I am becoming what I loathe...
October 7, 2010 9:47 PM   Subscribe

I am about to turn 21. I have never had I boyfriend. I like myself, but apparently awesome guys don't like me. I am scared I am turning into a depressed, poor me I need a man types, YUCK. How do I stay confident and fun, and not seem desperate, while realizing that so far I have not attracted anyone I am attracted to?

I am worried that I am going to become like those older single girls, who you can tell they are just like depressed, low self esteem, and honestly desperate, all in relation to their singleness. They give off a really sad vibe. Then there are people who are awesome and are single but aren't lame about it and don't doubt their own awesomeness.

I would like to be in the second category. Yet I am not content to be single forever. I really do want to find a soul mate, someone who enjoys life the way I do.

I am just starting to feel direction-less about what to to to get from here to there. How do you live contentedly single, while being ready for Mr. Right (or mr. could be right) when he shows up?

Bonus question: What the hell is wrong with me that I haven't been asked out by anyone I am attracted to?
posted by chocolatemilkshakes to Human Relations (47 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I'm saying this as a guy, and someone only a few years older than you: you are YOUNG. Like, seriously young. Younger than you realize. You have so much time to find a "soul mate" if that's what you're looking for.
posted by threeants at 9:51 PM on October 7, 2010 [17 favorites]

Well, it would be helpful to know what you are doing in general. Do you have hobbies? Could you have more? Could you get involved with some that might help you meet guys?

Could your standards for attractive/awesome guys possibly be unreasonable? Is online dating out for some reason?

I started seriously pursuing the idea of having a boyfriend when I was a sophomore in college. I took ballroom dancing, where I met my first boyfriend. I've never had trouble meeting a boyfriend since. I do lots of activities and many of the activities have plenty of men. I gave men chances who didn't seem great at first, and some of them turned out to be winners.

I wouldn't worry about meeting a soul mate right now. Just date and figure out what sort of guy you really like.
posted by melissam at 9:54 PM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nothing is wrong with you. Lots of people give in too young or aren't very picky about partners.

I know this sounds cliche, but stop thinking about being single and waiting for Mr Right. Chances are, he will suddenly appear at your feet right when you least expect it. In the meantime, go on lots of casual dates and just enjoy life. Are you turning down guys that you don't think you are attracted to? If so, maybe give them a chance just for a bit. You can go out with people who aren't perfect fits. Worst case, you get to spend time with someone who lavishes you with attention and reminds you that you're awesome, even if they aren't the right person for you.

I think the people who are miserable and depressed like you describe are the ones who don't go out with anybody because no one that asks them out is good enough. Don't be that person. Don't think of being asked out as a possible step towards exiting singledom. Just think of it as a fun thing to experience.
posted by joan_holloway at 9:56 PM on October 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

What the hell is wrong with me that I haven't been asked out by anyone I am attracted to?

Maybe your standards are too high? I don't mean that in a snarky way and of course you don't specify what type of guys are asking you out, so it is unclear if you mean that the guys who ask you out are skeevy assholes or that you're looking for a fit, very attractive, over 6 foot tall guy and you keep getting asked out by guys who are only 5'10" or whatever. These are very different issues.

My suggestion: Ask out some guys you are attracted to.
posted by Justinian at 9:59 PM on October 7, 2010 [4 favorites]

Have you tried asking out any of these people you find attractive? Sure, it's a scary step, but someone's got to do it. Awesomeness, or at least the lack of sadness and low self-esteem, is often correlated with self-confidence, and the willingness to occasionally pursue what you want rather than waiting for someone to bring it to you. Do this for other interests and hobbies as well as just guys and you will be awesome.
posted by hattifattener at 10:00 PM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Don't think of being asked out as a possible step towards exiting singledom. Just think of it as a fun thing to experience.
Also, this.
posted by hattifattener at 10:01 PM on October 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

21? So young, way too young to worry about this. Your goal in life now is to become YOU. Spending your life looking for that other person as opposed to finding yourself is counter productive.

Put your energy into exploring this world, gathering experiences... the connections to others will develop organically, just let them happen..

It will be OK...the pieces will fall into place.
posted by HuronBob at 10:06 PM on October 7, 2010

There really hasn't been any casual dating in my life either. I have been on one actual date, and two two dances. That is the entirety of my dating life :D Three different guys, none of which I was attracted to, like at all. (but I did go anyway.)

