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#799: “Weak Female Lead”

The post title was the subject of the email exactly as it came to my inbox. That will be important later.

Hey there Captain,

I recently moved to a job that not only frees up more time to focus on schooling, but pays better. On the last day at my previous job, a girl I’d occasionally worked with and spoken with in the breakroom, asked for my number.

If her interest wasn’t obvious enough, as I walked out the door for the final time, her question was whether I had a girlfriend. I told her no, and to my amusement, her reply was that she’d text me. Needless to say, I got a text bright and early the next morning and we’ve been texting a bit.

She’s nice and I get along well with her, but I’m unsure about making the choice to date her. There are a few things I see as obstacles, but can be worked through.

She’s the daughter of my previous manager. Introductions as a boyfriend would be awkward because my manager didn’t want me to leave. I worked hard, kept a positive outlook, and somehow managed to get along with even the prickly people there. I lit up many people in that glum environment.

While texting, she obviously wanted to get to know me better, so I took the lead, organized a meetup, and we had fun, went for coffee, and wandered around the mall.

It was a great chance to get a feel for her personality, lifestyle, relationships, and maturity. When I asked her what she enjoys doing, she said that she didn’t really have any hobbies, but that she enjoys hanging out.

During the meetup, she spoke mostly about how she doesn’t like work, her parents are always mad at her, her exes (about two or three by how she spoke about them), and her life in general. After the meetup, she told me she had fun and wants to meetup again next week (the next free day she has).

Clearly she enjoyed my company if she already wants to hang out again. I asked what she wanted to do, and she said “I don’t know, I’m good with anything”. This bothered me somewhat, but I’m a big boy, not everyone knows how to be assertive.

When I asked whether she’s doing post-secondary, her answer was the generic “I hated school, so maybe I’ll become a cosmetician”. She agrees with whatever I say and doesn’t have a lot to say about her day, goals, or hobbies. That bothered me more deeply. I’m easygoing, so I spent time reflecting on why this information bothered me.

I have my life together. I’ve got a great part-time job to cover costs, university and my budget balances at the end of the day. I pursue hobbies such as photography, programming, hiking, and cooking. I’m on great terms with my family. I know myself well and what I want in a companion. This girl is wonderful, but it seems she dates as a form of entertainment; escape from her life. I date for a strong equal to share my interesting life with, and I’m not seeing a lot of that in her.

I’m not interested in being a crutch and I can’t save her from a boring life. If there’s a way for her to grow up and not rely on me to fill up her open schedule, I’m open to sharing a life with her. Although she’s my age (19), I don’t think she’s at the point where I can tell her this without grievously wounding her undeveloped ego, especially given how she admires me.

My first relationship (a different girl), about a year ago, ended because both of us had been insecure. Since then, I worked at self-improvement, and I’ve honestly been impressed with my progress. I’m a much more confident and relaxed person than I was.

I know myself well enough to know conversation is important to me. I’d feel lonelier in a relationship than alone if the other person had nothing interesting to talk about, AKA, their own life. I’m looking for a healthy relationship where our worlds don’t revolve around each other, but where we know there’s respite in each other’s company.

How can I kindly tell her that she’s wonderful and brave, but not ready to be the female lead in my story?

Signed,
Casting a Female Lead

Dear “Casting”,

I’m glad you wrote to me before talking to this lady because you should not ever say the thing about how you’re “casting a female lead for your story” in a breakup conversation unless you want to be made fun of for decades, like the guy in college who told me that I wasn’t quite “First Lady Material*” after a private tour of the White House with his bigwig donor family, less than a month into dating him, on Valentine’s Day. He was and is a sweet man (and is happy as a clam with the First Lady of His Heart these days, as far as I know) but neither Twitter nor I will never forget his very earnest, deadly serious, incredibly detailed description of my lack of qualifications for a post I neither wanted nor knew I was running for. That day, I didn’t need to know all of his thoughts and feelings about me or how hard he struggled with his decision or the ways I fell short, I just needed to know the important stuff like, “This is over.

Also, the self-love and self-confidence and interests you’ve worked so hard to develop are great, but referring to this woman as the “female lead in your story” and writing stuff like:

I’m not interested in being a crutch and I can’t save her from a boring life. If there’s a way for her to grow up and not rely on me to fill up her open schedule, I’m open to sharing a life with her. Although she’s my age (19), I don’t think she’s at the point where I can tell her this without grievously wounding her undeveloped ego, especially given how she admires me.”

…is a real record-scratch for me. I think you are trying to show how thoughtful and empathetic you are being, but what’s coming across is so, very, very, very condescending. She is the lead in her own story, not a character in yours. Y’all went on one date. There is no need to magnanimously proclaim your “openness” to “sharing your life” with her or  overdo it on reassuring us or her about how “wonderful” and “brave” she is or give us your “interesting”, university-educated resume & hobbies vs. her “vague,” “boring”, and “generic”cosmetology dreams.

It’s good that you can use a first date/hangout to really assess whether a person really fits with you, and it sounds like she does not! Feeling like you have nothing to talk about, or that the other person might be a bit too needy or more into going along with your plans than making their own are very good reasons to not go out again and thinking those things doesn’t make you a bad person. You are no doubt 100% correct that you and she are in different places in life. Finding out a little more about someone is what dates are for.

Literally all you have to do from here is to not go out with her again.

Since she already asked you out again and you agreed –  enough to start making a plan – there is some backtracking to be done. Still, it is not impossible to bow out. Text her (yes, text) and say:

“I had fun the other day, and you are so sweet to ask me out again, but the more I think about it the more I don’t want to go on a second date. I’m so sorry I didn’t speak up sooner. I wish you well.”

Translate that into your own words if you want to, but make sure that you use the words “date” and “I don’t want to.”

Do not substitute “hang out” or “I can’t” and do not add on the words “right now.” You will be tempted to spare her feelings by being ambiguous and letting her down easy. Resist. If you are really worried about “grievously wounding her underdeveloped ego,” by not returning her feelings, the best thing you can do for her is to get out of her life quickly so that she can move on from thinking of you as a prospect for romance.

That means, if she texts back how she wants to just hang as friends, say, “What a nice offer, you’re so kind” but don’t accept the offer and don’t keep texting back and forth with her or planning “friendly” hangouts. If you are meant to be friends someday, it will be because common interests and acquaintances bring you into each other’s orbit. For now, let it drop.

I know this advice is coming with a whopping helping of “Jeez, get OVER yourself already, Fitzwilliam” but please know that there is love, here, too, for you, and for my younger self, and for my ex, President Earnest B. Forthcoming of The Republic of Sincerity, and for your coworker who was classy about waiting until the last day before she boldly asked you out. She will be just fine without you, and you both are most likely going to go on a lot more first and second dates with people who don’t quite fit with you. When that happens, say, “Thanks, but no!” and don’t try to sell them on your reasons.

 

 

*TRUE STORY, Y’ALL. And the year was 1996, so, it was sadly not an ironic Legally Blonde reference.

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315 comments
  1. JoanofAnon said:

    Well, congrats on sorting out your insecurities.

    • palimpsest said:

      I shouldn’t have laughed as hard as I did.

      • jeanne said:

        What are pompous ninnies FOR, if not to be laughed at?

        • neverjaunty said:

          Hey, so, calling the LW a pompous ninny is kind of not a good vibe here? Yes, a lot of us are probably rolling our eyes at the whole I Am 19 And Figured It All Out thing already, but for grid’s sake, CA managed to gently point out where he was overdoing it a tad without name-calling.

          • Marvel said:

            Agreed! The original comment was funny. Petty name-calling really isn’t.

        • BloomingAzaelas said:

          *wince* I’m new to this site, I know, but if this was my first encounter with the site this kind of comment would have turned me off completely. Name calling makes honest and respectful dialogue nearly impossible, and accomplishes nothing.

          LW, up until this point I actually think you’ve handled things beautifully. You talked to her, you went on a date, you realized that what you are looking for is not her, you thought about why until you could articulate that into words, and realized that therefore you shouldn’t continue dating her. You weren’t sure how to tell her appropriately, and so you reached out to someone to help you form the script. All of this is far more about dating than I had figured out at 19.

          Follow the Captain’s advice, let her down straight-forwardly, and then don’t hang out with her (seriously, this part is important, people need space to get over crushes, and it doesn’t sound like there is anything to build a friendship on anyway). Keep working on feeling relaxed and comfortable in your own skin (nobody has this completely figured out at 19, which is what people are reacting to here, but it’s totally okay to be happy with how much more self-confident you feel now than you used to). Keep looking for someone to share your life with who makes you light up and who is excited and driven about their own passions, because that is something that matters to you. But don’t look down on people who aren’t. Not everyone is looking for the same thing in life or in a partner, and that is all okay. There are many people, many types of relationships, and many paths to walk in this life.

          • neverjaunty said:

            I’m *not* new to this site and that comment very much turned me off. Hey, LW, thanks for writing in with a sincere problem, but the very first comment is going to be us snarking at you! JFC.

        • JenniferP said:

          Hey, Jeanne, there is a *person* on the other end of that letter. You could laugh (I did some laughing) at some of the phrasing and attitudes, but you can also do that inside your own head.

        • Temporary Null said:

          Honestly, at age 19, LW has a lot more figured out about romantic relationships than I did. I’m certain I wrote/said things that were 100% more groan-worthy than asking someone else to be the lead in my story.

          That said, I’m also certain I’ve said offhanded, mean things on the internet to people who really didn’t deserve it. Things that were 1000% worse than “pompous ninny”.

          General sympathy for all involved.

    • Dunno – he seems to have tossed the baby of perspective out with the bathwater of self-loathing.

      • Big Pink Box said:

        The facecloth of self-awareness is missing too. Maybe it’s in the same place as the rubber ducky of humility?

        • cicatricella said:

          +25 Internets

    • Casting said:

      For posterity sake, I’m posting a copy of my response up here where it can be the definitive copy. I totally get where you all are coming from. My writing was tactless and overly poetic. Captain’s rightful criticism was enough for me to work on improving my communication; the tone was way off what I meant. Then I read ‘pompous ninny’ and couldn’t go much further until I’d spent a couple hours thinking (read trying to figure out why I bothered to seek advice/feeling gutpunched).

      When I pulled myself together and read the remainder, I saw a more balanced criticism that helped me understand that I had used a poor metaphor and also served as proxy for the longstanding discussion about misogyny in society. I’ll keep all the advice in mind for the future. Without further ado, my response:

      “Keep in mind everyone, I’m still fairly young and haven’t quite mastered saying what I mean the first time. I made a lot of mistakes in how I explained the situation, but I’ve learned a lot from your input how to better phrase everything.

      One day I’ll be able to get the tone right the first time (and avoid saying what is irrelevant), but clearly not yet. I want to thank Captain for her solid advice despite my tactless writing; I know a lot of sites where the advice would be dropped in favor of pure ridicule.

      Captain helped me and I’m glad to say that the situation has turned out well with her help. I’m 19 and when it comes to where I’m going and what I’m doing, I’m comfortable. When it comes to dating however, I’m clueless, so I sought help so I wouldn’t screw up another wonderful person’s life with my inexperience. I sent the message, she received it fairly well, and that’s the end of it. Couldn’t have asked for better advice.”

      • jla1974 said:

        Brilliant. Thank you 😀

      • You did just fine. You also just demonstrated admirable kindness and clarity

        Go you!

      • moss said:

        Casting, I think you sound awesome. I think your original letter was heartfelt and sweet. I totally understand the reluctance to get into a relationship with someone who seems aimless when you have a lot going on and your heart pointed toward the future. I don’t think you sounded pompous, I think you sound careful. Good luck and I promise you are going to meet so many fabulous people.

  2. I have to say, if my partner ever described me as “the leading lady in (his) story,” there’s a good chance I’d be out of there. I’m living *my* story. And I’m very grateful that my partner and I are making a story together. I love the life that we’re building and I love making plans with them and growing together. But my partner is their own person, and I am my own person, and ain’t neither of us existing as someone else’s supporting role.

    • NorahMancer said:

      Hear fucking hear. My partner and I agree that we’re in this together, but we remain separate people.
      I’m willing to be generous and suggest that this young LW was just trying to be poetic, and that it doesn’t necessarily betray any defect of character – but they still need to wise up and stop thinking that turn of phrase is okay.

      • Ja, there is a reason that Gibran poem about the oak and the cypress tree is popular at weddings…

      • oregonbird said:

        Not sure why we’re avoiding the word. Yes, he’s young. Therefore, this is only baby-size misogyny, of the ‘oh, you sweet little woman’ variety. But still, let’s call a cookie a cookie, or the LW will wander through life miscasting his own place in the lives of others.

    • TO_Ont said:

      Everyone is the main character in their own story, though, and should be. As long as you know that this is just your subjective reality, it’s good and healthy to see yourself as the main character and other people as supporting characters in your story. It doesn’t mean you think this is an objective truth about the world, or don’t see perfectly well that other every other person has their own story in which they are the main character and you are a supporting character.

      It sounds odd when someone actually tries to describe what’s inside their head, and some people manage to describe it more gracefulky or awkwardly than others, but personally I see nothing wrong with admitting that you’re the central character in your own life. If you aren’t that sounds unhealthy.

      • NorahMancer said:

        I think that particular phrase made me bristle because it’s so often a reminder of how the world sees women in general. We’re often treated in media and narrative as accessories to men; on the rare occasions that a woman actually is the main character, we still get subjected to the idea that she needs a romantic partner to be complete. As such, a man who says he wants to find his “leading lady” is likely to get the side-eye from me.

        • Light37 said:

          That’s how it came across to me as well, NorahMancer. Like he’s more concerned with having the “proper” ingenue cast than in, y’know, dating a real person.

        • thelittlepakeha said:

          I’ve spent all day watching a bunch of awesome people on Twitter raising eyebrows at dudes insisting it’s unrealistic that Jessica Jones didn’t call Tony Stark for help even though there’s no way she’d have his contact information or for him to know who the hell she is, or that she should have gone to Matt Murdock’s law firm despite having one of the best attorneys in the city on speed dial. Because SHE NEEDS A MAN’S HELP OK. It’s really very tiring. People just cannot accept that a woman can be her own hero.

          • Clocky said:

            Oh my goodness. A big concern in the story is “this person can control people and when he controls those with superpowers that’s extra bad.” How does anyone make the leap from that to “she should go find a genius with a rich history of making weapons and introduce them or something because that will end well.”

            Just…..how?

  3. Breadpudding said:

    I’m not sure why the LW is making such a production out of “I went on a date with someone and I kind of like her but not enough to keep dating her”. Tell her you just didn’t click, thanks for the nice date, sorry. The two of them clearly have different dating (and life) goals, at least right now, which is a perfectly good reason not to date someone. (I mean, I’m kind of over here in the corner trying not to giggle at a 19-year-old who is look for his “leading lady”, but you do you, if looking for a long-term partner at 19 is you, I guess.)

    • Silva said:

      The reason he’s making such a production of it is that he’s 19. Yes, his angst is less respectful of the other person involved than I hope mine was when I was tying myself in knots about letting people down easy at age 19, but I think “I like you, but not enough to date you” is just some feelings people need to learn to process by doing.

      • Elf Krystal said:

        Agreed. He’s 19, very young and trying to find his way. Doesn’t realize yet that the young lady is an independent person and not a leading lady. Good advice from the Captain.

        We have an 18 year old acquaintance who was very impressed with 50 Shades of Grey and thinks this is the way to get or treat a woman.
        I think that book is criminal. So far he has unfortunately managed to scare off 2 very nice, intelligent girls he was in love with because of this stupid book. He says, “But that book is very popular….” I replied, “yeah, popular to read, but not a way to script your approach to women, silly lad. If Christian Grey wasn’t rich, he would be up on abuse charges and you really need to rethink about it”.

        • Silva said:

          Oh god. The fact that that must be true, and for lots of people, scares me.

        • Myrin said:

          Good on the two girls for not putting up with Christian Grey-ish behaviour, though!

        • CleverNamePending said:

          I’ve written reams about how a lot of what Grey does is basically rape and he should be arrested/thrown into the sun. I know I’m not the only one. Maybe pointing him at some writing like that might help?

        • Taiga said:

          Breaking Bad is very popular too, but nobody advocates making & selling meth to pay your medical bills…

          • neverjaunty said:

            Yes, this. Might it help to point out to this guy that “very popular” and “what any individual person wants their life to actually be like” are non-overlapping sets? I mean, HP Lovecraft is a very popular horror writer, but most people really do not want to be devoured or driven mad by Things From Beyond and will freak out if you ask them to come up to your apartment to check out your Tillinghast resonator.

          • “come up to your apartment to check out your Tillinghast resonator”

            Oh? I had understood that was the new “Netflix and chill”.

      • Also, like.. I’m 28 and I still have trouble dating because I come off as intimidating and too intense and so forth. When I was 19 I met more than one person who was even into me (!!!) but had me going, “I want somebody who feels like they have the same fire in their soul as I do, and you do not. Do similar such people even exist? Am I being way too picky? Hoping for something that may never happen?” And I felt weird and guilty for turning down people for not being intense and awesome enough.

        Nope, LW, there are people out there who are totally your equal, who have as much fire and ambition and intensity as you. It’s okay to keep looking for them. It helps to learn to appreciate the people who don’t (when I was younger I blew off cosmetology, but as I’ve matured I’ve understood a lot more about art and chemistry and self-presentation and identity, and I respect estheticians a lot more) and not condescend to them, but you can say, “Our values didn’t match” without thinking that their values are lesser.

      • Emmers said:

        Yeah, I think this was just a maturity thing. I shudder to think of what I must have been like at 19…

        • stellanor said:

          Oh I was completely intolerable at 19. And at 21. I was a little better by 23-24 but it was still a good idea to have a stiff drink on hand before dealing with me.

          I’m just now in my 30s getting to a point where I can look back at things I did 3+ years ago and not cringe violently.

          • I feel pretty strongly that if I reach a point where I *don’t*, every five or ten years, think “Oh, Past Novel, we could have done so much better now,” about various Hard Life Things, I probably need to do some work, because I’ve stalled out. I am, however, super grateful that at this point, Past Novel’s cringe-worthy stuff is mostly 15 years behind me. *Mostly*. 😉

          • Kelly L. said:

            @NovelDevice, you may have just blown my mind there. Thank you. Sincerely. ❤

        • Guava said:

          Right? I was still using Pee-Wee Herman quotes to dump people when I was 20.

          • miss_chevious said:

            I wish I had been mature enough to tell someone I was “a loner, Dottie,” when I was 19 instead of just avoiding them.

          • Emmers said:

            My first boyfriend (who is now a close friend, after a period of Not Closeness) had the line “I’m dumping you…off my back!” (while we were horsing around in his room). I haven’t given him shit about it since, but possibly I should. 😀

            (In the interests of Equal Disses, 23-year-old Emmers still believed in the Meritocracy, publicly and loudly. I occasionally come across an old comment thread about this, and twitch visibly at the classism.)

          • Hannahbelle said:

            Don’t feel bad, Emmers. I first learned about the Meritocracy in schmancy-ass grad school from Professor Preppy Rock Star whom everyone followed around like pigeons. For some reason I found this whole situation really confusing. “Wait: some people are actually like this? In real life? But he’s so cute and smart and popular, how can he possibly be a giant douchebag?” It was *meta*-tocracy, y’all. I still kind of lean sideways when I try to think about it.

      • me and not you said:

        I was on the phone arranging a date with a dude (from some distance away since I live in the middle of nowhere) and he said something along the lines of being concerned about not wasting my time. I’m sorry, how is going on a date or two to see if there is chemistry a waste of time? l laughed and explained that after having been married and divorced, trust me, the feeling of time wasting and sting of rejection from a couple of bad and/or non-clicking dates is nothing in comparison.

      • Kat said:

        YES. I think what LW is missing is the fact that he’s probably just as angsty as his “weak female lead,” he just expresses it in different ways. His way of expressing it is…well, kind of condescending and overwrought. Her way of expressing it is perhaps to be kind of “bland and boring” (but seriously I could write a thesis on the reasons a 19-year-old girl might feel compelled to come across as bland and boring and they all rhyme with schmatriarchy so I don’t mean this as an insult to her).

        • trotula said:

          Also, when I was 19 there were tons of people who I thought were soooo boring, and when I look back now I am like, “Wow, that is someone who was really chill and honest and kind and I really wish I could have been more like them, or at least been friends with them instead of the ‘interesting’-but-not-actually-very-great people I was friends with instead.”

          Basically, my life has gotten so much better since I’ve stopped looking down on Hufflepuff House.

          • Yes!! I love Hufflepuff so hard these days, and you could *not* have remotely possibly explained that to me-at-nineteen, when I’d been known to say that contentment bored me. 😀

    • thathat said:

      Honestly, you can still be older than 19 and have this be confusing. It can feel really REALLY weird to go on a date with someone who’s perfectly nice and attractive and to have a perfectly nice time, and to still decide, “No, I don’t think so.” I know I went back and forth on this for a long while with a guy I was sort-of-kind-of seeing for about a year (not often, he lived out of town). You hear so many horror stories, and see so many lousy relationships that it feels…picky? I guess. It feels picky or foolish to not keep trying with someone who is Perfectly Nice.

      It’s a hard lesson to learn.

      • Breadpudding said:

        It seems from the letter that he’s pretty clear on not wanting to date her, though, and isn’t asking whether he should give it another go, but how to tell her. To a certain extent, he just seems to want to be able be kind about it, but the subtext is pretty much about *him* and how can he come out of this having earned his “reassure women they still have worth even though I don’t personally think they measure up” merit badge. So it’s not about deciding whether or not to continue dating her, or feeling conflicted because, well, she’s nice enough, and shouldn’t I be satisfied with that? I’m cutting him a bit of slack for being young, in terms of his condescension towards her interests and approach to dating, but he’s made a decision already, and I suspect it’s less of a big deal for her than he thinks.

      • Emmers said:

        Also, I think it shows a promising amount of self-awareness that he thought to write to the Captain about this. Hopefully he can swallow his pride, Learn A Thing, and be a better human for it. That’s how we all learn how to Adult, after all. It’s a process, but it’s totally worth it in the end. (I mean, or so I’m told. I’m 32 and I’m pretty sure I’m not yet done growing up – still have things to learn about how to treat other people, etc.)

    • Kate said:

      Is … is looking for a long-term partner at 19 ridiculous? I missed that memo…

      • No, I don’t think so. Even at 19, we’re still separate individuals, with our own unique wants and dreams. I knew folks in undergrad who were mostly looking for someone to have fun/laughs/drinks/sex with, and I knew folks who were looking for a potential future mate, and a full range in between. (I was closer to the latter than the former, m’self.)

      • I think people just…change a whole lot very quickly at that age and while it’s possible to find someone for the long haul at that point (or earlier!), in my experience that happens accidentally. I totally thought I was going to marry the guy I was dating at that age (spoilers: I did not, he dumped me basically out of the blue after over a year of dating and apparently a couple of months of sitting on the fact that he wasn’t into me anymore). A good friend of mine is married to the guy she met sophomore year of college, 10 years ago. Both happen.
        People still change as older adults but it’s (usually) more gradual and easier to grow together as partners. I also just don’t think he’s going to have all that much luck finding that many women his age who are interested in someone who is actively looking for “marriage material”.

        • I certainly was at that age. In fact, I was engaged at 19. It didn’t work out, but that was because I had serious issues from an awful childhood, not necessarily because I was 19.

          Two friends of mine met at 16, married and are still together at 34. I’m sure we all have anecdotal evidence in both directions, so I’m not trying to “prove” anything, just saying I agree that it isn’t fair to say someone looking for a life partner at a young age is ridiculous.

        • aebhel said:

          I think this is very much a cultural thing, though? I met my husband when we were both (barely) 20, and I can name probably ten people off the top of my head from my graduating class who married their high-school SO and are still married now. When you come from a culture where most people go to college and move from their hometown and generally have a lot of life-upheaval things going on in their late teens and early twenties, that’s probably true, but I think in a lot of blue-collar type areas, where people are somewhat more likely to go into a trade out of high school and stay in the same area, that isn’t always the case.

