How can I stop feeling so sad/upset about men never hitting on me?
July 18, 2018 7:27 PM   Subscribe

I am 23 and I have never had a boyfriend nor have I ever dated. I am 5'4 and 120 lbs and whenever I go out, I try to wear makeup. I don't really go to bars or clubs but I constantly go out a lot to places such as grocery stores/shopping, restaurants, coffee shops, etc..... I never get hit on by any guy anywhere I go. I have been hit on before in the past but the last time I was hit on was 2 years ago and the guy told me that he thinks I am very beautiful. When I told him I never had a bf before, he said I would find someone. I never thought I was ugly but now I am starting to feel like I am ugly because I never get male attention.

It makes me feel so sad because sometimes my friends will talk about men hitting on them while shopping or out and about or I will go on social media and see people's snap story/instagram about how some guy was hitting on them or ask for their number or how a girl met a guy just by going to a coffee shop or doing a regular task but that never happens to me at all. I just feel so undesirable and that I won't ever find a guy interested in me at all. I am so tired of crying and constantly asking myself what is wrong with me? Why am I having such a hard time? It's hard for me to believe that love will come to me at a later time when I am struggling now. Sometimes I feel like giving up and I think that maybe I wasn't ever meant to experience love or I get scared that I will still be 30 and alone/lonely. I don't know what to do about this?
posted by ionable to Human Relations (42 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Of course you are deserving of love. Stop thinking that you are not deserving of love. You won't get to 30 and be not deserving of love, of course you won't. If I were younger, I'd love you. You will be all right.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 7:41 PM on July 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm 48 and remembering the situations you are describing literally make me cringe. The only strangers who hit on me in public at your age were predators. I think your disappointment is entirely misplaced!

I suspect decent humans worth meeting for dating purposes are finding each other in ways that are mutually fair, I'm 100% certain being approached in public is considered creepy by today's standards. (Thank god!)

Try meet ups and dating sites. Go to parties and mingle. Don't expect to be approached randomly in public. I think your lack of creepy experiences is something to celebrate, not mourn.

(furthermore, you probably don't seem like you are easy to take advantage of and that likely has more to do with not getting "hit" on than your attractiveness. what about you makes you come off as self-empowered? be grateful you exude this trait. I'm very serious about this. clearly you have a blessing, what is it?)
posted by jbenben at 7:43 PM on July 18, 2018 [137 favorites]

Honestly? Having random men hit on you usually doesn't lead to much. You certainly will find relationships and most definitely are deserving of love. Stop obsessing over it and just work on being a great person- and on having the confidence to seek the relationships that are positive and reject those that aren't. Don't set the bar at being hit on by random men!
posted by DTMFA at 7:48 PM on July 18, 2018 [4 favorites]

The men who hit on women in public do not make much of an overlapping venn diagram with men who make good partners. Getting hit on does not in any way equate to love or your ability to be loved, and certainly not your worth as a woman or a person in this world.

Now, I will say...I've noticed you've asked several questions here along the same lines: men do not approach you for dates and therefore you do not date anyone. Lady I am telling you right now--you have to hunt. If you want to date people, you have to ask people out. It's like with anything else in life (I can sit here on my couch and say golly I'm really hungry, I'd love a sandwich until I'm blue in the face, but I live alone, nobody's gonna bring me shit)--if you want something you need to take action.

And yeah, it's real scary. Rejection is scary. Rejection is scary for guys, too, so look, you have something in common already. But it gets easier, with time and practice, and I promise you the most effective way of making dates happen is to initiate them yourself.

Source: I have asked out most of the men I've dated in my life--in person, over email with dudes I already knew, and online dating, short term, long term, you name it. I got asked to prom by a guy in my class when I was 18 but then after that, if I relied solely on guys to do the approaching and asking, I think my next date would have been at age 27. I know what I'm talking about here. IF NO ONE IS APPROACHING YOU, YOU HAVE TO ASK BOYS OUT IF YOU WANT TO GO ON DATES WITH THEM.
posted by phunniemee at 7:50 PM on July 18, 2018 [125 favorites]

People who get approached in public are usually people who look approachable- they have an open posture, are looking up/around, smiling, etc. I think there are plenty of good-looking people who others don't approach because for whatever reason, they look unapproachable. And it's okay not to "look approachable".

Please don't think that because you are not getting approached by men in public you are less attractive than others. There are lots of reasons for this that don't have to do with your attractiveness or even you at all. It could even be that you are so attractive that you are intimidating.
posted by bearette at 7:53 PM on July 18, 2018 [17 favorites]

see people's snap story/instagram

People's lives as viewed through presentational social media are curated fiction, don't compare yourself to that.

BUT ALSO I think a lot of cultural is changing, I used to hit on people a lot when I was younger, and now I can't really imagine doing it. Because I've learned that the vast majority of women at the "grocery stores/shopping, restaurants, coffee shops, etc" desperately don't want to be hit on. I think most decent guys fall along the same lines, at least all the ones I know.

I think I would stop being friends with a dude who had any more than 1 story about recently hitting on a woman at the grocery store or while she was out shopping. Because I don't like being friends with creeps.

If you want to be hit on, Which as others are noting may not be that great... Go to bars, go to parties, do online dating. Put yourself in situations where the social norm of that place is flirtatious.
posted by French Fry at 7:53 PM on July 18, 2018 [25 favorites]

It depends where you are, too! I have lived in several world cities, and can confirm that in SF I got hit on substantially less than in LA, for example. Men approaching women may not be in the culture of where you are, which carries pros and cons (though many women would argue more pros than cons). You haven't mentioned anything about online/app dating, which is where most of the people your age I know are meeting dating partners... Have you tried that?
posted by namesarehard at 7:56 PM on July 18, 2018 [3 favorites]

I'm so sorry you are feeling upset about yourself in this way. You are certainly not alone in feeling unattractive simply because you don't (yet) share in what you think is a 'normal' experience for women.

