Men are just intimidated by you? Come on really?
February 2, 2013 2:25 PM   Subscribe

Give me your tough love criticism of why I'm single!

A good friend (who is married) asked me recently why I was single and I didn't have any answer because I don't want to be, but I have been for a long time. He told me there was no reason I didn't have a boyfriend and I could if I wanted to easily, which got me really trying to figure out what my issue is. So here are the base stats:

30 year old single female
In pretty good shape, could stand to lose the last 5-10 lbs that I've never been able to really conquer, but I work out and am about a size 8-10.
Very into clothes and fashion
Professional living in a big city with lots of other young professionals
Former introvert who is now the occasional extrovert
Very dark and/or dry sense of humor - also very extreme humor (my favorite show is Archer)
Pretty opinionated. In my youth I used to be pretty "intense" or argumentative, but I've made a real effort to know when to let things drop and not to wade into uncomfortable/divisive conversations. I'm usually the one now lightening things up when they get too heated.
Atheist and feminist - not militant, but I don't hide it either
Loves travel and have lived abroad
Used to struggle with depression, but have been very happy and generally content for the past year or two.
I want kids, but am not at all desperate to have them right now (which seems to be true for most of my single female friends). I think I would be ok if I didn't have kids, but I do really want them.
I do very much want to get married one day and really have a life partner.

Reasons I've been told by friends I have trouble meeting the right guy:

I don't fit into any box or "type" and so guys don't know what to make out of me. I look like one type of girl (I'm from California and very much look like a typical "California girl", but live on the east coast), but am pretty quirky, intellectual, don't fit into that stereotype otherwise.

I intimidate guys. I.e. I have a (kinda sorta) impressive job (take that with a grain of salt so does everyone else in this town). I own a nice apartment and make decent money (but again I'm dead average in this department for the city I live in). - I also think the whole "guys find you intimidating" is code for something I can't quite put my finger on.

I'm too picky. This is certainly true to some extent. I want someone that has their life together and is well educated. I want someone I'm attracted to, but I'm decently open minded when it comes to looks. I want someone in decent shape, but they hardly need to be perfect. Age wise, probably not older than 37. I want someone that has the same values as me and this includes political views (they don't need to be identical, but I'm not dating someone is against gay marriage for example). They don't need to make a lot of money, but I expect that by our age they have a career or our well on their way to one. I also really need someone that has my sense of humor and can sort of engage in that type of banter. Also, I'll only date someone I think is a genuinely good person.

So what am I doing wrong? Yes I'm do online dating. It's ok, not great. I try to be proactive and message guys I'm interested in, but I don't get a very good response rate (maybe 1 in 5 or 10 replies and things generally trickle off after 1 or 2 messages or in other words right when it's make or break time to actually go meet up so I go on very few actual dates). Lots of guys message me, but they are generally wildly inappropriate in all the cliche online dating ways (no I don't want to be your third wife on the compound or date someone older than my father, but thanks for the offer!).

I make an effort to branch out and meet new people by signing up for teams/activities and socialize a lot. I have lots and lots of friends, but rarely meet anyone that interests me. I suck at meeting total strangers at bars and just don't think that'll ever be my forte. I feel like I'm in a great place in my life. My life isn't perfect, but I'm doing pretty well in my career and have tons of great friends. But for whatever reason I am almost the last single person I know. I'm now down to about 3 or 4 single friends and am surrounded by couples everywhere. I make an effort to get out with more single people, but we are becoming an endangered species.

So yeah lay it on me. I can take it.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (55 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
You're not doing anything wrong. It just hasn't happened yet. Nothing about you sounds remotely undateable to me, so unless there is something you're not telling us it's probably just bad luck.
posted by chaiminda at 2:30 PM on February 2, 2013 [7 favorites]

Yeah, want to second the above, you're not doing anything wrong. It actually sounds like you've got the right approach, be comfortable in your own skin and happy in your own life before you be happy with someone else in it.

Keep on keeping on, keep doing what you're doing and you'll line up with someone special. I guess the only thing I would say is get out of your social routine every now and then and see where it lands you?
posted by iamabot at 2:32 PM on February 2, 2013

Everything you describe sounds totally normal!

Where do you live? Do you have a lot of opportunities to meet new people? Do you participate in activities that other single folks are involved in?

Seriously, I don't know what to say other than, "Keep doing your thing, talk to people who seem interesting and be sure to follow up with them, show up to parties and events you're invited to and make a point of talking to new people at them when you can, take care of yourself and try not to worry about it too much."
posted by Narrative Priorities at 2:35 PM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Agreeing with above, hate to break it to you, but it sounds like you're just having bad luck. You sound like a great person!

One possible thing you could try is just try paying more attention to individual guys that you meet in person, observe them and ask yourself without analyzing it too much, based on gut feeling, if they're someone you could click with. Then let things flow from there.

That you've already worked out what you want in a guy is also very important. But don't beat yourself up too much if it's not happening.

I've only ever felt that way about one person in my life and I'm married to him.
posted by waterandrock at 2:39 PM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think the school of thought that says if you're single you're necessarily doing something wrong is pernicious and offensive and damaging. It's also comforting: it would be nice if every time something in life didn't go as we want it to, we could just work harder and bootstrap ourselves into the situation we want, but the reality is, it doesn't always work that way. Which is scary, like freak no-fault accidents. People want to believe everything makes sense, but it doesn't. Of course, sometimes people are single (or unemployed, or whatever) because they're doing it wrong. But often, it's just because of luck. Or if you don't like the idea of "luck," happenstance. Randomness.