      • Not in the slightest. But I know that for myself, looking back at where I was at 19 versus where I was at 30, finding a long-term partner in my early 20s wasn’t a great fit for me. I thought it was not only What People Do, but even What I Should Do, for a lot of reasons that had to do with, well, where I was in my early 20s. But in the event, while it wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened to me, it was not awesome, and I spent a lot of time reflecting on how unhappily stuck I was while being–because of the kind of person I was in my late 20s–pretty firmly stuck because Good People In My (admittedly VERY complicated) Situation Just Don’t Leave. If I had come from a healthier family of origin, I might not have been so willing to settle down at 21 with someone who, a modicum of life experience OR good advice would have indicated, was not going to be a great fit for me long-term.

        But–BUT–that original comment is not, I think, incorrect so much for its suggestion that having the long-term in mind romantically at 19 is ridiculous, but for not calling out the actual problem with the LW’s framing of the situation, which is that defining other people primarily as the role you hope to cast them in is gross and objectifying and not something a person whose self assessment is that they have achieved Hoopy Frood Who Knows Where Their Towel Is status would do. (I’m dating myself here and I’m comfortable with that.)

      • TurquoiseDra9on said:

        No. I wasn’t looking, but found mine at 19.
        It’s also not ridiculous to be looking and decide that someone isn’t the right person. Just be kind when it happens.

      • strophoria said:

        I certainly was – and I was with the partner I met at that age for almost 5 years. It helps that we were poly and I still get to sow my wild oats, but I really wanted/still want to create a secure, reliable relationship I could depend on. We both grew and changed and eventually broke up but I really value that experience and I’m glad that I took it seriously.

      • Cactus said:

        I don’t think it is. My sister and her fiancé were 18 when they met (though neither of them were “looking,” exactly, they just kind of collided). I thought the dude I was dating at that age would be the one for me…he was not. For many reasons. (And if I had had the LW’s self-awareness at that age, I probably would have seen these reasons long before I did.)

  4. Kat said:

    “I think you are trying to show how thoughtful and empathetic you are being, but what’s coming across is so, very, very, very condescending.”

    The Cap phrased this way more politely than I would’ve been able to do.

    • Hannahbelle said:

      Yeah…I see people giving LW props for “self-awareness,” maybe because he’s able to articulate what’s going through his head; but I thought self-awareness also implied being wise to the effect you’re having on others and the larger situation.* Developing this takes a LOT of practice and (often context-specific) patience, so I don’t think we need to be running ourselves or anyone else down for not having “self-awareness” at the age of 19. But I’m also not sure you can be both condescending *and* self-aware without being either a jerk or a comedian.

      *Caveat: I’ve also been called “self-aware” for what I would call (at best) people-pleasing. As in, “You guessed what I thought/felt/wanted; how very self-aware of you (to see that I’m right/do what I want/renounce your own perspective in favor of mine).” Not the same at all.

  5. My instinct would be to go on a second date and try to probe (subtlely) about what her interests are and why she doesn’t have any hobbies. Many women don’t because they don’t have enough free time, or some are just interested in grooming and/or celebrity gossip etc. Then if I still felt the same I wouldn’t agree to a second date, or at least agree and then fail to follow through and if she persists, send the text then.

    But I totally agree that you don’t need to give lengthy, detailed explanations about why you’re not into her or to state that it was a ‘difficult decision’.
    Sounds like you might be one of those people who assesses a potential partner as a life partner straight away. I had a friend who did that and never had a relationship that lasted any time at all until she married. It didn’t last (for reasons unconnected). I’m not sure if I’d ever have married if I’d done that.
    It’s great to be 19 and have a virtually unlimited dating pool, I’m 50 with three kids and have given up because there isn’t anyone anything close to even being dateable; everyone is taken. I guess that’s why a woman stole my husband.

    • Silva said:

      There are a LOT of other people in the world, both for the LW and this gal. Personally, I don’t think there’s much reason for him not to cut both of their losses, and skip the second date, but ymmv.

      • Only because he wasn’t asking ‘how do I get out of a second date?’ But ‘I’m not sure if we’re suited’. And that’s just what I’d do, not my advice for him. Mainly because I think if you’re not sure, give it another go. However, going for six months or even six dates, when you’re not sure, is not on.

        • thepaintedlady said:

          Eh, I mean, I did a lot of that as an inexperienced dater, but I think the first few dates, finding a flaw you think is likely fundamentally incompatible means that there shouldn’t be another date. Again, ymmv, but I wasted wayyyy too much time trying to “make it work” in relationships that ended up falling apart for the exact reason I thought that things might not work out on the first or second date. I don’t necessarily regret it, but I do think my time might have been better spent trusting my instincts and only continuing to date the people who seemed 100% awesome on date one.

          • trotula said:

            “I wasted wayyyy too much time trying to “make it work” in relationships that ended up falling apart for the exact reason I thought that things might not work out on the first or second date.”

            DING DING DING DING DING.

        • eselle28 said:

          My concern here is that his position seems to be that he’d be willing to date her if she’d be willing to change. I think that’s unlikely to lead to anything that will make either of them very happy. I do think that sometimes people can get past an lackluster a first date, but I think it works best when both people approach it as trying to find points of connection that they hadn’t seen before.

          • Charlene said:

            Yes, this. I don’t think he’s yet at the point where he understands that people don’t actually change for other people.

            I’m also a wee bit thinking this guy is the type who expects a girl to be perfectly put together miraculously by magic. It’s similar to the boys who want a girl who is naturally skeletal – who doesn’t diet or exercise but who is still a size double zero while being 5’8″ – because they are terrified they might end up with a fat girlfriend at some point. The assumption is that there are women out there who naturally and effortlessly look like models/porn stars/etc. if they would just try hard enough. The bottom line is, if you expect your partner to wear makeup and have her hair groomed etc. you don’t get to whine if she turns makeup and hair into a hobby.

          • MsM said:

            Yeah, I don’t get the feeling this is a case of “She seems nice, but I’m not sure there’s chemistry.” More like, “She seems nice, and I don’t know how to let her down.”

    • Karyn said:

      Eh–they’re very different people, and right now she’s nothing like what he’s looking for in a girlfriend. That’s not going to improve with a second date.

    • Um, no one can “steal” another person from a relationship. And women who are into “grooming and celebrity gossip” are actively exercising their hobbies, which are just as legitimate as any other pastime.

      • Ok maybe ‘steal’ isn’t quite the right word. But she knew he was married, had known him for years through work, and went after him as soon as her marriage failed. Who knows, maybe they were seeing each other before her marriage failed and that’s partly why it failed, I’ve no idea, but she definitely pursued him eagerly and relentlessly once her husband left her (for another woman-his therapist!!).
        Same thing happened to my grandmother. History repeats itself. Maybe that’s why my mother always prioritized my father and lives to serve him.
        If I’d actually known about it before it was too late I could have taken steps to fight for him or something.

        • Her actions weren’t honorable, but your ex, and your grandmother’s ex, are adults and they made their choices as such.

          I’m really sorry for what happened to you, and it sounds like your ex never gave you a chance to address whatever issues he had with the relationship (which sucks) but the other woman is never responsible for the dissolution of a relationship. No adult is responsible for the actions of another.

          • So it would be ok if I dated a married man?
            Maybe I should, there are enough out there who would.

            Seems like ‘personal happiness trumps everything else’ is the current trend, which is valid enough, I suppose.

          • Like I said, her actions weren’t honorable. I’m not condoning them by any means. But she is not responsible for another adult’s choices.

          • JenniferP said:

            I am sorry for your marital troubles; they do not apply to anything in the letter. Please stop with this derail, and Other Readers, please stop replying to this topic.

        • oregonbird said:

          My condolences on your pain, asharadaynelives. I’m concerned that the anger you’re expressing seems displaced, which is likely to make the recovery even harder. You were betrayed by your husband, who was the only one making decisions that took him from your side. It’s understandable that you’re still trying to fight for him by excusing his decisions as being the result of demonwoman. It really doesn’t have to be a woman at fault, despite that being the standard in our culture. Try letting your ex shoulder the responsibility for his own actions; if that’s not possible yet, start a little further afield. Try allowing the blame for your friend’s husband’s decision to fall on him, rather than on the therapist (“another woman!”) When you begin to allow that responsibility to rest on the right shoulders in that situation, take another look at your innocently misled ex. I hope you’ve got Team You around for the hols.

          • oregonbird said:

            Sorry Captain, I didn’t see your post until after I hit post. Please feel free to remove my comment!

    • Nanani said:

      Also, some people also aren’t ready to share their hobbies on a first date, especially if those hobbies are esoteric or looked-down-on by a lot of society.
      Check your internalised misogyny re: “just” interested in grooming etc, yo

      • Nanani said:

        ETA: Sorry for assuming asharadaynelives is a woman. Should have put (internalised) in parentheses like so.

        • Yeah I’m a woman. Not really sure how it’s misogyny though. Just thought grooming is not something that particularly counts as a hobby, any more than chores, shopping, running errands, reading, watching TV, etc. some people have a lot more of these to do than others and some people work a lot more than others. Time is a big factor.

          • SarahTheEntwife said:

            I think of nearly all of those as potential hobbies. Especially reading and watching TV — if you’re not a paid reviewer or something, what are those if not hobbies? For some people, cooking is a moderately annoying necessity; for others it’s an enjoyable hobby that also results in there being food on the table. I think of hair care as that thing I have to do so I look vaguely businesslike at work, but some people do all sorts of nifty styling things and spend a considerable amount of creative effort at it.

          • stellanor said:

            Maintaining my damned hair certainly takes up as much time as some of my hobbies. If I actually enjoyed messing with it I could absolutely make a hobby of it — it’s more complicated and skill-based than some of the stuff I do for fun, certainly! It’s like tending to a very high-maintenance and delicate houseplant. Or perhaps a bonzai tree.

            Grooming is as much of a hobby as you want to make it. I mean, makeup is basically an art project ON YOUR FACE if you get elaborate about it.

          • Nanani said:

            Because those things are usually coded female, therefore dismissing them as less-than other hobbies (which you did with “just”) is misogyny.

          • Concurring with SarahTheEntwife; if reading is not a hobby, I am deeply confused. I like reading, and arrange my day so that I have time to do it, and prioritize it above some other enjoyable things. I don’t like most chores, but even the ones I do kind of enjoy, I don’t go out of my way to do.

            (Which is not to say that if your relaxation or fun time or whatever involves cleaning, it can’t be a hobby! Just that mine don’t/)

            How is reading for pleasure not a hobby? (I’d ask if it was because you don’t make something, but you can make something with some chores–e.g., cooking–and some people certainly practice those as hobbies, so it’s clearly not the output/result.)

          • Friendly Hipposcriff said:

            I’m not _interested_ in makeup, but why is it less a hobby than other pastimes? You learn all about your subject, you compare – in minute detail – how one thing matches up to another, and how they interact; you try out a lot of new stuff (much of which is rubbish), you look at people (yourself, your friends, complete strangers) and speculate how you could create a certain effect with the tools you’ve got…

            When you paint furniture, it’s a hobby. When you paint your face, it’s not? When you collect baseball cards, it’s a hobby, when you collect nail polish, it’s not? When you obsess over a sports team, it’s a hobby, when you obsess over a makeup brand, it’s not? When you do makeup for a film, it’s a hobby (or a skilled profession), when you do makeup for a night out it’s not?

            That sounds a tad gendered to me. Collecting baseball cards or knowing everything about your local sports team aren’t useful any more than picking the right makeup for every occasion. And ok, if you collect physical objects like beer mats or traffic cones, you have something at the end, if you collect makeup, you’re likely to have to throw it out at some point. And likewise, if you paint on paper the result is likely to stick around for a while, if you paint faces, it’ll wash off the next day. But otherwise?

            And I am boggled that ‘reading’ is on your list of ‘not-hobby’ because it’s one of mine.

          • Bloo said:

            My daughter might be described as ‘oh she’s just in her bedroom, titivating again’ by others; but dang, that girl is an Artiste! She can create the most amazing looks with makeup and from the time she was 15 (17 now) she’s constantly pestered to do makeup for weddings, special occasions, etc. And not just by her contemporaries but by mine as well. This will usually include getting their eyebrows ‘on fleek’ -an art in itself- I purchase tools for her hobby that I hope she considers as a trade in the future. Any man or woman that sniffs about her hobby being her grooming is a bit eyeroll worthy.

      • Taiga said:

        Thank you, I’ve now chosen to believe that this young woman is secretly building a faster-than-light spaceship in her garage and didn’t tell the LW because she didn’t want to intellectually intimidate him.

        • STH said:

          Sure. Or it could be that she got the condescending vibe and was worried he’d think whatever she was into wasn’t cool enough for him. I don’t tell men about my sewing and quilting because they usually think it’s super dull. Or maybe she doesn’t have time for hobbies because she spends all her time caring for an aging parent or grandparent. I wonder how much time he spent actually listening to her.

          • Baytree said:

            I have a lot of hobbies I don’t tell people about right off the bat, because of Reasons. Mostly because if I mention it before getting to know someone better people tend glom onto the stereotypes associated with hobbies and make assumptions I find annoying. So if you don’t know me that well you probably have no idea that I’m (an artist, a writer, into tabletop gaming, go to conventions, brown-belt in Karate, etc ad nauseum).

            I can easily imagine this girl not talking about her hobbies/interests right away due to Reasons of her own. Or maybe even not thinking of her hobbies as *hobbies* at all (as discussed in other comments above).

          • That’s exactly why I never told this one guy I dated anything at all about my taste in music or a number of other interests. He was hugely arrogant and said a lot of very condescending things about people who were into things he wasn’t, or even vice-versa. I went off him pretty quickly. Not saying this is what’s happening LW, but you might want to consider the vibe you may unintentionally be giving off.

          • Lablizard said:

            I raise…..interesting….. nematodes in my lab, not for research, but as a bench hobby.

            Not first date discussion topic. More like a, “So now that we are in a committed relationship…..” topic

          • One of the things I found really awesome about Best Boyfriend is that, the second or so time I dismissively referred to my taste in music around him–I used to pre-emptively describe my taste in music as “bad”, because it was nice to beat people to it and leave them absolutely nothing to say–anyway, the second time I said “well, I have bad taste in music”, he said “You don’t actually have bad taste in music. You have a definite aesthetic, you seek out and enjoy consuming things that fall into that aesthetic, and you have honest, unforced, and more importantly, *critical* enjoyment of that aesthetic. You just look for things in music that people with quote-unquote good taste don’t. That doesn’t make your taste bad, it just makes it different.”

            I think a lot of people could stand to benefit from that perspective on taste, ESPECIALLY with regards to music, which tends to be one of those things that people are insufferable about. 🙂

          • Sammy said:

            I tell men that I knit and embroider and most of them are really interested and ask about what kind of things I make. But I’m also in my 30’s and I think a lot of us have got to the point where it’s too exhausting to maintain the “cool person” image so we just talk about what we like no matter how weird it is. It’s a good way to weed out the people you don’t want in your life too. I dated plenty of guys in my early 20’s who sounded just like the LW and I guess at the time it was excusable but a man in his 30’s who condescended to me about the stuff I liked or how I choose to live my life would be shown the door pretty quickly.

      • Big Pink Box said:

        Whoops, didn’t see this before I posted downthread. I was reading a tab I opened a while ago, I mustn’t have refreshes before commenting!

        But yes, +infinity to this.

        • Nanani said:

          And I replied to the replies before seeing yours :D;
          Great minds (don’t refresh often enough)

    • Anisoptera said:

      Asharadaynelives I can’t help but respond to the off topic aside in your comment… Your husband is responsible for leaving you for this other woman, not the other woman herself (although her behaviour wasn’t ideal). I’ve been there. I know it’s soooo much easier to hate and rage at this stranger who your partner left you for than your partner for doing it. You have shared history with your ex husband, you have loved him and liked him. Placing the blame with him (where it belongs) is so much harder.

      You say if you’d known you could have fought for him, but what would that really entail? I’ve had similar thoughts – if I’d known he wanted to leave me I would have tried harder! But for me that would have meant this – choking down my anger when he was unfair/unkind/manipulative and putting on a kind smile. Just quietly doing his share of the housework as well as mine. Having sex I didn’t especially want. Making sure I always looked nice, even in my own home where I just wanted to relax. Which actually, stuff that. On hind sight I needed to speak for myself *more* not less, to set boundaries and enforce them, to take better care of *myself*. I would not be shocked to find your thinking is similar – that fighting for him would have meant putting your best foot forward. But someone you’ve been married to for decades isn’t a shiny new lover – they’re someone who’s themself around you, who is honest, who expects to be treated kindly and fairly, who can speak up for what they want.

      Some people do abandon their comfortable long term partners for the shiny new thing over and over again. Those people will just keep repeating the pattern of leaving their spouse for a shiny new affair, until the shine rubs off that new lover and they become the cheated on spouse. You don’t want to fight for that person because they’re not worth winning. Other people have really and truly just fallen out of love and it takes an affair to force them to face that. You can’t fight for those people, because the relationship is over, and no amount of making their favourite dinner and not complaining about towels on the floor and wearing the sexy lingerie will change that.

      I’m sorry your husband left you. Forget the other woman. He did this, and he is responsible for it.

    • Big Pink Box said:

      “what her interests are and why she doesn’t have any hobbies. Many women don’t because they don’t have enough free time, or some are just interested in grooming and/or celebrity gossip etc”

      I’ve known more than one (hetero identified) woman who has held back information about interests and hobbies out of concern that the date would think she was vapid or unintelligent It doesn’t help that activities which are riightly or wrongly) coded as “feminine” are seen as shallow, or useless., cf :

      “some are just interested in grooming and/or celebrity gossip etc”

      • Exactly my point. I’m probably just being paranoid but it felt like people were attacking me for this attitude. However, I don’t want to derail further by getting into an argument about this. Just that many men have no interest in discussing said topics in my experience. I’m even reluctant to post this comment as I fear I’ll just get arguments. I’ll probably not respond unless CA okays it.

        FWIW my hair takes a lot of maintenance too and my daughter’s only interests are all the usual things eg TV, Internet, makeup (which she is superb at), reading, socializing etc. I don’t hate her or think badly of her or criticise her for it. It’s her choice.

        • Big Pink Box said:

          Oof, this is awkward…

          I wasn’t agreeing with you.

          • Yeah I love reading books and discussing them, too. Most of my online discussions are about that. My current one is stalling and I’m not really cut out for arguments with people who consistently infer wrong meaning from my comments. It’s tedious. I’d rather argue with people with whom I fundamentally disagree than have to explain my position because I didn’t make it clear enough initially and being used as a strawman.

            Wehuntedthemammoth is good fun. I might have even got the link to here from there. Just watching the misogynists being swatted down is amusing.

          • You might consider that if a significant number of people are “consistently infer[ring] wrong meaning”, it may stop being an inference and start being reading comprehension.

        • thathat said:

          All of those things your daughter does sound like actual legit hobbies to me. Most of them are even across-the-board hobbies for men and women (I mean, make-up can be too).

          • I guess I’m basing it on past experiences. In school we had to write a speech in German about ourselves. When someone in class read out that they enjoyed reading, the teacher stated that ‘we all read, that’s not an interest/hobby’. It was impressed on us that it was important to have other interests.

            Top universities only accept students who not only have an interesting extra-curricular activity, but excel at it.

            For job interviews, you’re expected to include a mention of interests to show who you are.

            In dating, the requirement for these interests to be ‘high-brow’ isn’t there, but very few men are interested in makeup and are unlikely to want to discuss it. (Although I did meet a transgender/transvestite online who was very interested, but that is exceptional).

            I actually hate sports with a passion, although I can see the attraction to participating. Its seemingly exponential rise in popularity (particularly football) baffles me. I don’t understand why results and stories are in the news when no other professions/vocations are.

            I’ve seen people in othe comments remarking on women being ‘damned if they do, damned if they don’t’ and it’s soooo true. Whether it’s wearing makeup, being funny, choosing to work when children are young, or the manner in which you reject someone, there will always be someone there ready to criticise and pass judgment.

            I’ve read men complaining that women who wear makeup are ‘lying’ about their appearance! (Usually men on PUA fora who bemoan their failure with women and blame women for it. There’s one who openly stated his hatred for ‘fat chicks’ and blames them for men’s reduced choices (as fat women are simply unfuckable and make the ‘hot’ women too ‘stuck-up’ to consider them). I could go on.

            I do remember being slightly surprised when an old school friend of mine declared her interests to be ‘food, exercise and sex’, but I think it’s because I tend to see hobbies/interests as something which separates you from others and makes you individual.

            Of course reading is an interest, but most people do it.

            Like music, it’s more a question of what you like than whether you do it, same as diet and exercise (though my experience on dating sites is more often sexual, which invariably has a negative response from me).

            As to making a career of a skilled vocation, my mother has long been of the opinion that there has been so much pressure on school kids to succeed academically, that practically everyone who is capable of going to university does so. It definitely used to be route out of poverty, but you’ll rarely get rich from a profession unless you reach the top. Business is always where the money is. Art is an admirable vocation (aristos in the UK tend to eschew business on the whole in preference to the arts, plenty of notable actors such as Rose Leslie etc).
            As a result, fewer and fewer people are choosing to do skilled trades. It is notoriously difficult in the UK to find a reputable and relatively inexpensive plumber, electrician etc. simply because so few people choose to follow these paths. The old apprenticeship system has largely gone, and there are too many untrustworthy cowboys replacing them. I don’t know if there is a similar problem in the U.S., but it seems very fashionable to blame Eastern European immigrants, despite many of them being extraordinarily hard-working and proficient. But how do you know? Word of mouth probably. We’ve had more than our fair share of problems over the years, particularly with thieving and poor quality work. But that was mostly scousers.

            Whoops I’ve gone off on a tangent again. Didn’t mean to derail, but people do seem very interested in discussing the ‘hobbies/interests’ part of this.
            Of course, many interests by nature involve meeting/interacting with people. Maybe hobbies are things you can do alone. It doesn’t have to be collecting things or crafts. It can be something as simple as bird-feeding/watching.

            I would be very surprised if the LW will even read all the replies. Once you get ten or so attacking you it gets a bit disheartening and the obvious consequence is to stop reading. I don’t know if it gets easier with time, but I imagine it must be hard to take if you’re very young (I was 32 when I first became embroiled in heated USENET debates). It’s actually easier to take the moronic YouTube insults than attacks from largely reasonable, intelligent folks.
            /me runs and hides

          • Big Pink Box said:

            I think you need to go to YouTube and look at kitten videos, or lawnmowing tutorials, or debates about the empire building and colonisation that certain world powers have engaged in, have directly resulted in ISIL’s decision to raise up a caliphate. Whatever floats your boat, just watch that on YouTube and stay there please, because that hole you’re digging is about to collapse under the weight if your insufferable prating

            1) The stuff about hobbies, And German teachers is personal to you. That anecdote about acceptable hobbies, per said teacher, is not transferable to everyone on the planet. Reading for pleasure is not the same as reading instructions for assembling an Idea bookshelf.

            2) This:

            “(Although I did meet a transgender/transvestite online who was very interested, but that is exceptional”

            Wow. WOW. Seriously?

            3) Your multiverse must contain a different UK than mine, because most of what you’ve said about it is bizarre, almost as if you’re a character in some bad Anglophile fanfic.

            Oh and…
            4) Scousers are thieves who can’t be trusted. The FUCK? Any other dated, lazy, bigoted regional stereotypes in your routine? Hmm… Drunken Scots and Irish people maybe, or thick Geordie’s and Mackems? Or what about Essex girls, or Brummies? I bet your material about travellers and Rom is A1 stuff!

            Cluebat – if people all over the internet (hure hurr stupid ‘Tubers anirite?) then you may want to locate the common denominator Hint : you’re it

            Stop. Bloody Digging

          • Big Pink Box said:

            I accidentally a chunk of that comment

            Cluebat – if people all over the internet (hure hurr stupid ‘Tubers anirite?) are apparently arguing with you, or reading your comments and coming to shared conclusions about what you’ve said, then you may want to locate the common denominator Hint : you’re it

          • Forrest said:

            >>Top universities only accept students who not only have an interesting extra-curricular activity, but excel at it…For job interviews, you’re expected to include a mention of interests to show who you are.

