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#256: Not feeling the whole dating thing right now.

David Tennant as the 10th Doctor Who, looking full of mischief and charm.

Take a lesson from the Doctor, and choose only awesome people to ride in your TARDIS.

Dear Captain Awkward,

I have become convinced that I am turning into a cold, emotionless robot a la Britta-Bot if you’re into Community (<3)

Anyways. I ended my last serious relationship about a year ago, and since then I’ve been on a few first dates with some pretty cool people (or so i thought?). These dates have all gone down the same way: we get dinner/see a movie/get coffee and I get the feeling like we’re hitting it off really well and I can really see myself seeing the person again; they awkwardly invite themselves back my place for a drink, and eventually they make a move or start trying to bring sex into the conversation. At this point, I go on red alert and a voice in my head goes “ABORT ABORT ABORT” and I basically shove them out the door.

I did sleep with one woman, but neither of us really wanted to go on a second date. I still talk to a couple of the people who I kicked out of my apartment, and even after very frank conversations with them about how I want to be just friends, they would come over and start hitting on me again! One “friend” kept trying to touch my butt, and another kept “jokingly” offering up graphic sex acts in return for simple favors like sharing my onion rings. I started ignoring their texts/phone calls/emails/facebook invites. I’d rather spend all my time alone than spend an evening trying to awkwardly fend off uncomfortable advances. I’m just really bummed because it seems like these are the only people who are interested in me at all, but I feel more emotions listening to 80’s music than I felt on any of these dates. Is my friend-dar broken?

I never feel like I have time to go out to meet new people so a lot of these dates are products of online dating or being setup by friends. I work full time, I’m in college, there’s been a shitstorm of family deaths/illnesses in the past couple years so I can’t imagine I even have time for a serious, time consuming relationship with someone. My friends think I’m being too hard on these dates and that I should relax and look on the bright side (they’re just glad I’m not alone on the couch eating mac n cheese and watching Doctor Who reruns on Netflix). If I’m going to spend my precious free time with someone else, shouldn’t said someone else make me feel warm and fuzzy and not like a goon? Or are my standards too ridiculous? How do I balance my selfish craving for love and attention with my equally selfish interest in focusing on my own wants/needs/desires/responsibilities?

Bad Date Robot

Dear Bad Date Robot:

Some Community character from some episode. I don't know.

I’m sure this was hilarious and amazing…if you already are a fan of Community.

I have to come clean. I know I should watch Community and that I will probably love it, but I just haven’t gotten into it yet and the whole pillow-war episode that I tried to watch was not a good place to start and felt like one endless boring in-joke that I turned off (that whole thing where the network says that it’s not interesting to the casual viewer…might be…kind of true, not that it SHOULD try to be more mainstream? But they probably aren’t making any new Community fans at this point.). Anyway, I will go back to the beginning and give it an honest try…someday…and perhaps I will get your references then.

As for your question, casually messing around with people you don’t see long-term potential with or have feelings for can be fun and life-affirming in the right circumstances, but that doesn’t mean you should submit yourself to joyless perfunctory encounters with people you don’t like just to say you did. In fact, mac & cheese and Doctor Who reruns (now that *is* a show I watch) after a busy work and school day sounds great. Maybe this isn’t the time for you to put effort into dating. Maybe this is the time for you to reconnect with being happy in your own company, decompress from your busy life, and not working too hard at this whole “dating” thing.

I think your standards are just fine. I think you shouldn’t spend your precious free time on anyone who is not awesome and who doesn’t make you feel great. I think you shouldn’t try to talk yourself into liking people, especially people who grope you and treat your “no” like a moving target of “maybe?”

I think that periodically you might want to poke your head out and try the dating thing again, and just know that there will be some bad or mediocre first dates where you don’t connect with the other person and that’s totally normal. There’s nothing wrong with you or your emotions. That voice inside your head that says “Nope” is a good voice that is protecting you from crappy encounters that you don’t really want.

Now, if you told me that Hotness Itself rode into your living room, looked you in the eye, and said “I’d really like to kiss you now, would that be ok?” and you still felt yourself shutting down I’d say that nothing good happens without some risk and vulnerability, and could you maybe do some thinking and writing about past sexual/romantic experiences and get to the bottom of what you’re afraid of. But your version of Hotness Itself isn’t going to to be pushy and set off your alarm bells by pressuring you in an awkwardly-joking-but-not-really way.

tl;dr You are just fine, your standards are just fine. Cut the gropey people who won’t take no for an answer out of your life. Definitely don’t reward that shit with touching.”Meh” first dates are normal. You’ll know Awesome when you see it.

