Ask Dr. Nerdlove by Harris O'Malley

Why Does She Only Like Me When She’s Drunk?

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m a freshman in college with little dating experience, and I could use some advice on a situation I don’t know how to read.

So a little while back I met this girl at a team party (school sports) and it was one of those instant attraction types of things; for whatever reason I was just really into her right off the bat. Nothing happened that night, we just talked and flirted a bit (didn’t get a number, damn.) but I enjoyed myself. This was right before winter break so there was no real opportunity to keep up emotional momentum and I filed her away into the “nice girl, glad I met her” category. 

Anyways, the first time I saw her after break was at another team event. This time a day trip where we just all had some fun times and chilled out. Again, we flirted and got on well, I was really enjoying myself. After the trip some of us met up at a party later in the evening and there we shared a brief but sweet make-out session. I got her number and things were going great, but after this point that she got considerably more difficult to read.

I texted her the next morning and she seemed kinda cold and stand-offish. I didn’t really try to milk it and figured she had enjoyed last night but didn’t want anything else. That was that.

A week or so later I got a text asking me to go out to the club (I’m Canadian, so drinking age is lower) with her and a few of her girlfriends, unfortunately I wasn’t able to go but made sure to mention that I’d love to get together some other time. Anyways, I texted her the next morning asking her how the night was etc. and got roughly the same treatment as before; polite indifference. Again, I dropped it, figured she was a few drinks deep and wanted some company and that it wasn’t anything serious. The next few times I saw her we were friendly and flirted a little, but nothing to really change my feeling that she just wanted to be friends. 

Anyways, last weekend we had another team party and she was all over me. I had her friends and mine telling me to go for it and what-not but ultimately didn’t do anything. She was wasted by the end of the night and it was hardly fair to her especially given my doubts about how she feels about me in the first place. I didn’t get to talk to her after that, but I can’t help but think it would’ve been the same story.

You’ve said a few times that alcohol doesn’t create feelings, it just lowers inhibitions and I guess I’m wondering if that’s what’s happening here. I figure either I’m being absolutely brain-dead and should just ask her out, or I should run the other way given that I’d like a relationship and she doesn’t seem all that interested when she’s sober. 

Send help? 

Sincerely, 

Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?

DEAR WHY’D YOU ONLY CALL ME WHEN YOU’RE HIGH: First of all: you made the right call to not make a move while she was drunk. She was at the point of being unable to give consent, so the only choice to make is to let her get home and nurse her hangover in the morning. Regardless of how she actually feels about you, hooking up with her in that state would have been assault at best.

Now, as for what’s going on?

Well, asking you to go to the club with her could just be she was looking for some more friends to hang out with. Or she could have been inviting you down because she wanted to hook you up with one of her girlfriends. Or (and this is strictly based on the way you report her behavior) she was looking to hook up and kind of felt awkward about it the next day when you didn’t show. She put herself out there – kinda – and now is feeling a little weird about it.

The thing is: I don’t think she’s that into you. Not that she dislikes you, mind, but simply that she’s not really interested in dating… but she’s feeling lonely and/or horny, she’d be down for a quick bootie call. People do this all the time; there may be someone we’re casually friends with (or acquaintances, or what-have-you) who we’re not really interested in dating, but we know they’re into us and hey, they’re not bad looking, a good kisser… and on those nights when we’re feeling like we need some action, we think “hey, maybe So-and-So would be down for it.” And in the cold light of day the next day we think “Well, hell, that was awkward.” Now you’ve gotta get them out without letting them think that this is going to be a thing and… yeah, better to just not say anything and hope the other person doesn’t bring it up.

This, I suspect, is why she blows hot and cold. She knows you like her. She likes you too, at least a little. However she believes that you’re interested in something she’s just not offering (in this case, a relationship) and doesn’t want to give you false hope or string you along. But there’re times when there’s an itch to be scratched and hey, it wouldn’t hurt to see if you’re willing to come by.

What should you do? It sounds to me like you’re not someone who’s down for casual sex or a friends-with-benefits relationship. Unfortunately, that seems to be all that she’s offering.

However, it also sounds like these apparent mood-swings are getting under your skin, and who could blame you; the whole thing feels like a constant game of “go away a little closer”. So I would suggest you just talk to her. Find some time to get together with her and just lay it all out there: here’s how you’re feeling, here’s why you’re confused, and you’d really like to know just what’s going on.