            Speaking as a careers adviser, this is generally only true for universities and jobs which covertly select for “has middle-class background”. Some individuals may use it the same way to screen out potential dates who don’t have similar class backgrounds, but in either case I would be wary of seeing it as a universal thing or indeed a good thing.

          • If hobbies make you exceptional or unique, you’d better be doing something no one else in the world does. And then be willing not to talk about it, ever, because many people are going to be uninterested in discussing a thing that they have never heard of and don’t participate in. At which point–given your assertion that the purpose of hobbies is to make you exceptional or unique–why are you bothering?

            Would you like to talk about my extensive collection of prepared and mounted lepidopteran left wings? I only collect the left wing, and only of moths that die naturally as a result of motor vehicle encounters. There’s a guy in Germany who collects right wings, but we never speak. Wait–didn’t you want a second date? But I have a hobby that makes me unique and special!

          • Can’t reply to the comment about hobbies making ppl ‘exceptional and unique’. Not sure if it’s directed at me as I didn’t make such an assertion. Did someone else and I’ve missed it?

          • I think one’s choice of hobbies/interests are part of who you are. To be an individual means that you have a range of interests. Unless you are too busy of course. Or if you have one exceptional and unusual or unique hobby/interest that is all-consuming that’s your choice.

            Same as your appearance is more than just your height.
            Why on earth would anyone *need* to have one unique interest to be an individual? I think some commenters here are looking for conflict.

          • Kelly L. said:

            @asharadaynelives, this is the part of your post that gives the impression that you believe hobbies are what makes you unique: “but I think it’s because I tend to see hobbies/interests as something which separates you from others and makes you individual.”

            To me, it sounds like you had a teacher with a particular hangup, and that’s maybe gotten tangled up in your head with advice you got for optimizing your college applications (I got all sorts of advice on that too), and it’s maybe not as applicable to socializing as it is to that particular teacher’s class or for your college applications, respectively. Yes, a lot of people read, but there’s so much room to talk about what you read and what the other person reads and so on… If books weren’t such great conversation fodder, I’d probably have had very few relationships. It’s been a huge part of how many of my relationships (romantic and platonic) have developed.

          • the yeti said:

            Whoa. “A transgender” is not okay. Please don’t. A transgender man, woman, or person would be fine, because we’re people. Trans is an adjective. And I’m not prepared to unpack all the weird stuff about why you might think a trans person is okay to be into makeup as a hobby. Just leave us out entirely, please.

          • Sorry that last comment doesn’t appear under the correct post. Not sure what I did wrong there.

          • Because I can’t reply directly but only to the post several paras up I scrolled up too far and now I can’t even C&P to post farther down. It’s hurting my eyes so I might as well bow out of this one as it’s been done to death I think. It feels like it did when I was accused of betraying a secret even though I hadn’t. Everyone is too caught up in their own viewpoints to care what other’s really are.

          • Ok very and sincerely sorry for the transgender mistake (even as I was typing it I was aware of the laziness of including it with ‘transvestite’. My bad totally.

            I’m a scouser and am against this stereotype too. I should have written ‘locals’ I guess.

    • Cactus said:

      try to probe (subtlely) about what her interests are and why she doesn’t have any hobbies. Many women don’t because they don’t have enough free time, or some are just interested in grooming and/or celebrity gossip etc.

      I don’t think this is a bad idea. This isn’t something the LW needs to do, but it might be illuminating, because look, for a long time, I was pretty shy about being “real” around new possible romantic partners. I had been through two abusive relationships, one of which took the form of being incessantly mocked whenever I showed that I had interests, passions, personality. Also during this time I was working at a job that was…controversial, and didn’t lend itself to easy date banter. It took some therapy and some DNL articles and sort-of-dating a longtime friend for 5 months who already knew the Real Me and then a few other idiosyncratic things for me to get past that and be real with the next dude I was attracted to, who ended up being my husband. And this was at 22-24.
      So…this girl may be exactly what she showed on the first date, and that’s fine, but incompatible with the LW. Or she may have gotten the message over and over again that she’s too much, too extreme, too intense, and she has to dull out her personality if she’s ever to find a boyfriend. I don’t know. (Though even if this is the case, this may not be something LW could figure out in one date, nor is it his responsibility.)

  6. Lily said:

    Lol 19 year olds

    • Solestria said:

      Is it really necessary to be dismissive based on age here?

      • It kinda is. The reason this letter is so heartbreakingly hilarious is because we all were once self important teenagers who thought that we were leading men/ladies in some grand drama and everyone else was just filling out supporting roles. The solipsism of youth tends to fade as you realize “holy shit, other people have their OWN lives and my role in it might be a lot less important than I thought!” I have a feeling that Cap would have been a lot less kind had this letter come from someone who was 35.

        • Solestria said:

          I think “This is something people tend to learn as they grow up” is valid in a way that “Let’s be mockingly dismissive and talk about how hilarious this person’s dilemma is” very much isn’t. I’m pretty surprised that several commenters see nothing wrong with how that comment was phrased. It’s not that I think the LW’s age is wholly irrelevant, but maybe not cause for mockery and dismissal?

          And for what it’s worth, I’m well past 19 myself.

          • neverjaunty said:

            Seriously. CA posts letters all the time from young people making choices out of immaturity and inexperience, and I suspect most people would shit a brick if somebody said “Lol 19 year olds” at a young LW who didn’t understand that her Darth boyfriend was not just the way all men are, or who hadn’t yet internalized that her parents have no actual legal right to control her life.

          • aebhel said:

            @neverjaunty, that’s true, but the girl with a Darth boyfriend has a perspective problem that is hurting primarily her, whereas the LW here has a perspective problem that is causing him to be (at best) very condescending to a girl he’s dating. I’m somewhat less patient with youth-related errors when they have the potential to harm someone who is not the person committing them.

          • neverjaunty said:

            @aebhel, again, there’s a difference between gently but firmly pointing out that the LW is making some fundamental errors in perspective, and shitting over an LW because you don’t like what they said and their youth is a convenient stabbing spot.

        • Kathleen said:

          Interestingly, as a teenager, I cast myself as a secondary character in my friend’s lives. Go figure, they were very dysfunctional relationships. It took many years and therapy to realize “holy shit, it’s completely natural to think I’m important enough to have my OWN story, and not vain or selfish at all!”

          • manybellsdown said:

            This was me too. I always saw myself as the sidekick, never the leading lady. I wasn’t Princess Leia, I was C3PO.

          • Kelly L. said:

            Yup. Same here. I had multiple friends who actually referred to me as their sidekick, and while I loved these people dearly, I did internalize that. And dated multiple people who were just so much louder than I was. And so on.

            It was actually a romcom that turned the light on. “The Holiday” I think it was called? “When are you going to play the leading lady in your own life?”

          • Cactus said:

            Yep. I saw myself as the sidekick to my younger sister. More of the elder mentor figure who eventually needed to be defeated for the young hero to claim victory.

          • Hannahbelle said:

            I thought the only way *not* to be either narcissistic diva or boring sidekick was to be completely self-sufficient and alone all the time. Social relationships weren’t something I saw as valuable or worthwhile because I was afraid they’d somehow bring out the worst in me. (Spoiler: Isolation can do that, too.)

        • Theaz said:

          It is one thing to look back at yourself and laugh. That earlier version of yourself *does not exist and will never be sad about being laughed at*. It is a whole other thing to laugh at people who are currently having that experience in all its earnest wretchedness, who are literally growing their brains and becoming themselves and working their way through the ups and downs and bad decisions and good decisions and deep love and disappointment and experimenting with various people they might be when they grow up that’s involved with that process.

      • KOL said:

        No, it really isn’t, and stuff like some of this is why I tell people to never disclose their age on the internet, because people will just go right to the “lol, you’re so young. *head pat* come back when you grow a brain and stop being hormonal.” and ignore everything else. The Captain made valid points. Some comments, not so much.

        • thepaintedlady said:

          I think in this particular case, while of course you never want to totally dismiss someone outright based on age, he’s definitely set himself up for a lot more “Here is this weird thing you’re doing because you’re young and don’t understand how to date the way you will in five years, so fix this now,” and a lot less “OMG YOU SEXIST CREEPY WEIRDO THIS IS NOT OKAY” that he would have gotten had he not given his age. Some of this is for sure sexism, but some of this sounds a lot like dilemmas I had when I was 19. So in this case, I think giving his age made for a much kinder response.

          • aebhel said:

            Yeah, if a 30-year-old man wrote in with that attitude, I think he’d get a LOT less sympathy.

        • Karyn said:

          Behaviors and thought patterns that are forgivable–even understandable–in folks under, say, 22-23, would be really unfortunate in someone older. There’s still a lot of maturing that people do from ages 18-21, and it’s a mistake to not recognize that. A lot of what you might perceive as condescension is us recalling how we acted and thought at those ages, and how ridiculous it all seems now. When I read about the ‘bad behavior’ of celebrities and sports stars of that age, I thank my lucky stars that no one was reporting on my foolishness from that time.

          While ‘LOL, 19 years olds’ is is pretty reductive, there is an element of truth to the idea that what seems like big problems to them aren’t really all that big.

          • SarahTheEntwife said:

            But those problems are big when you’re 19. Sometimes they’re big when you’re 39. Getting perspective on a situation can be really useful if done appropriately, but just saying “oh, this will all seem foolish in 10 years” is pretty much guaranteed to make your listener either understandably angry at you for talking down to them or make them feel guilty for feeling upset about something “trivial” when they could have bigger problems.

          • SarahTheEntwife said:

            Aand I just saw the mod note; feel free to delete, Captain!

        • Emmers said:

          I know a guy who’s kind of an asshole, but also kind of young and naive. I try to treat him with respect by not attributing his asshole tendencies to his youth, but rather ascribing them directly to his character. Maybe his character will change with time, and maybe it won’t; but he is who he is right now, at this age, and should be evaluated accordingly.

      • samam said:

        As someone who was 1000% sure I knew what I wanted in life at 19, and is doing something very different now, a little bit yes?

        True story that has nothing to do with romantic relationships – when I was a freshman in college, my college honors program did a lot of work to connect me with a law school mentor (knowing I wanted to go to law school). The first time i met with the guy, he asked me what kind of law I wanted to do. In addition to listing out the types of law I was interested in, I decided to throw in at the end…”and I definitely have no interest in any sort of corporate or finance law, because I don’t want to be a capitalist tool”.

        Yeah. Can you guess what the guy’s specialty was? Can you also guess that my senior year, he became president of the entire university? Might have been nice if I hadn’t been such an asshole.

        Also, can you take a wild guess as to what kind of law I ended up practicing?

        Teenagers are idiots. Even the smart, driven ones.

        😉

        • Mir said:

          This is an anecdote of a silly thing you did when you were 19. It’s a good story if you want to talk about how common it is for people to develop and change over time. It’s a good story if you want to talk about why it’s a good idea to mind your manners when meeting new people, and to think twice before trash-talking a profession or whatnot.

          It’s not a good story to illustrate why “teenagers are idiots” because, well..that’s just close-minded age bias. Teenagers may have a good amount of mental and emotional development ahead of them, but that does not mean they’re fair targets for mockery. It doesn’t make discrimination appropriate.

          Many people of all ages are flawed in a wide variety of ways. Attributing a negative personality trait to a person’s age is as unconstructive and harmful as attributing it to their gender or other prohibited class.

          • Stardust said:

            I don’t see anyone other than the “lol 19 year olds” person mocking the LW, much less discriminating. (I’m also not seeing anyone attributing negative personality traits based on his age to the LW. If anything, most comments seem to be more forgiving of his attitude because of his age.) I agree with everything you’re saying but, like several comments above explained quite nicely, I feel like the LW’s age is something to take into account in this instance, if only because it’s slightly less outrageous to see something like this from a 19 year old than from a 35 year old. (Precisely because of the “mental and emotional development” you agree he still has ahead of himself which can’t be said of a 35 year old generally.)

          • Mir said:

            @ Stardust: the person I’m responding to in this comment said “teenagers are idiots.” You wouldn’t call that mockery?

            Yes, it was intended in a “they’re all idiots, so we should be more forgiving” sort of way, but guess what? That’s still discrimination and it’s not okay.

            This isn’t really about the LW, in my opinion. This is about the hundreds or thousands of teenagers who read this website for advice, and making this a place where they feel welcome and comfortable asking questions. That why, in my opinion, it’s not okay to make random comments about how “teenagers are idiots” any more than it’d be okay to say “senior citizens are idiots” or whatever.

          • autojess said:

            No, you know what’s unconstructive? The idea that it’s out of bounds to describe teenagers as immature and inexperienced in terms of sex, romance, and relationships. They are! They absolutely are! That naivety is exactly why predatory, abusive adults target them. It makes them clumsy and vulnerable and it means that they often make bad decisions. They are often not good at protecting themselves or understanding other people.

            That’s not a very complimentary fact, but it is nonetheless a fact: age is a strong if imperfect indicator of maturity. Generally speaking, teenagers are not (yet) very good at interpersonal issues; generally speaking, teenagers lack the firsthand experience that allows people to successfully negotiate dating and LTRs. And yes, teenagers sometimes act like idiots for reasons specific to their immaturity and inexperience.

            This assertion may drive away some teenage readers (although I suspect many of them feel this inexperience and disadvantage profoundly, and do not need or want to be treated like they’re in their thirties). Even so, pretending there’s no experiential disparity between people who have ten or twenty more years of life under their belts is asinine.

            It is also asinine to compare statements like this to sexism, especially since all adults have been teenagers.

        • Portia said:

          And in college, I was convinced that the ONLY thing I didn’t want to do was divorce law. Yep. Now you know my specialty.

          • Bless you for it. I’ve had more than one friend whose future was saved by a canny and dispassionate divorce lawyer.

    • Mir said:

      This is close-minded and adds nothing constructive to the conversation.

    • Fishmongers' daughters said:

      I wasn’t like this at 19. And plenty of people *are* like this into old age. If we’re telling the LW not to be condescending, maybe we don’t have to condescend to him about his age.

    • JenniferP said:

      Moderator hat on:

      FUCKING ENOUGH ALREADY ABOUT THE LW’S AGE.

      Enough.

      Points have been made that he is very young (true), that people mature with age (mostly true), and that I was nicer than I would have been to a 35 year old with the same views (EPICLY TRUE).

      There is enough material in everything else that he said to engage with.

      If the substance of your comment is about the LW’s age or teenagers in general then post it on your own blog where I don’t have to read it and then read everyone’s tedious parsing of it.

  7. thepaintedlady said:

    Two things kept running through my head over and over:

    1) You don’t have to convince anyone (including CA) that you’re not into her. Not feeling like you have much in common is plenty reason not to see someone again. Giving several paragraphs about how you’re clearly a more advanced being than she is, just makes you look like a jerk, rather than what you are, which is a man who doesn’t want to go on a second date with a woman he thought he was interested in, but isn’t after all.

    2) At any point during your date did she ask you to do any of the things you say you’re ill-prepared to do? Perhaps she did, in which case, my apologies, but if not, don’t assume that she needs you to do any sort of saving for her. Sometimes women have parts of their life they don’t like – that’s a basic facet of becoming an adult.

  8. Ariane said:

    The fact that she had the maturity to wait until the last day to ask for his number makes me think this girl probably has more on the ball than the LW is giving her credit for–although to be fair, it also sounds like she is stuck in that “I like what you like!” first-date mode that I think a lot of us struggle with when you’re younger. LW is so caught up in this fairly ordinary “second date or not?” question that I’m wondering whether there’s more here than meets the eye: Is this a person he’s genuinely drawn to despite the lackluster quality of the first date? Is there something else going on that makes this a bigger issue than it would seem to be? Or is it maybe that LW is actually very eager for a relationship, like, NOW, and so everyone’s going to get weighed on those scales for a while?

    I’m trying to be generous. But I must agree — ditch the “leading lady” stuff. I once had a guy launch into something like this, about how people in our lives are in “star roles” or “just extras.” It was both such a weird, artificial way of putting things and so completely divorced from what was going on, i.e., my saying “no more, but thanks” after our third date.

    • purps said:

      When I started dating-dating (later in life than LW! I wound up in a friends-to-LTR situation that lasted for a good chunk of my twenties, so I had to learn about actually going on dates with relative strangers later than adolescence) it was REALLY easy to go on one date and then ABSOLUTELY PANIC about how what if she liked me too much or what if I liked her too much or what if EVERYONE liked EVERYONE and then we moved in together and adopted a rescue cockapoo but then it had HIP PROBLEMS or what if NO ONE liked ANYONE because LOVE IS NOT REAL in this COLD UNIVERSE –

      Yeah. Honestly, I’m still having to calm down about this and accept that “sometimes I’m drawn to people for reasons that make no sense” and “sometimes I’m not attracted to people who seem perfectly fine on paper!’ and “sometimes I feel meh” and “sometimes I feel meh but curious to try again” are perfectly fine answers that can stand on their own.

      Though seriously, cut it with the leading-lady thing. Try to think of it more like crossover issues from different comics. She’s a protagonist, you’re a protagonist, sometimes you team up together to fight crime.

      • Anisoptera said:

        Hahahahaha what if it has HIP PROBLEMS!

        I think you just dramatised the inside of my brain when I consider possibly maybe trying to date again after a very long relationship and then a very long period of being single. I need to calm the hell down and just go on dates and not try to envisage the entire course of every relationship that might possibly happen even though I haven’t even made an account on a dating site yet. :-/

        • For some years I dated like it was a job hunt. I put a lot of messages out there and went on a lot of first dates, and very few second dates, because it turns out most people are not relationship material. 🙂 But I enjoyed myself because even terrible dates are an opportunity for a great story later, and I felt like at least I was doing something about the fact that I didn’t have a relationship and wanted one.

        • Carolyn said:

          Fistbump of solidarity – your words brought me right back to where I was a few years ago! I share with you my tale of Derp in the hope that it makes you laugh and reminds you that you are not alone!

          My first real date was the prom … married that guy 10 years later … and my first breakup was the divorce 5 years after that! I had never really dated and had no idea how! My first date after my divorce was a man who seemed great on the web/phone … but was a mess in real life – he was nice and all and I felt like with my lack of dating experience I should ignore those “no chemistry” and “omg, is he really using his fingers to pick stuff out of his omelet?” feelings and see what developed … I mean, my last relationship was a few weeks of meaningful glances before we even spoke and then nothing but talking until he asked me to the prom – that was MONTHS, didn’t I have to give this guy some time before deciding he was not for me? LOL 🙂

          And I didn’t want to be “mean” – even though I couldn’t wait to leave, in my head I had reasoned that I needed to go on at least 3 more dates with him because his birthday was the following week and I didn’t want him to think that A) I had immediately decided I didn’t want to go out with him again within 5 minutes of meeting him in person (thus the 2nd date – before his birthday) B) I didn’t want to let him down on his birthday (third date) and C) I didn’t want him to think I was only agreeing to another date because it was his birthday (the 4th date – after his birthday!)

          Yeah …

          And when he went in for a kiss, I figured “why the hell not?” and kissed him (note: I did not feel pressured or put on the spot – literal thought in my head was “why not?”) …and it was the worst kiss EVER. I tried to SHOW him something he might like a bit more … he liked it, alright, but instead of imitating when I would back off, he went back to his signature move … gently licking my bottom lip. If I had any pride whatsoever I would decline to mention in front of CA and the whole internet that I tried to persuade him away from his signature move several times … as in, yeah … we were kissing for a while … and I was not enjoying it AT ALL … but I kept at it because DERP.

          On the drive home I was panicking about 3 more dates and more lip licking and ready to cry … I thought “I best re-find religion because I don’t think atheists can be nuns …” and I wondered if I was too picky and if I was being a bit hasty or judgy about this guy. And then I called a male friend also going through a divorce and, half-crying, spilled everything to him … and he started laughing and said “if I promise not to lick your lip, can I get 3 dates?” (He wasn’t serious … he was holding up a big ole mirror so I could see how overboard I had gone and instantly turned my tears into laughter!)

          So … avoid kitten-like kissers, enjoy the adventure and you will already be starting off better than I did! 🙂

      • Major Heartbreak said:

        “Try to think of it more like crossover issues from different comics. She’s a protagonist, you’re a protagonist, sometimes you team up together to fight crime.”
        Oh, I love this! Because sometimes I struggle with the question, “How will I ever be in another relationship when I’m no longer willing to let my life, my plans and dreams take a backseat to someone else’s?” (And I’m in my 40s, FWIW.)
        Not just relevant to romantic relationships, either. Thank you!

      • Mary said:

        I ❤ this comment!

      • Relevant: one of my good friends in high school used “fighting crime” as a euphemism for sex.

      • Casting said:

        I’d have to say your comment was the one that lightened my mood the most. I was imagining the metaphor as crossovers, but totally failed at putting it into words. Anyways, you have a gift for getting the words right. Thanks for sharing!

  9. eselle28 said:

    I think it will save you a great deal of grief in the dating world if you can learn to internalize the lesson that you don’t have to date everyone who’s romantically interested in you. Another lesson that follows from that is that a person doesn’t interest you romantically doesn’t necessarily have to be flawed or doing it wrong. Sometimes people are simply incompatible.

    I think this is tough to put in practice for many people, since there’s a great deal of pressure to find relationships and to make things work, even when there’s not even an existing relationship to work on. I think it’s sometimes even harder when the situation involves a woman pursuing a man, since there aren’t as many cultural narratives for what that looks like.

    As a ground rule, if you can identify something on a first date (or really, a second or a third one) that you’d like the person to change about themselves, there shouldn’t be a second date. It helps avoid both relationships spent trying to help someone toxic or troubled and relationships where one person tries to play Pygmalion to another who’d be better left on their own to be themselves.

    • Lily Rose said:

      “if you can identify something on a first date (or really, a second or a third one) that you’d like the person to change about themselves, there shouldn’t be a second date” — this is some of the best dating advice i have ever heard!! may i borrow it occasionally?!

      • eselle28 said:

        Certainly! I don’t remember who told it to me, and I had to date quite a lot before it really sunk in, but I’m glad for whoever passed on that tip.

      • Ariane said:

        I’d modify it to read “If you can identify something IMPORTANT on a first date,” etc. Many really great people might have dorky haircuts, a hate-on for a TV show you love, or other little things that can grate in the beginning, but don’t really matter, and might–in the end–turn out to be a foible you’d happily tolerate for someone you came to love anyway.

        However, if you see something important that early? Run. Run for the hills.

  10. JoanofAnon said:

    LW, this is good advice and pretty much the model you should use in dating throughout the rest of your life. But I would like to suggest some further things to you.

    I notice some indicators that you may have issues with how you view women. I don’t think you’re talking about this woman very respectfully at all and it’s a huge red flag. Frankly, you sound quite nasty and judgmental and some of it does seem pretty gendered to me. I would suggest next on your self improvement list would be reading books by women, watching film and tv made by women, and making sure you have women friends who you truly listen to when they talk. Perhaps focus on gaining women as friends more than looking for girlfriends right now.

    You may also want to work on your understandings of class because I can see some classist stuff in your writing as well – there’s nothing wrong with someone who didn’t enjoy education, isn’t in uni, wants to be a beautician, or who’s main hobby is spending time with their friends (hanging out). Don’t assume someone has nothing interesting or meaningful about them because they don’t like photography or aren’t getting a degree.

    Finally, I was taking the piss above with the congrats on sorting out your insecurity and you pissed me off with the female lead stuff. But…you’re 19 and you’ve recently developed a lot of self confidence and self esteem. That is genuinely a good thing but I’d like to suggest you tread carefully. I too have been the overly confident youth. It can crash and burn spectacularly when things don’t go how you plan. Plan around how you’d look after yourself if things went to shit at work, or uni, with friends, or your own mental health. Think about things you like about yourself which aren’t situational; try to develop your feelings of self worth around personal characteristics rather than attainment. However great you are things are going to go wrong in your life – and some of that is going to be because of mistakes you make. Make sure you have internal sources of strength and worth you can draw on in those times.

  11. Ahhh, the dreaded “hobbies” question.

    I will be honest: I am so busy that I barely find time to sleep, yet when people ask what I do with myself they get a resounding “nuffin” because I’m so bad with this question.

