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#195, #196, and #197: Meet more people.

Three letters in one today. This will get long, but bear with us, ok? There is a soundtrack and a lot of talk about crushes and what they mean and what you should do about them.

First, a little song from one of our Awkward Patron Saints to get you in the mood.

Dear Captain Awkward,

So, here is my deal. I have not had a relationship or anything that resembles one in my 22 years. I’m fine with that, because it’s not like I didn’t take chances and make mistakes and get messy trying for one. The thing is, I’m worried I’m doing it wrong. Because when I first entered college, I really liked someone, but he had a girlfriend. He’s now definitely one of my best friends, but I think it might’ve spoiled my feelings for the other people I’ve liked. Because of him, I know what I want: someone who thinks I’m awesome, doesn’t give me judge-y, confused face (which sometimes even my good friends do), and appreciates my wacky sense of humor and strong ideals (all of which I feel the same about them). The problem is, I feel like every time I’ve found that, it’s been a guy with a girlfriend! Couple that with my problem of not being direct immediately — which means I am friends with someone I like for a bit before I can muster up the courage to ask them out — and it is just super frustrating.

But recently, I found a guy who fit this description, but didn’t mention a girlfriend…until I asked him out! And then, because he is nice, he tried hard to stay my friend and I freaked out a little–because it’s weird when you like someone, and they don’t like you like that, but are excruciatingly nice (and a bit awkward). It was a bit much for me. So I pushed him away after that, but now we’re chill, I suppose. Of course I have these residual feelings that I’ve been trying to get rid of since, however.

Here’s where it gets worse — I realized, yes, I have this type. But the only thing is, I don’t know how to reconcile this “type” with finding someone WHO LIKES ME BACK. Because these guys always end up my good friends (usually their girlfriends are my friends too, though we’re not as close). And they are just so sweet, I don’t know what to do because it’s like…this type of sweetness in guys is what I’m attracted to. That, coupled with their general good looks, makes me feel like a fucked up friend because I don’t know how to turn my attraction off.

Finally, the OTHER, but probably related problem I have is that I also have a pattern of liking straight girls (who have a similar sweet type of being protective of me and super complimentary). My problem is so annoying because usually I don’t care about boys/girls until I actually crush on someone. So I wish I could just turn off my responding-to-attractiveness mechanisms all together.

So what advice do you have for me, Captain Awkward? I’m a little scared but very excited to hear it.

Sincerely,
Me

Dear Me:

Meet more people. What you have here is good information! You know what you like and who you tend to be attracted to. Go meet more people. Some of them will have the good qualities your friends have and some of those will be single and some of those will be interested in you. The time you spend fixating on how to get unavailable people to like you back and worry that something is wrong with you is time your hot, fabulous self could be spending meeting more people.

Dear Captain Awkward,

I am a geeky guy who up till a few years ago was completely asexual, I used to deflect my male friends’ jibes by saying it was the friendzone, but I really wasn’t interested in women as anything other than friends. In the interim I have discovered that cuddles and intimacy are pretty much the greatest things ever discovered, but I feel my late entry into the game of serious relationships has left me a bit lacking in certain skills. I think I’ve done well exploring my sexuality, going on a few dates, trying out relationships and being generally unimpressed with casual sex.

My problem though is when I meet someone I actually like, not as in “hey you are pretty neat” but as in “you are awesome and I want to date you, are you single?,” I can handle when they reject me directly but I’m not sure what to do when they get more indirect, case in point: I met this girl at party of our mutual friend and we hit it off immediately. I liked her, she appeared to like me and things seemed to show a great deal of potential, I asked her if she was single and she gave me her number, so far so good. When I tried to get in touch with her, things became murky, I wanted to know her better but she seemed really defensive and afraid that I might dislike her from what I might learn, communications pretty much petered of from there.

A few days later I happened to chat with our mutual friend and he told me she recently came out of a bad relationship, and though she was open to possibilities she felt no need to put any effort into anything now. So my question is, should I even try any further when someone has such an apathetic attitude, or do I have a bigger issue of finding people I like so rarely that I go sort of crazy when I do.

Sincerely,
Social Stranger

Dear Social Stranger,

Meet more people. If you hit it off well with someone and the feelings are reciprocated, they won’t be defensive and impossible to get a hold of. That thing where you call her and can’t reach her and you routinely fail to make plans? That IS your answer. Stop polling mutual friends and stop scanning her “nos” (indirect as they may be) for the yes that you want to hear.

Here is a script for the next time you meet someone and hit it off (you’ll need some kind of business card). “I really, really loved meeting you and would love to take you to dinner sometime. Here is my card, please call or email me if you’d like to get together.” Then walk away. Get yourself completely out of the mindset that you must “pursue” people and see what happens.

Dear Captain,

My life right now is in a state of flux, and I feel like I’m at a crossroads or on the verge of something, well, if not good, than at least defining. Six months ago I defended my dissertation and got my Ph.D. and then two weeks later up a moved to a brand new city to take up a job as a professor in my field. A month after that I turned 30. Yay! Nearly an entire decade of work in graduate school, and a goal I’ve had since I was 18 achieved. New job is great, new town is cool, and lo and behold, I meet this amazing guy. But he’s married.

Now, I’ve only been in one relationship in my life, only felt that spark once, only been in love once. I dated a man for seven years (starting when I was 17). We broke up and I was left heartbroken in a small town with no real dating scene, and so I threw myself into my work and didn’t look up from the books for six years. I had amazing friends of course, but mostly all couples, and the single guys I did meet were not my type (and as an atheist at a religiously-affiliated school, I wasn’t theirs!) So when I got to my new town and met Married Guy and there was this instant, unexpected, mutual spark, it blew me away. Like, I had almost forgotten what it felt like, that chemical but also emotional connection with a man. We became friends, I met his wife – and I decided to just flirt and have a good time – not hurt anybody, but revel a bit in the feelings, the innuendo, the glances, the ego-boost after a dry spell to rival the Sahara. We made out twice while drunk, but then mutually decided that we were being assholes and stopped.

