How Can I Find A Girlfriend In College, Really?
October 31, 2014 2:05 PM   Subscribe

I’m not entirely sure where to post this on the Internet, because it seems that there are a million different opinions out there. It’s like asking, what’s the best diet to lose weight, when everyone will tell you his or her favorite diet. Regardless, I need some help. I need some guidance, a model to follow. I need to know how to get laid and/or a girlfriend. Preferably, a girlfriend.

There are two main models out there. One is the same one that’s been in use since your grandma’s day: Just be yourself and put yourself out there! Be patient! Be kind and respectful to women, hold the door open, buy her flowers, be a gentleman! The other model is the PUA Red Pill model: Bro, dominate that hypergamous sl**. Be Alpha McThunderc**k, go up and hit on any and every woman you see, establish social dominance, try these pick up lines, negg on her, play games with her, and she will be begging to f*** you and have you penetrate her pu*** with your big dripping d*** … (vulgarity intended… it’s how they talk, and I hate it).

My problem with the former is that it flat out hasn’t worked for me. I’m being myself. I’m one of the kindest people I know. I’m pretty good at getting numbers, but nothing ever comes out of it. And be patient? Really? Know why I hate that line of advice? Because it takes total control out of my hands and places it in the hands of fate. Why should I trust fate and patience when I’ve never even kissed a girl in my 26 years of life?

My problem with the latter, if you couldn’t catch by my (not so far from the truth) lampooning of their lingo, is that the PUA Red Pill community creeps me out. I’m not domineering, I’m easy going. I’m not aggressive, I’m kind. I feel like I’d have to trade in my personality for that of a misogynistic, borderline rapist, pig. I’d rather stay single than feeling okay about viewing half the population of my species as walking fleshsicles only good for my own pleasure, as an enemy to be overcome and dominated.

But really, what’s left? What other advice is out there? I never had any strong masculine role models in my life, so I’m grasping at straws here. Whatever model I have been following clearly hasn’t been working for me.

Before I go on, I should note that I’m 26 and still in college. That’s what years of taking off for work and changing your major multiple times will do for you. I’ve been told I look anywhere from 21 to 23 though, so unless I’m asked, nobody really knows that I’m an old man haha.

This whole semester has been geared to finally losing my virginity, in a way that I can be proud of. It’s been geared towards making new friends (I transferred in fall of 2013, leaving all of my other friends behind, and while I made quite a few friends the past two semesters, I started to find myself in a stagnant comfort zone). More importantly than just losing my virginity though, it’s been geared towards finding and experiencing reciprocated love.

I’m not anti social. I’m not even really shy. My approach anxiety has gotten a heck of a lot better over the years. I’m not uncomfortable talking with women… in fact, I enjoy their company in many ways more than that of men. I’m not awkward, or at least I don’t think so (maybe I am and I don’t even know it? I’ve thought about this possibility before). Meeting new people is hard, but I’ve been really good about putting myself out there, and for the most part I’ve been accepted wherever I go. I’m not ugly – I’ll post pictures if you need proof, but I feel that I’m a good looking guy. I’m a bit overweight, but nothing too noticeable, and I’m planning to go on a diet and get in shape with exercise. I’m 6 foot 4 inches tall. I’m friendly, kind, I have good eye contact, I mirror other people’s emotions and voice tone when in conversation, I have open body language, I stand, sit, and walk straight, I'm generally somewhat confident, I am a good listener, and I enjoy talking to people. I may not be the most interesting personality in the world… I don’t have tales of exotic lands and adventures to regale girls with, nor am I able to reliably make people laugh when I want, but I’d talk to me. I see the good in myself and have come to love and appreciate myself over the years.

On paper, there’s nothing wrong with me, at least I don’t feel like there is.

But in reality, I’m constantly overlooked. Always have been, and it has never changed. I try and try, but it never amounts to much of anything.

I’ve joined multiple groups this semester that interest me, and one, an animal advocacy organization, has a ton of girls in it. I’ve worked with a lot of them to make special projects happen, but still… nothing has come out of it, other than the feeling of warmth that I’ve saved some puppies and kittens lives.

Every girl that I talk to in college already has a boyfriend. Without fail. If they don’t they either like a guy, are in a complicated relationship, or aren’t interested in me. And it’s not like I’m running around asking them their relationship status like a creep. I find this stuff out through looking on Facebook or them casually bringing it up in conversation.

I’m at my wits end, and this is one of the main reasons why I’ve been depressed for so long. You don’t know what it’s like to go through life as a lonely virgin, frustrated and confused as to why you are one in the first place.

Do you know of any online models I can follow? Any guides? I mean, where the heck do I meet the single ladies on campus? Why aren’t girls interested in me? What am I doing wrong, and what’s wrong with my personality?
posted by ggp88 to Human Relations (107 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

You don’t know what it’s like to go through life as a lonely virgin, frustrated and confused as to why you are one in the first place.

Oh yes, some of us do. You are so, so not alone in this.
posted by sockerpup at 2:11 PM on October 31, 2014 [18 favorites]

I'm married now, but I found this book to be helpful when I read it years ago: Intimate Connections: The Clinically Proven Program for Making Close Friends and Finding a Loving Partner.
posted by alex1965 at 2:20 PM on October 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

I didn't lose my virginity until I was 20 or 21, and man, I thought it would never happen, but honestly just being patient and being yourself is the best way to find someone you want to spend time with. Acting like something you're not is not the way to get a relationship going.

Give it more time, keep being awesome, and someone will notice eventually.
posted by mathowie at 2:21 PM on October 31, 2014 [7 favorites]

One, they're women, not girls. Two, they are people and not an achievement to be unlocked. You're emanating desperate and they're picking up on it. If everything you are involved with socially has an end goal for a girl prize at the end, that's bad. When you become more genuinely interesting, then people, including women, will be interested in you. Work on that.
posted by asockpuppet at 2:22 PM on October 31, 2014 [92 favorites]

Doctor Nerdlove has some great advice you may find helpful. If nothing else reading the letters he gets will help you accept that you are not alone. Also as a female, that was once a young, frustrated lonely virgin you are not alone.
posted by wwax at 2:23 PM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

You need to chill about this a little bit. You can't really have a mission to lose your virginity/find a girlfriend, because that is not a goal you can accomplish on your own. It's something that another person has to want to do with you. Working harder at it is not necessarily going to have any results, and desperation is not attractive.

Every girl that I talk to in college already has a boyfriend. Without fail. If they don’t they either like a guy, are in a complicated relationship, or aren’t interested in me. And it’s not like I’m running around asking them their relationship status like a creep. I find this stuff out through looking on Facebook or them casually bringing it up in conversation.

If you are trying to find out if every woman you talk to is single, you are desperate. I would not want to date someone who would literally date anyone of their preferred gender. That would not make me feel special.

That said, I GET IT. I get that you feel like you can't wait any more. I was single for many years and I felt miserable and desperate too. You are not alone. But feeling sorry for yourself or stressing about what's wrong with you is misguided and not likely to make you more engaging company. Try to enjoy your life as it is--it sounds like you're doing a great job building a social life and making more friends! That is awesome! You're not a PUA! That's great! You seem to have good self-esteem--that's excellent!

I don't think you're doing anything wrong (except possibly looking at every woman you meet as a potential mate). I think you just need to wait. And that sucks, but that's how it is for many, many people.
posted by chaiminda at 2:23 PM on October 31, 2014 [8 favorites]

(First off, you've got redpill all wrong - PUA is something else. Core RP is about self-improvement and being the best man you can be.)

Tomorrow never comes - stop 'planning to diet and get in shape'. Start today. Note that dieting and exercise will not get you a girlfriend, but it'll remove a barrier to attracting one.

Whittle your interests down until you're only doing things that you're passionate about (but still social - don't become a basement dweller because your passion is vidja). Master it. Become a leader. Understand that choosing to master something means that you accept *not* mastering other things - "can't practice piano and shotput at the same time" and all that. I'd recommend at least one of those interests be outdoors, whether it's biking, hiking, climbing, running, swimming, etc etc etc.

Make sure you've got your personal ducks in a row. Dress well, clear complexion, pleasant but light smell.

Become a leader. Women are attracted to leaders.
posted by Setec Astronomy at 2:24 PM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do you have a female friend or two you could ask for some honest feedback on how you're coming across and what they'd recommend you do?

I'm sorry this process has been so frustrating and saddening for you, ggp88! It sounds like you're already trying a lot on your own so I'd look for some outside perspective from people who know you well in person.
posted by smorgasbord at 2:25 PM on October 31, 2014 [6 favorites]

Here is my opinion on the matter (and I am sure people are going to disagree with me)...

College/University is actually NOT an easy place to date for some people. Yes, there are lots of similar age individuals around, but it was my experience that it was not "real". People were very often characatures of themselves, and between the stress of school and the stress of trying to figure out who the hell they are, people in college are just fucking WEIRD. Or at least weird to me. I did not date in university, I didn't have sex, I didn't do all that crazy sexy sex that I thought everyone else was engaging in. None of this was by choice. I too felt like I was a weirdo, that something was wrong with me, etc. It fucking sucked. I sincerely think that part of the problem was that I did do all the crazy exaggerated personality crap that a lot of student seemed to engage in. I was told I was an "old soul" and "mature beyond my years". I wasn't boring or shy. Just... established in my personality.

BUT! Then I finished school and got out in to the real world. I made friends with people who weren't students and hey... I started dating people. I lost my virginity within months of finishing my degree and ending my career as a student, I kid you not.

So in summary, college sucks for dating if you aren't the typical college student, BUT it all works out once you get out of the school bubble and in to the real world.

Just my experience.

Chin up, my friend. I totally feel for you because I was a female you. I swear to god it will get better.

And, uh, maybe don't be so focused on it. Making this year all about losing your virginity is what I think to be the exact thing you should do to ensure you DON'T lose your virginity. People pick up on that and it isn't appealing. Your time would be better focused on being the awesomest you in the world and being the exact type of person you would want to date. After all, people are usually attracted to people who are similar to them in some way. Seriously.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 2:25 PM on October 31, 2014 [30 favorites]

I don’t have tales of exotic lands and adventures to regale girls with, nor am I able to reliably make people laugh when I want,

What tales do you have? What is interesting about you? What do you do for fun? What drives you? What are you passionate about? What do you believe in? What annoys you?

but I’d talk to me.

About what?

On paper, there’s nothing wrong with me, at least I don’t feel like there is.

What is there that's right about you?

People (not just women, everyone) want to be around people who are interesting to them. Who are you? You say a lot about what you aren't, what you don't do. What do you do?
posted by headnsouth at 2:27 PM on October 31, 2014 [13 favorites]

First of all, you are not alone. You're basically describing the human condition, here. I seriously doubt there is anything actually wrong with you at all. In fact, I think you're ahead of the game as far as a lot of 26 year olds go simply because you know that PUA = rapists and/or rape apologists. Thank you for not falling into that trap.

Second of all, your question text doesn't seem to mention really close friends anywhere. Do you have a best friend? Do you have a small friend group, the sort that you can depend on when stuff gets messy and difficult? Or are you just casual with a lot of people? Because I think that being gregarious and kind in general is wonderful, but it rarely ends up with anybody getting to know the real you, and thus getting attached to you in a way that leads to physical relationships.

The catch is that if you go in with the goal of sex but you proceed down the path of close, emotional friendship, you veer off into "nice guy" territory, which is gross. Don't do that. Make closer friends with no intention of physical relations. But do make clear to these friends that you are looking, and it's something you want in your life. It sounds tricky, I know, but it's all about valuing and respecting people as people, not as potential sex partners. And it sounds like you've got some experience with that, just maybe not with people who identify as women so much?

So make some close friends who are "girls", and by close friends I mean someone who you would depend on in an emergency, and they would feel comfortable asking you for help with a real problem, because they see you as a good person who sees them as fully human and deserving of respect. Once it's established that you're not a creepy desperate dude who looks at women like they're walking talking genitalia, the friends-of-friends talking to other friends about their available friends thing will kick into gear.
posted by Mizu at 2:28 PM on October 31, 2014 [16 favorites]

I was totally with you until you got to the "every girl is taken, wants someone else, or doesn't want you" part. You may want to examine how broad your interest pool is. Because that doesn't tell me every young woman at your school is taken, it tells me the girls you are interested in thus far have not reciprocated your interest. For example, are you only into the most popular/hot girls (extreme example) or are you open to the kind of girl you may not fully appreciate on first glance, but who upon spending time getting to know her may be a great match?

Also, instead of dividing your options into hook up versus long term relationship, you may want to focus your energy on simply dating. Ask a girl you like to coffee or to go hiking. See if you both have enough fun to go out to dinner. Your desire for a girlfriend may be putting women off. Sure, many of us want the same thing, but the dating/getting to know you part is just as important. It's a subtle difference, but one feels like you want to get to know the person, the other feels like you want to fill a role in your life with whomever responds to your overtures first.

You sound like a catch. This is probably a matter of small tweaks to your thinking and approach rather than an overhaul job.
posted by cecic at 2:28 PM on October 31, 2014 [7 favorites]

Because it takes total control out of my hands and places it in the hands of fate.
You know, this jumps out at me. This is something that you're asking for that is NOT in your total control. You're asking to have a relationship with another person. That requires a person to like you, and you know what? That's not in your control. People don't say "hey, this guy is (checks boxes) tall, kind, smart, so I guess I should be friends with him." You seem pretty obsessed with eliminating all the obstacles that you've heard can stand in the way of a relationship, but again, those are not the things that actually matter. The reason that people say "be yourself" isn't just because it's trite, it's because you want the person you are in a relationship to like you for who you are. And if you hide that or lie to the person, what kind of relationship is it? In fact, I get the sense that you're just trying to minimize the size of your "negative profile" while not really trying to show your positive qualities.

Of course, you do want to be the best version of yourself, but that's what dating is all about. So seriously, try online dating, and don't take it quite so seriously. Don't try and follow some guide, just be yourself, be available, and be willing to take rejection.

P.S. I didn't kiss a woman until I was 28.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 2:29 PM on October 31, 2014 [39 favorites]

This whole semester has been geared to finally losing my virginity, in a way that I can be proud of.

I don't mean to judge you by your words but this comes off as kind of gross and weird. Losing your virginity isn't really some epic conquest from a movie or a beer commercial, it's usually a lame, sometimes awful, sometimes painful, awkward, fun, but ultimately mundane thing that you might barely remember 10 years later. Having good sex with fun people is great the 10th or 50th or 100th time you've done it. Take it from me, you'll be terrible the first time for everyone involved, and it's best to get it out of the way so you can start being better at it later in life.
posted by mathowie at 2:29 PM on October 31, 2014 [45 favorites]

I don't mean to judge you by your words but this comes off as kind of gross and weird.

