Ask Dr. Nerdlove by Harris O'Malley

Where Do I Find The People I Want To Date?

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m a huge fan of your work and I feel like you’ve really helped me advance as far as dating goes. Using your advice I started online dating (using OkCupid) a few years ago and I found out that there are women out there that find me desirable, which I found to be amazing because I’m not conventionally attractive in the slightest (I’m 5’7, Babyfaced, and slightly chubby). I’ve gotten a lot of likes, had messages responded to, had several first dates, and last year even had a girl ask to kiss me. Sadly that same girl rejected me after three dates because she suddenly lost interest (she said it was because she loses interest in relationships really quickly and that that was why she hadn’t had relationships before, I don’t really believe that and think she was just letting me down easy but, whatever).

The problem is it seems like the online dating environment is evolving in such a way that greatly disadvantages guys like me. Apps like Tinder have long since overtaken OkCupid in popularity and to be successful on that app you absolutely have to be strongly conventionally attractive or you won’t get anyone to swipe right. You don’t get to make the first move and your profile is basically meaningless which unfortunately means I can’t make up for my appearance with a thoughtful first message or a well-written profile. And of course OkCupid is changing itself to be more like Tinder: your messages are basically invisible unless you both like each other, you can’t see who’s visited your profile, and you can only see who likes you if you buy a subscription. I’m terribly afraid that people like me or going to be forced out of online dating and that I’ll lose the only way I have to find a relationship. Of course, the obvious solution would be to try and get dates in real life, but there a couple of problems with that. For one, trying to hit up strangers just sounds wrong, I can’t think of anything that would scream “I’m a Creep and Probably a Rapist” more than trawling through town hitting up random women who look single. And the second issue is… well…

I don’t have any friends. There, I said it. It’s not like I’m not socially functional, I have a ton of acquaintances, usually from places I’ve worked, who I’ve joked with, helped out, and had long conversations with. Hell, there are coworkers who’ve basically told me their life story in the time I’ve known them. I’ve also taken steps to make friends in the past: I’ve gone to Meetups, started two Meetup groups of my own, even scheduled a hang out with a coworker once. But all of these fell through due schedule conflicts, groups dying out, and personal conflicts (the coworker I hung out with has recently broken up with his long-time girlfriend and isn’t currently in the mood to hang out).

But honestly, I don’t really feel the need or desire for friends anymore. Most of my hobbies are solo pursuits: playing single player video games, reading, relaxed hiking, and biking, watching anime and youtube videos, collecting albums from obscure and forgotten bands, etc. I play guitar sometimes but I’m nowhere good enough to play in a band (if I could even find anybody in town with similar musical tastes). I have a good relationship with my family who I currently live with (I’m not a loser, I have a fulltime job and I’m getting my Masters in Library Science; I’m just staying to save money till I graduate) and thanks to my psychiatrist I have meds to deal with my anxiety issues. Besides, having someone to occasionally hang out with if I’m not too busy, I want physical affection (no, not just sex, but hugging, kissing, cuddling, etc.) and someone who sees me as something special, someone who finds me to be an attractive person instead someone cool enough to watch youtube videos with for a couple hours.

But of course, the only way for me to date if online dating stops being an option would be to meet people through friends. I don’t think it a good idea to make “friends” just so I could meet women, that would be unfair to my “friends” and probably wouldn’t work anyway. Besides, making friends takes a long time, several years probably, and as someone who’s almost 26 and never had a girlfriend, I’m not sure I want to wait till I’m deep in my 30s before I can even attempt to date, especially since my chances will have dropped dramatically by then. So I guess my question is, what should I do? Can I adapt to new online dating environment? Do I just need to suck it up and ask strangers out in real life? Do I have to spend the next several years making friends and hope I eventually meet a girl?

Thank you,

Loner Boy

DEAR LONER BOY: Here’s the thing, LB: your biggest problem seems to be that you don’t want to actually put in the effort. I’m not gonna lie, you’re coming off with an attitude of “we’ve tried nothing and now we’re all out of ideas.”

Let’s start with online dating. You’re frustrated. I get it. Online dating can frequently be frustrating because, honestly, a lot of dating sites are set up in ways that make it hard for folks to actually connect. A lot of the recent trends in dating apps and sites have been attempts to mitigate that frustration and make it a more enjoyable – or at least teeth-grindingly annoying – experience. So while I think OKCupid’s recent changes aren’t great, the double opt-in system does help cut down on a lot of bulls

t by trying to get the signal-to-noise ratio under control. And you aren’t wrong in that Tinder is more visually oriented… but that doesn’t mean that you’re just SOL. To start with, you can start by taking better photos. Getting more comfortable with the camera, knowing how to find your angles and how to show yourself off to your best effect all go a long way towards transforming your photos from “nice” to “niiiiiiice”.

But at the same time, you don’t need to be on Tinder. Different dating apps have different cultures and different approaches to how to connect people. Bumble, for example, focuses on having women take the initiative and make the first move. Hinge, on the other hand, focuses on messaging and lets users like and comment on things from people’s profiles in order to get the conversation started.

Or… you could do what most people do and meet potential dates out in your day to day life. Because, straight talk my dude: even in 2018, most people don’t meet their partners on dating apps. Most people tend to meet their partners either through activities… or through friends. Y’know. The thing you just said you don’t want to do.

