Dating, much like magnets, are difficult to understand.
November 22, 2012 1:40 AM   Subscribe

Never been on a date and approaching my mid-20's, so I should probably figure out what I'm doing wrong, eh?

I'm a 20 someodd fairly tall, fit-ish Chinese dude.

At least in my close group of friends, I'm an obvious outlier. Most are in committed relationships spanning years now, and at the current moment, none are single.

I guess I feel a slight tinge of pressure to start paying more attention to my personal life, but I've never really been able to make heads or tails of how it all works.

I can talk to women just fine, though never in any sort of romantic context, since most of the women my age I talk to on a regular basis are either my friends' girlfriends or girls I'm not romantically interested in. Also, I work from home and as a result I haven't really been meeting new people, so the growth of my social circle is stagnant for the time being.

This led me to put up an OKCupid profile, but most of the girls in my city tend to be into "yoga, the ocean, my friends, and laughing" and while I'm certainly not against any of those things, I'd prefer someone a little more interesting and lively. The couple of girls that I did message did not reply, either.

Plus, from what my friends describe of their first dates, arranged online or otherwise, it just all seems like a big ol' scramble to market yourself as best as possible; whereas I find the idea of "friends first, date second" more appealing, but again, not having any luck on that front.

My family arranged a couple of dates, but they were all much more immersed in Asian culture than I am and speak very little English (my Chinese is at a grade-school level, if that) so I vetoed those before they even happened.

By the way, I don't want to sound bitter, I feel more or less neutral about this whole thing, though reading this post over I feel like a huge dweeb.

Are my expectations just too unrealistic? Am I a lot more socially inept than I thought? How do I even meet people in my situation?
posted by Geektox to Human Relations (38 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Are there trade conferences you can attend for your line of work, or local user groups? That's one way to meet like-minded people and expand your circle.

As far as ok Cupid goes, from what I've read, and others can fill in the details, it's a numbers game, so for every 10 messages you might get one response (not sure the actuals). Based on your effort (a couple), then you haven't really even gotten started online. After three hundred messages and no luck, then yeah maybe you should work on that profile.
posted by roboton666 at 1:55 AM on November 22, 2012

You say you want someone 'more interesting and lively,' so are you doing interesting and lively things? It doesn't sound like it. Be the person you want to date. You have to get out more, especially since you work from home. And do you have to work from home, can you work at the office? And let your coupled-up friends know you're looking, especially their girlfriends.

Join some meetups, take some fun classes (beer making, wine tasting, scuba, boot camp workout). Also, reconsider some of the girls on OKC that are into yoga, the ocean, etc. They're probably more interesting than you think.
posted by shoesietart at 1:56 AM on November 22, 2012 [12 favorites]

You need to get out of the house and do stuff you like to do and that a lot of women like to do. If that's hiking, for example, then go join a hiking club that has a lot of women. At the worst, you'll continue to be dateless but you'll be out of the house, getting exercise, meeting friends, and doing something you like to do.
posted by pracowity at 1:58 AM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ah, Vancouver, yes the majority of OKC girls list yoga and the ocean, but definitely not all of them. Keep browsing and sending as many messages as you can stomach (it gets easier and easier each time) and you'll start hearing back from some interesting women.
posted by mannequito at 2:01 AM on November 22, 2012

I think you just need to give it some elbow grease.
posted by tel3path at 2:03 AM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ahhh, I appreciate the responses so far, but I do want to clarify something. I guess my post does make me seem the part of a basement dwelling hermit, but my friends and I are all actually fairly active people. Hikes, dog walks, and bike rides are the norm, weather permitting, which, out on the Pacific West Coast, it usually doesn't. But out in the suburb where I live there's little else to do so we brave the elements anyhow.

I am self-employed, so no office to go to even if I wanted to.
posted by Geektox at 2:05 AM on November 22, 2012

And check out some yoga classes. Experiment with the different kinds, Bikram, Iyengar, power; you might like it more than you think.
posted by shoesietart at 2:07 AM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I can attest that yoga is more awesome than you probably think.

Also I have been going to dance classes whenever I can for years, and there are no guys in sight ever. I wonder what tipped them off? But I think it'd be good pickings for you.
posted by tel3path at 2:11 AM on November 22, 2012

"The couple of girls that I did message did not reply, either."