One question I have is whether you are shy/closed when out in public? I don't AT ALL want to imply that women who get hit on by random men are 'asking for it', but I DO think that shy/closed (or not-quick-with-a-smile) women are LESS likely to receive attention from unknown men. If men can't catch your eye because you are unwilling to make eye contact, they will be less likely (which doesn't mean not-at-all likely) to approach you in supermarkets, bars, etc.

E.g., I had a friend some years ago who was decent-but-not-stunning looking, but she always seemed to have men approach her (not the rest of us) when we went out. I watched her one night and saw that she would look around and make direct (and quick) eye contact with men in the vicinity, which was oftentimes followed up by an approach from one of the men. And some years later I read research articles saying the same thing: Women aren't entirely passive 'prey' in this whole game of flirtation: You can learn to give signals that show you are open to being approached (eye contact being one of the most effective ones).

I agree that you have to count yourself lucky that random, creepy men on the street aren't hitting on you. BUT when you DO want to 'happen to meet' a man in another context (in a waiting room, at the market, in a pub, etc.), then it does help if you know there are ways to indicate to decent men that you might be receptive to a polite (non-creepy) approach. I was very shy in my younger years and it just takes longer for people like us to learn the social cues that other people seem to have figured out much earlier. So don't be too hard on yourself.

*Usual caveats about not all men reading these signs accurately.
posted by Halo in reverse at 7:58 PM on July 18, 2018 [5 favorites]

Also, re: your friends' stories: they are probably doing some interacting with the guys that are hitting on them- smiling and eye contact at the least. They may even be approaching them and talking to them first before getting "hit on".

You said before that you are shy, like me. Sometimes I feel a little outgoing or energetic, and I notice that during those time I smile more and make more eye contact, and more people in public talk to me.

But honestly, you're not missing a whole lot. I don't think a ton of relationships start by public "meet cutes", and guys who randomly hit on women without any interaction first are usually creepy.
posted by bearette at 8:01 PM on July 18, 2018

This is going to sound like an odd question, but are you certain you are not missing the obvious signs? If you are inclined to think no one is smitten with you, you will prime yourself into thinking it isn't happening, and often, people who think they are desirable, see anyone staring in their direction as "hitting" on them. I am guessing that perceptions are not aligning with reality.

When my grandmother -- who was in a wheelchair and in her late 80s -- had to go to rehab to relearn to walk (and did!), the first day we wheeled her in, all the men in there were drooling all over her and hitting on her without her even trying. I thought I had to get a broom to shoo them all away.

I have had friends who were convinced no one was attracted to them, and when I pointed out the obvious, they were shocked because they didn't see the signs -- the subtle or the obvious -- that someone liked them.

In a world of 7.4 billion, the chances that a truckload of people haven't tried to make overtures to you is nil. You may need to pull back and do some people watching for a while to take yourself out of the equation to recalibrate your perceptions because the pressure you are putting on yourself is not helping you. Watching other people interact should help you put the pressure off yourself, and see whether you can see the subtle signs.

Good luck!
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 8:09 PM on July 18, 2018 [7 favorites]

Getting hit on in public (or, as I like to call it: getting street harassed) sometimes depends on people having an "in," something really obvious about you that they'll repetitively point out in a flirtatious way.

Here's a whole article about this phenomenon with brightly colored hair.

Here is an article about "tat-calling," or harassment based around women having tattoos.

I'm not telling you to dye your hair purple and get knuckle tattoos, I'm just pointing out that there just might not be much for people to latch onto and bother you about. People don't bother as often when they don't have a tailor-made obvious opener.
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:16 PM on July 18, 2018 [7 favorites]

I've sometimes heard this described as the "fuckable"/"unfuckable" binary. Like - a lot of people (me included!) find it awful and terrifying to be targeted by random men for sexual commentary. Street harassment is awful.

If you think it happens to everyone but you, that you're not even desirable to men who see women as prey, that can feel like a disappointment as well as a relief. The ways too many men feel entitled to treat the objects of their attraction are nightmares. Never feeling like anybody wants your body is...also sad, in a quiet, less adrenaliney way.

Suggestions for you:
1) go dancing, or to a singles night, or really to any kind of hobby/activity where people are looking to meet people. Does your professional or faith community have meetups or social events? Can you pick up some hobbies? Go out and meet people who want to meet people, who aren't in public only to catch a bus or feed themselves or surf the Internet somewhere other than their apartment.

2) this is way way easier said than done, but: relaaax. Maybe talk to Men-you-might-like-to-date the way you talk to your friends or cousins or something? Desperation makes a lot of people uncomfortable and I feel like you might be overthinking your interactions with people you're attracted to in ways that make them likelier to reject you.

full disclosure: this is basically canned from Captain Awkward's advice and my attempts to reverse engineer the things that have caused other people to struggle romantically while I haven't, despite a lot of them being physically decent looking, neurotypical straight cis people while I am...not most of those things.
posted by bagel at 8:18 PM on July 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

I don't know if it helps to question your data points, but a lot of people use both social media and idle chat as opportunities to highlight slightly unusual/interesting things that have happened to them recently. And when people estimate the frequency with which something happens, their minds tend to take a shortcut and guess based on how easily they can recall examples, not so much actual frequencies (e.g. striking up conversations with strangers in grocery stores seems uncommon and largely unwanted to me). Moreover, when we formulate guesses about what's going on (e.g. other people are getting hit on, I'm not attractive, and so on), we tend to look primarily for confirming evidence, not counterevidence. Perhaps most importantly, does any evidence matter? You really just want practical outcomes like not being upset.