    I write, but I don’t advertise this in facespace because I do NOT want to field questions about what I write (“well, I just finished up a nice M/F/F sex scene…”). I connect with friends on Twitter and am a feminist activist there, but that is a fraught subject in the extreme. I read, watch Netflix, and play video games, but doesn’t everyone and again I don’t want to have to defend my taste to strangers. In short, I’m sure I sound massively boring and perhaps it’s good that I am not dating, lol.

    I will say: you do you, but I was one of those “only someone I’d marry!!” daters at 19 and now I wish I’d had more fun and worried less about the future. There’s nice people I could have hung out with in a sexy-friends way but I was hunting for my One True Love and the hunt was tiring and isolating. It doesn’t have to be THIS girl (and honestly maybe probably shouldn’t, because of the reasons you outline), but you might find it nice to find a sexy buddy (or two or three) who aren’t auditioning for marriage but make great awesome amazing friends.

    My two cents. 🙂

    • Zooey Glass said:

      More than that; I was someone who wound up with someone I thought I’d marry in my late teenage years (in fact I very nearly did marry him). We were together for the whole of our twenties and while I don’t regret it, exactly (we had good times and still think of each other fondly) I do wish that I hadn’t been so tied down in that period of my life. Even consciously trying not to, I definitely made some decisions based around sustaining that relationship and missed out on some potentially cool stuff because of it. Teenagers – there’s no reason you should do casual dates if that doesn’t feel right for you, but there’s also a lot to be gained in not meeting that person you want to spend your life with until a bit later on!

      • Zooey Glass said:

        PS This is not to say it is bad and terrible to be in a serious relationship in your teens or twenties. But it can be tempting to see this as The Goal, which can make it all feel more stressful and high stakes. It’s useful to remember there are pros to being single (at any age!)

    • Tabitha said:

      Yup to all the stuff about hobbies.

      It’s worth pointing out that ‘hanging out’ can cover lots of things. I tend to use it as a catch all term for things I do at home (“What hobbies do you have?” “Oh, I hang out at home a lot”). It covers reading, surfing the web, playing videogames, watching tv, playing with my cats, etc. These are things I tend to not be explicit about until I’ve gotten to know people a bit better. I’ve met far too many people who assume that telling them I read a lot is an invitation to interrogate me about what sort of things I read and then get condescending or make assumptions about what I have/haven’t read (I told someone once that I had recently started reading a lot of comics, he wanted to know if I’d ever read The Sandman because it was really underground and had I heard of Alan Moore?). And being a woman who plays videogames has never been a fun conversation to have with relative strangers in the history of ever.

      I did want to add that I don’t think you have to feel bad about only looking for long term relationships. Casual relationships are great for some people and not others. Almost every relationship I’ve ever been in has turned serious no matter how it started, so I was much happier screening dates as if they would be potential long term partners rather than assuming I could do casual dating. It’s definitely worth thinking about whether casual relationships might work for you right now though.

    • slfisher said:

      I do a ton of interesting things in my life but I don’t know how I’d respond to a “hobbies” question. It sounds like collecting stamps or knitting or woodworking or something.

      • Clarry said:

        I’d say that wiithin the context of a getting to know each other first few dates, there is no difference between hobbies and interests. One person asks about hobbies; the other answers with the television shows he watches or the knotty problem at work.

    • Jen said:

      Nevermind that women’s hobbies tend to be pooh poohed (see also the aforementioned grooming and celebrity gossip crack above). When I was single, I’d be more circumspect about announcing my hobbies to people I didn’t know well. (geek gatekeeping was a thing back then, too.)

    • Oh, I hate the “hobbies” question too. I get shy and tongue-tied when asked about hobbies and interests. I think it’s partly that I feel like I’ll be made to prove a certain level of expertise in anything I dare to mention, and really I have a lot of things that are just fun to dabble in.

  12. heffalumps said:

    “Although she’s my age (19), I don’t think she’s at the point where I can tell her this without grievously wounding her undeveloped ego, especially given how she admires me.”

    this was the bit that made me roll my eyes so hard they almost fell out of my head.

    she likes you enough to want to date you. that doesn’t mean that not dating her will DESTROY HER EGO. it will not ruin her life. it will not turn her from a bland but happy existence as a cosmetologist to a life of depravity and crime. she may think grumpy thoughts about you for a while, but odds are good that she won’t CURSE YOUR NAME, WEEPING AND GNASHING HER TEETH for rejecting her. and if she does… then there’s other issues there that you probably wouldn’t have wanted to get involved with anyway.

    I say this as somebody who both has had MY ENTIRE LIFE RUINED BY REJECTION FROM THAT ONE PERSON (I had an undiagnosed and untreated depressive disorder for the first couple of decades of my dating life; my entire life was not only not ruined, but it’s really freaking awesome right now) and as the person who rejected somebody else and thereby RUINED THEIR ENTIRE LIFE 4EVARR (I still don’t know what was up with that person, and I sincerely hope they got better). don’t get into that mindset, on either side, with anyone, ever, if you can possibly avoid it. There Be Monsters. you won’t ruin her life by absenting yourself from it. I promise.

    • Karyn said:

      I felt that was more about the “I’m not interested in being a crutch and I can’t save her from a boring life. If there’s a way for her to grow up and not rely on me to fill up her open schedule, . . .” part. Which, while probably would not be CRUSHING, would be both unkind and kind of gross for him to say. Much better to go with the Captain’s script.

      • slfisher said:

        Actually, I can hardly think of an action a person could do that would help me get over any thing I had for them than that statement.

    • thepaintedlady said:

      Yeah, I try to avoid the “ohhhh kids” thing at all costs when dealing with people younger than me, but there seems to be a very overblown sense of importance on LW’s part. I mean, condescension and some low-level sexism aside, he’s probably lovely, but he also refers to how awkward and fraught he thinks it would be to date the boss’ daughter when the boss wanted him to stay. Unless he left on really terrible terms, I feel like probably this would not be the dire and touchy situation he seems to think it is – people leave jobs all the time, and usually their former bosses, unless they are terrible people, do not wish ill on them, especially if it’s the kind of job that a 19-year-old can take while going to school.

      LW, you absolutely should be important in your own life. That’s as it should be….but I think you may be overestimating your role in others’ lives.

  13. biogirl said:

    Good God, my eyes rolled so hard I strained my optic nerve.

    Get ready, because I am not nearly going to be as nice as the Captain was.

    Peeling back all the flowery language and massive ego stoking, here is what your letter says: you don’t respect her. You think her choices are stupid. You think her supposed lack of opinions or goals or decisions is annoying because you have your life together (news flash: no one has their life together at 19 or ever for that matter). You think her obvious interest in you is quaint in that condescending way, like, awww, look at her, she is so below me in life-getting-together and she likes me, how cute because I’m so out of her league. Plus you’ll grievously wound her ego given how much she admires you and you, such a knight in shining armor, would never do that to a beautiful maiden no matter how uninteresting she is.

    Leading lady in your life story? Good Lord, she’s not an actress or a prop. She is not auditioning to be part of your WONDERFUL LIFE(tm).She is a person with her own life to lead. No girlfriend EVER wants to be a prop in your story; she wants to be an integral part of it while leading her life as well.

    The way you write about women in your letter is both infantilizing and objectifying. You crap on her for having no goals, but you make it sound like you want a woman with no goals so she can blindly play the part you want her to play in your life. Gross.

    Please. Listen to yourself. Quite frankly, you sound like a sexist twat. And if you really, truly believe you’re not, then you need to work on your communication skills because you are giving off a bad tone.

    So why are you dating her, again? Tell her no thanks and leave her alone. If I were her, nothing were hurt me more to find out that my date or boyfriend doesn’t respect me or think my life choices are meaningful or believe that me still figuring out my life means I’m to be pitied and condescended to. You’ll save her a lot of crap.

    • jla1974 said:

      IAWTC.

      If LW is still reading: Maybe notice that a significant proportion of commenters here have a similar impression of you, as you do about this girl. Self-confidence is attractive; overwhelming arrogance mixed with generalised sexism (i.e. the general belief that traditionally “girly” things have less value than traditionally masculine ones) really, truly isn’t.

      But I do admire your willingness to try to sort this out by writing to the Captain. Good call.

    • Hannahbelle said:

      “Plus you’ll grievously wound her ego given how much she admires you…”

      Her UNDEVELOPED ego. Let’s not forget that part.

      Ugh. This reminds me of my idiot boss who used to diagnose the “emotional age” of the people she worked with. If you can’t engage with other people as actual people and not judgable bundles of quasi-measurable traits, the ego that needs development is yours.

      • Hannahbelle said:

        I was twelve, by the way. It still hurts.

  14. Mir said:

    A drive for self improvement is a wonderful thing, but be careful that it doesn’t warp into a petty desire to judge and rank others. If you’re truly interested in bettering yourself, remember that part of true self-confidence is not needing to convince others of your quality, and not needing to stroke your ego up by constantly finding fault with those around you and congratulating yourself on how superior you are.

    Self-confidence is best tempered with humility and reason. Remember, your opinion is not actually very important in the grand scheme of the world. Your assessment of this woman is simply your assessment, and not the objective truth of her essence or character. If you’re not feeling it for her, that’s fine! The best thing you can do for both of you is to move on respectfully and unambiguously.

    All she needs to know is that you’re not interested. She may be sad, but she’ll get over it. If she asks why, don’t give her a list of faults you see in her; just tell her you’re not interested in her that way, and end the conversation. She does not need a prescription for self improvement from you. She does not need you to fix or inspire her. She needs you to go away and find people who are interesting to you, so she can focus on people who find her interesting and vice versa.

    As you get older you will encounter many people you find boring, offensive, or annoying. Those reactions are part of how we choose who to let into our livest. Those reactions tell you who you should pursue as a friend or romantic interest or whatever. But always remember: they do NOT tell you who is a worthwhile human being and who is not. Do not over-inflate the importance of your own preferences. Do not cultivate disdain, for it will make your life and your mind smaller and less interesting.

    • Katamari said:

      Nailed it on the head I reckon.

      • anon said:

        Seconded.

    • mamacitaconpistoles said:

      Let the commentariat say HECK YEAH.

    • another lost angel said:

      MTE, Mir! *applauds*

  15. FITZWILLIAM

    I ❤ you, Cap.

  16. norainur said:

    Nervously delurking for the first time here, because this one resonated with me a bit – sorry if this is long!

    OK, LW, I want to try to be compassionate here, because I’m not sure I believe you’ve been as successful as you think in overcoming your insecurities and if you are really insecure criticism can be hard to deal with, I know. But you are coming off as super overly confident here and it is a bit off-putting: “I lit up many people”, “I’m easy going”, “I have my life together”, “I date fore a strong equal to share my interesting life with, and I’m not seeing a lot of that in her.” In my experience very insecure people often do this to try to compensate for their insecurity. It can be really hard and seemingly counter-intuitive to recognize and try to change that, I know – you’ve been told all your life that you’re too insecure and need to assert yourself more and then when you do that THAT’S wrong too! – but, seriously, give it a go.

    Now, one thing that puzzled me about your letter was that you seem to be disagreeing with yourself about whether you’re interested in this woman or not. (For the record I absolutely agree with the Captain that you shouldn’t date or stay in touch with her.) You say “I’d feel lonelier in a relationship than alone if the other person had nothing interesting to talk about” and that’s exactly right (if, again, a bit smug), you should not date people you have nothing in common with and don’t enjoy spending time with! But you also say “If there’s a way for her to grow up and not rely on me to fill up her open schedule, I’m open to sharing a life with her.” and worry that hearing this would upset her (it would, and should.) You introduce the concept of “sharing your life” with this person that you’ve been on one date with! Sharing your life is a bing thing! And you’re saying you’d be open to it – although only if she improves herself for you first.

    This made me think of the post where the LW unfortunately asked her ex why he broke up with her (https://captainawkward.com/2014/03/20/557-thats-just-one-dudes-opinionannual-reminder-that-why-did-you-break-up-with-me-is-not-a-question-you-actually-want-answered/) and wonder whether you actually are attracted to her, but that you, as the ex in that letter, have some issues with perceived status (although in this case it’s about education, hobbies, etc. and not looks)? Or do you think that you should be into her? If you’re not, you’re not, it’s that simple.

    Finally, although you are the same age as her, you are coming off in a way that reminds me of my Vader Ex who was older than me and liked to point that out when you suggest that she is somehow less evolved than you and needs improvement, with her “undeveloped ego” and whatnot. Don’t be that guy. Not with her, not with future, more suitable partners. It’s not good for anyone to be with that guy, and it probably wouldn’t be good for you to be him.

    • Hannahbelle said:

      “You’ve been told all your life that you’re too insecure and need to assert yourself more and then when you do that THAT’S wrong too!”

      OMG this. I completely forgot about this–the temptation when you see yourself as “insecure” to overdo it in the other direction. What looks like arrogance can actually be Shy Person X performing the heck out of what they think they’re supposed to be feeling and expressing. Then they get slammed for that too because nobody likes a show-off.

      Actually being secure, mature, developed, whatever, seems to be a very ineffable state. If I had to guess, I’d say it isn’t something you can attribute to yourself or other people; you just get there eventually, most likely by not worrying about it and by doing real life. I wouldn’t necessarily know, though. 🙂 Good luck to the LW, toward whom I feel a lot less resentful now, if the above is part of what was going on with him.

  17. BirchBeer said:

    The young woman you went on this date with sounds really sweet, she needs to find someone a lot less full of themselves to date. Please give her the gift of never talking to her again.

  18. Courtney said:

    OK…as someone who has spent WAY too much time in my life dating guys who thought I was “wonderful…except [whatever]” who worked really hard to mold me into the girl of their dreams…I have massive side-eye for the LW’s comments on how this gal should “grow up” because she doesn’t match exactly what he’s looking for. Growing up (all 19-year-olds have maturing of some sort to do) and growing into his idea of “leading lady material” are two different things. Having some issues with your parents and being unsure of what you want to do with your life is quite normal at age 19, especially if you have the work/homelife cross-over of having your dad be your boss (while you are presumably still living with the folks.) That situation doesn’t have to be even remotely abusive for it to be awkward/stressful/confusing for someone that age to deal with.

    In my experience, guys who have a set idea of what their girlfriend should be like and who describe differences between an actual girl and that ideal as “obstacles that can be overcome,” tend to try really hard to encourage girls to change to fit that mold. And encouraging becomes a combination of cajoling and gaslighting. And then we’re seeing a letter from the gal about how to get her “wonderful, together, attentive” boyfriend to stop trying to change her because what they have is really great except that she’s constantly weeping after he undercuts her self-esteem yet again “because it’s Tuesday and that’s what we do on Tuesdays after watching The Flash because I’m never going to be a carbon copy of Felicity Smoak, and how do I get him to understand that and stop picking on me?”

    LW, don’t be that guy. You are allowed to have dealbreakers regarding your dating life. But if someone violates your dealbreakers, YOU BREAK THE DEAL. Or you reexamine your dealbreakers to see if they really mean as much to you as they did before. You do not treat your dealbreakers like an assignment for your potential dates to accomplish.

    • You do not treat your dealbreakers like an assignment for your potential dates to accomplish.

      ohmigosh, this. THIS.

    • When you’re younger, I think many folks have a long list of “requirements” for significant others. “Must like same bands as I, must be super hot and fit, must have green eyes, must not like the color orange, must enjoy live theatre, must not snort-laugh, must not dye pubes green, must not pick nose in front of Grandma, must be over 5’11” [insert 10,000 more musts and must-nots here].” You get the idea. Lacking actual relationship experience, we form an ideal perfect partner based on media we consume, what we see our peers appreciate, and assorted personal quirks that we think are SUPER-DUPER IMPORTANT but, in retrospect, really aren’t. They certainly aren’t deal-breakers once you see them in someone you really like as a fellow human being and potential partner. But you don’t know what is and isn’t a deal-breaker sometimes until you live through something. A guarantee: something you feel REALLY passionately about RIGHT NOW won’t matter a damn to you in ten years. And something you haven’t even thought about for a second now is going to be absolutely vitally necessary to you, and you truly cannot predict or prepare for that, you’ll just know it is vital to you once it BECOMES vital.

      Then you get older and wiser and your list gets more tolerant and practical. “Must like cats because I own a cat. Must not be a bigoted racist because I am not a bigot or a racist. Must be respectful by default to all, because I appreciate respectful, polite people with manners. Must not vote for fascists, because fascists are icky and scary and bad.” Your list become as more informed by your relationship experience, self-knowledge, and so forth.

      I suspect that by the time I hit retirement age, my list will probably consist of “Is still breathing. Remembers my name 9 times out of 10. Enjoys gin rummy. Shares dessert on pudding cup night.”

      • Courtney said:

        True, most people’s dealbreakers evolve over time and with relationship experience. But regardless of WHAT one’s dealbreakers are, they are still not a homework assignment to give a potential partner. I don’t especially care what the LW’s dealbreakers are. I was talking about the parts of his letter that imply that he thinks trying to shape a partner to fit his vision is OK.

      • A_lopez said:

        Don’t be ageist, please.

        • I apologize for any statements that were perceived as ageist. That was not my intention. I am no spring chicken myself. I was attempting to be playful about my own personal experiences, not speaking as an authority on How It Is For Everyone.

          • A_lopez said:

            @britpoptarts: OK 🙂 I see your comment was worded in that way. I’ve been musing a lot lately about internalized -isms – expectations about oneself that are conditioned by sociocultural input. Not much of a matter for this thread.

  19. One thing that struck me as funny while reading is that the LW wants to find a strong, driven partner who knows what she wants and describes this woman as a “weak female lead,” but was amused by the fact that she took the lead in asking him out in the first place.

    As for how she came off on the date, well, she might simply need a few more years to figure herself out, which isn’t unusual, and yes, she probably wants to be liked. It also occurred to me that while the LW made it sound like she complained a lot, they met at a job that the LW calls “a glum environment.” One of the ways that my coworkers became my friends at uninspiring jobs in my early 20s was bonding over disliking the work. If you thought you were better than everyone else, it was pretty noticeable. So she might just have been trying to connect over something they already had in common.

    I agree that it sounds like they’re looking for different things at this point – there’s nothing wrong with him wanting someone with specific goals, but there’s also nothing wrong with her wanting to date as a form of entertainment – lots of people do that at any age (and well, in a few years she might be a lot more entertained by someone like the LW rather than attracted, if she isn’t entertained already. Condescension and wanting your dates to change to be “serious” and “worthy” is not necessarily limited to 19-year-olds). Best to just be brief and tell her he doesn’t want to go out again without over explaining. It may not be the big deal he imagines.

  20. Fishmongers' daughters said:

    1) “To my amusement…”

    LW, with love: Don’t be that guy. Nobody likes that guy. She’s not some clever animal that thinks its people. “Amusement” implies that you’re above any kind of real emotional reaction to a situation, like “flattered,” or “concern.” Like it’s just some mildly entertaining thing this person did, expressing interest in you and telling you she’d contact you and then following through on that. You are clearly deeply engaged in the way this is playing out, and that’s a GOOD thing. So don’t be amused by her. Be flattered or touched or excited or horrified or repulsed, but don’t be amused.

    2) Don’t assume that her ego is undeveloped, or that her interest in cosmetology is “standard.” Where are you getting this? It’s ok that she didn’t like school. And that she likes cosmetology. It just might not be ok for *you.* It sounds like it isn’t. And that’s totally fine! I had no idea where I was going when I was 19; that was about the age that I tried to join the military as a shortcut to adulthood and ended up with an entry level discharge after a mental breakdown. A decade later I’m finishing up a PhD and I know a lot better what I want. You’re clearly much more focused and driven than I was, and that’s great… for you. But it’s not your job to evaluate her ego or her interests for their inherent worth; all you have to do is decide whether you like her enough to want to keep spending time with her. It sounds like you don’t. The way to do respect to her as a person now is to fucking be straight with her and assume that she’s a grown-up that can handle it.

    So please, do that. It’ll be good for both of you.

    • My mother (a professor) has said that if she had to do it again she might have been a beautician (don’t get me wrong, she has also said she’d have gone to law school). The point about cosmetology from her perspective is that she is really good at color and line. She would have been a very good make up artist, cosmetologist, or hairdresser. (Or lawyer, she’s a competent person.)

      • manybellsdown said:

        I’ve got a baby sister, 20+ years younger than me. Her passions are photography and … cosmetology. And she’s the most driven and passionate person I know. She was homeschooled and started taking classes at the community college at 13. At 18, she graduated with 2 AA degrees and went on to a state university. And she did all this while taking care of our father with terminal cancer, because she was still living at home.

        Cosmetology as a hobby or career says nothing about the intelligence and drive of the person who enjoys it. Maybe she just wants to do something she finds fun.

        • jla1974 said:

          I’m randomly reminded about an old UK TV advert (starring Maureen Lipman, who is a legend). It hinges on her being impressed that her grandson got “an ology”, which in her opinion makes up for failing all his other subjects.

          In other words, cosmetology isn’t just slapping on some lipstick. It’s an art.

          • Big Pink Box said:

            Ermahgerd! “You’ve got an ‘ology!”. The Jewish bubby overjoyed about that result, and was there a cake with a diploma on it? I was only a kid, and my mam had to explain the joke to me, but wow… really takes me back.

            Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

          • jla1974 said:

            There was indeed! It became a Thing in our house, every time someone was a bit despondent about their achievements (even when they weren’t an ology at all) 🙂 It’s on YouTube if you search Maureen Lipman & ology!

      • bean said:

        Yes. My cousin was always an amazing artist as a child. She became a beautician. She has designed a beautiful “studio” and runs her own top-notch business. She’s smart, kind, and artistically talented: she does a great job and people love her work. She’s also very smart with her business and financially successful. Nothing to sneeze at.

    • I wish I’d written this! I was really bothered by the “and to my amusement” comment too.

  21. mamacitaconpistoles said:

    I dunno, man. The services of a talented cut and colorist are a prize above rubies, if you ask me. Which is to say, don’t knock yourself out about her supposed lack of ambition or oomph or whatever. If this young woman is good in her chosen profession, she will be respected and sought after by many people.

    Instead, I suggest thinking about how reading the gentle but firm observations here that you’re not very grown up yet, that you have priorities in funny places, that you don’t know the world yet…

    Even if you take critique well, I can imagine these might not be super fun criticisms to read.

    Remember that feeling when decline the invite of a second date. You’re not filing an appeal evaluated by a tribunal. You are not her life coaching supervisor. Noone needs evidence or persuasion that you are not interested. So, all you need to say is a kind, firm, no thank you. Then, be on your way.

    She’ll probably get over it soon enough, and will grow up and live her own terrifyingly amazing life, just like you. You’re cool.

    I hope it goes well!

    • Yeah. Nobody ever gets to say “just” a beautician around me. I have been privileged to know and be styled by several fantastic human beings in the course of my life, and I hope I will know and be styled by several more before I shuffle off this mortal coil. Becoming a cosmetologist, hairstylist, beautician, aesthetician, whatever, takes study and dedication and hard work. It wreaks havoc on their bodies and yet most of them do it for as long as they possibly can because they get to make money being creative and making other people beautiful.

      I’m not sure why someone would think that’s not an awesome service to give to the world. 🙂

      So LW, it’s okay to not want to date someone, but now is such a great time to practise your people skills and just say “Hey, I just don’t see this working, so I’m not interested in a second date,” rather than telling her Exactly Why She Doesn’t Measure Up. If you turn resisting this impulse into a habit, you will be glad later when you aren’t the dude everyone you’ve dated tells stories about for decades afterward.

      • carlie said:

        And seriously – being in charge of someone’s hair? Knowing the kinds of reactions you get when it doesn’t turn out exactly the way they want it, no matter how impossible you’ve told them that style is with their hair type? It takes an especially strong kind of person to walk that tightrope several times a day every day. I know I couldn’t hack it emotionally, much less technically or creatively.

        • I’ve followed my stylist through multiple salons and I now pay 2x what I did for a cut back when she first became my stylist. I would gladly pay more. She’s worth her weight in gold.

          • mamacitaconpistoles said:

            All this talk makes the point about the gendered feeling of the original letter really pronounced. Makeup and celebrity gossip are trivial! Working as a stylist is unambitious. Those vain girly things girls do!!