Online dating is very much a numbers game. The vast majority of girls you message will not reply. The majority of dates you go on will not lead on to anything. You need to be messaging a lot more. Try messaging about one new girl per day, though cut down if you start getting into too many conversations to keep straight.

The rmless2 protocol isn't bad: "2 back and forths of email, then a phonecall and date".
posted by TheophileEscargot at 2:16 AM on November 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

Taking classes is probably a good call. I did do yoga, kendo, and swing dance while I was off at college, but I haven't really looked into taking anything back home, it might be a tad difficult since I work pretty long hours and live a ways from everything but definitely worth looking into. Beer making sounds totally rad even though I'm a celiac, but my friends love beer and I love mixology. Does that really attract a big female crowd, though?

Before everyone gets totally focuses on the OKCupid thing, I just want to mention that I did look into the... basic strategies (for lack of a better term) beforehand. It wasn't so much that I was discouraged by the lack of replies, but rather how much time it took to read a profile, come up with an opening message, wait for an reply yada yada yada.

I'm not dismissive of online dating at all, because I've seen firsthand that it does work. I do still think that this particular approach isn't for me with my (admittedly unfounded) preference for "friends first", but from what everyone is saying I might not have much choice, haha.
posted by Geektox at 2:29 AM on November 22, 2012

I'm an interesting woman who lives in Vancouver. I once had an OKC profile. I went on a ton of coffee dates, which are great because they're really low pressure and a good way to see if you have any chemistry with someone. If you like the person, you can go out for a 'real' date later. If not, then you've only invested a half hour of your time. I met some people who I liked enough to date, some I liked enough to become pals with, one I dated seriously for a few months and one whom (against all of our mutual intentions to remain single) I now very happily cohabitate with. But I'm happy to have met a lot of interesting people out of the experience. Even the really 'bad' dates gave me a lot of chuckles afterward. Also, I don't know about this 'protocol' but I tried to have face-to-face meetings ASAP. Endless emails and texts don't tell you even one tenth of what the first 90 seconds in someone's company do. And dammit, have fun, it's supposed to be fun.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 2:35 AM on November 22, 2012 [5 favorites]

my friends and I are all actually fairly active people. Hikes, dog walks, and bike rides are the norm...

But these are things you do with your friends, who you've already said are already coupled or you're not interested in. How is that supposed to work? You need new things with new people.

The couple of girls that I did message did not reply, either.

Massive numbers game. I'm sorry: online dating is great but the contact odds are generally stacked in favour of the girl in boy/girl dating. Also, I think you should know that one of the things I learned on MeFi is that the odds in online dating are further stacked against Asian guys. I'm not sure if that is true in every region but it's something to be aware of. I think you're going to have to be prepared to throw a lot more spaghetti against the wall to have one stick.

I find the idea of "friends first, date second" more appealing

That's fine but you can turn this slightly on its head. You need to make meeting new people your goal. When you meet a girl at yoga or whatever, you do the "hey want to grab a cup of coffee?" thing. From that coffee you can sort of suss each other out and see if you want to be just friends or go on a date-date. Remember that making friends is building your social network, and women have friends.

Speaking of which, what about the friends of the women your guy friends are dating?

Finally, I have to tell you that I think single guys living in the suburbs is a disaster. You need to be where people are, and they are not on your lawn.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:38 AM on November 22, 2012 [10 favorites]

"but my friends and I are all actually fairly active people. Hikes, dog walks, and bike rides are the norm..."

It sounds like you're doing these activities with your friends? You need to do these things with strangers. Think about some of the fundraising groups that do marathons and bike rides - AIDS Ride, Leukemia team in training; training is usually weekly, giving you the chance to meet new people and see them every weekend.

Some women go to beer-making classes to meet guys. Also, even if you don't meet anyone it's a fun activity that you can talk about, i.e. makes you interesting. Cooking classes can be good too.
posted by shoesietart at 2:40 AM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just to echo tel3path's comment about dance classes... Before we had kids, when we had lots more time on our hands, my wife and I used to go swing dancing together. There'd be a 30-minute class and then the dance floor would be open with a band for the rest of the evening.

Without exception, every time we did it, the single women there outnumbered the single men. Often there would be NO single men-- just couples and single women.

