How does quiet nerd girl attract type of man she wants?
March 20, 2009 2:36 PM   Subscribe

22-year old relationship-newbie nerd girl seeks strong, silent men. Is it possible? In which context? Anything to do to better my chances?

Hi AskMeFi.

My question is something along the lines of this poster, but with one crucial difference: while the poster was a girly-girl, I am way on the other side of the spectrum: a bit edgy and not overly feminine. I've been the perpetual "brain" my entire life, and throughout high school and college have struggled to reconcile being the "smart one" who was different from all the other decked-out girls and being a girl, capable of attracting males.

I'm 22 and have never been in a decent, real relationship. I've had the odd, awkward "serious-friends-hanging-out" platonic relationships with the philospher types of guys, to whom I was initially very attracted to intellectually. But these odd relationships never went anywhere for lots of reasons: they were all much more "thinkers" than "doers," spending lots of time talking about something and never doing anything, forcing me to decide our agendas time and time again, never taking any real intiative.

As a result of failed "not-relationships," I've decided that I really would prefer a more decisive man in my life. To be honest, I attended a geek high school and a geek liberal arts university, so have had little exposure to stronger, aggressive men. Would a stronger, aggressive man be attracted to a less feminine, brainaic girl? I am growing increasingly weary of seeing men flock to girls with too much eye makeup clutching gigantic Coach purses while gabbing about Gossip Girls.

So my questions, I think, are as follows. Please feel free to comment/remark upon any aspect of my situation that strikes you.

(1) Is there hope in love for girls like me? I'm quiet, but I dress decently (I always attempt to have a bit of style and look groomed and put together, but not to Bratz doll extent), am a good weight/figure. But apparently I am missing this chip which Bratz girls have, of going ga-ga over shoes, etc.
(2) Is there a "type" that would mesh well with me? How do I get guys of all stripes to be interested? I am comfortable talking to men, but only as people, and not as "potential date material." Also, on topics that bore me, I have a hard time finding things to say. Is there a "type" that is OK with the quiet type? Would the edgier, aggressive men be attracted to me? The only ones who have really persued me are the smart guys, but they are all so geeky and weak (see above: ask me out on a date, declare romantic intentions, and then ask where I want to go, and refuse to pick a place, and barely pick up the check). My father is assertive: it's how I expect men to behave. But it's like I'm a beehive which makes honey that atttacts specifically the geeks. (Strange metaphor, but it works, I think.)

(3) How to attract strong, assertive, protective type? Where do they hang out? To what do they respond, in particular?

I am not suggesting I morph my personality. I have tried the extroversion route, dressing up a little more, and it failed to attract better-quality men entirely. It's just not me. I'm entirely too practical a person, and quiet enough by nature that extroversion is simply exhausting. I am only asking, is there some aspect of my present personality which I can take more care to display, to attract the men I want?

Thank you in advance for your help. As I said, all comments and suggestions are welcome. You needn't specifically answer my questions.
posted by Dukat to Human Relations (42 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I think you're making a mistake by trying to sort people into discrete categories. You've put men, other women, and indeed yourself into neat boxes, and you're looking for the occupants of yet another type of box. But people aren't really like that. They may seem to be, especially in school when they're still trying to find themselves. But most people aren't stereotypes.

I say, talk to men. You say you do this anyway, but don't think of the men as 'potential date material', but really, what is the difference between a friend and a boyfriend? At least in the beginning, attraction is it. Just talk to guys, find one you're attracted to, and ask him out.

I hope this didn't seem flippant- it isn't. But I can tell you that I wound up with a guy who didn't fit a lot of my 'dating criteria', yet I've never been happier.
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:55 PM on March 20, 2009 [9 favorites]

Wait 10 years or date 30 year olds. Most young guys fall into two categories: Dumb or Wimpy. (Most! I said Most!) Wimpy guys are wimpy because they think too much (guilty as charged). 10 years later more guys have figured out what they want and go for it. Also, its helpful to drop something on the first date like "Oh I'm not sure what I want, what do you think I should get?" and various "Please take command" kinds of lines the guys who are into that will recognize and jump at the opportunity to do so.

But as to what aggressive/assertive men are looking for, I feel I can generalize a little and say they are not looking for someone to be silent and obedient. They are looking for someone who challenges and fascinates them. Be quiet and dependent and you'll just attract hyenas. Be interesting and independent and the tigers will come.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:56 PM on March 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

Would a stronger, aggressive man be attracted to a less feminine, brainaic girl?


Where do they hang out?

Squat rack.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 3:01 PM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

they were all much more "thinkers" than "doers," spending lots of time talking about something and never doing anything, forcing me to decide our agendas time and time again, never taking any real intiative.
It sounds like you are a thinker and not a doer as well. Of the guys you've been attracted to have you really taken the initiative? Did you ask any of them out? Did you tell them your real feelings? Did you ever try to take it to the next step?
I can't tell if you have done these things based on what you've said but it sounds like you're putting the pressure on the guys to do it when you won't. Maybe the guys you've had close relationships with in the past are just like you, hoping that you will take the first step into a real relationship.
posted by nikkorizz at 3:01 PM on March 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

I am comfortable talking to men, but only as people, and not as "potential date material."

Guys can probably tell that you're uncomfortable. Gotta get more comfortable somehow.

