My life is like a Temptations song ("can't get next to you"); something must be done.
June 16, 2009 6:38 PM   Subscribe

Pushing 30, het male, complete failure of romantic life. Help? tl;dr details inside.

You think this person has it bad? Well... I'm a matter of days from my 30th birthday, and my dating life has been such a complete disaster that I despair of doing anything about it.

I've had three actual girlfriends in my life, for a total in-relationship span of about two years. Two of those three were depressed women with low self-esteem, who nonetheless managed to treat me pretty badly. The third, I wasn't actually attracted to (although she was very sweet and I liked her), and I finally gave up the ghost after a few months. To top it off, two of those were semi-long distance (about 300-400 miles in each case). This seems to be the best I can do. I once had a six-year dry spell between sex acts.

And much of my dating history is a story of astonishing, bizarre, rejections. My new favorite example: a woman who I was chatting with a while back. We met at a coffeehouse, got along really well. At some point, she ended up lamenting singleness and describing her ideal man, and it about 90% matched me. I played it cool, but later gave her a call and casually invited her to hang... no return call, and then a couple of weeks later, I ran into her making kissy-kissy with a known thief. No kidding, an actual thief, who used to break into cars. With a criminal record. Is my dating market value lower than a criminal's? Apparently it is. At least the thief is good-looking, but my previous favorite example involved being rejected in favor of the shockingly objectively ugly...

Am I that undateable? I have a lot of good qualities: I'm funny, charming, personable, interesting. According to female friends, I have a cute accent, nice eyes, good hair, some rudimentary fashion sense (no metrosexual, but no slob). I'm very intelligent, and I have one extremely high-status (the kind of thing that actually causes jaws to drop) graduate degree from a world-renowned institution to prove it, and am working on a PhD from another. Despite currently being a grad student, I'm not too poor -- I have enough fancy fellowships that I'm probably one of the best paid grad students in the country.

On the down side, I'm overweight. Oh, fuck it, fat. That's obviously the biggest flaw (so to speak). But that can't be all of it. I've been rejected in favor of fatter guys, for christ's sake. I'm trying to lose the weight, but it's a really slow and unpleasant and difficult process, it'll probably take a couple of years even if I do everything right. I hope not to have to completely write off dating in those years. Other downsides: years of lack of success have totally fucked my confidence, especially a recent incident (with a woman who threw herself at me and then sent me a kiss-off e-mail basically saying that she was never really attracted to me at all because of the weight thing). But I can usually fake confidence at least for a little while (and obviously I don't reveal my horrid dating history). And I live in one of those high-tech regions with a ghastly male/female ratio. (I regularly see marginally attractive women with model-hot guys around here.)

I'm not going after unattainable women, supermodels and stuff, I'm going after normal women. And I'm not some kind of misogynist or something who can't relate to women, quite the contrary, I'm one of those guys most of whose friends are women (and not just women who've rejected me romantically, although heaven knows that's a fair proportion).

I'm definitely putting myself out there: I'm always talking to women to whom I'm attracted -- they're just never interested in me. Or they seem interested in me, and then totally flake out -- I often make it to the phone number stage or the casual coffee stage and then nothing beyond. And I meet lots of women doing stuff that I like to do anyway (like in yoga classes). I've also tried online dating, and found it completely useless -- contacting fifty women to hear from three, one of whom agrees to go on one date with me and then doesn't show any interest.

So am I completely irredeemable? Am I doomed to be lonely forever? Or at least until losing the weight? Will losing the weight even help, given how damaged my goods already are? Is it time to become a Catholic and join the priesthood? Help me, O MeFi... any advice...

throwaway e-mail address:
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (67 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Am I that undateable? I have a lot of good qualities: I'm funny, charming, personable, interesting. According to female friends, I have a cute accent, nice eyes, good hair, some rudimentary fashion sense (no metrosexual, but no slob). I'm very intelligent, and I have one extremely high-status (the kind of thing that actually causes jaws to drop) graduate degree from a world-renowned institution to prove it, and am working on a PhD from another. Despite currently being a grad student, I'm not too poor -- I have enough fancy fellowships that I'm probably one of the best paid grad students in the country.

Dude, chill the fuck out. You're trying way too hard.
posted by mpls2 at 6:45 PM on June 16, 2009 [4 favorites]

Please, please please tell me you don't try to impress the ladies with jaw-droppingly fancy degrees. Major turn-off.

Have you asked all of these female friends for advice/set-ups? Start there.
posted by cestmoi15 at 6:51 PM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

The weight is not the problem. The trying too hard is. People can sense it when you try too hard. No one likes it.

Find some hobbies for their own sake (not just to meet women). Build more friendships with other guys, so you have the ability to go out to bars with groups of people and play it casual when you find a woman you're interested in.

Basically, become more confident. Act confident until you feel confident, and by that time, you'll have people gravitating to you anyway.

If nothing you do works or you've tried all this, go buy one of those dating courses off the internet. A lot of them are crap but they do have this common factor - they teach you how to act confident. It would probably do you some good.
posted by Happydaz at 6:51 PM on June 16, 2009

Learn how to be nonchalant and how to play hard to get. It works.
posted by milarepa at 6:54 PM on June 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

You dont want a relationship, you just want validation. Step out of the infantalizing world of academia and into the real world for a few. Become a man.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 6:58 PM on June 16, 2009 [6 favorites]

Will losing the weight even help, given how damaged my goods already are?

You are not damaged, you are in some sort of shame spiral that is not helping you.

That said, I can address this specific question, sort of. I was in a long relationship that was okay but sort of limping along. In the course of this relationship I put on a fair amount of weight [enough to put me in an obsese BMI range, though I didn't really look terrible]. Then the relationship tanked and I found myself in my late thirties single and fat and it was bumming me out. Once I lost the weight (BMI in normal range now) I met a guy I really liked.

However, and this is the huge message which I'll say succinctly and not drag out into some huge story. I met the guy because I'd basically decided how much I liked myself and decided to take care of myself and was all shiny and glowy because I was getting regular exercise and eating better. I'm pretty sure the guy I met would have liked me at any weight, but it was the confidence and "I like myself and I can do the work to solve the problems I am having" that was the true attractor.

So, there's really nothing wrong with being fat if you're in decent shape otherwise. However, it's easy to insulate yourself from other people because you're fat or blame your fatness for why you can't find true love, meet people or whatever it is you want. I decided if I was going to give myself a hard time for not being able to meet people, I was going to remove every impediment that I could see to me being some sort of a "good friend/partner/girlfriend" type person. Being heavy wasn't really the problem, but blaming being heavy was, if that makes sense. I'm sure a lot of people will give you other good advice, but if your weight bothers you and you're smart enough to get some fancy degree from some fancy place, why can't you solve this problem for yourself. If it's a problem for you [and again, I think that's between you and your belly, lots of people meet and fall in love with fat people every single day] and you're a smart guy, go after that like you went after your graduate degree. Best of luck, whatever you decide.
posted by jessamyn at 7:05 PM on June 16, 2009 [32 favorites]

Your entire explanation is about how utterly inexplicable your singleness is. Maybe you're not making an entirely objective assessment, but for the sake of my point lets say that you are and that your situation really is down to bad luck and that you can't really be expected to do anything further than you already are in support of your goal. Affection and companionship are powerful draws, but you're wrapping a huge amount of self worth into your success at relationships. You can take away a major source of perceived injustice, unfairness, incompleteness, and despair from your life by just separating your self worth from the emotional neediness and cultural pressure that is the relationship imperative. The alternative isn't asceticism; it's being comfortable and fulfilled with your life even if all your goals aren't yet -- or ever -- met.
posted by cowbellemoo at 7:05 PM on June 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm just throwing this out there because it crossed my mind. So, you're a PhD student; do you plan to stay in academia or enter the job market? Have you worked at all or have you been in school continually? I ask because, by around age 30, I think some women just might not want to date a student anymore. For one, if you studies are very time consuming or put you on a very different schedule from someone in the work force, that might be an issue.

