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Sick of being single, unsure of where to start
February 25, 2013 7:55 AM   Subscribe

21 year old college student with past relationship experience, but I can't get a date to save my life. I believe I know the problem(s) but I'm unsure how to get started in term of solving things.

1) I don't know how to flirt.
2) I have trouble distinguishing when a girl is flirting or just being friendly (I tend to auto assume friendly)
3) If there has been some ambiguous flirting happening (and my attempts at flirting back) and some alone time spent together, the logical move would be to make a move, right? I have an immense amount of trouble going in for a kiss or getting at all physical. To the point where I don't do anything and nothing ever happens.
4) Very hard for me to start talking to a random girl, although I know thats a problem for many. What bothers me is my inability to 'approach' girls I have been introduced to (friends of friends, etc)

I have no problems making friends (of both genders) but once I meet a girl that I am interested in(hook up or dating wise) things tend to go off the rails. It is not that I'm out there getting rejected, it's just that I'm not out there doing anything. Normally I just never make a move or flirt correctly or really even ask a girl on a date and instead we just become friends.

Some background:
Dated two girls, one relationship was short(1 year) and insignificant. Other was long (3 years) and serious. Been single for about a year now. At first I was very excited to about being single but I haven't physically been with a girl since my ex-girlfriend and I haven't been on a date in about 3 months(which was set up by a friend, blind date style).

In both cases of the girls I dated one came on very strong to me to the point that her feelings were obvious - this allowed me to feel confidant to 'pursue' her. With the other I had my friends essentially hold my hand every step of the way with the other girl.

Personally I am more on the reserved side but once I get to know someone I can be very friendly. I know that among friends and acquaintances I'm well liked and thought of in high regards. In terms of raw physical attractiveness I would say I'm average. Well aware that girls won't be throwing themselves at me but at the same time I do not think it is my looks that are holding me back. Male friends have said that I'm "too nice" and "care too much".

Lastly, my goals are in the short term: go on some casual dates and have some hookups. Long term: build the skills and confidence needed to have another serious relationship when the time is right/whenever I might meet someone right. Hoping to be able to take advantage of still being in college(at a large school).
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (20 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
If there has been some ambiguous flirting happening (and my attempts at flirting back) and some alone time spent together, the logical move would be to make a move, right? I have an immense amount of trouble going in for a kiss or getting at all physical. To the point where I don't do anything and nothing ever happens.

In both cases of the girls I dated one came on very strong to me to the point that her feelings were obvious - this allowed me to feel confidant to 'pursue' her. With the other I had my friends essentially hold my hand every step of the way with the other girl.

You need to start asking girls out, even if you're not sure they'll say yes, rather than waiting until you are totally absolutely 110% sure that they're into it. You should also ask out girls you think are cool, even if you don't have super strong crushy/pining feelings for them. (Also, waiting until you're in a situation where you might kiss, before you even ask them out or express overt interest, isn't necessarily the best idea.)

The "friend zone" is imaginary, and what it really means is "I did not have the confidence to ask a girl out and instead waited around for her to notice I liked her."

Just approaching a girl and asking her out will be the hardest thing you have ever done in your life, the first time or two. And then it gets easy, and then you'll have no problem when the girl of your dreams comes along.

Also,

Male friends have said that I'm "too nice" and "care too much".

Don't take relationship advice from these guys.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:10 AM on February 25, 2013 [16 favorites]


You have to put yourself out there. That means you may get rejected, you may get hurt, you may lose some potential friends. But it also means you will get dates, you will gain confidence, you will have more fun. Putting yourself out there is a risk, but one with a potential really high payoff. It's scary as hell, but you don't get the reward without the risk.
posted by DoubleLune at 8:15 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Read The Game, by Niel Strauss. Its about the pick up artist community, but does, in my opinion, a decent job of dissecting the downsides and such of the lifestyle, while still providing useful tips on How to: Women. They have an interesting view of Indicators of Interest, and what to do after you receive them.

I think your issue might be some confidence, and fear of getting shot down. Getting rebuffed when you are opening up sucks, but part of life. This has no real reflection on you; it is just an event that happened. Practice smiling and saying hi to attractive women at the mall.

Where do you go to meet ladies? Activities and groups for your hobbies is a great start. Bars are often the 'meat market' type situation good for casual/hookup type things, but not good for long term, in general.
posted by Jacen at 8:17 AM on February 25, 2013


Dated two girls, one relationship was short(1 year) and insignificant. Other was long (3 years) and serious. Been single for about a year now.

