Question #174: Dating secrets of THE TERRIFYINGLY AMAZING

Dear Captain Awkward,

I am a twenty-five-year-old introverted, socially-awkward, geeky fat girl who has never been kissed. I feel weird about this, because it feels like there is something terribly wrong with me, and all of my friends are way more experienced than I am.

I don’t really know if I have the energy for a relationship right now, and have had terrible luck in dating — mostly I end up meeting guys who have fetishes for inexperience or fatness or smart ladies, and I am the only fat/virgin/geek girl they ever met, and they MUST HAVE ME or they will be ALONE FOREVER! and they tell me that clearly they are the only person who could ever like me anyway, and then I block them on AIM and don’t answer their calls. Or people who I am into are clearly not into me, and if they’re nice about it we end up as friends, and if they’re jerks about it I’m magically not into them anymore, because I’m not into jerks.

At any rate, sadness often causes me to whine to my friends about how awkward I am and nobody loves me except for creepy dudes, woe, angst. My friends are lovely, but usually they pull out the old story about how I’m just really intimidating, because I’m smart and funny and awesome, and CLEARLY dudes don’t ask me out/get weird and distant or jerky after I’ve asked them out because I am JUST TERRIFYINGLY AMAZING.

I think at this point I just need to get out more and Be Social, but I am asking if we can please get rid of telling women that they’re just too intimidating to be someone’s girlfriend? Firm in the belief that I was too intimidating to date, here is what I used to do on the few dates I got:

1. Not make jokes, because funny women are intimidating.
2. Not talk about my own interests, because women with hobbies are intimidating and also showoffy. Especially if their hobbies are things that require talent or lots of hard work! Women with talent or who work hard are especially intimidating.
3. Not have opinions, because opinions on women are *so gross,* amirite?
4. Ask the dude all about his interests, even if I didn’t find them interesting, because that made me less intimidating, and who cares about whether I’m having a good time on this date, right? It’s all about the guy.
5. Keep going on dates even after it was clear my heart and groin were not into this dude, because at least he wasn’t intimidated, and this might totally be my last chance at ever! finding! love!, because I am so intimidating!

Here’s the sad thing: being as bland and inoffensive as possible actually *worked* in the short run. And it would have worked for longer if I could have overridden lack of heart/groin and kissed any of the guys who I ended up doing this with. Just think — I missed out on so many passionless, boring relationships!

But I don’t want to date just ANY guy. I want to date a guy who is into the real me, and I want to date a guy who I’m into. Also, those dates were horrible and no fun, and thus I have avoided dating as much as possible for years.

So that’s my argument for losing the Intimidating Ladies Never Get Any trope. What do you think? Also, do you have any advice for a girl who went about dating All Wrong for years, and has finally learned to be herself on dates? I finally was myself on a date, we had fun, he just wants to be friends and I think I do too, but I’m worried about slipping into my bad bland habits next time I go out with someone new.

Also, is there any good way to answer questions like “What was your last relationship like? What do you mean you’ve never been in one? Why not?” I have a feeling questions like this are probably just too nosy for a first date and a sign that this guy is not for me, but maybe I’m wrong? It just feels too much like a job interview question.

–Intimidated By Dating

Welcome to the SECRET ORDER OF THE TERRIFYINGLY AMAZING, Letter Writer. I love you so hard right now, you don’t even know.

Looking at my own checkered past and the collection of mostly happily partnered 30-something Valkyries and awesome geeky dudes who surround me, I’m here to say:

There are smart, cool, heterosexual dudes who like fat girls, smart girls, introverts, talented, funny, sarcastic girls, geeks, sluts, virgins – all of it. You know what? They just LIKE WOMEN, period. They were raised by awesome Feminists and/or they’ve done some work on their own privilege and on understanding sexism and/or they’ve grown up in our time when men and women can be friends and it’s not a big deal (which is one of the things that makes this such a great time to be alive). They see us as people, and they laugh at our jokes and they root for our creative and professional successes and they tell us to piss off when we deserve it and we don’t have to make ourselves smaller to be with them. They like women.

And behind closed doors there are a lot of us who look like we rolled out of Hobbiton this morning to walk our hairy feet to second breakfast…who are having white-hot sex. The best kisser in the Midwest is a nocturnal (and therefore extremely pale) dude who owns so many books you’re kind of afraid they’re going to fall on you when you’re in his apartment, and introvert doesn’t even BEGIN to describe…ahem. I digress. Someone who acts like his manly attentions are like some kind of amazing favor because you are (fat)(geeky, which just means really passionate about things you like and is a GOOD quality)(smart)(a virgin)(too awesome) has internalized a lot of toxic bullshit about what is desirable in this culture, and you don’t want him getting any of that on you. Think of it as him speaking in code, and if you were to decipher that code it would say “I have no idea where the clitoris is.Have you read The Fountainhead? It’s my favorite book.” You are correct to banish That Guy whenever he pops up.

Some of we TERRIFYINGLY AWESOME folk go a long time on our own without a partner or between partners, and we learn how to be happy in our own company in between bouts of making ourselves vulnerable on the dating scene or moments of dumb luck. It doesn’t seem fair, like when you are riding the Brown Line at rush hour and it’s full of couples who stepped out of a De Beers ad fondling each other and you’re periodically blinded from the way their engagement rings catch the morning light. Then you overhear some of their conversations, like an intense 40 minute conversation about the best smoothie place or celebrity weddings or “good carbs vs. bad carbs” or “where should we get our teeth whitened before the wedding?” while the old Second City “Mainstream-Impaired Guy” sketch runs through your head. “I sold my boat and bought another boat!” “16 shots of Jaeger.” “Sports!” Maybe that’s just me?

I recently re-read The Rules (because I wanted to make fun of it here, and holy wow is it garbageterrible) and your list of stuff you’ve done to make yourself less…less funny, less interesting, overall less awesome…in order to have short-term “success” at dating at the expense of self-expression and self-worth and being accepted for who you are is right out of what they say you should do before you even start looking for love. Smooth off all your rough edges, ladies! Oh, and by the way, you’re going to have to maintain that bland, shellacked facade and act like a Bachelor contestant even after you’re married in order to “keep the spark alive,” because if your husband doesn’t feel like he is “chasing” you all the time it will kill his bonerz dead.

It’s literally in the book that “men don’t like sarcasm” and “men don’t like women who tell jokes” so you should never be sarcastic in front of them (sarcasm and jokes kill bonerz). If my goal in life was to marry some generic dude who wants a ladylike thin woman who is never sarcastic and who only asks him about his own hobbies and interests and is never competitive with him or funny, I would be SOL and the room around me would be littered with sad, deflated boners. Fortunately I want to marry someone* in the hilarious, awkward bear category, and I think he will be okay with what I’ve got going on here.

Listen, my young Padawan, you are doing everything exactly right, and to describe your awesomeness as somehow “intimidating” is a very…Rich from Marie Claire kind of move. You don’t need to slow down for other people, you need to find other people who can keep up with you. Every now and then a random online dating site dude will tell me “Wow your (sic) kindof (sic) intimidating” and I usually respond with “Wish I could say the same about you!” DELETE BLOCK REPEAT.

I think your instincts to be more social in general are correct. Go on more first dates. Find some regular activity that will bring you into contact with people more than once in a casual way where you can get to know them. Do your part to call out and take down sexism (and racism) in the Strong Successful Women Intimidate Men So They Will Die Alone (And It’s Their Fault) trope, like you did with your awesome rant. Do a little less crying on the shoulders of your friends where you wonder aloud what’s wrong with you and therefore invite them to try to invent something that could be wrong with you. Go forth and intimidate the bonerz off of people who see strength and confidence as intimidating, because you are TERRIFYINGLY AMAZING. You may wither bonerz of the unworthy with your steely gaze, but the good news is you will create desire in cool, fun, smart worthy men who actually like women.

Finally, in answer to your last question, that “What was your last relationship like?” question is so job interviewish – “Why did you leave your last position as Mike’s girlfriend, Jessica? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” I can hear the hum of the Starbucks frappuccino blender behind it, so we’re already in deeply unsexy territory.  It’s not a totally ridiculous thing to ask, but it’s not really for the first-ever conversation you have with someone either. I’d suggest answering honestly in a low-key way “I’ve gone on a lot of dates, but no real relationships so far” that indicates it is not a big deal or source of shame or discomfort for you, and then turn it back at him. If he is weirded out by that, it’s his issue, not yours.

