Late to the dating game?
November 5, 2009 11:25 AM   Subscribe

Late to the dating game? So, I'm in my early 20s, graduated from college and now working. I have absolutely NO experience with guys, and I'm not sure how to gain some.

I'm friendly and talkative, have a lot of interests, and take care of myself (in good shape, no makeup or dressy clothes, but clean and w/form-fitting tees and jeans). I was kind of a tomboy in middle school and H.S., so I missed out on the whole dating/hooking up thing. College was a large commuter school, so I didn't interact w/people long enough to build long-term relationships. Now that I'm working (very-youth oriented place at that), I find that any guy I'm attracted to is in a relationship - and I refuse to be the "homewrecker", so...

I'm not sure what to do. At this point I don't need a long-term relationship or anything-just a date would be nice (maybe even a first kiss!). I have issues w/the whole "club" scene, since I don't drink, and I don't feel insanely comfortable dancing around, etc. in public; besides, I have a pretty busy schedule. I used to have issues talking to guys I was attracted to (all other guys, no problems-I had a ton of friends), but I feel I've gotten past that. Funnily enough, I apparently come off as otherwise mature; people have tended to guess I'm in my late 20s (if not older) apparently because of the way I talk/my personality(?)

Ideally, I'd like my first date to be the result of someone asking me out, if only because my confidence in this arena is low (thanks to my lack of experience). Truthfully, I've been tempted to even hire an escort, just so I can practice and gain some skills, but...something about that just seems off, so I've been holding back.

Anyway, sorry this is so long, but thanks for whatever help you guys can offer!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (29 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Have you considered online dating? You've basically described the reasons why many people who join dating sites. Online dating doesn't work for everyone, but it's certainly a popular way to go out on low stakes dates with other people.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:36 AM on November 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

It seems like you have a pretty good idea of some of the places where people meet each other and set up dates. There's a ton of other places too, though. Good news is, they are all either specifically meant for dating (websites, singles stuff, bars, etc.) or meant for something completely different and dating just sort of happens cuz people are already together doing something else (school, work, bars, etc).

Both of these types of venues are all about winnowing the large (yes) pool of available dating candidates into a set that is both available to you (that is, local) and attractive to you. There are benefits and problems with both ways, but they most certainly aren't mutually exclusive so you can work them both if you want. Anyway, you seem to be asking about the etc. part of the second one, where people have elected to do some thing and managed to date the people they meet doing it.

By your account you've missed out on a big compulsory event (school) for a variety of reasons. I recommend you not mess with work because dating the job tends to awkward. Bars are out (me too, ugh). There's Church for some people. But wait, you have interests! Are they interests that take you out of the house, to a place where other people go? Where it's ok to talk to one another at some point in the process? Good. Follow those interests, dress up, talk to the people there who have similar interests, enjoy yourself, and smile.

Oh, and make a profile on OKCupid.
posted by carsonb at 11:42 AM on November 5, 2009

Seconding OK Cupid. If nothing else, you'll make some friends.

Do you drink coffee or other hot-brewed things? If so, start hanging out at a local coffee shop, enough to become what they would call a regular - you'd be amazed how many dates I've gotten that way, and how many friends I've made.
If you are a bookworm, try a bookstore's coffee shop or a library, and don't put out the do-not-approach signals... again, another good way I've found to meet people. You're on the right track at least, knowing where you don't want to go and not setting too many expectations on this. It's a long-term thing and, who knows, you might meet the love of your life in a totally unsuspecting place.

Just do what you want, be yourself and find a public place where you can enjoy your hobbies or interests. You'll end up meeting a lot of like-minded people and will likely get a few dates out of it. Have fun!
posted by neewom at 11:50 AM on November 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'd like my first date to be the result of someone asking me out

So, options:

(1) Wait around for someone to randomly ask you out


(2) online dating (OKCupid is highly recommended)
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:51 AM on November 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah, online dating is probably a good way to go. Otherwise you need to get your friends to hook you up with their friends. And i'd ask people you are interested in out: a lot of guys are clueless.
posted by chunking express at 11:52 AM on November 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Also, hiring an escort seems like a horrible idea.
posted by chunking express at 11:53 AM on November 5, 2009 [4 favorites]

Now that I'm working (very-youth oriented place at that), I find that any guy I'm attracted to is in a relationship - and I refuse to be the "homewrecker", so...