Woah! You have more relationship experience than I do. I'm twenty-five, and I don't consider myself particularly inexperienced in this arena. Chill out.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 8:26 AM on February 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


the logical move would be to make a move, right

No, if you think a woman (IMO calling adults "girls" is demeaning) is flirting with you then ask her out. Going straight to kissing/physical with someone you just met is not the way most relationships (as opposed to drunken hookups) begin. It does not sound like you have the confidence to express an interest in the women you meet and you are scared of rejection, just like a lot of other men and women. What is the worst thing that can happen if you are rejected? You won't go on a date with her. What happens if you don't ask her on a date? You definately don't go on a date. What could happen if you asked her out? You might go on a date with her. You have to ask. Due to stupid socialisation women tend to wait for the other person to risk rejection (hilarious to watch in a lesbian bar...) so unfortunately you are the one that has to put yourself out there, using the word "date". Good luck!
posted by saucysault at 8:30 AM on February 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


I have no problems making friends (of both genders)

If you have some good friends, see if they could help play matchmaker. It seems that you're having trouble with your initial encounters, so having a friend field some of that uncertainty by filtering and introducing you to others looking for potential relationships may break the ice a little.
posted by samsara at 8:33 AM on February 25, 2013


PLEASE don't bother with "pick-up artist" bullshit like The Game, etc. Women are not mysterious robot machines with cheat codes.

So you become friends with these girls? I'm unaware of any local municipal codes or federal laws that prohibit the asking of friends out on dates. Maybe try that?

Ignore guys who try to tell you that being nice and caring is a problem. Those guys suck at life and are rightly concerned that you don't, and therefore will be happier than they are.

Finally, you're super super super super super super super young. I know, it doesn't feel like it. But most people have next to no experience at your age; you're entirely within all the norms.
posted by like_a_friend at 8:36 AM on February 25, 2013 [21 favorites]


oh my god don't do pick up artist stuff. As a girl- I know when they are pulling that shit on me AND I find those tacticts (like "negging" where they insult girls to get their attention) both insulting and juvinile. Also, it calls attention to the fact that you are using a book to talk to girls because you are insecure. Not really what you want to put across.


ANYWAY. Girls are not aliens. You don't need a manuel to talk to them, and if you are hanging with a girl and kinda feel like kissing her- but are unsure? crazy thought- say "I want to kiss you, is that ok?" Will some flip out? maybe? WHO CARES? Those girls weren't going to kiss you anyway. there isn't a magic set of words or phrases or secret secrets that will get you into every girls kissin' file.

You get confidence by asking girls out, getting rejected and finding out that it's not so bad after all. You will be seriously ahead of the game if you spend your 21st, 22nd and 23rd year breaking down your insecurities and thickining up your skin when it comes to asking girls out. Seriously. Imagine you at 25 easily and confidently meeting a girl at a softball game or a grocery store- easily talking about something and then casually seeing if she would like to get a coffee sometime. Imagine being able to do that completely without fear because it's really not a big deal. Imagine being able to do that everywhere.

Focus on that. Focus on talking to girls in non-creepy ways. Learn to introduce yourself and strike up conversations at parties, social events, whatever. And the way you learn to do it is BY DOING IT.

Dating is a numbers game. The more comfortable you are and the more people you ask- the better time you are going to have and the better chance you are going to have meeting someone you can have a long, healthy relationship with.
posted by Blisterlips at 8:49 AM on February 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


Asking someone out and then being rejected (or accepted) is how you learn to gauge the into-you-clues going forward. You can't wait until you are 100% certain you'll never be in an accident before getting in a car and learning to drive.

Approach women as people you'd like to get to know; if you meet one you'd like to know on a dating level, just ask her out. It turns out that women do not hold all the cards for being able to gauge interest -- I've got tons of "experience" and I cannot for the life of me tell if a guy is into me. Be explicit -- my sister reported to me that one of her last boyfriend's most charming features was that he was very explicit with her that he did not want to be her friend, he wanted to be her boyfriend (and now he's her husband). So use your big words, say stuff like, "I'm really into you and I'd like to get to know you more. Do you want to go on a (coffee, dinner, movie) DATE?"