Think about it. Everyone you know who is part of a couple, did they all do something to get there? Probably a lot of them just happened to meet someone. Are they all perfect, good, completely together people? Probably at least a few of them are flawed or even sort of messed up in various ways. But they still met someone. Think of everyone you know who is single. Are they all doing something you can point to and say "Whoa, stop doing that, it's clearly going to make you single for life!" Probably not.

Think of this, too. If being in a couple means you're doing something right, and being single means you're doing something wrong, then how do any couples (who are single when they meet) get together? If being single is by definition doing something wrong, then how does any single person ever get asked out/approached/picked up/proposed to? Wouldn't the asker be so turned off by whatever the askee was doing "wrong" that they wouldn't even ask?

Sorry if that's not the answer you want. I've just seen this a lot with myself and with friends and yeah, you can always change the way you act/look/behave and see if it works better for you, but you sound fine. If anyone, your friend is the one who's doing it wrong, by even phrasing the question this way.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 2:42 PM on February 2, 2013 [55 favorites]

Sometimes it just happens that way. A lot of my friends who married young sort of settled for the guy they were dating, and it sounds like you could do that, but you're pickier. Nothing wrong with that, although if you want kids, you need to start thinking about if you're going to need a partner or could handle it on your own.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:42 PM on February 2, 2013

I would encourage you to stop thinking of being single as some sort of malady you have to ward off by a certain age. "Down to my last 3 or 4 single friends" and that kind of talk. You're not a failure or inherently worth less because you are not in a relationship. Surely some of the couples you idolize now will sooner or later join you in the lonely ranks of singledom, where they will find that basing their happiness on another person is a precarious way to live life.
posted by thank you silence at 2:42 PM on February 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

If by "this town," you mean Washington, D.C., I've heard that it's one of those towns where enough people are transient and/or focused 110% on their career that it can be difficult to meet people. In general, one pitfall of semi-impressive jobs is that because they involve plenty of work related networking, people can get their social needs met in contexts where it would be tricky or inappropriate to date those they are meeting. But it sounds like you're doing a lot of socializing outside of work contexts, including internet dating, so it may really just be a numbers game thing.
posted by salvia at 2:42 PM on February 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

Not that it sounds like you're doing anything wrong, but there's very little way the internet can really answer this question for you. There are many things that could be happening that we wouldn't know about - anything from bad breath to inadvertently emasculating men you meet with teasing, to appearing cold and uninterested, to having a bad habit of talking over people, none of which would come through here. I agree it's likely just bad luck, but I'm just pointing out that in the event that it isn't, there's no way we could give you anything meaningful here. Are there friends you trust to be tactlessly honest?
posted by namesarehard at 2:45 PM on February 2, 2013 [12 favorites]

From what you've described, it really does sound like you just are having trouble meeting the right guy rather than there being something genuinely off putting about you. In my experience, men really like it when a woman has her shit together, as it sounds like you do.

FWIW, I met my husband online way back in the Dark Ages of Online Dating (ca. 2000). I know for a fact that we would not have met otherwise - I was in law school and he was an engineer but because of the magic of, here we are about to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary.

The only tip I would provide is to make sure that you are genuinely happy as you are and not giving off the vibe that you need to have a mate to make you complete. Once I got into the groove of I can live with a man or without one, I was in a much better place dating wise.

ps - I too agree that the "intimidating" factor is BS, especially in a large metropolitan city.
posted by Leezie at 2:50 PM on February 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'm a quasi-single 31 year old guy, and here's why I am not seriously dating anyone, and not looking to: I prefer to be alone. There's nothing really wrong with the women I know, it's just that I would rather be alone than with them in a serious and contracted manner.

I have in the past, seriously dated women, and found that, although I cared for them, and enjoyed most of my time with them, being in a serious relationship and spending all my down-time with them was too much for me.

Why that matters to you: There's a significant portion of the male population who is like me. Add that portion to the portion that is already married, seriously attached, and looking to date younger women, and there's a market imbalance favoring the 31 year old guys, over the 30 year old women.

In total, it might not be just you, it might be the market you're in.
posted by 517 at 2:50 PM on February 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

sounds like you're doing fine, you have a pretty positive attitude and a good healthy list of what you're looking for in a partner. it's just a question of timing and luck, and stuff like online dating is just a numbers game. be patient, and don't get discouraged. you don't sound like there's anything wrong with you. i think you sound like a catch because you have your shit together and you have something to offer.

when you're out meeting new people, don't be quick to talk yourself out of a spark you feel because of the person's age or some other quality that's not specifically what you imagined yourself with. if that's something you tend to do? i think a strong connection and trust can be worth a lot more than a partner who looks like a good match on paper.

also, since you said you want to be married with kids one day, i suggest that you consider dating men who are older than 37, too. definitely physical attraction is important, but be open-minded. i used to always say i wouldn't date above a certain age, i had that rule. but i broke it and now i'm with someone who's much older. he is the most commitment minded and loyal person i've ever been with, and we are a team, not to mention stupid in love with each other. for me, this kind of relationship where i can rely on the other person is well worth the compromise of a significant age difference.
posted by zdravo at 2:56 PM on February 2, 2013

You're totally dateable. It's just that the societal standard that women should wait for guys to ask them out happens to be EXACTLY the wrong strategy in your (and my) case.

