Help with lack of romantic experience?
May 17, 2007 7:03 AM   Subscribe

Help me get past my staggering lack of romantic experience.

I'm a thirty-one year old heterosexual woman, reasonably successful, reasonably intelligent, reasonably fashionable, and, by most accounts, reasonably attractive. I'd never be mistaken for a supermodel, but I have a decent body and a pretty face. I run distances, eat well, and take care of myself. I'm quite social, have lots of friends, male and female, and can put on a good show of confidence, even when I lack it completely.

That said: I haven't had a date in three years. I haven't had a boyfriend, well, ever, unless you count the high school friend who made out with me for a couple weeks senior year and then came out of the closet the week before prom. Distressingly, I'm still a virgin, which is (trust me when I say this) incredibly weird at this point. It's not deliberate (I'm not religious, nor have I ever been). Nor is it for lack of trying. It's just that I'm rarely approached (last time was at least a year ago) and the guy who approached me was at least thirty years my senior.

These days, socially and professionally, I’m often the lone girl in the boy’s club. And the boys tell me I’m cool and smart and fabulous and cute. I have no trouble earning their respect. But I’m never the girl they want to date. And it doesn’t seem to matter how many pairs of high heels I wear and tubes of lipstick I buy, they still seem to have a hard time remembering that I’m a woman (I actually hear this a lot).

My mother and my female friends believe that my problem is that I’m not vulnerable enough, that I’m more inclined to debate and tease than I am to coo and titter. But it seems to me that thirty-one years old is a perfectly absurd time to start pretending to be a blushing schoolgirl, when it’s clearly evident to everyone around me (a lot of whom, at this point, know exactly who I am) that I’m not.

I suspect, at base, this is a self-confidence issue. I'm an old hat at unrequited love, a shameless romantic, having spent much of my life during and since puberty, pining after boys who never pined after me (though a few were my close friends). I’ve been rejected often. Sometimes humiliatingly so. Factor in some bullshit baggage left over from my attractive, talented, and hypercritical family members and you sort of end up with me trying desperately to figure out which way is up, and what the hell I’m doing so wrong.

This is a godawful, mewling mess of a question, but I guess I’m just looking for ideas, advice, anything. What does one do? How do you convince someone that you’re desirable? That you might be worthy of their romantic attention, a little affection, a little seduction, a little sex? Or maybe even, because I sort of never got it the first time around, the grown-up equivalent of a mixtape, a goodnight kiss, and reasonable odds that he’ll call the next day?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (44 answers total) 50 users marked this as a favorite

Sign up for or one of its ilk and go on some dates.
posted by zeoslap at 7:15 AM on May 17, 2007

I didn't get to that last paragraph, sorry :) Being a woman you don't really need to do much of anything to be honest. If a guy is interested in you it's pretty much his job to make the moves as it were. I still say sign up for and go on some dates though as at the end of the day it's a numbers game. The more people you meet the more likely you are to click with one of them.
posted by zeoslap at 7:20 AM on May 17, 2007

Why not ask someone out? You say you have lot of friends and are quite social so I assume you're meeting people that you're attracted to. You don't need to wait for them to ask you. You can ask them.
posted by gfrobe at 7:25 AM on May 17, 2007 [2 favorites]

I've been on a few dates with women who I thought were objectively pretty etc. but who I did not find attractive.
Looking back it had something to do with them being very rational, very objective. Instead of being there emotional selves in the contact that we had.

One way to counter that would be to speak more about things you like to do. And I mean really like in a way that involves the senses.

Maybe you have internalised some inner law that prevents you from acting that way...

And, yeah; use dating sites. Find out what works. Try to have fun.
posted by jouke at 7:32 AM on May 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

What does 'for a lack of trying' mean? If you can't get 3 dates a month you're not trying hard enough. At this point its a numbers game. If you are having trouble meeting people through normal socialization stuff like online ads and CL are your friend.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:32 AM on May 17, 2007

Seconding internet dating sites: it has become a common and accepted method for meeting people.
posted by taliaferro at 7:34 AM on May 17, 2007

Oh, but expect to have to wade through a lot of crap.
posted by taliaferro at 7:35 AM on May 17, 2007

This might sound a little weird, but practice. I never "dated" much through university and my twenties, but I had a few girlfriends and a few more hookups. It wasn't until my thirties that I started dating, that is, social engagements with people that I didn't know beforehand (usually through dating sites).

