Never been hit on?
January 23, 2010 6:57 PM   Subscribe

Strange, and admittedly not a big problem, but it's starting to worry me: No guy has ever displayed any interest in me. What should I do?

I know that sounds like a good thing, which it admittedly is. I read all the long threads here about rape and rape jokes and the hardships women have to endure because of the behavior of unthinking men.

However, I realized while I was reading all those threads that I never experience this. I can't remember the last time a guy my own age or even some old dude tried to talk to me or smiled at me. I have never been asked on a date nor has any guy ever shown any interest in becoming something more than friends. I have a few guy friends but we are totally platonic, by mutual agreement.

I am a reasonably attractive college age heterosexual girl. I am in shape and I am pretty smart. I dress reasonably well and I shower everyday, so it isn't a cleanliness issue. Is there something wrong with me?

I don't want to feel intimidated every time I go outside, but I also don't want to be alone for the rest of my life. Am I giving off some sort of I-don't-like-men vibe?

Please help! Email is
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (48 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Flirt more. Eye contact, smile, laugh at jokes, move closer, light arm touching. Works every time.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:03 PM on January 23, 2010

For most people this would be "a big problem." If it isn't one for you, maybe you're truly not that interested, and maybe other people are picking up on that.
posted by escabeche at 7:09 PM on January 23, 2010 [7 favorites]

I know it's hard to get a gauge of this, but what is your demeanor like? When somebody is overly shy, it can be awkward trying to talk to them. Lots of men (myself included) start to get "she doesn't like me" vibes -- even if that's just your natural shyness.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:11 PM on January 23, 2010

No offense intended, but are you sure? I am terrible at knowing when someone is hitting on me. If my friends didn't point it out, I'd probably never know. Occasionally I'll realize it a few days later, but most of the time I never know until it's pointed out to me.
posted by mollymayhem at 7:13 PM on January 23, 2010 [10 favorites]

My wife swears I'm the first guy who showed an interest in her, and that started when we were in college. For some people it just takes longer to either have someone show interest or for you to pick up on the fact that someone is showing interest.
posted by theichibun at 7:14 PM on January 23, 2010

Some people have the superpower of seeming invisible in urban areas. I have it (I hate to mention it, because I feel like by talking about it myself I'm jinxing it — but, people other than me have mentioned it to me, so...), my girlfriend learned it, and my two best friends have the absolute opposite of it. All I can figure is that it involves a certain way of walking with a certain reticence to make eye contact. It's almost certainly harder for women to have it than men; my girlfriend said that she had to learn to "walk like a man" to become urban-invisible. I think maybe the "bitch shield" that people here have mentioned is a way for people who don't have the superpower to develop something similar, but it sounds like the difference between the bitch shield and urban invisibility is that the former involves getting people who get too (literally or metaphorically) close to back off, while the former involves body language that keeps people from noticing you, and as such from getting too close in the first place.

So, yeah, my guess, based on my experience, is that you have a superpower.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:16 PM on January 23, 2010 [9 favorites]

Set up a profile on an online dating site. You will get hit on.

This will also give you information about what aspects of your looks/personality that men are responding to.
posted by bingo at 7:17 PM on January 23, 2010

(and I realized after posting that likely your situation doesn't map on to mine in thousands of ways... sorry if I'm totally off-base!)
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:18 PM on January 23, 2010

Well, have you ever displayed any interest in a guy? Small gestures and mild flirting from one side of the equation can invite more significant responses from the other side.
posted by chinston at 7:39 PM on January 23, 2010

I was about halfway through college before I realized/was told that various guys I knew in high school were interested in me. So there's a good chance that you're just oblivious (as I still mostly am), especially if you tend to surround yourself with nice guys who are subtle about it.

As to not getting macked on in the street, you may be seen as intimidating in some way. Do you walk very quickly? Are you terse? Are you tall? Do you rarely wear skirts and dresses? Do you have short(ish) hair? I'm not saying that any of those things are themselves unattractive, but the kind of guys who hit on women in the street tend to go for the most overtly feminine, apparently submissive ones, who I guess they think will be flattered.
posted by you're a kitty! at 7:48 PM on January 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Disclaimer: I haven't seen you obviously, and I don't know you, nor do I want to give you any sort of complex about things that may not be the cause of your particular problem. Take all of the following with a huge grain of salt.