Part of my highschool years I was in circles where most people didn't date (all their parents thought you should only date when you're older. My parents didn't think that, thankfully, but it did shrink the amount of potential guys during those years.)

Although I truly desire to find a soul mate, I'd be happy to find a fun guy to be in a relationship with while I'm young, even if it doesn't last.

I don't have a lot of hobbies, I am really busy with school and work. But I have pretty big circle of friends I hang out with alot, but the guys just really don't show interest in me. I just feel like every time I like a guy, he thinks I am a freak. It is a repeating pattern in my life, yet I can't get to the root cause.
posted by chocolatemilkshakes at 10:08 PM on October 7, 2010

your statement:

I just feel like every time I like a guy, he thinks I am a freak.

may not have basis in these guys actually thinking you are a freak. it is actually pretty normal for people to behave in awkward ways when they do like someone and i think you haven't had enough experience reading the signs and are letting your own self-consciousness color the isssue.

so, do some swooshes to release that negative pattern! take the first step to get to know guys you find attractive! don't feel like you have to sit in your parlor like a proper miss & wait for the gent to come-a-courtin'! it's a whole new century, and many a fine relationship has blossomed without the benefit of a single 'date!'
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 10:19 PM on October 7, 2010

I just feel like every time I like a guy, he thinks I am a freak.

Ignore that feeling until you get clearly told otherwise (while being respectful all the while, of course.) Seriously, you don't know this now, but the best part of dating at 21 is that you're given carte blanche to fuck up over and over again until you get into the groove of things. Seriously. If there was a calendar of your dating life over the course of your life, the few years around now would have "GO FOR BROKE" written on them.

I know. It's hard and stressful you feel weird and like every little misstep will haunt you for the rest of your horribly single days, right? That's 100% grade-A bullshit no matter how much that scared little voice tells you otherwise.

Why haven't you been asked out? We can't tell you. We're not you nor do we know you. Why haven't you asked anyone out may be a more germane question here. Next time you see a guy you think is pretty swell? Just give him a "hey, want to go get some coffee?" And he might say no. And you do it again the next time you see a swell-looking dude. And you just keep getting told 'no' over and over until, eventually, someone says "oh, wow, I would totally love to" and you're off to the races.
posted by griphus at 10:20 PM on October 7, 2010 [5 favorites]

Probably unhelpful advice here: just be yourself. Seriously. You even said it yourself in your post:

Then there are people who are awesome and are single but aren't lame about it and don't doubt their own awesomeness.

This is what you want to cultivate. Speaking for myself, I am attracted to people that are happy, confident, comfortable with themselves. I like people who have interests. I like people who don't seem desperate or needy. I'm looking for someone who wants to be with me because of who I am, not somebody who needs to be with someone because they can't be alone.

Figure out what you like to do, and do that. I don't think there's anything wrong with you, or at least there's nothing obvious from your post. And you don't need to wait to be asked out by somebody. You can do the asking!
posted by number9dream at 10:23 PM on October 7, 2010

I bet if you have a big social circle and hang out with people a lot, there's probably tons of guys that want to go out with you. Maybe they think you are out of their league. Maybe they are waiting for you to ask them out!

No one here can say what is wrong with you that would make guys you like think you're a freak (I doubt that's the problem). Really, I think you just need to go on more casual dates and get more practice. It doesn't sound like you've had a lot and it's making you doubt yourself. Maybe try going on some dates with guys who aren't in your social circle (OKCupid is good for this) so you can get some practice in without worrying about disrupting friendships.

Also, forget the whole "really busy with school and work" thing. You and everyone else is going to be busy for the rest of your life, so you can't use it as an excuse to not go out and meet people.
posted by joan_holloway at 10:23 PM on October 7, 2010

So if you just want a relationship for fun, why don't you take up dates with guys that ask that you aren't attracted to? I don't think dating and falling in love works the way you may see in the media. Some of my favorite experiences have been with guys I would have never thought I'd have been caught dead with -- be it their hobbies/interests to their group of friends or - admittedly - their appearances.
posted by june made him a gemini at 10:25 PM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm all for high standards in dating, but if you have such little experience, it's very unlikely that you really know what sort of guy would make you happy, and that if your potential "soul mate" happens to come along, you won't really know what to do with him. You need some practice first.
  1. Ask out the guys you are interested in. Don't wait around for them to do it. Some of them will say yes even if they don't show any apparent interest before that. Some guys are shy.
  2. Are there other guys asking you out? It won't kill you to go on one or two dates with them.

posted by grouse at 10:26 PM on October 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

those older single girls, who you can tell they are just like depressed, low self esteem, and honestly desperate, all in relation to their singleness.

