As an introvert, I struggle to meet women outside of work
May 16, 2015 9:17 AM   Subscribe

I cannot seem to meet interesting women outside of work because I either scare the holy daylights out of them with my silhipence, my sexuality (I identify as a mild sado and naturally am very dominant), or my intensity. Help?

I have what is to me the coolest job ever - I get to give massages and spend time in the quiet with others.

Outside of work, I have a life that gets me a disruptive degree of attention from my friends - I've been playing guitar and bass for almost 15 years, I make jewelry, know computers extremely well, love dogs and work with one almost every day, and speak three languages. The combination of these things has my (entirely male) friends CONSTANTLY asking to hang out, so I'm in demand socially... From the sex and gender I'm not interested in.

My close friends are close, but I'm bad at acquaintances; I don't enjoy shallow interactions like small talk, preferring silence with others instead. This has been a great filter for weeding out friends who I'm not actually compatible with long-term term, but doesn't serve me at all where romance is concerned.

I REALLY miss having a partner. My life doesn't lack for touch because of my work and my roommate (massage student). I keep my filter to interesting and interested, and with just those two qualifiers, I have successfully filtered out everyone I know and over 9/10 people I meet.

It always goes like this:
I met a woman. She's interesting but because of my history of scaring away girls, I shy away from being too friendly, preferring to be kind of aloof and disinterested as I let her talk about her life. If she's interesting enough, I ask to meet up for tea and go hang out in Portland.
We hang out. I start to share pieces of my life, excluding my sexuality. As soon as I am honest about why I enjoy martial arts, barefoot running, parkour, or anything physically intense. (I like constructive pain - i can honestly say this helped me discover my deeper humanity) This scares away most everyone even from being my friend? I'm convinced this is where the biggest failure point lies, but I haven't seen an effective solution.
She's still interested and single? Nobody's made it this far in the years since I've rebuilt my life. I keep meeting girls that I'm interested in that are happily taken and I get to be regaled about the sexuality of others when this happens - useful, but never pleasant.

My experiences with online dating were so bad I've almost deleted my online presence in favor of building connections in person (this has been helpful). Fetlife meetups are always right around my bedtime or are on days I work, so that route hasn't worked out yet.

I absolutely refuse to meet clients outside of work. That is what both my boss and friends have suggested; my boss made this suggestion simply because I'm single and she can't understand how I am single. That idea turns my my creep-o-meter to maximum, and considering how bad my boundaries have been in the past, I consider this immense progress.

I get female attention (I am told I'm handsome on a regular basis, and have been good about not letting the objectivism define how I see myself) but it's never from women who seem interesting to me
Usually, I look at them and see either desperation or a degree of fetishism, usually both. I've been an object to be cherished by multiple partners and it's gross. If it's not those, it's girls who don't value the intelligence within themselves, and I can't hold a conversation with them to save my life. This right here could be the other large failure point but again, I haven't found a good solution that is true to myself and gets me the attention I desire.

Communication advice, advice on where to meet people, inappropriate boundaries, and even advice for self development are all appreciated. Ask clarifying questions if you need - this is important enough to me that I am happy to become an open book to sort out the "why?"
posted by thebotanyofsouls to Human Relations (86 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
"silhipence"?
posted by Jacqueline at 9:25 AM on May 16, 2015 [78 favorites]


Why are you assuming that "lack of interest from dates" = "these dates are scared of me"? Maybe they just don't dig you. I'll cut you some slack because the format of ask means you have to describe yourself, but the whole "I speak so many languages and it makes me so desirable!" thing made me roll my eyes and assume you may be a bit of a pretentious tit in real life.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:25 AM on May 16, 2015 [95 favorites]


Join an S&M club? Join the "scene" as noob with a local "sponsor" of sorts? Get on FETlife?
posted by kschang at 9:27 AM on May 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


I get female attention but it's never from women who seem interesting to me. Usually, I look at them and see either desperation or a degree of fetishism, usually both.

This is a you thing, not just a them thing. I do this myself, and it's something I'm working on now because what it actually is, is a defense mechanism. If someone likes me, I don't like them, so I get to decry my lack of prospects even when I'm surrounded by them. It's safe.

You kind of elide your past poor boundaries. I wonder if you are now overcompensating by throwing up walls left and right.

You'll never solve this if you can't see the walls.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:28 AM on May 16, 2015 [30 favorites]


"As soon as I am honest about why I enjoy martial arts, barefoot running, parkour, or anything physically intense."

Soooo..... wait longer before sharing why.

Also, have you considered joining gyms or meetups in the context of: "martial arts, barefoot running, parkour, or anything physically intense"?
posted by ellerhodes at 9:30 AM on May 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


Your friends are all men? Nothing you've described about yourself or your interests sounds intrinsically male to me, so how is it that no women have made it through your friend-filtering? Echoing showbiz_liz this sounds like a you thing, not a them thing. Figuring that out might help with the romance prospects (not least because female friends can introduce you to their female friends).
posted by yeahlikethat at 9:39 AM on May 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


OK I'll bite. Silhipence? Google returns nothing.

Good on you for the work boundary thing. It seems pretty weird to me that your boss should actually suggest that you do such a thing as she suggests, especially in your field.

You say you're a sadist, then describe your masochistic activities. Maybe you're both, but that's unclear. Along that front, you don't need to tell them about all your impressive activities and follow up with your philosophy on pain. As a painting undergrad, you may imagine that I had what I thought to be important convictions about painting, popular art, representation, and so forth. Do you think most people want to hear that when they first ask, "So what do you do?" I can personally assure you they don't.

About all of your "inner intelligence" and "desperation and fetishism" stuff, you're making all kinds of assumptions about people you don't know that you have no way of backing up. As showbiz_liz says, this is all you. You mention rebuilding and recovering from boundary issues. I'm sorry to go with the AskMe go-to, but therapy would be ideal for unpacking those assumptions and your personal reasons for those assumptions. That's what it's for, and that's what it does.

And, as you say, aloof? Talking about all of your intense activities and devotion to constructive pain? And in that context, a masseuse and sadist? From the information provided here it seems likely my first impression of you would not be good, and we'd never get into discussing David Belle, fighting styles, or barefoot running mechanics because, like you, I don't like to make time for the arrogant and uninteresting, much less the potentially violent. Realize, I'm going off of a few paragraphs here, and you're asking, so please excuse my own assumptions here as they may reflect the assumptions of your acquaintances.
posted by cmoj at 9:43 AM on May 16, 2015 [38 favorites]


What does "interesting" mean to you?
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:47 AM on May 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Sorry about the typo Jacqueline.

@showbiz_liz - the past projecting itself into the present. I've had more cases than I care to admit where I intimidated/scared women because I'm lonely and dominant... Gotten better. I get a lot of disinterest too but I didn't mention that because unlike a fear response (usually wide eyes and backtracking on their interest) I don't take disinterest personally but I'm so tired of making people feel scared that it had become a personal thing.

More to say when I get home but I can't type it out on my phone. Thank you everyone who has replied so far.
posted by thebotanyofsouls at 9:47 AM on May 16, 2015


So, silhipence = silence?
posted by carmicha at 9:50 AM on May 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


Makes sense!

So, I think the dominance thing may be a red herring here. This issue is not the dominance, but the loneliness, which has in the past led you to come on way too strong. As a woman I can tell you that guys of all stripes come on too strong, and as a dominant person I can tell you that you can absolutely approach women in not-scary ways.

And the thing is, now you know you've come on too strong in the past, but you don't know how to sucessfully NOT do that, so instead you just act super aloof. You're trying to NOT do [bad thing], but you don't have a sense of how to do [opposite of bad thing]. You're afraid. Gun-shy.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:50 AM on May 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


Sorry about the typo Jacqueline.

What word were you trying to write? Given that you listed it above the fold as one of the three reasons women are afraid of you, I assume it's important.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:51 AM on May 16, 2015


" I intimidated/scared women because I'm lonely and dominant."
Or maybe you're dull and not very interesting. Do you ask questions of the other person, try to get to know them and see what they're interested in? Comfortable silences are fine when you know some one, but if some guy is trying to get to know but makes me do all the tap-dancing of conversation, I'll probably excuse myself and go find someone who seems interested in me.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:52 AM on May 16, 2015 [38 favorites]


I don't enjoy shallow interactions like small talk, preferring silence with others instead.

Small talk does not have to be a shallow interaction! Small talk is the means by which people get to know each other enough that the big and meaty talks can happen. If you find it shallow, find better small talk. It does not need to be about the weather or about the local sports team, it can be about day-to-day things you are both doing or watching or experiencing -- this should be easy as you've got heaps of hobbies and interests, and if you can listen in return it oughtn't be a shallow or banal experience.

You want to avoid being objectified. You're losing potential partners because they're making snap judgements about you and possibly getting scared off. I'd like you to reflect on if you may be doing the same: you say that women you seem interested in you are ones you think are 'desperate' or 'fetishistic', or girls who 'don't value their own intelligence'. This does sound a bit like a snap judgement on your part. How do you genuinely know? Don't expect someone to show you their deep and real self on first contact -- you yourself know how hard it is, and how easy it is to give the wrong impression.

If your personfilter is filtering out 9/10ths of people you meet you may need to recalibrate it. You're probably missing out on heaps of really cool female friends, to say the least.

(Note: I used to be silent in clubbing and social situations around potential-date women because I thought I gabbled too much and that maybe they'd think I was super reserved and cool. Turned out potential-date women generally thought I was super... super uninteresting)
posted by monster truck weekend at 9:53 AM on May 16, 2015 [34 favorites]


Do you have a variant of nice guy syndrome?

It kind of sounds like it. There is nothing about your resume that should be a problem for the right subset of people, and it's not even a small subset these days with the trendiness of BDSM.
posted by BibiRose at 9:57 AM on May 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


And to add--if your words aren't your strong point, then let your eyes, your facial expressions and your body language communicate interest (but not in a creepy "undressing her with your eyes" way.) Even the strong, silent types like Gary Cooper in old movies know how to show a woman that they like and appreciate her. Make eye contact, show that you're paying attention when she talks (and that you're not just thinking about what to say next) and be warm and engaged.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:59 AM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


"because of my history of scaring away girls, I shy away from being too friendly, preferring to be kind of aloof and disinterested as I let her talk about her life."

So you can't find a way to be friendly and not scary so you choose aloof and disinterested? I'm thinking you're not ruling out 9/10 women; 9/10 women are ruling out you.

You may hate small talk, but it's a social convention for a reason. It's creates a safe space to spend time with and get comfortable around a person before moving into advanced levels of increasing intimacy. Don't be so quick to dismiss it or those who engage in it as uninteresting.