The earliest dates were awkward as hell, but after three or four people I'd sort of figured out the signals and the interaction. For a while, I actually enjoyed first dates because it gave me a chance to meet someone new, have a drink and a chat, and I put absolutely no pressure on myself to connect with someone. That period of multiple dates in a week did wonders for my interactions with women in the non-first-date world, and even though I'm not actively dating now I think I've got a pretty good sense of when someone new (say, a friend of a friend) is interested in me and I'm more confident in myself if I do make a move.

Finally: anyone that tells you to be more vulnerable and coo and twitter is a doorknob. Be yourself. Also don't get hung up on the virgin thing, I've dated virgins who weren't interested in staying that way and as long as that is communicated at the appropriate time, it's not a big deal at all.
posted by flipper at 7:37 AM on May 17, 2007 [2 favorites]

Be aware of the vibes you're sending out. I've been told that I'm "aloof" and "intimidating" in situations where I'm really just shy and insecure. Try to be as open and friendly as possible with everyone with whom you interact, and don't shut off your feminine side because you fear rejection. It may be that men aren't approaching you because you don't seem approachable.
posted by amro at 7:43 AM on May 17, 2007

I know it seems like a catch-all answer, but online dating sites are a big help. Trying to turn your friends into boyfriends is a dicey game from the get-go. Better to enter an environment where everyone is there with romantic intentions. Get one of your friends to take some great pictures of you specifically for this.

As a woman, you'll get attention more easily (some of it undesirable but easily ignored) and will feel that you have a sort of beacon out there, working for you on this problem while you're doing other things. It will hopefully boost your confidence and probably result in some dates. Some of these will be a disappointment (par for the course with all dating), but you're bound to figure out new things that you like about men, feel more free to experiment sexually, and possibly even meet somenone worth a goodnight AND a good morning kiss from.
posted by hermitosis at 7:44 AM on May 17, 2007

Woah. There a lot of things going on here at once.

my problem is that I’m not vulnerable enough... absurd time to start pretending to be a blushing schoolgirl...

I think you hit the nail right there. You're not mentally in "dating mode" you're in some sort of odd "one of the guys, focused on work, etc" mode.

You need to separate your work, friends, and family from your dating life. Who cares how you act around your guy friends, its how you act on the date they don't know about that matters to you right now.

You need to start dating in a whole new pool. That said, there has been much written here and elsewhere on how to date and meet people so its not worth recapping here.

Keep in mind though that dating is a process. You're not likely to meet Mr. Right (or even Mr. Right Now) on the first date. Inexperienced daters seem to lock into one person early on with all sorts of negative repercussions (most of us did this in high school and college.) As novice dater you'll be at risk of this too... so I'd approach all dates from here on out as casual, easy come, easy go. Not saying you shouldn't jump if it feels right, or get hot and heavy if things are going swell... but just remember that most people you're dating in your age range have much more experience than you... just keep that in mind.

The virgin thing (when it comes up) is going to be its own hurdle to clear. It'll freak some guys out, scare others away, and make many wonder if something is wrong emotionally or physically. You may do well just not to mention that you're a virgin, but coax guys into it by saying, "You know, I really haven't done this in a while, so I may not be that good at first..."

Good luck.
posted by wfrgms at 7:45 AM on May 17, 2007

A few jumbled-up thoughts about your jumbled-up mess:

-- If you're hanging out with the boy's club, one of those boys is thoughtful and insightful enough to describe how you come across to men. Ask him. There's nothing shameful about admitting that you aren't getting as many dates as you'd like, and a man who knows you well can point out habits/manners/patterns that are turning men off or making them think that you're uninterested.

-- If the idea of doing the above makes you squeamish and uncomfortable, then being too closed-off and defensive might be part of the problem. You don't need to coo and twitter and act stupid, but truly "being yourself" is an act of vulnerability. Lots of smart, successful women develop sophisticated masks and boundaries that prevent other people from connecting with "the real them" and thwart potential romance. You may need to push the boundaries of your comfort zone and open up more with the people you meet in order to create the personal connections that engenders romance.

Good luck!
posted by junkbox at 7:52 AM on May 17, 2007 [2 favorites]

I see a few things in your question that are kind of problematic, and might be at the root of your situation.

It's just that I'm rarely approached (last time was at least a year ago)

Two possibilities here. One is that you are being approached, but you aren't noticing the approaches. The other is that you are right -- you aren't being approached -- but that only means that you need to start doing the approaching. I have had lots of friends who simply don't notice flirting and approaches -- later I say to them, Wow, that guy/girl was really into you, and they say, Huh? So you might want to think carefully through a week or two worth of social interactions and see if there are little things you are missing, where a smile in a store could have been more than just a smile, and so on. And regardless, if you feel you aren't being approached enough, there is no reason you can't do the approaching -- putting an online dating profile up is a good start, but taking charge and looking at men's profiles and sending some emails is better.