            Yeah, well. One of the greatest pleasures my grandmother had towards the end of her life was the weekly manicure she got in her care home. And my (also really amazing!!) stylist does a cut-a-thon in our town so kids who can’t afford to get haircuts can start the school year and semester in Spring with a professional cut, so they feel more in tune with their peers’ style, too.

            These are really important services, and I am glad there are talented and generous people who like to provide them for a living!

          • Sparky said:

            I just learned that someone I know who only threads eyebrows, meaning that is the only service she provides, is making $200,000 a year, here in the mid-west. She is very good at this one skill, reliable, good with the business part of her business, as well as being good with people. And she knows her worth, and charges accordingly. She is booked far in advance. And she sets her own hours, travels some locally, which she likes. Not that income is the only or main measure of anything, but I will probably never make close to 6 figures a year, and will retire long after this young lady. Before I learned this, I had never given any thought to what one might make as an eyebrow threader. Now I am somewhat regretting getting my MLS instead of learning to thread eyebrows. I don’t think I was dismissive of beauticians before this, and income isn’t everything, but I would like the freedom that her income affords her, to be able to buy a house, to buy books, to help out family, to adopt more shelter pets, to travel. I do like my job, and it is “respectable” but I could have a lot of fun with $200,00/year.

          • manybellsdown said:

            Amen. I have curls. When I find someone who can cut them properly I will follow her (or him) to the ends of the earth! And I pay out the nose for it, because I prefer not to look like the business end of a Very Sad Mop.

          • Anisoptera said:

            One of my big takeaways from the new Lisa Eldridge book (Facepaint: the Story of Makeup) was for me how much men have disdained women’s use of makeup for all of recorded history. Eldridge is a makeup artist, not a historian or professional feminist, but I think the feminist message of what she writes is really important. Makeup, as a (usually) women’s activity historically has been disdained and trivialised and outright banned and shamed and generally crapped on. Yet it persists as a human cultural practice almost everywhere in almost every era. I see nothing wrong with an interest in learning to be a makeup artist or hair dresser or other kind of aesthetician. The practice of beauty and artistry and helping people feel nice about how they look is a perfectly reasonable career goal.

          • I’ve been going to the same hairdresser since I was about six – unless I’m desperate and can’t get in to see him!

          • re: Sparky

            oh, heck yeah. I mean, my stylist goes on trips to Nantucket, ski vacations to expensive resorts, probably takes 6+ weeks of vacation a year. She’s making bank.

            My husband’s stepsister has severe dyslexia and college was not for her, but she owns her own high-end salon, which she moved from a tony business district into her home a few years ago (the refitted basement is AMAZING) and during high wedding/tourist season she makes more in a week than I used to make in a year.

            As a culture, we tend to treat the people who do these kinds of services as idiots barely worthy of mention, but truly good stylists are both hard to come by and know to charge what the market will bear. Get it, stylists. Haters gonna hate.

        • Anothermous said:

          My ex once butchered his own hair trying to cut it himself. He looked awful. He had to shave his head. When I asked him, incredulous, why on earth he thought cutting it himself was a good idea (he was ~21 at the time) he responded, defensively, with “Well, it doesn’t seem hard when the stylist does it!”

          Yeah, because they GO TO SCHOOL FOR IT. You know, those professional gymnasts make doing backflips on the balance beam look easy, too!

          Being a stylist or beautician or cosmologist requires professional training and practice, and when people who don’t think that’s important try to replicate their work, they make fools of themselves. Like my ex. Who is an ex for very good reasons, one of which (his cluelessness) is well-demonstrated by the above story.

          • I cut Best Boyfriend’s hair sometimes. It’s hard work, and requires a lot of trust on his part. I wouldn’t even attempt it except that I learned to groom a dog passably about 15 years ago and the skills transfer.

          • NorahMancer said:

            That is probably the single thing that leads teachers like me to rip our hair out at the roots. “I could be a teacher. It doesn’t look hard.” Yeah, well, it’s all the stuff you DON’T see us doing that’s the tricky part.

      • Some people think with their hands. They frequently have an awful time of it in the traditional school system. When male, they’re sometimes encouraged to become auto mechanics, plumbers, carpenters, electricians, etc. When female, any encouragement is usually going to be toward cosmetology.

        I don’t know what country the LW lives in, but if it’s one where the young woman in question would be taking on substantial debt or financial burden if she pursued a four-year degree, and she knows that school just makes her unhappy, good for her for deciding to do something different. Even if she’s not sure yet what that is.

      • thelittlepakeha said:

        I’ve seen a lot of discussion about how going to a stylist is massive for a lot of women because it’s somewhere you can relax and have someone look after you and then come out of it looking fabulous. And given that women are usually expected to be the ones looking after others… And it’s not even strictly a class thing either, because for a lot of women on low incomes they will scrape together the money for it to be their only indulgence since the way you look is so important for how you get treated.

    • RSVP said:

      Yes, yes, yes! When I first moved to the city I currently live in it took ages to find someone who could cut my hair the way I wanted it. When I finally found the best stylist ever, she moved on to another salon and the people at the salon I was going to wouldn’t tell me where. Men often don’t get this because the styles of haircut available to them currently are kind of limited.

      • there’s a reason I have my stylist’s cell phone number and her facebook and her twitter account. she won’t escape ME. well, except she’s talking about moving to another city…that would probably do it.

  22. Nanani said:

    LW, your letter is so PAINFULLY 19 it makes many people wince in past-self recognition.
    I hope your life at uni brings you into contact with many people with diverse interests and personalities and that you all help each other polish your rough edges.

    BTW I don’t see what’s “generic” about knowing what you’re interested in (cosmetology) and not interested in (getting a bachelor’s degree) at 19. If you think about it, you probably don’t really think that either, I hope.

  23. Rachel said:

    LW, I have known many men who talk the way you write. (And yes – always men.) I even made the mistake of trying to date one of them. I say this because you remind me so much of certain people that I can’t NOT think of them.

    One of them got so obsessive with ‘fixing’ me and “filling my schedule” and helping me with my “undeveloped ego” that I got a restraining order and dropped out of school. That, more than anything he did directly, made me grow way up at 18/19.

    I beg you, work on interpersonal skills more than your ‘accomplishments’ and (not-so-)fixed insecurities. If you tell her anything you told Captain, she is going to either run fast and far or kill herself trying to be what you want. Neither is pretty.

    She is not a ‘leading lady’ in your story. She’s the star of her own story. Don’t ever forget that, with anyone, or you’ll find yourself alone very, very quickly.

  24. Bunny said:

    LW, I apologise in advance because I’m not going to be as gentle as the Captain was. I get that you’re young, and we all like to treat young people gently when they’re learning this stuff, but your choice of how you’ve framed this dilemma are extremely telling. You’re at a time in your life when you’re forming who you’ll be, and I don’t want you to miss the important points in what people are saying above me. No one wants you to end up becoming exactly the kind of awful, condescending, sexist arsehole women joke about when comparing terrible dates we’ve been on.

    If you’re interested in dating, anyone, ever, then you need to seriously get your head out of this mindset where you see potential dating partners as “leading ladies in your life story”. Because they aren’t. They’re people. Separate, sapient, sentient, feeling, whole People. We are all, each of us, the protagonist in our own stories. Women included.

    It’s not “cute” or “amusing” to be asked out by a woman. WTF even IS that in your letter??? She thought you seemed nice, so she asked you out. And she sensibly waited until you were no longer employed by her father to do so. It’s also not generally a soul-crushing experience to be turned down for a second date with someone you went on one single date with. No dude, not even when it’s oh-so-special you. (And I am seriously side-eyeing that “under-developed” snipe at her self-esteem. WTF is that all about? You do realise that negging is something you do *at* the person, not *about them* behind their back, right?*)

    If you’re not into someone, that’s fine. It’s okay to feel like you’re not compatible with someone else for all kinds of reasons. I love to read, and one of the things that drew me to my other half is that we both have similar interest in books, and both love to read. The first thing we did when we moved in together was consolidate our book collections and take stock of any duplicates we had (there were a bunch!). If I was single again and looking to date, I’d probably not go on a second date with anyone who didn’t enjoy reading. Not because I’m somehow superior to them for liking a good book. But because of the importance that reading, and sharing, discussing, critiquing and crying about a good book has in my life.

    You went on one date with someone. You didn’t find the date especially exciting, and you’re not that into them. So, the answer is simple. Don’t go on a second date. Here’s a chance to learn a really important Adult Life Skill. Rejecting someone politely. Especially, rejecting someone without inflating your own ego and condescending grossly to them in the process. “Date, I had a nice time the other night, but I’ve been thinking about things, and I don’t feel we should go on another date together.”. There. Done. No need for any of that other crap you mentioned.

    *it’s not something you should do at all, ever, because it’s terrible and is done by terrible people and will make you the laughing stock of any group of women who are “developed” and “mature” enough, but seriously. Your letter reads like you’re rehearsing PUA lines to share with your bros.

    • RSVP said:

      “And she sensibly waited until you were no longer employed by her father to do so.”
      I noticed that, too. Smart girl! I went on one date with a coworker when I was about the same age as the LW and it was very awkward afterwards, because he was so clearly incompatible, but still wanted to continue going out with me.

  25. NorahMancer said:

    As a side note – did anybody else catch the part where the LW mentioned she’s had two or three exes and get a bit of a vibe off that? Like an “oh, three breakups already? So not so good at commitment then”. Whether intentional or not, it comes off really, really judgey.

    • norainur said:

      Yeah, that and the bit about himself only having had one previous relationship.

      Definitely judgey, but it also made me think he might (in spite of his amazingness) also maybe be feeling a bit inferior?

      I knew a guy at uni who was really really insecure, especially about never having gone out with anyone. He was so desperate to have a girlfriend he would essentially see every woman he met as POTENTIAL GF (which is, obviously, not very attractive) and sort of compulsively hit on them even when they were clearly not very well matched. This led to him finding terrible flaws with every single person he dated and be kinda awful when talking about them (a bit like LW here) and go on and on about never meeting anyone up to his “standards” and how shit his luck was, when the real problem, along with some sexism stuff, was clearly that his criteria for dating someone (and I’m not just talking one date here) was “lady, willing to date me” and not, say, “lady, with same taste in movies and music as me” (or whatever).

      He felt so inferior because of his perception that everyone, and women especially, were so much more experienced than him that it made him really defensive and sabotaged his dating life for years. “Status” was important to him, and his desperation to tick these boxes on the way to making his life what he thought it should be (go on date, have sex, have very serious girlfriend) just made him not very nice.

      • resili0 said:

        I dated a guy like that, eerily like that.

        • The Awe Ritual said:

          I think that it might be fairly common. I call the pursuit they fling at me, “carbon-based crushing.” I work at a call center in a region where single women of any age are thin on the ground. There is always, always the guy who is putting his life together after a great upheaval who hovers about my desk before the “wears much plaid flannel,, does not shave legs,” clicks with a vague recollection that the pink triangle patch meant something in history somewhere…

      • Casting said:

        Not judgey. Just really uncomfortable because here’s someone who probably gets along with people instantly and doesn’t overthink everything like I do. Somebody comfortable with crowds and parties and somehow able to stop taking themselves seriously. Someone I know from experience will also eventually wonder why they liked me as I already wondered of them.

        I’ve had trouble not overthinking everything. Socially, I’m stunted and communicate poorly. The vast majority of people in my life are outright cruel when I make minor mistakes. So university and working are the ways I build a better environment to grow in. And it’s been helping. I’ve made vast progress as I’ve distanced myself from unhealthy people. I’m not entirely healthy yet, but I’m recovering.

        I’ll do my best to stay away from the Lifetime Achievements Checklist mentality that you’ve mentioned, because that sounds like a path I’m approaching, but still have time to avoid.

        At its core, I won’t be able to live a healthy life until I can let go of the honestly frightening perception that I’m free to be an idiot (and therefore have a responsibility to not be another misguided teenager). Unfortunately, that is a much tougher problem to handle than ‘how do I tell this wonderful, but very different, person that I’m not interested?’

        I’m ready to date, but not to waste time or hurt people while I recover from an unhealthy upbringing.

        • norainur said:

          Well, the good news is that the guy from my story is doing way better now! It gets better.

          Now, you are absolutely not less worthy than anyone else just because they are better at the social stuff than you. It is just not true. As someone with an Anxiety Disorder, I know how hard it can be to even try to accept that that seemingly indisputable fact is completely false, but it is. Trust me. Moreover, you’d be amazed to know how many of those people you see who just seem to “get” how to be around people when you yourself find it so incredibly hard are actually struggling with insecurities of their own, sometimes similar to yours, sometimes different ones. The most socially adept person I know is also one of the most insecure, she just hides it well.

          I’m glad you feel like you are doing better, and if you want to date you can date. If you are passionate about your hobbies, maybe that’s a good place to try to meet new people that you have something in common with? Not even necessarily to date, making new friends can do wonderful things for your confidence and overall well-being. But when you say you’re not entirely healthy yet it makes me wonder if you are actually ready to date now? It’s a cliche, but only because it’s true: It’s really hard to love someone else when you don’t love yourself.

        • Dear Casting,

          You will find your people, possibly professionally, possibly academically, possibly at parties.

          And it’s good that you can recognize that someone can be cool, but not for you.

          I’m going to gently suggest two things:
          – A really cool person can be a great friend, even if they are a bad romantic fit
          – Consume art and media by women

        • Hey 🙂 So I was basically raised by wolves. When I bought a bus ticket out of the forest and left the pack behind, I had about as many skills for living in the world among humans as you might expect from someone raised by wolves. I am now a happy, healthy, successful, educated person with pretty good social skills. I did all of that myself. I still mess up sometimes, but that’s the human condition. But I say this because–it can be done! I know because I did it. How did I do it? I watched normal people interact and figured out what their various social rituals were and did and meant, and I figured out how to enact them and then how to alter them to better fit myself and my needs. I read books, particularly good literature meant for adolescents, since a lot of those deal with basic “how to people” problems and guidelines, and are meant for people with the social experience level I had at that time (I still read kids’ and YA books because I love them, but they really did help me learn to people when I was a late teen/young 20s who was trying to figure it all out).

          It can be really frustrating and terrifying, especially if you come from a background with really unhealthy patterns of communication, to people in the way you’ve been brought up to people and have those around you come down on you swiftly and brutally for gaffes you only half understand you made, and only after the fact. You can get past it, but it’s going to take work and time. Try not to get discouraged! I believe in your victory.

        • Rose Fox said:

          Just really uncomfortable because here’s someone who probably gets along with people instantly and doesn’t overthink everything like I do. Somebody comfortable with crowds and parties and somehow able to stop taking themselves seriously. Someone I know from experience will also eventually wonder why they liked me as I already wondered of them.

          I’m one of those people who’s super socially adept, has 5000+ Twitter followers who all feel like they know me personally, calendar booked up months in advance, etc. etc. I make it look very easy. And I got there by starting at absolute zero–I was in therapy before I was even in my teens because I basically refused to interact with my peers–and painstakingly training myself in the mysterious ways of human interaction.

          I messed up a lot. For a long time I thought I had to trade sex for affection, and that I had to pretend to be docile and submissive so men would date me. I was full of rage at the world and so other people always thought I was mad at them, because anything I said (including, most memorably, “Would you move over so I can sit down?”) sounded like I was snapping angrily. In my mid-20s my boyfriend died and I kind of went out of my mind with grief and cut a lot of people out of my life; it took years and years to rebuild from that.

          In a generally very difficult cross-country move, I left behind a huge welcoming community and returned to the city I’d grown up in–which my few childhood friends had moved away from. Developing anything like a local circle of friends has been hard, hard, hard work. That move was almost 11 years ago and I have all of six local friends I really care a lot about and make a point of seeing regularly. But I’m sure everyone thinks I have way more close friends than that, because at parties and events I’m a social butterfly. My work and social lives overlap extensively, which helps with making introductions but makes it hard to really get close to anyone.

          In my experience, most people who look super socially adept are just as nervous and afraid of rejection and prone to overthinking as the rest of us. Interacting with people in a social environment is a learned skill. Being capable of learning how to be the life of the party has nothing to do with what’s going on in your head before, during, and after the party. I’d even hazard a guess that most of us who put so much effort into developing that skill do it because we’re terrified of spending the rest of our lives alone on a plank in the ocean or in a squalid apartment full of cats or whatever your preferred social disaster image is. We get really good at keeping people around, by any means necessary including hiding our own natural personalities and preferences, because we’re absolutely certain that they’re all going to leave unless we somehow trick them into staying.

          We’re all messed up, you know? Every single one of us. So try not to hold your inner self to the standard claimed by other people’s outer selves–that’s just as impossible as expecting your naked just-woke-up face to look like a professionally painted model in an aggressively airbrushed photo.

          • ancolie said:

            I just wanted to tell you this is an amazing post. I think a lot of socially stunted/awkward people can’t grok this reality because it’s *perceived* as so different from their own. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

          • Hannahbelle said:

            I’m actually inspired to go and do this now, because this is a complete 180 on the way I’ve always thought of sociable vs unsociable people. I was raised in the “introverts are people too” generation and flew that flag so proudly that I assumed anyone with genuine social skills must be a natural extrovert. Boy, I can feel that sense of Oh Shit beginning to sink in just as I read this and realize how very wrong I was. But I also really love your comment for clearly it dispels a myth that I’d never even thought to question. Seriously, thank you so, so much.

    • eselle28 said:

      I actually didn’t and was inclined to read that more charitably. The sentences near that one are about how she spent time talking about less happy parts of her life such as her problems with her parents and her not being fond of her job. Talk of exes often tends to be a little negative as well and many people dislike it even if it’s neutral and they’re fine having dated someone who’s dated a lot. I assumed that was included to give a sense of her as someone who shared more than he felt comfortable with or who he found to be a bit of a downer.

      None of which means the woman needs to change or that the LW should help her. But I think this particular part of him being turned off is a relatively common, if not universal, preference for people who open up a bit more slowly and/or prone to talking mostly about positive things on early dates.

      • norainur said:

        Yeah, it might mean nothing and I could totally be projecting/reading too much into things here. I definitely also read that sentence as mainly a complaint about her talking about exes/negative things only (which is a completely valid thing to be turned off by, I think), but I thought the added information about how many there were seemed unnecessary and a bit odd.

        • I have a similar feeling. Because to me, it seems irrelevant, but to the LW it wasn’t? Like her number of previous relationships is something that has larger meaning to the LW than a literal count. And in my experience, when “number of former partners” is used as a description of a woman, it’s never a good thing.

  26. minuteye said:

    I have dated my share of jerks, but to this day, the shittiest thing I have ever been told while dating came from an otherwise nice person who at the end of our first date felt the need to reassure me that while he didn’t want to date me: “I’m sure somebody would find you attractive.”*

    Thanks ever so much, I’m glad you’re confident that another member of the species might not be disgusted by me, maybe now can I find the strength to try again. /sarcasm

    LW, I want to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you’re making the same mistake he did: trying so hard to be nice while rejecting someone that you wind up being INCREDIBLY CONDESCENDING. She doesn’t need to know that you think she’s “wonderful and brave” or that (ick) she isn’t ready yet to be the kind of “Female Lead” that you would find interesting, but maybe one day she will be!!!! (cross fingers) All she needs to know is that you don’t want to date her.

    *To be clear: it wasn’t shitty of him to not be attracted to me (there was no attraction on either of our parts, to be frank), it was the way he decided to express that information.

  27. Katamari said:

    LW, it’s enough to say “I find this girl boring so I’m not going to keep dating her”. You don’t have to follow it up with “Here are a million reasons which prove that she is an objectively boring and undeveloped person and I am several rungs above her on the ladder of personal worthiness”. That is neither mature nor “developed” nor kind.

  28. megpie71 said:

    I’d put it this way: when we’re young, we make mistakes born of lack of life experience. These mistakes are how we gain the life experience to avoid making those sorts of mistakes again. The mistakes we make when we’re young are often the sorts of mistakes which are thought of by people older than us (who have already made these same mistakes and learned the lessons from them) as silly, stupid, daft, idiotic and other such words – because if someone their age was making that same mistake, it would be an indicator of a person who has failed to learn from experience.

    (I’d also point out: some older people, for example, our parents, may attempt to prevent us from having to make these mistakes by trying to teach from their own experience or over-controlling our lives to the point where it isn’t possible to make mistakes in that manner. This just leads to us making other mistakes which are just as foolish. Humans are weird creatures – we learn best by screwing up on our own).

    Now, LW: you’re getting a few comments which are pointing out you’re behaving in a manner which is both condescending and sexist. I’m of the opinion this is of those things which falls into the category of “mistakes born of lack of life experience”. It takes time to learn how to ignore society’s promptings on matters such as gender relations, race relations and so on (if one ever does); and how to politely tell society that you think its opinions on such matters stink, and you’re going your own way on this, thanks very much. But be aware: things like sexism, racism, etc are largely a failure of empathy – you have to consider where another person is coming from, the messages they’ve been hearing from society all their life and so on, before you can really judge whether another person is “failing” at life (scare quotes deliberate, because one person’s “failure” can be another person’s outstanding success).

    You’ve worked on your self-esteem and self-worth, and well done to you (particularly if you’re not actually white[1]). But be aware that the opposite of an error is often just the opposite error – the opposite of the meek, timid little milquetoast is the overblown, bullying blowhard bore. Recognise that not everyone is you, not everyone wants the same things out of life that you do. Also, recognise that while you’re the lead character in your story, everyone else is also the lead character in their own story – unlike a movie or a TV show, we don’t have a single A plot and maybe a couple of B plots and nothing else. Real life has seven billion A plots all running simultaneously. And in a lot of these stories, you’re not even a face in the crowd…

    One final bit of wisdom from me – the law of Chinese relativity: no matter how great your triumph, no matter how terrible your tragedy, one billion Chinese could not care less.

    (Oh, and follow the Captain’s advice above when declining the second date with the young lady).

    [1] White men are a demographic group which is highly valued in Western society (if you don’t believe me, look at which demographic has the majority of the money and power), as well as being the group for whom Western culture is still largely created (don’t believe me? What race and gender are most cinematic and televisual leads?). It is thus comparatively easy for them to receive external validation of their self-worth, and build their self-esteem.

  29. SMK said:

    LW, my big worry for you is that the next woman who passes your audition process will literally worship you. This is not good or fun or desirable for either party. You have a lot to be proud of, and a lot to offer, but you might attract a few desperate clingers in your dating future. That’s exactly what kind of dater I was back when I was in my late teens – mid 20’s. “He has a job? He has aspirations and goals? He’s smart? OMG here’s my soul and also my bank account information, can I just curl up here in your closet and watch you while you read philosophy books???”

    The best solution I can offer you is to say “No” early and often. Far far better to say “No” to a second date, or even a first casual hang out, than have to extricate yourself from a relationship where someone has completely subsumed their personality and interests in the pursuit of loving you better.

    Keep on growing, and changing, and adapting. Good luck.

  30. LW, I was once a young lady who was told in a flowerly email that I was the leading lady in his life story- the Beatrice to his Benedick, the Elizabeth to his Darcy. I just needed to change my opinion on a cooooouple things… It’s not flattering to be told you are the leading lady (especially when you have no interest), so I imagine being told the opposite would be even less welcome.

    The Captain is right. Just thank her for a nice time, tell her you’ve decided you don’t want a second date, and wish her well. She’ll be fine. Possibly disappointed, but disappointment fades. You’ll feel better about yourself in the long run if you do that rather than tell her how to fix herself so she can fit your casting call.

    • “Can you play this with a bit less confidence, almost as though you’re totally dependent on me for your sense of self-worth?”

  31. Whooo boy.

    Hey, so, I’ve been reading for a long, long time, but never commented before. This is touching a nerve with me, but I think it’s because this guy reminds me so much of my recent ex. There’s a good chance I’m projecting here.

    I’ve been that girl who was told that her lack of hobbies/interests/life of her own was bringing the other person down. Quite recently, in fact! I’m in my early 30s, and it hurt (well… still hurts) like hell. I was with someone who I loved with my whole heart, but he thought I was living my life for him, instead of having my own life, that I was changing for him, that I existed only as a person in his life. He made a lot of assumptions about me and my behaviors and motivations, without even trying to understand where I was coming from. So I’m writing this as someone who has been condescended to in the way that LW was planning to talk to this girl.