The way the classes always worked was, everybody switches partners every few minutes, so by the end of the class, you've interacted with every woman there, in a ritualized, low-pressure context. (And you'd switch in a fixed pattern, so you it wasn't like you were scrambling to find a partner-- all the men line up, all the women line up, and then you just move one more partner down the line every few minutes.)

Afterwards, the couples would go off to dance together. If you are a single man, that would be a perfectly natural moment to invite one of the single women to dance. It doesn't matter if you've never danced before this class and you've got two left feet -- you've just met in a beginner's dance class, so it's expected that you're not going to be Fred Astaire. The worst case scenario is that you and she get to practice whatever dance moves the teacher showed you. Best case scenario is you hit it off. (And if you don't hit it off, after a dance or two, you're absolutely allowed to thank her for dancing with you, and then ask somebody else instead.)
posted by yankeefog at 2:47 AM on November 22, 2012 [5 favorites]

Oops, sorry, should have previewed first-- I see you did swing dancing in college. All the more reason to try it again now!
posted by yankeefog at 2:49 AM on November 22, 2012

Massive numbers game. I'm sorry: online dating is great but the contact odds are generally stacked in favour of the girl in boy/girl dating. Also, I think you should know that one of the things I learned on MeFi is that the odds in online dating are further stacked against Asian guys. I'm not sure if that is true in every region but it's something to be aware of. I think you're going to have to be prepared to throw a lot more spaghetti against the wall to have one stick.

...oh boy. Don't make it sound too appealing now, I already have a job! :P (I'll keep that in mind though, thanks!)

That's fine but you can turn this slightly on its head. You need to make meeting new people your goal. When you meet a girl at yoga or whatever, you do the "hey want to grab a cup of coffee?" thing. From that coffee you can sort of suss each other out and see if you want to be just friends or go on a date-date. Remember that making friends is building your social network, and women have friends.

Now I feel like kind of an idiot for not even considering this line of reasoning.

Finally, I have to tell you that I think single guys living in the suburbs is a disaster. You need to be where people are, and they are not on your lawn.

Sigh. Don't I know it. Unfortunately not something I can change at present.

shoesietart: Think about some of the fundraising groups that do marathons and bike rides - AIDS Ride, Leukemia team in training; training is usually weekly, giving you the chance to meet new people and see them every weekend.

Y'know, as a survivor/former patient/whatever, I seriously need to get off my ass and do one of these things. If nothing else, you got me to look into this, not for my personal life, either. I appreciate it.

yankeefrog: My time with swing was short-lived, but how can I pass up an opportunity to be more like Fred Astaire? Probably a bonus I'm into swingy music too.
posted by Geektox at 2:49 AM on November 22, 2012

OK, I live in Vancouver and don't like yoga and am not really 'into' nature/sporty stuff. I'm also twelve years older than you and married, but... I was always more into reading/films/galleries/crafting/comics etc. I'm making a batch of beer right now and am going to a cheesemaking workshop soon. So we are out there. But I sympathise with the pain of being in a city of relentlessly outdoorsy types.

I know there are some cool things going on on - there's a film club, a scrabble club, a group that meets up to try out the new restaurants etc. Meeting girls through your friends already sounds like it's not happening, so this might be a good way to go. You could try broadening the search to the Straight and even Craigslist, which is a bit of a wild card, but perhaps worth a try?

Nthing the idea that for men it seems like you have to send out hundreds of messages on dating sites to get a reply. So just... keep going. 20 is still Ok to be starting out too, so don't worry too much about that. I was my husband's first partner, and he was 23.
posted by everydayanewday at 2:55 AM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


However, this will not be likely to be a high yield for meeting chicks, but seriously you should brew your own sorghum beer. (And send me some.)

Gluten free cooking classes? More women than men have celiac and gluten allergies.

And I agree with "message everyone you might enjoy spending an hour or two with over coffee." Also, have you actually told the women in your friend group (including female spouses/girlfriends of friends) that you're looking to meet women and would be open to being fixed up?

Also MeFi meetups. True love has come from those.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:06 AM on November 22, 2012

What you need is a "wingman." A devastatingly honest male acquaintance who is successful with The Ladies, and who is willing to watch you in action (or lack thereof) and help you get it together. If your friends are all in relationships and are sick of seeing you all mopey, surely one of them will be willing to lend a hand.