29 comments
  1. Private Editor said:

    LW, the Captain’s advice is awesome as usual. Something stood out to me, though, and it threw up a red flag. You say that sometimes dates awkwardly invite themselves back to your place for a drink. Is it awkward because you’re shy, because you’re nervous that the Sex Thing might come up and you’re dreading it, or because you don’t really feel like having them there? Because you so don’t have to let anyone invite themselves into your space if you don’t want to, and I hope you won’t feel somehow like you’re breaking the social contact if you just graciously tell them that you had fun but you’re calling it a night. You just concentrate on having fun and not trying to force yourself to like anyone who grabs your ass even when you’ve shown you’re not interested. Anything more will come when it comes.

    • JenniferP said:

      Agreed. LW, maybe don’t let anyone invite themselves over to your place on the first date for a while, and save that invitation for people you enthusiastically want to invite.

      Private Editor’s script is very good. For people you really do want to see again, try: “I had so much fun, but let’s call it a night. Can we schedule another evening soon?”

      For people you don’t want to see again, go with “It was so nice to meet you, but I’m going to call it a night. Take care.”

      And if you’re on the fence, use your words. “I’d like to spend a little bit more time with you today, but this is an invitation to my apartment, not my pants. Is that cool?”

  2. These dates have all gone down the same way: we get dinner/see a movie/get coffee and I get the feeling like we’re hitting it off really well and I can really see myself seeing the person again; they awkwardly invite themselves back my place for a drink, and eventually they make a move or start trying to bring sex into the conversation. At this point, I go on red alert and a voice in my head goes “ABORT ABORT ABORT” and I basically shove them out the door.

    Oh, God, does internet-dating expect you to be physical with people you’ve just met? Screw that. Maybe that just doesn’t work for you, maybe you need more time to get to know people. Can internet dating respect that? Maybe if you said it up front? Freaking out when people you’ve just met want to make out with you seems perfectly logical to me, especially if you’re accustomed to being in a longer-term relationship with somebody you actually knew. Maybe I’m projecting, but I feel like chemistry takes some time to develop, and people being annoyingly pushy is a serious turn-off for me. Maybe it’s just the wrong people, though, if they keep being annoyingly pushy. There might be good people in the online dating world, but it doesn’t sound like you’re finding them.

    Good luck.

    • JenniferP said:

      Internet-dating does NOT expect or require physical contact from the beginning. Once you meet the person, it’s just like any date – totally dependent on the people involved and how they feel and what they decide.

      • Ethyl said:

        I’m imagining Internet Dating as some old white guy in horn-rimmed spectacles wearing a lab coat and checking things off on a clipboard.

        • Shinobi said:

          “Really my dear, I expected so much more from you.” Internet dating slowly shakes his head and taps his clipboard.

  3. Amy said:

    Spot on advice as usual. I love when I read someone’s letter and I feel all full of empathy and anxiety on the LW behalf, and then the Captain’s response just cuts through all that anxiety, neatly and succinctly.

    Now — about Community! That show made new fans out of me and my boyfriend during the most recent season. I want to go back and watch the other seasons but haven’t yet. Here is the deal with it IME — it’s not one of those huge plot arc kind of shows where you have to start at the beginning. But! The first 3-4 episodes I saw of it? Were not funny. It was only after I gave it chance after chance where I didnt really get it that at some point, something clicked and it became hilarious. I think maybe you have to get to know the characters a little? I’m pretty sure if I went back and re-watched the first episodes I ever saw, they would be way funnier now. Anyway. Give it 2 or 3 more tries. After that if you still don’t like it? Then maybe you really just don’t like it.

    • Ldubs said:

      I mean, Troy and Abed are total geeks who love “Doctor Spacetime”! I think it really got better once all the characters were more developed and their world was better established.

  4. Copcher said:

    I totally thought the Community discussion was going to turn into an allegorical “I know a lot of people say it’s really great, but the one time I watched it I just didn’t enjoy it, and I want to spend my free time watching tv shows that I actually enjoy, so I won’t waste my time giving second chances to tv shows that my friends set me up with or that I met on the internet if I myself do not like them.”

    Which maybe would have been true! (Not that I’m saying no one should give that show a second chance if they want to. I’ve heard it’s really hilarious, and the few episodes I’ve seen seemed pretty funny. But anyway.) You should spend your free time doing things you like doing, and you should spend time with people you like spending time with. If you feel like you need to talk yourself into liking someone, you probably don’t like them. Also, people who see your “no” as an opening for negotiation probably don’t need to be a part of your life.

    • JenniferP said:

      A, missed allegorical opportunity! CURSES!

        • JenniferP said:

          Indeed! I would be much more inclined to give Community a second try than a handsy person who invites themselves into my place. :)

          • Copcher said:

            Yeah, there’s a huge difference between those too things. Still, friends pressuring you to enjoy something you don’t enjoy sucks.

