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Dear Captain Awkward,

I have a pretty simple question. How do I nurture my own sense of romance?

A bit of background: I’m a twenty one year old queer girl. I was born in Mississippi, though I spent my teenage years in the north east. I’ve never dated a girl because of my own issues with repression. I’ve hooked up with girls, dated guys, and hooked up with guys. I’ve spent alot of time trying to be romantic guys, and have come to a place where I’m really happy with the friendship and sex I have with guys. (Yay!) I know thought that I want to be romantic with girls not guys, though, and I’m really confused on how to go forward with that. Let’s just say that all of the angst, self repression, disappointment, and forcing hetero romantic situations have left me a bit bitter. I’m not sure how to get what I want or even talk about what I want. I’m spent so much time being bitter and violent towards myself.

I’m basically just talking to girls I like and using the “you’re a person I’m a person maybe we could interact in awesome romantic people ways” rules to muddle through. Any advice on how to muddle productively? Do I basically just have to accept that I’m going back to being say where I was at fifteen with guys? On top of this I have the problem of not finding mainstream depictions of romance desirable- its all so based on magic and love fixing everything. Do you have recommendations for art that depict romance in a more nuanced and awesome way?

Onward latebloomers!
gallant_girl

Hi Gallant Girl, Elodie Under Glass here. This question! This is the sweetest question! Gallant Girl, it is so nice to hear from you.

Unfortunately, after the Captain gave me this question, I sat on it for four months. I discussed it with my friends while drinking wine in the Netherlands: “Where does romance come from? Particularly the kind of romance that we practice.” I asked friends who review books and friends who write books and friends who read books:  “What art depicts romance the way that we live it?” I asked queer friends, married friends, married queer friends, friends-with-kids, and people that just looked interesting. I started to lunge at people out of mailboxes: “HELP ME WITH THIS QUESTION ABOUT ROMANCE.

“How about Malinda Lo?” people suggested, “She did a thing. Or that movie where Piper Perabo and Lena Headley hold hands.”

“True, they’re good enough in their way, I guess,” I’d reply, “But I want, like, queer Dorothy Sayers banter, I want Tipping The Velvet but with a happy ending, I want stuff that isn’t stereotypical: I want stuff that will cheer Gallant Girl up.”

People said “Catherynne Valente! The L Word! A television show with dogs in it!”

All of which are wonderful but none of which quite touched the thing I wanted to tell you: that you’re right, that you should stop worrying if you can, that you’re doing pretty well.

 

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Like Swimming After Eating A Burrito: Dating Advice From The Wrong Side from In Our Words. There’s a lot of great, insightful stuff in here, but this is my favorite part of the piece:

“Are they a jerk to other people? They’re probably also a jerk to you.

I used to be one of those people who got off on having a boyfriend/girlfriend/ziefriend who was too cool to be nice to other people, like my friends, family members or pet. He had a leather jacket, perfectly tussled hair and was in a band. Who cared if they showed up to my family’s Friday night dinner or knocked on the door before he walked in. They were like Jess from Gilmore Girls or Sam from Clarissa Explains It All. They were too cool to bother with knocking or polite things like that. Did Sid Vicious knock? No, because knocking affirms capitalistic patriarchy. When you knock, the man can hear you.

But it turns out those little things like knowing your mother’s first name or not being an asshole to every single person you too interact with is helpful, because you don’t want everyone you know to vehemently disapprove of your relationship. It feels like you’re dating Charlie Sheen or the Unabomber. And most likely, if they’re not that nice to everyone else around you, they’re not that nice to you. It’s not that you’re special or different from everyone else. It’s that they hate the world, and that someday will include you.”

We often point out here that men’s emotions get treated as logic and truth, but women’s emotions get treated as proof that they are stupid and wrong. Please enjoy this piece by Jen Dziura at The Gloss, When Men Are Too Emotional To Have A Rational Argument, which separates this very bad and sexist cultural trope from the herd and wrestles it down like the weak gazelle of bullshit that it is. It’s very US-politics-media centered, but it’s using the recent election cycle as a case study in this:

“What I want to talk about is how emotional outbursts typically more associated with men (shouting, expressing anger openly) are given a pass in public discourse in a way that emotional outbursts typically more associated with women (crying, “getting upset”) are stigmatized.