Instead I would start asking guys out that you think you might be the least bit interested in.

Not to kill your standards or anything, but that cute guy at the coffee shop/library/bookstore who looks friendly? Start a conversation (that's a great hat!), introduce yourself (I'm XXXX!), and then when you're about to leave say, "Hey, it was really nice meeting you, and oh, here, let me give you my number. Call if you'd like to get coffee sometime!" and then leave.

Once you start doing this, (with no expectations that they'll actually call, mind you) I think you'll find that it's a really low-pressure way to test the waters and let guys know that you're interested. Pretty soon you will wake up and find that you are no longer single.

TL;DR Start asking guys out, it's like magic.
posted by tooloudinhere at 3:01 PM on February 2, 2013 [6 favorites]

A dating coach might help. You sound like a total catch from everything you describe here, but maybe there are some ways you interact while on dates in particular that aren't working well for you.

I also know people who had better luck with dating services than they did with online dating, though services can be pricey.

Best of luck to you!
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:07 PM on February 2, 2013

Why do you say you intimidate men? Do men tell you that? Do your friends tell you that? You say you understand that that might be code for something else, and you're right, it might be. Is it connected to your former habit of argumentativeness? you say that now you lighten things up when conversations get too heated, but why are they getting so heated on dates? or are you referring to non-date conversations?

These are the only clues in your question that something might be amiss in your approach/attitude.

Also -- you've told us nothing about your relationship history. Have you had boyfriends? for how long? why did these relationships end? Or have you never connected to a guy for more than a few dates? Who doesn't continue, you or the guy?

We need more information. And, as somebody else posted, we're never going to see how you come across in real life. But some history would be helpful (to you too, not just us).
posted by DMelanogaster at 3:23 PM on February 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Nothing you mention sounds all that off-putting, in fact, you sound like a pretty decent catch (for someone more liberal than myself, anyway).

I have to wonder, do you have trouble meeting guys, or keeping them? You mentioned that you date online, and don't really get into the meat-market scene, but when you do start chatting with a guy in some social situation, do you usually reject him, or does he never take the first move toward making something more of the moment?

You allude to decent fitness and the "Cali girl" look, but don't mention overall physical attractiveness (which does matter at first, no matter what people say). If too hot, you may intimidate most guys away from approaching you; if fairly plain, it won't really hurt your long-term prospects, but means you'll need to take the first step in most relationships; if distinctly unattractive, say with some sort of deformity, you may need to lower your own expectations drastically. Either way, I would second tooloudinhere - Taking the initiative will either get you want you want, or you'll find out really quickly why you don't get more offers (after three or four beers, subtlety goes out the window for most guys).

/ I promise, I don't mean any of that in a piggish way - You asked, I gave an honest answer.
posted by pla at 3:23 PM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

If the second and third thing you feel like mentioning about yourself are weight and being "into clothes and fashion" you come across as a bit shallow.
posted by 3mendo at 3:33 PM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

The only thing that gives me pause is how you define a career (especially if you compare it to your sorta impressive job). Would an actor or a teacher make an acceptable partner?

I know someone who was mostly attracted to high-powered types, who were consequently not in a place to try for a relationship or weren't kind. I don't know if they'd like Archer though.

But like others said, it's often just luck and circumstances.
posted by ersatz at 3:34 PM on February 2, 2013

You're probably fine. It's just really hard out there after college.

The only thing I'd suggest is not to be put off by men who are divorced (you didn't mention this, I've just seen it in some of my girlfriends.) In our 30s lots of guys will have been through a starter marriage, it's not a knock on them.
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:49 PM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't think we have enough information here. There could be any number of things going on or nothing at all. Maybe you could post a few online exchanges that didn't go anywhere?

If I had to pull an answer out of the air, what you've written sounds impersonal and shopping-list-like. This, combined with the "intimidating" description makes me wonder if you might be approaching guys as if you're interviewing them for a job, rather than as two people enjoying each other's company, looking for chemistry, looking for someone who makes them better together than they would be alone. Does it feel to you like you're officially accepting applications for a Life Partner rather than meeting people in hopes that one might be so awesome that you want to spend your life with him? That can be off-putting.
posted by the jam at 3:55 PM on February 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

Are you flirty? I'm much older than you, long married, and pleasant looking--and I meet men all the time who always seem to let me know that they're interested in me. I'm not a bombshell, but I'm warm, chatty, easy to talk to, and I somehow communicate to others that "hey, you can relax with me". I look people in the eye, I ask questions, I banter, I try to engage in a little verbal thrust and parry. if you read all those books about mythical French women who don't get fat and attract men in swarms, the key points seem to be that being a little teasing and a touch sexy in your day to day encounters is good. Flirting isn't playing games or following The Rules, it's more about having fun and acknowledging that maybe you could have fun with each other. I think you sound just fine, but I wonder if maybe you're a bit on the serious side and could use a little more fun.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:23 PM on February 2, 2013 [12 favorites]

You've pretty much described me and what I was looking for at your age (minus the being into fashion and being opinionated, neither of which are bad, just not me). I don't think you're picky, and I don't think your wants are outlandish, I just think there's a lot of successful women your age looking for exactly the same thing and chances are, you've got competition!