Good talk everyone.

*2019 note: Initially listed as “Louis CK or a reasonable facsimile,” holy shit did THAT not age well.

125 thoughts on “Question #174: Dating secrets of THE TERRIFYINGLY AMAZING

  1. Right??? My husband is lucky he found me first, because Louis CK would be way high up there. He just can’t believe I’d hit that. He points to him when he’s sweaty and talking about being paunchy and eating Cinnabon with hot jizz on top and is like “really?” And if I could pause my laughter and uncross my “I’m about to pee” legs I’d say “really.”

    I think this “make yourself more/less whatever” thing needs to stop for both men AND women. Seriously, we need to work more on being ourselves. Because if I’m going to spend the rest of my life with the guy I married almost 4 years ago (!!!) I’m going to have to fart sometime before I die. Would someone tell me why it took me a WHOLE YEAR before I did it in front of him?

    1. Yes, yes, yes.

      1) Louis CK is hotness itself.
      2) Everyone farts.
      3) You can’t hate yourself into finding love from other people. It only works when you like yourself.

      1. I’m a straight man, and I’d seriously consider having sex with Louis C.K. just to listen to him crack post-coital jokes.

        1. I think he’s got his sights set on Ewan MacGregor for his first entree into man love.

          Now there’s a threesome I’d like to be a third in!

      1. Actually, it was my husband who had those issues back in the day. He was afraid if he pooped in my bathroom, all his mystique would be gone. So periodically, he’d announce, mysteriously, “I have to go now.”
        “Really? Why?”
        “Shh. I’ll see you later.”

        He did seem mysterious. Gone in an instant! A nineteen-year-old Keyser Soze…

        Who was rushing home to poop.

        He only fessed up years later, after we were married.

        1. XD I had a terrible afternoon of “internal distress” while I was in a TINY studio apartment with HusbandLogic, early in our relationship. Finally I couldn’t stand it anymore.

          Me: I need to ask for something really embarrassing.
          Him: Okay. *concern face*
          Me: I want you to go to the corner coffee shop and order a coffee and wait for me to join you.
          Him: *EYEBROWS*
          Me: *sigh* Because I need to use your bathroom in a really gross way, and I don’t want you to be here when I do.
          Him: LOL Okay.

          And then we had coffee.

        2. I was browsing the used CDs at a record store with my then-boyfriend when the broccoli I’d eaten at lunch threatened to make its inevitable, gaseous appearance. I thought if I meandered, rapidly and with purpose, I could dissipate the resulting miasma. I suggested that perhaps he not enter the jazz, reggae, or hip-hop sections for a few minutes as I had farted in all of them. He was greatly amused and told me that among some school teachers (of which he was one) this technique is known as “crop-dusting.”

        3. It took me one year of knowing the man who would become my husband before I would poo in his apartment.

          Yes. Even after we were pretty much living together.

          And the first time I pooed there, one year in, I clogged the toilet. He didn’t have a plunger. So I had to stride out into the living room and announce “I HAVE POOED. DO NOT GO IN THERE. I AM BUYING A PLUNGER NOW. DO NOT FOLLOW ME.”

          1. This is hilarious.

            I once dated a woman who needed to be asked (politely) to close the door when she used the toilet.

          2. The “When I first admitted that I poop” stories might need their own thread. Awesome.

    2. Also, if your relationship doesn’t last or falls on hard times or gets boring, what are you going to do if you’ve turned yourself into “The Rules” Barbie? (No offense to Barbie dolls. You were super fun to play with growing up.) When you’re sitting at home and bored, what do you turn to? When you want to blow off steam, if you’ve ‘smoothed off your edges’, where do you go? Make reasonable changes to be a better, more interesting person, and the people who are doing the same thing will come to you.

      P.S. Personally, I tell my bf that I’m going to go lesbian for Rachel Maddow. It’s the policy nerd in me coming out, what can I say. All love to Louis CK, though.

  2. Wow! I feel like I could have written the opening and at least half of the rest of the question. I’m still hopeful, though at least partly because I did (miraculously it seemed, at the time) have one long term relationship. We have to believe that we will find the partners we want/are looking for/deserve because, it happens for some people. And getting there can definitely be a frustrating game where your block list on OKCupid grows and you add to the bank or bad date stories.

  3. CA speaks the truth–you’re doing everything right when you’re being yourself, having the fun you like to have, telling jokes you think are funny, talking about stuff that interests you with people who can do the same, being smart, being geeky, being weird. U R doin’ it rite.

    All that’s left is to play the numbers game–go on as many dates as you can handle, and don’t commit until you have a heart/mind/crotch consensus and so do they. What you should NOT do is go on one date, have it lead to friendship/nothing, and then start trying to figure out what “didn’t work” and what you need to do to “fix it” for next time. It’s like looking at last week’s lottery numbers to determine this week’s winners–every person is a whole new set of variables. Statistically, there’s someone in your current or future social operating area that is going to dig the SHIT out of you, and you need to be out there meeting that person instead of figuring out how to conform to the expectations of a hypothetical person resembling someone who it has already not worked out with (making you less attractive to our hypothetical You-Digger in the process).

    The only dating advice anyone really needs is “live the awesome life you want; invite people to join you, openly and honestly; be relieved if it doesn’t work out since you found out early”.

    AND OH MY GOD TELL MORE JOKES! Who would tell you to not tell jokes?? JOKES ARE WHERE FUNNY LIVES!

    1. What you should NOT do is go on one date, have it lead to friendship/nothing, and then start trying to figure out what “didn’t work” and what you need to do to “fix it” for next time. It’s like looking at last week’s lottery numbers to determine this week’s winners–every person is a whole new set of variables. Statistically, there’s someone in your current or future social operating area that is going to dig the SHIT out of you, and you need to be out there meeting that person instead of figuring out how to conform to the expectations of a hypothetical person resembling someone who it has already not worked out with (making you less attractive to our hypothetical You-Digger in the process).”

      Travis, you are smart and I want to amplify this because it is so true. Get right up on there on my hotness list with Louis CK.

      1. This isn’t per se wrong, but would you give the same advice to, say, the Mayor of Friend Zone? Sadly, some people — even otherwise awesome people — are repeating unnecessary mistakes. Telling the guy (it’s always the guy, right?) who talks too much about himself or picks his nose or checks out other people that it’s not him, it’s just bad luck is irresponsible.

        I’ve used the “you’re intimidating” line exactly once, and it wasn’t because she was awesome. I used it because I couldn’t think of a nice way to say “your temper scares me.”

        1. Mayor? Is that you?

          That IS pretty much exactly what we told him. “Date more people, don’t sweat it.” The Mayor of the Friend Zone turned out to annoy the shit out of us in the comments (and had asked the same question previously in a slightly different way), so the relationship deteriorated.

          Maybe you should have gone with “Your temper scares me” that one time.

          1. Not the Mayor. I’d love an update from that guy, though.

            I think this is what you’re referring to: “So in the end you just have to keep trying until you find the woman that’s into your thing. Until then, be interesting, be caring, be respectful, and treat your dates the way you expect to be treated.” And what I’m saying is that Travis’s advice glosses over the fact that some people would benefit from friendly advice on how to be interesting, caring, and respectful. Painfully Literal Man could misinterpret “there’s someone in your current or future social operating area that is going to dig the SHIT out of you” as entitlement, or overemphasize “statistically” to conclude that he’s the doomed tail end of the curve.

            We can all improve without being fake, right?

          2. In that old post we linked to stuff about improving your social skills in general (from Holly over at The Pervocracy) and gave TONS of advice in the comments.

            Maybe the Mayor could have used some advice on how to be more interesting…:waves wand: Be more interesting!!:…but he was already being respectful and doing most of it right as far as we knew. We also gave him a lot of the same exact advice in an earlier response.