I know one girl who fits your description almost perfectly, or at least it's how she would describe herself. I'm not particularly close to this girl but I know through mutual acquaintances that she has complained that men are never interested in her. In her particular case, it's very clear to anyone who talks to her even briefly why this is:

1. She isn't as attractive as she thinks. I really hate saying this about another person, but she thinks she's at least average when honestly, she's kind of strikingly ugly, like in a way very few people are; she has some odd features that don't work well with the rest of her face, no eyebrows, bad acne, etc. Her hygiene is fine but she never takes any pains with her appearance, and again, I hate to say this, but if someone is ugly then by definition they have to make more of an effort to be physically attractive. She's very anti-make-up for whatever reason. I don't like the pressure on women to look perfect more than anyone else does, but since she has kind of a deluded sense of her being "average" in appearance and doesn't do anything to improve herself aesthetically, well, barely anyone is going to approach her out of the blue. Which would be fine if her personality was appealing because then people's interest would grow if they got to know her in some other way -- more on this in a second.

If you think you might have a different perception of your attractiveness than other people, you can try asking people what you might do to improve your appearance, or just looking up options. I feel really weird saying this because I think most people look pretty okay how they are, and it takes some people a lifetime just to get where they're okay with their appearance so I envy you, but as I said, I have no way of knowing if you're in the same boat as this girl and I'm assuming you're asking because you want to hear every option. If it turns out any of this applies to you, there's no reason to despair: tons of ugly people look fine and even good if they just make an effort. I'm not even talking about plastic surgery or anything, just dressing better, getting a more flattering hair cut or color, plucking their eye brows differently, wearing make-up if necessary (bad skin and no eyebrows aren't that difficult to fix), etc. Hell, there are some celebrities that just dress nice and it doesn't seem to matter to people their faces are ugly.

But maybe that's not it. The other issue with this girl is:

2. Her personality. She has friends, even guy friends, sure, but even her friends aren't crazy about her, they've just known her so long that they keep being friends. No one wants to date her because she's overbearing and constantly indignant, and her way of making conversation is to complain about things. She tries to be funny but it's awkward for everyone because she just isn't, and they laugh to be polite and because they kind of pity her -- this wouldn't be a big deal if she only made poor attempts at humor every now and then, but it's once every few minutes and it wears people down. Her sense of humor is mostly centered around sarcasm, so while humor is usually a positive thing, in her case it only enhances with her overall negativity and it grates on everyone. She also comes across as insecure because whenever someone else accomplishes something, she'll make passive aggressive remarks to cut them down. She's smart and knows various things, but if anyone says anything intellectual she'll become needlessly argumentative, often when it makes no sense, in a transparent (to everyone else) attempt to show that she knows something. She's also a bit loud. I've witnessed this only a few times and it's embarrassing to watch, but no one knows what to say to her.

She doesn't seem to notice these things, and I don't think any of her friends have ever said anything because, well... those are pretty huge things and it would probably hurt her feelings. I barely know her and I'm mortified when I imagine someone ever being honest with her. I really have no clue how she's ever supposed to realize what she's doing wrong, though, because her friends, out of pity and politeness, give her positive feedback. I try to imagine being her, and, well... my friends would be laughing at my jokes, they would be hanging out with me so they must like me, and they shut up whenever I argue with them so I must be right. I actually think she's sort of okay at reading people but she just doesn't know what to make of it when people get put off, and so she just disregards their reaction until the awkwardness passes.

I truly hope you're not in as bad a position as she is, and the take away from this might seem rather vague, but consider how you make other people feel when you talk to them. Do you feel fighty when you're among friends, for example? If you do, you're doing it wrong.

3. On top of all that, she's smart but she doesn't have any particular talents or interests other than books and some music. There's nothing interesting or intriguing about this girl, at least as far as anyone else can tell. If a guy wanted to bond with her, I can't imagine what they'd connect over. I'm guessing you probably know whether or not if this applies to you, but in case there's any question, try to remember what your conversations with friends are about. If they're not about anything in particular or they're just about other people you know, then maybe you need something else to talk about.

All those things together make it so no one is ever, ever interested in her. Ugly people date all the time, so do obnoxious people, so do boring people. It occurred to me that you might just be very quiet, but I see quiet girls get approached constantly so I don't know. I'm only okay-looking and I get approached when I'm purposely being quiet because I don't want anyone to approach me. I've seen girls get asked out when they're purposely not flirting.

It's possible that, somehow, you're a statistical anomaly and as luck would have it, a guy has just never been interested in you, but that'd be surprising to me. If none of the above applies, I'm willing to bet it's as some others have suggested: you might not realize when you're being hit on.
posted by Nattie at 7:51 PM on January 23, 2010 [18 favorites]

Ask your guy friends! You are lucky you have them, and they'll be a good resource for this. But they're probably horrified at being honest with you about something like this, and will be afraid of being caught it some kind of "am I fat?" trap.

