How can I figure out why no one wants to date me?
November 3, 2022 12:51 PM   Subscribe

Despite trying really hard, I can't find anyone who is even interested in going on a date with me. I have no idea why and my friends have no idea why. What do I do now?

I am 31 years old, a gay man, and moved to Portland Oregon about two months ago. I have tried extremely hard these past two months to date in the hopes of eventually finding a relationship. I’ve tried various dating apps, including both Grindr and Scruff, but also Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge. I’ve tried meeting people in person, including a gay running group, various gay meetups, gay events, and gay bars. I’ve also gone to various meetups/clubs/events that are not explicitly gay, not in the hopes of finding anyone necessarily, but just to put myself out there. Which is to say, I’m pretty sure in the past two months, I’ve shown up to more events/meetups/bars/clubs alone than say, all of closest friends have in the past say fives years, combined.

What I have to show for my efforts are zero dates and a handful of conversations with matches, of which there are very few in the first place. Offline, I have only received positive attention from one person, who was significantly younger than what I am comfortable with.

I know that two months isn’t a long time. But it’s hard to stop myself from doing the math. If this is the amount of work it takes to get zero dates, how much work will it take to get one date, let alone a relationship? I’m lucky in that, I don’t start my job for a while, and I have a lot of free time. What do I do when I can’t be on dating apps as much, or go out as much? The thought of it just makes me want to give up.

I can compare myself to friends who have also moved to new cities, and can find at least a first date in a week or two. I can also compare myself to what seems to be the typical experience of a gay man, which is that when you are in a new city, even just visiting on vacation, other gay men will be all over you to the point that you will be annoyed. I don’t necessarily want that. But I do want to feel like my efforts to try to date are worthwhile.

And so the only logical conclusion I can come to is, there are serious aspects of myself that I need to change.

When I was younger, there were obvious gaps between the person I was and the person I wanted to be. There were also gaps between the person I was and the person I appeared as on dating apps, and to a lesser extent, in person. And so despite the fact that I was similarly unsuccessful in dating, I didn’t feel bad about it like I do now. I had hope that things would change if I improved myself. I actually felt kind of excited to set goals and make myself into a person I wanted to be.

But now, I’m really happy with the person I am, in almost all aspects that a person can be. I feel confident when it comes to my career. I like the way I look, both in terms of my body but also my personal style. I like the pictures and videos I have of myself, both in how they portray my interests and personality, and also in how I look in them. And I like the fact that I have a lot of them. I like the fact that I enjoy trying new things and being in new situations, and I like the diversity of experiences that have come with it. I think I’m a lot better at talking and relating to other people than when I was younger. I like how the combination of the last two sometimes leads to people’s eyes lighting up when I’m familiar with and able to talk about an important aspect of their life that others maybe aren’t as much. I think I’m a lot better with the way I treat my friends, in terms of reaching out, remembering birthdays, etc. I’m really happy with the way my values are reflected both in the career I have, and the various types of volunteer work that I do. I still have goals for myself, of course. But they are not goals that would make me appreciably more attractive for a first date, I think.

Hopefully this doesn’t make me sound too self-absorbed or arrogant. But while on dating apps, I often have the following experience. After an unsuccessful round of swiping, I go take a look at my profile to think about what I can improve. And I instantly feel much better about myself.

That is, the sense that something is wrong with me goes away when I try to evaluate myself rather than let other people evaluate me. But there is definitely something wrong with me. Otherwise I would have been on a date by now.

I have tried asking my friends for advice. But what they say isn’t actionable, unfortunately. It’s mostly along the lines of, you are fine, it’s everyone else/dating apps/toxic masculinity/racism/society that’s the problem. I’m not sure how to use that to get dates.

I don’t expect or want anyone on Metafilter to try to figure out what’s wrong with me. But I would like advice on where to go from here. I feel like I’ve tried as hard as I can to make myself dateable. It’s worked in the sense that, I would date me in a heartbeat (I guess at this point, I do enough things alone that I kind of already do). But apparently I’m the only person who feels that way. And I’m scared that any changes I might make will turn me from a person that I like, into a person I don’t.
posted by chernoffhoeffding to Human Relations (24 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Clarifying question: Did you have trouble finding dates in your previous city? I don't know much about Portland, but some cities are notoriously chilly to outsiders. "How do you make friends in St. Louis/Minneapolis/Cincinnati/Seattle? Go to kindergarten!"

