Hello, Dr. NerdLove
I want to begin this message by commenting on how much I truly appreciate your humorous and kind article on dating advice for short men. As a 23-year-old man of 5’6 with some acne and no romantic experience to speak of, I need all the self-esteem boosts I can get. I wouldn’t say that I’ve got a huge chip on my shoulder about it, but I fear that I may be headed in that direction.
That said, I believe my predicament goes further than my stature. You see, I am currently in grad school at a relatively rural college town full of young persons aged around 18-22, a prime demographic for height prioritization and uninteresting conversations. There don’t appear to be many women older than myself on Tinder, and though I get frequently 4-5 matches every two 2 days or so, no one ever responds, and if they do, the conversations eventually peter out anyway.
Though my program is fully funded and provides a sweet stipend, I found myself having to move back home with my folks for the summer, and this will likely be the case for the remainder of my twenties (I’m aiming for a doctorate), since my field typically doesn’t fund students over the summer. Of course, I can’t really do much to work on dating when I live at home, since living with one’s parents as a young man is considered unbecoming, and also because I will be moving back to school several hundred miles away in a few weeks. With all of that in mind, I could use your help in figuring out where to meet women this next school year. I’ve always been told to “get out there,” but it is not clear to me where “there” is. I don’t believe bars would be the best fit for me (for the aforementioned reason concerning my height), and there aren’t many opportunities for meeting grad students in other departments. I do love visiting the university’s art gallery and nearby bookstore, but those seem like unpromising settings to encounter the same person routinely and strike up an acquaintanceship that could lead to something more, don’t you think?
One last thing. Though I am a little awkward and shy, my sense of humor has always been an immense social asset. I have always been the hilarious guy in any group, and I have always had many female friends or acquaintances, but I simply don’t know how proceed. I thank you very much for your kindness and willingness to help me out with this.
Piled Higher and Deeper
This is the sort of problem that can be split into two separate, if related issues.
The first is one of simple demographics. Some people struggle to find dates or relationships, not through any fault of their own but because of pure demographics. Living in a rural area — especially an area where the population is going to vary drastically between seasons — means that you’re going to have a smaller pool to draw from when it comes to meeting people. In cases like this, you essentially have three options. The first is, simply work with what you have. This isn’t always the best choice, and for some, like LGBTQ folks, it can limit your options to single digits… but it is an option. The second is to move. This isn’t always the easiest choice or most viable, especially now, but it is a valid one. If you have the resources — either in terms of money or friends — moving to a locale where the demographics are more in your favor is a perfectly legitimate option. Even if you have to crash on a friend’s couch for a bit or live with roommates until things are a bit more stable, this is an option that a lot of people choose.
The third option is to find ways to expand your dating pool. There’re a number of ways of doing this. One is to expand the radius that you’d be willing to date. A lot of people in small towns will often expand their search radius on dating apps to include more areas, especially if there’s a larger city within a reasonable distance. While this can cut into how often you could meet up with your matches — you do have to factor in commute times — it’s something a number of folks will do, especially if they have their own car or have access to reliable transportation.
Another option is to look less to things like cold approaches or dating apps and start to rely a bit more on the resources you currently have… such as your social circle. Even in this day and age, most people don’t meet their partners on dating apps; the majority of folks tend to meet their partners either through shared activities or through their friends. You may not have a lot of chances to meet people, but your friends very well might. Of course, you have to be somewhat proactive; you can’t just hope that your friends will intuit that you’d like them to possibly introduce you to someone they think you may click with. Letting them know that hey, you’re single, you’re looking, dating apps are kind of a nightmare, and do they know anyone you might click with?
Of course, you also want to put some effort into expanding your social circle and meeting new people. This is part of why — schedules permitting, mind you — it’s worth pursuing hobbies or passions in ways that bring you in contact with other folks who also love those hobbies or passions. Having those shared interests serve as an instant conversational starter as well as make it easier to connect with them and start forging friendships. You may not meet the love of your life at your local tabletop gaming store or a MeetUp for, say, folks interested in podcasting, but you may well meet the people who might introduce you to her.