You've already taken a step here to open up to others--something that itself invites sympathy and simple, thoughtful interactions. Just keep going, reaching out to people who seem nice to do things that have a sort of easy routine to the social interaction. Find friends who admire something about you--anything--and they'll build you up and introduce you to people. And think about what kinds of things put you at ease, whether it's wearing things you like or doing hobbies or going outside in nice weather or whatever, and focus on that stuff so that when you do meet someone you're already reasonably content--often a charming look by itself.
posted by Wobbuffet at 8:28 PM on July 18, 2018

I’m 45 years old and I could count the number of times I’ve been hit on in public on one hand, with fingers left over. Some people just don’t get casually hit on. Maybe you are one.

We could sit here and unpack how women can go through life feeling invalidated in a patriarchal society because they don’t get objectified on a regular basis. When you’re in a society that teaches women that they have to be attractive to the male gaze and that men are the ones who get to decide if you make the cut, then yeah, seeing a million stories of “I get hit on everywhere I go” while you walk through life like you’re wearing a cloaking device, yeah—on a certain level it’s hard not to internalize that message. Even though it’s actually a really screwed-up message.

But in real life it’s more complicated than that. The whole idea of being catcalled or hit on in public has a lot to do with being perceived as vulnerable. And there’s also the point that you also need to make yourself available in the appropriate contexts. A lot of people who get unsolicited attention in public are actually *in public* A LOT. They take public transportation (which means a lot of time spent waiting in the open), they do most of their socializing in public, they’re regulars at a lot of places. By contrast, if you drive your car to work and stop at the store and come home, you’re not spending a large amount of time in places where people do much socializing. Contrary to popular belief, most people *don’t* socialize with other customers in stores because they’re under time pressure.

The bottom line is that, as others have said, if you want a date then you need to go where the dates are. Go to bars, go to clubs, join a dating site, and initiate conversations with people that interest you. Yeah, you might have to work harder at finding an interested party than someone who gets hit on every time they walk out the door, but life isn’t fair. But what you absolutely should NOT do is open with how you’ve never had a boyfriend or how you feel like nobody finds you attractive. There are few things less attractive than a person who tries to attract romantic attention by making people feel sorry for them. It doesn’t work, nobody likes it, it makes people think you’re a wet blanket. When you go buy a bag of Doritos, the bag doesn’t say, “Made almost entirely of chemicals! No nutritional value whatsoever!” it says “Delicious flavor and amazing crunch!” You need to come up with openers that put your best qualities on blast, not your insecurities and emotional torment.
posted by Autumnheart at 8:39 PM on July 18, 2018 [20 favorites]

The fuckable/unfuckable binary is maybe illustrative if you want to understand how douchebros work. Don't waste your time imo.

There is a thing about being approachable. Or, how to read who wants to be approached. Or both -- depending on your inclination. (Which you do not need to bother auditing for gender role correctness. Fuck that for a waste of time, too. Or, rather, don't. You take my meaning.)

And, to validate your concern, this is a thing that it can take way too long to figure out. It did me. I'm in my mid 30s and single and I'm better now (as in, not clueless) but it took me a while to realize I was both intimidating people who were into me and trying to flirt with me, and failing to pick up on who wanted me to flirt with them.

The other thing I noticed is "try to wear makeup." Part of being alluring -- actually alluring, in a way that grabs people -- is feeling comfortable in your skin and projecting that. If the makeup you're wearing isn't you, change it.

Don't try to fit a mold that isn't you. That doesn't mean you can just let it all hang out, but at the same time if you sell someone on the image of a person that isn't really a comfortable self-expression then the resulting relationship will fail.

And similarly, the advice above about cultivating your interests so you have more to share, and letting that lead you to compatible people is excellent.

I know you feel like it's ages, but 24 isn't so old not to have this sorted out. Not at all. You sound like a thoughtful person who will make a great partner when it happens for you.

Hang in there. Pro tip: Once you sort out your first big relationship, you'll be back some amount of time later for your first big breakup. This is all life. It's terrible but it's also fine and actually kinda great.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:47 PM on July 18, 2018 [5 favorites]

OP, your previous two Metafilter questions about the same topic had pretty good advice in the answers: did any of those suggestions work out for you?

Being hit on is also a matter of approachability and "vibe": you seem to be pretty introverted and closed off: if you're interested in meeting someone via cold approach, have you tried making eye contact with the person you're interested, or smiling at them, or starting up a conversation yourself ("hey, do you know what's good to eat here, do you know what time the bus comes, etc.")?

I'm also going to recommend seeing a professional and getting therapy, because a professional will be able to judge how you come across in person, build your confidence and help you practice flirting. Do you have any platonic male friends you could ask for advice?
posted by storytam at 8:53 PM on July 18, 2018 [5 favorites]

I remember reading this somewhere (IIRC, on MeFi) - anxiety comes from feeling like you don't matter and no one cares about you.

You ask how you can stop feeling so sad and upset. I'm a 20-something with a lot of anxiety and I've come to realize that a lot of the things that make me feel bad are amplified because I don't have this fundamental sense that I matter and that people care about me. If you're missing this foundation, then you'll feel like your worthiness, your lovability, are constantly being called into question.

A few years ago, I had a lovely, caring boyfriend. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I mattered and someone cared about me. But I was still missing this internal sense of security - it came entirely from the boyfriend. In fact, this actually contributed to the failure of the relationship. When we broke up, I was back to square zero.