            “Some people” could maybe benefit from that advice, but we’ve covered it and linked to it (and related stuff) a lot here, and this isn’t bootcamp for guys who have not mastered a basic level of nice, respectful, and interesting. Our point is you can be all those things, even to the point of being TERRIFYINGLY AWESOME, and still not find dating “success” right this second.

        2. What is it that you want that you want?

          My email address is prominently displayed on the right of the screen if you want to ask a question. We’ve linked to and gone over a LOT of basic dating stuff on the site, but if there is something specific that we haven’t covered, let me know.

          Today’s letter writer didn’t ask me how to have success with dating dudes or ladies, she asked me for help/support in retiring the trope that if she doesn’t tone down her personality that she is “intimidating” (done!) and also asked specifically how to answer the “so, about your last relationship…” question (done!). She didn’t need help with confidence or being interesting (done!), and she’s already good at not getting hung up on dudes who she’s not interested in, so we didn’t take it there. The Mayor asked me for different stuff…twice…and we linked to EXACTLY the kind of stuff you suggested we cover…twice… go read those posts and the links there and maybe you will find what you need? The Mayor was also doing exactly what Travis said to NOT do, which was to look longingly at every interaction that fizzled and say “But why…” rather than going out and meeting more women.

          Is your complaint that we don’t review every single topic from the beginning in every question, even though “some people” (you?) could benefit from the basics? Then come out and say it with words as an actual question that you have, and we’ll either answer it or link you to the right stuff.

          1. I know it’s been 8 days (or eight million “Internet Years”), but I thought this comment was one of bunch I write, then delete without posting until my fiancee pointed out there were responses, and I would like to respond in kind.

            About 85-95% of this comment wasn’t really general advice–it was specific for the LW, who like CA says, sounds pretty awesome. I really think all she has to do is be herself and not get hung up on losers who aren’t into her jelly.

            As for “well, some people DO need to change things”, I actually wrote and deleted a paragraph about that; the jist of it was: if there are things in your life that YOU don’t like, they probably aren’t helping you in the dating arena. So listen to yourself (and your most trustworthy friends) about ways you can make your life better, but trying to tease out what’s wrong with you from a one- or two-time date isn’t likely to yield much in the way of life lessons.

            I mean, dates aren’t really invested in you personally if they don’t won’t to take it anywhere with you–when they feel they have to give an explanation why you’re not clicking, it’s probably going to be some variety of “it’s not you, it’s me” (I mean, dude up top used ‘you’re intimidating’ instead of the much more direct and informative ‘I feel threatened by your anger’). They just want to end this with as little drama as possible. Listen to the people who love you–friends, family, and hopefully yourself, change what’s not making your happy (I didn’t recently think “how can I make more friends?”, I thought “what is it about going out and meeting people that I don’t like?”, and started looking up art classes at the community college).

            But yeah, no, I thought the LW just sounded like the Cat’s Pajamas, and her only problem was she thinks being less her self is the only way she’s ever going to find someone. Just wanted to take some time and call bullshit on that.

    2. ‘The only dating advice anyone really needs is “live the awesome life you want; invite people to join you, openly and honestly; be relieved if it doesn’t work out since you found out early”.’

      Took me long enough to work this one out myself, and Travis has put it better than I could’ve managed…

    3. “be relieved if it doesn’t work out since you found out early”

      I’m going to put a little double emphasis here. The ‘intimidation’ factor (which I think is more just a way of finding out that you don’t click) can be a great way of filtering out the people mentioned before that are not your cup of tea, thereby saving yourself a bit more time you could be spending on those fun hobbies. Efficiency!

  4. The week before I went away to college to start my brand new life among 10000 strangers a guy who I had been nursing a vague attraction to approached me and said the following: “You know, when I first met you I thought you were REALLY SCARY.”

    Nothing like being told how terrifying you are to assuage the old social anxiety eh?

    It is hard out there for us terrifyingly amazing chicks. The thing that I often say about myself is that “I am not for everyone.” Some people don’t like chocolate ice cream, so it stands to reason that there are people out there who don’t like me. But I’m not going to masquerade as low fat vanilla frozen yogurt just to make people like me.

    Trust me, there are terrifyingly amazing guys out there looking for terrifyingly amazing girls. The trick is finding them. If only there were a dating site only for terrifyingly amazing people. Though I’m not sure what the screening criteria would be? Perhaps a panel of boring people who rate how scary someone is on a scale of 1-10?

    1. Ha, in Chicago I could construct some kind of filter for a normal dating site that gets rid of:

      Any usernames with the words “Chi” or “4u”
      Phrases like “I like living life to its fullest” or “I’m looking for my partner in crime” (Are you doing actual crime? No? Then don’t say that.)
      “My friends tell me I’m funny” (Dude, even my enemies think I’m funny, because I am actually funny).

      And you’d have a good start right there.

        1. Ha, I just logged into [dating site] and had a message from a guy who had all of those things going on in his profile at the same time. His message to me?



          1. I haven’t gotten nearly as many annoying responses since I put this on my profile:

            You should message me if
            You are reasonably intelligent and have more to say than “lets have sex” or any variation thereof. While I may appreciate your willingness to be up front, the likelihood of me wanting to hook up with you would be dramatically increased by a demonstration of your ability to have a conversation beyond “you pretty, we make fucky fucky.”

      1. Along with “My friends tell me I’m funny,” I would add “My friends tell me I’m the smartest person they know!” Because it means this person is used to hanging around with people who either aren’t very smart, or have really poor self-image. Or possibly this person is Sherlock, who I also don’t want to date.

        1. I find that “smart” and “funny” are attributes best left to the discretion of the observer. Much like “classy” and “powerful” if you have to tell people you are, you probably aren’t.

          Also, no one should date Sherlock, no matter how good looking he is. Move on, Molly Hooper! He’s just not that into people!

          1. Oh, Molly Hooper – I love her so hard right now, but I’m at least an episode ahead of you.

    2. I would sign up for that dating site. I would sign up ASAP. Except then I’d be worried about being terrifyingly amazing enough! Because, for example, my job is nothing spectacular; I live for my weird hobbies and weirder friends. Which I guess is plenty scary to most boring people.

  5. This letter and the answer are amazing and happen to be posted at an extremely opportune moment for me. If I could figure out how to put cake through the internet for you, I WOULD.

  6. LW, you are whole-heartedly welcome to the cabal of the TERRIFYINGLY AMAZING!

    HusbandLogic admits that on our first date, I had so much going on that it intimidated him a little bit. But as you can tell by his moniker, it didn’t scare him off. No, he rose to the occasion and proved himself equally amazing.

    You are not bad at dating, okay? You are doing everything right (not continuing to date guys who are into a piece of you but not YOU, expecting to be treated as a human being, etc.), but you seem to want to know a couple of tweaks, so other than Follow The Cap’s Rules here goes:
    1 – Demystify the first date. There is no super fancy formula to this. The first date is just where you find out if there’s personal chemistry, which you can’t really determine over email/pictures. This is the ultimate no harm no foul encounter. You meet. You chat. You consume something (a drink, a scone, a dinner, a book, wevs) together. You decide if you like the person enough to see them again. THAT’S ALL. Kissing, sexing, hand holding, going steady, all that stuff is on a schedule that is up to you.
    2 – Go on a lot of first dates, and have as much fun as you can. Expect to go on a lot fewer second dates.

    Every guy you date once and never see again is just getting you closer to the guy who will rock your socks off and have his socks equally rocked by you.

    Also, it took me a really long time to get the you’re-nice-but-the-first-date-didn’t-work-out speech right, so I bequeath it to you: “I had a good/great/wonderful/lovely time, but I just don’t feel that we’re right for each other. You seemed great, and I’m sure you’ll find someone amazing, so good luck out there, and thank you!” You can repeat every part of it if rejected suitor comes back atcha.

    Finally, you’re going to go on first dates that you think went great and then never hear from that guy again. It’s going to happen. It is The Way of things. Mourn them for, like, 15 minutes, then get excited for your next first date.

    Seriously, the weekend I had my first date with HusbandLogic? I had another first date the next night already, and he had two. We went to them, had pleasant enough times, but ended up with each other.