Not to be mean, but you need to get over yourself. Set aside the silence and intensity and pain talk and just try to connect with a woman. Start with your love of dogs, tea, and Portland. What it's like to be a massage therapist. Ask them what they like to do in their spare time. Do they like running? Really, me too! But I do it barefoot. You're kidding? Doesn't that hurt? I don't mind, I find it freeing... etc.
posted by cecic at 10:01 AM on May 16, 2015 [49 favorites]


As soon as I am honest about why I enjoy martial arts, barefoot running, parkour, or anything physically intense ... This scares away most everyone even from being my friend?

First, the good news. There are single women who are also interested in these and other physically intense endeavors. So there is hope for you as far as common ground when it comes to hobbies and interests.

Now the bad news.

You're obviously self aware enough to recognize that you purposefully "shy away" from girls you're interested in by behaving cold, aloof, uninterested.

Show interest in women. You're concerned that it makes you vulnerable; maybe that is because you are vulnerable, and you're concerned it could compromise your stance as a dom? Just a thought.

Like cecic says above, ask women what they enjoy doing. Don't just "show" interest, but be interested. This may require you to calibrate your entire social approach, and that is going to require some soul-searching that goes beyond Ask MeFi.

Don't hijack the conversation. If you sense yourself going off on an "all about me" marathon while speaking with a woman, pause and ask her what she thinks and then let her speak, and listen. Or, "Enough about me. I'd love to hear more about you!" is a classic and practical transition when in doubt, even if it's at risk of being a bit jarring. It's better to recognize that you may be becoming self-centered or one-sided in a conversation, and make a sudden turn in the right direction, than to nervously continue on and make the other person feel totally isolated.

If you want people to be genuinely interested in you, you have to be genuinely interested in them. Just like that old cliche, "You have to be a friend to have a friend." I'm not telling you to be interested in everyone. But you're going to have to cast your net wider, and accept that there will be more misses than hits.
posted by nightrecordings at 10:13 AM on May 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


Based on what you've told me here, allow me to reconstruct one of these dates from the point of view of the woman:

Oh hey, here's this guy! He is cute and smart and plays the guitar. He has ZERO female friends, which is kind of a red flag though. We hang out and I try to get a conversation going, but he doesn't respond to any of my feelers; I end up just kind of talking about anything I can think of, but he seems pretty bored and distracted. For some reason, though, he wants to hang out more, so OK. He's a terrible conversationalist! It seems like he'd rather sit in silence than do any of the early work in a conversation. He shares bits and pieces about his life, but he really doesn't seem interested in me at all, and I wonder why I'm here. But then he reveals that he's into pain and kinky sex, and suddenly he's much more animated and interested and super intense, and the penny drops and I realize why I'm here and nope nope nope nope nope nope nope.
posted by KathrynT at 10:14 AM on May 16, 2015 [144 favorites]


There's no such thing as "naturally dominant". Naturally boorish and mannerless, sure, but naturally dominant, no. That kind of sex game fetish nonsense does not belong in interpersonal interactions outside of the bedroom, so if you think this is an issue for you in meeting women at the getting-to-know-you stage of a relationship, what it actually means is that you're one of those arrogant, creepy assholes whose default setting is to devalue and disrespect others, who thinks they're above politeness and the rules of conversation. It's a narcissist's deluded fantasy of how an accomplished, high-status person in a leadership position acts, not what those people are actually like.

And then, it's actually a pretty small step from there to actual sociopathy, so yeah, if you have no mutuality and no respect in how you conduct yourself and you're acting like you're better than small talk, no wonder women immediately nope out when you bring out being a ~sado~. If I was straight and some dude pulled that on me, I'd walk away immediately and set him on fire if he wouldn't let me go. Blech. Creepy, creepy shit.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 10:17 AM on May 16, 2015 [55 favorites]


I think a large part of the problem is that you take yourself way, way too seriously.

You don't need to suddenly develop an interest in pop culture or become an extrovert or change your sexual preferences, but most adults are going to be turned off by this solemn self-focus.

Life is too serious (and short!) for anyone to take themselves so seriously. And it can read as adolescent and narcissistic.

My suggestion: learn how to lighten up a little, and develop a sense of humor about yourself.
posted by girl flaneur at 10:22 AM on May 16, 2015 [29 favorites]


There's a whoooooole lot going on here. I don't have the time at the moment to write an essay, and most other Mefites seem to be bringing up the relevant points, so I'll just add one thing:

Don't ask women to "hang out." Ask women out on dates.
posted by quincunx at 10:27 AM on May 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


I don't enjoy shallow interactions like small talk, preferring silence with others instead.

When getting to know someone? Are you sure you aren't taking things to an extreme when your ideal BDSM partner is basically a stranger?
posted by rhizome at 10:31 AM on May 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


Wow, yeah, that's definitely a valid potential interpretation of what you've said here.

Sadist, super physical activity, dismissive of "9/10" people, especially dismissive of women, boundary issues (albeit acknowledged), socially "dominant." Patrick Bateman comes to mind if it's laid out in that way. This is a snap judgement, of course, but everyone makes them, and it seems that this may be the judgement you've set yourself up for many to pass on you.
posted by cmoj at 10:31 AM on May 16, 2015 [12 favorites]


Fetlife meetups are always right around my bedtime or are on days I work, so that route hasn't worked out yet.

Maybe stay up late once in a while? Or get someone to cover your shift? These seem like fairly minor objections to what seems like an ideal potential solution to your problem.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:34 AM on May 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


Sadist, super physical activity, dismissive of "9/10" people, especially dismissive of women, boundary issues (albeit acknowledged), socially "dominant." Patrick Bateman comes to mind if it's laid out in that way. This is a snap judgement, of course, but everyone makes them, and it seems that this may be the judgement you've set yourself up for many to pass on you.

Right. And this doesn't mean "you are Patrick Bateman," and I'd hate for you to take something like that away from this thread - it just means that your inner vision of who you are isn't being properly conveyed by your behavior. There's a big giant communication barrier where you know who you are, so you assume everyone else does too, and therefore you don't do the work of stepping outside yourself and seeing how your behaviors could better reflect who you are, or want to be.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:37 AM on May 16, 2015 [17 favorites]


you mentioned in another thread that you do ketosis on the regular. just so you know, ketosis increases mental clarity because of increased levels in cortisol, the stress hormone. cortisol also ups aggression. this is a link you might not have thought of before.
posted by kinoeye at 10:41 AM on May 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Your self-concept sounds to be a bit "fanfic hero" - the silence! the pain! the loneliness! the pursuit of excellence! but sad excellence! And that's all very well for fanfic - I quite enjoy fanfic now and then - but it isn't what people want in a partner.

How do you think of yourself when you're home at lose ends and you're brushing your teeth and you drop the toothpaste cap down the drain? How do you think of yourself when you stub your toe and hop around cursing? What makes you laugh? (If nothing much makes you laugh, perhaps you should find something.) What happens when you have an ordinary human failure - you can't think of the word you want, or you say the wrong thing, or you make yourself some soup but it turns out really badly? (If you feel that you do everything well and always say the right thing, either your self-concept is off, you're limiting yourself only to venues where you will always win or you're the next stage of evolution and your dating problems are beyond the scope of this website.)

Maybe focus on the fullness of your self a bit more - not just You The Guitarist And Dominant Who Is Lonely And Very Fit And Has High Standards but you the guy who is a lot of things, some of which involve guitar, but some of which also involve grocery shopping.

Also, maybe try a hobby that is...less glamorous? Woodworking? Visiting at the nursing home? Beachcombing with one of those metal detectors? Just something in a totally different modality that will get you out of your current headspace, maybe something a little ridiculous?

Also, if your silence scares women, learn to make small talk. There's no virtue in hanging on to a small personality trait that is unattractive to your target audience - if you were unable to let others get a word in edgewise because you were a very enthusiastic conversationalist (a problem I struggle with! I like you all and I am so excited that we are hanging out that I may need to tell you all the things! Because I'm happy!...But I have to put a lid on that, because it gives the wrong impression and gets dull)...anyway, being unable to make small talk isn't a Dark Romantic Hero thing, it's a fixable social failing.
posted by Frowner at 10:43 AM on May 16, 2015 [57 favorites]


Two things pop out at me from your question:

1. You say you're kinky, and your interest in kink has put off all of your potential partners, but you won't go to a local Fetlife gathering because it's past your bed time. Dude, drink some coffee and get your butt over there. It is totally counter-intuitive to me that you have a good opportunity to meet like-minded people and you just...pan on it for a really weak reason. It makes me think you're avoiding it for some reason. If so, figure out why.

2. Silence with other people works very well when you're already good friends or long-term partners and you just want to sit and enjoy the sunset together, or your breakfast, or whatever. As a getting-to-know-you strategy it sucks. It sounds like you need to work on your basic social skills. Small talk is a way of getting to know people, and if you refuse to participate in small talk, then a lot of people will take that as a sign that you are uninterested in getting to know them. So they will politely leave you alone and never try to talk to you about anything other than the weather if they are pushed into a situation where they have to talk to you. I would bet dollars to donuts that this is why so many of the people around you seem uninteresting to you: they stay on a superficial conversation level because you've never given them any sign that you're interested in anything more.
posted by colfax at 10:46 AM on May 16, 2015 [27 favorites]


Expand your definition of "constructive pain."
You "don't enjoy shallow interactions like small talk" and would prefer to spend time with new acquaintances silently sucking down tea in Portland? It's unsurprising that that hasn't worked. People meeting for the first time typically use that time to talk to one another in order to discover whether they can stand one another. Getting to know others via verbal conversation: first new thing to fit under the constructive pain umbrella and to begin to learn to endure.

"Fetlife meetups are always right around my bedtime." Change your bedtime, then. Constructive pain.

"I've been an object to be cherished by multiple partners and it's gross." Wait it out. I guarantee it will wear off.

You seem to be strikingly easily annoyed by simple, normal things that women say and do and to be far too willing to take these things as evidence that the women you meet are "girls who don't value the intelligence within themselves." That's fine if you want to be with men exclusively, but you want to be with a woman, so you're going to need to learn how suffer through and learn from your interactions with women instead of silently screaming "next!" in your head and bailing as soon as possible every time some perceptible piece of humanity in a woman offends you and makes you suspect she's probably an idiot. Your superiority to potential partners is blighting all your relationships in the bud. Either you'll have to be willing to lower yourself to their level, or you'll have to suffer a partnerless existence.
posted by Don Pepino at 11:30 AM on May 16, 2015 [21 favorites]


As soon as I am honest about why I enjoy martial arts, barefoot running, parkour, or anything physically intense. (I like constructive pain - i can honestly say this helped me discover my deeper humanity)

This kind of feeling isn't that unusual among athletes (see endurance sports, MMA, etc). I'm not sure it's always the thing they prioritize about themselves when talking to dates, though (or in general). I think romanticizing and organizing a whole identity around it might mean you're limiting your repertoire of human experience. Consider expanding it to include lightness, openness, vulnerability, silliness, frailty. You seem to be hostile to perceived frailty. As Don Pepino and others have noted, most women, according to you, are frail and contemptible. I think you need to seriously investigate your misogyny if you want to date women and have it work out.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:35 AM on May 16, 2015 [22 favorites]


(You seem to be hostile to perceived frailty. - to add: In others, and maybe within yourself, if I can guess. Working on the latter will help with the former.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:52 AM on May 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


I think KathrynT's answer is the best answer I've ever seen to anything.

