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#332: Wanting to make new friends and feeling like your filter is off-kilter.

Dear Captain Awkward,

 Last Friday, I went on a first date with a guy who hated me. 
 
I got dressed up, took a cab to this nice bar and dissected whether it was a date or not with the cabbie, had the waiter enthuse over how adorable I was … and the guy flat-out hated me. I was okay as long as I was agreeing with him, but everything that came from me he dismissed with mild to severe disgust. He hated the college I’d gone to. He hated that I was a nerd. He hated that I made less money than he did. Everything I did or said was a cliche to him. 
 
He ordered me another drink after I said I was “at or past my limit,” insisting that I’d like it. He asked me to ~go watch a movie~ at his place after 10 pm, on the first date, and told me when I declined that I was being silly and that he didn’t take advantage of drunk girls. I wish I could say it’s a surprise, but at this point, I’m fairly familiar with the one-two punch of negging and sexual pressure.
 
Since last spring, I’ve lost around half a dozen “great guy friends” because it turns out they didn’t really like me that much. In their varying ways, they wanted to flatter, manipulate or con me into sleeping with them, and when that wasn’t gonna happen, or wasn’t going to happen on their terms, they got mad. In one case, a boy I considered a close friend and who had stayed in my home told me repeatedly that I was a giant snake in human form– a literal monster– but that he “loved me despite my flaws,” which were copious and included narcissism, fakeness, and a lack of compassion.
 
I guess I should be grateful that I sniffed out Mr. First Date Hater for a rat right away, rather than wasting two to four years listening to his problems and revealing my own emotional weaknesses so he could use them to try and bend me to his will. But really, I’m just scared.
 
I know intellectually that I am a good person who puts good energy into the world, and someday I’ll date somebody who actually likes and respects me. But I don’t know how to find them. The few guys I am convinced were genuinely sweet are the ones I never even dated, and in one case I only knew the guy a month– so maybe I’m wrong about him. I am wrong a lot. In less certain moments, like right now as I write this email, I worry that I DON’T put good energy out there, and that there is something about me that is drawing these terrible people into my orbit.
 
Captain Awkward, I don’t even need to date. I just need good friends. (Some of my girl pals haven’t been that grand either, as the years wore on.) Do you have any advice for getting good people into your life? Or am I going to spend the next five years– or more– continually weed-whacking assholes and hoping I cut them off before they really hurt me?
 
Best,
Desperately Seeking Serotonin

Dear Desperately Seeking Serotonin:

Congratulations: Your asshole filter is working! A younger, less savvy you might have put up with that guy’s gross advances and wondered what was wrong with you the next morning. Current You can see that the problem is with him. You leveled up.

My advice for you is going to be an amalgamation of other stuff we’ve said on the site. It’s mostly about working on yourself so that you’ll be in a good headspace when you do meet people who could be friends or dates.

1. Get a journal or use something like 750words.com. Do a lot of writing about friendship, relationships, family. When people have been good to you, what kinds of things did they do? How did it make you feel? When friendships haven’t worked out, what went wrong? How did you know it was going wrong? Did the wrongnesses have something in common? What did you do right and wrong in handling things? Write a few pages every day, and spend some time wrapping your head around what you want and value in relationships. Maybe incorporate some counseling into your life so that you’re not carrying old struggles so hard into new interactions.

2. Go forth and meet more people. Take a class in something fun and social. Use Meetup.com to find people who like a hobby you like (or one you might like to try). Volunteer with something like OneBrick. Pick a cafe near you and become a regular there. Whatever it is, make it something that you enjoy doing and that brings happiness to your life. Once you find something you enjoy, keep going back. It takes time and repeated contact to make a real connection with someone else.

Don’t make it goal-oriented: “Will you be my SHINY NEW FRIEND?” is too much pressure. Make the goal to get out of the house and throw yourself into something fun. Make the goal to talk to at least one person you didn’t know before. Commander Logic really knocks those early social interactions with potential new friends out of the park in this post. And all the advice on social interactions lives here, in the links and the many, many comments.

3. Decide not to date for a while. Give it a concerete end date, say, six months from now you will consider dating again but for now you’re focused on other stuff. And if friends/friendly acquaintances ask you out, be very direct with them as soon as possible. “I’m sorry, I’m not interested in you that way.”  NOT “I’m taking a break from dating right now,” which sets the Nice Guys up to assume that the second you will be dating again you’ll be dating them. Be blunt, it will feel good, and if they get their anger all over you it’s confirmation that you don’t want them involved in your life.

4. Practice assertiveness and setting boundaries in small, low-stakes ways. “No, but thanks.” “Could you turn the music down, please?” “I won’t be able to make that a priority right now.” “Thanks for having me, I’m going to head out.” “Can you get this one? I paid last time.” “Can you text me if you’re going to be running late? It makes me anxious to wait for you and worry that we’re going to miss the start of the movie.” Sticking up for yourself is habit-forming and you will carry it into new friendships and relationships, which should cut down on your future asshole quotient. Also, watch how people react when you set small boundaries. Good people will behave with grace and show reciprocity. Unsafe people will whine and pressure you and try to talk you out of your boundaries.

5. Be really nice to yourself and to the people who are already in your life. Eat good food. Send a card to your grandma.Reconnect with an old friend you haven’t seen in a while. Wash your face. Get enough sleep. Kick ass at school or your job or whatever you have going on. Read really good books. Spend your time as much as possible on things you enjoy and that make you feel good.

There’s no one cure for feeling lonely. It takes time and luck and effort. So put some effort into figuring out your own wants and desires, and into meeting people in pursuit of things that make you happy. Something good will shake loose before you know it.

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125 comments
  1. You might look for a group of people doing the thing you’re kind of intimidated about, that you would definitely like to do, or do but only in private. Those activities might include people you wouldn’t have already met, because you’ve been shy on the particular topic.

    Another possibility is that you’re not really clear to yourself on what you want from life or a relationship. If you don’t know, or if you think you know but it’s wrong, you won’t be able to connect on the level that is really true for you.

    I had to figure out that I am not particularly ambitious, and while I am fiercely feminist, I am also most comfortable riding shotgun in a relationship instead of driving. I didn’t end up the second career to an academic or a politician, but I could have been perfectly content with that. Always before I had thought I needed to be Career Driven and to Make It To The Top or at the very least Make A Difference or Save The World. What I actually wanted was to Be A Wife to a Terrifyingly Awesome Man. It took a long time to find the guy, but I was more secure in myself and understood my preferences. I started finding men who were actual candidates for what I wanted.

    I have friends who struggled until they discovered that they Had A Kink or Are Poly, Go Figure, or Are Genderqueer or some other relationship-altering truth. You might not have any of these lurking in you, and that is perfectly okay. But if you do, it can get in the way of all your relationships until you figure it out.

    The most important thing is that there’s nothing wrong with you. You’re fine. This is a temporarily unpleasant situation you’re in, and a bunch of people around you have been unpleasant at you. But you? You’re still totally cool.

    • the witching hour said:

      I think I am in the Has A Kink phase of this cycle.

  2. zweisatz said:

    Just want to say: gosh, what assholes.

    LW, I’m sorry you feel sad, betrayed and/or lonely. Those are really rough discoveries. But I am positive that the Captain’s suggestions will be very helpful to you.
    You are right, you are not a bad person.
    Good luck with finding new and better friends and keep in mind: you already leveled up.

    • staranise said:

      Yes!

      To me, it doesn’t read as, “that guy hated the LW” (implying things within the LW inspired his hate). It’s, “That guy felt the need to be in control all the time and got his rocks off by belittling his date.”

      • The Kittehs' Unpaid Help said:

        Yes, and what are the odds he’s like that to every woman he dates? She’d be too rich/not rich enough, too opinionated/not worldly enough, etc, etc. In the wrong all the time, even after she let him fuck her (it would probably turn her into Instant Whore the next morning). I’m greatly relieved LW saw what a louse he was and got out of that.

  3. General Assortment said:

    I love the Captain’s advice here. I’m not good at many things, but I can say confidently I’ve surrounded myself with cool people and good friends. (After a lot of trial & error.)
    My favorite is #4, my lady friends have asked me how I can be so ‘self assured’ (when really I feel quite the opposite) but I think I am just more practiced at saying no than they are.
    Learn to really trust your jerk filter. I’ve found mine is almost always spot on. (Level up!)
    I think it was on this Captain Awkward where I read ‘Look out for people who don’t listen to the word no’ even in casual circumstances. When they ask ‘Do you want another drink?’ and you say no, they don’t order you another drink. It’s really fantastic advice.
    When meeting new people I find it helps to focus on getting to know that person better, rather than focus on finding a new friend.
    And even though I am a fairly introverted person, I look for friends that make me feel invigorated and happy after talking to them, rather than tired. I’ve found the give & take in those relationships is much more balanced.

    Good luck to you darling, you SOUND awesome so I’m sure there are plenty of other awesome people who will love hanging out with you.