But also, yeah, two months really isn't much time. I met my wife over a year after the end of my previous relationship, and during that time I only went on one date (whom I met offline, coincidentally).
posted by kevinbelt at 1:03 PM on November 3, 2022 [4 favorites]

One of my dear friends is gay, a bodybuilder, a lawyer, and a humanitarian. He hasnt had a date in almost a year. IDK what to say, other than that it sounds like you are happy with yourself and that is far more valuable than anything else.
posted by gwydapllew at 1:12 PM on November 3, 2022 [9 favorites]

It's been brought up here before, but I found this book helpful (and I am not one for self-help books At All). It takes every one of the myths why one is still single and explodes them. It's aimed at solo women, but me as a cishet guy found it quite useful in letting me maintain my sanity in an infuriating situation.

"The thought of it just makes me want to give up."

When it's not working no matter what you try, it's maddening. It's also a lot of work. There's nothing wrong with taking a break. Step off the carousel, compose yourself, maybe try again when you're ready. It can be empowering, too, in that you being solo is because it's what you've chosen for yourself, not what others have chosen for you.

"But there is definitely something wrong with me. Otherwise I would have been on a date by now."

That way madness lies. There's nothing wrong with you. It's all a stupid numbers game that comes down to dumb luck, and you're just unlucky right now. It happens.
posted by Capt. Renault at 1:15 PM on November 3, 2022 [14 favorites]

What I have to show for my efforts are zero dates and a handful of conversations with matches, of which there are very few in the first place.

I'm puzzled by this. I've been out of the online dating game for a while, but the standard advice back then was to ask your matches to meet in person for coffee or something similarly casual within the first couple of messages. After all, the whole point of matching on the app is to get a date. I wonder if you're just not getting to the point quickly enough?
posted by AndrewInDC at 1:21 PM on November 3, 2022 [3 favorites]

If you're happy with your dating profiles, and your friends are telling you that there's nothing wrong with your dating profiles, the possibilities are 1) there's nothing wrong with your profiles, or 2) your friends don't want to tell you the truth to spare your feelings. It's probably 1, but conceivably could be 2. There are subreddits where you could post anonymously with a fresh account which might give you an independent perspective.

Other than that, what should you do? I would say that two months with no dates is not a big deal, and so you should do nothing differently other than not worry about it. And then if you can't do anything but worry about it, go to therapy.
posted by lewedswiver at 1:22 PM on November 3, 2022 [1 favorite]

I just looked at your post history and noticed that you are a person of color and recently posted about having a tough time making gay friends, though when you traveled to Latin America, you found that that problem largely disappeared.

I guess broadly speaking I'd point to my answer that I gave on that thread. In addition, I'd recommend specifically trying to date within non-white gay communities and spaces. I think there's a good chance that racism is a big part of the issue you're describing.
posted by lewedswiver at 1:33 PM on November 3, 2022 [25 favorites]

That is, the sense that something is wrong with me goes away when I try to evaluate myself rather than let other people evaluate me. But there is definitely something wrong with me. Otherwise I would have been on a date by now.

RuPaul has sage advice: Unless they're paying your rent, other people's opinions about you are none of your business. Sounds like you're working to be the best version of yourself that you can, and it genuinely does not matter what some stranger thinks.

Because I don't know you, I don't have specific advice about your dating situation, but I would say that outside the straight community, within our own community, hookups are sometimes described as the "gay handshake": friendships often come from getting busy — sometimes deeper relationships can come from repeat meetings.