The way it has been described to me (and yes, I'm talking in generalities, and yes, not all men are the same but bear with me) is that successful women want someone like them or better, that is, to trade up. Whereas, on the the whole, men don't necessarily care about whether their future spouse is successful, financially secure, college educated etc, if they find her attractive and their personalities fit, that's good enough. So there's a lot of women out there fishing in a reasonably small pond, looking to settle down within the same few years, whereas men have longer to look, have a wider criteria to choose from and many are happy to date and marry younger women in their 20s.

I'm not saying this to depress you, more as an answer as to why you're finding it tough to find someone. So what can you do? Well you're putting yourself out there, so keep doing that. I think it's largely a numbers game. Give each guy a chance and don't be someone who rejects men early for stupid reasons like you don't like his shoes or taste in tv.

I got told once by a guy that he was intimidated by me because I had my act together (own place, job, money etc, whereas this date was still struggling in some areas) and didn't think I needed a man. This was crap and obviously it didn't put off my husband who I later met but who knows, maybe you're giving off a vibe that men can bring nothing to your life and you have it covered already? Make sure you come across as warm and ready to make time and space for the right person, that your life isn't too full for love. Honestly though, you might be doing something fundamentally wrong on dates which we will never know, but chances are you just haven't met the right guy. I know it's not what you want to hear but from everything you said, you're very dateable! Hang in there, it will happen.
posted by Jubey at 4:28 PM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

In my experience the following three words -- I intimidate guys -- are almost always voiced by someone who is basically a lot of work to be involved with.

A lot of ... exhausting .. work.

This may not apply to you. YMMV. The single best thing to do at this point is think about the last few guys you've rejected and be honest about why.
posted by rr at 4:52 PM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

i think the fact that your views & your sense of humor might be seen as a bit extreme means that the number of guys you will like and that will like you is going to be a lot more limited than someone with more moderate views/sense of humor. i also wonder what your relationship history is. why did your relationships/dating experiences end? you also mention that you have lots and lots of friends. i wonder how close you are to these friends. is it hard for you to be vulnerable and open up and show any weakness in front of others? do you have close, deeper friendships or are most of your friendships more casual or shallow?
posted by wildflower at 5:54 PM on February 2, 2013

I think it's pretty simple. You say you rarely meet guys you like in real life. So, you need to focus more on online dating. How much online dating are you doing? I have single female friends who say they're doing online dating and it doesn't work for them, but in reality they message a few guys maybe once a month and then give up. You need to keep at it. Set a goal for yourself: say, message ten guys a week? Or something like that? Even more than that would be good. It really is a numbers game but it also takes work.

The other thing I've observed from single female friends is they claim they're not picky but then they reject guys for all sorts of reasons (not tall enough, too nice, etc). Make sure that when you reject a guy, it's for one of those reasons on your list above rather than because he doesn't eat at the fanciest restaurants, or something.
posted by whitelily at 6:11 PM on February 2, 2013

If your friends are telling you you intimidate guys, it's probably a reference to personality, not to raw qualifications. Example: "They're intimidated by how smart you are" is less likely to mean "you shouldn't have told them about your PhD" and more likely to mean "they don't like the dismissive way you talk about stupid people, plus you're kind of aggressive at Trivia night about making sure you get to answer every question you know the answer to."

Sometimes there's something very different about the mannerisms of a person who's looking to be nice and meet new people, vs. someone who's looking to impress others or to meet a specific type of new person... I can't say whether this is something that would affect you or not, but feedback from some folks who know you in person might help. Bear in mind that your friends might well LIKE these traits about you that are bad for getting dates, so they may not want to tell you to change... But sometimes what's great in a familiar friend is kind of scary in a total stranger, banter-y senses of humor definitely included.
posted by Lady Li at 6:18 PM on February 2, 2013 [11 favorites]

A good friend (who is married) asked me recently why I was single and I didn't have any answer because I don't want to be, but I have been for a long time. He told me there was no reason I didn't have a boyfriend and I could if I wanted to easily, which got me really trying to figure out what my issue is.

So this is a way that a married man might be flirting but trying to pretend he's not. I think what's really going is that he's into you. I say this because it may be that this man really didn't mean to send you into a fit of questioning but instead was attempting to say, "Hey, I think you're awesome, and there's a not a socially acceptable way for me to say that."

Also... was this man's wife there? Maybe you are spending too much time with married people! I'm really not trying to be facetious and I realize I might be completely off-base.
posted by bluedaisy at 6:39 PM on February 2, 2013 [6 favorites]

I agree with Ideefixe. You don't always have to be flirty and lighthearted to meet guys, but I have noticed it certainly supports getting male attention to turn on that side, just a touch. Really just a touch sometimes is enough, too.

I am plenty moody, intense and opinionated and you can bring this side of yourself in there when dating, and plenty of men will like that. But there's definitely an art to flirting and being open and vulnerable and powerful in your own femininity. I am married, but I still like to try this side of myself out simply because it feels really good to receive attention from men, even if it's just a smile, or a compliment or a great conversation.
posted by Rocket26 at 7:58 PM on February 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

I also think the whole "guys find you intimidating" is code for something I can't quite put my finger on.

I'm betting it's that you're too "different" along with being too picky. You probably don't want anyone older than 37? What the hell magic line is that, do men turn into evil beasts at 38 or something?

