DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I have a question that may pertain to broader issues of gender roles.
So I have a feeling that girls don’t like me because I’m too accommodating, which is seen as a “girly” thing. Basically I apologize for things too often. People seem to very aware that women are raised to apologize for things and not step on any toes, but it seems like I’m super screwed because people expect me to fall into the “man role” at all times and just be a dick and don’t worry about anything.
Yes, women are taught to be passive, but as a black kid raised in a white community, you have to be just as careful, or else people will blame you for everything. As a kid I was taught to make sure never to anger any teachers, or play with white girls, because they’re too fragile, or do anything except color in between the lines, and now I’ve lost the “manliness” that I was supposed to grow up with.
People seem to expect that a black man is going to just plow through life crotch first, but that’s not me. What exactly can I do? Just act more like a man? Girls seem to think I’m too “innocent” to date. Not that I’ve had much data to collect, only dated 3 girls across all four years of college, but none were interested to stay longer than a month, or have sex. I’m stuck between fighting bulls—t stereotypes and getting what I want.
Big Old Teddy Bear
DEAR BIG OLD TEDDY BEAR: I’m going to preface this by saying that I’m not coming at this from the same place you are. I’m a hetero, cis-gendered white guy. I’m not going to have to deal with a lot of the issues that you would as a black man, especially a black man in a white community. So it’s entirely understandable that you’ve had to grow up being extra deferential and incredibly aware of the possibility of people misconstruing otherwise innocent actions because of your race.
That having been said: there’s a difference between being “girly” (by which you seem to mean passive) and being a push-over, BOTB, which is likely how you’re coming across. This has nothing to do with how “manly” you are and everything to do with the fact that nobody likes a doormat.
But at the same time, you seem to be equating being a man and masculinity with acting like an a—-hole, and you’re setting yourself up with a false dichotomy. You’re not stuck between being an overly submissive wuss and a human bulldozer who plows over everybody else because screw ’em; you have far more choices about who you are and how you want to express yourself. The “man role” isn’t being raucous and pushy and an all around a—-hat, it’s about being a grown-ass adult who actually knows how to interact with society. Sometimes that means being willing to give and to go along to get along. Other times that means being straightforward about what you want without feeling as though you need to apologize for wanting it. Politeness isn’t weakness and being an entitled douchebag isn’t strength.
The problem you’re having with women is that you’re too “nice”. Not in the Nice Guy sense but in the sense that you’re passive and overly “sweet”; these aren’t going to be turn-ons to most people. Odds are that you don’t come across as someone sexual – you give the “friend” vibe, not the “lover” vibe and that’s why you come across “too innocent”. You have to be wiling to own the fact that you want to have sex and that it’s ok for you to want sex. The key is in how you express it. You can flirt and tease sexually without coming across as pushy, rude or boorish. You have to be willing to be more assertive and actually go for what you want instead of waiting for someone to meet you more than half-way.
This is why I like the way John Barrowman portrays Captain Jack Harkness in Torchwood or Doctor Who; he’s aggressive without being pushy, sexual without being crass and above all else, respectful. You know exactly where you stand with Jack – he wants to bang and he wants to bang often… but at the same time, he doesn’t come off like the obnoxious guy in the club grinding up on any woman who holds still for longer than a few moments.
Take some time to get comfortable with being more assertive, especially with women you’re interested in. Learn how to express your interest and be up front about what you’re looking for. Learn how to integrate it with who you are, not some bulls—t marketed version of manhood, and you’ll find that you’ll have far fewer problems with women thinking you’re “too innocent” to date… but without having to pretend you’re somebody else entirely.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I met Mr. Y around 5 years ago at a cosplay photo shoot gathering at a convention. We were both cosplayers. At first we only knew each other in a distant overlapping social circle way, but as we continued to meet up at the same cons over the years we discovered our interests were extremely similar (anime/sci-fi, cosplay, cons, geekdom all around) and that we have fun when we hang out together. Around 2 years ago we began talking more (online; we live far apart) and became very good friends.
