I need to learn how to meet women
April 26, 2010 9:11 AM   Subscribe

I need to learn how to meet women. Six months ago my girlfriend and I broke up. Before I met her (she was a fan of some writing I did and pursued me), I was completely isolated. I literally never interacted with anyone beyond getting change at the grocery store. I've gotten a bit better, but being alone again I am finding it very difficult.

I work at home. I don't know anyone where I live. I am in a foreign country for a few weeks, and don't know anyone here either. I have gone out a few times. Started a few conversations, which was terrifying. But every day I don't talk to anyone crushes me just a little bit more.

I have some friends. All far away now. But I miss feeling a human connection so much.

I have looked for other people asking similar questions, and people will say things like "you need to be happy with yourself first" or "you can't want it too much." But I'm almost 30 and I want kids, and there is no way there from here. I need some better answer than a blowhard who has been part of a social circle their whole life telling me I should want it less.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
You need to learn to meet people, among whom are the women you want to date. So force yourself into social situations, and remove the pressure of finding a mate.
posted by domnit at 9:18 AM on April 26, 2010 [8 favorites]

You know, you can adopt kids. A woman is not a vehicle to kids. She is a person in her own right.
posted by By The Grace of God at 9:20 AM on April 26, 2010 [12 favorites]

I'm an introvert, and if not for finding pre-existing groups of folks who share my interest, I wouldn't make new friends. So that's my tip: find existing groups of people with shared interests. I wouldn't push too hard for a date because you might alienate people, unless it's a "singles" group where that's the point of the thing.

Also, I understand the desire/fear involved with getting older and wanting kids while you're still single (I had similar thoughts, though less serious, when I was in college), but don't make that your reason for getting involved with people. It seems like that's not the whole reason to find new friends and date, which is very good. I hope you don't settle for someone because they're also set on babies.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:23 AM on April 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

You seem like a perfect candidate for a dating web site, no?
posted by mcroy at 9:24 AM on April 26, 2010

Dude, MeetUp is tailor-made for you. Instead of focusing on meeting women, why not focus on meeting people, making friends, and through that, meeting women.

No matter what you're into, there are other folks into it, too.
There are also groups specifically for singles, so you got that going for you, also.

It will get you out of the house and back into the game quickly, if you let it.
posted by willmize at 9:26 AM on April 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

Furthermore: don't think of women as potential dates, but potential friends. If you ask someone for coffee and they say they're in a relationship, you could clarify that they seem interesting, and you're looking to make friends in the area. That way, you could get more friends, and a better chance at meeting new (single) people.

Re: dating websites - don't be too picky. I say this as someone with a friend who finds flaws with everyone, yet complains about how he is still single. Again, friendship is very nice, even if they're not your best friend.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:27 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

... people will say things like "you need to be happy with yourself first" or "you can't want it too much." But ...

There's a reason people say that: those who aren't happy with themselves, or who want it too much, are profoundly unappealing in the dating sense. People who don't have their shit together tend to stay single (as do people who mope around and feel sorry for themselves). They tend not to have anything to offer a potential girlfriend/boyfriend. They tend not to attract them. They tend not to keep them.

So you see, it's practical advice.

Think of dating as a happy side effect of having your shit together -- because seriously, having your shit together is more important than not being single. And in your case, it sounds like getting over a serious social phobia -- and I'm speaking here as an off-the-charts introvert -- is going to be a big part of getting together said shit.
posted by mcwetboy at 9:27 AM on April 26, 2010 [11 favorites]

"Be happy with yourself first" is the advice for people who know lots of people but are miserable and can't find the One. The advice for you is "figure out how to get to know people."

I know people will have lots of good suggestions for you, online and off; my suggestion is that working at home is hard because you miss the single biggest way adults meet other adults. Volunteering with a group that does something you care about -- literacy for children? saving the planet? throwing Tea Parties? -- will help you meet other adults and give you an automatic topic of conversation.

Also, don't underestimate the power of saying, "I'm finding it very difficult to make friends now that I'm out of college, it's just so HARD as an adult, and it doesn't help that I'm shy." To someone you're getting to know and find rather sympatico. Putting yourself out there like that is hard, but I've found that a lot of adults all feel the same way -- it's so hard to MEET people and make friends, and it's SO MUCH WORSE THAN DATING because it's not really "done" to ask people on friend-dates ... . It may or may not be your style, but I have found people very sympathetic when I've plainly said I don't know enough people and I'm looking for friends. I don't repeat it a lot -- I wouldn't want to sound pathetic -- but letting new people know that I'm actively seeking friendships very often results in a) friendly sympathy from others facing the same problem, b) plans with someone else looking for friends, or c) an invitation from someone who has a friendgroup to join them at some casual event. In all cases, yay!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:31 AM on April 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