  4. You are doing so well, LW! Seriously: you’ve come so far from where you were. It doesn’t always look that way from where you’re standing, but you deserve credit for having made the progress that you have. Making this a time of introspection and self-care helps to take some of the pressure off, so that when you do want to re-engage, you’ve got your good headspace all tricked out for the occasion.

  5. Every now and then, a letter here inspires me to shriek, “WHAT DID I EVEN JUST READ?!” This is one of them.

    I mean, I don’t know you, LW, maybe you are a terrible person (thanks for being helpful, me), but given how quickly you root out these OBJECTIVELY AWFUL PEOPLE, I’m wondering if “narcissism, fakeness, and a lack of compassion” means “polite and civil right up until refusing to put up with their shit, apparently unlike most people they suck in (OMG HDU).” Like, sorry I didn’t have compassion for your need to wheedle me into sex, dude.

    I don’t know what else to say, except that maybe you’re drawing terrible people BECAUSE you put good energy out there. I mean, that’s what they want to take advantage of; parasites aren’t attracted to poison. So it’s possible you’re Doing It Right, and need to keep on keepin’ on, and just weather the asshole parade until someone worthy of your good energy comes along.

    (“You are a giant snake in human form, but I still love you anyway”: great neg, or GREATEST NEG? Seriously, last one out turn off the lights, y’all.)

    • JenniferP said:

      GREATEST NEG. I will file that away for the line of Awkward Greeting Cards Intern Paul and I are working on.

        • …I actually laughed out loud at work at “None more neg.”

          Luckily, I work with crazy people so no one cared.

      • alphakitty said:

        I would fill happily fill my dresser drawers with Awkward-derived T-shirts!

        • BSK said:

          Ooh, or cross-stitched samplers! I’d totally hang one of “No is a complete sentence” in my house.

          • hypatia said:

            I would by ALL the awkward cross-stitch kits. All of them.

          • Me. Too. I would make *all* the cushion covers.

      • AMM said:

        Unless, of course, you happen to think that snakes are among the coolest critters around. (I’m picturing this guy trying that “neg” on a herpetologist, and getting a rather different reaction than he expected….)

        • The Kittehs' Unpaid Help said:

          LOL I’m just thinking of someone responding “I like snakes” in a very mild tone of voice …

        • Pterinochilus murinus said:

          …or, better, someone who REALLY REALLY likes snakes! *waggles eyebrows*
          “You’re a giant snake in human form, but I love you anyway.”
          “You want to pretend I’m a giant snake while we fuck? :D :D :D”

    • Sheelzebub said:

      (“You are a giant snake in human form, but I still love you anyway”: great neg, or GREATEST NEG? Seriously, last one out turn off the lights, y’all.)

      The snark that entered my mind when I read that–! Like, “And you’re a cockroach in human form and I’m now inspired to beat you over the head with my shoe.”

    • Akycha said:

      (“You are a giant snake in human form, but I still love you anyway”: great neg, or GREATEST NEG? Seriously, last one out turn off the lights, y’all.)

      Am I the only person who thought “Wait, he’s comparing her to Nagini? But he loves her anyway? Doesn’t that make him Voldemort? TIME FOR RUNNING SHOES!”

      • You are not the only one.

      • The Kittehs' Unpaid Help said:

        Or Jormangand (sp?) – in which case he’d better watch out, ‘cos we know that the World Serpent eventually does to Thor!

        • Jormungandr! Although I don’t flash to Avengers with that like most people probably do, I go to Oliver Driver saying “Jormungandr is stirring” in a Swedish Chef accent. Bork bork.

      • Copcher said:

        My brain definitely went in a Nagini direction, but I didn’t make the full Voldemort connection. Seriously, though, time for running shoes.

    • My understanding of negs has been that they’re only supposed to be a little bit negative. Like, “You have the cutest Bugs Bunny teeth.” “You are a snake in human form” crosses the line into actual insult territory.

      Also: holy crap.

  6. LW, do you feel comfortable telling us what city you live in? Maybe it would be a good city for an Awkward Army meetup. Then you’d be sure to meet some good people and at the very least it would be a fun time out.

  7. alphakitty said:

    As you follow the Captain’s advice, try to remember that those people who didn’t like you are people you don’t like. People who in the course of the next few hours will be eliciting a chorus of ews and what assholeses from the Awkward community. The fact that they did not like you is a good thing! A triumph! It means you have a better sense of self and self-worth and more backbone than the predatory, boundary-pushing, manipulative types like in a woman. Yay, you!

    I know. That doesn’t help with the “but how am I going to find the other kind of people?” And the advice is the same for you as it is for anyone: by keeping on living your life, trusting your filters, doing stuff that interests you and makes you interesting.

    The only other thing I would suggest trying that I don’t think is mentioned enough is to be on the lookout for other quiet people. Most gatherings have them: people who look like they might like to be more a part of things (i.e., don’t hate people and do like fun) but aren’t comfortable throwing themselves in the fray (i.e., are more introverted than extroverted). They won’t look mopey or miserable or resentful, just a little wistful or even bored, ’cause life at the fringes can be boring. Maybe they’ll be engaged in some of those look-busy things we do to not look like losers, like reading boring handouts or giving bad art more attention than it deserves or scanning someone’s book or music collection. Approach one, and say something like “looks fun, but I’m a little daunted” or “seems like everyone already knows another; kind of awkward for those of us who don’t” and see where it goes from there.

    I think one of the greatest things that comes between people getting to know each other is that most of us have a kind of messed up idea of what “putting your best foot forward” consists of. When we’re feeling awkward, we put forward our coolest, glossiest, least-flawed, most plastic, least approachable selves. In return (though not just because we started it, but because other people are busily doing the same thing), we get other people’s coolest, glossiest, least-flawed, most plastic least penetrable selves. And wonder of wonders, we don’t connect! See how it works?

    So instead of letting your insecurities make you pull back and put up more of your shell persona, you might want to take the risk of being real, and socially awkward out loud.

    Yeah, you’ll continue to meet assholes. And some of them may indeed take your self-confessed social awkwardness as a sign of vulnerability and good neg-fodder. But hit that with a “seriously??” and walk away. Don’t internalize their issues, just keep on putting out the real you.

    • ona555 said:

      “…try to remember that those people who didn’t like you are people you don’t like. People who in the course of the next few hours will be eliciting a chorus of ews and what assholeses from the Awkward community. The fact that they did not like you is a good thing! A triumph! It means you have a better sense of self and self-worth and more backbone than the predatory, boundary-pushing, manipulative types like in a woman. Yay, you”

      So. Much. This.

      LW, your asshole filters are spectacular. Good on you! It seems like you are currently in the process of weeding out all the assholes in your life. Also good on you! Once those emotional leeches are gone, baby, gone, think of what kindness and respect you’ll be open for!

      When I was still dating, I sort of took pride in being curtly dismissve to assholes who were rude to me. Even if I didn’t feel it at the moment, I just shut it down with the attitude of “well, I’m really awesome, so sad for you that you can’t have me,” because in the long run there is really little more satisfying than cutting an unnecessary jerk out of your life with confidence and moving on without another thought to them. As alphakitty said above, these are people you don’t like. Good riddance.

      Someone once said, “Don’t mistake my kindness for guilibility,” or something along those lines (don’t quote me!). It’s okay to be an awesome person and *also* put the smack down on assholes who try to leech off your awesomeness and steal it from you– an awesome person with good boundaries who can say things like, “Fuck you, you can’t have my awesomeness, it’s mine!” That person will be more likely to attract likewise awesome folks with healthy boundaries.

      • “don’t mistake kindness for weakness! Love this saying…..think that’s what you mean! Love you mentioned it.

        I’m so going to be using “fuck off you can’t have my awesomeness, it’s mine” in the future.

        Your comments are GOLD!

    • General Assortment said:

      Yes, you will continue to meet assholes.
      And the more good people that you meet the more outlandish those assholes will seem.

    • R.J. said:

      “The only other thing I would suggest trying that I don’t think is mentioned enough is to be on the lookout for other quiet people… Approach one, and say something like “looks fun, but I’m a little daunted” or “seems like everyone already knows another; kind of awkward for those of us who don’t” and see where it goes from there.”

      If somebody did (or does) this to me at a party, I would be (or am) their instant new buddy. This advice is spot on.

  8. miss_chevious said:

    LW, part of the reason why you might be experiencing an outbreak of “wow, these people in my life are jerks” (JerkRash) is because you may have levelled up recently. I know that a year ago, I became more committed to feminism and promptly came down with a case of JerkRash in the form of friends whose casual chauvinistic bullshit I could no longer tolerate, even though I’d known them for years. In other words, it wasn’t them, it was me.

    So, perhaps, you have recently become more awesome and amazing and, as a result, the people who were in your life no longer work. A person who is awesome, especially one who just levelled up her awesome, is going to be threatening to people who know they cannot meet her level, which might cause them to react negatively like, for example, by calling her a “giant snake.” Or a “feminazi.” Or a “bitch.” You know, hypothetically.

    The good news is that the cure for JerkRash is to stop hanging out with the jerks, which you are already on your way to doing. Hang in there. Follow the Captain’s advice.

