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Do they make deoderant for the stink of desperation?
August 12, 2009 6:03 PM   Subscribe

I'm pretty sure I stink of desperation when I'm out on dates. Please help me stop doing that.

I just turned 27. Living in Big Coastal City, where most of my college friends call home; I grew up in one godawful small town and went to college in another, so all my roots (professional, personal) are here. And when I say all, I mean all - once a year at Thanksgiving I call my parents to ask if they're willing to see my older brother again, dad says something about lifestyles and God's wrath and sin, I hang up and go over to my brother's boyfriend's parents' place for dinner. 90% of the time, I love it here - my friends are great, my career is off like a rocket, I'm having a blast.

Except:

All of my friends are in relationships. Every single one as of six months ago. About half are married or engaged; the others are in various stages of seriousness, but not a one of them is single. It wasn't like this when we moved here, but basically, since then, they've all gained relationships and almost none of them have lost any. I even made a list to be sure. I head up a team of six at work - all of them are a year to four years younger than me, and one of them is unattached; he's the most introverted person I've ever met. Me, though - I've been single for three years, as of this fall. I had a month-long fling in 2007, and that was going great, until she decided to go back to her ex. That's the closest I've come.

I paid attention to people who told me to just do things I loved, and get out and be social, and it'd happen. I tried that - joined a couple of groups devoted to my hobbies; started volunteering. That didn't work. Well, it worked inasmuch as it made my life better, and I did get a few new friends/acquaintances out of it, and a couple of unsuccessful dates, but... no meaningful progress toward any kind of girlfriend.

I go on dates, when I can; I sometimes meet someone at a party, or a random conversation on the street turns into meeting for coffee. I just started online dating at a friend's urging, but it's been an incredibly depressing experience as I start to understand how horrific the gender imbalance is. It seems like a tremendous amount of work and rejection to even get to a single date.

Now here's the thing: I still believe that I'm doing things "right," as much as there is such a thing. I'm keeping active, and social; I've checked with trusted friends that my clothing, apartment, behavior, aren't horribly wrong. I will meet someone - logic says so. I may have had really bad luck so far, but there's nothing stopping me from meeting anyone at any of a dozen social events, hitting it off, yadda yadda. My problem is staying positive. I'm the first one to say that desperation is the worst thing to have when you're single. But I'm getting really, really desperate. I'm really envious of the lovebirds around me, and frankly, being basically celibate is kind of horrible. I'm pretty sure at this point that when I am chatting with a girl, the desperation is obvious, and it looks awful.


So how the hell do I manage this? How do I stay sane when I'm surrounded with happy couples, without ditching my entire social network? I've heard people say that I need to "stop trying," but I can't understand how to actually do that. I stay busy; between work and hobbies and friends I don't even have a lot of free time, so it's not like I'm just sitting at home moping. But like I said... it's been a long time since I've had any hope at all about relationships, and I honestly don't know, and would like to know, how to obscure/manage what is, frankly, an increasingly desperate mental state? What's worked for the green? How can I chill the fuck out?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (39 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
Have you ever tried putting yourself into situations where the goal, rather than dating which might lead to a long-term relationship, is instead just hooking up? I'm not suggesting you abandon dating, but for me, I find that I have much more confidence and am less anxious around the opposite sex in general if every once in a while I just indulge in a hookup-as-ego-boost that I don't expect to lead anywhere.
posted by ocherdraco at 6:20 PM on August 12, 2009


I sympathize, and I've been there before.

I don't have "the" answer, but I can put out some suggestions/things to think about.

1. Try to limit your time with the lovebirds for a while, and try to hang out more with (happily!) single friends/acquaintances. It seems to me that humans envy/become more desperate for *anything* when they see that the people around them have it, as opposed to when they see others don't have it either.

2. I've always known that eventually, at some point in my life, I would get married. Do you have the same feeling (or the feeling that eventually, you will be in a relationship again)? That knowledge helped me chill out during the looooooong dry periods. I just reminded myself that eventually, it would happen, so there wasn't a rush. This may sound silly/unhelpful to you, so YMMV.

3. Re meeting women: Have you considered joining groups devoted, rather than to your own hobbies, to hobbies that attract mostly women? I think it would be best to do something you had at least *some* interest in. But I think doing something like volunteering at an animal shelter (as one example) would be more helpful just in terms of meeting sheer numbers of women than playing on a coed soccer team.