I did this with a friend's brother a few years ago, and the problem is often simple. In his case, it was, "You are exclusively pursuing women way out of your league who don't even know you exist. See that woman? She's smiling at you. Yes, I know she doesn't look like Grace Park, but she appears to be able to differentiate you from a sofa or speck of dust."
posted by 1adam12 at 3:11 AM on November 22, 2012 [5 favorites]

or girls I'm not romantically interested in

This, in my experience, is what slows stuff down. You are likely unable to see all those girls who have an interest in you. At least I did. I was feeling lonely and dejected at your age, but if I think back now there were quite a bunch of ladies waiting, and me just being oblivious.
And that was a great thing too. Be happy you are one who trusts his instincts.
posted by Namlit at 3:38 AM on November 22, 2012

Don't beat yourself up with the "socially inept" sort of thing. I completely empathize with your background. Asian-American men have a tougher time than most at the dating scene because of cultural gaps and physical expectations. They are quieter and more introverted than other men, take solitude and work seriously, are not in the dreams of American women (unless you look like a Korean pop star), and are shorter and smaller. I had a woman years ago straight up tell me she preferred taller, white men, despite seemingly having great chemistry. I was floored.

I hope that doesn't come off as an excuse to victimize or self-pity yourself, it's just a rationalization of your situation... an attempt at thwarting self-doubt of your social skills. You sound like a pleasant and intelligent person to me. I will echo what Namlit is saying. There were many ladies who were interested in me and I would be oblivious until friends would tell me months and years down the line.
posted by WCF at 3:41 AM on November 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Get out of the burbs and move downtown. A place where you can open your door and there are new people walking by. New shops. New experiences. New acquaintances. New friends. New love!
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:25 AM on November 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

I have to assume WCF is describing the stereotype that makes online dating harder for Asian men and not the reality of individuality. There were some stats generated by OK Cupid that backed this up.

Geektox, there is sort of a Hunger Games thing at play here. Basically, you were born in a crappy district for online dating (and maybe dating in general) and there is not a lot you can do about that. But there's a big difference between feeling "a slight twinge of pressure" and the earnest desire to find a partner. When that is a genuine priority, you do whatever it takes to stack the odds in your favour, including making time, getting a grip on work demands and moving if necessary.

If online is a bust, try speed dating, join a dating agency, network your friends to setup blind dates, whatever. Try to think of it like looking for a job and work all your contacts and networking opportunities.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:43 AM on November 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Hey there. The thing that pinged my radar was that you vetoed your parents' dating initiatives. Given that you are now having zero dates, what is the harm really? Could you let them know that you'd prefer a woman somewhat Westernized, who speaks at least some English, and have them take that into consideration?

I guess it just seems for someone not getting any dates at all you are being a little picky. You never know when or how love can hit.

I have been playing around on OKcupid just for fun (because of the MeFi thread a few months back). Mostly to just take quizzes, be able to look at other Mefites, that sort of thing. The point is, as I fill out questionnaires and answer questions I realize that many of my abstract / theoretical preferences in a mate are completely the opposite of the really excellent wife that I have and love more than anything. If I had been looking online and came across her, I never would have even considered her. But here we are, and it is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

So, to reiterate: give your parents another chance maybe?
posted by Meatbomb at 5:11 AM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ask your lady friends to help you find a girl. Ask out lots of girls. Go on at least 2 dates with one girl before you rule her out. Ask out girls that you don't thonk you have much in common with; most people don't bare their soul on an OkCupid profile. So they like yoga and the ocean. So what? Surely they like other stuff too. It's a dating profile- it's gonna be a bit vague, general and "safe". Join clubs or classes and ask out a girl you like before you make close friends with her. Friends first is great but also runs the risk of being friends forever. Go out with people who don't meet your requirements; you might be surprised.
posted by windykites at 5:38 AM on November 22, 2012 [11 favorites]

The thing to look out for with online dating sites is that you'll run into a lot of false postives (female personas are often employed whether real or not to solicit males into joining and paying more of the monthly fee). Be especially wary of any females that ask you to contact them on other dating sites. But that being said, there are still some real opportunities just may take a very long time and a lot of "potentials" to get there, so don't get discouraged, it happens to all of us...and took me over 2 years fiddling with online dating sites, going on a few "meh" dates..etc. eHarmony might provide better results, although the way it focuses on "lifetime mates" can be fairly awkward, especially if you're more into a friends first approach.