He and I have both consciously decided to cool our friendship – I have become friends with his wife, I joined match.com to see if I could meet someone appropriate, I created a personal rule that I’m not allowed to be alone with him when I’m drinking (no one on one pub sessions; must always have a chaperone). I’m trying, seriously – I’m going on dates with other guys. But I cannot get him out of my head, because although we’re not being overt anymore, sometimes I’ll catch him looking at me when he thinks I’m not looking (and vice versa). And I’ll get butterflies (and other tingles), and I’ll fucking enjoy the hell out of it.

Do I just need to get new friends, other friends? I actually really like Married Guy and his wife as people – they are super cool, interesting people and I’m still relatively new to town – I don’t really have that many friends yet, and they are not associated with my university, which I really like after living in a academic bubble for years. I miss being in a relationship, I’m horny, and I think the stress from finishing my dissertation permanently damaged my brain. My judgment feels fundamentally flawed and I’m not sure which of the myriad of massive changes my life has undergone in the last six months is to blame, or whether it turns out that actually, I’m a selfish asshole who would sleep with a guy I adore who is married to a woman I actually like.

Thanks,
Fundamentally Flawed

Dear Flawed,

You’re doing the right stuff, especially the part where you try to meet more people. I would keep using the Internet dating to work on your horniness problem, but I’d say it’s also time to work hard at making more friends. You’ve got New In Town Mojo! Use it!

Not on him. Do I need to get Intern Paul in here for a round of “Don’t fuck that lady?” where the lady is a married guy whose wife is now one of your closest/only friends in your new city? Is there any way this doesn’t end painfully…FOR YOU?  (And yes, poly people, I see you raising your hands like Tracy Flick and saying “ooh ooh, I know!” but that’s not the answer unless this guy and his wife have some very long talks and decide it’s the answer for themselves. It’s not an answer that the Letter Writer can make happen, and is therefore Not Useful). Lock it down. Put your efforts into making other friends and let some time go by. Throw yourself into work. Take long walks. Treat it like a breakup that you’re getting out of your system.

Which leads me to the overall answer to all three letter writers (plus #193)  and the interesting fallacy that you’ve presented us with.

Listen up, Turdhearts.

Crushes? Are real. And awesome. Your feelings are real. And awesome. It feels great to meet someone and feel that instant recognition that they are One of Your People and feel all the colors get a little brighter and food taste a little better and you can’t stop smiling when you think of them. Believe me, this song has been playing in my head on a consistent loop for about two months now and it has felt GREAT but also STUPID and ANNOYING, like I ate Fruit Loops for breakfast and am cranky-hungry again an hour later.

You can’t necessarily control your feelings. But you can control how you act about them them. And just because you’re having feelings that you rarely or never feel and are walking around with a boner, a smile, and the Greatest American Hero theme stuck in your head, those feelings are not reasons.

For example, your feelings (even if they are rare and special) do not obligate other people to feel the same way or give you a license to do stuff you know is shady, like chase unavailable people. “I’ve never felt this way about anyone before!” isn’t magic.

It’s a straight-up fallacy to believe that because you rarely have feelings like this about other people, it’s somehow extra meaningful when you do and that it makes you somehow entitled to affection. You can ask people out. You should ask people out! Saying “Hey, I think you are hot and would like to go on a date with you. Yes? No?” isn’t the same thing as an unscheduled FEELINGSDUMP.

Edited to Add: Geeks, or, er, highly specialized people, are prey to a particular kind of dating social fallacy that Commander Logic calls The Only Ones of Our Species – “I’m weird, you’re weird, obviously we’re meant to be weird together.” While it’s nice to find the Harold to your Maude, narwhals and unicorns actually aren’t supposed to end up together just because they both have horns. Stop approaching dating as a problem of scarcity, where you have to latch onto every person who might fit because you think there might not be anyone else who ever likes you, and start approaching it from the standpoint that the world is full of TERRIFYINGLY AMAZING people. Some of those people will like you That Way.

In my experience, mad crushes resolve one of three ways.

1) The other person reciprocates. You’ll know if this is happening, because when you say “I like you, want to go out?” they will make it really easy to hang out together and do and say things to demonstrate that they like you back. Reciprocity will rule, and you won’t have to parse every gesture and statement to figure out what they “really” mean, because it is just not that hard for two single adults who dig each other to figure out how to get together.

2) It will pass. You’ll meet someone else who sparks your fancy. Or that initial chemical rush fades with time and exposure and you’re able to be friends because hey, awesome people are awesome and it’s good to have them around. One way to up your chances of this outcome is to put your efforts into meeting more people and being awesome at your life in general.

3) You double down and somehow decide that loyalty and steadfastness are virtues in cases of true love wish fulfillment and you’re going to settle in for the long haul and have faith it’s going to work out somehow. In the meantime you analyze every interaction for signs that your campaign is working. The crush festers into a horrible tumor of obsession and entitlement where this person (who doesn’t want you back) has an outsized effect in your feelings about yourself and you’ve set up a situation where they cannot help hurting and disappointing you.  “You stabbed me with a fork!” “No, I was holding a fork and you ran into me at full speed.” Can FEELINGSMAIL or FEELINGSART be far behind?

You cannot persuade people to fall in love with you. There are no cheat codes for this, no perfect words, no string of actions, nothing to wear, no way to look that can guarantee you romance with a particular person. Anyone who says different is selling something.

Choose your own adventure. I hope it’s the one without marital infidelity and feelingsmail.

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75 comments
  1. laggedy said:

    The pattern here seems to be “I’m new at this and worried that these tinglies will be the only tinglies I ever tingle.”