4. How good are you at recognizing when a woman is attracted to/interested in *you*? I think it would be a more efficient use of your time to ask out women who are interested in you from the get-go, rather than women you have to pursue harder.
posted by Ashley801 at 6:20 PM on August 12, 2009


"Stop trying" is the answer, but the paradox is that if you pursue a policy of not trying because you think it's the answer, then you won't really have stopped trying. I know this sounds much easier said than done, but the answer is to genuinely come to believe that you don't need a relationship in order to be happy. Or to put it another way, to let go of the idea that you need a relationship in order to be happy.

And after all, this belief — that you don't need to have a relationship in order to be happy — has the great advantage of being true, whereas the notion that we all deserve and will ultimately find happiness in a romantic relationship has the disadvantage of being completely baseless. (I can't find, but if someone can please link to it, a historically great post by hermitosis on this topic.)

What would be your motivation to work towards this mindset, given that if you're motivated by wanting to get a date, you will undermine the whole point of the quest? Simple: because it will equip you to weather all sorts of life's storms, in love, at work, family, illness, etc. And how, practically, would you work towards this mindset? I'm a million miles from having achieved it myself, but so far meditation has been an enormous help.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 6:33 PM on August 12, 2009 [7 favorites]


In my opinion, the biggest way to not reek of desperation is to build up your confidence. Don't have any? Fake it until you make it. Wear clothes you feel good in, stand up straight, know that she chose YOU to go on a date with and thus you're worth her time. Give yourself all the positive self-talk you can. There's someone out there for everyone, believe me.

Also, it might be helpful to identify the fact that you seem to be dating because everyone else is, rather than dating because you actually want to.
posted by emilyd22222 at 6:38 PM on August 12, 2009


Can't you just ask your friends to set you up???
posted by Theloupgarou at 6:40 PM on August 12, 2009


I vote for a dating hiatus. And not just, "I'd like to date, but no one will go out with me"--but actually saying to yourself that you will not date anyone for 6 months. Take yourself off the web dating site, stop chatting up girls with an eye towards asking them out, stop volunteering with groups if the primary objective was to find a date, etc.

Be alone because you choose to be alone, and reset your desperation vibe. You're 27, you're going to hook up with someone eventually, get married, have babies, the whole nine yards. I really WILL happen eventually. Trying to make it happen now is what's making you look desperate.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:40 PM on August 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I vote for a dating hiatus.

If you wanted a job, is the answer to stop applying? If you want to lose weight, is the answer to stop working out? I think a forced dating hiatus is a terrible idea if you want to be in a relationship. You sound like you are doing everything right, Anonymous, and I think all you can do is keep trying, keep going out, keep at the online dating thing (how often are you initiating things? Women are probably less likely to initiate things online, so you may need to put more work into it then you might expect).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:48 PM on August 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


Rather than trying to 'stop trying', get beyond trying. It's that state of patience formed by acceptance of two paradoxical beliefs: one is that you will find love and partnership. As Ashley801 says "I just reminded myself that eventually, it would happen, so there wasn't a rush". The other belief your must hold is that life is good just as it is. Mix these two beliefs together and at some time in some place magic will happen.
posted by Kerasia at 6:50 PM on August 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


First, you should stop obsessing over what other people are doing. Yeah, other people are in relationships. Yes, they are having sex. You are not. These things happen.

to just do things I loved, and get out and be social, and it'd happen. [...] and a couple of unsuccessful dates, but... no meaningful progress toward any kind of girlfriend.

So... you just gave up?

It seems like a tremendous amount of work and rejection to even get to a single date.

Look, all those people who tell you to just relax, that you'll meet someone when you least expect it... they are lying. Dating takes work. It takes time and money. It is not easy.

My problem is staying positive.

Exactly. Your problem is you. It's not the friends in relationships. It's not that you're a shut in. It's that you have allowed your desperation and befuddlement to get the better of you.

I'm pretty sure at this point that when I am chatting with a girl, the desperation is obvious, and it looks awful.

Nothing will scare a woman away quicker than a guy who comes across as being a desperate looser.

How do I stay sane when I'm surrounded with happy couples, without ditching my entire social network?

Social network? What the hell are you talking about? People aren't commodities or collectibles. Do you enjoy the company of your friends or not? Stop obsessing over their relationships. Just stop it.

I've heard people say that I need to "stop trying," but I can't understand how to actually do that.


See above. They are lying to you. No one ever got laid by NOT TRYING.

How can I chill the fuck out?

Easy. Stop defining your happiness (or the inverse, your desperation) in terms of how happy your friends are. Stop defining yourself by your single status.

You're doing things right. Keep it up. You've just started online dating, another great venue for you either to sound like confident, independent, guy who is comfortable with himself and his place in the world, or a completely desperate pud.

Be happy with who you are. Be happy with your career, your hobbies, your friends. Do that and people will be attracted to you... for who you are, not for what you desperately want.