Moreover, it hits right at the heart of your issue -- an apparent difficulty with imagining, appreciating and internalizing the point of view of others.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:20 PM on May 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Okay, got a minute at work to respond to all the answers. That typo was supposed to be silence, hence why I marked that as a best answer - if a mod sees it, I'd appreciate going through and editing it.

On female friends: it was a female friend that proof-read the "below the line" part of the question, but didn't read above it. I have them, but for the same reasons KatherynT commented on by giving perspective; because I don't get the attention I want, when I do get it I'm a little overbearing.

For those that have suggested therapy, I horrified my last therapist when I told her I enjoyed dumpster diving for edible food. My previous stories with therapists are no better.

There's a ton of great questions with Frowner's comment that all center around how do I handle failure? When I don't succeed, I laugh and try again. I make self-depreciating jokes when I fail in front of others ... followed by picking up, and trying again. The reason I've become who I am, as versatile as I am, is that I'm not afraid to do something I know I'm terrible at and learn from it. As far as picking up more hobbies, I know how to do woodworking (I built my own desk), and I love seashells!

See Master and the Margarita Mix, definitely not sociopathic, just not well-adjusted socially. Your comment was by far the most offensive - congratulations.

My arrival at sadomasochism (I thought that's what sado was short for, not sadist) came through massage. I like constructive pain; pain while getting therapy has never been constructive for me, and so I have a strong aversion to putting people through that on the table. Now I do light-touch based therapies and talk clients through what they experience, and I feel deeply rewarded for it.

Constructive pain is any pain that gives you insight into your humanity, as well as making you more resilient. Different folks will define that differently; that definition to me is any pain that makes my fascia stronger, or makes me a more compassionate and understanding human being. Breaking skin doesn't do that, but running across gravel barefoot does.

I enjoy crying. I like feeling like a human being after years of dehumanizing myself in the name of perceived masculinity. Athleticism is one of the ways I push myself to that threshold where I have to dig deep - finding my own humanity as I do - to achieve, but I enjoy well done movies (Interstellar made me cry at the end for the suffering the female researcher endured for her species). I'm very, very human, I promise you, but because of years meditating, I also come across as mildly sociopathic because I don't express a lot of my momentary, fleeting emotions.

As far as bedtimes go, you're repeating a standard cultural motif about sacrificing health for socializing - a motif that I don't adhere to because my health is of penultimate value to me.

Now, to the small talk topic: I have had limited success in the past using the question "So what do you do when you're not at work?" but that seems to make people feel very naked - not my goal at all. I get awkward "hmms, ummm, I hang out with my friends." as a response, which is a red flag to me - nothing to be proud of? People ask what I do when I'm not at work and I talk about cooking, I talk about my non massage work, I talk about foraging and immersing myself in nature; where are the people that have a similar degree of passion? What would be a better way to word that question that doesn't make people feel naked?

That's what it boils down to - I've come to this place with everything else in my life where I make things happen, get it done (why I said I'm "naturally" dominant, or I fill the alpha male role well), and in every other part of my life I succeed at the communication required to make those things happen. But when it comes to this, I fail miserably and I knew before I posted this that it was most likely me (hence why I put that I'm totally game for self-development advice). Because of that attitude, I don't take too kindly to most meet-and-greet social situations. Dancing is all right, but still scary because I'm new at it and still working out the fumbles.
posted by thebotanyofsouls at 1:52 PM on May 16, 2015


For those that have suggested therapy, I horrified my last therapist when I told her I enjoyed dumpster diving for edible food. My previous stories with therapists are no better.

Seek out kink-aware therapists, they tend to be cool about other weirdnesses as well.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:59 PM on May 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Now, to the small talk topic: I have had limited success in the past using the question "So what do you do when you're not at work?" but that seems to make people feel very naked - not my goal at all. I get awkward "hmms, ummm, I hang out with my friends." as a response, which is a red flag to me - nothing to be proud of?

I ask this question during small talk all the time, and some people respond as you describe and some people don't. I find it difficult to believe that no one EVER responds well to this question.

Also, on another note, staying up late every now and then will not ruin your health, but even if your bedtime is 100% non-negotiable, fetish groups have daytime 'munches' constantly. Where do you live? Someone might know a group near you.
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:03 PM on May 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


As far as bedtimes go, you're repeating a standard cultural motif about sacrificing health for socializing - a motif that I don't adhere to because my health is of penultimate value to me.

Staying up late one night a week (or less) is not going to sacrifice your health. It may cause temporary discomfort, but don't you enjoy pain? Prove it. Underneath all your talk, all I'm hearing is, I hate rejection and I hate meeting people I don't like/who don't like me. That's dating! Get out there.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:03 PM on May 16, 2015 [27 favorites]


Nobody's made it this far in the years since I've rebuilt my life.

Did you have a recent trauma? This sentence jumped out to me; I apologize if I'm assuming anything.

I think it might be good for you to do some intense physical social activity that women do as well: Portland Rock Gym might fit the bill. Sometimes, purposely trying to find a girl/boyfriend can make one stilted, awkward, etc. If you start getting into an activity that takes place in a single location (rock climbing, for this example), then you naturally see the same people over and over and have a natural reason to talk to them (and something to talk about!).
posted by sfkiddo at 2:06 PM on May 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Also also - and I should say I am commenting in this thread so much because good lord do you remind me of me -

You talk a lot about the things that make you unique. And that's good, it's good to be unique, but there is a dark side to this which you may be totally blind to. I think you are using your uniqueness as a cudgel against any well-meaning advice which might actually help you, because "I'm too unusual for that to work for ME, even if it works for most people!" No matter the advice, you instantly know why it just will not work for you specifically.

This is a fiction. You have unusual hobbies and sexual interests, but you are still human just like the rest of us. You have tricked yourself into thinking you aren't as a way to hide from developing this part of yourself, because it's going to be really hard to do. You are making excuses, as many as you need to reject any tactic which might actually result in a chance at a relationship, because you are afraid.
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:08 PM on May 16, 2015 [26 favorites]


I get awkward "hmms, ummm, I hang out with my friends." as a response

This is not an indicator of a boring person who has no interests; they're probably fudging it because they don't want to commit too soon. People don't want to immediately barge in with a list of their passions and interests because it ruins the pace of a conversation. It makes you look intense. A lot of people do find that offputting. Don't put all your cards on the table straight away.

I talk about foraging and immersing myself in nature; where are the people that have a similar degree of passion? What would be a better way to word that question that doesn't make people feel naked?

If I was a woman making small-talk with you and you discussed foraging and immersing yourself in nature, I'd be hit for six. It's a really earnest topic of conversation, and unless it's talked about in a really down-to-earth (pardon the pun) way, it's going to alienate your listener -- just think about the way you phrased that here. There are two different ways of presenting what you said to whoever you're talking to. One would make me feel weird; one wouldn't.

NON-WEIRD:

"I really enjoy being outdoors."

WEIRD:

"I love foraging and immersing myself in nature."

Reason? Immersed is too intense a word. You shouldn't really be immersed in anything unless the rest of the sentence is "a good book". I really fucking love dogs, but the first thing I'm going to say to a new person isn't how much I Goddamn love dogs. I may mention offhandedly that I like taking my dog for a walk to see if you're even slightly interested in dogs too. I'll wait until you're my friend to let you know that I got a dog calendar for Christmas and it was my favourite gift.

Cultivating a sense of humour about yourself may also work. Like, foraging and immersing yourself in nature is at its heart as meaningful as it is very, very funny. I hope that you understand where I'm coming from here -- I'm not saying that your hobby and your inner life is inherently hilarious, I'm just saying that the first image I'd get as a woman listening to this is either that you spend your weekends hiding in a bush or that you are trying to say in code that you like pot.
posted by monster truck weekend at 2:17 PM on May 16, 2015 [28 favorites]


Also, there's a Portland Metafilter meetup next week.

Do you have any other non-physical hobbies like reading, etc.? You say you do a lot of music; any way you can meet like-minded women in bands?
posted by sfkiddo at 2:19 PM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Regarding the bedtime, if your health is of penultimate value to you, then what is the quality or activity you value most?

For the rest...I knew a kid who wore a tricorne hat during his freshman year at college. Regardless of what he did for the next four years, he was the tricorne hat kid.

Don't be the tricorne hat kid.

You are valuing a false sense of special snowflakeness over human interaction, then wondering why you don't have the human interaction you want.

The answer really is to simply stop being a boor.
posted by builderofscience at 2:21 PM on May 16, 2015 [31 favorites]


For those that have suggested therapy, I horrified my last therapist when I told her I enjoyed dumpster diving for edible food. My previous stories with therapists are no better.

Um, what? There's something really off-putting about this that I can't put my finger on. You're rejecting an entire route of help based on one comment / reaction of one person, on an irrelevant subject? I guarantee you that there are therapists who won't care if you dumpster dive. It seems like either you want to reject them or you managed to find an exceptionally horrible therapist.
posted by salvia at 2:31 PM on May 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


Everything about your question and follow up comment reads to me that you have an underlying problem with women (not "girls," as you call them).

You really seem to look at women with a mixture of contempt, expectation they will fail you, intolerance that they don't respond the way you want, or a combination of both. It's not them, it's you.

As an aside, I'm involved up to my eyeballs in my local fet community and people who self-describe similar to you ("I'm 'naturally' dominant, alpha male, blah, blah.") are the people the community tends to avoid the most. It's not us, it's you.

As others have said, do some soul searching to honestly determine how you come across to others, go back to therapy, and get over yourself a bit.
posted by _Mona_ at 2:43 PM on May 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


[One comment deleted. Folks, whatever this question brings up for you, please keep answers constructive and oriented toward helping the OP. Thanks.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:59 PM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


You are way overthinking this issue, other people, and yourself. Put up a profile on okcupid. Just don't be braggy on your profile.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 3:06 PM on May 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Okay, there’s a lot to cover here, so this answer is going to be long. I’m really and honestly going to try to be as polite as possible while still being as blunt as necessary. For the record, I was not personally offended in any way by this question, but it did immediately evoke a long mental sigh and an “Oh boy, this guy is doing some very cliché things wrong, but he’s also the type that’s not going to want to change anything about himself. Wonder if there’s any point?”

