COMMENTS ON THIS POST ARE NOW CLOSED.
There’s no way to turn off comments to individual posts, so we’re on the honor system here as of Friday, 3:45 pm CDT.
Hello, Awkward Nation.
I get many versions of the question “How do I get better at meeting & dating women/men?” in the Captain Awkward Mailbag.
The answer is always some combination of:
- Work on your social skills in general.
- Dating is a crapshoot! For many
geekspeople that is incredibly stressful, because we like rules and being good at stuff. Give us the cheat codes! Tell us how to be good at stuff! SORRY. IT IS TOTALLY SUBJECTIVE AND UNFAIR.
- Your best chance is to throw out the weird sexist rules and expectations that you’ve inherited from romantic comedies, shiny magazines, beer commercials, and dipshits. To quote Holly, “if you follow Cosmo’s advice, your dating life is going to be like trying to get asked to slow dance at the seventh grade social… forever.”
- When in doubt, use your words. Don’t infer; ask. Don’t hint; say.
Fortunately, we have Intern Paul to answer today’s version of this question, and he can totally do it without a rantlecture about Jean-Luc Godard’s sexist portrayal of women as cruel childlike aliens who can never be understood (only desired) vs. Agnes Varda’s exploration of ambivalence or Vera Chytilova’s spectacular depiction of feminist rebellion as destructive play. Ahem.
Dear Captain Awkward:
I have a problem. It feels like whenever I meet someone I like and want to date, they like me back, but just as friends. I don’t mean that they tell me that as a polite way of turning me down, I mean that they are sincerely interested in striking up a relationship with me, but one that is completely platonic. Much of the time, that’s what happens. In fact, I’ve only had one serious relationship in my life (over ten years ago), but I’ve made about a dozen friends by asking out women I was attracted to.
When I was younger, I’ll grant that I was something of a Nice Guy, at least in the sense that rather than trying to ask women out and see what happened, I would just be friends with them and hope they’d come around and fall for me (ie, I was the guy in the xkcd comic), but I learned pretty quickly all the reasons why that was a bad idea and I stopped. Even when I’m completely upfront from the start, I get the same reaction. I’ll meet someone, feel a spark, and ask her out, but then around either the first or second date, she’ll tell me that she really likes me and likes spending time with me, but only as friends. And no matter how I meet them–mutual friends, social events, online, at work, etc.–it’s no different. And I wouldn’t say that I have a type, either, so it’s not as if I’m only attracted to the sort of woman who wouldn’t be attracted to someone like me.
I can’t understand why this keeps happening. I’m not unattractive, and clearly pretty likable. If insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, then I need to do something different if I want to actually attract someone. But I like who I am, and I’m satisfied with how I look, so I don’t know what I could or should be doing differently.
The Mayor of the Zone
Dear Mr. Mayor,
Reading your letter reminds me of another letter that recently appeared here in my basement cubicle at Captain Awkward Dot Com Enterprises:
Dear Intern Paul,
I have a problem. I am the head coach of a professional football team in Florida and no matter what I do we can’t seem to win a game. My offense doesn’t know how to score and my defense has yet to learn the art of no. Things have gotten really uncomfortable at work and I think I’m in danger of losing my job. I don’t understand why this keeps happening, what can I be doing differently?
Mustached in Miami
Although you guys are asking the same questions, it’s much easier for me to answer Tony…er…Mustached’s question than yours because I’ve seen tapes of his games and can cite statistics showing where his problem areas are. Unfortunately we have no such things to fall back on when it comes to your dates*. Clearly something ain’t working, but who knows what.
*Although we TOTALLY SHOULD have that! Anyone want to start SADR (the Society for American Dating Research) with me and keep track of arcane stats like AP (Awkward Pauses), TUFS (Time Until First Sexual entendre), and BEMM (Bitter Ex Mentions per Minute)? We’ll crack this dating nut yet. “Analysis shows a high correlation between a low TUFS and the total number of AP during a date! Don’t forget to try and keep your BEMM rate down!”
So I don’t know what to tell you. I think the first thing you need to examine is do these women really want to be friends with you, or were they just trying to let you down easy? Do you still hang out with them? Doing actual friend things? If so, I would take heart, at least you’re not completely turning these women off from you as a person.
How many dates are we talking here? 10? 20? Maybe they all had different reasons for why they didn’t see you as a match, none of which are “bad” things that are “your fault.” She likes Cool Wave but you smell like Arctic Ice. She’s Horde but you’re Alliance. She thinks leggings should count as pants and you don’t. She’s been having some very promising texts with an ex that’s she’s still into, but not anything big enough to just cancel on you.
I dated like a madman over this past summer, and none of those things got past a second date. None of the women were awful or unattractive or unlikeable, we just weren’t a good fit. Like a pair of pants that look fine but just aren’t the ones for you. All of the endings were for different reasons that probably speak to my own idiosyncrasies and might sound asinine to anyone else.* And I’m sure those women had their own problems with me. It’s not like they were ringing my phone off the hook looking to get together again! It’s all just bad fits and bad timing. The only way to overcome it is to date more women.
*One date argued in favor of perpetual indefinite copyright** “because otherwise companies might go out of business.” Also she did not understand what Civilization was and I had to explain it on several different levels. And she shook my hand at the end of Date #2. And she was from Wisconsin. See, bad fit. We did eat at a really good Vietnamese place, though.
**Yes I talk about copyright law on the second date. That’s why I get so much play.
That being said, maybe you do have a problem. There could be something wrong with your approach and you might not know it. Maybe ask one of your dates-turned-friends for an honest assessment of why they weren’t interested in taking it further? Yeah, that does sound awkward and you’ll have to make the asking as non-creepy as possible, but maybe they can tell you something of value. Perhaps an email or text to your latest unfortunate fizzle, coupled with the promise that you’re just looking for data and will leave her alone whether or not she responds. One of my Summer Girls* did that with me and I tried to help her as much as I could.
*Lord, I fucking hate that song
In my consultations with The Captain, she suggested that you might want to give Craigslist Casual Encounters a try to see how your mojo works when you’re looking explicitly for sex rather than dating. In my experience, casual sex forges a kind of weird intimacy – you’re naked and vulnerable, and you have no baggage with the person you are with, so it’s almost like people give themselves permission to be more free and true with who they are. It might allow you to gain more insight into yourself, or give you a completely neutral observer to bounce things off of.
While I am the president of the Everyone Should Be A Happy Slut club, I’m not entirely convinced that CL is a great idea. If you’re having a tough time dealing with being ignored/rejected as a guy, CL ain’t going to make you feel better. There are lots and lots of men on there, and relatively few women. Even if you’re only replying to w4m ads that you think are likely to be real (and not spam or hookers, so that eliminates like 85% of the ads right there), the response rate is like ~3% and the “conversion rate,” if you will, is lower than that. So you’re already looking at tons more rejection.
You do have a much better chance if you write a good m4w ad for yourself. Differentiate yourself from the crowd by being intelligent and confident, clearly expressing what you want, and conveying that you are a safe and courteous sex partner (you are those things, right?). Also no penis photos.
I wish I could write up a magic gameplan that teaches you how to ask any lady out on a date and you’re givin’ each other the business in no time, but I can’t. That thing doesn’t actually exist. Women are just people, and like all other kinds of people they like all kinds of different things. So in the end you just have to keep trying until you find the woman that’s into your thing. Until then, be interesting, be caring, be respectful, and treat your dates the way you expect to be treated.
COMMENTS ON THIS POST ARE NOW CLOSED. THANK YOU. I will delete comments received after 3:45 pm CDT, Friday Nov. 4.