That doesn't mean they don't have cute single friends. Can you try to make friends with these guys (in a very platonic way) so that they'll ask you to join them and their friends on a Friday or Saturday night?
posted by oinopaponton at 11:53 AM on November 5, 2009

Wow, I phrased that poorly-- can you expand your social circle, through work, so that you are simply around more people in a social setting? I bet that at least some of the guys you mention have similarly awesome, but single, friends.
posted by oinopaponton at 11:55 AM on November 5, 2009

Learn by doing. Make mistakes. Come up to guys, talk, and get shot down. Go on craigslist, find a date (you seem to have a way with words, so you should be capable of crafting a personal that will land you something outside of pictures of penises [which you will get in droves, be forewarned]) and embarrass yourself. This is the way everyone I know did it -- by screwing up over and over again. "Experience" is what you get when you enter a situation and say "last time I tried X, it didn't work. Let me try Y." I know I'm making it sound scary, but you'll eventually realize that these "mistakes" you're making are inconsequential. Inconsequential as long as you do not tie your own self esteem to failing at something you've never tried before.

Also: I find that any guy I'm attracted to is in a relationship - and I refuse to be the "homewrecker", so...

A thousand times yes. In the journey you are starting, for the love of god, stick to that. Some times it will be harder than others, but temptation isn't fate and this will save you a lot of grief.
posted by griphus at 11:57 AM on November 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'd like my first date to be the result of someone asking me out

Man who waits for roast duck to fly into mouth must wait a very, very long time

- Chinese Proverb
posted by 7life at 11:58 AM on November 5, 2009 [15 favorites]

No one I knew in college (about the same time as you) went on actual dates except for the friends who did internet dating, so don't be too quick to assume you're especially far behind any of your peers in terms of knowing what to do as an adult on a date.

It's ok to want to be asked out on dates rather than doing the asking yourself, but if you're just passively waiting you're going to make yourself miserable. And crazy. Choose to do things, like putting up an online dating profile or joining a coed sports club (or whatever else is of interest to you) that will increase your social circle and give you opportunities to meet men with similar interests.

I do think internet dating might be a good way to start--even if you ultimately decide you hate it. And if you have a trusted friend, perhaps you could ask him or her to shoot/help choose your profile photographs and read your profile text before you post them, just to be sure the best things about you come through.
posted by Meg_Murry at 11:58 AM on November 5, 2009

Seconding coffeeshops, bookstores, and other places where you can meet people with similar interests. One particular point of advice - you say:

I used to have issues talking to guys I was attracted to (all other guys, no problems-I had a ton of friends), but I feel I've gotten past that.

I went through a phase where I had a lot of trouble talking to people I was attracted to. I then went through another phase where I could talk to guys I was attracted to, but I didn't know how to flirt. I was so confused. Why were they so oblivious to my attraction? I was clearly into them! I was speaking in complete sentences and smiling occasionally and not running away! It's only once I learned how to flirt - how to hold someone's gaze for just long enough, how to find excuses to touch their arm or sit a little bit closer, how to grin in that ate-the-canary way - that I started having any real success. I have no idea if this is an issue for you, but if it is - work on it! Learning how to flirt has paid off immeasurably for me.

Online dating helps because you don't have to rely solely on flirting to signal your interest - why else are you on a dating website, agreeing to get coffee with them? But it's still good to be able to make your desires clear. You say you want your first date to be a guy asking you out. That's totally fine, but you can't make him go totally out on a limb, he won't do it - you need to be able to communicate nonverbally that you're likely to say yes.
posted by shaun uh at 12:05 PM on November 5, 2009 [6 favorites]

Oh, and also--it's dangerously easy to write off disrespectful or thoughtless behavior as "well, I'm lucky he's even interested in me..." when you start from a place of assuming that you're behind the curve compared to other people your romantic interest could be dating. Don't settle for less just because you feel that you're starting "late."
posted by Meg_Murry at 12:06 PM on November 5, 2009 [3 favorites]

I'm friendly and talkative, have a lot of interests, and take care of myself (in good shape, no makeup or dressy clothes, but clean and w/form-fitting tees and jeans).

