Help me get a second and third (and beyond) date!
November 24, 2008 6:51 PM   Subscribe

What am I doing wrong on the first and second date?

So I've been single and trying to date for ~2.5 years now. Met a few guys through friends, a guy from work, but mostly on dating websites (just because I don't know any other single guys through work or through friends). Been on dozens of first and second dates in the 2.5 years, and none seem to work out.

About me: I'm 23. I'm pretty (not stunningly beautiful, but definitely cute), average body (not skinny, but not fat by any means), I have a good job, I'm polite and considerate, and I have a good personality (most of the guys I will be describing here have told me I'm fun and cool and unique and not boring and predictable like other girls, which I always thought was a good thing?)

Here are how the dates go:
We do something fun (bowling, hiking, ice skating, plain old dinner, dinner + movie, museum, walking around in the city (NY), comedy club have all been done..), the guy seems to be into me, tells me I'm pretty, tells me he has fun, tells me we should do it again, tells me over and over again how much better it is to talk to me in real life and not online, tells me he likes what I'm wearing, etc. The dates are all good (at least *I* think) - there's good conversation, laughing. Date usually ends with a hug. No kissing because I feel weird to get close enough to a guy on the first date to kiss. Several dates ended up with cuddling on the couch a bit or handholding. But most of the guys I go out on dates with aren't ones to immediately jump into bed anyway, they always seem shy as well.

Anyway. After the date, several scenarios have happened:
- guy wants to hang out as soon as possible, but the after the second time doesn't talk to me much, a week later we stop talking.
- guy talks to me online all the time but doesn't ask to hang out. starts avoiding me when I ask to hang out, a week later we stop talking.
- now this one has happened with guys that I was actually *really* interested in, ones I've gotten to know - they tell me they like me and I'm great, but they're not ready to date and it wouldn't be fair to me. I've become friends with some of them (yea, who ever thought girls would have to hear the whole "lets just be friends" thing??) If they were interested they would date me, without coming up with excuses.

So what am I doing wrong? Be brutally honest here. Is it like, first date they were faking the niceness while trying to decide if I was pretty enough, and second date they decided "nah, I don't want her?" What can a girl do or say to ensure that the guy KNOWS that he wants to see her again? Is there anything I'm doing or saying wrong without realizing it? Am I supposed to try to get close enough for a kiss? How much "hard to get" should I be playing?

Please give me ideas, suggestions, or just share some stories about anything a girl did to make or break the date.
posted by KateHasQuestions to Human Relations (39 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
They want to get physical with you... sooner than you seem comfortable with.
posted by mpls2 at 7:03 PM on November 24, 2008

Response by poster: They want to get physical with you... sooner than you seem comfortable with.

Do they? They don't seem to show it, or try to do anything past a hug on the date. If anything I would've assumed the opposite.

Sadly, the guys I would want to get physical with were from the (c) category - "I'm not ready to date" even though all logic says they like me, at least a little. Anything I can do to make them think "Yes, I do want to date this girl" instead of all their excuses?
posted by KateHasQuestions at 7:08 PM on November 24, 2008

Two things I'd like to point out. First, first dates are often exciting (when they aren't being terrible), and that doesn't necessarily equal the chemistry it takes to start a relationship. And a lot of your post is how these guys react to you but not how you feel about any of them. Have you felt particularly into any of these guys and let them know? Are you waiting to be pursued? Do they ask you out the first two times and then not again? Maybe they are leaving the ball in your court, and you're dropping it.

Second, in my experience, Internet dating is a little flakier than dates you make through friends or coworkers. People pick up and leave off contact a little more readily, and with less explanation. I think it's just the name of the game and isn't worth overthinking. There isn't anything you can do to ensure that a guy wants to see you again and there's no perfect level of hard to get. In short, it just sounds like you haven't met the right guy yet. Stay open minded and keep dating. When you meet a guy you like, make sure he knows it.
posted by juliplease at 7:10 PM on November 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

Do you talk about these previous dating troubles while you are actually on dates?
posted by turgid dahlia at 7:16 PM on November 24, 2008

Okay, so the guys you go out with show a lot of interest in you. They complement you, they hold hands, they try to get next to you, and they do all the things guys are suppose to do to show interest (whether the interest is real or not) in you.

So what do you do to show interest in them?