    Lots of dating experience teaches you that there’s (eventually) another someone. And while they won’t all make you tingle, some will be way tinglier than the ones you’ve already found. Getting to the scene late just means you get to benefit from everyone else’s experience–especially those of us who chose OPTION 3 and spent a great deal of time making mistakes because we, too, worried that those false-starts and unrequiteds and not-quite-fits would be our only tingles.

    • karinacinerina said:

      Yes! When it’s “the first time” it does have that Movie Magical Only Possible Time feel; this also seems to affect people who perhaps married very young/started a long term thing without much things beforehand – they are afraid to end something bad because It Only Happens Once. When really, no, of course it doesn’t. But it happened so early for them, it only SEEMS to happen once. Someone with lots of experience being in one long term relationship can be just as OMG SO NEW as someone who has just opened the package.
      When you belong to a specific species that is rare in your area (nerds in a sports town, liberals in a conservative town, etc) finding someone awesome seems so much more impossible. It’s not! But you do have to 1. not settle and eat sand (awesome metaphor below) and 2. not do anything that your gut says NOOOOOOOOO to.

      The good news is this is the fun part! The meeting a jillion people and having hilarious dating stories and finding out what you really want (not a thin brunette in glasses who loves books, but a witty considerate person who loves animals too). And you learn that heartbreak is as common as dirt and doesn’t need to be given any more power than you want to give it.

  2. Bethany said:

    “[I]t’s a straight-up fallacy to believe that because you rarely have feelings like this about other people, it’s somehow extra meaningful when you do and that it makes you somehow entitled to something in return.”

    Holy shit does this need to be posted in every locker, on every bulletin board, in every dorm room ever because I think this is the basic fallacy almost everyone operates off of. Especially “Nice Guys”

    • Copcher said:

      Yes! Along with “[T]hose feelings are not reasons.” Having wonderful amazing feelings for someone does not guarantee that they will reciprocate, and showing someone how strong your feelings for them are will not make them magically sprout feelings for you. It would more likely scare them off, actually, especially if it’s expressed through feelingsmail and feelingsart.

    • Yep, I was a total Nice Guy and a believer in this fallacy. It didn’t help that the majority of romantic plot lines in print and on screen repeat it.

      My religious upbringing also really didn’t help by convincing me that there can be ONLY ONE, so the stakes are incredibly high and so don’t screw it up or you’ll be alone FOREVER. It took me way too long to discover that rejection can be no big deal.

      • jenjo said:

        I had a similar experience, even though I’m a woman, I’d had a couple of boyfriends in high school and I’d always felt basically “meh” about sex, to the point where I wondered if something was wrong with me. Then in college I fell deeply in lust with a guy who (in retrospect) obviously just saw me as a friend, but I was so convinced that he was The One For Me that I basically stalked him for about a year – as in, at every party, every movie night, every time we were both in the cafeteria at the same time, I’d make sure I was sitting next to him, and then sat there gazing at him with demented adoration, to the point that he started actively avoiding me. Oh god, the memory, it burns.

    • DBegh said:

      Hell, I once behaved like a Nice Guy™ because I thought I had only THIS ONE SHOT at love. So rejection would hurt a lot. So I kept imagining convoluted “foolproof” plans to ask her out, and making up an “interesting” personality so that she would like me. Of course, I was never satisfied with what I came up with, and I never did ask her out, and GUESS WHAT I moved to a new city so nothing happened. It was for the better though, because I was THIS CLOSE to have a feelingsbomb talk, but I never followed through, thank FSM some part of my mind was still sane at the time.

      But now, thanks to the Captain, I hope I won’t make those mistakes again. Reading the feminist/liberal blogosphere has helped me a lot, but this bit of advice was really life-changing : “You can’t control other people’s feelings”. I’m now confident to be my TERRIFYINGLY AMAZING self, and if some other people don’t like me, we just weren’t meant to be.

      So thanks y’all. Advice columnists (and random internet commenters) do help people!

      • JenniferP said:

        You can’t see it, but Manboobz, Holly, Ozy, and Jill, and I just gave each other a big high five.

        Any particular blogs you found useful or entertaining? Always looking to expand the sidebar of Terrifyingly Amazing Blogs.

  3. Good luck, temporarily lonely people. #197, I especially feel you with the dry spell to rival the Sahara – I just came out of one of those myself. It felt endless and I was VERY thirsty! But happily, we do not live on a desert planet. Cool, sweet water is out there. You will find it faster if you do not try to drink sand.

    • Alice said:

      Loving the metaphor.

  4. Tinpantithesis said:

    This is good advice; also, LW 1 gets brownie points for quoting Ms. Frizzle, because this is always an awesome thing to do.

    • Jeff said:

      Holy cow, I didn’t even notice that! I feel like such a failure now. I watched that show religiously as a kid.

  5. Hallom said:

    #195, this may not be your situation but I have both read about it and experienced it myself, so maybe think a bit about whether this might be you: sometimes when your brain keeps getting you attracted to people who are unavailable, over and over again, it is not a coincidence, and there is some reason your subconscious is trying to tell you about. And the reason might be that you are scared of rejection and this is easier/less risky since you already know the outcome, or because you aren’t ready to be dating right at this moment because of something else that’s going on in your life, or something else entirely.

    I am a bit hesitant to say all of this because it’s just as likely that there is no deeper issue and you just need to keep getting out and meeting more people like the Captain said, and by getting you worried about whether there’s something deeper going on I’ve just made matters worse. But I thought I should at least put that out there as something to think about, because if for some reason your subconscious is doing this on purpose, just being aware of it will go a long way toward solving the problem.