Finally, at your tender, tender age, date widely and prolifically. Take out more than one woman on a weekend. Reserve pseudo-domesticity for the relationship you'd take home to your mother. Put your time into getting to know someone before declaring yourself a couple -- we do it backwards these days and I would LOVE to be 21 again and asking your question.
posted by mibo at 8:53 AM on February 25, 2013


To be honest, I don't think you need to do anything different, except maybe to not think about it so much. Just relax, work on being happy with yourself, spend time making friends and moving your life forward, and it'll happen for you. Just relax, this isn't a race.
posted by empath at 8:56 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Kissing people without some kind of clearly stated "we are both into the kissing thing now, right?" is pretty high-level dating technique. I'm not saying that no one should do it, but it requires a lot of ability to read non-verbal cues and it usually takes place in a date-like setting, not just out of the blue. For example, the only "make a move"-style kissing that has happened to me has been when we were doing something very "dates for nerds" like hanging out for hours and hours talking idly about nothing while lying next to each other on the floor. It wasn't just "well, it's the end of the night and I have received no particular signals or language about this but a girl has spent the whole evening with me so I will kiss her".

I add that the "dates for nerds" kissing I have experienced has been totally outnumbered by the various "dates for nerds" that I've been on that did not end in kissing, so this isn't even a good metric.

When in doubt, use your words. Ask someone to go on a date; ask them if you can kiss them.

The risks of PUA-style bullshit are these: lots of girls know about this and will be totally skeeved out by it and you won't get anywhere with them and they'll tell their friends that they saw you out "peacocking" or that you used a "neg" or whatever, and that will not give your social standing any credibility; or that you'll end up in a PUA-style relationship with a woman who is not self-confident enough or culturally clued-in enough to be wise to you. This will not be as awesome as you may think.

You probably do actually "care too much" - I mean, not "care too much about the girls' well-being like a mini Mother Theresa" but "care too much about the outcome". I've known two people to go from dateless awkwardness to lots of dates and ultimately successful long-term relationships, and they both did it by asking girls out enough that they lost their fear of being shot down. Also, I think, by deciding that even if they got shot down they were still worthwhile, interesting human beings worthy of love. I think this is easy to suggest and hard to do - I for instance very seldom ask people on dates, even though I can tell you chapter and verse why this would be a good idea! - but I have actually seen it work for a couple of genuinely awkward and geeky (though also charming, lovable, nice and intelligent) people.
posted by Frowner at 8:57 AM on February 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


3) If there has been some ambiguous flirting happening (and my attempts at flirting back) and some alone time spent together, the logical move would be to make a move, right?

No the logical thing is to ask, email or text something like "Hey, any interest in a coffee / tacos / movie date?" Because that will clarify the ambiguity. If flirting is happening on the date, then feel free to make a move.

4) Very hard for me to start talking to a random girl, although I know thats a problem for many. What bothers me is my inability to 'approach' girls I have been introduced to (friends of friends, etc)

See above. casting your net wide will increase your chances of success.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:57 AM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I felt the same way you did. When you're alone, you get into a self defeating spiral. You wonder why you can't get a date, or get laid, or why your friends are all doing so. You start to feel desperate and rejected and in turn your body language conveys that and makes it even harder. Ever notice that when you are with someone, you get more attention from the opposite sex? thats not a coincidence. People can smell desperation. So my first and most difficult piece of advice is try not to give a shit. This, is hard. I was never able to do it personally, but it will help you carry yourself properly. My second piece of advice is don't aim to go around randomly asking out girls. You don't sound like that kind of guy. Thats a pretty brutal game for someone who feels the way you do right now. Most women I have ever dated and most women my friends were ever with were women they met in a common social situation: class, work, group study, co-ed sports team, running club, friend of a friend, dinner party etc... those are the types of situations which are more likely to yield connections because its how you get to know each other and develop what can lead to dating. I don't know a single person who has met their partner or spouse because they randomly walked up to them in a bar and said "hey how you doin". Not saying it doesnt happen, im talking percentages here.

Anyway, the trick is, I think, to put yourself in what is called a "target rich" environment. A lot of people complain about being single and at the same time, they are home 6 days a week in the evenings.

Good luck and try not to sweat it. It will happen.
posted by postergeist at 9:25 AM on February 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


As said above, it...doesn't really matter what your male friends think the problem is. They are not your target demographic. You don't need to try to get dates with them, or their (probably wrong) idea of what the people you do want to date would like.

Not going to argue with your terminology ("girl" versus "woman") because at your age, you are approaching girls. Or not approaching them. For your age, a year-long relationship is not insignificant. You actually have more dating experience than you're giving yourself credit for.