Write them all an e-mail (a group e-mail so that they don't feel singled-out), explaining what you explained here. Be honest, not sarcastic or jokey. Say that you feel like you don't get as much attention from guys as you'd like, you don't get hit on, etc. Tell them that you're looking for honest feedback, and even if they're afraid it would be hurtful, you want them to tell you if there's something they think is keeping you from attracting men romantically or is turning guys off. Make it clear that they will be helping you by being honest or trying to think of what it could be, whether it's something with your appearance, your personality, or your obliviousness to the guys who are interested in you. Make it clear that you are not fishing for compliments are trying to trap them. And tell them that if it would make it easier, they can write their answers anonymously.
posted by thebazilist at 8:06 PM on January 23, 2010

I have this same blessing/curse. When I'm out and about, I think some of it is that I am often totally oblivious to my surroundings; I sit on the metro and read my book, and it never even crosses my mind that someone might ask me a question or start talking to me. It's not even a conscious wish to not be bothered; I just never consider it as an option. Somehow, this seems to work.

To be clear, I am not dangerously oblivious; especially if I'm walking by myself, I make sure I know if anyone is around me, keep a hand on my purse, etc. But I think that somehow, having zero expectations of being bothered somehow ends up being a self-fulfilling thing, for better or for worse.
posted by sarahsynonymous at 8:11 PM on January 23, 2010

If I had asked this question I think that I would be pretty crushed by Nattie's answer (Jesus, Nattie, project much?). Don't worry, Anonymous, while I suppose it's possible that the reason is that you're ugly and have a crappy personality, I would say that it is much, much, much more likely that that it has to do with one of the things the other commenters have touched on—you are not giving off the signals that say you want to be approached, or you are giving off signals that say that you do not want to be approached.
posted by grouse at 8:15 PM on January 23, 2010 [23 favorites]

No offense, but I would absolutely NOT do what thebazilist suggests. If your guy friends are anything like mine, they would be super weirded out. If you have girl friends ask them. Just because they aren't into girls doesn't mean they can't tell whether there are things you can do to be more successful with men, or whether you are just super oblivious.

I was like you. Then I found out that lots of guys had been interested in me, but I was just so oblivious that I never noticed. Some of them were actually quite offended and thought I'd led them on, and I felt pretty bad about it. I'm less oblivious now.
posted by ishotjr at 8:15 PM on January 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

(Wow, Nattie, I can so see a lot of myself in that girl you're describing...well, definitely Me-of-a-few-years-ago, and even a semi-large part of Now. *wince* Although at least I have it from a few decent sources that I'm not aesthetically hideous and I've definitely mellowed out over the years and have had several authoritative people tell me so...)

OP, as someone your age-ish, I'm echoing a lot of the above. I have never, ever, ever been publicly hit on--or at least what I'd define as 'hit on'--by a random stranger. But I'm not very conversational with strangers (at least I smile more now, as opposed to Permanent Mild Scowl), and on the rare times I did have an extended conversation with someone I didn't know well, I'd chalk it up to Good Conversation rather than Being Hit On. (For example, prior to us dating, my boyfriend and I had met once a week for a gaming thing for about two months, but I had only had one time where I had the chance to have some good conversation with him in that period. I still remember that instance as the time when I first thought "hey, this guy's cool...and actually rather good looking...hmm, if I get the chance to talk to him more often, maybe I'll ask him for coffee sometime", but despite the niceness of that conversation from both ends, it might not have even construed as Flirting, never mind Being Hit On. To me, it was just Good Conversation.) You might have to think about if your definitions of such things are colouring your views; maybe you have been Hit On but just not realizing it! (Although hopefully you're not as clueless as I was, where a guy asked me out for a movie date--without telling me it was just the two of us, sigh--and was Super Close To Me the entire time to the point of uncomfortable-ness, and I still didn't get that I was being flirted with until a separate later occasion where he suggested an outing to the library to 'read the same book together'.)

Demeanour has a big part too. I can be quite sarcastic, am somewhat of a control freak, and generally seem like I Have My Shit Together in a what-can-be-abrasive way. While my friends who are used to me, and my boyfriend, find this amusing and endearing and whatever-ing, my body language is usually not one for being open to random strangers talking to me. And as I usually have no expectations that I'll get spoken to in random places, it's probably a self-fulfilling thing too--especially with earphones in and nose in a book, etc.

Ironmouth's advice is great if you want to do some of the initiating yourself--hey, guys like being flirted with too--but I think your Not Being Hit On-ness is probably some combination of the suggestions already made.
posted by Hakaisha at 8:20 PM on January 23, 2010

If I had asked this question I think that I would be pretty crushed by Nattie's answer (Jesus, Nattie, project much?).