I'm gonna go out on a limb and say 'wrong' to that last bit—people giving off those vibes suffer for a lack of self-love. They're not convinced they deserve a soul mate (or anyone, for that matter) so they're convinced everyone else sees it the same way.

Then there are people who are awesome and are single but aren't lame about it and don't doubt their own awesomeness.

These are people who love themselves enough to recognize their own worth. They're ok with waiting for the right guy (or gal or whatever) to come along because their own existence is fulfilling enough. Finding a 'soul mate' when you feel this way about yourself is more like finding another soul mate.
posted by carsonb at 10:26 PM on October 7, 2010 [9 favorites]

I didn't even cite the most obvious one; book smarts. I only wanted to hang out with guys that were academics and lo and behold, those were the most boring ones.
posted by june made him a gemini at 10:30 PM on October 7, 2010

Do. The things. You love.
It is in the commission of your favorite activities that you will feel your best and people will see you at your best. You also need things to occupy your mind. When people say you'll find love "when you least expect it," what they actually mean is "when you stop fixating on it and allow your life to unfold of its own accord."

Conversely, if you must take the bull by the horns, online dating can work very well. I write as someone who has had excellent succes. But you need knowledge-of-self and a strong willingness to be frank about who you are, why you're great, and what you want in order for it to work.
posted by qbject at 10:30 PM on October 7, 2010 [5 favorites]

20 going on 21? This is no time to get dragged down by some boy and all that that entails. As threeants notes, you are young, and youth is sometimes wasted on you.
This is your chance to take up photography or woodworking, or write a book of sonnets or take up juggling. The boy will come along when you least expect it.
In the meantime, make the most you can for yourself (it's gotta be about you), keep your eyes open for that one interesting guy, and aim for the bleachers at all times.
posted by Gilbert at 10:32 PM on October 7, 2010

You don't even have to ask out the awesome guys you like (which could be somewhat nerve-wracking if you haven't yet been asked out by a guy you like). All you have to do is let the awesome guys know that you think they're awesome--they'll know what to do.

So when you're talking to an awesome guy, hold eye contact with him just a little longer than you normally would. If you're feeling brave, give him a look that lets him know you think he's hot, while your conversation is still just about normal things. It can be very subtle, but he'll pick up on it.

Also, just touching him on the arm very casually while talking to him, particularly when you're laughing with him, is a great way to get the ball rolling.

And joke around with guys you like and see if you can get away with teasing them a bit. I wish it weren't the case, but a surprising number of girls I've dated have begun with a girl I barely know waltzing over and telling me that she thinks my hair/clothes/whatever sucks, while grinning like an annoying kid sister. I don't appreciate this particular approach, but I've got to say: it works. You've just got to make sure he knows you're just kidding and joking around.

If you just let your appreciation show whenever you see a guy you like, it won't take long before you start seeing more interest. Best of luck.
posted by surenoproblem at 10:40 PM on October 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

I just feel like every time I like a guy, he thinks I am a freak

Explore the idea that your own insecurities and self-doubt are manifesting themselves in your interactions with men...possibly turning them off. If you're 21 and you're "ohmygodIneedsomeonetolove" then the guys around you might be picking up on this and keeping their distance from you romantically. Desperation and neediness are readily picked up upon by socially savy, fun, dynamic people (likely the people you want to meet) and they are huge turn offs.

The best relationships come about when we aren't grasping for them. Awesome single people who aren't lame are that way because they can realize that they haven't attracted the people they want to attract and not have that realization phase them in the least. This usually stems from a deep understanding that a life well lived does not necessarily have to involve another person, even if they might like another person in their lives at some point.

Also, are you flirting openly and regularly? Do it. Its fun and it communicates that you're confident and playful. Don't stress about "finding a soulmate" (the idea of a "soulmate" is garbage, by the way - an amazingly misleading concept) just worry about keeping things light, flirty and fun. Take the gravity out this idea of a relationship, and cultivate the attitude that you don't really even need one to be happy. Even if you are lying to yourself, if you allow that idea to drive your actions, it will come across as attractive.

