I Wish More Guys Were Like You: Let's Be Friends.
July 7, 2007 3:29 PM   Subscribe

I'm soon to be 22, and I've never had a relationship... I seem to very consistently turn all my dates and potential girlfriends into girl friends and my therapist, family and friends seem to be running out of ideas. Any suggestions? Of course, complications and some potentially funny stories inside.

In junior high, I heard "wait till high school", and in high school "wait till college". Now that I'm here, having done a whole bunch of life work, seeing a therapist, finding new hobbies and new friends, I still can't find a girlfriend. It seems like girls I meet don't take me seriously as a potential partner after a short while, and I end up becoming friends with them. Beginning from my first crush, This has happened even in situations when girls have approached me. I don't seem to have trouble meeting them: although I'm in a wheelchair and have CP, I'm fairly fit, can speak articulately, and have been repeatedly noted for my sense of humor, although I'll admit I'm not as "quick on the draw" as some other Mefites. So, what gives?

I've tried many different things. Online dating was funny. The only girl who I ever could get in touch with was a stunning Serbian engineering student moonlighting as a model. A year and half later, we're good friends, and I'm starting to feel like my life belongs in The Onion. Disabled-specific dating? Check and ditto. I'm confident in my masculinity and positive qualities... what next, Mefi?
posted by StrikeTheViol to Human Relations (43 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
One problem you say you're encountering is that women aren't seeing you as a potential partner, and it sounds like this is owing to your disability. At a younger age, people are more willing to forgive the fact that their partner hasn't got an established career (i.e., financial security) on the assumption that one will pan out in time. I bet people aren't as willing to make that assumption for you since you're in a wheelchair.

I wish I had constructive suggestions for you, but it sounds like the mere fact of your disability is what's leading to your romantic problems. It's hard to know what you should try next given that the problem is in the minds of your potential ladyfriends.
posted by voltairemodern at 3:43 PM on July 7, 2007

To my mind there's a grey area in your post: you don't state whether you make it clear to your dates what your desire is. As a matter of policy I think you should make your feelings clear early on to any girl you view as a potential girlfriend. Plenty of potential relationships never get off the ground because of the reticence of the parties involved. I'm not saying you have to behave in an obtuse or over-eager fashion, but do get your message across. Yes the wheelchair will be a turn-off to many girls, and you'll get plenty of rejections, but so what?
posted by londongeezer at 3:58 PM on July 7, 2007

Well since you say you have no trouble meeting women, and everything you've described other than your disability sounds totally positive ("confident in my masculinity and positive qualities," seen a therapist, interesting stuff going on aside from relationships, etc.), I'm not sure what else we'll be able to tell you beyond what voltairemodern already said. You should feel great that you're as confident as you are given your situation. You have a better attitude than many people who are more fortunate than you.

You haven't told us much about what you've tried that hasn't worked. For instance, have you tried the internet?

Oh, and stop listening to whoever is ordering you to "wait till" anything!
posted by jejune at 3:58 PM on July 7, 2007

I can anecdotally recommend No More Mr. Nice Guy by Dr. Robert Glover, as well as the discussion forums on his website. I was in those shoes, and it really did the trick for me. Really, get the book, follow it to a T, and you will be a much happier, more confident person.
posted by charmston at 4:17 PM on July 7, 2007

See Strike, I was reading and I freezed when I red "wheelchair" ...I'm somehow ashamed to admit that there was an immediate "here's the problem" reaction in me. I cannot being to understand what life is in a wheelchair and, to be blunt, I hope I will never experience it. I suspect that this is what is freezing many people...it's probably not _you_ as a person, but the fact your other positive qualities may be, in their minds, overshadowed by your disability.

In other words, they may be put off (read reject) disabilty...so necessarily while they would not like to reject you as a person or as a partner, the undeniable fact you live in a wheelchair is an enormous turn off for them. Some may think they would need to tend to your needs, others that their life will become necessarily limited by your instric limitations, other may think you cannot satisfy them sexually , other just don't like you plain and simple.

Yet you would probably be surprised by the incredible amount of people that are "turned off" by facts such as "she dresses a little too casually" or "he is a nice man, but he's thick as a brick!" ; there is an wide range of rejections going on and they are not necessarily superficial and infantile, yet they are imho legitimate often self-imposed obstacles to a better life.

Yet no matter what I think, or that we think :) they legitimately can choose to follow other routes , even if something in them tells them you are a very positive, interesting person. That's how human works, apparently !