To feel better, ultimately, you need to rebuild this foundation.

(Therapy helps! It's a cliched answer for a reason.)
posted by airmail at 9:56 PM on July 18, 2018 [12 favorites]

If I could wish people past their twenties, I would, because it fucks you up.

What do you like? What do you care about deeply? What gives you the most joy and satisfaction in your world? Do all that, deeply, put yourself in spaces where you can be yourself as completely as you can in social settings, and you will encounter people who value those things and value you for caring.
posted by holgate at 10:15 PM on July 18, 2018 [7 favorites]

OP, gently, what exactly do you want and why? I want you to be clear about this with yourself and we can all infer slightly different things from your post. Like: you want men to hit on you in public. You want male attention. You want a man to validate you. You want to be in a relationship. You want to be loved by a man. Next question is: why do you want whatever it is that you want? You seem to be in really great distress about this and I wonder why that is too.

Others are inferring that you want to date or you want a boyfriend or you want men to be interested in you, but I think, if I could be so presumptuous, is that maybe you want to stop feeling like shit about yourself. I'm inferring this because it's clear you want validation for who you are, and you seem convinced that if you get male attention, this will be proof that you're desirable and worthy. If some random guy says you're beautiful, then you are.

The fact that men hit on some women and not you is not a referendum on your value. Plus, you're giving men (who are strangers!) way too much power in letting them decide if you're desirable or not. Please don't do this to yourself.

So, you need to work on yourself and you really need to love yourself. You need to get to the point where it just doesn't matter if you're hit on or not, and where you don't feel the need for male attention to prove you are desirable. I.e. what airmail said about having a strong foundation. There's nothing wrong with wanting a relationship or to be loved but you're being way too consumed by this. I'd suggest therapy as well.
posted by foxjacket at 10:18 PM on July 18, 2018 [38 favorites]

I’m 45 years old and I could count the number of times I’ve been hit on in public on one hand, with fingers left over. Some people just don’t get casually hit on. Maybe you are one.

To me being "hit on" sounds horrible and scary - I may be misinterpreting your definition of the phrase though. Most of what Autumnheart says jibes with my thoughts.

I have been approached by dudes in the mall or at the gas station or whatever and I do a lot of flirting with strangers myself. TBH a guy who would approach me in a mall or a bar or a Popeye's Fried Chicken wouldn't be that interesting. I'm only speaking from the perch of an almost 50-year-old woman but here's what I would think:

1. OK, this dude has seen me from across the bar or exchanged a few sentences with me in the mall. He asks for my number. He knows nothing real about me but he's still willing to exchange numbers and meet up with me.

Have you met guys? They'll approach any woman they think they can hook up with. I've hung out with a lot of women whose focus is hooking up hoping that it leads to a real relationship. My focus has been there too and in retrospect it was the wrongest way to meet Mr. Right.

2. What other people have said about the concept of "unapproachable" is valid. In an unknown environment I make myself unapproachable. If I want to talk to someone I approach them. I'm in control of the initial interaction and we can go from there.

3. I hate online dating and have been going to meetups of groups whose interests I share. It seems way more efficient to meet someone who already likes something you also like than to text a rando you met in the produce aisle.

4. It's taken me decades to learn this but you just have to cultivate your own personality and then be that person. If you want a serious relationship you just have to be yourself loud and proud.

Why would you want to get into a relationship with a person who didn't know the real you? Don't waste your time pretending to be someone else. It won't hold up in a serious relationship.

Find your own self and let your freak flag fly. I can 100% guarantee you that once you put the you that you love out into the world then that you will find love.

I've struggled for years with being single and had the same sense of feeling undesirable and only now - when I've made a great short-term plan for the week I want and a long-term plan for the life I want - am I secure enough to become approachable.

I can now think of 4-5 guys who would probably go out with me and that we can talk about whatever topic of interest we have in common.

All my best to you. ❤️
posted by bendy at 12:21 AM on July 19, 2018 [5 favorites]

Just to repeat the message strong and clear: there is absolutely no correlation between how often you get hit on by strangers and how attractive you actually are. NONE. Please do not let that be your measure.

You have no idea where these guys are coming from, why they are assessing some women as a better mark. Once in my twenties a guy came up out of the blue and asked me out. I said no. He said "Oh, my therapist told me I had to ask our a strange woman as exposure therapy for social anxiety." He didn't say "because you are so pretty" -- I was obviously just not scary or intimidating in some way -- and he also didn't really even want to do it!
posted by nantucket at 12:43 AM on July 19, 2018 [5 favorites]

I met my awesome husband when I was 30, so if you end up "30 and alone" as you say, who cares? It might be a good thing, it was for me!

But I beg you, don't spend your 20s looking for someone who might not turn up yet. Spend it enjoying your own company, finding out who you are and what you love, and building your confidence.

The most interesting people you will find to date will show up up when you are genuinely busy doing other things. When they do, make sure you talk to them - if I had waited for people to "hit on" me, I would have missed a lot of fun times in my life.
posted by greenish at 3:16 AM on July 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

You are not a princess waiting to be rescued from a turret in a castle. You are the master of your own story. Girl, if you want to date, go date. Get on Tinder, get on Match, do something. Don't just sit there waiting for some guy to make it happen.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:08 AM on July 19, 2018 [17 favorites]

I'm not telling you to dye your hair purple and get knuckle tattoos, I'm just pointing out that there just might not be much for people to latch onto and bother you about. People don't bother as often when they don't have a tailor-made obvious opener.