He's saying he doesn't want to hire a prostitute.
posted by Setec Astronomy at 2:38 PM on October 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

This is not the thing you want to hear, but if I could learn to be really persuasive I would find a time machine, go back to 18-year-old me, and tell myself to buy some quality sex devices, focus on friendships and career planning, and just opt out for 6-8 years until we all finished growing brains in our heads.

It's such a crap age. Everyone is awful. The sex is largely disappointing, the relationships are either codependent or just sort of parallel lives masquerading as something deeper. People make life-changing decisions based on partners they will barely remember 5-10-20 years later (I seriously would not remember my college "fiance's" last name if we weren't Facebook friends).

None of that makes you feel better now, but your post has that frisson of angry entitled frustration that you are missing out on something, and the thing is that that something is such poor quality, it's like you're angry about the gustatory aspects of a frozen pizza.

But if you're getting numbers, what happens next? Are you doing that bait-and-switch thing where you pretend to be her friend and think that's going to get you in eventually? Don't do that. As soon as you recognize a connection with someone - a mutual connection - ask her out, use the word "date", be honest that you think there's something to pursue if she agrees to give it a try.

If there is no mutual connection, you cannot trick or force one. You need to be looking for that spark, and it is much more likely to happen between interesting people doing interesting things, because those people are more engaged in the world, and that's why activities are so often recommended. You talk about being overlooked, but you are allowed to respectfully approach people you have something in common with, you can't assume someone's going to come pick you out of the boyfriend line.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:43 PM on October 31, 2014 [10 favorites]

Become a leader. Women are attracted to leaders.

That's a rather misogynistic view and I disagree. People are attracted to other people who are confident and positive about themselves. You don't have to be a leader to have those qualities.

My suggestion is to stop looking at every woman in your life as a potential partner. In my experience, having sex helped with that. Your first time does not have to be the special thing that society builds it up to be. It's a bodily function that feels really good to do with another person (or multiple persons). It does have to be consensual, but gaining a little sexual experience can help your confidence. You'll feel more experienced and it'll help take the edge off the "Must have sex! Need female partner to feel complete!" feeling.

Focus on school and hobbies that really interest you. Learn stuff you're actually interested in and talk about it. I've found that someone who is passionate about a topic and is not afraid to discuss it can be very attractive.

Something else that I've discovered in the last year is that you don't have to be friends with everybody. You don't have to be liked by everyone and you don't have to be kind to everyone. Be a decent human being, but limit your interactions to people who add value to your life and who you find interesting, who also feel the same about you. It seems contrary, but it brings more people into your life because their friends will filter into your life and you just might meet the friend of a friend of a friend at a dinner party and you two totally hit off talking about a shared passion.

Also, yeah school sucks for dating. After school, in the real world, after people have grown up a little and figured out who they are better, is much better for building solid friendships and connections.
posted by E3 at 2:44 PM on October 31, 2014 [13 favorites]

Definitely try online dating. Focus on women that are closer to your own age. If nothing else, it will be good practice, and you can be more confident that the women you meet on dating sites are searching for a romantic/sexual connection, too. Meet in person as soon as possible - don't get trapped in the cycle of texting or emailing without face-to-face contact.

I wish you would be more specific about the fact that you can "get numbers" but apparantly it doesn't go anywhere. Are you getting phone numbers in explicitly a "looking for romance" context, or is it more casual "lets be friends" type exchanges of contact info?
posted by muddgirl at 2:44 PM on October 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

But if you're getting numbers, what happens next? Are you doing that bait-and-switch thing where you pretend to be her friend and think that's going to get you in eventually? Don't do that. As soon as you recognize a connection with someone - a mutual connection - ask her out, use the word "date", be honest that you think there's something to pursue if she agrees to give it a try.

Exactly this. If you meet someone that you want to be friends with, make friends with them. If you meet someone that you want to date, ask them on a date. While it certainly true that sometimes friendship can lead to love, I think it isn't a great model for someone who is eagerly looking for love.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:54 PM on October 31, 2014 [6 favorites]

After reading all 1,000 words of your question, I'm struck that I have absolutely no idea whether you've actually asked anyone out on a date yet. You seem to be setting up a false dichotomy where you have to either be patient wallflower or be an aggressive PUA. If you meet someone you like who seems available, ask them on a date. If they say no, move on. Repeat as necessary.
posted by AndrewInDC at 2:56 PM on October 31, 2014 [45 favorites]

Step 1: Install Tinder.
Step 2: Be cool. Use a decent photo.
Step 3: Use your profile to convey what you're looking for. If you're not looking to just have sex randomly, express that. You could try the angle of explaining that you're a virgin and seeing if someone digs that, as a just-to-get-it-out-of-the-way thing, but that's a pretty specific kink that may attract fewer people.
Step 4: Like women you think you'd like.
Step 5: If they match with you, start chatting. Don't be pushy, but be interesting and keep the conversation flowing at a not-forced page.
Step 6: If they seem cool and things are going well, see if they'll grab a date with you.

Give it a shot. You can browse through lots of people in your area, connect only with ones who liked your photo enough to say so, and then go from there. It's easy, it's pressure-free, and it's for more than just random sex.

Also, fuck, dude, relax. I know you're older than most, and you're feeling desperate, but desperation breeds desperation. It's a bad vicious circle. Rise above it and be cooler than "having to lose your virginity" and it'll happen.

Don't do the alpha shitty negging not human being this-is-how-you-lifehack-the-pussy red pill bullshit. But don't be completely walked upon "m'lady"-fedora-tipping-happy-for-even-a-whisper-of-your-attention either. That shit freaks people out. It feels clingy and awkward and like a chore. Be engaging and interesting, and keep things at just enough arm's length that the other person feels like they want more, and not like you're forcing more down their throat.

Be a bit sarcastic and playful, but don't insult someone you like that you think you want a chance with. True negging is shitty and it makes you a shitty person. Being sarcastic and having a fun sense of humor and being a bit of a challenge is something a lot of women like. My wife still insists that she married me knowing I was kind of a dick because she likes that it's just a bit of push back, and not this awkward balance of power shift where she feels like she's beholden to me for everything, and every interaction is saccharin and insane. (I'm not a dick or rude to her, don't get me wrong, but I'm confident enough in my own person where I wasn't desperate for her attention at all times and that helps a lot.)
posted by disillusioned at 2:58 PM on October 31, 2014 [7 favorites]

I think everyone has given you some good advice here so I'll just iterate something that struck me, a human with lady parts, as I read your (very sympathetic) question.

The fact that you think the whole PUA scene is a legitimate solution to finding quality companionship of any kind is a little worrisome to me.
No matter how subtle you're being about it, if you're making losing your virginity a "#1 priority" that's going to drive a lot of people away.
I'm not clear what you're actually doing here. You list a lot of what you aren't doing or aren't...but I'm going to ask what might be a dumb question here: are you taking the initiative to talk to the people you like, go out for coffee, clearly express your interest in a polite and contextually appropriate way?
Notice how I always used the words "people" here rather than girl? That's because that's what women are: people. With internal concerns a lot like yours. For real. Hang in there, treat *people* how you would want to be treated (NOT "treated if you were a girl"), and keep perspective as best you can.
posted by ninjakins at 3:00 PM on October 31, 2014 [12 favorites]

Do you have female friends? By friends I mean you act around them the same way you act around a guy. You confide in them, you invite them along with others to movies, you're happy to just hang out doing whatever, and you aren't overwhelmed with thoughts about whether they like you or how you wish you could kiss them. It is really important to be able to form casual relationships with women that never began with romantic hopes. It is the only way you know for sure that when you talk with women you see them as people, not as potential girlfriends.

If you do have female friends like this, that's great! Please confide in them your romantic troubles and ask what they honestly think you might do to improve yourself.

Second, like another commenter said, you say a lot about what you aren't but not a lot about what you are. What are your hobbies? What are you interested in? Are there things you're passionate about, and does your passion emanate from you when you talk about them? Are you passionate about life, period? Human beings are drawn to those around us who love living and want to share that love with others. How invested are you in your own life--not in getting a girlfriend, but in achieving your other goals and enjoying the world around you?

Nobody likes desperation. People like confidence. But it's not that people dislike desperation and love confident leaders, per se. It's that humans are attracted to those who project a joie de vivre and who want to share that with others--and those who are desperate are not enjoying life, and often confidence comes from those fuzzy feelings that happen when you're doing what you love. I spent half of my twenties being pretty crap at dating and interacting with people. Then for a variety of reasons I decided to completely change my life and center it around a hobby I was truly passionate about, a hobby which, at the time, was the only thing making me happy. And believe it or not, within about a year I was not only happy about life but there were a lot more people interested in me. I'm not saying you gotta give up everything and follow your dreams--what I did was a drastic reaction to a really shitty period in my life--but that people want to be around others who are enjoying themselves.

So: start doing the crazy shit you have held off of doing for whatever reason. Eat at that fancy restaurant by yourself. Go skydiving. Get into trail running. Do a programming jam. I dunno, whatever it is that appeals to you. Right now it feels like getting a girlfriend is the only thing that will make you happy--but I guarantee it's not, it's just that you're not doing other things because you're obsessing about this girlfriend thing.

Oh, and finally, you say all the women you're interested in are taken. That is not because every woman you see is taken. That is because, for whatever reason, you are overlooking the women who aren't dating anyone. Maybe ask yourself who those women are, and why that is.
posted by Anonymous at 3:08 PM on October 31, 2014

The fact that you think the whole PUA scene is a legitimate solution to finding quality companionship of any kind is a little worrisome to me.

In this guy's defense he seems to be saying he doesn't see it as a way to legitimate companionship. Which puts him way, way, way ahead of a lot of frustrated dudes. OP, this speaks really well of you that you have no interest in that route.
posted by Anonymous at 3:10 PM on October 31, 2014

To re-iterate, if you want to be dating someone, you need to say to them, "I would like to date you." (Or some variant of it.) Especially in college, where the women are just as confused as men about what to do, who to date, whether someone is interested or not.

Also, the whole "friends first" thing rarely works. When I was single, I was interested in dating guys. But if a guy made it seem like he was interested in a friendship, I would quickly and consciously kill whatever romantic interest I had in him. (For a variety reasons: to not get hurt, to spend my energy more worthwhile else where, etc.) My husband would agree with me and also tell you that his attempts at friend-first dating did not work.

You don't need to be aggressive like PUA, but you need to be aggressive enough that women know you're actually interested in them. And yeah, that means sometimes you might be rejected. But the alternative is that you wait until some woman decides that she'd like to pursue you, despite that society tells women they need to wait to be pursued (or the guy is just going to use them for sex and then dump them). And it's okay to wait, except that you seem impatient for it to happy right now.
posted by ethidda at 3:11 PM on October 31, 2014 [8 favorites]

You sound like a smart and pretty decent young fellow, which is especially impressive in light of your being a 26-year-old virgin. A lot of guys in your situation get pretty bitter and misogynistic, and you're not. Really, that's something to be proud of.

You absolutely need to try online dating. It eliminates a lot of uncertainty and needless angst. You both arrive for the date with some idea of your common interests and what you're both looking for. If it doesn't work, you both know that pretty quickly and you move on.

I'm pleased to see that this thread has been relatively light in the inevitable SHUT UP FEDORA NECKBEARD NICE GUY ARGLE FARGLE stuff. To the extent that it's here, please ignore it. Keep being an actual nice guy, try online dating, and you will soon grow up into a fine fellow who has actual sex.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:14 PM on October 31, 2014 [6 favorites]

nthing online dating. It's made-to-order context for being clear and precise about what you're looking for.
posted by colin_l at 3:23 PM on October 31, 2014

Been there. Hated being there. Thankfully not there anymore.

My suggestion: Don't set goals that require anyone's participation but yours. Succeed or fail on your own. The universe doesn't owe you a teammate. It's awesome when/if you find one, but it's not "a thing you get to have".

Yes, that approach takes control out of your hands. Because you don't have control of making women like you.

So set goals that you can accomplish, on your own, that will make you a better person:

I trained and ran a marathon because I always wanted to run a marathon (I didn't do it to attract women, but it sure made for a good story later).

I bought a house because I always wanted a house (I didn't do that to attract women either, but it's evidence that I'm a responsible, stable person).

I joined a singing group because I enjoy singing (most of the women in the group were already married and the ones who weren't weren't interested in me — but that's ok because I didn't join it to try to get with them, but it made me a happier person overall, got me out of the house and helped me meet people I wouldn't otherwise have met).

I found a job that is fulfilling and interesting on a daily basis (getting the picture? It keeps me learning new stuff, provides me with interesting conversation, a stable paycheck and another group of people to chat with).

My goals shouldn't be your goals, but you should have goals. That you can succeed or fail at without the involvement of another person. That will make you a better person.

And also what everyone else said about online dating, and literally asking women on dates — yes, you'll get rejected. A lot. But building a world in your head where "every girl" is a no thanks isn't working for you. Try a world where you ask, and find out for certain: Many of them will still be "no thanks". Maybe most. But probably not all.
posted by brentajones at 3:24 PM on October 31, 2014 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Wow, this is why I love metafilter and the community within it. So many responses in such little time!

I'm going to respond to the main themes I picked out from the responses, and then circle down to a few individual responses.

The dominating feature is that I'm desperate. That I'm walking around campus only looking at girls as potential romantic partners and nothing else. Well... yes. That's true. I never thought about it like that. I always thought that if you want something in your life, you need to focus on that goal until you succeed. Where that runs into problems though is that it takes two to tango. I can't go 'window shopping' and say "ooh, I like her, I'll take her as my girlfriend". I get it.

We are getting into brain functions here. You might as well tell me to not find attractive girls attractive. It's really hard. It's hard to keep my emotions and racing thoughts in check. It's easy to keep behavior in check, as that takes concious action, but I've never had great control over my emotions.

It would be one thing if I were just walking down the street and I saw an attractive woman. But in college, it seems that, every single day I'm on campus, I see guys with girls. All. The. Time. We all have particular hot-button issues that happen to get us upset, we all have insecurities. Mine is that I long to experience love. I'm sorry if that's weird or creepy or whatever. I truly don't want it to be just any girl, I want it to be someone who I get along with, someone who likes me for me, someone who I can enjoy being outside with, who I can enjoy talking about big ideas with, someone who I can watch tv and play games with, someone who I can just sit and talk to. Just as I wouldn't just grab the first human I see and ask them to be my friend, I want the girl to be someone who is compatable with me. But I'll never know if she's the right one if I don't get the chance to know the girl, and in order to do that, I need to figure out how to hang out with them, in a way that they feel is safe. To be truthful, I haven't asked many girls out to coffee, except one (we were going to study together, but it was a super busy week for both of us and the time didn't work out). Until I get to know them, from just a superficial talking to them for the first couple of seconds, all girls are potential girlfriends. I kind of narrow it down the more I get to know a person. This may not be a good model, but how do I wrangle my unruly brain into being rational?