    • Sotorya (Tory) said:

      Miss_chevious, Thank you. I was shaking with uncontrollable rage, over things of exactly this nature that were occurring in my own life (with an oddly higher frequency than before) and this made my day, and made me feel like I wasn’t crazy. Thank you :)

      • General Assortment said:

        I’ve never thought of it this way before but it is totally true.
        I ‘leveled up’ in college and had to drop a lot of racist, sexist friends that I’d acquired when I felt like I really NEEDED friends.
        Finding new awesome people to hang with (and realizing that I was totally cool enough to hang with them) was the best thing.

      • miss_chevious said:

        Thanks! I’m glad it was helpful. When this happened to me I was all “wait…is it ME? Am I horrible?” and then realized that (a) yes, it was me, but (b) not because I was horrible but because I was expecting more of myself and the people I chose. It’s hard to let go of people, especially when some of the people who cause JerkRash are “old friends,” but, in my opinion, it was necessary.

        • Copcher said:

          “(a) yes, it was me, but (b) not because I was horrible but because I was expecting more of myself and the people I chose”

          That happened to me a few years ago. I realized that I did not enjoy spending time with some people who I had considered friends for a couple years, but I felt like I needed to hide it because I didn’t want them to think I was a loser and stop hanging out with me. I know, it makes total sense. But then I had a bit of a falling out with one of them (mostly unrelated to this new changes in me) and another one moved away, and I realized I was way happier without those two, so I eventually stopped hanging out with all of the people that I didn’t particularly like. I doubt they really miss me, since the last couple times I saw them they seemed kind of annoyed with the stuff I talked about. I had originally seen that as a thing in myself that I needed to change, but once the friendships all ended, I went back to being me and felt much happier.

    • sometimeswhy said:

      YES. This. SO this.

      I tend to go through a whiney stage when I level. I will often throw myself a little pity party about how much more FUN life was before I… OH.

      Then I toss the boa over my shoulder, catwalk-walk out of the pity party, and recommence being my awesome self with gusto. Like I do.

      (Which is not to say that I don’t still have Terrible Bargain days. I still have a LOT of Terrible Bargain days.)

      • emily said:

        “Then I toss the boa over my shoulder, catwalk-walk out of the pity party, and recommence being my awesome self with gusto.”

        Love this. Am going to use this the next time I am feeling low. Maybe with a little sprinkle of glitter on top.

      • miss_chevious said:

        Yeah, it’s hard. There are times when I think “but I don’t WANT to do better!” in the voice of, like, the whiniest four-year-old ever. That’s not true, of course, but it was easier when I was a selfish ignorant person. What’s that quote from Bull Durham — “The world is made forpeople who aren’t cursed with self-awareness.”

      • With all the earlier talk of giant snakes, I interpreted the “toss the boa over my shoulder” as referring to a boa constrictor. It was an awesome mental image. And next time I decide to catwalk out of a pity party I’m throwing myself, I will mentally arm myself with a big snake around my shoulders, and it will be my spirit animal for awesomeness.

        • sometimeswhy said:

          And now? Now my mental, hot pink, feathered boa is a hoy pink snake. I love it.

  9. Nicole said:

    I sometimes have this worry too. I am pretty confident in myself, and know what I want from life. But sometimes when I go out with old friends, or meet new people, I run into similar problems. I have discovered something though- most of the old friends I run into these problems with are female friends from High School who are so lacking in self-confidence they won’t leave the house without a boyfriend. And their dating advice to me? Play dumb, and don’t talk about yourself. Be agreeable. Basically- be a doormat. So is it really any surprise that I don’t get along with their male friends? There are a bunch of guys out there who expect women to be doormats. And unfortunately, there are some women who work hard to appear that way-which just reinforces to the men in their life that this is what women “should” be like.

    How old are you? I’m 23. I think that the younger you are, the more likely this is to happen. As women get older, we get smarter, more confident, and grow out of stupid High School stereotypes. But it takes some of the guys a while to catch up to that. Plus, in your 20s, most people still are figuring out who they are and what they want. Guys who are less sure of themselves could easily be intimidated by women who aren’t, because they’ve been socialized in the class patriarchal model of relationships (if you aren’t in your 20s this is still true. Or it is possible it is the other end- these guys have become arrogant ass-hats, because they’ve figure their life out and think they are smart and want to show it off).

    I don’t think you are putting out the wrong vibe. Because the only vibe I can think of that could a) be bad for you and c) attract these guys would be if you actually wanted to date people like this, in which case you wouldn’t have a problem. However, I agree with the Captain that it can’t hurt to practice being assertive. You want people to know you are confident and have opinions right off the bat- hopefully then that will scare of guys like that ever earlier. But I don’t know if it will help you meet BETTER guys- I think that is a straight-up numbers game. The more people you meet, the more likely you are to meet good people. In the meantime, keep filtering out the jerks.

  10. EclecticEm said:

    Take Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” and replace inferior with any other emotion. It’s still true. And men (using that term loosely) who take advantage of women’s self-esteem by manipulating them into thinking they’re worthless really just burn my toast. Good for you for seeing past the ploy to the jerk’s true motivations.

  11. Sheelzebub said:

    I’m going to echo what miss-chevious said. I found that when I pushed back, the assholes came out like roaches from crevices after the exterminator comes. (What is it with me and roaches today?) It’s not that they weren’t assholes before, it’s that I let it slide and the minute I didn’t, they doubled-down on their assholism.

    • alphakitty said:

      I like the levelling up concept, too. You just stepped out of their league, and they want to punish you for it/drag you back down.

      • TO said:

        Yes!

        Also this:

        “I guess I should be grateful that I sniffed out Mr. First Date Hater for a rat right away, rather than wasting two to four years listening to his problems and revealing my own emotional weaknesses so he could use them to try and bend me to his will.”

        You should! I know it feels depressing, just like recognizing that people you thought of as friends were actually not very nice people, but to me it sounds like a sign that you’re growing a lot recently. You’re starting to recognize not-so-nice people better and better (which also shows in how you’ve recently recognized this in people you previously thought were friends).

        Personally, I think this sounds like the beginnings of a new period of your life – a new good period where you respect yourself more and see people around you more clearly. Which will be a little rough at first, but is also the first step on the path to surrounding yourself with good people worthy of your respect and mutual liking.

      • miss_chevious said:

        Exactly! Sure, everyone has a first date with an asshole, but when people you thought were your friends suddenly become jerks for seemingly no reason, you’ve done something to threaten their concept of you and, consequently, them.

  12. Tosca said:

    Wow, this is a very timely letter. I have recently been informed, via a third party, that someone I thought I was getting really close to/becoming friends with thinks I am a big judgmental bitch. I thought we were really connecting, but apparently not.
    This wouldn’t be the first time in my life that I have seriously misjudged someone’s feelings about me. So, LW, I don’t think our detectors are broken or anything. I just think it’s massive bad luck.
    I’m so glad you got away from that date, though! Those were some majorly abusive red flags. :O

    • alphakitty said:

      I had a friend who accused me of being judgmental, thinking I and mine were better than she and hers… I knew it wasn’t the way I think, but it was a long, horrible, upsetting phone call, supposedly resolved by air-clearing, followed by a period of cautious friendship. Just about the time I put that behind me and was starting to trust her again there was another cycle of smackdown, air-clearing, cautious friendship… We went through the cycle a few times, with variations, before she confirmed what I had suspected all along: she was the one putting me on the pedestal in the first place (I sure as hell knew I didn’t belong there) and making unkind comparisons between her idealized version of me and her own less-than-kind view of herself. That confession might have saved the friendship if it had happened sooner, but by then I had bought and sent the African Violet and felt relieved about it. (African Violet-related conversations being what prompted the self-reflection, analysis, and confession). I just didn’t have it in me by then to open up.

      Which is all to say, the accusation that you’re “judgmental” may be a projection of someone else’s insecurities.

      • Tosca said:

        Funny you say that, because 3 separate people told me the same thing, including the spouse. Also that she might be “intimidated” by me (their words).
        It still stings, though, because it’s hard for me to make friends (geeky introvert here!) and it sucks when I interpret it so very, very wrong.

        • alphakitty said:

          The way I see it, it means she admires certain things about you (e.g., strength/confidence, hence the “intimidated” concept — just because you see yourself as “geeky introvert” doesn’t mean she does; we introverts often fake it better than we think), but admiring that about you threatens her sense of self because that’s an area in which she feels deficient. So she turns that asset of yours into a neg, so she doesn’t have to feel crappy about herself for having less of it anymore. All unconsciously, of course. Still crappy, but it doesn’t mean you’re interpreting things badly. Just that she’s got her own issues (like we all do) that are overflowing onto you.

          • Tosca said:

            Thanks, alphakitty, you made me feel better. :)

          • drst said:

            it means she admires certain things about you [...] but admiring that about you threatens her sense of self because that’s an area in which she feels deficient. So she turns that asset of yours into a neg, so she doesn’t have to feel crappy about herself for having less of it anymore.

