#341: Help me get a girlfriend, Captain!

Ron Weasley holding a wand.
“Girlfriendio! I said, ‘GIRLFRIENDIO!’ Bollocks, why isn’t this working?”

Greetings captain! 

No matter what I do or say, I can’t get a girlfriend. I’m 18 years old, and I have never hugged, kissed, or been liked by a girl. I have never been on a date, or had any real chance of getting a girlfriend. I’m mildly autistic, I have ADHD, and am EXTREMELY socially awkward. I just want to be able to make a girl like me, and I don’t care how. Here are some side questions: 1.) Is there any way that I can pay a girl to like me? (I have a bit of $) 2.) Are there any drugs that will cure my social problems? 3.) Are there any “tricks” that I don’t know about? 4.) Do I have any hope at all?

Here is my dating profile: [[REDACTED]]

I just want to find a “miracle cure”. I’m tired of trying so hard, only to fail constantly. I deal with my emotional pain by taking Adderall (Amphetamine Salts) (I have an RX, but I buy more from friends). Adderall seems to be the only thing that will bring me a feeling close to “being loved”. I will continue to abuse amphetamines, opiates, and xanax until I get a girlfriend. I don’t care if I’m addicted, because it’s the only thing that brings me happiness. 


Dear Desperate Dude:

Holy shit, bro. Slow your roll. And/or your troll.

Let’s talk first about that dating profile, which, believe me, you do not want me sharing with my readers in its current form. I will offer some specific critiques:

1) Your picture is tiny, murky, and hella unflattering. It’s not that you’re ugly, it’s that I can’t actually see your face. Get a friend to take some good pictures of you. Ways to get good pictures:

  • Natural light, if possible.
  • Close enough to see your face
  • Don’t wear dark glasses so we can’t see your eyes – Dark Glasses Guy comes across as Guy Who Might Leave One’s Dismembered Body In One’s Dumpster.
  • Consider a smile.
  • Take more than one photo so people get a really good idea of what you look like.

2) The only thing you say about yourself is this:

Do any girls want to date a guy whose been desperate for 17 years? 😦

No. No they don’t. Why should they?

First, saying you’ve been looking for a girlfriend for “17 years” when you are 18 suggests that your search for love went like this: Step 1: Sit up all by myself! Step 2: Solid food. Step 3: GIRLFRIEND-O-RAMA! Step 4: Learn to poop in the potty. Step 5: A big boy bed!

Hermione Granger with a wand.
“Ron, stop being a dipshit. That’s not actually a spell.”

Second, desperation is not attractive. It tells potential dating partners that if they show you one tiny bit of attention you’ll try to cling to them for dear life. It’s off-putting and downright panic-inducing.


It’s obvious from both your profile and your message to me that you do not like yourself and don’t really think you have anything going for you (except cash and a reliable drug connect). Why should anyone like you if you can’t name one positive quality about yourself or interest you have? No one would be able to figure out if they had any common interests with you, because your only interest seems to be how lonely you are.

Finally, kill the smiley-faces. KILL THEM WITH FIRE.

There is hope! Someone may (and most likely will) eventually want to date you, or Future You-Who-Has-Done-Some-Work-On-His-Social-Skills-And-Self-Confidence, but they won’t be “a girl” – they’ll be Jenny or Sue or Toniko or Camryn or Laura or Beyonce* who likes Dr. Who or knitting or hip-hop dancing or steampunk or activism or adventure novels or building complicated dioramas with legos or particle physics.  They sure as hell won’t do it out of pity for your loneliness and it’s insulting to expect them to think that you have anything to offer when YOU don’t think that you have anything to offer.

That profile is not going to attract good people to your life. Anyone who would date you out of pity (or in exchange for money) has so many of their own issues that only badness lies there.  Circle back to the idea of dating, especially online dating, when you have better self-knowledge about what makes you worth knowing.

But let’s back up like, 1,000 steps here.

Let’s talk next about your drug addiction and your pathetic threat to keep abusing them until you find a girlfriend. It’s okay to use medications prescribed to help you focus and feel better to help you focus and feel better. It’s not okay to go off script and outside a doctor’s supervision. You know this is a problem, which is why you told me and why you told me in the form of a threat. So tell someone else. There’s a hotline on the right hand side of this page (1-800-662-HELP). You told one stranger (or, er, a lot of strangers), so why not tell another who is an expert in this stuff? Your doctor is a good person to tell, I think. Your parents. Some trusted adult. Tell someone. You need some professional big league help. Did you think I would say “Right on, keep doing that, it sounds awesome?” No. No you did not. Work that shit out.

The last thing you need right now is a girlfriend. I know you think that if you had one it would magically make your life better, but the fact that you’re asking me for miracle drug cures or for the going rate means I don’t think you actually know what is entailed in having a romantic relationship with another living breathing human.

Here are some things you could do right now that will eventually bring you closer to your dream of having a girlfriend:

  • Find a reliable therapist. Not a psychiatrist who prescribes medication (though…you need to call yours), more of a social worker or counselor who will sit and talk with you and help you get a better grasp on your emotions and self-esteem and also help you with that pesky drug problem you’ve got. If you can get your parents to take you to one, great. If you’re starting college this year, get one through the school. Get a therapist.
  • Find your awesome. What interests you passionately? What are you good at? What stuff would you like to maybe study or try out? Make a list of things. Cool. Go do those things, or try them out. Cooking. Fencing. Gaming. Theater. Work on being a person who does stuff that interests you. Work on being a person who loves learning and tries to pick up new skills. Strongly consider volunteering somewhere. If you’re in the U.S.A. you may have noticed that it’s an election year, and since you’re 18 you’ll be able to vote for the first time. Is there some way you could volunteer to help register people to vote or get out the vote where you are? You’ll meet a lot of people that way and come back with some interesting stories to tell. But it could be anywhere – animal shelters, food banks, urban farming – lots of places could use your contribution. “Social awkwardness” is not a permanent designation. You overcome it (or learn to mitigate or work around it or embrace it) by interacting with people in low-stakes ways that feel good. You’ve got to play a bunch of levels before you unlock the “Maybe getting a romantic relationship” achievement.**
  • Find your people. It’s okay if you’re socially awkward and you haven’t figured out how to hang out with people yet. A lot of people are at 18, your friendly neighborhood advice columnist included. This thread contains a giant compilation of advice about dating, meeting people, and social interactions that I’m not going to repeat for you here, though I do want to call special attention to the advice to read/watch/listen to a ton of work by women and strongly suggest that you do not skip that step, because I have to say the idea that you would just buy “a girlfriend” is pretty fucking offensive and suggests you have a lot of thinking to do around the idea of women-as-human beings-just-like-you. When you’re done with that jump over to Paging Dr. Nerdlove. He is relevant to your interests.

Let me be an old person at you for a sec. You are 18. You are right at the beginning of your adult life. You have great things ahead of you, if you can be brave enough to take good care of yourself. Your drug habit is surmountable. Social skills can be learned. Self-confidence can be learned. The knack of making friends can be learned. You can improve your emotional health and your self-esteem. The best thing you can do to get the romantic relationship you crave is to work really hard on figuring out who you are and learning to like that guy. I can’t really help you except to tell you that you are far from the only person who has felt the way you do. Many, many people who are cool and happy and in love as adults have felt the way you do now at one time or another. Many people have struggled with addictions and mental illnesses at the same time they deal with the whole coming of age thing. It’s hard, but it’s not impossible to decide that you are worthwhile and that you deserve to be happy, and then do the work. There is no shortcut or pill for that.

*Not THAT Beyonce. She’s a married woman.
**Not actually A Thing.

175 thoughts on “#341: Help me get a girlfriend, Captain!

  1. I was in a similar situation when I was 18. I didn’t have a relationship until I was 22, because I was a Despicable Human Being that didn’t deserve one. I didn’t abuse any drugs but I was extremely emotionally immature (even for my age) and had a abusive alcoholic roommate which certainly didn’t help things. Captain’s advice is spot on. Good luck, sir.

  2. I thought this was satire, but then it was not.

    LW, you will not have much luck dating women if you treat all interactions with women as high-stakes auditions for the person to make you’re life worth living. Treat interactions with women as opportunities to get to know a cool person and to for them to get to know you. Casually. With no other expectations. The level of intensity you’re bringing to this HAS to be off-putting to the women you’re interacting with. And, even if it weren’t, no one likes to feel like the only reason you’re interested in them is their gender. That’s not cool .

  3. I didn’t date in high school. I didn’t date the first couple of years of college. I didn’t lose my virginity until about a week before my 21st birthday.

    You know what? It was great!

    By the time I was dating and having sex, I had enough life experience to actually enjoy them. Unlike a lot of people, my first time having sex was very enjoyable. It wouldn’t have been if I had had sex for the first time at 18. Being a late bloomer rocks.

    You don’t HAVE to date. You don’t HAVE to have sex. Having a girlfriend or having sex does not make you a better person. Look around you at your peers and ask yourself: are the kids in high school who are dating or having sex actually happier? Or are they just having more drama, heartbreaks, and anger?

    Most teenage relationships are shit. The time is much better spent doing almost anything else…


    and this is a big EXCEPT with capital letters


    Do what CA says and call a hotline. Don’t “save up” prescription drugs or buy them from somebody else. A lot of your mood and desperation could be from….taking drugs that cause emotional instability. Why not try knocking it off for awhile and see if you feel more in control of your mood?

    1. EXACT same story here. Right down to the age I lost my virginity! Well, mostly down to the age, I was a few months from my birthday. And being a late bloomer was easily the mostest awesomest. My first time? Still one of the best nights of sex i’ve ever had, that dude both respected me and knew how to make me feel good. The guys I have been dating before and since him? Also awesome, because I date guys who respect me and make me feel good, both emotionally and in bed. I avoided my best friend’s high school romantic misery of immature dudes and jerks that she only went out with because I Want A Boyfriend by taking a good look at myself and thinking, “You know what, I don’t want to deal with all this yet, I’m gonna go see a movie with my friends instead.” I took my time and figured out how to love myself and be awesome without thinking about how I Need A Boyfriend or I’ll Be Forever Alone If I Don’t Date Somebody Anybody Right Now.

    2. THIS. All of this. When I was 18, I felt like a freak and a weirdo because I hadn’t ever had a boyfriend. I’m 22 now and I’ve still never had a boyfriend or kissed a guy, only now I’ve learned to be okay with the person that I am: a person who designs costumes and speaks a few languages and watches a lot of TV and reads advice columns and etiquette books. You can live a life that is rich and full of experiences and relationships and love without a significant other, but first you have to learn to be alone. No drugs, no magical thinking, just you. And as you learn to enjoy your own company–reading books, journaling (please do this. It is so helpful), trying out activities you might enjoy or goals you want to pursue–you will realize that You is a person that you actually kind of like. But first: get some help, because this is going to take some work.

  4. This is all excellent. I totally agree.

    (Dan Savage has given very similar advice, and his way of phrasing it was, don’t worry about getting laid right now — worry about getting your future self laid. Do things right now that make you an interesting, well-rounded person that someone someday is going to want to be with.)

    1. “This page” is a hyperlink. It’s a teen drug resources page where that number and other information appears.

  5. Dude. You are eighteen. You know who didn’t have a girlfriend at eighteen? Like HALF the awesome people on the planet. Seriously.

    My best friend hadn’t had a girlfriend at eighteen; now he organizes an orgy every year. I was one dude’s first kiss, the year he graduated from college; shortly afterward he had a girlfriend and a friend with benefits (me!). I know a guy who lost his virginity at twenty-four; now he’s dating two hot bisexual girls, one of whom is almost half his age, which if you’re talking about porny fratboy dreams is pretty much Win.*

    Admittedly, my social group is pretty heavy on the poly, but my point stands. Lots of people didn’t have a girlfriend at eighteen and went on to fall in love with incredible people, get married, find someone to share their lives with, and (yes) lose their virginity.

    The thing is that “socially awkward virgin” is not unattractive. “Bitter and desperate” is usually unattractive. “Bitter, desperate, addicted to drugs, willing to pay someone to date them**, and more or less convinced that women are all interchangeable” is *really* unattractive. All those people I mentioned… they have things going on. They’re funny and smart and cool to hang out with; they have interesting hobbies and passions; they’re kind and generous to everyone, not just to people they want to bang.

    *Note: he is nowhere near as creepy as that sentence makes him sound. Actually, he’s fabulous and awesome and organizes the coolest parties.
    **That would be called a “sex worker,” love, and I’m pretty sure you can figure out how to hire an escort all on your lonesome.

    1. “I know a guy who lost his virginity at twenty-four; now he’s dating two hot bisexual girls, one of whom is almost half his age, which if you’re talking about porny fratboy dreams is pretty much Win.*”

      You know a guy who is dating a bi-sexual 12 year old? Or did you mean TWICE his age, and not HALF his age? Or is the guy now 40, so half his age would be 20, and therefore not pedo territory?

          1. Oh, no, no, no, he’s about forty now.

            Incidentally, his relationship with his girlfriend is Not Creepy. I know there are like universal reactions to “forty-year-old dude dates a twenty-year-old” and one of them is “OMG CREEPY FUCKER,” but his relationship is the exception to that particular rule. 😛 Part of what attracted him to her in the first place was how firm she was about boundaries and communication. 🙂

          2. I will forever be suspicious of relationships like this, however not creepy everyone thinks they are. Boundaries and communication do not make up the lack of experience and the power relations that stem from that… Good that they are happy, though, let’s hope it remains non-creepy.

            However I don’t think this type of relationships should be presented as the ideal objective for a guy like LW. He may never be in an orgy. He may never date a 20 year old when he’s 40, and you know what, considering the views he holds of other human beings around him, this is probably a good thing. A comment like that will only fuel his manchild fantasies of who knows what.

          3. Alternatively, hearing about people who seem to be so good at the whole romance thing can make one more desperate. I can deal with ‘lots of people have had some experience and have had somebody actually love them back’. ‘Significant numbers of people have extremely good sex, polyamory, orgies, and highly attractive partners despite seeming to come from my background rather than the Jocks of Questionable Intelligence’ is enough to kick me into full on desperation and wondering what the difference is.

    2. I have the opposite experience from “was a virgin until 24, now has super awesome sex life”: I lost my virginity at 15 and it magically fixed precisely nothing.

      I mean, it was fun and all, but we’re talking “day in the park” fun, not “two weeks in Maui” fun. Not life-changing fun. And the guy was okay to me, but we had a lot of problems and fights, and he was kind of not that awesome a person, and we broke up after less than a year, and I was single for several years after that.