Man, some words sting more than others. Desperate is one of them. I desperately don't want to appear desperate! That's like, the worst, man!

I have a small group of friends, but I've never really asked them, "hey, do you have any women you know that are single?". THAT sounds creepy and desperate. But at the same time, I've always heard about dating within your social circle.

If college is such a hard place to meet women, then why do I see guys, of all shapes, sizes, and styles (some guys with bad style) walking around with women on campus? I sometimes feel like people know of some secret source of meeting people that I don't know about.

You want to know why I keep on harping on that? I'm sure someone else will point it out, so I'll just say it: I'm jealous. It hurts. Not that I don't want other men to be successful, but it hurts just the same. What I perceive gets looped back as a message to me saying, "they have something that you want, and you can't get it, but it's so easy for them." And it's not even like they are all rockstars. I'm just as good as them!

So, you want to know who I am as opposed to who I am not? I'll try and list some likes, interests, and hobbies.

You already know my personality: easy-going, down to earth, inclusive, kind, inquisitive, caring, sensitive, good humored, etc.

Some things I like, in no particular order: I love new experiences. I dream of traveling the world. I love to be outside, whether that be floating the river, hiking, camping, or just sitting back in the grassy field. I enjoy learning new cool facts about science. I love looking at awesome art. I love crafts. I love animals and caring and saving them. I'm an equal part dog and cat guy. I am super close to my family and value family and parenthood highly. I'm a hard working student who always goes for the A, whether or not I can get it. I'm a pretty good, if not long winded, writer, I feel. I love love love to party. I've gotten a bit into smoking pot with my friends on the down time. I love philosophy, anthropology, sociology, and psychology. I'm a big video game lover, especially wholesome Nintendo. Childhood is the most sacred time of my life, so I love kids and cartoons and things like that. Occasionally, I like to run. I'm almost always listening to music, and though I am abysmal at it, I love to dance.

What are my goals for the future? Beyond graduating, hell if I know. I've fretted about that one, and posted many threads about my distress in not finding an answer, for quite some time, so it's not like I don't care or am not looking.

Right now, a goal I feel like I can accomplish (but will be significantly challenging enough to where I'll feel pride when I reach it) is losing weight and bulking up. I'm going to be going on a diet of mainly fish, chicken, eggs, nuts, protein powder, and water. And cheep, disgusting beer. This is college, after all!

Overall, I feel like the point of life is to have fun. Obviously, society has a different view, or else we'd all be on the beaches and hiking the mountains instead of wasting away in cubicles and struggling with our finances.
posted by ggp88 at 3:27 PM on October 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

Make this about being in a relationship, not about some mysogynistic conquest.

Have you tried online dating? I'm married now, and therefore haven't used a dating site in over 6 years, but in my experience back then, the paid sites tended to separate the wheat from the chaff -- which is to say I found a bunch of loonies on the free sites, and while the paid sites weren't perfect, I had much better luck there.

I get it. I remember what it was like. I have always always ALWAYS gotten along better with women then I have gotten along with fellow men, a trend that continues today. I had a girlfriend for all of three months out of my entire four years of college. I didn't go out on a date with anyone until I was 19. I didn't sleep with anyone in a non-sleep way until I was 23 and out of college almost two years. I felt desperate. I felt like all the good women were already taken. I felt like women ONLY went for assholes, as evidenced by the boyfriends of the women I was "just friends" with. For the most part, every female acquaintance of mine in college, save for one, was in my mind a "potential girlfriend." I lamented online about not dating. I lamented to my female (and male) friends about what the heck I was doing wrong.

If I spent as much time and effort on my studies as I did on finding a girlfriend, I might have graduated with a much higher GPA.

I met friends -- men and women -- through hobbies and through living in the same dorm and whatnot. My college girlfriend was someone I met who was a friend of a college classmate who I was already friends with who transferred to our college.

Once I graduated, I met friends online. Yes, I used and paid for the dating websites, but I met my wife on LiveJournal (as well as three of my former girlfriends -- which means 2/3ds of my relationships started on LiveJournal). LJ's all but dead now but I met these people through community journals where we had the same interests and musical tastes and what have you. Facebook just isn't the same for that, as you tend to "friend" people who you already know.

Enjoy your life. Make this about finding friends who you share interests with and who you can open up to -- who happen to be female. As a previous poster said, you have no control over whether they will be interested in you romantically or not. So don't sweat it and just go with it. The online dating sites might make it easier for you, but they also might not.
posted by tckma at 3:29 PM on October 31, 2014

To be truthful, I haven't asked many girls out to coffee, except one (we were going to study together, but it was a super busy week for both of us and the time didn't work out). Until I get to know them, from just a superficial talking to them for the first couple of seconds, all girls are potential girlfriends. I kind of narrow it down the more I get to know a person. This may not be a good model, but how do I wrangle my unruly brain into being rational?

This is a terrible model!

Look, I think there's still an expectation that men will do the approaching, if OKC stats and every man I've ever talked to are to be believed. I think you have to just keep trying, over and over again, risking rejection, every time. Reality check: you've asked ONE person out!

You have my sympathy; I'm a woman and would find all that approaching difficult. But I think you've got to take it on.
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:31 PM on October 31, 2014 [6 favorites]

I want the girl to be someone who is compatable with me. But I'll never know if she's the right one if I don't get the chance to know the girl, and in order to do that, I need to figure out how to hang out with them, in a way that they feel is safe.

You can't know if they are compatible with you enough to be long-term relationship material, but that's what dating is about. That's why it's fun and why it sucks all at the same time. You have to be open to being disappointed or hurt, and it sounds like you are not there yet, which is fine. Nobody is in dating mode all the time. But if you build these fictional relationships with women where they think you are their friend and you are secretly lusting after them, it's #1 a cruel thing to do to them and #2 it's only hurting you more in the long term, as you're experiencing now. Focus on becoming a person who can be open, vulnerable and real to the rest of the world. Goals like the ones that brentajones described above can be one path for doing that.
posted by AndrewInDC at 3:36 PM on October 31, 2014 [4 favorites]

I haven't asked many girls out to coffee, except one (we were going to study together...

OK, I'm going to be real with you. This isn't even asking someone on a date. You've got to be totally clear about it. Here are some ways to ask someone on a date:

"So there's a really great band playing at the local pub this weekend. I was wondering if you'd like to go with me?"
"I've really enjoyed talking to you. Would you like to go out to dinner some time?"
"The Outdoors Club rents kayaks, and I was thinking you might like to go out on the lake some time? We could bring a picnic and make a date out of it!"

It's hard, I know. But, as encouragement, I'll tell you that the first person I ever really asked out on a date over 20 years ago now ("Oh, you like ice skating? I know a really cool lake to go ice skating on. Can I take you this weekend?") is still happily married to this dorky, pudgy, wierdo for some reason.
posted by Rock Steady at 3:43 PM on October 31, 2014 [38 favorites]

From your follow up:

You need to ask women out. If you've talked for 2 minutes and you still find her attractive, ask her out. You'll get rejected, but you'll at least have tried.

Also, yes, try online dating. For some of us more introverted people (I don't know if you are, but I am), it's way easier to date online. Also, there are some women you'll only find online, because they don't hang out at coffee shops or wherever else you're hanging out.

If college is such a hard place to meet women, then why do I see guys, of all shapes, sizes, and styles (some guys with bad style) walking around with women on campus?

First of all, this is confirmation bias. The book "Scarcity, Why Having So Little Means So Much" talks about this. But basically, that's all you notice because it's something you feel desperately lacking in your life.

Secondly, a man and a woman can walk together without dating. Or just starting to date. Or considering dating. Or they could have a terrible relationship and but they're good about putting on a show when out together.

Lastly, they may or may not have met on campus. They might have met in high school. Or at church. Or while studying abroad and then one of them transferred to be in the same university as the other.

My husband and I both work full time and met online, but he works at my alma mater and I'm often mistaken for a student when go back on campus to do alumni events. So I guess if you saw us on campus together, you'd wonder how we met, even though neither of us really dated much in university.
posted by ethidda at 3:45 PM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Haha, I kind of have to laugh at the fedora neckbeard m'lady stereotype floated a bit around here. Just because I'm 26 and a virgin dosen't mean that I fall into that category. Ugh... now that would be grounds for self hatred. I'm so above that it's not even funny.

Besides one friend who is a little flakey, I don't really have any girl friends. I want some, because, as I said, I like the company of girls. Err women. People. Homo Sapiens. Seriously though, I'm not trying to be demeaning, but maybe you have a point. Maybe I need to update some of my lingo. I'm not being sarcastic, I really think you have a point.

How do I make friends of the female variety? Because, this is what I've been doing, and it hasn't exactly been working out that well. I just talk to them like I'd talk to anyone else, you know, what are you interested in, what do you like to do with your free time, what shows do you watch on Netflix, do you like to float the river, do you like to party, what's your major, what year are you, etc. After a while of talking to them, I hand them my phone and say, "you're pretty cool, tell you what, let's be friends and we can hang out. Put your number in there for me and I'll text you."

Generally, I text them later that day, and on the weekend, there's always a party, so I always try and invite them. Nobody ever seems to show up.

As for the "let's go on a date", I'll tell you why I'm not comfortable with doing that within first meeting someone. It's too fast for me. I like to become friends first. As someone who's never had a date before, the friend to date model is a little bit more comfortable. Besides, don't girls think it's weird if a guy who they only met about ten to fifteen minutes prior is asking them out on a date already?

My therapist has repeatedly told me to use online dating as well. I really need to look into that. I'm a little afraid that I'll have no results, but that shouldn't keep me from trying.
posted by ggp88 at 3:45 PM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ok sorry, to be clear, I don't think "narrow[ing] it down the more I get to know a person" is terrible (although it might mean you're kind of choosy, which is of course fine), that is expected and normal and good, but not ever (except kind of once) asking anyone out is definitely not doing you any favours.
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:46 PM on October 31, 2014

As someone who's never had a date before, the friend to date model is a little bit more comfortable.

And how's that working out for you? Sometimes we have to leave our comfort zone to make progress.
posted by Rock Steady at 3:52 PM on October 31, 2014 [15 favorites]

Thanks for following up! I think the big next step would be asking out some women you're interested in. I know it's tough and scary and can mean rejection BUT it's the only way to find out! It may be that the biggest message you're actually sending across is not "desperate" but actually "not interested" when you truly are. If they're not single, not interested? No worries, because plenty are and it's a game of numbers as well.

And it's totally OK to ask acquaintances for dating suggestions! You could say, "Hey, I've been spending a lot of time studying these past semester but now I'm looking to start dating. If you know of anyone who might be interested or a good match, please let me know!" I feel weird matching people unless they've specifically asked for it because I don't want to assume they're interested just because they're single and what not.
posted by smorgasbord at 3:52 PM on October 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm a little afraid that I'll have no results

By your own admission, you have no results now. How can online dating be worse?

It's too fast for me. I like to become friends first. As someone who's never had a date before, the friend to date model is a little bit more comfortable. Besides, don't girls think it's weird if a guy who they only met about ten to fifteen minutes prior is asking them out on a date already?

I hear this a lot from guys who know they want serious relationships. I think this is because somehow everyone they date has to be a potential for a long term relationship, and not just a bit of potential, but like, 50% probability or something.

Here's the thing, for a girl, going on a date with a guy is not a big investment. (Partially because most of the time the guy's planning and organizing the date.) So, no, if a guy is cute and interesting and not creepy, it's not "too early" to decide to go on a date and get to know each other better after just a few minutes of meeting. You don't have to bare your soul just being you're on a date. Do something fun, maybe something you've been wanting to do anyway (hiking, trying out a new restaurant, etc). Have engaging conversations. Talk, and more importantly, listen.
posted by ethidda at 3:52 PM on October 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

First, good for you for trying therapy and sticking to it. That's a biggie and going to help long-term, even if you're not seeing the results just yet.

Two more thoughts:

- While 26 is actually a really normal age for college in the US now, I can imagine that you feel a bit older (while also feeling younger in some ways.) I just want to acknowledge that while saying that perhaps doing more community events off-campus could help you connect with more people of your own age.

- Totally random but do you think that perhaps some of these female classmates and clubmates you know might think you're gay and, therefore, just interested in friendship? Maybe, maybe not. (I say that as a LGBT person myself.) If you think this could be the case, starting to ask people out would be the clearest, most tactful way to clarify.
posted by smorgasbord at 4:02 PM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh my god, chill. I'm creeped out reading this.

Instead of focusing on how much you need to find a girl to bang- just go on some dates. YES TRY INTERNET DATING. It is so much easier because everyone is on the same track.

Here is the problem with "friends to dating". It means that you see every girl that you are starting a friendship with as a possible romantic partner. That isn't a friend, dude. And we can see that shit and it feels sneaky and gross.

Honestly, I knew I wanted to date my husband in the first five minutes of knowing him. It wasn't creepy at all- though much to his releif I asked him out right there and saved him the stress.
posted by Blisterlips at 4:02 PM on October 31, 2014 [6 favorites]

I like to become friends first.

I gotta tell you, a lot of people don't date friends. Acquaintances, yes - knowing people who know you is great, so you're not a complete stranger. Maybe a few hangouts in a group (this is where the volunteering and activities come in), but no buddies.

I don't want to fuck my friends, because I'm not an asshole. I will not go out with you if you bait-and-switch me with the "just friends" thing like you're not interested and then months later turn around and say "okay, now you have to think of me in a completely different way, because I say so." We are no longer friends then, because I can't trust you to be what you claim to be.

If you're going to do internet dating, you will emerge 5 MILLION percent ahead of the pack if you do not send messages to women that say "hey nice tits u suck my cock okay". Seriously, a polite note with full sentences is very impressive in this day and age. And don't spend months texting and emailing - a couple of short messages, maybe a couple of longer emails, a talk on the phone, and coffee in person. Do not drag it out, y'all are both there for a reason.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:08 PM on October 31, 2014 [17 favorites]

Best answer: As someone who's never had a date before, the friend to date model is a little bit more comfortable. Besides, don't girls think it's weird if a guy who they only met about ten to fifteen minutes prior is asking them out on a date already?

It depends on the context. If we've been having a lovely chat and flirting for ten to fifteen minutes, I'd be quite flattered. If we've just exchanged a couple of sentences while waiting for a book signing over a fifteen minute period, and I still have a half hour of waiting to go, and he asks me and I'm basically trapped there unless I want to give the book signing up . . . that's not cool. I also wouldn't ask someone out within a two minute period, because that's really weird.

Talk to the woman, chat her up extra friendly and flirt a little, see if she's responding verbally and non-verbally with equal enthusiasm. If you're still both having a good time when it's time to separate--you have to go to class, the concert ends, blah blah blah--then ask her on a date. Don't think of it as starting a relationship. Think of it as a chance to continue a conversation you're already both enjoying, but in a context that gives you both a better chance to get to know one another.

