Too late to figure out sex at 45?
November 15, 2010 3:16 PM   Subscribe

Is it possible to learn the things you should have learned when you were an adolescent when that time is long in the past?

Somehow I’ve let myself get to 45 years of age without understanding even the basics of how to interact with women. I have no idea how to tell if a woman is interested in me, or show that I am interested in her. Anything I do that expresses even the slightest desire for sex is a complete failure—I can’t flirt, I can’t make a move, I can’t even make a joke without coming off like an idiot. I find it really hard to believe that any woman could ever want me, and who could blame them? Why waste your time on someone with no confidence, someone who is basically too scared to try anything because he knows it is just going to go bad.

I think this goes back to things I did as a teenager, stupid things that I thought would result in sex but actually had no chance of ever doing that. What they did was get me into a lot of trouble, and as a reaction to that I completely withdrew from trying to get sex at all. It was a lot easier to tell myself no one could ever want me than to face my fears and risk screwing up again. The few relationships I have had have been pretty short, and have happened because someone else talked the woman into giving me a chance. I’ve never been able to get anything but friendship by my own efforts.

I’m really not looking to become some kind of player; I just want to feel that a woman could want me and not be completely uncomfortable trying to pursue that. I think that if I could go through a period of casual dating like most people do when they are young I might be able to figure some of this out, but it doesn’t seem to be an option at my age. People either just hook up (which I would have to already know all this stuff in order to do) or they are totally focused on marriage and children as soon as possible (which is just way too much for me to deal with given how messed up my head is.)

So—do you think it would be possible for me to work this out at this point in my life, or is it too late? If you think it is possible, can you suggest anything that might help make it easier?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
It's never too late. People will suggest tonnes of different things, but I think the best bang for your buck at your age would be to start reading some books that are popular with women and perhaps join some book clubs. You could start talking to women on a regular basis this way (at regular book club meetings) and the conversation wouldn't have to be about yourselves (ie, you'd already have a topic to talk about).

As for picking up signals and giving off signals, it isn't rocket science. Generally if you're patient then it takes the pressure way off things. Maybe too often you've tried to lock something into relationship/physical intimacy mode which has made women give you an immediate "friend zone" block? I'm just guessing there. But seriously, just enjoy chatting with women and as a general rule of thumb, let them touch you first (on the arm, etc. while you guys are talking).
posted by fantasticninety at 3:29 PM on November 15, 2010

Yep, you're all done. Just give up. After all, don't babies just give up after a certain amount of time of being unsuccessful trying to walk? That's right, at some point they just give up and... wait hold on this isn't sounding right.

Of course it's not too late! You have the circular problem of not being self confident because you're not able to get women because you're not self confident. I know it seems impossible, but you have to accept yourself as 100% worthy and good first. That shines out of you if you truly believe it, and that's attractive. Fake it at first if you have to, but you need to get to a point where you let go of the past, break the negative monologue that loops in your head over and over, accept yourself, and think "Somebody is going to be lucky to find this hidden treasure. I'm not just OK, I'm great. I like me and so will other people." Keep saying it because you're the only person who decides whether that's true. It sounds like something your mom would say but you've figured out by now that she knew what she was talking about.

Be confident, be genuine, and try to find people like yourself. There are plenty of women who never found anyone either or who are divorced and don't want to be alone either. They may be scared to talk to you or feel too tired or defeated, so go do it for them. Don't be afraid to mess this up, because the fear will keep your back against the bleachers. Start talking to women on a regular basis and go into it knowing that it will be the first of many, and that 19 screw-ups preceding 1 success is really the same result as 1 success. Don't invest yourself too much in any given foray, as though the result will be the final statement about you, just go be nice and chat.

As you sit there, not firing on all cylinders, feeling it screw up and get awkward, don't let that anxiety boil up from your chest to your brain. Just ride it out for whatever the outcome is. If she begs off, it's OK, you knew that was a possibility going in and it doesn't determine your worth or affect it. You'll survive it and then there will be a next time and a next time. That anxiety is the part we fear most because it makes you want to sprint out of the building and hide forever, but just keep doing it and keep a light heart about it. Your skin will get thicker, your heart will get lighter, and your confidence in yourself will grow. Then one time, it will work a little. Maybe enough and maybe not. But then you try more and it works more and one day, blammo. Good luck!
posted by kookoobirdz at 3:46 PM on November 15, 2010 [5 favorites]

It's not too late, but you might have to make some changes.

You need to build up your confidence. There are a lot of ways to do this. One way is to just keep trying, relentlessly. (I don't mean hounding one woman over and over again, which is creepy and illegal, I mean if one woman rejects you, make yourself get out there the next Friday night and try to get to know someone else.) Doing this will (a) raise your chances of getting laid, (b) give you more experience with interacting with women, and (c) teach you that rejection isn't going to kill you. An online dating service is good for this.

But this can be brutal, especially without support. If you have the discretionary funds, I would seek out a therapist.

Alternatively, you could go on Craigslist's Casual Encounters or use an online dating service to find NSA sex. Seriously, it might take the pressure off of your dating life.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:01 PM on November 15, 2010

Are you really JUST looking for sex? Because that's what is coming across in your post. I would go the Craigslist Casual Encounters section if so.