Also, how "studenty" is your life? Does your apartment/house look like it did when you were 23 or have you traded the futon in for a proper sofa? I'm just taking a shot in the dark, but some women might see extended postgraduate studies as being indicative of trying to avoid being a grownup for as long as possible. This may not apply to you at all, but its worth thinking about. Once you're not in your 20s anymore, more and more potential partners are probably looking for a certain degree of stability and may see a guy who's still a student as someone who doesn't yet know what he wants to do with his life.

Also, there is sort of a self aggrandizing tone here. That might be overcompensating for how you feel about your weight or it might be a whole separate issue. No one will ever love you for how prestigious your degrees are. I mean, I get that you're trying to let us know that you aren't a loser, and that's important, but people who happy with themselves, confident, and reasonably motivated are much more dateable than the alternative.

So as per my usual "how to get dates" advice, try to be the most well adjusted, interesting person you can be. Work on having good self esteem and a balanced ego. Get hobbies and interests that expose you to new people and give you new things to talk about. Don't expect having a girlfriend to fix anything in you or in your life that you weren't able to fix on your own. Romantic companionship is not a panacea for life's unhappinesses.
posted by mostlymartha at 7:16 PM on June 16, 2009 [11 favorites]

Hey man, I've got a criminal record and just so happen to think that I'm quite a catch.

Try this the next time you talk to a girl: don't mention your degree, your weight, or your previous dating experiences.
posted by rhizome at 7:18 PM on June 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

You are almost 30! What's the big deal? Go out walking or jogging, have fun, join a hiking group, sell your computer or lock it in a locker for the night and go out and live your life!
posted by parmanparman at 7:19 PM on June 16, 2009

Sure, lose the weight. It's good for your health, it's good for your prospects, and it's good for your confidence (which figures into item #2). Are there women who like big guys? You bet! Now, who wants to lay odds on random women picked off the street liking bigger guys versus average-sized guys? Dating is all about the odds. In retrospect, it's all fate and special snowflakes, but right now, it's a gamble, and you're at a penalty.

Get more male friends. Single, outgoing male friends. Partake of some of their energy, for lack of a better term. Feel free to get a little loud or rowdy occasionally when you are out. Loosen up. You do not have to become a boor or a pig. I get the sense that you can tiptoe a little, so what you want is to step away from that.

After you've met your goal weight halfway and have some new friends, then consider dating again.

I'm going to guess that you might crush a little hard. The key here is not to. First off, desperation is the garlic of romance: a little too much and it's all over. Second, being emotionally invested in someone just makes rejection more painful, which in turn messes with your confidence and mood and we're back to a previous feedback loop.

You can be rejected for nearly any reason and you may never know what that reason is. Often, people lie about this. So, premature investment is a bad, bad idea. If she's a pleasant acquaintance, how nice; do not pin any hopes, dreams, or expectations on someone with whom you have not gone out on three dates and kissed somewhere in there. Whoever she is, it does not matter if you are lonely or bored or horny, she's just a person like anyone else until it progresses further.

Do not put your eggs in one basket: find prospects in parallel before you date in serial.

Of course, none of the personal assessment here is worth much, since we do not know you in person.
posted by adipocere at 7:22 PM on June 16, 2009 [3 favorites]

Yes, you are undateable.

You are undateable because you wallow in self pity and expect us to do the same.

Get over yourself.

You say you're overweight and think that this is a turnoff for women. Well. There are certainly women who are not attracted to overweight men. If you are attracted to women who are not attracted to overweight men, or if you think that losing weight will generally give you a more positive disposition, then, by all means, start there.

But putting on a pity party for yourself, while at the same time congratulating yourself for your academic achievements, invites only snark.
posted by dfriedman at 7:28 PM on June 16, 2009 [5 favorites]

Your lack of confidence is the problem. Unfortunately, this can be a kind of catch-22 - if you continue to be unsuccessful with women, it will hinder your confidence, making it harder to be successful with women. . .

But there is a way out! Or several. Off the top of my head:

1. Meet more women, just expand the pool of women you know. Join a group, take a class, volunteer, attend meet-ups, walk around the neighborhood saying hi to people in bars and shops. Ride in critical mass if your town has one. Go to a rave. Find some people playing frisbee in the park and ask to join them. Form a kazoo band and have a parade. Throw a dinner party and ask your friends to bring friends (or it could be a picnic, it's a good time of year). Most importantly, say yes to people's invitations so you are open to new experiences.

2. Fake it til you make it. Things confident people do that are attractive: smile at others, make eye contact, ask questions and show interest in other people, carry themselves confidently. You can try to do these things - even a little bit will make a difference in how people perceive you.

3. Do things that make you feel good about yourself and your life. Nothing is more attractive than someone who seems to be enjoying life, or at least getting the most out of it. This is hard when you are a student because your schedule is filled up with one thing, but try to make time for other things too, things you really enjoy doing and that make you look forward to the day.

Good luck! Don't worry that there is something wrong with you (because, as you point out, even thieves can get girls in the right circumstances) - there are a lot of people out there, just be patient and someone will see what they are looking for in you.
posted by mai at 7:37 PM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have one extremely high-status (the kind of thing that actually causes jaws to drop) graduate degree

I'll be honest: I can't even imagine what this might be. (You're too young to have completed an MD/PhD, but even those aren't so rare.) If you're hanging out with folks whose jaws actually drop just because of an Ivy League PhD or a international law degree from abroad or MBA or what have you (not any associated accomplishments like the book deal, the publications, the break-through experiments, the presentation at TED, etc. but just the fact that you earned a grad degree)....are you perhaps setting the bar too low, or not hanging out with genuine peers? Or are you a bit...grandiose, which is so much worse than any number of excess pounds?

What do your female friends have to say about why you're striking out? Find at least one who will be honest with you.
posted by availablelight at 7:38 PM on June 16, 2009 [4 favorites]

This is the kind of question that any one of us would probably be able to answer for you if we sat down and talked with you in person for 15 minutes. Talk with someone you trust and ask them to be brutally honest. Bonus points if the person is a woman. Triple bonus points if you're not secretly hoping that she'll want to date you.
posted by hermitosis at 7:54 PM on June 16, 2009 [15 favorites]

Speaking as someone who's known plenty of Ivy League/Oxbridge folks with "jaw-dropping" degrees, I can tell you that no one ever was ever made happy or had a great relationship fall into their lap solely because of their academic credentials.

The fact is, you are not your impressive degrees. You are not your fancy fellowships. You are not your cute accent. You are not your weight. You are not the number of people you have dated. Or, as I once told Anonymous Fedora Guy, start relating to yourself on the basis of qualities rather than external trappings, and see if the way you relate to others goes through a transformation as well.
posted by scody at 7:59 PM on June 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

Dude, there are women out there who don't give a flying f*** about your degree. Dare yourself to go out on a meetup/singles mixer and DO NOT mention your high falutin' edu-me-cation. Pay yourself $20 if you do so.

As for the weight issue, the enormous chip you're carrying around on your shoulder weighs a whole lot more.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:00 PM on June 16, 2009

follow-up from the OP
I just want to clarify: I don't think I come off as arrogant or whatever in real life. I mentioned the degree thing because it seems to be a real draw with those few women who do display interest, and, as adipocere pointed out, I want to make it clear that I'm not a loser, that I really do have some things going on in my life, etc. I'm a little (ok, a lot) hurt and unsettled by the deliberate cruelty and snark that some people seem to think is an appropriate response.

I'm kind of confused about what sorts of things I'm supposed to think -- the the confidence/self-pity/trying-too-hard line of comments suggests that there's something wrong with my mindset, and that's the real problem, but I'm having trouble getting a grasp on exactly how my mindset is supposed to change. I seriously just don't understand. Confidence is good, but it's bad to think "ok, here are my attractive qualities," because that means I'm either self-pitying or trying too hard? This isn't a snide follow-up, it's a genuine question. If I can't focus on my attractive qualities without seeming arrogant, how am I ever supposed to be confident? Isn't confidence recognizing attractive qualities and focusing on them?

