Haaaaave you met Ted?
September 23, 2013 6:56 AM   Subscribe

I don't know how to meet women.

I'll try to spare all but the most relevant snowflake details.
I'm a 21 year old male college student studying in a large city.
Was dating someone for for a decent amount of time. Ended the relationship and was really happy about it. However now that it's been more than enough time and I'm feeling the 'loneliness' of single life.

The most common advice to answer the question "I need help meeting girls" ultimately revolves around where to go to do so. That is not my problem! Everywhere I go there are girls who I would love to talk to/get to know. In class, at bars, parties, standing next to me at the grocery checkout line. Everywhere.

Not much use to be surrounding myself with cool and attractive girls if I never approach any of them. I feel like I don't know how! I can save you all the trouble of trying to analyze this. I don't say anything because of a combination of being somewhat shy, not sure what to say, and afraid of rejection by the girl/judgement of people either physically around at the time or her friends at having witnessed/heard about me trying and failing. I understand that last one is 'in my head', so to speak, but the others are very real problems for me.

The last 4 girls I've been on dates with have been via online dating sites. 3 of the last 4 girls I've had sex with were from online dating sites. The 1 outlier there was a girl who came up to me at a party. I've hated the online dating experience and so far besides that I haven't connected with anyone worthwhile online I also feel way too young to be depending on these sites. What attracted me to online dating was the fact that I know the other party is 1) Looking for someone 2)At least somewhat interested in me or we wouldn't be meeting up.

Does anyone else have a problem like this? How can I best overcome my issues and actually stand a chance of meeting someone?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I remember being in college at an event, wondering how to talk to people, and being shocked when a friend turned to the person next to him and said, Hey! What's up? IT WORKED. Conversation achieved! I would take it easy and work on starting conversations with the girls you're meeting. Don't try to go from 0 to 60 right away; start out practicing small talk and asking questions; pretty much everybody loves talking about themself.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:02 AM on September 23, 2013 [5 favorites]

Stop treating women like they're a different species. Get to know them as people first. If you're just approaching attractive women out of the blue and asking them out then yes, chances of rejection are high. Get to know them and let them get to know you first then if you still want to date them, ask them out if they say no they're less likely to be horribly rude about it if you've taken the time to get to know them and you might still have a friend afterwards. If you start with having a few female friends then talking to women will become a lot less scary.
posted by missmagenta at 7:05 AM on September 23, 2013 [26 favorites]

Just ask 'small talk' questions.

"How do you know Dave?"

"What's your major?"

"Whatcha going to do with that purple cabbage?" Or conversely, if they have a lot of cool stuff in their grocery cart, "Looks like a whole party in there!"

If you're open to other folks in general, you can be open to women just as easily. Trust me, we're not going to bite you. We're people, not aliens. Just start talking, we'll talk back.

I promise!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:19 AM on September 23, 2013

Q. How can I best overcome my issues and actually stand a chance of meeting someone?

A. Stop treating women like they're a different species.

Correctamundo. You don't meet "women"; you meet people, some of whom happen to be female. Put yourself in a position of meeting people - male and female - without any expectations and this is the best way to be yourself and to meet other people being themselves.

Rinse. Repeat as necessary.
posted by three blind mice at 7:21 AM on September 23, 2013 [25 favorites]

It actually sounds to me like you're not having any trouble at all meeting women. You had a girlfriend, broke up, were single for a while, and now you're going on dates and some of them were at least successful enough that you ended up sleeping together. And you're only 21! There are a lot of people who haven't ever been on a date at your age.

So your problem is decidedly not that you're having trouble meeting women. I think your problem has something to do with:

The last 4 girls I've been on dates with have been via online dating sites. 3 of the last 4 girls I've had sex with were from online dating sites.... I've hated the online dating experience and so far besides that I haven't connected with anyone worthwhile online

Why are you having sex with women you don't perceive as worthwhile?
posted by Asparagus at 7:31 AM on September 23, 2013 [17 favorites]

I really agree with Asparagus. The thing about Ted and Barney is that they're both users and actually don't generally respect the women they're manipulating into sleeping with them. If HIMYM is at all an influence in your flirting/dating strategies, that is your problem.
posted by spunweb at 7:38 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Do you have trouble talking to/making friends with men? The thing about women is that they're just people. And if you're looking for someone to date, I'd suggest looking for someone you want to be friends with and then seeing if ya'll have chemistry.
posted by hannahelastic at 7:46 AM on September 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

Randomly going up to people and talking to them can be pretty anxiety-inducing for everyone involved--in your scenario, if you're the guy you're worried about being immediately judged and cast away in humiliation, if you're the woman you're worried about potentially not liking the guy and then having someone cling the rest of the night. The whole thing can be done, but is usually unnecessarily fraught.