Here is the thing about being desperate: if you go into an interaction with an attractive woman with the attitude that you want a date at the end, that probably won't go well. If you enter the interaction with the idea that you want to find out more about her, as if you were starting a friendship, that's how the magic happens. When people say "treat women like people" that's what they mean. She isn't someone to be conquered, getting a date isn't something to be achieved. She's a person that you're finding a little bit about, and maybe you'll want to ask her out, and maybe you won't. And maybe she'll say yes, and maybe she won't.

In the "desperate" situaiton, you're thinking "OHGODIWANTTHISPLEASESAYYES". In the latter, you're valuing your own preferences too. So you find her physically attractive--but what if it turns out she likes to kick puppies? You don't want to date someone like that. And you don't know that until you get a feel for what kind of person she is, right? So you have this casual, friendly conversation where you feel out who she is while she's feeling out who you are. And if you both still have good feelings at the end of the conversation, then continue the conversation while on a date. I know it's hard to think of it this way, because right now you're completely overwhelmed with the desire to be with someone. But think of this method not as a way to come off as not desperate, but as a way to ensure that you date someone you actually like.

Going from "friend" to "romance" only works if you're good at flirting and moderating romantic tension (or if she starts aggressively pursuing you). And no offense, but it doesn't seem like that kind of social tightrope-walking is your thing. So you have to switch straight to "Let's go on a date".

Also, if you have trouble gauging her interest and figuring out how to make a conversation flirtatious, this is a really good guide.
posted by Anonymous at 4:11 PM on October 31, 2014

Besides, don't girls think it's weird if a guy who they only met about ten to fifteen minutes prior is asking them out on a date already?

Women think it's weird for a guy "friend" to be friending with secret/not-so-secret lust in his heart. As for out-of-the-blue approaches in e.g. grocery stores, also weird, yes, I agree. But after say a half-hour conversation at a party, where some kind of connection's been established, not weird at all. Online dating, obviously explicitly about dating, so.

(I think, by the way, that the expectation that men should start things off is completely fucked up, but recognize that it's still [sadly] prevalent, and that guys who don't take on the risk of asking are likely to suffer for it. While I personally have sometimes initiated things, my dating life could proceed without feeling pressured to do that. I'm sorry you are feeling overwhelmed by that expectation. Another way that current gender expectations and biases hurt people.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:12 PM on October 31, 2014 [4 favorites]

Some things I like, in no particular order: I love new experiences. I dream of traveling the world. I love to be outside, whether that be floating the river, hiking, camping, or just sitting back in the grassy field.

To be blunt: how many of these things have you actually DONE recently? With other people? Are you a member of your university's outdoors club? Do that.

As for the "let's go on a date", I'll tell you why I'm not comfortable with doing that within first meeting someone. It's too fast for me. I like to become friends first. As someone who's never had a date before, the friend to date model is a little bit more comfortable.

This model does not really exist. When you start hanging out with a woman and you act like you are forming a platonic friendship with her, she is going to think, "oh, I guess this guy is not romantically interested in me." And if she is interested in you, she will be bummed out because this is pretty much a rejection! If you want to make friends who are women, do that, but don't look at your friends as romantic prospects you're trying to cultivate. Not only does it have a low success rate, it is false advertising.

It is ok to get dating advice from friends.
posted by deanc at 4:13 PM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

You have all these weird ideas. It's a Franken-relationship guide in your head, informed by sit coms and rom coms and Animal House or something. It's super fucked up.

Dating is very different from making friends. If you want to date, don't focus on friendship. It's confusing. If you're attracted to someone, and you'd like to get to know them better, DATE her! Friend to Girlfriend is not a continuum. Often, while you're faffing around trying to befriend a woman, she's looking to date people. If you don't date her, she'll try and find someone else to date, all the while counting you among her friends. That's not what you're looking for, is it?

Get on OK Cupid, and put a profile out there. See what kinds of ladies mesh with you. Take them out expressly for the purpose of dating. You'll find that dating can be kind of a drag. Sometimes you click, sometimes you don't. Sometimes you click for awhile and some cray-cray pops up and it's on to the next.

You've tried X and Y and it's not working for you. Try Z and Q for a change.

Go to parties, talk to women, ask them out. If a woman is giving you her number, use it to call her and ask her out on a date. She already has plenty of friends, if she's giving you her number it's because she wants you to ask her out. If you give her yours, she can ask YOU out.

So again, I reiterate, don't confuse people by being attracted, getting numbers and then trying to make friends before making a move. Be a confident guy who knows that he wants to date a woman and perhaps be in a relationship with her. This happens through dating.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:28 PM on October 31, 2014 [19 favorites]

How To Win Friends and Influence People is a classic book on how to form strong relationships.
The book is meant more for business - but it is applicable to any social group.
posted by Flood at 4:32 PM on October 31, 2014

This whole semester has been geared to finally losing my virginity, in a way that I can be proud of.

So it's an issue of pride? Gross.

You don’t know what it’s like to go through life as a lonely virgin, frustrated and confused as to why you are one in the first place.

You know what? Yes, I do. I was a girl, and all my friends had boyfriends, and I spent a lot of time wishing I could fall in love, and it never happened. And it felt unfair, but there you go. Guess what-- your college campus is full of women experiencing exactly that.

You have bought into a poisonous cultural narrative that virginity is a curse and a punishment, instead of 100% normal and the way a lot of people throughout history AND AT THIS PRESENT MOMENT live their lives. Girls don't want to be your Everest. They want to get to know dudes and have fun and maybe get laid, but they do NOT want to feel like you see them as achievement instead of people.

Also, you know, are you asking out all kinds of women? A lot of the dudes who espouse "no women liiiiiiike me why do they only like other men" are only asking out women who look a certain way. If you want women to see "the real you" and get to know you for who you are, maybe you need to start doing the same thing.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 4:33 PM on October 31, 2014 [11 favorites]

I hear this a lot from guys who know they want serious relationships. I think this is because somehow everyone they date has to be a potential for a long term relationship, and not just a bit of potential, but like, 50% probability or something.

I quoted that because I wonder how much it applies to you, ggp88. You've said that you want to get laid and hopefully have a relationship, too. I'm sure that you do want to get laid, but isn't the real truth that you want a full-time romantic partner? Perhaps I'm reading too much into what you've written or perhaps I'm projecting the younger me onto you. If so, nothing to see here, folks. Move along.

When I was in college, what I basically wanted was to be married. I even wanted that in high school. I had a sex drive, and I wanted to get laid, but the truth was that it was never enough. I thought it was enough until it happened, and then I desperately wanted the girl to be my girlfriend. I'm 49 now, and nothing has changed about me, except that I know myself better. I'm simply not casual-sex material. I'm rigged to be a husband.

When I was in my 20s, it wasn't so much that I was desperate. It was more that they women could sense (better than I could) the kind of guy I was. One even told me (though I didn't get what she meant at the time) that she could tell I wanted a really serious relationship, and that she simply wasn't ready for that. It was too intense for her.

College is really tough for guys like us (assuming you're like me). I was older than most of the other students, just as you are. Most 22-year-olds, male or female, simply aren't ready for that sort of commitment. The good news is (and I wish I had known this at the time, because at least I would have suspected that there was some light at the end of the tunnel), things start to change when "kids" get on the flip side of 25. There are many more women approaching 30 who want a serious boyfriend than college-aged women.

Sure, you'll meet many people now who are in "serious" relationships, in the sense that they're exclusive and maybe have even been together for years. Still, there's something causal about most of them that I wasn't good at, and women could sense that. They knew that on our third date, I'd be planning our wedding. And they were right. I wouldn't have come out and said it, but it would have been it the back of my mind. Again, it wasn't because I was desperate. It was because I wouldn't have gone on a 3rd date with someone I wasn't that serious about.

I am so scared I'm going to give you an excuse not to take the very, very, very good advice people are giving you. Which is that you should boldly ask lots of women out on dates. That really is good advice for most people, and maybe even I would have been happier if I'd done it. So please give it some long and hard thought and, better yet, try it. It's not going to kill you, even if all you learn from it is that you're not that kind of guy.

That said, as far as I can tell, the guy who goes on casual dates is simply not who I am. It's very much against my grain. And if I was single now (I'm approaching my 20th anniversary!), I would still probably not ask lots of women out. I need a close bond. I have had three girlfriend in my life (one of whom I married), and they were all close platonic friends before anything romantic happened. My wife and I were best friends for a year before we so much as kissed.

If you're not like me, this is all for nothing, and you can scroll forward. You'll have an easier life if you're not like me. But if you are, you may simply have to wait a while, until the people around you have different priorities than is the norm for young 20-somethings.

Meanwhile, do all the great self-work people have suggested. I met the woman I'm now married to when I was knee-deep in collaborative projects, totally focused on them, not trying to meet anyone. More than I had previously in my life, I came across as a guy who knew what he was doing and was doing it, and who was excited to share it with others--to help them and to learn from them.

By the way, you don't mention projects. It's great that you love the outdoors, but what are you working on besides your grades? What skills are you acquiring? What are you building? I know that the women who interest me aren't just nice, outgoing people with interests. They are people with skills (which they acquired through hard work) who are doing things, who are devoted to causes, projects, or passions. They don't have to be life goals or passions. Temporary ones are fine.
posted by grumblebee at 4:42 PM on October 31, 2014 [16 favorites]

I could have written puppermcsockerson's response pretty much word for word. It got easier after college for me.

The other thing is that there were people in college that I would have slept with, and in retrospect I think they would have slept with me, but we were both too shy to do anything about it, or they weren't shy but I was super shy and/or weird about it and they didn't have the know-how to deal with that. Basically, things got way easier for me after college as people got more mature and comfortable with the sex thing (because 20 year olds might be having lots of sex, but that doesn't mean that they have figured out how to deal with all of the situations surrounding it), and then I got less awkward and everything is peachy now. So take heart and stay calm.
posted by geegollygosh at 4:47 PM on October 31, 2014

I wanted to say that if you are even considering PUA garbage, don't do it. I'm not saying it doesn't work, but there was a year or two where I kind of digested the female equivalent of PUA (basically, contempt for the opposite sex, because they were so easy to "play") and I really hated what it did to my personality and relationships. Just wanted to throw that out there.

Anyway, I don't think you're gross, and I know what it's like to meet 2039583049 cool people and find out they're all dating someone. It's particularly bad in college-- college encourages quick relationships and people freakin' live in the same building as one another. I agree that it will probably get better later.
posted by stoneandstar at 4:51 PM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

A lot of people are wondering about this too.

Don't try to be friends with women you want to date: that way lies creepiness and misery.

If you literally say "you're pretty cool, let's be friends and we can hang out", and then text someone to meet you at an open-to-campus party, it's not romantic and it's not clear what you're looking for. It'd be somewhat better to say, "you're pretty cool, I'd like to get to know you better because I've always imagined relationships should grow out of friendships." That gets your point across. Or, just keep talking.

If you just want to have sex and are willing to make a bad life choice, go to parties where people are getting drunk and talk to women who are less attractive than you. This is a quick way to find someone who wants to have sex with you but from what I hear also a quick way to get herpes and realize that the world sucks. So: not at all recommended.

What happened to start my relationships:
-- I went to a dance party with some friends, talked about how I wanted to meet someone, and gradually realized that one of my friends actually was into me (specifically: increasingly close dancing as I showed I was comfortable with her in my space).
-- I sang a love song from a Disney movie, in a context where she could choose to think I wasn't singing to her if she wasn't interested. Later, she more or less asked me to ask her out.
-- I met someone at a party. We had lots to talk about, and kept talking. For hours.

The essence of flirting is showing interest in a way that also shows that you're interesting/fun, able to read her social cues, and open to being rejected. Good luck.
posted by sninctown at 4:51 PM on October 31, 2014

For the record, OP, I don't think you're fucked up or creepy as many here are (arguably uncharitably) interpreting your words. You went out of your way to disclaim a lot of the creepy BS that people are sort of dancing around here, and I don't think it's really fair to ignore those disclaimers; you're clearly trying hard to be decent and respectful and, as a woman, I appreciate it.

I have a pretty similar orientation toward dating - I've never casually dated, my relationships all started as friendships, and the entire process of dating has always felt a bit overly forward to me. I was a returning student and I would have been SOL for in-school dating if I hadn't arrived with my SO in tow (who I met at work and had been friends with for a year before we got together, incidentally), so I can doubly understand where you're coming from there. I can even understand why you feel hurried to lose your virginity, although I agree that it's possible that there's a desperate aspect of your interactions that isn't immediately obvious to you as a result of your hyperfocus on this.

I also don't think the "dating guidelines" are nearly as obvious as some folks here are making them out to be; you stated in your question that you don't feel like you have any male role models, so it makes perfect sense that you'd be confused about how to act! That might be one way to approach this from another angle: find some male role models. Not dudes who you think are good at attracting girls, but men who you admire, who you want to be like when you 'grow up', who engage with women the way that you would like to learn to do. It's not too late to have some of these behaviors modeled to you by people you can trust and look up to.

Online dating is a must-try, especially for as well as you express yourself. You sound smart and self-aware, and that will come across instantly on a dating site. It will probably resonate with other people who are looking for something more serious, which will help you find people whose relationship goals are aligned with yours. Also try to meet people outside of school; 26 isn't old at all, but even small differences in age seem big to younger college-aged people, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if you had much better luck trying to meet people out in your community rather than at school.

Finally, being genuinely interesting is really important, and by that I mean things like having projects, active interests, goals, etc. When people say stuff like "women like leaders" or whatever, they are only seeing a subset of a larger group; women don't necessarily like leaders (I sure don't), but we all like other people who have something going on, who are engaged in the world, who have passions. Leaders often have those things, but they aren't the only people who have them, and you can be just as interesting with a quiet unassuming project as long as you really care about it.

