Hi Dr. NerdLove,
I was inspired to write this based on the headline of your recent article and how you’ve talked about archetypes in previous columns. Do you have any advice for or places to look for men who don’t really identify under the banner of masculinity in general? I know you’ve pushed the idea of there’re being tons and tons of different personal models of masculinity, but what about the people who fall out of even that?
While adopting feminine aesthetics has gotten more acceptance over the past few years, I don’t know if I’ve seen the same encouragement for guys who are – socially – feminine or androgynous. (Most aesthetically feminine guys I know are still fairly masculine personality-wise.) It’s usually either met with insults or an assumption that our lack of masculinity corresponds with some lack of confidence. I feel you can see this in a lot of media, in which a less masculine character might end their character arc with a boost in confidence and act more aggressive. What’s more, I do get the impression that your blog does tend to assume some degree of social masculinity. Not knocking you, but I do wonder if that changes the needed advice.
For background’s sake, despite identifying as a guy and having an outwardly masculine body, my personality and usual social role is regarded by myself and others as pretty feminine. My good friends often tell me I’m pretty feminine and “think like a woman” in a non-derogatory way and compare me a lot to the female characters in the shows we watch. (Think Nia from Gurren Lagann, Kumiko from Hibike Euphonium, Aerith from FF7, and in a rare male instance Kamui Uehara from the recent No More Heroes 3 and TSA) I’m well known in town for being ‘sweet’, people say I bring a calming atmosphere to the room, and my friends value me for being the guy that’ll always listen to their problems. These are all parts of me I like about myself and it feels pretty often that the dating advice people give ask me to abandon these aspects.
The whole “safe-dangerous” dichotomy is one that I feel gross about in particular, partially as someone who’s experienced sexual assault in the past. I really hate advice that says to make yourself “a little dangerous” as well as the contrasting notion that it’s my job in a relationship to “protect” the woman. Don’t get me wrong, I’d like to be able to say that in a crisis I’d do my best to help others and put them before myself, but something about me being seen in the image of a masculine “protector” makes my skin crawl. It feels like one of those areas where more progressive space will still trend towards gender essentialism.
(It’s probably good to mention I grew up and am getting my degree in a mid-sized town in a very red, very southern state. This probably has influenced the model of masculinity I’ve internalized. I have no plans at all to stay once I graduate.)
Now onto the actual ‘dating’ aspect. Despite getting myself to a point where I feel okay with asking girls out, I have yet to go on an actual date — much less form a romantic relationship. For some reason or another the answer is always a ‘no.’ Most of my friends, male and female, think I’d be a great boyfriend to whoever’d be into me and I’ve even had lady-friends offer to try and set me up on a date — all of which the attempts never succeed. While I’m grateful for the female friends I’ve had, I don’t really know what it feels like to be desired in a physical or romantic sense. (I know the point you’ve made about sex positivity leading to more/better sex but despite being that for most of my life it’s made no difference. Seeing that point kinda weirded me out after being sex-positive and approving of more forward women with no expectation of recompense for years.)
People will always say that I’ll know it when it happens, but that’s unfortunately rung hollow in my experience. I’ve had instances where I and my friends totally thought that someone was signaling interest towards me (initiating and heavily escalating physical contact, saying things as brazen as “I bet you’re a sub”, saying we should go out for coffee sometime, etc,) but when I make the move to ask them on a date it turns out they didn’t see me in that fashion at all. Every time I feel like I’m getting close, it’s as if the sun decides that it’s time for my wings to catch fire. And I’m not going to lie, it’s demoralizing. Confusing, even, when tons of girls around me’s first way to describe their boyfriend or crush is “a lot like you.”
I just don’t know what’s missing at this stage. Even worse, neither do my friends. My failed attempt usually end with the old sentiment of “you did everything right, the interest just wasn’t there.” But how long can I reasonably be expected to run on that?
I know you’ve mentioned that it’s good to be someone who is happy with who they are and to feel like you’re datable. I was doing pretty well for myself before the pandemic and have been trying to work on the physical and mental issues that predictably come with spending a year in isolation (might take a while to get that senior-sixty off, though.) I feel like I have somewhat interesting hobbies; I play guitar, I’m handy with a camera, I like to cook, and I’m constantly getting compliments from friends, peers, and professors on my personal writings. I’m well-liked within my town, and I’ve been working for years towards the path I want to take in life. I’m really wondering at this point where my blind spot could be, or if it’s just a simple matter of needing to continue with my weight loss, try therapy again despite my dissatisfaction with the last go around, and wait for someone who’ll finally either initiate or reciprocate my interest. Maybe my head will break the brick wall someday.
Malewife Matriarch, Femboy Fatale