That being said, your best bet in my opinion is meeting dates through friends. There are a lot of women out there that love playing the role of "matchmaker" and you should try asking some of your closer female friends (not too directly...but in casual conversation, you don't want to appear desparate..but rather natural). This is how I met my wife-to-be.
posted by samsara at 6:36 AM on November 22, 2012

Are you someone that actually wants to date and/or be in a relationship? You say you're feeling pressured, but that sounds like external expectations and wanting to conform, but what about internal drives?

For the rest of my comments I'm going to assume that yes, you do very much want to date and be in a relationship.

From what you say, two things stand out...

since most of the women my age I talk to on a regular basis are either my friends' girlfriends or girls I'm not romantically interested in

Does this mean that there are girls you're attracted to but you don't talk to them? If that is the case then the next step is obvious. But you might want to think or ask here about what is holding you back from doing that.

I haven't really been meeting new people

That is easily fixed. (Well as easily as any well worn habit is changed.)

Think up things you like doing and where you're likely to meet people of both sexes, and go try some of those things out.

Do things not just with friends but larger groups that include friends-of-friends, or organized activities with people you don't already know.

It sounds like you have a good many female friends, including partners of your male friends that you see a fair bit. They could well be a good resource for you, not only introducing you to people they know, but also with suggestions of things you could do, feedback on whether you're going about this in an effective way etc.

Lastly, if you were raised in a traditional Asian way, it is not that unusual that you've partially missed the processes that people raised in a Western way go through as they figure this stuff out, or that you've got to mid-20s without having a relationship. Don't fret too much about that, give yourself time, and it'll be ok.
posted by philipy at 6:54 AM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Streamline your okcupid process. You don't have to read every profile thoroughly. Cute? No red flags? Something in common? Great, send an email. You can go back and re-read the profile more thoroughly *after* you get a response. Don't spend a lot of time on this, just write to everyone in your quiver - 3 people - every day and be done with it. Short and sweet.

Mention something from their profile. I won't respond to a guy if I don't think he read my profile.

Don't wait for the reply. I send tons of emails on okc. I don't bother to remember who I sent emails to, though. If they write me back, it's a nice surprise. If they don't, no skin off my nose.

Also, it's ok to say in your profile something like "I want to be friends first, and if if turns into something more that's great."

This in combination with the suggestions above for meetup, classes and volunteering are likely to put you in touch with a lot of new people.
posted by bunderful at 7:04 AM on November 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

One more thing: I'm a mixed race guy with Indian ancestry, and I really wouldn't get hung up on thinking "the odds are stacked against Asian guys". There's always something that might count as a negative: being short, being bald, being poor, being poorly-educated, having a dull job, not having interesting hobbies, whatever. But even people with many of these things still manage to succeed.

Also, girls have the same kind of worries. Don't believe for a second that the girls aren't thinking things like: "The odds are against me because I'm too short, too tall, my hair's too lank, I don't know what cool drinks to order, my breasts aren't big enough, I'm not funny, my career's not successful enough, men are intimidated by women with successful careers, I have fat ankles, my bum's too big..."

If you're not exclusively trying to date models with Ph.D.s, quit worrying about the odds being stacked against you. Keep rolling the dice and the odds will come out in your favour eventually.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 7:41 AM on November 22, 2012 [10 favorites]

I'm going to echo what philipy asked.

Do you actually want to be in a relationship?

Your post read much more to me about your feeling pressured or like an outlier, instead of your actually having a desire to be in a relationship. You actually even say you feel neutral to the whole thing.

If thats the case, and if you're happy as you are, I wouldn't worry too much about it. Sure, you can look in to broadening your social network so that you have at least some single friends and so that you are out meeting new people, but it doesn't need to be about finding a partner. If you think you will want to be in a relationship sooner than later, then just go out trying to make more friends. Find more activities to be involved in. Keep busy and social and usually the rest sort of takes care of itself (or at least that has been my experience).

as for the odds stacked against you, TheophileEscargot is wise. EVERYONE has something about them that stacks the odds against them. If you're thinking that way to begin with, then I'll bet you're also limiting who you're contacting because you're "sure" you aren't their type. My biggest piece of dating advice is to never decide for people whether or not you're their type! If you're interested or find them attractive, great! Chat them up! Don't assume that you are somehow out of anyone league. The first big secret of life is that there are no leagues. The second big secret of life is that if you stop limiting yourself by a "type" you'll have the doors thrown open to way awesome people and you will quite possibly be very surprised how unimportant some of those traits in your prefered "type" are.