I'm an old hat at unrequited love, a shameless romantic, having spent much of my life during and since puberty, pining after boys who never pined after me

This is code for "I am self-sabotaging, deliberately finding unavailable men who are guaranteed to never reciprocate my interest." You've tried being "a shameless romantic" and it hasn't worked out all that well. Why not try being a shameless pragmatic, as a way of finding romance? There are a wide variety of time-tested pragmatic steps you can take, such as the afore-mentioned online dating, instructing all your friends to help find you dates, smiling at people, etc. The specifics have to match your personality and your needs -- if you aren't into bars, working on your drunk pick-up lines won't help -- but all involve taking some risks, putting yourself out there, and making a real effort.

At heart, I think you will need to honestly assess what in your current approach isn't working for you, and then you will need to consciously change those non-helpful behaviors. But that's the hopeful part -- it is all attitudinal and behavioral, rather than some more fundamental assessment of you as a person. It's not a question of beauty or lipstick or are you a "good person" -- it is about behaving in specific ways that produce different outcomes than what you are doing now. There are a million self-help books about this, and it might be worth looking at a few to see if the specific steps they suggest resonate with you.
posted by Forktine at 8:07 AM on May 17, 2007 [4 favorites]

1. Date outside your current circle. Online dating is an obvious way to do this and also a good way to go on a lot of dates, so as to get over the learning curve of dating. But participating in a group focused on some non-work activity would be another way to meet people who don't have preconceived notions of who you are supposed to be, which is apparently something you need to get away from.

2. Forget that "one of the guys" problem. Some years ago, a woman came into the orbit of my male friends and myself, and it was uncanny how smoothly she fit in as one of the guys immediately. She was (and is) also smokin' hot, never cood or tittered (except in the most sarcastic way possible) and is now married to one of said friends. In short, I don't see that as an impediment.

3. If there's a guy you're attracted to, ask him out. If you're on a date and want to kiss him, kiss him. It really can be that simple.
posted by adamrice at 8:08 AM on May 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

My mother and my female friends believe that my problem is that I’m not vulnerable enough, that I’m more inclined to debate and tease than I am to coo and titter. But it seems to me that thirty-one years old is a perfectly absurd time to start pretending to be a blushing schoolgirl...

You can be vulnerable without being a blushing schoolgirl. (I'm not even sure what one has to do with another.)

If your main way of relating to someone is via debating and teasing, which I'll admit can be fun, you're not going to come across as vulnerable. Vulnerable doesn't mean helpless. It means open to being touched by others. If everything I say to you gets rebounded with a zinger, I'll feel that nothing I say can really make you feel.

And, in a way, it will seem like you're not really listening to me. You may be taking in every word and responding with on-target comments. But if you were REALLY listening, you wouldn't be drenched in an attitude of "no matter what he says, I gotta slap him back with a witty comeback." If I said something funny, you'd laugh. If I said something sad, you'd cry. Etc.

THAT'S what we want from romantic partners. We want to touch them -- literally and figurative. (And of course, we want to be touched by them.)

As a theatre director, I have to deal with this all the time: there are some actors -- and some of them are very clever an talented at mimicry, funny voices, clever improves, etc. -- who are "not in the moment." They are stuck in the role of "the cynic" or whatever. Such actors have their uses, but I can never cast them in anything serious, because they don't genuinely listen and respond (from the heart) to the other actors on stage.

People tend to close off this way because they're afraid to take risks. The witty persona is armor. But relationships are about risk. They are about opening yourself up and risking being hurt.

The debate/tease thing is great for flirting. But it has to stop at some point or no one will want to move forward with you, to the next level.

Having been harsh with you re: your wall-of-teasing, I do feel that you're being treated unfairly. My guess is that you're smart and that your communication style makes it clear that you're smart. Alas, smart girls intimidate many guys. Maybe this is the locus of your "blushing schoolgirl" comment. Yes, there are many guys who want to be with cute girls who never challenge them.

But there are also many guys who aren't like this -- guys who are tuned on by smart women. But the fact that no all guys are like this means that the numbers-game aspect becomes even more significant. If a "blushing schoolgirl" needs to meet 20 guys to find a reasonable date, you need to meet 50.

Get out there.
posted by grumblebee at 8:14 AM on May 17, 2007 [14 favorites]

I concur with forktine & adamrice.