I don't think you have any better idea of what the possible problem could be than I do, and I did my best to make it clear that none of us has much to go on given that we don't know her and that her situation probably isn't as bad as the girl I know (although I guess it's possible). If someone is asking honestly for reasons why no one is interested in them, things like appearance and personality are very much worth suggesting. No one ever wants to hear those things, but sometimes -- and again, none of us have any way of knowing -- it's the case, and people never solve the problem because no one says anything to them. I feel very bad for the one girl I know especially because it's not the sort of thing people who know her are going to be honest about. I don't think it's helpful to the asker to be snarky to people who are trying to give answers different from yours; I'm not projecting any more than you are by saying "here's been my experience with someone who has had this problem" than you are to say the same thing with a different experience.
posted by Nattie at 8:30 PM on January 23, 2010 [8 favorites]

This is pretty stark, but it's almost certainly either an appearance thing or you just not picking up on the fact that people actually are hitting on you. Lots and lots and lots of men are oblivious enough to ignore things like closed-off body language or an aloof demeanor, so long as a woman is halfway cute.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 8:34 PM on January 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sounds like me. I didn't get a date because I didn't do a damn thing to get one. You can't sit around waiting. You don't mention that you do anything to get a boyfriend.

I decided to be more proactive and I took a ballroom dancing class, where I met my first boyfriend. I met later boyfriends at other activities that I did like techy meetup groups. I also became less uptight...which wasn't easy considering I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian Church.

Weirdly, it was after I stopped trying to be attractive that I got a boyfriend. In high school I didn't have one, but when I ditched contacts and fancy clothes for glasses and started getting interested.

Another factor I notice in women is that sometimes women have standard that are too high in terms of physical attractiveness. I was one of them in high school...I wanted Mr. Darcy himself. Give less than Mr. Darcyish men a chance and be nice to them! I think that is why I got a boyfriend, because I talked to nerdy men and was really nice to them and was genuinely interested in what they had to say.
posted by melissam at 8:55 PM on January 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

While I suspect you have been hit on and you haven't realized it, it could be that you've lived a charmed life, and just spend time exclusively in places and groups that are unwelcoming to amorous behavior. Do you just spend time with platonic friend groups and not mingle in social settings? Is most of your time spent in a formal educational setting? Do you have a strictly professional relationship with colleagues? It could very well be that you never seem open to flirtation and you never are in the right place for it.

Use your friends to help you! Chances are, if you're a reasonably attractive, nice person, they've been wondering why you aren't dating anyone, too. Ask them to help you out. You can inject it into the conversation easily enough. Maybe you're talking about a movie and you can say you find an actor in it attractive, and you wish, jokingly, that your boyfriend looked like him. Oh! Haha, I don't have a boyfriend, really, I've got to fix that, don't you think? Something as offhand as that can open up the conversation.

Also, you're college-aged, so that's still very young. Some people are just late bloomers. I wouldn't really worry about it; maybe you're not getting flirted with because you seem too young? That's a good thing, to me.
posted by Mizu at 9:01 PM on January 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

If you *want* to be hit on (although it doesn't sound like you're so sure), try this when you're out in public:

Stand up straight, shoulders back, tits out, chin up, walk a little faster than normal, and exaggerate the swing of your hips a little bit. Make direct eye contact with men, and as you do so, smile and think "at" them, "I'd sure like to fuck you" (and let this thought shine through in your look/smile).

Just changing your body language like that will probably go a long way, even without making any upgrades to your looks.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:03 PM on January 23, 2010 [4 favorites]

Another thing I don't think anyone has touched on is simply that you may have lived a fairly sheltered life, e.g. if you live in a small town, don't ride public transportation or hang out in bars, etc... you may simply not have come into contact with the type of people that comment or leer or treat you like a piece of meat. (But maybe I'm being a naive male presuming that such treatment could be a non-factor for people simply due to setting.)

This doesn't address the issue of your peers showing attractedness, but others here have.
posted by ropeladder at 9:21 PM on January 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

Yes, I suppose there's a chance that the reason you've never been hit on is that your unattractive. And nattie was right that it can be an issue.

But come on. Have you looked around? Plenty of non-supermodel people have partners. Plenty of ordinary people have partners. Plenty of downright ugly people have partners. And if you're a 'reasonably attractive college-aged girl', then you would have to be time-stoppingly hideous to have NEVER BEEN HIT ON.

Which leaves two options, as far as I see it. Either people have been and are interested in you, but either don't have the opportunity or encouragement to act on it. If you don't spend much time in common public interaction spaces (bars, clubs, classes, jobs) then the people who see you and aret attracted to you may not have the chance or the courage to approach you. The other option is that they have the chance, but it appears clear to them that you're not available/interested. Make eye contact, don't bury yourself in a group, even initiate a conversation yourself.