Relatedly, I do think the things I've listed as good points are attractive, and it does puzzle me that they haven't led to dating success even though other people with fewer objective good qualities have more success. That's why I'm asking for help... to figure out what I'm missing/what's wrong with me/what I'm doing wrong. I don't understand why that constitutes self-pity or what it would mean to stop being self-pitying, if that's what this means.

Can those of you who say I'm trying too hard, etc. clarify what you mean by this?

Responses to some of the questions: I have spent several years in the real world, in a professional career. I only recently went back to grad school because I decided I wanted a career change, to become a professor. I do tend to crush hard. My life is a little studenty, but not very: I live on campus but don't have roommates, I don't go out partying, I have a well-defined and achievable career plan, a bank account, a car, etc. And I do yoga for its own sake (fun and fitness), not to meet women, sorry to be unclear.
posted by jessamyn at 8:01 PM on June 16, 2009

You remind me of a good friend of mine who is going to make some lucky woman really, really happy one day, but has had a pretty long streak of dating unluck. He does all the right things: he goes places, socializes with various groups, is friendly and optimistic, and he's unafraid to ask women out. And sometimes they do go out on dates with him.

The thing is, though, you can tell he really wants a relationship. As in A Relationship, complete with capital letters, as in relationship-for-relationship's-sake. And I don't blame him; I've been there too. (I mentioned that in the "old maid" thread, and my advice to her applies to you as well.) But people, men and women alike, regardless of how high or low their self-esteem is, want to be with someone who is interested in them, not just interested in checking off their relationship status.

To that effect, sure, continue to ask women out, but don't ask everyone out. Don't chat up someone just because you think you have a reasonable chance with her - there will be others, honest. And having a diverse range of interests and activities is awesome, but if your diverse range of interests and activities is cultivated for the purpose of meeting women, people can tell. Hanging out in coffeeshops and going to yoga can come across as kind of chicky activities. Do a couple things where you don't hope or expect to meet women - it'll round you out a bit.

About the weight/physical appearance thing. I've been attracted to, dated, and even loved some obese dudes. Losing weight for health reasons is great, but your weight is not a deal-breaker. Provided you're decently groomed (and some of us will forgive dorky shoes and maybe even the occasional dragon shirt), you're fine. It's probably a good idea to stop comparing your looks to other guys altogether; that doesn't really lead anywhere good. (And while you're at it, stop rating the women, too. I mean, yeah, we all have our opinions on who's attractive and who's hotter than who and all that, but the minute I hear "marginally attractive women," I think "oh shit, he'd judge me if he could see me.")

And finally, it's not really helpful to play the "but he's in a relationship with her!" mental game. Maybe the girl making out with the thief didn't know about his criminal record; maybe they had one makeout session and parted ways forever; maybe they got into a relationship but fight nonstop. Same with every couple you see, every woman who rejects you, and every guy who seems to be doing better than you. There are all sorts of variables at play that we don't know about. To reduce it to the binary of Getting Some and Not Getting Any is kind of like doing a Punnett square in middle-school biology: maybe you can predict whether the kid will have blue eyes or brown eyes, but you're forgetting that you don't know what his nose will look like or how tall he'll be or whether he'll need braces.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:06 PM on June 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

You don't sound very modest. Telling us how charming you are and about your jaw-dropping degree. Wow. I'm turned off. Adopting a slightly more humble mindset might be a step in the right direction.
posted by rglass at 8:08 PM on June 16, 2009

I have one extremely high-status (the kind of thing that actually causes jaws to drop) graduate degree

You are either hanging out with bimbos whose jaws would equally drop if you told them you knew Britney Spears, or you are being absurdly self-aggrandizing. Either way, it's not helping you.
posted by decathecting at 8:13 PM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh, and I can say this as a woman who is incredibly attracted to overweight men with academic credentials: you seem to be using dates as a status symbol. In fact, you seem to be using a lot of what's going on in your life as a status symbol. People can sense when you're using them, and most well-adjusted people don't appreciate it.
posted by decathecting at 8:14 PM on June 16, 2009 [3 favorites]

About being fat: my skinny little DD is dating a man who's about 5'10" and must weigh close to 300lbs. He tried to push her away for months saying all his girlfriends left him. He's grouchy. She really likes him, weight or no weight, grouch or no grouch. They accept each other. My sil was married to a short, very stout man and was happier than any time in her life. It's not about the weight. Yes, it can widen the field, but don't think there aren't 6'2" blond blue-eyed hunks out there who don't date because there are. Sounds to me like the pond you're fishing in doesn't have a lot of women you'd want to catch. I agree with the advice given above: branch out, find some single peers to hang with or married men who's wives like fixing up the bachelors, live like you're a mature 30-year-old man. After a while, they'll find you. And buy a shirt that flatters you, something with a bit of colour, not that student no-colour-but-mud or black stuff. Leave the cologne at home. Let them find out slowly how talented you are. You might scare off a suitable woman who's afraid she won't measure up to your success/expectations if you pile it all on at once.
posted by x46 at 8:16 PM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Warning: Do not approach women you are attracted to. They will most likely unconsciously put you in the same mental category as bums asking for change and those guys who hand out fliers on the street. Read about this study:

Quote: "The mere act of physically approaching a potential partner, versus being approached, seemed to increase desire for that partner," said Eli Finkel, associate professor of psychology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern and co-investigator of the study.

What you need is to find ways for women to approach you, someway, somehow, and then they are yours, because the embodiment effect (see above link) will make them think that you are good!, because they "chose" you. It's simple, and it's stupid, but there it is: attraction in a nutshell.

This probably explains why men tend to use crass gimmicks such as dogs, kids, weird outfits, football, cars, scars, fame, wealth, alcoholism, criminal behavior and "playing hard to get"... because it gets attention from women.

PhDs and fellowships? Impressive, but... it ain't gonna bring the bees to the pollen.
posted by Theloupgarou at 8:17 PM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

OP -- I'm sure someone else will say this in a more elegant fashion, but re-read your question, a lot of the answers, including mine, point to self-aggrandizing. We are trying to help by pointing it out. Sorry if it comes off as snarky, I meant it in earnest.

I say this a lot: Its not what you say but how you say it. Reframing will help you.

Also? I wasn't the only one to mention asking for help from your friends, they know you.
posted by cestmoi15 at 8:23 PM on June 16, 2009

I do think the things I've listed as good points are attractive, and it does puzzle me that they haven't led to dating success even though other people with fewer objective good qualities have more success.

I think you're missing what people are trying to say (with varying degrees of clarity and gentleness, perhaps) -- it's not that what you count as your good qualities are actually bad qualities; it's that they aren't the good qualities that attract others in order to form a romantic relationship.

Here's an exercise: think about the five best qualities you would like in a partner -- and by that, I don't mean outward trappings (e.g., good college, what books she's read, well-dressed, etc.). I mean stuff like compassion, adventurousness, kindness, creativity, humor, etc. Take some time to make this list. Consider it carefully: what are the most meaningful personal qualities someone can possess to make them relationship material to you?

Now turn around and think about how well you embody and cultivate those qualities yourself. Those are the things that people actually respond to, and that can actually form the basis of the chemistry that can lead to a relationship.

Speaking of book collections, the only good book on this topic I've ever read is How to Be an Adult in Relationships -- it focuses not on how to find The One, but rather how you can be a more realistic, loving person with a more grounded sense of your self and your needs... so that when potential relationships come your way, you are actually well-equipped emotionally to go through the steps in a healthy way.
posted by scody at 8:26 PM on June 16, 2009 [7 favorites]

I just want to clarify: I don't think I come off as arrogant or whatever in real life.