Do not start cooing and twittering, or any other such nonsense. And don't stop being willing to tease and debate, because there are men that find such things attractive. You are who you are, and you don't need to pretend you're an idiot to get a date. also don't need to wait around for a man to make his move.

Join an online dating service, look for men you find interesting, and message them. If they reply in a manner you find acceptable, ask them if they'd like to get a drink sometime (or coffee, or whatever).

And go from there.
posted by aramaic at 8:14 AM on May 17, 2007

Looking back it had something to do with them being very rational, very objective. Instead of being there emotional selves in the contact that we had.

Sorry to hear that. I find rational and objective people extremely attractive -- and I'm not alone in this. Especially because I know that being rational and a wicked smart tease is not mutually exclusive with being emotional.

I look for your qualities in partners.

Anonymous, you're correct that you don't need to become a blushing schoolgirl -- that would be absurd, and I doubt it would get you what you want. But if you are a strong, confident (at least on the surface), rational person as you say, you will need to be proactive. Don't wait for men to approach you; approach men.

Internet dating is one way to get that out of the way, the other way is just to tell someone you like that, you know, you'd like to take them out.
posted by fake at 8:15 AM on May 17, 2007

Or, what aramaic said, more succinctly and directly.
posted by fake at 8:16 AM on May 17, 2007

Create a secret identity.

I'm not kidding. Figure out who you are at work (rational, focused, businesslike). Done? Great ... that's your cover identity. That's what you pretend to be, roughly forty hours a week.

Now find out who the person is under that. Develop that person (dancing lessons, learn to play an instrument, visit local wineries) while still hiding that from your work self. Capitalize on your strengths - if you're likely to debate, maybe your secret identity is a more aggressive woman who does the approaching. Find something sexy about yourself and then remain aware of it - go out in public with something naughty underneath your clothes, without showing it. The attitude will show through.

Next, hang out with new groups of people. They don't know who you are and so they have no set opinions - you can reform yourself to them as your secret identity. Then, see who is attracted.

Unrequited love is a huge timesuck. Process potential love interests in parallel. Serialize only when it gets serious.
posted by adipocere at 8:22 AM on May 17, 2007 [6 favorites]

fake: Especially because I know that being rational and a wicked smart tease is not mutually exclusive with being emotional.
You're reading things into it that I did not write. I meant of course to the exclusion of being emotional. In Star Trek terms: like a Vulcan.

posted by jouke at 8:25 AM on May 17, 2007

I'm an old hat at unrequited love, a shameless romantic, having spent much of my life during and since puberty, pining after boys who never pined after me (though a few were my close friends). I’ve been rejected often.

I don't have a complete answer for you, but I thought I'd just give you a few anecdotes based on my close friendships with several women who sound like they could be you.

Part of the problem might be that you're overlooking guys who might be interested in you, by going after/obsessing over ones that you don't have much of a realistic chance with.

While I wouldn't tell you to flat-out "compromise" or "lower your expectations," I think it's important to realize that a woman who's constantly pining after men that she can't have, is pretty unattractive to men that she really could have.

That is to say, if I'm just a regular, average guy, possibly interested in you, but I know that you have a tendency to obsess over guys that you yourself know probably aren't going to work out ... that's a warning sign. From my perspective, that's just asking for punishment: what chance do I have of success here, when you're holding out for something I can't possibly be? No, thanks -- I'll pass.

Now, I'm being simplistic (attraction isn't that cut-and-dried, obviously) but men are attracted to women that they think they have a chance with. If you put out "I'm really picky" vibes (which you might not even be trying to do), even guys who you might be happy with may steer clear, because they don't want the humiliation, either.

I'm not saying that you are overly picky, I'm just saying, consider how a guy who knows you or was getting to know you, would perceive you.

At some point, a lot of people -- at least myself, anyway -- give up on the whole unrequited love thing. That was college and my early 20s; I'm done with it. In conversations with others, I think this is fairly common. There are billions of people on the planet, and I'm not going to spend time trying to convince someone who's not interested in what I have to offer. It's just not worth it.

I think that's a realization you have to come to yourself, if and when you're ready; but maybe if you do some introspection you'll agree. I think once you've stopped going after people who aren't interested in you, you'll lose a lot of that "unapproachability" that may be keeping other guys away.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:43 AM on May 17, 2007 [6 favorites]

I Nth the online dating advice, but in addition to that, it might not hurt to find a source of men outside of your normal social circle in real life. Since you say you're athletic, a team sport, something like softball or kickball that involves a bit of drinking and teasing and hanging out afterwards, might be perfect. You may even want to pick a sport you haven't played before, one you might not be good at, so that you have a chance to a little vulnerable, a little imperfect, but in a way that's natural for you.