Getting out there and getting physical with other guys (along with PrEP/TasP and regular sexual health testing etc.) might be a good way to have fun, as well as find someone you share interests with.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 1:37 PM on November 3, 2022 [2 favorites]

Another resource that could be more useful than mostly-straight Metafilter would be Reddit's AskGaybrosOver30 community. A lot of gay guys on there ask similar questions, and you might see the kinds of answers that are more useful to you.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 1:41 PM on November 3, 2022 [2 favorites]

Portland is hella racist. Like. Literally in a state founded on white supremacy for real for real. The scene is … not good. There are good people there? But as a whole? Super Very White. It would very much like not to be, and has pretensions around that. But it’s … it’s racist af. And in that downlow way where no one will freaking admit it. I very much doubt that it’s you.
posted by Bottlecap at 1:44 PM on November 3, 2022 [53 favorites]

What I hear from other queer people is that a lot of people meet partners from other cities online because dating in your own city can be so difficult. I know a lot of people who developed serious relationships that started out long distance, even when one of them was in New York or LA or someplace where you would think that the dating was easy. Would it be possible to seek out some message boards and online communities that are specifically welcoming to men of color?

Speaking as someone from a pretty racist city (Minneapolis, so it's not like I'm insulting Portland from on high or anything) I have not heard real great things about Portland, racism-wise, and I would not be at all surprised if you are in fact a prize and it's your community that is toxic.

Are there POC or genuinely racially diverse spaces in Portland and environs where you could volunteer or become a regular? That might pay off over a few months.

I'm sorry to hear this! Know that I, a queer, have really great queer friends who have trouble dating and I know them well enough to realize that it is not because there is anything wrong with them, it really is other people.
posted by Frowner at 1:46 PM on November 3, 2022 [2 favorites]

I can also compare myself to what seems to be the typical experience of a gay man, which is that when you are in a new city, even just visiting on vacation, other gay men will be all over you to the point that you will be annoyed.

Maybe, but 99.5% of the time, this interest is sexual and transient, and has nothing to do with what you're actually looking for, which is a relationship. I wouldn't put stock in this.

The reality is that it's hard to date as an adult gay man. Actually, if I've concluded anything about human relationships, it's hard for almost everyone aside from the outrageously charismatic; sheer random luck controls our experiences far, far more than people want to believe. Who remains "dateless" and who seems to have neverending options often comes down to quirks of fate. If it didn't, I wouldn't know so many disasters on wheels in stable relationships, and so many lovely, attractive people who are utterly luckless.

And like, no, this is not great news for people in a sexual minority, given how relatively few of us there are. Add in the emotional avoidance that is chronic in the queer male population, and the numbers get worse. Also, you don't mention it in this question, but you are not white. As I'm sure you're aware, toxic racism is a serious problem in the gay male community. And I'm just going to be upfront here. I know very few queer POC who have been happy living in Portland. I know a bunch who tried to move there, and wound up moving back, because of the quiet liberal racism, and/or the actual threatening white supremacists living in their buildings/neighborhoods. I'm not trying to slam Portland. Beautiful city, and I love to visit. But I find the culture intolerable in large doses, and I'm white. I don't personally think I'd ever find someone to date there. I'm not trying to make you think you're doomed, if you have things tying you to Portland now. But I do think you are playing on hard mode right now, as a gay POC looking for a romantic relationship, in a very culturally white town. It's okay to acknowledge that.

All that said, there are of course controllable factors that influence how "lucky" you are. For instance, going out a ton, talking to random people, and switching up where you go, is one way to make yourself "luckier" in general, not just in the romantic arena. You're already doing this, which is great. However. The way you are talking about yourself, and your sort of obsessive desire for both a relationship and gay friendships (as per previous question), and your conviction that you are not worthy of these things? That's another thing that is probably influencing your luck, and not in a good way. People can smell hunger and low self-esteem, and this will not invite positive relationships into your life. You're kind of making it sound like you want ANY relationship, not a relationship with a specific person. That is not how to go about this. Until you want to date people because they seem interesting, and not because they have the potential to validate your worth as a human being, you are inviting "bad luck" into this whole endeavor.