Don’t be accusatory or put her on the defensive, just explain how you feel and that you’d like to understand. If she’s not interested in dating you and you’re not down for being an “in case of bootie emergency break glass” kind of friend, then ask her to please stop because that’s not what you’re down for and it’s confusing and frustrating. But if she is open to actually going on a proper date, you’d love to take her out and see how it goes.

And if you and I are completely wrong about what she’s doing… well, at least now there’s a chance to clear it all up and you can both laugh over the crazy miscommunications and part as friends.

Good luck!

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I just found your site and and eagerly reading and devouring everything I can. 

My situation is there. There is someone at my work I would really like to ask out. Let us call her Miss X. Now my problem is I have a stutter that is at its worst when I am nervous and I feel like the environment is not relaxed. I am much better one on one, but at my work often this is just not possible. I feel I am already at a disadvantage when I engage anyone. 

Now regardless of whether or not Miss X and I ever go out, I feel asking a person out is a weak point. I have relationships in the past, one even until last year. But many of these were friendships that grew into relationships. Simply going up to a woman, talking to her, and asking her out is something I probably have never done successfully. Therefore I want to improve. 

My strengths are there. I have many friends, I know a lot of women in fact. I can be funny and intelligent in abundance. On my terms however. However I feel like I am entering a boxing ring with one hand tied behind my back when I open my mouth. I begin to have trouble and my confidence collapses.

Any advice would be very helpful and thank you for all the work you have done.

Mister E

DEAR MISTER E: Buddy, I feel you. Approach anxiety is a rat bastard in and of itself. When you’re dealing with a stress-amplified speech impediment, I can totally understand why you’d be hesitant to go up to your Miss X and ask her out.

So here’s something you can use to get your anxiety under control: you’re environment may not be relaxing, but you can force you to relax and calm down.

First of all: the body controls the brain. Our brain reacts to physical stimuli, and our emotions tend to spring from how we feel physically as much as to whatever’s going on in our heads. By forcing yourself to relax, you’re slowing your heart-rate down, easing the adrenaline out of your system and getting your muscles to quit tensing up in misplaced fight-or-flight prep.

The easiest and quickest way to do this is to take a minute – a literal minute, counting down from 60 to zero in your head – and control your breathing. Breathe in through your nose for a count of 8, hold it for a count of 8, breathe out for a count of 10. This keeps you from hyperventilating – one of the key symptoms of anxiety and nervousness – floods your blood with oxygen and causes your heart rate to slow down. You literally can’t panic when you’re keeping your heart rate low.

Trust me, I do this every time we hit turbulence when I fly. 

Taking that minute gives you a better sense of being in control, rather than having to react instantaneously.  This will help keep you relaxed and feeling like everything’s fine.

Now, when you talk to her, you need to recognize that this isn’t a battle between you two. You’re not in the boxing ring and she’s not your opponent. She doesn’t need you to batter down her defenses in order to get her interested in you, and not every conversation is a duel. Just slow your roll and talk to her like a person. You don’t have to be Mr. Lightning Wit at first, dropping bon mots like the Atlanta Falcons dropping passes, just be calm and let your personality come through. If you’re worried about your stutter, take a second to consider your reply; you’ll look thoughtful and confident rather than being an impulsive motormouth.

Don’t get hung up on “must get her to like me” or “need to make her laugh before I ask her out”; your goal, your only goal, is to talk to her and have a good conversation. When you disconnect the outcome (getting a date) from the process  (talking to her), it’s much easier to just be in the moment and not worrying that you need to be absolutely perfect or that everything is riding on this one conversation and if it doesn’t go right, she’ll never talk to you again. That’s how you psych yourself out and end up choking. Just talk with her.

Now, if you want to seed the possibility of a date without giving yourself the stress of “ok, gonna ask her out… NOW!”, talk about something cool coming up that you’re looking forward to – a museum, a band, a cool bar, something that you like that you’re excited about doing. Don’t ask her out, just talk about it with her, then let the subject change. Then later, when when you’ve hit a mutual emotional high-point or the conversation is beginning to wind down, say “hey, you know what? You’d probably like $COOL_THING, and I’d love for you to come with me.”  It’s low-stakes and low pressure. If she’s down: awesome! You’ve got a date. If not, then “hey, no problem. So did you hear about…” No muss, no fuss, no stress.

And one last tip: if talking in person stresses you out… there’s always texting or instant messaging. It’s instant one-on-one communication, even if you’re in a room full of people.

Good luck.

Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, doc@doctornerdlove.com)