Basically, the idea is to infuse some new male blood into your life, both as a source of potential dates and as a source of potential male opinions of you other than "she's just one of the guys." Guys who have never met you before are going to see you differently from those who have known you for years, and you're going to see yourself differently through their eyes. That may help to break your rut.
posted by decathecting at 8:44 AM on May 17, 2007

Generally, guys will sleep with anyone who lets them, and once you let them, they will follow you around and buy you stuff. As a lifelong guy, I can assure you that this is pretty much how it works.

Dating services of all kinds are going to show you that getting a guy interested isn't the hard part, but finding one you can tolerate that is housebroken will make the Odyssey seem like spring break.

Don't change anything about yourself, although I don't know you, you are probably fine. Don't worry about the virginity thing, you probably won't even need to bring it up.

The key is to find some single guys on the prowl, which is not where you currently work or play. Play somewhere new or try an internet service or even go to a matchmaker.

Most of all relax, don't give up, and hey - at least you don't have all the baggage that many women have after associating with the wrong guy.
posted by ewkpates at 8:59 AM on May 17, 2007

wfrgms: The virgin thing (when it comes up) is going to be its own hurdle to clear. It'll freak some guys out, scare others away, and make many wonder if something is wrong emotionally or physically. You may do well just not to mention that you're a virgin, but coax guys into it by saying, "You know, I really haven't done this in a while, so I may not be that good at first..."

Please don't. Any guy who's not okay with who you are can fuck off. That and you don't want to have sex with him. IMHO. I mean would you want to sleep with a man who suspect there's "something wrong with you" because of your sexual choices/history?

Just my 2-woman-cents.
posted by Sijeka at 9:12 AM on May 17, 2007 [2 favorites]

...the virginity thing, by the way, is irrelevant to dating.

Sure, it has some relevance to sex -- and you may want to mention it before that (so that your partner can go slowly if needed), but otherwise it's irrelevant and needn't be addressed.

Look at it this way: when would you feel it's a Big Deal that you have (for example) a small bed? Would you mention that to prospective dates? Would you worry they'll think you're a freak?

No. Of course not. It's just a logistical concern for when you're actually sleeping with someone, and can be addressed then.
posted by aramaic at 9:24 AM on May 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

Get these male friends of yours all together and tell them, flat out, that they need to help you score. They need to start sending dudes your way STAT because you're still a virgin. Make that clear. Maybe the hookup that results won't be Mr. Right, but you'll have some fun. They sound like they must really care about you, let them in on your struggle. They may have never realized you need the boost they can supply.

Also, online dating. Online dating for one thing, is great at learning the idiosyncracies of different populations of men: you'll determine if you like older men or possibly younger, professional or other, for example. Be bold, don't let this one thing sabotage your sense of worthiness or whatever. You've just taken a longer windup than most pitchers.

Here's a good movie to study. ;)
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:26 AM on May 17, 2007

Touch more. Not like shoving hands down pants, but things like putting your hand on someone's arm when you laugh at a joke, touching people's shoulders when you really mean something you say, that sort of thing. It signals that you're being flirty, and conversely, if you never do, people think you're being standoffish.
posted by fnerg at 9:37 AM on May 17, 2007

Drop me your email address so I can send you an invitation for

~~ androse ~~ at ~~ gmail ~~ dot com.

It's fun and the people are (this far) ok.
posted by androse at 9:41 AM on May 17, 2007

A lot of good advice from junkbox, fortine, grumblebee and others. Definitely ask a good male friend to give you some honest feedback. Ask a few, ones with clearly different perspectives and personalities, so you don't take one guy's word as Gospel for Guys or anything.

I don't think grumblebee was saying "don't be yourself," but to examine how you relate to people. I don't think it's false to recognize when you might be sabotaging chances at intimacy by, for example, always derailing a serious discussion with a quip or a snark. Sometimes that's just nervousness.

The "pining after unobtainable men" definitely sends up red-flags to me. Kadin20 hit that on the nose. Do you still find that happening?

I hope you come in and contribute to the thread. It's a pretty common problem, nobody's going to give you grief about it.

I'd say the first thing to do is to figure out how to rebuild your self-esteem. When you find yourself crushing on unobtainable boys, remind yourself that doing this means that connection with actual live good guys who would love to date you can't happen while that is going on. If you can convince yourself that despite whatever is in your past, that you can believe your guy friends when they tell you how cool you are, that you can believe in yourself, you'll gain the self-confidence that you truly need to start even thinking about the wild and woolly world of dating.
posted by canine epigram at 9:55 AM on May 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

as strange as adipocere's advice is, it has some truth in it!