It sounds like all the guys you're dating (if your scenarios are general and accurate) end up in two places : they were looking for a hookup or they felt like you weren't interested in them. Most guys won't put effort into a budding relationship that they don't think will lead anywhere. And if you're acting too cool and collected, most guys won't put the effort to break your shell.

Hard to get doesn't mean what you think it does. Hard to get means that you actively rebuff a guy but, to do that, you have to take an active roll in the dynamic. And when you take this active roll, a guy would think "ah ha! she's interested in me" even if you overetly claim to not be. If, however, you're as cool as a cucumber, you're showing no interest at all and the guys you're dating get a sense that you are not into them. And who wants to put the effort into someone who acts so cool they appear to be a wet blanket?

You need to actively act like you are interested in these guys - and just going on a date doesn't cut it. You need to compliment them. You need to actively engage them. You need to do those things in a relationship that a female friend wouldn't do to a male friend. Those guys you're befriending after the cuddle parties? I bet they get hugs and cuddles from their female friends all the time. YOu need to be different. So when you're actually interested in a guy, kiss him. Don't kiss every guy that comes your way but kiss the ones you want to kiss. And if that's too much, change your body language from cool to passionate. Touch his arm, flirt with your eyes, do that ridiculous giggle that only women can do, but do something to show that you are interested in seeing this relationship grow from a 2nd date to a 3rd.
posted by Stynxno at 7:18 PM on November 24, 2008 [4 favorites]

I feel weird to get close enough to a guy on the first date to kiss.

This is probably part of it. Not all. But even if I'm having a great time with a girl, if she's been physically distant, it's going to do huge damage to my emotional "omg yay!" reaction. There's a very strong correlation between first dates I've been on that ended in a kiss, and those that went on to more dates. Hugs tend to mean "I didn't get creeped out by you or anything, but we probably won't be going out again." This is not at all to say "if you do not kiss, you will never have a third date." And generalizations are badbad. But if I have a great time with someone, and I get a hug at the end, and she hasn't been particularly close during it... honestly, I'm going to interpret it as "well, I may have had a pretty good time, but I think she's not really into me." Even if we then go on to chat online a bunch, that last memory sticks with me. Now, I'm not saying literally "Kiss or else!" - but if you haven't been close to me, physically, that makes a big impression. Also, given how much I'm drawing on personal experience here, I'll note that with few exceptions, those girls who were close, did kiss me, and those who didn't, almost never did. So for me, at least, I don't know how much of my reaction is closeness and how much is this misleading-but-hey-this-is-all-irrational factor of "what is my last memory of this girl?"

A hug is a nice conclusion that signals "you are not gross." But a kiss... a kiss leaves me wanting more. And I don't just mean that in a crude sexual sense.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:19 PM on November 24, 2008 [8 favorites]

Jeez, you and this anon need to get together for a tête-à-tête on NYC dating.

You probably seem physically closed off. In my experience as a single girl in your city, several dates ratchet up to make outs. Hand-holding on a decent second date is sweet, quaint, but a little weird. I wouldn't advise you to let down your guard if you hadn't brought up the phrase "playing hard to get," which can come off as canned and coy to dates. Don't sleep with dudes when you're just getting to know them, but do that because you want to be responsible with your mind and body, not because you're preoccupied with sending messages about not being easy.

Guys are generally trained not to push physical contact too much, and many would rather that you follow through with Next Steps once they give you the signal that they're into you. Typical second date scenario: Guy hugs Girl and lingers a little longer before pulling, Girl senses that Guy is into her, Girl angles face for kiss goodnight. It's a very very subtle tango, and I rarely realize I'm giving and receiving those cues until after the fact, but it's a much better formula than a guy just bombarding me with a slobbery kiss goodnight that I didn't feel like reciprocating.

In conclusion: open up a little more. And kiss guys when you want to, not when you've passed a certain tally of outings.
posted by zoomorphic at 7:19 PM on November 24, 2008 [6 favorites]

What can a girl do or say to ensure that the guy KNOWS that he wants to see her again?

Kissing him will send a pretty unambiguous signal about whether you want to see him again, but I'm not sure how you can make sure he wants to see you again.

Anyway, when I was dating, I thought of the first date or two as a chance to feel out whether there was chemistry or not. It's not about "is she pretty enough?" -- that you can tell in the first two seconds, just by looking. It's about -- do we click? is she into me? does she smell good? if I try to kiss her, is she interested? Things like that.

they tell me they like me and I'm great, but they're not ready to date and it wouldn't be fair to me.