I don't know about assertive guys, but you can probably find strong guys at gyms, amateur sports leagues, marathons, bike rides, etc. Maybe you could take up a sport or something?
posted by equalpants at 3:04 PM on March 20, 2009

Ah, sorry, I mis-read that. You can disregard my comment.
posted by nikkorizz at 3:08 PM on March 20, 2009

Just to clarify my incoherent point: you can be independent, strong-willed and full of confidence without compromising on the things you find important in a gender dynamic--you don't want to ask a guy out or pick the place or pay or order etc etc, understood. But you can and should have opinions: you want him to ask, you like thai food, you have money, you enjoy pad thai.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:14 PM on March 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

showbiz_liz: "I think you're making a mistake by trying to sort people into discrete categories."

This. Also, if you've never been in a real decent relationship, how can you say for certain what you need?

Be yourself, don't try to push yourself to be extroverted or any other "way" that you're not.
posted by IndigoRain at 3:31 PM on March 20, 2009

Guys can probably tell that you're uncomfortable. Gotta get more comfortable somehow.

Guys don't care about that, unless they mistake your discomfort for annoyance (which is entirely possible!)
posted by delmoi at 3:38 PM on March 20, 2009

For some reason I was strangely offended reading this post. I completely agree with showbiz_liz that you can't fit people into boxes. I wear makeup everyday, and UGGs and would love a huge coach bag of I could afford one... but I'm also an engineer.

I think your stereotypes are a problem, and I'd suggest trying to make friends with a more diverse circle, and dating will come! I've pretty much only met guys through friends.
posted by piper4 at 3:45 PM on March 20, 2009 [5 favorites]

I have two female friends with PhDs, (neither particularly feminine, though both quite capable of being flirty) both of whom are married to non-brainy type tradesmen. They are all very happy. Both guys seem to be incredibly proud of their girlfriends' smarts, and really worship them. The girls love having a practical, super-reliable guy to 'look after' them even though they're both very independent people. So there are precedents that say that this combo can work, and work really well at that.

One of the couples met as housemates, and the other met online. So I'm not sure there's a magic answer to how to find guys like this. I suspect others are right and you might have to look to or wait for slightly older guys. Maybe you could join some kind of mixed sporting team? I imagine half of your problem is that if you're doing brainy type activities, you're likely to be meeting other brainy types.
posted by Emilyisnow at 3:48 PM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Of course there's hope in love for girls like you!

I'm also struck by jeb's observation - you're mighty quick to sort people (except yourself) into categories. It's not going to help you make female friends if you're automatically assuming that any girl wearing makeup or stylish clothing is a Bratz clone, or that any guy who has some depth is weak.

Your problem isn't that you've been dating nerdy guys.

You've been dating indecisive guys, you've got some fairly traditional expectations and it's not clear you're communicating them up front. Are you telling them straight up when you want them to plan something - and they flake out on you? Or are you hoping and then being disappointed when they don't perform to your mental spec?
Are you stepping up and contributing ideas or is it the guy's job to do it all?

Stop thinking of guy "types" and think of qualities. Really, guys come in more flavors than Nerdy Wimpy and Strong Silent. You've already identified one quality you're looking for - someone who makes up his mind. But what do you bring to the picture? It's interesting that all your metaphors are passive - asking about ways to present yourself, the honey pot... your introversion may be working against you here.

Speak your mind and don't let nervousness shut you down. You don't have to pretend to be anyone you're not - just give yourself permission to open up. Communicate your expectations, and be willing to be surprised. Stop sorting people before you get to know them. Easier said than done, I know, but I have to agree with Potomac Avenue:

Be quiet and dependent and you'll just attract hyenas. Be interesting and independent and the tigers will come.
posted by canine epigram at 3:48 PM on March 20, 2009 [5 favorites]

The kind of guy you're looking for is easy to find online. I.e. good guys who will treat a woman right but don't thump their chest and thus usually won't be noticed in a group. Of course, it takes a lot more detective work to separate the quiet-but-good ones from the creeps and weirdos. Probably the best way for you to judge that is by their ability to express themselves in writing.
posted by randomstriker at 3:50 PM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

The best way to get what you want is to ask for it. There is an (actual) old saying: if you don't ask, you don't get. Online dating allows you to specify, with humour and openess, what you're looking for, and then see what you get.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:56 PM on March 20, 2009

No offense, but if you get off your high horse, you'll be able to meet a lot more people.

I almost stabbed my eye with a pen reading about how other girls you are better than are Bratz, go "ga-ga over shoes", and wear too much makeup. We get think you are the light of the world, you're brilliant you have a hard time toning that light down to attract normal guys who are frightened of you.

Jesus. Maybe you should understand that its not the people who are frightened of you...but its you who are frightened (or ignorant) of them.

No offense ARE the light of the world.
posted by hal_c_on at 4:04 PM on March 20, 2009 [11 favorites]

I suggest you go travelling in places with a more macho style of male behaviour than North America.
posted by zadcat at 4:06 PM on March 20, 2009

If you're not finding the kind of guy you want in your current social endeavors, try something outside your little snowglobe of a world. Join a campus rec program, perhaps? I say be adventurous and confident, whatever your choice.
posted by lizbunny at 4:06 PM on March 20, 2009

I'm largely on board with some of the above commenters who suggest that you're too quick to categorize people, but I also think there's something to categories, so I'm going to suggest something different.

I'm not exactly sure by what you mean by "less feminine," but it sounds like you're looking for a traditionally masculine guy without wanting to be a traditionally feminine girl. Well, um, okay, but doesn't this sound a tad like having your cake and eating it too? Yes, a lot of social stereotypes like gender signals are ultimately meaningless, but a lot of them do have pretty strong communicative value.