Finally...you're 21 for godssake...what the hell are you worrying about? Use this time to be a young single person and do the things that are hard to do once you are in a committed relationship (spontaneous travel, career exploration, self exploration). Life isn't so serious...you don't be either!
posted by jnnla at 11:00 PM on October 7, 2010

I think a lot of this advice is good, but I'd also advise you not to create a false dichotomy. You can occasionally feel lonely, or insecure about being single, without turning into 'Cathy.'

If you keep in mind that even some of the 'cool and independent' single women have bouts of self-consciousness, you may become less anxious about your own lonely periods, and therefore more able to move past them.
posted by jennyesq at 1:07 AM on October 8, 2010 [8 favorites]

You're still young. I know you feel old. I was there four years ago so I know how you feel. But you're not old at all. When you turn quarter-of-a-century, you'll know what I'm talking about ;)

So, going forward, focus on yourself. My aunt once said that all a woman needs is to believe she is beautiful, be beautiful on the inside, be kind to others and be independent (a career is a good start). Everything else is a cherry on top.
posted by p1nkdaisy at 1:14 AM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

All those people who say "you're still young, it doesn't matter, do something else instead!" have totally forgotten what it feels like to be 21! (We only wise up to the ridiculousness of it all after wasting a few years doing idiotic stuff first.)

So, OKCupid?
posted by dickasso at 1:19 AM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm seconding dating casually and asking dudes out. Maybe sign up for OKCupid or something.

Keep in mind that your self esteem and self worth comes from you, not dudes.
posted by NoraReed at 1:25 AM on October 8, 2010

Some of the most kickass folks I have had the pleasure to know (including girls I have very fond memories of dating) I thought were freaks, both before and after I got to know them.
posted by Chickenjack at 1:31 AM on October 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

What's your personal style like? While a lot of guys don't even realize it, we take a lot of cues about women from how they present themselves with their clothes, hairstyle and makeup. If you totally boycott style and grooming, it sends the message that you are entirely uninterested in looking attractive, and therefore, uninterested in attracting. It can also send the message that you are so convinced of your inherent unattractiveness both inside and out that you can't even bring yourself to try to look good.

Having a little style, looking like you look the way you do on purpose , is the first step in projecting confidence, which we all know is one of the things people find most attractive. I'm not saying you have to get all dolled up or anything -- far from it. It doesn't have to be particularly girly or anything. There's an almost infinite array of styles and modes of attractive, so pick the one that feels comfortable to you, or that appeals to you the most.

Also, what kind of guys do you tend to find attractive? That can help. There's nothing wrong with choosing your personal style & appearance strategically. If there's a particular style of guy you find yourself checking out, try taking notice of what the girls you see them with look like.

At the very least, this lets people know you're on the market, and consider yourself worth checking out. You have to get that far with the superficial, so they can then experience your being a cool person in a "dating possibility" context.
posted by patnasty at 2:59 AM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

You need practice that is all. Computer dating is the easiest way. It will be easier if you keep your expectations focused on meeting and dating a number of people and not necessarily seeking longer term commitments at first. After you have had a number of these more formally arranged dates it will be easier to approach people in other social situations for dates etc.
posted by caddis at 4:15 AM on October 8, 2010

I had never been on a date before I was 21. I joined yahoo personals (it was free way back then, and there were few other choices) and went on a number of dates, the last of which turned into my husband. :)

I was in college during that time and had very little time, but I was sick of having crushes that went nowhere and no ladyballs to ask people out on casual dates. The Internet provided me with the solution, as everyone on the site was looking for the same thing: a date. So you both went into the situation knowing: 'This is a date. If I like this person and they like me, then we can go on another. We are each evaluating the other for a romantic relationship.'

So, it worked out great for me. I went on 5 or 6 dates with other guys that didn't go beyond the first date. It was good experience and I always recommend online dating to people who are having trouble finding some one.
posted by chiefthe at 4:19 AM on October 8, 2010

I started way behind the curve with dating and was a lot like you--lots of friends in high school who didn't date, NO dating whatsoever in high school, a few dates with people I wasn't into just because I thought I *should* be dating in undergrad (but no second dates). I was *24* before my first kiss, with a guy I was set up with by a friend, and it was really special. (I remember being surprised that kissing was a touch experience, because for 24 years, it was just a VISUAL experience of me watching other people kiss.) I understand how your whole self-concept is that it will NEVER happen for you when it hasn't yet. But 20ish isn't so old to really start dating, even if it still FEELS pretty old.