So if you sincerely are interested in being in a relationship and dating, just be open to experiences and dating anyone.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 8:16 AM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

When I was single and looking, I tried going to events geared to singles. I met my husband through single volunteers, but I also tried a dinner where you rotate through tables of singles. There are two really nice things about singles events (1) you can really quickly eliminate the girls you aren't interested in (I think this might take longer online(2) you know for sure every girl you meet is single and looking.
posted by bananafish at 8:20 AM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone, I appreciate all the responses. Lots of conflicting answers, lots of overlapping answers, and lots to think about.

If I had to summarize, I should:

1. Make sure I actually want to date first and not doing it out of pressure (I don't think I am, but I do feel a bit ambivalent in that I think it's both something I want and something I don't have the time for)

2. Machine-gun OKCupid messages.

3. Join a club/class/group that does something new and something interesting.

4. Ask female friends for help (I tried, but maybe they didn't take me seriously, or they're totally not into playing matchmaker, such is life)

5. Don't live in 'burbs. (Not really possible what with Vancouver rent and housing prices)

Thanks guys, marking this as resolved as I've gotten much useful advice.
posted by Geektox at 10:31 AM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Arriving late to a finished party - but it's worth saying that it's not just messaging OK Cupid types but also actually meeting lots of people. Would suggest going for coffees after work, rather than letting messaging go on for weeks - just ask if they fancy meeting for a coffee after you've exchanged a few messages. That way you get to meet them, and it's easy to decide if you want to go on a "date" - really takes the pressure off.

NB. I did this when internet dating, lots of coffee meet ups lasted as long as the drink, when I met my husband for the first time, we stayed till the bar (after the coffee shop, the pub, the restaurant and then another bar) chucked us out. Go figure.
posted by Augenblick at 12:05 PM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm with several above, it sounds like you have some mild family/friend pressure to start a relationship, but if you're not feeling an obvious absence, why bother? You've got what sounds like a great circle of friends and you appear to be happy right now.

Different people want different things at different times in your life. It is totally ok not to have dated once now, don't date until you feel a desire to!
posted by arnicae at 1:06 PM on November 22, 2012

You're a single, self-employed guy who lives in the suburbs. I'm a single, self-employed girl who lives in the suburbs. So, I'm at least familiar with the situation. Most of the people I know are married with kids and meeting single people (for friendship and dating) with whom I have much of anything in common is difficult.

What makes it easier? Business networking! I'm not a fan of Chamber of Commerce events, but I go to almost every other business networking event out there, especially the ones designed for solopreneurs and small business people. There's something called Social Media Club (national, with local chapters that don't have any membership dues or much of any formality) and lots of other dribs-and-drabs, no-cost-to-attend (except, it's nice to order from the cafe or restaurant in which events are held). Check out the Facebook and LinkedIn groups associated with business in your suburb and nearby areas. Google "small business" and "netoworking" and "Vancouver" and "Twitter" and you'll find all sorts of people and groups to follow.

The more humans you meet, the more acquaintances you'll make. (People will strike up conversation with you and give you business cards because everyone's a bit awkward and doing that makes them feel less awkward, which will make you feel less awkward.) The more acquaintance, the more friends. The more friends, the more people who will know people who may know OTHER people who will invite you to a barbecue where someone will make a stray comment that makes you realize you and she have some very quirky, fun attributes and interests in common. And then in 2042, you'll be giving relationship advice to AskMe peeps who want to know how to make lasting relationships.

And while all of this is going on, since you'll be around people who are mostly trying to not feel desperately alone while running their own small businesses, you might hear speakers (or have conversations) that make your business life better, too. I just Googled and found half a dozen fairly useful opportunities. And don't worry about being bored. You'll have your computer or phone with you, and if you're super bored, the person next to you may be, too, and you can pass notes. ;-)

So, go to business events (especially the ultra-casual ones) with an open mind. You'll learn some interesting things, make some contacts (some of whom you'll see over and over at upcoming events, making you feel more connected) and meet people worth knowing. Date if you feel good about it. Don't, if you don't want to, but I guarantee it'll feel FAR less artificial than something like OKCupid.