Overall, your self esteem sounds like a work in progress. You're doing great with conscious affirmations, such as looking at your profile and feeling good about yourself. However, the overall tenor of your questions here suggest that there's deeper work to be done. I know it's hard for anyone to find therapy right now, let alone specialized therapy, but I really think you need to seek out a queer therapist of color and do some intensive work on your self-image. Try looking outside your immediate area; be open to Zoom therapy. Try looking for LCSWs in other states (I THINK they are the ones whose licenses make it easier to practice across state lines...please double check this, I don't remember).

There is nothing wrong with you. You are a human being with so much worth, and I wish you good luck.
posted by desert outpost at 1:46 PM on November 3, 2022 [11 favorites]

It's not you, I promise. And I don't think you have self-esteem issues or anything wrong with you. I think it's frankly pretty damn rude and presumptuous of a previous responder to call your totally normal wish for a relationship and a group of local queer friends an "obsessive desire." Please don't listen to that bullshit judgment from someone who's never met you. They said lots of great stuff but I really dislike that way and feel compelled to say something. You don't need someone punching you when you're already down as if it matters or would help.

I'm a queer woman living in DC, which technically has a ton of gay men but a good friend of mine -- attractive, successful, a total catch -- was not able to find a boyfriend for nine years. The city may have a big gay community but it's incredibly racist and classist and sizeist and more. He also found tons of straight and queer friends but not that big group of gay guy pals that we see in stuff like the great new Hulu movie Fire Island.

It's so disappointing to make a big move thinking it'll be great only to be disappointed. I agree racism is a big thing here but, again, I don't think you seem "needy" or "desperate" or anything. You had better experiences in Chicago (way more real and chill than Portland fwiw) and you met great gay dudes with whom you immediately connected in Latin America. You have nice friends in your new place and from before so you're doing a lot of things right. I would trust their feedback that you are doing all you can and everything right. I wish I had a tip for how to fix this but dating sucks in 2022. I have noticed it's gotten worse in the past few years, and especially past few months, and I'm not sure why but I can guess. You deserve happiness, great friends, and an awesome relationship! I am sure you will find all of that eventually -- I just wish it would happen sooner for you.
posted by smorgasbord at 2:04 PM on November 3, 2022 [6 favorites]

Portland has many great things, and it's also super racist in many ways. Are you generally swiping right on men of color? Going to events and activities aimed at people of color?

There could be a bit of a newcomer's freeze thing going on -- I tend to be less interested in dating folks brand new to town -- but I think your friends aren't wrong. (Also, are the friends you are talking to people who are active on dating apps, whether straight or gay? If not, take their advice with a grain of salt.)

Find the people of color of in Portland, even if they're straight, especially if they're from your community, and see if you can go from there.
posted by bluedaisy at 2:06 PM on November 3, 2022 [2 favorites]

You sound like a catch, for real, the paragraph about liking yourself and your interests and taking care of your friends and all that gives green flags and all. The point about racism on the MLM scene is 100% something to take into account and I won't dismiss it, but one thing hasn't been asked/answered. Are you asking people out on dates? I'm not picking up on it from the language used, but match more, include your "maybes", and then in those conversations that happen, be sure to as for a date. This answer is posted by your useless lesbian sisters.
posted by Iteki at 2:08 PM on November 3, 2022 [3 favorites]

Folks who are in a position to know have already said a lot about Portland specifically and about queer dating scenes specifically. As a straight lady I can't offer anything on those axes but as a person who has been dating and in relationships for 20 years I can speak to this:

I have tried asking my friends for advice. But what they say isn’t actionable, unfortunately. It’s mostly along the lines of, you are fine, it’s everyone else/dating apps/toxic masculinity/racism/society that’s the problem. I’m not sure how to use that to get dates.

The reason you don't know how to use your friends' advice to get dates is because it isn't advice meant to help you get dates. Getting dates is not an achievement you can unlock, it is an agreement two people make with each other.

Your friends' advice is meant to show you that this is not entirely up to you, so that you don't drive yourself nuts trying to force something.

I feel like this is becoming My Standard Ask Metafilter response, but: it is extremely hard for smart, achieving, driven people to understand the true lack of control one has in dating. We are very used to just putting our minds to a thing and getting what we want, and if we can't get what we want well we must not have tried hard enough/worked smart enough/pushed the right buttons in the right sequence.