In my dating days, I did have nights where I asked myself, "What would Antonio Banderas do?" and acted accordingly. Substitute your inspiration as necessary.

It worked amusingly well. Even if I am not, in fact, Antonio Banderas.

It's just another way of faking confidence until you realize that you actually grow into it.
posted by canine epigram at 9:58 AM on May 17, 2007 [2 favorites]

I would just add that there are two separate problems here, and even though they seem like two sides of a coin you should be careful not to conflate them. One is the dating thing (or really, the lack of the dating thing). The other is the virginity thing. You need to solve the dating problem (and there is a lot of pretty good to great advice about that above); once you are going on fun dates that maybe once in a while end with a kiss you can solve the "dude, when do I mention that I'm a virgin?" problem. There are lots and lots and lots of people who don't have sex on the first (or even tenth) date, so don't worry that you are setting up red flags by not putting out in the first five minutes. (Or, if you do decide to put out for the first guy who is willing to unzip your pants, that's cool too, and you will have lots of company in your unpickiness here at MeFi.)

Above someone mentioned enlisting all your male friends, by telling them you are a virgin and want to end it. Uh, cue social awkwardness? But the basic idea is great; I would just leave out the virginity part unless these guys are really really close friends who are totally comfortable with girl TMI like picking up a box of tampax for you when they are in the grocery store. Just say to all of them "I need dates!" and make it their job to help find you dates. Not find you the perfect guy, or find you the best deflowerer, just find you guys who are willing to do dinner and a movie (or whatever) with a nice enough girl. Tell them that you are willing (and happy!) to go out once with any guy who isn't overtly creepy. You will get some real duds, and be able to dine out for months on the stories, but as has been said many times already, practice makes perfect, and you want practice at having those fun, low-pressure dating experiences. Don't just ask your guy friends -- tell your hairdresser, your favorite bartender, and so on. Older women are great, because they have sons and nephews (some of whom are real losers, but many of whom are perfectly nice and will be cutely embarrassed that their aunt is trying to set them up with some random woman).
posted by Forktine at 10:16 AM on May 17, 2007

"Generally, guys will sleep with anyone who lets them, and once you let them, they will follow you around and buy you stuff. As a lifelong guy, I can assure you that this is pretty much how it works."

Christ, only internalize this if you're looking for retarded guys. That's how it works with stalkers and Yemeni goat farmers, but you're 31 and you can move beyond the "Fuck me, buy me stuff" bullshit that only strippers cling to past 18.
I have a 35-year-old friend who sounds like you (only with her having a kid, it's unlikely that she's a virgin), and the advice about getting your guy friends involved is a good one. Take 'em out as wingmen. Or hell, this is the stereotypical role for your gay male buddies.
posted by klangklangston at 10:21 AM on May 17, 2007 [2 favorites]

I've been in desperate unrequited love all my adult life, and I'm sure I project some self-doubt and humility, but women ask me out all the time, and that's how I know that I'm attractive, fit, funny, sexy, &c. And, because I'm a man, if a woman is social, pretty, fit, &c. I ask her out, which is why - sorry to be harsh - I suspect you're not.

If you're friendly and open and men aren't asking you out, then you're not as attractive as you claim. Women with decent fit bodies and pretty faces who are social and project confidence get a lot of invitations, even if they're not successful or intelligent, and no matter whether they "debate and tease" or "coo and titter". You could wear a tee-shirt that says "Desperate Virgin" and if you look good men will just use it as a conversation starter.

Re-appraise yourself honestly, work on whatever's wrong with you, and men will be clamoring for your romantic attention.
posted by anonymous response at 10:28 AM on May 17, 2007

anonymous response: can it, you're a total jerk. You probably have a very skewed view of what "average" is, if you think that all average women are clamored after. There's no reason to sow seeds of doubt about someone's attractiveness whom you don't know based on their confession of an unsuccessful dating track record.

I've never been "asked out" either, am (imho) average in looks and physique, but it just doesn't ultimately matter when you're awesome on the inside, like our poster here. I have done plenty of dating, and am in my fifth year in a wonderful relationship that never would have happened if I hadn't managed to parlay my "too intimidating to men" problem into a "damned forward with men" solution. YMMV.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:03 AM on May 17, 2007 [2 favorites]

klangklangston, I would buy you some stuff like flowers and a book of romantic medieval poetry, but you aren't my type. I personally don't know any stalkers or Yemeni farmers... but this is the whole point that I think everyone, even anonymous response, is missing.