So I guess my advice (find male role models, work on projects) might feel orthogonal to your issue, but I think that approach will work better in the long run than following some lifehacky stuff or trying to change your fundamental outlook on dating overnight. If you just need to lose your virginity or you're going to scream, do it casually and just stop caring about it. It doesn't need to be something you're proud of, exactly, although I appreciate that you want to do it respectfully and decently; if it's hanging you up on the love/relationship question, just get it out of the way in a hookup-type context so you can stop thinking about it. Really, love and virginity are very separate things, and working with your therapist to tease apart your feelings about those two different concepts might help make things clearer. Best of luck.
posted by dialetheia at 5:00 PM on October 31, 2014 [16 favorites]

Start viewing women as people who may be worthwhile friends and stop viewing women as potential sex partners. Your odds of having a girlfriend will increase 100x if your mission is to have genuine, female friends rather than if your mission is to find a girlfriend/have sex. And don't just be their friend in hopes they will eventually want to fuck you. See women not as a means to an end but as an end in and of themselves. You already seem cognizant of not being a disgusting, creepy scum bag, which is great. But you're still thinking with your penis quite a bit here. I'm guessing your attempts at being friends with women to date have felt more like pretending to be friends under the guise of trying to hook up. Approach it the way you would a dude you would like to be friends with.
posted by AppleTurnover at 5:04 PM on October 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

+1 to dialetheia's post, especially the part about finding male role models!
posted by smorgasbord at 5:06 PM on October 31, 2014

My last comment here (sorry for writing so much): I'm with dialetheia and stoneandstar - very uncomfortable with people assigning "creepiness" to OP. Of course a person who hasn't experienced sex is going to find it mysterious and idealize it a bit. I (somehow, so long ago!) remember what it was like to be young, and wanting to know what it was like to kiss (or to be kissed, to be 'chosen', because that's the narrative for young girls), and I remember feeling that that was an important personal and social marker of both development and social success. I think that's possibly even more the case for young men. Longing to be loved, to have an experience that's been exalted in popular culture (and is arguably part of the normal range of human needs) isn't creepy; OP being a man doesn't make it so. PUA stuff is of course whack, but OP is actively fighting against that easy & ugly "solution" to loneliness.

Take heart, ggp88. You're not a weirdo. Keep working on yourself, keep growing, and good things will come.
posted by cotton dress sock at 5:19 PM on October 31, 2014 [22 favorites]

Sorry to add another post, but based on a previous question, it appears you may also suffer from social anxiety, which is a real thing and can definitely get in the way of making both friends and girlfriends. I know it's an over-recommended thing on AskMeFi, but you could look into therapy possibly that could help you with coping techniques, practice and working through anxiety you might have. Treatment for depression, which is a factor, won't be immediate and will take some time, but will help too. That being said, I stand by my previous comment and you probably suffer more anxiety when you view every meeting with a woman as your big chance to find a mate. Just don't focus on it and worry about it so much and it'll be way easier.

One other thing, it's not like you're a virgin and everyone else at school is having sex. I lost my virginity after college. So did a lot of my friends and people I know. It's really pretty normal. MTV and movies and marketing have kind of made some of us believe that everyone else is having sex all the time, but I assure you, that's not the case.
posted by AppleTurnover at 5:32 PM on October 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

There's nothing wrong with you, but you need to put yourself out there and fail. Fail repeatedly. It's like learning how to ride a bike: nobody's just born knowing how to ride a bike. Dating, flirting, and relationship-ing are all extraordinarily learnable skills, but you need to practice. You'll fail, a lot, and you'll realize that there's still nothing wrong with you. Heck, I'm a case study: I've gone out on 20 dates over the last month or two. Most were pleasant, some not so much, and I ended up just not clicking with all of the people I dated. Doesn't mean there's anything wrong with me or them -- we just didn't mesh. Meshing is about so much more than objective attributes, like looks or money or whathaveyou -- heck, the people I've had really good chemistry with and ended up dating more seriously in the past, I would've NEVER expected myself to be attracted to. Not in a million years. And because I was willing to put myself out there and figure out what I'm looking for in a partner, I'm so much better off for it, and I don't mind if it takes me 20, 40, or 60 "failed" dates until I find someone who clicks. THAT's the attitude you gotta cultivate.

So just put yourself out there and prepare to be surprised! It's not about controlling the outcome, but sort of enjoying the moment and whatever comes. Ultimately, you have absolutely zero control over anything like this: you could date someone really awesome and end up marrying them, and the next day they get hit by a truck. Sorry to be morbid, but that's just kinda how it is. And I'm willing to bet that a lot of the relationships you're seeing and hearing about aren't so rosy under the surface. Being in a HEALTHY relationship's nice. Abusive or unhealthy relationships (of which there are way too many) are a special kind of hell that will make you appreciate your singledom. So it's not like being in a relationship is something that's uniformly positive, but you've haven't had that sort of experience just yet, so I see how it can seem that way to you.

Hope this made sense! If you want to chat further, just MeMail me or something.
posted by un petit cadeau at 5:46 PM on October 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

You shouldn't be trying to make friends with girls in hopes of dating them later, because that's dishonest AND is likely to lead to mutual frustration and disappointment. You don't need to try and develop your other interests while you put off losing your virginity for a while. You don't need to work up some kind of seduction routine, or ask out lots and lots of girls and hope one says yes. You need to put a profile online and start meeting girls who are looking for the same things. You're actually risking LESS by doing that, because a girl who's not interested in your profile just won't answer and a girl who's not interested when you ask her out is very specifically saying no, to you.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:47 PM on October 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

Why are you so focused on finding someone to date AT your university? I found it very hard to meet people at school (I did not live on campus) and never dated or even made real friends with anyone at school. At 26 you're older than most of your classmates. I think you'll have more luck meeting someone outside of school. Get out in your community. Check out local bars, and most importantly, make a profile on Okcupid, or wherever. That will put you in touch with other people looking for someone.

The other thing I noticed, your question is all about you. Not a single word about the kind of girl you'd like to date. If you consider each and every girl as a potential girlfriend, that's going to show, and it's off-putting. It comes across, and seems to me, that you are not seeing women as actual people, with dreams, and interests, and personalities. Just the goal you want to attain. You need to think about what attributes in a potential girlfriend attract you, and would complement your personality.

You do come across as trying too hard, and that definitely reeks of desperation and will be a huge turnoff for many women. You also need to stay away from the mindset, and anyone saying, "women are attracted to..." "Women like ..." "Girls all..." Women are people. They are attracted to different things. They like different things. There are no universals. First thing is to see women as individuals. Make friends with women, see them as people, and look online for other people looking to date. Be yourself, but also be interested in the other person. Go on some dates, and be honest, and also don't be afraid to be direct, and move things along. If it's going well, ask a girl if you can kiss her, etc. The worst she can say is no. Learn to accept that and not be afraid of it. It's not that bad. Eventually you'll find someone you click with.

I think more than ever, today it's harder to meet people in that organic way that seems so prized. There's nothing wrong with going to a venue for people who are looking for a partner, when that's your goal, whether that's online, or something like speed dating. The first step in finding someone to date is finding people who also want to date. So stop drifting around hoping to meet someone, and start a more focused search.
posted by catatethebird at 6:01 PM on October 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

Do you have any guy friends in serious relationships? That could be a good route to finding female friends, or at least female acquaintances who are obviously off the dating market and could maybe give you some pointers if you're accidentally coming off in some off-putting way- maybe you talk over people without noticing, or wear unflattering jeans, or something. She could also be on the lookout for you- not in a weird way, but more like a "hey my friend is having a party and she's inviting some of her friends (hint hint) maybe you should come with us!" kind of way. I say this as a girl with a long term boyfriend who would love to be asked to play this role with his friends, if called into action.
posted by MadamM at 6:11 PM on October 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

Are you decently attractive? Most of this advice won't work if you aren't. Get a well-dressed friend to be real about your fashion choices, I bet you're wearing some ridiculous stuff that you think looks good, most people do. Grooming - make sure your aesthetic works for you. If in doubt a clean masculine haircut suits most people. Do you exercise, do you look healthy? You don't have to be Zyzz but being fit is almost universally attractive.

Once you've got that groundwork done, just follow your passions, be interested and interesting, don't be afraid to put yourself out there in conversation, and it all sort of falls into place. Engage women who seem open to conversation (you probably will fumble a few times - just don't persist if things are falling flat) but don't approach conversation as some kind of project to convince a woman to fuck you, just show her that you have an agile mind and an interest in the world around you.

I make it sound trivial but I'm sympathetic to the fact that it's actually a lot of work.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 7:49 PM on October 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

So I'm female, and I just want to say that I vividly remember how lonely I was in college, and I would have loved it if a nice guy had said "hey do you want to go on a date with me?" But I would never have shown up to a party just because some guy said I should.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:54 PM on October 31, 2014 [25 favorites]

I get asked out fairly often so I can tell you what works for me. I don't accept if it's a "Come over/want to hang out" invite. Or "want to grab a drink with me and my friends" kind of thing. That's a sign of immaturity, in my opinion.

"I'd like to take you out" works amazingly well. I ended up dating a guy for awhile because of the way he asked me out every time. And I would have continued if he wasn't a huge pothead who gets strep constantly and doesn't take care of his lungs and liver (huge drinker). I wasn't even initially all that into him after our first date, but I liked the way he asked me out and planned dates and treated me. If it weren't for his pot addiction and alcohol abuse, I'd have continued to see him. I still have a ton of affection for him, but it just wasn't going to work for me. But I almost close to fell in love with him, because he was so good to me.
posted by discopolo at 8:33 PM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Is your askme from April still relevant or have you fixed that issue? You have listed your many interests. How often do you actually do them? You seem to be a pretty self aware person and I know it can be really hard to do but you need to try and relax. You may not realize that you may (maybe, maybe not!) reek of desperation. Getting a girlfriend may feel like it will solve all your problems and make your life complete but that is just a fantasy. Being confident ( in a calm unforced manner) in who you are first and foremost is a very attractive quality. None of this is easy! Please don't fall into the trap of thinking that having a GF makes you a whole person.
posted by futz at 8:36 PM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

As for the "let's go on a date", I'll tell you why I'm not comfortable with doing that within first meeting someone. It's too fast for me. I like to become friends first. As someone who's never had a date before, the friend to date model is a little bit more comfortable. Besides, don't girls think it's weird if a guy who they only met about ten to fifteen minutes prior is asking them out on a date already?

Yeah, you are overthinking this, big time. It's totally fucking scary to ask a woman (stop with the "girl" stuff, you are 26, anyone you ask out on a date should be a woman, not a girl) out on a date for the first time, but after the first few times it's really not that bad. But the only way you get there is by manning up and asking her out. She says no? Guess what, the world goes on and you ask out someone else.

This whole "we need to be friends first" thing? Cop out, 100 percent. (As well as creepy for anyone who just wanted to be your friend and then gets asked out, ugh.) Asking someone out who you have just met is like literally the least weird thing in the entire world assuming you have read their body language and the social cues appropriately.

That last thing? That's why people keep suggesting online dating. Literally everyone there wants to go out on dates and have sex and be in a relationship. Everyone on the entire site is there for exactly what you want: "Hey, want to go on a date with me?" That's why they are there!

Lastly, you are 26. That's borderline too old to be asking out the seniors and pretty much definitely too old to be asking out the freshmen. Unless your university has a big grad school, you need to be working the online dating rather than trolling the student union.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:08 PM on October 31, 2014 [12 favorites]

Do you know of any online models I can follow? Any guides? I mean, where the heck do I meet the single ladies on campus? Why aren’t girls interested in me? What am I doing wrong, and what’s wrong with my personality?
Do you go to a university affiliated with a religious institution of which you are not a member? Do you have some unstated psychological hang-up or issue that might be making this difficult?

Assuming not, your problem isn't that you haven't gotten laid yet; it's that you are so desperate to be normal – to rid yourself of the "virgin" label that identifies you as one of the untouchables in the heterosexual college male caste system – that you're missing the social cues from women who are interested in you and/or you are excluding the ones who have made their interest known through the nuanced and intricate body language that most women in our society use to communicate such things.

I went through a sort of similar experience where I'd get hung up on so-and-so from biology class, then completely ignore the group of girls in my dorm building who were flirting with me every day. I spent countless hours pining over someone (who, in retrospect, was a jerk), then ignored the nice, cute girl at the library who was hitting on me repeatedly, until she finally asked me out. If I could do it all over again, I would spend less time picking out a girl and trying to come up with some magic spell that would make her like me, and instead just look around and find someone who already liked me, and see if I liked any of them back.

Looking back on it, I'm sure there was 10,000% more female attention coming my way than I ever actually picked up on. But (many) women (often) have a bizarrely covert way of expressing interest in men, and if you're down in the dumps or worried that you're abnormal because you're not "getting laid" all the time then you're not going to learn how to pick up on it. Instead, you're going to turn into one of those sad PUA guys who just memorizes some dumb script that is supposed to make women sleep with them. Those guys are really just trying to make up for their inability to read signals from women, and so deservedly receive the vitriol of most men.
posted by deathpanels at 9:45 PM on October 31, 2014 [4 favorites]

Check out David Deida. He's got some really good stuff about the masculine/feminine dynamic that has helped a lot of guys I know blossom from 'nice but socially unaware' to 'nice AND very adept at the subtle, mysterious world of non-verbal communication and self-confidence'.

Good luck :)
posted by ananci at 10:37 PM on October 31, 2014

Although I'd done most of the normal, almost-sex stuff, I didn't "lose my virginity" until roughly your age, OP (maybe 23? 24? I was a serious drinker then, so it's a bit of a mystery...). Yeah, it was a weight, and I beat myself up about it all the time. And yes, I veered into a mode of seeing the situation in a variety of extreme lights; everyone "good" is taken, I must have to be some kind of asshole in order to get laid, shit -- maybe I'm reading as gay, etc.

Asking people out in person was, and still is, uncomfortable for me. I generally read people well, and am perfectly capable of being charming. I get along with women much better than men, so my uncertainty in this area has always baffled me. I could flirt and otherwise enjoy the company of a woman for weeks, even months, and then just spiral into a state of terror and self-doubt when the moment arrived to ask her out already. It was weird, and like erectile dysfunction, thinking about it didn't exactly help. Hell, even in cases where alcohol lubrication enabled my to ask someone out or get somebody's number, I'd still worry myself out of it, half the time.

Another thing that made the hurdle higher was that, like grumblebee, I simply didn't have the option to play things casual; I have no interest (outside my lizard brain) in having sex with someone outside of a serious/potentially-serious relationship.

Although I did get better at all this over time, it wasn't until my thirties -- and INTERNET DATING INTERNET DATING INTERNET DATING -- that I truly hit my stride with relationships. And that followed several "serious" relationships that ultimately sucked, plus a strict no-dating period of a few years while I got my life generally in order.

Join OKC or similar, and make a profile that reflects your true self. Make a mental list of attributes (physical tastes are valid, but keep those items to a minimum) that you're looking for (thus narrowing down from ALL THE LADIES). Message people (genuinely/tastefully) without fear of consequence, because there pretty much isn't any. You'll meet some cool people that don't quite work out. You'll meet some "perfect" people who will flake on you, or reject you for their own reasons. There may still be some weirdness and some confusion/hurt feelings, along the way. But seriously, internet dating is a gawdsend to people who have trouble judging levels of real-world interest or availability.
posted by credible hulk at 11:29 PM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, the narrative you've bought into is harmful to you in a lot of ways, but to your very great credit, you seem to be on top of that, even if you're not sure how to get out of it. I have to reiterate that becoming friends first and hoping romance blossoms is not really a good way to make this happen, and that since you really want this to happen, you have to commit to taking actions towards making it happen.

