by her was empty and I took it. I said hi to everyone and she just ignored me. Another guy from our friend group asked if she had any big plans for V-day weekend. She said something like how she was expecting to get a lot of date options and she would totally be doing something. It sounded sort of sarcastic and coupled with the fact that she had posted on her tumblr a few weeks earlier about how she often faked being happy on the outside and hurting on the inside makes me almost certain she was being sarcastic. This was of course enforced when just two days ago she said that she would be spending her V-day slow dancing in her room with a mop.
Anyways last Wednesday I for some reason, basically I missed her and wanted to talk to her sent her the following text “Hey (her name), I know we see each other all the time but it seems like we haven’t talked in a while and I just wanted to say hi.” She never responded. Saw her in class this past Friday and once again she ignored me. Friday night she removed me from her Facebook friends. I see her again in class in a few days I don’t know what to say or do.
I want to tell her so much, about how I understand her feelings of loneliness and giving parts of yourself to people and them just hurting you but then I think that if she doesn’t even want to acknowledge me she surely doesn’t want anything from me and it hurts. I want to tell her how beautiful I think she is and that I want her to be truly happy. We have so much in common and I was so happy when she said we were gonna be best friends. I feel like I’ve done something to hurt her but I can’t figure out what it is.
I just don’t know what to do.
Crazed, Conflicted and Confused
Long story short C3: You were seriously overestimating the level of friendship the two of you had. A text like “You’re officially my best friend” is (almost always) friendly teasing hyperbole, not a declaration of intent.1
You seem like the sort of person folks sometimes refer to as a golden retriever of a man – full of enthusiasm and good intentions but not quite aware of just how that enthusiasm and intentions are coming across. Part of this means that you missed signs that she was trying to give you the brush-off without saying so. Taking longer and longer to respond (if she does at all) and sitting away from you and the group are all ways that she was trying to ease away without having an awkward “hey, let’s not” conversation. It’s not the greatest or most helpful way of getting the message across, but it’s something lots of folks do and part of social calibration is learning how to recognize those signs.
In all likelihood, she either found you to be exhausting or – like Dazed and Confused from last week and Private Number the week before – she got the “I wanna date you” vibe from you and wasn’t interested. It’s impossible to tell without crawling into her brain and poking at the squishy bits and, ultimately, it doesn’t really matter. People can decide to set their limits where they choose and she clearly decided she wasn’t interested in being Facebook friends with you.
(It could well be that she saw that you’d been poking through her Instagram and Tumblr and got the stalker vibe. If so… well, now you know what not to do next time)
So what do you do about this? I hate to say it, but you accept her wishes and just let her do her thing. It’s sweet and all that you feel like you understand her after reading her Tumblr but believe me the last thing you want to do is tell her all these things about her that you got from stalking her social media profile. Doesn’t matter that she’s put it out there for people to read; Tumblr is often a place folks try to work through their feelings semi-anonymously, not for potential suitors to glean tricks for winning their hearts. Doubly so if her posts are more mopey-college-poetry rather than true confessions of depression and the like.
Sorry dude. Best thing you can do is take some lessons from this and slow your roll for next time.
Dear Dr. NerdLove,
As a 21 year old college male that never gets laid, I have all the time in the world to think about random shit. This is something that I was just thinking about recently: Why are men expected to pay for everything on the first date? Now I’m not saying that all or even most women expect men to pay for everything, I’m saying that there’s at least enough women out there that do expect it or for it to be a thing to think about.
Personally for me, I don’t think men should have to pay for everything on the first date. It should be 50-50. It just doesn’t make logical sense to me to HAVE to give a stranger that I probably spoken to once or twice before hand, a free meal, entertainment, transportation, etc., just to get to know them and have a good time. If it was something that I wanted to do, that’s fine and that’s on me, but to be required or expected to do it is silly in my mind. It makes me feel as if going out on a date with them is intruding their day and I should pay for the time I used.
The reason why I write you is not just for the reason why men are expected to pay but also if a man should pay or not in general.
Logic has nothing to do with it.
The tradition of dating as we know it is a very recent phenomenon; it’s barely over a hundred years old. Most courtship rituals, even in Western societies, tended to be more formal or rules-clad affairs and tended to be conducted in the homes of the folks involved. The other thing to keep in mind is that men for the most part were expected to be the providers; this tended to be equal parts social mores (and beliefs about women’s capabilities for work, intellect and the belief that women were supposed to be stay-at-home child-rearers) with the fact that through most of history, women didn’t have the resources or opportunities for economic emancipation and self-reliance. Hell, women in the US couldn’t have their own bank accounts until the 1960s and the Equal Credit Act – which gave women the right to apply for credit without requiring a male cosigner – was only passed in 1974.