I remember a postsecret postcard that said "Finally! 26 and not never-been-kissed!"

You're on metafilter, so you're clearly awesome. Just remember that, whether dating increases or not for you, that there is nothing inherently wrong with you just because your dating experience has been limited.
posted by shortyJBot at 4:23 AM on October 8, 2010 [4 favorites]

Aw, baby. If I could expunge every dating experience I had prior to your age from my record, I would be none the poorer for it. The odds are good you haven't missed much... teenage dating, while it has its charms, is often a confusing, hurtful clusterfuck. And you are so, so, so young.

Listen to Sensefield's "Save Yourself" (don't worry, it's not about abstinence!) in a dark room a few times. Sob into your pillow if need be. And realize - and celebrate! - that you are already AHEAD of the game by being unwilling to settle for anything less than something that you really, really dig... and someone who would, indeed, cherish your name.
posted by julthumbscrew at 6:39 AM on October 8, 2010

I was also a lady who spent a lot of time waiting, waiting, waiting for a first kiss, a first boyfriend, a first "I love you." I feel like I've thought about a lot of the same stuff you've been thinking about.

And, you know, I didn't realize until after I DID get all of those things, how special that time alone really was. When you're single, all of your time is yours. All of your time can be spent making your life exactly how you want it to be and you don't have to worry about relasionshippy things, you don't have to compromise. You just do what you want all the time. Besides, I think it's important to shift the focus off the idea that there's a Mr. Right and turn your quest toward finding FUN and encourage yourself to seek personal growth. Because YOU are the most important person in your life, not some guy you haven't met yet. Why spend all this awesome alone time on him?

But I do understand your sense of longing. I do. All I can say about that is that a good thing to remind yourself every once in a while is "I will not be alone forever," because you won't.
posted by smirkyfodder at 6:59 AM on October 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

How do you dress? Where do you live? How picky are you? How often do you flirt? When was the last time you had ladyballs (LOVE that phrase!) and asked someone out?

It is, in a sense, a numbers game. You are looking for a guy (- 50% of the population) of a certain age range in your location (you go to college, so it isn't a terrible number) but you only really seem to hang out with ~5 guys? Expand!

I don't usually recommend bars and clubs, but if your school has a bar, or better yet, a nerd tavern type thing, some very interesting people might hang out there. BEWARE OF DRUNKS! big red flag :D

Do you know a lady who is always going on dates? Ask for tips. As for flirting, I hang out with guys who are generally oblivious. I once had a girl tell me, straight faced, that she was wearing a cute, short sundress, crossed her legs, and dangled her sandal off her toes at the guy...... and apparently this was a sign she was way into him. huh? Many of the good, single guys will be sweet, oblivious, shy, nerdy, and more scared of you than you are of them.

Basically, you're a bear. You have these big sharp claws, and you're just batting the bunny around. Stop playing with it :D

Online dating can work. I found my girlfriend on... well, not exactly a sketchy site, but one I'd be horrified to find my mom on.

Lastly, don't panic. Have fun, go to events and groups you enjoy. Branch out. One thing we say is, you are attracted to people with just as much baggage as you have. Therefore, the better you you are, the better guys you will get.
posted by Jacen at 7:09 AM on October 8, 2010

Bonus question: What the hell is wrong with me that I haven't been asked out by anyone I am attracted to?

Maybe part of the problem is you think of dating only in terms of you being asked out by someone? There is another possibility.
posted by John Cohen at 7:21 AM on October 8, 2010

I am worried that I am going to become like those older single girls. . . they are just like depressed, low self esteem, and honestly desperate, all in relation to their singleness....

Be more worried about being a girl of any age in any crappy old relationship that keeps them depressed and desperate because they are more terrified of being alone.

And like others have said, you are very young. It's not a bad thing; most of us would probably love to be pushing 21 with all the wisdom that we now have. My mom always told me to date lots of men, which baffled me because I was so sure that I HAD to have a RELATIONSHIP with ONE MAN RIGHT NOW.