      So, imagine, lonely teenage dudes, if only you’d lost your virginity younger, you could have had all that!

      It’s really not much to be envious of.

    3. **And, if you do manage to hire an escort, remember that you can only pay someone to ACT like they like you; you cannot actually pay someone to like you. If that’s all you want, by all means, support local small businesses by contributing to the untaxed flow of money in the economy and get us out of this recession already.

        1. Sure, but you don’t like them because they pay you to, right? You like them because they’re likeable people, who you happened to meet through work. I don’t think the LW would quite see the distinction.

    4. On the whole I liked this response, but even with the fratboy dreams caveat holding up dating hot (whatever that means) bisexual women as a marker of coolness/ sexiness seems pretty objectifying to me. As a bisexual woman, I’ve been through a lot of being sought out for my orientation and the things that people assume that means about me rather than who I actually am. When people do that it is gross and it sucks, and it strikes me as connected to the mentality that Captain is trying to steer the LW away from.

      1. THANK YOU. When ozymandias said “Dude. You are eighteen. You know who didn’t have a girlfriend at eighteen? Like HALF the awesome people on the planet. Seriously,” I was nodding so hard my head might rolled off. Then the weird objectification happened. Orgies are fun for the people involved, but the point the good Captain was making is that you don’t need to have sex all the time to happy. Saying ‘Oh but you’ll have orgies in the future!’ is missing the point. And two bisexual girlfriends as some sort of trophy for waiting to have sex? EW. Reactions like that are why I’m semi-closeted around straight men. It’s so demeaning to be treated like my orientation is for your entertainment.

      2. Yeah, I think I get the intent there, but that kind of blunt instrument is actually encouraging the Red Flag Attitudes in LW’s message. The way “hot bisexuals” are held up as an eventual payoff, you might as well tell him that he, too, will some day have his very own Caprica Six to do… whatever.

        1. To be a mysterious voice in his head and distract him with possibly-imaginary sexytimes when he’s trying to do something else, I guess? (Okay, okay, that wasn’t actual Caprica Six.)

          But yeah, I raised an eyebrow at the “young hot bisexual girlfriends” thing too. I mean, I get the “not having had sex yet at 18 doesn’t mean you are doomed forever to celibacy” point, but still.

  6. A worldview within which one “gets” a girlfriend is itself pretty much completely incompatible with actually having a rewarding love relationship. Learning that women are not objects to be obtained but people to meet and get to know is a prerequisite. The LW has a lot of solo work to do before worrying about his dating strategies.

  7. Hm. Ok, apparently I want to say some things, speaking as a person who is also on the autism spectrum.

    LW, one thing I really grabbed onto in your letter was “I just want to be able to make a girl like me, and I don’t care how.”

    Thing is, you can’t make a girl like you, short of magic spells or something, and that would be creepy and icky. You can never, ever “make” someone like you, and I strongly suggest you eliminate that phrase from your vocabulary. What you can do is make yourself likable (and understand that no matter how likable you are, not everyone will like you. they don’t have to). Captain Awkward has already mentioned several things that you could use to do this, so I definitely suggest you do what she suggested.

    I do find myself disagreeing with one thing CA said, regarding whether or not social awkwardness is permanent. For me, I’m pretty sure it is. I work on it, lots and hard, I find ways to mitigate it and other ways to embrace it. I pay attention and when I make a mistake (or someone points out a mistake) I do my best to correct it and learn from it. It’s a never-ending process. Nonetheless, I very much doubt I will ever stop being socially awkward entirely. Thing is, that’s ok. When introducing myself to new people I make a point to mention that I’m shy, and I refuse to be ashamed of that or apologetic about it. Yes, I’m shy, but I’m pretty confident about my shyness. I also have a t-shirt that says “I’m shy… you talk first” which is actually surprisingly helpful when I’m wearing it (and again, no apologizing or being embarrassed. I’m shy. I’m also cool).

    So I can’t promise that you’ll ever stop being socially awkward. I can, however, say that there are many paths to happiness – it’s not some kind of binary between girlfriend and drugs, and being socially awkward does not mean that you can’t ever be sociable. It’ll just be in your own way.

      1. I do believe that somebody has thought of that, perhaps not him. The ethical issues regarding this are possibly less than for mind control, which is not saying a whole lot.

    1. Thanks! I am also on the autistic spectrum, and I am very leery of “work on your social skills” advice given to autistic spectrum folks. I went on a “must fix social skills!” spree from around ages 15-18 and it caused many, many, many more problems than it solved. I’m still dealing with consequences from that ten years later. And I’m still socially awkward and still can’t pass as NT in all situations, because there is *nothing* that will make me able to do that, because I am *autistic* and my brain is not wired for allistic interactions! What really made me able to interact with people and make friends was learning to accept that and learning that I was still a worthwhile person and there were people who liked me despite (or sometimes because of!) social skills issues and awkwardness.

      1. And I’m still socially awkward and still can’t pass as NT in all situations, because there is *nothing* that will make me able to do that, because I am *autistic* and my brain is not wired for allistic interactions!

        You know, I went on a “biologically determined brain wiring” approach in my late teens. I still do it sometimes, when I fail to stop myself.

        And, for me, it has the exact opposite effect than what it does for you. It makes me miserable, because it means that I give up on social interaction and attempting to *push* myself to interact socially in contexts that I’m not usually comfortable with. And it doesn’t matter how much of a ‘worthwhile person’ I am otherwise (I don’t believe in generalized self esteem; I’m far too cynical for any of it) — if I don’t have people to hang out with, I’m completely unhappy.

        What works for me is the exact *opposite* approach, which is that social skills are really really hard for me — but that I can in fact improve them if I work on them and I can stop being socially awkward in all contexts. Because you know what? That’s what gets me out the door in the morning. That’s what makes me go out with friends somewhere or ask someone out or do something that isn’t entirely scripted. (1)

        And that’s okay. Even if it is false — because that’s what I need. And saying that the message should be about brain wiring and not trying to improve one’s social skills means that people like me are going to be miserable. Period.

        So, yeah. People with ASDs are not all alike, and part of that means that they will not all appreciate the same framing of social difficulties. Nuances are hard, and “it’s really really hard to change and we shouldn’t have to” doesn’t tend to sell as well as “we just can’t do it,” but I’d really appreciate it, for the sake of teen LMM, if everyone would start working with a bit more nuance.

        (1) There’s a vague amount of room here for some sort of “interactions at every social level” message (analogous to “Health at Any Size”) — i.e. social interactions have other advantages, even if you can’t improve your social skills! — but only vaguely. Exercise, like social interactions, can be painful and exhausting at first, but exercise becoming fun isn’t dependent upon one losing weight. Social interactions really only stop being painful when one stops *feeling* awkward, which *does* require some amount of social skills.

        1. I’m really sorry I came across as treating ASDs as a one-size-fits-all thing! This is a topic I get a bit het up about, but rereading I can definitely see where I was lacking nuance and I’m very sorry about that – as you rightly point out, this is a topic where it’s quite important.

          Especially because I think our attitudes aren’t that far apart, when you come down to it. What I was thinking of in the bit that you quoted was that it’s impossible for me to change my social skills so they function exactly like an allistic person’s, not that it’s pointless to do anything at all. There are skills that I’m glad I picked up (for instance, I’m now much better at figuring out if someone is bored when I’m talking than as a teenager – useful!), but what really wrecked my mental health was the attitude that I had to throw everything I had into improving my social skills until I was Just Like Everyone Else. For me, what was really important was stepping back and going “okay, being Just Like Everyone Else is never going to happen. I should figure out what point would be best for me to aim for, after which the energy invested is just not worth it anymore.” And the answer to that ended up being that I’d actually reached that point a while back and that I was pouring way, way too much energy into social skills at the cost of other things.

          I guess that when I read advice for people with ASDs to “work on their social skills”, I get frustrated because I don’t see this acknowledgement that not everyone can or should have to reach an indistinguishable-from-NT norm, that people should get to draw their own lines and decide for themselves how much work they want to put in. I definitely don’t want to say that it’s pointless and nobody should try to work on their social skills at all!

          I also wonder sometimes if we shouldn’t draw more of a distinction between social awkwardness and lack of social skills; it’s possible to *feel* incredibly awkward in social situations while actually having relatively few social skills issues, and on the other hand I’ve met other spectrum people who are much more noticeably neuroatypical than I am social skills-wise who also seem much more confident and relaxed in social situations than I am. Some degree of social skills may be necessary to achieve that sort of poise, but conflating the two isn’t necessarily a good idea either.

          1. Your last paragraph strikes me as a really good distinction. Being able to tell that something is awkward is a social skill!

          2. I’ve found my intense social awkwardness has improved dramatically since a) I was diagnosed (OH! There’s a reason for this shit!) and b) I stopped trying to be Just Like Everyone Else, ie, Normal. Improving my social awkwardness has grown out of accepting that I am inherently awkward and will never pass for NT in all (any?) situations. Once that’s out there, I can get on with being me, and I’m actually kind of great. It turns out I’m also signficantly less bad at learning social skills in general than I had believed for years, because I was setting unrealistic goals for myself (like Just Be Normal). When my goals are more reasonable, like learning to tell if someone is bored, they’re actually fixable.

            LW, you don’t seem to grasp that Girls is not an indivisible class of humans. They are not interchangeable. I struggled with this for spectrumy reasons when I was younger, too, but I think it’s really human to do so. Some people never outgrow it–even people who aren’t autistic (see: Republicans–oh, see, I just did it again!). The problem is, you don’t know what makes you different from other humans except for a list of things that you don’t seem to be very proud of (which are neutral (autism) to bad (drug habit/threats about it)). The advice to find your awesome is spot on, but also you have to work on learning that other people have their own awesomes. All people are individual, and we can be categorized because it is human to categorize things, but the categories themselves do not define us.

          3. re: your last paragraph: I’m not autistic, so I can’t speak to that part, but in general I think that people who are really not au fait with the typical workings of social interaction also tend to be very confident in their social abilities (because they can’t tell if they make the situation awkward or uncomfortable), whereas people who feel really awkward about socializing usually have some basic idea of how it’s supposed to work.

            I mean, anecdata, but I, at least, was much more outgoing and much less stressed by social interaction back when I was the “no brain-to-mouth filter, talking incessantly (and far too loudly) about things that no one else cares about” type than I am now that I have some basic awareness of social cues. And a lot of nerds I’ve known have followed a similar pattern. So yes, it is an important distinction to make, I think.

          4. I think people mean different things when they say ‘social skills’. Yeah, it can mean learning the ‘unspoken common language’ that people use, i.e., the tricks and body language and little references and indirect ways of implying things people use to say things, learning to say the right thing at the right moment, to amuse people and make them comfortable and so on, but it can also just mean learning whatever skills or strategies are personally useful to YOU that help you interact better with whatever people you wish to interact with.

            E.g. learning to communicate more directly in words instead of assuming you need to guess how other people feel is a social skill, IMO, and one that’s very helpful for many people. Learning to identify which people you respect and trust and actually like to spend a lot of time with and which you don’t as much is a skill. And so on.

            I.e., improving social skills doesn’t necessarily HAVE to mean ‘learning to act like everyone else’. IMO skills are a bigger category than that.

          5. I love this framing, thank you. That’s generally what I mean when I talk about social skills – not learning to be “smooth” or “normal”, but leading with kindness and asking when you don’t know something.

            There are some customs and behaviors which can be learned even if you don’t automatically grasp them, so making an effort to understand social interactions even if you don’t naturally groove to them is helpful also.

  8. In the fat acceptance world, there’s a concept called “The Fantasy of Being Thin,” which basically goes like this:

    “Right now, I am shy, have a job I don’t like, have low self-esteem, don’t go outdoors, and am overweight. I should diet! Once I lose the weight, I will be such a different person that I will become confident and outdoorsy and get a great job. Therefore, weight loss is the only thing I need to do to change my life, and if I can’t lose weight, I will fall into despair, because not losing weight means I can’t fix anything in my life.”

    And it’s a big deal in fat acceptance to get over this, to understand that losing weight would just make you a lighter version of the same person, and to realize that you can work on all your other goals even if you stay fat forever.

    I feel like the OP is suffering from The Fantasy of Having A Girlfriend.

    Dear OP, if you have low self-esteem and poor social skills and abuse drugs and you get a girlfriend, I believe you’ll still be very unhappy, because every one of the problems except “no girlfriend” will still be there. Whereas if you work on your self-esteem and social skills and stop abusing drugs, you’re going to much more rapidly get to a “a girlfriend would make me happier, but life ain’t bad right now” place in your heart.

    1. Also, on a purely practical level, the “I’ll stop abusing drugs when I get a girlfriend” plan isn’t a good idea.

      Detoxing off high doses of Adderall is going to make you feel pretty out of it for a little while–your body goes into “eat all the things, sleep all the time, feel woozy and down all the time” mode when you’re withdrawing–and going through that when you’ve just started dating someone would be a huge strain on the relationship.

      Stopping your drug abuse now isn’t just a good idea for your body and your mental health, it’s good for your future relationship.

      1. Also, on a purely practical level, the “I’ll stop abusing drugs when I get a girlfriend” plan isn’t a good idea.

        In addition to the reasons Cliff listed, it also isn’t a good idea because a lot of women are going to find drug abuse SERIOUSLY off-putting. I have a soft spot for geeky, slightly socially awkward people (both as friends and as love interests), and back in my single days I would never ever ever have gone NEAR someone with a drug problem.

        And you really, really need to get on the “women are people” bus. Wanting a girlfriend, any girl, here how about you since you look vaguely female-shaped, is seeing them (us) as commodities. (Which is seriously not cool. Abandon all thoughts of buying a girlfriend.) Wanting the short brunette in the corner with glasses and Willow-Rosenbergian levels of adorable babble when she’s nervous to be your girlfriend is a whole different story.

        So: 1) read the advice on the other thread the Captain linked, and check out Dr. Nerdlove.
        2) Start figuring out who the hell you are. Therapists are good for this.
        3) Ditch the drugs. Therapists are also good for this.
        4) Once you’ve done 1 & 3 and are making some progress on 2, start finding your people. Volunteering is good for this, as are clubs, meetup events, hobby groups, etc.
        5) As you’re finding your people, some of them will be female. Endeavor to ignore this, at least as far as “will she be my girlfriend?” goes. The correct question is “Do I enjoy this person’s company?”

      2. And what Cliff describes is the best-case scenario for your current plan, LW — the scenario where you saying to yourself, “Okay, I have a girlfriend now, time to stop abusing drugs!” actually results in you immediately stopping abusing drugs. I think you would be much better off getting help to stop now.

