Ask Dr. Nerdlove by Harris O'Malley

Why Do Men Only Like Me As A Friend?

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: Hi Dr. NerdLove,

I know I’m young (in my early 20’s) but I seem to be undateable  and I want to know what I’m doing wrong. My last relationship was 5 yrs ago & he was my best friend beforehand. But now? I will get the odd guy telling me I’m hot, but then also telling me I’m not “his type”, which is fine ‘cuz they’re normally perverts anyways. No one seems interested in me and I want to know why.

I have guy friends, in fact I find it easier to hang out with the dudes than to deal with female drama. It’s taken some therapy but I’m at the point where I love myself both mentally & physically. I’m a strong independent woman who has an extremely big heart and put others ahead of myself to my own detriment (I’m working on that).

I have no problem asking guys out but often get turned down even though we may have been flirting for months. This makes me emotional & feel unlovable.

I am very witty/sarcastic and I am not afraid to show my weirdness in most settings, which makes me think that’s what guys don’t like…

The last guy I asked out wasn’t interested but totally used me for physical attention. He liked a mutual friend of ours. I asked what was so great about her & he said “she was sweet & caring”. But the thing is is she isn’t, she’s very selfish but can put on a show. The worst part is when they started dating, she didn’t really like him but liked the attention. Meanwhile, when he came over I’d make him a meal I know he’ll enjoy, including his favorite pie… which I’d go to 4-5 different stores looking for the special ingredients. We’d banter, talk openly/honestly & cuddle. Yet I wasn’t good enough.

I would say immaturity on his part but ALL guys seem to be that way with me.

What am I doing wrong?

Lost and Lonely

DEAR LOST AND LONELY: The problem with letters like this is that there’s really no way to diagnose things without following you around for days or weeks to observe like I’m David Attenborough. And even then, that may not give a conclusive answer. I’ve had times where I’ve done precisely that: gone out with friends to observe them and see what they might be doing wrong… and the answer was “nothing”. It’s an incredibly frustrating situation because sometimes the issue has nothing to do with you and everything to do with circumstance. It could be that you’re dealing with immature guys, it could be that you’re trying to date people who simply aren’t your “tribe”, as it were, or that you’re simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and you might do better in a completely different environment.

With that having been said, one thing you mention that leaps out at me is this:

“I have guy friends, in fact I find it easier to hang out with the dudes than to deal with female drama.”

I see this surprisingly often in a lot of women your age — a sort of “I’m not like those other girls” rejection of feminine behavior or presentation as somehow lesser. It’s something that crops up a lot in pop culture, from songs to movies to TV shows… and I think that could be part of the issue. Not that there’s something wrong with having a more masculine presentation or interests, but in the “but ewww that girly shit” attitude. It creates this artificial divide that ends up making other women “the enemy” when they don’t need to be, and it can make it harder for you to find both friends and valuable sources of support and information.

I suspect part of the issue you’re having right now is that the guys you’ve been hanging with don’t see you as a potential partner; they see you as a bro. What they’re looking for in a partner is someone who’s a little more traditionally femme — or at least, who’s more performatively feminine. Which, hey, cool that’s what they’re into… but that’s not what you are offering. And I think your seeing “female drama” as something to avoid or be above is keeping you from recognizing that. You see what you have to offer as being so much better and you’re getting frustrated that guys don’t see that… which isn’t what’s happening here.

The problem you’re having is that these guys enjoy your company, they enjoy flirting and they like that you’re willing to do things for them… but that doesn’t mean they want to date you. Plenty of folks like to flirt for fun, they appreciate someone being attracted to them and they certainly like having friends who’ll make their favorite dessert. But that doesn’t translate into “they’ll also be attracted to you”.

It’s not that what those women offer is worth less than what you have to offer or that you’re not good enough, it’s just that she represents what those guys want. As Dita Von Teese is fond of saying: you can be the sweetest, juiciest peach in the world, but some folks just don’t like peaches.

Now that doesn’t mean that the answer is to start acting entirely differently and being more feminine in your presentation and behavior. I think the answer is learning to recognize when that’s what guys are looking for in a potential partner, so that you don’t waste your time pining for dudes who simply don’t want you. There’re guys who prefer women who’re more gender non-conforming in behavior and who act more like “one of the guys”; the problem is that you don’t seem to be trying to date them. Instead, you’re spending a lot of time and effort on guys who may like that you’re into them and what you’ll do for them… but that’s as far as it goes. And honestly, there’s no profit to trying to convince them to give you a chance. The amount of energy you’re putting in will never be commensurate with the results.

I think it’d be a good idea to work on not seeing being more traditionally femme as bad or lesser, if only because it means you’ll have a larger pool of friends and support to draw from. But I also think that if you’re happy with who you are, then you need to look for guys who are looking for that, instead of lamenting the dudes who just don’t want peaches.

Good luck.

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