To second Juliet Banana's point: you can even catch the public gaze with fashion. I have a hat collection and I wear hats every day. People LOVE to comment on my hats. Men, women, you name it. Some men will use it as an "in" to approach me. And I don't mind, terribly, because their remarks tend to be benign and hat-related, like, "I like your hat!" (smile)
posted by Dressed to Kill at 5:04 AM on July 19, 2018 [3 favorites]

I was exactly like you at 23. The few times someone hit on me, it was someone creepy, and no guy ever told me I was beautiful, because I'm really average looking. And then, suddenly, I met a guy in grad school who respectfully asked me out, and it's been five years since then and we've been married for over one, just two really average looking people who find each other beautiful. (Apparently, he hadn't been a hit with other women before either.)

I also had a friend in grad school who complained about not having any luck with men. She was beautiful and soft-spoken and feminine, and I think guys were intimidated by her. Everyone assumed she was definitely taken because she was so pretty, so no one approached her and she never approached anyone herself, and she's still single. So, I'm afraid you may have to put yourself out there a little more, which other people have already given you great advice for. There is nothing wrong with you.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 5:19 AM on July 19, 2018 [3 favorites]

You've posted this same question word for word 3 times. So, I'm not going to dance around the answer. You've never been hit on in public? I will walk you through a few steps that will GUARANTEE you get hit on.

1. Dress in a skater skirt and any blouse. Wear any shoes besides boots.

2. Wear natural makeup including mascara. Wear your hair down.

3. Go to a bar in a college town, on a Friday night. The divey-er, the better.

4. Get a drink. Something in a rocks glass like a gin and tonic.

5. Find a guy you like sitting at the bar. Go stand next to him but face the bar and pretend to watch the TVs.

6. Nudge him, ask him a question - "hey, what's your name" is enough. Smile, make eye contact, ask follow up questions. You can literally ask "do you come here often" "where'd you get that tattoo" or anything.

Repeat steps 5 and 6 for an hour, if it doesn't work, try a different bar. By the end of the night, if you correctly followed the steps above, I guarantee that at least one guy will ask for your number. It just happens. It has to happen.

Alternatively, if you really want a guy to find YOU at the bar, instead of finding a guy at the bar, sit alone at the bar in a 70% busy bar, and look around the bar every 5 minutes or so. If you make eye contact with any guys, linger looking at them for a second, then smile. That's the sign of "please come talk to me".
posted by bbqturtle at 5:42 AM on July 19, 2018 [4 favorites]

I am of more-or-less average attractiveness. I'm introverted and live in my head and don't get hit on too often. When I have gotten hit on it did not lead to anything more, and sometimes it's been scary and weird.

However, I've met people IRL who I wound up dating. Once at a party I saw a guy I thought was really cute so I struck up a conversation - probably asked him how he knew the host. We hit it off. Another time I was at a coffee shop and a guy happened to be sitting next to me and I asked him a question about a book he was reading or something - not even thinking that I wanted to date him - but we started talking and went out a few times after. In both of these situations I made the initial decision to say something and I got a very friendly response and did not have to work at making a conversation happen.

What seems to work best is to take charge. Online dating has its frustrations but it's the most reliable way I've found of meeting people to date. If you don't want to do that, then do things that are more interactive. It sounds like you're going to public spots and hoping a stranger will approach you. Try going to events and places where you will actually meet new people and engage around things you care about- volunteer, join a choir or a softball league or a book club, go to meetups. Think about what you are looking for in a date and look for signals that a man has those qualities.

Also, I agree with other suggestions for therapy. It sounds like you are spending a lot of time thinking about this, but it's not clear what action you've taken other than hanging out in coffee shops. When I find myself doing this there's something I haven't identified that's holding me back - a fear of intimacy, a feeling of unworthiness, etc. Good luck!
posted by bunderful at 5:48 AM on July 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

Another thing - like you i used to spend a lot of time thinking that being attractive was the key to a relationship. However at some point I realized that there are plenty of people in relationships who aren't more attractive than I am. So I've spent some time exploring what it is that's holding me back - often through therapy - and I wish I'd started on that a lot sooner instead of fussing over my looks. My depression and anxiety have held me back a lot - no one wants to start a relationship with someone who is constantly talking about how they don't measure up and aren't good enough, or who develops a condescending approach to cope with how inferior they feel.

Get some help! You deserve happiness!
posted by bunderful at 5:55 AM on July 19, 2018 [3 favorites]

Oh hey, me of 5 years ago! :)

Like you, I've always checked the boxes for reasonably conventionally attractive, but have never received much in the way of male attention. I'm a size 4 with a nice figure, clear skin, healthy hair, and basically pleasing facial features. But for whatever reason men have historically not been into my looks. I have never (not once!) had a stranger buy me a drink in a bar, men on the street don't check me out, etc.

Now, at almost-28yo, those things are still true. However, I have no longer seek personal validation from male attention.* First, I'm a lot more comfortable in my skin now (something that I think just comes from age, unfortunately) and I'm able to see that yep, I'm pretty, even if rando guys don't seem to think so. Second, some people (including definitely me, and maybe you, too) seem to get prettier throughout their 20s. I'm much nicer looking today than I was at your age. Third, I've really come into my career and my "adult self" over the last couple of years, so my looks are just less important to me now. Looks fade eventually but what's inside (sorry corny) sticks around.

So I guess what I'm saying is, a lot of this just takes time, but you can speed things along by focusing on your personal pursuits.

* Incidentally, I do (finally, haha) have a bf, and he makes me feel beautiful every day. Here's what I said about that on a similar Ask in May.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 5:55 AM on July 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

First of all, I think it's pretty rare to just be randomly hit on in public. It could seem that it's happening all the time to everyone else around you (because that's what social media does - one reason why I hate it, it doesn't portray real life accurately) - but it doesn't mean it's happening often.