Seriously though, while looking good is important, it alone can't explain this. It could explain why you get hit on less than others, but not the total absence of it.
posted by twirlypen at 10:59 PM on January 23, 2010

I knew such girls. Unlike Nattie, I saw a related, but different problem. The girls I'm thinking of, that couldn't get a date, were not ugly and did not have bad/unpleasant personalities. It was down to something very different, and frankly visceral: no sex appeal! That's the best way to put it: the loins didn't stir, the heart didn't stir, nothing stirred. I'm thinking of this one girl in particular - she was even pretty decent looking, and certainly had a great figure, but was sort of, hard to say, but bland would be the best word. Intelligent, eminently sensible, well-read, quite rational and level-headed. But ya know what? Nothing special - I mean, no thrill talking to her. Meanwhile, a girl who was frankly objectively physically unattractive, had such a sexy way of moving and such a feminine alluring manner that men flocked to her like flies to honey. What can I tell you - sometimes it's just down to SA - sex appeal.

Not that that's somehow bad - if you're happy not being hit upon, then bully for you. And if you really want a relationship, then you'll find one, and a good one too - but that's another question for the green (or see a million such threads already).
posted by VikingSword at 11:51 PM on January 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I know that sounds like a good thing, which it admittedly is.

Well, maybe that's a clue.

Mutual arrangement - are you sure it's really mutual? Often men will agree to be friends as least worst option.
posted by mattoxic at 12:31 AM on January 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

A lot of people have talked about "closed-off demeanor" and I agree that might be a good explanation of why people you know or meet don't think of you as date material.

But if you've never been hollered at in the street, bothered by a construction worker or that sort of thing, then it's possible you are presenting yourself in a very plain or frumpy way. Some girls have a face and figure that stands out even in a plain t-shirt and jeans, but not everyone can rock a natural look and make it seem sexy.

In my experience, obnoxious guys in the street don't give a rat's ass about your body language or closed-off demeanor. If you look cute to them they go for it whether you make eye contact or not.

When I was a cute young blonde (not gorgeous, just on the cute side of average) guys would holler out car windows at me walking down the street. One guy saw me getting into my car and followed me to my work. ("Security!") I was shy, not particularly confident and definitely not interested in being bothered by men I didn't know. I can't imagine how I could have been any more closed off or colder other than not venturing out in public at all.

Fast forward a few years: one pregnancy and fifty pounds later, I was a busy mom, didn't feel particularly good about myself and pretty much gave up on trying to look cute. I rarely wore makeup, wore my hair long and shapeless, wore t-shirts & jeans which did nothing to flatter my body type. I was clean, reasonably cute in the face, smart... but for years I NEVER got hit on, by anyone, ever. Which was fine since I was married, but that's not the point.

Fast forward again... a few years ago I got sick of looking and feeling frumpy so I set out to make myself over. I got a more flattering hairstyle, started wearing a bit of makeup, got some cuter glasses. I found myself a bra that made the most of my only figure asset (ahem) and started wearing tops and sweaters that showed off "the girls" a little bit. The difference in the amount of attention I received was immediate. I'm still heavy and middle-aged but guys flirt with me all the time. I've become more confident about myself because of the flirting, but at the beginning I was very self-conscious about my new look and it certainly didn't make me any more confident or outgoing at first. It just seems to be that men respond to sex appeal.

I have a friend who has a very cute face, pretty hair, and a nice curvy figure but she wears the most shapeless, sexless clothing I've ever seen (think t-shirts layered over long-sleeved turtlenecks.) She hasn't had a date in probably 5 years.

If you are reasonably attractive like you say you are and not getting hit on at all, try playing up your female assets a little more and see what happens.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:36 AM on January 24, 2010

I'd nth the suggestion that you may seem like you're uninterested in talking to anyone around you. As a guy, it's tough enough to go up to a woman. If it seems like she's busy, then I usually won't do it out of a fear of rejection.
posted by reenum at 6:36 AM on January 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I suggest asking yourself whether you have any undisclosed anxiety, displeasure, etc. at the thought of being hit on. You probably want to feel attractive up to a point, but would you feel burdened, overwhelmed, intimidated, or whatever if you thought a guy was truly interested in you? If you're feeling that not being hit on is OK for now but hoping it doesn't go on for ever then it would be useful to start now on figuring out how you might in some way be unconsciously driving men away and if so, why and what can you do about it. As other people have suggested, it is possible that men hit on you but you don't notice or that you are doing something that is obvious to other people but not you that is genuinely unattractive but you were truly motivated to be attractive to men (or a man) you'd be less likely to be oblivious of their interest and your contribution to their interest, or lack of contribution.
I have noticed that women who are successful in relationships with men tend to assume that women who are unsuccessful are just not interested plus few of them have the courage to say anything that isn't positive so I don't know that asking women friends about your attractiveness is much use. Asking women friends about their own motivation for being attractive might be more useful, then you could find out how your thoughts and approaches compare with theirs.
posted by y6t5r4e3w2q1 at 7:29 AM on January 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't get hit on too often in public; didn't in college either; and it's largely because I'm a fairly reserved person until you get to know me. I'm friendly, but my public demeanor is reserved at first (I think because I'm anxious in new situations). And with strangers, it's ALWAYS "at first." And when someone's behaving inappropriately towards me, I get positively Victorian. (Quite chilly and proper.)