        (That best-case scenario also assumes that, when you find a girl you like and who likes you, she isn’t put off by the fact that you’re abusing drugs — or by your plans to quit. I am worried that, if you do keep abusing drugs until you have a girlfriend, the girlfriend you eventually get will be someone who prefers the way you are when you’re abusing drugs and doesn’t like it when you try to stop. I don’t think that relationship would be happy or healthy for you.)

        1. I think it’s safe to say that pretty much anyone who thinks you’re awesome when you have a major addiction/behavioral/mental health problem and wants to date you in that state very likely has a major addiction/behavioral/mental health problem themselves, even if it’s just co-dependency.

    2. Love, love, love this analogy! I love that post and go back to it so often, and i think it’s perfectly applicable to this situation.

      Dear OP, if you have low self-esteem and poor social skills and abuse drugs and you get a girlfriend, I believe you’ll still be very unhappy, because every one of the problems except “no girlfriend” will still be there.

      Worse, you just might end up even more unhappy, because being in a real relationship with a real person means you’re going to disagree, and argue, and maybe even fight. There may be DRAMA. And I can pretty much guarantee you that if you’re looking to “get” a girlfriend – ANY girlfriend – to “fix” you, you’re going to have all kinds of problems, even if you do find someone. Because…did you ever think, what is that girl getting in return? After she agrees to start dating you…then what? What will motivate you then? What interests and passions do you have to share with her? What do you have to offer her?

      I once tried to play Manic Pixie Dream Girl to a Very Shy and Awkward Guy (yeah, I used to believe that I could Fix People. Learned my lesson!). I thought, oh, he’s just so Shy and Awkward and, hey, I was once Shy and Awkward, too! So I can totally help him, and then once he trusts me he’ll open up and show me Who He Is, and we’ll be happy ever after!!1! (blergh!) Problem was, underneath the shyness and awkwardness was…not much. He was so obsessed and oriented on Getting a Girlfriend that, once he did…he didn’t really have much else going on, because he never developed any other passions or interests. You can guess how long that lasted (hint: not long!). It was just…suffocating. We’re still friends of a sort years later, but he still hasn’t improved that much, and – surprise – he still hasn’t had any luck finding a girlfriend. He’s more than twice your age, LW – see if you can’t learn this lesson earlier than him!

    3. My boyfriend and I call this the Magic Vagina fallacy.

      He was single until he was nearly 30 and was inundated with the message that having a girlfriend makes your life better. He knew intellectually that that wasn’t necessarily the case but it’s hard to avoid internalising it.

      His best friend’s main goal in life is to marry and have kids so for him the right girlfriend really is necessary to his long term happiness but my partner is more career oriented. Dating me doesn’t change that and towards the beginning of our relationship we had several arguments that stemmed from his frustration that I couldn’t wave my Magic Vagina and make him happier.

      My advice is similar to the Captain’s ‘find your awesome’. Work out what you want long term. Is there a subject you want to keep studying at university? A particular job you want? Do you want to travel? Eat 50 different kinds of cheese? Start working towards those goals. Don’t make having a girlfriend the be all and end all. If you find someone that’s great and if you don’t you’ll still have something you can be proud of yourself for.

      1. I think it could be called the Magic Partner Fallacy, since plenty of women fall into the same mental trap of “If I could just find a boyfriend that will fix everything.” I slip into that myself sometimes.

        All of which is part of Magical Thinking &copy that presents complex life issues as if they have simple solutions. This is a byproduct of consumer culture, where every problem no matter how ginormous can be solved by just buying The Thing that will solve it.

        Just get a girlfriend/boyfriend/partner!
        Just eat less and exercise more!
        Just have Confidence!
        and on and on and fucking on. You can’t acquire the solution to your life problem almost ever.

        Even if you acquire the thing, the problem probably will not go away. Or a new problem will arise. Welcome to life.

      2. For a while I fell into that fallacy as well. Perhaps I have circumvented it, but the proximate goal is now far harder. Either I must learn to put full effort into all things, or I must survive until the technology to redesign my body and mind is available. Perhaps then I can treat my weaknesses at the source.

        Incidentally, I’d say that ‘be yourself’ is an example of this magical thinking. It is often told by people with interesting and powerful selves to people with uninteresting and weak selves. I prefer the Doctor Nerdlove model of exploring, fleshing out, and designing your self.

        1. Re your last paragraph: or possibly said by people who have already been thru the process and have forgotten how daunting it looks from the other end. It’s always easier to say “Be X!” when you either are X naturally, or learned how to be X so long ago that it feels like you’ve always been X.

  9. Probably a troll, and if not, well on the way to becoming abuser/victim with that drug using to self destruction threat. But assuming it’s genuine, and the pain is sincere, I’ll share my experience at that age. Lots of people feel like unloved, unlovable users who are doomed to miserable, pitiable, lonely existences, especially when they’re teenagers and trying to figure out adulthood and their identities and what to do with looming freedom from parental supervision. Angst, thy name is 17.

    Anyway, when I was 17, I went off to college. At that point, I had never been on a date. I’d been kissed exactly once by a boy who promptly got involved with a good friend of mine, though I had to figure that out on my own. In college, I moved into a dorm and started dating the first person who showed any interest in me whatsoever. It was the first time I’d ever heard the term “significant other.” We did some kissing, and then right into sex. I really wasn’t ready, and he certainly wasn’t interested in taking it slow and making me comfortable. I didn’t say no, and I didn’t run away, so it really wasn’t date rape, but I was compliant more than anything else. It hurt a lot. And I said so. Which didn’t stop anything. Then he dumped me the next day. I spent the rest of that year hanging out with him as part of the same social circle trying to pretend nothing was wrong and having no idea how to deal with it. And I spent the rest of my college experience unable to talk about it and terrified of intimacy. So I ran away pretty quickly when others expressed any romantic interest in me.

    It took a lot of years, and reflecting on my experiences and growing up, and a lot of learning to respect myself and truly believe that I was worthy of love before I was able to be in a successful relationship. Along the way, I had assorted sexual encounters that never lasted because I was afraid of emotional intimacy. And then I was in an abusive relationship with someone who frankly wasn’t capable of respecting women as either individuals or as a group of people, who wasn’t capable of actually listening to me or understanding much less fulfilling my needs. There’s some irony to finally achieving a visceral understanding about what women mean when they talk about being objectified by experiencing it from my intimate partner, which is the last place one would expect it, really. When we had sex, he always had to ask me if I had orgasmed, because he simply wasn’t making love TO ME, he was fulfilling his own sexual needs using his preferred personal device, and therefore wasn’t capable of reading my arousal, desire, pleasure. It was outside his scope of experience and, ultimately, interest.

    I share all of this because to have an intimate connection with another human being, you need to see that person first as a human being, a specific human being, whose unique laugh, turn of phrase, walk, gestures, favorite songs, comfort food, childhood pet, beverage of choice, role models, most recent hobby or whatever make you smile, light up, feel a personal spark. And some or all of these features of yourself do the same for hir in return. You have to both enjoy that journey of mutual discovery, take pleasure in each other’s particular company. And be able to support each other’s needs and interests. That doesn’t mean you have to love all of the same things, but you have to be on Team Her, and she must find Team You a fantastic place to be. Gotta start with yourself, and what you love about yourself to share with the world and the people in it who can be on Team You.

    1. Solecism, your last paragraph in particular is wonderful. It describes my situation with Mr Kittehs’ Unpaid Help perfectly and made me smile just reading it.

      And, LW – I did not get together with Mr Kitteh until we were in our forties. I had never had any relationship at all before then. I’d been on two dates with two men when I was about twenty, and not so much as kissed either of them. Was I lonely for a romantic relationship? Sometimes, yeah. But I was also living my life, being myself, moving in and out of friendships over the years. I didn’t require A Generic Boyfriend to make me complete and I sure as hell wasn’t thinking about “making people like me.” People have their own likes and dislikes and you can’t force them to feel one way or another – more importantly, you have no right to. Drop this desperate, demanding attitude that talks as if women owe you a relationship, or sex, or whatever, and follow the good advice that’s been given here about getting off the drugs and on to therapy.

      1. My whole family is rather like this… my uncle on my dad’s side got married maybe ten years ago at the most. I think he’s in his fifties. One of my mother’s sisters is still single, in her fifties or sixties. I’m one of five siblings ranging from 25-35 or thereabouts. None of us have partners. Two or three of us have never had a serious relationship. What we *do* have is Stuff Going On. I’m studying Social Policy and my country’s indigenous language and working in disaster relief, one of my sisters works with me, the other one is in the process of changing jobs from one university library to another – she’s the oldest and also has experience teaching English overseas in places like South Korea and New Caledonia. My older brother does tech support for an ISP and makes fancy breads and slices and fudge. My younger brother is finishing a PhD and recently got back from studying in Canada, and before that he did an internship with Microsoft in China. All that stuff is exciting! It gives us a ton of things to talk about. LW, say you meet a fun, awesome girl who might be interested in you. What would you talk about, really? What can you tell her about yourself? “I’m going to keep abusing drugs until I get a girlfriend” doesn’t sell yourself well. “I’m studying Ecology, into mountain-climbing and am saving up for a trip to the Rockies and it’s going to be awesome even if I fail because I’m awesome when I do things I enjoy” does. Right now you’re never going to manage your social awkwardness because you don’t have anything to carry a conversation with. The only people you have anything in common with are people who are similarly broken and have nothing going on.

        In my teens I desperately wanted a boyfriend, though for different reasons – I didn’t feel like I fit in and wanted to be normal. It took me a long time to realise that I was right, I wasn’t like the girls in my class, I’m not actually into guys and I’m not even a girl. So even though I did succeed in getting boyfriends a few times, they were pathetic shadows of a relationship and none of them lasted very long. I didn’t have the slightest clue who I was. I ended up putting a moratorium on dating entirely until I’ve gotten to know myself better and learned to Use My Words and I honestly barely even notice.

  10. Dear LW,

    I must ask you what you think one, precisely, does with a girlfriend? And what your intentions are re: acquiring one?

    If your answer is “something to hump,” well, you probably have working hands, and if not, there is a large market of devices and toys. Girlfriends are not stuffed animals with holes (although if that’s your thing, a woman on Etsy does a line of distressing My Little Pony plushes.)

    If your answer is “to fill a loneliness hole,” that is sad. I feel compassion. But fill that hole with friends. Life. Activities. Things the Captain told you. Girlfriends are not spackle for your sad.

    If your answer is “to heal my drug addiction with magical vagina-ways” then a) start reading higher-quality fantasy novels, and b) girlfriends are not neurochemicals. Your drugs, your problem, sweet pea.

    If your answer is “to make me feel normal,” please accept that your normal is not normal. It just isn’t! Some people juggle geese!

    If your answer is “to make me happy” – well, kid, that’s a hard furrow to plow. Smarter, cleverer, attractive, more interesting, more social, better-educated people than you have tumbled into this trap. You’re in good company there. But it’s a trap. A person will not make you happy. There is no methamphetamine stash that we women keep in our bras to treat our lovers with. Ladies are made of the same stuff you are. there is no magical Zooey Deschanel quivering in the wings, ready to award herself to the Loneliest Boy In The World. Cut that thinking out now and you’ll be ahead of the game!

    If your answer is, in fact, any sort of equation at all where all your problems (y) are fixed by solving for Girlfriend (x), then you need to rethink this before trying for a relationship. And that can be hard to hear! I mean, you are constantly inundated with messages about how good love is, how all-consuming sex is, how perfect your life will be when you Acquire Girl. Every song on the radio is about love; every movie has a romantic subplot where Hero Gets Girl; every advertisement hinges on increasing your sexual appeal; your entire culture insists that women, as objects, are there for you to take and consume and nomnomnom on and have sex with, so why don’t you have one yet? So that can be hard! Out there is the whole world, and here are some people telling you, perhaps for the first time, that the world is actually wrong.

    First, change your mind. Then, change yourself. Then, change the world. Then, someday, when you look back at this letter, and you throw up all over your keyboard with sheer mortification, you will have Arrived.

    And from that point on I will wish you the best of luck in your romantic adventure.


    1. elodieunderglass – you said it. The world is wrong. Being single is not abnormal. If you have a significant other they do not “complete” you. They are not your “other half”. You are not part of a couple. You are complete on your own, you are an individual. And you may or may not be in a romantic relationship, and if you are then it’s not for the sake of being in a relationship but because you find a person with whom you can’t imagine not being in one.

      First learn to love yourself, then love being single. Love the independence it gives you, the selfishness it allows you, the “in-law” problems that you don’t have.

      Have we got any people here who can speak up for the life without romantic/sexual attachments? I don’t feel particularly qualified to do so, due to being married. Although I can honestly say I don’t think I was ready to be married until I stopped being afraid of possibly never being.

      1. I’m in a relationship, but I’ve always loved being single. My approach to romantic relationships has never been to look for them, but rather than if I’m to date a person, they have to be SO AWESOME that they are worth giving up being single for. Because there is a lot about being single that is great. Having my whole bed to myself. Not having to negotiate anyone else’s schedule, dietary or tv preferences, visits with a whole nother set of relatives I don’t really get along with. More time and emotional energy to spend on friends, hobbies, and activism.

        Now that I’m in a relationship, I genuinely miss all that. And if my sweetie wasn’t SO AWESOME, I wouldn’t have been willing to give it all up. If you aren’t happy, it’s not because you don’t have a romantic partner, it’s because you aren’t happy.

        1. Very much so! I’m happily single over here and would also not get involved with anyone who wasn’t awesome enough to give that up for.

          LW: the Captain gives great advice as usual. I particularly like “find your awesome”. It’s in there somewhere. If you find it, not only will you be happier, but other people are more likely to consider you awesome enough to give up being single for. 🙂

      2. Ha, thanks.

        I’m married, too, but I loved being single. I loved being in an LDR because I retained my blessed bachelorette lifestyle while getting Sex With Another Person, which is pretty high on my values list. Singlehood was, honestly, bliss.

        And the sort of person who is independent, self-sufficient, comfortable with themselves, good at self-care and genuinely loves being single is, paradoxically, a hot commodity. People find that very attractive. I certainly do.

        But in general, for me, a friend or lover must be a person whose company I prefer to that of a good book.

        1. Ha, better yet, my friend or lover must sometimes understand that “I love you, but I’m READING. See you later!” is a valid thing to say.