Bah. Ask cute guys to coffee, say yes to anyone who asks you. (With common sense exceptions for those with creepy axe-murderer vibes.) Have lots of fun and get to know lots of people; that way it will be all the easier to recognize when the special ones bubble up to the top. Also seconding online dating as an easy, non-threatening way to meet lots of different types of guys who are obviously looking for a date or wouldn't be there.

Bonus answer: Ask out anyone to whom you are attracted!
posted by motsque at 7:28 AM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Like some others have said, you sound like a good candidate for online dating. It's worth a try!

It's also possible (and I don't know you, I'm just speculating) that you've got some habits that tend to turn men off. You shouldn't change who you are on the inside, of course, but there are a number of cosmetic things that can negatively affect your first impressions...
  • Hygiene. Do you wash daily? You could be labeling yourself unapproachable if your hair is greasy or you have an "unusual" smell (not necessarily from uncleanness, it could also result from a particular soap, your pets, or even your diet).
  • Confidence. Do you smile and make eye contact with people? How are your conversation skills? Are you comfortable making small talk or do you shut down when the other person runs out of questions? Being assertive speaks volumes.
  • Posture. This ties in with confidence. Do you slouch, or stand up straight? Your body language speaks when your words don't, and you might inadvertently be telling others that you'd rather be somewhere else than with them.
  • Attitude. Do you smile more, or frown? People who perceive you as a happy person will want to spend more time with you. If you're depressed and you show it, people may seek more pleasant company (creating a feedback loop of sadness for you).
There are so many variables at play, many of which are out of your control. Try to be content with where you are right now, be patient, and enjoy your circumstances whatever they may be. Remember that for every single person that longs to be in a relationship, there's someone in a relationship who longs to escape. The grass is always greener, and all that. Even so, note the variables that you can influence, and actively stack the deck in favor of your goals. You do have a certain level of control over what happens to you.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 7:36 AM on October 8, 2010

There is no such thing as a soul mate, and the pressure of the culture and Romantic Comedies is that you must find the absolute perfect person who "gets you" immediately. Guess what, those rom-com's never show you what it's like to really live and be a couple with someone. Up and down the spectrum, notions of romance are bizarre. So take risks, and know that to love is to risk. Take those risks. If you have fun with someone, spend more time with them. If you don't, don't. Don't be afraid to spend time with people who you're not sure about. So take the pressure off the table, and get out into the world and figure out what makes you happy. Do that thing. Try different stuff, you never know what it might be. Crafts, skydiving, boating, swimming, reading, hiking, public speaking: these are all things you can go out and do, and do with other people. Before you try those things and meet those people you have no idea.

The other thing is don't presume to know what other people think of you. People are wrapped up in themselves most of the time, very few people have empathy and understanding of themselves, let alone other people. So learn about yourself, and learn what makes you tick. If you can do that, you're going to be a great match for someone you "click" with. You'll know when you can sit around with someone and neither of you feels pressure to be some ideal version of yourself -- you'll be jazzed just to hang out.
posted by artlung at 8:15 AM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

A lot of folks are pointing out that you're young. But that's irrelevant. More to the point, the men in your dating pool are young. Speaking as a former 18-year-old boy, a lot of 18-year-old boys are pretty fucking immature — and a lot more are decent and interesting, and completely terrified of self-assured women who have their shit together. Now that I'm nearing 30, I can assure you that most of my friends who had healthy self-esteem in high school also had shitty luck attracting 18-year-old boys, and didn't come into their own dating-wise until.... well, their early or mid 20s, actually.

Because here's the thing. By 21, some of the decent guys are starting to pull their heads out of their asses. Which is to say, things are going to start looking up.

So despite what some people here are saying, you're totally not too young to be looking for love or sex or companionship or whatever it is that you're looking for. Instead, look at it this way: you're finally old enough that you have a decent chance of getting those things from straight guys your own age. You have just entered the best years of your life for meeting confident interesting non-desperate single dudes, and you will quickly start finding that your self-esteem and independence aren't such big handicaps as they might have been earlier in your life.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:33 AM on October 8, 2010

Ah, I have so been you. I know exactly the feeling you're talking about. In my case the dating didn't really start happening for me until 21-22. Here's what changed:

--I got healthy and started feeling fabulous. Previous to this, I had been overweight, and around this time, I took up walking/running and lost some weight. For the first time, I felt really, really good about myself. I'm NOT saying I started getting dates because I lost weight. I really don't think that's it. It's that, for the first time, I was comfortable in my skin, I viewed myself in a really positive light, and I think I projected that energy.