There are really three big steps to being in a relationship; you have to make meaningful contacts, you have to move those contacts into a romantic context, and you have to develop that romantic context into a good partnership. Lemme take those one at a time.

Making meaningful contacts: Go to where the people are, either in real life or online. Parties, book clubs, organization committees for causes you're interested in, hiking clubs, stuff like that -- all good places in real life. Online? yeah, you're looking at online dating, but that's OK. Online dating can be very successful if you have the right strategies. Once you are there where the people are, you really have to do two things; namely, be interesting, and be interested. When I say "be interesting," what I mean is: what defines you? What makes you different from the guy on the next barstool? What are you into? What do you do -- how do you spend your hours and your days? Do you geocache, are you learning to play the oboe, do you do fiendishly difficult crosswords? It is much, MUCH easier to attract a partner if you have a solid and well-defined sense of self and satisfaction in your activities. The other half of the equation, "be interested," is a little more self explanatory; talk to the people you're meeting and find out what THEY'RE into, what defines them, what brings them joy, what they despise. This is what makes these contacts meaningful.

(Specific to online dating: you want to write a profile that has sincere but narrow appeal. Too many people make the mistake of trying to appeal to as many people as possible, which is how you get those "I like food and music and laughing" profiles. You want to be true to yourself in your profile, and write it to appeal to the person who will appeal to you. Don't pretend to be outdoorsy if you aren't, you'll wind up dating a woman who wants to go camping all the time and you'll resent it. If you really, really enjoy watching horror movies, make sure to bring that up, because you won't want to date someone who finds them repulsive. Etc.)

Moving those contacts to a romantic context: This means, ask people out. On a date. Specifically just like that. At a party, after 20 minutes of chit-chat and feeling a spark: "Hey, I am really enjoying talking to you, and I'd like to do more of that in a situation that isn't so, you know, so much like this. Could I take you out for a drink sometime?" At your book group, after the second or third time the two of you have stayed late after everyone else has gone home because you don't want to stop talking: "I really have had a lovely time these past few weeks, and I'd love to learn more about you besides how much you like The Kite Runner. Would you like to go out for dinner with me on Thursday?" Online, after three or mmmmmaybe four back-and-forth messages: "I am kind of digging you. Want to get coffee and see where it goes?" (There is such a temptation in online dating to just stay with the messages and not meet in person, because that's safe and you know that's good, but things are so, so, so different in person, the chemistry is either there or it isn't. Meet in person, and do it fast.)

A lot of these people are not going to want to go out with you, or they'll happily agree but then the date just won't go well. That's OK. That's because not everyone is compatible. That's not a failure, that's just discovering that this person isn't your girlfriend. A lot of them, you'll have a good time and they'll be nice, but it will be the in-person equivalent of watching reruns of Friends; an OK way to kill some time, more fun than doing your dishes, but not really something you're going to be clearing your calendar to make time for. Don't keep up with dating someone just because it isn't awful, that's unkind to you and her both. Let her go, gently but clearly. There are worse things than being single, and being in a relationship you don't enjoy but can't figure out how to get out of is one of them.

But if you keep it up, and keep making yourself available and keep putting yourself out there, after a while you're probably going to run into someone whom you really make an excited, energetic connection with, someone whom you'd rather be with than do almost anything else. This is good -- this is EXCELLENT! But your work isn't over! Because now you have to do what you can to be a good partner, and keep an eye out to see if this person is a good partner in her own right, and a good partner to you. Everyone has different needs out of a partner, but some of the universals are compassion, kindness, respect, a willingness to look at your own baggage, and the ability and desire to solve relationship problems collaboratively. By that last one, I mean that if one partner is unhappy in the relationship, than the relationship has a problem and both people need to work to solve it. This doesn't mean that you subsume your whole self into your partner's needs, because your boundaries and your needs are important too. But it means that when your girlfriend says "Honey, it really bothers me when you do X," you have to have an answer other than "Welp that's your problem to solve because X is never going to change." And vice versa. Don't be afraid to go to a counselor if you are not making progress resolving problems, because a neutral third party can be invaluable in pointing out the areas where you are acting weird but don't even realize it.

So, that's a lot of words to answer the question "how do I lose my virginity." But truly, there's no magic bullet, there's no programmable set of steps that will result in a relationship. It's about emotional and physical availability, and moving on opportunities with intention, and and acting with respect to deepen and nourish what you sow. Best of luck to you.
posted by KathrynT at 11:41 PM on October 31, 2014 [10 favorites]

Since I clearly didn't go on enough above, I have one other thought ;-)

About this "women want leaders" thing; no they don't. Or, yeah, some do. Or -- get this -- a particular woman wants whatever damn "type" she wants, because she's an individual human being.

Some people are attracted to brash, daring, "alpha" people. Others want a sponge. Others want a goofball. Others want a person with a strong moral center, or a thoughtful, lead-from-behind consensus-builder. If there is any kind of generalization that can be made, people are attracted to other people who are reasonably confident in whoever/whatever they are.
posted by credible hulk at 11:58 PM on October 31, 2014 [4 favorites]

Whatever is holding you back from signing up for OkCupid right now, please get it out of your head and just do it.
posted by FeralHat at 1:19 AM on November 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I'm fixing to go out for a night of drinking, partying, and costumed revelry, but everyone, I just wanted to say, this has been incredibly helpful. I feel like I've learned more here than I've learned on the PUA forums, plus I won't feel like a shitbag by incorporating it into my life. The theme is that I've gotta be balsey, take risks, and ask women out on dates. Plus, I need to get on online dating. Are there any non-PUA online dating guides that you know of?

And no, tckma, I'm not out on some mysogynistic conquest.
posted by ggp88 at 1:45 AM on November 1, 2014

You don’t know what it’s like to go through life as a lonely virgin, frustrated and confused as to why you are one in the first place.

Do, though. First kiss at 30. And it didn't happen until some years after I'd completely given up on the idea that it ever might, so when she asked me whether she could kiss me I was completely blindsided and as confused as hell and said "I don't know" and she took it from there.

In retrospect it's completely obvious that the only reason somebody I'd met on a mass bike tour could conceivably have said "yes" when invited to come and hang out with a bunch of nerds managing the scoring system for a charity canoe marathon was because she Really Liked Me. But I honestly had no clue. I thought the guy she was sharing a tent with on the bike tour was her boyfriend. I invited her to the canoe marathon because it was where I was going next and I'd been enjoying her company. I was pleased when she said she'd go, because I felt like I'd made a new friend and I liked the way she thought and was looking forward to hanging out more. Romance? Completely off my radar.

My best advice to you: Put aside sex-as-achievement (difficult in an advertising-saturated culture, but do your best). Relax. Learn to get comfortable in your own skin. Find enjoyable things to do in social groups other than those you spend every day in. Practise being kind and a gentleman to everybody, not just women, and don't forget being kind to yourself. If you hear yourself think of yourself as any kind of loser, take yourself aside for a quiet word with yourself and remind him that that kind of unkindness is unworthy of him.

Love is the antithesis of control. It's something you let happen, not something you can make happen.
posted by flabdablet at 3:22 AM on November 1, 2014 [8 favorites]

i see that some of what people are saying is (implicitly or explicitly) MAN ADVICE FOR MEN, and there are a lot of other cool and important ways of thinking out there. in addition to thinking about stuff like dating guides, bulking up, and being more ballsy, one thing i did when i felt like a too-old virgin guy was learn about sexism and the gender binary and even scary stuff like rape culture.

you mention wanting to be more sensitive in how you talk about women. i wouldn't thinking of it as updating lingo, as if all there is to do is load in the appropriate political correctness module, but as learning what makes sense in certain context and why.

like, given your academic interests, you should learn this shit. you should be able to give a five minute off the cuff speech on what patriarchy is. and how it's affected not just women, but you.

also. being "desperate" is one thing and being "desperate" and feeling the need to insist "NO I'M NOT ON A MISOGYNIST CONQUEST" is really another. like are you sure you would know? 100% sure? sure enough that women feel comfortable alone with you?

you can go beyond rejecting PUA shit and reject (in whatever way makes sense to you) masculinity. honestly it doensn't sound like it's done you any huge favors in life so far.

i recommend you read (the essay/chapter, not necessarily the book) refusing to be a man by john stoltenberg.
posted by thug unicorn at 4:34 AM on November 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

I followed the links from the recent love isn't enough post to the other articles on Mark Manson's site, and found them interesting. It's clear he's familiar with the PUA stuff enough to critique it and also clear he really wants you to buy his book (oh, and he refers to women as "girls" sometimes, which is against the Mefi style guide, as you'll have noticed), but he seems to be about respecting women as people while also being bold enough to be vulnerable, so he might occupy the middle ground you're missing. Just a thought.

So, I was a 3rd year undergrad before I so much as kissed a girl. I was horribly despondent about the whole business before then, and regularly complained to female friends (many of whom I not-so-secretly fancied, of course) about how women only like arseholes. I'm not sure what fixed it: I got contact lenses, I got into the ballroom dancing group who were the going to the pub or occasionally club after dancing and in one of those clubs my first girlfriend and I had a smooch. We knew each other beforehand from dancing, but weren't close friends. I agree with the folks who are saying that you don't need to know people that well before asking them out. I also think that if you're being a bit indiscriminate in an activity group, you should be aware that women talk to each other (previous discussion) but I can't tell from your post whether you're actually asking people out from the groups you're part of. If you aren't, it's possible you've gone too far in the other direction.

Manson's stuff also reminded me that what you actually want is to find someone you respect (even for a short term relationship). It's easy to lose sight of this and end up modifying yourself in ways which aren't in accordance with your values (either the PUA way, or the too eager to please way where you just want what "women" want). "Be yourself" is not quite good advice (because it's too static: maybe you can change in ways which don't feel like betraying yourself) but there's some truth in it.
posted by pw201 at 5:25 AM on November 1, 2014

Sometimes the shortest distance between two points is not a straight line. I believe this is one of those instances.

So here's my advice: forget about women for a while, and get closer to the men in your life. You mentioned having made quite a few friends the past two semesters; that's great! Call one of the guy ones up to invite him for a movie night at your place. Ask another one to go swimming together. Go to an exhibition at a local museum with another. Join a sports team.

Ask yourself why you want a girlfriend so badly: what needs of yours are not being met? Chances are that many of those desires can be fulfilled just as well with your close guy friends. Love, having a partner-in-crime, holding intimate conversations, talking about your hopes and dreams, and yes, even some physical intimacy (a hug from a good friend feels great) – a girlfriend is not a requirement for any of these things. This is an important and neglected truth, since friendship is so undervalued in our culture (and romance perhaps overvalued).

Cultivate strong one-on-one friendships with guys, and you will have a lot of fun and become much less desperate in the process, since more of your social-emotional needs are being met. Since you'll be less in need of a woman, paradoxically, you will be – as a pleasant side effect – much more likely to attract one. (And of course, your friends can help you with this stuff.)

Also, you will learn a lot about people. All those valuable skills guys in relationships are learning? You are learning them as well, since you too are in intimate relationships. And as it turns out, women are not all that different from men in most important respects.
posted by tarantara at 5:29 AM on November 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

You've asked if you're giving off any red flags, and there is one specific getting-to-know you question that you've been asking women that may be mis-identifying you as a bit creepy: "Do you like to party?" To me that question is like saying, "Do you like to get high/drunk and hook up?" Subtext implied, that you are angling to be the other person in that drunken hook up. If you like going to parties and are looking for compatibility, much better to ask, "Have you been to any parties lately?" Neutral, not creepy at all. Good luck.
posted by mirabelle at 6:03 AM on November 1, 2014 [12 favorites]

People love to reject the 'become a leader' advice but their advice is the same thing wrapped up in non-actionable adjectives:

If there is any kind of generalization that can be made, people are attracted to other people who are reasonably confident in whoever/whatever they are.
People are attracted to other people who are confident and positive about themselves.
but we all like other people who have something going on, who are engaged in the world, who have passions.

All the 'Just be yourself! But confident! And sensitive! But aggressive! And humble!' is a recipe spinning your wheels and ensuring you'll be a virgin at 30.

"Be a leader" is a straight-forward path to getting what you want out of life. Examine your interests and then observe the leaders in those fields. What are they doing? Emulate them. If you want what they have (girlfriend(s), wife) then do what they do.

That's an actionable item. Don't reinvent the wheel - follow those who already have achieved what you're hoping to do.
posted by Setec Astronomy at 6:31 AM on November 1, 2014

Are there any non-PUA online dating guides that you know of?

Here is my non-PUA online dating guide:

0. Always be respectful, and don't overthink things.

1. Go onto online dating site of choice and set up a complete profile. Don't leave out important things like photos or key facts like "I am Roman Catholic." Find some women in your area and general age range whose profiles you find interesting, and send them properly written (no typos, no textspeak) messages which indicate that you'd like to meet them and why. (The "why" is usually some commonality between the two of you: "You mention that you like books by Terry Pratchett. Monstrous Regiment is absolutely my favorite!" It is also good to briefly say who you are and what your deal is ("I'm a student in X town") even though these women will be looking at your profile and getting more information from there. Be respectful. Messages should be about what she's written on her profile, not about her body or appearance. Even if statements like "I think you're really beautiful" are true, they're too easy for her to confuse with all the other guys who are only responding to her looks.

2. Many women won't respond. Don't assign feelings or intentions to non-responses. They don't mean that she doesn't like you, or that she has any feelings toward you at all really. Only interpret actual responses, not non-responses.

3. For those who do respond: after minimal back and forth, suggest a low stakes date in a public place where there will be other people around. (Do not get invested over drawn out email conversations; remember, what's important is that you click in person, and chemistry in text frequently does not translate to chemistry in real life.) Coffee is the traditional option, because it's low investment—if either of you decide you're not interested, you can wrap things up quickly because you don't have a whole meal or movie ahead of you. Inevitably, some of these dates (maybe even the majority) will end with no spark. No harm, no foul. The goal of this process is putting yourself in front of many different people, while both you and they have clearly signaled "I am interested in dating, and I am maybe interested in dating you."

4. If you had a good time at the coffee date, suggest over email or text a future date. This one is the one that people really think of when they think of "first dates." Suggest a possible day and activity for a future date. Again, do not assign feelings to the other person if they decline your offer. It's no big deal; after all, you just met. How many people do you meet for the first time and have no particular interest in? Nearly every person in your life. If they say yes, great! You're off and running.

Note: you will send many more messages (maybe even tons more messages) than you receive responses. You will receive many more responses than actually turn into coffee dates. You will go on many more coffee dates than you actually go on activity dates. And you will go on many more activity dates than actually turn into relationships. That is okay. That is how it works. There may even be long stretches where nothing happens. That is okay. Dating is not usually a fast process.

