Hey Doc, I was hoping you could maybe lend some insight on. I know your specialty isn’t women, but you’re so sex positive and respectful. I don’t know you personally, but you make me feel really comfortable and like I won’t be judged for what I express.
A lot of your pieces, especially the ones on deserving vs. entitlement and the ones on self esteem really resonated with me. I now recognize why certain relationships were toxic (a guy I was for a while who assured me he cared about me, but also made it kinda obvious that any time he spent with me that didn’t have a sexual component with it was a waste of time, but wanted me over all the time and didn’t tolerate me refusing….I couldn’t put a pin on why I just felt so drained and bad around him until you), and reasons why I let it continue (esteem issues). Here’s the issue:
So I really like the deserving vs. entitlement article because you said that we are free to pursue fulfilling and happy relationships and they are within all our powers to have (wow, I’m actually starting to tear up a little). We deserve to make ourselves happy and content in our love lives and that it’s possible. It evokes such a strong reaction, even now, because everything in my past and current experiences tells me it can’t be true for all of us. Let me throw a twist in this. I’m a black woman born to immigrant parents, and it’s really no secret to me that a lot of people don’t find black women in general really all that pretty. I’m not mixed either, straight from Africa (Kenya), and I grew up in a fairly affluent area in an area that was predominately white and Asian and currently go to a predominantly white school. I think I’m kind of pretty and my friends do to (but you can’t listen to them…of course we gush over each other). I don’t have racial preferences in dating, but I know a lot of people automatically rule “different” out. I do feel overlooked so far and although I am into guys way more based on personality rather than physical attractiveness (do they make me feel good? Are they funny?), I feel looks are more of a deal breaker for guys.
This is going to sound drastic, but I’ve pretty much decided on getting surgery (a nose job and forehead reduction job) because I think it will make me prettier. I’ll be out a lot of money that I’ve been saving for a while, but it’s a long term investment right? There are studies that show beautiful people reap the rewards of their beauty their whole lives. Something deep inside me feels a twang of guilt because I’ll feel like a sell out— I’d be effectively scrubbing some of the African from my features to more closely align them with the more Western standard of beauty. But I deserve to take every shot at happiness, right?
I’m just really confused and my parents don’t get it and my white peers don’t get it and I don’t know who to talk to. Is it really true that ever single person is capable of finding fulfillment in romantic relationships? Especially being a woman, a demographic who should wait to be approached since guys will approach if they’re interested and if they don’t, they clearly aren’t. I’m very into self-improvement, and am being really honest about my own failings and where I can improve in my own personal relationships, but is that enough for someone like me? I’d rather be on my own and find contentedness independently (which is what I’ve resigned myself to really) than be with someone I don’t want to be with, but the prospect of having a partner like that sure is alluring. A handful of guys have been interested in me and I’ve had sex plenty of times, but I’m really curvy (hour glass figure) and I feel like I’m good for pleasure and a fun time, but long term, no one’s really wanted to show me off/be with me in a more enduring context.
– Standing Out (The Wrong Way?)
Oh man. This letter gets into a whole lot of very complicated issues, SO. I mean, we’re talking about racial preferences, sociological issues, ethnic erasure, cultural ideas around beauty, self-acceptance and…
Right well, better to just launch into it. Just keep in mind: I’m a white, hetero, cis male, which means that I’m not going to have the full perspective on the social and cultural issues that a black woman faces. Take everything I say with suitable amounts of salt, and if I miss something or get it wrong, I apologize in advance
We’ll start with being blunt about the obvious part: yes, black women have a demonstrably more difficult time in dating. OKCupid does some interesting things with the user data it collects over the years and one of the things that’s been depressingly consistent is that black women are seen as less desirable as partners. It’s not necessarily a conscious thing . One of the trends they noticed are the number of people who say they’re open to dating someone outside of their race, but in terms of quickmatches and messages sent… well, the words don’t necessarily match the deeds.
Beauty is as much a cultural ideal as it is a physical one and in the west, we have a very long history of telling the world that white features are the most desirable. It’s something you can see reinforced over and over again in pop-culture and advertising, in overt and subtle ways – every time a black celebrity has had her skin lightened via Photoshop in a fashion or cover shoot, processed hair vs. natural hair, etc. Similarly, when you see interracial relationships in pop-culture, you’re far more likely to see a black man and white woman than a white man and a black woman. Now to be sure, this is changing; the CW network has been remarkably progressive in these ways (Vampire Diaries and The Flash, just to pick two off the top of my head) and The Walking Dead literally just made *SPOILERS*1 canon. But there’s still a long way to go to undo a shitload of cultural conditioning. And that sucks because… well, there really aren’t any solutions that’ll be useful to you on a personal level in the immediate future.