(Disclaimer: I'm not a twentysomething.)
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 2:23 PM on November 22, 2012 [5 favorites]

I'm an Asian 20-something girl that used to live in Vancouver. Never dated in the city though so I can't comment on the dating scene, but it being a big city probably makes it tougher. No one wants to drive/bus hours to meet up for a date. There are a lot of good advice here that I myself have been applying as well now that I've moved to a new city.

It maybe helpful to imagine you're alone in a new city. You don't know anyone and you work at home. How do you make new friends? Meetups are ok, but I find you usually only see people once, especially with large social groups. it's better if you do something that requires more commitment like classes, sport/outdoor clubs or volunteering. That way you see the same people for several weeks at least, and you don't have to share your life story over and over again.

I would caution signing up for classes just to meet girls. I'm in a swim club myself, and while I don't mind talking a bit in between sets, I do want to focus on my workout and listen to what the coach is saying. So stick to activities where you don't have to hold your breath (or be out of breath) most of the time :)

Make sure it's something you actually want to learn though, and not because of all the girls you would be meeting. I used to be in the Army reserve. There were always girls that obviously signed up just to meet guys but quickly lost everyone's respect. I actually met my first bf in the army, and I wasn't even looking for one, so the idea of doing "gender-oriented" activities definitely works.

I'm also on OKC. Memail if you would like to share profile.
posted by lucia_engel at 8:35 PM on November 22, 2012

It sounds like you're describing me 12 years ago when you describe yourself. What worked for me was to just go on a lot of dates. At first I was a nervous wreck, but eventually I started to feel more comfortable. This gave me the tools to work with when the right girl came along.

Getting a date isn't as hard as you might think. Finding a social group that you fit into well that also has single ladies is key. For me, it was a running club. I gather that Unitarian churches also fit the bill. Once you're in a place where you can meet a single woman, you just have to commit to actually asking her out. This was the hardest step at first, but turns out not to be so awful after you do it a few times.

Friend->girlfriend conversions are tricky and never worked for me. In truth, most of my relationships came from girls who liked me before I liked them. Be open minded. It is a numbers game and it could take years to find a really good relationship, but just keep at it.

Good luck!
posted by jewzilla at 10:30 PM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm going to go against the tide a bit as a fellow twenty something Chinese Canadian and recommend not using OKC.

Both OKC and POF sucked for me. It could be that my interests and personality didn't fit the OKC crowd. Or it could be that, something in my cultural upbringing that made me feel uncomfortable with the online dating format. Or the women I am into don't do OKC. Whatever it was, OKC (and the other free/affordable dating sites I tried) wasn't a good fit for me and it took me a while to realize it, and in the process, it chipped off a lot of my self confidence. It was hard to get replies and when I did go on dates, the person in front of me tend to be quite different from her profile. At the end, I wasn't even enjoying the dates so I just stopped and took a break from dating altogether.

I've had much better success (and a better social life) just joining clubs, attending events and being a regular at meetup groups for things I've would joined anyhow, single or not. OKC was a negative feedback loop for me and it was very hard to not get discouraged. On the other hand, doing things I enjoyed and meeting new people at the same time, was a positive feedback loop.

That was key for me: it rebuilt my confidence, expanded my social network and allowed me to be comfortable with who I am. I would still got rejections when I approached women I was interested in but it didn't have the feeling of suck that online dating did. (And while I never got approached online where I was openly asking for dates, I got approached and/or received obvious hints from women when I was just enjoying myself in real life.)

Some comments on your particular circumstances:

1. If you live in the suburbs, you will have to actively counter that disadvantage. If you can't afford to move into the city, then start doing more things in the city and more social events around your suburb.

2. Unless you have repeated past experiences where you involuntarily and absolutely hate women who don't speak English as well as you do, there's no reason to not go on those arranged dates.

3. Not all outings, dates, events, etc. have to result in romantic relationships. Especially when you mention that your social group has been stagnant, treat it as a way of making new friends.

4. If you've never been on a date, are you sure the friend to girlfriend approach is what you want? It's a lot simpler when you approach a woman and tell her I want to date you and she says yes, me too.

5. Are you comfortable with yourself? Do you love current self? No hangups about living at home, being self-employed or still single? That might be something you need to address first for a much more pleasant dating experience (for you and your potential lover).

6. Yeah, figure out if you really do want to date.
posted by table at 3:08 PM on November 23, 2012 [6 favorites]

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