    1. YES. YES. YES.
      I cannot emphasize how important it is to view first dating as purely recreational while you figure out how to be yourself in front of dudes again.

      I was in much your same position, and it wasn’t until I stopped giving a flying fuck about who they wanted me to be and started caring a lot more about who I wanted to be that dating started being fun. I met a lot of dudes, a lot of them fell by the wayside pretty quickly because the chemistry just wasn’t there. It was a struggle at first to not allow that to be a moratorium on my personal happiness for the rest of my life evar. Once I figured that piece out, holy shit! Good times! And then met the amazingest dude the world has ever produced, who also realized my equal amazingness, and now we are terrifyingly amazing together.

      1. That is one awesome dude you’ve got there, and as you know, your amazingness is visible from space.

    2. SUCH good advice. A couple weeks before I met Mr Machine (i.e., 9 happy years ago), I had a first date who messaged me because I mentioned in my profile that I have a shag rug of JFK as a wall hanging (best flea market find ever) — and he had a shag rug of LBJ in his office. NOT EVEN KIDDING. I felt like, dude, if the universe has ever sent me any sign, this is clearly it. I went on the date, he was nice and cute and I felt no spark at all (and, to my embarrassment, did the “Oh sure we should do this again” thing when I didn’t really mean it). Later that month, I went on a first date with this other cute guy who seemed funny in his profile but nothing that really jumped out at me and said “HERE YOU ARE, SWEET MACHINE, LOVE, THE UNIVERSE.” Aaaaand three months later cute guy #2 and I were living together.

      What I’m trying to say is, there’s luck, and you don’t know who you’ll meet until you meet them. Imho, people who go on dates with the image of walking down the aisle next to a “Your face here” Ken doll are going to be a lot more saddened by the dating process than those who go into it believing they are a terrifyingly amazing person having some fun.

      1. I have to admit, a small part of me weeps that the JFK rug and the LBJ rug couldn’t be together, but I’m glad it all worked out for the best, and you are absolutely right that indicators do not trump actual chemistry.

  7. If I could go back in time and give ONE SINGLE DOCUMENT to myself at any point between ages 11 and 21, this would be it. For context, note that I am 22 now. I have done the whole kissing-oral-PIV thing, but not nearly as much as I’ve wanted to, and it was always a case of taking what I thought I could get for fear another opportunity would never come along. And since I realized I’m queer and started dating girls as well, I can pretty definitively inform you that Terrifyingly Amazing is not strictly a heterosexual phenomenon (at least, not while fat).

  8. Yes! Go forth and continue to be amazing! Also, you don’t want your dating history to look like this (which, um, pretty much describes my twenties):

    Boyfriend One: Totally entertaining for a while, then, you, terrifyingly amazing, find yourself having unlocked all the fun, new toys of knowledge dude has, and then you are bored.

    Boyfriend Two: Different toys of fun knowledge to learn about. You study them all (including actually reading The Fountainhead), and then are bored.

    Boyfriend Three. . . Repeat.

    One of the cool things about being of the tribe of the terrifyingly amazing, is that most people are interesting to us! At least for a little while! Hold out for the ones who are ridiculously fascinating, and are cool enough to not only love your amazing, but amplify it.

    1. Good lord *this* has been my problem since year dot. Be warned all who are TERRIFYINGLY AMAZING: if you downgrade you so that you’re more paletable to Misc. Dude #7 you get *really really bored* and then you eat a lot. At least, I did.

      New Dating Adventures have me in such a fabulous place and just freaking in love with me bad self and, sure, a lot of dude are not into it but it sort of stuns me how many are…and just how varied they are, and just how much fun I can have with them.

      Oddly resisting The Committment though. Dating is just too much fun. Or maybe they’re just not TERRIFYING enough.

  9. I got this brilliant piece of advice from a woman who was the dumped fiancee of my ex-boyfriend. It can apply to auditions, job interviews, first dates, anything. It’s hard to internalize, but it is so, so so true. (excuse the “please love me!” aspect of the analogy because it definitely has to go both ways, but this is how I learned it.)
    You are RED. You are the finest, boldest, purest shade of red imaginable! You OWN red like it was designed for you.
    The first date/interviewer/director is looking for purple. Purple is the right choice for that person.
    Now, red, is close, it’s pretty close, to purple. I mean, it’s just red with some blue in it, right? So you play down your REDness. Your pure red fever cools into a sort of muddy blueish red that is straining to be purple. You’re not purple. You never will be. The more you try to be purple, the more you fail. If they take on your magnificent redness, they will be frustrated with every bit of it that isn’t purple.
    Someone out there thinks RED is the HAWTNESS. Is the perfect match. Is the only way to go. They are, to you, the color you seek.

    BE RED. Don’t pretend you’re orange, or pink, or purple, or aubergine, or puce, or any of that shit. Put on your RED lipstick and your RED shoes.

    A lyric from “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” is “someone somewhere dreams of me.”

    There is an awesome dude for whom you aren’t TOO awesome, you’re just the right amount of awesome. You’re not too fat/nerdy/tall/flatulent/hilarious, you’re just what he needs. And with a little pixie dust, he is what you need as well. I’m not saying it’s easy. I am just saying to thine own self be true.

    1. I love this, and the Captain’s advice here, a million.

      Also, about answering the “What was your last relationship like?” question. You don’t have to say this when people ask you this, but here is something worth keeping in mind while you navigate dating. I think I may have picked this up from a Carolyn Hax column I read a couple of years ago, but it blew me away and I wished someone had told me this when I was just starting out dating in college and it seemed like every guy I went out with had at least one or two Serious Relationships under his belt (and sadly, more than one of those guys made me feel weird about my lack of experience, and I did not have the confidence to tell them there was nothing wrong with me and serve them a nice, cold glass of shut the hell up). Maybe you haven’t ever had a boyfriend or girlfriend, but you have and have had plenty of relationships. You have friends, family members, colleagues, neighbors, etc. and that means you already know a lot about the sort of person you like to be around and the way you like to be treated. You also know that relationships can vary a lot. You probably don’t interact with all of your platonic friends in the exact same way or spend the exact same amount of time with each of them (unless you travel in a seriously GSF-rich environment, in which case you may be trying your nerve-wracking damnedest) and you probably don’t interact with your family in the same way you’d interact with your boss. There’s a world of variation in your existing relationships. Think of romantic partnering as a variation on human connection you don’t happen to have tried out yet, with the same basic rules of polite engagement.

      An additional piece of advice to tuck away for when you do meet someone you want to kiss on a regular basis: your relationship is YOUR relationship. I say this because, as is often discussed on this blog, geeks like categories and rules and cheat codes, and when you’re not super experienced or confident, it can be easy to look outward for guidance on how to define things, what really “counts” as a relationship, etc., as if there is only one type of arrangement that constitutes a “real” relationship and everyone (except, you know, you, having somehow missed that memo) know exactly what it looks like. Some folks, when confronted with a relationship arrangement that would not work for or feel right to them, say rude or diminishing or concern-trolly things, and these people should be politely shut down.

      I am not talking about situations where your partner scares you or where you are concerned that a friend might be in an abusive relationship. Then asking people, “Hey, is this weird?” is a good idea. I am talking about the minutiae people talk about when defining romantic relationships. Some people don’t think long-distance relationships count (as I discovered when I was in one for two years and change) and some people don’t think non-exclusive relationships count and some people think you’re a needy jealous weirdo if you prefer monogamy in your long-term couplings and some people think that if you’ve been seeing the same person for years and have no desire to move in together or get married or otherwise escalate the commitment, there is something wrong or broken in the relationship. One lady I was close with when I was younger was distrustful of “serial monogamists” who moved too quickly from one relationship to another, calling them “codependent,” but was pretty unhappily single herself. None of those people have the right to make that judgment based on that information alone. Some people think sex three times a week is a starvation diet and some people only want it once a month. But only you can know what works for you.

      1. The worst is when the person you’re dating pulls that crap on you. I’ve dated guys who said stuff like “We’ve been dating for [amount of time] and still haven’t had sex, that must mean something is wrong with the relationship,” which I unfortunately fell for at the time, but I know better now. Now, any time someone says “well, obviously people in a relationship should do X,” it’s a red flag for me.