That leads us to the question of things like your planning on cosmetic surgery. On the one hand, I’m a believer in doing what’s ultimately right for you, and for many people, cosmetic surgery has been a godsend. On the other hand: it’s not a cure-all and comes with a giant host of caveats and issues of it’s own. To start with: while there are benefits to making your exterior look the way you way you want it to, there’s the fact that cosmetic surgery doesn’t fix psychological issues. Plenty of people have thought that the answer to their problems was better cheekbones/ a better chin/ smaller love-handles/ implants/ lifts/ tucks/ reductions/ enhancements/ whatever but found that – once the bandages came off and the swelling went down – they were the same person they were beforehand. The issues were in their heads not in their boobs, butts, faces, calves or whatever.
Similarly, there’s the fact that in your case, your planned surgery is to make ethnic features fall more in line with more culturally “acceptable” aesthetics. I realize this seems like it’s adding an almost absurd level of complexity to the decision of “what do I want to see when I look in the mirror?” but none of us live in a vacuum and a history of cultural imperialism does mean that things like hairstyles are often a political choice as well as a personal one. This is something that many ethnic groups have wrestled with over the generations; in areas like New York City and Long Island, there’s a running gag that the most common Sweet 16 present for girls from affluent Jewish families is a brand new nose.
Is it better to assimilate and blend into the dominant culture or continue to embrace their own culture while living alongside them? Is it better to be a melting pot or a stew? This leads to a particularly thorny conundrum for the people who have to deal with it; do you hold out for a better world or do you work within the (frequently bullshit) restraints that currently exist? And can you do one without sacrificing or betraying the other? That’s a damned tricky needle to thread, even when you want to say “both”.
So in terms of your choice for surgery… I really can’t say one way or the other. As long as you put plenty (and I do mean plenty) of thought into it, then do what you ultimately decide is right for you. This is the sort of thing that can’t be undone and the potential for regret is pretty damn high, so make sure that you’re sure. If you do decide to go the surgical route: do your due diligence. Research your surgeon, get references and make sure it’s someone who has plenty of experience in your specific alterations. And make sure that it’s someone who’ll want to talk to you about the procedures; a reputable surgeon won’t do the procedure if he or she believes that it would do you more harm than good.
Now with all that out of the way, let’s talk about things on a more practical level, about what you can do to improve your dating life.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting a partner, and there’s nothing wrong with choosing to be single rather than being with someone you’re not right for. It’s worth noting that dating in general is a numbers game, and there are going to be a lot of guys out there who’ll be happy to hit it and quit it if given the opportunity. That’s great if that’s all you want, but if you want something lasting, then it’s good to be selective and set your boundaries where you see fit. I won’t say “hold off on sex until an arbitrary number of dates,” because
A) that carries the subtext that sex is the most valuable thing you have to offer and it’s not
B) Assholes who just want to fuck you but don’t want to date you will wait the number of dates until they get what they want and then jet.
You can’t stop assholes from assing. You can, however, improve your bullshit detector and see who’s willing to show you that they’re worth your time and will treat you like a girlfriend and not his dirty little secret. It takes time and practice and there will likely be some mistakes along the way – both assholes but also people with whom you’re just not compatible. That, unfortunately, is part of dating. Just remember: if you get the feeling that somebody wants you to be his hook-up but not his girlfriend, then you’re well within your rights to kick him to the curb at will. Your love life is at your discretion. You don’t need to present evidence to run it how you see fit.
Similarly, you also have the right to do the approaching instead of waiting to be approached. Obviously, this isn’t a zero-risk maneuver; part of the reason why more women don’t make the first move is because of how negatively some guys can react. At the same time however, if you’re looking for somebody who’s open to pushing against gender roles or outdated cultural bullshit, then the fact that somebody is cool with you being the initiator is a decent sign that they’re more likely to be more open-minded in other areas too. The other possibility is to play the long game and join communities and groups where you’re able to build the connection over time. While attraction at first sight is great, the more we get to know people, the more attractive they become to us.
Another thing to consider are the demographics of your area. This goes beyond just things like age or race but the culture of where you live too. Some areas – affluent or otherwise – are simply more closed-minded or more likely to conform to ideas of what an “ideal” partner looks and acts like. That can make a difference when you’re dealing with people who think that some women are the kind you bang and some are the kind you marry. It may feel a little weird, but if you’ve got the resources, there’s really nothing wrong with moving to greener metaphorical pastures. More cosmopolitan cities like Seattle, Austin, San Diego or Denver may be a better fit for you.