That's just the old "it's not you, it's me" way of being gentle with someone that we all do. The key message there is the familiar "he's not all that into you", which is better to learn early than late, but still sucks all the same.

Am I supposed to try to get close enough for a kiss? How much "hard to get" should I be playing?

I think the key here (easier to write than to do, I know) is to be honest to yourself. If you are someone who needs to know someone for months before you kiss them, don't go forcing yourself to swap spit before you are ready (and accept that some people are not going to be willing to wait that long, either). But conversely, don't delay being physically affectionate artificially, "because nice girls don't do that" or whatever.

Also to consider: Are you presenting yourself in the best way possible? (Clothes, appearance, manners, confidence, etc) Have you had a brutally honest friend confirm this? Our ideas about ourselves can be deeply out of step with how we appear to others, at times. Are you presenting yourself online in a way that is out of step with how you present in real life? As in, if you are super duper flirty and sexual in the emails, and then in real life handholding is the limit, the guys who are attracted to the online persona are going to feel nonplussed. Or what about the reverse: how similar are the guys you are contacting online to the kind of guy you like in real life? It's possible that the first dates are just illuminating basic mismatches.
posted by Forktine at 7:23 PM on November 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm wondering if there is some differential in your personality between online and off. Are you more assertive online? Because you don't seem to be offline. Shy guys may want someone who is very assertive, who doesn't hang back and wonder if the guy is going to kiss her, but kisses him instead (it doesn't need to go farther). My (now-husband) pretty much had to be dragged into the bedroom because he was too much of a "nice guy" to initiate physical contact. I'm not advising you to jump the guys, especially if that's not what you want, but don't wait around for them if that IS what you want, either.
posted by desjardins at 7:24 PM on November 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

I will just share my experience and how I got the first date to turn into something more. I had been on numerous dates before with no luck. Either the guy wanted to hump at first sight or didn't want much to do with me after a week had passed. Sounds pretty familiar. The date I went on when I met my boyfriend I made it a point to make the conversation more than just what we did for a living or what movies we liked. I tried to get to know him as best I could. I really listened to what he had to say and before we parted ways that night I let him know that I was genuinely interested in him. I bluntly told him that if he didn't think he liked me to say so and we could move on instead of trying to play a guessing game. I suggest doing the same. Don't be coy or shy. Be up front and honest and personable. Try to make the most of the experience. Maybe you are expecting the guy to instigate everything. Be the alpha. Something is bound to happen.
posted by pixelnark at 7:27 PM on November 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I guess my post made it look like I show no effort. I do. I do the whole arm touching, giggling (not faking it either), I have told guys I like that I like them and would like to see them again. I'm not distant on dates. I would kiss a guy if it felt right. Just seems like the second I show interest, they lose interest.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 7:32 PM on November 24, 2008

Tell them up front that you don't even kiss on a first date, but be ready to break that rule. Really, it's just a kiss.
posted by notsnot at 7:36 PM on November 24, 2008

Response by poster: Tell them up front that you don't even kiss on a first date, but be ready to break that rule. Really, it's just a kiss.

Somehow everyone got me all wrong. It's not like I don't kiss on the first date. I've definitely done that. Just that it hasn't happened in the last 2.5 years, so I started wondering what I'm doing wrong with dating. And I'm the same online and in real life. And I think I dress and smell nice. I've had guys compliment me for both, even after a sweaty hike. And I don't play hard to get, if anything it'd probably the opposite. I think I make it too easy for guys by letting them know that I *am* interested.

I guess I got my answer: I don't do anything wrong specifically, maybe just the chemistry is not there, at least not from his point of view.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 7:40 PM on November 24, 2008

I suggest you buy a copy of Intimate Connections by Dr. David Burns. Read it and do exactly what it says.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:41 PM on November 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Don't try to meet people online. I would imagine that guys who try to meet women online are not assertive enough to meet them or chat them up in person. That's why you're having problems. These guys are not "take control" people and women are put off by that.

He can read that signal and the vicious cycle begins. He thinks you're not into him so he backs off.