Usually the best way to put everyone at ease in these scenarios is groups. If you're 21, you're probably still in school--can you go to parties instead? Can you try to organize large, open-ended groups to go out? When people see you're associating with other people already, it tends to immediately put them at ease, and they worry less about babysitting. They can also see that at least some people vouch for you.

If you do plan to randomly meet people (kudos on your bravery!), a good way to do it is to pick something going on nearby and comment on it. For example, I was at a bar once and was paying attention to a movie that was on--the guy next to me started talking to me about it. It was a lot more comfortable and casual than "HI WHAT'S YOUR NAME" as those conversations can either deepen or be easily ended. It implies that you have an interest and want to share it with someone nearby--rather than you've specifically zeroed in on her because you like how she looks and eeeee--and lowers the stakes quite a bit. See if you can put your environment to use in this way. If she smiles and looks you in the eye and keeps engaging, she's probably open. If she replies with short, clipped answers and/or looks away/around, she's probably not.
posted by aintthattheway at 7:55 AM on September 23, 2013

You're beating yourself up over something that is totally normal.

I mean, look — it's not just that Ted and Barney are manipulative assholes. It's that they don't even exist in real life. They couldn't. That show is an escapist wish-fulfillment fantasy. Of course your relationships don't start like theirs. Nobody's relationships start that way.

You want a TV example of how actual real-world relationships start? Jim and Pam on The Office. (Yes, that was a few years ago now, but I promise that human nature hasn't changed too drastically since then.) Nobody delivers any snappy laugh-track-ready pickup lines. There's none of this approach-a-total-stranger-and-end-up-in-bed bullshit. They actually just get to know each other gradually and organically, and treat each other like decent human beings, eventually discover there's some mutual attraction there....

That's how it works. It doesn't actually matter where you meet: at a party, on a dating site, whatever. The important part is not to expect instant gratification. Don't tell yourself "I could be picking up strangers all the time if my game was better." Don't tell yourself "I must have issues to overcome, because I've never just walked up to a stranger and gotten her phone number like they do on TV." That's bullshit. You're fine. Quit worrying.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 8:11 AM on September 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

a friend turned to the person next to him and said, Hey! What's up? IT WORKED. Conversation achieved!

Don't be put off if it doesn't go that well or you comment on a woman's groceries and she runs away from you - women can be shy/socially awkward too! I don't like it when strangers approach me because I'm shy and years of self employment have destroyed my ability to make small talk, but if everyone was like that, no-one would ever talk to anyone and the human race would be extinct. So if you approach a person and they are monosyllabic, avoid eye contact or just plain run away, don't take it personally. (if everyone does that they maybe you should start to consider that you're doing something wrong ;) but for the most part the person was probably just shy or for whatever reason, just not looking to engage with strangers at that particular moment in time)

Does your school have clubs/activities? They're a great way to meet people.
posted by missmagenta at 8:28 AM on September 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Reframing: you know how to meet girls; you don't know what to say when you meet them. You're looking for that connection.

The grocery store checkout line is a non-starter. You're meeting girls in class and at bars and parties. Do you have male and female friends you know at these places? Can they introduce you to anyone? Have they already?

How do you make friends outside of a romantic inclination? Are you in a study group, part of campus clubs, interested in volunteering or meetups? Not that you should pursue any of these options just to start a relationship, but they might help with the loneliness.
posted by RainyJay at 8:46 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd get annoyed if a stranger said What's up to me, and expect me to respond, but then I'm not a college student. I have no idea who Ted is but if it's along the lines of PUAs then ick.