  10. Man, aside from the fact that I’ve dated very little, this sounds like me too, only about 10 years older and, well, crankier really. (With age comes lower tolerance for crap?)

    I never ever bought the intimidating thing either. Partly that’s low self esteem talking (“how could a fat chick intimidate a guy?”) but then, I did date a guy who seemed massively uncomfortable with the fact that I had more education and a better job than he did. We only went out twice so I have no gauge of how accurate that is, but it certainly helped in the “moving on” department. I worked too damn hard to hide my achievements.

    I have painful social anxiety on top of the other stuff so dating has always been rough. It may or may not be something I work on once I move the hell outta Rural Murica (pretty, very loyal people, not so good for meeting unattached men without kids), but embracing myself as a member of the TERRIFYINGLY AMAZING cabal has helped immensely at work. As shinobi42 (hihihi!) eloquently said, “I am not for everyone” and that’s OK. Despite what my boss things.

  11. I used to get the “intimidating” thing a lot. I would like to say it was because I was so smart and beautiful, but I think it was really because I was shy and proud (read: petrified of rejection) and very bad at communicating that I liked someone. I was basically the female Mr Darcy, without the immense wealth and gorgeous house.

    Like the LW did for a while,  I worried about being intimidating and considered acting bland, but I didn’t even know where to start. As well as being a bad idea, acting bland is really hard. Think of the self-discipline required!

    In the end it wasn’t making myself *less* that helped me find love, it was making myself *more* – by trying my hardest to be braver and better at communicating. Never make yourself less!

    It doesn’t sound like you have the same problems I did, LW. It sounds like you are doing things just right. Oh, and FWIW, I reckon that it’s totally normal not to have had a serious relationship at 25, so I totally dig the Captain’s script for that question.

      1. Me too. In fact, that combo of shy and proud (ie terrified of rejection) sounds an awful lot like one of my very best mates. I know she is awesome. Smart, funny, sarcastic, on her way to doing what she loves professionally (writing nihilistic plays based on Sartre and Burroughs), caring and cute. And yet. She’s had a few dates, and more options than she took (because unlike me she has standards!) but she’s basically been single for the last four years.

        Alas, I am not best placed to offer advice because, somehow or other, I ended up being the jammy rat that lands most of the folks that take her fancy. :-s

  12. I think the “intimidating” thing is mostly a load of bull unless you’re a Harvard summa cum laude graduate who’s worked for the Peace Corps and is a millionaire, trying to date a guy who works in retail. (Didn’t they do an episode of this on How I Met Your Mother?) “Intimidating” is probably code for “fuck if I know why you’re a creep magnet.” I’m one myself, I get the attention of 40-80-year old creepers who love to invade your personal space and almost entirely nobody else. So I feel ya. But even a blind chicken gets a grain of corn once in a while (as Lyle Lovett, a man who’d know, said), and even I have occasionally found a decent dude not old enough to be my dad.

    It really does boil down to “you get lucky or you don’t.” Some folks are freaking late bloomers. Sometimes you hear of someone who never had a relationship until their 30’s or 40’s and married their first SO. My shrink didn’t get married until her early 50’s and had a 15-year dry spell until that guy. (At the rate I am going, I think I’ll beat her.) Until you get lucky, you go through boner crap dates, same as most of us.

    I don’t think it’s even a question of looks. Today I heard a story from a friend of mine about her roommate. I’ve met the girl, hung out with her a few times at parties. She’s nice enough, but man, I would say she is unattractive. Yes, she’s short and fat, but I’ve known tons of short, fat chicks who have had long term relationships/can get more relationships. In this case the girl has a face like a sour lemon. She looks angry and pissed off all the time, no matter how she actually feels. I can’t say I’ve seen her look or act remotely flirtatious at parties. She dresses in T-shirts and shorts. And apparently this girl is TOTAL CATNIP at bars. Guys are falling all over themselves to buy her drinks and she doesn’t even bother to bring money to bars, my friend says. I can’t even believe that, but… some people get lucky and some don’t. I don’t get why that girl is catnip and I am the freak magnet, but there you go.

    In the meantime, you do not want to be a Rules Girl. Why? Because you don’t want to have to put up a front all the time with a boyfriend in order to catch him. You don’t want a guy badly enough to live in fear that one day you’ll accidentally fart in front of him, ruin the magic, and he’ll hate you forever. (I would also like to point out that one of the Rules Authors’s husband wanted a divorce. I am guessing dude had the fuck enough.) The guy for you will like you as you are, without you having to fake being a boring person in order to catch him. And having A Man is not worth trashing yourself and faking it all the time to catch one. Being single is still better than having to be a fake all the time. Really. Really really.

    1. Awesome story about your friend and generally awesome comment, but let’s not describe certain bodies and/or faces as being somehow inherently unattractive going forward. Obviously something about this woman IS attractive, since she is getting so much attention.

      1. I call it “Bella Swan Syndrome”. Maybe she smells really good, and these guys can’t read her mind, or something? I’ve encountered the type myself, both male and female, and it’s a good reminder that sex appeal doesn’t always align with the supposed rules of what society finds beautiful. If anything, this woman is staunchly being herself, which is basically the advice everyone is giving to LW.

      2. Agreeing with the Cap that it’s not good form to pick people apart based on looks. We only JUST got done talking about how appearance is not a dealbreaker for all people.

        I am put in mind of a lady I knew who was not at all conventionally attractive but in person she just OOZED sex. Not “sexy” but SEX. Like, finding a third dimension on the Kinsey scale sex. We are talking some Sayid-level why-are-we-even-still-talking-here-with-all-our-clothes-on sex pheromones, and she just gave them off like you and I exude sweat smell after a workout.

        It’s difficult to describe the quality of her attractiveness. Kind of like “having blonde hair” or “having a low voice” or something. It was just something she was, and not something she performed.

        1. I knew a girl like this once. She went through me and four of my friends in three years. They should be ranked on the Fujita scale.

          1. The Nuveen Andrews/David Tennant Perpetual Chemistry Machine Called…it wants to make out with you a little and undress you with its eyes.

  13. Yes, excellent question and excellent advice! I’m 23 and I haven’t dated much in the past – definitely never had a serious relationship.
    Note, the following is written under heavy influence of dopamine and oxytocin:
    Until I found someone who has the same type of humor as me, and who thinks I’m cute because of or in spite of (he’s not sure yet) my incessant cheerfulness, and who feels like he can be himself when he’s with me and with whom I feel like I can be myself. Changing yourself to fit somebody else’s expectation doesn’t work, because s/he will never love you for you, and isn’t that what you’re looking for? (Or not, of course – I spent years not looking, and that’s probably a really good way to spend the years that you haven’t really settled into being you yet)

    Anyway, I want to share some good first date advice I got when I was nervous for my first date with this Awesome guy who loves my Awesomeness:
    ‘have a good time? Don’t overthink it? Wear a clean shirt?’ (by our very own Captain) – Thank you, it worked 🙂

  14. As someone in a similar situation but without all the dates, can I ask whether this ‘smart/passionate women intimidate men’ idea is a thing that actually happens? My friends have told me similar things when I get turned down, but it seems a bit… presumptuous to assume that men are rejecting me because they CAN’T HANDLE MY SMARTNESS or something, rather than because they just find me generally unlikeable in some way.

    There’s no way to write that without sounding sad and whiny, but this doesn’t actually bother me (except immediately after any given rejection obviously, nobody likes that). I’m just curious as to whether this actually happens, or it’s just something women tell each other because we don’t want our friends to think they’re not amazing when they are, but nothing makes you feel not-amazing like rejection, so we say ‘no, I’m sure he did like you but couldn’t handle your level of amazingness!’

    ‘Cause, if it ISN’T a thing that really happens, we should probably all stop saying it does. Since it does imply that a route to success is to make oneself appear less amazing, and that’s a terribly sad idea.

    1. I went on a first/only date with a guy who brought up the fact that he “only” had a master’s degree and that I was working on my PhD. He actually asked me, at some point, if that was a problem, despite the fact that I didn’t care and only asked him about the details of his schooling because I was interested in what he’d been studying. I interpreted that, and the rude manner with which he treated the waitstaff (that was my dealbreaker), as signs that he was intimidated by my awesomeness.