Imho you should consider keeping on as many relationship and friendship as you feel comfortable with ,without ever putting yourself down or ever feeling rejected and undesiderable. While there is no denying you have your troubles and issues, these are just obstacles, NOT negations of happyness. You'd be surprised by the people that would define themselves "normal" and that are , behind their smiling expression, sad and unhappy.

To make an example, a friend of mine is a completely succesful person when it comes to work..with a lot of economic rewards and doing a job he absolutely adores. Yet he's a trainwreck when it comes to human relationship..and he doesn't know why he can't have a significant relationship with a woman...I know he suffers from it, even if he does everything to hide it.

You'd be surprised by the number of stereotypes we have around ! :) Disabled people must be unhappy...says who ?? :D !

Meanwhile as a male I can understand you just may be boiling and steaming and desiring to have sex...pretty normal effect of testosterone ! Have you considered jerking off ? Ok it's not the "real thing" , but while you look for a girl that would like to have sex with you, that will help relieve some of the stress.
Also if you have troubles with that, you may consider asking a doctor :D ! Ehehe yes that's a landmine and hot topic :> but hint from here hint from there..who knows what good could happen.

Also in my experience the very best relationship are not ONLY based on sex ..even if it plays quite some role. I know it sounds complete utter bullshit at 22..but I was 22 very few years ago and trust me, the best relationship don't _necessarily_ start on sexual attraction..sometime is developes over time and explodes and that's fireworks ! If it doesnt'...well it doesnt :)
posted by elpapacito at 4:19 PM on July 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

He mentions that he's tried internet dating, and I doubt that directing him to "disabled" dating sites is really the best idea. That's like telling someone who's black that they should find a dating site for just black people, even if done so with good intentions. And regardless, it limits the pool of people who'd be within geographical range.

Are these females you have encounters with younger than you? It's been my experience that as people mature they're less likely to be concerned with a disability in a partner. Also, how long have these relationships lasted before turning into friendships? How would you translate "confident in your masculinity" into specific interactions with girls? Potentially seconding londongeezer in being more explicit in your interest, if not just amping up the flirting a little more.
posted by artifarce at 4:20 PM on July 7, 2007

Intimate Connections by Dr. David Burns. Follow the recommendations to a T and do the exercises or it won't help.

I also think that you have (1) regular dating problems and (2) problems specific to being disabled and in a wheelchair. You will probably have a lot of success in taming your problems if you tackle your "friend zone" problems separately from the disability-specific problems.

Follow the book and I'm certain you'll charm the pants off them. Which isn't a bad thing.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:33 PM on July 7, 2007

I'm 31, more or less healthy, not horribly ugly, and I've had tons of trouble finding a girlfriend my whole life. So have many of my male friends.

It's just kind of supply and demand. it's hard for (straight) guys, especially if your standards are high. The only advice for anyone, I think, is don't give up.
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:36 PM on July 7, 2007 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You're doing all the right stuff, so you might also keep in mind that these things take time, luck and tenacity. You should also keep in mind that you have a tougher road ahead (and behind) you than a lot of people and therefore you will need even more time, luck and tenacity than others that you might be comparing yourself to.

Your lack of luck in dating non-disabled people is probably in their lack of experience and confusion over being intimate with someone with a disability. It might be that disabled-specific dating has been awkward because your peers have been burned and heartbroken just as you have been and, therefore, they are being guarded.

In any event, I can share some of the skills that helped me gain a little success in this area despite being a late bloomer due to social anxiety.

1) Multitask. Playing the field is trite, I know, but I don't mean for one to be a cad, just that the more women that you approach, befriend and flirt with, the more likely it is that you will find someone that likes you. Once things start to escalate with someone, you can focus on that person.

2) Plausibly deniable escalation. The first few "moves" should be firm, but context-free enough that if a woman is interested, she will read it as interest, but if the woman is not interested, she will shrug them off. An example of this escalation in my experience might look like: Ironic high-fives --> pats on the back --> half-hugs --> "accidental" hand touching --> hand-holding. I don't know if that series would work for you, but I hope it gives you the idea. Certainly plan on starting this process on the first meeting or date and making some progress over the course of several hours. Obviously when things escalate into more-than-friends play, that's the time when direct communication becomes important. Gradually upping the stakes is the key to staying out of the friends zone.

3) Keep the stakes low at first. Plausibly deniable escalation isn't about tricking someone into liking you, it's about keeping things light. I think it's likely that you will need more tenacity in this realm than other people, because people in general have vivid imaginations in unfamiliar situations and being with a person with CP is unfamiliar to most people. Therefore, others will naturally raise the stakes in their own minds. You can't help that, but what you can help is keeping the stakes low in your own mind. Give yourself permission to be with someone and not know if they like you in more than a friendly way. Give yourself permission to be with someone and not know whether or not it's a date. Plan first meetings/dates to be casual and involve a lot of interaction. Dinner and a movie is the worst first date idea ever. A movie alone is even worse.