Then you mix in the ideas of a commodity model of sex, where guys paying for dates was seen as “obligating” women to put out…
So, long story short: tradition based out of patriarchal sexism and really dodgy ideas about sex.
Now about who should pay for a date: that’s fairly simple. First date, the person who did the inviting pays. Next date, the other person can pay, or they can go half-and-half. If you’re meeting for drinks, you can alternate rounds; you get the first round, she gets the next, etc. There’re relatively few women these days who believe that men should pay for everything and they tend to be very traditional. 99.999% of women in general will offer to pay at least half while on the date. It’s up to you to decide whether to allow it, but it’s generally considered polite to do a back and forth of “I couldn’t possibly/ no I insist”.
Dear Dr. NerdLove,
First, I want to thank you for your efforts to point guys like me in the right direction. I’ve read many of your articles on dating and self-improvement, and I think much of that insight is relevant and applicable to my own life. That said, I’d like some advice on a problem situation I’m currently dealing with, and it’s kinda complicated (or at least I think it is).
I’ll start with some background. I’m a 23-year-old college graduate, currently living in a major metropolitan area and working full time in a good-paying but low-skill labor job. I currently struggle with a deeply-ingrained procrastination habit and spend too much of my free time in my room, engaging in solitary hobbies (online forums, games, books, etc), problems that stretch back to the beginning of college. As a result, I’m also completely inexperienced in both dating and sex.
Long story short, after graduating and getting my first full-time job, my stress levels skyrocketed from difficulties at work (customer service sucks), suddenly having far less free time, and realizing that I didn’t know what I want to do with my life. I began feeling anxiety on a regular basis, and since I moved back from college, I no longer had a regular social circle I could engage in. So I clung to my comfort habits even more tightly.
I began to experience semi-regular cycles of shame, anger and helplessness about all of these things, as well as my lack of dating and sexual experience. I felt like I had wasted the opportunities of my college years, that I had become socially deficient because of my habits and now had to play catch-up with more experienced people. I envied people who had sex and hated the unfairness of my situation, and began to hate myself for feeling that way and lacking the courage to do anything about it. After I moved to my current labor job (which is far less mentally engaging) to reduce my stress, I ruminated on those feelings to the point where I became regularly depressed.
Thankfully, I eventually accepted that I needed help and went to my doctor about it. I’m now taking antidepressants and waiting on a referral for a therapist. I think the medication is starting to kick in, so I’m very glad I made that decision. I’ve started making other changes too, attending a casual sport meetup every weekend and visiting more regularly with an old high school friend for tabletop gaming. I know I should be proud of these steps, but it’s hard when the mental obstacles are so old and deeply rooted.
I brought all of this up because I do eventually want to date and have sex, and I know that my ongoing problems will have a serious impact on that front. My current aim is to attend social events more frequently (mostly centered around interests I already like) so I can work past my discomfort with talking to strangers and build a desire to get out of the house more often.
Problem is, I don’t know whether I want to pursue an actual relationship, or just casual sex. I know that improving my basic habits and mental outlook should come first, but it bothers me that, when it comes to thinking about real life sex and dating, I keep doubting my reasoning and motivations, as well as generally overthinking things. I don’t want to hurt myself or someone else by getting it wrong. Some people have suggested that I hire an escort, but I don’t like the idea of breaking the law, and I fear that paying for my first time would hurt my self-esteem even more than it already is.
What can I do about this? Will simply being more socially active help me find the answer? Should I just make a decision and trust in trial and error? Should I reconsider the escort question? Am I seriously overthinking all of this?
I Want To Get Better
You’re overthinking things. You don’t need to know right off the bat whether you want to find something casual or a more traditional committed relationship. In fact, you will likely vacillate between both over the course of your life, depending on where your are in your life. There will be times when you would rather be single and exploring your options and there’ll be times when you’ll want a serious girlfriend. Unless you actually have some form of legal commitment to somebody (ranging from your-name-is-on-the-lease to marriage), there’s really no reason you can’t change your mind and explore both over time if that’s what you decide you want. Just make sure that you and your partner are both on the same page about the relationship you have and where you think it’s going.
But here’s what you need to keep in mind, IWTGB: you’re doing everything right. You’re getting help for your depression and emotional issues and you’re working on being more social overall. That’s huge. You’re making some serious strides and that’s something you should be proud of. Don’t stress yourself out about what you “should” be doing or what other people’ve done. You just focus on doing what’s right for you, at a pace and speed that you’re comfortable with.
Just take your time and work on being more social and getting better. You’ll find that the rest will come to you as you’re ready for it.
- Obviously, dependent on personality, but you can take this as a fairly reliable rule of thumb. [↩]