The men I've met who have no problem striking up conversations with strangers, male or female, have mastered the art of throwing out comments, the kind you'd say to yourself. The ever-polite English are also good at this. "Ahh, fine weather we're having." Either the listener nods in agreement or says something back, ergo small talk. Obviously you'd update it. "Finally some sun," as you step outside the student union. Eventually you'll be able to to launch into a few lines of small talk. "I'm looking for a place to study outdoors, where I can get some coffee. Any ideas?" Outside the library during exam week: "Good to take a break finally. Was the floor you were on very crowded?"

That said, I agree with missmagenta: student activities are the way to go for shy people. Also, go some place regularly, like a cafe or the student gym/library/union.
posted by lillian.elmtree at 9:10 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

The smoothest thing a guy ever did upon first meeting:

We talked about the news and about the weather and about our interests. And at the end of the conversation, he said, "Hey, maybe I should give you my number. I really enjoyed talking with you."

Instead of asking for my number, HE GAVE ME HIS. It was so smart, and so hot, lemme tell you, he definitely got a call from me.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 9:25 AM on September 23, 2013 [14 favorites]

Ted and Barney are tv characters, and guys who are like that in real life are slimy. Unless you're on sites stating that you're looking for sex, don't date girls just for sex. Honesty is a great habit.

Start practicing talking to people, regardless of gender, age, weight, hotness. Sorry to bother you, but how do you cook kale? Everybody says it's good for you, but I don't know what to do with it. and Hi, how'd you do on that last essay? and Coffee - where did you get it? I'm dying here. and Your baby is really sweet. You get better at talking to people, and some of those people will be girls who want to go out with you.

Bump your presentation up a notch. Clean jeans, tshirt that fits and is not in tatters, shoes that aren't horrible. Nice breath. Smile.

Everybody feels shy, awkward, lonely, once in a while. When you feel that way, remember that the people you talk to feel that way at least some of the time.

I know guys who approach the obvious women, the ones who are obviously curvy, have sexy clothes, lots of makeup, etc. Go on the web and look at pictures of actresses without makeup. Learn to see through makeup and clothes, and see the person. I know way too many women who are really pretty, have great figures, and who are terrific people, but who don't market themselves aggressively. Of women I know who market themselves aggressively, some of them are not people I'd want to spend a long time with. Look for the person, not the package.
posted by theora55 at 9:29 AM on September 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

You could try asking a question or making a statement with the word "feel" in it.

How do you feel about this party?

What are you feeling about this crowd?

You look like you feel the way I feel right now.

How do feel about the outfit so and so is wearing?

A lot of guys use the word "think", so using the word "feel" might make an impression when you use it in your conversation starter.
posted by Dansaman at 10:02 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I can guarantee that there are a ton of people at every party you go to who are just longing to strike up a conversation with someone. Next time you're at a party try to switch off the part of your brain painfully preoccupied with yourself and really watch the people around you. Who's standing by themselves? Who looks disconnected? Who seems a little stiff and uncomfortable? Then ask yourself: what can I do to make that person feel included?

If you're by yourself, ask them how they know the host. If you're chatting with a friend, include them in the conversation (eg 'Hello there! [Friendsname] and I were just talking about Breaking Bad.'). Keep the conversation going by really listening and forgetting yourself. 'Meeting women' is an extension of 'meeting people.'
posted by nerdfish at 10:38 AM on September 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

Also: don't underestimate the power of plain old fashioned asking someone on a date. So few people have the balls to just say 'I've loved talking with you and I'd like to see you again. Want to get dinner some time?' Even if they say no, they will respect you if your response is a cheery 'no problem, just though I'd ask.' And learn to deal with rejections with grace and maturity.
posted by nerdfish at 10:39 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

One of the sweetest ask-outs I've ever encountered was in a grocery store checkout line*.

Me: *obviously scanning the Prevention magazine that had an amazing picture of a burger on it*
Him: "Hey, wow that looks good."
Me: "I was just thinking the same thing!"
Him: "I know of a really great place for burgers in town - Sidetracks, have you ever been?"
Me: "I LOVE Sidetracks burgers!"
Him: "You know, I haven't had dinner yet. Would you like to go grab a burger?"

Unfortunately, I had to turn him down because 1) I'm married and 2) my sister was in town and was waiting at home for me (I was grabbing OJ and doughnuts for the morning) so it ended with:

Me: "I'd love to, but I can't - 1) I'm married, and 2) my sister just got into town and is waiting for me at home. And I know this probably won't help, but that was super sweet, and if I was single I *totally* would have met you for dinner tonight. I'm flattered - good luck!"

