DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m a man in his 20s, has had no sexual experience, & I’m autistic, which I suspect may be a cause of my current predicament.
I encountered a young woman I really like earlier this year & spent the summer getting to know her. I knew her long ago, but we spent a lot of time apart afterwards, not sure if that makes a difference. By early August, she & I started to develop chemistry, & it increased for about two weeks, but before I could tell her we should date, she started to cool down towards me over the course of the last week, & I’m afraid if I ask now she’ll say no.
Honestly the only reasons I took so long was because I never wanted to know a little bit more about her first, since over summer we mostly talked interests & didn’t get into deep stuff that often, & we gamed as much or more than talked. I also don’t know her real name. I was afraid she’d reject me on grounds of mutual ignorance, how we didn’t know everything about each other. I also didn’t realize how intensive our chemistry was until about a week ago, when she was starting to cool down. Our chemistry was not that hot to begin with, but it has occurred to me that she’s super-introverted.
I don’t care what she looks like as long as she’s a she, but it turns out she was just protecting her family. It had since occurred to me that my parents didn’t know everything about each other when they first started dating, & it has since occurred to me that it’s better to jump the gun too soon than too late, & it has since occurred to me that some women will pick men based on how they act than who they are.
Knowing this, I’m almost ready to ask, but what I want to know is, did I take too long, & if I didn’t, how do I know when it’s time? She’s warming up again, but not quite at her prior scale, though I suppose I shouldn’t expect overnight results.
DEAR MYSTERIOUS ROMANCE: OK, MR, I feel the need to point out that you kinda buried the lede here. See, the important thing in your letter isn’t whether or not she’s cooling off or how hot your chemistry was for two weeks. It’s that you don’t know her real name, what she looks like.
All of that? Kinda important, chief.
Here’s the thing: you don’t actually know anything about her. Not the things that matter. You know you have shared interests and surface commonalities but that’s pretty much it. And while those mutual interests are great for establishing a connection and a starting point for getting to know someone, they’re not the only thing that you need for a real connection. There are a host of deeper, more meaningful things you need for a relationship to work: shared values and goals, compatible lifestyles, and so on. You don’t know about any of those. Hell, you don’t even know her real name, my dude. I know your parents didn’t know everything about each other at first, but I can all but guarantee you that they knew things like, names, ages, what they looked like…
And all of that’s before we even get to the fact that not only have you never seen her before, but you haven’t met her in person. And while I know plenty of folks in relationships that started online — by which I mean through MMOs and forums, not dating apps — I know far, far more relationships that were hot and heavy until they actually met in person. Because here’s a truth about being human: we’re designed for face to face interaction. There are massive volumes of data that dictate whether or not we’re attracted to somebody, information that we pick up on without being aware of it. This ranges from not just their face or their body, but their body language, the timbre and pitch of their voice, how they smell, even just seeing them interact with other people. That’s all information that you can’t get without actually being in their physical presence. As the sage once said, love isn’t brains, children, it’s blood screaming to work its will. You may love someone for their mind, but you want them for their ass.
But again: that’s all secondary to the fact that you literally know nothing about her.
There’s also the fact that, well, you seem a little contradictory in terms of the chemistry you two supposedly had. On the one hand, you bring up that the chemistry had been increasing and getting intense, but then you say it wasn’t that hot to begin with. That kinda makes it sound like things weren’t really that intense, or only in comparison to start with. That makes me think that you may be rounding things up a lot, to the point of assuming things that aren’t actually there. That’s not great under the best of circumstances, and doubly so when — again — you don’t know the first thing about this person.
Now as a general rule of thumb: I’m a believer in “ask someone on a date when you know you want to go on a date with them.” In my bad old days, I spent far, far too much time waiting and hemming and hawwing and looking for either the perfect moment or the sign that I was guaranteed a “yes” if I asked. As a result: I didn’t go on many dates and spent a lot MORE time watching other folks go on dates with people I was interested in. Asking early on, when we’d had some good conversations, there was chemistry and a good connection meant that I got my answer early. Either she wasn’t interested, in which case, well, that sucks, but I could move on, or she was interested, in which case hey, I had a date.
However — and I can’t stress this enough — I knew their real names and what they looked like.
I get that you’ve got a crush on this person, MR, but the person you’ve got a crush on is mostly in your head. You don’t know who the person on the other end of that connection actually is. Not in the most important, vital ways. Pursuing this is only going to lead to heartache and disappointment. I think your best option is to let this go, and find someone who you actually can get to know.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org