--I developed a better sense of who I was and what I wanted. In my late teens I hung around with some friends who were really into the aggressively indie stuff (makeoutclub was very popular at the time) and I was attracted to that "scene" and tried to sort of shoehorn my way in, and didn't have much luck with those types of fellows. The truth is, I'm much happier staying in at night, in comfy pjs, reading a book or watching a movie than going to a club at midnight wearing raccoon-ring eyeliner. Once I stopped trying to project that image and lying to myself (and crafting cringe-inducing personal profiles with moody photographs) I felt a real clarity of the type of person I wanted to be, and the type I wanted to be WITH.

--I started some awesome hobbies that let me meet cool people. I started training for a marathon and got certified to teach Pilates and took extra classes at a community college. During this time I was really, really busy and didn't have time to dwell on the fact that I wasn't dating--my schedule was packed! But funny thing, it was while doing these things that I loved, that kept me so busy, that I really started getting asked out. Once it was at the gym, once on a hiking trail, once during a CPR certification class...you get the idea. I'd reached a point where I was happy with myself, doing things I loved, and not stressing about finding The One. I think that kind of confidence is very sexy and people respond to it.

So the TL;DR version is:

--do what you need to do to start feeling fabulous in your skin
--search yourself and be really honest about what you are like and what you want
--do things that you love, that help you grow, that make you excited about life: it will show!

I know these suggestions aren't revolutionary but, I swear, if someone had sat me down when I was 19 or 20 and told me that everything would work out, and if I would just focus on finding myself everything else would fall into place...it would have saved me a lot of angst. Good luck!
posted by Bella Sebastian at 8:58 AM on October 8, 2010 [8 favorites]

Part of my highschool years I was in circles where most people didn't date (all their parents thought you should only date when you're older. My parents didn't think that, thankfully, but it did shrink the amount of potential guys during those years.)

This is it. There's the answer to "what's wrong". I don't know where you are, so this advice may have limited application at the moment. But, here it is: Be proactive about meeting totally new groups of people. That's it. You have no idea how many people think they're having trouble dating, and then once they start meeting people in a wider pool (who they didn't already know), they instantly have much better luck.

I like what else I'm reading in this thread, too. I'll Nth the notion that if you believe you're awesome, it'll show.

Good luck!
posted by Citrus at 10:00 AM on October 8, 2010

It will just happen, without you doing a thing.

I didn't date, like, EVER AT ALL until I was 22. Prior to this I was despairing in "oh my god I'm going to die alone what is wrong with me" and that is energy and time that I could have used doing awesome things.

So, don't waste your time with that bad juju. Go about being you; you say you're awesome, so you are. Someone else will think so, too.
posted by missmary6 at 10:12 AM on October 8, 2010

LOTS of good advice here. Definitely listen to most of it. Here's my 2 cents:

1) Don't do online dating. It's lame. Yes, I've done it and met some great, interesting friends that way. But the people I have been MOST interested in, and have had the most success in dating, are people that I met in real life. People that friends have introduced me to (because they know what I like much better than a website does), people I have met while doing mutually-enjoyed activities (hiking, camping, rafting), people I met while I was in school, etc. I can't stress this enough... you WILL have more success getting out there and meeting people while DOING STUFF, instead of going on internet dates just because you match someone 95% on OK Cupid or whatever.

2) Ask guys out! If you are even moderately interesting and cute -- and this is very subjective, anyway -- I will say that most guys will say yes if you ask them out for lunch or coffee. Guys are CLUELESS most of the time (I'm a guy if that's not obvious). Sometimes we DO need the girl to make the first move. Don't be afraid to be the girl who does. It may just lead to something great! Or you may get rejected, it happens. But you know what? It's not so bad. You just move on to the next guy you are interested in, and trust me, you will forget all about the rejection in no time at all (and actually, you WON'T get rejected as much as you think you might...).