    I mentioned experiencing it myself … a few years ago, after a long period of continually being attracted to girls who were already in relationships, I started taking proactive steps to deal with some entirely unrelated family issues. Within a month I was in a relationship with an awesome (and hitherto single) girl. (We’re no longer together and I’m single again, but that is how life goes sometimes. We were together for more than 2 years). And since my general self-confidence and positivity about life was improving at that time, I’m convinced it wasn’t a coincidence the new relationship happened when it did. My brain was trying to tell me that I wasn’t really ready for a relationship until I’d at least started getting the other stuff sorted out.

    • JenniferP said:

      Oh, good, good point.

    • Cassandra said:

      Oh yes, this. All these words.

  6. Ethyl said:

    Good luck, letter writers! Just to add my two cents in the whole “meet more people” advice. I’m terrible terrible awful at making friends, and a couple years ago realized I hadn’t made any new friends since college. So I decided to try. My advice is to be open to meeting people wherever. Here’s a random list of the places I’ve met new friends lately:

    * Online (it’s true, you can make the transition!)
    * at a feminist discussion group that an online friend knew about
    * at work, and at work functions (those “plus ones” are sometimes very cool!)
    * at a barbecue that my friend’s mom was having
    * at a bar, reading a Terry Pratchett book
    * via email introduced by a mutual friend who knew we were going to be in the same city

    I’m not still friends with some of these people, but I am very good friends with some of them! And the cool thing is that meeting people is a positive feedback cycle — you make one new friend at the sci-fi book club, then they invite you over for dinner with some of THEIR friends, and you hit it off with one of them, who invites you bowling with their knitting group, etc etc etc. Good luck, you all sound really awesome and full of good self-knowledge and stuff, and I hope things turn around for you. Especially the LW in a new city, that is so scary.

  7. Mimi said:

    To Letter #196: I do not know if you mean “asexual” as in “choosing to not have sex” or “not wanting sex”. But extrapolating from your letter, it would seem you view it as “choosing to not have sex and not actively seeking it”. Just to let you know, asexuality is also a legitimate orientation; asexuals simply do not experience sexual attraction and/or arousal. We may or may not “choose” to have sex, but the defining feature is that we do not experience sexual attraction.

    Also, a lot of us cuddle; you seem to imply that asexuality = no cuddling. I think a lot of asexuals would be sad to hear that since it seems cuddles are the most popular form of intimacy for us!

    I just wanted to set the record straight for asexuals here; we’re already represented in a negative light in culture and most media. Of course, you may have been genuinely asexual yourself but sexuality can be fluid.

    • JenniferP said:

      Corrections/definitions appreciated!

  8. Ensign Perception said:

    Yeah, my rule is usually that when my friends start to look like good prospects for dating, I need to get out and meet more people.

    The lack of experience is really tough to push through, and I think the LWs who mentioned this know why it seemed like a relevant fact when they were writing their letters. It gives a person a false sense of scarcity and every crush gets an overblown sense of urgency and inevitability. There’s nothing wrong with taking a moment to remember, “I’m still learning”.

  9. Lynet said:

    #195, sounds like you know your type! Congratulations! Seriously, being able to predict which people you could fall for is awesome. There I was, awkwardly sighing over this boy who might or might not like me, going “but dammit, I just like boys who can do arts and sciences, and sometimes they’re so rare!” when suddenly I’m at this party where the theme is not to wear too much clothing, talking to the guy on my left who doesn’t seem to realise this could apply to men, too, and the guy on my right wearing a jacket without a shirt who casually mentions that he spent the first half of his math degree thinking he’d major in English, and it’s like, well, this is an easy decision, isn’t it? Hello, guy on my right! I could totally fall for you even though I haven’t yet, so I am going to seriously flirt with you!

    Two years later we’re the local cute couple whose friends would probably find it slightly embarrassing to realise how much we like fucking each other.

  10. maggie said:

    “The Only Ones of Our Species” — oh man, so truuuue! I am pretty sure it’s somewhat difficult to find people for me, as I have a bunch of qualifiers that rule out tons of people (or vice versa, really). But, there are still lots of people in the world. So yeah, there will be more around who like me.

    I am not *that* special of a snowflake.

  11. drst said:

    Dear Flawed (#197)

    It took me over a year to decompress after finishing my PhD. It was midway through the following summer when I realized that giant crushing ball of anxiety was no longer in my chest, and that I was able to sit and watch tv without feeling the nagging guilt of “I should be working on the diss somehow.” It is a unique experience, going through a doctoral program. The stress can be ungodly, and the toll it takes on you can linger for a long, long time. And since everybody reacts differently to stress, the only person who knows how to handle your stress is you.

    I only want to say, it will get better. You will breathe easier (though “publish or perish” has it’s own stress, not to mention students, oy). Regardless of the crush situation, it’s a good idea to go out and be social and remind yourself you can have a life, and not every moment has to be spent reading/grading/writing. I made a huge mistake taking a job in the smallest town ever and spent years with no friends to spend time with at all, and it hurt me in a lot of ways. Go out and enjoy new!town and new people and give yourself some rest.

  12. What is FEELINGSMAIL and FEELINGSART?

    • Chris said:

      It’s when, as a result of not using your words early on, your fantasy/crush feelings fester unchecked, until you blurt them out in a super-awkward-and-overly-confessional e-mail (or piece of art).

  13. Jeff said:

    I’ve never really had a crush go away. Fade somewhat, sure, but not entirely. Is that okay, as long as I don’t change my behavior around them or expect them to change their minds? I’ve been feeling kind of guilty for having feelings for people who don’t feel the same.

    • DBegh said:

      Well, you can’t really control your feelings. As long as you treat other people with respect (and it looks like you do), you’re fine.

  14. JJ said:

    Well, I’d been contemplating writing Captain Awkward a question, or waiting for an open thread, but this thread fits the subject I want to talk about.

    Regarding http://captainawkward.com/2011/11/17/people-who-like-you-will-act-like-they-like-you/

    I have a crush on someone, but I think I’m at the third possible outcome the the Captain mentions. We met once, and I’ve asked her to go out a couple times (not an easy thing for shy me to do) and the answer is always too busy and/or too depressed.