The other thing that I recommend is to maintain an abundance mentality, even when it seems to be almost Panglossian levels of delusional. Yes, some people do go through life without finding love… but there’s no way to know if that’s you until you die. Until then staying open to the possibility of finding a romantic relationship (even as you live a life that’s full and satisfying without one) is actually a rational position to take. This isn’t just Secret woo-woo-send-out-positive-vibes bullshit; people with more positive attitudes in general are more emotionally resilient and in a better position to take on opportunities when they come up. That positive attitude – the “there are lots of guys, it’ll happen some day and it’ll be worth it when it does” – means that the disappointments won’t break you, that you’ll bounce back faster and be in better emotional shape over all. That way, when the right person does come around, you’ll be ready for him.
Dear Doctor NerdLove-
I discovered your web site a while back and have read many of your excellent postings. Your web site rocks! In a field so rife with just plain bullshit, you’re laying everything down in plain English. You deserve kudos for that by itself!
Now, on to my situation. Much of your site appears (to me, anyway) to be geared toward folks under the age of 35 or so.
I’ve just turned 62. I’m told I’m a good-looking guy for my age, but there it is.
Did I mention that I’m a slowly-but-surely recovering social-phobic, with Asperger’s Syndrome tacked on for good measure? Did I also mention that I live on a small fixed income in a small city in a northeastern state? Frankly, I’m thankful that at least I’m not a 62-year-old virgin.
Methods of meeting partners that are geared to twenty- or thirty-somethings aren’t necessarily appropriate for someone my age (e.g. I don’t do clubs. Much too noisy and crowded). It also doesn’t help that a lot of single women in my age group (at least according to one dating site) seem to just want an express ticket to the nearest marriage altar. One or two others seem to want to fool around with guys young enough to be their grandchildren!
Can you offer me any age-appropriate advice, or steer me toward anyone who can?
First of all, NV, congratulations on your progress on overcoming your social phobia! That’s a big plus for you and you should be proud of all that!
Now as for your question:
Don’t let confirmation bias fuck with your head. A handful of people on one dating site is hardly representative of your demographic as a whole, even though it may feel like it sometimes. It’s really easy to get hung up on the people who seem to conform to your worst fears and miss out on the ones who don’t… and may well be exactly what you’re looking for.
Something else that you need to keep in mind is that different dating sites cater to different audiences. eHarmony, for example, is a fairly conservative site by design and is pretty specifically for people who’re looking to get married. Match tends to be for the more traditional serial-monogamy dating experience, while OKCupid is a bit more wide-ranging, with a greater tendency towards hook-ups and more casual relationships. The culture of the dating site is going to affect the people who sign up and stick around. If one site’s not a good match (HA! I kill me!) for you, then it’s worth trying others that may skew more towards your desired relationship style.
The other thing you should keep in mind is that for women in your general age group, finding men who want to date them is shockingly difficult; many older men want to date younger and tend to ignore women close to their own age. Find the right site and you’ll have a surprisingly wide field; guys who want to date women around their own age can be worth their weight in gold.
Now that being said, meeting people in person is still an option and it doesn’t mean having to go to bars or clubs or doing a lot of cold-approaches to strangers. One of the best ways to meet people in general is to be active and social. Joining activity groups, volunteering, even MeetUps is a great way to expand your social circle and put you in a position to meet folks who already have similar interests to you. That way, you’re in what’s known as a “warm approach” situation, where you already have a social connection to the people you’re meeting that makes getting to know them easier and less intimidating. It also lets you take things on a slower pace, so you can get to know folks before deciding whether you want to take the step of asking them out for coffee or to go to the museum. It also lends itself more easily to someone with relatively limited disposable income instead of heading to bars and buying drinks every Friday and Saturday night.
I am a tall person about 6ft 5 and whenever I am out in bars and clubs I tend to see women staring at me. I don’t know exactly how to treat this i.e. are they staring at me because I am tall or else because they want me to approach them?
It’s all in the way they look, BFG. Are they looking and going back to whatever they were doing? In that case, it’s probably just your height. Are they doing the “look, look away, look back” game? That’s more of an approach invitation. So are looks where they linger or have a softer or more intrigued facial expression – that “ooh, that looks nice” face.
As a general guide, you want to follow the rule of four: look for clusters of indicators of interest occurring more or less simultaneously. For example: are they doing the eye-game and turning to face you and smiling and preening? Then they’re interested and you should go say “hey”.
- Richonne [↩]