            Totally happened with my last boss, which seriously sucked, since unlike a social relationship, you can’t just cut someone you work with out of your life. I had seriously leveled up while I was in that job too and it did not help that she demanded we not have boundaries because we had to be available to her at all times for whatever she needed. It did not end well. I take schadenfreudalicious comfort in the fact that it probably still drives her crazy that she could never intimidate me. (I take what victories I can, even if they are a little petty.)

          • Aw Alphakitty & Tosca you make so much sense….. :)

    • General Assortment said:

      Just a word. Be careful of third party advice.
      They may have meant well, and maybe your friend does think you are a jerk, or maybe there was a misunderstanding.

      I’ve sat through several relationship dramas lately of ‘Oh, PersonA totally hates me.’ and only to have PersonA ask me ‘Why is PersonB so distant lately?’ only to find out there was a HUGE misunderstanding involving PersonC.

      • Tosca said:

        Very true, but he showed me the text from her to him, so it’s not as if it was just the rumor mill. He did NOT share her opinion. :)

      • caryatid said:

        also, why did Third Party Person feel the need to share? seriously…doesn’t the “is it true/is it kind/is it helpful” standard apply? or was there a good reason to tell you that?

        • veryslowwriter said:

          Yeah, really. If someone tells me that you’re a jerk, I’m sure as hell not going to pass it on to you. Why would I? (And I’d re-evaluate my relationship with the person who told me that.)

        • Tosca said:

          The whole story is that the boy is a related to me. The girl is his GF who he was having a tiff with via text. She and I had become pretty close and fast friends (so I thought). I’m talking like really cool, fun conversations into the wee hours and doing summery stuff together.
          Any hoo, he showed me because one of the things they fight about is if he so much as breathes a word of criticism toward her family, she flips out (so he says) but she feels she can say whatever she wants about HIS family. He showed me like “see what a hypocrit she is??”. He regretted it after because I don’t think he realized how much it would hurt.

          • Tosca said:

            The sucky part is, she doesn’t know that I know. But I can’t UNknow it, you know? I’m sad and I don’t trust her friendship anymore.

          • neverjaunty said:

            Sounds like he wasn’t thinking about much more than getting you to pick sides. I’m sorry, she doesn’t sound wonderful but boy sounds like he’s a few mana short of a Magic: The Gathering deck himself on this one.

        • Esti said:

          I know this is conventional wisdom and is probably right, but I feel a little uncomfortable with the idea of actually putting it into practice. Let’s say I have a close friend who was talking about being super excited about their new friendship with X, and X (who I was less close to) was simultaneously sending me shitty text messages about my friend. No, it’s not really my business — but at the same time, my friend is obviously going to get stomped on when he or she finds out that the awesome new friend they’re excited about is saying nasty things behind their back. And they will feel way more stomped on the longer it goes on (and the more personal stuff they share with X), and the more people who knew what was happening and didn’t say anything. In that situation, I might consider telling my friend… something? about X’s feelings.

          I mean, I would 100% say something if it was my friend’s shiny new boyfriend who was saying shitty stuff behind their back, and I can’t really think of a good reason why that’s different (unless I was also close friends with X, in which case it’s an issue of not wanting to betray X’s trust).

          • I think in that case it probably does pass the is it true/is it kind/is it helpful? test. It is true, you’re doing it for your friend’s benefit, and it’s to help stop them being hurt in the future. It’s not just passing on drama for the sake of it or to vent your annoying day without thinking about how it affects them – it’s wanting to protect them and presumably because of that you’d try to come up with a more thoughtful way of telling them than “Ugh, I was out with X today and she kept talking all this shit about you. Can you believe she’d say [actual quote]? blah blah blah it was so frustrating for me because I was, like, dude, shut up, she’s my friend. Hey, what are you looking so upset about?” More like “Look, I know you’ve been having a great time with X, but I’m a little worried you’re going to get hurt because she’s said things that make it seem like she’s not as excited as you are.”

    • Thneedle-dee-dee said:

      Hey, don’t assume that the third party faithfully transmitted that other person’s words or intentions. They may well have told you their interpretation of the actual words, and they may well have gotten it wrong in some large or small way.

      Suggestion: go to that other person and say that you’re worried you may be coming across as whatever way, and then listen to their reply and make up your own mind. Third-party information is so very problematic.

      • Thneedle-dee-dee said:

        Erp. Shoulda reada head.

      • Absolutely, always 3 sides to a storey!
        1. One side.
        2. The other side.
        3. The TRUTH………..

  13. imayer said:

    As a more concrete follow-on to #2, I suggest finding a hobby or a regular outing or whathaveyou that is regularly scheduled and has defined time limits.
    Immediately after interacting with a potential-friend, ask assess how you felt in that situation and why. Pay attention to not gas-lighting yourself. Once you get good at this, start doing it 10 minutes into the conversation, and if you aren’t enjoying yourself, exit the conversation immediately.

    I also strongly second #4. You ask what you’re doing to attract people like this into your life, and I strongly believe that assholes can sense doormattishness, like mosquitos to sugar water. As you get better at setting boundaries and keeping them, you will develop jerk-repellant.

    • unagi said:

      Conversely, I also believe that some assholes who sense strength are attracted to it like mosquitoes to sugar water. A challenge, you know..
      Or to be kind, maybe they realize they’re assholes and they think that if they take up with you they won’t be able to act that way. Either way no amount of strength can resist those brainwashing methods in the long term, so beware. You’re right to keep as far away from them as possible, LW, even if only as “friends”.

  14. TO said:

    The thing that struck me in this letter was the wording: “I went on a first date with a guy who hated me”. Not “a guy who I ended up hating” or “a guy who turned out to be a jerk”, or even “a guy who was really unpleasant the whole time” but a guy who hated me?

    Is it possible you’re concentrating your thoughts and energy maybe too much on being liked, more than on figuring out what YOU actually like, respect, or admire in other people?

    E.g., if the guy had ‘liked you’ personally but talked down to, insulted, or manipulated other people, would you have thought of the date as a success or considered going out with him a second time? Because he still would have been a jerk, and still not worth your time, and still not a person to trust with your friendship.

    I think the more you can find people (any people, doesn’t matter if they’re dates or close friends, friendly acquaintances count) who are just plain nice decent people (to you AND to others), who you respect and whose company you enjoy, the easier it will get to surround yourself with more and more such people (because you’ll meet others through them, and also because you’ll get good at recognizing clues that you’ve found another one). And in time just knowing lots of cool nice people will lead to getting to know a couple of them better and getting some good close friends.

    I also agree with checking out hobbies or groups you haven’t tried before… and don’t worry about looking for best friends, just check out if the activity is ijnteresting and if there are some decent folks there.

    • kristinmh said:

      Spot on! I know it sounds like the unhelpful advice your mom gave you in middle school, but this guy is an awful person! So what if he doesn’t like you? You don’t like him. So you are spared awkwardly turning him down for more dates! Win win!

      You deserve so much better, baby bear. In friends and/or boyfriends.

    • gmg said:

      This struck me too. LW, I’d say this: “Hate” is a powerful and passion-filled emotion, and honestly I wouldn’t even give the jerk you describe that much credit. This guy didn’t really “hate” you. He just revealed himself as not capable — at least in the dating sphere, certainly — of caring about anyone other than himself, which is quite a different thing. Hopefully mulling that idea over could help you to likewise not care about him, or anyone who treats you like this.

    • Fuuma said:

      Yes! I also got the sense that LW was worried about being liked and likable. It sounded to me like Mr. Hatemonger was a shit from the get-go and yet then the LW spent the entire evening with him. And then after being insulted the LW felt bad and started internalizing those insults.

      Which is understandable. So practicing saying no as the captain suggests will help assuage the worry about being liked/likable (which if the LW is a woman, society tells us that being assertive is definitely NOT compatible which is sexist crap, and a hard internalized sexist crap to fight against at first).

      It’s totally okay if GIGANTIC ASSHOLES hate you. Maybe even get some Schadenfreude out of it?

  15. sparklytosingle said:

    I feel like a lot of these guy friends of yours who turned out not to like you very much probably decided not to like you very much because they were actually attracted to you. And when they realized that you weren’t going to have sex with them ever, they threw a toddler temper tantrum. They’re just going all, “you don’t like me in that way? Well fine, I never liked you anyway!” For most guys, male-female friendships that are JUST friendships tend to work only if they are not attracted to the girl. Maybe this is the problem here? They want more with you, they can’t have it because you just want to be friends, so they are acting all douchey?

    You don’t need these types of friendships. Actually, if it’s friendships you’re after rather than dates, I would suggest trying to make some girlfriends you can go out with and remove any of that sexual tension from the equation. Try staging a girls night by inviting all the girls you know to come over, bring an appetizer, and provide some wine or something. Ask them to each bring a friend. Do it once a month. My best girlfriends are all girls I do this with, I met them through one other friend about 3 years ago and we do this all the time now!