I wish to dispel the notion that women are “more emotional.” I don’t think we are. I think that the emotions women stereotypically express are what men call “emotions,” and the emotions that men typically express are somehow considered by men to be something else.

This is incorrect. Anger? EMOTION. Hate? EMOTION. Resorting to violence? EMOTIONAL OUTBURST. An irrational need to be correct when all the evidence is against you? Pretty sure that’s an emotion. Resorting to shouting really loudly when you don’t like the other person’s point of view? That’s called “being too emotional to engage in a rational discussion.”

Not only do I think men are at least as emotional as women, I think that these stereotypically male emotions are more damaging to rational dialogue than are stereotypically female emotions. A hurt, crying person can still listen, think, and speak. A shouting, angry person? That person is crapping all over meaningful discourse.

Read more: http://thegloss.com/career/bullish-life-men-are-too-emotional-to-have-a-rational-argument-994/#ixzz2CVC4yByZ

Happy weekend, world! I’ve got friends in town and am making the most of time with awesome people and Chicago food tourism. Hope you are all doing awesome stuff.

Max Headroom wearing white shades

My mom's mental picture of the people you meet online (even though one of the people you meet online is...me).

Dear Captain Awkward,

I am making forays into online dating, and it is Awkward. Mostly it is Awkward because I am one of those people who can tell within the first few minutes whether or not someone does or could ever give me a ladyboner (The “NOOOOO NOT EVER RUN AWAY!” instinct has never been wrong. Sometimes I get a “hmm, not currently interested but try again later” vibe and I roll with it when I don’t have a “this is one of Your People” to pursue.)

I feel that I should point out also that my romantic history is nonexistent (I’m 25) because my crushes have almost always been on people who are partnered (the few that weren’t were turned into various kinds of FEELINGSTHINGS, but I am much better now, I promise). My sexual history is also pretty pathetic, because I’m not a person who is interested in sex with someone I am not romantically involved with. I know this from the aforementioned pathetic amount of experience. I do, however, know what I want, or at least what I want to try, and I am very good at listening to my gut, setting and defending my boundaries, and am trying to become better at asking people out before I turn into a feelings-volcano.

With online dating, I tend to glance over someone’s profile, exchange a few messages, and try to meet them as soon as possible, with a bare minimum of previous contact. I do not want to get excited about meeting them before I know if my guts approve, and I do not want them to think online chats means I will for sure like them (that way) in person. I know I need to get involved in more things where I meet people face-to-face over mutual interests, but for various reasons I can’t right now and online dating at least makes me feel like I’m doing SOMETHING for that area of my life.

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Mannequin Practice - Actress Devon Carson poses like a mannequin behind the scenes of the short film The Wardrobe

Production still from my film, The Wardrobe.

Captain my Captain,

I’m twenty years old, I’m in my third year of college and for the first time I have a fat – no – a phat crush on someone. I’m not new to dating or youknowwhat (well, not extremely new anyways..) but I’ve never felt so hopelessly into someone before. I guess you could say this is my first real crush.

The problem isn’t that he *doesn’t know I exist* because he does, we talk in class and around school. I just don’t think he’s into me. I’ve seen the girls he’s dated and I don’t think I’m his type. Also we only chill at school, we’ve run into each other at parties once or twice but were really just classmates.
My brain is telling me “let him be! Find another boy! You can’t force these things!” but another part of me is ready to bend over backwards to become this boy’s type. All of the sudden I have urges to get new clothes and a haircut. 

Also, I have a class with him and his recently ex girlfriend. Anytime I want to chill (…or flirt…) she comes swooping in…

Its silly. I want to either shut this whole thing down so I can concentrate on more important things (what I usually do, but this one has me hooked) or convince him that I’m actually a cool kid and move on to the next level. This secret longing bullshit is getting old. I met him a year ago! How do I move on? Or, is it wrong to change somethings about myself in order to get a dude??