If any one of these things is true, you will be a complete catch on an online dating site. Sign up, power through writing a half-reasonable profile, and you'll have zero problem getting dates with reasonable guys. Just ignore the idiots and cretins.
posted by 0xFCAF at 12:14 PM on November 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'd like my first date to be the result of someone asking me out

Smile, eye contact, repeat. This generates date-asking. Men are not mind-readers. Not sure why the social onus for asking out is on them, when they are generally not taught to be aware of body language and other clues. Make it easy on them and they will make it easy on you. For a long time I was afraid to ask girls out because I didn't want to offend them.

Shaun uh has it. Wish more women understood that stuff.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:15 PM on November 5, 2009

Any close friends that might be able to set you up? They would ideally know you and your experience/comfort level and might be able to find you a good match.

Agreeing with chunking express that guys are clueless. When I was dating my wife she mentioned many times that girls were flirting with me and I had no idea (also looking further back it seems I missed alot of other subtle hints).

It never hurts to ask someone out. like over casual water cooler conversation about the new movies coming out and and then "Hey what are you doing ____, wanna go see ____?" A no response wouldn't be fun but your also not expecting/planning this the be your one true love - you're just looking to go on a date.

Good Luck!
posted by doorsfan at 12:17 PM on November 5, 2009

Seeing an escort is not "dating"--there are no skills you'd learn from an awkward evening with an escort that would be helpful to you in dating.

Online dating, on the other hand, is dating. Try that. It's low-pressure, because everyone on the online dating site is looking for a date, so that hurdle's taken care of.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:39 PM on November 5, 2009

Follow your hobbies. Find groups that match your hobbies. Meet guys there.

Online dating is... well, it's anti-social. That's the exact opposite of what you want here.
posted by phrakture at 12:40 PM on November 5, 2009

Speed dating is another option to consider, too. Again, it's low-pressure, because you know that the other person is looking for a date and they know you're looking for a date. Also, the expressions of interest/rejections are sorted by a third party.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:40 PM on November 5, 2009

Online dating is... well, it's anti-social.

It really isn't.

About half of my friends met their spouse or life partner through online or newspaper-ad or dating-service or speed-dating-event dating.

It is not to be dismissed by any means. (I met my husband through a mutual friend, so I have no personal dog in this race.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:52 PM on November 5, 2009

Online dating, specifically OK Cupid would be where I recommend. It's a good way to put out the sign that you are looking to date while avoiding the drudgery of a club or meat market scene (not my bag either). If you're a girl, it's much easier to find a date online in general than a guy.

I'm a guy who got into dating late, mostly due to anxiety and shyness, so my advice might be a bit different. I understand that you want someone to ask you, and if you hang a shingle out on the internet, at least eventually someone will ask you out. But it might not be the sort of person you're interested in. The one piece of advice I give my female friends who ask me about dating, especially online, is be proactive. Don't go with the societal norms and expect guys to come to you. They might, but if they don't immediately, you'll just become depressed. Go after guys that might interest you, or that you're interested in. Sometimes, go after guys you might not be interested in.

As a guy, I can't tell you how great it was when a girl messaged me. But in dating, expect a bit of rejection, especially at first. It's okay, and it happens to everyone. You're just going to have to soldier past that, build up a bit of a callus. It's okay to feel depressed by a bit of rejection, but work through it, and the next time someone doesn't respond to your message right away or at all, you'll message the next person.

In general, don't pursue just one person online, because that person might not be interested, might not be online much, or just might not respond. Feel free to date multiple people until you and a partner decide to make it exclusive. Look at your first few dates as practice. Frankly, I'd recommend going out on at least a first date with someone you're not entirely interested in if the opportunity presents itself, if only for the experience.

And when you're on a date, it's okay to be a bit nervous, but don't go nuts. You can say that you don't date much because you're so busy. As a woman, you can use societal norms to your advantage, as guys often plan and run the first few dates. Let them, just go with what feels natural. Go on a few dates, as many as you can even, but if something doesn't feel right, or if a guy is a jerk, don't feel the need to keep dating them.

Like I said, I came into dating late. But once you start a bit of dating, it gets easier.
posted by X-Himy at 1:42 PM on November 5, 2009

You have friends that are smart, attractive women, right?

Go to said friends point-blank and say, "Set me up with one of your cute single guy friends."

I guarantee you that your problem will be solved relatively quickly.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:49 PM on November 5, 2009

Seconding the flirting. If there's someone you're interested in, what do you do? Do you make a point of talking to them a little more than others, watching their reaction to things, holding eye contact a little more than usual, laughing a little more freely than you normally would, standing slightly closer to them than you would with others?