    Also just go out and do cool things you enjoy and you’ll meet like-minded people. Take a cooking class or a ziplining tour or go paddleboarding or whatever. Join meetup.com groups and go to their activities. And remember that if you don’t like someone who doesn’t like you, that’s not a problem, that’s a mutual understanding :)

  16. Hi LW,

    It sounds like you are dealing with a hardcore case of Every Guy You Know is a Nice Guy. Ouch. That sucks, but it’s definitely good that you’re realizing that It’s Them, Not You. But since these are Nice Guys, I would dismiss any of the negative, bullshit comments they’ve made to you — the snake comment, the “lack of compassion” comment: that’s the kind of shit Nice Guys say to women who reject their advances in order to gaslight them/guilt them into changing their minds.

    I’m guessing you’re younger/at a transitional age, where we grow/change and often face hard truths about our “friends.” I’ve been there, especially with regards to toxic female relationships. The good news is: it can get so much better!

    I don’t have any concrete advice, but some random thoughts that might help. I agree with CA that getting into some new hobbies is a great idea. Not only that, but if you can pinpoint exactly where you are meeting these toxic friends — is it a shared interest? Do you know them from college? (or high school?) Pinpoint it, and GTFO. For me, it was cutting ties with an online community/fandom that bred ugly, toxic relationships. Another friend of mine cut ties with the local Yelp community for similar reasons. If it’s a group of high school or college friends, make excuses to hang with them less, and find new friends who have zero connections to this group.

    In terms of getting good people in your life, I agree it’s about sussing out the patterns that have lead you to these previously toxic people. For me, it was realizing that I’m an intense personality who attracted people more passive than I am and/or leeches who would use me to get to other people/shiny things. I would either get screwed over (dropped for the mutual friend I’d introduced someone to, or dropped once I got someone a career connection), or get frustrated/bored when every single aspect of the relationship was driven by me. The relationships were not between equals — I needed to seek out equally strong (but complementary) personalities. The people I was spending time with in college and shortly thereafter brought out the ugliest parts of my personality, plus they made me feel crazy and unlikable, like your Nice Guys do to you. I cut out all those people, only kept the good ones, and found a new hobby that has brought me some awesome new friends. (to be fair: I also moved across the country!)

    If I knew your geek interests/location, I could make better suggestions, but there are definitely groups where you will find good friends who are not lame assholes! (does your geek interest have cons? I’ve made some amazing friends at cons, especially fellow female geeks)

  17. Jenny said:

    I hate to be the hissing snake of negativity in an Eden of support, but when someone says they’ve had the same interpersonal pattern recur with a number of different people, especially in a short amount of time, the common denominator is that person. Without a doubt, first date guy is an asshole. Complete rubbish, not worth a second thought. But as for the six (six???) great guy friends who have stopped being friends because this girl doesn’t want to sleep with them, and the lady friends who turned out to be cruddy too…. It’s worth the letter writer giving some thought to the possibility that in at least some of those cases, she is part of the problem.

    This could be just a case of, she’s not a great judge of character and ends up with friends who are jerks rather than nice people. It could be a case of, she’s fake and uncompassionate like one of her ex-friends said. Or more likely, it’s somewhere in between. It’s worth asking people you trust. It’s worth talking to a counselor. But I think it would be a mistake for her to dismiss out of hand the possibility that she’s a big part of the dynamic that creates these problems.

    (“These problems” = does not include first date guy, who is a clear poophead forever.)

    • DWM said:

      Yikes. Not kind, almost as bad as what her “friends” have said to her.

      • drst said:

        Yeah. I agree that LW may need to do some soul-searching, as the Captain suggested, to consider how she’s meeting people and where and what she’s looking for in friends, but to suggest that she’s a bad person or lacks judgment is harsh.

        It’s entirely possible to shed whole groups of friends as you grow up. I could be wrong but I would peg LW as relatively young (early 20s) and at that stage, it can be really easy to outgrow an entire social set very quickly for a lot of reasons. Or she could just have become a lot more aware of boundaries and manipulative behavior and is starting to recognize it in her former friends, and when she pushed back, the house of cards fell apart. This sucks for the LW, but it’s important to set and maintain her boundaries and make a habit of that for her own sake, and not abandon that idea to maintain friendships with people who aren’t respectful.

        I considered myself pretty well educated and self-aware, but I learned a lot about boundaries and relationships from reading this site. In my case, it was helpful for dealing with a terrible job situation but in some ways it made it worse since I was resisting being manipulated at work harder and harder, and it caused more friction. Unexpected byproduct. But boundaries are self-defense, and I’m not okay with anyone shaming someone for working on having them.

        tl;dr – hey, not cool.

        And LW if you are in your 20s, lemme tell ya, my 20s sucked for most of it. Whatever you see on tv, it can really suck ass being that age, trying to figure out how to be you without any of the structure you had through school. So hang in there.

        • White Rabbit said:

          Replying to agree with you and DWM, and also to point out that this can also happen later in life. I’m a trauma survivor – child abuse, followed by being bullied at school, followed by religious exploitation, followed by domestic abuse (ugh) – and I’ve only started to find my footing in my early 30′s. A few people mentioned that the LW might be in her 20′s, so I just wanted to chime in and note that there’s nothing wrong* with figuring these things out later in life!

          *Well, except for the sucky part of having to deal with the adverse effects of not yet knowing these things, but y’all know what I meant. ;)

          (And oh, how I wish I had known even half of the things that Captain Awkward writes about while I was busy dating misogynistic, negging a*holes and letting “friends” walk all over me in my 20′s!)

        • Fuuma said:

          I agree. The LW is ONE common factor, and you can’t just jump on that as THE common factor. Are they all in the same state? Are they all from the same school? Class? Hobby?

          Some social circles are infested with assholes. Some neighborhoods are infested with bigots. You can’t magically know a space is toxic for you. Crap has to happen, and then you have to roll on out of it. And you can still be totally, 100% making great decisions, great judgements, and being an awesome person.

    • neverjaunty said:

      Certainly, LW needs to figure out why she’s running into a streak of jerks, but I’m trying to figure how how being “fake and uncompassionate” led to First Date Jerk pushing her to get drunk after constantly putting her down, or caused a guy friend to call her a vile human being and then saying he loved her anyway. I mean, whoa, that’s not “people don’t like you because you’re obnoxious”, that’s obnoxious people not liking you because they’re obnoxious.

    • really still a lurker said:

      “This could be just a case of, she’s not a great judge of character and ends up with friends who are jerks rather than nice people. It could be a case of, she’s fake and uncompassionate like one of her ex-friends said. Or more likely, it’s somewhere in between.”

      Why on earth is it likely somewhere in between? No really. You’ve got the hypothesis of an internet stranger and the opinion of someone who was trying to manipulate his way into the letter writer’s pants. What reason does the LW possibly have to average those two garbage data points?

      The Captain and commenters have given really good advice about reflecting on what works and what doesn’t and finding new ways to meet people and practice setting boundaries all without suggesting that these entitled dunderheads zie’s been dealing with were in any way correct about hir. They weren’t. That’s just the scam assholes pull to make you feel worthless and like they’re doing you a favor by trying to fuck you. Making you feel bad about yourself is a favored strategy among people who are trying to sell you shit you ain’t trying to buy.

    • alphakitty said:

      Like I said, I like Miss_chevious’s levelling up theory. It happens. You’ve had a certain friend circle, and though you know they’re not perfect you’re used to their quirks, its your collective culture, so you don’t necessarily see the shit for the shit it is. Then something happens (maybe just that you grow up a little) that opens your eyes to some of the group’s unhealthy dynamics, and you realize that the “culture of the group” that seemed normal is actually kind of dysfunctional. So you draw a line against some of the ickiness, and it is not well received. Your “friends” try to redirect you back to your slot in the unhealthy dynamic, but you don’t fit there anymore and you realize you don’t want to anyway. And the next thing you know, you’ve lost a bunch of “friends.” Which is sad. But also sometimes a really good thing. That giant snake is sloughing some dead skin!!! And now you can level up some more without them barnacles dragging you down.

      • Everything you said here, this entire comment and especially the leveling up analogy: I have been telling myself this in some form for years, ever since I “escaped” from a toxic group of friends who kept trying to guilt and shame me back into my slot even though I knew it didn’t feel right anymore. I rebelled against it bitterly and with a good amount of painful collateral damage. It’s been seven years and even after a series of major depressive episodes and some years of therapy, I still occasionally wonder if I did the right thing because I still haven’t found My People and sometimes I feel like having shitty friends is better than none. Then I remember how awful those people made me feel every single day, how often they made me question everything about myself and who I wanted to be and how trapped I felt. I realize now that no matter how lonely I’ve been at times since I ditched them all, I have never hated myself as much since as I did when I was still trying to make it work/fit in with them.

        I also have to remind myself when I’m feeling all self-pitying that I do have friends, I just don’t have friends of the same intensity I did in high school/college and that’s okay. Every new friend doesn’t have to be the Diana Barry to my Anne Shirley!

    • the witching hour said:

      While this is possible, the ingredient of self in recurring problems with others can often only really be seen a few years and friend-groups later. You need a lot of distance to really see that. So the immediate advice is the same: Drop people who are poison, be your most awesome self, make awesome friends through being awesome. If there’s a lesson LW needs to learn about herself, that’s probably not going to happen in the short term.