If, for example, you only hang out with emo kids, you're only going to get asked out by emo kids. Whether or not people should categorize people, they do, and you might want to take that into account. I'm not saying you have to turn yourself into Barbie. That probably won't attract the kind of guys you're interested in anyways (and see the "hyena/tiger" distinction referenced above). But refusing to identify yourself in traditionally feminine ways is a pretty counter-intuitive way of attracting traditionally masculine guys, no? You need to find ways of letting people know what you're looking for, and yeah, shallow as it is, traditional gender cues often have a lot to do with that.

But lizbunny is definitely on to something: if your social crowd consists of philosopher geeks instead of philosopher kings, you may need to broaden your social horizons.
posted by valkyryn at 4:52 PM on March 20, 2009

In order to get "men of all stripes" interested in you, you may need to project something other than what you are projecting. As the saying goes, if you keep doing what you've always done, you'll keep getting what you've always got.

Rather than lambaste the "Bratz" girls, look to them and figure out what it is that they are doing that gets them the men they get. You said you were figure out what characteristics they have that attract men and seek to project those characteristics. I'm not advocating being someone who you are not, but you might want to be more open minded about your identity if what you really want is more assertive, more decisive men.

As a man, I consider myself to be an intellectual, and certainly less gung-ho masculine than a lot of traditional Alpha-type men...but I am attracted to the "Bratz" girls you mentioned, and I tend to date these women rather than "quiet nerd girls" whom, for me, are much easier to attract. To accomplish this I needed to project my sexuality more than I would normally feel comfortable doing, and I started wearing clothes / accessories that I might have dismissed as trendy or "douchey" at first. In other words, I looked at the types of guys the girls I wanted were with, and I simply projected more of that side of me to the world. Now, what was initially "trying something different" is simply a part of who I am... advice is to try something new. You don't need a pair of Uggs or a coach bag...but dominant men tend to be attracted to women who are confident, secure, and in touch with their sexuality - and my experience is that women who have these traits tend to look more like "Bratz" and less like "nerds." So watch and learn.
posted by jnnla at 4:53 PM on March 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

Try dating older guys. late 20's, early 30's. I've had a lot of the same experience, where guys my age are just as shy and tentative about their direction in life as I am, but it reflects down on a personal level more than it does for me. I've dated a couple guys where *I* ended up being the primary planner of the dates. Yes it's nice to switch-off, but after multiple dates asking me where I want to go and where I want to eat and what I want to do, it goes beyond simply "I care about your interests" and starts drifting into "I have no interests of my own that I want to share with you and/or I'm too lazy to plan."

posted by CTORourke at 4:59 PM on March 20, 2009

Instead of going for the "Bratz/extrovert" look (which does not naturally suit you), try going for the Sophisticated look. Be the girl in the sexy dress who James Bond approaches at the banquet. Work on your witty remarks, innuendos, posture, lipstick, etc.
posted by metastability at 5:12 PM on March 20, 2009

I'm a fairly smart/nerdy cookie myself and I've dated the "strong, silent type" and in both cases they felt an inequality in the relationship that I didn't feel. I don't think I give off the better than thou vibe that I'm getting from your post, and I don't believe that people fit neatly into boxes, but in those two cases, the relationships didn't work because we didn't have enough in common. Watch out for this.

When I quit looking for someone who fit neatly into a list or was "my type", I found someone who's different enough and similar enough to mesh with very easily. I recommend evaluating every person on his or her own merits and approaching it that way for best results.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 5:54 PM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm going to buck the trend here: don't change a thing about yourself. Folks are being a wee bit harsh, I think.

Coming up with categories is a part of becoming a functional adult. If we didn't have them, we'd all be Macbeths. (Slight exaggeration, maybe.) I'm sure you already see exceptions to the rules that you perceive, and as you get older, you'll find lots more. It is natural.

As lame as it is, there's not really a lot you can do to attract the right person, because chances are good that once you change yourself, only the wrong people will be attracted to you. (That is, people who aren't actually attracted to you, but to the 'you' that you're trying to project.)

There's a great line in a song by Ben Folds that may or may not be called "Jane Be Jane": "Don't try to see yourself the way that others do. It's no use."

And nthing the older guy thing. As I get older, I find it much easier to meet men who are strong, confident, intelligent, and enjoy my company. Good luck!
posted by nosila at 5:55 PM on March 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

In my experience, you'll have
the best relationship with someone
who is very similar to you, who shares
the same rhythm, sense of humour,
and interests. With one crucial difference:
that they will be listening to you talk about
something, then shut you up by kissing you.

Look for intellectuals who DO things -
like organize events, or write books, or
aren't too shy to ask for your number.

You might find that you might need to be
the assertive one here. Not with someone
who doesn't find you interesting, though.

Guys who like you will keep looking at you.
Perhaps a tad longer than is comfortable.
Keep your spidey-sense attuned to that.

The strong silent types aren't necessarily
going to be good for you. You want someone
who you can engage with, not just talk at.

Good luck.
posted by Sully at 6:44 PM on March 20, 2009 [4 favorites]

I don't think it's overly harsh to point out that judging other women for being perhaps more fem than you, all the while seeking out a traditional "strong, silent" type man, seems a little hypocritical.

I'm a very practical person, and I "go gaga over shoes". I wear make-up. Some would interpret that as looking like a Bratz doll, others might say I take pride in my appearance. Perhaps you could take a moment to make the distinction. Not every woman who is girly is an airhead, likewise, not every aggressive type guy will be a good provider, planner, or even "good".

