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