You probably do. I can get whiffs of it just from the writing, and this is a "takes one to know one" sort of thing. I'm very arrogant myself, and it was a long time before I realized it and tried to take steps to minimize it, and I *still* have problems in which people consistently misconstrue my intentions. (For instance, once in an internship situation I did a stupid and jammed the copier. The lady behind the desk said, "Well, I'll fix it," and I, not wanting to be a bother to the actual employees, said "No, no, I broke it, I'll undo it." She actually complained to my boss/mentor because of my "attitude." She'd taken it as me saying, "I know more than you," not me taking responsibility for my own idiocy. And this was me being on super-ultra-bow-and-scrape-yes-sir-I-am-your-humble-servant mode.)

So yeah, you probably don't come across the way you think you do. Few people do. This is definitely something to at least consider and ask people about.
posted by Scattercat at 8:28 PM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Maybe this will be more constructive:
How are your interpersonal skills? Are you a good listener? Are you empathic? Are you respectful of others' views? Are you warm? Caring? Do you put yourself in others' shoes? You get the idea...
More important in relationships than degrees and/or physical features.
posted by rglass at 8:32 PM on June 16, 2009 [4 favorites]

Lose the weight. Getting in shape will change your life in many positive ways that will make you happier and more "alive" and much more appealing to women (most of them not directly because of fitness -- because of all the indirect benefits it will reap).
posted by glider at 8:35 PM on June 16, 2009

Oh, anonymous, your post breaks my heart. You sound like an intelligent, sensitive, caring, accomplished, goal-oriented man. And if I were to join an online dating service and be contacted by you I'd probably fall a little bit in love with you just by reading your profile. I have no doubt it's witty and playful, showing off your best features while remaining humble. And I'd see you were overweight from your picture and hesitate slightly (not because I wouldn't be physically attracted to you, but because I've struggled so much with my own health that I now try to date only men who don't share my weaknesses, and with whom I will be able to maintain my healthy lifestyle) but I'd agree to a date enthusiastically.

And then we'd go out for dinner. And the whole time I'd be looking at you, listening to your stories, wondering who you really are, what you truly care about, where your passions lie... And the whole time you'd be looking at me, wondering if I really liked you.


And at some point, I'd realize that. I'd notice that you weren't evaluating me as a potential partner, but rather trying to see whether or not I could validate you. And that's when I'd decide not to have a second date. And it wouldn't be because you were overweight, or unattractive, or insufficiently accomplished. It would be because you only wanted me to make you feel better about yourself. You never wanted ME.

The solution to this? God, it's so trite I hate myself for typing it: figure out what you need to feel better about yourself, then do that. If it's losing weight, awesome. If it's landing a job in your chosen field, even better. If it's volunteering at your local soup kitchen, perfect. But don't bother dating another woman until you know your own worth and are ready to treat that first date as an opportunity to assess HER worth.

You sound like a wonderful man. And once you no longer list Job Requirement #1 for any potential girlfriend as "Makes Me Feel Better About Myself" you'll start attracting (and keeping) the kind of women who do.

Yet another post proving Joseph Heller was a brilliant man.
posted by philotes at 8:39 PM on June 16, 2009 [76 favorites]

Here is the scoop, in my experience women seem to make their dating choice based 25% on looks and 75% on personality. Guys do 75% on looks 25% on personality. (convenient generalities, please don't pileon, kthxbai)

You are looking at this from the perspective of if you were trying to bag a bloke by working on your looks first. Work on your personality. Nice guy or not, you rubbed a lot of people the wrong way in this post. That should be some indication that, if nothing else, there is room for improvement.

I'm probably a broken record, but talk to a therapist. Tell them everything you said here, they will help you get to the bottom of it. Something we just can't do here, its not what this place is for , really.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 8:51 PM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Philotes' advice is spot on. Listen to it.
posted by Happydaz at 8:55 PM on June 16, 2009

Isn't confidence recognizing attractive qualities and focusing on them?

I think that confidence is just being ok with who you are, not focusing a spotlight on what you feel are attractive qualities. So, by my definition, you aren't ok with yourself. You remind me of a friend of mine. Love her to death, but she is so NEEDY, constantly wanting to be told that she is OK. Like you, she really wants to find someone, and her love life is a series of self-inflicted disasters.

If you want to be in a relationship that works, you have to be ok with yourself first. I would work on that. The other parts will fall into place.

And I just want to add, big fucking deal that you're almost 30! (I don't get why all these recent posts are about turning 30 and thusly pole-vaulting into the grave) I passed 30 and my turkey timer didn't pop, so I think I'm doing alright. In fact, I am much happier in my 30s than I ever was in my 20s.

Another thought: After you get to being confident (ok with yourself), date against your type. Maybe you are going after a certain "type" of girl, what you think you want/deserve, and that isn't working. If you are chasing bimbo cheerleader-types, go after book nerds. Or goths/emo. Or furries (ok maybe not). My point here is, that sometimes you find the best things in the places you least expect.

Good luck.
posted by bolognius maximus at 9:04 PM on June 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

Confidence is good, but it's bad to think "ok, here are my attractive qualities," because that means I'm either self-pitying or trying too hard?

I think that what people are noticing is that you're placing the emphasis on the wrong things. So:

I'm attractive because of my degrees and my fellowships PLUS
I'm [disaster, despair, lonely forever, etc.]

Adds up to not attractive at all. Your career points to being highly intelligent and very hard working, but the academic success isn't attractive in and of itself. Can it get your foot in the door? Yes. Will she be psyched to rattle off those bona fides to her mother? Definitely. But in between is your problem and that's where your actual personality and way of relating to actual women comes in - and that's where over-reliance on your resume, your self-consciousness about your romantic history, and your sense of entitlement (that "normal looking, moderately attractive" women should be thrilled to meet you) are going to get in the way.
posted by moxiedoll at 9:14 PM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

your sense of entitlement (that "normal looking, moderately attractive" women should be thrilled to meet you)

Oh, and this too. Whether you genuinely feel this way or not, your post did give off a strong whiff of (bitter) entitlement:

And much of my dating history is a story of astonishing, bizarre, rejections.

I've been rejected in favor of fatter guys, for christ's sake.

At least the thief* is good-looking, but my previous favorite example involved being rejected in favor of the shockingly objectively ugly...

I regularly see marginally attractive women with model-hot guys around here.

If you are giving off vibes at all that seem to say, "someone like you shouldn't turn me down", you'll get rejected so fast your head will spin.

*[also note: this "thief" was someone who "used to break into cars"...for all you/we know, he's clean and sober now and helping little old ladies across the street when he's not studying for his BA in chemical engineering. And yes, I know someone who fits that description.]
posted by availablelight at 9:43 PM on June 16, 2009

And, from your followup:

it does puzzle me that they haven't led to dating success even though other people with fewer objective good qualities have more success


If you know any of these people well who you think have "fewer objective good qualities" than you but are more successful in relationships, can you try reevaluating them to see what they're doing right? They might not have a great job, but maybe they have a sunny disposition...maybe they're fatter than you but they can make someone laugh to the point of tears....or they're not "very intelligent" but they have a certain masculine swagger and confidence in themselves, etc.
posted by availablelight at 9:49 PM on June 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

I think a few people here aren't trying to be very constructive and could stand to back the fuck off a bit. You sound genuinely interested in figuring out what you're doing wrong and I know much bigger, more self-aggrandizing assholes than yourself who are in long-term relationships.

Start exercising every other day. Just a little bit to start out with so that it's never a huge chore. Stop drinking and smoking pot (they're not evil, just not good for personal development when you're feeling isolated and down about yourself).

In conversation with people, never tell a story or anecdote that you have told before. People will sense the repetition it'll make you look desperate for attention. Don't try to be too charming. Don't be a chucklehead. Being reserved isn't the same as being rude. Give people the space to meet you halfway and you're less likely to make them feel cornered. Stay enthusiastic about school but never bring it up in conversation.

Try to get in touch with who you felt you were when you were 5 years old. Your descriptions of the women you've dated were a little sketchy in and it gives me the feeling that part of your problem may be that you are focusing too much on yourself and not on them. Put your effort into giving yourself the leeway to be imperfect, then you stand a chance of acting with spontaneity. You'll be less liable to overcompensate, seem stilted and put even more distance between yourself and your date.