I just turned 31 and I can remember feeling the way you do now when I was around your age. I was desperate for a boyfriend and wondered why no one wanted me (it wasn't true, I constructed this belief). All I wanted was a boyfriend, or a guy to want me - it took up my entire focus. It was this magical thing that would happen and change everything! The truth that I didn't know then: is that it was going to happen - I just needed to be open and patient. It will happen for you too. Be patient, but put yourself out there too. Give open body language and just live your life and have fun - people are more likely to approach you if you do these things.

I am sure you are very beautiful, and that lots of people think so. The guy that did approach you thought so. But guys don't usually just pop out nowhere and ask to be your boyfriend. It takes work on your part too. Good luck!
posted by koolaidnovel at 6:04 AM on July 19, 2018

The most street abuse I experienced (let’s call it what it is, shouting rape fantasies at somebody isn’t flirtatious) was when I was pregnant, immediately post-partum with a newborn in a sling, and back when I was a child in school uniform (so very clearly very underage).

I was not particularly attractive at those times. I was more vulnerable, and street harassers pick on people they don’t think can answer back. A woman with a tiny baby can’t punch them in the face without putting her child at risk, so she’s an easy target. It’s despicable behaviour.
posted by tinkletown at 7:14 AM on July 19, 2018 [10 favorites]

And yes the Impulse advert (“when a man you’ve never met before, suddenly buys you flowers...”) is not a thing that ever happens. Never happened to me, never seen it happen to anyone else, never heard of it happening to anyone else. People approach each other for dates in bars and clubs, not in Sainsbury’s.
posted by tinkletown at 7:19 AM on July 19, 2018 [5 favorites]

Re: giving off the shy/introverted vibe. When I was young(er), I was cripplingly shy and introverted (still am, but at 40 I give less f$%^s and can act extraverted if needed). I made no eye contact with anyone, I couldn’t afford any fashionable clothes to begin with, and I had no way with fashion, or makeup. I had a large nose, crooked teeth, and very small breasts. Oh, and bad skin. I was very, very awkward. I was hit on in public aaaaalllll the time. Every couple of days or so, when out and about, men would comment on my “beauty,” or try to get my number, or cat-called me. Most of them were creeps and saw me as an easy target. That’s all there was to it! This type of attention is NOT a measure of your attractiveness. The way I actually met men worthy of trying to date was through first becoming friends in school, by going to dance parties, and through mutual friends.

But if you do want this type of attention from men, if it seems like it will help you feel better, here is my advice: wear dresses. Not skirts, not cute shorts, not adorable leggings – actual dresses. Just the other night when I happened to wear a cute denim dress and had to go inside a gas station, I had three different men holding the door open for me simultaneously, on my way in, and on my way out. Men offering their place in line to me, men asking me how I am doing tonight, and nearly tripping in the isles. All in just a 5 minute stretch. I still have very small breasts, big nose, and crooked teeth. And I go to this gas station all the time, and no-one ever pays any attention to me. Lucky if I don’t get the door slammed in my face, because I’m basically invisible to men. But a dress totally did it. So, that’s my 2 cents from personal experience.
posted by LakeDream at 7:24 AM on July 19, 2018 [3 favorites]

It's possible the kind of guy who think you're attractive are not the guys who approach women in public. There are lots of that sort of guy. There just aren't Snapchat stories about them. If you want to meet them, they're probably on dating sites, or at pub quizzes, or board game nights, or what have you.
posted by BungaDunga at 7:25 AM on July 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

First, don't panic. Asking a stranger out happens, but more often than not it's awkward and unpleasant and nobody wins. The correlation between men who would consider hitting on a random stranger horribly unpleasant and intimidating and men you'd want to meet on a second date is probably pretty high. You're not missing out on much. Also, for what it's worth, guys hit on ugly women all the time; chances are you're not ugly, but instead you look like someone who won't put up with bullshit. ("Why haven't any of my friends and social acquaintance asked me out," is a better question. It could well be that some of them would jump at the chance, but they're shy and waiting for an invitation. Or, you need to meet more people in places where you can get to know them before dating.)

Second, being alone at thirty isn't all that bad. Alone and lonely are different things. One can live happily, alone, for decades and then find true love. Being alone is a lot better than most marriages.

Third, why the hell haven't you been hitting on guys? No man on the planet will be unhappy if you ask him out, even if he decides to say no. (Well, perhaps a few will be unhappy, but they're misogynist assholes and you're probably better out finding out as soon as possible.) One could reverse this question and ask: you're twenty three, single, and you haven't hit on a guy in two years: why not? Do you think alll guys ugly? Why haven't you bothered to ask any of them out? Next time you see a guy you think looks interesting, ask him on a date, with no equivocation or ambiguity. The worst case scenario is that he turns you down with a plausible reason and walks away feeling great that someone asked him out. You get practice that will make things a lot easier when you decide to ask out a future lifelong companion.
posted by eotvos at 8:15 AM on July 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

Just to get this out of the way first: comparing someone else's highlights reel to your day-to-day reality is a recipe for misery. Don't make the mistake of thinking of other people's snaps or instagram feeds as an accurate representation of their actual lives. They're not. Social media is fake news.

The subset of men who will "approach any woman they think they can hook up with" is perhaps not the ideal subset of men for dating or longer-term relationships, anyway. Also, that subset is shrinking. More and more guys are finally getting the message that most women don't actually want to be randomly hit on while they're just trying to get coffee or buy their groceries or whatever (and the ones who haven't clued into that yet are best avoided.) It could very well be that you're not unattractive at all; but that the people who are finding you attractive are being respectful enough to not get in your face about it.