It sounds like you need to work on becoming more comfortable with social interactions with new people in general, and also to start fishing where the fish are. Also, if you're introverted and/or shy, you probably need social settings that will involve repeated and/or prolonged contact with others if anything is to gel. This is my generalized advice. To be more specific, I recommend that you take a course in art or cooking, and/or join a book club. In my experience 95% of the people who do these things have boobs. Volunteering is another thing that women seem to do more often than men. Don't do these things solely to meet women — just pick activities you honestly enjoy, and be open to forming new friendships with people who don't interest you romantically. Good friends are worth their weight in gold and one of them just might have a roommate or a sister or a friend who would be perfect for you.
posted by orange swan at 9:35 AM on April 26, 2010

It sounds like you need to work on your social skills a bit - worry about building a social life first, and your love life will follow. I know that sounds like a frustrating platitude, but that's really the way it is. You can probably pick up a girl somewhere, and I'm sure that could be absolutely fine for you, but most people tend to meet their significant others through friends. You don't even need close friends; you just need some people with whom you can share interests and see on a semi-regular basis.

So yeah, I know crappy vague advice is frustrating, so I'll try my best to give a little practical advice as far as meeting new people. The easiest way to develop your social skills very quickly is to get a part-time job on evenings or weekends in a relaxed place where you are forced to constantly deal with the public. Make sure it is somewhere people come to relax, not some retail place where people just want to get their business done and leave. Trial by fire, you know? Bonus points if this place is somewhere that caters to your personal interests.

Another easy way for introverts to meet people is to join a club. Yeah, just like back in high school. Check Meetup.com or Meetin.com, or maybe your local coffee house bulletin board. If you live anywhere close to a metropolitan area you can find a group that caters to any interest you may have. Hell, I live in the middle of the boonies and I found a writing circle after a minute of searching just now. The best part about these is that you can completely ignore the fear every introvert has; that the people you want to meet don't want to meet you. The group wouldn't be advertising if they didn't want people to join.

More suggestions:
- Take evening classes from a local college. Evening classes are full of working people, many of which are probably in the same situation as you.
- Find a bar/coffee house/lounge that seems like it caters to your demographic and become a regular. People come to these places to be social, so you're half way there just by showing up.
- Join a gym and go at the same time every day. Not quite as social, but still in the same ballpark. Warning: don't try to meet women at the gym. The gym is for friends only.
- If all else fails, try to find message boards for people in your area. Eventually someone is going to want to meet up with people they're talking with all the time.
posted by Willie0248 at 9:45 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

To tide you over while you work on your social anxiety, sometimes it's helpful to just go be around people -- at a movie or in a bookstore or something. Sometimes a good clean massage can help with that need for genuine human contact. And sometimes just being a regular somewhere can give you a small sense of belonging -- e.g. I used to swim laps at a local pool three times a week like clockwork and after a while I started seeing the same people all the time and we could at least smile and nod at each other. It's something.

Therapy of course would be enormously beneficial for dealing with your social anxiety, plus it's one person who cares about you that you will see and talk to about important stuff regularly. The aspect of therapy where you're just sitting with and talking to someone who cares is often overlooked with all the focus on the scientific side of it.

Then also, obviously, is the internet. I met my wife on a dating site, and had relationships with several other young women I met on dating sites before her.

Finally, make sure you call/write/text/IM your friends sometimes. Just because they aren't physically near you doesn't mean they don't exist.
posted by callmejay at 9:57 AM on April 26, 2010

another note about meeting people before trying to meet a woman to date:
in my experience, women are much more likely to consider dating someone who knows people they know. you're not "some strange guy who talked me up while i was getting coffee", you're "oh, yeah, Anon E. Mouse -- I met him thru folks I do Pez Dispenser Rebuilds with. General consensus is that he's pretty cool."
posted by rmd1023 at 10:00 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have looked for other people asking similar questions, and people will say things like "you need to be happy with yourself first" or "you can't want it too much." But I'm almost 30 and I want kids, and there is no way there from here. I need some better answer than a blowhard who has been part of a social circle their whole life telling me I should want it less.

Yeah, I really hate it when I see people saying stuff like that too. Needing friendship and love is natural, it hurts not to have those things, and it's almost like twisting the knife to act like there's some kind of weird happiness prerequisite before you're allowed to want them.

As far as meeting women/other people:

1. Are you more comfortable around men? If so - maybe focus on meeting men. But not single men. I think single men usually know other single men, married men usually know other married men, etc. If you become friends with a bunch of married men you can then become friends with their wives, and then if the wives like you they will take over the job of finding you a girlfriend.

2. I suspect you would be a lot more comfortable in environments that were structured, where interaction was structured. Volunteering for a specific goal, playing for a sports team, things like that would be great for you I think. Ballroom dancing too, if you think you could get yourself to do that.
posted by Ashley801 at 10:48 AM on April 26, 2010 [6 favorites]

Last thing ...

Started a few conversations, which was terrifying.