I tend to attract the "type" that you are talking about, in fact I actively seek them out when single, and I usually have no problems in this area.

So to answer "To what do they respond?" In my experience, they respond to a yin/yang style of interaction. If you want a man to wear the pants in a relationship, so to speak, remember that you can't both wear the pants ~at the same exact time~. A guy who is really traditional and wants to pay for stuff or take charge usually wants his woman to be traditional as well. This means not trying to distance yourself from being "like those women" who wear eye make-up or like shoes(or whatever). You might not like make-up or shoes, and that's fine, but generally speaking, disavowing the girly stuff(which can be pretty fun if you let it, it's not a detractor from your intelligence in any way) can give you a certain attitude that is somewhat masculine. That kind of man typically wants his counterpart to complement him, he doesn't want to wonder if your dick is bigger than his. (sorry to be crude).

The only thing I would change about myself, were I you, is the notion that you are soooo different, smarter and less superficial than certain other women. How they dress, or accessorize or the topics they discuss (Gossip Girl? seriously?) isn't really any of your concern.

Concentrate on yourself, who *you* are. You don't need to make a big thing out of being oh-so-practical and decidedly "NOT BRATZ" That's almost a cliche in itself.

Just be you, little Mama. They'll come running.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 7:44 PM on March 20, 2009

I think you will be just fine with a bit of patience. I agree that that the older men become the more suitable they may be for what you are looking for. Just be yourself, don't worry about shoes and bags and remember to stay open to all possibilities.

I mainly came on to contradict those that were saying you are too judgemental. You asked a valid question about personal identity and relating.
posted by Vaike at 10:36 PM on March 20, 2009

some folks are being harsh, but this is Metafilter, where women are frequently told their point of view is unacceptable for some reason. hal_c_on gets a particular a+ gold star for this. There are a lot of women who are more feminine and into that stuff, it's just true. If one of them posted on here and was like "I really love shoes and clothes and work really hard on my figure, I'm just not one of those geek types" a bunch of people would probably get on their shit for looking down on the geeks. Anyway I cosign Potomac_Avenue's advice. Oh and actually a good friend of mine did meet a fantastic guy (they are planning their wedding now) when weightlifting at the gym, so the squat rack comment has some merit. :) She is not a Barbie type at all, just took up a new interest and met some new people in the process.
posted by citron at 11:05 PM on March 20, 2009

From the OP:

Wow, you guys are fast. Yes, some of your comments are harder to read, but I've been lurking here a while, and wasn't exactly expecting ego strokes. It's very helpful to have outside points of view. I've tried the whole "asking my friends/ people who would tell me the truth" route, but the truth is: my friends are exactly like me (nerdy, bookish) and those answers are something like the blind leading the blind.

A couple of points to clarify:
(a) Yes, I see what you're saying: I do want a traditionally masculine guy without being a traditionally feminine female. I'm just not into feminine issues. This may be a huge part of my problem (i.e., I am attracting my opposite).

(b) Perhaps this helps. I once dated this very feminine guy. I like romantic comedies and love and big skies and pretty sunsets. But he liked all these things more than I did, and I felt like I was dating a girl. While he was definitely the worst case, most of the guys have been along these lines. Romantic geeks. I'm looking for someone more in touch with their masculine side than this, is maybe what I am trying to say. I think many of them are attracted to my bluntness, etc.

(c) Yes, I realize the contradiction here: I want a man in touch with his masculine side without bothering to get in touch with my feminine side. I tried that for about 6 months: matching clothes, trading out my messenger bag for a purse, being feminine, heels (never sneakers), makeup, being charming. It only was marginally more successful than just being myself. So I gave up the charade.

(d) To all those concerned with my "looking down" on Barbies, yes, a huge part of that may be extreme jealously. Time and time again I've watched that nice, smart, attractive, more masculine guy go straight past me to Barbie, who really can't hold a conversation with him on physics but looks nice. I can't say that I blame him, though.
Grlnxtdr--it is good to hear from you, and from the other fem types. I may see makeup as a waste of time, but I am very interested in hearing how your dating experiences are successful. Thank you for sharing your opinion so kindly after I had been negative in my original post.

(e) Once, when I was 17, I dated a guy who was exactly what I'm looking for. He came with baggage, but he was handsome, adventurous, ruggedly masculine (to the point that he publicly insulted one of my friends--I told him to bugger off, and he was even more head over heels with me after that--he told me that the best thing about me was that I would tell him where I was drawing the line), fiercely intelligent, and shared the same distaste of general society that I had. At the time, I was charmed by him but also so scared out of my wits (need to realize that the slightly 'scary' men are what I'm looking for) that I broke it off. He remains a good friend to this day, but he's never dated Barbies, and they have certainly showed interest.
But men like that are few and far between.

(f) Sully, great idea on looking for "doer" intellectuals. That's great. And the 'spidey-sense' I need to work on developing.

(g) Re: Categories. Why not? Guys use them all the time. Women never use categories for men, but it makes life easier. We're always sorting people into categories. I'm just not ashamed to say that use categories. Maybe I need to rely on them less, but I like categories.

(h) metastability, Vaike, nosila, valkyryn--thanks. I like particuarly the idea of going less "Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde" and more "Eva Green as Vesper Lynx in Bond". This would allow me to express my feminine side, but in a more sophisicated way. And if it's Bond types I'm looking for, then Bond girl I need to be. jnnla, great to hear from the other side of the fence, too, from the type of guy I'm interested in who is attracted to the girl I'm not.