Put people of the opposite sex in the same place at the same time, and eventually they will work it out if they are relatively successful. People ask, or don't ask, others out for so many reasons it can't be catalogued.

To find someone you want to ask or who wants to ask you, you have to meet alot of someones. Granted, some of them may be goat farmers. But let's not make this about "fitness for dating". Many of us here would not ask many others of us here, despite their obvious pretty confidence.
posted by ewkpates at 11:22 AM on May 17, 2007

anonymous response, you have clearly never been a woman. Believe it or not, it is different from being a man, especially in the dating realm.

I agree with many other people who say our OP is acting too much like "one of the boys" and it makes her invisible to men. I have been in situations like that and it got to the point where my friends would make sexist jokes around me and expect me to laugh. I remember once I wore my hair down (usually I bun it) and one of my friends failed to even recognize me; when I waved to him it was clear he'd been interrupted in the middle of finding me hott and it was weird for both of us.

OP, get out of your usual clique. Those men may eventually be trained to see you as a woman, but it'll take more work than starting fresh with someone new.
posted by crinklebat at 11:36 AM on May 17, 2007 [2 favorites]

Also, if you are socially part of a group of men, most men will assume that you are the gf of the guy closest to you. Those who don't assume this and would like to hit on your will be intimidated by 4 dudes standing right next to you.

If these guys have taken on the stereotypical "big brother" role with you, they may be telling other guys to leave you alone behind your back, for well-meaning but ultimately stupid reasons.

Go out with some girls or solo. You'll have much better luck.
posted by damn dirty ape at 11:46 AM on May 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

i agree with klangklangston here:

"Generally, guys will sleep with anyone who lets them, and once you let them, they will follow you around and buy you stuff. As a lifelong guy, I can assure you that this is pretty much how it works."

Christ, only internalize this if you're looking for retarded guys. That's how it works with stalkers and Yemeni goat farmers, but you're 31 and you can move beyond the "Fuck me, buy me stuff" bullshit that only strippers cling to past 18.

who are those guys cause i don't know them. not that i would want to.

this from anonymous response, however, is a crock of shit:

…if a woman is social, pretty, fit, &c. I ask her out, which is why - sorry to be harsh - I suspect you're not.

If you're friendly and open and men aren't asking you out, then you're not as attractive as you claim. Women with decent fit bodies and pretty faces who are social and project confidence get a lot of invitations, even if they're not successful or intelligent…

i know plenty of cute/pretty, fun, smart, social, confident girls with great careers, nice houses and nice cars who rarely get asked out. sort of the story of a girl's life here. i'm sure a lot of it has to do with the town we live in and our wider social circle (portland, designers/creatives/pro-snowboarders and skaters), and whatever other factors, but the fact is that i have been told by my (usually married) male friends that a woman who is all of those things is intimidating. i also suspect that, whether a lot of guys want to admit it or not (and some of my male friends have), they find it secretly really intimidating if a woman is smarter than they are (which, i can't get my head wrapped around that but then, i'm not a guy).

if you just want to go out on dates, then definitely try an online site–you'll have no shortage of guys who would be interested in meeting you there. use this as practice and to build your confidence.

if you are looking for something more meaningful…like i said, i know a lot of girls in the same boat as you, who are even in better shape in terms of their self-confidence and still no dice. you just have to keep on keeping on and go out there and meet as many ppl as possible. i would also advise you to keep an open mind about guys. we all have an "ideal" person in our mind as far as physical attributes, what we'd like them to do for a living, an age range, etc but if you can't see beyond that, you might miss out on a great person you might not have considered otherwise.

also, the fact that you have admitted to exclusively pining after unattainable guys is definitely something you need to look into. for years, i, too, used to fall for guys who were in some way unavailable, either emotionally or situationally–i.e. they were married or gay or whatever. i see it as an indication that you may not really be ready for a real relationship—because the men you fall for are either unavailable or unattainable, this absolves you from actually having to deal with a relationship. and, in light of your post, it does sound like you have a lot to do in terms of working on yourself personally, which in turn might help your self-confidence–and that, i think is the thing that i think ppl are most drawn to.
posted by violetk at 11:47 AM on May 17, 2007 [2 favorites]

Anonymous, your situation sounds exactly like mine not so long ago. The only guy I dated in high school came out later, and I spent many years pining for a guy who was my best friend when he wasn't enjoying stringing me along. Then I spent years pining for guys who were totally unavailable because it was just as "enjoyable" and lacked the negative side-effects (not that I could see that at the time). I heard all the same 'one of the guys' statements you mention. Your family even sounds exactly like mine.