Keep in mind that the ultimate prize here is a good friend that you can "be yourself" around. In bed and out.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:03 PM on June 16, 2009

Isn't confidence recognizing attractive qualities and focusing on them?

I think that's charm actually. Confidence is not being afraid of what people think of you in general and also not being afraid to care very much what a particular subset of people think of you. Pick those people wisely.

Also there is a big difference between wanting someone to be your girlfriend and just wanting someone, an individual, as a person. Love does not only occur within the neat bounds of meet new person/ date/ relationship! and if that's the only place you're looking for it you're in for a long search.
posted by fshgrl at 10:14 PM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Dude it sounds like you need to get your act together. You don't seem to have a good view of your own self worth. Lose the weight now for yourself, it should not take a year. You should see results in two weeks. Stop looking for a lover until you get yourself right. You can go and just watch the videos on losing weight(don't buy anything) After watching the videos do some research of what was talked about. Research is free:)

Please stay away from the slow songs. They just help you to feel sorry for yourself and remain in a state of depression.
You can improve your dating technique by doing some more research on how to treat women.
Remember research is your friend. There are thousands of free info on how to treat a women.

You write well so you must be somewhat intelligent, so stop knocking yourself down!
Good Luck! and Good Health
posted by surfergirladdict at 10:19 PM on June 16, 2009

Isn't confidence recognizing attractive qualities and focusing on them?

con-fidence means "with faith". Focusing on attractive qualities is a way to prove that you're good enough. Confidence is simply feeling secure that whoever you are, whatever your qualities, you're part of the world. It's not comparative; it's a basic attitude of comfort with yourself.

You don't have to assess yourself to have confidence. You just have to trust yourself.
posted by mdn at 10:26 PM on June 16, 2009 [3 favorites]

I want to clarify that I got a vibe of a lack of confidence from some of the things you said, in particular your listing of your good qualities.

You say you are listing these qualities to prove that you are not a loser. But it seems obvious to me that you aren't a loser, even without listing those qualities - it comes through in the thoughtfulness of what you have written and it will be obvious to people you meet as well.

You don't need to prove yourself to anyone, including yourself, but it's not clear that you believe that. I hope you can come to believe it, at least somewhat or at least sometimes. There are really great people out there in the world who will like you, good and bad qualities and all, and to me "being confident" just means being open to those people and present with them when they appear. I know that sounds really hokey but that's how it seems to me.
posted by mai at 10:33 PM on June 16, 2009

Isn't confidence recognizing attractive qualities and focusing on them?

Well, in one way, yes.

But in another way, no, that's not the entirety of confidence at all.

The kind of confidence that's really meaningful -- and truly attractive -- is the feeling of knowing who you are in a much bigger way. It means owning yourself, warts and all, and liking the totality of yourself. It means accepting your own human flaws with the same tenderness that you accept them in your dearest loved ones. It means being comfortable in your skin, whether you're at your ideal weight or not, or in a relationship or not, or dressed to the nines or not. It means knowing that who you are is not dependent on external trappings like possessions or people's judgments.

Paradoxically enough, real confidence has at its core an essential humility, in which you embrace yourself as no more and no less human than everyone around you.
posted by scody at 10:33 PM on June 16, 2009 [11 favorites]

Relatedly, I do think the things I've listed as good points are attractive, and it does puzzle me that they haven't led to dating success even though other people with fewer objective good qualities have more success.

If you want people to learn from, you've just identified them. Don't hate on them, learn from them. Sure it's easy to say "How can that hot babe be going with that thumb-headed jerk?" but it just makes you bitter and doesn't help you. Instead of the snark, seriously ask that question. Possibly even to them!

In general, people want to be with someone who makes them feel better than they are alone. One way to do that is by starting out interested and caring about other people and giving of yourself. Ways to not do that are to be insecure, pompous, a hater, talking about yourself too much, bragging, or being desperate.

I hope the answers haven't brutalized your self confidence to see it out here on the brutal Green. There is a lot of great advice in this thread if you edit out the snark.
posted by Ookseer at 11:52 PM on June 16, 2009

You need to lose the weight. Sorry, but that's how it is -- not really/only for superficial reasons, but for your own self confidence. As someone who is most always packing 10-20 unwanted pounds, I know what it does to my self esteem and overall energy level to have that extra weight/anxiety, and it ain't good.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 12:43 AM on June 17, 2009

fwiw, I think people are reading way too much into your listing your good qualities. I don't see how you could have written the question without pointing out both the good and the bad, and that's exactly what you did.

So in response to the follow-up, keep confident.
posted by Nattie at 12:56 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

First things first- why do you want to date in the first place? The biggest things you mention are:

1) You think guys who can't get a girl are losers. You want to prove you aren't one.
2) You want to be committed to someone before you turn 30.

These are not good reasons. Girls are not status symbols to brag about to your guy friends, and marriage is not a race. It sounds like you want to be in a relationship for the sake of being in one, and not that there's someone you care about deeply and would like to get closer to. You seem especially hung up on that first part, worrying over whether you are a loser or not, and this makes you seem desperate. Like others have mentioned, you don't date a girl to affirm your self-worth, you date her because you're attracted to her and want to get to know her better. Or in other words, being desperate/trying too hard is when you're so incredibly eager to date, you'll date anyone, even if you aren't attracted to them, even if you don't feel like you could create a strong loving bond between the two of you. And desperation smells, it reeks of insecurity or issues and just in general undesirable qualities. It's strong enough to scare most potential dates away, and I suspect is also the reason behind the initially positive response you've been having that ends abruptly.

Next, your concept of attraction seems to be excessively logical, that you feel like you should sell your "attractive qualities," and that potential dates will buy what you're selling based on how favorably you compare to what else is available. Except that people don't check off lists in their head and go out with whoever gets the most points- rather they're looking for someone whom they feel a strong connection with.

It's also important to note the attractive qualities dates are looking for are personality-based things- the most common answer about what people want in a lover is a good sense of humor. In practice this is about two people hitting it off well. Most people call it chemistry, and it's hard to define, but it can make or break a relationship- without it, you're just heading towards the inevitable break-up. This is one of those things where being yourself comes in. There's plenty of good advice on askme on this already, so I won't go into it.

Lastly, the reason people have been calling you out on your degrees isn't to stomp on your hard work, but rather that in dating it's just barely relevant if at all, and so to mention it at all seems like you are bragging. I don't think you are, but you need to keep in mind you're not applying for a job here- you're looking for someone to share your life with.

P.S. There's already plenty of good advice in this thread, but all the good advice in the world is useless if you don't understand it. I tried to answer your question in the same fashion as it was written, hopefully this makes it easier to understand.

P.P.S. Oh and about being fat- It wasn't clear to me whether you are truly insecure about your weight or whether you're just fixating on it as an obvious possible answer for your romantic troubles. Insecure? follow the advice already given. Otherwise, don't sweat it, you're probably overthinking this.
posted by tachikoma_robot at 1:24 AM on June 17, 2009 [3 favorites]

You don't spend much time telling us about the sort of person or relationship you are attracted to (apart from 'normal' and presumably not 'depressed women with low-self esteem'), but I'll assume you've already thought about that. So:

Be the person you would want to date, and magically a person you will want to date will find you.

Works more often than not.
posted by methylsalicylate at 2:40 AM on June 17, 2009

This has been touched on, but I have to reinforce:

If I can't focus on my attractive qualities without seeming arrogant, how am I ever supposed to be confident?