      • the witching hour said:

        Also– I dated a string of toxic Nice Guys for a lot of reasons including a need for attention and numbing comfort, and wanting to be able to control/not be afraid of sex with men. Was part of it about me? Absolutely. Did that change how awful these guys were? Not a whit. Let’s be careful not to team up against Jenny beyond disagreements about how to read LW’s situation.

    • The Kittehs' Unpaid Help said:

      But as for the six (six???) great guy friends who have stopped being friends because this girl doesn’t want to sleep with them

      Whoa, Jenny. I agree in general that a person encountering problems in relationships is the common denominator, but including men being deprived of their ENTITLEMENT to have sex with LW as part of the problem rings all the wrong bells for me. If they do dummy spits over not getting to sleep with her, they were not friends at all, ever.

    • Awkward Niece said:

      The reason I don’t agree with this comment is that it sounds like the LW has a bit of a case of the jerkbrain, in that she seems to blame herself for incidents that are clearly not her fault (I say this because she describes her date as ‘this guy hated me, what did I do wrong?’ not ‘Gawd, I had the misfortune of going on a date with a massive dipshit, someone pass the whiskey I need cheering up’) For that reason, I think it’s likely that LW is already significantly likely to blame herself much more than is appropriate for negative social situations that occur around her, which is why I think it’s really useful that the commentariat is providing an alternate view.

      In a way, what you say is true, but it’s also more complicated than that. If I put together all the times I snapped at someone for making a racist joke, or flipped the bird at a dickhead shouting at me out of a car, or bitched with my husband about someone’s latent homophobia, or drew a boundary with an overbearing relative… well, let’s just say that if I were to the subscribe to the “maybe I’m the problem” line of thought I would be pretty damn miserable. Maybe the patriarchy’s the problem here.

    • Sheelzebub said:

      Hold on a second.

      First of all, we did point out she’s the common denominator in that behavior she put up with in the past she’s likely not putting up with anymore, which brings out the whiny asshole in people. And if you read any of the past letters here about creepers and rude assholes in groups, you’d know that a lot of groups tolerate egregious behavior.

      I had a lot of guys in my life who were Nice Guys–and it hardly means that I was asking for that or somehow brought it on myself. You know how it came out? When I called them out on their entitled bullshit.

      If the LW kept hanging out with people like that, you’d have a point, but she isn’t hanging out with them. And if she’s the common denominator for this shit then everyone on this thread is apparently an awful person or a Nice Guy enabler, since we’ve all run into this.

      And I feel quite confident in saying that a guy you consider a close friend, whom you’ve opened your home to, is a fucking weasel and a shitheel for calling you a snake in human form, who isn’t compassionate but is narcissistic. (That he “loves her anyway” tells me HE’S the one with the problem if what he said was true. But I doubt it’s true because that is some manipulative bullshit right there.) Especially when he’s pissed off that you won’t nail him. If you read the comments here regularly, you know that’s a thinly veiled, quiet tantrum that most Nice Guys who are shot down engage in.

      And you know what? I’ve had my share of that bullshit. It’s wearying. And it’s demoralizing to be told that I somehow brought it on myself, that I should consider the negative things they say when I have the nerve to establish boundary (when the larger group of friends and larger society ignores what they do).

    • Even if the LW is not a terrible person like her jerkwad friends (and I would like to think she is not; I don’t see any evidence of such in the letter although I know that is not much to go on) I would also recommend possibly taking a good look at herself and her behaviors, if only because it is easy to unconsciously pick up some obnoxious habits if you are hanging out with obnoxious people where that sort of behavior is normal, or in some cases, necessary. I have levelled up out of a couple of friend groups/friendships with seriously whiny pushy people, and around them, the way to not get steamrollered was pretty much just to push and whine back… and when I found nicer people to hang out with, I’ve found myself really having to work on breaking some bad conversational habits I’d developed (I never realized how much I actually do interrupt people until I started hanging out with people who don’t interrupt each other every fucking sentence) that are no longer necessary or functional and just make me sound like a total fucking douchebag.

  18. neverjaunty said:

    LW: I doubt that DateJerk hated you. He didn’t even know you, the Awesome You that is you; he just saw you as a means to sexytime. If you’d made more money than he did, he’d have “hated” that too. If you went to some other college he’d have “hated” that college. I know, probably not any less creepy, but these dudes are not hating and rejecting you so much as the imaginary you they have built up inside of their tiny, sad little skulls.

    Which means that (per the excellent advice above) there ARE plenty of people who want to know you and will like you, not whatever space in their heads they are trying to use you to fill.

  19. Rosa said:

    The thing about hacking out all the weeds is, it leaves room for more flowers. The less time you spend with neggy dudes, the more time you have for everything else in your life, including awesome dudes.

  20. DWM said:

    I wish I had your asshole filter that fine tuned at a younger age than I am now.

    I had a boyfriend years ago who was abusive and controlling and said horrible shit to me that I still hear in my head (You are just like your mother – a castrating bitch) way too frequently. It made me think – am I that? And it took years of therapy to realize NO! I am not that. That is what a douche bag who wanted to control me said to make me feel crappy about myself so I’d stay in my place without complaining. Your radar is working and it is working very well.

    I seriously doubt you are a snake in human form (what does that even MEANNNN?) as you sound ten shades of awesome from your letter. Keep on keeping on…

    • Olivia said:

      “I wish I had your asshole filter that fine tuned at a younger age than I am now.”
      Seriously!!!

      I still remember the first time that I discovered that my asshole filter even worked! This was after years upon years of hooking up with guys who turned out to be giant jerks. This guy was pursuing me, he was really hot and seemed nice and super friendly and we had lots of common interests…but something just felt off to me. I didn’t believe him. I didn’t trust him. I kept him at arm’s length.

      And then it turned out that he was a giant three-timing lying shitbag! He was a grad student who was secretly fucking a 17y/o undergrad WHILE juggling a hometown girlfriend WHILE hooking up with one of my friends all at once.

      I was so happy that I was finally able to see through someone’s shit before getting burned myself. I seriously felt like I had earned a badge in Girl Scouts or something.

      That sucks about your ex, btw. FWIW, I’ve always considered “castrating bitch” to be an unintentional compliment.

  21. duck-billed placelot said:

    I went out on a first date with a guy who hated me women.

    Fixed that for you.

  22. tots said:

    Dear LW,
    This is one of my favorite cards. I hereby bequeath the power of the card unto you. Use your power wisely.

    http://www.fomato.com/item/no/43/c7

    • mintylime said:

      This card is utterly awesomepants. My pocketbook blames you.

    • General Expression said:

      OMG. My new mantra. Buying now!

  23. the witching hour said:

    Dear LW,

    Like you, I am a woman. Like you, I am a Woman With Standards, and a Woman Who Will Not Have Another Drink, Actually. I am also an enthusiastic, flirtatious, intense woman with large breasts and hips. I cannot think of a single straight male friend who has never put the moves on me. I live in — fear is not the right word — I live in a constant state of nervous whenever I meet a male person I would enjoy hanging out with, because all evidence indicates that many, many male friends get to know me in hopes of getting some. It is paralyzing. It is demoralizing. I know I am an amazing person and a good friend. I know that if someone is making our friendship about my body, not my mind, they are a shithead. But it’s everywhere. Every straight or bi man I ever let my guard down with*. And how are you supposed to believe in the existence of not-shitheads when every time you get close enough to smell it, their hands are on your waist, or neck, or leg, or–.

    I have little advice for you. Here is what I have: THIS THING EXISTS. IT IS REAL. YOU ARE NOT MAKING IT UP. SO MANY, SO SO MANY MEN ARE TARGETING YOU. THEY ARE TARGETING YOU. THEY ARE NOT LISTENING WHEN YOU TALK, THEY ARE DRAWING BULL’S-EYES ON DIFFERENT PARTS OF YOUR BODY. IT IS REAL AND IT IS SCARY AND ITS SCARINESS IS REAL. IT IS RAPE CULTURE AND ANYONE WHO DOES THIS IS A PILE OF SHIT AND EVERYONE WHO EXCUSES IT HAS SHIT ON THEIR HANDS, TOO.

    Keep looking. Keep putting out good energy and rejecting the shit. Know how much you don’t need all that horribleness. Learn how tall you get to stand when nobody is kicking the backs of your knees. And the people you need, the tall-standing ones who love a tall stander, will find you just as fast as they can. They are already on their way. Work on being ready for them when they arrive.

    You know what happened last time a shithead in friend’s clothing tried to coax and cajole and push and prod me into sex? I told my real friends about it. And listened to my confusion and terror, and very calmly told me he was a shithead. The love you need exists.

    With anticipation,

    Me.

    *One notable exception. The good ones exist, I promise. And they are worth it.

    PS. Your date does not even bear mentioning. HONESTLY.

    • Awkward Niece said:

      Yeah, this is pretty weird, LW, but the first thing I thought when I read your letter is: are you very conventionally attractive? It seems like that can be a bit of an arsehole-magnet. (If you are, of course, there’s not much you can do about it, but I think with this stuff it is great to be able to really put your finger on what’s going in. the witching hour above has obviously found it has helped her deal with her situation).
      If not – sorry and please carry on. Just something that popped into my head.