    LW, you’re young enough to change. Don’t be like my ex. Don’t be middle-aged and still treating women as objects. Be better.

    It was this bit in particular that got me:

    “it seems she dates as a form of entertainment; escape from her life. I date for a strong equal to share my interesting life with, and I’m not seeing a lot of that in her.

    I’m not interested in being a crutch and I can’t save her from a boring life. If there’s a way for her to grow up and not rely on me to fill up her open schedule, I’m open to sharing a life with her. Although she’s my age (19), I don’t think she’s at the point where I can tell her this without grievously wounding her undeveloped ego, especially given how she admires me.”

    LW, you’re making the astounding leap in logic in assuming that this girl has a boring life and is existing for you (after one date), and assuming that your life is in fact as interesting as you think it is. Her lack of hobbies and different life plan doesn’t make her underdeveloped. The fact is, at 19, NO ONE is finished developing. No one has their life that together, and saying “I don’t know” isn’t a sign of weakness or lack of character. It doesn’t mean that she’s trying to force her life to revolve around you. It just means she doesn’t have any strong feelings about her hobbies and interests, probably because she’s still figuring them out! And she’s probably not looking for you to validate her as an interesting person, either. She just wanted to go out and have fun.

    Which, by the way, is fine. Dating for fun is fine. It’s just clearly not what your intentions are with dating. Everyone is different!

    I heaved a sigh of relief when I read that you hadn’t said anything to this girl yet. I hope that’s still the case. Please, I beg you, go with the advice Cap has given you. Be brief and succinct. Process your other feelings on your own, and don’t hurt this girl by saying what you had planned to say. There’s no reason for you to say something that could linger and have lasting negative effects on her when all you have to do is literally tell her (politely) that you don’t want to go out again. It’s that easy.

  32. Vicki said:

    First of all, the advice the Captain frequently gives to letter-writers isn’t only for women: “I don’t want to date you” is sufficient reason. You don’t have to justify it, to her, us, or your friends or family.

    The rest of this is mostly for future reference, on the assumption that you will be going on more dates in the future:

    What’s wrong with your date talking about “her life in general”? I thought it was normal, on early dates, for both parties to talk about their lives in general. That’s how you discover a shared interest in roller derby or mountain biking or matchbox cars, or that there’s someone else in the area who doesn’t get it about the Seahawks. (Nobody is likely to mention “not watching football” or “not putting a 12 sign in the window” when asked about their hobbies.)

    Being on great terms with your family is partly a matter of luck (including what kind of people your parents and other relatives are, and how well they understand you-at-19). If you want to make that a deal-breaker for women you’ll date, that’s your business*. But those good terms aren’t a sign of being more stronger or more mature. Given that you think your ex-boss would be unhappy with his daughter dating someone who left his company, how easy do you think it would be for her to move on to a better job? Your parents were unlikely to be upset when you left that “glum environment” for something that was better for you.

  33. Dude – you’re an arse. Also – check your privilege!

    All women, to a greater or lessor extent, have been socialised to pander to the male ego.

    Don’t be too confident or assertive – that can be seen as aggressive.
    Don’t be too ambitious – that can be seen as ‘butch’.
    Don’t be too smart – you’ll make them feel stupid.
    Don’t be too sexual – they’ll think you’re a slut.
    Don’t be too sexually timid – they’ll think you’re a prude.
    Don’t be too pretty – they’ll think you’re a superficial airhead.
    Don’t be too ugly – they’ll think you don’t care about yourself.
    Don’t earn too much money – they’ll find it emasculating.

    Don’t be a feminist – they’ll thinking you’re a man-hating, hairy-legged lesbian who can’t get any and needs a ‘real’ man to set her straight…

    The list is truly endless.

    Whether this lady was speaking in code to cover her true interests and ambitions (something many, MANY women do) or is in that place of figuring-myself-and-my-future-out-and-keeping-options-open – YOU ARE AN ARSE.

    Get off your high horse. It’s unbecoming.

    • Big Pink Box said:

      ILU

      Girls and women cannot win. Cradle to grave is a ceaseless treadmill that leads to a set of ever-shifting goalposts While we’re on that treadmill we are constantly pelted with bloody massive binbags full of those dichotomous nuggets of steaming misogyny. We’re always simultaneously “too much” and “not enough” .

      I hope the future cosmetologist goes on to meet someone who adores her for what she is, rather than criticising what she isn’t I predict LW will never find the Manic Pixie Dream Girl he desires, because she doesn’t exist in the material realm.

        • slfisher said:

          I was just reading an article about how women are now criticized by men for being funny, so increasingly women are only being funny with each other. I don’t blame anyone for not letting their personality off the leash for the first couple of dates.

          • The Room Where It Happens said:

            WTF.

            I swear to God, no matter what women do in this world, it’s wrong.

          • human said:

            Wait, I thought we were humorless bitches.

            WHICH IS IT? Halp! I need to know how to be!

          • thelittlepakeha said:

            IME women are funnier than men, but you often have to show you’re not going to be an arsehole before they start dropping their best material. (Alternately, they drop their best material in response to arseholes, but then you only get to see one joke.)

  34. Jackalope said:

    As I was reading this, I was reminded of the Newbery Award acceptance speech given by my favorite author (which can be found in its entirety here: http://www.robinmckinley.com/essays/speech_newbery.php ) I think it nails one of the reasons that many of us are responding strongly to the “female lead” part of this letter.

    “I know that my stories are not the only ones on bookshelves today that feature female heroes — someday, indeed, I want to write a long, graphic essay or teach an arduous course on Real Heroines in Victorian Literature — but there are still far too few. There are still far too many stories in which the female lead is paid only lip service to her potential usefulness; who proves she is worth the hero’s time by being “spirited,” as if she were a horse to be broken to saddle, which is, in fact, a dismayingly frequent metaphor; or who is lucky enough to have the traditional, accredited female virtues of sympathy and patience and gets along just fine by being patient and sympathetic with the right people.

    Not all girls are patient and sympathetic any more than all boys are going to join the French Foreign Legion when things get sticky at home. I wished desperately for books like Hero when I was young: books that didn’t require me to be untrue to my gender if I wished to fantasize about having my sort of adventures, not about wearing long, trailing dresses and casting languorous looks into pools with rose petals floating in them as the setting sun glimmers through my translucent white fingers and I think about my lover who is off somewhere having interesting adventures.”

    This is what women have been told throughout history is our role: we don’t get to be the star, we’re just the supporting love interest for HIS adventure, the reason that spurs him to do Dashing Deeds or the tragic death that builds his character, the one who takes care of everything on the home front while he’s off doing Interesting Things. Frankly, we’re tired of it, because as others have said, everyone is the star in the story of their own life. While you may have meant nothing by it, and indeed your thoughts are probably common, it galls on those of us who’ve been pushed into the above roles. And yes, that story of our own lives may mean making a career in cosmetology, or chasing celebrities (I know someone whose career has consisted of working for journals that write up the latest celebrity gossip; I would hate it, but kudos to her for finding her path), or taking a variety of minimum wage jobs here and there to gain enough Life Experience to write a novel, or whatever it may be.

    Anyway, just thought I’d throw this out there because I thought Ms. McKinley said this so much better than I could.

    • roramich said:

      A+, go to the head of the class!

  35. The Room Where It Happens said:

    LW, my sincerest hope for you is that ten years from now, you’ll cringe when you remember writing this letter. I hope you’ll shake your head at how full of yourself you were and laugh when you recall how you thought you were in danger of SHATTERING SOMEBODY ELSE’S WORLD by turning her down after a grand total of one date. Above all, I hope you’ll be thankful that your view of women has evolved enough for you to understand that being consigned to a supporting role in the story of your life is not the privilege you presently imagine it to be. I hope Future You will be self-aware enough and humble enough to know that every woman you may date is the hero of her own story and not just a player in yours, and that you’ll go on to form satisfying partnerships based on mutual respect.

    • Casting said:

      Honestly, I’m already cringing.

      All I had to do was say that someone liked me, and although they had their own life, I needed help telling them we weren’t compatible. And to not be an ass doing it.

      I asked for expert help before I did to the text what I did to the request for help. Thanks to Captain, although I received a huge lesson in brevity (and not trying to use poetic but antiquated metaphors), I was able to learn the correct way to say (and do) ‘it’s not meant to be’. I’m not joking, Captain probably saved me an awkward second date, a condescending thanks but no thanks text, and potentially the relationship with someone who’s nice, but not going to work out (for either party).

      I’ve only dated once, so I basically have no idea how to date, let alone handle people liking me. I’ve got my superficial confidence issues and social faux paux out of the way and am beginning to work on deeper issues, but as a result of this effort, I’ve had people actually wanting to know me (and I generally mess up because I’m still a work in progress). Not a big deal for most well-adapted adults, but I’ve never had the chance to… before I use an antiquated naval metaphor about navigation… I simply have no clue what the basics are.

      And in addition, I’m the kind of idiot to use poetic prose because somehow it leads to less misunderstandings?

      I’m sure you’re right about how I’ll look back at this.

      • gmg said:

        Casting, good sir, I know you’re struggling here. I want to point something else out to which I hope you’ll give some thought. You are very concerned at how your “poetic prose” is coming off, to the point that I think maybe you think it’s the main problem here. Short-form response to that: It is not. NO ONE is criticizing your “poetic prose” or lack of brevity. EVERYONE is suggesting (with varying degrees of patience) to look back through the SUBSTANCE of how you described this girl and ask yourself what that says about your respect or lack thereof for her, other potential dates, or just other people and their choices in general.

        “I basically have no idea how to date, let alone handle people liking me” — heck, I’m 40 and I struggle with this. It’s okay. You’re going to be okay. And I get the need to put up some walls when you are dealing with a lack of confidence (sooooo been there). But you have to understand exactly what it is here that’s worth working on and what are the red herrings. The “antiquated metaphors” are the red herrings. You can be as darn poetic and flowery and old-timey and verbose as you want if it’s coming from a place of openness and respect for those around you. To get to that place CAN be scary and DOES take work, so I wish you all the very best on the ongoing journey.

        • gmg raises an important—nay, CRITICAL—point here, so I’m going to amplify it. People who would be good friends and/or dates for you *will* enjoy your love of language. They will *not* enjoy it if you use poetry, literary references, metaphors, or anything of the sort in order to show disdain or to Other people. The naval metaphor you avoided was probably fine if it was only antiquated. If it was antiquated in a sexist, racist, or otherwise prejudicial way, though, then it is a very good thing you left it out.

        • Big Pink Box said:

          OMGTHIS!

          It’s not about the cut of the dress and how well it fits.  It could be beautifully hemmed and artfully draped, accentuating all of someone’s best features while drawing attention away from any perceived body flaws, but if that shit’s made of lime green and purple crimplene, with paisley on one side and polka dots on the other, then nobody’s going to buy it.

          The flowery prose and talking around the problems were not what got peoples’ backs up.  It was the message, not the delivery.  To whit:

          This girl is wonderful,

          “She’s hot”

          but it seems she dates as a form of entertainment; escape from her life. I date for a strong equal to share my interesting life with, and I’m not seeing a lot of that in her.

          “I’m strong, and interesting, she’s weak, boring, and frivolous. Dating isn’t supposed to be fun!”

          I’m not interested in being a crutch and I can’t save her from a boring life.

          “Even though I don’t yet know much about her life, it’s clearly so tedious that the poor dear yearns for me to rescue her. After one date.”

          If there’s a way for her to grow up and not rely on me to fill up her open schedule, I’m open to sharing a life with her.

          “She’s really hot, but I don’t think I could stand to be around her for too long, too immature.. Did I mention she was hot?”

          Although she’s my age (19), I don’t think she’s at the point where I can tell her this without grievously wounding her undeveloped ego, especially given how she admires me

          “Telling her she’s dull, vapid and immature would probably hurt her underdeveloped girlbrain, and will definitely kill any chance of… Ahem. Anyway, the poor child is clearly so in thrall to my charm, winning personality, and fascinatingly adventurous life that I fear any rejection would shatter her dreams and psyche to pieces. To. Pieces.”

          She’s “wonderful”, but her goals are unambitious, she’s boring and shallow, and she lacks maturity? There’s no such thing as “wonderful but“. I could’ve done the same with the whole letter, but I couldn’t be bothered, because even I only have 24 free hours a day.

          Condescension never won fair maiden. You need to find the middle ground between old you, and new you. You can be proud of your achievements without boasting, it’s possible to elicit information from someone without quizzing them, etc.

          Now, WRT the whole “I get along brilliantly with my family and she complains about hers!” thing. I’m guessing that you have had a “normal” upbringing, with loving parents and a fairly stable home, yeah?

          How someone relates to their family is down to a complex mix of factors. Not all of us have good parents, or a safe, stable upbringing. I know you’ve worked with Wonderful’s dad, but how someone is at work, or in front of guests, can bear little relation to how they act with their family. I have, in the past, ghosted friends who called me “immature” and “rude and disrespectful” because of how I talked to/about my “wonderful, so sweet!” parents. I bet there are ten others here who could tell you the same. So be careful about judging someone based on the way they talk about their family.

          I’m sure you’re a decent young bloke, but the middle ground is your friend, and hyperbole and high horses can lead to hurt feelings all round. Compromise is vital in relationships and romance. Nobody wants to be taken on as a project, a “fixer upper” as’t’were. You have plenty of faults, they’ll have plenty of faults, because they’re human. It’s the shared interests and the cute little quirks someone has that sparks the fire. Fun times, and relaxed, easy conversations that last for hours are the kindling that lets the flame grow.

          My Wife and I had different interests and upbringings, I came out at 21 and she was married to a man first. When we met she was doing factory work, and I was a health advisor. Three dates later we were joined at the hip and spending most nights and days off together, and after three months we moved in together, even though she lived thirty miles from my workplace, and it was my first relationship. That was 2005, she’s on the couch playing some Android game while I put the world to rights. The only nights we’ve ever spent apart were because of emergency hospital admissions. Those gaps between our differences simply left more room to be filled with love, happiness, and new shared passions and experiences. We’ve even ended up liking some of each other’s interests that we’d both assumed we wouldn’t like. It turns out that the company really matters more than skill or technique.

          You’ll get there in the end, most do, but you’ll need to chill out a bit first. If you’re filling all the gapa in the conversation out of nerves, or whatever, then she won’t be able to contribute. If someone is “wonderful” but has a career goal you wouldn’t choose for yourself, why does that affect how great they are? As long as they’re not making money through nefarious deeds and dodgy dealings, how does a cosmetologist differ from any other artist.* Why’s that such a turn off, is it because you look down on service jobs, or that you’d be ashamed that potential girlfriend did makeup for a living?

          Just remember that all relationships are are a two way street., and If you keep throwing up roadblocks then nobody will get through. It sounds cliché but relax, don’t be too serious, and have fun. You know what sealed the deal for my wife? I dropped my handbag on the pub floor and all of my tampons and Chupa Chups fell out. She thought I was so relaxed about it, so funny with my explanation of why my bag only contained lollies and sanitary protection (I believe I said it had something to do with espionage and the circus), that she had to ask me out. I wasn’t interviewing for a job, I wanted someone to see me on my best day, and she got that. So just act naturally, keep an open mind, and you may be surprised!

          Bonne chance.

          • Casting said:

            Just to be clear, part of the reason dating is awkward for me is that I don’t find people ‘hot’. I generally find people interesting. By wonderful, I meant that we had a pleasant time together. We got along well, but it also became clear that her values were different.

            Having little experience dating, and dealing with people’s feelings, I was worried saying how I felt would hurt this person. It wasn’t about her being a girl. It was about me having no idea what would happen if I said no to someone who wanted me as more than a friend, and how to say no in the first place.

            It wasn’t about ‘girlbrains’. It was about ‘someone who had a crush on me, a negative outlook on life, and little sense of direction’.

            But like the socially inept person I am, I had a poor sense of how to communicate that.

          • Vicki said:

            It’s possible that you’re one of the people who shouldn’t “date” in the sense of going out with people who aren’t already friends of yours, but should be open to a friend expressing interest in you as a romantic or sexual partner, or expressing such interest in a friend if you realize after a while that you’re attracted to them. (Or you may discover in a year or ten that you’re just not interested in that kind of relationship, which would be okay too.) N.B. This isn’t “be her friend so she’ll be grateful and offer a sexual relationship,” it’s that some people are attracted primarily or exclusively to people we already know.

            Asking someone out in that context can feel scary, because the stakes of being turned down and potential awkwardness are higher with a good friend than a casual acquaintance. There are people I never did ask, because of that perceived risk, but sometimes it works out. And sometimes those friends will say no and you’ll be disappointed or unhappy, but the only way to avoid that kind of disappointment is to always wait to be asked, which in turn can put you back at looking for relatively gentle ways to say “sorry, no.”

        • Big Pink Box said:

          OMGTHIS!

          It’s not about the cut of the dress and how well it fits.  It could be beautifully hemmed and artfully draped, accentuating all of someone’s best features while drawing attention away from any perceived body flaws, but if that shit’s made of lime green and purple crimplene, with paisley on one side and polka dots on the other, then nobody’s going to buy it.

          The flowery prose and talking around the problems were not what got peoples’ backs up.  It was the message, not the delivery.  To whit:

          This girl is wonderful,

          “She’s hot”

          but it seems she dates as a form of entertainment; escape from her life. I date for a strong equal to share my interesting life with, and I’m not seeing a lot of that in her.

          “I’m strong, and interesting, she’s weak, boring, and frivolous. Dating isn’t supposed to be fun!”

          I’m not interested in being a crutch and I can’t save her from a boring life.

          “Even though I don’t yet know much about her life, it’s clearly so tedious that the poor dear yearns for me to rescue her. After one date.”

          If there’s a way for her to grow up and not rely on me to fill up her open schedule, I’m open to sharing a life with her.

          “She’s really hot, but I don’t think I could stand to be around her for too long, too immature.. Did I mention she was hot?”

          Although she’s my age (19), I don’t think she’s at the point where I can tell her this without grievously wounding her undeveloped ego, especially given how she admires me

          “Telling her she’s dull, vapid and immature would probably hurt her underdeveloped girlbrain, and will definitely kill any chance of… Ahem. Anyway, the poor child is clearly so in thrall to my charm, winning personality, and fascinatingly adventurous life that I fear any rejection would shatter her dreams and psyche to pieces. To. Pieces.”

          She’s “wonderful”, but her goals are unambitious, she’s boring and shallow, and she lacks maturity? There’s no such thing as “wonderful but“. I could’ve done the same with the whole letter, but I couldn’t be bothered, because even I only have 24 free hours a day.

          Condescension never won fair maiden. You need to find the middle ground between old you, and new you. You can be proud of your achievements without boasting, it’s possible to elicit information from someone without quizzing them, etc.

          Now, WRT the whole “I get along brilliantly with my family and she complains about hers!” thing. I’m guessing that you have had a “normal” upbringing, with loving parents and a fairly stable home, yeah?

          How someone relates to their family is down to a complex mix of factors. Not all of us have good parents, or a safe, stable upbringing. I know you’ve worked with Wonderful’s dad, but how someone is at work, or in front of guests, can bear little relation to how they act with their family. I have, in the past, ghosted friends who called me “immature” and “rude and disrespectful” because of how I talked to/about my “wonderful, so sweet!” parents. I bet there are ten others here who could tell you the same. So be careful about judging someone based on the way they talk about their family.

          I’m sure you’re a decent young bloke, but the middle ground is your friend, and hyperbole and high horses can lead to hurt feelings all round. Compromise is vital in relationships and romance. Nobody wants to be taken on as a project, a “fixer upper” as’t’were. You have plenty of faults, they’ll have plenty of faults, because they’re human. It’s the shared interests and the cute little quirks someone has that sparks the fire. Fun times, and relaxed, easy conversations that last for hours are the kindling that lets the flame grow.

          My Wife and I had different interests and upbringings, I came out at 21 and she was married to a man first. When we met she was doing factory work, and I was a health advisor. Three dates later we were joined at the hip and spending most nights and days off together, and after three months we moved in together, even though she lived thirty miles from my workplace, and it was my first relationship. That was 2005, she’s on the couch playing some Android game while I put the world to rights. The only nights we’ve ever spent apart were because of emergency hospital admissions. Those gaps between our differences simply left more room to be filled with love, happiness, and new shared passions and experiences. We’ve even ended up liking some of each other’s interests that we’d both assumed we wouldn’t like. It turns out that the company really matters more than skill or technique.

          You’ll get there in the end, most do, but you’ll need to chill out a bit first. If you’re filling all the gapa in the conversation out of nerves, or whatever, then she won’t be able to contribute. If someone is “wonderful” but has a career goal you wouldn’t choose for yourself, why does that affect how great they are? As long as they’re not making money through nefarious deeds and dodgy dealings, how does a cosmetologist differ from any other artist.* Why’s that such a turn off, is it because you look down on service jobs, or that you’d be ashamed that potential girlfriend did makeup for a living?

          Just remember that all relationships are are a two way street., and If you keep throwing up roadblocks then nobody will get through. It sounds cliché but relax, don’t be too serious, and have fun. You know what sealed the deal for my wife? I dropped my handbag on the pub floor and all of my tampons and Chupa Chups fell out. She thought I was so relaxed about it, so funny with my explanation of why my bag only contained lollies and sanitary protection (I believe I said it had something to do with espionage and the circus), that she had to ask me out. I wasn’t interviewing for a job, I wanted someone to see me on my best day, and she got that. So just act naturally, keep an open mind, and you may be surprised!

          Bonne chance

      • Kate Monster said:

        Hi, LW. A few things I haven’t seen in other comments:
        Kudos on asking for help on how to clearly break this off. It sounds like neither of you explicitly called this first meeting a date. This ambiguity allows for avoiding & ghosting; anxiety & drama; and one-sided relationships (cf. Weezer’s Pink Triangle: “We were good as married in my mind, but married in my mind is no good.”). I’ve experienced many variants on this–avoiding rejecting someone, someone else avoiding rejecting/clarifying for me, awkward first date that only I knew was a date–and in all cases, being explicit about your intentions (not reasons, just the level in CA’s suggested text) makes things much, much better.

        Second thing: I grew up with a false dichotomy between “shallow” people who cared about looks and “smart” people who cared about ideas. It encompassed jock vs. nerd, too, with applications across the gender spectrum. The closer one was to a disembodied brain, the more worthy one was. I still fall into this trap of thinking sometimes, including the parts that are internalized misogyny. A few of the revelations that helped complicate this picture:
        1. Going to a college where I first met people who were traditionally popular and brilliant.
        2. Spending downtime with a friend and seeing her pull out fashion/gossip mags. I’m ashamed to say that if she had not just won the f’ing Rhodes Scholarship, I would have judged her instead of reevaluating my prejudices.
        3. Spending time with pop culture and realizing it speaks to parts of me that matter, whereas the “high brow” works by women (e.g. on school reading lists, in museums, etc.) either didn’t broach these issues or did so in a way I completely missed.
        4. Learning more about feminism, queer theory, critical race theory, and modern theology and how they treat “embodiment”.
        5. Reading about ordinary people’s social, sexual, and relationship experiences–here and at places like Scarleteen–and understanding the variety of emotions, personalities, and goals that lie behind visible behavior I see. (The variety of stories I’ve read here have helped quash the gender-essentialist ideas I have heard and occasionally held. Men aren’t inscrutable and unpredictable—they are all different people, and THAT’s why my predictions at individual behavior can fail.)

        Also, you’re right to think about how self-esteem plays into this. I was one of those women who minimized her own preferences and talents and was overawed by others. (Why is that in past tense? I still struggle with that.) Before I could define that, I was in a relationship with someone who freely shared his judgments and opinions (not about me–about ideas and what was important in the world), and I took them to heart, in a way that was bad for me. Years later, we talked and he revealed how low *his* self-confidence was then. Anyway, I eventually learned from that, but it also makes me think you are right to notice that your goals, values, and levels of self-confidence are not going to interact in a positive way. In future relationships, please try to be really self-aware about this, and be willing to talk about your journey and be vulnerable.