4) Leave your comfort zone. All of the above involves leaving your comfort zone, but general practice in doing uncomfortable things when you're not dating pays off dividends during dating. Meeting people that you normally wouldn't consider meeting will open doors to meeting dates. Doing things you wouldn't normally do will create topics of conversation during dates.

5) Everything is a victory. Rejection is a sign that you're accomplishing approaching people you wouldn't normally approach and you're gaining experience in keeping the stakes low in your own mind. The more one is rejected without heartbreak, the less afraid of it they will be and the more likely they will be to try again. Ending up in the friends zone? HOLY SHIT. You just made a new friend! New friends are awesome. And your new friend probably has other female friends to introduce you to. Getting mixed signals from someone who later gets scared away? Hey, you're one sexy devil who knows how to flirt! That person just doesn't have all their shit put together yet, but at least you got some practice for when someone more together comes around. Also, maybe they'll gain some more insight at a later date and come back around.

So, that's what worked for me and I don't see any reason why, with your own adaptations, it wouldn't work for you or any other late bloomer out there.
posted by Skwirl at 4:40 PM on July 7, 2007 [17 favorites]

The Ladder Theory is a classic, and universal in it's application. :)

I doubt any kind of disability is the main problem, dating is just HARD.
posted by milinar at 4:46 PM on July 7, 2007

Response by poster: Well, I had been on match.com for several months last year, during which time I contacted my Serbian friend and collected a multitude of screen names and phone numbers, none of which resulted in a date. (They did lead to some heartfelt conversations usually ending with "I wish more guys were like you".)

Let's see...book looks interesting...

Thanks for the "tanti auguri" elpapacito...I figured out the first part of your answer long ago, and knew about the second part a long time before that. I'm quite healthy downstairs, and it's only made more apparent that I'm not quite "living up to my potential", you know?
posted by StrikeTheViol at 4:47 PM on July 7, 2007

From the Ladder Theory site:
Are you serious or is the site just satire?
Nothing is just satire.
The ladder theory was awfully tempting (and painful) to my bitter, lonely, depressed self back in the day. It may or may not have some truth in it, but it's important to note that the types of men and women that this theory would apply to are shallow and shouldn't be rewarded with good sex anyway. Don't take it seriously. The important take-away point is that, yes, most people have an internal rating system and you can't really help that. The piece of reality that they totally miss is that every individual human being is totally unique and inscrutable. Multiply that times 1000 when you're talking about sexual attraction. On the extreme end of this, every fetish imaginable exists and overrides any insight from ladder theory in attraction with those individuals.
posted by Skwirl at 5:05 PM on July 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I was basically dateless until I was 28. Now I'm 14 years into a relationship. Those early years S-U-C-K-E-D. I was so miserable. But now I don't even think of them.

It's SO hard, when you're 22 and can't get a date, not to think, "this is how it's going to be for the rest of my life." But if you really think about it, that's absurd. There are so many women in the world with so many different tastes.

Imagine women are a deck of cards. You get to pull one random card out of the deck each year. You won't find happiness in a relationship until you happen to pull the 9 of clubs. Yup, only one card out of 52 is going to work for you. So what do you do?

Well, you can give up and quit pulling cards. Or you can keep pulling them. There is a chance that the deck was made wrong at the factory and there isn't a 9 of clubs in it, but that's a minuscule chance. Almost definitely, if you keep pulling cards, your card will come up eventually.

It might come up next year. It might come up in five years. In the most horrible case, it might come up in 52 years. And if it does, you'll be a REALLY happy man for the later part of your life.

When it work, it's so great that it's worth waiting for -- even if you have to wait a long time. THAT'S the secret I know now. Let's say -- God forbid -- my wife died and I didn't find anyone else until I was 80. That would be sad, but I now know that, if I live to be 85, those last five years will be SO worth waiting for. And they will wipe away all the years of loneliness before. I was SO lonely in my teens and 20s. It almost defined me. Yet now I can hardly remember what it felt like.

Back to reality, you won't be waiting 52 years. Odds are, you'll find someone much sooner, probably way sooner than me, because you're doing all sorts of things right that I did wrong. (You need to live your life well while you're waiting, and it sounds like you're doing that. I didn't.)