Thank you all again for your responses--even the harsher ones are great to read!
posted by Dukat at 3:38 AM on March 21, 2009

It reads to me that Sully is suggesting that you are an Ezri and, consequently, would be better matched with a Bashir than a Worf. I am not convinced this is universally true. However, this might give some insight into your case.

(A core assumption, of course, is that it has nothing to do with Ezri or Dax, as the anticlimactic nature of the Jadzia ending demonstrates a marked indifference to the character her/itself. Also, Jadzia went with Worf for how long, despite his being probably the least interesting character on the station?)

I think pairing Ezri/Bashir was necessary, because Ezri/Worf would have over-stressed the aggressive/dominant-passive/submissive dynamic, and that would have been harder to accept than the dominant-dominant Jadzia/Worf pairing. It really would have been a bit much.

At the same time, I would consider the early, almost baffoonish Bashir and his dynamic with Jadzia, which may seem similar to your own experience (though I would really hesitate to cast early Bashir as that much of an intellectual.)

Also, to put this in other terms, consider what distinguishes a Dukat from a Garak (let's forget the claustrophobia thing and not even talk about Damar.)

Hope that helps.
posted by Sangermaine at 5:10 AM on March 21, 2009

(g) Re: Categories. Why not? Guys use them all the time. Women never use categories for men, but it makes life easier. We're always sorting people into categories.

Only that if you're categorising men too aggressively, you might be discounting partners prematurely. That is, if you rejected someone when they told you A, B and C, (Doing a PhD, ballet dancer, likes cooking) you might not learn about D, E and F (Owns a motorbike, weightlifter, former factory worker); and hence you might be rejecting people who would in fact be acceptable to you.
posted by Mike1024 at 5:46 AM on March 21, 2009

To all those concerned with my "looking down" on Barbies, yes, a huge part of that may be extreme jealously. Time and time again I've watched that nice, smart, attractive, more masculine guy go straight past me to Barbie, who really can't hold a conversation with him on physics but looks nice. I can't say that I blame him, though.

I'm glad you're able to see and admit the jealousy thing. It's coming across loud and clear in your posts. And what's more, I think it's warping your critical thinking skills, in a few ways:
-You assume that any girl you feel is prettier than you is a "Barbie"; someone who "can't hold a conversation with him on physics". You judge people very harshly based on their looks and you assume other people do the same, but it's not other people- it's you. You're doing that to yourself.
-You assume that that matters in relationships- not everybody wants to sit around and talk about things they already know about with people who also know those things. Learning new things through other people is a great joy.
-You're taking any guy choosing to be with someone else very personally, as though by choosing to be with someone you feel is prettier than you, that means that guy thinks you're ugly. My greatest with for you is that you'll let go of that. Let go of your judgmental side. Start by not judging yourself so harshly. You don't have to wear sassy clothes or make up witty remarks to be someone other people desire to be around. What's most important is being comfortable with who you are and working to help other people feel the same.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:02 AM on March 21, 2009 [5 favorites]

Sangermaine, that was awesome. I've never thought about it that way, but you certainly gave me something to think about with reference points with which I'm very familiar. :-)

ThePinkSuperhero, while I don't think I'm as quite critical as I imagine I'm being perceived, I think your last comment was spot on ("be comfortable with who you are and work to help others feel the same"). [I have noticed that my feeling like a perpetual 'outcast' since grade school has helped me to attract others who feel the same. My mother pointed this out to me--that I have more physically disabled, foreigner, and 'outcast' friends than anyone I know. Same goes for men--borderline autistic men have expressed interest in me. Perhaps feeling less like an outcast and judging mainstream society a little less will help me with dating chances.]
posted by Dukat at 9:09 AM on March 21, 2009

I sort of agree with the people saying you might just have to wait. It's a huge stereotype, but it sure seemed to me and every other girl I know anyways, that in the early 20s our guy peers were really...not on it. They can be awesome, funny, smart friends, but it was like they hadn't grown up enough yet to be easy to date. I think this is also more prevalent if your social circle and your personal mindset is geared towards bookish or nerdy pursuits, because like-minded dudes are often, as young men, shy and just beginning to learn the ropes of interacting with women. Everyone I knew put up with weird confusing push-pull namby pamby bullshit from otherwise awesome dudes when it came to romance. Just keep working on being the person you want to be, and stay positive and warm to new social elements in your life, and eventually it'll come. When it finally came for me nothing was that different in my own life, I was just living my day to day with an open-minded, happy perspective, and then randomly there were more and more truly socially skilled dudes. They were all in their late 20s and 30s. Looking back at what I witnessed girls put up with in college, it kind of floored me in comparison. Suddenly it was easy. That's not a good answer, but it's one I've given younger female friends before when they mention this problem or dearth.

This is actually what I've said to a nerdy female friend who was upset in a similar if not identical fashion:

this response is going to be full of projections and generalizations, stereotypes even. But it's just been my own experience, and maybe there's a thread of it that's happening to you too. Maybe. Just throwing it out there for consideration.