If you're introduced by a mutual friend, find out beforehand what you have in common with the girl. Have a conversation, like you would with a new male acquaintance. Build common interests. If you're interested in her, tell her so. Invite her out for one-on-one coffee, dinner, something that flags as a "date."
posted by RainyJay at 9:33 AM on February 25, 2013


Dude, I am in my 30s and getting married in 6 months, and you have more dating experience (in terms of time) than I do. Seriously, you're not as bad off as you think.





1) I don't know how to flirt.
You know what can work well sometimes? Being open about your lack of flirting skills. Say to a woman you're interested in "I never learned how to flirt so I may be doing this strangely, but would you like to go get coffee/dinner sometime?". Say outright that you don't know how to flirt, and then be direct. THAT is likely to be much more effective than any pick up artist bullshit that any girl worth your time will see through in a second. Honesty and sincerity can be mega super turn ons, especially as more and more men do the whole negging and PUA nonsense. You will be a huge breath of fresh sweet kick ass air if you approach them with kindness, sincerity, politeness and respect. You have NO IDEA how powerful that is.

Please please please.... do not read The Game or do pick up artist stuff. It is below YOU. Do not sink to feeling as though you have to insult a woman in order to get her to date you. YOU are better than that.


2) I have trouble distinguishing when a girl is flirting or just being friendly (I tend to auto assume friendly)
You're probably missing opportunityies because of this. Start to assume flirting more often.


3) If there has been some ambiguous flirting happening (and my attempts at flirting back) and some alone time spent together, the logical move would be to make a move, right? I have an immense amount of trouble going in for a kiss or getting at all physical. To the point where I don't do anything and nothing ever happens.
No, then you ask on a date. Don't go right for the physical stuff, that can really weird people out. Instead try my suggestion for #1, and ask her out on a date. Be clear it is a DATE not a friend thing, though. As clueless as people seem to think men are, women are JUST as clueless.


4) Very hard for me to start talking to a random girl, although I know thats a problem for many. What bothers me is my inability to 'approach' girls I have been introduced to (friends of friends, etc)
Random person stuff IS hard for most people. I never got the hang of it. Friend stuff, though, is much more likely to yeild a successful result, and you need to remind yourself that it is much LESS likely to result in a mean rejection since it isn't some anonymous person.


Normally I just never make a move or flirt correctly or really even ask a girl on a date and instead we just become friends.
Just because you're friends doesn't mean the "something more" ship has sailed. If you're interested in them romantically, and they aren't dating someone else or have some other reason why your advances would be inappropriate, it is okay to try to plan some one-on-one activities and then take it from there.


Male friends have said that I'm "too nice" and "care too much".
If they mean by "care too much" that you are too focused on dating that it is making you extra desperate and awkward around people, then maybe they have a point. If they mean that you are too nice to the women you are interested in/dating then your friends are douchbags.



Friend, I think you need to both relax some and step up some. Relax insofar as not feeling like you're out of the loop or behind or lacking in some way because you aren't dating right now. You're totally fine and normal. This isn't a race. You need to step up some, though, insofar as you need to be a little more direct with the people you're interested in. Don't let stuff like "I don't know how to flirt" keep you back. And there is no such thing as the friend zone.

And I agree with the suggestion to cast a wider social net. Get involved in some clubs/groups that are of interest to you. Be out and do things and meet people.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 10:21 AM on February 25, 2013


Seconding this: As clueless as people seem to think men are, women are JUST as clueless.


You have no reason whatsoever to believe that girls are smarter at this/better at this than you are. (Again, we are not mysterious alien robots, we're just people, like you.)

Half the girls you're talking to are probably sitting there thinking, "Oh crap, is he flirting or just being nice?! I don't know how to flirt back what do I do oh my god I want to flirt with him but what if he laughs at me and rejects me OH MY GOD."

As a girl who had a lot more "relationship" experience than "dating" experience, I briefly experimented with online dating. And I was just honest: "hey look, I've literally never gone on a date with a stranger, so I probably am not going to be real smooth. Assume that I'm clueless rather than rude/angry/rejecting!" Most guys were relieved because they also were clueless, and then we could go about having an ok time and muddling through.
posted by like_a_friend at 11:01 AM on February 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Just for the record, 1 year is actually a long relationship -- many folks date somebody a few times, or "go out" more seriously for a few months. If it's in years, you've gotten to know each other pretty well (and learned quite a bit about what does and doesn't work for you in meaningful relationships). That stuff can be a lot harder and more valuable to learn than the "how to flirt" part, so just start asking people out on unambiguous dates and you should be way ahead of the game once you manage a hand-hold or goodnight kiss.
posted by acm at 11:02 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don't overthink it. Relax!! Keep being kind (your male friends who say you're too nice are wrong). If you feel attracted to a woman, ask her out soon as you can (instead of pretending you're just into her as a friend hoping that she falls in love with you, which is duplicitous and never works anyway). What's the worst thing that happens...she says no, and that's ok, it doesn't mean you are a failure or unattractive. It just means that at this moment that particular woman did not want a date.