    I am struggling to not send the dreaded “Why haven’t you called me in so long, is it because you don’t like me?” message, but it’s hard. I think she likes me (as a friend, which is fine), but the weeks with no communication are rough and I kind of take it personally, even though she’s said not to. She probably really is just busy and/or depressed and has no time to think about me, but I wish I could help her through the hard times.

    So I come back around to ‘People who like you will act like they like you.’ I don’t know if I’m overreacting and being stupid about her constant busyness or if I should just stop trying to be her friend unless she contacts me.

    More background…we met through online dating, she contacted me. After a few weeks we met, not a date, just a day at the park and things went well. Lots of communication for awhile, but then the holidays came and things got busy.

    I asked pretty directly if I should stop asking her to meet up, but she didn’t give a solid answer, just the busy/depressed thing. Maybe she doesn’t want to hurt my feelings or drive me away and lose my ‘friendship’.

    I’m getting mixed messages. When we do talk it seems really good, like she does like me, but I can’t help but wondering if I should I take the ‘don’t want to meet/lack of communication’ hint and leave her alone.

    Back on topic, I am trying to meet new people, kinda…still doing the online thing, talking with other people and might meet up with someone soon.

    Any thoughts on what I should do about my ‘crush’, though? Thanks.

    • Lieutenant Right said:

      What do you want? Do you want friendship? Because that’s all you’re getting right now.

      I know it’s hard to hear, but that’s it. She’s not interested, and the fact that she mentioned that she was depressed is part of why she’s not as invested in communicating that as directly as you wish, and why she is avoiding contacting you — because it is not her priority to make a connection at this juncture.

      I recommend a cooling off period so you can get back to thinking about your life. I know it’s hard, sweetie. But really, go outside and meet a bunch of people! Just do weird shit like watch movies and read books and take another route to school.

      But if you do want to be friends, I recommend sending a message (after this cooling off period! Even if you have to watch every Christina Hendricks scene in Mad Men to get your mind off her, you have to have cooled enough to want to be her friend) to hang out. And she might say no, in which case, get back to your life. If she wants to (and is able to, considering her depression), then she will contact you eventually.

      But don’t hold out hope. It’s fine :)

    • AnthroK8 said:

      I would let it go. If Lady wants to see you, she will tell you so.

      Earlier this year I was on the other end of that dynamic. I didn’t not like the dude. But I also didn’t like-like the dude. Mostly, I was busy and depressed and he has a kid and I’d have to drive a ways to see him and there wasn’t enough like there for me to do all that work.

      It’s not that I don’t like his company when I am in it. I just don’t love it so very much I want to chase it. There’s nothing wrong with the guy. He’s lovely. It’s just my heart-vagina (to steal a phrase from The Hairpin) isn’t feeling it. And I am not so rude as to not be polite and do my best to have fun when I agree to give getting together another shot (because who knows, you know? Maybe things changed… they don’t change.)

      My signals probably seem mixed because they are.

      Do you really want to pursue someone with feelings like that? More waffly than a waffle with waffle fries on the side? You seem to want more connections and intimacy, and I don’t blame you! I want those things, too.

      To have them, I think you might need to look elsewhere.

      Also? You know? My self esteem and dating fun both shot right up when I realized I am not going to beg for love and affection. I am not on dates to impress people, or pursue approval and validation. Especially not when it will take me so much work to have it. I go on dates to find someone I connect with and feel I can build a conversation, relationship or whatever with. That doesn’t come to be through begging or yearning, so I don’t do it.

      • Copcher said:

        Seconding all of this. Sometimes people send mixed signals, but really, people who like you do act like they like you. If they say they like you but they don’t act like it, then maybe their version of like is different from yours, and maybe they don’t like you by your definition of like.

        Another thing to keep in mind is that, while it can be hard to ask someone out, it can also be really hard to turn someone down (especially if you know it was hard for them to ask you out). Yes, the Captain has lots of advice on how to say no and how to reject people, but it’s entirely possible that your crush doesn’t read this blog, and even if she does, turning someone down takes a certain amount of strength and an ability to be blunt that can be hard to gather up, even if you have a really solid script. As someone who has had a really hard time telling people that I don’t want to be with them or go out with them, I would recommend that you stop looking for a direct answer, and taker her mixed signals as a no. You’ve made your feelings clear enough. If she wants to spend more time with you, she can find a way.

      • Ensign Perception said:

        I agree too. If someone is actually saying, “hey, I am too busy and depressed to meet up with you right now” then that person is definitely too busy and depressed to date you right now. Maybe she likes talking to you, JJ, but that’s really all she can do at the moment, or maybe she’s just not that interested in you.

        Basically it seems like you have different expectations for this friendship of yours than she does, and it’s bothering you, so I’d let it go if I were you.

        • Zed said:

          Oh, I agree. So much. This person used her words and said, “I am too busy and depressed to date right now.” You need to respect her enough to take her at her word. If you must, send a short email or text or whatever that says, “Hey, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you. I know you’re too busy/depressed/whatever to meet up right now, but let me know if there’s anything I can do/if your schedule clears up.” And then let it go.

    • Esti said:

      I concur with everyone else that you should let this one go. Regardless of whether she is busy and depressed or just not that into you and bad with words, she’s not interested. Consider it a missed connection and move onwards and upwards.

      The thing about online dating is that depending on where you are emotionally it can either: (A) encourage you to fixate on someone you don’t know very well because you know they’re single and looking and you know lots of things about them from their profile, so you can get really attached to the idea of them way sooner than you would in real life, OR (B) make you feel like you’re browsing in a supermarket of infinite potential-partner-choices, which is kind of overwhelming and makes it easy for you to blow off any given individual when you don’t have the time or energy for dating because there are a million more people on the website when you feel more up to putting in the effort.