    2. It’s the kind of thing that’s sometimes true and sometimes not.

      I mean, really, chances are your friends don’t know the inner workings of the minds of all the guys you’ve been on first dates with, so obviously they can’t tell for sure why things didn’t work out.
      mostly, what they’re trying to say is, “we know getting rejected can make you feel kind of worthless, so here is a reminder that you’re not. you’re actually awesome.”

      but it is also true that some dudes are intimidated by smart/accomplished/interesting women.

      The most common type I seem to encounter is guys with “smartest guy in the room syndrome.” These are people whose entire identity is tied up in being the smart guy. Which, by the way, is so boring. Like, it’s nice that you’re smart, but that’s not the same as having a personality.

      One sub-type will just constantly, annoyingly bring up things they see as external validations of their intelligence. (protip: you look like an asshole when you brag about your GRE scores. no exceptions.)

      Another, even more obnoxious sub-type will challenge you and poke around until they find some area that they know more about than you. Which, duh, they’ll find, because everyone has different areas of expertise, and actually, that’s why other people are interesting to be around in the first place. But once they find it, they will view it at further evidence that they are the smartest person evar, and screw the impressive sounding [degree/job/whatever] you have, they could totally do that too if they felt like it, they just choose not to. e.g. “oh, you’re getting a PhD in computer science from [fancy university]? Well, what do you think about [relatively obscure programming language]? Oh, you’ve never heard of it? What do they even teach you in [fancy university] anyway?”

      1. I think that’s totally it, turtle. It *may* be worth asking one of your close friends to be totally honest about why zie thinks you might be getting rejected, sure. But like turtle said, a lot of guys are douchebags who think that they deserve or are entitled to female* attention and that their shit doesn’t stink because of their awesome bonerz or whatever. That’s the patriarchy’s fault, not yours, and you’re wayyyy better off without those people.

        I also think a lot of “who to be on dates” stuff can ease with age, too. I’ve noticed my friends partnering up with some really….surprising people, folks that 5 or 10 years ago they would’ve never looked twice at. I think it probably has something to do with growing into yourself a bit, really finding out who YOU are, and getting a lower tolerance for crap and games.

        But you know, you may not want to listen to me — I’ve been with the same person for 15 years (since I was 19), and all of my “monogamish” outside relationships have been with friends, so. YMMV 🙂

        *Pro tip — if a guy refers to women as “females,” get the fuck away from him.

      2. Aaaah! I hate that sub-type!

        And yeah, once you’ve typed them in whatever application you’re filling out, take your test scores (GRE, SAT, whatever) to the GRAVE.

    3. (Male) people just told me they are intimidated by my knowledge or my personality. Maybe they’ve lied to me and meant ‘you are a know-it-all and never let other people speak’ but that’s what I got told.

      1. Are you a lady? (I can’t remember). Because sometimes this means “You are very smart and not afraid to show it, which is not ladylike. Ladies are supposed to make US feel very smart and always cheerlead our ideas, not advance their own in such an “aggressive” “shrill” “loud” “arrogant” way.” It’s a way of desexualizing you to regain a sense of lost power.

        Or you could be a Lady Know-It-All? That can be one of my very bad habits, and something I have to really, really work on.

        1. This is kind of what I was getting at. None of your readers are going to disagree that you’re TERIIFYINGLY AWESOME, but maybe the statistics of romance tilt more in your direction with less know-it-all-ism, and maybe someone who wants to be a good friend could help by nudging you when that bad habit starts to come out. My response was to Travis’s advice (i.e., only — i.e., not to the main entry), which I thought was overly simplistic. What I wanted was only to have that point recognized, ideally without being attacked.

    4. I think it is either:

      1) A way to try to save face when someone was just not that into you. But if you cross over to the TERRIFYINGLY AMAZING side of the bridge, it’s ok for one person to not be into you, and you can decide it’s no big deal and move on rather than searching for reasons that you need to change yourself to make a guy (who didn’t like you anyway) like you more. Try replacing “He was probably intimidated by you” with “He didn’t like you that way.” Geeks & Painfully Literal Dudes are always looking for rubrics, like this one date was a new dataset that we can apply to the entire system of romantic interactions and make necessary upgrades before the next push! Which is why I’m always reminding people that “that person you like/went out with is just a human, and they have reasons that are totally subjective and unfair about why and whether they like you.”

      2) A sign that you’re dealing with a trifling milquetoast like Marie Claire’s Rich or the stories the other commenters have told, who comes right out and says that confident, experienced women intimidate him. Which you can’t do anything about, right? That Guy is afraid of his own shadow and feels so inadequate and insecure that he needs a mild-mannered patriarchy complier in order to feel special, and you don’t want him anyway.

      Admiral Backward, if you’re still reading, I was maybe kind of harsh with you yesterday, but I still don’t understand your question entirely, so you should ask it directly instead of telling us what we “glossed over?” I think this next bit might get at what you were asking:

      Back to the idea of each date as a datapoint: If everyone is using the “too intimidating” label about you – dudes are, friends are – maybe you are coming on too strong on a first date, like, you are trying to dazzle the person with how amazing you are right up front and throwing everything about you that’s amazing at this person all at once. That is a turnoff not because you are awesome, but because you are performing instead of connecting. You don’t have to never bring up your interests and skills and ask only questions about the other person’s, but you do have to ask questions and sincerely listen to the answers and make the conversation flow somewhat. If you’re reciting your entire CV of cool at someone, they will back away.

      1. Haha, the funny thing is I’ve never been told by a GUY that I was ‘intimidating’, it’s always been by friends or my sisters when I occasionally wonder aloud why nobody has ever asked me out (I ask guys, but none have ever asked me. Or said yes.) Guys who I’ve asked out have always just said words to the effect of ‘No thanks, but thank you for asking.’ I almost can’t believe all these lovely people have been told that as an excuse by actual dates! I thought it was just a thing us lady-types tell each other!

        In the past I’ve always assumed the men in question just didn’t like me very much, so it’s good to know that was the right way to look at it. I was starting to think my fearsome pool of academic knowledge and useless information was a terrible character flaw of some kind, which would be worryingly gender-specific as all my friends (all women) and my sisters find it hilarious.

        (Although now that I think about it, I might really be too ‘intimidating’ to ask out, in the sense of PHYSICALLY intimidating, which is funny because I’m only 160cm tall and really slender. Apparently I scare men almost twice my size, just by existing and ‘especially when you smile’. This is a total mystery to me.)

    5. A guy once said he didn’t want to go on any more dates with me because I “use too many big words” and “made [him] feel bad about not knowing them.”

      So … okay, dude. Hope you feel better about yourself now than you did back then.

      I got a LOT of “you are amazing and terrifying, but mostly terrifying!” when I was in my Early-30s Post-Divorce Whirlwind Takeover of All the Pants. Possibly because I was in excellent therapy at the time, I was able to shrug it off and know that a reaction like that had nothing to do with *me*, really.

      1. This is, of course, human variation. Should I be in a similar situation, I’d react as follows:

        “! Words I don’t know! omnomnomnom vocabularyexpanding”

  15. Writer, I’m a twenty-five-year-old introverted, socially-awkward, geeky thin queer girl who has never been kissed. You’re not alone, and you’re not a freak. Even if you do find yourself falling into bad habits, don’t stress about it too much. Write it off as a loss and look forward to your next date, or paint a balloon, or pat a numbat or something.

    Captain, that is an excellent script. I’ve often worried that I’d have to lie, fudge, or avoid the question when it comes to my non-existent sexual history. I’ll definitely be using that in future. Thanks!

    1. Two things that are entirely off topic:
      1. I love your handle.
      2. …I never before knew what a numbat was. Those things are the EMBODIMENT of adorable. I can see how petting one would cure all ills.

        1. I know, right? If there is a nature show/documentary based around these things, I want to find it.

    2. Hello, you are me 10 years ago! Or until a month before my 25th birthday.

      LW, as for being yourself on dates: a few seconds after I first met my spouse, we discovered we’d both studied chemistry and German, and he started speaking German with me. I stopped after a bit, thinking mine might be better and I’d lose him, and he called me out on stopping. So it is best to be yourself, and if you find yourself slipping and going bland, notice the date’s reaction. If the date doesn’t follow up conversationally on any mentions of your interests, that’s not really an exchange of ideas.