You misunderstand what confidence is. Confidence is NOT NEEDING to focus on your own qualities, on yourself, while interacting with others. You get it by taking care of yourself, making your life happy and functional. Confidence is the pleasant, powerful rumble of your own life hitting on all cylinders. Confidence is what liberates you to focus on the wider world, to appreciate other people and make them feel valued.
posted by jon1270 at 3:58 AM on June 17, 2009 [5 favorites]

The qualities you have listed are not those that will make someone want to be in a relationship, fundamentally. Sure, it's great that you have a degree, and all that stuff. But what most women look for is not a list of accomplishments, but rather an approach to life. Someone who is passionate about his work (or school, as the case may be), has interests in books and movies that I share, doesn't take himself too seriously... those are mine, personally. Each woman's will be different. But I never looked at is as a "dating market" when I was out there (married 6 years now), and never created the kind of rankings in my mind that you seem to. You're not a commodity, and neither are the women you date.

The point is, there's something about you that's not part of your "paper credentials" that's pushing women away. I agree it might be a form of neediness. It might be an overemphasis on superficiality in yourself or others. It's hard to say from your posting. You do seem like a good guy, who has just lost his path a little bit.

Ask a good female friend for her brutally honest opinion.

Also, the fat thing. Sure, some women will write you off because of it. So what? If you were skinny, or blond, or Mormon, it would be the same. You can't please everyone. Exercise and lose the weight if it makes you feel better. It won't magically solve your problem, though, I don't think. An anecdote: I have two female friends about the same size. Both are somewhat heavy. One has not dated in about two years, and the other picks up guys every other day. The first thinks she's unlovable, and is closed off, and anxious. The second is outgoing and enthusiastic and loves meeting new people and doing new things. There's a reason why the two have different experiences.

Good luck.
posted by miss tea at 4:18 AM on June 17, 2009


I wrote something very much like this a couple of years ago and people took me to task for it, in a way that really hurt. But a lot of it was very relevant. I'd like to say that I immediately figured everything out and met a great girl and la-tee-dah. It didn't happen.

However, several people on that thread, and in other threads mentioned the idea of just giving up on dating for a while. I did this in the spring, January->June. I spent 6 months just doing things I liked to do, investing myself in my non-lady passions and fucking chilling out. My dating history is even weirder than yours.

Some observations
1) stop joking about your past. I do this, and I'm funny and I can entertain my friends with all kinds of stories "tell us about the woman who bit you and then left your apartment!" It's great to laugh, it's great to have a sense of humor. But don't make yourself into some joke, because then you are a joke. This is serious to you, so be serious.

2) Stop thinking about how unfair the world is and how your life is a cosmic disaster. It's just not a good way to think about things. Basically the women you've met have wanted something and you have not been able to provide it. That's the way it is...there is no fate involved. You may find someone who wants what you can give but you are going to have to stop feeling bitter about it.

Easier said than done. I'm trying to figure it out myself. And I haven't. But I understand what the issue is.

3) Losing weight is going to help you. Not because it's going to take the problems away but it seems like you are dealing with a lot of self-esteem issues. It's a really good project because it a) makes you look better b) is probably something you talk about which will make you look sort of pathetic c) will help you live longer and be generally happy and healthy. You should maybe check out The Hacker's Diet (google it). Also Never Gymless by Russ Enemait. Two things I found on askmefi

Anyway, honestly, it took me a year after the dude said "dude, stop trying, totally" before I took my 6 months off. Honestly, I realized, I kind of like being single. It took me a long time to say that (still sounds weird). I've been dating a woman for a couple of weeks now and I don't really like how miserable it makes me. I don't think I'm ready to get back in the pool just yet.

Think of your life, and all the misery this has caused you. Wouldn't it be nice to just get away from all of that, cold turkey for a while?
posted by sully75 at 5:07 AM on June 17, 2009 [3 favorites]

As others have pointed out -

Confidence is not believing, or proving, that you are good enough BECAUSE of anything in particular... it's not a logical calculation, and no matter how fantastic you are or how many credentials you can list, if you try to convince yourself that you DESERVE confidence due to meritorious qualities, you'll never have it. Confidence is just knowing that you are OK. Fine. Good enough. Right this minute, without changing anything. It doesn't mean that you give up working on your personality or freeze yourself exactly as you are today and decide you never need to improve - not at all. It just means that you know that where you are today is OK, where you are tomorrow is OK too, and if you develop and nurture qualities that make you a more compassionate, caring, life-filled person in the meantime, great. It means relaxing about whether or not you are good enough. I know there can be a nagging feeling that if you're not constantly staying on top of your list of good qualities, they might slip away. Not true.

When you have confidence, you won't ever need to list any credentials to other people. They'll see by your relaxed attitude and your genuine un-self-preoccupied interest in them that you are not watching your back all the time with the fear that you might get rejected again.

The greatest give you can give is being 100% present for somebody else. Try it out. Next time you listen to somebody, NOTICE how much of your thinking is about you - even as they're speaking, even as you're figuring out what to say. Try to leave that aside for a while - just listen, be genuinely curious, and trust that what other people REALLY need is to be listened to, to be valued, to be cared for - not to date a guy with a list of good qualities, although you DO indeed have some very nice qualities.
posted by Cygnet at 5:42 AM on June 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

I don't think people here are being deliberately malicious or cruel, OP. I've had my share of painful advice from AskMe and there were a lot of times when I really wanted to disable my account or flame out because man, some of the stuff that get said here hurt, a hell of a lot. I still can't bring myself to go back and read some of my Anon questions because it's still too soon, in those cases.

But in almost every situation, once I've nursed my bruised pride enough to calm down and really think about all the answers that were given, I realize that sometimes the hurtful ones are only hurtful because they point out something that I really didn't want to be true. People here have no motive to sugarcoat things, or lie to you, so they call it like they see it and sometimes that can suck.

Confidence is about being okay with who you are. It's not saying "look I have all these objectively good qualities why don't you like me yet", but rather "I know that I have qualities and bad qualities and sometimes people won't like me and sometimes they will, and that's a-okay with me." Your original post, broken down, was a long enumeration of everything that was good about you, and then "well the only problem I can really think of is that I'm fat." Really? The only problem? How well do you really know yourself?

Being rich, being smart, and having degrees are good, definitely, but they're not enough. The fact that you call out a lot of guys that these girls seem to prefer over you as "objectively inferior" is a pretty big warning signal. First of all, objectively bad qualities don't exist. Everything is relative. Maybe the girl felt like she couldn't connect with you because you think academically, and preferred a guy who was more down to earth. Maybe the girl isn't that well off financially and felt too guilty about the big discrepancy between you two, and preferred a guy she could feel on par with. Maybe the girl had some other reason for preferring someone else. It is naive and a bit condescending to look at guys you probably don't even know that well and say "well I'm clearly better, why did she pick him?" Consider the possibility that maybe they do have something you don't. Maybe they're a really good listener. Maybe they're amazing at sex. Maybe they're a real handy type guy. Just because you have attained the levels you seem to have set yourself for success (degrees, mostly) doesn't mean everyone agrees with your definition.

Second, the fact that you define yourself by your romantic success and your career also seem a bit odd. You had a very long description of past dating failures, a very long description of being overweight and your perceived dating disadvantages resulting thereof, and a very long explanation that "you know how to relate to women, really", but only a very generic list of positive adjectives (charming, funny, interesting) to describe your personalty. What are your interests and hobbies? What do you do in your time off beside trying to get a date? What do you look for in a girl, personality-wise, beyond the fact that she'll date you? All of that is so much more important than a piece of paper from a well-known institution and a number on a scale.

If you make it to the casual coffee, phone number stage, clearly you're not undatable. Evidently it's not even the weight, because the women whose numbers you ask for clearly see you for who you are, and were willing to try it out. Something in the way you relate to them is turning them off, and it wouldn't hurt to ask a close female friend you trust on a different perspective, if you think AskMe isn't providing a balanced view.
posted by Phire at 6:55 AM on June 17, 2009 [3 favorites]

Success with women is about focussing on them, not you.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:56 AM on June 17, 2009

The first step to dating is detachment. No woman wants to date a mess. I'm not saying you are a mess, on the contrary, I think you have your life together, I think you just need to broadcast that properly. Start living your life for yourself, forget about women, forget about relationships. Being in a relationship will not make you happy, being in a relationship will not make you more fulfilled.