As an introvert witha mostly dry and dark sense of humor, and depending on how rigidly feminist and argumentative you are, most guys in the circles you move in may not want to deal with you, especially if there are prettier women around who it doesn't seem like they'll have to constantly battle with, while trying to interpret dark and dry humor.

That's just a guess though, as no one here knows you, what you look like or how are in social situations. So asking the internet for help is a real shot in the dark.

You say you socialize a lot but rarely find anyone interesting. Why is that? And what happens when you do find someone interesting, how do you show your interest? Is there a consistent pattern that occurs in these situations? What happens when you're actively trying not to be single, what sort of response do you get?

You sound somewhat insular in your outlook/train of though. 'You look like a typical Cali girl'? You write that as if it makes sense, but I'm dumbfounded that anyone would seriously write that, let alone believe it.

You like the tv show Archer. Have you considered going to a comic book convention where members from the show are appearing. You might find someone of interest in the crowd, especially if you stand up to ask intelligent questions of the show members.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:59 PM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh I know all about this "being intimidating" thing. Or rather, I know all about being told that I'm intimidating, but not what it means. But like you, I kind of feel like the people telling me that are using it as a euphemism.

Calling women "intimidating" kind of gives me the same taste in my mouth as calling them "high maintenance." I haven't ever been called high maintenance (to my face, hardy har har), but I've heard guys describe other women that way. The flip side being that a guy who calls women "high maintenance," I usually find to be lazy and looking for a woman who will not call him on his bullshit.

There's something else I've noticed about other young women/myself that might have something to do with all of this, which is that a lot of young women walk around looking kind of... lost or scared or unsure, or wondering whether what they're doing is okay, or like they need permission. Like they're pretty much okay but boy would they feel better if someone else came along and told them which end of the train platform to wait at. And I definitely do not look like that.
posted by thebazilist at 8:15 PM on February 2, 2013 [9 favorites]

there is no way for me to get a proper idea of what kind of person you are from a self-description. we all see ourselves differently from how others perceive us. we're also missing the visual first impression, which we all know is so important.

I consider the "guys find me intimidating" excuse to be utter bullshit when I hear it from girls in my offline environment. most of the time the guy is just not into her and doesn't want to tell her why. it could be that she's physically not her type or that he doesn't like the way she laughs or her sense of dress and makeup. and quite frankly what's the use in hurting someone? what's the use in making someone feel even worse? dating is tough for everyone.

In pretty good shape, could stand to lose the last 5-10 lbs that I've never been able to really conquer, but I work out and am about a size 8-10.
hm. as a guy I have no idea what to expect when a girl says "size something" but I've learned that whenever I hear that phrase it's code for not thin. but that's not what bothers me. it's that you write in code. to me, this implies that you're not going to say what you mean in other areas, too. and that equals work for me. I personally hate the "did she mean this or that by x" guessing game.

see how easy it is to jump to conclusions? it could be a million different things with everyone you meet. you could second-guess yourself all day long and never do it right. all this would do is make you more insecure. be yourself. don't take any of my other advice. be who you want to be and be happy about it. smiling makes people attractive.
posted by krautland at 8:21 PM on February 2, 2013

Reasons I've been told by friends I have trouble meeting the right guy ... So what am I doing wrong?

I never knew how to answer this question and then one day I realized it was just that for many years I had really bad taste in men. Simple as that. I'd look at what might be wrong with the men you're dating (and why you're might be picking them) rather than what's wrong with you.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:34 PM on February 2, 2013

I think it's pretty much impossible to get a good feel for a person's personality over the internet, so I won't even try but I can tell you that I have observed that all of the perpetually single women I've known - no matter what their level of attractiveness - have had one thing in common: self-absorption, i.e. bad listeners. I'm not saying you're like that at all, but that's my observation. And it never hurts to be more conscious of how you focus your attention when you're with others.
posted by Jess the Mess at 10:23 PM on February 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

I will echo ideefixe's advice, which I discovered totally unintentionally. After I turned 30, I discovered hormonal surges. Some of them have been negative - acne, greasy hair, and other things that left me baffled at my body's betrayals. Others have been much more interesting.

A few times a year I experience a hormone surge that leaves me thinking of sexy times. It usually lasts a few days to a couple of weeks and during that time my body goes on the prowl while my (committed relationship mind) watches bemused from the sidelines. I start to wear more makeup and take more care with my appearance. My clothing becomes subtly more suggestive. My posture straightens, and I become wildly flirtatious with random strangers.

Suddenly the world is rife with dating possibilities, and surely if the net was cast wide enough I'd find someone intellectuall compatible as well. But all those people I would pass without a second glance during the normal mundane life wrapped in my own thoughts. So, go confidently out and flirt. Your lfe will be much more interesting very quickly.
posted by tatiana131 at 10:24 PM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have a possible theory: There may be disconnect between the way you look and the inner you that is setting things off-track just enough that it is creating some friction in expectations. The California Girl look/attitude (which is an actual trope in feminine "types" and shorthand that a lot of people understand) is casual, breezy, natural, warm, lightly flirty or playful, and not usually related to dry, dark, extreme humor, introversion, strong political opinion (note that I'm describing the stereotype, so this is all totally shallow and stereotypical), into debate/discussion of serious matters, etc.