(As an aside, I have no fucking idea what the stuff about the gay brother is all about. Stream of consciousness? One too many bong hits? WTF?)
posted by wfrgms at 6:56 PM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I actually say buck the conventional wisdom. You're clearly a with-it, together person with a full and independent life. So why not pursue what you want, rather than "stop trying"? You've already proven that you can manage a career, a social life with friends, volunteering, being social, etc. I know you said you've tried online dating--but do try in earnest. People underestimate how exhausting it is, and how much rejection you have to go through to get even one good date, and how much WORK it is looking through profiles and writing emails and setting up dates. I liken it to taking on a part time job or another course, like 5-10 hours per week. But how much of that time do you spend watching TV or hanging out at cafes/bars, hoping someone talks to you?

Here's what you do: simultaneously get used to rejection and reduce your barriers to entry by widening your pool of candidates, and then reduce your expectations once you do get a date. They aren't diametrically opposed: 1) email a lot of women, and I mean A LOT--10-20 per 2 days, ones you find interesting/cute/potential dates and don't have any niggling dealbreakers like "too much eyeshadow" or "believes in astrology", 2) get used to not hearing from any of them, but statistically, given how much you're emailing a woman, you'll probably get a few to message you back and maybe to go out on a date, 3) once on a date, don't put it on a pedestal. Just view it as a chance to meet someone new, a chance to try this new restaurant or have a cup of coffee and conversation, and hopefully you'll make a friend or go out on a few dates with someone and see where it goes. You won't know until you're there that someone's relationship quality anyway. Sure, you can weed out for real deal breakers like "does not live within 100 miles of me", but otherwise, you'll have to see where it goes once you get there--the trick is getting there. And you won't get that unless you KEEP trying. Try, go out on a bunch of dates, find someone you like, and THEN that's where you try to avoid seeming like you're "trying." You aren't trying to make a new girl your girlfriend, you're supposed to try to get to know her, be pleasing company to her, build a repertoire of experiences together, to gradually, slowly, build up a more intimate, long term relationship.

But I would caution you to examine your motives for wanting a girlfriend. This is where "stop trying" comes in. Is it just to prove something to yourself, to not be the only one without a partner? Girl/boyfriends are not collectibles, we do not get them merely because we want them as an accessory. They are not merely seat fillers in the movie theater. You have to find someone you really like as herself, and value her for her, and want to spend time with HER. If you approach each first, second....Nth date like that, then you'll probably be more likely to find a girlfriend. You'll be yourself, you'll be with her for her, and you might find that you're building a mutually beneficial relationship that may get to being more regular in frequency of seeing each other and more emotionally serious and more potential for longer term in time.

I say this all from experience and wish you the best of luck: I was single for several years before I decided that I "had it" and had proven everything I needed to about being an independent woman, and went on a quest. I did my work though--3 dating websites (all free though, apparently Match & Eharmony are more "serious" but I didn't want to pay), lots of profile reading and emailing, lots of dates that went nowhere but were perfectly pleasant, and finally, after a few months, I found someone I liked. I still wasn't sure for months after that whether we would have any real relationship potential. It took me maybe 3-4 months to resolve that we were more than "dating." But now, a couple years in, I'm sure. I know that since I"m writing this as a woman, in probably the same big coastal city with the bad gender imbalance due to the tech industry, that my experiences may be different from yours. But I'm sharing to tell you that yes, if you put in the work and re-engineer how you think of the dating/mating process, it can happen. My other half of my relationship was probably in the same "there are no single women in this area" boat, but you only need one to really click with.
posted by dhn at 7:01 PM on August 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I vote for a dating hiatus.
If you wanted a job, is the answer to stop applying?


Precisely. It's possible that a woman might appear and ask you out without you making any effort whatsoever, but I'd say it's about as likely as someone offering you a job without you applying for any. Which is to say: not very likely.
posted by grouse at 7:05 PM on August 12, 2009


As several others have said: "Stop trying" is surprisingly bad advice considering how often it's said. If you want to accomplish something, the smart thing to do is make an effort. That may not sound too romantic, but that's life. "It'll happen when you least expect it!" is Hollywood/fairytale talk.

As you seem to realize, it sounds like you generally have your life together. Heck, you don't even need to have your whole life sorted out to get a girlfriend! Look at everyone out there with a girlfriend or boyfriend -- they're far from perfect. You're as good if not better than most of them. The difference isn't that they've checked off more of life's must-do items than you; it's that you're not creating enough opportunities in the first place.