As a guy, these are all things that suggest someone might be interested. I can't tell you how many times I've ended up going out with someone, months after meeting them, and finally realising that they were 'sending me signals' all along to which I was clueless. So, perhaps you could try to be a little more obvious?
posted by twirlypen at 2:30 PM on November 5, 2009

Man who waits for roast duck to fly into mouth must wait a very, very long time

- Chinese Proverb

Like a hunter waiting for a rabbit to kill itself by running into a tree

- Another Chinese Proverb
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:38 PM on November 5, 2009

Going on my 6 week (I know it sounds silly, but it feels pretty nice) anniversary with someone I met on Okcupid. This is after a LOT of internet dating over a period of a bunch of years. And the same for her. This one feels totally different then the rest. Definitely took a long time to get here, and of course it could totally fall through, but the point is that the internet is a good way to get your feet wet, at very least and you might find the right person there.
posted by sully75 at 2:47 PM on November 5, 2009

I found myself in the EXACT same situation ("one of the guys" in HS/my social circle, commuter community college/'taking time off' girl) about 8 years ago, and online dating did it for me. Online dating, online dating, online dating. Also, online dating.

It sounds ridiculous and desperate until you realize that your circle of friends is your circle of friends, and there's no one new within it to date/be interested in. And the nice thing is that you don't have to tell anyone! You meet someone for coffee and they're a total tool? Or you did/said something ridiculous? NO ONE needs to know! So just do it, and then you realize everyone else is doing it already. That's one of the standard first date conversations, you know? " long have you been doing the thing? Crazy/funny, eh?"
posted by AlisonM at 3:47 PM on November 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

OK, boys, get a grip.

Being of the female persuasion means (IMHO) you have it a bit easier. You can smile, look cute, make eye contact, and wait for the guy to approach you. With that said, if the guy glancing in your direction is cute, go over and say hi :)

OKCupid and craigslist really do work well - you'll get the quantity, and if you're lucky some quality as well. The online dating world tends to get more mature as you're made to pay for it, so that's one thing to consider.

In general, just being available is part of the equation. If you go to the gym with headphones on and zoned out, no one's going to approach you. Best of luck :)
posted by chrisinseoul at 6:35 PM on November 5, 2009

Nthing online dating, if only for the experience and the confidence that'll give you. I was in a similar situation (mid-20s, reasonably attractive/intelligent/not-smelly etc etc but due to how life shook out, no dating experience at all) and I found that one of the biggest barriers for me was the fear that they'd be able to tell I had no idea what I was doing (relationship-wise AND physically. And that would have been true).

In a perfect world your girlfriends could fix you up with someone or you could meet a friend-of-a-friend, but I live in a major metropolitan city with a decent social life, and that kind of thing just never came together for me. Online dating was pretty good because it gives you a lot of control. If you're a girl and put any effort into your profile at all, you'll get tons of hits. Granted, many of them will be obvious copy+pastes or guys who only want a f*ck or just people that you're totally uninterested in, but some will be OK, and you can choose to ignore the others as you wish.

Try out the online thing. You still get to be "asked" if that's what you want, plus everybody online sort of already has the expectation that you'll have some dud dates before anything good, therefore the pressure's lower. Don't be afraid to ask them to swap a few emails with you before meeting in person, and when do you do meet, do so for drinks or coffee, not dinner.

I wouldn't do CL, though--I'd do Match or something where you have to pay at least a little bit, if your budget can afford it. I think Match's 3-month offer works out to about $20/month, and I find that having a financial barrier to entry helps weed out some of the obvious jerks.

Good luck! and have fun :)
posted by alleycat01 at 1:30 PM on November 6, 2009

You are really not "late" at all! Early 20s is a great time to go on relaxed, friendship-based dates, and given that you have a mature outlook you'll be even more attractive to stable, educated and professional men.

Nth-ing just turning up, being yourself and showing interest in a subtle yet direct way :) As a guy a bit of 1-to-1 attention is extremely flattering and anyone who's open to dating will make a move sooner or later.

I tried online dating and found it pretty frustrating, as most of the girls there did seem to expect all the initiative to come from me, whereas meeting people on an "equal" footing, i.e. among friends with common interests, I've found it's a lot more lively, and I can take the initiative to ask for a girl's number and plan to do something together more naturally. After all, we are already friends and have a common social context to build on that way.
posted by KMH at 3:41 AM on November 11, 2009

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