My guess is that you may have to wait a few years, but each year you live past 25, things will get better and better for you. Round about then, women (and men -- but it's women we're concerned with here) start maturing. They've HAD their relationship with the bad boy and the jock and they were fun while they lasted, but they didn't end so well. Now they're looking for someone with a bit more substance. And they're more apt not to care if their mate is in a wheelchair.

It's funny, but when I was in my early 20s, I might have shied away from being friends with you because you're disabled. God, I hope I wouldn't have been that shallow, but I bet I would at least had to fight some ugly feelings. Now, those feelings seem absurd. I can't imagine caring -- when looking for a friend -- whether he was in a wheelchair or not.

Last data point: one of the reasons I couldn't get a date in my early 20s was because I was Mr. Nice guy. Like you, I had all these women who loved me like a brother (and would say things like, "why can't my boyfriend be more like you?" or "why don't I ever fall for nice guys like you?"). But my wife and I were friends for a year before we even started dating. I can't imagine that happening to me when I was younger. But it did happen to me when the time was right.
posted by grumblebee at 5:09 PM on July 7, 2007 [40 favorites]

drjimmy11 is dead on. I have three awesome friends who are 29, actually all pretty good looking guys, and have maybe a dozen DATES between them in their adult lives. Don't sweat it. My buddy's dad gave me awesome advice a few years back when I was having trouble finding a woman. He said, "One day you'll meet a girl who sees you and just gets it, and it's as simple as that." I never forgot that, and as it turns out I'm getting married in 14 days.
posted by fusinski at 5:20 PM on July 7, 2007 [5 favorites]

What grumblebee said. What a great way of looking at finding and falling for someone special!
posted by kamikazegopher at 5:22 PM on July 7, 2007

Response by poster: Whoo boy, lots here. Artifarce, I've had interests in maturer women, and in fact prefer them generally. I've spent time with grad students, for instance, and while they've been impressed by my interest in international affairs, I've generally found a feeling of "benevolent maternalism".

Skwirl, that's really good practical dating advice. I thought of plausible escalation too, but my problem implementing it is that it seems to go Ironic high-fives --> pats on the back --> half-hugs --> whole hugs --> kiss on cheek --> do not pass go, do not collect $200. I've only ever held hands with one girl, enjoying it immensely, but later realizing she was only being so close after dumping her boyfriend shortly before. Still working on it. Any other tips?

grumblebee, that's really genuinely inspiring. Would you mind sharing how the two of you met? This thread turned out better than I expected.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 5:57 PM on July 7, 2007

And in the process you get to know them better, or maybe never figure out them at all. Bottom line, I doubt you were openly rejected many times exactly because you are in a wheelchair and many already consider this very unfortunate and don't want to do with you what they think would be rude for you. Unfortunately they can't possibily know what you consider rude and hurtful, but they'd rather not do.

So let's just ask them, shall we ?
posted by elpapacito at 6:14 PM on July 7, 2007

Lots of guys have this problem, and it has nothing to do with disabilities whatsoever (don't get me wrong here, there is plenty of prejudice around, and I'm not trying to gloss over it, but you can see from other responses that this is a common experience).

My bitter side says, "Find your inner arrogant asshole, and they will fall all over you." Thinking more constructively though, you are probably doing too much "get to know them" before going for it. There is some strange combination of aggression and indifference that seems to just work.

At heart I'm a (cynical) optimist, and I think it is provably true that "being real" will get you better relationships, in the long term. So, you know, what grumblebee said :P
posted by Chuckles at 6:14 PM on July 7, 2007

Ah heck, that kiss on the cheek would have sustained me for weeks, if not months, when I was 22. It sounds like you're doing a lot of stuff right. As frustrating it is and as much as we'd all like simple answers, sometimes it is just happenstance and you just need to stay the course. grumblebee's analogy is a good one. Every card you pull that's the wrong one gets you closer to the one that's right. elpapacito's also right that everyone has different preferences and deal breakers and even shallow preferences need to be respected. Some strong preferences might ultimately hurt an individual's ability to find happiness, but that's none of anyone's business but their own. The good news is that as people age, they tend to be more open to these kinds of experiences, so things will only get easier with time.
posted by Skwirl at 6:52 PM on July 7, 2007

I concur with grumblebee. Sometimes all you can do is keep trying and waiting. I didn't date at all until I was 23, so you're definitely not the only one in that situation!
posted by christinetheslp at 6:55 PM on July 7, 2007

I haven't read any of the replies here, but I won't touch the disability aspects since I have no idea how women react to that.