Because of this, don't make dating your sole focus. Do other activities, and maintain other friendships. If it seems like you're going through an unusually rough time, with a bottleneck at any point of the process outlined above, ask for help from friends (and/or Metafilter). If you're not getting any responses to your messages, ask for help with your profile and messages. If your coffee dates are going nowhere, ask for help with that. Etc., etc.

If you ever find yourself feeling resentful toward the women you are messaging, going on coffee dates with, etc., take a step back, and remember that no one is required to do anything when it comes to dating. Just as you don't owe anyone dates, neither does anyone owe you the same.

And, above all, remember: dating does not define your self worth. It's a specific type of interaction with other humans that sometimes goes really well, but often does not. If you are a cool person, you're still a cool person regardless of whether you're getting dates. If you're a friendly person, you're still a friendly person regardless of whether you're getting dates. If you're a good person, you're still a good person regardless of whether you're getting dates.

If you're looking for a guide more specific than the one above, don't. Dating is hard, but it's not complicated. It's not a game with many rules. You are wise to avoid the PUA approach to dating; the appeal it has for many people is the way that it applies a complex system of rules to what is, in fact, an ineffable process.

Confront the ineffable: don't overthink things, just put yourself out there. Don't make up a bunch of rules, just go through the process. Practice dating like other people practice yoga. Go through the steps in a repeated way, and be surprised and pleased when they result in meeting people that you like who also like you.

Good luck!
posted by ocherdraco at 6:39 AM on November 1, 2014 [9 favorites]

I think your age may be a bigger factor than you realize, if you are trying to meet undergrads. When everyone is over, say, 25, a few years' difference is nothing. But at 26, you should not be trying to hook up with teenagers or people who aren't legally allowed to get a drink with you. "Should" aside, I doubt you will have much luck, anyway.

Are you pursuing your equals? You say you are a bit overweight and don't work out and you don't seem to have a lot of active hobbies or passions. Which is fine! A ton of us are like that. But are you considering overweight, older, inactive, virgin women? I get this feeling that when you say "girls," you literally mean teenagers, bright shiny 19 y/o women in your classes, who work out and have a million friends and hookups. I don't think that's going to work for you. For now, seek women who are more like you.

You have rightly inferred that PUA bullshit is poison, and we all thank you for your thoughtfulness (really.) You seem to have read an awful lot of it, though, and you need to stop that before that view of women installs itself in the back of your mind as a fallback in your darkest hours.

You describe two models: PUA, and pretending to be a woman's friend when really she's a sexual conquest. And yes, it's "pretending" when you give her your number under the pretext of friendship but your actual goal is to sleep with her, not be her study buddy. And yes, it's a "sexual conquest" when you have a sex deadline. (Sex Deadline: would be a cool band name, but not such a cool framework your interactions with women.)

PUA and "Nice Guy Syndrome," as your fake-friends model is known, are two bullshit sides of the same misogynist coin. Abandon both here and now, since you seem sincerely interested in being decent. (And not for nothing, but neither of these approaches really work, anyhow.)

As I read your question and all your follow-ups, I feel like I'm basically watching you say "I want to go out with women, but I refuse to ask them out." Um...ask some women out. Of course you're failing-- you're not even trying!

Lastly, I just wanna say that I feel for you. It honestly sucks when you want to be smoochin but you ain't smoochin. We all go through that and it's hard not to obsess on it, but if you fill your life up with good people and good shit to do, the desperation won't take over your life, and the vibes you're throwing will be much more appealing.
posted by kapers at 7:37 AM on November 1, 2014 [13 favorites]

We live in an enormously over-sexualized culture. Sex is constantly pumped into our brains through TV, movies, advertisements, self-help books, etc., to sell things. Combine that with being in the setting of a college campus and you may quickly get the impression that life is all about sex, that if you aren't having sex every day there's something wrong with you, that it's unhealthy to not have novel sexual experiences all the time. But research suggests that people have an average of 5-7 sexual partners in a lifetime. And that number may be skewed upward by a small minority of very sexually active people. Most people in their teens and twenties greatly exaggerate their sexual prowess for obvious reasons. Keep that in mind when you compare yourself to your peers. Most people are full of shit.
posted by deathpanels at 9:00 AM on November 1, 2014 [7 favorites]

I wasn't going to post a comment, but I really have to urge you to not typecast women as some people are doing above. It's a problematic approach to dating. You can't tell from a distance who is going to click with you. That is the beauty of chemistry and spark.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 9:01 AM on November 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Hi! I am happily married, but I felt very much like you before meeting my wife. Until meeting her, I'd never had a girlfriend or even kissed a girl. So obviously I don't have much more experience than you. But here is my advice as someone coming from the same place:

1. You are probably not that attractive. Sorry. And it does matter, unless you have something else really amazing going for you, which it sounds like you don't (yet!). You are tall, which is a huge plus. The other plus is that, assuming you are white (or whatever the majority ethnicity is in your country), the standards for male attractiveness are not very high, in terms of uncontrollable things like your facial features. A very plain looking dude in the US can be considered attractive if he works out and dresses well. So start working out - you don't have to get crazy jacked, but you want to be fit. There's a reason most guys in their early 20s go to the gym all the time.

Dressing well goes hand in hand with working out. An athletic looking guy can wear a t-shirt and jeans and look great, while an overweight guy can wear the same outfit and look like a schlub. And of course dressing well doesn't mean a fedora/pinstripes/etc.

2. Men have to do the initiating. Unless you are very attractive/are famous/extremely lucky, you should assume any given woman will never ask you out, even if she likes you. That's just the way it is (in the US, at least). This is something I fundamentally didn't understand as a young man growing up who supported gender equality. I mistakenly thought women sometimes asked men out. They generally do not. But if you think of it from the perspective that women are constantly getting asked out by men, it makes sense. If the average woman has several guys to choose from at any given time (or expects guys she is attracted to to ask her out at some point), there's no incentive for her to take the risk of initiating.

Especially considering everything we read on the internet about guys being "creepy", it's scary taking the first step. Nobody wants to be "that creepy dude" girls laugh about after he turns his back. But it isn't creepy to ask someone out - this is another thing I didn't understand when I was younger - I was so worried about being labeled a creep that I never let women know I liked them. I figured I'd let women do the initiating. Which of course led to me never having a girlfriend.

3. You are probably going after girls out of your league. Guys who complain about never having girlfriends (and I say this as someone who was one of them) generally have a very specific "type" they are attracted to, and obviously this "type" is usually very pretty. Not surprisingly, this "type" usually only wants to date other very attractive people. If you aren't very attractive but are an interesting person otherwise, then consider women who are similar in that respect.

Good luck!
posted by karakumy at 10:06 AM on November 1, 2014 [6 favorites]

Focus on the things you really enjoy and meet people who also enjoy those things. For instance, you love animals - so see about volunteering with your local animal shelter. Join a hiking group or a philosophy club. Try one or two new things. Don't go with the intention of meeting someone to date, just to do something you enjoy and meet new people. Be patient - I went to one volunteer event for several weeks before I started to make friends with someone.

Yes to getting off campus. If a 26 y/o had asked me out when I was 18 or 20 I might have been put off by the age difference.

And definitely try internet dating. Internet dating means focusing on meeting people who are 1) interested in dating 2) available to date 3) potentially interested in dating you. Get us to look at your profile if you want. Talk to several women. Go on several dates. Don't rush. Ask us for online dating advice if you need to.
posted by bunderful at 10:15 AM on November 1, 2014

I think you're on the right path now but I'll add one more antecdote to help encourage you to get yourself out there, tiger!

My now-husband asked me to go out on a pizza date with him merely two weeks after we met through work. He was a lot like you in that he always wanted to be friends first, wanted serious relationships, and really get to know a girl; I was only his second girlfriend. But he broke all his "be friends for a year first" rules and asked me out right away because, in an approximation of his words, "I figured you wouldn't stand still while I waited and you were worth the risk."

(And bonus tip: I was really impressed when he was up front and at the end of the first successful date scheduled our next get together, but that might have just been impressive to me.)

We've been in a happy marriage full of nerdy glee and adventure for five years now.

So take the chance. Be human. You're worth it.
posted by ninjakins at 11:23 AM on November 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

OP, just to clarify my second paragraph: I don't mean to suggest that you should lose weight or that you should subscribe to some "league" system where people are assigned value based on looks and you can only date people who are in your league. I find that to be a harmful approach and I'm sorry if I seemed to endorse it.

I'm saying that I've heard a lot (a LOT) of men complain they never get laid, but these men never even consider any women except the ones who fit the extremely narrow and shallow straight white bro-definition of "hot" even though these men don't even come close to fulfilling the same standards. So if you are only looking at 18 y/o gym-goers even though you're not one, and you wouldn't touch your female equivalent with a ten foot pole, that's a double standard and sexist and even though it's common and a lot of men act like it's their god-given right, it sucks.

Chemistry will often occur in seemingly unlikely pairings, so I'm not saying you can't pursue whoever you are attracted to, but just be aware there are women out there just like you-- not winning any fitness model contests, not having any luck in the love department--and you're shooting yourself in the foot if you're ruling them out in favor of attaining some stereotype of a hottie.
posted by kapers at 11:38 AM on November 1, 2014 [9 favorites]

Just to point out that relationship practices differ widely between cultures. I don't recommend taking dating advice from people who don't share your culture! I'm saying this because where I am, "friends first" is normal, so I wonder if you've been reading advice written by Brits and not realising that it isn't necessarily universal.
posted by emilyw at 11:46 AM on November 1, 2014

Here's one weird trick that will help: Stop using "girl" to describe these people.

I know lots of folks have already told you this, and my post isn't a criticism. "Girl" likely has a bunch of connotations for you that you're not conscious of. Thinking of these people as "girls" influences your expectations and behaviour. Stop using that label - even (especially) in your head, and your expectations and behaviour will subtly change. People will pick up on this. It will help. Not a ton, but it will help.

Also, once I was in college, having someone refer to women as "girls" caused me to be just a bit less interested in knowing them. It wasn't a deal-breaker for friendship, but it certainly added something negative to my assumption of how they think about and treat women. You may be shutting down potential connections with that one word.

I wouldn't have even mentioned it, but you use the word a LOT. Stopping that completely, therefore, may have an impact big enough to warrant the effort.
posted by tllaya at 1:06 PM on November 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh, and here's another vote for it sounding like you're a decent human being worth knowing and being around.
posted by tllaya at 1:13 PM on November 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Try talking to 5 different females every day. Not 5 girls, not 5 women. 5 females. Any age. See if you can get a smile from the 3 year old walking with her parents. Ask the 70 something how to pick out a ripe avocado at the market. You will learn many new communication skills. There is no goal but talking to another human. It's fun.

And learn to observe. You've read how many people here have been just like you. Look around you. There are women who are just as lost and alone as you. Make eye contact. Smile. You seem like you've been looking inward for a long time. Try looking outward. You will attract what what you put out there, so be happy. Learn to like yourself. It will all come together. Good luck!
posted by LaBellaStella at 1:36 PM on November 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

I used to think if I did A, followed that up with B, then C would happen. That's how my brain has always worked and I thought social interaction followed those rules. After many long, hard years, I realised that social interaction does NOT work like that. Human beings are messy and chaotic. I cannot expect anyone to react in a particular to that question (or action) I have considered for a long time. It sucks that I cannot control social interactions like I can control baking bread or booking a plane ticket. The only thing I can control, in fact, is my own interaction with other people.


So I was weird when I tried Making Friends in high-school and college because I had read all the books about Making Friends - but I watched out for All The Necessary Tell-Tale Signs rather than listened to what people were actually saying. Eventually I twigged it was more important to listen - actually listen - to what people were saying to me rather than mentally check off if the relevant people reacted in The Right Way. And so I began to relax (so I could listen) and when I relaxed, people started wanting to talk more and more. And some of those people got close because I was finally relaxed enough to let them get close.


So, take it from someone who'd rather have a field guide to humankind than having to make her way through a minefield, maybe if you stopped focusing on game plans, guides, and The Right Way To Land A Girl, your life would become more relaxing? And when you relax, it's easier to let other people into your life. It is one of life's great paradoxes that things tend to happen just as we stop trying so very hard to make them happen.
posted by kariebookish at 1:52 PM on November 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

One little thing -- I feel like I've learned more here than I've learned on the PUA forums

Don't read PUA forums anymore, cold turkey. Even if they think you are maintaining distance from the toxic, it is probably influencing you more than you realize, and hating women (even a little, even out of jealousy) is the opposite of what you want to do.

Instead, every time you need a little push, reality check, or advice, read the backlogs of human relations/dating questions here. They contain a wealth of knowledge/experience for various dating scenarios, and will hopefully help to scratch whatever itch is leading you to the PUA forums in the first place. Good luck!
posted by likeatoaster at 2:35 PM on November 1, 2014 [5 favorites]

you have to put yourself out there and take risks. that means approaching women who interest you and asking them out. yes, you need to be fit and look decently put together, but confidence can overcome deficiencies in men's fitness in a way that women have a harder time doing (ie, women by and large are not as superficial about looks as men are. I see unattractive guys with hot girlfriends far more often than I see hot guys with unattractive women).

you should put yourself out there and not worry too much about any one interaction. work on your conversational skills and on being interesting.

if I could do college over again I would make more friends than I did, be bolder in asking girls out, and not be so self conscious and shy as I was.
posted by jayder at 3:39 PM on November 1, 2014

Don't be boring. You can work on being confident, in shape, dress well, etc. but if you present yourself as a bland, generic sort of person, you will have a hard time generating that electric interest that keeps you in another person's thoughts and makes them want to know more.

Your words about yourself:

Some things I like, in no particular order: I love new experiences. I dream of traveling the world. I love to be outside, whether that be floating the river, hiking, camping, or just sitting back in the grassy field. I enjoy learning new cool facts about science. I love looking at awesome art. I love crafts. I love animals and caring and saving them. I'm an equal part dog and cat guy. I am super close to my family and value family and parenthood highly. I'm a hard working student who always goes for the A, whether or not I can get it. I'm a pretty good, if not long winded, writer, I feel. I love love love to party. I've gotten a bit into smoking pot with my friends on the down time. I love philosophy, anthropology, sociology, and psychology. I'm a big video game lover, especially wholesome Nintendo. Childhood is the most sacred time of my life, so I love kids and cartoons and things like that. Occasionally, I like to run. I'm almost always listening to music, and though I am abysmal at it, I love to dance.

Snore. These statements are things probably 80-90% of people would say about themselves. You are Generic Guy, defender of the feel-good status quo. What are the things you could say about yourself that only 5-10% of people might say? Those are the things that make you interesting - the things that make you stand out. They may not make you popular, but you want to find those people who dig those things about you. Put those things forward. Invest your time in cultivating those areas.

For instance: You like to dance? What kind of dance? Swing? Salsa? Hip hop? Do you take classes and workshops or do you just noodle around at the occasional party when you think it will get some attention? Go take classes. Get into a specific form. Then you have a whole interesting THING to talk about that sparks interest. "Oh hey, I happen to go dancing at the salsa nights on Fridays. You interested in coming with me?" And BAM, you just proposed a fun, interesting date fashioned from your normal, everyday life.