Online dating is for men who cannot be self-actualizing. Most women can't abide that nonsense.
posted by Zambrano at 7:42 PM on November 24, 2008 [4 favorites]

You seem like a nice woman (and speaking as a 24 year old male, you sound like a great catch). Just have fun, and don't worry so much about scaring guys away. If you are being yourself, and not trying to follow some sort of dating formula, then you'll find an awesome boyfriend. Be patient. Don't do anything you are uncomfortable with. And have fun!
posted by toaster at 7:48 PM on November 24, 2008

Somehow everyone got me all wrong. It's not like I don't kiss on the first date. I've definitely done that. Just that it hasn't happened in the last 2.5 years, so I started wondering what I'm doing wrong with dating.

Wait, I'm confused. Are you just waiting for the kissing to happen?

Because, if so, you should really just kiss them if you're into them. If there's cuddling and handholding, a kiss to end the night is a good way to signal your concrete interest. The cuddling and handholding with no kissing might be sending the guys mixed messages.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:55 PM on November 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

I know it's a cliche, but join something. Preferably something that isn't overrun with other single women. That way, you'll meet men who enjoy doing something that you enjoy doing, and your first encounters with them won't be all weird, and there won't be any pressure till you actually know one of them well enough to date them.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:57 PM on November 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Perhaps it is something to do with the type of guys you attract. If they spend a lot of their social interaction time online rather than face-to-face, maybe they're not well-versed in relationship starting (and the same could be said of you, who knows).

Of your given post-date scenarios, it is tough to tell, as we're working off just your perspective. The first two examples sound like this could be the case. As for the third example, I would say he probably just didn't feel that connection with you (and that could be for a number of reasons unrelated to you).

You seem a bit concerned about your looks, but I would say that's not as likely to be the issue. Guys tend to be interested physically or not, and most wouldn't "Fake it to figure it out."
posted by shinynewnick at 8:05 PM on November 24, 2008

I would imagine that guys who try to meet women online are not assertive enough to meet them or chat them up in person.

You imagine wrong. I, and in fact all the other guys I know who use online dating sites, have active social lives, and are generally plenty assertive. In my case, it's just that my social life is massively overweighted with couples, whose friends tend to be couples themselves, and I work in a massively male-dominated field, and many of my hobbies are guy-heavy besides.

posted by Tomorrowful at 8:16 PM on November 24, 2008 [10 favorites]

But most of the guys I go out on dates with aren't ones to immediately jump into bed anyway.

You may have to rethink that. They're all losing interest when nothing happens? Hm.

Online "hookups" are way more common than honest to goodness "dates". I think they're disappointed they're not getting any action, really.

I'm not saying "start putting out faster!", I'm saying "reconsider why you think these guys are NOT looking for action."
posted by rokusan at 8:37 PM on November 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

How many dates? I went on several, the last time I tried online dating, and met my last girlfriend that way.

Frankly, she & I misread each other at first - both thought the other was interested, but not enough to follow up. Finally, we talked, and got past that weird point.

And, what zoomorphic said:
In conclusion: open up a little more. And kiss guys when you want to, not when you've passed a certain tally of outings.

One of my dearest friends had a first date that lasted until they had to part for work the next Monday. They're expecting their first child soon. Timetables are for buses, not busses.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:48 PM on November 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

I would ask you the following questions:

1. Are you an active listener? As in, do you maintain eye contact, react appropriately (yes, go on, no way, really, and then what happened?) and not interrupt when he is talking? Or do you constantly interject things about yourself while he is talking? Men (just like women) like to feel as though they are being fascinating and witty; nobody likes to feel ignored or as though they are competing with you for the chance to speak.

2. Do you always make the guy choose what you two will do, and do you shoot down his suggestions without offering alternate options? Example as follows:

GUY: Let's go out Friday.
YOU: Cool, I'd love to!
GUY: What sounds like fun to you?
YOU: I have no idea. You pick.
GUY: How about dinner... any place that you particularly like?
YOU: I don't care.
GUY: Thai food is my favorite.
YOU: Anything but Thai.
(repeat x 10)

Multiply that conversation x 11. It's frustrating trying to get to know a woman who doesn't know what she wants but won't offer suggestions and get exhausted by trying to second-guess the right thing to do. The reverse is also true as well; put yourself in the other person's shoes.

3. When you communicate, is the communication equal? Do you return calls, texts, IMs and emails within a reasonable amount of time? If one of you expects to communicate much more frequently than the other, there's a clue.

4. How long are you communicating before you meet in real life? The ideal scenario is this: Four or five interesting emails, then a couple of IM or phone call conversations (no more than 20-30 minutes), then a date at a mutually agreed upon place for no more than an hour. Try doing this during the week especially, like lunch, coffee, meeting at a gallery opening or stopping off for a drink on the way to meet up with your friends or other plans.