When I look over your question, the biggest gap I see is that you're dismissing online dating after barely giving it a try. It can work. It worked for me. Now, I'm flattered at the idea that it's sooo slanted against men that only the few most amazing men can succeed at it. I would love to believe that, since it would follow, as a corollary, that I'm incredibly amazing. But it's probably more realistic to say that online dating is a generally powerful tool for creating opportunities for men and women -- if you do it right. That means bracing yourself to accept going on 10 dates in a row, each one with a new woman, and feeling OK about the fact that they all end up falling flat. Because the 11th could be your girlfriend.

In the meantime, you know what you'll be doing? Training yourself to not seem desperate! For more explanation of how this works, I recommend reading the comments in this thread by artemisia and jaltcoh (me).

Now, if you simply find online dating offputting, AND you're somehow able to meet up with as many new eligible women through some other means, more power to you. But again, I think you're dismissing it too quickly given the circumstances.
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:18 PM on August 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Here's what you do: simultaneously get used to rejection and reduce your barriers to entry by widening your pool of candidates, and then reduce your expectations once you do get a date. They aren't diametrically opposed: 1) email a lot of women, and I mean A LOT--10-20 per 2 days...

I basically agree with this in principle, but I'd suggest emailing far fewer than 10 woman a day. There's a point at which more emails becomes counterproductive. You can only juggle so many different prospects without getting overwhelmed. As an extreme thought-experiment, imagine you emailed every single woman on a popular dating site in your area on the same day -- see the problem?

(BTW, I meant to add in my earlier comment: feel free to email me.)
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:36 PM on August 12, 2009


I have a good friend who just turned 29 and hasn't had a girlfriend in ten years. (I was that girlfriend, in high school.)

The biggest thing that he does that turns people off (and not just the ladies; to varying degrees he does this all the time, to everyone) is to be not fully present during conversations. At this point he's so desperate to connect with a girl that you can almost see the gears grinding in his head: What can I say next that will prove I am witty, educated, sensitive, or whatever? How am I coming across rightnowthisverysecond? Does she like me? Will she like me after I say X?

There's this very real sense with him, and I say this as someone who's excessively fond of him, that he's Not Really There. Not paying full attention, not responding organically or spontaneously but rather pouring every ounce of effort into plotting how he's going to come across. It's pretty sad, especially since he is basically a funny, smart, decent human being. And he's not physically unattractive or anything. It's that he's tremendously socially awkward because he's constantly freaking out about being socially awkward.

So my big advice to someone who feels like he's striking out or sending off "I'm desperate!" pheromones is to let go of yourself in conversation. Really really For Real listen and react and respond. In the moment. This will probably take practice but it will be worth it.

(And this probably goes without saying but don't do the other thing my friend does: he NEVER EVER SHUTS UP about how he can't get a girl. I think I can speak fairly confidently on behalf of my fellow heterosexual women when I say girls are not moved to jump you, or date you, when you treat them to an endless monologue detailing your latest rejections. It ain't healthy and it sure as hell isn't attractive. You, though, sound genuinely interesting and cool so I'm guessing your bad luck so far has been mostly that: bad luck, bad timing, etc. Good luck. Really, you strike me as pretty charming so I'd be surprised if your efforts don't pay off soon.)
posted by Neofelis at 7:41 PM on August 12, 2009 [12 favorites]


Maybe going on more regular dates to get comfortable with dating itself would be helpful. Between your friends, your brother, his boyfriend, other relatives you may have like cousins, etc., the people in your life surely have some single female friends that they could set you up with. Even if it doesn't work out romantically with a woman right away, at least you will get more comfortable on dates.
posted by ishotjr at 8:00 PM on August 12, 2009


My advice: Stop dating. Start meeting. "Meeting," you say? Yup.

Dating is stressful because it begins with the idea that you're potentially looking for a match. Ah, but if you're only meeting to hang out... well, that's a lot less stressful, and it increases the odds you'll see each other again... to hang out, I mean. And all of that hanging out can lead to actual dating as you become more comfortable with each other.

Here's the trick! Use your hobbies and interests as ways to meet people. I think you already said you're doing this, but I got the feeling you're doing online dating OR meeting people for shared interests. Really, you should be doing both as one thing.

Like photography? Post an ad online looking for women to go on photo-walks with. Like board games? Use craigslist to create a beer and board games night at a local pub. Figure out what things you like to do and then seek women to do those things with. These non-date dates can be great because you're not stuck doing typical chit chat and trying to find things to talk about... because you're actually doing something already. It's less awkward, which means it's easier for you to just be you.

Oh, and following up on what Neofelis said, don't be a loser.