    • TO said:

      I mostly agree with you. Except, I don’t think anyone who’s attracted to another person in a physical way and wants to have sex with them is automatically a jerk, though they may be jerks (and I include people both people who are looking for more casual relationships and friends – I’m just not sure I think it’s automatically a betrayal to hit on someone or to like them in a physical way). It also depends if people are treating each other in a respectful way.

      To the LW if this happens I’d say see what happens when you tell them you’re not interested — if they get at all mean or unpleasant or manipulative or keep pushing or try to make you feel bad about it, then you know their true colours; they’ve shown you who they really are. Although that said, they may not be a total jerk and still not be someone you have enough of a connection with want to be friends with, either.

      • Xenophile said:

        It’s not that attraction=jerkiness. It’s the Nice Guys (TM). Nice Guys (TM) complain that they’re in love with a female friend, and she just won’t notice their Feelings, and it’s just so darn hard to be around someone so oblivious/self-involved/attracted to assholes. If by some miracle they find their words and express Feelings it’s in the form of “Please please love me dear god I’m so lonely,” which pop culture wants us to believe is some sort of grand romantic gesture. We all know that narrative, but being on the receiving end fucking sucks.

        It really fucking hurts to know that your friend(s) is only friends with you because they want to bone you. They think they’re being subtle, with awkward attempts at flirtation, trying to touch your arm or your back, offering massages, staring with sad puppy eyes, but it’s just a constant reminder that you are Romantic Interest first and Friend second. You try to enjoy talking and hanging out with them, because they have some great qualities after all, but you have to very carefully police everything you say to avoid encouraging them and you can never relax. God forbid you hang out with them when they’re drunk, because then they’ll ‘compliment’ you by talking about your body constantly. They react badly to any perceived imperfections (eg, disagreeing with them, dating someone else) because they expect you to live up to their fantasy. They either try to keep their crush a ‘secret,’ and since they think you’re too dense to notice, they continue this behavior indefinitely, even if you’re pretty adamant that you’re not interested in dating, or you’re in a relationship. Or they make it into a big confrontation where they demand that you heal them with your love and make them whole so that they never feel lonely again. If you decline, you’re the Bad Guy and they pout and your mutual friends take their side because they’re so Nice.

        Then once they get over their crush, or find a girlfriend, they suddenly lose interest in being your friend at all. (Also an option: you sleep with them and they never speak to you again, having gotten what they wanted.) They either disappear overnight or slowly stop talking to you because you are no longer of interest to them. And through it all, they believe that they are the victim and you are the manipulative one because you simply weren’t attracted to them.

        It sucks when it happens once. It sucks even more if it happens repeatedly, or multiple people at once. If you’re the only single female in a group of straight males, it’s very possible to look around and suddenly realize that you can’t relax around most of your ‘friends’ because they’re each trying to find an opportunity. (Not that it’s limited to straight males. I’ve had some awful experiences with straight-but-curious females) They all want something from you. Like the witching hour said, it feels like having a bulls-eye on you. At times it’s tempting to just pick one of them in the hopes that the others will give up, but that won’t stop them, because it’s not about what you want, it’s about their loneliness/horniness. And then it gets even more complicated when past histories and multiple sexual orientations get mixed in.

        I don’t have any advice about how to deal with this, because I’m still figuring it out myself. But at least I can second the notion that it is very, very real, and it’s ok to be frustrated by it. At least in my own life, it’s gotten better over time as some of these Nice Guys (TM) grew up a little and moved on. There has to be some way to calibrate my Jerk Filter to include a Nice Guy (TM) Filter as well, and I’m working on it.

        • the witching hour said:

          “It really fucking hurts to know that your friend(s) is only friends with you because they want to bone you. They think they’re being subtle, with awkward attempts at flirtation, trying to touch your arm or your back, offering massages, staring with sad puppy eyes, but it’s just a constant reminder that you are Romantic Interest first and Friend second. You try to enjoy talking and hanging out with them, because they have some great qualities after all, but you have to very carefully police everything you say to avoid encouraging them and you can never relax. God forbid you hang out with them when they’re drunk, because then they’ll ‘compliment’ you by talking about your body constantly.”

          Lump in my throat, actually. This is it. In terms of trauma rape culture has put on me, the never being able to relax around friends has been much, much more damaging than, for example, the sexual assault.

      • drst said:

        I think the witching hour was talking specifically about men who were not being up front about their interests and were instead pretending to want to just hang out and be only friends while really interested in more than that. There’s a difference, also, between “I like you, could we hang out some and see if goes anywhere?” and “I’m totally your friend only (secretly think you owe me sex for behaving like a friend”). The latter is the Nice Guy in the making.

        • TO said:

          Yeah, fair enough, those people and situations certainly do exist too and I definitely didn’t mean to imply that _all_ situations where people are hitting on you are OK. I just felt like there was a distinction I wanted to explicitly point out.

  24. Awkward Niece said:

    The spam filter finds my contributions to be most tasty :-)

  25. The sheer volume of “Are you me” moments I have while reading through the Captain’s blog is astounding. I’ve had a similar problem, LW, in that as I get older and more comfortable with myself (aka more awesome) I seem to attract ever more intense creeps and jerks. Most recently, I had to vigorously enforce my boundaries with a drunk homeless man who really really wanted to hug me, and in the end I thought I might get stabbed a little bit because he was just awfully intent on that hug, but I managed to snatch my scissors back and got escorted back to my car without further harassment.

    I can only credit my astounding good luck with the fact that I have had a very noble, loyal and somewhat scary looking boyfriend to hide behind as my glow of my awesomeness draws jerks to me like moths to a flame. But if I didn’t have him, I would probably employ a buddy system any time I left the house do to anything that carried more risk of human interaction than grocery shopping at 2 am. Let hobbies and girl (SPACE) friends be your refuge, LW.

  26. Pterinochilus murinus said:

    What stood out to me in your letter, LW, is the ‘energy’ bit, and the bit about attracting people to you. Are you by any chance a believer in The Secret, the Law of Attraction, any of that sort of thing?

    If you are, look, it’s very much not my thing, but I’m not going to tell you to stop doing a thing that works for you. However, one really major place where that school of thought falls down is when people use it to victim-blame by saying that if something bad happens, they must have attracted that bad thing by sending out the wrong energy.

    So if you’re blaming yourself for attracting a string of jerks by ‘sending out the wrong energy’, I would advise you instead to consider Zelda II. In Zelda II, when you’re in the overworld, you are safe from enemies so long as you stay on the path. When you leave the path, they swarm you and pull you down into action scenes. But you can’t complete the game without leaving the path. And sometimes, to level up, you’ll want to encounter lots and lots of bad guys, and stab them to get XP. Also, some particularly desirable areas of the map have very tough enemies.

    Maybe you are attracting jerks, but not by being a negative person or whatever. Maybe you’re attracting them because you stepped off the path, which is what you need to do to win this game.

    Stopping here before I can work out a tortured metaphor about locating the hidden village of Kasuto and finding Team You. I want a walkthrough for real life.

    • dawnofthenerds said:

      *flails* Me too!! Me too!!

      Though, upon further reflection, Captain Awkward has become my walkthrough for real life.

    • Elin I. said:

      Yeah, the “energy” thing stood out to me too. Not being too familiar with the Zelda verse, I’m going to ask the LW this: Do you generally try to be kind and decent to people? Do you try to be honest while also reasonably polite? Do you care about other people’s well-being? In that case, you’re fine. If not (but I don’t think that’s the case), work on whatever needs to be worked on, and you’ll be fine.

      You do sound like a great person, LW, and in any case, you didn’t deserve any of the assholery you’ve encountered. Best of luck in the future.

      (And, to Pterinochilus murinus, yes, a walkthrough for real life would be very nice indeed.)

  27. Pterinochilus murinus said:

    I think the spam filter doesn’t like my taste in computer games. D:

  28. Gine said:

    LW, you say “my date hated me” but the truth is actually “my date was a terrible human being who became increasingly frustrated by my refusal to put up with his ridiculous BS.”

    I second the leveling-up comments above. I’ve been there. It can be very lonely for awhile and that sucks, but then it’s so, so much better, and trust me, it’s AWESOME that it’s happening when you’re so young (I assume). Ride that wave, and try to frame things more in a “these people are not my people and I’m better off without them” way instead of a “these people think I’m awful” way.

  29. LW, I think a lot of the commenters have said many good things about believing in how awesome you are and that you’ve leveled up and in time you will find some great friends. I’d just like to add one thought about your interaction with Mr. First Date Hater. Your first sentence in your letter says that he “hated” you. But I’m not sure that the way he treated you involves actual hate of you as a person. I think, based on your description, that he’s a terrible jerk, probably a narcissist, and at the very least, just incredibly insensitive most of the time. He treated you poorly throughout your date.

    I feel like thinking of that behavior as him “hating” you makes it too much about you. It becomes too easy to internalize the negative from him as something wrong with you. (I get it, though. I’m in the middle of a falling out with someone whom I was close, and I keep questioning how much of it was me.)