Being in your 20s, especially the first half of your 20s, is really suckful dating-wise for women. The reason is that there's something about your male peers that makes them romantically immature right now. Not in an openly obnoxious teenage way so much as a subtle "I don't really know what I want from a relationship so I just go along and then when I realize it's not what I want, even though I have no clue what I do want, it's a big mess" way. Guys seem to have images in their heads, "girl types," they think they "ought" to be with, that will enhance or mirror or contrast attractively with their personality. My first super serious boyfriend dated me thinking I was the perfect girl type for him--bookish, no nonsense, whatever. But for whatever reason, guys tend to be wrong in this stage about what actually complements their demeanors. My guy realized, a little to his horror, he actually wants a housewife-y, gentle, uber-feminine maternal sort of woman who will baby him. He doesn't like admitting this, but it's true, and he eventually came around to allowing himself this truth. I've had platonic guy friends pull this with girls as I watched from the wings, enough that it became a pattern to me. I also had earlier more casual boyfriends do this, and it manifested itself in loving to read my writing and swapping music and staying up all night talking, but not being physically into me. Guys I think get uncomfortable realizing true physical chemistry doesn't always align with their personal ideals. I think some of them, especially guys who want to seem different or special, or cooler or more nerdy or unique or whatever, especially grapple with this. Some of them would do anything to like a girl that's different from what a frat boy would go after...only to find they can't help it much later, many heartbroken attempted relationships later. Or they love the idea they've "caught"/nabbed a cool, independent girl, only to realize all the fun for them was being able to say they had, what an accomplishment, but actually dealing with interacting with said independent girl? Not so fun. Which is way, way immature, but it's also extremely common among younger dudes with less of a clue.

This may be what's happening to you--guys are blissfully dating what they think of as a "girl type" that'll make them feel and seem to others awesome, but then when faced with an actual person--you, with all your complexities, as no girl is a true type but much more--freaking out when it's not perfect and trying to change you and maybe even disliking themselves and resenting you for this apparent failure of perception on their part.

I have had older, wiser women, online even, mention this same observation to me when I was having heartache years ago, and they even had names for it--20something guy disease or whatever, I forget--and told me to be a little wary. I think the 20s are full of reflection for guys, maybe the way the teens are for girls, and all that reflection and reevaluation of their wants and personalities necessarily makes them narcissistic and self absorbed, and less able to empathize.

The thing is, it gets better. The crap part is, you have to wait. Or, at least I did. When I look back on college, I am shocked at the behavior I put up with all sorts of peer (as in, 20something) men--boyfriends, guy friends, acquaintances, strangers--because they were all like that. It'd manifest itself in different ways, but they were all hashing out interior shit and it made them behave in various unbecoming, selfish ways.

I was absolutely shocked when I started dating [my current boyfriend], because none of that was an issue. And we'd talk about the past sometimes, and I know it was for him at some point--but he
grew out of it, realized the mistakes he'd made, the ways he'd been jerky before, and had learned a buttload of empathy in the process. And he'd learned to be just as grateful for me as I was for him--something women allow men not to do in their 20s, and I think is a fatal mistake personally.

But yeah. I just had to wait. [Boyfriend]'s 30. It's sort of a bummer.

The key though is, in the meantime, don't let people trample over your self worth. They probably don't even know they are; they're just being carelessly sloppy the way guys can be. Their sloppiness is not worth damage to your awesomeness. Just try to remember.

And of course there are always exceptions...but the point is it's a total crapshoot to find them, and there aren't a lot necessarily to go 'round.

And yes, I realize this comment sounds more vitriolic and sexist than I wish it was. You can of course reject it based on those limitations...all I know is, I'm glad I'm not in my early 20s anymore trying to find a grown up-acting dude. (shrug) So I guess really my advice would be to make friends as you see fit, but don't jump on bad fits for romantic relationships just because you feel you ought to but the particular possibilities are bad fits. Patience, and friendship to keep you going...but if you're a different type of person, more sexually driven at that age than I was, that advice obviously might not work. Hrm.
posted by ifjuly at 12:09 PM on March 21, 2009 [5 favorites]

I attended a geek high school and a geek liberal arts university, so have had little exposure to stronger, aggressive men.

Oh, there are definitely stronger, assertive (I'm not sure you really meant aggressive, but there are some of those too) geek men. Oh, yes. This opinion comes from someone who finds 'geek liberal arts university' to be a bit of a contradiction. YMMV.

I dress decently (I always attempt to have a bit of style and look groomed and put together, but not to Bratz doll extent)

Most guys don't know much about what's in style or care much about it. Men care that you are wearing something which looks attractive and flattering on you. For most women this means something that shows your shape, specifically the most attractive parts of your shape, more specifically this often means some sort of curve. You can find things to wear that you look good in that are more girly or that are jeans, tshirt, and sneakers. They will not necessarily be what your female friends think is stylish, in fact they may hate what you are wearing.

I have tried the extroversion route, dressing up a little more

Dressing up is not extroversion. Try looking at guys you are interested in and smiling at them.

The only ones who have really persued me are the smart guys, but they are all so geeky and weak

Whoa. Judgmental much? You are stereotyping others and yourself. Try not to pigeonhole people so much.
posted by yohko at 1:32 PM on March 21, 2009

Oh, and don't get into "serious-friends-hanging-out" platonic relationships with men you don't want to be in a relationship with. You don't have to be in a relationship, just date different men and learn about them as people. If someone you have platonic feelings towards wants to date you exclusively, you won't get some sort of a prize for saying yes.
posted by yohko at 1:40 PM on March 21, 2009

He came with baggage, but he was handsome, adventurous, ruggedly masculine (to the point that he publicly insulted one of my friends

I'm not sure how masculine equates with being insulting. I'm certainly hoping he apologized when you called him on it - being assertive is cool. Being a dick? Not so much.

Perhaps feeling less like an outcast and judging mainstream society a little less will help me with dating chances.

