Dear Dr NerdLove,
I’m a mid-20s male and to be honest, I’m completely lost when it comes to dating these days and I always feel like I’m one step behind everyone else (it probably doesn’t help that I lost my virginity late to my friend, who basically took pity on me). I was brought up in a world where if you like someone, you ask them out, and they go out on a date with you. You keep going on dates and if you like the person, you mutually agree to get into a relationship. If not, you go your own separate ways.
Now it seems like asking someone out on a date (as in a ‘date date’ like a coffee date as opposed to drinks in a bar, which seems decidedly skeezy) is a bad idea, because it feels like you’re asking them to commit to the idea of a relationship early on. So you have to play all these head games about how you’re not looking for a relationship so you can disqualify yourself as relationship material and not scare the other person off. To make matters worse, I’ve asked my female friends for advice and they’ve told me that I’m too much of a ‘good guy’, as in the sort of guy who girls settle down with (I’m an economics grad student and a stereotypically nerdy guy) and not the sort of guy that girls would want for a one night stand or something more casual. Which is fine, but I want some of the more casual stuff (sex being part of the pyramid of needs) and it seems it’s easier to go from hooking up to a relationship rather than meeting to a relationship. So it basically feels like prima facie I’m excluded from the more casual stuff because girls make a judgment call about me rather than getting to know me.
Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places (online dating is tough, but I’m kind of busy and it’s the easiest way to filter through potential partners). I know I sound very bitter, but it seems like that finding a relationship the conventional way these days is virtually impossible and that you need to play hookup culture and all of these stupid games to get anywhere with anyone rather than just being honest. What can I change? Thanks.
Ground Down Grad Student
You have two problems going here, GDGS.
The first is that you are way too in your own head here. Your idea of how dating works is based on… well, I’m not entirely sure what it’s based on because it doesn’t really resemble anything I’m familiar with. What you’ve described sounds more like somebody’s idea of how “bad boys” operate as reported by someone who’s only heard of the idea before and hasn’t seen it play out.
I’m not quite sure where you got the idea that asking someone out for coffee (or that asking someone out for alcoholic drinks is inherently skeezy) is asking them to commit to anything other than a couple bucks for the price of a latte but… well…
Unless you are talking to someone who lives their life like an Overly Attached Girlfriend meme, literally nobody sees meeting someone for coffee as being asked to commit to a relationship. Asking someone out for coffee is, quite possibly, the lowest investment date possible. In fact, I advocate that people invite people they’ve met off OKCupid or Tinder to coffee as a pre-date date – literally, to see if they want to go on a date in the first place.
All playing head games does is make things even more confused and annoying for everyone. Whether you present yourself as a potential boyfriend or “not relationship material”, most people are going to take you at your word. Nobody really has the time or the emotional investment to try to tease things out from a first date. So what you end up doing is sending the absolute wrong message for the person you’re trying to attract. Being open and honest about what you want and what you have to offer is like a super power. It filters out the people who don’t want the same things you do and the ones who you simply aren’t compatible with.
So your second problem is whether you’re too “nice” for people who want casual sex. Generally when women tell you that you’re “too nice”, what they mean is that you’re passive and unassuming. Part of the reason why the men who are looking for casual partners (that is, the ones who aren’t complete games-playing shitheads) get casual sex is that they’re proactive about it. They actively look for people who are also looking for casual sex. They show that they are sexual beings by flirting, by building sexual tension and looking for an opportunity to make their move.
(And before you ask: no, asking for a kiss doesn’t mean that you’re suddenly in the “don’t fuck” pile.)
And it ain’t like nerds aren’t getting laid, my dude. Nerds get freaky too; in fact, there’s a pretty high crossover between science fiction fandom and BDSM participation.
It sounds to me like you’ve leaned a bit into the “I’m The One Women Don’t Fuck” identity you’ve got going over, which is going to handicap you more than anything else in your life. If you want to have those casual hook-ups, then I strongly suggest you do is start looking at what it is about the guys who do get casual sex are doing that you aren’t.
And, for real: you need to let go of these ideas that asking someone out on a proper date is automatically asking them for a relationship. It’s a date. You’re seeing if you guys dig one another and if you enjoy spending time together. Everything else comes from that. Stop trying to play head games or thinking you have to trick people to get what you want. I don’t know where the fuck you picked that up, but it’s bullshit and you need to let it go. Be up front about what you want and look for the people who want the same things from you. You’ll be much happier and actually find people who you want to date and who want to date you.
Dear Dr NerdLove,
I’ve been following your page for a while now and it’s been incredibly helpful.
I’m 28 years old, and have taken about 10 years to go from “the one who was not good with girls”, to being comfortable in my own skin.
I’m still a nerd at heart, but I’ve worked on myself a lot, and have taken many of the advice pieces you write to heart.
My question to you is something I’ve been struggling with for a while now. For some reason, I’ll find a girl who I think is “the one”, and who I genuinely think could be the one for me, but it always seems to fall through.