          • Copcher said:

            And, just to clarify, that was not me trying to passive-aggressive at people who are saying Community is awesome. One of the differences between Captain Awkward’s dislike (lack of like?) for Community and LW’s dislike of the handsy people is that CA has said “I have heard it’s hilarious but have not yet had time to find the hilarity in it,” and LW has said “I do not want you to touch me.” That’s a pretty important difference.

  5. Phira said:

    I just wanted to chime in and say that you can definitely always put in your online dating profile that you are looking for friends! My partner has met a few good friends through OKCupid, and he and I have both encountered profiles of people who are single or not single who are just interested in new friendships.

    It’s more difficult to enforce as a woman, since lots of dudes will just be all, “HEY LADY LET’S DATE, CLEARLY I DIDN’T READ YOUR PROFILE.” But even so.

    • Griffy said:

      I’m a bit confused by this ‘looking for friends’ option. It seems to me that LW is actually looking for romance rather than friendships, albeit unsuccessfully to date. I think there is a danger of getting wires crossed if LW starts using ‘just looking for friends’ as a secret code that’s supposed to mean ‘I reserve the right to not sleep with you, but am still hoping for romance’. It feels like something that might backfire if zie finds someone zie is actually interested in romantically. They’re probably going to be all, ‘WTF? I advertised for friends, stop hitting on me!’

  6. monsterzero said:

    If you want awesome mac & cheese, but don’t want to get Martha Stewart-fancy, making regular boxed mac and substituting sour cream for half the milk is pretty damn good. Or if you happen to have mascarpone, you can sub that for all of the milk. That does require a lot more stirring to melt it in, but that with a touch of pepper is mac & cheese God.

    • Sarah said:

      Ooo! I’m gonna try those.

      And a variation I’ll swear by is substituting buttermilk for all of the milk, which adds some kick to a plain old powdered cheese mix.

    • Also substituting yogurt for the milk + butter is tasty in a tangy way. I stir the cheese powder into the yogurt while the noodles are cooking.

      But back to the subject of dating or not:

      You work full time. You’re in school. You’ve had heavy family drama. I’m not at all surprised that you’re not up for serious dating. I work full time, am in school part time, and am married, and the idea of trying to take up a new social activity, no matter how potentially fun, sounds exhausting to the point of repulsiveness. Do whatcha gotta do to get through. If that means mac & cheese on the sofa, go for it. If it means an occasional “please know ahead of time that this is just for funsies, not serious” date, go for that. If it means telling your friends, “For the love of doG, stop setting me up with Handsy McGrabberson and let’s just hang out,” that’s totally legitimate too.

      • Scott said:

        This is what jumped out at me. Work? School? A whole slew of deaths and such business in the family?! It’s enough to completely absorb someone’s emotional resources.

        If LW is noticing that the subconscious is banging on the eject button as soon as an emotionally-charged and -complicated situation comes up, it’s entirely possible that’s just the quiet parts of LW’s mind giving notice that the emotional tank is not full enough to engage with the situation. Which really, is fine. That’s the mind taking care of business. Let life relax some, let that tank fill back up so its out of the red zone, and don’t worry in the meantime about what well-meaning but less-than-sensitive friends think about what one should be doing late at night.

  7. There’s a long-running affectionate spoof of Dr. Who on “Community”. Reason enough to start at the beginning and watch it all the way through. The first half of season one is a little typical sitcom, but worth watching to learn the characters.

    • JenniferP said:

      I believe you! I need a couple of winter weekends and the entire thing on Netflix or something.

      • sasha said:

        The entire thing’s on Hulu. Just sayin’ Can’t help with the winter weekends, tho

        Like others, it took me several episodes before I got it. But once I got it I was hooked.

  8. case-in-point said:

    Dude, creepy people who won’t stop grabbing you and keep trying to get in your pants even after you’ve said no… well, let me put it this way, as a woman, my friends and family (along with half the internet) would be telling me that I definitely don’t want to see these people ever again and I might want to consider calling the police. I don’t think it should be any different for a man. Just because some of your friends might be thinking, “Dude! Easy lay. Give her a second chance.” doesn’t mean that you should, in fact, give her a second chance. I don’t find you cold or weird or anything for being turned off by a person who is being pushy about sex, I find you to be a person who is turned off by people who are pushy about sex. That’s not a bad thing.