Romancewise, I speak from having been in your situation, zero experience at age 22 and a slowly accumulating pile of friend zone experiences. It was 29 before things changed for me, and now I'm in my late 30s with a family. I have learned a lot since then.

Basically my advice is:

1. SELF CONFIDENCE. Do whatever is possible to raise your self-esteem. This means you HAVE to do a lot of other stuff.

2. Limit your involvement in arcane/male-dominated hobbies. None of that time you consume will help your socialization activities. You need broad experiences with which to relate to women, as well as some activities where by chance you might meet them.

3. Adopt a "fuck it" attitude. I have heard this before, and I have no idea from where, but it's true and I can vouch for it firsthand. I think it goes hand-in-hand with confidence, as long as you don't let it slide into arrogance or let your hygiene or physical appearance go. This is also because women aren't comfortable around guys who might be desperate. You can't just not look desperate, you have to NOT be desperate. This might take a paradigm shift in your outlook.

4. Do NOT be desperate! See #3.

Best of luck.
posted by rolypolyman at 7:08 PM on July 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

Also just to give you some hope, I think things look on the up & up for you... generally young women are looking for life-changing, Prince Charming experiences, and by their 30s they're looking for stability and a solid, dependable man (which come into short supply as in that age range many of them are taken or are assholes). I heard a comedienne on Comedy Central doing a stand-up routine on this very issue.
posted by rolypolyman at 7:12 PM on July 7, 2007

I think the thing to also remember is that you are only 22. It's very easy to think that everyone your age is in relationships, dating, etc., but really there are many, many people who are in the same situation as you (minus the wheelchair). I'm in my mid 20's and still have many attractive, smart, interesting friends who have never had a relationship and go on dates maybe once a year, if even. Your situation is really far more normal than you think, it's just that few people our age really want to advertise all the sex they aren't having.
posted by whoaali at 7:38 PM on July 7, 2007

Response by poster: Oh, I should have clarified, the kiss on the cheek is me being allowed to kiss their cheek. I've been kissed before, but I think the vast majority of instances have been accidental, although believe me, I try. Keep it coming it's useful to get feedback outside of my circle of friends, most of whom are the aforementioned girls, but "friend gender imbalance" is another AskMe, I suppose.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 7:42 PM on July 7, 2007

I don't know the situation with the wheelchair and how it does scare off girls. Have you asked other guys with the same condition?

Since you are still young maybe it helps you to learn how "womanizers" behave: How to Lay Girls Guide Maybe you are just a little bit "gun shy". BTF, Let's Be Friends "LBF" is a strong indicator that you have the wrong attitude towards women.

The layguide may not be your cup of tea and your problems may lie deeper. A friend of mine wrote a book about people without relationship experience (unfortunately in German): Unber├╝hrt

While I don't have this problems (thanx to the layguide ;-) ) I am aware that there are several discussion boards about this topic (in German). I would guess that there are similar discussion boards in English and that a 30min google search would give you some help.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 7:45 PM on July 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

Ok this may be the most inane/ridiculous advice ever, but have you considered joining some sort of sports team for guys in wheelchairs? The guys in Murderball certainly seemed to get plenty of girls and having a group of jock/disabled guys in your circle of friends might be a real confidence booster. It also might help you get some tips on how other disabled guys deal with dating. Just a thought.
posted by whoaali at 7:54 PM on July 7, 2007

Response by poster: Actually, I have asked a few other guys and the answers vary widely. The people who've done "best" around my age seem to have compensated by becoming hypermasculine, which I always felt foolish doing: I simply can't pull off machismo. The rest of those I spoke to were more or less in the same boat as me.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 8:03 PM on July 7, 2007

Response by poster: On preview: Yes, I have considered wheelchair sports...I've just never been very good at them, whoaali. I do have a "team benchwarmer" type trophy from early in my childhood, though.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 8:08 PM on July 7, 2007

I too think this is completely normal. So, you might not need any advice at all. But...here I go anyway...flirting is 99% body language and 1% words. Messing with this delicate balance can be off-putting to some girls (like me ten years ago), don't ask me to explain why because I can't. All I know is, if you start saying mushy stuff out loud too early in the game, you end up in friendville, the home of verbal communication. Maybe, and maybe because of the CP, you naturally use your body to communicate less and your words to communicate more? This could be a problem for flirty 20-somethings. I am sure there are workarounds, maybe you just have to consciously think about adding in a lot more body language and removing some words. Body language does not have to be machismo (yuck!), but just be present and understandable.
posted by Eringatang at 8:14 PM on July 7, 2007

grumblebee ... Would you mind sharing how the two of you met?