But let’s talk about your second issue. You’re making a classic mistake, PhD: you’re assuming that your beliefs are fact, and reacting to that, instead of actual experience. This issue runs the gamut, from your height to your living with your parents… none of these are the deal-breaking obstacle that you think they are. You are, however, reacting to them as if they were… and that makes all the difference. As much as I hate the phrase “feels aren’t reals” — mostly because it’s used to imply that someone’s being emotional and not cold-blooded and logical — it certainly applies here. You’re making assumptions about what other people think based off of things that you’re worried about, without actual evidence. I would, in fact, be more than willing to bet that a lot of the anxiety you’re feeling coming from feedback you’re getting primarily from other men, not from the women you’re interested in dating. Men, especially men in certain communities, have a tendency to assume that they’re experts in what women want or think… without actually, y’know. Listening to what the women in question have to say. If I could have a nickel for every time a guy goes off about how women only date men who are x height, have y income or z body types while women are standing there saying “um… no”, I would be swimming through my money bin like Scrooge McDuck.
To start with, let’s talk about living with your parents. First and foremost my dude: the economy is in the shitter. We are dealing with absolutely unprecedented levels of economic disaster and unemployment. Living with your parents right now isn’t a sign of failure to launch or that you’re some over-developed man-child, it makes a lot of economic sense. Considering that we’re about to see a wave of people getting evicted or foreclosed on — barring some very fast action from Congress (and I wouldn’t hold my breath on that) — the fact that you’ve got a place to stay and helps save you money doesn’t look like you’re immature, it looks like you’re making the smart play.
But even before COVID-19 destroyed the world economy, people were likely to understand. In 2019, nearly a quarter of Americans aged 23 – 30 were living with their parents. Between student debt, an increasingly unaffordable housing market and wages that haven’t kept track with inflation or cost of living, it’s entirely understandable that people aren’t getting apartments or buying houses or condos the way they were back in the 90s or 00’s. Anyone you date would not only understand but likely has friends or relatives who were doing the same thing. For a lot of folks it’s a simple economic necessity.
Would bringing someone home be a little more complicated? Possibly. But not necessarily more so than dealing with bringing someone home when you have roommates. And at 23 and someone going for his doctorate, you should be in a place where you could tell your parents that you’re dating and also sexually active and start making allowances for how that’s going to all work.
(And failing that: there’re still hotels and motels. I recommend the HotelTonight app if you need to find a place last minute.)
Your height is, likewise, a thing that you’re more concerned about than the women you’re likely to date will be concerned with. Just as men are often more flexible in their preferred body types or hair color or what-have-you that folks give them credit for, women are equally as varied and flexible in terms of their types and preferences. While there will always be women who only date men of a certain height — just as there are always men who will only date women of a certain weight or breast size — there’re far, far more who are more concerned with the holistic person and not just whether they can reach the top shelf at the supermarket. And, to be perfectly frank, if a woman isn’t willing to date you because of your height, the flaw doesn’t exist in you, it exists in her. That’s an indicator that she’s someone you don’t want to date. I mean, come on… do you want to date someone that shallow?
And while I’m sure you’ve seen women on Tinder or OKCupid who say “6′ or taller”, they’re not the majority. They’re not even the plurality. They’re just the ones you noticed; you didn’t notice the ones who didn’t have those restrictions in their profile. Confirmation bias is a thing, my dude. If you, to pull a random example, were to buy a Subaru Forester today, tomorrow you would suddenly see Foresters all over the damn place. Not because the number of cars on the road had changed, but because now you’re expecting to see them. They were always there; you just didn’t have cause to notice them before. So it is with dating apps; you’re noticing the women whose height preferences exclude you because you’re looking for them, even if you don’t realize it. You’re not seeing the ones who don’t because their existence isn’t as meaningful to you right now.