It could be that this is something you've talked about with people before, and in fact a lot. And that the problem isn't solved because it's something that your intellect can only tentatively touch; it can't get around it and handle it and reshape it in any way. Maybe that's how you're used to handling things, because you've grown up in an environment so thoroughly yet unadmittedly obsessed with facades that your real feelings rarely surface, and rarely really affect you.

If that rings true with you, then your lack of self esteem is a particular kind and my advice is this: don't worry so much about keeping things proper and routine in your life and really face that part of yourself that's telling you that you need more. If you remain the person you are, nothing will change. And there's nothing wrong with working to effect a change in yourself.

Find that hole you have in your heart right now and look into it deeply. Spend any number of evenings that you need to by yourself doing that, and nothing else, until your intellect surrenders in frustration and you find yourself brimming over with honest to god undeniable feelings--the kind your mind can't talk its way out of or foist onto outside factors--and you have to really face this in a way you haven't before. Geniunely examine the way you've spent your love throughout your life, what you've gotten out of it, and what you deserve.

It will be awkward, and frightening, and difficult, but in no time at all you will find yourself doing things with enthusiasm that you never thought you would or could do, without even trying. Worked for me.

My guess is that you're attractive and talented, just like your family, and that you can work through any difficulties you find, and probably express them via some form of art as well. Either way, email in profile for elaboration, commiseration or mockery.
posted by zebra3 at 12:23 PM on May 17, 2007 [10 favorites]

Anonymous, drop me a line (email's in the profile) if you want to talk this over with someone who's in a very similar boat.
posted by Vervain at 12:28 PM on May 17, 2007

Sounds like you need to ask some guys out rather than waiting for them to ask you. There's nothing wrong with it and, truth be told, guys like it.
posted by chairface at 1:46 PM on May 17, 2007

I'm seeing a pattern here in that you liked guys that didn't like you, and the guys you know who apparently think you are great never ask you out.

You are clearly in the "friend" mode with men. You're too timid to ask men out yourself, and they assume you aren't interested because you don't seem to favor any of them over the other. This makes sense at work, where relationship drama is not a good thing. But outside of work, you need to project a more 'available' attitude. I think you are holding yourself in too tightly, building a wall that makes you unapproachable. This might be what your Mom meant about not allowing yourself to be vulnerable.

You need to start taking a little more responsibility for your love life instead of waiting around for some guy to sweep you off your feet. That's just not likely. Frankly, waiting until you are 31 to really even start worrying about this situation suggests a level of passivity I can't begin to comprehend.

Here's a couple suggestions:

Ask a man out and see what happens! What have you got to lose?

Maybe hanging around the guys so much has made you start to dress and act like one of the guys a little too much. I would really recommend hanging around with women more often. For one thing, you can observe, as someone with a rational mind, what they do that works. For another thing, they know men that you don't know. Yet.
posted by misha at 3:05 PM on May 17, 2007

oh, i totally relate. and i gotta say, i have used dating sites. i didn't have great success--after a while, it started to feel like i was going on job interviews or looking at apartments in search of the "frisson."

what has been more fruitful, much to my surprise, was going out with my girlfriends, looking pretty, and getting very drunk and flirty. we are in our thirties (one is forty), and we all have master's degrees and careers and are creative and funny, and would like to find a husband but not necessarily right now. and i gotta say, just getting out there and striking up conversations will do wonders. you get to practice your flirtation skills.

and if the virginity thing is a hangup (i was a late bloomer, too) consider enlisting a close male friend and spend a saturday night together. you might even advertise online for a sexual partner for this explicit purpose. you'll have to screen the guy, of course, but in my less experienced days i would have loved to have a guy to practice with without having to deal with a relationship. even now i find the idea liberating, and i'm not the casual-sex/f*ckbuddy type at all.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:49 PM on May 17, 2007

There have been very few guys to whom I've been attracted but these are the ways I let them know:

Little touches on the arm or shoulder.
Pressing the side of my leg against his while we were sitting next to each other.
Holding his hand a bit too long when I said goodbye.
Writing in Spanish (which it turned out he understood :-0) that I wanted him into the condensation of a window.
Looking at him and smiling slowly.
Asking for a hug or a shoulder massage.
Giving him a poem which I had written about him.
Making a flirty comment that it was too bad he was gay (he wasn't).
Sending a note that I enjoyed his writing.

Not all of this was reciprocated, but the message did get through.
posted by brujita at 1:30 AM on May 19, 2007

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