Sometimes it helps to just jump right in, other times if you take on too much at once I think that can reinforce your fear about the thing you're afraid of. If that might be the case for you, maybe it might help you to take this more slowly. Start with the least scary thing possible. And maybe try doing it over and over until you are completely bored and sick of it and don't find it scary at all. And then move a step up to the second least scary thing, and repeat. Example: for the first step, you could just say "good morning" to someone in passing, without stopping for a reply. You could say it to tons of random people all day long, until it doesn't feel weird anymore. Maybe the next step up would be to say good morning and make some random comment about the weather, also just in passing.
posted by Ashley801 at 10:56 AM on April 26, 2010

The person that nobody wants is the person that doesn't want themselves either. Focus on meeting people. You can meet someone, fall in love and have kids when you're 40, a full decade (or more!) from now. That is a lot of time to develop a huge base of good friends, who support you when you're down, celebrate you when you're up, and five years from now just might have a friend that would be perfect for you, do you want to meet 'em?
posted by davejay at 12:22 PM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm this strange mix of exuberant extrovert and frightened introvert, it's very annoying, and confusing, and not just to me but also to people I meet -- one minute I'm smiling and we're hooting and chatting it up and the next I'm frozen and I've *got* to walk away, I'm overwhelmed. You'd think I was still in junior high -- what a mope I turn out to be! Man.

Anyways. There is a restaurant here in Austin (Casa de Luz) where it's totally acceptable to sit down at any table and eat your lunch or dinner with whoever it is that is already there.

It's also totally acceptable to sit by yourself and read.

No pressure. It's really a cool place.

It's *way* too scary a place for me to go, mostly, but this past month maybe I've gone a few times, for whatever reason. I take a book I love. Mostly, I sit down in a fairly well-lit place and read. But because of the warmth of the place, and of the people who fit in there, I've been able to meet some of them -- either they've reached over my shyness to say "Hello, what is it you're reading there that's got you smiling like that?" (last night I was reading Brautigan, An Unfortunate Woman, his last) or I've reached over my shyness and said hello to them.

Two weeks ago I met Ann. I'd sat at a table in the sunshine reading; she sat down with friends at the next table chatting it up and laughing. She has this beautiful smile and big curly brown hair and freckles and a hugely festive belly laugh and smiling eyes -- she's just so darling. Somehow I was able to say hello to her after her friends left -- don't ask me how, it's just sortof what can happen there at Casa de Luz. I saw her again last night and said hello and we talked a few minutes and then my shy kicked in and I froze, and went to another table and read. But at least I did get to talk with her.

If there is a place where you live that has this type of 'feel' to it, it would probably be a great place to start.

Good luck.
posted by dancestoblue at 1:57 PM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

You are in a foriegn country? Perhaps staying in a Youth Hostel would force you out of your shell a little bit.

Essentially, as a late teenager, I was exactly like you describe. I was pretty much happy to stay at home, be by myself, read, muck around on the computer, and only really left the house when my friends would hassle me to do so.

On a whim (with some extra money I earnt) I went to Japan, and stayed in Youth Hostels. I can't really say why I did it, I think my subconcious knew that I was letting life pass me by. Anyway there, people would just sit next to me, start chatting, "hey do you want to check out that temple tomorrow?" or "I just came from Nagasaki, the peace park there is awesome" or whatever. Essentially I found myself socialising, and I broke through that barrier of "oh my god what if people think I'm stupid, I can't tlak to them they are all so cool" that I had going on in my brain.

It completely changed my life. It sounds like your life is crying out for the same sort of change. It might not be a youth hostel, but think of a situation that encourages you, forces you to be social.

And as pointed out above, aim to meet people. Women are people too.
posted by Admira at 2:58 PM on April 26, 2010

nthing volunteering. There's a couple of really great benefits to volunteering: (1) It gives you a safe way to interact with people and it gives you something to talk about with the other people around you (i.e. you're peeling potatoes in a soup kitchen and someone says "this reminds of one Thanksgiving when I acidentally put sugar instead of salt in the potatoes hahaha...." (2) people who volunteer are generally kind, social people as a group (3) even if you don't meet anyone you connect with you can still feel good about the work you did to improve your community.

Depending on where you live, this might work for you: www.onebrick.org
posted by bananafish at 3:06 PM on April 26, 2010

Joining clubs, Meetup, volunteering, etc. to meet people in general is good but make sure that you're spending your limited time on groups that have a lot of single, age-appropriate women in them. Try out lots of clubs/groups, then eliminate from your rotation the ones that are sausagefests or where all the women are married or gay or too old or too young.

Think strategically about women are disproportionately likely to congregate and then go there. Yes, it's possible to find nice, cute, single women in male-dominated interests, but the competition for those women is fierce and if you're already shy then it'll be even harder for you. For example, the pickings are probably easier in a "save the kittens!" activist group (bonus: they like taking care of small helpless baby creatures) than at a model train enthusiasts meeting.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:13 PM on April 26, 2010

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