Women shunned me like the plague for years, not because I'm ugly, or unskillful, but because I was desperate. My life was bad, and I figured the only way my life could ever be good was if a woman descended from heaven to bless me with her company. When I finally realized that finding happiness was actually my job, when I finally established for myself a real and lasting contentedness that had nothing to do with women whatsoever, then I became desirable.

So yea, when I stopped looking for a woman, women started looking for me.
posted by satori_movement at 8:14 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'd smell your lack of self-confidence from a mile away.

There is NOTHING more unattractive then insecurity. If you don't have confidence in yourself, then why I should I bother?
posted by Grimble at 8:20 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Lose the weight. You don't need washboard abs, but get into a normal BMI.

Do you really want to date the,"...I'm not into looks at all.." gal? Do you not want to give a girl a physical spark when she sees you? Of course you do. There's a reason all the romance novels have Fabio-esque male protagonists with sinewy muscles and flowing hair (remember, you have good hair, so that's a headstart!) Yes, that's the fantasy guy, but you get the point..
posted by teg4rvn at 8:20 AM on June 17, 2009

Confidence, for me, is similar to the feeling I get after hard physical activity.

When I am confident, I am not striving toward any particular goal because I have everything I need. I am centered and content. I can talk or not talk. I can listen and reflect. I am not wrapped up in my striving.

When you gave us your qualities in your question, you were not expressing (my idea of) confidence. Instead you seemed to me to be ‘trying too hard’. For me, this was because you were ticking off achievements with an objective in mind: a conversational goal (impressing us with your attractive qualities).

If someone is confident then they don’t need to try so hard to impress. You don’t need to “focus on [your] attractive qualities”. You are confident just being…just sitting opposite your date and reacting to the flow of conversation. No need to pitch yourself.

There's the catch: How do you convey to a stranger (in your Askme question or on a date) that you are worth dating without coming off as trying too hard?

This is why folks recommend Being Yourself on dates (hopefully Yourself is confident) or meeting people through activities that you enjoy (a situation where you can Be Yourself and not worry about pitching your attractive qualities).
posted by fiore at 8:54 AM on June 17, 2009

Hi, Anonymous. You and I have a LOT in common. I'm going to tell you what this looks like from--not the other side, but something approaching the other side.

If you look at my very first AskMe question, you'll see I had attitudes (if you're being objective) very similiar to you. I was (am?) the brainac, the nerd who likes to talk about reality, society, Salman Rushdie, chaos theory, and for a very long time I didn't give a damn what I looked like. (And I was like . . . maybe a 5 or 6 like this, but nothing too stunning.) In the words of Merryl Streep's character in The Devil Wears Prada, I "took [myself] too seriously to care about the clothes I put on my back." I didn't need to sell myself on looks like those bimbos out there. I had brains.

It ended up in a terrible situation: I would crush badly on these intelligent (and at least somewhat attractive/caring of their appearance than I--double standards, aha!) guys, who would of course start dating some aviator-glasses, Uggs-wearing girl whose grades and conversation were not nearly as stellar as mine. How dare he. I was a better catch. I knew more literature. I could talk to him about subjects she didn't even know the meaning of. Cue frustration and anger.

I went through various cycles like this for almost TWO WHOLE YEARS (and boy, do I regret that time), and eventually I posted that question on AskMe this winter. I got some HARSH answers, very simliar to what you're reading here. Every single day, I am grateful for all those responses calling me out on my BS. It opened my eyes.

The truth is, I think for us academics and nerds, we're used to the list. We know there's an "A" to be given out, and we want the top grades, the best paper, the most erudite conversation. I do not doubt for a second that you're intelligent. I believe it because I can see how much pride you take in it. And that's fantastic.

But it is a *terrible* attitude to take toward the rest of the world. People come in so many different shapes, sizes, dreams, sorrows, hurts, passions, and joys---and this isn't just as immediately evident in the worldview of someone who values intelligence above everything else. People are not a set of values like a subject. People are not like a book. Oh, Julie is like a book that's about this and this and makes weird puns and ends strangely. No. They are many books, many stories all wrapped up in an amazing spark. See this spark, and ignore everything else.

You've GOT TO STOP SEEING THE WORLD THIS WAY. It's so harmful. Don't see it as "he's not attractive enough for her," or "God, he's so much stupider than she is." Please let yourself get to the point where you are not judging people this way. We are all chasing down the love we need, to paraphrase Jackson Browne. We're all looking for the pieces of the jigsaw puzzles that match our own rough edges and weird corners. Learn to accept the love that grows between other people, no matter which persons are involved, or at least accept that they're just trying to love and be loved, and this in itself is one of the most poignant and beautiful yearnings of humanity.

Once I got all that tough advice from AskMe, I took a long hard look at myself. I didn't "stop looking." I just started putting 100% of that attention into me. You don't know how many ways I self-analyzed my dreams, desires, hurts, etc--20 ways to Sunday. (And the relationship/desire of was just one of many aspects of this self-analysis.) I began to believe that there was probably someone out there for me, and for some reason he wasn't here yet, but I started believing in his coming in a weird "soul mate" way. This helped me put my worries on the back burner--another tactic might suit you better.

I bought beautiful color pencils and a sketchbook, and started drawing. I wrote in my journal all the time. It practically became my companion. I just started doing the things I was drawn to for some reason or the other. I started dressing up and treating myself better, because I wanted to look good the day I met The One, right? But I began to see it as out of my hands for the moment, and didn't fret too much.

It got to the point where. . . I . . . was strangely happy by myself. I liked my own little hobbies I had developed, things I hadn't done in a while that I was doing now because I was on the bench (the best part about being on the bench is: you know why you're not dating! It's self-imposed!). When an old friend came to visit me (with whom I had listened to sad, whyismylovesofaraway songs MANY a night, way too many a night), she was hypersensitized to men around her, whereas, I swear, they barely registered a blip on my brain. I had seen couples smooching and thinking, "God, who needs someone slobbering over them all the time?" I liked singledom to a degree that surprised me.

I also stopped viewing people in such a "box" way. One of my good friends now is someone I would have pre-judged and not let be my friend only 8 months ago. She dresses very, very nicely and is *very* feminine. 8 months ago, I would have dismissed her as an airhead on the very first meeting. But now I had a more open mind. Turns out? She's a book nerd at heart and we've had the best conversations on nerdy literature topics. Couldn't have predicted that at all, and I'm glad I didn't judge her or I'd have missed out on her friendship. She's also been in some very LTRs, so I have something to learn from her, too.

Then, I met someone completely out of left field, and my dating opportunites have been better. Not awesome, but way, way, way better than before. And I wouldn't have had the opportunity to meet him if I hadn't developed my own interest--if I had been panting after BOYBOYLOOKBOYTHERE, what could he have been interested in? But we met randomly, and I realized he had a background I wanted to learn more about, and that's how we got started talking.

That's my advice: see what you can learn from people. See them as their own works of art. Sure, you may find modern art too oddball, but you can glean something from it, can't you? Don't be the snob who thinks that only Raphael and Michelangelo are art. Also, taking this approach will make you less "GIRL.GET GIRL. DATE GIRL. HOLD HANDS." and more interested in all the journeys different people have made. And just one journey may strike you as more fascinating, and you may wonder at the woman who stands before you, and just have to get to know her better. Don't be single because you're unable to get any woman interested in you. Be single because, well, you haven't met the woman, the work of art, who strikes you in just the right way.
posted by Dukat at 9:20 AM on June 17, 2009 [14 favorites]

Lose the weight. You don't need washboard abs, but get into a normal BMI.

Do you really want to date the,"...I'm not into looks at all.." gal? Do you not want to give a girl a physical spark when she sees you? Of course you do.