          1. Lover Material =! The Broken Bird Who Needs My Sweet Love To Be Their Wings and Make Them Whole.

            Lover Material = The One Who Doesn’t Try to Compete With Catherynne Valente For My Attention/Affection.

            Soulmate Material = Not Interrupting/Competing Due to Book Of Their Own…

          2. It’s nice to have a partner who considers “companionably reading our books” to be a normal and desirable part of a weekend together. (That’s in addition to wanting significant amounts of time entirely alone; I don’t think I could live with this person, but we aren’t planning to try.)

      3. I’m 28! I have never dated. (Insert long story about depression, grad school, living with parents, and such.)

        You know what? When I’m not actively depressed, I really enjoy my life. I didn’t always, but I have a job that challenges me, a great group of supportive friends, an apartment that I share with a roommate who’s really sweet. I’m considering taking the plunge into internet dating because I’d like to try it out, but I’m honestly okay if it doesn’t work out. I like being able to do what I want, like go on vacation by myself and make my own schedule, or go grocery shopping and buy what I like. I mean, I am still responsible to society and humanity and the people around me. But… life is good

      4. Hi! 27 and a half, last relationship ended when I turned 19. I’m studying part time, working part time in disaster relief, participate in political discourse – I follow a bunch of MPs and political bloggers on Twitter and worked at a polling station in the last election – love crafts though I’m terrible at sticking to one thing for a solid length of time so among the stuff I pick up every so often are: flax weaving, crochet, very basic knitting, cross-stitch, etc. I’m very introverted and need a lot of alone time to recharge and I hate relying on other people to be able to get things done or to vet my plans particularly because they often change quickly (ie, I was planning to read all evening, but omg, my friend is at a bar opening by herself and needs company!) I have rabbits and I watch nature documentaries that have been dubbed into my country’s native language to help me learn two things at once and sometimes I have lollies for lunch and spend all my money on books. I also have chronic depression and social phobia (upgraded a few years ago from social anxiety disorder) and will probably be on medication for the rest of my life. The main thing about being single that annoys me is that housing is priced based on a two-income household, and generally one where the two incomes share a room, so even a one bedroom house is going to be tough for me to ever afford and I’ll probably end up going in with my sister.

    2. I wish I could take your reply and send it through a wormhole to my younger self, along with a swift kick to my rear. It would have hopefully helped prevent me from wasting a lot of years trying to “spackle my sad.” Here’s hoping the OP (even if a troll) will listen to this and the other great advice here.

    3. Delurking to award you eleventy bajillion points for the Firefly reference.
      (Also, great advice. I love your writing, elodieunderglass!)

    4. Brilliant. It can’t be said often enough, or clearly enough, that people aren’t commodities – and that women are people.

  11. When you’re 18 (hell, when you’re older, too) it’s very very easy to feel that EVERYONE in the entire world apart from you has a girlfriend/boyfriend, and that as a result, the fact that you are the only person who doesn’t is proof that there must be something terribly, horribly, uniquely wrong with you.

    This may be particularly true if you’re not neurotypical, which can lead to growing up suspecting that there’s something wrong with you anyway.

    So it’s easy to fixate on “getting” a partner as something necessary to establish your basic humanity and worthiness to even exist.

    And our culture supports that — there’s a lot of mockery of people who’ve never had partners, and a lot of attitudes that imply that whether or not you have a partner is a direct reflection on your worthiness as a human being.

    (The flipside of this, of course, is people who take it the other way and decide that because they’re good people, because they’re Nice, the universe owes them a partner. And in fact, that person they like owes it to them to like them back in a sexytiemz way. After all, don’t they deserve it? Aren’t they worthy?)

    Yeah, it doesn’t work like that.

    First off, I would bet you anything that a whole lot of your peer group have never had a partner either. A lot of them are just being quiet about it.

    But thinking about all the geeky and/or socially awkward and/or autistic and/or ADHD people I know — an awful lot of us had never had a partner by age 18. So, you know. There’s a lot of people in the same boat. It’s just that at the time, we all thought we were the only ones ever in the entire world.

    Secondly: it has nothing to do with worthiness.

    Yes, being a smart, funny, interesting, kind, awesome person can contribute enormously to getting to know people and making friends, some of whom may want to date you. But it doesn’t guarantee that someone will want to date you, because that’s not how it works.

    A girlfriend is not a prize you earn. She’s someone who likes you.

    And because that’s true, the fact you don’t have a girlfriend now doesn’t mean you’re a failure and it doesn’t mean you’re unworthy or bad. It just means you don’t have a girlfriend.

    So, back it up. The Captain’s given you some excellent advice. Work on your social skills — there are books on teaching social skills to teenagers and young adults with ADHD or autistic spectrum, so that’s another good reason to talk to a therapist or social worker: they may be able to help you out on that front. Find your awesome. Deal with the drug problem.

    But the more you can disentangle GETTING A GIRLFRIEND from feeling like a basically okay and worthy human being, the better it’s going to be for you.

  12. I’m going to start by quoting people smarter than me.

    First, Bruce Lee from Enter the Dragon

    LEE: How did that feel to you?

    STUDENT: …let me think…

    LEE: Don’t think! Feel! It is like a finger, pointing a way to the moon…


    LEE: Don’t concentrate on the finger, or you will miss all that heavenly glory!

    LW, you want to feel “happy”. You want the feeling of “being loved”. That is “heavenly glory”. The drugs, the girlfriend, that’s the finger. You’re missing all the heavenly glory because of it.

    Next, a quote from Douglas Coupland:

    “Remember: the time you feel lonely is the time you most need to be by yourself. Life’s cruelest irony.”
    ― Shampoo Planet

    It does feel cruel that the times when you most want someone to love you are the times when you are least lovable, but there’s a point, and the point is that you need to be alone right now.

    LW, there is a relationship you for you to work on, someone who can love you the way you want to be loved. But you’re looking in all the wrong places for them…

    I’m tired of trying so hard, only to fail constantly.

    The fun, wacky folks over at AA like to define insanity as “doing the same thing in the same way, expecting different results”. That’s a paraphrase to be sure, and I don’t know that I’d call it insane, but it does seem a pretty good recipe for frustration.

    I just want to find a “miracle cure”.
    OK. I have one. I really do. There are two parts. The first comes from Dan Savage, sex advice columnist:
    First, Dan Savage:

    Worry less about getting your 18-year-old self laid, and start thinking about getting your 20- or 21-year-old self laid. Join a gym and build yourself a body that girls will find irresistible; read a lot so you’ll have something to say to the girls you do attract; and get out of the house and do shit—political shit, social shit, low-stakes shit—so that you’ll meet different kinds of girls in different kinds of settings and you’ll get comfortable talking to them.

    The first part of this ‘miracle cure’ is that to attract women, you should be attractive to them. That means being in good shape, it means being moderately well read, it means being active with groups of people outside of school and/or work, to show that you can be around people you want to be around and not just people you have to be around.

    The second part of this miracle cure that the LW needs to accept, know, and believe, is that you cannot expect anyone to love you until you love yourself. there is someone who can love you, who will love you, in a way that will make you feel whole and complete and OK. That person? It’s you. You will not find anyone who is willing to care about you if you see yourself as not worth caring about. The most basic, fundamental, important relationship you will have in your entire life is with you, so you better spend some time and effort on it. Look into therapy (cognitive behavioral therapy worked for me, and studying self-forgiveness made a big difference as well) and accept that part of your dating troubles is that you’re asking people to do something (love you) that you’re not willing to do yourself.

    1. I mostly agree with that Dan Savage quote, but I’m not sure about the gym part. I feel like that could be great for someone who already likes the idea of working out, but if done in the wrong spirit it could turn into ‘I’ve been going to the gym and building this great body and I STILL don’t have a girlfriend!’ This seems a little close to being that (actually impossible) solution the LW was asking about. Girls are into all different kinds of bodies anyway. I don’t want the LW to feel that if he is overweight, or skinny and gangly (the male body types that society is trying to convince everyone women find unattractive) then this will harm his chances with women because it really, really doesn’t have to. I’ve dated guys of both those body types and they were super hot and attractive. There’s no body type that will magnetise girls, it’s all about the other things the Captain has written about- self esteem and working on knowing yourself better, social skills etc. Personality is a hugely important part of attractiveness. Though doing exercise of some kind may well be very good for the LW, it should be because he enjoys it not because he wants to build muscles.

      1. I mostly agree with that Dan Savage quote, but I’m not sure about the gym part. I feel like that could be great for someone who already likes the idea of working out, but if done in the wrong spirit it could turn into ‘I’ve been going to the gym and building this great body and I STILL don’t have a girlfriend!’ This seems a little close to being that (actually impossible) solution the LW was asking about.

        That was what George Soldini was bitter about. But then, he thought the world owed him hot women, too. His problem was that he brought this attitude into the gym with him.

        There’s value in going to the gym in and of itself, especially for someone who may be a little awkward physically or has poor body image. Even when you don’t see a major transformation, making some kind of measurable progress (whether that is gaining flexibility, being able to lift more weight, increasing cardiovascular endurance or speed, or learning/mastering a skill) can be very heartening for someone who feels like they can’t do anything. There’s also the fact that exercise feels good and has health benefits. A gym or yoga class or park or running group is also a good place to meet people in a low-stakes way (but it can also be a good place to tune other people out if you’re focusing).

        What you can’t do is treat a gym membership as currency to be used in a pussy vending machine.

        1. I think the gym thing is one of those places where asking yourself the “What sort of person do I want to date, and what sort of person would they like to date?” question is useful. If you mostly desire to get with very in-shape, athletic women with fabulous muscle tone, it is likely that those women look like that because they work out a lot, and they will be less interested in dudes who do not work out a lot. I am a bit of a gym rat, and I completely and forever over dudes who do not work out, partly because they whine and carp and cry when I try to take time away from them to actually go to the gym, as if they do not understand that going to the gym is how I got all attractive like they want me to be, but I am also just plain old sick of the double standard that I am supposed to be not-shallow and kind and open-minded and look past mere appearances and whatever, but dudes get to want to date me because I am fit.

          If you are up for dating women who do not themselves go to the gym, then feel free to skip the gym.

          1. I am also just plain old sick of the double standard that I am supposed to be not-shallow and kind and open-minded and look past mere appearances and whatever, but dudes get to want to date me because I am fit.

            If you are up for dating women who do not themselves go to the gym, then feel free to skip the gym.

            This, like, 8,000 times.

      2. I think of it as a bit of a head-fake, actually.

        Going to the gym “to get a girl” isn’t a perfect approach, but going to the gym to sleep better, have more balanced brain chemistry, and feel better about your body is a pretty good deal. The problem is that the latter is a tougher sell than the former.

        1. I’d like to make a different suggestion about exercise, if the LW doesn’t enjoy going to the gym. If you enjoy being around animals, how about trying horseriding instead? It’s not cheap, but that appears not to be too big a problem for the LW. The reason I’m suggesting it is that for me, having had a lot of social issues due to bullying in school, in the stables was one of the few places I felt safe and accepted. The horses don’t care that you’ve never had a girlfriend or that you don’t know how to talk to people. They care about how you treat them right this very second and every second you ever spend with them.

          Being around horses has helped me a lot with learning to understand body language. Like cats, they’re very direct with what they want. They want scritches? You get a big horse head right up in your face. You’re not scritching hard enough? They’ll bowl you over with that big head. You’re scritching too hard? They’ll pull away and give you a sideways glare. You always know where you are with them. And, incidentally, that type of body language is exactly what most of us do in bed. Your partner isn’t touching you hard enough – you push against their hand. They’re pushing too hard, you pull away. So learning this with animals is a very useful skill.

          Also, there are generally a lot of girls and women around horses – at least where I live, you have around 95 % women at a riding school. That means that this is a good place to get to know girls as just friends with a shared interest. And they will be there to focus on the horses, so if you ask them questions about how to do things with the horses, they’ll mostly be very happy to help (and if they’re anything like me, they won’t stop talking about the horses…) Voila – instant conversation! With a girl! That you didn’t know before!

          And as a bonus, riding is really hard work; you’ll start aching in muscles you didn’t know existed and places you’d rather not talk about. But the first time you find that the horse understood what you wanted and did it and was happy doing it together with you – that’s a happiness that no antidepressant has ever given me.

          If horses aren’t for you, if you don’t feel comfortable around them, you can get most of these benefits from working at a cat or dog shelter, except for the exercise. (I’ve actually started going to the gym in order to be a better rider. Nothing else in my 40 years has ever managed to motivate me enough to keep that up before.)

          *looks back*
          *notes several paragraphs just about horses, not about LW*
          *deletes most*
          TL;DR: horses are good for your physical and mental health, and as a bonus you get to meet nice people who love horses and will accept you as you are as long as you do, too.

          1. There’s a real confidence boost in being able to get a thousand pound animal to work with you. Yes, I can make this huge beast move over just by putting my hand on his side. He wouldn’t do that for the bully at my office, or my dad, or the President of the United States. But he’ll do that for me.

          2. Mr. Other Becky used to be involved with a therapeutic riding program — some of the clients were visually impaired, some had ASD, etc. If getting involved with horses on your own is either too expensive or too intimidating, you might see if there’s a program like that in your area. One of the things that seemed to be a real plus was that some of the sensory inputs that can be unpleasant/overwhelming for people with ASD are also unpleasant/overwhelming to horses — they’ve got good sight, smell, and hearing, so you don’t generally run into stuff like artificial fragrances, harsh lighting, constant high-pitched background noise, etc.

      3. This is not so surprising, since Dan Savage has some pretty toxic ideas about bodies and what they must look like to be worthy of love.

    2. The only addendum I would make to this excellent advice is that I hate the bit from Dan Savage about going to the gym because it’ll help you get girls. LW, go to the gym if you’d like to improve your fitness, or meet new people based around a sport or because you like to go to the gym. Don’t go to the gym because girls like fit guys. Girls, being a multi-headed beast, like lots of things, and forcing yourself through exercise you hate is really not a route to happiness!

      1. Totally agree. I happen to dislike the bodies of men who look like they spend ages at the gym. It’s all purely aesthetic for me, since I have no interest, much less pants-feelings, for anyone but my SO, but my reaction to the sight of a muscled man is ‘ugh’.

      2. Well, exercise is good for endorphins. Which make you happy. Which makes you a more emotionally attractive relationship prospect.

        1. But going to the gym does not necessarily equal good exercise for everyone. For me, the best exercise is my bike, because I enjoy the ride and it helps my self confidence. The gym just makes me hate myself and everyone there. So suggesting that “going to the gym” is a universal positive that also makes everyone more attractive really gets my hackles up.