      I second CA’s reply to the relationships question. I don’t think he asked; I probably volunteered the info on our second date.

      CA is right, not only are there equally amazing men out there who like women, some may even have a similar history to you.

  16. I haven’t read all the comments so forgive me if I’m just repeating other things…

    LW, I like that Captain Awkward tells you not to invite your friends to find things that are wrong with you. I have tried to cut this habit out of my own life. It probably IS true though that you intimidate some people, because a lot of people are not that awesome. Sometimes it can seem like a burden, being awesome, but in the long run you’ll find other awesome people (and so will I right?) Hopefully your friends are not telling you to tone down how great you are. Still though, it’s better to avoid putting them in the position of coming up with a reason for your lacking love life because the “what’s wrong with me” conversation just makes everyone sad.

    Also…. I agree totally with THIS, LW…. “is there any good way to answer questions like “What was your last relationship like? What do you mean you’ve never been in one? Why not?” I have a feeling questions like this are probably just too nosy for a first date and a sign that this guy is not for me, but maybe I’m wrong? It just feels too much like a job interview question.”

    I really don’t like when guys ask me this on first dates, because I also have nothing much to say in response to questions about past relationships and I find the questioning intrusive, unnecessary, and judge-y. So I agree with your instinct to stay away from dudes who probe like that. A first date is supposed to be about having a good time, feeling a connection and cracking jokes, and not getting all serious about life trajectories. In my opinion.

    1. The reason it’s not a TOTALLY terrible question for early on in a dating-type thing is, just like a job interview question “Why did you leave your last job”, the subtext and attitude of your answer is more important than the text.

      We all leave people and we all get dumped. We all leave jobs, and most of us get laid off or fired.

      Someone who says “I was laid off” in a calm way, and then changes the subject back to the job at hand is showing you that the person is confident and not ashamed of anything that happened.

      Someone who launches into a tale of malfeasance and abuse at the hands of their former bosses (even if it’s all true) and uses the job interview as a therapy session to complain about it is showing you, the job interviewer, that the person is still hung up on the past and hasn’t been able to tell a new story yet and that their boundaries are not so good. It’s a red flag.

      Some people ask this question because they themselves have a story they want to tell and they want to get the subject on the table.

      So answering honestly – “I’ve dated around a bit, but haven’t found the right serious relationship” is the right way to go. Launching into a long tale of how weird and awkward you are and how nobody likes you and you’re probably “too intimidating?” is NOT the way to go. Self-deprecation is a funny thing (both in job interviewing and early stages of dating). I would avoid it, because what you are doing is asking the other person to take care of you around your own insecurities and it is unsexy.

      1. I completely agree about the *way* to answer these questions/comments. You definitely don’t want to spend the entire date complaining about your previous experiences, just like you would find it weird and concerning that your date was spending the whole time telling you how TERRIBLE and EVIL their recent ex is. Show, don’t tell, as my old comp teacher used to say. Be calm, act like there is nothing wrong with you (because there totally isn’t even if you maybe don’t always believe that), and just give the barest facts, then change the subject.

        I mean, if the person really PRESSES and pressures you to discuss your sexual history in detail, that would be a serious red flag, IMO, so use this as a chance for you to find out something about them, too.

      2. Yeah, I totally agree on this advice. That is exactly how to handle it. I guess you’re right too that it might not be a totally terrible question and my reaction to it probably comes from the fact that I am uncomfortable with the question. Still though… my ideal first date doesn’t involve questions like this and I just wanted to express my agreement on that! If I was advising people on whether or not to ask those Qs on a first date my advice would be, don’t.

  17. Just in general: LW, I think you sound totally fucking awesome, really like a person that I would like to know. I don’t want to stress the ‘don’t worry, it’s not about you’-part but to tell you that you sounded like you got everything right: you reject guys you do not klick with and don’t feel it’s appropriate for them to ask about your relationship history. Good!
    It’s annoying not to find someone if you’d like to but you won’t be happy if you settle for someone who is ‘kind of okay’ either.

  18. I, too, had one of my female friends tell me I should try to be less funny when we were out socially. Because it wasn’t “feminine” and “guys didn’t really like it.” I’m sorry to hear this old, shitty advice is still being trotted out two decades later.

    I’m sure some guys DON’T like it. Guess what–I didn’t want to date those guys. Neither do you. All this advice is excellent.

    1. Whut.

      The result: “Is this girl as awesome as my friends? No, she does not appear to have the necessary sense of humour to keep up with and participate in my habitual shenanigans and light-hearted mockery. Moving on…”

      1. My life improved immeasurably when I figured out this friend (who at the time I would have insisted was my BEST FRIEND) was not really a great person to have in my circle anymore.

  19. You know what my friends used to tell me? That most guys find me intimidating, but “most guys” are idiots. Rather than telling me to practice feigned blandness, they’d constantly point out these weird brilliant men who I thought were out of my league and say “See, you should go out with HIM. He’s almost as smart and funny as you.” I love my friends.

    They were right. You can’t date down when you’re awesome. I tried, like you’re trying, but it doesn’t work. A little bit of my soul died every time someone started talking about what he did at the gym that morning, etc. and I had to pretend I cared. Use the Cap’n’s formula: is this guy as awesome as my friends? If not, don’t waste your time. And a guy finding you “intimidating” (unless he’s into that?) is a good sign that he’s a waste of your time.

    You deserve a rarefied breed of man. Settle for nothing less.

  20. I dunno if being seen as intimidating is a thing in itself per se?
    I do know that guys can get scared off by intelligence. I dated one who hated the fact that I was more intellectually smart (judging by standards of university chosen) than him. He felt wayy too insecure about it and wanted constant reassurance, but also would never take the advice offered. Otoh, I dated someone who only had a few GCSEs (UK, age 16 school leaver) to my undergrad degree and it was never an issue. Indeed, he actively encourage me to go further. So yes, some guys are intimidated by our awesomeness but there are those out there who really aren’t, and who want what we have, and fingers crossed with a bit of luck we’ll find them!

    1. Oooh, NessieMonster, I think you really hit on something there too — there are maybe two different things going on under the concept of “intimidated by your awesomeness.” It seems like there are people who may feel a bit like a loser when talking to someone who may have more education than them or know bigger words then them, and that is ok because everyone has different stuff they’re good at and if both people are kind and decent they can probably find some common ground and have a fun date. But then there’s these other people who are keeping *score.* Who are comparing what schools you went to, and how many degrees you have, and how much you make, because they think that kind of thing is important or makes them feel more boner-y. Those people want someone that they perceive as “weaker” than them, probably for all the gross patriarchy-related reasons you can imagine, and that’s when they tell you you’re “intimidating,” because it sounds nicer than “I am actually looking for someone I can feel superior to.”

  21. Think of it as him speaking in code, and if you were to decipher that code it would say “I have no idea where the clitoris is.Have you read The Fountainhead? It’s my favorite book.”

    OMG I laughed so hard I snorted and at the same time I had an instinctual urge to flee for my life. In other words, you nailed it.

  22. Oh man. So this is pretty much exactly what I needed to hear, I think, although I was really busy last night and didn’t get a chance to reply. THANK YOU SO MUCH.

    Then you overhear some of their conversations, like an intense 40 minute conversation about the best smoothie place or celebrity weddings or “good carbs vs. bad carbs” or “where should we get our teeth whitened before the wedding?” while the old Second City “Mainstream-Impaired Guy” sketch runs through your head. “I sold my boat and bought another boat!” “16 shots of Jaeger.” “Sports!” Maybe that’s just me?
    It is not just you, although I don’t know that sketch, and I usually run into them on the Purple Line back from my parents’. I remember one such conversation that was basically “how can we teach fat people to read nutrition information and spare them the tragedy of being fat?” I moved to a different car because it was either that or start ranting at them Joy Nash style, and I am no Joy Nash.