So, might it be that a lot of the guys who are attracted to your physical look or type are also expecting and attracted to a more "sunny" outlook and attitude, while the guys who would be attracted to your humor and interests are discounting you (on visual evidence) as someone who is probably much more bubbly and not as complex as they prefer?

It maybe makes sense that you would turn out to be "intimidating" to someone who was expecting a light, breezy California Girl persona?

If this seems to make any kind of sense (and it very well may not), I'd say use your interest in fashion to try to deliberately put together an overall look and statement that most closely hews to your inner "style" – if only as an experiment. You might ask some of your more insightful and observant friends what they think about this possibility.

(Just FYI, like bluedaisy, I also think that the married friend might have been flirting – unless he and his partner happened to be discussing you, as in "Anon is awesome, I can't believe someone hasn't scooped her up," or something.)
posted by taz at 10:38 PM on February 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

Well, judging from this thread a lot of guys seem to think that descriptions that are obvious and straightforward to women & fashionable people (a size 8-10, "Cali girl") are sneaky and game-playing, so maybe you speak in too much of a feminine vernacular without balancing it in some other way? Idk.

(By the way though, a size 8-10 is relatively small, and the "Cali girl look" has an obvious meaning in fashion circles, it's not some crazy invented stereotype.)

I agree that "perpetually single people" (male and female, actually) tend to be bad listeners in my experience, and maybe self-absorbed. Also, I'm a pretty feminine, fashion-oriented woman, but it is a sad double standard that women are expected to be pretty and made-up and well-dressed but never talk about it (i.e., not have a "shallow" interest in fashion, just spend a ton of money and time on it so you can be conventionally attractive enough). I don't really know how to synthesize these two thoughts-- either maybe you're acting too self-absorbed, or else your interest in fashion and clothes is perceived as self-absorbed, even while it is exceedingly normal.

Being respectful in mixed company, flirting gently and "sexily," and being a good listener are all good things to try, I think. But if you feel too abrasive and try to fix it, sometimes that can go horribly awry (as you feel the need to be as bland and obsequious as possible), so I wouldn't swing too far the other way. And maybe also thinking about the types of guys you pursue and if they perhaps aren't actually right for you.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:58 PM on February 2, 2013 [6 favorites]

It sounds like your looks and personality might be at odds. So the guys who are attracted by your looks could be driven away by your personality, and the guys who would be interested in you based on personality don't engage with you because of your looks. I would try to make sure you're expressing yourself through fashion rather than wearing what's trendy. I don't know, get some thick framed cool nerd glasses or something? Also watch that new Gok Wan program where he teaches people how to flirt.
posted by hazyjane at 11:22 PM on February 2, 2013

There's nothing wrong with you. There's nothing wrong with not having found a person you'd like to date exclusively, let alone have as boyfriends, get married to, and consider having kids with. In my opinion, some men aren't socialized well enough to be good life partners. There are tons of duds out there. That's not your fault.
posted by discopolo at 11:54 PM on February 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

Tell them you're too damn awesome! Read this if you haven't done so (see link). I read online that women with all these three things intimidate men: assertiveness, intelligence and beauty. I can't agree more. I think it has a lot to do with guys who have confidence and insecurity issues but I will never talk about this on a date.
posted by liltiger at 12:01 AM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yeah, you sound fine, and your expectations sound perfectly reasonable. And any guy who is intimidated by you for the reasons you mention is not a guy you'd want to be around anyway. Sounds like you've just been unlucky. Hopefully that will change. Keep being you!
posted by Decani at 4:45 AM on February 3, 2013

I think a lot of these answers are assuming the OP is meeting tons of guys and they're somehow turned off by something in her personality/looks/dress/etc. But the question reads to me as if she isn't meeting guys she likes to begin with, either online or offline. Unless I've got this wrong, most of these answers are not going to be helpful - that's why I suggested she take steps to actually meet more men since that's what it sounds like her problem is.
posted by whitelily at 4:45 AM on February 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

In my experience, "you intimidate men" is often a euphemism for "you are a feminist" or even just "you are a ladyperson with strong opinions that you are unafraid to share". Unless you spend every conversation talking only about yourself and how much awesomer you are than everyone else, I would suggest you think of it as their problem. You'll have to decide whether you want to change the way you interact with potential dates based on that definition.
posted by camyram at 5:18 AM on February 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

You sound pretty great and I'm sure there's nothing wrong with you. In my experience, and based on what I've observed, luck is a huge factor in the dating game. Think about it: you've got to meet the right person for you, he's got to be single and looking at the same time, he's got to like you too, and one of you can't screw up those initial encounters so that some trivial but unattractive (to one of you) thing doesn't get expressed.

That people get together at all is amazing!

So, theres nothing wrong with you. You're great, and you shouldn't change yourself to find someone.

What you do need to do, though, is increase your odds by meeting tons of men. My advice to you is to be more purposeful about this. Two specific things:

1) Profile your ideal catch and think about where you'd meet him. You want a partner in a law firm type guy? Get dressed up, find a high end bar in your city where these firms are, and hang out there in the early evening. Join clubs that would draw the kind of guy you want. Take evening and weekend classes. When you're invited to a party, or go to a conference, talk with as many people as you can. Maximize your odds!

2. Don't be too proud to ask a guy out. I know women tend to prefer to be asked, but you can let a guy know you're interested by asking him out for coffee or lunch, and then let him do the asking for the second, or more "serious" date.