1. Your standards are unrealistic. Other people have covered this well, so I won’t delve too deeply. I won’t outright say you are a misogynist, or whatever, but I will say that your standards seem to be based largely in fantasy and not largely in reality. If you judge women by the same standard that you judge men and/or yourself, I’m guessing “interesting” means not an office drone, intense, able to do some cool hobbies or skills, speaks different languages, or whatever, smart, and into your sex stuff. Now, there may be some women like that, but if so, they’re probably out of your league. (There’s that bluntness.) Look, women live different lives than men. They just do. Women are FAR less likely to get up in the morning and say to themselves, “I want to be super cool by learning woodworking today.” There are many reasons for this and they just don’t matter- railing against this fact, coming up with misogynistic explanations for it, or whatever is honestly and truly just a total waste of time and breath when you should be learning to accept reality. You say people should have “something to be proud of” – most people are proud of having loving relationships with their family, supporting themselves, being a kind person, that kind of thing. Not having a black belt in karate. You also seem to make questionable snap judgements about people and not to value compassion very highly. Here’s something it took me a long time to learn- I am often wrong. Here’s another thing it took me a long time to learn- we’re all going to die and intelligence doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t. It feels like it does- it feels SO important! And intense! But it too, is meaningless dust.

2. Your unusual sexuality is too important to you yet you are not going out of your way one iota to accommodate it. If you want kinky sex, you are wasting your time by trying to establish a relationship with “average” women and then springing that on them. It doesn’t matter that you’re busy- make the goddamn time to go to the freaking kinky sex meetup. Just freaking do it, or moan and mope for another five years. Again this is about accepting reality- the reality that there is a limited pool of people into stuff you like and others who aren’t have a right not to be, and they are going to turn you down.

3. You come across as arrogant. I do not know if you are arrogant. Perhaps you are not at all and are trying to compensate. Perhaps you are. I don’t care. But you need to fix the issue with speaking too highly of yourself, if you do this outside of this question in real life. People like people who play guitar, sure. But people LOVE people who play guitar and are humble about it and make self-deprecating jokes about it and teach other interested people to play guitar and are patient with them.

4. Do you know how many goddamn times I have heard people say they don’t like small talk? Too many goddamn times. What you mean is you are too good for small talk. Nope, you aren’t. No one is. I used to say this too, and I was just as wrong and stupidly arrogant. Learn to make small talk and appreciate it as the attempted kindness and social lubrication that it is. There are books you can read, online resources- the important thing is that you GET OVER IT and accept you need to just do it. Asking people what they do when not at work is super boring and broad and makes it obvious that you’re reading from a script. Talk about things in the area- the weather, the city, that squirrel over there, this weekend, you know.

5. Do not do that tiresome bullshit where you pretend to be less interested than you are, try to be friends with a lady, and then “sneak into” dating her. That is bullshit. Man up and ask women out. Make your interest clear, once, and fairly unobtrusively, but clearly. Do not treat her any differently if she turns you down, and make this clear as well. But do show honest interest.

6. Figure out a way to explain to people what this “constructive pain” thing is about. I read your whole question twice, carefully, and I have no freaking clue what you mean. It is your job to communicate this in a way that makes sense to people and doesn’t scare them and meets them where they are. You are failing spectacularly at this. You need to write a script for this, include self-deprecating humor and dial back the intensity, and make it easy for others to understand what the hell you’re taking about. “Discovering your deeper humanity” is vague and could mean anything. Leave kinky sex out of it.

7. Rebuilt your life? What does this mean?

8. Stop complaining that you sometimes have to hear about other people’s sex lives. Seriously, this is whining “it’s not faaaaaaiiiiirrrrr” like a child and is extremely ungracious and unpleasant. No single person likes to hear this stuff, and no single person is basically ever right that people are doing it just to torture them. Try to be happy for others, or at least, not hateful or resentful.

9. Get back into online dating. Figure out what you’re doing wrong and fix it. Online dating is actually good for special snowflakes- certainly no worse than real life. Persevere. Don’t cut out a huge way to meet people.

10. Respectfully, that feeling you get when women “fetishize” you? That is probably the feeling you are giving to women. That drowning man “pleeeeaaassse be my outlet” feeling.

11. Give up being “dominant” outside of the bedroom. That is pointless. There should be no clear “dominant and submissive” in 90% of conversations and interactions between people in daily life. For the love of god stop saying “I fulfil the alpha male role really well” totally unironically. Just stop.

12. Find a better therapist. Don’t give up after one.

The one thing you’ve done right is not meet clients out of work. Good for you; that shows integrity.

Good luck, really and truly.
posted by quincunx at 3:18 PM on May 16, 2015 [68 favorites]


Your question was "I'm so special and amazing, so why won't women date me?" You received a number of constructive answers about the importance of small talk and helpful dating suggestions. Your reply was, "for flimsy reasons I can't do the things you suggested , but let me talk some more about how special and amazing I am."

You're very, very fixated on this concept you have of yourself; it sounds like you don't actually care about the women you're dating except to the extent that they sync up with this self-concept, and you rationalize this on your end as a distaste for "small talk" and on their end as a "fear of intensity."
posted by Ndwright at 3:36 PM on May 16, 2015 [34 favorites]


OK, having read your response -- my name has no E in it, by the way -- you have done a very effective job of explaining why none of the answers you've gotten so far will work, and why you aren't willing to change any of those things. So rather than play an extended game of "yes, but. . ." let me turn it back to you: What ARE you willing to change in order to solve this problem?
posted by KathrynT at 3:47 PM on May 16, 2015 [26 favorites]


The problem is you seem very insecure and submissive yet you say you are a dominant person. This causes women looking for a dominant partner to dismiss you. I prefer submissive partners and everything in your description makes it sound like you would be a fit for a person such as myself.
posted by partly squamous and partly rugose at 3:58 PM on May 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Be warned, wild armchair (cheap, I'm talking Phil Donahue, but sincerely meant) psych speculation ahead, based on "in the years since I've rebuilt my life", what I am gleaning from the rest of what you wrote + observations of some people I know. (Unmotivated, also, I have no personal issue with anything you've said.)

I think you used to feel like a weak person, for whatever reasons. I think to get over it, you've consciously constructed a persona based on an ultimately harmful model of "strength", one that's led to you cutting yourself off from any suggestion of your own "weakness", and despising it in others.

Self-improvement isn't a bad thing, but the idea that it's possible to completely reinvent or redesign yourself, as if you were a brick of clay, with not even the faintest imprint left from your former self, is... unrealistic, if nothing else. (Your past sneaks up on you, for one thing.) It can lead to what I'm reading as a profound and damaging self-alienation that is necessarily going to compromise your relationships with others.

Frowner wasn't talking about "overcoming failure" as a way of getting to some more perfect way of being (I don't think), but about accepting vulnerability as a normal and unavoidable part of what it is to be human.

I mean, you're making every excuse in the book to avoid confronting something. What is that?

I think if this is a challenge for you, and you don't deal with it, the cost is going to be this loneliness just not ending.
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:05 PM on May 16, 2015 [21 favorites]


You remind me a lot of one of my exes in a certain way. He was all about constantly improving himself physically and mentally, and had no qualms about critiquing other people in a way that he at least claimed was well-meaning, so that they could be induced to improve themselves. And yet, even the mildest perceived criticism was such an affront to him, especially when it came from a woman. Several years after our relationship ended, he finally got some therapy and he said to me "you know, I discovered in therapy that I harbor some misogynistic feelings." Shocking to him, zero surprise to anyone who had ever met him.

This is a long way of saying that I think the most "constructive pain" you could put yourself through is getting some help doing real work on yourself in therapy.

As for small talk, this is not really a social skill you get to opt out of. The most helpful advice I've ever gotten is that most people really like to talk about themselves, and everyone loves a sincere compliment, even if it's about something superficial like a piece of jewelry. It's an ego boost to know someone is interested in finding out more about you, as long as you keep it light.
posted by karbonokapi at 4:18 PM on May 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


Based on what you've written here, you seem to approach any potential romances with a corny masculine bravado. You have a very forced intensity. A "I've mastered myself and my world but why can't I master women too?!" mindset. I doubt you're scaring these women away as much as you are simply turning them off.

And whenever I hear somebody say "I hate small talk and just want intense, interesting conversation," I take it as him/her openly admitting to having a fairly adolescent world view. You do realize that when you're in an actual adult relationship with somebody you tend to have years to talk about things right? You don't need to only engage in conversations that speak to your deep, passion filled, unique soul. There's time for the big stuff and the little stuff. Your armchair philosophizing, navel gazing and passions, aren't all that special or interesting to somebody that barely knows you.

Early dating is always a little awkward while you feel the other person out and a lot of that "feeling out" requires small talk. Communication involves a lot more than just the words being said. A lot of body language is expressed during a conversation about the stupid thing your cat does. Small talk is a big part of the nuts and bolts of getting to know somebody new. Refusing to take part in it and wearing the refusal as a badge of being more intellectually evolved is what's pushing any potential partners away. Most adults see through that bullshit pretty quickly.
posted by AtoBtoA at 4:21 PM on May 16, 2015 [40 favorites]


I learned at a fairly young age that it just doesn't matter how objectively better you are than everyone around you--it is obnoxious and off-putting to act that way. For years I was aloof and if I did open my mouth it was probably some pretentious brag or criticism of another opinion. I, too, hated small talk, preferring truly deep philosophical conversations or interesting political debates or companionable silence. GUESS WHAT! That is a boring and childish way to be. Get over yourself--you're not some special butterfly because you are self obsessed; everyone is, deep down.

Small talk doesn't have to be boring and I have a lot of fun in most of my conversations because I am clever enough to navigate them. Maybe you can try that? Also, Portland is probably the best place in the world to meet an immersed-in-nature, dumper-diving self improver so you probably will want to dig deep to figure out why you are having so much trouble meeting someone like that.

You seem very averse to getting advice for someone who is asking for it, I would be shocked if this attitude didn't pollute other areas of your life as well. I also highly doubt that you "scare" and "horrify" people like you are saying here; probably the most these people feel for you is a mild dislike. Really, you are not that important to other people. Nobody notices you.
posted by shownomercy at 4:57 PM on May 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


One thing that jumped out at me: why do you want to meet women? Nothing you have written suggests that you are interested in a romantic relationship with a living, breathing [female] human being.

It sounds like you are most interested in having someone to have sex with, who will fawn over you, and who you can brag about to other people. You keep mentioning you want to find someone who is “interesting and interested” but, puzzlingly, you have never even mentioned what would make a woman interesting to you. You talk a lot about not getting the “attention” you want. There is more to relationships than just someone foisting the right kind of attention on yourself. The beginning stages of a relationship are about each party getting to know the other and deciding if it a relationship would be beneficial to both of them. There is giving, sharing, and compromise involved. Everything you seem to propose/are aiming for seems very one-sided. Do you want a relationship or just an impressive doormat?

You seem very goal-directed, which is a positive attribute to have, but developing deeper relationships doesn’t work the same way as strengthening one’s physical or mental skills and abilities. For one, developing said relationships is dependent on someone outside of yourself. Two, it doesn’t have a concrete, linear set of steps to follow. You can’t practice anything or do anything to make yourself “supreme relationship potential” or some such thing the same way one would become an excellent guitar player because no one person is universally attractive to everyone. This is not a goal one can obtain on a timeline, like everything else you have mentioned you do or are interested in. There is really not much you can do other than put yourself in more situations where you are likely to meet people.