      You are doing the former. And to be blunt, having option A be your approach to online dating is going to make you exhausted and unhappy and bitter really quickly. It’s not designed to introduce you to The One, it’s designed to introduce you to a million potential The Ones quickly and in a format that lets you control for certain kinds of dealbreakers (location, age, religion, etc.). The best way to use it, in my experience, is to message a lot of people (but with personalized messages, not copy and paste ones!), and meet up with them in person as soon as you both ascertain that the other is not an axe-murderer. The longer you talk without meeting, the more you’re setting yourself up to be overly invested in someone who you’re not attracted to/who isn’t attracted to you/who is different in real life than they sounded online/who isn’t invested enough to move things forward in person/etc.

      So my advice to you about what to do about your crush is this: message three new people a day, and try to meet up with one or two every week. It will be much harder to focus on one person being The One early in the process if you have two dates next week and are chatting with some other people at the same time, and you will maximize your chances of meeting someone you really hit it off with if you don’t limit your attention to one person for weeks at a time. And you will realize very quickly that the woman you went out with once early on is just one of many, many potential partners — and that it is truly not worth your time to chase someone who is maybe too busy for you or maybe just not interested instead of engaging with people who *are* interested in you right now.

      • commanderlogic said:

        This comment receives the Commander Logic stamp of approval. (which looks like Spock winking and giving you finger-guns)

        • RedSonja said:

          2:32 :)

      • Christen said:

        Yeah, the “I’ve been going on dates and nothing is sticking” is something that stood out to me also, because boy, have I been there. When I was in college and met THE ONLY ONE OF MY SPECIES (I used to call this same phenomenon “Are you my mother?” but I like this phrase better!) and he told me he wasn’t interested in me that way, I happened to go on a couple of dates that were just plain terrible. Instead of going, “I did not connect with that person, which is too bad, I will keep looking” and continuing to put myself out there, I just went, “Oh no, I have been rejected by THE ONE PERSON I CAN EVER CONNECT WITH and must now lie on the floor listening to the Magnetic Fields and feeling sorry for myself for the REST OF THE ACADEMIC YEAR.”

        You know what, though? The guy who broke my heart that year was practically the only guy I knew who I hadn’t met through my job or my living situation. (I was really shy about befriending people in my classes and wasn’t involved in campus life or my community beyond the school newspaper, and online dating hadn’t really taken off yet then.) Meaning, he was the only guy I knew who was not ACTIVELY A BAD IDEA to date. That does not mean he wasn’t a terrifyingly amazing person. He was and still is. (Heck, he even introduced me to the website through which I vented a lot of my angst via silly stream of consciousness writing, BUT ALSO met a lot of other terrifyingly amazing people. Some of whom I have dated, some of whom are my housemates, others of whom I had great rambling awkward conversations with at parties. Incidentally, Intern Paul is in the last category and is the reason I found this site! All of that happened because I decided to go to a couple of parties for people who posted on the site, which was weird and nerve-wracking at first, but also made it easier to do other nerve-wracking stuff that led to more terrifyingly amazing things and people in my life.) It just means that because I didn’t really try to meet anyone else, I effectively had a dating pool of one person, and that was not good.

        Another mistake I made when I shook off the ONLY ONE OF MY SPECIES feeling (I used to call this “Are you my mother?” but I like this expression better) was then pressuring myself to “give a chance” to people who liked me but with whom I was really not feeling it. NOOOOOOO! Don’t be like me and keep dating the person you just found out is a Republican, just because he asked you and he’s mostly OK otherwise. Just know that the crazy intensity of the feelings you have/had for your lingering crush are unlikely to present themselves with a new person after just a few hours together, and that is not only OK, but sometimes a good thing.

    • I have a rule that I’ve slowly established for myself in terms of managing people I like who aren’t very responsive when I try to ask them to be social with me. I’ve had a few instances where I felt like I was putting a lot of effort into trying to maintain ties with people who *seemed* to like me quite a bit but who didn’t translate that into enthusiasm for actually spending time with me.

      I will ask twice.
      If I get a non-committal “well, I’m so busy right now…” sort of answer both times, I will leave things open with a “let me know if things clear up for you” but will not continue to pursue that person. I’ve had people explicitly say that they were really busy and overwhelmed and to contact them at a specific time (when the semester is over, when their brother is no longer in town, in a month, etc.), and when that time comes my counter resets and I ask again.

      • JenniferP said:

        I love this and am saving it for the people who really want a rubric for how to do this.

      • Mary said:

        One possible way to establish this rule or something like it is to think “is this pattern now what I want our relationship to be like?”

        That is, do I want to make all the calls, come up with all the ideas, put up with regular cooling off periods, and generally do all the work? Almost always not. At most those people that I get along with in the moment but are impossible to pin down for plans get party invites where it won’t awfully matter if they show or not.

        I do know a few people who had intense (largely) one-sided crushes on someone and who eventually ended up in a relationship with them: usually along the lines of a FEELINGSTALK and the other person maybe feeling that they owed FEELINGSPERSON a chance, or being mildly attracted to them, or kinda lonely themselves or whatever. What ends up happening is that the relationship is just like the crush: very one-sided, no joy of hanging out with someone and having “no, I think you are more beautiful” “no you are!” “no you are!” silliness or ringing in the night because they couldn’t stop thinking about you or whatever your level of mutualness is.

        Having seen this, and the friendship variants of it, I’m much more able to say “ok, after X amount of overtures to someone, I give up on trying to establish a relationship.”

        • f said:

          If that level of mutualness is the benchmark, then all my past and present relationships were a lie.
          Not because they weren’t that into me. Because I wasn’t that into them.
          (not that there were many, despite the fact that I’m 30)

          • JenniferP said:

            How’s that working out for you?