5. Do NOT turn the first date into a marathon date. Anticipation is half the battle in getting to dates two and three. Do NOT make the first date dinner, a movie, a concert or anything that involves you not being able to talk or look at each other or spend too much money. See #4 above.

6. If you want to see the guy again after the first actual date, casually mention something in the future you'd like to do and see if he reacts with interest. If he does, you can agree to do this activity together. Some guys don't read body language or other cues very well; if you act shy and don't seem enthusiastic about seeing the guy again, he may believe you don't want to pursue him romantically and move on.

7. Don't automatically go into friend mode. What I mean by that is, stay mysterious. Don't tell him your whole life story right away. Don't share unpleasant things, talk about exes, act frustrated with dating, bring up bad dates you've had in the past (nobody wants to imagine being the next story you tell!) and don't shoot down any compliments he gives you by being too self-deprecating. If he compliments you, smile and say thank you. Don't invite him to meet your friends or ask for advice about friend, work or family issues until you've at least gotten to dates 4 or 5. Also, don't be too negative. People are drawn to positive energy. I am not accusing you of these things, simply noting that these are common deterrents to future dates.

8. If you do offer a place to go, or an activity, it's better if neither of you is in "your place," i.e., one of you knows everyone that will be there. That leaves the other person at a disadvantage and makes them feel "on the spot." Nobody wants to feel scrutinized or as if they're interviewing with a group. If you do run into a friend or two, say hi, then politely excuse yourself after introducing your date and making it clear this is not the time to socialize with others. This also means don't answer the phone, check texts, or leave your ringer on. It's distracting and makes both of you nervous.

9. Dress sexy but be comfortable; tell yourself you're beautiful and sexy in your head the entire time you're with the guy. Don't wear something you are constantly adjusting or makes you feel dumpy. Don't wear uncomfortable heels or something you feel self-conscious in. If no sparks fly, that's okay; the goal is to put yourself in a confident and easygoing state of mind. Do something right before the date that makes you happy, like working out, meditating, reading a favorite book or listening to an upbeat song you love. The right state of mind is crucial when meeting new dates.

10. You may be sending out some kind of insecurity vibe; i.e., trying too hard to impress him, bragging (or complaining a lot), or fishing for compliments without even realizing it. Point 9 will hopefully help you if this is the case. Always make alternate plans (i.e., rent a movie in advance, see what your friends are doing, or note what else is going on that night you'd find interesting) and if the date is a dud, then politely escape at an appropriate time. You're dressed nice, probably, and already out; date YOURSELF as much as you date others. I know this sounds weird, but it's true. Don't force yourself to stay on a date you're not enjoying. Too many people do this, which leads to the dreaded "I'll call you" which is code for "I'm going to leave now but secretly have no intention of contacting you again." If you don't want to see someone again... DON'T. "It was great meeting you in person, thank you" is a nice non-committed way to end a date without giving false hope.

Finally, if none of the 10 things above help you, go on a pretend date with one of your guy friends. One that you trust, completely. Go on a 30 minute jaunt somewhere; have him meet you there and act exactly as you would with a blind date. Ask him to honestly critique the date with you. Try as hard as you can to not act as you would if you and this friend were out together. Take any constructive criticism he offers and apply it to your next blind date. If you are friends with former dates that didn't work out... ASK THEM WHY IT DIDN'T WORK. Seriously. It might be nothing you're doing at all! Dating is weird. People are fickle.

I hope this helps. I know it's long, but you gave us so little information in your initial question. These are sort of my 10 golden rules for getting through the first few dates with people.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 9:04 PM on November 24, 2008 [37 favorites]

It's probably just a run of bad luck. Finding someone you'd be interested in for a relationship (and vice-versa) on a first date is a low probability to start with, although not exceedingly so. Also, you have to figure in that most of these guys you haven't met in person which is normally another filter. So figure the odds of finding a "good catch" on a first date is 20% and if you haven't met them in person first it's 10%.

With those odds you should usually find someone after 5-10 tries but sometimes the dice just don't come up in your favor. I'd keep trying the next guy could be the right one.
posted by Bonzai at 9:20 PM on November 24, 2008

When we are children, and have a problem with someone, we get angry. For whatever reason, that anger pushes the problem away, and we get the result we want. If it happens a second time, we react with anger, and now we know if we get angry we push the problem away. Then we practice and practice until we become masters of anger.