One solution to this is to do the hitting on yourself if you see an interesting or attractive man. :) This generally worked out well for me.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:54 AM on January 24, 2010

Well, what do you want? Sure, it's nice to be noticed in a crowd or to feel special when someone comes up to chat with you. But do you want to be singled out for public attention, or do you want a boyfriend?

If you want to be noticed - play around with how you present yourself to others. Wear makeup, do your hair differently, try out different styles.

I was looking at pictures of myself in middle and high school. I look like myself, but I've got a terrible haircut with too short bangs and I'm wearing big t-shirts and in every picture I'm looking away from the camera with a disinterested expression. I was painfully shy. Then somewhere around high school I started to experiment with my image - dying my hair different colors, wearing crazy shoes, trying out makeup. I look at those pictures and I think - oh boy. But I look a lot more confident. Sure, I don't want to have purple hair anymore and I'm glad that I have more subtle sense of fashion, but I think it was an important revelation for a shy kid like myself: I had control over how people saw me. It didn't have to be fashion, necessarily - it could be the subjects that I talked about or the way that I talked to people. I'm several years out of college, and while I look like an average sort of person, I know that I can play at being lots of different people, and in a weird way that makes me feel kind of confident in my own skin, even when I'm just walking around in jeans and a t-shirt.

I guess what I'm saying is - it's easy to sit around and wonder why no one is paying attention to you. If you do something about it, you'll feel better about yourself and also challenge some gender stereotypes for good measure. It can be simple little day to day changes in what you wear or who you talk to, or you could even be unbelievably bold and do performance art or get a mohawk or whatever.

If, on the other hand, what you really want is a boyfriend, then you don't need to change your public persona (though it's fun). Start looking! You can let your friends know you're on the lookout, you can post ads on singles ads, or whatever. You could even start conversations with people you don't know that well. This is hard and requires some guts if you're naturally an introvert, but it can lead to interesting conversations.

Apologies if this is long and rambling. I just think it's more fun, in the long run, to go for bold and gusty over ashamed and self-effacing. At least just play around with who you are a little bit - you might get to know yourself better.
posted by ajarbaday at 9:26 AM on January 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Forgot to say: in my observation, vulnerability is the primary thing that makes women attractive to men; children attractive to women and hamsters attractive to children.
posted by y6t5r4e3w2q1 at 9:47 AM on January 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I knew a woman who almost perfectly matches Nattie's description of her unattractive friend and even she did end up with a boyfriend and they seemed happy together and well-suited.
posted by y6t5r4e3w2q1 at 9:51 AM on January 24, 2010

I see 3 main categories of reasons why this might be the case. These are just suggestions; I don't know which of these is the case, but it seems a near certainty that at least one of these general reasons is applicable:

(1) It could have to do with your own qualities.

If we're talking about strangers not approaching you, this would mainly be physical attractiveness -- but you're apparently not convinced that this is the reason based on your assessment of your own attractiveness. (Anyway, even if you are overrating your attractiveness and you're actually of below-average attractiveness, that still wouldn't be much of an explanation since below-average women get hit on too, particularly by below-average men.)

If we're talking about people who already know you somewhat well, it could be about your interests or personality. This could be along the lines Nattie is describing -- but not necessarily. It might be that your interests are fascinating but rare, so they don't mesh with most people's. It might be that you're "just too damn awesome" -- so much so that men feel intimidated or emasculated or something. (If so, please don't try to act less confident or awesome for anyone else's sake -- you'll find the right guy eventually, and when you do he'll be a better match if you don't hide your real personality.)

(2) You give off a vibe of being unapproachable.

For example:
- crossing your arms
- having a serious expression (not smiling)
- keeping your head down
- avoiding eye contact
- positioning yourself in place in the room where not a lot of people pass through (the corner)

If you suspect that this is what's going on, you might want to look into some books by Leil Lowndes.

(3) Men actually are displaying an interest in you (or trying to), but you're failing to perceive it.

Of course, all of this analysis is a bit unfortunate if it implies that your only course of action is to sit back and rationally analyze why you don't get approached. You could, instead, do the approaching.
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:27 AM on January 24, 2010

I guarantee you that there have been guys interested in you.

No matter what level or scale of attactiveness, there is always some interest from someone.

What are YOUR expectations? It could be that you have been oggled frequently by guys that may not even rate on your scale.

I was too shy, lacked self-confidence to even flirt with "geeky" girls that didn't quite fit the mold my friends had. (I have a broader scale of attractiveness and tend to like people with unique features)

And, it turns out the converse was/is true - I never knew when I was being hit on. Hell - I still don't, but at least I have my wife to tell me when it's happening :-)
posted by jkaczor at 12:11 PM on January 24, 2010

--Being flirted with and being harassed are different.