Good luck!
posted by Philemon at 6:18 AM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I feel your pain. Though we probably look and dress differently, I am basically a reformed ballbuster who has had to really, really mellow out in order to date, not to mention in order to avoid pissing off everyone I know and having no friends.

(I am not saying you are a ballbuster of any kind...just speaking about myself.)

First off. Too picky may have some truth to it. I am not picky about a lot of the things people are picky about. But I am really nasty/mean/embarrassing/elitist picky about intelligence, the way some women only want Brad Pitt. I'll tell you. It's still what I go for. But when I was single, I loosened up. I met somebody who is very, very smart, but who is not, and freely admits to not being, in the top 5 smartest men I've met in my adult life. Top 5 was what I was recruiting for. (No, I am not really serious about "recruiting" for a life partner. But can we be honest a second? Hopes and dreams and all that.) A lot of those 5-10 Smartest Guys Ever are assholes. Or there's a reason they're past age X and single. So I ended up with someone really smart but not a cold hard genius. Together 8 years.

Second. I once asked a guy I wasn't interested in, but who was basically my type, about this other woman, a mutual acquaintance of ours. It helped that he was also perpetually single. "What is it?" I said. "She's, um, not actually all that attractive, and I say this as a nerdy-looking person. Nor is she that smart or that interesting. She always has a boyfriend. Why?"

He answered that he himself did not get it either, that he himself wasn't into her. (This was helpful to hear and I think it was true, too.) He said, though, that women like that seem to promise an easy, fun, non-exhausting, non-challenging relationship. It seems like something the average guy can do, not to put too fine a point on it.

Now. Do you want to change your whole personality to meet someone? No. So how did I actually manage to "hear" this advice? It was not overnight, but I tried to recall the times I had been at my most chill and mellow. With male friends, with female friends, whatever. Undisputably good evenings, drinking and carrying on, laughing, all that. TRY to transfer that attitude to the OKCupid date or the happy hour or whatever it is you're currently doing to meet guys. Bit by bit...
posted by skbw at 11:36 AM on February 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

My friends the same thing, right down to the "too intimidating" line. Don't guys want to date independent, strong women? I agree about D.C. If you're living there I have a single friend who's been really bummed about the dating situation there. Send me a message if you want to commiserate or compare notes.
posted by Bunglegirl at 2:04 PM on February 3, 2013

I was one of these "Why am I single?!" people. I had a terrible family history and a bunch of emotional baggage to boot. I thought that I was basically unsuited for relationships and that no one would ever love me. I had lots of dates, crushes, short miserable relationships, guys chasing after me, but no real emotional connections.

And now I have someone wonderful. It didn't happen in a storybook fashion at all. But I'm happily partnered and I don't worry about this anymore. Even if we broke up at some point, I'd know that it *could* happen to me.

A few things I've learned:

1. There is someone for everyone. Someone will get your dark sense of humor, intellectualism, whatever. It's just a matter of time. It just hasn't happened yet. If you put yourself out there, it WILL happen for you. The statistics are on your side. Pretty, smart, ambitious, together women in big cities will find the right guy, given enough time.

2. The whole idea that there is something "wrong" with you for not being in a relationship, that it is even possible that you are intimidating, that it is a *problem* that you are intimidating, any of that, is utter bullshit designed to keep women from being full human beings outside of their roles as girlfriends, wives, and mothers. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU. Even if you are fat, ball-busting, broke, broken, or any of the other things you are not. (Check out this video by sociologist Eva Illouz about how our social expectations around dating are arbitrary and hurtful, especially to women:

3. Every guy I know in my big city -- trendy professional class-type men with great jobs and their lives in order -- LOVES strong independent women. Women compete to be more strong and independent in order to get men, to be the doctor who travels to Antarctica while learning to weld and becoming a black belt in karate.

I don't know who these men are who find women "intimidating". All of the well-educated, affluent professional men I know go for these women. They'd be embarrassed to date someone who is a waitress or has never left the US or plays helpless about fixing broken toilets. Now, I'm not saying that's a good thing, but it's true. So I think that old stereotype is total bunk. Men rate each others' girlfriends based on how "awesome" they are: meaning how together and strong they are.

4. Consider posting another question with your OkCupid profile here. There might be self-presentation issues that are easy to fix. It's good to see how you come across. Or send me a message privately and I'd be happy to critique.

Enjoy being single. It's awesome in so many ways. Once you find your life partner, you won't be single for a very long time, so enjoy it now.
posted by 3491again at 4:36 PM on February 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

Ah, I have received this "too intimidating" critique, along with some actual explanation of what the individual in question (and his friends who were nodding along) meant by it. "Eviemath", this gentleman told me, "men want girls who they can take care of." I forget the exact wording aside from that, since it was many years ago, but it was something along the lines of I should act more vulnerable and needy, and acting dumber wouldn't hurt either. If it helps put things in context, the gentleman and friends in question were not shy about the fact that they thought I was sufficiently physically attractive.

This was many years ago. I hang out with more enlightened males now. Although, even given that, I find there are regional variations in my dating success. Some places are just a better fit culturally for me than others. (This may or may not apply in any way to your situation; the relevant part is that "too intimidating" does indeed seem to be code for having some feminist tendencies.)
posted by eviemath at 5:48 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

3491again, I totally agree about awesome women. There is no need to be less awesome in order to catch a man. But the Antarctica-visiting doctor may indeed BE awesome. If she has trouble dating, people may or may not say "oh, you're kind of intimidating." She may, in fact, be intimidating. But that's not it.