In the same way, we become masters of jealousy, masters of sadness, masters of self-rejection. All of our suffering and drama is by practice. We make an agreement with ourselves, and we practice that agreement until we master it. The way we think, the way we feel, and the way we act become so routine that we no longer need to put our attention on what we are doing. It is just by action-reaction that we behave a certain way.

To become masters of love, we have to practice love. The art of relationship is also a whole mastery, and the only way to reach mastery is with practice. To master a relationship is therefore about action. It is not about concepts or obtaining knowledge. It is about action. Of course, to have action, we need to have some knowledge, or at least a little more awareness of the way other humans operate.

Humans live in a continuous fear of being hurt, and this creates a big drama wherever we go. The way humans relate to each other is so emotionally painful that for no apparent reason we get angry, jealous, envious, sad. To even say "I love you" can be frightening. But even if it's painful and fearful to have an emotional interaction, still we keep going, we enter into a relationship.

In order to protect ourselves from emotional wounds, and because of our fear of being hurt, humans create something very sophisticated in the mind... a big denial system. We become perfect liers. We lie to ourselves and even believe our own lies. We don't notice we are lying, and sometimes even when we know we are lying, we justify the lie and excuse the lie to protect ourselves from the pain of emotional wounds.

When you see these other people that you are dating from this perspective, and if you have self-awareness, you can see the nonsense behavior we put ourselves through, and it becomes amusing. What for everyone else is a big drama, can become for you comedy gold. You can see others suffering over things that you know are not important.

So, imagine that you have a different emotional mind. The way to relate with each other is always in happiness, always in love and peace. You are no longer afraid to be who you are. Whatever someone says about you, whatever they do, don't take it personally and it doesn't hurt anymore. You no longer need to protect yourself. You are not afraid to love, to share, to open your heart. The more you do this, the more you will relieve the others you relate with of their emotional fear.

I linked to a book above, The Mastery of Love by don Miguel Ruiz. In it you will find a wealth of advice about relieving not just ourselves, but those around us of the fear that paralyzes relationships. Give it a try, and best of luck to you.
posted by netbros at 9:56 PM on November 24, 2008 [8 favorites]

> How much "hard to get" should I be playing?

Less than zero, if you want to be "got."

The whole 'hard to get' thing might have been a fun game back when men were socially conditioned not to take 'no' seriously as an answer, but today — to most guys I know, myself included — it just sends mixed or negative signals.

Do not be subtle. Do not be coy. Be obvious. This will probably come across as subtle to the guy, who doesn't know you that well. Better to be obvious than to be too subtle and have the guy drop it because he thinks you're uninterested or wasting his time.

I think that may be the core of your problem. The people you're dating may be looking for some clear sign from you after the first date of what you want, and that things are going to lead somewhere (sex, relationship, whatever) if you go out again. Absent that, they may just decide to let it drop.

So be more direct and obvious about your interest; a lot more obvious. Don't depend on "signals" or "signs" that you think the other person will be able to pick up on. It's incredibly, frustratingly common for guys to have no idea that a woman is interested in them, when in fact the woman is head-over-heels with interest, because he's missing "signals" that she thinks should be obvious.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:09 PM on November 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

A couple people touched on the online aspect. Another facet or two of it that may be worth considering, 'specially in a big or decent-sized area. It can feel like there's a downside to there being so many dating prospects--there's always gonna be a slew of people to meet (people realize after a while that with a modicum of effort, they can get plenty of dates) so it can get to be a revolving door. It's real easy to pass on someone when there's a dozen more around the corner.

(At the other end of the spectrum, I recently met someone who lives in a tiny, desert town where my grandparents lived. In relating the challenges of being single out there, she said that she and a single friend also there joked that they would physically fight over the next single guy who showed up, was within 10 years of them either way and had more teeth than tattoos....)

Having done a decent bit of online dating in a big area, was also reminded of how different people/their current situations can be... in terms of kissing, what's perceived as disinterested to one person is too much pressure to the next, some people clearly aren't over their exes, no shortage of flaky/inconsiderate/rude people, misrepresentation of self (posting old pics or false descriptions) is common, some are taken aback by the prospect of holding hands toward the end of a good first date (and enthusiastically agree to a second), some take the lead in getting far more physical on the first date, etc., etc., etc.