          1. Right — going to the gym makes me miserable, exhausted, and resentful. De-thatching my yard and hauling around 50-lb bags of mulch, on the other hand, is great fun. So, “find a form of physical activity that makes you feel good” = good advice! “Go to the gym” = crappy advice. (But this is Dan Savage we’re talking about, after all.)

    3. The Bruce Lee quote was pure genius, and I love Mr Savage, but like the posters below I think the gym here is also the finger. Getting fit, healthy, exercising because it combats depression and low self-esteem, those are the heavenly glory, right? Not “The Girl.”

    4. Replace “go to the gym” with “reconnect with your body”, which I consider an important step before finding a lover. In LW’s case, that means getting clean. Not only is drug addiction unbecoming, it’s bad for the sex, and the sex is a not-minor part of romantic relationships for many, many people.

      1. I agree. People think that going to the gym entails sweating while lifting heavy things. It does but it’s actually pretty technical. And if the idea of moving heavy things up and down sounds excrutiatingly boring to you, then don’t go to the gym. Reconnect with your body is a great way to put it.
        LW I wish you all the best. I hope you can learn to love yourself, because you deserve it. You don’t need the love of others to complete you. You’re already a complete person who’s worthy of love – your own love.

      2. This. Connect with your body.

        I skipped that step for a long, long time full of anti depressants and anti anxiety drugs and not so awesome behavior and nearly complete lack of self worth. It took a crazy happenstance and a friend trained as a physical therapist to get me toward a diagnosis of some really out there physical stuff – I’m not actually a chronic depressive (a label I had for my entire adult life) but I was in constant pain, so much and so constant that I had never noticed, just cut myself off from my body. A long time of physical therapy later, and I have days where I like to move.

        Connect with your body. Treat it to the motion that is good for it and makes you happy. Try dance, Pilates, yoga, swimming, gardening, horseback riding, jogging, biking, martial arts, anything that moves you. If you don’t know of any physical activity that feels good, seek professional help until you find something.

        Outside of any relationship, any hobby, connect with your body. Care for yourself.

  13. Since the Captain mentioned me specifically, I wanted to drop in and say a few things.

    First of all: Folks: never attribute to trollishness what could equally be attributable to being a teenager. When you’re 18 EVERYTHING is high drama, especially when you’re single and desperate and feeling like you’re going to die alone and unloved.

    Now to the letter writer:

    Dude. First things first: before you worry about girls, you need to worry about getting your head on straight. Nobody, even if you were to somehow enter into a long-term contract with an escort, is going to want to hang around you for very long if you’re clinging to this attitude of “MY LIFE IS OVER UNLESS I HAVE A GIRLFRIEND!”

    Like Cap said, you need to take a WHOLE LOTTA steps back. Your main concern right now isn’t getting a girlfriend, its not acting like an idiot and dealing with your emotional issues.

    To start with: leading with threats about how you’re going to just continue with drugs unless you get a girlfriend is PAH-THE-TIC. Free hint: emotional blackmail isn’t going to help with advice columnists and it really isn’t going to help you with relationships… and I have a more than sneaking suspicion that you’ve tried it before. Cap is right, you need to talk to a psychologist (NOT a psychiatrist) – talk therapy is going to do you more good about your issues than Doc “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” sending you home with a handfull of scrips to shut your anxiety down. You need something to help with the ADHD, all well and good. But let’s be real here: your problem isn’t being emotionally imbalanced, it’s being 18 and having all of your hormones raging and telling you “You need to get laid NOW NOW NOWNOWNOWNOWNOW!”

    In fact, let me re-emphasize that: you’re 18. This is hardly a mark that you’re going to be Forever Alone. Shit son, I didn’t lose my virginity until I was pushing 20. I’ve got a friend who lost his at 32. You have a LONG way to go before you worry that you’re never going to know the soft embrace of a woman.

    So here is my multi-step prescription just for you:

    Step 1: Find a psychologist, one who’s used to treating teenagers – especially those with drug dependencies like yours – and start some serious therapy for your anxiety.

    Step 2: Ditch the drugs. If you need medicine to help you focus, fine, but stick to the minimum dose and DON’T try to self-medicate with everything else. Nobody’s going to want to date a pill-popper who’s going to be hitting up his friends to get his fix.

    Step 3: Get a Fleshlight. I am being totally serious here. Don’t let the bullshit stigma attached to sex toys for men put you off; there’s no difference between that and a vibrator for women – and nobody looks twice at a woman who gets a vibrator or two these days.

    You are not in a position to be dating anyone right now – and probably won’t be for quite some time. However, you’re also 18 and you’re going to be looking for short-cuts because you’re 18 and want to get seriously balls-deep in someone, like every other 18 year old guy. A Fleshlight will not only help you control yourself and provide you with a release, but it will *also* teach you more about what gets you off and how to manage it. You’ll be able to practice and be that much more prepared for when you ARE ready to go out and find yourself a girlfriend.

    Step 4: Build your life. Like the Cap said, you need to find your awesome. There are two ways of getting good with girls. One is to become a master manipulator. The other is to be an interesting person with an attractive, exciting life. As you’re busy getting your head on straight, take time to get in touch with who you really are, what you’re into. Grow a social circle, find some outside interests and use these to grow as a person. Get to know people on a social level and you’ll start pushing past that social awkwardness you complain of. The more you can interact with people on a strictly platonic level, the more comfortable you’ll be when it comes time to actually meet women you’re interested in dating.

    Step 5: Don’t rush the relationship. I understand that you feel like you’ve been held back from this brave new world that everybody else has a head start on and you want to make up for lost time. Trust me when I say you need to take things INCREDIBLY slowly. You’re going to want to rush headlong into dating – I know, I’ve been there, done that and now I own the t-shirt factory – and this means you’re going to end up in a lot of relationships that just won’t work… which will just reinforce the idea that you’re doomed to be Forever Alone. You don’t want to run into every relationship with the idea that it’s going to be The One. You want to date many people very casually as you become acclimatized to the dating world and what it takes to be a good partner to someone. You don’t want to end up in a horrible relationship because you think that it’s all you can get – trust me, I’ve done THAT too. You will have crushes that go nowhere. You will have relationships that will end badly and make you feel like the lowest form of catfish shit. You will be blindsided by what feels like love but is really just infatuation. Every male out there who has ever dated ever has gone through all of this. It is all a natural part of the process.

    Step 6: Never stop growing or improving. As soon as you have your pass to actually go out and date, you’re going to be tempted to focus ALL of your attention on dating. Again: this is a mistake. The best thing you can do is focus on living the best, most amazing life you can. When you become a cool person with an awesome life – and YOU get to define what that looks like – you will find people will naturally be attracted into your orbit. Taking care of yourself is just as important when it comes to relationship maintenance as your looks, your job or any other aspect.

    And since this is TL;DR already, I’ll include some relevant (if incredibly self-serving) links that will be of interest to you in another comment.

    1. Thirded.

      I get antsy when people act as if teenagers talking about being miserable is just “teenage angst” and not really that bad – I was clinically depressed for pretty much all my mid-to-late teens, and when I look back on that period my reaction isn’t “awww I was a teenager blowing things out of proportion”, it’s “oh god that was a black hole of misery and despair thank fuck I am doing so much better now.”

      I also get antsy when people talk about “teenage hormones = teenagers always want to have sex” as something universal, because that sooo does not match up with my experience *waves tiny asexual pride flag*. I’m not even sure it matches up with OP’s, since what I got reading the OP wasn’t “I have massive sexual urges and need a girlfriend to satisfy them!”, it was “I am miserable and lonely and hate myself and think this and all my other problems are due to a girlfriend-shaped hole that I just need to fill.” In fact, in rereading OP does not mention sex once – they talk about never having been “hugged, kissed, or even liked by a girl” and about their “emotional pain” because of not having a girlfriend. I can’t help but feel that “get a Fleshlight!” might be missing the point a little.

      1. I, for one, didn’t take it as dismissive but as compassionate and empathetic (as in, “God, I remember feeling that way all too well”). Saying everything is extra intense and dramatic when you’re a teenager isn’t the same thing as saying it isn’t real or important. Because yeah, it’s your reality. Just like when someone says “it’s all in your head,” that’s not helpful because guess what? I live here, in my head! Every thing my eyes see, my ears hear, etc., gets its meaning when it reaches my brain and is processed!

        If you’ve ever been to his site, you’d know Dr. Nerdlove is not saying “whatever, just stupid teenager dramatics,” he’s saying, “cut the guy some slack, that’s how the LW is experiencing things. Don’t assume he’s a troll because from your perspective it seems over the top.”

        1. I definitely do agree that it can seem massively annoying when people act overly condescendingly (I am only a few years older than the LW.)

          I do think that people are ready to suggest substitutes for relationships to readily, although LW needs things other than a relationship right now.

          1. Personally, I’m an agnostic on the LW’s dating potential. Maybe tomorrow the perfect girl will happen along. Who knows? But from a mental health professional perspective, what I do know is, ADHD + chronic unhappiness + drug use to manage emotions = GIANT TRAINWRECK waiting to happen. So the LW needs to deal with that, and maybe rewrite that dating site profile.

          2. To reiterate the Captain’s excellent advice: “You need some professional big league help.”
            I am no doctor and I have no experience with the other drugs you are taking LW, but I took a .5 mg Xanax for insomnia for 2 months. At that point I noticed (and so did friends) that I was having memory issues. I also noticed an inability to concentrate, irritability and what the docs call cognitive issues. I wasn’t able to perform analysis properly so my work was suffering. I also realized the Xanax was no longer relaxing me the way it once had, in fact my PTSD symptoms were coming back stronger! anxious all the time? check! paranoid? check! hyper-vigilance back? check! obsessive thoughts worse than ever? check!

            I went off the Xanax, it was very difficult to do and I should have had doctor supervision, the withdrawal symptoms were intense and very very bad (the higher the dose/frequency the worse it is, you can have seizures!). It took a couple of months before most of the brain damage the Xanax was doing began to dissipate. The memory issues are still lingering. I’ve since done a lot of research on this drug, if you have been taking it a long time it may have much to do with how you are feeling. Research has found that many people have withdrawal symptoms from Xanax IN BETWEEN DOSES, and even in the original trials for this drug follow up found most patients anxiety was worse after Xanax treatment than when they started. You really need a psychiatrist to manage your drugs with your participation and determine what they should be.

          3. I don’t think of the other suggestions as being “substitutes” for a relationship — at least, that’s not what I was thinking of. It’s more that, given where the LW currently is in his life, the odds of his being able to form a solid, healthy, happy relationship right now are pretty low. (See: drug abuse, desperate aching loneliness.)

            Rather, it’s that he has some serious, legitimate problems, and he also does not have a girlfriend. Even if “Girlfriendio” worked [awesome photo captions, Cap’n], that wouldn’t take the problems away. It wouldn’t change his life from miserable to happy. Forming a romantic relationship with someone is unpredictable, and there’s no guaranteed way to do it. (Although the Awkward Army was really bringing its A game in the linked “dating primer” thread.) But there are ways to get un-miserable. They aren’t relationship substitutes. They’re more important than that.

            Right now, the LW is assuming causation (“I’m unhappy because I don’t have a girlfriend”) where there is only correlation (“I’m unhappy and I don’t have a girlfriend”). It still sucks — being lonely is no fun — but it can be made to suck much less. The side bonus of which is that people who aren’t miserable wrecks are way more fun to be around, and “fun to be around” is one of the major criteria for dateability.

          4. I just have to second this, as someone who was simultaneously unhappily single and very career-driven for a long time, thinking, “Things would be so much better if I had a solid relationship. I can always get another job. BUT WHAT IF I NEVER FIND THE ONE.” Now I’m actually in a serious relationship, but as a result of having some second career thoughts and moving things around (not to mention a whole bunch of family things cropping up around this same time), I’m looking for new work with little success, and as a very career-driven person, this is making me extremely depressed. I’m really happy in my relationship, but everything else sucks pretty pervasively, and on my worst days, not even being in a relationship can make up for how I’m feeling. Ironic, isn’t it. Point being, you never know what’s going to happen, and to pin all your hopes on The Fantasy of Having a Girlfriend (or A Job, or whatever) at the expense of other areas of your life that you can enhance right now complicates a lot more than it solves once the fantasy object shows up in your life. I can’t even imagine how much worse off I’d be if I had a drug dependency.

      2. I’m pretty sure the ‘teenage hormones’ theory has been debunked. Teenagers don’t actually have any more hormones than young adults in their twenties. The hormones are newer to them and they haven’t learned to understand them as well yet, and they’re just generally usually going through a lot of transitions in their lives (half way between dependence and independence, treated as children in a lot of ways but in other ways feeling like adults) but that’s more a matter of actual life circumstances combined with lack of experience.

        In a lot of ways it’s a modern western thing to think that teenagers are doomed to be miserable or anti-social… there are and have been many societies that seemed to handle the child to adult transition a lot more smoothly and positively.

      3. “In fact, in rereading OP does not mention sex once – they talk about never having been “hugged, kissed, or even liked by a girl” and about their “emotional pain” because of not having a girlfriend.”

        Yeah, I kind of read it that way too. That by a girlfriend he meant someone who will love him and connect with him in a perfectly complete, perfectly close, perfectly unconditional way, like a kind of mind-meld where he will never be alone again even in his own mind or in the deepest corners of his soul.

        But dude, no human relationship is like that, and a girlfriend is still another person than you, still a particularly special kind of close friend, not some kind of alien mind-meld, no matter what you read in stories and see in movies.

        I’m Canadian and there’s a famous expression about ‘two solitudes’ that’s traditionally used to talk about the English and French speaking communities in Canada, but what I didn’t know for the longest time is that it’s actually a quote from a rather beautiful poem about love:

        “Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other”

        But notice, they don’t stop being solitudes. Still two separate people with different thoughts, feelings, identities, consciousnesses etc — which is supposed to be part of the fun.

        1. Ugh. That reminds me of a short story I read once in high school (when I was desperate and sad and thought that getting a boyfriend would solve all my problems), about these two telepathic cops who were lovers, I think? (It was old and cheesy SF.) They land on this planet to find out what’s eating space colonists. The culprit turns out to be some kind of SPACE FUNGUS that absorbs the people, who all volunteer to go die because it means they will then be FOREVER MIND-MELDED with their loved ones and never be alone. The telepathic cops were like “Oh man, that is totally understandable for non-telepaths, they are so lonely! Poor non-telepaths. Actually, we should commit suicide and do this too, because we do not know ALL of each other’s thoughts, even when we are having sex. Loneliness is terrible! Let’s give up our exciting lives and die so that we can be together forever and each know the other’s every thought and have no privacy ever yay! It will be perfect!”