    So, look, if you don’t feel like dating, don’t date. If you do feel like dipping your feet in the water, maybe join a geek group or a group that does weekly multi-player video games (but not Battlefield, something like Assassin’s Creed or Mass Effect that attracts a more mixed group of players). Anyway, the goal should be looking for people you like and not people who will sleep with you. Internet dating is kind of neutral in this respect so you might want to tweak your profile or run it past some friends. But consider the motives of your friends who are trying to set you up, if they’re just trying to get you laid, you may want to pass on any dates they’re setting up for you. But I feel I should re-iterate, if you don’t want to date, you aren’t missing some magical time window of opportunity should you decide to stay home and eat Cheez-its instead.

  9. You don’t can’t see yourself in a serious relationship right now, you’re not into casual sex, yet you are dating? There’s a mixed message right there.

    It sounds like you’re passively allowing your first dates to lead the direction of the date to a place you don’t want to go, eg by permitting them to awkwardly invite themselves to your home when you don’t really want them to be there, and you’re not really asserting yourself until the situation has already passed your boundaries of comfort and you have to ask them to leave. As a woman, my personal rule is not to invite someone back or go to their place on a first date unless further intimacy is definitely on the agenda, because in my experience that’s how men usually interpret that situation regardless of whether I’ve communicated what I want. The easiest way to keep someone at a safe distance is always to meet them in a public place until you’re comfortable with them.

    It’s like you are turning down the same road repeatedly, and most of the time it’s leading to the same place. There are several ways to deal with that (eg don’t take first dates or any dates back unless physical intimacy is on the agenda) but it sounds like first you need to get clear about whether you really want a relationship right now – because your body is clearly telling you that you don’t.

    • JenniferP said:

      Could we get this with 80% less judginess, please? You’re allowed to go on some dates and figure out how you feel about people (and dating) even if you’re not signing up for either a serious relationship or casual sex. There’s more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of in your philosophy.

  10. NotSoShyGirl said:

    Urgh, I get the same thing with people I’ve already rejected making sexual comments around me. I have a friend who still calls me to suggest a hook-up or claims she’ll reward favours with sex. This really gets to me because having to reject them in the first place made me feel shitty enough already – had to be done though, I just wasn’t feeling it and that was that – without having to repeat the rejection or draw it out into big protracted ”NO NO NO I SAID I DON’T WANT TO” session

  11. As someone who is dreadfully allergic to dating pretty much always, I just want to second that just because you are not into dating right now does not mean you are an emotionless robot!

    There is a strong narrative thread in our culture that dating/sex/romance (usually treated as all the same thing, ick) is the only sort of interpersonal contact that “counts”–that if you are single, you are “alone”, even if you have the best friends in the world and an awesome family; the pernicious idea that two guys hanging out doing anything other than playing football is like totally gay because somehow we think it would be weird if guys actually liked hanging out with their friends and talking to them; everything from your irritating well-meaning relatives who are like “IS S/HE CUTE DOES S/HE HAVE A BOY/GIRLFRIEND IS THIS LIKE A THING?!?!?!?!?!??!?!” every time you mention speaking a single word to a member of the gender you date (or that they assume you should date), in any context, to the douchey euphemisms we use for sexual feelings where we just use general terms like “interested in” because it’s assumed to be obvious that we can’t be talking about, like, finding people interesting; that would be weird.

    I am sure you have lots of emotions about lots of people! “Wanting to date random people you just met off the Internet” may not be one of them, but there are many others. Like, if your friends that are trying to set you up with people are really your friends who are interested in you and your life, maybe you could hang out with them? That would count as not sitting on the couch eating mac & cheese and watching TV. (Although, like many of the wise commenters here, I also think that sitting on the couch eating mac & cheese and watching TV is a perfectly fine activity, particularly if you are burned out and need some recharging time, doubly so if you are an introvert.) (Also, sometimes it can be fun to sit on the couch and eat mac & cheese and/or watch TV with friends. This weekend I am getting a friend all caught up on Game of Thrones and eating brownies. We are having a very fun time!)

    I really like case-in-point’s advice that you might want to spend your limited hanging-out-with-new-people time doing something less dating-y and joining a club or activity group or class, where you can be social doing something you like, and hopefully make some new friends with similar interests, and not worry about dating until *you* actually want to worry about dating.

  12. Bad Date Robot said:

    You people are seriously the best. I’m in tears right now after reading through CA’s advice and everyone’s comments. I know it’s silly but I think I just needed to hear that I’m not single-handedly ruining my whole life by not actively seeking a partner right now or by dropping the friends that couldn’t take “No” for an answer when I needed them to.

    I deleted my OKC profile, I’ve scheduled fun time with my closest, most respectful friends, and I’m just going to focus on what I already have on my plate. I’m usually pretty shy about commenting like this but Captain, I just wanted to tell you that you’re awesome and thank you for all the kind words and advice (and also for the Mac N Cheese recipe I love making it from scratch!).

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