Very much so. Not only do you come across as judgmental, but very defensive:

Categories. Why not? Guys use them all the time. Women never use categories for men, but it makes life easier. We're always sorting people into categories

Wait, but you're using them - and plenty of other women have been known to use the geek/weak silent man/strong stereotypes. Sure, it can make life easier -- but you miss out on the rich complexity of life if you're so willing to write off women who dress up as "barbies" and intellectual guys as "weak" - you'll completely miss ever getting to know anyone who might at first glance seem to confirm your stereotyping.

The sooner you get past that, the sooner you'll have an easier time meeting the right guy who might not fit all your preconceived notions.

Oh, and this:
Guys seem to have images in their heads, "girl types," they think they "ought" to be with, that will enhance or mirror or contrast attractively with their personality.

You could switch the genders, still talking about late teens early twenties, and it'd still work. The problem here isn't gender - it's youth and the folly of believing you already know what works for you and resistant to other possibilities. To trying to drop people into easy little buckets before you've really gotten to know them - and often before you've understood yourself.
posted by canine epigram at 5:15 PM on March 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm just not into feminine issues.

What are "feminine issues"? You make it sound as if all women share one mind.

To all those concerned with my "looking down" on Barbies, yes, a huge part of that may be extreme jealously.

Again, your categorizing any woman who is traditionally girly and wearing makeup as "Barbie" and empty-headed is a problem. Maybe it's partly jealousy, but that doesn't make it the truth. However, just as you are looking to not be judged by your cover and attract guys who might traditionally be attracted to another type of woman, don't judge other women by what's on the outside either.

I am like you in that I grew up a shy, nerdy, bookish girl. I was into science and Star Trek and the library was my second home. However, I'm pretty girly on the outside. I love makeup, having pretty hair, dressing nicely, and it isn't for anyone but myself. But that girliness on the outside doesn't change that I have a working brain and can handle conversation on many different topics.

Are you perhaps rebelling against those things (makeup, girly clothes, etc) because of how you perceive the women who wear all those things? Your image of them is very negative and maybe you fear becoming that negative image and/or losing part of yourself.

By the way, I'm dating a guy who has various of those traditional qualities you seek. We met online.

"I once dated this very feminine guy. I like romantic comedies and love and big skies and pretty sunsets. But he liked all these things more than I did, and I felt like I was dating a girl."

You're also overgeneralizing when it comes to men as well. He isn't "feminine", he's a man who likes a romantic comedy. I'm a woman and I'm not all into romantic comedies, love, and pretty sunsets". You have seemingly narrow views on everything and it's counterproductive.

You might be putting people off, and guys off, with your judgmental critique of every little thing they do or like.

Perhaps guys (and potential female friends) are just turned off by the uptight, superior attitude wafting off of you.
posted by cmgonzalez at 7:06 PM on March 21, 2009

You seem to have a truckload of baggage when it comes to how you view men and women. You associate femininity with superficiality, stupidity, and passivity, and masculinity with ruggedness, anti-intellectualism, and dominance. I tend to find fault with any and all gender stereotypes (gender is a social construct!) but you've picked a particularly nasty set to internalize. And I think they're hurting you and the way you interact with others.

Now, you like what you like, and what you like seems to be decisiveness and assertiveness. Nothing wrong with that. And you are who you are, and that's someone who doesn't care for fashion or a lot of the trappings of traditional femininity. Nothing wrong with that, either.

But it has nothing to do with "men" or "women". Guys who aren't assertive aren't feminine or weak - they're just not attractive to you. The fact that you dress a certain way or have certain interests doesn't make you unfeminine - it just makes you a little unusual*.

Look, stereotypes exist for a reason - because they work some of the time as a shortcut for making judgments about people. It's true that men on the whole are more dominant than women. It's true that women as a whole are more likely to watch Gossip Girl. But what are you doing using shortcuts when it comes to your own life? Take the time to get to know people - men and women alike - before you toss aside a possible best friend or the love of your life because they just didn't fit your image of what a man or a woman should be.

I don't think your issue is that the type of guy you want won't be attracted to the type of girl you are. I mean, hell, I think your issue is that you're 22 and despite societal expectation and the legacy of a thousand teen movies it's perfectly normal to have not had a "real" relationship yet. But my guess is that when it comes to dating, you come off as a bit insecure in your own skin and a bit too judgmental of others for people to be entirely comfortable around you. I wouldn't want to date someone who seemed to resent most of their own sex and to dismiss half of mine!

I don't fault you for feeling defensive about your own gender identity. It's hard being someone who doesn't conform to type. I know, I've been there - for a really long time I was the girl who never wore make up and never had boyfriends, always had my nose stuck in a book. I resented the idea that I was supposed to change myself to appeal to others. I don't really know when or why I realized that all I had to do was own myself and be confident in myself and the rest didn't matter, but one day you are going to figure that out and girl, it will be glorious.
posted by shaun uh at 10:21 PM on March 21, 2009 [4 favorites]

Wow, this thread has been amazing. I can't reiterate how useful all this advice is. Asking this question (and receiving the appropriate responses) has been one of the best things I've done for my love life in a while!

Some conclusions that I taking away with me:

(a) MeFites, you did make me realize I was being quite judgemental. I'm still hanging on to this 'outcast' stigma from 7th grade, and still thinking the cheerleaders are out to get me. I need to grow up and move on. Am I the same person I was in 7th grade? No. But my self-image seems to be stuck there still. Are the cheerleaders the same people from 7th grade? No. We're all about evolution, all about growing. Does anyone step into the same river twice? No.
Once I stop being so judgemental and start befriending others not in my nerdy social circle (I realized I don't even have any close friends who are blonde, for goodness' sake! So clingy to the cheerleader image am I.)