          Honestly, it kind of knocked me out of my NEED A BOYFRIEND headspace. Because I didn’t see how “no privacy” and “forever” and “it will be perfect!” all went together. Given the choice between exploring the galaxy and terrifying space-fungus-induced never being alone, I would much rather explore the galaxy and risk loneliness. (…I kind of hope this was the author’s point — that the human fear of loneliness was something an alien menace could take advantage of — but it’s been a long time since I read the story, and… um. I think most adults who are qualified to be telepathic space cops would not give up their lives for space fungus. I demand realism in my space fungal stories!)

          Don’t keep yourself from improving your life and having fun and being awesome just because you’re hoping the girl of your dreams will show up and magically keep you from loneliness. That is not how girls work. We are people, not magical space fungus. Thankfully.

          (Also, I think one of the next stories in the anthology was by James Tiptree, Jr., though, so I’m glad I read that book even though SPACE FUNGUS WHAT. Man, I can’t believe I forgot to rec her on the woman creators thread. JAMES TIPTREE, JR.: AWESOME WRITER, NOT ACTUALLY A DUDE.)

          1. Aaand that was meant to be a reply to TO’s lovely “two solitudes” comment. Oh, comment threads.

          2. I think I have it set to nest up to 7 levels (something I’m considering doing away with entirely – thoughts?). After that it jumps out. So identify the person you’re responding to, or link their comment (click the date & time) if you need people to be able to follow the thread.

          3. Thanks for the explanation!

            I am old-fashioned, and kind of like the idea of no nesting at all, but in that instance, it helps if there’s a searchable comment number to refer to, so, for example, I’m not just saying “In reply to TO,” but “In reply to TO, #1337.” (…okay, and by “old-fashioned,” I just mean “a lot of my early blog-reading time was spent reading Making Light.”) One of the reasons I like no-nesting is it makes it easier to figure out which comments are new. And, as I was typing this, JC mentioned that, so apparently I’m not alone. On the other hand, I really like the way we end up with branching conversations here, rather than having long-term conversational trends, and while you can get that with no nesting, it’s less likely, I think.

          4. I’m with Kaesa on preferring non-nesting comments myself, but would that make a lot of the somewhat-related side conversations much more obvious and possibly unwieldy/unintentionally derail-y? I’m thinking of side convos where someone has a similar problem to the LW’s and a few commenters will offer suggestions, or when someone describes a past situation similar to the LW’s and comments/condolences are offered specifically to that person. I’m not sure how you’d want to handle that, but I think it’s part of why this is such a great commenting space.

          5. Thanks for the feedback. I think I’m going to leave it be for now. I like the little side-discussions. If they go on past a certain point, the nesting stops and people can figure out another way (like starting a new sub-thread).

          6. “A Song for Lya” by George R. R. Martin.

            (It’s notable to me because he later used the names Lyanna and Robb in his Song of Ice and Fire books)

          7. Re: “A Song for Lya,” WHAT, that was GRRM? In that case, I suspect I am either misremembering significantly or massively misread authorial intent back in high school, because while Martin can perpetuate fucked up narratives about relationships, I …can’t really see him writing a story where the alien natural environment is friendly and helpful to humanity, or the ending is “yay! magic space fungus!” I should probably reread it.

    2. “Every male out there who has ever dated ever has gone through all of this.”

      To continue the “women are people” theme, this is something every PERSON who has ever dated has gone through. Also, *every* male? Or only male humans?

        1. Ha! But really, it is gross to refer to human beings as “males” and “females” in a social context.

          1. Let me rephrase that. It is gross and a big red flag for a lot of women that we’re being viewed as collections of parts rather than individuals to refer to human beings as “males” and “females” in a social context. I am far from the only woman who is put off by this.

    3. “Folks: never attribute to trollishness what could equally be attributable to being a teenager. When you’re 18 EVERYTHING is high drama, especially when you’re single and desperate and feeling like you’re going to die alone and unloved.”

      I don’t know. I’m seventeen and single and this still strikes me as trollish. Not sure if I appreciate trollish behavior being attributed to my age group as a blanket statement, either.

    4. “A Fleshlight will not only help you control yourself…”

      Excuse me, “control himself”? What, precisely, does that mean? What would he do without this control? Because it sounds a hell of a lot to me like you’re supporting this stupid notion that men *need* to have sex and the stress/pain/frustration of not doing so breaks down their self-control, which is bullshit and by the way, a pretty common sentiment in rape culture. What did you mean to say this would help him control himself from doing?

      1. I think (hope) that he was referring to learning to postpone orgasm, thereby lengthening the time possible for PIV sex and potentially improving the experience for everyone.

        If not, TOTALLY CREEPY, yes.

        1. Not just postponing orgasm so that he won’t worry about being a one-minute man when he does meet someone wonderful but also so that he doesn’t let his libido get in the way of his brain.

          To put it another way: I busted my ankle a couple years ago and it was frustrating as hell for me since running’s part of how I keep in shape and de-stress. I was so all-fired eager to get back to my regular routine instead of lots of frustrating physical therapy that I tried to get back on the track before I was fully healed.

          Lots of folks like to short-cut the recovery process, especially when sex is (potentially) on the line. The last thing that DD needs is to declare himself fit to date because his balls are screaming “Put me in coach! I’m ready! I’m ready!” Good ol’ fashioned masturbation, especially with something that is closer in sensation to penetrative sex than one’s fist, is a good way of hitting the snooze button on one’s genital alarm clock.

        2. I feel 100% comfortable saying that Nerdlove is not advocating ANY VERSION of the “men can’t control their need for sex” story.

      2. I got the impression that the good Doctor meant that it would help curb the horny desperation that sometimes contributes to the rush to fill the Significant Other slot with someone, anyone, you have a pulse you’ll do!

        Not sure if that’s what he meant, but I personally sometimes suffer from what I like to call Warm Body Syndrome when I’ve been single/celibate for too long… and one of the things that helped me back the F up from that was buying a vibrator.

  14. LW, I know this may shock you, but women your age are people too. Somewhere out there in the world, there is someone who happens to identify as female who is as socially awkward and desperate as you are. However, you don’t want to date that person. They don’t want to date you. Not really. Us young adult ladies have our own shit to deal with in varying forms, so for the most part, we aren’t looking to deal with a lot more shit and, sadly, it appears you have a lot of said shit. Take the Captain’s advice, clean yourself up, and then realize that you can’t make anyone like you. Your world view is way messed up right now, because you aren’t viewing women as people. You’re viewing them as potential-girlfriends-who-should-totally-date-me-because-that’s-what-girls-do-right and you have to deal with that before you go within fifty miles of dating.

    If you aren’t happy being single, you aren’t going to be happy in a relationship. You are going to terrorize and emotionally abuse your partner. I know you don’t want to hear that, but desperately clinging to your significant other and making them deal with your drug problem is abuse. It isn’t intentional, but abuse rarely is. The person willing to “date” you as you are right now won’t be your girlfriend. They will be your fixer. I can assure you will it be much less embarrassing and horrifying for you if you never go down that road to begin with.

    Take care of yourself. That’s the most important thing. Take care of YOURSELF. Don’t find a girlfriend to take care of you for you.

  15. Cap, I hope it’s ok if I throw some links into the comment thread here for Desperate Dude.

    DD, links that will be relevant to your interests:

    All-around self-improvement: http://www.doctornerdlove.com/2012/01/your-best-year-ever/
    How To Build Your Confidence: http://www.doctornerdlove.com/2011/10/build-your-confidence/
    Rules For Dating: http://www.doctornerdlove.com/2011/12/rules-dating/
    Behavior you need to avoid: http://www.doctornerdlove.com/2011/12/dont-be-a-creeper/
    The Dr. NerdLove Compendium of Online Dating Advice: http://www.doctornerdlove.com/category/online/

  16. One more reason why “get a girlfriend” can not be #1 on your to do list: if you somehow managed to “get” one in your current condition, you would spend all your time feeling miserably insecure and waiting for her to dump you (and probably being intolerably jealous and possessive and controlling) because you would have no idea what she saw in you. You’d spend every minute more than half expecting her to come to her senses and head for the hills. And then she’d validate that by breaking up with you for being so insecure and jealous and awful.

    You have to get to where you feel like an interesting, appealing enough person that you think someone in her right mind would want to spend lots of time with you before you can realistically hope for a woman to get up close and personal with you.

    Get yourself together a bit.

  17. Letter Writer your situation in regards to sex/dating/relationships sound a lot like mine (going a long time without any sort of contact like that).

    I just want to be able to make a girl like me, and I don’t care how.
    I can certainly understand why you would want to do that. It hurts A LOT to go through life for a long time and never experience such a thing but please, please, please don’t get into thinking that it is possible to make someone like you. You ever see one of those tv shows where there is that episode where someone tries to use a potion or spell or something in order to make someone like them? That’s about what would happen. Sure such magic is not real but what I’m saying is if you try to do something to make someone like you it would only be an illusion that would eventually break.

    Do I have any hope at all?
    Yes but you have to fight to hold onto it. When you fall into despair one of the hardest things to do is come out of it. But you have to. As long as you are lost in despair you will almost certainly never meet someone that likes you (and just as importantly, likes you).

    I just want to find a “miracle cure”. I’m tired of trying so hard, only to fail constantly.
    There isn’t one unfortunately. The failures and rejections hurt, they hurt a fucking lot and they stack up over time. But you have to fight though it.

    One of the best things you can do to hold onto hope is to get straightened out. Ditch the drugs for starters. At best they are not even a real cure for you emptiness and despair but are just a numbing solace that holds it at bay. And worse yet they are certainly doing damage to your mind and body. Think of it this way. What if you meet someone that you are interested but are not able to act on it because of your drug addition (and then of course what will she think about you being on drugs like that)?

    Also you sound like such a lost soul. One who is trapped in a spiral of despair and hopelessness. You have to find yourself and get out of that spiral. As others have said you may need to turn to professional help. I know this sounds hard with the stigmas of seeking out a therapist (no you aren’t crazy, you just need some help), being a guy that is seeking out therapy (no this DOES NOT mean that you are somehow less of a man for needing help), and so forth. In fact you might even seek this path before getting off the drugs and your therapy may very well help you with the drug problem and your emotional issues.

    I wonder something. In my case the reason I was (and still am) so down (honestly I’m still down but getting up) about sex/dating/relationships is because of what I at best can call extreme curiosity. You see others experiencing it all around you but you aren’t experiencing it for yourself. It leaves a feeling of thinking that since you are not experiencing those things something is wrong with you, that you aren’t “normal” like all the others.

    Is that why you want to experience those things so badly? To know that one it’s possible for you to do so which two verifies your humanity somehow? Not even that you have to be in a relationship in order to be happy but you simply want to know if you are human enough to even engage in a relationship? You hear and see theory (in the form of seeing other people engaging in these things and hearing people give you advice on how to engage in them yourself) but you are not able to practice it (meaning that you are not engaging in these things). Is that it?

    I see some folks implying that you don’t see women as people. I bet at one time you did. That’s where you need to go back to.

    Oh and another reason to get straightened out is so that you will not be so vulnerable. In your current state it would be very possible for a manipulative or straight up abusive person to take advantage of you and have you trapped in a situation where you think that they are the only person that loves you so you stay with them doing whatever they say no matter how it makes you feel, all because you are afraid of losing them. And by straighten out I don’t just mean the drugs. If you don’t get yourself right emotionally even if you do overcome your drug abuse you could still end up in the situation I describe here.

  18. A story for the LW:

    Once upon a time there was a dude. This dude was turning eighteen and had never had a girlfriend. People thought he was gay or asexual because he never showed an interest in girls, when really he was very shy. This was incredibly distressing, and caused him no end of anxiety. But, the month before his eighteenth birthday, a girl* asked him out.

    Not because he was desperate and was willing to pay for girlfriendship,** but because he was sweet and funny and intelligent. He also didn’t do drugs (you have no idea how important that is for people) or treat women like things you can buy (also very important). We also had things in common (geekdom and Disney movies) and things we could teach each other (appreciating prog/feminism and politics).

    And we are currently living happily ever after.

    The moral of the story: the problem is not you being socially awkward or whatever. Plenty of people are socially awkward and find relationships. My best friend’s boyfriend has ADHD. Another best friend of mine has Asperger’s and is in a long-term relationship with someone she loves. It can certainly affect your chances, but it’s not a dealbreaker for most people, and it’s certainly not what’s actually your problem.

    Your problem problems are that you do drugs, think of women as things, and are looking for a miracle cure. There is no miracle cure, and anyone who says otherwise is selling something. You and your quest for love will take a long time, possibly years. Who cares? If you really, really want it to work, you will be willing to put the time and effort into it and into yourself.

    *i.e., me
    **Seriously, if you want to pay someone to be your girlfriend, hire an escort. They will do nothing to fill your emotional void, but I think if you cared about that, you wouldn’t be considering payment in the first place.

  19. LW, I wish I could introduce you to my former self, circa 2004. I was 19 and single, having just been dumped by OMG Perfect Guy!!! I desperately wanted someone, ANYONE, to fill the hole in my heart. I was terrified of being alone forever before Forever Alone was a thing.

    I approached any half-attractive male who crossed my path as my potential savoir. I bought cigarettes and alcohol for them, loaned (gave) money, and gave rides – on more than one occasion, a boy I liked had me drop him off at a less pathetic girl’s house.

    When I was 20, I finally met someone who promised to fix me. Within three months, I was literally being held captive without clothing, money, adaquate food or heat, in January, outside of Buffalo New York. My “savior” was a captor and a monster. He LOVED how scared and pathetic I was, because it meant I wouldn’t question his power. I was trapped in his apartment for weeks before I managed to escape.

    I’ve learned since then that desperation attracts two kinds of people – people with mostly good intentions (Manic Pixie Dream Girl wannabes) who will get exhausted after a few weeks/months and run for the hills, and people with HORRIBLE intentions like my former captor who will subject you to terrible forms of abuse because you are too afraid to leave.

    Work on being so blindingly awesome that you lose the need/desire to have someone rescue you from loneliness. It took me years to get there, but get there I did, and the Happily Ever After is that my blinding awesomeness attracted someone to me who is neither a rescuer nor a captor, but simply a partner.