This is not how it works. It just isn't. It works that way in school, and sometimes in jobs, and sometimes in personal improvement projects (as you've found) but it doesn't work for relationships.

From what you've written here, it sounds like have literally done very nearly everything you can do. If you are happy in yourself and comfortable that you're putting your true, best self out there, and you're open in your mind to meeting people and spending time with people, and you're not rejecting the whole "maybe" pile or applying Seinfeldian standards about finger length or preferred flavor of babka...then that's it my dude, you have reached, basically, the end of your control.

This is the hard part, where there's nothing you can DO except continue to BE, and see what happens. People, especially achieving-type people, HATE just seeing what happens. But it's all we got.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 2:10 PM on November 3, 2022 [35 favorites]

There can be so much racism on gay dating apps, I wouldn't be at all surprised if this is getting in the way :(

Are there groups - online or in-person - for gay/bisexual/queer men of colour that you could connect with?
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries at 3:32 PM on November 3, 2022

Is it possible you’re coming off as intimidating? I mean intimidating in the sense of “wow, that guy really has it all together, he’s way out of my league and doesn’t need me.”

I also have a hard time getting dates, despite being generally happy with myself and my life. I was puzzled by it but I eventually got some feedback from a friend that when he first met me he was super intimidated by me and didn’t know where to begin in terms of getting to know me, because it seemed like I just had my own thing going on and was really good at it. I’m trying to work on actively showing romantic interest in others more readily — it’s not something that comes naturally, but I want to get better at that.

(I’m a queer woman, FWIW.)
posted by mekily at 3:57 PM on November 3, 2022 [2 favorites]

Echoing that Portland is a big part of the problem. In addition to being extremely white and very racist, both openly and in a white liberal "I can't possibly be racist!" way, it's not very welcoming of outsiders. Have you heard of the Seattle Freeze? We have it in Portland as well. Property prices have gone up by an astounding amount in the few years I've been here, and locals absolutely blame people from outside of Oregon. Additionally, given prices, a lot of the people moving here or staying here are already coupled. Many people took the pandemic seriously around here and haven't re-learned how to interact with people. I could go on...

Which is not to say that Portland is an awful cesspool. It's got a lot of things going for it, and it's going to become more diverse as demographics shift and more people move out here, either by choice or necessity. I'm a weird fat transmasculine dude who couldn't pass in a million years, and I feel safe here, which is huge in the current US political climate. But. I would never, ever want to date here.

All that to say, it's really not a problem with you, and I'm sorry that you are running into this issue. Please don't let it discourage you too much!
posted by daikaisho at 5:13 PM on November 3, 2022 [3 favorites]

Straight WOC here, from a big diverse city.
I've visited Portland once a few years ago after hearing so much positive raving about the place, how cool and interesting and progressive it is. I didn't really like being there, I didn't feel anything special about it and I had no desire to visit again by the end of the trip.

It took me awhile after I left for me to pinpoint what made my visit so meh: it was the lack of diversity. Nothing bad happened while I was there and I didn't even pick up on it right away. But once I realized what I realized, I had no doubt that the lack of diversity left a negative impression on me.

Despite my one short trip being a small data set, I share this to add weight that maybe your friends are right: maybe racism/discrimination in dating is a bigger factor than you might acknowledge. And as such, there may be nothing objectively wrong about yourself for you to change at all.

Kudos for valuing yourself.
posted by Goblin Barbarian at 6:15 PM on November 3, 2022 [3 favorites]

The PNW freeze is real.
It is also very very racist.
This is not about you, I'm so sorry.

Are there any specifically queer POC meet ups or groups you could join? Maybe start one if not. I'm sure you're not the only person experiencing this. Best of luck!
posted by ananci at 5:37 AM on November 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

I feel like folks are right that there's a lot that can probably be attributed to trying to date as a POC in Portland. On the other hand, I can't help but feel that in our collective rush to affirm you and your experiences (which seem to have been largely inferred from your posting history and not your question itself) we might not be unintentionally ignoring or neglecting all the different parts of you that might be contributing to your difficulties and distress. You even mention your friends engaging in the same affirmations as we're doing here. I'm going to write out some of my observations which might be a little disjointed, so apologies, but hopefully they're helpful.