3) Be yourself and be interesting. If you do fun stuff, you will have interesting stories to tell, and this is what makes you (and your first date impression) memorable. Use your summers to travel abroad. Go to Italy, go to Peru, go to New Zealand, whatever. Don't use money as an excuse. If you try, you can make it happen. Check out things like Couchsurfing, hostels, WWOOF, etc. If you can afford the plane ticket, you're 90% of the way there. Join local clubs and activity groups. Whatever you're interested in. Outdoor activities, biking, bowling, knitting, it doesn't matter. Pick something you enjoy and do it often. This is how you meet people you will be compatible with. There are tons of boring, uninteresting people out there who go to work and watch TV and that's all they do. Don't be one of them. Be the person that does something worth telling others about.
posted by buckaroo_benzai at 10:44 AM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding the comment that at 21 the guys are only just starting to get worth your while anyway (some exceptions apply).

Two things helped me get back into dating.

1) Wearing clothes that fit well. Sounds obvious but I was raised to think paying attention to your appearance was superficial and therefore Bad. I had (and still have to) get help with this, because what my family thinks is appropriate clothing is everything 2 sizes too big and shaped like a grocery bag. I am curvy. Wearing clothes that allow people to notice curves did a lot for my dating life. It made me more confident and now that I think about it, I think patnasty's right- it probably signalled that I was interested in attracting.

2) Writing a list of things I wanted in a partner and then trying to be those things. I don't know why this worked but it certainly moved me into the social circles of people I admired. And maybe it was just a psychological step that meant I was REALLY open to dating, whereas previously I was sort of half-assed about it, since it meant getting out of my single-dom comfort zone.

The nice thing about both of these steps is that even though it took a bit to attract someone I'd actually want to date, it led to me feeling better about myself in the meantime, and made life more fun.

As my aunt so wisely says: "It takes an awfully good man to beat no man at all." If you're enjoying being single, you won't be as inclined to couple up with someone who isn't right for you.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:55 AM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

Lots of great suggestions, but I thought of some other things that could apply that you might need to work on (I was a shy bad-listening self-focused encyclopedia when young and it sucked):

- Too shy - if you never say anything then nobody can get to know you
- Too loud - if you never shut up then you cannot get to know other people
- Encyclopaedia syndrome - you have a fact about anything anyone else mentions to share, you might think that is cool, but often it is just really annoying
- Story syndrome - you have a story to share about everything anyone mentions, also can be very annoying
- Self-focused - you never ask anyone about themselves, you only think of how things apply to you
- Bad listener - the moment someone starts talking you shut down and they know it so feel awkward

All of these can be overcome with awareness and a little practice.
posted by meepmeow at 12:19 PM on October 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

There is a ton of good advice here about ways to meet people. Just remember that you don't have to go out with anyone if you don't want to, though. I worried a lot about not having enough dating experience, but couldn't motivate myself to go on more than one date with someone I wasn't really into (and sometimes not even one). If you do take the advice and it doesn't work out right away, don't despair. I think when you find the right person you will know, even if it might take more time than you'd like.
posted by mlle valentine at 1:55 PM on October 8, 2010

There is a lot of great advice already, but one suggestion I have is to is seek out a friend who might be willing to act as your non-skeezy wing-man/woman. You'll want to find someone who is a) friends with a wide circle of people b) knows you're looking to meet someone and c) is really great at pulling the "Oh, did you know chocolatemilkshakes thinks you're really cool? You guys should hang out sometime." card with potential flames.

Of course, at the end of the day it's good to develop those skills *on your own* so you can stand on your own two feet. But as someone who was a relatively late bloomer, for me one of the big things I felt before I had my first kiss/boyfriend was just feeling like that lack of experience held me back in a lot of ways, particularly in terms of confidence. I think letting your friends know you're open to any assistance can really go a long way in giving a booster shot to at least getting some experience and confidence in dating.
posted by mostly vowels at 8:56 PM on October 8, 2010

Don't wait for people you're attracted to to ask you out. Ask them out instead.
posted by RawrGulMuffins at 10:58 PM on October 8, 2010

Do what you love. If you meet people while participating in those activities, you already have something in common (tip o' the hat to qbthing & artlung). Make yourself open to connecting with people-- not just romantically but for friendship.

Cultivate a Mona Lisa smile-- whenevr you think about it, lift the corners of your mouth and bring all the lines of your face UP instead of down.

Act like a host. Help other people. Don't wait for a prince, live every moment in the present.
posted by ohshenandoah at 8:52 PM on October 9, 2010

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