Really, he was a sweetheart and I totally would have met him for dinner! So I would say just keep it light and easy, and just talk to and get to know a lot of people.

*I've actually been asked out several times while standing in grocery store checkout lines. There's only been one time when it was super creepy, and it was because the guy wouldn't take no for an answer. So as long as you're ok with letting it go if she says "no", I think it's fine. Besides, if a guy thinks I'm attractive while standing in line at the grocery store, that's not likely to fade. I don't "dress up" to go to the store.
posted by RogueTech at 10:58 AM on September 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

Learn to read body language. You can say "hi" all you want but if you're not skilled at noticing a person's cues (whether they are open to talking or closed to talking) then you will come off creepy or pestering.

Learn to have a conversation, and then just walk away from it. You don't have to make every 2 minute chat into a pickup session. It doesn't have to "be" anything.

It also helps to have a shared context. If she's behind you in line and you strike up a conversation, that's ok. She may be open to it, she might not. A shared context is when a third thing happens, and now you're in on it together. So if the person in front of you has noisy kids or their credit card has been declined for the fifth time, you can share a chuckle with the person you want to chat with. (Same goes if you're at the bar.)

Another way to catch someone's attention or break the ice is to help someone out if they need it, and before they'd need to ask. Say their milk jug was about to tip over but they didn't notice it - you reach out and catch it. Or if she's got arms full, bring a basket, she says thanks, you say you're welcome and then walk away. No strings attached, not a "nice guy so I'll get laid" but just show basic consideration. Do this with everyone, not just cute ladies. It doesn't guarantee a single thing, but it can break the ice.

If you see pretty ladies EVERYWHERE, then you could be desperate / indiscriminate, which isn't a good quality. You're making things "high stakes" when really, at the beginning, they are "low stakes." This is a stranger to you, after all. If after chatting for a little while it genuinely feels nice, then you can take it further.

In the end, it has to be natural. You can't force people to like you. There's no one right code to get people to like you. Karma is a weird thing. Barney & Ted (ugh and double ugh) get drinks thrown in their faces too.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:22 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have not tried it but some people swear by Rejection Therapy. (I got my callouses via nearly dying. I don't recommend trying to engineer that.)

Also, keep in mind that most other people are just as worried about what you think of them. This never ceases to amaze me but other people put a lot of stock in whether I sound approving, disapproving, etc. I kind of don't get it. I am some total stranger. Why should my opinion of based on almost nothing count at all? But it does. So just focus on trying to draw them out. You don't have to say anything about yourself. Ask their opinions, etc, and say something pleasant/agreeable in response.

I am someone other people read as very gregarious, confident, etc and in some ways that is true. But I have had moments where I felt like I was visibly shaking with anxiety and someone else expressed surprise to hear that because they felt I looked so calm. So I suggest you keep in mind that a lot of other people feel just like you do, sometimes even people you would never guess felt that way. And try to make them comfortable with you. You will soon forget how nervous you were.
posted by Michele in California at 12:37 PM on September 23, 2013

On a related wavelength, there is also a well-established tendency in people who've been single long enough to get itchy about it to see an exaggerated sense of romantic possibility everywhere. I used to fall in love twice every time I took the train, know what I mean? I'd find myself thinking that maybe the Mexican waitress ten years older than I was at the burrito place was surprisingly cool and into younger dudes. That woman buying The Economist in front of me at the book store? I never read The Economist, but I bet someone who does would be interesting. That woman buying laundry detergent in front of me? Outdoorsy, not my normal type, but maybe she'd be cool, I could learn to canoe or something. Etc, etc.

It's really good to keep an open mind and cast a wide net in search of meeting interesting people, whether it's for romance or friendship or whatever. But don't let pent up energy convince you that there are legions of awesome women waiting to talk to you in every checkout line or laundromat if only you knew the secret. Meeting people is tough and you need more than a secret code to strike gold. You need patience and luck, too. Even if you were weirdly assertive and confident in approaching strange people, it'd still be a lot tougher than it looks when you're daydreaming about strangers.

Sure, work on your confidence (and as suggested above, how you approach women--they're people, after all), but also try to tamp down any frenetic or exaggerated expectations you might have that love is around every corner.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:06 PM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

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