So uou may be better off making the first move on your own. In general -- and I hate how much this type of question always seems to bring out the gender essentialist "men are like this and women are like that" stuff -- but it's probably safe to say that in general men are a lot more likely to be receptive to being randomly hit on at the coffee shop or grocery than women in general are, because it's relatively unusual. So if you're out and about and see someone who looks interesting, go strike up a random conversation. Say hi. Compliment their hat. Whatever. Worst case, nothing will come of it but you'll have made someone feel better about their hat. Which isn't nothing!

If that's too frightening a prospect -- and I get it! It is scary! You're making yourself vulnerable, setting yourself up for potential rejection, and nobody of any gender enjoys that! -- then you need to think in terms of setting and approachability.

Setting means putting yourself in locations and events where introducing yourself to a stranger, or having a stranger introduce themselves to you, is more socially acceptable. This can be bars, clubs, meetups, "singles" events or those dedicated to specific hobbies or whatever -- anyplace where people go with the intent of meeting people. Most people at the grocery or the coffeeshop are getting groceries and coffee, not trying to mingle.

Approachability is not an attractiveness thing, it's an attitude thing. People are a lot less likely to gravitate towards a pretty face with a scowl on it than an ugly face with a smile. Pure physical attractiveness is a lot less important than you think it is -- some of the most attractive people I know are, in pure aesthetic terms, asymmetric and kind of lumpy. Doesn't matter. Contrariwise one of the most physically beautiful women I know keeps telling me how old and ugly she feels, and seems unable to understand that the reason she's single and almost friendless is because her untreated chronic depression is an almost visible black cloud that follows her everywhere. I've seen guys checking out her ass and then visibly recoil once they catch a glimpse of the dour, haunted expression that's always on her face.

Charisma isn't an attribute, it's a state of mind.

People (of all genders) are a lot less likely to engage with those who are visibly uncomfortable, glowering in a corner or angry or sad looking, than they are with someone who's happy and having a good time. Moods are absurdly contagious. If you're uncomfortable, that makes those around you uncomfortable, and they're not going to want to stick around. This is an easy vicious cycle to fall into; I wasted most of my 20s lurking around the edges of parties wondering why nobody seemed to want to talk to me, and not realizing that it was because I was putting off an impenetrable GO AWAY vibe. If you're prone to this too, don't go to the party (or the club or the whatever) alone; bring a friend or two, so that you have someone to help get you past the awkward bits.

It is totally okay to pretend to be more comfortable than you are. Lots of the people around you are doing it too, whether you know it or not. We all feel like impostors sometimes. This isn't lying or denying your true self, it's "fake it till you make it." It works. Even just putting a smile on your face when you don't really feel like smiling can actually make you feel happier. Make eye contact. Pay attention to your body language. Watch yourself in the mirror and see if you look like someone who wants people to come talk to them, or if you're subconsciously telling them to stay away.

Or if all of that makes you more self-conscious and you start the vicious awkward cycle of shy, forget about other people altogether and just have a good time. Often as not that's all it takes.
posted by ook at 8:16 AM on July 19, 2018 [3 favorites]

When men abuse me on the street, I get REALLY REALLY nasty with them. Like, what I say back is so vile I won't write it here. I'm trying to hurt them to the point they're afraid to ever do it to anyone again. Maybe it's working?
posted by Violet Hour at 3:38 PM on July 19, 2018 [6 favorites]

You want to feel desirable, but what is desirable? I guess you could cop out and say "hot enough to hit on publicly," but... what about you do you want to be desired for? When you look in the mirror, what do you see that's like, "Damn, I like that about me, a lot?" And if you don't see something that makes you go "hell yeah," focus on adjusting until you do see that hell yeah. Really look at yourself and be curious about what's beautiful and special about yourself and your body. In how you feel about yourself, you are cuing to others as to how to feel about you.

whenever I go out, I try to wear makeup. Doesn't sound like you enjoy makeup. If you're not enjoying it, stop it. Life's short, maybe get a dress that makes your butt look nice if you're fond of your butt. Try an improv class if you're funny. Find what you love about yourself and just go hog wild on that. Seeing beauty in yourself helps you love yourself, which means you care less about what men/others think (ultimately ideal), which means your mental health and happiness are less prone to nosedives.

On the desire to get public male attention, understand that having an expectation of a behavior from a group of individuals that are strangers is ... self defeating. Think about the parameters of success/feeling desirable you have. "Hot enough to get hit on publicly" -- not doable as we have discovered. "Ask out a guy and have him say yes" -- more likely to yield success (especially if you're on a dating site). That feeling of desirable, in the end, will always come back to you.

If you're in the mood to just move on from the sadness anyway, start investing your emotional energy elsewhere. If you're feeling ugly or lonely, talk to a friend. Tell them that you're stuck at that shitty emotional truck stop and you need a boost to keep driving past it. Ask them about their day and be genuinely interested in the answer. Keep busy with things that interest you. If you're shopping for clothes, throw in a wildcard you wouldn't normally try on, just to see how you feel in it. Enjoy good food, make time for fresh air and sunlight, go about the business of making sure you are enriched, comfortable, and challenged to keep growing. You are a lovely potted plant, look out for yourself, keep yourself healthy and ready for whatever life throws at you. Could be a guy, could be a cat decides to adopt you, could be you meet your favorite author. Open up to that uncertainty.