Throughout your post you express a real sense of urgency and what almost feels like a sort of panic (to me) that you're not getting the results you want for the effort you've put in. You mention going out more in 2 months than your friends have gone out in 5 years. You compare yourself to others and what you see as the "typical experience" of gay men which, at least for this gay latino man, hasn't been my experience. You say you feel good about who you are and demonstrate that you've put what sounds like a lot of work and thought into becoming who you are. Yet, despite all the work and goal achieving around feeling good about who you are, you still have a sense that there must be something wrong with you as evidenced by your lack of dates.

It seems to me you might truly like who you are based on what you've been able to achieve in terms of your "becoming" but I wonder if that extends to liking the parts of who you are that are still the person you were before you put so much work into yourself. I guess I mean to say, you seem to like the new and improved you, but do you like the you that you were before you worked on your style and your personality and your openness to new experiences? Do you like the less savory and appealing parts of yourself? If you're struggling with truly accepting those parts of yourself (the whole you and not just the improved you) then I wonder how that might come across to others? For me, I know that many times really well-put-together confident, positive, well-styled/fashionable people with good bodies they feel good about who seem to have a ton of friends can be intimidating when I can't see any signs of vulnerability that I feel I carry with me in spades like a bright flashing neon sign above my head. Could one possibility be that others might be intimidated by you in some way? Could another related possibility be that others might consciously/unconsciously pick up on your strivings to be a better person and might feel either a sense of exhaustion/stress or a sense that they might not quite measure up to where you've worked so hard to be? On your side, if you are in fact less accepting of the less savory or appealing parts of yourself might that not be reflected in how accepting you are towards the same parts in others?

I was going to write more about a sense I had that may be your "over approaching" dating in a way that might not paradoxically be contributing to your problem of finding dates (basically a long winded way of saying maybe you need to "just" relax [not easy to do] and that you're trying and thinking way to hard and maybe expecting X results for Y input even though human relations are not like that) - but honestly, at the risk of sounding dismissive maybe (I hope not) I think you might just want to find a therapist to talk about some of the journey you've been on in becoming the person you want to be and how your internal sense of yourself (along with all the systemic bullshit that gay POC operate under) might be contributing to the issue here. In your last sentence you mention being fearful of making changes and, if I'm understanding you correctly, losing all that you built of yourself over these years. I think that's a perfect place to start in therapy. I'm wishing you the best.
posted by flamk at 8:48 AM on November 4, 2022 [2 favorites]

You are a person of color in Portland? I think Portland itself is the problem, my dear. (Saying this as a QTPOC who has friends who live in Portland and am shocked by the dating scene.) maybe consider going to Oakland or the Bay Area instead?
posted by yueliang at 12:05 PM on November 4, 2022

And I’m scared that any changes I might make will turn me from a person that I like, into a person I don’t.

I missed this statement first time 'round, and HARD agree with flamk that this really bears examination. Why do you feel like you're on a razor's edge of becoming someone you don't like? What kinds of changes are you contemplating that would possibly undo all of your efforts, and why do those somehow seem necessary to getting a date?

I'm wondering whether maybe you don't actually feel as secure or genuine in your transformation as you might want to be, and it would probably be helpful to you to figure out why (if that's the case).
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 2:25 PM on November 4, 2022

Every so often, one of the top posts on Reddit is a diagram showing someone's Tinder experiences. The commonality between them is how few of their matches result in dates. Most of the data is from heterosexual users, but hopefully it reassures you that online dating is hard, and you're not alone in struggling to find a proper relationship through tinder.

This person (link above) was on Tinder for 3 years and didn't get *any* dates.

Straight man in the 26 - 30 age range, on Tinder for four years. Only one relationship lasting a few months.
posted by wandering zinnia at 9:51 AM on November 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

« Older Tips for creating a childcare co-op?   |   What should I make with very fresh saffron? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.