Nothing really magical. We met in grad school. As an undergrad, I'd had three major relationships. The first was with a girl who was my best friend for four years (I went to undergrad for eight years -- don't ask). We never actually dated or even had sex, but it was public knowledge that I was besotted with her and she didn't like me "that way."

The second was a long-distance relationship that actually was romantic -- supposedly. But once we actually had a chance to together for a week, she dumped you with a "It's not you; it's me" speech. She told me she wasn't ready to be in a serious relationship, and I shouldn't take it personally. But a few months later she was married.

The third was a woman who said she adored me, but she couldn't be physical with me in any way, because she had been sexually abused as a kid. I told her I understood and we'd take it very slowly. We did take it VERY slowly. I remember one time we actually held hands and it felt like a major breakthrough. Then she broke up with me, but assured me that, "it's not you; it's me."

I told her I'd heard that too many times, and I really wanted to know the truth. She sighed and said, "Okay, if you really want to know: I'm just not attracted to you. I'm sorry. I think of you more as a friend."

Interspersed with these relationships were the ones with countless other women: the ones that I couldn't fool myself that I had any romantic connection. They were the ones who would confide in my about their abusive boyfriends.

When I lived in the dorms, my roommate was a gay guy, and this was back before you could be openly guy. So he was closeted, but there was a rumor that one of the guys in my room was gay. I later found out that everyone assumed it was me, because I had so many female friends but no girlfriends.

I must say, I sabotaged a few potential relationships, myself. I got to the point where I just couldn't believe that a woman would ever want me as a boyfriend. So with that mindset, I interpreted things really strangely.

There was this one girl that I was really attracted to. Like so many others before her, she made it clear that she wanted to be friends but wasn't interested in me "that way." Then, about a year later -- even though I'd resigned myself to just being friends with her -- she started acting really strange around me. I finally asked her what was going on.

She said, "The other night, I really wanted to kiss you, but I was worried about what might happen if I did." You'll think this is crazy, but by this time I was SO sure I couldn't be attractive to women, that I interpreted this as, "For some freaky reason, I got this impulse to kiss you. It was just a momentary thing, and I was worried that if I gave into the impulse, I'd make you think I was actually interested in you romantically."

To make her feel more comfortable, I said, "Don't worry about it. As you know, I used to be attracted to you, but I'm over it." This was a lie. I was totally into her, but I really though this was a kind thing to say. And I'm a smart guy. Yet my self-image was so far gone by this time, I just couldn't imagine a woman actually being interested in me. Years later, she told me how devastated she was when I "rejected her."

I remember another girl, a few years after this, who I hung out with all summer. One day, we were talking about people we'd had crushes on in the past, when all of the sudden she turned to me and said, "what about you and me?" I remember her leaning in really close to me and looking into my eyes when she said this.

My brain just froze. I no longer had any model in my brain of me and a woman being romantically involved. So I literally couldn't parse what she was saying. So I just didn't answer. I just stared at her. There was this long pause. After a while, she sighed and said, "Well, I guess if anything was going to happen between us, it already would have happened."

By the time I got to grad school I had given up. I swore that I wouldn't waste my time trying to date women. Instead, I threw myself into my studies. I became a pretty accomplished fish in that small pond. In my second year, I met a girl that I really got along with. She started spending all our time together. We had tons in common. But it was platonic.

But I gradually realized I was in love with her. I was really scared. She was my best friend. I didn't want to be feeling this for her, because I didn't know how long I could keep it bottled up inside, and yet I didn't want to spoil the friendship.

She seemed devoted to me. But -- given my pattern by this time -- I figured it was as a friend only. She even dated a couple of other guys while were were friends (the torment!), but those relationships ended quickly and she always wound up hanging out with me.

One day, she asked me how I felt about her. I blurted out, "I love you." I was ready to turn it into something light: "I love you like a friend" or whatever. But she looked me right in the eyes and said, "I don't know what that means. What do you mean by, 'I love you'?"

I don't know what came over me. I don't remember planning it, but all of the sudden I was kissing her. And she was kissing me BACK!

And here I am, 13 years later!

One of the things I've learned from my wife is the intense social pressure that young girls are under. Girls judge other girls by who they date. And a girl who is judged harshly -- say for dating the school nerd -- can wind up being ostracized by her peers. This can be an even bigger problem for girls than it can be for boys, because girls are so hard wired (or cultured or whatever) to connect with each other. (Naturally, there are boys and girls who differ from this stereotype.)

My point is that it takes a really really brave girl to date a nerd or a guy in a wheelchair. Older women -- again, generally starting post 25 -- don't tend to care as much. They've found themselves and don't rely as much on what other girls think to define who they are.