Don't talk about anything negative! Don't talk about why you can't get dates or how you never get second dates or never get laid. Don't mention past relationships. Don't bring up how much work sucks or how much your life sucks.

Be a winner! Talk about things you like, or things that inspire you. Share a smile. To find someone to love, you've got to be someone you love. Corny, yes, but it's true true true.

Best of luck!
posted by 2oh1 at 8:09 PM on August 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


Honestly, stop trying is not what I think works. Try, just don't be desperate about it but definitely let girls know that you are interested. Keep your independent activities and doing what you are doing. The desperation comes across when you are seeking a long term relationship with someone who you don't know and who doesn't know you, not from you wanting a girlfriend. Long term relationships don't happen up front, they are only discovered as being long term at the end or when you are 60 and happily married. Allow yourself to be in it for the short term and let girls know when you are interested, the right one will come about. I also second or third the finding of single friends.
posted by occidental at 8:27 PM on August 12, 2009


I don't think you should stop trying. But, I think you will find the one when you are not looking. I broke up with a long time gf and went on a lot of setup dates. I met my wife at a going away party for a friend when I was not even expecting to meet anyone new. In fact I got into a chugging contest with my wife to be which I doubt I would have done on a date, but both our relaxed normal personalities came out so.. Keep trying but don't think about it too much. Also, I would ask the wife or trusted gf of one of your friends for the female point of view. Maybe you are reeking of desperation and that comes off badly. Maybe they can give you advice on how to look less desperate.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:29 PM on August 12, 2009


"Not trying" is what works, but not like everyone means it, i.e. not making any effort. "Not trying" can also mean "effortless". So make it effortless. Cut yourself off for six weeks, live on PBJs, whatever. Save the scratch for a nice set of duds. In those six weeks, get your ass in shape. I'm not talking marathon shape; just lose ten pounds (eating like you're poor will help that, too) and get, if not elated about your body, at least slightly more OK with your figure. Everyone always wants to lose ten pounds. If you're not one of the 99%, then change it up - eat a lot of cheese, tuna, and salami, drop the reps per set, pour on the pounds, and put on ten pounds of muscle (not really ten pounds...you know what I mean).

When you're not working out, read a couple good books. Not grisham; Kirkegaard. Don't worry, no one understands it. But the very act of reading smart stuff will make you feel...smarter.

In short, tune out and fix what ever it is in yourself that you don't like (if not a complete fix, at least jury-rig it) enough to boost your confidence.

(I used something like this when I was living in my future brother-in-law's attic, on a twin bed with no frame - in other words, perfect reasons to feel like a schmuck, and changed my confidence levels so drastically that one friend though I'd started doing coke.)
posted by notsnot at 8:48 PM on August 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


FWIW I reckon the "stop trying" idea comes from perception, more than reality. People have the sense that they stopped trying when they met the person they want to be with because it's effortless, easy, fun and natural. No one really stops trying, they just don't recognise their old desperate-for-a-date self when they don't have to try so hard to connect with another person.

"Stop trying" makes as much sense as marvelling at how the glass broke on the last bounce.

I think you're going about it all right. It's all just luck, isn't it? You may have to wade through more (or fewer) dates than the next guy to meet the person worth all this effort, but I don't think there's much you can do about that save maintaining a great attitude, treating people nicely and having a lot of fun.
posted by lottie at 8:54 PM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Charles Bukowski, who eventually enjoyed plenty of sucess with women, had words of advice in this vein. I believe they were "don't try, don't try".
posted by telstar at 8:59 PM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's my opinion and experience that solving this is straightforward, but not easy or quick.

1) The most convincing way to not appear desperate is to not be desperate.

2) If you have options, you won't be desperate.

3) The more experience you have at dating, the more success you will enjoy, and the more options you will have.

4) Your objective should be to gain dating experience, even if you're exuding desperation while doing it.

5) This WILL be a depressing experience at times, but it WILL be worth it.

The somewhat nonintuitive part of this is that you may have to initially date people you're not particularly interested in in order to gain that experience.

It sounds like you're not starved for dates, exactly, so I'm curious where all of them are going "unsuccessful". Keep in mind that the man HAS TO initially take care of ALL the logistics; asking out, texting, calling, date setting up. That's just how it works unless you're a rockstar or looking for a girl who is REALLY into you right off the bat and takes control -- and getting both of those together is exceedingly rare. If you're asking EVERYONE out on a second date, and you're not dating out of your league, SOME of them will say yes. It's a numbers game.

I'd also recommend intending to date multiple people at once. It's hard to feel desperate when you have three other women in your back pocket.
posted by trevyn at 9:04 PM on August 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nobody's recommended David De Angelo? Maybe it's one of those things AskMeFi is generally against? Well, maybe I'll get shouted down for this, but I found reading his books (Double Your Dating, plus a few others that you can find on BitTorrent) pretty helpful in adjusting my attitude toward interacting with women.