    1. THIS. This is important. I know we’ve been discussing the major, major red flags about the LW and his potential abusive behavior, but there’s just as much opportunity for the LW to be in an abusive relationship, and it could even be for the same red flags. His girlfriend could say things like, “If I leave you, no one else will want you, and you’ll be back where you were before,” or, “I don’t know why I put up with you, most girls wouldn’t.” Maybe enable his drug abuse to the point where, if he does try to leave, all she has to do is threaten to call the police. There are so many ways this could go wrong, for either LW or LW’s potential girlfriend, and the advice Captain and everyone gave still stands.

    2. “Work on being so blindingly awesome that you lose the need/desire to have someone rescue you from loneliness.”

      This ^^^ especially THIS: “you lose the need/desire to have someone rescue you”!!!! Because the ultimate result of ALL of the advice in this whole thread is *not* an Awesome Girlfriend, but becoming a whole, healthy person who loves life. And that person will have great people around them, other whole healthy people who love life, and then finding a great mate will be *part* of that, not the reward for being Awesome. Because if you follow all the advice given today, and then stand around sulking “Where’s my reward?? Where’s my Awesome Girlfriend???!?” yer doin it rong.

      1. Also, @sarahcircusnachos, I lived briefly in Buffalo in early winter under unpleasant circumstances, and that story was all kinds of shudder : ( So so sorry you went through that, so glad you made it out!

        1. Thank you, I’m glad I got out too. I learned a lot about what my limits are from that “relationship.” It took me years longer to implement them, but hey, every step counts.

    3. Holy shit, what an evil monster. Depriving you of basic food, shelter, and clothing by way of control? I spent one winter in Buffalo, and I was eating way more than usual to cope with the cold – and I had perfectly adequate clothes and housing. Holy shit, I’m glad you got out.

      1. It was definitely a bad time for me, but it turned into a worse time for my former captor once my father found out how I was being treated. I can’t make broad recommendations about revenge, and I certainly don’t advocate “Goodbye-Earl” style action, but let me just say that the love (and sneakiness) of a devoted father is a powerful thing.

  20. LW, do not underestimate how bad you are feeling. You’ve been desperate for love and peace for eighteen years. That is really serious. It is so serious that fixing it is not a simple thing. You can’t just walk into a department store, get a guy-makeover, and walk out a happy, confident dreamboat.

    But I know you want to be a happy, confident dreamboat. And getting there doesn’t take a miracle, it takes work. The same as dressing well means knowing what’s in style and what looks good on you, shopping carefully, and matching your outfits, managing unhappiness, addiction, ADHD, ASD, and social awkwardness takes learning.

    Things you will have to do:

    1. Learn about the problems you have! Read books about these problems, and by people with them. How have other people with these problems learned to lead happy, productive lives? For you, I recommend the work of Dr. Gabor Maté, who’s written about ADHD and addiction both, extensively. Also, a good starting place if you want to unfuck your head and don’t have a therapist to go to is David Burns’ The Feeling Good Handbook, which is a bit of a brick but has some solid stuff.

    2. Learn about what your, specific, problems are. I believed that the only way I could make people like me was to be The Strong Helper With No Problems of Her Own. That made me feel miserable and alone. Really ask yourself: what’s your deal? Is it that you can’t love yourself? Is it that a moment alone makes you feel like you’re coming out of your skin? Is it that you think people only value you for some things you happen to do well? Get help with this one! It’s scientifically proven (mainly through the work of Dr. James Pennebaker) that journalling about your feelings on a regular basis makes you feel better, mentally and physically. Is there a friend you can talk to (being careful to make sure they’re okay with being your sounding board, and you’re still keeping up your end of the friendship)? Can you find a therapist you trust?

    3. Learn things that make you feel better and help you do okay. Make a list of things that make you feel good, and things that make you feel like shit. “I feel good when I walk outside, I feel like shit when I sit in a crowded cafeteria and feel alone.” Then, find small ways to do things that make you feel good more often, and try to cut down the things that make you feel like shit. If a hobby of yours is going to a popular date spot and moping about how you’ll always be alone while looking at all the happy couples (not that I speak from experience or anything!), find a new hobby. I hear ping-pong’s fun.

    It’s pretty obvious you’ve got chemical issues in your head that are affecting how you feel, even before you self-medicate. But dude, doing drugs to make yourself feel better is like cutting your arm off because your hand itches. It’s sloppy, inefficient, and harmful. There are better ways that a smart, self-aware person can lift their mood. Little things like exercise, sunlight, vitamins, and a good diet may not be enough, but they’re better than sitting inside all the time and eating junk food. (Or eat a good diet AND junk food. I’m a fan of junk food.)

    Even drugs that are designed to make you happier, less awkward, and less anxious in a non-damaging way–antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds–take time and effort. You can’t just swipe your buddy’s Prozac; those drugs take weeks to begin working on the brain, and you and your psychiatrist have to carefully manage your dose and the kind of drug. (I started on Antidepressant A, which was okay but I felt flat, so we got Antidepressant B to add to it and I pepped up, but then we discovered my ADHD so I took Stimulant C, and then everything crashed when they switched me onto Generic Antidepressant A2… it’s not the kind of thing where you can self-medicate. With that said: I am SO MUCH HAPPIER on psychiatric medications than off, so I believe it’s worth the work.)

  21. LW, i can garuntee you that nobody but nobody you want to date will go for “date me or I’ll keep abusing drugs!” Know why? Because that’s not a relatioship. That’s a threat held over the head of your girlfriend, and someone who actually finds that attractive is not going to make you happy, or help you fix your life. And your life as you write about it here? Needs a lot of fixing.

    You do not need a girlfriend at the age of eighteen; you are not a FAILURE AT LIFE if you don’t have one. From the sounds of it, you don’t even really want a girlfriend; you want A Girlfriend, like a combination trophy and RealDoll you can haul around with you as a status symbol as A Successful Human Being. But girls aren’t trophies or RealDolls; they’re actual human beings who have needs and wants of their own- and none of those needs or wants include being someone’s trophy. You can’t pin your hopes of happiness on someone else and expect to be happy. You can’t pin those hopes on someone else and expect them to be happy. That’s a horrible kind of pressure to put on another human being.

    Go to a psychologist. Work on getting off drugs. Work on finding your inner awesome. Work on finding the inner you that makes you happy before you try to externalize your happiness onto someone else. Because I garuntee you, investing your life in someone else will make you nothing but miserable in the long run.

  22. Okay, so everyone, and particularly the Captain, have given LW amazing advice. And LW, I hope you are able to get help and figure yourself out and find an awesome woman.
    I am contributing this clip from “Say Anything,” because that is all I could think about while reading the letter.

  23. Hey LW,

    I basically concur with everything that the Captain said….as someone also on the autism spectrum, I have one subheading to add under “find your people.” I think it might be really great for you to know other autistic people if you don’t already…and especially to know some who are older than you. Because I know that it’s really, really hard and lonely to not see any people around you who are realistic mentors or role models for the kind of person you might actually grow up to be. It’s like you’ve been given a set of totally useless maps and instructions for How To Be Cool or How To Be Happy or How To Get A Girlfriend by the culture of your peers, and most of that stuff will never work for us the way it seems to work for them.

    But basically anyone who’s been telling you that autism is intrinsically some kind of major impediment to having a decent, happy life, has been telling you big lies. It makes things hard, but not hopeless. But you’ve got to go about things in ways that are good and natural for you, and not just a fakery of what seems to work for other people your age. Because things *don’t* work the same for you. Communication doesn’t work the same, social skills don’t work the same, sex/gender/relationship expectations often don’t work the same. (And that DOESN’T mean to look only among the autistic for romantic partners, but that anyone who’s going to be either your friend or your girlfriend has to really appreciate you for how YOU actually are, and not just for how well you can fake being normal.)

    A couple years ago, I didn’t know very many other autistic people, and now I know a lot–both older and younger than me. And lots of us wind up with romantic partners, lots of us even wind up married and with children, and lots of us stay single…but are not miserable because we have other good things in our lives.

    (So, just for instance, I’m 30. I haven’t been in a romantic relationship for about 10 years. I don’t have a boyfriend now. I wish I did…it does make me sad sometimes, and that’s okay. But I really love my job and I spend most of my time and energy at it, I love the people I work with, I have a great relationship with my roommate, I read lots of books and go for walks in the park and am a huge music fan. It’s not perfect; I wish I had someone to share it all with…but there’s stuff to be happy about.)

    If this is something you’d be interested in…there are lots of great bloggers and groups of autistic people online to share joys and frustrations and support each other. There may be groups that meet in person in your area, which a school counselor or someone may be able to help you find.

    But for the most part…the Captain tells you the truth here. This is stuff that DOES work for us: Find ways to like yourself for who you really are. Take responsibility for making yourself happy and useful. Build on your passions and strengths. See women as individual human beings, and get to know and really like them as people and not just as potential girlfriends.

  24. LW – this is my first comment on this glorious blog, and it’s all for you. Lemme lay this down: I’m a twenty year old girl, living at home, working two part time jobs. I enjoy mountain biking, hiking, rock-climbing, snowboarding, singing, drawing, writing, sewing, and reading, plus a bunch of other indoor and outdoor activities. I have great friends, a fantastic relationship with my mother (which had been previously bordering on the abusive), and an awesome therapist to talk to when my emotional baggage starts weighing me down.

    I’ve never been on a date. I’ve never been kissed. I am, by my account (long story, but it ain’t over until I want it over), a virgin.

    When I was in high school, this was the mark of *shame*. Oh my gosh, a girl without a boyfriend? What’s wrong with her? I felt like the worst, like an arrow was pointing over my head with neon letters spelling out LOSER. Let’s face it; high schoolers are awful. Empathy isn’t a commonly used word during those four years of hell. On top of that, I was self-conscious about my body type and dealing with deep depression, suicidal tendencies, and a learning disorder. I was a goddamn mess, and I wanted someone, anyone, to just tell me I was desirable and interesting. So I get it.

    But take another look at my first paragraph – look at all the cool stuff I like! Look at the great and positive things I have going for me! I didn’t get that because some generic guy came along and kissed me, turning my frogginess into a prince(ss). In the last three years (well, some of this started with high school too, but not in earnest) I have found myself. I know what I like, and what I want, and for the most part how to get it. This fabulousness that I am eternally grateful for is a product of serious Me Time. Which isn’t to say I’m perfect, because I’m not. I’m not aiming to be, and if I were it would take years and years of effort. But I am pretty damn comfortable in my own skin.

    A lot of these super great comments are from people out of your age bracket, and sometimes that feels like people talking down to you. (“It gets better” “You’ll see in a few years” “Don’t worry about that right now”) I wanted to provide a voice closer to your age. Don’t be afraid of the therapy! It’s not a stigma; nothing’s wrong with you. In fact, if you’re willing and ready to seek out therapy, something is really right with you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, because we all need it (that’s what “The Avengers” was all about, after all). Trust and love yourself enough to do good things for your body and your emotional health, because nothing is more attractive in a friend or potential boyfriend than healthiness.

    Maybe you’ll find that, once you get into making your life an awesome thing to live, you actually don’t want a girlfriend. That’s something I realized after my coworkers kept pressuring me to go out with a guy who was interested in me. I genuinely didn’t want a romantic relationship with another person, and that was okay! Right now, my love for myself is satisfying and rewarding all by itself. Life isn’t a competition to see who can get to the next checkpoint fastest, it’s a big, long trip to the playground and there’s no reason to graduate to the seesaw if you’re still rocking out on the swings.

    1. Now this right here? LW take note! This is a description of a single person (who has never dated and has obviously struggled with loneliness) who sounds DATEABLE! Hell, I’m considering asking her out and I’m straight and (monogamously) married 🙂

  25. LW,
    You sound familiar. Maybe because I had a similar attitude when I was your age. Boyfriend or bust.
    It was about sex. That was it. I didn’t want to be a virgin anymore. In my school, female and male students alike got shamed for not having experienced this supposedly magical, life changing act.
    I’m a woman, so I was told it would be easy (I had the magic cure in my hands the whole time!) but let me tell you — socially awkward plus needy turns anyone off. The more clingy I got, the more guys inched away.
    I’m not saying your situation is about sex, honey, but at 18 I imagine you feel this external pressure mounting. EVERYONE says they’d had sex… until you don’t notice the half of your peers who either lie or say nothing at all.
    Eventually, I had sex. I was older than you. Let me tell you, yes, it’s good but seriously? When you finally get there you’re left with: “My partner’s parts had a different texture and smell than I expected and I really suck at this.”
    And then you go back to your non-naked life and… nothing has changed. You still feel that sense of urgency to clear up this spot of shame, but you’ve done it and you’re not anymore grown up than you were before. No one looks at you different. You didn’t gain anything.
    So, on the off hand chance this is about getting rid of your virginity, my advice: be one of the people who don’t worry about that. Be smart, clever, funny, interesting, hard-working and a million other things before not-a-virgin. And, if you’re lonely, you’ll get a whole lot of friends that way.

  26. Can I give some friendly dude-to-dude advice? Alright, I have a lot of the same issues as you. Not the same diagnosis, but that doesn’t matter much. For some reason, I was popular with the girls. I could get a girlfriend easy but not that many friends. I started dating at age 14 and kept going until a decade later (though I did switch to boys in the middle of that). What a dream life, right? Except for how much I humiliated myself, took others for granted, and wound up in abusive situations. I wasn’t single for longer than two weeks until now. I’ve been single for almost a year. I feel great. This time I can focus on myself and I’m not hurting anyone. I had a lot of shit going on in my life, and instead of the relationships fixing that, it just added more drama. Seriously. During the time I was dating a lot, I had pretty frequent breakdowns, I dropped out of college, and I stayed in a mental hospital twice. Given that I had low self-esteem and mental health issues, I shouldn’t have been dating. I think some people are attracted to the “broken” type. I hope I didn’t give them unhealthy ideas about relationships.

    I’m 24 and I’m taking a long break from dating so that I can be a better partner in the future. So please hold off. Like others have said, hang on for a bit. You’ve still got some more development to do! Be patient. Go to college and/or find your passion. Get a good friend base. Preferably mixed gender, but approach people as people first, not their gender. So if you do that and it ends up being all men or all women, no big deal. Write. Enjoy yourself! Unless you’re completely on your own, you’re at a great age to explore and screw up a bit. You might not listen, but I really wish that I had spent age 18-22 enjoying greater freedom instead of mooning over girls and guys. And eh, I did actually have the exact same diagnosis as you at an earlier age. And I also abused my medication (thankfully only once). So I know the dark roads one can go down. Now I try to block out that time period out of embarrassment. But don’t live in shame! Get help and be awesome.