It takes no effort to say that you like to dance. Most people say things like that because they want to seem like the person who likes to dance. But if you back that up with some actual steps you can show, or a specific style you like, or a workshop/show you just went to ... suddenly you elevate the conversation from generic to something special and unique with your perspective. You have opinions about other forms of dance. "Oh, I don't like swing because zoot suits make you look like you're wearing waders." Then that is a topic of conversation. Something to lightly argue about. Something to generate conflict and interest about yourself and stick in people's memory.

You get what I'm saying? Don't be generic. Don't be boring. Have a couple of things about yourself that you know are genuinely interesting and can entertain a stranger for 5-10 minutes.

When you ask someone on a date or to meet for coffee, what you are basically asking is "Do you want to know more about me?" Just work on being the sort of person who would make them want to say yes.

Another thing is - do not take rejection personally. Trust me, you want to weed out the people who just aren't going to be a good match. You want to put some strong "this is me" signals up so you attract the people who want more of you and discourage the people who don't. If someone says no, they are doing you a favor of not wasting your time. This is something positive. It may not feel like something positive initially, but it is. When you are looking for a needle in a haystack, you can't waste a week mulling over each stalk of hay, right? Learn to brush it off and roll on. 'Cause the needle is worth it.
posted by griselda at 5:25 PM on November 1, 2014 [7 favorites]

Men have to do the initiating. Unless you are very attractive/are famous/extremely lucky ... I figured I'd let women do the initiating. Which of course led to me never having a girlfriend.

That's ridiculous. Women initiate. Of the girlfriends I've had in the past, several of them initiated it. And sometimes I did. I didn't notice that this made any difference down the road. (And I'm not famous or extremely attractive or extremely lucky.)

It's still good to initiate. But don't do it because you think there's some rule that men must always initiate. Do it for the same reason it would make sense for anyone of either gender to initiate: because if you want something, you should try to get it. That's just being a rational human being.

However, I agree with other commenters that you come across as desperate in this question. Wanting really, really badly to get a girlfriend is counterproductive to the long-term goal of eventually getting a girlfriend and being in a good relationship.
posted by John Cohen at 5:58 PM on November 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

On post-view: I'm 33 now, and I wish I could go back in time to when I was about 21 and read Puppet McSockerson's comment. Could've saved me a lot of worrying.
posted by John Cohen at 6:01 PM on November 1, 2014


I am a lesbian and I had to figure out how to ask girls out. It's hard. It's painful. Rejection SUCKS at first. But gets easier. And you get a little mental badge that you've done something scary yet worthwhile. You get over the sting and then, asking people out is less fearsome because you've been able to take the rejection and you know you can handle it and the world won't end. If I can do can do it!

And another thing....back when I was trying to be straight and didn't really accept I was gay....I went on a date or two with a guy who asked me out point blank. One was a guy who worked in a surf shop and I walked in and he wanted my number. I had never met him before in my life. I thought it was adorable and I was flattered. Of course I went out with him! So don't be afraid to ask girls out right away. ALSO: I'm going to edit this and say that the reason I went out with him is probably a combination of his demeanor and how innocent he acted about it. He was not aggressive at all. But I can't see you acting aggressive based on what you've written, so I wouldn't worry too much.
posted by christiehawk at 10:11 AM on November 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Though I'm still in pretty much the same situation as you are, in recent months I've gotten insights from various sources that have pretty much made me more optimistic than I've ever been. Two factors that have, I believe, significantly contributed to my (and many other people's) previous confusion are:

A) 'Pluralistic ignorance' in students' beliefs about hookups and dating on campus -- false beliefs, partly exacerbated by unexamined assumptions perpetuated in art and entertainment as well as magazine articles etc., that nearly everyone else is in relationships and having sex. Reading about these studies was pretty eye-opening to me.

B) Widespread careless advice asserting the existence of a big enough population of women with more open-mindedly egalitarian romantic preferences than you will actually find in reality. 'Women want leaders' may be simplistic but I'd warn against raising excessive doubt against the notion that for a significant portion of women a man who is visibly held in high esteem (whatever form that might take) by those around him is at a significant advantage, and being left in the shadow of others (in terms of whatever is held in value by the peer group or community you share) is something that really is a risk for men. This blog post (with a confusing title, but read on) and its comment section provide a perspective that corresponds well with a lot of my own experience as well as with the stories of many women I know, both friends and family.

Both these links are to a blog that mainly centers around advice for women dissatisfied with current dating culture, and has a fairly active comments section. I'm not the main target audience but I've found a lot of it far more helpful than most of what I've come across on sites mainly written for men. I'm sure there are conclusions to draw from that.

The main point I've taken: Develop skills and demeanor that earn you respect and recognition from people you live and work and spend time with. I'm lucky enough to have found skills I'm quite good with, and I do get along well with people -- but one error I've made, not knowing any better, is to not make nearly as much use of this socially as I well could have. But I will, now.

Whatever advice you go with, good luck! We're in the same boat.
posted by Anything at 10:57 AM on November 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

About holding doors open:

Doing so for another directly behind one is common courtesy. Rushing up and jumping in front of or making a huge production of holding it open for another nowhere near it is creepy.
posted by brujita at 5:24 PM on November 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Maybe the most telling part of your question is your belief that you either can be "yourself" or be a PUA with no other possible options.

Also, women don't want gentlemen. They want guys who aren't creeps, who listen, don't jump to conclusions and don't push.

You should be putting yourself in situations where there are people who *want* to fool around and *are* single. You should be on Tinder and OkCupid and whatever else is a good active dating site these days. If you're okay with it you should consider going to bars and just chatting people up. Be respectful and conversational and if she seems to be distant just leave her alone, but many women go to bars specifically to meet men and hook up.

Don't open doors for women. Open doors for people who are coming up behind you. That kind of attitude — of opening doors in general — shows an appreciation and recognition of other people and makes you more aware and attentive.

Don't buy flowers for women. Definitely don't buy flowers for women you haven't already dated for a long time. Instead, find out what they like, from them (*not* Facebook!) and give them *experiences* that match that. For example, back when my wife was my sort-of-but-not-yet-girlfriend, I invited her to visit me in London and, knowing her intense love of animals in general and puppies specifically, found out about a neighborhood dog show that was going on and took her to see it.

BTW if you hang out with women more than men and have more female friends than male friends you may be more comfortable talking with women in ways that aren't sexual. While this can make women feel more at ease in general, it can be something of liability when you are actually trying to have sex. Although there *are* plenty of examples of people successfully taking it slow and having a friendship blossom into something else, my most successful relationships have been ones where very early on it was strongly communicated that there was, you know, sexual intent. So make sure you're not sending signals to the women you're meeting that you intend to become their friend when actually you're interested in pursuing something intimate with them. Because then that *can* come across as creepy — they think you're their friend, and suddenly you're invading their personal space or something.

Since you're a virgin *and* haven't hooked up yet at all, my advice would be to seriously evaluate your criteria and maybe be willing to date anyone who seems even marginally physically appealing, particularly in a hookup context, where it's very clear that the other party, like you, is just looking to get some kind of sexual contact going.

You might be surprised that some women that don't look at all like your "type" can end up being really fantastic relationships, and that you can end up finding them way more attractive than the women you initially thought of as being your type.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:17 PM on November 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

> Make this about being in a relationship, not about some mysogynistic conquest.

Just putting this out there: you can be seeking out sexual encounters without being mysogynistic. I personally don't think it's specifically mysogynistic to be sick and tired of never having hooked up with someone and wanting that to be over. The problem really comes in the attitude: are you seeing women as either the goal or as gatekeepers of the goal to have sexy times? Or, are you seeing them as potential partners on your quest for both of you to have some fun sexy times?
posted by Deathalicious at 9:27 PM on November 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Look, I can't give real dating advice - I'm a college sophomore and I haven't dated ever. No one's asked, and I'm not really interested most of the time. But if I were (and when I am) I'd not be interested in anyone who seems really bent on presenting themselves as Not Being One Of Those Guys, namely PUA-types. I don't doubt that you are being honest about not being on board with all that, but is it really helpful to approach this thinking, 'oh, women should be interested in me because I am manifestly not a jerk!'? I'm glad you're not a jerk, but I'd be interested in you.

That is, not so much 'you' as someone who's got all the Positive Attributes you've enumerated, but your personally. One thing I've realised since starting college is that really, whether or not you find someone to be in a relationship with is more or less independent from your achievements or your particular attributes. People like what they like, and that depends on whether or not you exhibit certain attributes, but it's not wise to think, hey, I have this laundry list of great traits, but why doesn't anyone want me? It's not a job interview or, God forbid, a prize. *

Good luck! (:

*but if you're not so much interested in a girlfriend as much as hooking up, this is not very applicable.
posted by undue influence at 2:42 AM on November 3, 2014


I will recommend the book with the goofiest title ever. How to Marry the Man of your Choice. Don't bail yet.

It's basically discussing understanding what you want, having meaningful conversations with your dates, and understanding when someone is or isn't on your wavelength.

If you download it to Kindle, at least the dreadful title and cover won't embarrass you. (also, I get that you're a dude, but it works both ways.)
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:54 AM on November 3, 2014

I confess I didn't have this problem, specially being a woman, but the one thing that jumps to me is that you seem to want a woman, in general. I think if I were in a situation where I faced the large population of men, and I approached the dating dilemma from "I just need one of them to look at me!", I would have been horribly overwhelmed and terrified.

Have you considered that maybe you should be focusing on a specific woman (or a couple) that you like, and not the ocean of women out there? First of all, this will stop you from framing the issue as if women are unicorns and you have to catch one of them. ANY of them, which as you very well say, is sexist, and it is also unrealistic (because women are very different from each other) and kind of useless (all your tactics will be based on generalizations).

Like, if you are trying to get a job, you don't go OMG I need ANY job, let me apply for IT positions and this other high school football coach opening and I will say all the right platitudes and do the right silly dances at the interviews and we'll see if anything sticks!

No, you look for jobs that are a good match for you (or you should!). During the interviews, you are not only being interviewed, but you are also interviewing them. You are careful to make sure that your potential employer is a good fit and that your collaboration will be positive.

On the same vein, you should seek to interact with particular women you like, not just any woman. In your interactions, you should get to know them to see if something more would be good for you and for them, to see if you guys are a good fit (this will get rid of the air of desperation, as a bonus).

Your aim should not be to "find any job" even if it is something you are horrible at or something you really don't enjoy. Your aim should be to find the right job. The person who is a great match and who will enrich your life. I am not even talking about a long term relationship. A fling can be life-enriching and positive.

So really, my advice is to enrich your own life and then when you see a woman you like in a potentially romantic way, seek to interact with her and make your intentions clear so they know you are interested in them romantically.

If they reject your advances, you do as you would when you don't get a job: You say "hey, maybe they didn't think I was a good fit after all". Then you give them the credit of trusting their instincts and move on to whatever comes next.

Finally, there is something to be said for recalibrating your standards. As advised above, check if you are aiming too high in the scale of attractiveness. And no resentment on that quarter, either. Because the moment you feel a little resentful that the really attractive people are interested in other really attractive people should be the same moment that you realize you were chasing a really attractive person yourself, so you are every bit as shallow as they are, only not as successful.
posted by Tarumba at 9:34 AM on November 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Late to party here and too lazy to read everything above, but it seems to me you need a phrase or two to ask women out. Sounds like you also desire to save face to some degree if rejected. Upstream, I think the phrases "Let's make it a date" or "let's make a date out of it" or "So it's a date then" came up (in some form). This gives you the direct word *date* to use, but if rejected can be internalized to your firming it up into your calendar. With that said, you'll know RIGHT AWAY from her reaction if she's up for a Date (uppercase) or the plans you recommend on that date (lowercase).
posted by teg4rvn at 2:59 PM on November 5, 2014

Lots of great advice up thread already. I'll just chime in with some already previously stated points and some other suggestions.

1. When you're 26 and looking at undergrads, the age gap is huge. I remember when I was in first year and there was a 27 year old guy in my class, and I thought that he was ancient. So your chances of successfully dating an undergraduate is probably not as high compared to if you were actually in your late teens/early 20s yourself. So yeah, look outside of campus.

2. University can really suck dating-wise and social relationships-wise. I had my first date when I was 19 years old, but I found that boyfriend outside of university, and I found all my other dates outside of university. I never got along with the average person in university for some reason. So again, look outside of campus.

3. You have only one flakey female friend? Focus on getting more female friends, like genuine friends who you think are cool and you have things in common with, and they'll increase the chances of you getting exposed you to a wider social network which may have your first girlfriend in it.

4. Do you party a lot on campus? Do you only tend to invite people to campus parties? When I was in university, I was very adventurous, but never set foot in a single campus party because that was really not my scene. Maybe you're missing out on opportunities to hang out with cool women because you're not inviting them to things that they're actually interested in.

5. For both potential new friends and for potential dates, invite women to stuff they're probably actually interested in. If you talked about literature with a woman, invite her to that book fair. If you talked about theatre with another woman, invite her to that play happening next week. If you talked about hiking, invite her to a group day hike. If you talked about weed, hell invite her to smoke some J and play some video games with your buds. Different women like different things. Figure out some social activity that you two probably could connect on, so it would be more fun and put less pressure on you both.

6. Don't be afraid to be quirky, niche, or different. One of the coolest friends I ever made in university was this guy that was hugely the opposite of the sociable university partygoer archetype, and I loved him for it. This friend was simultaneously funny and witty, while also vulnerable and real. We live in different continents now, but we're still good friends because we're bonded over our misfit Breakfast Club moments, and never felt the need to act cool or socially acceptable around each other. We just spoke our mind and sometimes we'd irritate each other, but I trust him even more that I know that we can mostly handle each other at our worst. I tend to socially invest more into people who I know are sharing an affinity or connection with me that is difficult to find elsewhere.

And our friendship started because he was wearing an obscure band shirt, and I made a comment on it. So I guess what I'm trying to say is that while you shouldn't reveal everything in the first conversation with a cool acquaintance, you should feel free to slowly reveal more of yourself too, even if it's the weirder parts of your life. Be respectful of others, but be unapologetic in your passions, desires, and point of view. There are a lot of people in university, and the best way to meet people isn't to be "that cool guy", but rather, to facilitate opportunities where you can meet people who *really get you* and vice versa.

7. What are the sort of things that you do for fun? Are they things that other people would find interesting or will help you stand out from the crowd? Through these activities, are you likely to meet people who you can genuinely connect with or at least share some "in group" camaraderie? If not, which activities will help you do so? Are any of these off campus, or are they all on campus?
posted by Hawk V at 5:38 AM on November 13, 2014

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