By they way, in retrospect, I'm glad I was a late bloomer. I was so needy as a 20-something, I probably would have married the first girl who smiled at me. And that marriage wouldn't have lasted. By the time I got married, I was ready.
posted by grumblebee at 8:28 PM on July 7, 2007 [31 favorites]

Best answer: I've got some advice original to this thread, Strike.

Wear clothes that accentuate your certainly ripped upper body. Tailored dress shirts, snug T-shirts. Go out. You stand out in the scene already, make that a positive. Smile big and just be as charming as you can. I think I've just tapped into a "type" I didn't know I had: the handsome, suave disabled guy. The combination of setback+confidence=AWESOME as a first impression.

By "be charming," there's just one easy thing you need to understand: girls will notice you sexually automatically if they know you're noticing them. So give them non-platonic, killer, classy compliments. No anatomy. "You look so pretty in white, Ambrosia." "Wow, you're a knockout tonight, Ambrosia." (Using names is a trick I forget a lot)

They may not take the bait, but they will consider you "that way" for sure.

Also, invite new friends/dates to the amusement park! I've got a friend with CP, and grappling with the benefits (line-skipping!!) and disadvantages of it in such a setting with someone normalizes it for them, I think. I often forget he's disabled, to my momentary embarrassment!!

Lastly, have faith in yourself. Your whole self. Just remember that you've got ladies to pleasure and all you need to figure out is where they're lining up.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:14 AM on July 8, 2007 [12 favorites]

Ambrosia Voyeur, where were you when I was growing up? I would have killed for that advice. Most guys are so focussed on anatomy. Which leads to two types of guys responding in two different ways: there are the boors who say, "Nice, tits, baby." These guys sometimes "get lucky," because they can be (or come across as) confident and, well, there are always enough drunk girls in the world. But my guess is that most of these guys have trouble finding meaningful relationships.

Then there are the guys like me who don't want to offend. We want to compliment and show that we're sexual beings, but we're clueless about how to do this without seeming like the boors.

One thing I'd like to add to your "You look so pretty in white," idea. The words are just 50%. The rest is about delivery. Guys like me -- who have had some hard knocks in the dating game -- have a tendency to hedge our bets by mumbling compliments out of the side of our mouths. That screams lack-of-self-confidence and best and creepiness at worst. It's not sexy. You have to be brave, open and positive when you give a compliment.
posted by grumblebee at 6:32 AM on July 8, 2007

I didn't have any serious relationships whatsoever until I was 23. I had a lot of guy friends and I was terrific at being one of the guys but guys could never get past seeing me as a friend. I harbored crushes on a few guy friends for years. It made me feel lonely and sad, especially when I would try to bring our relationship to the next level and hear, "you're a great girl but..."

My mom had always told me to be their friend first but looking back, I don't think that was the best advice, because I was always solidly in the "friend" corner and it'd never progress beyond that.

I met my boyfriend online and right away the context was dating, not friendship. I think that helped a lot - that we both knew we were looking for a relationship, not another friend, and that context made all the difference.

Reading your posts, you sound like a funny and cool guy. I know there is a girl out there for you, who might not be the prettiest one, or the most talkative one, or the most outgoing one, but she will like you for you.
posted by sutel at 6:33 AM on July 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Well Ambrosia, that's a lovely myspace picture...and you've enchanted me with your panty-chucking, cilantro-hating, feminist theory-explicating posting history... ah, you're taken. Thanks for the advice, though....if more people had that archetype, my life would be a whole lot easier. Also, for anyone who's curious, I agree with elpapacito in principle, but find that being so upfront tends to put off many girls. I don't know how culturally specific that is. When I was having a conversation about this with an Italian girl, she suggested I travel to Europe to solve my problem, but alas, I have no money to spend on romance tourism.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 8:52 AM on July 8, 2007

Not a lot to add, except I think you should initially be looking for older or more confident women who will give you some feedback.