--Do you have other issues with social skills? Do you sometimes take things too literally? Do people seem to avoid you at parties? If so, this might be part of a larger issue: a general inability to read social signals. I can't help you with that in this context, but if you memail me I might be able to come up with some leads for you.

--Ask your mutually platonic male friends what's up when you're one-on-on. "Guys never hit on me. Tell me why. I won't be offended. I really need help with this."
posted by kathrineg at 1:20 PM on January 24, 2010

The fact that you think this situation is obviously or superficially desirable makes me think that your personal way of viewing human interactions is perhaps causing the situation itself. I don't know anyone who would think "no one has ever expressed interest in me" as a good thing. News stories about rape don't prevent the rest of the world from wanting to flirt or feel desired.

Maybe examine how you interact with others. Do you behave in a way that indicates to people/men that you find being ignored to be preferable to being engaged in conversation? You probably just need to make yourself appear more open, and to interpret attention as a positive thing by default, until you find out otherwise.

(And yes, a lot of people don't notice when they're being flirted with, but not recognizing that 'attention is good' seems like the more salient issue.)
posted by Kololo at 1:21 PM on January 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

Other indicators that you might have poor social skills:

Everyone is laughing and you don't get the joke
You've been told that you're rude or abrupt
You interrupt people when they say something you're not interested in

Good luck.

For what it's worth, some of us just don't get male attention until later in life. I was pretty much ignored in college, now I have no problem getting male attention. I didn't get plastic surgery, just more confident, different context, different guys.
posted by kathrineg at 1:26 PM on January 24, 2010

The fact that you think this situation is obviously or superficially desirable makes me think that your personal way of viewing human interactions is perhaps causing the situation itself.

Hm, I think we should hold off from criticizing this part of the post. The OP evidently realizes there are pros and cons to the situation. Also, consider that she might have put the "sounds like a good thing" disclaimer near the beginning of her post so she wouldn't be deluged with comments pointing out that she could actually see it as a good thing.
posted by Jaltcoh at 1:53 PM on January 24, 2010

True, Jaltcoh! But since she hasn't been deluged with those comments, it seemed reasonable to at least consider that it might be relevant. There are plenty of people out there who have been brainwashed into believing that 'men are bad', and who structure their social behavior around this belief. (Not necessarily the case here, but you never know.)
posted by Kololo at 2:28 PM on January 24, 2010

I didn't get my first boyfriend until I was 18, and that was a guy I met online. I'm in my late 20s now, and all but one of the boyfriends I've ever had have been guys I've met online. Not dating sites, but sites like message boards where random people just talk about stuff. because on the internet is where I'm comfortable talking about all sorts of things. Prior to that, I had definitely been interested in other guys "in real life," but none of them had been interested in me.

To be fair, there were a couple guys in middle school who seemed to have crushes on me, but I wasn't attracted to them at all. When I was in high school, I thought maybe getting contacts would solve my problems. Instead, I just went through high school with contacts and no discernible interest from guys, no dates to any dances, not even to the junior or seniors proms. I went to the prom anyway with girl friends (who had dates of their own), and no one asked me to dance even though I had a lovely dress and had my hair done and was clearly dateless.

Because I was able to attract guys online when I couldn't attract them in person, and their attraction continued when they saw pictures of me, I decided that guys didn't hit on me because I didn't give the impression that I was interested in being hit on. I've been told that I'm attractive, so I take people's word for it. But I'm extremely introverted and reserved around people I don't know. Frankly, I think I gave off the impression of being asexual during high school, and I pretty much think I still do. It's not until people put in the effort of trying to get to know me that they get any sort of inkling of what I'm really like, because I am just not outgoing.

Anyway, without knowing you, it's impossible for any of us to say exactly why this might be the case for you. I'm just giving you another perspective as a woman who doesn't get much man attention but has seen that it is possible.
posted by wondermouse at 4:24 PM on January 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

For quite some time as a naive younger guy, I did the whole “I want to date a girl. Girl doesn’t want to date me, but wants to be friends. I accept the situation in the hopes that she will someday change her mind. Girl then thinks of me as a big sister and complains to me about her boyfriends. No romance for me. =(”

My epiphany came when I was out having dinner with one such acquaintance and she was bemoaning the night previous when she had gone out with several of her girlfriends and their boyfriends/spouses. While the guys were all playing pool, the girls were all playing darts. All night other guys at the bar were hitting on all the other attached girls while not noticing her. She concluded that the only reason those other girls got all the attention was because they were blond, and significantly more well endowed while she had black hair and was somewhat flat-chested. “Why is it that guys only pay attention to girls who have large chests?” At that moment, something snapped in my brain and I, somewhat indignantly, replied, “Uh, I’m here paying attention to you. As a matter of fact, I’m having a great time paying attention to you exclusively. I once expressed an honest interest in you and you said that you just want to be friends. That’s cool, and thanks for being up front with me about that, but I am the wrong guy to complain to about this kind of thing. It’s insulting to say that guys don’t pay attention to you. What the hell am I?”