          • f said:

            I ended two relationships, and was never dumped.
            One that lasted years, and I was feeling miserable at the end. (My partner was surprised and shocked. Or maybe in denial. I guess it started out good mutually, but then it developed into “this is not the person I want to spend my life with” for me and “this IS the person…” for her.)
            One because I was leaving the country, and it intended it to be short-term anyway. (Didn’t stop my partner from hoping for more.)

            I’ve recently entered my third. It does feel good, but it is not the awesome feeling I had with crushes, and I am constantly second-guessing myself if I am morally obliged to preemptively break up, because my partner seems to be much more into it.

            Especially when I read comments about how good relationships SHOULD feel.

          • Rinna2412 said:

            F-

            Because I can’t reply to you directly below.

            I don’t think it’s abnormal, especially early in relationships, for one person to be more into it than the other. I think just be honest, and try to take things at the pace that seems right to you. Keep meeting other people. I actually ended up marrying my spouse, although I know he was more into me in the beginning than I was into him.

            Of course, my relationship with him might not be the best example, since I’m pretty sure I, at least, made a laundry list of mistakes that would have ended the relationship, had I been wiser or more experienced. Not being either at the time, I’m now happily married. Um.

      • kilo said:

        I’m not sure whether I’ll ever be able to ask anyone out, or to be social outside of an established context. But I ended up with a similar rule for asking people to social dance, with slight modifications. “Not now, because of reason” twice in succesion, and I won’t ask again. With “Not now, because of reason, but later/next time”, I guess I’d ask three or maybe four times, but I’m not sure because I don’t remember that ever happening more than once. The counter resets when they ask me, or otherwise clearly indicate that they would like to dance with me soon.

        This rule seems to work out quite well.

    • JJ said:

      Thanks everyone, these are the perspectives and answers I needed.

      I read somewhere that if she’s not saying “yes” then she’s saying “no”. I was just being too stubborn to accept that fact, but this thread and replies were the little push I needed. My jerkheart and jerkbrain have been conspiring to keep the hope up, like in Dumb and Dumber. (do I need to do something to format this right?)

  15. MissPrism said:

    I heard a version of “One Fine Day (You’re Gonna Want Me For Your Girl)” this morning and thought of these letter writers! I nominate it as an Awkward Anti-Anthem of Pernicious Lies.

  16. kate said:

    #195 — There’s also the painful irony that many of us feel much freer becoming serious friends and/or playfully flirting with a person of the attractive gender if that person is in a committed relationship with someone else (and vice versa), precisely because there is supposedly no risk that the other person will think we are serious, because neither of us is “that kind of person” (the cheating sort). So we can let our true, earnest, funny personalities out to play in the safe zone of their backyard. Unfortunately, as #196 found out, that zone is not always safe at all, no matter how sure you are that you’re not that kind of person and don’t want to become that kind of person because it would totally mess with your self respect and with friendships that are important to you.

    What both #195 and #196 need to focus on is being that true, earnest, playful person with people who are actual candidates for a relationship. Which also loops into what CA always says about meeting lots of people, and giving getting to know them better a casual shot BEFORE you get so heavily invested in the idea of a relationship with their supreme wonderfulness that you can no longer be that true, earnest, funny person because you feel like your whole romantic future with the man/woman you’re supposed to spend the rest of your life with is at stake, and terminal, crippling awkwardness sets in.

    I know, I know. Easier said than done. But you asked!

  17. The advice to #197 is a little unclear. You’re suggesting she completely break it off with this guy, right? What’s being described in #197 is an affair, not a crush, and apparently one that’s been going on for a long time and involves very intense feelings of exhilaration and mutual attraction. You’re not going to wean yourself off of something like that just by meeting people. You’re going to have to quit this guy.

    • kathleendonohue said:

      Yes, I’m going to have to second this. You made out with a married guy – that’s crossing a rubicon that will make it infinitely harder to meet other people and have healthy attachments if you keep in contact with him.

      • Christen said:

        I agree that cutting off contact is a good idea, but I’m uncomfortable with the phrase “crossing the rubicon.” The LW has not reached a point of no return. The sooner she thinks of herself not as a selfish, homewrecking asshole, with fundamentally flawed judgment, but as someone who slipped up and is taking the lessons she can from those mistakes, the easier it will be to meet great, available people (for both platonic and romantic consideration) who don’t judge her.

        I’m assuming, because it’s not mentioned in the letter, that Married Guy’s wife doesn’t know about these indiscretions. Which sounds…potentially very awkward. And also really, really lonely.

        LW, you know what will be the best part of finding new friends? Not having to police yourself. No chaperones, no worrying whether anybody else is noticing all the stolen glances and goosebumps and getting suspicious. Being able to discuss your love life candidly, as it develops, to talk about your long ago past if it bubbles up, and to vent about Married Guy to people who have no idea who the hell he is. If anybody judges or tries to slut shame you because of this, the answer is “I made a mistake and put a stop to it. End of story.” More likely, though, you’ll find that the club of people with skeletons in their closets is enormous. Welcome!

        • JenniferP said:

          Really well-said, Christen.

          I’ve broken the “don’t sleep with married people (even if you really like them)” rule so I’m not going to hold myself up as a moral arbiter or scold. That’s what Dear Prudence is for. That’s why I didn’t even dwell so much on that in the response – we all know it’s Bad Idea Jeans and don’t need to belabor it.

          What I’m really worried about is that the letter writer will waste this amazing time of accomplishment and New-In-Town Mojo getting involved with a married guy inside her (small) friend circle instead of jumping with both feet into her life in her new city and meeting the people she’ll know long after this attraction passes. This is how you end up meeting Darth Vaders – when you use the drama of doomed romance to distract you from the shit you need to be doing.

    • JenniferP said:

      Sorry, thought I covered it with “treat it like a breakup” but should have been clearer: Break up. Then treat it like a breakup.