A sense that people have a better ideer of what they're walking into/less prospect for disappointment when they meet through other means. Also a sense that a fair number of men and women do get weary of it, lose optimism, start to feel like it's too much like work.

Maybe it's worth taking a little break from it?

To end on a better note, a friend was deeply wary of online dating, had a go out of frustration with other prospects and partially to shut me up b/c I told him I'd hear no more I-can't-get-dates woes 'til he took a shot at it. He built a profile, decided to approach one woman at a time and see if there was a response, heard back from the first woman he wrote, met her and two years later, they're engaged.
posted by ambient2 at 12:31 AM on November 25, 2008

You seem conflicted between wanting to let the guy KNOW for sure, and not showing too much interest. It'd be easy to say, "do something in between" but I think the best thing is to flirt. Flirting is playfully ambiguous about your intentions. If you flirtatiously kiss, that says, "maybe I like you enough to sleep with me, maybe I just enjoyed our date, maybe I want to see you again, either way, you're going to have to call me to find out."
posted by philosophistry at 3:22 AM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Twentysomething guy here - we don't always know when a girl is interested. The active listening is a good sign, as is you making the physical contact. Maybe you pull HIS hand onto the dance floor, or some fun spontaneous idea just popped into your head and you make the move on him. Guys don't always see / notice signals, nor were most of us given an abundance of observation talents.

There is room for mystery at every stage of the dating. There comes a point when giving mostly complete answers while leaving something dangling usually paves the way for another question - which makes some guys weary or like they're being intrusive... For example, I usually ask about one's favorite place in this town - tell me about your one favorite place and why, not the twenty places you saw with your girlfriend.

Best of luck :)
posted by chrisinseoul at 3:29 AM on November 25, 2008

"Hard to get" is a huge red flag, I think. It's a game. Don't play games. Say what you feel and what you think. Even if it doesn't work out you will feel better for having been your true authentic self. Stop looking at yourself from the outside and just be.
posted by miss tea at 4:10 AM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

We're getting mixed signals from you even here, so I'm wondering if that's translating to actual dates.

First you say, No kissing because I feel weird to get close enough to a guy on the first date to kiss then you complain that "people got you all wrong."

You say, Am I supposed to try to get close enough for a kiss? How much "hard to get" should I be playing? and then say you're not distant and "probably the opposite."

So I'm really wondering whether your self-perception matches what others are seeing, because you keep stepping in to "correct" the inital impression in ways that seem to directly contradict what you've previously written.

Just seems like the second I show interest, they lose interest.

I'm sensing two things from your posting. First, you sound unsure of yourself, a bit tenative and defensive. It's hard to take an honest look at oneself and make adjustments, but since you can't magically make guys want to see you again, how you approach dating is the only thing you can change. Second, like other posters, I get the feeling that perhaps the anxiety is making you step back and wait for things to happen, and some guys might read that as disinterest.

There's a lot of good advice here, from active listening, to being yourself. Take a step back and think about it.
posted by canine epigram at 5:36 AM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Your experience doesn't sound all that different from my own. I did the Internet-dating thing for a good while. I had many first dates, a fair number of second dates, and a bare handful of third dates. In some cases, it was clear there was no chemistry, but for reasons I still don't understand, things tended to trail off with women even when there clearly was. Go figure. Eventually I did marry a woman I met through Internet dating, so it can work.

The thing about Internet dating, IMO, is that most people tend to be pretty open-minded about first dates, but they're pretty brutal about weeding out, since there are always more people out there, and the next one might be better. This may be because they're viewing those dates not so much as a chance to get to know the person they're with, but to see if the person they're with conforms to their template for the person they think they want to be with.
posted by adamrice at 6:51 AM on November 25, 2008

Online dating is also kind of a numbers game. One friend of mine went on (I forget... forty?) dates and then found someone she really clicked with. So, rather than trying to figure out how to be perfect enough that your very next date will be the one, I'd focus on figuring out what you're looking for, and on putting yourself out there enough that you find it. I'd forget this whole "what's wrong with me?" thing (if you can). Something is "wrong with" everyone and that very "flaw" is part of the attraction for someone else. Trying to be everything to everyone will make you on-edge and insecure, and then that will be unattractive (confidence is attractive). If you truly think you're doing something that you're unaware of, ask someone who knows you in real life, but otherwise, I'd focus on being yourself and finding a person whom you really want to be with.
posted by salvia at 9:16 AM on November 25, 2008 [3 favorites]

the only times i tried to go on a date with someone i hadn't already been friends with i found it awkward and weird and anxietyproducing and miserable. i'd rather just sleep with a friend who i know is awesome, reliable, trustworthy, intelligent, cool vs. going on weird dates with random person after person who might suck.