My point, at least from this guy’s perspective (when I was that age) is, don’t assume that guys you meet and make friends with just want (or wanted) to have a platonic relationship. I’m not saying that all your guy friends want to date you, or that their friendship is nothing but an act put on for that end, but there is a decent chance that at least a couple of them started out thinking that you were pretty swell and saw you as dating material at the beginning, but once the six-letter-F-word came out, that was that.
Flirting and interest from a lot of guys can be pretty darn subtle, too subtle unfortunately for a lot of us shy and somewhat dense ones.
posted by Chickenjack at 4:54 AM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Some people have the superpower of seeming invisible in urban areas. I have it (I hate to mention it, because I feel like by talking about it myself I'm jinxing it — but, people other than me have mentioned it to me, so...), my girlfriend learned it, and my two best friends have the absolute opposite of it. All I can figure is that it involves a certain way of walking with a certain reticence to make eye contact.

As an aside, I've noticed that a failure to make eye-contact is key to moving along a busy sidewalk. People will move out of the way of someone who doesn't appear to be concerned with their presence. It is definitely an important urban realization.
posted by chrillsicka at 8:12 AM on January 25, 2010

I'm getting a whole Ally Sheedy in "The Breakfast Club" feeling from you.

It is the minority of men ( fewer than .001%) who are going to rape you. It is a higher percentage of men (no number to make up, sorry) that are going to be boorish, sexist, and even break your heart...but it is still a low number. You are projecting a fear, if not a hatred, of men. When you fix that, you will get hit on.
posted by teg4rvn at 1:16 PM on January 25, 2010

I'm sorry, teg4rvn, but you are underestimating the frequency of sexual harassment and assault.
posted by kathrineg at 7:09 PM on January 25, 2010

Perhaps, kathrineg. (I meant 1 in 1000, so ignore the % sign)

But when the OP wants to be hit on and then claims that never having been hit on as a good thing because of an unshared victimhood, but one that is obviously inevitable, I don't think it's poor advice to say that the majority (heck, even the vast majority) of men she will meet in her life will not rape, assault, or even harass her.
posted by teg4rvn at 8:43 PM on January 25, 2010

follow-up from the OP
Thanks for taking the time to answer my question! Most of your answers were quite helpful. I did want to clear up several misconceptions, most of which are my fault, I'm sure.

1) I suppose I should have thought about the tone the answers would take in terms of my attractiveness, likeability, etc. I don't think there's really any way to know for sure whether I am the same type of person as Nattie was describing, but I really hope I'm not. I'm pretty critical about my appearance and personality anyway, so I hope that I'd recognize some of those traits in myself if I had them. The part that stung the most, though, out of all the criticism, was Nattie's judgment that her friend was completely bland and uninteresting. I have lived a very interesting life, or at least I think so, and I hope that I don't come across as totally bland to people that I know or to guys that would be attracted to me.

2) I realized after I posted that I kind of need to explain my views about guys. I do have guy friends. And yes, we are actually platonic. I don't hate men or think that they are all going to rape me. I do like to be careful, however, because several of my friends have been sexually assaulted in the past year. Moreover, the places where most people meet guys in college, such as parties or bars, aren't really available to me since I don't drink at all and I hate parties. I know I should have been more clear about my expectations regarding meeting guys, especially since sober ones don't hit on me.

I hope that clears some things up!

p.s. I got several really nasty emails from people (as well as several nice ones!) and I was kind of disappointed that people felt free to make really gross judgments about me when other people wouldn't be able to read their comments.
posted by jessamyn at 4:56 PM on January 26, 2010

Wow, sorry people are being total douchebags. At worst, you seem a little awkward. I don't get a man-hater vibe from you at all, so go ahead and cross that off of the list of possibilities.
posted by kathrineg at 12:29 AM on January 27, 2010

The fact that you don't drink, and hate parties, is kind of significant. Most "hitting on" that I remember in college (whether the agent was me or someone else) happened either drunk or at parties or both. Not to say that plenty of it didn't also happen in class or "studying" etc.... but, very often, college date situations end up coming about where someone says "let's get a drink" or "did you hear about that party" etc. Cutting yourself off from both of those worlds (or, if you prefer, that one world) puts you in a special category wherein guys may not really be sure what approach to take, or whether you're a Mormon, or what. And the guys who specifically want a girl who doesn't ever drink or go to parties are likely to be shy and awkward and not know how to approach you either.
posted by bingo at 7:10 PM on January 28, 2010

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