    (And yes, it feels like I have turned down or ignored every Ayn Rand-obsessed clitoris-challenged dude on the North Shore. Where are they all coming from? Who do they all end up with?)

    I um. I just want to make it clear, my friends aren’t telling me to be bland, they are just trying to cheer me up by saying I’m just terrifyingly amazing, and I am kind of calling bullshit. I got the “you’re intimidating, so be bland!” advice from my abusive mother. (She also thinks that, once captured, men need to be trained, like dogs or perhaps bonsai. That is really not my kink.) But I don’t really have a lot of experience in healthy relationships of any type, so I’m trying to rebuild my old models of how relationships are supposed to work, I think I might be ready for the advanced class that is dating, and I really wanted to make sure I wasn’t ridiculous for wanting to… you know, not be bland. And also I figured there might be other people out there like me. (Therapy helps plenty, I promise I am not relying on internet advice columnists with snazzy titles.)

    Also, thank you so much for the advice on what to do with the dating resume question. I’ve gotten it a few times, mostly asked in weird interrogation-y ways, and occasionally casually and uncreepily, and it usually derails me a little, so I’m trying to come up with a script. (Once it was to set the stage for my date to go on about how he had had a serious relationship with a girl exactly like me and he had messed it up, and he was very sorry, and he would never do it again. After the date, he argued with me for three and a half hours online about whether I wanted to be his girlfriend or not. I am learning to love my block list.)

  23. Haven’t read everything yet, but LW, I so want to be your friend. Because you sound awesome.

    And yes, dating sucks. Real adult women intimidate boys and guys. You’re looking for men, and they’re not as common as guys. But they exist.

    I so wish I’d dumped the last guy when he told me I intimidated him. Because eventually, it ended anyway, and badly, because he didn’t want to try to work on his shit to meet me halfway.

    Go out. Be awkward. Meet cool people. Because you rock.

    1. I think this is the new slogan of the blog, so thanks:

      “Go out. Be awkward. Meet cool people. Because you rock.”

  24. As a 31 year old socially-awkward, geeky guy who has never been kissed, I don’t have a lot to add, at least not positive, non-derailing things.

    Regarding the “What was your last relationship like?”, on a male dating advice site I once read that a acceptable answer to these types of questions is “That’s a third date type question”. Boundaries and stuff. I’d accept it, but I wouldn’t ask such a question in the first place, of course.

    What I’m really writing about is this:
    “and they tell me that clearly they are the only person who could ever like me anyway”

    This left me kind of speechless. ‘they’, as in more than one? Seriously, people, what the fuck is wrong with you?

    1. Thanks for the advice! I have kind of lived in terror of that question, as guys ask it of me a lot on dates.

      I have actually gotten the “I’m probably the only guy who will really love/like/be into you!” line three times — twice in pre-first-date chatting (I did not then date them, obviously) and once after a nice first meeting that was not …really a date? We hung out with his friends and played video games. He’s also the one who argued with me about whether I wanted to be his girlfriend or not. If I had been undecided at all, him telling me “no, you really do want this, you just don’t know it yet!” would have pushed me over to the other side.

      At any rate, while it’s obviously offensive and manipulative, the fact that THREE GUYS all think they’re the ONLY guy who could possibly like me to the degree that they did just highlights how illogical it is.

      1. Three people? Faith in humanity: destroyed.

        Why would anyone assume that “I think you suck so much that no one will ever like you, that’s why we should date” is a good thing to say?

        I could say more, but it would depress me too much. So I’ll close with what I forgot to say in my first post: I wish you the best of luck. And change where you feel that change would be good, but please don’t change your being smart, funny, and interested, because that is HOT.

      2. You know, I have a dear friend from college who is, by common consensus, ridiculously beautiful (and smart and funny and wonderful in other ways). She looks like Brooke Shields, basically. But *she* has gotten that line from guys before! “Only I can see your beauty, no other man will understand how wonderful you are,” blah blah blah. No, dude, this is a line, because BROOKE SHIELDS LOOKALIKE, HELLO. So it’s not just you, LW! It seems to be a Thing that a Certain Type of Dude says.

        1. I think, at least for me, some of them were projecting their own worry that I would be the only girl who would ever go out with them? I seem to attract guys who have just broken up with their long-term SO’s, do not know how to be single, and assume everyone else is just as terrified of singledom as they are.

          (One of them was probably just straight-up manipulative, though, and I wish I had never answered his weird probing questions. He said he had a psychological condition that made it impossible for him to have sex with a non-virgin, but he was a sex educator so no worries on my being inexperienced, he could teach me everything! Thus, that meant we were perfect for each other. I may be naive, but I think we call that condition “terrible in bed.”)

          1. That guy is officially terrifying! Aaah! That’s a “sorry, I know we’re the last people on earth and everything, but the species had to die out eventually” scenario.

          2. I may be naive, but I think we call that condition “terrible in bed.”

            Lol. You may be sexually inexperienced, but you are not naive.

          3. Sadly, for some reason I bought that particular part of his story at the time, though I wasn’t particularly thrilled by it; the dealbreaker came when he popped up and asked me, the day after our one intense(ly creepy) AIM conversation, if I had missed him, I said “Nope!” and he was kind of offended, but kept bothering me every ten minutes while I was writing an intense action scene (DUDE, I said I was WRITING. I’m in the zone! GO AWAY.) sooo I blocked him.

            Nobody bugs me when I’m writing. Except my beta.

        2. OH MY GOD. Sorry to show up at this party so late, but this was a major lightbulb moment for me.
          In my wayward youth, I did a bit of pin-up modeling. As you’d expect, I met some great people and also some creeps. And the creepiest of them all was the guy who kept insisting, over and over, “You don’t know how beautiful you are.”
          It was very important to him that this be the case. And until now, I’ve never been able to articulate why it grossed me out so badly.

        3. sadly, there is a weird kind of relationship insecurity that very Conventionally Attractive (TM) people can internalise, because –
          A) when someone is very Conventionally Attractive (TM) people frequently react to them *only* on that basis, and rarely, if ever react to the other qualities that person has (or only do so in a negative way) (“Wow, I never would have expected you to be so smart/nice/geeky/funny, you’re so pretty!” is not a complement.)
          B) when someone is very Conventionally Attractive (TM) they frequently fall prey to the whole thing where people get ‘intimidated’ by their appearance and they never get asked out other than by narcissists.

  25. Just had to say, CA, that I kind of love your advice, and this letter in particular struck a chord with me. After high school, I was invited on a week-long beach trip with about ten girls, which was all kinds of wonderful. The one comment I remember from the whole week, though, was from a girl whom I didn’t know all that well before we went on this trip. The day before we left, she said to me:

    “You know, I always thought you were too smart to be friends with, but you’re actually pretty okay!”

    I come from a pretty intelligent family, who values books and learning and has a pretty natural tendency towards the sciences, so I was “that kid” with the rolling backpack and who got A’s and kind of sat in the corner and was quiet. But my biggest regret is that I tried not to be. I wanted so desperately to be part of the crowd that I stamped down my own natural academic bent, denied it, hated it, did anything I could to play it down and pretend like I wasn’t nerdy or interested in science or math or that I actually enjoyed the fuck out of calculus and reading like a fiend. Because that wasn’t what the cool kids did!

    It has taken me years to accept that I am in fact nerdy, and have read Lord of the Rings more times than is healthy, and that that is okay and anyone who says it’s not needs to read more. It’s still a struggle, and something that I try to come to terms with on a pretty daily basis. I guess my point is that this sort of feeling can bleed over into nonromantic relationships as well — it colored my friendships and my family for years. So thanks, CA, and I’m glad that LW seems to be embracing her TERRIFYING AMAZINGness so well!

  26. I don’t know how to write this without sounding smug (so I’m not as smart as I think I am?), but if you are a smart person, you really want to “date” other smart people. The ones who don’t read anything, who don’t follow the news, who don’t … whatever you are into that qualifies you as smart, will not hold your interest no matter how pretty, pretty, pretty they are.

    When you’re lonely, the urge to tamp yourself down just to enjoy some human company may be compelling. Then, when the tamped-down you is “enjoying” some barely-human company, you realize that your alone time is really quite precious and delightful.

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