I think you are having trouble meeting women outside of work not because of your silence, your sexuality, or your intensity, but because you do not want to make room for someone in your life. Accordingly, everyone you meet seems to never meet your arbitrary, nebulous standards. You speak in vague terms about “discovering your deeper humanity” and have made this question basically a wall of text trying to elucidate your identity to us. Instead, it reads as a smokescreen for the fact that you actually seem to not know yourself very well at all.

Who are you outside of this “dominant” masseuse with lots of male friends and lots of hobbies? What are your fears and values and hopes? People are not just a set of physical and personality characteristics, interests, and abilities. You are not just a set of physical and personality characteristics, interests, and abilities. I think you are viewing people in these rigid ways that do not really match up to how people operate in the real world at all. Perhaps you are spending too much time by yourself or with people who have the same way of thinking as yourself? There is a wide world of people out there.

If you are serious about finding a relationship, I would spend some time getting to know yourself as a person, and other people (not just women) as people, rather than just a set of characteristics. Work on getting better at making conversation with people. Do something you’re not good at, put yourself out of your comfort zone to remind yourself of what it feels like to be fallible. And if you are still interested in finding a relationship, try thinking about what you would like to give to someone else. If you are not keen on giving, you will probably not find yourself in any relationship you and your partner would both be satisfied in.

Now, to the small talk topic: I have had limited success in the past using the question "So what do you do when you're not at work?" but that seems to make people feel very naked - not my goal at all. I get awkward "hmms, ummm, I hang out with my friends." as a response, which is a red flag to me - nothing to be proud of? People ask what I do when I'm not at work and I talk about cooking, I talk about my non massage work, I talk about foraging and immersing myself in nature; where are the people that have a similar degree of passion? What would be a better way to word that question that doesn't make people feel naked?

Perhaps it makes people feel naked because you are expecting some ready, pat answer to this question that you have rehearsed and prepared for and that none of the people you are asking it to has. Perhaps it feels like an inquisition to them. I sense an impatience with women throughout this question and a ready willingness to find fault with any woman you meet. I would imagine it shows through in your interactions. If you are, by chance, waiting for someone who will tolerate your sense of superiority, it would make sense that you have not had much luck.

If you decide you do not want to do the necessary meeting-in-the-middle to have a relationship, perhaps investigate the kink/fetish scene, even if their meetings occur “past your bedtime”. FWIW, even though you said you are looking for a partner, the subtext seems to be that you are dissatisfied with being unable to participate in the kind of sexual activity that you want, regardless of how dating is actually going.
posted by sevenofspades at 5:04 PM on May 16, 2015 [20 favorites]


You sound like you have very SPECIFIC interests that will throw off most people. I second what sevenofspadessays:


If you decide you do not want to do the necessary meeting-in-the-middle to have a relationship, perhaps investigate the kink/fetish scene, even if their meetings occur “past your bedtime”. FWIW, even though you said you are looking for a partner, the subtext seems to be that you are dissatisfied with being unable to participate in the kind of sexual activity that you want, regardless of how dating is actually going.


Basically, you sound like you'd have better luck being upfront and meeting people through the kink community (e.g., fetlife), and developing friendships and relationships that way, than trying to meet people through traditional means and hoping one of them is turned on by the same things you are.
posted by neeta at 5:09 PM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


As far as bedtimes go, you're repeating a standard cultural motif about sacrificing health for socializing - a motif that I don't adhere to because my health is of penultimate value to me.

FYI, "Penultimate" means next to last in a series. By definition it means there is something more valuable to you than your health. Maybe that thing can be sex! Which is also good for your health and mental wellbeing, just saying...

Enough with the deflecting of advice. Try buying into the idea that you don't know everything and that this many people agreeing means there might just be something to what they're saying.
posted by cecic at 5:20 PM on May 16, 2015 [18 favorites]


In your responses to everyone in this thread who made suggestions or criticized you, you've done a lot of listing of things that you do that make you special, things that you're good at, skills you have, almost like you're crafting a CV for us to review or arguing your case for a promotion. But the thing about all these skills is, honestly, who cares? Why is any of this relevant to a human-relations question about your inability to find women to emotionally and romantically connect to? You do massage and bodywork? Well, yeah, Portland has one of the best graduate programs for that in the continental US. Portland is full of BDSM-practicing, pain-and-dopamine-addicted barefoot running, woodworking, dumpster-diving special snowflakes. There's even a TV show about this phenomenon; have you heard of it?

When you hang out with your male friends I honestly doubt they're asking you to spend time with them because of the resume of skills and hobbies you're listing. Unless all of your friends are just using you for free jewelery, massages, and translations, these are not why your time is in demand. Nobody is saying "Hey thebotanyofsouls, wanna go see the new Mad Max this weekend? Your jewelery-making skills and mastery of several languages are going to be really key to us being able to enjoy this outing!"

When I read your writing, I hear it in my head as an overblown villain monologue. A Darth Vader voice. Someone doing a basso profundo James Earl Jones impression to try to sound intimidating. Your post and followups are sprinkled with misused SAT vocab words-- unless you're ESL, you are using a thesaurus to sound more sophisticated than you really are. It's not real.

This is what Frowner meant when she said you come across like a "fanfic hero". The way you talk about yourself is very adolescent-- you're describing yourself like Drizzt D'Urden, or Angel, or some other YA Byronic figure; all these intense portrayals of masculine suffering that resonate with young people who have very powerful feelings but don't know how to express those confidently without framing them as melodrama. You are off-putting to the women you're trying to date because you sound like you are trying to live life as a novel of which you are the larger-than-life protagonist, instead of a person in the real world with real problems, capable of connecting with other people.

I would go try to find a talk therapist who specializes in whatever kind of trauma you are talking about that makes you need to cry to feel human and from which you needed to totally rebuild. Someone who can help you through coping with whatever the boundary violation you're alluding to was, instead of throwing up huge walls of macho bullshit around yourself to prevent it from ever happening again. Darth Vader was invulnerable and terrifying with a helmet and baritone vocorder. But without those things, he was able to be Luke Skywalker's father. Take the villain helmet off.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 5:36 PM on May 16, 2015 [28 favorites]


I think I can swallow my pride. Gulp. Okay, didn't taste as good as my first, hectic typed out reply at work. Tasted kind of bitter, like the privileged white misogynist that I actively work every waking moment of every day to leave behind.

This is... Exactly what I needed. I have this terrible habit of being obstinate (this one, unlike penultimate, I know I used correctly!), especially when receiving advice. Good job everyone who called that line of bullshit.

The people that commented that I come across the internet as arrogant ... I find it really hard to make self deprecating jokes via text, but after as much time in near isolation as I've had, I learned to laugh at myself.

I value my sexuality because it's the piece of me that's not fulfilled at all - everyone's dove a good job of pointing out that I'm wearing this on my sleeve. I just want to feel loved - typing that out almost made me cry in public - not for some fantasy but for the imperfect version of myself I am.

I'm cool with faults. I'm cool with platonic connections that are meaningful (my female coworkers and friends who know me I would bend over backwards and even alter the space-time continuum if I had the power. The thing I miss the most is the feeling of being held tightly and providing comfort, and before my sexuality will wake up for a person I have to have that.

I didn't say I had a lot of male friends, did I? Just that most of my close friends are male (this actually inadvertently highlighted I have some intimacy issues, as I can count my close friends on one hand) and that I have this gap between them and strangers - there are no acquaintances in my life, and this is where all the helpful social advice I'm seeing hits: deal with the process of getting to know someone being kind of bumpy.

Therapy is something I'm open to, but I do not have the patience to pay someone to be judged - again. If someone knows someone here in PDX that is good, please send me their name and contact info

Boy did i need that humble pill. thanks showbiz_liz, KathrynT, quincunx, and sevenofspades.

Gonna consider this one closed and I'm going to bookmark it for when I think I'm above people as a reminder that I too am made of 46 chromosomes, myacin and actin, and not enough humility.
posted by thebotanyofsouls at 7:04 PM on May 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


Hey buddy. I see you are on the receiving end of a spoonful of nasty tasting medicine. The good news is that it is medicine, not poison. People here aren't wrong, but being told to reconsider your personality when you have spent so much time crafting yourself into the person you want to be is not an easy thing to absorb. Maybe something you end up pondering for the next month, year, decade.

I think your main problem with women is that by having such intense, specific interests is that you may come across as looking for someone to conform to your life and be your helpmate/researcher. You make yourself sound like you will demand a lot of attention from your partner, mentally and physically. She'll have to educate herself about your interests to have a conversation with you as an equal. She may need to pick up a new physical hobby so she has something in common with you. She may have no idea if she will like the particular kinky sex you like. Sadly, there are very very few women who will think, "Aha, finally, someone who is a challenge and will make me work to be on their level!" who are also sane and do not already have their own philosophy nailed down (typically someone like that will want her partner to spend their mental energy on her ideas, not adopt yours). You're in the Portland area, so there are lots of special snowflakes. Lots of people like you who have specific ideas about what is important to them and who they are, and don't really want to adopt someone else's priorities, kind of like how you will have a knee jerk impulse to resist the advice here to rethink your priorities.

I think you'll have the best luck if you try to get to know some women with very physically active hobbies. Athletes, basically. Rock climbers, bodybuilders, triathletes. Women who absolutely must push themselves past their physical limits to be the people they are. Anybody who does that will have to work through some pain and be familiar with it, and may have a kinship with you.

Everybody I have known who describes themselves as "dominant" has not been. They have a theory about what being dominant means, which they like talking about, but in practice they are not, which is why they have to talk about it to make sure people see them that way. Anybody who describes themselves as "intense" or "intimidating" is, in reality, just very attached to their interpretation of their life to the point of defensiveness (this has included myself, sadly). So attached that they will not give other people's views the consideration and compassion they deserve. They will argue, instead of apologizing or compromising. They will manipulate. They will be terribly insecure when in unfamiliar territory. They will try to control, control, control to make sure they get the outcome they want/expect.

The best thing I ever did for myself was learn to identify my impulse to control, and when I feel attached to a particular outcome or emotion, I mindfully work to let it go. I find the more hands-off I am and the more freedom I give others to feel and do as they will, the better the results. So if you're meeting a woman and you start feeling like you want her to like you and be open to dating you, etc., very carefully consider how your brain is telling you to manipulate the situation to get that outcome. Maybe your brain will want you to impress her by talking about your hobbies, or drop hints to see if she is receptive to your sadistic tendencies. Identify these strategies. Then let them go. Accept that her liking you or not liking you is her decision, and just have a natural conversation. I can't promise you that you will have more success with women, but I do promise that you will be happier and more at peace with the outcome.