Some of us feel a physical spark about overweight men. Just because a "gal" has different taste in physical appearance than you do, that doesn't mean that she's not into looks. It could mean that she doesn't share your preference for Fabio lookalikes. I'm not at all into tan guys with rippling muscles, but I wouldn't denigrate the preferences of someone who liked them.

OP, if there are changes you can make in your eating or exercise habits that will make you a happier person, make those changes. But don't do it in the hopes that women whose taste runs to Fabio will swoon over your new physique. Do it for yourself.
posted by decathecting at 9:20 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Being insulted on here is not going to improve your confidence. Mean-O's!

1. Confidence is key.

BUT, there is a delicate balance to achieve...

2. Aggro-dorkism is the biggest turn off ever. I am happily married to a dork of the non-aggro variety, but have met quite a few overly-friendly-aggressive dorks in my field (engineering graduate school). I don't know how else to describe them. They make too much eye contact, stand a little too close, speak a bit too loudly, all seemingly trying to compensate for lacking a basic self-confidence or self-awareness-- they REALLY want you to like them, instead of just letting it happen.

3. Wear good shoes.
posted by hybridvigor at 9:31 AM on June 17, 2009

Isn't confidence recognizing attractive qualities and focusing on them?

No. Confidence has more to do with your flaws than your good qualities. Accepting them, specifically. Knowing (not focusing on, just knowing) that there are people out there who won't even see them as flaws. Also, knowing (not acting like, but actually knowing for yourself) that you'll be OK even if you don't find someone. And, as others have pointed out, when you're dating your focus should be on the person you like, not yourself or your qualities. Focus on yourself to take care of yourself when you need to, but not to attract lovers.

You keep using the word objective. Attraction is not objective. Relationships are not an equation. Having a certain amount of good qualities does not entitle you to anything from anyone else. Having fewer "objectively good" qualities does not preclude anyone from finding the right person for themselves. Every single person on earth is looking for something different than the next, and most don't even know exactly what that is until they find it. When women say "I just want a smart guy with a good job who treats me well" they're leaving off "with whom I feel a spark." Because it goes without saying. All the good qualities in the world won't produce the spark. The spark just is. People aren't looking for a relationship for the sake of having a relationship, they enter a relationship with a person because they like the person so much that they can't not.

I think you're in a vicious cycle. You're not alone. I think it happens a lot. You think you deserve a relationship because you want one and you have these good qualities. It hasn't happened, probably at first because of dumb luck--you just haven't met a person with the mutual spark AND who's looking for a similar relationship. It takes time and luck, and it happens differently for everyone. But then you start to feel bitter and resentful that you haven't found it yet. You start to obsess over "why hasn't it happened for me!" And now you have a NEW quality--that bitterness, resentment, confusion--which to most people is pretty unattractive. You may not think you're showing it, but you may be showing it without realizing it. That makes it less likely you'll find someone. Maybe you're even showing the slightest sense of entitlement, and it's a BIG turn-off for a girl to think that a guy believes she owes it to him to be with him in any way or for any reason. Finally, you may have give up on, or de-prioritized, the spark, because you're just so anxious to get to the relationship part. This means you might be putting extra time and effort towards people that on paper would seem right but the pairing lacks chemistry. All of these things lead to even less success in relationships, which may lead to even more bitterness and confusion, and thus the vicious cycle.

So if you can break free of that, go back to the beginning and just stay open to meeting people who you might like and might like you back--no taking stock of "objective" qualities at all, just being you and going with your gut--I think you'd be helping your chances quite a bit.
posted by lampoil at 9:39 AM on June 17, 2009

Sorry to be cheese, but my shrink once recommended I read some Echkart Tolle to get out of the mind-trap. It seems to me like you're over-intellectualizing your problems/pain (which makes sense) but the key to getting out of your spiral of self-doubt is to shut your mind up. This is hard to do. Tolle's books do help. My shrink specifically recommended the Power of Now (which was good) but I found the (yes super cheesy Oprah-sanctioned) A New Earth much more accessible because it helped me get to that quiet place from numerous directions.
posted by ohyouknow at 9:52 AM on June 17, 2009

Lots of responses here and I'm sure I'm repeating some points but here goes:

Exterior qualities are just that, exterior. I have an Ivy League Ph.D and if I was dating I wouldn't mention it unless it came up in conversation. Why? Because it's dull. It's the same thing as suits who, on first meeting, tell you how much they made last year. Of course some people are impressed with it, but in the same way as people are impressed with money -it's not who you are.

I also have an accent (in the States, in the UK I don't!) and it can be a real hindrance. When I first met my wife someone said to her 'Don't you just love his accent' and she just sort of gave a shrug. Apart from her response being refreshing for me it also pointed to the reality which is that again that's an exterior quality.

You'll be better off actively losing weight through exercise (and I mean doing cardio and weight training along with the yoga) as you'll gain confidence that way. I used to be pretty overweight and had never exercised in my life and losing weight under my own steam really gave me a lot of confidence. It'll make you relax and feel more at ease with yourself and women will respond to that. When you're at ease you're easy to be around; there's no desperation, there's no pent-up bullshit and you'll find that people will take to that. So take care of yourself, lose the weight not for some fantasy woman but for you. Once you feel good within your own skin you'll have a new perspective on things and that will show.
posted by ob at 10:06 AM on June 17, 2009

Gosh, there is so much good advice in this thread that it seems pointless for me to contribute. In particular, I favorited philotes' comment and you should go back and read it 20 times until it sinks in. You've dated depressed women who treated you badly. You go after "normal women" who you're attracted to. You meet people while participating in activities you enjoy, but what else do you have in common with these people besides yoga?

The women you go out with, meet, or contact, want to feel special and desired for their good qualities, not for the fact that they're a woman who's deigning to go out with you. If I were single, I'd be thrilled go out with someone well-educated, goal-oriented, and successful, if we had some similar interests. I can say with complete honesty that the weight doesn't matter, and I have an ex-boyfriend from a three-year relationship who weighs 300+ pounds more than I do/did to prove it. There is probably some fundamental problem with the way you interact with potential partners, and many smart people in this thread have taken some guesses you'll want to follow up on.

Also, consider that maybe you haven't met the right person yet. People go through dry spells, some people date more than others, and the sooner you accept this the happier you'll be. Just because you haven't found someone who makes your world go round doesn't mean you have a fatal flaw in your dating life.
posted by booknerd at 11:29 AM on June 17, 2009

Weigh whatever you want to weigh. If you like being fat, there are lots of women who dig fat guys. If you would rather be thinner, then there are lots of women who dig thinner guys.

Be happy with yourself at whatever weight works best for you, your body, and your lifestyle. If there's one thing that turns off the majority of women, it's guys who talk about their weight and their diets and their exercise--women get enough of that shit from popular culture and from other women. Most women like men who are living in their bodies, not thinking of their bodies as projects.

Nobody likes passive-aggressive Nice Guys (TM), though.

And seconding the recommendation of How to Be an Adult in Relationships.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:37 AM on June 17, 2009

Talk less about what you are and more about what you do.

Bad - I am a fat chemistry PhD student.

Good - I started doing yoga for fitness and research the effects of asbestos on mouse brains.

This change in conversational approach can really make you sound more interesting (as interesting as you actually are, even) and also invites the person listening to respond more with questions ("So what does asbestos do to mouse brains?")

Keeping this approach in mind will also make you stop saying things that could be a turn off to potential mates because you won't say things like "I am hopeless with women" or "I am a graduate of a school that is probably more prestigious than yours".

Also if you find that you don't have enough to talk about using this technique, then you know you need to get out and do more!
posted by WeekendJen at 12:26 PM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

FWIW, I didn't hit my dating stride till my mid 30s. So turning 30 isn't that big a deal - although I agonised about it at the time.

And sad to say but it's true - the more you relax and just be yourself instead of hitting on every girl you see, the more likely you are to make connections and from that relationships.

So don't concentrate on getting a girlfriend. Concentrate on getting connections and friends.

Or go speed-dating.
posted by almostwitty at 5:18 AM on June 23, 2009

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