        LW, like many responders, I’ve gone waaaay off-topic here because I’ve been projecting quite a bit. You asked for help about a situation many of us have encountered (often with regret about exactly how we handled it), and you used some metaphors that others have experience with. Both factors primed us to assume, project, and respond.

        Adopting the comic book metaphor earlier in the comments: Good luck with all of your subplots, and I hope you find yourself in an amazing crossover issue soon!

  36. Mookie said:

    I know myself well enough to know conversation is important to me. I’d feel lonelier in a relationship than alone if the other person had nothing interesting to talk about, AKA, their own life. I’m looking for a healthy relationship where our worlds don’t revolve around each other, but where we know there’s respite in each other’s company.

    But, that’s exactly what she did do. You said that she “spoke mostly about how she doesn’t like work, her parents are always mad at her, her exes (about two or three by how she spoke about them), and her life in general.” That’s talking about her life. Nothing she’s said or done indicates that she’s obsessed with you or “admires” you in excess. She asked you out, followed up, allowed you to dictate the terms of the first date, talked about her life openly on that date (pulling no punches that she’s not got everything sorted), and then pursued a second date. She’s not asking you to rescue her from her boring existence.

    You need to do more work on yourself, LW, because you’re missing the forest for the trees here in a big, weird way.

    • Mookie said:

      Also, if what you’ve written is any indication: she’s going to be fine. Without you, and in her life in general. She’s got more figured out about how to pursue the things she wants than somebody like me ever will. I’m glad she’s going to survive your casting exercise, but please don’t treat people this way in the future. Their quirks, insecurities, eccentricities, hopes, dreams, and secrets are not all fodder for your self-centered little film. Evaluating the nooks and corners of people’s private, interior lives (that they generously share with you in the spirit of honesty and love and friendship) with an eye to exploiting them to make that film more interesting and well-rounded is not the behavior of someone confident and emotionally mature. If you are not interesting enough on your own, if you require a handmaiden at your side in order to feel that your life is on track, that you’re “winning” at some game you’ve decided matters, your first task is to sort yourself rather than deciding that a comparative stranger’s ego is lacking. Don’t burden people with this, and then blame them because you’re not interesting enough to get them to open up completely after the first, very casual date. Or perhaps you didn’t ask questions, but just blathered about programming. As the Captain says, your letter reads like a snoozeworthy CV of a young, comfortably middle-class someone with limited experience. Did you talk more than you asked questions? Perhaps that’s why you have so little of a real impression of this woman, because you have high expectations for other people — your dream girls and leading ladies and the glamour they’ll lend your film — but not enough character of your own to actually engage with anyone non-fictional, inserting into the holes you failed to flesh out a series of comforting, but unlikely classist, sexist cliches (dumb lady without ambition). As I say, she’ll be fine. You’ve enough on your hands without trying to Let Her Down Gentleman-like.

  37. Clarry said:

    Tips for making a first date go better even if you’re pretty sure you don’t want a second one:

    If open ended questions are getting vague answers, ask somewhat more specific questions. In other words, you asked what she enjoys doing, and she said hanging out with friends– which was way too vague. So you ask where she likes hanging out, who she likes hanging out with. Without sounding like you’re interrogating her, ask her in an encouraging way to tell you more. Even if you don’t think you have that one thing in common, try to find something interesting in what she’s saying. She may have given vague answers because she got the feeling that the answers she was giving were wrong.

    Answer your own questions. She gave a vague answer to what she likes doing, so you give a specific one. I like this movie, that book, this sort of food, that university class– not all at once; you’re not lecturing her, but do offer something of yourself. If she agrees that there’s something you said that she also likes, follow up on that. So if she says that she liked that movie too, ask her what her favorite scene or character was, then tell her what you liked about the movie. You’ll have some things in common and some not.

    Draw her out even if she’s complaining. She said she hated school. Ask what she didn’t like about it. Ask if there was any good thing about it, like maybe she met some friends there. She mentioned becoming a cosmetician so ask what appeals to her about the work. You don’t have to be fascinated with cosemetology from the start to learn some bit of something about it.

    Don’t dive in too seriously about life, relationships and maturity too quickly. Sure those are important, but for a first casual meeting, go a bit lighter. Stick to things you like about music, books and movies to start. Keep in mind that while you’re assessing her to see if you want to get to know her better, she’s doing the same for you. Even if you get different answers to that question and she’s decided she’d like to see you again while you’re deciding you’re not interested in her, think of the experience as a positive one. Also when telling her that you don’t want a second one-on-one get-together, think of the possibility of simply expanding your friend set. You may run into her somewhere and meet some folks she knows and get along well with her acquaintances.

    Others have piled on the LW so let me list the positives I see in his letter. I like that you’re interested in letting this young woman down easy. I like that you’re honest with yourself about looking for a serious relationship. I like that you’re serious about work and school. I like that you found something good in this date, that she’s nice and that you got along well. I like that you were open to going out with her instead of dismissing her out of hand. I like that you get along well with prickly people and light up glum environments.

  38. Dear LW,
    First, don’t tell her anything about how she’s wonderful but not good enough. Just follow the Captain’s advice and tell her in text or email that you don’t want to date again.

    I’m going to spend the rest of this comment on “hobbies.”

    Please recognize that the young woman’s lack of “hobbies” probably came from one or more of these sources:
    – she hasn’t yet decided which things are central, and which peripheral to her life
    – she is down playing her interests (because that’s part of female socialization)
    – she’s not happy with the division of activities you’ve come up with (school work and hobbies? That’s not my life, and never was.)

    Why do think she should have hobbies? How do hobbies differ from interests? What if she discovers a sense of vocation for her work, and that becomes the entirety of her life? What if she discovers an interest separate from her work, and makes that her focus? Where do hobbies come into these scenarios?

  39. Anyanka said:

    LW,
    My advice to you is to first of all just don’t date her. Just say you’re not interested, you didn’t click, you don’t have enough in common–things that are true and have nothing to do with your ego. Turn down any extra offers and avoid her. BAM. That problem solved.

    Second of all, LW, please rethink your approach to women you want to date and women in general. You are not ‘casting for a female lead in your life’. You are thinking about dating someone. If you don’t find yourself interested in a person, that’s fine, but don’t assume that means their interests are stupid, their career choices dumb, their hobbies wrong, or their ego fragile. All it means is that you’re not interested. It’s tempting to say “well I’m perfect and all my choices are the Correct ones, so anyone else who makes different choices or enjoys different things is Wrong” but it’s neither true nor good for you to grow as a person.

  40. B. said:

    Hi, LW!

    First off, I haven’t read the comments, so: a) sorry if I repeat anything b) hope your ego doesn’t take a very big blow from reading through them. Commenters are very kind here, but I think the tone of your letter has raised several people’s hackles (including mine) and you might find some pushback.

    Thing is, you remind me *exactly* of a good friend of mine when we were 19, two years ago. He’s a sweet, ambitious, privileged guy, he’s been working hard to improve his self-worth perception, he’s looking for a woman as a companion, someone who won’t push him back. So, I get where you’re coming from.

    He went on a date with a mutual friend of us who also was the first to express interest in him (she’s awesome and amazing and makes me wish she was interested in ladies so I could ask her out, but that’s unrelated). Our group of friends privately thought they’d make a good couple, but he then told me he wasn’t seeing it because… he found her lacking. Not for herself, nor for her personality or conversation or sense of humor, but because “she wasn’t currently engaged in any of her hobbies”. It was as if instead of a date, it’d been a job interview and he’d found her old qualifications didn’t apply anymore. He started telling me what he was looking for in a partner. I jokingly told him to put up an add specifying his requirements and have the applicants send him their resumés by e-mail. He told me not to be mean (I love my friend, but he’s an idiot sometimes) and nothing more came of that date.

    His loss, if you ask me, but in any case it was his decision to make. I just think, your two cases may be related, because some people at 19 (specially, in my experience, and I mean no offense, if they’re male and privileged) tend to measure potential partners by “how much potential they have”, “how much they’ll achieve in their life”, “how high they’ll help you reach” (or “how low they could drag you down”). You know, these predictions you make about someone’s current situation, emotional well-being, future prospects… They are usually *dead* wrong, specially if you make them after just one date and a somewhat superficial friendship. It takes longer to get to know people, I find.

    Of course you don’t have to keep dating someone you don’t feel any chemistry with! But, let’s be honest: as the Captain says, she’s not auditioning for your cast. She’s living her own life. Your rejection after a couple of dates is not going to crush her soul irredeemably. If you don’t want to keep going out with her, whatever the reason, just tell her so. But be aware that it’s your decision, because of your own reasons, and not because she’s “lacking”. Maybe she’s not yet sure of what she wants to do with her future, but that doesn’t mean she’s less capable of figuring it out than you. Each person goes at their own pace.

    So, please, when you reject her, stick to *your wishes*: I’m not feeling it, I’ve changed my mind, You’re amazing but just not for me… And keep your opinions on her own life to yourself, as a kindness to both of you.

    Some food for thought, in case it’s of any use to you: maybe expand your horizons a little bit? People are amazingly complex, and if you judge someone’s value based on their having a difficult relationship with their family or a boring job, you’re bound to miss in on a lot of interesting people, and probably a couple good friends, too. I know that, since I keep an open mind and let people surprise me, the surprises I get are good ones 85% of the time.

    Good luck, LW, hope you find a person you click with!

    PS: Two years later, my male friend’s still single and unhappy about it, while my female friend’s satisfied with her love life. I think the cause is, my male friend keeps assessing possible partners as he would *applicants* for a girlfriending position instead of as, simply, *people* who make him happy.
    PPS: “Different selfworth perception than yours” does not equal “fragile underdeveloped ego”.

    • Tattie said:

      This comment is both insightful and sympathetic. Very well said!

      • B. said:

        Thank you 🙂

  41. Another angle to the whole “female lead” mindset: it can REALLY bite you in the ass when the unrequited attraction goes in the other direction. “I’ve found you! The perfect leading lady for the play that is my life. What do you mean you don’t want to audition? Can’t you see you’re perfect for me? Here, let me list all the reasons we belong together. Still no? That’s okay, I’ll keep trying until you see reason.”

    You may be rolling your eyes at this comment, secure in the knowledge that you’d never think or act this way. If that’s true, great! Just … something to watch out for.

    • THIS.

    • Big Pink Box said:

      You win!

  42. Anisoptera said:

    LW, do not date people you don’t respect.

    You don’t respect this lady. If you don’t respect *any* women then you should work on that and not date *any* women until you can respect them. But you show a lot of disdain for this particular woman so you definitely should not date her.

    Do not tell her that you disdain her or why you feel that way when you tell her you don’t want to date. That’s cruel and pointless. Just impart the information that you’re not feeling it and move on, far far away from this girl who you are already thinking cruelly about after only a single date!

  43. Charybdea said:

    LW, I’m going to ask something that might be deeply uncomplimentary, but I’m getting a few flags off your letter, and it’s a possibility worth investigating, I think, on your end if it’s true.

    Did the “work(ing) at self-improvement” you’ve put time into in the last year involve any men’s groups, websites or seminars to improve your self-esteem despite women or improve your approaches with women? Because you’re echoing some beliefs in this letter — talking about the girl you worked with like a child or an object; a certain reflexive, salesy puffing yourself up even when it has nothing to do with the question at hand; the flowery language; the conviction you will destroy her own self-worth with a simple “no, thanks”; the judgment; the disapproval of her having dated two or three other guys; the pervasive sense that you really are trying to impress -us- as readers — that really, really remind me of how the Pickup Artist, Men’s Rights Movement, and so on talk about women and relationships.

    So while I very much hope this is a shot in the dark and those rhetorical markers are just, well, the kind of inexperience we all have when we start to do a newish thing (dating!), if a campus men’s group or men’s messageboard is where you got your guidelines on self-esteem work and what confidence, assurance, and maturity look like? Please triple-check everything you got from them. Triple-check every assumption. Self-esteem or insecurity-fighting seminars and tips are, unfortunately, occasionally the side business for groups with some very uncomplimentary ideas about men and women both, and it is entirely probable that the toolset you have in your hands is not the toolset that takes you where you want to go — when it comes to friendships or dating.

    • Big Pink Box said:

      You smelled r*dd*t too? I thought I just had my PUAdar calibrated incorrectly.

      LW – If you have been using info from androcentric sources like the PUA and the manosphere, then might I suggest Dr Nerdlove? DNL is very much like our esteemed Captain, but with more of a slant toward helping men with self-improvement in ways that don’t treat women like pets, trophies, or children. His commentariat are, like the Awkwardeers, a no nonsense crowd who will help you to be the best version of you. You could even send DNL this letter, and compare and contrast the advice given

      • Myrin said:

        Yeah, I got what I call the “M’lady” feeling immediately upon starting the letter and only secondarily because of the content – the primary reason was the kind of pompous way of speaking. Could be totally wrong since there are certainly a number of reasons for someone writing a letter to the Captain that way, but I did pick up on the vibe you’re talking about, too.

    • roramich said:

      Great call.

  44. toniprufrock said:

    I agree that LW is being very condescending but I’d encourage people not to tear him to shreds because I think he’s working on old advice of the captain, which is why he’s checking in here. The captain has advised other lonely LWs that they’re not great dating material unless they have hobbies ad something about them to bring to the plate : to be happy being a whole single person before they date. By the sounds of it LW has this playing in his mind when he spotted her and now doesn’t know how to handle someone who doesn’t fit the bill that the captain suggests. He just doesn’t have his empathy and wisdom quite screwed on right yet.

  45. While we’re on the subject of leading ladies and dramatic presentations, let’s remember that Henry Higgins is a cautionary tale, not a role-model.

  46. Dizzy said:

    Dear LW

    I was about to pillory you, but then I remembered I found it near impossible to tell my first date I didn’t want to continue seeing him when I was a bit younger than you. We went on one date, like you and the woman you’re talking about, and I wasn’t feeling it. And it seemed IMPOSSIBLE to tell him that. My teenage mind was gobbling up physics and calculus and economics like it was nobody’s business, but telling someone that I didn’t want to go out with him again? Well, that was a problem I couldn’t solve.

    Over the years, I’ve come to realise the only decent thing to do is what the Captain wisely suggests. Keep it short, keep it polite, keep it unambiguous and don’t change your messaging. The best thing to do is let her know where you stand so the both of you can move on.

    It’s also not necessary to overthink it, either. You don’t need to think on whether or not her ego is ‘underdeveloped’, or whether her interest in cosmetology is any more objectively ‘generic’ than an interest in cosmology. I used to come up with a laundry list of reasons why someone wasn’t ‘good enough’ for me, too, because I didn’t realise it was perfectly ok to just say ‘meh, there’s no chemistry here’ and move along.

    I’m gonna be straight up with you about the way you talk about this woman. At best, you sound like you feel bad about not wanting to go out with her, so you’re concocting some pretty fanciful arguments to assuage your guilt. At worst, you sound kind of douchey, and like you have some hangups about women. I’d encourage you to have a think about some of the comments people have made here on that point. It’ll be good for you, everyone you date and the world in general in the long run.

    Best of luck in your dating endeavours – if you’re open, sincere and respectful, they should be good ones.

    • Cypress said:

      LW, I’d just like to chime in to agree with Dizzy on this: “I didn’t realise it was perfectly ok to just say ‘meh, there’s no chemistry here’ and move along.” You’ve asked for advice on how to tell this woman she’s “wonderful and brave,” but from the way you’ve worded your letter, it doesn’t sound as though you think she’s wonderful at all. It sounds as though you think she’s immature (with her “undeveloped ego”), shallow (with little to say about her day and no hobbies you find hobby-like), and in need of rescuing from the dreariness of her existence (since you believe that in dating her, you would be called upon to be a crutch and rescue her from her boredom). Own your feelings on that. I have nothing else to add to the excellent advice folks have already given you on your initial query, but I’d like to offer a general protip from the world of dating, since from your letter it sounds as though you’re a relative newbie in this crazy and wonderful place: you don’t need to pretend that people you don’t think are wonderful are, in fact, wonderful, as it’s a waste of time for everyone involved. You went out on a date; you’re not feelin’ it. End of story. This is gonna happen a lot. So as folks have advised, just tell her, simply and cleanly, and don’t work yourself into knots over justifying why. And be ready to be gracious and not crazy-pants when down the line folks someday tell you the same, ’cause trust me: that’s gonna happen a lot, too.

      And also, as other folks have said, LW: none of us is in charge of casting folks in roles in our own story. If we’re looking for a relationship, we’re all auditioning for one of two (or more) lead roles in a story we make together with the person/s who snag/s the other/s. And I promise you that identifying as an actor rather than a casting director makes the whole adventure much more fun.

  47. Kelly L. said:

    This reminds me of two Relationships Past ™!

    First was a guy I dated in high school. At one point he got really mad because he felt like I didn’t trust him. Why was this? He said it was because I wouldn’t tell him about my hobbies. Now, I did tell him about the things I liked to do, the music I liked, the books I read, and so on…but I think he expected that I did crafts or collected something, and that if I didn’t tell him I did these things, then I was holding back–rather than just honestly not being involved in those activities at the time. It also felt like it wasn’t really coming “from him” but from expectations he’d picked up from somewhere else about How To Relationship. It’s a little funny in hindsight. Neither of us had any clue what we were doing (there are equally silly stories about things I said and did in this relationship and for the same reason).

    Then, there was the guy I dated when I was 20 and he was 30. He decided it was his goal to help me mature and become a woman worthy of him. It was never quite clear what I would have to change, only that I absolutely needed to, because I was not yet up to snuff. I noped out after about three weeks. I didn’t nope out well–I manufactured some unnecessary cheating drama because I didn’t yet know how to just use my words–but I’m glad I did leave when I did.

    • Hannahbelle said:

      As a 32-year-old, I’m mystified as to how anyone at the age of 30 (or any age, really) could believe he’s in a position to help someone else mature…red flag, right there. Glad you got out and much sympathy for the time wasted figuring it out (I’ve been there, too).

  48. DameB said:

    LW, may I offer another piece of advice? (If you’ve made it down this far.)

    It’s actually the Cap’s advice from elsewhen, but it applies here. Consume more art made by women.

    Right now, you’re 19 and it’s very likely that you’re swimming in a narrative soup composed of stories about Men in which women are relegated to hot help-meets, a sexy reward for completing a task, or a passive prize to be won. It makes a certain amount of sense that you think of finding a partner as “casting a leading lady,” given these narratives. You probably have a nice long checklist of things you want: sweet and supportive AND has strong interests of her own and ambitions. Definitely someone who takes initiative.

    By consuming more art made by women, you will start to realize that you shouldn’t be casting a leading lady or even trying to cast yourself as the rom-com leading man. You will get a deeper gut-level sense of women as independent actors with their own complex dreams and desires and how they are people and not just there to play a role in your life story. Eventually, you’ll really understand, on an emotional level, that you should be trying to meet lady-shaped PEOPLE to whom you are attracted and with whom you would like to spend time, both in and out of bed.

    • DameB said:

      The age thing here is intended to be entirely because the I’m talking about art and the narratives aimed at this age group are pretty specific, rather than on the LW himself but if the Cap want’s to delete that line or my whole comment, I totally understand and I’m sorry.

  49. Myrtle said:

    Oof, a lot of pressure on a young guy who I read as being candid, and a letter from a perspective I don’t often encounter. Can we reframe that he’s come here and asked for help? That takes trust and an admission that he is open to being instructed. Good on you, dude.

    For a long time, decades, the guys I was friends with were jolly playmates that I’d joyously explore my hobbies with as one of them. The guys I dated saw *none* of that zeal. I assumed they only pursued me for sex. These were glum relationships.

    This recent first-date girl has my admiration for waiting (burning a torch?) for LW until you left the company. So it wouldn’t surprise me that someone with that much self-control would be playing the long game. Maybe she has an idea that her hobbies wouldn’t be seen as interesting before you know her better?

    I also have a barf at the canned and intimidating, “What are your hobbies?” What about asking what she’s done recently? To me it seems warmer and more likely to pry out the story of her reading of her poetry at a bookstore, or negotiating the purchase of a rare double-printed postage stamp. I’ve found the less I know about someone’s passions, the more interesting their stories are.

  50. EllenS said:

    You know, I had only ever heard women cooking up an Epic Stew of Far-Fetched, Unnecessary Reasons why they didn’t want to go out with a man they’d just met, or on a second date. I find it oddly refreshing to know it’s not just a straight-girl thing, but is more universal than that.

    Not wanting to go out with someone requires zero justification or examination. If multiple reasons – such as finding someone boring, immature, or just vaguely offputting – occur to you, they are sufficient in themselves without making them some sort of manifesto. But of course, you should never, ever, be so rude as to say such things to a person’s face.

    “No thanks” is a complete answer.

  51. Swistle said:

    Reading this letter, I was reminded of my eldest son, who is a junior in high school. I admire the Captain’s measured, kind, useful response.

  52. Buni said:

    I’m somewhere around my 40th year and I still have a perfectly-rendered, crystal-clear memory of me at 18ish actually quoting a Bon Jovi lyric to explain My Pain to someone.

    Now don’t get me wrong, I loved JBJ then and I still love me some JBJ now, but the current cringe, the current cringe is whole-body and all-encompassing.

    Was I happy to do it at 18? Clearly. Would I do it now? Helllllllllll no.

    To massively mangle the GK Chesterton quote: We do not tell you things to mock, we tell you these things because – in 99% of cases – it gets better.

    • Emmers said:

      Heyyy, +1 to that. 17yo Emmers was using “Only The Good Die Young” to work through her religious struggle. (TOTALLY unaware of the rapey overtones.) Nooooope.

    • Myrtle said:

      I must insist on knowing the JBJ quote! 😜

  53. M said:

    This thread really has become the Art Of Derailing…
    (Excuse that this became a novel)

    Anyway, directed at LW:
    You are not interested in her. It doesn’t really matter why. You’re not hitting it off. That’s ok, it happens and how you solve that is that you text her and say that you aren’t interested in a second date.

    It really is that simple. You two have no complicated history, you aren’t working together anymore (kudos to her for waiting until you weren’t). You have been on ONE date, and it turned out you aren’t interested in a second one.
    She might get hurt, she might ask why.
    The hurt, you can do nothing about. AT MOST she has invested some time having a crush on you. That is a thing that happens. But even crushes were the internal thought process includes words like “Destiny” and “Eternal love” will fade away once one hits reality. Which in this case is that YOU, LW, aren’t interested. Most likely though, she doesn’t have a massive crush and things might be awkward, but you’ll both be totally fine.
    If she asks why, you tell her that you aren’t interested. You do NOT tell her that it is because her interests are boring, that she lacks the proper ambitions or drive. If she demands an answer, you STILL don’t tell her those things.

    You are assuming that she’ll be destroyed and that she’s somehow so frail she can’t take the rejection.
    The thing is here, that even if she WERE all those things, even if she’s that frail – she never signed you up to be her Supporting Pillar #1 and you never agreed to that.
    The first date might have been an audition (I doubt it), but you never signed the contract. You sensed you would play a part in her life you didn’t want to play – then don’t.
    What would be unfair here, and seriously hurtful in the long run, is you going on more dates with her when you aren’t interested. She can move on to other people that are more suited for her, and you’ll do the same.

    Advice: From now on, assume that the women you meet are individuals, all with different, interesting and fascinating lives. Assume that even if they don’t seem interesting for you to have relationships with, they still have lives of great depth and value. Some of these lives you will be a part of, and some not. Some will be your friends, some your partners. But always assume that their lives is just as big an adventure, filled with hopes and dreams and failures, as your own, no matter their relation to YOU. In time you might find that viewing women as people you want to get to know instead of actresses auditioning for the movie of your life, will help you find that special person/’s that actually is right for you.
    And it probably wont be who you thought to begin with.

    In short: Tell her you aren’t interested. Assume she’s her own person that can exist without you.

  54. TO_Ont said:

    I don’t think you’re doing too badly, LW. You have thought through enough to know what you want (you don’t want to date this girl) and you know why (all the reasons you say, basically that you don’t really like or respect her, which does definitely mean you shouldn’t date her) and you seem to have had the good sense to realise that your private reasons for not liking or really respecting someone are things to think about in private or discuss with someone you trust (CA), not with the person themselves.