    But for him to actively hate you means that it’s kind of an on-going thing. And if it’s on-going, then you will have a reason to keep feeling bad about it and keep questioning yourself.

    I’m guess I’m just offering a change in perspective. He doesn’t hate you. He was a complete ass.

    You behaved very well in the situation, stood your ground, and stuck up for youself. (Cheers for you, BTW.) He behaved very badly. If you can hold on to your good feelings and knowledge that you put good out into the world, and not be thinking of the people who “hate” you in the world, then your interactions with all kinds of friends, old and new, will just feel better, and probably go better too.

  30. merc said:

    LW here.

    I just want to say, when I started to read these comments, it made me cry a little. They were good tears. Thank you all so much for sharing your experiences and your advice. Thank you especially for your thoughts regarding boundary-setting and self-care, trying to be your best self, remembering that just because someone tells you something it doesn’t make it true, when it’s time for running shoes, and everything that had to do with snakes. (Hsss.)

    Some maybe pertinent info:

    - I am 23. (You guys are good!) I graduated college last year and moved to a city that is a little too big and too mean for me. I’m in the process of moving to a smaller one, with a roommate who has been perfectly lovely (and loving) thus far about boundaries and things.

    - All the dudes from the letter, and the ladyfriends alluded to, are either from the same consortium where I attended college or a smallish social dance subculture where I have danced and hung out for about four years (or both). I’ve been slowly extricating myself for the past eight months or so from both groups, but there were some people I thought I could stay friends with. I was wrong!!

    CA, thank you so very especially much. Your advice got me to think about this whole issue in a new way. I fundamentally can’t control how people react to me and whether they want to be my shiny new friends. But I can definitely get really clear in my head about what I want, and I can grow and learn new things and do nice things for myself, and the fact is that I’ve been letting my anxiety and pain get in the way of that.

    Basically, this has been some really freaking great advice. I can’t wait to try it out.

    • ona555 said:

      LW, I wish you the best of circumstances in your ongoing journey. Remember, it’s a process, life, and no one’s perfect at it, so if you are going to be forgiving of bad habits, be most forgiving with yourself.

      And keep leveling up!

    • JetGirl said:

      Dear LW,
      The fact that you’re 23 and a recent college grad has EVERYTHING to do with this. It will get easier, and that asshole filter can only serve you well.
      To illustrate: when I was 23, the economy sucked too. I lived with my extremely dysfunctional parents, and didn’t know what the hell I wanted to do, so I worked retail and temped and spent my evenings as an actor and stage manager at the community theater. My so-called best friend from college (the so-called best friend from high school turned out to be a total backstabbing jerk senior year) was verbally abusive and ridiculously needy, even though she lived 2000 miles away. She would call multiple times a day and whine about being bored and depressed. During the years we were friends I watched her screw over multiple people (and herself), until she finally, inevitably screwed me over.
      As far as romance was concerned, I got involved with a really skanky dude 19 years older than myself (I worked in the theater, what can I say?). During a closing night party at my house, he got pissed at me for being interested in another guy (skanky guy had made it clear he had no interest in anything serious), and hit on my friend right in front of me. She turned him down; he called us both bitches. Then he got stinking drunk, wouldn’t leave my house, and tried to have sex with me on the couch right outside my mom’s bedroom door.
      I call that year, and the next two years, my “wilderness years.” Luckily, I finally got my head together when I was 25. At 27, I finally kicked abusive BF to the curb.
      And even then, it took me until I was 30 to weed out all the assholes in my life, because I hadn’t enough self-esteem until then to think I deserved better. You’re way ahead!

  31. PomperaFirpa said:

    LW, I tend to sing the “found a peanut” song as “dodged a bullet”. I highly recommend this, because it is a cheerful way to drill that phrase into your head in regards to:

    1) Asshole who was attempting to manipulate you into sex. DODGED A BULLET!

    2) “Nice Guys” who thought that if input = friendship, output = sex. DODGED A BULLET!

    3) Dude who somehow decided it was an excellent idea to tell you that you are a giant snake in human form (what. the. everlasting. fuck.) DODGED A BULLET!

    Oh my God, you are dodging bullets like you’re in the Matrix. I am envisioning you this way: assholes left and right going I AM GOING TO MAKE YOU LOSE THREE YEARS OF YOUR LIFE IN A RELATIONSHIP THAT WILL LEAVE YOUR SELF-ESTEEM IN TATTERS! or I INTEND TO PRESSURE YOU INTO SEX AND MAKE YOU DOUBT YOURSELF FOREVER AFTER! or I THINK IT WOULD BE GREAT FUN TO GASLIGHT YOU CONSTANTLY! and you are just Neo-ing the shit out of those assholes and twisting and dodging and stopping to coolly eyeball the situation (always in an awesome poster-worthy pose with fabulous cinematography) and generally being the baddest bad-ass of badassity. It is AMAZING.

    So that is you. That is you. You are just that doggone awesome. So none of this “this asshole I went on a date with hated me!” business: you, the star of your own personal action movie, found yourself in a sudden battle sequence out of nowhere when you thought you were just going on a date! and you fought your way out of it with BRAIN KUNG-FU! and then the restaurant blew up as you made your awesome escape!

    The problem here is: the awesome hero of your particular badass action movie is then going home to an empty apartment with no friends to call who would say “wow, good job being such a bad-ass! that guy was an asshole, you dealt with him correctly! now let’s get some ice cream and play Rock Band badly and talk about how cute penguins are, with their little feet!” And that sucks, and I have been there, and I am so sorry.

    So ACTION HERO you, equipped with ASSHOLE DETECTING TECHNOLOGY, is going to have to undertake the QUEST FOR PEOPLE WHO DON’T SUCK (AND THE SORCERER’S STONE). This will involve the following:

    1) THE FINDING OF THE AWESOME, in which you ponder just what it is that makes you so damn awesome! i.e., know what makes you happy– and I’m not talking about in people, much less in dating terms. Know what makes you feel alive and vibrant and rockin’.

    2) THE SHOWCASING OF THE AWESOME, in which you figure out where to go that will let you be doing what makes you happy among other people who also enjoy the same thing! Because people who enjoy that thing will enjoy the enjoying of it with others.

    3) THE ENJOYING OF THE AWESOME, in which you just plain have a rest from having such a suck-tastic life lately and get to do the thing you enjoy in the company of other people who enjoy the same thing, and talk to those people about it.

    There will be perils, and you must keep your ASSHOLE DETECTING TECHNOLOGY on at all times, and you may find yourself in battle mode! but at least you will get to do what you like, and the likelihood is better that you will find fewer assholes.

    I wish you luck, and many jedi hugs!

    • ona555 said:

      This entire comment rocks in such a way as to have rendered me nearly speechless. No small feat, of that you can be certain!

      • ShamelaAndrews said:

        This entire THREAD rocks in such a way that I am pretty certain I leveled up just in the reading of it. But particularly this comment, PomperaFirpa.

        And also: the percentage of people who get immediately butthurt when they encounter a perfectly reasonable boundary marker never ceases to amaze.

    • You are amazing, PomperaFirpa.

    • Squirrel said:

      This is an absolutely fantastic post. <3

    • alphakitty said:

      Love it.

  32. In case Jenny is still around …

    … when someone says they’ve had the same interpersonal pattern recur with a number of different people, especially in a short amount of time, the common denominator is that person.

    I’m all for puzzling out how I might be affecting things when the common denominator is me, but something struck me as wrong about applying it to this situation, and I didn’t figure it out until later. Here goes: If all of LW’s friends said things like “You are a snake in human form” and left it at that, then maybe it would be a good idea to ask why they thought so and reflect on the answer. But if they’re saying, “You are a snake in human form BUT I LOVE YOU ANYWAY,” I’m thinking something is up with the friends. Either they are thinking bad thoughts about LW because she won’t give them access to the girl parts they covet, or they think cutting LW down to size will give them a better shot at her girl parts.

    Really glad to hear from you, Merc! Keep rocking the asshole filter. :)

  33. Squirrel said:

    LW, I know it sucks a lot to feel rejected and to wish you had more friends. But there is one thing that you’ve been doing in your life that will help you make great friends: you keep out assholes. This means when you do meet a nice person, you have room in your head and in your life for their friendship. A lot of people get bogged down by a circle of friends that they don’t really like, but then they have no time or head space to meet new people. You’re all set to meet those great people. And you will.
    You will meet great people and they will love you because honestly, you sound like a pretty awesome person who would be cool to hang out with. :)

  34. LW, I always have like the quote “The more I get to know people the more I like dogs”.

    Unfortunately we live in a world where shit people walk amongest us, sit next to us on the train & are even our best friends at times….. What can we do about these people? Fuck all they can’t help themselves! It’s not you & as CW said you do have your arsehole filter on.

    When you feel a person is being a wanker thru what they are saying ie: hating everything you say, tell them to get fucked & you don’t have time in your life for negative douche bags!

    It’s times like this I wish the Awkward Army had a Australian group!!!!

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