Although a lot of PUA stuff out there is completely stupid, in my experience, if you read DDA's books with the right mindset and just take away the useful stuff about self-confidence, how to be interesting in conversation, how to induce attraction, cognitive-behavioral exercises to try, etc. you can definitely get somewhere. That is, I use them as "how to be fun and interesting when talking to women," more than "how to go out and hook up every night," although I suppose that might be a goal that they are targeted towards as well.
posted by Jacen Solo at 9:11 PM on August 12, 2009


I would caution you to examine your motives for wanting a girlfriend. This is where "stop trying" comes in. Is it just to prove something to yourself, to not be the only one without a partner? Girl/boyfriends are not collectibles, we do not get them merely because we want them as an accessory. They are not merely seat fillers in the movie theater. You have to find someone you really like as herself, and value her for her, and want to spend time with HER.

Quoted for truth.

The problem with "trying" to find a date is that it's all too easy to give the impression that you're more interested in gaining social acceptance (and validation of your worth and attractiveness) than you are in simply getting to know other people because you find them to be intrinsically fascinating creatures with heaps of interesting and funny things to say. People pick up on this underlying motive very quickly. They may not be able to articulate exactly what it is that's off-putting about you if you're coming across this way, but they sense it nonetheless. People want you to be genuinely interested in them, rather than in what their approval or romantic attentions might do to repair your bruised ego or boost your social status.

Genuine interest in a fellow human being is incredibly magnetic. Do not underestimate its power. Even the simplest expressions of such interest - as long as that interest is genuine, and not just a means to an end - can work wonders.

A "date" can be stressful because it's a kind of scripted situation in which people are sussing one another out to see if they are Right For One Another. At times it can be like an audition or job interview, with much of the same anxiety and pressure. The stakes are higher this way than they are if you just meet people to hang out and play games or engage in some other shared interest, and this can make it more difficult to just be yourself.

As I mentioned in another recent dating thread, I'm with the folks who are saying "forget about dating." Just start meeting people and enjoying shared interests with them, with no particular agenda other than relaxing and having fun. You might find a date that way, or you might not. With this approach, you will benefit either way, though, because every time you do it, you're teaching yourself how to enjoy life - with or without a partner.
posted by velvet winter at 11:25 PM on August 12, 2009 [7 favorites]


Wow, there's some great advice in this thread. The bottom line really comes down to being confident in yourself and genuinely enjoying the company of others.

In other words, work on bettering yourself. Build some physical strength, if only to know that you are strong. Build character by exploring your interests, if only to know that you are unique. And, most importantly, learn to listen. Being a great date isn't just about being entertaining. It's about being entertained. I've learned that everyone has a story to tell. Next time you're on a date, make it a point to hear her story. Everyone loves when someone is genuinely interested in what they have to say.

And, as others have alluded to above... learn to try less hard when you're on a date. In other words, don't focus on winning her over and getting a second date. Instead, just try to enjoy yourself on the date you're on.
posted by 2oh1 at 12:26 AM on August 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


You must fall in love with yourself before anyone else can love you. Spend some time alone and discover all the things you love about yourself and then show them to the world. You'd be surprised how few people ever take the time to develop a relationship with themselves - that's part of the reason why so many cannot stand being alone. If you define yourself by something external then people will love you for those external features; it's unhealthy, and worse, once it goes away you become a stranger - to them and yourself.
posted by any major dude at 12:27 AM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


You could have some casual sex to take the desperation off. Also you can perfect your appearance - grooming, fitness, teeth..
posted by By The Grace of God at 1:22 AM on August 13, 2009


You've started to obsess, and it's making you crazy. Dude, you made a LIST.

Everyone goes through periods where they're the only ones not in a relationship and sometimes it lasts for years, and sometimes the cycle works so that other people are jealous of you. It is how it works and it's a pain, but it's not unusual, and you've gotten yourself so worked up your trying to make a pathology out of it. Like you have a virus or this is your destiny or something. It isn't.

Stop obsessing. Find something, God, anything, else to put your focus on. You're devoting a lot of energy to this, and you have done all the right things. It's time to let go and trust that Time takes care of most things. In the meantime, you've got to keep yourself busy thinking and working on SOMETHING. ELSE.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:28 AM on August 13, 2009


You must fall in love with yourself before anyone else can love you.

I really don't believe this, otherwise the lifelong neurotics among us wouldn't have anyone to put up with us.