    TL;DR: I was in a similar situation and I found much more benefit from advocating for myself than getting in relationships. Learn about yourself first. Loving yourself is much more stable.

  27. I was in basically LW’s situation when I was his age (minus the drug part). My love life was hopeless, and I figured I’d be alone forever. But hey, that meant I had lots of free time! So did things like:
    – Lots of reading
    – Learn to draw pretty well
    – Learn to play several instruments
    – Joined a service organization (mine was the Boy Scouts, though I can’t endorse them now)
    – Got really interested in politics and started a blog

    All this gave me a happy and full life. And it made me the kind of guy who someone might want to date (specifically, the kind of person who might be an appealing date to the kind of people I would want to date). Eventually — *eventually* — I ended up in several great relationships.

    While in said relationships, I continued to work on being a date-worthy person, by continuing the stuff on the list above, and in addition doing things like:
    – Earning my PhD
    – Learning vegan cooking
    – Getting into board games

    Because all those things are important to me and good on their own regardless of whether they lead to romantic success.

  28. Hello, 16-year old me(don’t worry about age in this, LW: I know bros in their fifties who are still stuck in the same state of mind, you have to take your time to get your thinking out of toxic-modo). Perhaps some of the insights I’ve gained over the years can be of some help to you.

    I actually had a girl who sorta liked me(she was socially awkward herself, so only by flirting with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer did I notice it) that triggered the whole love-maniac(aka creepypants) phase. Needless to say, a kiss where I tried to gobble up her face, 30 pages of emo poetry in her bag and a but-I-just-wanna-talk-about-it chase pretty much nuked my prospects. Cue a year of listening to bands with names like Bleed the Dream, passive-aggressively leaving parties when people got tired of listening to me moan, and crushing on any girl that so much as had a conversation with me. Having a sweet date inbetween with a nice brodette that did end in tonsil hockey did nothing to change the emotional black hole that I was.

    Lessons I learned v1.0: adding notches to the Totempole of Manhood(copyright Outdated Gender Ideas Inc.) does absolute zero for your inner feeling of self-worth

    I snapped out of that funk pretty much by myself once my social circle had some of more ‘serious’ cases of teenage angst(cutters, alcoholics-16 years legal age for drinking light beverages woo!) and I noticed how tiresome such a state of mind was to deal with(my bros put up with it like champs).

    Lessons I learned v2.0: never take your bros for granted. Like that sappy movie, “no man is a failure who has friends”, and if they support you in your addiction, they will damn well support you in fighting it and becoming a better you. The road to self-improvement is not walked on one’s own: ask them along in trying out the myriad of new stuff that is suggest to enrich you life

    Anyhow, at this time I did a 180 degree flip from angsty teen to heartless chan bastard, started college(university 3 minutes biking from my parents’ home because lazy sod), joined the same frat as most of my highschool bros, and pretty much continued living the most generic life ever. Some potential dates that went nowhere at all due to wanting to rush stuff, but made for hilarious anecdotes and an LDR that was really a placeholder more than anything for the both of us.

    Lessons I learned v3.0: if you’re going into a relationship purely to have one, it’s an awkward bore. Nevertheless, do give it a shot: you’ll learn a lot about what you ACTUALLY want from it, and you never know what it will be like beforehand. There’s no readiness level for this sort of thing, so jump in once you’re sorted-it also helps to remove the relationship from that asinine pedestal it’s always put on.

    Cue the sponsored international year in Ireland: barely made it due to the previous contender for the spot turning her nose up because the university town looked boring to her(stark raving mad, I tell ya). Start from scratch with living on your own, zilch friends, classes you can’t sleep through, and rickety internet. It was the kick in the butt I needed, and so I joined too many societies, started giving Dutch classes, do extra reading and actually walking up to people instead of relying on dressing quirky to have peeps open the conversation instead.

    Lessons I learned v4.0: being busy feels good. Even if it’s a small jog at 3 a.m. because you can’t sleep or feeding stray kittens on the campus, you’ll have another anecdote to talk about. If you don’t want to learn social skills the improv way, do it by dumping yourself into situations where you have to go on automatic(talking to a class, sitting in a committee)-not recommended for those who have anxiety instead of general awkwardness

    After I returned home, I took pretty much the same approach. Signed up for everything under the sun, applied for a more challenging master, searched for more stuff to do(take every flyer, prowl FB for recommended events, carry an agenda to note date/time/price of posters), and it was a tad overboard. But it was hella fun, and it gave me a deeper appreciation on the wide range of stuff you can do if you actually look for it.

    Lessons I learned v5.0: doing things just for the sake of doing things is a perfectly valid excuse. Don’t go to events with any goal in mind like ‘get phone number’, ‘acquire hipster cred’ or ‘buy merch to display as trophy of busy life’. Don’t expect too much, no event is ever life-changing, and even a shit experience gives you something to rag on to your bros.

    And we arrive at current me, age 23. The notion that much of my self-esteem is hierarchical(eg, feeling good about yourself by looking down on others, wanting to feel good by peer validation) recently dawned on me, and it ties intimately to the last lingering remains of the need-GF syndrome(as elodieunderglass effectively categorized). So that’s about 7 years and still there are flaws that make me uncertain whether or not I should take the plunge when someone who rustles the jimmies of my heart comes along.

    Lessons I learned v. 6.0: It’s always a process, this personal growth thingie. There’s no benchmark at which you’re ‘ready’ other than the moment you feel confident enough to take that step.

    Godspeed, LW.

  29. +1 on getting rid of the drugs. THis is the most broadly applicable thing that you can do to help. Continuing the drug use is CONFLICTING with having a girlfriend, and while it may feel like it’s impossible to support yourself without one or the other, you would be suprised at what can be done.

    I still haven’t had sex, or even had the perception that anybody cared about me as a sexual being, and I really don’t like that. However, in the past I was in a less-bad analogue to your situation and one of the best things I ever did was swing dancing (plus it’s a good way to meet women, both friends and lovers.) This is something you will want to WAIT ON, until you have solved other issues, especially the drug use. The social structures for such social dancing are very defined, and it’s a low pressure thing. Incidentally, Doctor Nerdlove also suggests this.

    I disagree on the notion that there are no miracle cures. However, if you were able to come up with a miracle cure, you would be so awesome that you would not NEED a miracle cure.

  30. Not too long ago, I thought that getting a boyfriend would solve all of my problems, too.

    Big shocker: It didn’t.

    The closest it got was it solved the “problem” of me still being a virgin at an “old” age (21). Otherwise, it was a complete mess. My desperation led me to getting involved with someone possessive and downright strange. While things were good at first, the relationship should have ended after a few months. Instead it dragged on for two (almost three) years, making everyone involved miserable. (Including my family.)

    Getting into a relationship is sort of like getting a pet…you think it’ll be great at first. You’ll have a constant friend and companion. Someone who will love you and be there for you and entertain you when you’re bored. But that’s a very immature way to look at it. You’re not just getting into a relationship with a fuzzy puppy, or a not-so imaginary friend. It’s a person, complete with baggage, stress, emotions, opinions, beliefs, habits, experiences, passions, and everything else in between. It’s not a cure-all. It’s not easy. It’s not simple. It’s a *relationship*.

    Similarly, they’re not there for you. They’re not your therapist, your sex toy, or your own personal little entertainer. They have their own wants, needs, goals, and interests. Those aren’t always going to mesh with yours. And you have no right to change that, or interfere with it. Which means that if you’re just looking for something with a pulse to satisfy your needs, and your needs only…guess what: You’re doing it wrong.

    As I heard one of my yoga instructors say once…you can’t love someone else if you don’t love yourself first. As hokey as it sounds, it’s a simple and powerful truth. Don’t ignore it.

  31. Dear LW: the day after I lost my virginity I was on a cloud. I was floating. I walked around and wondered if anyone else could tell, because for me it felt like everything was a little bit different. I felt amazing. It was perfect, wonderful, awkward in just the right sort of fun way, I was sober and fully consenting. Long story short: it was great.

    I was thirty.

    Four years later, I haven’t significantly accelerated on gaining XP but it doesn’t matter. I still float after every time, it still feels amazing. It’s still been something I chose freely, something I did with people I liked and cared about at the time.

    Seriously, this isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. If someone so blessedly sex-oblivious as me (I was eighteen before it occured to me that I didn’t know what my orientation was, because I hadn’t had ANY feelings one way or the other) can make it, I’m tempted to say anyone can.

    So, you want to get a girl? Okay. First step, get a personality. Figure out what you like to do, and then figure out how you can turn it into a hobby. Learn to do something original and unique, something that none of your friends do. I’m tempted to say try something traditionally gendered–learn to knit, maybe. A guy picking out needles in a yarn store, someone obviously knows what he’s doing, is going to get noticed. Breed tropical fish. Paint skateboards. Garden. Learn a musical instrument–bass, for example, because a) bass is the most awesome instrument EVER* and b) there are relatively few bassists compared to guitarists, so they’re always in demand when people get together to jam. Take up photography. Go mountain biking. Go hiking. Take a first aid class. Sign up for a martial arts class. Walk around with German existentialist philosophy books tucked obviously under your arm, and be able to explain it if anyone asks.

    Get some therapy. Seriously, dude, sex is nice enough, but you’re going to destabilize your brain chemistry, damage your psychological and physical health, create unhealthy coping mechanisms that will probably last a lifetime and be VERY difficult to discard, and potentially go to jail for possession if you can’t blackmail a girl into sleeping with you? Just in case you didn’t get it before: that’s a bad idea. It’s a bad idea for two reasons. 1) You are going to mess yourself up. Bad. 2) It’s not going to work, so you’re going to mess yourself up for nothing. All pain, no gain.

    Then get friends. Better friends. Real friends. (Free tip: friends who sell you drugs are drug dealers, not friends.) A smile to a stranger in the music store looking at new guitar strings turns into a conversation turns into an introduction and before you know it you’re being asked to parties and included in trips to movies and hanging out on people’s couches throwing popcorn at the television when the bad Sci Fi Movie Of The Week is on. Then, once you’ve got a personality and friends, you can get some self-confidence. You tell yourself over and over, until you really believe it, that they’re hanging around with you because they LIKE you. They want to be around you because the words that come out of your mouth are interesting and the stuff you do with your time says that you value yourself, you’re creative and interesting, and you like yourself too. They aren’t just there because you’re a guaranteed market for their Adderall, or because your antics when you’re tweaked are hilarious.

    And then, eventually, when the dynamics are right, it happens. On it’s own. No money necessary. No threats needed. Organically. And it will be awesome, dude. Trust me.

    But I have to say–I absolutely never EVER dated anyone on drugs. Period. That isn’t a red flag warning me to be careful, that’s the lethal injection to any chance a person has with me. As soon as I find out someone’s into drugs in more than a “hey, okay, time for my once-a-year joint” way, I literally lose all interest in them regardless of how attractive or interesting they might be. I’ve seen way too many friends go down under drugs, been messed up by their drug-using partners, screw up their families and friends, and betray my trust. Never again.

    * not biased at all [hides my bass in the corner]

  32. Dude, chill. I’m 26 and still haven’t had a serious relationship yet. Yeah, I want one, but I’m taking this chance to enjoy being in total control of my schedule and not needing to accomodate anyone else. What other time in your life will you be so totally autonomous? Relationships take work and time away from other interests, which is how it should be.

    Also, if you are paying for a girl’s company she’s not a girlfriend, she’s an escort/hooker/lady of negotiable virtue. You CAN do better.

  33. This post brings to mind something funny a good priest I knew said once: ‘If you’re expecting another person to make you happy, well God help that person!’.

    Now he meant it to be funny and to be a joke about faith, since ‘God help that person’ can be taken either as a figure of speech or literally (as a comment about faith), but regardless of whether you literally believe in God, it’s a true statement.

    That is just too massive a burden to ever try to place on another human being, to make them personally responsible for your entire happiness or self-worth. It’s impossible and not only will they fail, but you may destroy them in the process.

  34. In response to the Captain’s question about nesting comments, I think on balance I would prefer no nesting. I tend to pop in and out during the day to read comments and with nested comments I have a hard time working out whether there are new comments I haven’t read yet. The downside of no nesting is that commenters would need to be a little more diligent about referencing back to previous comments if they are replying.

  35. Yeah, it’s a tradeoff. Nesting makes subthreads easier to follow, but also makes it much more difficult to read all the comments until the thread runs out of steam.

    1. Oops. Except that now we appear to have no nesting, but comments appearing in the order they’d appear if there were nesting. Which isn’t helpful. 🙂

  36. I am in favor of nesting, probably because my main online home is Dreamwidth followed by LiveJournal, but (if this is even an option) it’d be cool to have a little flag on new comments, like LJ does now. It just says “new” (highlighted in yellow) and it appears on any comment that wasn’t there the last time you loaded the page. (I assume it’s cookie-based, so it goes with the browser and computer and not with the logged-in user.)

  37. … not sure if I really said what I meant.

    Threaded comments are great if and only if they are limited to two levels deep. Also, the interface should be easier so that you append to the end of a thread instead of furthering the Commentception

      1. A combination of things. I was pretty much him, down to the point where the only things I believed I had going for me were cash and a constant supply of drugs along with all the socially awkward baggage, suspicions of a disorder and feelings of worthlessness . Somehow I managed to get a girlfriend* but unfortunately those very same issues that fueled my perceived need for romantic companionship fucked up any chance the relationship had of working at any level. I was too neurotic to accept that the relationship was occurring at all and constantly tried to discern what was so wrong with her that she would actually want to be in a relationship with me. Since in my mind my only favorable attribute was having cash, I couldn’t shake the paranoid idea that she was just using me for my money, since why else would she be there? Not to mention that I started to avoid human interaction even more after the relationship began, I had already gotten to the End Boss of human interaction so I couldn’t see the point in going out and/or doing things. Which led to an even harder use of drugs, and so on and so forth. After that relationship ended I began to think about my behavior and came to the conclusion that I had been an asshole, constantly sending mixed-signals. It probably isn’t fun for anyone to deal with such a conflicted, irritable and childishly self-centered personality. I can’t say I’ve fully outgrown that kind of personality, but what shook me into some semblance of self-awareness was, I’d say, actually getting my ‘fantasy’ of having a girlfriend fulfilled and seeing myself unable to enjoy it altogether.

        Well that came out longer than intended.

        *: If the letter-writer is reading this then this part basically looks like magic (if I were you I’d be thinking “Well obviously YOU can’t understand, you got a girlfriend!”) to you. Sorry I can’t help you there, because I’m still clueless as to how to get women, even if I do sometimes.

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