I think it will naturally begin to follow that:

(b) I will begin to date many different men. Through this I will begin to realize characteristics that I value / am attracted to / work well with my characteristics. This means, someone can be purple with orange hair and still be honest, kind, loving, trustworthy, etc. I will dispense with types altogether, and replace them with characteristics, or qualities that I am seeking. I think this is going to be a MUCH, MUCH healthier approach.

(c) A couple of you also pointed out that well, makeup and looking nice is just effective. I can't deny this. Of course, I need a reason to work myself out of this way of thinking, so I thought about it a while. I am attracted to men who are giving off some sort of hint that they are sexual beings. The types I've been dating have been smart, top of their class, etc. To me, they're saying 'we can be really cool friends and talk about crazy smart obscure things' but they're not saying 'we can be really cool friends and talk about crazy smart obscure things while we rip each other's clothes off. You're hot. So am I. Let's do it.' So why I am judging (first, stop judging!) guys who are attracted to girls "saying" the latter than the former?

The men I like dress nicely, act masculine, have a nice haircut--they don't go around wearing Speedo thongs, but there is a vibe that says, "Open for business 24/7" (to borrow a phrase from The Manual). I need to live outside my brain a little and more in my body, and start working on projecting this message, too. It would be a double standard to ask guys to be attracted to my mind and my "whatever, meh" appearance while asking them to be brilliant and confident in being a male. This may be a large part of the reason the girls who dress nicely (notice I refrained from "Barbies"--I'm enlightened now) are getting dates: they're saying they want a romantic, sexual relationship with another being! The world responds.

Thanks again. Wow. This was so helpful. I'm going to go out there, start working on my sexual self-image, be open to people, and the world will be my oyster.
posted by Dukat at 2:47 AM on March 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

While you're out there, try to make some more girlfriends too. I get the impression you don't have many, or the ones you have are all of the same type. There are some really smart really interesting "girly" girls out there that might teach you something about the value of female friendship, or at least help you break down your internal stereotypes. And I promise you, to survive dating in your early 20s, you are going to want some good female friendship.
posted by ch1x0r at 1:00 PM on March 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Just to chime in again, I'd have to say that ifjuly is spot on: and I'm saying that as a late 20-something guy myself. I was a bit of a late bloomer and didn't really start dating until the end of college, so reading her post, yeah, that. I'm still not entirely convinced that I'm mature enough, even now, to be in a really serious relationship, but holy shit am I more ready now than I was five or ten years ago.

Some of it probably has to do with working out some of the instability in my life. It's really hard to take on a traditionally masculine role when you're completely up in the air about everything, like so many early 20-something guys are. Where am I going to be in two years? What am I going to be doing? How am I going to support myself, let alone possibly someone else? What's going to happen if she breaks up with me? And how the f*ck am I supposed to have the kind of assertive presence I want to have when I've got nothing to base it on? For good or ill, guys tend to find a lot of their identities in these sorts of things, and when things are in flux, as they are for most people's early 20s, guys tend to do badly. At this point in my life, having a much better idea of how to answer those questions than I did in college, I find that I am a lot more assertive and far less willing to put up with indecisive bullshit, both from myself and from potential romantic partners. Which is good, because indecisive bullshit is bad for everyone.

I think it's observably true that men just take longer to mature than women do, both physically and personally. This may be why so many relationships where the guy is half a dozen years older work out so well: both people are reaching the same point of maturity around the same time.

So yeah, work on your self-image and not being judgmental, but also, don't put up with immaturity. I'm not sure exactly how you'd go about meeting them, but look for guys that have been out of school for a few years. I think you'll find that they are, on average, far, far more assertive and in-charge than your standard college student.

One last thing: ch1x0r is on to something too. It's something of a red flag for me if a girl I'm potentially interested in is short on female friends. I'm not sure exactly why, but in my experience, girls whose closest friends are all guys are just trouble. It may have something to do with the self-image issues mentioned above, or it may say something about the way they relate to people. I want my girlfriend to relate to me as if she were, well, a girl, whatever that means. Just like a guy whose closest friends are all girls would be weird somehow, so to a girl whose closest friends are all guys.

I'll quit blatant gender stereotyping now, but I get the impression that you're looking for something that fits those models somehow. As such, I think a lot of the advice given here is quite helpful.
posted by valkyryn at 6:27 PM on March 22, 2009

I'm going to go out there, start working on my sexual self-image, be open to people, and the world will be my oyster.

Life is not this easy. But I hope you develop your self-image and openness anyways.

You might want to consider what you'll do if you never attract the type of man you want, as well as what you'll do if you attract the type of man you want but don't have a good time with him.

Going off your original post there are four types of people:

* Good females
edgy, not overly feminine, "brain", "smart one", practical, less feminine, brainaic

* Bad females
decked-out girls, being a girl, capable of attracting males, too much eye makeup, Coach purses, Gossip Girls, Bratz doll

* Good males
decisive man, strong, aggressive, man, assertive, protective, better-quality

* Bad males
have never been in a decent, real relationship; odd, awkward "serious-friends-hanging-out"; platonic relationship; philospher types of guys; attracted to intellectually; odd relationships; more "thinkers" than "doers"; forcing me to decide our agendas; never taking any real intiative; failed "not-relationships"; smart; geeky; weak

The world is bigger than this. People have thought about human nature and relationships in many different ways. Try investigating these alternatives.

Good luck.
posted by halonine at 1:57 AM on March 23, 2009

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