My point was that "intimidating" does not mean what we think it means. Antarctica-traveling doctors are intimidating. It may be code for a certain kind of presentation that is ALSO offputting in men. But men get away with it more easily.

What you (seem) to be talking about is actual "I feel inferior when I think of your accomplishments" intimidation, which may not be the problem here.
posted by skbw at 6:46 PM on February 3, 2013

I have a friend in D.C. who is 31, attractive, funny, successful, nice, etc. and she has had a lot of trouble finding someone. I have got to think it's the city she's living in, which is D.C. People there are just a bit snobbier than other cities (people seem to think they are awesome because they work on Capitol Hill or can pass the Supreme Court in a cab), people are very career-focused and intense, and when I lived in D.C. I always felt like the fattest person there, even though in other cities I would be kind of average. That and she is a bit picky and goes for the wrong guys, probably. The city you are living in would be helpful, OP.
posted by AppleTurnover at 9:43 PM on February 3, 2013

My two cents?

Anyone tells you you're not a "type", or that men can't fit you into a category?
This is a major feature, not a bug. My girlfriend has so much going on in her life that if I attempted to put her into a category or type, I'd use up the rest of my day. I'd say go the opposite direction and get into as much stuff as you can that lights you up. Better yet, to find cool kids, notice what you do when you're alone that you love the most and find a group that does this also where you live. (I know - the jokes write themselves here, but I'm serious.)

Too Picky? It doesn't sound like your laundry list is beyond the pale here. You're basically affirming that you want someone who's thinking about their own lives independent of yours, which is always solid and always attractive as well. But we do live in a Judd Apatow universe, and there are sadly a lot of guys who by age 37 are still tracking releases upcoming for the Playstation and not say, their retirement account. What I'd caution you about is drilling yourself on your list when meeting someone new to the point where you're just ticking off bullet points in a meet n' greet rather than being open to who the person is in front of you. Remember - it's like Chris Rock says, "On a first date, you're not meeting them - you're meeting their representative."

Too intimidating? This is ridiculous. Any man who'd be intimidated by what a woman does for a living isn't worth your time, or maybe even his own. A good man will always find out why you have your chosen career, and relate it back to the qualities he sees in you he respects and admires. It's that simple. Don't dumb yourself down or short-sell your accomplishments. Someone who's a keeper will immediately recognize that you've put heart and soul into getting where you are in life, and accommodate your decisions.

Okay, that was more like my $2.02 cents, but take it as you will, and good luck.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 6:03 AM on February 4, 2013

There's a lot of weirdness coming out in this thread.

Like the others, the only potential issues I can spot without knowing you in person is the intensity thing - I love a good discussion and debate, but not one where the other person Has To Be Right or gets snippy.

Assuming you're not doing that... if you are in D.C., yeah, I hear the same thing from friends, and it comes from having a high transient population which works in Big Jobs with long or crazy hours, and a certain weird political culture of Who You Know.

One thing that struck me is that it's not clear if *you* do any asking out online, or you just respond and hope they'll propose something. Don't let online interactions go more than a reply or two without proposing something specific.
posted by canine epigram at 7:22 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's practically impossible to answer this question for you without knowing you personally.

If I were you, I'd ask this very question of a few of your close friends whose opinions you trust. Tell them to be specific, and that you can take it. Make sure they know you mean it, and that they aren't risking your friendship by being honest.
posted by hootenatty at 3:24 PM on February 4, 2013

All I have to say, as a single guy that lives in the DC area and *ahem* meets your criteria, is it all sounds reasonable to me. Could easily be bad luck, but as others have said, impossible to answer without actually knowing you.

Wait, your favorite show is Archer? MeMail me, already!
posted by festivus at 7:37 PM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

I mean, it sounds like the problem isn't that the guys in your life don't want to date you, it's that you don't want to date them. I know that you meet lots and lots of people but it sounds like you are not meeting people in the right circles, aka, young single heterosexual guys with the personality/career traits you are looking for. You sign up for teams/activities but you don't say what those are, and in general, if you are doing things like charity walkathons or art classes, you are not going to find those guys there.

The really convenient thing is people with certain traits often clump together with other people who have the same traits. So you just need to find one or two guys who you would date. But do not date those guys right away. Just become friends with them and branch out and meet their friends, and become part of their circle and go to the parties they go to, and go to the activities they go to. Then branch out and meet the friends of those friends. Once you start doing this I believe you will find that you meet guys you are into constantly. Or at least way more than you do now. You just have to be a little more judicious about which circles you branch into rather than just meeting people at random. I mean it's true that you could meet someone anywhere on a fluke. I am just talking about how to increase the frequency that you meet guys you are into.
posted by cairdeas at 7:52 PM on February 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

(Just as an example of what ends up happening when you do this, the last time I used this strategy, I ended up going to this one party that was almost all male and I would have dated at least half of them, AND I suddenly noticed that once of them was a guy who I'd written to on OK Cupid who never replied to me, who lived over an hour away. Now that was a little awkward for me and not everyone would see it as a good thing, but it was just such a sign to me that it was the right strategy, leading me to the types of people I wanted to meet.)
posted by cairdeas at 9:26 PM on February 4, 2013

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