that isn't to say that i'm against meeting random new people who might be worth sleeping with. far from it. i'd just suggest that you try meeting them outside of a 'date' context. a huge percentage of my friends are single guys who are straight or bi. a lot of my interests/hobbies are ones that have a heavy percentage of single guys.

so my advice would be to stop trying online dating and instead pick up a hobby that'll introduce you to more of the kind of men you'd want to date. ie if you're techy, something like if you like sports, a co-ed team, etc.

once you have a bazillion male friends who you aren't sleeping with, you'll likely feel more comfortable around guys and more in tune with how the mind of someone that you might want to sleep with works. and if you ever decide that any of your male friends are attractive, in my experience, they'll rarely say no ;) and even if they do, they'd know you well enough to tell you honestly why.
posted by groovinkim at 11:59 AM on November 25, 2008

You say the guys "have told me I'm fun and cool and unique and not boring and predictable like other girls..." How did that come up, exactly? A lot of these answers are telling you to have better conversations. Add to that advice: approval seeking is not charming.

As far as "hard to get," it's not a game, it's a way of maintaining boundaries for girls who are sex fiends (if they want to date, rather than, you know, get fiendish and then go on with their lives.) You don't sound like a sex fiend - you sound like someone who needs to be more open and outgoing.

It's also possible you've just had a run of bad luck. That happens. If you want a relationship, you have to keep putting yourself out there.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 1:44 PM on November 25, 2008

Part of this may be your age bracket. When I was in my early twenties, I wanted a serious relationship (as in we date long term (several years) and then we decide we love each other and get married). It took me several years before I realized that a good percentage of men in their early to mid twenties don't really want a serious long-term relationship.

So that was my experience, your mileage may vary. If that's part of the problem, I don't have a suggestion for you other than making your goals very clear in your online profile.
posted by bananafish at 10:30 PM on November 25, 2008

Salvia is right I bet, the only thing wrong with you is that you're wondering what's wrong with you all the time. Nothing's wrong, you're just stressing over something that should be fun. Have you tried this thing?

I'd also recommend sleeping with one or two random dudes and then never calling them back just to throw a little sexy into the equation.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:09 AM on November 26, 2008

Online dating is for men who cannot be self-actualizing. Most women can't abide that nonsense.

This is hilarious. The most self-actualized man I ever met, I met online. We're going on four years together and it's the healthiest, happiest relationship of both our lives.
posted by scody at 11:46 AM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

guy talks to me online all the time but doesn't ask to hang out. starts avoiding me when I ask to hang out, a week later we stop talking.

This forcibly reminds me of this op/ed that ran in the New York Times earlier this year. There is a subset of men who turn to online dating because they have an acute terror of women and can only deal with them virtually. Their phobia of rejection makes them freeze up in meatspace unless the woman initiates everything. In these cases, there's nothing you're doing wrong.

You can, in some instances, "drag" these intimidated dudes into a relationship, who are you then in a relationship with? A man who needs dragging, a man who can't take risks. You'll be in charge of everything: the first sexual encounter, the first "I love you." Is that okay with you? Are you secure enough to be happy that way? Then take a more aggressive role. But if that's not what you want, then being more aggressive is going to lead you into relationships that leave you feeling like you're pulling teeth, leave you always doubting that your affection is returned.

Guys who will text you all day but not seek you out in person are usually scared, passive boys you're better off without. You'll notice that the author of the NYT piece doesn't really care about any of the "girlfriends" he charms online as human beings; and when one girl finally and ignorantly professes to love him, he drops her and the rest of them like hot rocks. Because it's just too real, man! I especially love the part where he goes into how agonizing it was to dump all those girls online because instant messenger is soooo slow.

As for the rest of these dudes, unless you want to hide a recorder in your hat, it's really hard to guess at what you're doing wrong. As a general rule, I've found it's better to conduct matters of emotional import face-to-face, or over the phone, as much as possible. Computers are fine for addressing work colleagues, but they're a bloodless medium, ill-suited to romantic relationships.
posted by cirocco at 4:07 PM on November 26, 2008

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