I do think, though, that distraction helps.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:30 AM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you're appearing desperate, there's a reason for that. So, why would you be desperate? You can be happy alone. Will it be "oh my God, I want live/die for you and grind against your loins" happiness? Not likely. However, you can be happy--very happy. Why do you need a partner? Or maybe the question should be why do you need more than the occasional date and horizontal hokey-pokey? You might have real and reasonable answers to those questions, but I think many people don't. Many just want a relationship because they want one, or they think that's "what you do" at a certain age and stage in life. Not true.

I think your saying "all my friends are in relationships" expresses a lot. It expresses envy: "I wish I was in a relationship." It expresses jealousy: "What do they have that I don't?" It expresses concern: "Will I always be alone? What's wrong with me?" These are all questions based on fear, and they manifest themselves in personal and social anxiety, which completely explains your emotions during a date. However, not all emotions are very rational or helpful to your psyche. You need to analyze these feelings and decide for yourself whether they're "good" and "helpful" to you. If they aren't, work on that.

How do you work on it? Well, if the questions I mentioned ring true to you, you work on it by realizing that you don't need a partner to be happy, that your friends don't necessarily have anything that you don't outside of someone they chemically and socially feel they're on the same page with, and that there is very little statistical chance that you will be alone forever or that you have anything wrong with you that is causing your single status.

I paid attention to people who told me to just do things I loved, and get out and be social, and it'd happen. I tried that - joined a couple of groups devoted to my hobbies; started volunteering. That didn't work.

This is another interesting and telling statement. I don't know what your friends said to you, per se, but I imagine at least some of them told you to go find a hobby for fun, not to find a partner. You're getting involved in things, solely to find a partner, it sounds. I'm a pretty non-mystical thinker, but I really believe that few people find partners when they're looking for them. This isn't a "stop trying" stance. This is a "stop fucking with your own head" stance. I think we become our own worst enemies when we obsess over things, as you seem to be doing, and sabotage our chances. People do this on a daily basis when it comes to relationships, as do they with careers and other things.

You can almost bet that once you stop looking: bang, you'll suddenly bump into people a lot more frequently, not because of some mystical luck or reason, but because you'll stop acting crazy and find yourself at peace; that's attractive to many people. Enjoy your hobbies and volunteering for the sake of what they are.

I just started online dating at a friend's urging, but it's been an incredibly depressing experience as I start to understand how horrific the gender imbalance is. It seems like a tremendous amount of work and rejection to even get to a single date.

As someone who's written a few papers on online dating and relationships, I find there are a lot of misconceptions. Sometimes those misconceptions come from anecdotal evidence. For instance, what you say here is not very true at all, statistically, and it varies from site to site as you'll see by clicking those links. You're saying this, not because it's true, but because you haven't had instant romance with anyone, or perhaps have even been rejected a few times. To rationalize this to your ego, you've decided it's because of a huge gender imbalance on online dating services. Maybe it's because you're trying too hard, though, even online. Relax. Maybe all you should do is put up a bunch of profiles and let people contact you (or not); and don't freak out if people don't message you. Consider it a good thing. It'd be better to get one good date that turns into a great relationship than get fifty dates that make you want to run for the hills.

Saying this, as with some of the other things in your post, suggests that you really need to come back down to earth, analyze your thoughts and relax. What you need to do is stop obsessing. It's not healthy, and yes, it will make you look awkward.

You can say, "I'm not obsessing! I'm just stating facts! I'm a good catch, everyone says so, I'm doing what I can--and still nothing!" or you can say, "Maybe I'm sabotaging my chances, and maybe I don't need to fret over a relationship when reason dictates I will eventually have one." and go on about your business. There are plenty of single, happy people that have many friends who are in relationships. You should ask yourself why they're happy being alone and why they aren't stressed out by being the supposedly Nth wheel.

And finally...

How do I stay sane when I'm surrounded with happy couples, without ditching my entire social network?

You stay sane around happy couples by putting a stop to frequently selfish thinking. Because, really, that is a part of what this is. I'm not going to call you selfish from a single post on MeFi; that'd be absurd. But some of the things you confess to doing and thinking do suggest you'd benefit from not thinking so inwardly all the time.

- Can you learn to just be happy for your friends? Yes, you may be happy for them now, but it's not true, full and selfless happiness if you're freaking out about not having what they have.

- Can you just enjoy your hobbies and volunteering without trying to shop for dates?

- Can you just enjoy your time with people when on a date, without obsessing over how long the relationship will last, even before it's gotten started?