You should then continue to meet new people and you ask other women out next week or whatever. Have a broad social group, try online dating, meet people from different backgrounds and social strata whenever you have a chance.

I think the key to not over-thinking it is not to be laser-focused on getting laid or hooking up but just to have this attitude: I'm going to meet a lot of people, I'm going to talk to a lot of women, I'm going to have a good time seeing what is available to me, and whatever happens, happens. Be relaxed and confident and you will not come off to women as desperate or needy, you'll come off as interesting, attractive, fun to talk to.

Women are nervous about this stuff too. It's hard to risk rejection, but the reason why players are good is that they risk it all the time, and they project (or truly have) a high sense of self-worth and confidence. They don't mind getting rejected because they know they're attractive and they know that rejection now isn't the end of the world. You should strive to emulate these qualities - go ahead, assume she's flirting. Flirt back. If she responds enthusiastically you're good, if she responds by taking it down a notch, mirror her, chalk it all up to politeness and not flirtation. (Note that you should definitely not act like a player in terms of treating women as a homogenous group that you can score points with via casual sex or whatever. Being an asshole doesn't lead to healthy relationships or even good sex, it just leads to driving away people who are not assholes.)

Women are not all the same, just like men aren't. We're looking for different things, just like men are; how you figure out what someone is looking for in terms of dating is by having a conversation with them about it. This is practical, it can help with a lot of those moments of inertia you're having. If you are too afraid to make a move, just try talking about it instead. For example, you're hanging out with a girl at a party or on a date, you're into her, you want to kiss her but you're nervous to just move in for the kiss - smile, make eye contact, say "wow, I'd love to kiss you right now, I've had fun tonight" and she'll probably kiss you.

Online dating is good for practicing with casual dates and hookups. I had a lot of success with it that way. What I liked about it was the fact that I could be clear that I wasn't meeting people from the site for friendship - our meetings were either dates, or initial meetings to see if we wanted to go on a date. So there was no "just being friendly" grey area and I could really just focus on figuring out whether or not I was attracted to the person and vice versa.

It's good that you had a couple of relationships and know what worked for you and did not work for you back then. That experience will be of great use when you meet the next woman you want to be monogamous with.
posted by zdravo at 12:12 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


to counter-weight some of the arguments above: being honest about your attraction to someone *before you know them as friends* can get you in real trouble, i.e. can be seen as harassment. in their mind they think "we were talking about blah blah blah and now he wants to date me? where did i ever give him the idea i might be into that? this guy does not know how to read social cues so i don't want to date him" some women get hit on all the time and you're "do you want to get coffee sometime?" to them is like the 300th person who asked them for change on the street.

so people saying risk rejection ... you can't just ask anyone you are acquainted with. and you can't ask women who seem kind of into you because women are socialized to deffer to men and to be pleasant. just keep doing what you're doing but be maybe 5% more likely to ask a girl to go on a date than you were before.
posted by cupcake1337 at 7:04 PM on February 25, 2013


mm... in disagreement with cupcake1337 above, I get asked out a fair amount by people who are not my friends, and don't find it harassing or creepy, unless it is.

if someone is like "hey sexy, nice dress, wanna get some coffee?" then that's gross and stay away from me. but if I'm having a pleasant conversation with a person and they express interest in getting to know me better, that isn't harassment, that's.. pretty much how dates always happen.

try to connect with someone a little before you try for the date, find a small amount of common ground. then when you ask the worst thing that will happen will be that they tell you they have a boyfriend, aren't dating right now, don't have a cellphone, maybe can.. but some vague time in the future.. but hey, at least you know.

probably you'll end up with some people just telling you they'd like to be friends, and some people accepting dates and going on them.

trust me, it gets easier every time you do it. rejection sucks a little, but pull up your pride and just go again!

if you're ending up with lots of female friends, let me tell you that a lot of ladies I know love to set up their mutual single friends. express interest in this! they might pick someone great for you if you let them!

pleeease don't do the Game stuff. it's so transparent. All the single ladies have read it by now too, gentlemen.
posted by euphoria066 at 7:16 PM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


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