But if you actually want to date and maybe possibly have a relationship with someone (not immediately, but you know-- eventually), seeking people out with just sex on your mind is possibly part of the problem. There's lots of women who don't want a hookup or an immediate serious relationship. they want to get to know someone and slowly work their way to sex. They might not even know if they want you *in that way* until they get to know you a bit better. If that's what you want, then you might have to start thinking in terms of "does this person like me? do we have things in common? where can I invite her next where we will both have fun?" rather than "can I get in her pants? Does she want to get into my pants?" People can smell that fixation a mile away.
posted by joan_holloway at 4:13 PM on November 15, 2010 [4 favorites]

The first section of your post seems to suggest that your problem stems not from a rational explanation of why women do/don't "want" you but from a clear lack of self-esteem and confidence (and some cognitive distortions).

You can do a few things to work on this-
- read some self-help books (Feeling Good/Intimate connections?)
-get some counseling
-do some reading on distortions online and try to analyse rationally what the problem is, given your experience with women.

It really isn't clear to me what it is that you are looking for. From teens to 45 is a long time. I mean, do really want at 45 what most teenagers want in their teens?

The other thing that is missing from your post is how you are meeting and approaching these women. How old are these women? Are you talking to them as a 45 year old or a teenager who looks like a 45 year old?
posted by xm at 4:24 PM on November 15, 2010

It is not too late to learn any kind of interpersonal skill. Women in your age range are also out there looking for casual dating and sex and what-not--you just need to learn how to flirt and how to negotiate sex. Go into a bookstore and find some book about how to flirt; I'm not even going to recommend a particular book, because they all say pretty much the same thing. Good luck.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:38 PM on November 15, 2010

Confidence in one area pretty much looks like confidence in any area. So, think about something you are good at. I mean, you are the best... at the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game. Or, you rock at Jeopardy. Or, you can name every Kentucky Derby winner. Whatever it is, dwell on it. Think about how you would feel in some fantastic contest where your top skill was on display. That feeling you get when you think about winning as a breeze? That's confidence. Hold that thought as you interact. Don't necessarily talk about your Kevin Bacon savant ability (unless she's into that, in which case, put a ring on it!), but hold that posture, that inner feeling of inevitability. She will never know that you are not "confident", because you are.

Set simple goals for an evening out. Don't aim for a relationship, a hook-up or even a phone number. Aim to talk to two women about something that interests them. When they are ready to leave, let them go graciously. Check that one off and move on. Set more goals like those, incrementally raising the skill level every time. And, keep a journal. When you get home, write down what you accomplished. Confidence is cumulative. It's about proving to yourself that you are capable.

A caution about false/faked confidence, aka cockiness. *Some* (far too many) will fall for some faked bravado, some "bad boy" front. You don't want them. So, don't dangle that bait.

Role models: George Clooney; Cary Grant; Denzel Washington; Barack Obama.

Anti-role models: most rappers; anyone who abuses women, denigrates other people, or gets their sense of worth from what they own.
posted by skypieces at 4:52 PM on November 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice.

Resign yourself to failing frequently, but get out there and try. A lot. You can read all the books you want and talk about it all you want, but there's no substitute for actually exposing yourself to the world, risking failure, risking looking like an idiot. Sooner or later you'll start to figure out how to relate to women more successfully, and feel more comfortable doing it.

People like you (and to a slightly lesser extent, me) are who Internet dating is designed for. You've got a large, pre-selected population that at least theoretically is interested in going on a date. Make good use of it.
posted by adamrice at 5:23 PM on November 15, 2010

I have no idea how to tell if a woman is interested in me
If you ever figure this out, please let us know.

OK, joking aside, forget about sex for the moment, and forget about whether someone would 'want' you in that way. The first step is to make friends. Once you've managed to do that, you can think about the next step.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 5:59 PM on November 15, 2010

I don't ballroom dance myself, but a friend of mine has taught ballroom. She has a story about a man your age who decided the step he should take to meet women was to learn to ballroom dance. He had been single all his life and had adored various women from afar but never got anywhere with them. But he learned to dance, and he got into that world (there's a whole culture of ballroom dancing) and he did meet someone and marry them. So you might try that.
posted by zadcat at 6:49 PM on November 15, 2010

How are you with friendships with men? And friendships with women?

If you feel remote from other people in friendships as well, and feel you can't understand their cues and signals, then you will have to build up these skills first. Walking before running, etc.
posted by Omnomnom at 2:54 AM on November 16, 2010

A friend of mine had a pretty hopeless dating life until his early forties, when he met and married a lovely woman. They are among the happiest couples I've ever encountered. So, yes, it is worth trying.

He was always a great guy and had a number of good women friends (who he did have an unfortunate habit of falling for). Is that you? Or do you need to work on general people skills?
posted by Busy Old Fool at 4:21 AM on November 16, 2010

If you haven't already done this, focus on building up friendships (not, friendships angling for something else, but just friendships) with women. And some therapy for your own self-confidence (not exclusively sexual self-confidence, but in general).

The couple men I've known in your dating position (with the cavaeat that I don't know you at all, so this may not apply) were doing one or both of the following:

1) Regarding potential partners as sex and self-esteem dispensers, instead of individuals with their own separate goals, hopes, interests, desires (no one wants to be the, "I need a girlfriend" girlfriend, but the, "I specifically admire and want to spend time with [actual name here]" girlfriend.

2) Targeting the wrong demographic. It doesn't matter if you "feel" (and/or think you look) much younger; your best bet at not appearing sketchy is to start with women your own age. Likewise, like attracts like: if you are significantly overweight, are you ignoring overweight women as attractive partners? Or automatically ruling out women who are also not very experienced?
posted by availablelight at 6:32 AM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

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