If you answer "no" or "maybe" to any of the above, you still have personal work to do and shouldn't really consider getting into a relationship until it's done. Otherwise, you're going to be clingy to the point of jealousy and over-protectiveness. You think you're going "insane" now, but just imagine how frenzied you might feel in a relationship; I could be wrong, but I gather that you might very well feel frantic about keeping it, which is not a good thing. It might also end up being that you stay in a relationship, even though it's not what you want.
posted by metalheart at 2:36 AM on August 13, 2009 [7 favorites]


1) email a lot of women, and I mean A LOT--10-20 per 2 days

Oh god, NO. Please do not take this advice. Hello, ultra creepy guy which all women know to avoid. You shouldn't stop trying (or at least, thinking about this problem and ways to get past it). But please don't go to the other extreme.

What are you looking for, exactly? LTR, casual sex, dating/ non-serious relationships? Are you looking to be loved, or are you looking for a good fun time? Your post doesn't make this clear, and I suspect that you aren't clear about this yourself either. I ask this because it makes all the difference in your approach.

Anyway, you seem like you're picky -- waiting and holding out for a good thing. Which is good, except you're feeling a little lonely right now. From personal experience, casual encounters can usually help with easing the pain of loneliness.
posted by moiraine at 3:02 AM on August 13, 2009


1) email a lot of women, and I mean A LOT--10-20 per 2 days

No woman wants to be pursued just because she's one of many people with vaginas.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:16 AM on August 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


Maybe all you should do is put up a bunch of profiles and let people contact you (or not); and don't freak out if people don't message you. Consider it a good thing. It'd be better to get one good date that turns into a great relationship than get fifty dates that make you want to run for the hills.

You know, I've always been wary of online dating, but this seems to make good sense to me. Doing this could maybe help change some of that desperation to confidence ("Hey, look, these people are interested in me.."
posted by little_c at 7:13 AM on August 13, 2009


Sometimes the only thing worse than being alone is being with somebody. Just keep that in mind.
posted by dortmunder at 7:34 AM on August 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Look, it sounds like this is a priority in your life so I would make it one and get really, really serious about it. Go after it like you would anything else you really, really wanted. Craft a campaign, dammit!

1) Have one or two close female friends who are good writers read and re-work your online dating profile. Your profile is critical; think of it like 300 resumes landing on an employers desk for one job. It needs to literally be outstanding.

2) Focus on two sites - eharmony and one other like match.com - and prepare to settle in for the long haul. Commit to sending one contact a (day/week/month) on both sites. Online dating is not a quick fix for men, so understand that and make your peace with it.

3) Try speed dating. It will probably suck but it will make for good stories on other dates!

4) Find a matchmaker. A good personal introduction service really can deliver a tailored set of matches to you. I went to a matchmaker and while she was not someone I liked, she was very good at her job.

5) Let everyone you know know you're looking to date. If you were looking for a job you'd probably send all of your contacts a brief "I'm looking for... if you know of anything..." email. Why more people do not do this with dating has never made sense to me.

6) Let everyone else know you're looking to date. Give some thought to DateAnonymousInYourCity.com. OK but really, just think about it :)
posted by DarlingBri at 8:17 AM on August 13, 2009


Ladder Theory

Try dating some people that are more desperate than you.
posted by milinar at 9:11 AM on August 13, 2009


One approach that I haven't seen mentioned: figure out what it is you're desperate for, and recognize that you're probably not really "desperate" for that at all.

I mean, really drill down deep and figure out what it is you think you're missing. Sex? That's cheap and easy, if you really want just that. Companionship? You probably already have a number of people in your life who can offer you some degree of that.

Look, if you're starving, then bland boiled rice will do the trick. If you're meeting your basic caloric needs, then maybe you crave something a little more interesting. But you're no longer starving.

Reading your original post, I do't think you're "desperate" - you're just craving something a little more than you already have. Recognize THAT, and it may go a long way to helping you feel less "desperate" and more simply "interested."
posted by mikewas at 9:36 AM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


The best thing to do is try to make the date itself fun. Dont even think about what youre trying to accomplish, just try to have a good time. Tell jokes, tell amusing stories, do interesting things, etc. Once you stop worrying so much about impressing the other person and catching up to your friends, you'll loosen up, and the person on the date with you will appreciate it.
posted by damn dirty ape at 11:09 AM on August 13, 2009


So much good advice on this thread! metalheart's is really great, at 2:36 above. Read it over and over.

I'll highlight one nugget that may help a bit online: do have your female friends review and edit your profile, it really does help to remove the desperation and highlight your unique coolness.

Just remember that the limitation of online dating is that, if you want a real relationship, you do have to meet in real life at some point.
posted by RajahKing at 6:52 AM on August 18, 2009


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