Ah, I just saw your reply. Humble is the right attitude. The adjustment will take time.
posted by griselda at 7:13 PM on May 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


Purely from a practical standpoint: I think that you're getting stuck on the small talk thing because you don't have the tools to start the small talk . Small talk isn't just "how do you feel about today's weather? Where do you work?" ad infinitum, and it can segue easily into - at least! - medium talk. Like, I rarely spend a lot of time on literal "small talk" even when I meet strangers; it seems to graduate to medium talk quickly. But I don't think this is because I myself am profoundly interesting/adroit.

Just try a better range of questions - "how do you know [mutual friend]?" "Where did you go to school?" "What part of town do you live in?" And then ask a follow-up question, even an awkward one. "Oh, you both went to accounting school? Did you like it?" "What do you think of your neighborhood?" That kind of thing. Most people also want to get the conversation to become more meaty - they're looking for a way to make that work just like you are. (But they want to make it meaty about lower stakes stuff until they learn a little more about you - they might want to talk about a place, or a local issue, or a favorite author rather than cutting to the chase about nature, pain, death, the face of god, etc.) Basically, ask follow up questions until you get to a topic where you can say something meaningful. Ask them about their neighborhood and eventually you'll see the opportunity to start trading anecdotes about where you grew up, or crazy neighbors, or childhood chores. Basically, the purpose of follow-up questions is to get people to say a large enough quantity of things that somehow a mutual topic will be introduced.

Also, strive to find commonalities in your experiences. You do all this fancy athletic stuff - so you probably do have some commonalities with anyone who does athletic stuff at all seriously. You can ask about how she got started on whatever she does and tell her about how you got started (but without too much of the pain stuff). You can talk about the search for good gear [of whatever kind]. You can ask about what a typical class/workout/etc looks like in her sport. You can reminisce about playing sports as a kid.

Another thing - most people like trading reminiscences. You can easily have a satisfying mutual conversation about Favorite Childhood Games or That One Cartoon That I Kind Of Think Might Have Been A Dream.

One of the purposes of small talk is to establish trust.

About therapy - you can get therapist recommendations from the internet and from friends. I promise that if in Minneapolis you can find - as you can! - therapists who understand dumpstering, you can find them in Portland.

Therapy works if you let it work. (I mean not always and not every therapist, obviously.) Part of that is staying with it when it seems stupid or you are worried about making the therapist uncomfortable. For years I thought I was too smart for therapy, and the truth was that if I really tried I could outthink or outhipster my therapist. But I could not outcompassion him or out-Building-A-Caring-Therapeutic-Relationship him, and those were the things he was there to do, and the things I needed.

I too am really afraid of change and appearing weak, and those things have distorted my life in very painful ways that I regret a lot.
posted by Frowner at 7:17 PM on May 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


A few things:

I hope you are really able to assimilate and absorb the advice and input you've been given on this thread. Not just now, but over the next few days and weeks.

Respectfully, I think you may be asking the wrong question. You're looking for answer Z (how do I find a partner who fits my many criteria) when you've just started process A, which is becoming more comfortable with yourself and others. Z might change as you tackle A and everything in between.

Therapy isn't about being judged. Yes, there's some chemistry and the need to feel safe involved, but mostly it's about the hard, grungy, ugly, weird and unsettling work of sitting in a room with yourself and an impartial observer week after week, unpacking and getting down to the core of what is YOU. I think your road to Z will be much helped by the willingness to engage in A with the help of a caring professional and a lot of courage to spend time with yourself—YOURSELF, free of your hobbies, languages, and fiercely clung-to identity markers.

Best of luck to you.
posted by mynameisluka at 7:23 PM on May 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


just a data point about how your post came across to me since maybe you're coming across that way in person ...

you sound really full of yourself and your post is like the platonic ideal of "humble bragging" which is probably a turn off to a lot of people you meet.
posted by jayder at 7:35 PM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also: If you look for a therapist, I would suggest one who specializes in gender stuff and is explicitly queer-friendly. I think - as you seem to suggest in your comments - that probably a lot of your personal painful stuff is tied up in some kind of reactive performance of masculinity, and someone who focuses on gender/is queer-friendly will be FAR more likely to have the conceptual tools to help you unpack that stuff - not because of any sexual orientation stuff, but merely because he or she will be used to thinking about gender expression and the ways that masculinity can be really toxic. Also, IME, therapists who see lots of queer and/or trans clients are usually a bit more familiar with bohemian (read "normal") stuff like dumpstering, etc, because far more of their clients (and maybe they themselves) come from socially marginalized scenes. And they'll also be more familiar with the idea that men can have the sorts of embodiment issues that it sounds like you have.
posted by Frowner at 7:38 PM on May 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


Fetlife meetups are always right around my bedtime or are on days I work, so that route hasn't worked out yet.

Challenge this above statement. You know it is weaksauce.

Learn to nap. Reschedule your work with your boss (having a social life/relationship is important to you). Go out ANYWAY, then nap the next day.

You can, without changing who you are, with the personality you have now, turn this around.
Go to pretty much ALL the fetlife events you can.

Now, your jewellery making, goal-focused approach, massage and sadomasochism can all become very useful traits here, because you are going to go to the Fetlife events not to meet opposite sex, not right away, but to learn some skills.
Attend. Immediately go and make friends not with the shy sub girls in the corner, but with the men and women who are doing the things you'd like to be able to do - making toys, using them, giving massages (seriously, if someone is already doing this, go talk to them, and observe how they make a safe space for people to want this), and explain you are interested in doing the same things as them. Start building/making/joining/doing.
Just to repeat - get advice from doms and tops who are women. Not to hit on them, but because you want to learn.

A lot of the training-style workshops, are on weekend afternoons, not evenings. So rope bondage, electro workshops, paddling, leatherworking. These could all fit into your interests well. At this point, you may have no idea if they will fit well, but give them a try first. Once you get your thing, set up at play parties. People will literally line up to be massaged/spanked/bound, if you are GOOD at it, can be friendly, and set it up within the confines of a nonsexual safe space (public spaces are safer), or explicitly agreed sensual/sexual spaces. Do it in a platonic way, to guys, and not just the people you are interested in. You will meet a ton of people this way, you will be introduced to even more, which is an excellent way to meet someone you have a good spark with.

There are more 'bottoms' than 'tops' in fetish communities. There are heaps of guys who think they are 'dominant', but never get involved in the scene, never put any effort in, and essentially, never learn to top well, or actually DO anything.
You have to show that you are good at topping at something, and build trust in the community by being trustworthy. If you can do that, then congratulations, you will be in demand, even if you are a quiet, slightly freaky introvert.
posted by Elysum at 7:55 PM on May 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


I wouldn't have willingly hung out with the person who wrote this post, but I'd be interested in talking with the guy who posted the last update. If that's your genuine self, and the post is a mask you're hoping to transform into, honestly dude you're alright. You don't need to become a different person to be happy, you just need to find a way to live in your skin. Call up some therapists and tell them you are into sadomasochism, dumpster diving for food, and have some interpersonal issues you'd like to work through, can they help or do they know someone who can. The big difference between therapists and strangers at a party is you can be completely upfront with everything right away, it'll weed out the shitty ones.
posted by Dynex at 8:07 PM on May 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


Hey, all the answers above are excellent for dealing with all the big issues you brought up, so I just have a small practical suggestion for dealing with the small-talk awkwardness that sometimes happens when people are first getting to know each other. I used to be absolutely crushed by social anxiety, and I would completely freeze up and mentally blank out during coffee dates when there was nothing to do besides talk. I found it immensely helpful to actually DO something in addition to chatting: play Scrabble, check out a street festival where you can comment on the stuff going on around you, visit a used bookstore together and share zine articles you find interesting. Just little things to give you something to get conversation started. You don't have to plan major date activities or anything.

By the way, I'm now much less anxious and better at small talk after seeking help from a therapist who advertised her practice as queer and kink friendly. I will nth what everyone said above re: these types of therapists being more accepting of weirdness in general. Before I found my current magic unicorn therapist, I visited several people who described themselves as "gay-friendly," but who became a bit...pearl-clutching (sometimes literally) when I shared what my life was really like.
posted by Munching Langolier at 9:21 PM on May 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


You've reaped some bold insight and fervent criticism of how you're doing things so far, and lots of suggestions for moving forward. Lots to process, there.

While you're busy with all that personal development, maybe you can also constructively meet new people who match or exceed your intensity in some way. Keep in mind that in the process of building skills, short-term connections can be worthwhile learning experiences. Perhaps one or a combination of a few of the following would be worth trying, possibly even sticking with:

‌• Start your own meetup, whether on FetLife or Meetup or elsewhere.
‌• Check out munches organized by non-FL groups such as Portland Leather.
‌• Hitch-hike. You'll be entrusted with stories. Treat them as sacred, and never ever repeat them.
‌• Host through a hospitality exchange such as warmshowers, bewelcome or servas.
‌• Expand Portland's trashwiki page and offer to take people who'd like to be shown the ropes.
‌• Learn about feeding dogs prey-model raw and whole prey, and connect with people in your area who do that.
‌• Join your local leathermen group and get a mentor. Yes, there's a lot of gay, which you don't identify as. You won't directly meet women there. Far more importantly, they'll help you mature in your masculinity and sexuality. Bonus: their meetings tend to be earlier than FL's are.
‌• For whatever languages you speak, find the relevant chamber of commerce or business association in Portland. Attend events. (Bring business cards; if people want massages, you can refer them to your boss or colleagues.)


I would love to hear a This American Life episode about people who transitioned from terminally unique, ultra-intense, self-important smalltalk haters into, well, people just living life. There are more than a few of us.
Are there common turning points or aha moments?

posted by wonton endangerment at 11:58 PM on May 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


‌• For whatever languages you speak, find the relevant chamber of commerce or business association in Portland. Attend events. (Bring business cards; if people want massages, you can refer them to your boss or colleagues.)

This is a great idea!

How go things do for you when you are not speaking your first language/a language you are completely fluent in? Having struggled with French and German, friendships formed in those languages were different for me. I honesty think the necessity to communicate made me strip away some of the ego crap and try harder, listen more carefully. A conversation where people understood each other was a win. Now, maybe you are completely fluent in all of your language and do not experience any personal change when speaking any of them but if this sounds like it might work, try meetups or going to places where those languages dominate.
posted by BibiRose at 6:41 AM on May 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Not sure if this has been explicitly addressed in this thread, but I think this is another clear example of someone claiming to be an introvert as cover for bad social skills and personal issues that prevent them from engaging healthily with other people. Huge pet peeve of mine--seems to be an increasingly popular way for people to avoid taking responsibility for their bad behavior.
posted by Sublimity at 9:12 AM on May 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


Again, thanks everyone. I went to bed, cried tears of shame, and woke up sighing relief and telling myself "cool, I'm human again."

This post has been years in the asking, so when mynameissluka posted
"Respectfully, I think you may be asking the wrong question. You're looking for answer Z (how do I find a partner who fits my many criteria) when you've just started process A, which is becoming more comfortable with yourself and others. Z might change as you tackle A and everything in between."

this was gold. I marked it as a best answer for that paragraph.