But part of your problem is that you’re treating finding dates as the end-goal of making friends, as opposed to a pleasant side effect of having a robust social life. It’s not that you’re going around just trying to make connections so that you can go hit on every woman they know – that is a great way to fire up the Creeper Signal – it’s that you’re meeting people who you enjoy spending time with, who give you a strong emotional support system and and who enrich your life. And let’s be real here: not having many – or any – friends hurts you on multiple levels. There’s an honest-to-God loneliness epidemic going on right now and it’s literally killing people. Having few or no friends is worse for your health than smoking.

And to be honest: your hobbies are solo by default, not by definition. There’s nothing that says you can’t go riding bikes or relaxed hikes with others; hell, you can probably find a dozen Meetups specifically about going on leisurely strolls or bike rides. Plenty of folks like going hunting for records or hanging out and watching anime. These are all things you could do with friends, should you so choose.

You also have a weird vision of how the whole “friendship” process works. The idea that you need to know somebody for years before you’re friends – and before they may introduce you to other friends of theirs – is another one of those times where I’m left wondering where you got that idea because it sure as hell isn’t in practice. Yes, friendships develop over time and it takes time to go from “acquaintance” to “friend”… but the idea that this is a multi-year process that must be completed before any other friendship benefits can be accrued makes me suspect that you’ve taken a lot of the wrong conclusions from think-pieces about friendship.

To be fair, making friends does get harder once you’re out of college. But “harder” isn’t the same thing as impossible. It just means that, like most things in life, you’re going to have to go out and make an effort. You’re going to have to find folks who you’d want to hang out with, make an effort to get to know them, connect with them and foster and maintain that burgeoning friendship. That’s gonna take time and effort.

Rather like dating, actually.

Now hey, maybe you’re being real with me when you say that you don’t really want or need friends. Maybe you’re actually cool rolling solo, rather than just being resigned to it or feeling like you’ve given up. If that’s the case then hey, awesome. You do you. But then you’re back to square one: where are you going to find someone to date? Because honestly, my dude, you’re not going to find a girlfriend without putting in the effort. If you don’t want to use online dating sites, then that’s your call. Lots of folks don’t like ’em and that’s totally legitimate. But if that’s the case, then you are going to have to be proactive about meeting people. That may mean making cold approaches at bars or clubs. It may mean meeting people via activities you enjoy. Or it may mean friends introducing you to someone that they think you’d hit it off with.

But whether you choose any one approach or a mixture of them, you’re going to have to get proactive about it. Because women aren’t going to just drop into your lap out of the clear blue sky and the love of your life isn’t going to randomly slam into you while she’s running late to class, no matter what anime has taught you.

Good luck.

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I was hoping that you could help me with some toxic emotions I’m feeling.

One of my friends recently started dating a friend. We had had some casual hook ups before but had decided to pull back from hooking up to just close friends. She starts dating another guy and I get these really toxic emotions of jealousy and feeling betrayed. I feel like I’ve been replaced as a friend (she doesn’t talk to me as much or as intimately as before) and after I’ve hung out as a group with them, I get some negative emotions after seeing them interact. I know these emotions aren’t right and I’m happy for her to be happy and with someone that makes her happy; is there any you have to help me sort out those negative emotions?

Third Wheel

DEAR THIRD WHEEL: The easiest way to work through jealousy is to figure out just what it is that’s bothering you. A lot of jealousy is based on fear, and the fear of loss in particular. In this case, I suspect that the underlying fear is that you’re being pushed out. Your friend’s dating someone new and now your friendship doesn’t feel as close as it used to. This relationship, which was incredibly important to you, seems to have been put on the backburner while she’s off with this new guy. Now you’re wondering: was any of this real? Were you really friends, or were you her emotional crutch, someone who was just there to provide intimacy and companionship until the “real” thing came around?

It’s an entirely understandable feeling. But at the same time… it’s not an entirely logical one. It’s easy to jump to conclusions when feelings are involved, but it’s worth taking a moment to stop and think about things. Your friend just started dating someone new. This means that she’s in the middle of the honeymoon period with her new beau. Right now her brain’s getting flooded with oxytocin and dopamine that’s all going straight to the pleasure centers of her brain. She is, quite literally, getting high from his presence, just like we all do during those initial giddy months with someone new. It’s not surprising that she’s letting her other relationships slide a little; this tends to happen when folks get twitterpated over a new relationship.

But that doesn’t automatically mean that she’s deprioritizing you or isn’t as close with you. It just means that, like everyone in the throes of a new partner, she’s caught in her own little world and it’s rapidly running out of oxygen. So for right now, if you want to keep this friendship going, then you need to make the effort and reach out. Try to make a point of getting together to hang out. Hit her up and say “Hey, it feels like we haven’t hung out in forever, we should go do $THING and catch up.” Not only does this remind her that she’s been neglecting her friends – just a little – but it also sets the tone: you want to reconnect and maintain that closeness you’d had before. With luck, the two of you can schedule some hang time and rekindle some of the closeness and intimacy you had.

I suspect that once you don’t feel like your friend is being taken away from you, you won’t be feeling as possessive, angry or jealous when you see her and the new guy together. He won’t be a threat to your friendship; he’ll be the guy who’s making your friend happy.

Good luck.

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