- Hopeless Nerd

Dear Nerd,

I love everything about this question, because:

1) Helping geeks ask people out is one of the reasons I got into this advice-blogging business.

2) Your question allows me to directly attack the dominant cultural meta-narrative around women, desire, appearance, and agency, which is one of the reasons I get up in the morning.

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A still image from a SuperMario game where Mario is trying to jump from the Friend Zone to the (much higher) Relationship Zone.

COMMENTS ON THIS POST ARE NOW CLOSED.

There’s no way to turn off comments to individual posts, so we’re on the honor system here as of Friday, 3:45 pm CDT.

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Hello, Awkward Nation.

I get many versions of the question “How do I get better at meeting & dating women/men?” in the Captain Awkward Mailbag.

The answer is always some combination of:

  • Work on your social skills in general.
  • Dating is a crapshoot! For many geeks people that is incredibly stressful, because we like rules and being good at stuff. Give us the cheat codes! Tell us how to be good at stuff!  SORRY. IT IS TOTALLY SUBJECTIVE AND UNFAIR.
  • Your best chance is to throw out the weird sexist rules and expectations that you’ve inherited from romantic comedies, shiny magazines, beer commercials, and dipshits.  To quote Holly, “if you follow Cosmo’s advice, your dating life is going to be like trying to get asked to slow dance at the seventh grade socialforever.”
  • When in doubt, use your words.  Don’t infer; ask.  Don’t hint; say.

Fortunately, we have Intern Paul to answer today’s version of this question, and he can totally do it without a rantlecture about Jean-Luc Godard’s sexist portrayal of women as cruel childlike aliens who can never be understood (only desired) vs. Agnes Varda’s exploration of ambivalence or Vera Chytilova’s spectacular depiction of feminist rebellion as destructive play. Ahem.

Dear Captain Awkward:

I have a problem. It feels like whenever I meet someone I like and want to date, they like me back, but just as friends. I don’t mean that they tell me that as a polite way of turning me down, I mean that they are sincerely interested in striking up a relationship with me, but one that is completely platonic. Much of the time, that’s what happens. In fact, I’ve only had one serious relationship in my life (over ten years ago), but I’ve made about a dozen friends by asking out women I was attracted to.

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Hey there Captain Awkward!  I found your blog a couple months ago and have been reading it religiously ever since!  Thanks for all the great advice!

I’m a fellow feminist blogger, writing on my blog mendaredo.com, and I have a question for you on dating that I was pondering a bit on my blog.  I’m a self-identified cis, straight, feminist dude, and to quote from my post:

But perhaps a “problem” as it were specific to dating is that simply stated: people who self-identify as feminists are a minority, so if you’re going to be out there dating and you’re a self-identified feminist, chances are you might be dating a non-feminist (or even an anti-feminist!).  How do you do that?  Should you bring it out on the first date?  Second?  Not at all and just let it come organically?

[...]

As a feminist man, when I find I’m with someone (either just socially or on a date) and a discussion of feminism comes up with a non-feminist, I frequently get something like, “You’re a lot more feminist than I am!”  It’s a peculiar position to be in, and not one that any of my prior feminist experiences really prepared me for.  After all, when you’re a feminist talking in a safe space with other feminists, you usually aren’t confronted with a lot of people being “more feminist” than others in the same way.  Of course, you have debates within feminist communities with more radical feminists on one side and less so on the others — there is a spectrum, but everyone in the room is still feminist.  My admittedly limited prior feminist outreach and activities was often in sexual assault prevention type stuff, and well, that’s obviously not dating.