This is a public forum and I really feel strongly about not being seen as a monster. I had some people post some pretty offensive comparisons between myself and sociopathy, and I'm aware of what a lack of impulses firing in the amygdala looks and behaves like.

So I've had a hard life. Again though, because this is a public forum, the only thing I want to say on the topic is that my past is a sob story I actively examine everyday and glean pearls of wisdom from, and because I value my privacy ... I don't care to expand on the "rebuilt myself" piece. It's actually largely irrelevant to the discussion, which is about my social struggles in the here and now. A professional, in privacy and confidence, or a friend are the people to help me make the connections between my specific experiences and the struggles I have in the present.

A couple people have asked about constructive pain; I defined it to my roommate as "anything that doesn't permanently scar any of your organs or fascia, break skin, or deliberately compromise your immune system that *#@$ing hurts." I look at the Shaolin monks for the most intense example of this (I don't care to be THAT intense, for the record), and notice immediately that they lead long, happy, cultivated lives.

For me, this is barefoot running, guasha., and stoicism. When I word it like that, wow - I sound significantly more socionormative ... okay, maybe not with guasha in that list. It's the idea that pain is a necessity in human life, to remind us to confront our aversions and not just favor our cravings.

A lot of people read "guasha" and went "wtf?" I'm sure. Doing that to myself is ... loving of all the parts of me - including that neglected, alone part that I'm complaining about. I cry when I can sha myself, it feels so strangely humanizing to receive. When one of the Chinese girls at work takes the time to really sha me good, I ride the endorphine high for days. It's a part of me, as much as the person that read the Daodejing and the Bhagavad Gita for their timeless wisdom, as much a piece of me as the part of myself I found doing 10 days of silence, as much a piece of my humanity as the jewellery, as much as the part of me that can run forever without shoes and does it for self-compassion. It's also become a part of my personal self exploration surrounding sex, and THAT high lasts for days.

but most of the other kink stuff is just ... weirdly gross to me because I see it as physically harmful. All about people doing what they want, I just don't have an interest in most of the rest of it. It seems weirdly complicated; I arrived at guasha because I watched it heal old injuries that Western doctors pronounced untreatable (separated acromioclavicular joints on both sides - completely functional after less than 10 rounds of guasha).

On a professional note, I have a bunch of tricks for helping bruises heal faster, healing skin abrasions, and regaining mobility rapidly. I've never really known how to reach out to the kink community without coming across as an outsider, but they've been the first group of people I've thought of while I've cultivated that knowledge.

People have commented about the dominance thing. I regularly get looked up to in social situations - people ask "What are we going to do?" and look at me for ideas. I socialize with dogs well; I can be one of a few strangers in a room and I'm usually the person the dog approaches first. At work, I'm the person that gets asked to deliver unpleasant news to my boss by of my Chinese speaking coworkers; and I advocate for them to the English speaking manager with pride. I regularly get asked to teach things; chigong and martial arts, guitar, meditation, bodywork - and each and every time, I say "Let's make it happen!"

I also am the person who, when someone does something I think is foolish, am the first person to say something. Constructive - if I get personally upset, I state why it was upsetting and then make suggestions.

ALL of that is alpha male behavior to me. That's standing up, showing virtue by facing your own fears and discomforts, to help others. Four legged, two legged, many legs or no legs at all, all the creatures of this wide earth (and some of the wide creatures of this earth) are merited to help when they ask, on their terms. "The great man is like water/benefitting all things and competing with none." (Lao Tzu). It's not a sexual thing, it's an assertive leadership role that I see as an extension of healthy boundaries,

I hope that clarifies what I meant by both of those terms.

wonton endangerment, that was the kind of suggestion I was hoping for by posting this initially! Thanks :D

Munching Langolier, you just described my last two experiences seeking psychological help.

griselda, I've had bitter pills before, from friends, from life. Bitter pills are good ones; the bitter flavor is the one of phytochemicals that make our palette diverse and more accepting. same is true of life advice, sans phytochemicals.

I've had lots of helpful suggestions from this thread. I'll keep swallowing my pride and listening, but I have some more questions to ask since there's been a ton of really useful advice, and maybe by asking I'll clarify the original post a little more.

Another thing that relates to this is that my humor is usually wordplay and jokes about the language itself; entirely contextual, hard to present via text, and even in person lost on most. How do you become funnier?

I get a lot of people who I get to know a bit, say "I really want to learn this thing you know!" ... so far, what I've done is let them talk to me more about it. and when they've talked about it two or three times with passion, I ask if they want to meet up and I'll share what I know ... and then they suddenly backtrack, "Well I'm busy that day ..." ... I get dismissive of those people because I wonder "Why'd you open your mouth and say it then - not once, but multiple times - if you didn't actually mean it?"

Yup, snap judgement - nope, not a snap judgement that's served me well. How can that social situation play out differently? Am I missing something about the subtext of that - like they're asking for something else? If so, why didn't they just ask for what they wanted?!

See why I get frustrated? and inarticulate with self-aggrandizing righteousness? This situation has played itself out in my life dozens and dozens of times, and I want to share what I know - the act of thinking about how to explain something briefly and specifically speaking to that individual, and then using probing questions to help them have "aha" moments? All the reward I could want.

I have spent an hour and a half typing this out and now I need to run to work! Thank you everyone so far. I'm all ears if people have more advice to give.
posted by thebotanyofsouls at 11:18 AM on May 17, 2015


(What happens when a woman - or someone who isn't a man? - exhibits the behaviors you describe as "alpha male"? What advantages might there be to being a person who does not speak first and who is not expected to lead? What might such a person bring? What might you bring if you didn't speak first and were not expected to lead? I'm not saying that you need to change, or that your behaviors are wrong/flawed - just that you seem to think that they make you worthwhile. And that you seem unconsciously to be associating them very, very strongly with gender in an essentialist way.)

Maybe try asking people who say that they want to learn from you how that could work for them? Offer them some options? Sometimes people want to learn something but need to fit it into their schedule, or their mental schedule...or they need to figure out how they're ready to learn. I also think that big offers from near strangers can seem overwhelming - not bad, but just "oh wow I don't know this person super well and I am signing up to spend a big chunk of time with them Doing A Thing".

Also, sometimes people are trying to make you feel good. They want to learn from or interact with you, but they're stating it in stronger/more immediate terms because they want to make you feel valued. (If I were to do a site visit, I would be curious as to whether you don't come off a little more vulnerable than you think you do.)

If you want to teach, though - look into community education programs and also contact whatever anarchist/radical space Portland has to ask about local free schools and skillshares. I'm not the world's greatest teacher, but I've grown a lot because I've had the opportunity to organize small classes through our local free school. I've also met a ton of friends and friendly acquaintances who have similar interests. It may not work with specific individuals, but I'm sure there's a number of people out there who would really like to attend a small, well-organized class on your topic. People especially like material/making/movement skills. I think you would have no trouble at all getting a group together and teaching, and I bet that would satisfy a lot of your social needs.
posted by Frowner at 11:49 AM on May 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


Another thing that relates to this is that my humor is usually wordplay and jokes about the language itself; entirely contextual, hard to present via text, and even in person lost on most. How do you become funnier?

you have to take yourself like 5000 times less seriously, first, would be my guess. Few people are genuinely funny and even the funniest people I know probably tell 20 jokes a day that just fall flat. Wordplay and contextual linguistics aren't most people's idea of a belly laugh either, so you may want to recalibrate your expectations from "funny" to "clever."

I ask if they want to meet up and I'll share what I know ... and then they suddenly backtrack, "Well I'm busy that day ..." ... I get dismissive of those people because I wonder "Why'd you open your mouth and say it then - not once, but multiple times - if you didn't actually mean it?"

Dude because people have a goddamn life; they might actually be busy on a day. You seem to find most of us appallingly dull and empty and passionless, but from our perspective, we have meetings and dinner plans and have to go see our mothers or whatever. There's a class I'm legitimately interested in right now, and if I were having coffee with the teacher I would express that legitimate, enthusiastic interest, but if he was like ok let's meet up tomorrow for a three-hour session I'd be like, LOL dude, I'm booked up through June, that's why I haven't taken your class yet. I'm interested but not interested enough to bail on work and my SO and other pre-existing obligations and plans in order to take on a new demand. Kind of like how you don't want to go to kink munches because you'd like to get more sleep and because of your job. Ahem.

See why I get frustrated? and inarticulate with self-aggrandizing righteousness?

No, because this is not an inevitable A to B progression. I can get plenty frustrated without descending into inarticulate self-aggrandizing righteousness. This is a progression that is specific to you, for reasons that might best be uncovered, again, in therapy.

You seem to want people to be more like you, and are angry that they're not, and then you're angry they don't like you anyway or at least don't like you in the exact precise way you want to be liked. Basically it seems like your problem is like Homer Simpson's: "Why won't those stupid idiots let me into their dumb club for jerks?" Alternately, your problem is the exact identical problem faced by literally every person on earth who wants an SO and doesn't have one: "I haven't found a person I super like who super likes me yet."

Which is frustrating but not remotely rare, and the solution is the same for even the most alpha of alphas: keep meeting people til you maybe find someone.

posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 1:42 PM on May 17, 2015 [8 favorites]


Also, sometimes people are trying to make you feel good. They want to learn from or interact with you, but they're stating it in stronger/more immediate terms because they want to make you feel valued.

This, all the way. You sound like someone who overvalues semantics at the expense of pragmatics - people do a lot more in conversations than just convey word-meanings. Likewise, relationships are about more than just trading signifiers (barefoot running, foraging, stoicism, fluent in foreign languages, etc.). They're about being together, not "doing" together, or information-sharing. This is totally pop-psych and I recommend you keep your critical thinking cap on when you read it, but Games People Play can provide some insights about why people don't behave the way you would expect them to based on semantic logic.

Re:women, Usually, I look at them and see either desperation or a degree of fetishism

Sometimes that's because they're more comfortable showing their desire to "just be loved for the imperfect people they are." It causes you pain just to type out that you want to be loved for who you are? Work on the courage it takes to expose that vulnerability to others (safely). An argument you are likely to get from yourself is, "but I'll look desperate!" Well, touché.

IME, women who are interested in men who seem to be "deliberately interesting" are themselves a little intense. Of course if you feel objectified, you say so, and your partner minimizes your feelings about it, run don't walk.
posted by katya.lysander at 2:12 PM on May 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


[thebotanyofsouls, moderator here. Just a heads-up, AskMetafilter isn't a space for OPs to have extended processing sessions or back-and-forth with commenters. The convention here is that you ask your question, and that's basically it -- you read people's answers and maybe briefly clarify if needed, and then you mark the answers that are most useful to you; your extended responses to people's answers are something to record in your own space, not in the thread. No biggie just letting you know how things go here. Thanks.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:12 PM on May 17, 2015


Therapy is something I'm open to, but I do not have the patience to pay someone to be judged - again.
...
A professional, in privacy and confidence, or a friend are the people to help me make the connections between my specific experiences and the struggles I have in the present.
...
Munching Langolier, you just described my last two experiences seeking psychological help.