I echo the comment that to give compliments is as much about the strong confident delivery as it is about the honesty of the compliment. And while I see enourmous potential at your age in reading some of the books mentioned and trying some of the techniques, please, please ensure that you use them honestly, not as a manipulative game. Honesty comes across every time and is completely charming and hot. Certainly it can be a new technique for you, but if you deliver it from the heart we can tell. I had a relationship with a first year law student in a wheelchair when I was 27. He had the most incredible sense of humour , he was not your conventional nice guy. There was an edge to all his humour that was born of the fact that he never (and still hasn't) accepted the rugby-tackle at the age of 16 that put him in that chair.
But I suppose because of my additional few years I could see this for what it was. Most of the girls around were intimidated by his humour and intellect and I'm guessing the pure practicalities of making love to man in a wheelchair. My attitude was simply I find this man attractive and I'm going to see where that takes me. He's lived with the disability so he'll show me what to do. It worked. Our lives went different ways but I'm still in touch with this man and he is one of my dearest friends. Luck.
posted by Wilder at 10:31 AM on July 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

You're lucky to be living in a time where the Internet is so popular. Your story screams for a reference to "the long tail," i.e. the idea that it's no longer necessary to appeal to the tastes of the "average" person when selling something...anything. So you need to find girls who want to be with a guy like you. Maybe there are only ten thousand of them in the world, a tiny number relative to the population, but a huge number for one guy to choose from. So you have to let them find you.

How do you do this? You write a blog. You post pics of yourself, and other things, and you write about your life, and the things that are important to you. You become known as 'that cool CP blogger.' And girls will contact you, I guarantee it. Girls will contact anyone who puts himself out there and acts like he knows who he is, in any medium, at any stage in life, for any reason.
posted by bingo at 11:29 AM on July 8, 2007 [2 favorites]

My advice Strike, in adjunct with the good advice offered already, would be to focus on personal goals and further defining yourself with your accomplishments. Be too busy to feel the sting of lonliness. When you finally hook up with that someone special, you won't have any more "me" time for your own projects (nor will you probably want it). So cherish the personal time you have now, because when it's gone, it's gone.
posted by JaySunSee at 1:23 PM on July 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Answering your question, grubmblebee: backstage, schooling the techies in Magic The Gathering and picking them off like flies.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:39 PM on July 8, 2007

Strange. I was backstage, too, and I didn't see you. I must have been in the other wing.
posted by grumblebee at 2:34 PM on July 8, 2007

StrikeTheViol writes "but find that being so upfront tends to put off many girls. I don't know how culturally specific that is. When I was having a conversation about this with an Italian girl, she suggested I travel to Europe to solve my problem, but alas, I have no money to spend on romance tourism."

Eh :) Sometime it is cultural , for instance if you went courting Afghan woman behind their burkas (poor girls) you probably wouldn't be considered polite if you talked to them too openly..or violated some kind of social custom. Yet generally, no matter the location, being upfront can be easily misinterpreted as being confrontational , but it really depends on the person you are interacting with.

In my experience you really have to figure out the person you are interacting with..pay attention, LOT of attention..how does a person react to your simply saying "Hi It's me, nice to meet you ! " ...this simple approach is often discounted as a given, a patterned response is expected like " Hi I am Joe, what's up" ? ...yet when both person are slightly anxious it can easily become a mess of misinterpreation and reinforcement of anxiety....ironically, the more one thinks about fixing up anxiety by not being anxious, the more you become :)

Similarly, when meeting girls, I'd recommend you to NOT act like you really were trying NOT to look like you are anxious to meet girl...aka don't tell yourself "ok wow I like her , hot girl ! wow...mmmhh...I feel like she is sooo beautiful..oh no i don't want to fuck up" ......it's not about saying yourself "ok eaaasy breathe relax" ...that's already being anxious...it's about literally, easily, naturally meeting up with people ...being just naturally, simply glad about meeting somebody and getting to know them.

Register your own sensations, your fears and insecurities..get to know them, little by little you must wrestle them and understand their nature. Sometimes it easy, sometime it takes years, but in all case it is a good idea to get to know yourself better.
posted by elpapacito at 5:23 PM on July 8, 2007

I just stumbled on this website, which is a non-profit group in the UK that helps people with disabilities seek intimacy. It might be worthwhile to contact them and ask if there are any similar resources in your neck of the woods. In any event, their success stories page might be a good read. They also have sections with informational leaflets and practical suggestions.
posted by Skwirl at 11:29 PM on July 9, 2007

it sounds like you're wiser and more attuned to the facts of life then your immediate peer group. You're not out of their league, they're out of yours.

I had this problem. People my age just didnt understand my motivations. It gets easier as you get older as you're more in range of people with a similar wisdom and more appreciative of the person.
posted by browolf at 6:17 AM on October 27, 2007

listening to Loveline last night, I heard Dr. Drew tell a caller with your similar problem (minus the disability) that he just needs to be more assertive and let girls/women know he's interested upfront, not 4 months later when you've crossed over into Friendville. there's no going back once you're in the "friend" category.
posted by hulahulagirl at 6:33 PM on February 19, 2008

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