  18. Stowaway said:

    John Steinbeck wrote a letter to his son that has a lovely line about not being able to persuade somebody to love you. He said, “It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another—but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good.” A great way to view unrequited crushes! (Got this from Letters of Note at http://www.lettersofnote.com/2012/01/nothing-good-gets-away.html)

    • JenniferP said:

      I love it, love it, love it.

  19. THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE is only real among Scottish immortals, not in dating.

    • JenniferP said:

      True. Consider that stolen and Tweeted.

  20. Admiral Backward said:

    I really, really loved meeting you and would love to take you to dinner sometime. Here is my card, please call or email me if you’d like to get together.

    I have a hard time imagining this working. The women I know (who don’t operate in the blogosphere) wouldn’t want to be put in the position of having to call a guy the first time. It’s uncomfortable for a lot of men, and their gender is generally socialized to be more assertive.

    I don’t know what might be the “right” thing to do, of course.

    • xenu01 said:

      I think this might fall under the category of “meet more people”? I generally associate with bright, ambitious, educated women who live in urban areas. Exactly none of said friends would think twice about asking out someone they were interested in. I personally approached my husband first, and asked him to marry me first. Maybe it’s because we’re older than 22, I don’t know. I just know that while women are often socialized to not be assertive, that there are plenty of women who ARE assertive. Because women are people, and people are different from one another.

    • Christen said:

      I don’t know you or the women you know, but I can say that I, personally, don’t mind making the first contact if I’ve been invited to do it. Calling people on the phone is one of my least favorite things to (and most nerds I know feel the same way), but e-mailing or texting someone for a beer is really easy.

    • xenu01 said:

      It’s uncomfortable for a lot of men, and their gender is generally socialized to be more assertive.

      Although now I’m confused as to whether you are saying that women are not assertive, or that men don’t like it when women are assertive?

      • Admiral Backward said:

        Neither. Many men, despite being socialized to be assertive, would rather be free to be passive.

        • xenu01 said:

          I’m actually curious about this idea that women who get pursued by men instead of the other way around are passively sitting around waiting to be noticed, because do you have any idea how much WORK it takes to be hot? Long, intensive workouts several times a week, a couple of hundred AT LEAST every few months on haircuts, color, manicures, etc. Oh, and do you know how much time and/or money waxing or shaving or both takes?

          Not to mention building a profile on an online dating site, or hanging around the places you want to be noticed, whatever.

          The point is, I don’t think you can actually be passive and actively seek a partner. I don’t know if anyone actually does this. I think this is a myth. I mean, even if you’re talking about “traditional roles” types of women. Have you ever actually read The Rules? Yeesh.

          As far as being the one pursued? Totally possible for everyone, even a hetero cis man. My husband (and 90% of the people I dated before him) got pursued by me because they were putting themselves out there, doing stuff, having fun, being happy, confident, interesting people with things to talk about, and other things that have been covered extensively here.

    • JenniferP said:

      Define “working.”

      If she’s not interested in you or needs to be persuaded, she won’t call you.
      If she is, she will, and you’ll know.

      Let go of the idea that you have to fight for a woman’s attention and see what happens! Let go of the whole idea of “working” where you do a series of actions that “work” to convince a lady to date you. Meet more women, talk to them, have a good time, tell them they are pretty and cool, let them know how to get in touch, let it go. Someone out there will find your confidence and no-pressure ways sexy and jump on it (and you).

  21. Stentor said:

    “Reciprocity will rule, and you won’t have to parse every gesture and statement to figure out what they “really” mean, because it is just not that hard for two single adults who dig each other to figure out how to get together.”

    This. I am the master of coming up with ways to rationalize how someone’s expressions of interest in me don’t actually mean anything. But when I look back, all of my successful relationships began with us seeming to just always find time to interact and get to know each other until it snowballed into Official Asking Out. Every time I’ve had to parse cues and try to make things happen and hope for circumstances to bring us together, it has brought nothing but stress and disappointment.

  22. Brightwanderer said:

    I know “turdhearts” is a reference to an earlier post, but it took me a few minutes to make the connection, and honestly I was really taken aback by it. It felt like a really nasty put down to the people writing in. I think it might not be the best thing to call back to (I’m going to admit I hated the metaphor anyway) but if you’re going to, I think you should link it so it’s clearly a reference – it’s not obvious from context why you’re suddenly insulting your letter writers.

  23. meerkat said:

    Sorry for taking over your recent comments box. That video was quite amusing at the top. Any more recommendations for meeting people? I’ve been joining clubs and volunteering and going to protests (I mean off and on for a few years as time and money permit, not just recently), but while I have made some female friends, there apparently aren’t any heterosexual men near my age who go to the same things.

    • meerkat said:

      Due in part to this apparent scarcity, I am actually quite concerned that all those reassurances that “this is not your one and only chance for a relationship in your whole life” would not apply if I ever actually found a chance for a relationship.

      • JenniferP said:

        Why don’t you organize these thoughts into an actual question? 400 words max.

        But from reading all the comments I mostly suggest therapy and don’t know what else to tell you. “Teach yourself to feel worthy.”

      • commanderlogic said:

        I second the “actual question” but also, for your consideration: online dating. I’m not only a proponent, I’m a beneficiary! I married a dude I met on OKCupid (after a LOT of dates with other dudes and after being together for a couple years).

        Keep doing your extracurriculars because they make you awesome and whole, but transfer your dating energy to a straight-up dating endeavor.

        • meerkat said:

          Thanks, Captain and Commander. Maybe I will write a question, but I think it would get long because there is a whole web of interconnected topics and I can’t pick out one and say “this is the issue!”

          • JenniferP said:

            Then that’s a good sign to try therapy again, I think. We’re not therapists! We just write funny essays.

            Be really nice to yourself, take some time to work through all your stuff.

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