I just keep coming back to the fact that something is keeping you from getting help via this avenue. Here's how I've found therapists in the past: find ten names online or via recommendation boards (you could try Googling "kink friendly therapists [your town]"), calling maybe six or seven, going to chat with the three who felt best over the phone, then choosing one. It might sound hard, but it's pretty quick: one morning of leaving ten voice mails before heading off to work, stepping out to take 5-10 minute calls from therapists about four times a day over the next 2 days or so, then making it to a therapy session or two over the next two weeks, then deciding. Three to four weeks start to finish, and then you have found yourself a great therapist.

And you can screen for whatever you want -- including the things you've been judged for in the past. The more you can explain what you're looking for and what you don't want, the better this will work.

The feeling I get when I read this, with apologies if I'm off base, is that you're doing certain things as an expression of your emotional pain. They are very important to you because that pain is deep. You want to have that pain seen, not minimized as "no big deal, that's pretty normal," as you have suffered more than your share of pain. But you simultaneously want someone to react with acceptance, respect, and love -- not being aghast or flinching away from it or making you feel weird. You don't want them to be like "wow, that's freaky," NOR "no biggie, that's normal." You want them to see that these are ways you are "being with" the parts of yourself that are in pain, and you want them to feel care and sympathy for you that it's necessary, while respecting how well you're coping and rebuilding. I might be way off base, with apologies if so. This is a tricky balance, but the good news is that therapists are among the best people on earth to strike this kind of balance. And the more you can explain whatever it is, the more likely they are to react the way you want right from the start.

Thinking out loud then, maybe in talking to therapists, you could lead with the personal history stuff, or even say "I have a painful personal history," then explain that "one coping mechanism I use is to seek out safe forms of physical pain. This gives me a lot of relief, and I want to work with someone who can accept and respect it as a way I actively 'be with' the suffering parts of myself. If hearing about these ways that I safely inflict pain on myself is something that you would flinch away from, judge, or try to change, it will make me feel judged and alienated and keep our relationship from being useful for me."

I don't understand the dumpster diving piece as well, but you could also say that "things like dumpster diving are important to my identity,* and I want to find someone who won't judge me." (* I used to dumpster dive a fair bit, and hitchhike, and etc., and it only came up in therapy once, and they were in fact kinda shocked, and it didn't matter to me at all. That's why I think you might try to figure out what it means to you.)

One last thing: I think both yoga and meditation are ways that people accustom themselves to pain to reduce their aversion to pain in daily life. I saw you'd done some of that, and it might be another way to find like minded people.

Good luck. I think this thread shows that a lot of what is getting in your way in daily life is an intensity that grows from your past -- and that you're yearning to find someone compassionate and understanding to go into this more deeply with. That's why I keep returning to therapy, but maybe you'll find this in a more physical space, like an elder you trust in the guasha tradition (if such a thing exists) or a fellow runner or something. Good luck.
posted by salvia at 3:09 PM on May 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


No offence bro but you seem pretty insufferable. I don't doubt you're smart and talented and strong and good at jumping over bollards and it's ace that you've got loads of male friends who want to kick back with you but for 27 you seem pretty immature and I can see why women would be disinclined to spend a lot of time with you.

This bit however:

I've had more cases than I care to admit where I intimidated/scared women because I'm lonely and dominant

I think you meant "dominating", because a truly dominant person understands the landscape of their interactions, pays attention to their inputs, and is in control of their outputs. If you're talking about self-harming as a way to mental clarity and whole-of-body understanding to a woman who really just wants to have a couple of drinks and know what music you listen to/books you read so that she has a baseline to work off of, then you're not dominant, you're just utterly tone-deaf. "I like putting jars in my ass" is something for the fourth date, after you've already touched one another's dangly bits.

Peace and good luck.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:26 PM on May 17, 2015 [10 favorites]


When I suggested that you might want to work on developing a sense of humor about yourself, I didn't mean that you should strive to be funny. Puns or other linguistic jokes are not what is needed here. Instead, I meant that you should find a way to develop a kind of distance from yourself so that you can look at yourself (and others) with a sort of compassionate amusement. Now you seem to have put yourself at the center of the universe and seem to regard yourself and your improvement as terribly, awfully, awesomely important. But, of course, you aren't all that. None of us are.

I wanted to point out that some of the practices and activities you seem to value come out of monastic traditions. That's all very well and good, but there may be a tension between focusing so much of your attention on practices that come from lives of contemplation and (relative) isolation and your professed desire for intimate, romantic companionship.

If what you desire most is an intimate relationship, you may need to stop focusing so much of your attention on these practices of self-mastery. You do know that the stoics really didn't go in for close personal relationships of love and affection, right?
posted by girl flaneur at 5:24 PM on May 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


1) How to be funnier in text? Read reddit. Reddit is anathema to a lot of the metafilter crew, for some good reasons, but I regularly find literally laugh-out-loud writing on /r/AskReddit. (And most of it is of the not-taking-themselves-seriously kind, which is the best kind.)

2) Who the hell on the entire west coast doesn't love dumpster diving? It is the way of our fucking people. At this very moment I am wearing two pieces of clothing I found on the side of the road. Jeez. Sorry you ran into that. On the west coast, she was the weird one, not you.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:03 PM on May 18, 2015


Oh dude. Tonedeaf much?

I came back to post a further list of ideas for you to meet similarly intense people. But seeing that you ignored, steamrolled the core of LobsterMitten's statement:
"AskMetafilter isn't a space for OPs to have extended processing sessions or back-and-forth with commenters."
I lost my stomach for sharing any more activity/group suggestions, because you're seeming less and less likely to show up and interact in a way that won't be a major PITA for the people involved.

Instead, here are two articles that might help you understand some of what it is you keep doing that keeps miffing perfectly interesting people all the while you keep on being completely oblivious to that:
Succeed Socially: Social Mistakes Intellectual People Can Make
Pervocracy: Some points on social skills.
And an Ask from a guy who shares your disdain for middle-of-the-road interactions with normal everyday people: The other shore looks nice, but the bridge makes my skin crawl
Perhaps seeing where he comes across as tedious and aggressively boring will give you insight into your own impact on those around you?

Here's the one suggestion from my draft post, where I think the people might be already right up your alley with zero adjustment required from you other than that you learn their vocabulary: Less-Wrong: Portland
This article describes part of their preferred approach to communication. (It's LW's take on tangerine's post describing her Ask Culture vs. Guess culture model.)
In his four comments, jbash articulates why many intelligent, interesting, system-questioning, in-many-ways-unconventional people will choose to limit their interactions with those who portray themselves, treat others, and communicate as you have in this thread.
posted by wonton endangerment at 2:13 PM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


small_ruminant: "On the west coast, she was the weird one, not you."

Freeganism is an minoritarian hobby, no question. So is coining. This isn't to marginalize these things, but to say that putting them at the front of your identity is going to be polarizing in most contexts, so an awareness of this and some skill in small talk (which turns into medium talk and beyond upon a positive response) is necessary to grease the social rails.
posted by rhizome at 3:29 PM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


[One comment deleted. thebotanyofsouls, this is not a place for conversational followups from you.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 5:21 PM on May 18, 2015


[A few comments removed, side conversations about dumpster-diving perceptions and whatnot should really be in email, not here.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:27 AM on May 20, 2015


I apologize if it's been said already, I'm obviously late to the party here:

I'm very, very human, I promise you, but because of years meditating, I also come across as mildly sociopathic because I don't express a lot of my momentary, fleeting emotions.

I know where you're coming from here, because I've also meditated for years. Combine that with active-listener training for crisis phone lines, and I'm pretty damn good at not expressing momentary, fleeting emotions. I'm good at maintaining a calm, steady presence when someone is in distress. I'm good at not letting shock or fear show when that's necessary to support somebody else. It's a useful skill. Hell, it even comes in handy parenting my toddler when I get irritated.

BUT.

If you think that meditating for years has allowed you to stop the harmful practice of expressing the meaningless, fleeting emotions that cross your mind, and that not expressing these ultimately empty, transient things makes you better, or more emotionally mature, or that showing feelings in the moment is a sign of an untrained mind... Please reconsider. You are incorrect. Have you ever sat with a meditation teacher? I have, and the best ones, the ones that I trust the most, smile, cry, laugh, and generally live a very emotional life. They are TOUCHED by life. They are TOUCHED by other people. If you think that you have become better by not allowing yourself to feel or express momentary emotions in relationship with other human beings, you have in fact lost something, not gained something.
posted by Cygnet at 12:32 PM on May 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


I don't enjoy shallow interactions like small talk

Few people do. Most of us do it because it's the only way to ascertain whether strangers are somewhat normal or not. Honestly, when people talk about the weather they are trying to figure out if you are predictable enough for it to be safe to sit next to you on the train or whatever.

I used to hate small talk until I realized that it's just a social tool to weed out unpredictable/possibly unstable people and then started making an effort. It's like job interviews. Everyone knows you are not being totally honest, but they want to gauge your social and emotional intelligence by checking if you understand what is or isn't appropriate.
posted by Tarumba at 5:58 AM on May 22, 2015


Wow, tons of stuff to respond to. I did not do a good job accurately phrasing this question, but many people have read into it enough to answer the questions I believe I meant to ask. As the mods have enforced, I'll do my best to keep it on topic and not conversational.

Cygnet
If you think that meditating for years has allowed you to stop the harmful practice of expressing the meaningless, fleeting emotions that cross your mind, and that not expressing these ultimately empty, transient things makes you better, or more emotionally mature, or that showing feelings in the moment is a sign of an untrained mind... Please reconsider. You are incorrect. Have you ever sat with a meditation teacher? I have, and the best ones, the ones that I trust the most, smile, cry, laugh, and generally live a very emotional life. They are TOUCHED by life. They are TOUCHED by other people. If you think that you have become better by not allowing yourself to feel or express momentary emotions in relationship with other human beings, you have in fact lost something, not gained something.
This piece of advice is a gem, one I had begun to see the facets of, but hadn't really had it illuminated that way. Thank you.

wonton_endangerment, although your wording has been kind of cynical and somewhat insulting (especially with the second comment), your suggestions have been the most actionable advice in the entire thread - thank you for that. I read through the whole thing looking for jbash's comments and found not a one - were they deleted?

Tarumba, this was something that the act of posting this thread has illuminated to me. The way you worded your comment was also extremely helpful.

Thanks everyone - even the people who posted insultingly worded advice - and another hearty thanks to the moderators who kept everyone (especially myself on track). The consensus that I read has been "see small talk as necessary, and like all necessary things, enjoy it for its necessity in social interactions." and to drop the delusions of self grandeur.
posted by thebotanyofsouls at 10:50 AM on May 22, 2015


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