Change your outlook and you’ll notice far more women who’d be dying to give you a shot. And as an aside? When women have a problem with short guys, it’s not because of their height… it’s because of their attitude. If you’re someone who’s not hung up about his height, then you’re going to have far, far fewer problems than you’d expect.
And, incidentally: consider dating tall women. They love guys who are confident in themselves to not be intimidated by an amazon.
Dear Dr. NerdLove:
I’m looking for some perspective. My husband of 13 years is having boundary issues with a colleague. They became close when he had a depressive episode last year and confided in her instead of me. He said a lot of things to her that made me uncomfortable, including comments about our relationship and our finances. I read his messages and have proof. I confessed to him what I saw and we had a talk and he now says he “doesn’t consider her a friend”. Yet, today he is having lunch with her, because he “would love to see” her (yes, I am still reading his messages because I don’t trust him) and hasn’t told me about it.
People who don’t consider someone their friend don’t say things like that.
We have a close and intimate partnership otherwise, and he frequently tells me that I never make him feel unsafe with his issues. But he has also white-lied to me in other little ways when it was totally unnecessary. I know they don’t have a physical relationship, but I am sick of being lied to and don’t understand why he can’t just be open with me.
We both have therapists but can’t afford therapy together. I feel like I’ve already done the nuclear option and now I don’t know what else to do. I also know what I am doing is very bad but I can’t just stop, knowing all this. I don’t like being an undercover agent but I also need to protect myself. What now?
Well you asked, but I don’t think you’re gonna like the answer.
I don’t think your husband is the one with boundary issues here, Paranoid. Pretty sure the person snooping through his messages and keeping tabs of his relationships with other people is the one who’s having issues with boundaries.
Why is your husband confiding in someone besides you? Well… because sometimes folks need to talk to someone besides their partner. It’s good to have friends outside of your marriage, including emotionally close, intimate friendships. After all, one person can’t and shouldn’t be all things to someone else. Even under the best of circumstances, that puts an intolerable strain on the entire relationship. Sometimes what a person needs is a sympathetic ear with someone who isn’t also neck-deep in their problems or concerns. Especially if their partner is part of the concerns. People have a right to talk with their friends about their relationships, especially if they need to vent or get an outside perspective. The same goes for their finances. If he has worries and wants to discuss things with somebody who might have a fresh perspective — or who he hasn’t gone round and round about them before with no resolution — then it’s entirely understandable that he’d talk to his friend about it.
Why has he lied about her “not being a friend”? Well… because frankly, it’s because you were snooping and telling him not to have perfectly normal and acceptable conversations with his friend. He’s lying to smooth your ruffled feathers and try to keep the peace while also maintaining a friendship that’s clearly important to him. The fact that you’re upset about it — especially when you know that they’re not crossing boundaries or getting physical — is the bigger issue here than “he has a friend of the opposite sex”. He’s trying to appease you while maintaining a friendship that provides emotional support. The reason why he’s lying about it is because, frankly, from this end of things it seems like you’re getting upset about it to a degree that doesn’t seem warranted. Like, at all.
But there’s also the fact that you are continuing to violate his privacy by snooping on him and his messages. That, quite frankly, is a much bigger violation of trust than the fact that he has a friend. If you don’t trust him — even knowing that there’s nothing untoward going on — that’s on you and something YOU need to be working on, not him. Because, straight talk: what you’re doing isn’t going to save your marriage or fix things. Your monitoring him and snooping in his messages isn’t going to stop him from cheating if he were going to cheat. What it will do is drive him the fuck away… quite possibly even into the arms of someone else who isn’t violating his privacy or giving him shit about perfectly acceptable behavior.
If you can’t work on your own lack of trust, your unwillingness to STOP invading his privacy and to not treat “having a friend” as some huge sin, then your marriage is going to come to a screeching halt and no amount of spying and snooping is going to save it.