So, I guess my question is this: what advice would you give a feminist dude who’s trying to date?  I don’t particularly want to be in a relationship with someone wants to adhere to traditional gender roles, but that be a tricky thing to suss out on a first date.  I also recognize it can also be pretty limiting to say, “I won’t date anyone who doesn’t share so-and-so beliefs.”  Thoughts?
-Jeff

Dear Jeff:
My rules of dating are the same for all people.  Let’s review:
  1. The other person is just a human
  2. Ask the person out sooner rather than later, before you get too caught up in a fantasy or invested in the outcome.
  3. Nobody owes you time or affection, so don’t approach dating with a sense of entitlement.
  4. Be cool with rejection.
  5. You can’t control whether someone will like you.
  6. Listen to the other person – pay attention to the actual interaction that is taking place and not the one in your head.
  7. Don’t date anyone who isn’t as cool as your friends.
  8. Acknowledge the awkward. Don’t try to be smooth if you’re not smooth.  It’s okay to say “I feel shy about asking you out, but I like you.”

These apply to the very early stages of dating where you’re just getting to know someone.  Obviously in those early stages you’re also probably finding out how the other person feels about books, music, movies, food, family, work,  alone-time vs. together-time, sex, and politics. Read More

Dear Captain,

I am in what seems to be the early stages of a relationship – four dates in – and I need some advice in how to proceed.

The woman I am dating is a very lovely person (I am, by the way, a queer woman), we have a lot in common, and I enjoy spending time with her. However, for a start I worry that I enjoy the thought of dating her for two rather selfish reasons. First, that I have a habit of being the ‘carer’ in all my relationships with friends and sometimes family. With this woman, I don’t feel that this would be necessary so much and that’s quite a restful thought. Second, she’s more interested in me than I am in her. It feels bad to say, but I have a history (thankfully something I have been able to put aside and begin working through) of a very painful two-year unrequited love/lust for someone, which made me feel undesirable/unlovable/etc. Her being interested in me feels, after all that, very nice.

So I worry that my motivations in getting into this aren’t nice motivations, and further I worry about what I can give her back.

I don’t want a romantic relationship. I enjoy dating her, and sex with her, but I don’t want her to be my girlfriend. Not only is this a very busy time for me (last year of university), I don’t think I’d want her as a girlfriend anyway; I don’t think she’s someone I could be in love with.

I don’t want to bring her into my core group of friends. She already knows most of them through the wider social circle – I’m not ashamed of her. But if I bring her in it will be as ‘my date’ and that would change the dynamics I have with my friends. I’m not happy about the thought of giving up that dynamic.

I randomly swing into low energy/introvert mode. At that time, all further social interaction becomes a chore, and all I want to do is go home and read a book. With my ex, we would call a time out when on a date and both read for half an hour, so that worked okay. But I’m not sure how to make it clear to this woman that it will keep happening (I’ve already bailed on her twice when hanging out) and that it isn’t something about her.

I don’t want to sleep over at her place – I get insomniac in strange beds. She seems to have less trouble sleeping over at mine (as she has done so) but I worry that I’ll seem aloof.

I have an unpredictable libido with partnered sex, and also have occasional trouble orgasming. In the past, I’ve handled this by only dating/hooking up very casually – getting in touch with whoever I was seeing only when I felt like sex. I’d be happy to do this with her, too, but she contacts me a lot and I feel she wants to date more regularly. The trouble orgasming links in with the introvert mode – not only is it embarrassing for me when I don’t come, as I’m not very good about talking about it yet, all I want to do afterwards is say goodbye to the rest of the evening and go home.

With all this, I don’t know if I should be pursuing a relationship with her at all, and if I do I know she’s got a right to know a lot/all of this but I don’t know how to bring it up in a way that isn’t potentially going to hurt or offend her. She has not yet asked to be in a relationship or to hang with me and my friends, or for me to hang with hers, but as she does seem to want to date regularly I want to make things clear from the get go.

Thoughts? Advice?

Thanks for this question!  First, it gives me a chance to post the awesome trailer for Chicago indie filmmaker Wendy Jo Carlton’s new musical, Jamie and Jessie Are Not Together.

Cute gay women!  Overthinking it!  IN SONG!

Wendy Jo is the talented shizznit, people, and I cannot wait to see this movie.

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