I went to a party the other week, and met a girl who in my opinion was one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met. She was an actress, and was currently working on a play to be released this year. We spoke for a long time, and seemed to click. We kissed at the end of the night and exchanged numbers. I overheard one of her friends saying that she may be seeing a guy who is a bigger name actor.
Eventually, upon further communications it became apparent after a single date that the big name actor was the guy she was interested in, and not me.
Some time after that I went on date with a girl who was a cheerleader, and posed heavily on Instagram for photos. We didn’t click as much, but we still got along. We even slept together, so there must have been chemistry there. Eventually she mentioned that she was interested in a guy who (upon casually stalking), turned out to be really good looking. To be frank, I don’t blame her for being interested in him, but it kinda sucked when I felt we had chemistry.
Another time I went on a date with a girl who ended up at my house, but ended up dating a biker a few weeks later. Or there’s the girl who chose a guy who worked for Facebook.
The point is these incidences are not isolated. It seems that since being single I’ve been on countless dates with people I find attractive, but they’ve ended up being interested in other guys, who frankly seem to have something just that little bit “extra”.
It feels like dating is like the film Gattaca. In the film, society has been reduced to valuing people based on their genetics. Ethan Hawke’s character works incredibly hard to maintain his position as a space cadet, masking his genes with Jude Law’s characters’, who attempts suicide when he wins a silver medal in the Olympics, sentencing him to a life in a wheelchair. Though an extreme example, dating seems to feel like you’re always up against a “bigger fish”, and people value others on genetics. It seems that there will always be the one who will be just that little bit better than me. Sometimes they’re actors. Sometimes they’re artists. Sometimes they’re musicians. Sometimes they’re bikers. The point is, I always seem to meet my match and lose.
I know for a fact that I must be close to “the one”, or at least the girl that I tell myself I want. It just seems like I’m so far away from finding that one girl. I must be attractive enough and good enough with girls to get these dates. But how do I solve this?
What’s the next step doc?
Do I accept my fate as second best for now? Do I dig down further to become this actor/musician/biker/artist? Any ideas?
Second Place, First Loser
Alright, I’m not quite sure where to start here.
Oh wait, yes I do: there is no one. I mean shit dude, in your letter you talk having found “the one” four times. So clearly there isn’t a One or you keep dating clones. Looking for The One is an invitation to overinvestment and heartbreak, especially when you’ve only been on a date or two. These women aren’t The One, they are women you’re interested in and who are very nice… but if things don’t work out, there are other women out there who are just as amazing if not more so.
As evidence: I’ll point back to the fact that you just listed four of them.
Next is the fact that you’re not doing badly dude. You got one woman’s number and a kiss, and slept with two others. You may not have gotten a relationship out of any of it, but that’s a pretty respectable result. You really need to stop talking yourself down because things didn’t end with cartoon hearts and cherubs flying all over the place.
But most importantly is you’re doing what my lawyer friends call “facts not in evidence”. You’re making up a lot of reasons for why these women are dating people who aren’t you when you have no idea what’s going on in their heads. I mean, did the cheerleader tell you that she picked that guy over you because he’s better looking? Did the woman who date the biker tell you that she picked him over you because he had a Harley and you didn’t? Did the other woman tell you that she only dated men who had Facebook stock in their portfolios?
Then stop listing those as reasons why they weren’t into you.
Straight talk: women don’t keep spreadsheets of dudes and tally up their pros and cons. There’s no woman out there who’s listing all the attributes of her potential suitors and picking the one who rates highest on the graph. All you know is that, for whatever reason, these women didn’t want what you had to offer as a romantic partner – though clearly at least two of them were down to clown, so clearly you’re not exactly chopped liver.
There will always be dudes who have things that you don’t. There will be guys who are handsomer, richer, more adventurous, whatever. But the fact that they’re more X than you doesn’t mean that you aren’t in the running or that women don’t value what you have. They may have those advantages, but there are women who wouldn’t fuck them with a borrowed vagina with Ryan Gosling doing the pushing. Women don’t date attributes, they date the holistic person. And like I said: you aren’t doing so bad, my dude. You’re describing a quality problem to have.
You’re not second best, because you’re not in competition. It’s not ranked, it’s just pass/fail. They want what you have or they don’t. End of.
Now, if you want to find and develop things that may attract women to you, then by all means do so. But do it because it speaks to your soul, not because you think it’ll get you laid. If you have a love and passion for music, then go and learn how to play an instrument. But if you’re picking up guitar because you think it’s going to get you laid… well, you’re going to end up looking less like Kvothe from The Kingkiller Chronicles and more like the dude playing guitar in the staircase because he thinks women’ll think he’s deep and sexy and not realizing how kinda sad it all is.
But like I said: you’re doing well. Dating is a numbers game, and there’re going to be false starts, people who you like but don’t like you the same way and vice versa. You’re going to have first dates to nowhere and second dates that seem great to one party but the other decided they weren’t feeling it. But then, you do find the ones that work… and those are the ones that make you glad you held on there.
If you’ve been reading my column, then you know: I never said it would be easy.
I said it would be worth it.
Hang in there dude. You’re doing far better than you realize.