    All you need to actually do is say ‘no, thanks’ to another date. If you feel like a longer response is in order, keep it short and pleasantly neutral without giving any reasons beyond the basics (you don’t like her that way, you aren’t feeling like another date, etc.)

    I think we all have had the experience before when we secretly looked down on someone else or thought they were immature or boring or had interests that were kind of dumb. I think it’s OK and natural to feel that way sometimes, as long as a) we know that this is just a personal feeling we have and not The Actual Truth about that person and b) our behaviour and words reflect a).

  55. lasers said:

    I’m seeing a lot of sentiment along the lines of “not wanting to go out again is enough of a reason, you don’t have to make it about her.” I generally agree, but I also think that the point of dating is, in large part, to figure out what you want a date to be like/what you’re interested in in others. What if you tried rephrasing some of those reasons? I’m imagining:

    “She didn’t talk about anything, just her parents and her exes and general stuff” –> “On a date, I really want to talk about conceptual things/I want my date to teach me something.”

    “It seems like she dates as a form of entertainment” –> “I really want to date people whose lives are full of organized activities.”

    “She doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life but I am very driven” –> “My life and ambitions are my top priority right now, and dating is secondary.”

    “I don’t want to become a crutch” –> “I am very sensitive to status/class differences, and I might feel uncomfortable dating someone I see as being in a lower position.”

    Some of those things can affect the way you structure dates in the future. Like, you can schedule first dates at free lectures/the bird of prey center/the natural history museum and then talk about what you learned. Or you can try out different ways of having a conceptual/imaginative conversation. (This will be easier if your date doesn’t feel like those questions have Right Answers that they’re supposed to hit on. It sounds like you might be giving off vibes that you are always right, and people should just agree with you. I struggle with that, too.)

    Some of those things might teach you things to focus on in yourself. If you think class might be a sticking point for you, you’re not obligated to date people you’re not interested in, but you could treat that topic as another area for self improvement.

    • Pizkies said:

      This. This is wise.

  56. Casting said:

    Keep in mind everyone, I’m still fairly young and haven’t quite mastered saying what I mean the first time. I made a lot of mistakes in how I explained the situation, but I’ve learned a lot from your input how to better phrase everything.

    One day I’ll be able to get the tone right the first time (and avoid saying what is irrelevant), but clearly not yet. I want to thank Captain for her solid advice despite my tactless writing; I know a lot of sites where the advice would be dropped in favor of pure ridicule.

    Captain helped me and I’m glad to say that the situation has turned out well with her help. I’m 19 and when it comes to where I’m going and what I’m doing, I’m comfortable. When it comes to dating however, I’m clueless, so I sought help so I wouldn’t screw up another wonderful person’s life with my inexperience.

    • thelittlepakeha said:

      You’re never done learning. As long as you know that, and it definitely sounds like you do, you’re probably going to be fine. And I think the good thing about dating is that everyone is a bit clueless. It’s weird, it doesn’t make sense, everything can line up perfectly but not be right at all, and basically we all just fumble around until something works.

    • You are a-okay. Your letter was, as you say, a bit tactless, but that’s okay–you mean well and you’re trying to be nice, and especially right now, that counts for a lot. I’m really glad that your situation worked out okay. You have a lot to learn, but that’s the case for all of us, so it’s good to accept that now and just move forward doing the best you can. I know that’s what I do every day, and I haven’t been 19 in a couple of decades. 🙂

    • LW, I think you’re going to be just fine. I haven’t commented in this thread, but I admit I was one of those who rolled their eyes at some of the things you originally wrote. That’s something you can get past, though. Heck, people in this very comment section made the same mistake you made in your letter—appearing to forget that an actual person was involved in favor of linguistic flourishes. (I say “appear” because I have no further insight into their thoughts than their words convey, just as we the commentariat had only your words to judge when responding to your letter.) Definitely heed the classic advice to consume media by women; it will both help you develop those skills you seek and provide more potential conversation topics with friends (especially women friends). Actually, I also hope you hang around here in the comments section with us sometimes; when you have relevant advice or encouragement for the day’s LW, it’s a great place to practice your words.

    • It takes both courage and humility to ask for help, especially so publicly. And your goal here was consideration for the feelings of others. Also good! And even at the ripe old age of Older Than You Kiddo, I would have a very hard time reading 200+ comments, mostly critical, and then coming back with a positive spirt, willing to talk and listen some more. I admire your ability to do so. 🙂

      • JenniferP said:

        Yes!!!!!

        “Casting” also sent me about the sweetest thank you note (which was not required at all). BE WELL.

    • Emmers said:

      Awww, you are an A+ kid. (Well, young adult.) The fact that you came here to ask this, AND THEN replied in the comments without getting defensive, is an amazingly good sign. You’ll grow, and you’ll learn, and you’ll meet someone who’s a fantastic match for you. Best of luck!

  57. Dear LW:

    You did good.

    Here’s a thing I’ve noticed – people grow up in spurts and chunks. It’s more obvious when you’re 19 than when you’re 29 or 39 or 49 but not necessarily more true.

    It’s more obvious in people whose childhoods were weird or hard or involved bad parenting, but again, not necessarily more true.

    It sounds like you’ve got a really good handle on what you want to do about work and school and hobbies, but friends (I’m reading that between the lines, I may be wrong) and romance and emotions is still a place where you’re unsure and feeling like you’re behind. Also reading between the lines, it sounds like your date is maybe the reverse. And that – or some other factor you’re sort of aware of but can’t quite articulate, or both, or lots of things – makes the two of you a bad fit right now, and that’s a good thing to know.

    Looking at your situation another way, you’ve got school and career and so forth running well and that gives you time and space to let yourself develop a better set of people skills and a better sense of what people you’re wanting to use them on. You’re growing up in chunks, and your next chunk is dating/emotional stuff.

    So here is some advice, which you should take the bits that sound good from:

    My awesome shrink has me reading Brene Brown’s Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly, and you might like these books. They’re not something you read through once and instantly apply so much as something you pick up, read a bit of, argue with, put down, go back to, ponder, reread, etc. Spoiler: the answer to “what if I don’t do everything perfectly” is “the world will keep turning, you will still be a valuable and loved person, it will probably work out fine and if it doesn’t you can handle it.”

    Basically, though, it turns out that life as a whole doesn’t respond well to the good student approach of “study hard and work your ass off and once you have found The Right Answer and The Correct Approach apply it consistently and you will get good results. If you get poor results, it’s your fault, work harder.”

    As I keep saying to said shrink, “sounds fake, but … okay.”

    Also, finding love, especially romantic love, is mostly about luck and chance at the beginning. The hard work comes -after- you’ve taken a deep breath and said “okay, for the forseeable future, we’re doing this together.” And it is hard work, though also deeply satisfying, so you need someone you enjoy doing hard work with.

    The thing you can do to maximize the chance of it happening is mostly “meet a lot of people and then pay attention to them to see who they are.”

    So, basically, go on dates. Go on many dates. Be really open-minded about going on first dates, and pickier about second dates, and really picky about third dates, and be honest and decent and respectful whether you’re saying Yes or No and you will be basically fine.

    You will hurt people, and get hurt, because emotions are unruly and inappropriate and basically don’t know how to be cool. That’s okay.

    You can’t get through life without hurting yourself or others. As my sister and I like to say, “a day without a bruise is a day you’ve wasted,” and that turns out to apply to emotional bruising, too. If you never fail, you’re not learning.

    You -can- go through life minimizing the -damage- you do to yourself or others, which is a different thing, and which you’ve made a really great start on: don’t lie, or belittle, or gaslight, or use people. Don’t try to fix or rescue them either. Act with integrity and kindness and respect, as you understand those things, and you’ll be doing well.

    It’s okay – it’s necessary – to have wants and needs and dealbreakers, but I am going to suggest that having a checklist isn’t necessarily the way to go, because it is very hard to anticipate what the person who makes your life better is going to be like on the outside. How you think and feel and act and change in their presence, and how you affect them, is much more reliable.

    Look for: makes you excited, and also comfortable. Makes you want to spend Saturday in bed having wild sex, and Sunday on the couch (or out hiking, or in the kitchen, or …) just talking, and is up for that program with you.

    Has her basic shit together, like, handles money and housekeeping and school/job to a reasonable standard a reasonable amount of the time. It doesn’t matter if she’s a hopeless cook, so long as she has a working method for getting decently healthy food into herself on the regular. Doesn’t have to be the way you do it, so long as it’s getting done.

    Whether she wants to be a hairdresser, or a carpenter or a doctor or a prof or an astronaut or a musician is probably ultimately less important than that she wants to be, and is working to be, a GOOD one.

    Makes you laugh, and also challenges you in ways you find hard and enriching. Agrees with you on the really vital things, because that is already who she was when you met her, disagrees with you about stuff that is important and can explain why in a way that makes you think, and is and knows you are a work in progress.

    Thinks you are awesome, and is awesome. Elicits your love AND your deep respect, and feels the same way about you. Tries your hobbies, and then decides for herself which ones she likes enough to pursue and which ones she’s going to support you in doing on your own or with friends. Invites you into her hobbies, but doesn’t shove them down your throat. Can compromise, and can also say “this is who I am and what I’m going to do; are you okay with that?” Can argue you into the ground and can lose an argument with grace and humour.

    Meanwhile, be that person yourself, as best you can at any given moment. Treat yourself with the respect and kindness and understanding you want to be treated with; it all takes time. It’s supposed to, you have a whole life ahead of you and this is basically what that life is FOR. And don’t neglect friendship, because having only one Really Important Person in your life at a time is a scary lonely place and puts a lot on that person and anyway, it’s less FUN.

    Oh, and be kind to old ladies who give you long, rambly life advice on the internet. Even when we are extremely rambly. 🙂

    • Big Pink Box said:

      Jesus take the wheel.

      .

      Dude, the plaintive “poor me, I’m too socially awkward to know better” on repeat will elicit only irritation in me, not pity, not “Sorry, little duckling!”.

      I’m not neurotypical, and have suffered with severe social anxiety since childhood, thanks to a number of converging issues at the time.  Being socially awkward is not only more common than you think (especially as women are affected too, more on that in a bit), but it is also the go-to excuse whenever women call men out on anything from inappropriate conversation, all the way through to sexual assault. 

      When Rebecca Watson, noted skeptic and atheist speaker, experienced an incident of harassment after a conference in 2011, people were breaking their necks in the race to defend the unknown, unnamed man on the grounds that he was socially awkward and didn’t know any better. Every time any woman complains about a creep, the response is always the same- “Maybe he has Asoergers! You’re an ableist!” , or “He’s probably on the spectrum and doesn’t know any better”, or ” Poor guy is probably just socially awkward!”

      See what happens? Actual identifiable woman complains about creepy overtures, men all rush to defend anonymous unknown fellow man. Woman complains about misogynist attitude and attempts to give man a bit of concrit, man whines that it’s not his fault. Socially awkward women, OTOH, are “b*tches”, “stuck up”, etc.

      Cos here’s the deal… You don’t get to describe how totes mcgoats awesome you are, lighting up hearts and rooms alike with your devastating charm and witty banter, while simultaneously claiming to be so pathetically socially awkward that you don’t know how to react around (only) women.

      GrAnecdote time:
      I could not get a girlfriend, wasn’t happening. Friends assured me I was bright, cute, and intelligent, and must have been meeting the wrong women. By 26 I was pretty much losing hope.

      In 2005 I got a message on a women’s dating site, and spent a few weeks emailing, MSN chatting, and texting each other. I was pretty much prepared to just end up with another friend. We met one night in my (then) home city before my shift started at 7pm.

      We had fun, another two weeks of texting followed, and we made plans to meet again. My nerves increased infinitely when I walked into the bar and noticed three guys sat with her. Still, I put my best Big Pink Foot forward, and decided to use every spoon I had.

      A couple of hours in we were in a different pub, and she was doing karaoke with her best friend James. I was chatting with his boyfriend (Paul) and the other guy, Lee. After they finished she hopped down from the little stage, grabbed Lee, and said “I’m off to the loo”. Then he came back alone while I was talking to James, tapped my shoulder, and asked “What do you think of L, do you like her?”. I blushed and stuttered out a “Yeahhh… she’s lovely, why?” as I inspected the wood flooring. He said “Cos she really likes you!”. I looked up and he was grinning like a Cheshire cat. Right then I saw her walking back from the toilets, Lee turned and gave her a double thumbs up, and the rest is history.

      You see, she’d been flirting with me since… oh, before we met. Apparently she’d tried every trick in the book, online and IRL. No response. Her mates had to drag her out that night, because they were determined to see the (apparently unmoved) person who had their friend’s head in bits.

      Without Lee’s intervention that night, I’d have missed out because I literally cannot interpret social cues. Can’t do eye contact, can’t get the hang of body language, never could. I stare at noses, i fake neurotypicality. She thought I wasn’t interested, she could not understand why after the funny first date, I hadn’t responded to her flirting. I’d faked that whole “normal” thing so well, running on pure adrenaline and some new pain meds.

      Looking back I could see all the women who’d tried to teach me to play pool (by standing behind me and guiding my arm), asked my beloved “So if someone says ‘Whatever you do, never ever touch my back, it makes me lose control and I become insatiable‘ then they mean… Um..?”. She just laughed and said “Aww boo, no wonder you have a load of first dates and good mates”

      Now what I can’t see, and have never seen, how “social awkwardness” can cause you to describe someone as “Wonderful” at the same time as bemoaning them for being shallow, stupid, unambitious, boring, needy, desperate, potentially mentally unstable, a thankless child, and a bad team player. Socially awkward people don’t grill their dates or interrogate them. That’s what arseholes do, and I’m sure you don’t want people to think you’re an arsehole, do you?

      Instead of the “Aww shucks, poor ickle me” schtick, maybe read the practical advice and guidance you’ve been given by people with a view to making yourself a better person, instead of acting like someone who belongs to an MRM subr*ddit.

      • Casting said:

        Oh, both the times I read comments which totally misunderstood what I had tried to say, and were of an excessively condescending nature, they were the same person.

        In response to the other comment, I quite literally don’t think of anyone as ‘hot’. People that get to know me are sometimes surprised when they realize that I don’t even have the porn stash I’m expected to have as a teenage boy. As such, when I say wonderful, I mean that I had an awesome time with her, we got along, it was fun… But I was put off by how different our lives were. Secondly, I didn’t interrogate. We hung out for nearly two hours and I slipped in one or two questions to clarify what I wanted to know more about. I think that’s generally expected when interacting for the purpose of potentially dating. I could see her as a potential friend for coffee but because she made it clear I was being evaluated as bf material, I had to do the same, lest she ask me out and I not be prepared to say no or yes.

        I appreciate that you have (hopefully) equalitarian views. There are a lot of people who don’t even understand that women are people, not objects to be wooed and touched. She was wonderful and we were both at ease. But, there wasn’t a whole lot it seemed for us to do together (given our different interests) aside from go out occasionally for coffee.

        Having customer service experience, I developed a capacity to small talk and be at ease in polite interaction (even when a customer isn’t polite). I’m grateful I was forced to develop those skills. But when it comes to romantic feelings and the unwritten rules of more personal interactions, I am inexperienced and tactless. When I was younger, personal and emotional space were big things for me. I grew very uncomfortable when anyone touched me, hit on me, or anything that wasn’t just friendly/polite interaction. As such, I’ve always given people the same respect for space I expected; it weirds people out when they feel I should be closer to them, but still give them so much space.

        Is it a stretch to believe someone may have developed /some/ social skills and not others? All I knew was that a person who was brave enough to ask for my number deserved my effort to say no the right way. And that I didn’t know what that was.

        I was the kid who literally got into a fist fight because one of my sister’s friends was being harassed. A kid was showing her clippings out of some playboy he got his hands on and dumping sand in her pants. I’d never before or since been that angry at someone.

        Among other social skills I’m proud to have learned, I take the time to understand that mistakes are generally made of stupidity, not malice. It’s hard to be angry when you can put your negative feelings on the back burner to look at things from the perspective of another person.

        So please, refrain from making me a ventriloquist’s doll, an object with words put in its mouth. I’ve already taken responsibility for my tactless writing and will make an effort to avoid language that demeans women; that is quite far from what I intended to say.

        I did find a handful of useful advice in what you wrote, although it is scarce when you misunderstood not my words, but the intentions behind them. Thank you for the good advice, and I forgive you for the indignation. Hopefully you have a better day.

        • Big Pink Box said:

          It sucks when someone only focuses on certain points, no?

          Anyway, my really limited free time of only 24/7 is too precious to keep wasting, so I’ll leave on this note:

          “I appreciate that you have (hopefully) equalitarian views. There are a lot of people who don’t even understand that women are people, not objects to be wooed and touched”

          1). Have a cookie for reaching the minimum standard of human decency WRT views on women That will take you far young padawan.

          2) Egalitarian? Non. I am actually a misogynist, homophobic, classist, body-policing, ableist, and a curebie. It’s a lot of work for a big, fat, crippled, aspie, underclass, crazy, gay, non-binary, povvotron – but it keeps things interesting! My wife especially enjoys my rants on how we’re destroying marriage.

          I’ve had to change my stance on us needing to stay barefoot, and in the kitchen because not only is the winter super cold up here, but it also isn’t very practical. There’s no room in there for my bed, and the sheer size of the pile of sandwiches we’d made was affecting the structural integrity of our hovel.

          • I’m sure you’re no longer paying attention here, but just for posterity:

            1) it makes a significant difference when the person asking for help is only a few years out from their difficult childhood.

            2) it makes an even bigger one when the person, on being told, chooses to BE told.

            3) LW meets both criteria, as you’d have seen had you spent some of that valuable time reading comments.

            You know what? You didn’t get to your current place all alone either. I’m truly, genuinely, no sacrcasm at all glad that you’ve reached your current state of reasonable happiness and equally truly sorry that the help you needed and deserved wasn’t always there for you. But you clearly got some, over the years, and did the work to apply it, and those are excellent things. The next step is to have reasonable compassion for people who aren’t following your exact route.

            You can go through life with the attitude that you had to suffer so everyone else does too. Or you can choose to hope that what you’ve been through and done makes things better.

            LW wrote in here for advice. And then TOOK it. These are not the actions of a person who plans to use their social awkwardness as an excuse for their life.

          • Big Pink Box said:

            He only acknowledged replies that suited him, and agreed with his idea that it was his flowery delivery that was flawed, rather than his pomposity. The fact that he’s argued with me is great, it means it’s hitting a nerve. His little backhanded digs at me, and the entreaties to pity him, are largely ineffective because living with extremely religious NPD people means that my mental copy of ‘Field Guide to Manipulation’ (by H. Ed Fuchs) is very well thumbed

            He’ll learn, eventually, that it’s who you are rather than how you act, that gets results. He’ll figure out that other people can sense disrespect, disinterest, and disdain. He’ll have to stumble, and fall, and start the race all over again at the most inconvenient times, he’ll find out that shortcuts are counterproductive, and that a certain amount of pain is a good thing. He’ll have to do the hardest work himself, Just as we all do. He just needs time, humility, and a willingness to learn from his mistakes. The initial cosmic smacks of awareness seem initially unfair, but growing up is easier when you’re not trying to balance on a high pedestal of pure ego. When you realise and examine your own flaws, it’s a lot easier to relate to other humans who are similarly imperfect. It’s about seeing the “wonderful and…” not the “wonderful but…” How long it all takes is in his hands.

            My apparent “happiness” is not because I have money (we don’t), a good job (I can’t work), or a rich and varied social life. You would be surprised at just how content you can be when you have no choices. I liken it to the attitude of Chareidim I know, who have every facet of their life dictated to them, so they have very little to stress about. Not having to make decisions can be surprisingly liberating, as can (this one really has really surprised me) a firm routine. I’m essentially a massive baby, what’s not to be happy about? It’s all very zen really. Stopping to ponder my fate, or to worry about what’s going to happen, is unwise. Hysterical sobbing and screaming may initially vent some steam, but it scares the neighbours and scratches up the throat.

            So no benefactors, no handouts, just being told “Big Pink Box – you’re big pink f*cked pet! You might wanna get back on the god train (Ha, no!)”. It’s not a route to happiness I’d recommend. I’m just glad that when I was out there IRL I met some great people in some very strange places, and had fun. If I’d reared up and spat back ” NO U!” in the face of criticism, or only focused on what I wanted to hear, then my life would’ve ended years ago. If I’d judged people on their backgrounds, interests and ambitions (as I did as my mother does, and as twelve year old me did before an awakening) I would have really missed out.

            Learning to not judge people as my mother did (topnotch chrisrian that she is lol) made me. All my own work, due to a chance encounter with someone whose family was so bizarre and dysfunctional that if it were committed to paper as fiction, people would mock it for being too surreal. Twelve years on that carnival ride taught Little Pink Box everything that informed their transition to bigger boxiness. Not school, home, or church, but involvement in a weird parallet life that shaped my views on what’s really important. Had I missed that turn in the road and followed the life my mother wanted for me, I would’ve been as unbearable and pompous as she is, no doubt I’d use her manipulative tactics too.

            I’m bloody far from perfect, but I can lie here knowing I’ve tried my best to work, live, and divide time and assets in a way that benefits the most people for the longest amount of time. Crying and complaint are not good uses of time, so I’ll try and project maximum happiness instead. That’ll do me.

          • Phospherocity said:

            “Learning to not judge people as my mother did (topnotch chrisrian that she is lol) made me”

            It seems you may in fact have some work to do on not judging people.

          • Big Pink Box said:

            Yawn.  Once again, she judged on sight alone, with no information whatsoever.  I reserve the right to judge the hell out of some boy who claims that he lights up lives, has his life completely together, and is a great individual with an interesting life, who smugly laughs at the idea of a young woman asking him out.  There’s a phrase in my local dialect, that describes a boastful self-promoter as having “tickets on himself”.  How shall I number LW’s tickets?  Let me count the ways:

            1.  He appears to believe that he’s so amazeballs that seeing her dad (his former boss) again would be awkward, because Boss!Dad hadn’t wanted Mr Firefly to leave.  It seems that Glowbug’s first ticket is his belief that Boss!Dad might, I dunno, throw himself at LW and beg him to return to his employ.  The fact that ” We hate to lose you” is usually code for “Ugh, great.  Now I have to train another newb” has gone over his substantially inflated head.

            2.  He is an all round great guy who’s good at anything he tries.  His life is interesting, he has his finances together and a great relationship with his family, and that confirms his awesometude.  OTOH Wonderful is immature, has a boring life, disrespects her parents , complains about her job, and has goals and interests that Sparkles finds distasteful.  His super-amazing mind does not appear to grasp the many privileges inherent in his life.

            3.  He thinks Wonderful has sought him out to save her from her boring life, to use him as an emotional crutch, to fill the void in her barren, hobbyless existence.

            4.  I’ll let him speak for himself here:

            “Although she’s my age (19), I don’t think she’s at the point where I can tell her [no] without grievously wounding her undeveloped ego, especially given how she admires me.

            *Head tilt*

            “grievously wounding her undeveloped ego […] how she admires me.”

            Almost got it…

            “her undeveloped ego”

            Nope.  Not going to lose a millisecond of my nap for side-eyeing the Hell out of young Master Humblebraggington of Boastwad Hall.  His bloated ego will keep him warm at night, but he cannot backpedal any harder without ripping a tear in the space time continuum.  His team should take off their helmets and rest.

            Oh, and one last thing , I’m not a christian, so there is no set of tenets that I am violating, whereas my mother is violating one of the major facets of her religion. That was why I pointed it out, her hypocrisy and arrogance., and how that led to my life changing.

          • Hannahbelle said:

            “her undeveloped ego”</b

            Yeah…the only way I can excuse that in my head is to imagine he grew up in a culture or family that uses psychobabble to put people in their place (or to “typecast” them as a manipulative tactic: I call you narcissistic so you’ll bend over backwards to prove me wrong). Being treated that way or even witnessing it can really mess with your head.

            That said, I think both judging people accurately and expressing it constructively are two of the most important skills we can learn as social animals. Both are probably lifetime curricula for those of us who are awkward.

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