Honestly OP.... this is going to sound random, but go try on a corset. Go with a friend who understands that this is ionable's Trying on a Corset and Taking Control Trip and is prepared to fiddle with lacings and offer honest opinions on colors/whatnot. It's a good bonding experience with your friend, and corsets are magic. Between the posture boost and the look of it on you (not necessarily sexy, but frequently so), you will look at yourself differently. How men will perceive it is irrelevant, just go for you.
posted by snerson at 8:32 PM on July 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

Fwiw, I kinda felt bad about people not hitting on me at your age, but every time I went out with my boyfriend he was constantly pointing out men he was sure were flirting with me. At first I was like "nahh!" but over the years I've accepted that in fact I am completely, totally oblivious to many flirty social cues. Turns out guys were in fact trying to start conversations with me and I'd fail to pick up the baton and they'd just move on. The only people persistent enough to get past my social ineptitude and actually get my attention were indeed total creeps.
posted by potrzebie at 10:43 PM on July 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

Several things here I can reiterate. To make you feel better about this perhaps I can expand on what 'hitting on' (lol) girls and women in public really entails and how awful it is.

Firstly, I can remember being shown inappropriate attention when I was literally a child - wearing uniform, out with mum, obviously not more than 10. I agree this is not about being attractive but seen as easy prey. While I do think there are more paedophiles around than people think, a lot of that was about exerting power and dominance, getting perverse kicks from saying nasty sexual stuff to children they don't understand, and disrupting your capacity for future sense of safety and comfort - your recollections of what should be innocent and comforting times to draw on for strength as an adult.

Secondly, even when you're of age, most harassment, er "compliments' at bus stops or whatever are from men 2-3 decades older than you that literally look like gargoyles and are already clearly operating outside the bounds of politeness. They're speaking to you like this because they don't feel they have to respect you and what tf are you gonna do about it? Some of it is quite threatening, to the point where you worry about what might physically happen to you if someone doesn't walk past in the next 5 minutes. Sometimes along with graphically describing sexual acts, err flirting, they will make actual threats. I do believe again this is more about people who look open and vulnerable in some way. This is why women say they get hit on more when they're looking a bit less put together - old clothes/no makeup - men see that as less intimidating.

Thirdly, the men who yell stuff about your arse on the street are doing it to laugh at you and score points with their male friends, or remind themselves they're above you, not to connect with you. Men who scream in your face about your tits from their passing van don't want to date you, they don't even find you attractive. They want to let you know who the boss of this public space is and you better know it or you'll be sorry. For example see how men react when women object to it.

I have never had anything positive come from being hit on in public. I'm only average looking so I know it's not because I'm so irresistible men just can't help themselves. I'm pretty sure others have hit this nail on the head - you look self possessed, confident, like you'd stand up for yourself, like you might cause a scene if they mistreated you. I'm very glad you've been spared this, but for the other stuff - get on tinder and OkCupid, that at least is explicitly about dating. I'm sure you look nice - all the women I've met who complain about lack of boyfriends/dating/interest have been perfectly lovely looking and I always think it's a mix of bad luck, not enough free time and not using dating sites. For help with self esteem it's worth seeing a therapist or perhaps digging out some books. I'd put $500 on Nothing Wrong With You.
posted by everydayanewday at 11:45 PM on July 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

The solution to this problem is not to find men to hit on you. The solution is to learn about emotional regulation and tools that you (and others, and even children) can use to help deal with uncomfortable emotions. One of the most important lessons I learned in Al-Anon is that feelings are not facts. It is important for us to acknowledge our feelings and just as important to recognise that our feelings in any given moment may not be helpful guides to behaviour.

I did not learn about emotional regulation until I was in my 50s. You are in your 20s. You are so lucky to discover this thing here and now. Because it gives you a choice about how to deal with your feelings. You can continue to believe those feelings and feel unattractive and decide that you are ugly because men aren't hitting on you. Or you can decide that even though that is how you feel, that feeling is objectively not true. It is bullshit. And we know it is bullshit because of all the people above who give real-life examples of finding love and friendship without being hit on.

I was held hostage by my wacky brain for way too many years. It was not my fault that my brain often gives me unhelpful and/or misleading signals ("that red bump on your leg is going to kill you!). But if I wanted to have any kind of a decent, worthwhile life, I had to find tools to help me deal with my emotions. And I did. And you can, too!

It is totally up to you. You can let your brain tell you bullshit and believe it, or you can recognise that you are not your thoughts, some of your thoughts are not helpful, and there are tools available to help you manage uncomfortable, challenging, and/or misery-generating thoughts.

My guess is that you are an awesome badass just waiting to blossom, to have amazing adventures (or small, cosy developments, depending on your preferences), to be loving, to be loved, to make friends as well as lovers, to do things and to feel things that are genuine. There's a whole world out there ready to admire and love you just as you are if you can move past this obsessional thinking. DIY healing is pretty hard, so therapy is smart if you can swing it. Best of luck, we are rooting for you!
posted by Bella Donna at 10:38 AM on July 20, 2018

Gonna throw this possibility at you. Did you know that guys are statistically not very likely to try to hit on women who are drop dead gorgeous?

Here are some more thoughts for you:

-Cultivate love for yourself. Romance is great, but frankly it really doesn't entirely solve tricky problems like self confidence. Self confidence is built through self-actualization so get out in the world and explore doing things that make you experience your human value. Join a club, pick up a hobby, do some community service.

-I know 30 seems old right now but honestly, it's not that old. I know plenty of 30 year old women who are single and live wonderful fulfilling lives.

-Try some therapy, try some meditation, and try weightlifting because lifting weights makes you feel really empowered.

You are greater than you imagine!
posted by donut_princess at 12:05 PM on July 20, 2018

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