I was extremely happy to have made such a great friend. And after I declared that we shared a great friendship, he asked me out in what seemed (to me) to be out of the blue. I turned him down gently citing my shock over not realizing he saw me as potential girlfriend, and over the fact I didn’t think of him as a potential boyfriend at the time. After that we went back to being friends without much of a hitch (at least on my end).
Almost a year after the confession, I did start to think of him as a potential boyfriend, and we got together. We were both really happy.
Only, now, the problem is he’s said “I love you” to me numerous times and started hinting things about the future. The behavior is alarming since we are both in our late twenties and I have had very minimal dating and sexual experience, whereas he has had none at all. When we were just friends he never struck me as a very romantic individual, but now it seems like a floodgate has opened.
I’m afraid that, to him, it’s been 5 years with more than 1 year of being interested in me romantically, whereas for me it’s been barely been 2 months of thinking of him romantically.
I still want to pursue something with Mr. Y, but I don’t like how attached he’s acting towards me already. He’ll say things such as; if you die, I follow you. Also, that I’m the only one for him. He’s told me that he was set on being ‘Forever Alone’ before I agreed to date him. It’s frustrating because I do really care about and love Mr. Y, but I’m not in love with him yet. And the constant proclamations of ‘together forever’ are souring the happiness I had when we first got together in a romantic sense.
How do I get the friend I fell for back? Because I’m not sure I like my new boyfriend.
DEAR Mrs. X: Here’s what’s going on: Mr. Y has had a nasty case of Oneitis over you for years. For a very long time, you’ve been his mythical One, the person who’s absolutely perfect for him. And to be perfectly blunt, actually managing to get into a relationship – of sorts – with you has only made things worse.
Y’see, actually getting what you want when you’ve got Oneitis is often the worst thing that could happen to somebody; because they’ve built up this fantasy relationship in their heads, they almost never know how to handle the real thing and inevitably come on way too strong. The only real treatment for Oneitis is time, maturity, and experience. Quite frankly, it doesn’t sound like Mr. Y has had any of the above. Plus, considering that the two of you have been together for about two months (I think; the way you’ve laid things out in your letter are a little confusing)… well, let’s be real here, not only are his declarations of eternal love premature, but they’re honestly kinda creepy.
I’m willing to give him a little slack here – he’s had no experience in relationships at all, so he hasn’t had to to deal with the realities of a relationship instead of the fantasies he’s built up in his head – but the fact of the matter is that his behavior is more than a little juvenile. You’re right: you’ve basically opened up the dam and he’s letting all these pent-up feelings come pouring out because he’s never gone through the learning experiences that most of us had much earlier that tell us that real relationships aren’t like in Moulin Rouge.
Of course, it doesn’t help that he’s apparently based his views of how relationships work on movies and anime; he’s being so overly demonstrative because he’s hoping that the depth and intensity of his feelings is going to cement your newfound attraction and turn it into a LOVE THAT WILL LAST THE AGES!!!!111!!@ONE
If he wants to make things work, he’s going to have to do some maturing very goddamn fast because quite frankly, he’s already pushing you away.
So what you need to do is use your words. You need to tell Mr. Y that the way he’s behaving is over the top and more than a little upsetting. Be specific; point out that his behavior has been upsetting you and remind him that part of what attracted you to him in the first place was the way he was before you were dating. By acting like a lovesick puppy, he’s actually making it difficult for you to enjoy being in the relationship with him at all. He’s putting an insane amount of pressure on you as both a friend and as a new relationship . Tell him you understand that he’s inexperienced at this, but he needs to slow his roll and dial everything way the hell back. You’ve been together for less than two months and you don’t even live in the same state; not only is his behavior inappropriate for the current stage of your relationship but if he were with anyone else he’d be out on his ass right now. He’s going to have to learn to act like a grown-ass man and if he can’t, it’s going to ruin things and you’re not going to actually be able to be in a relationship with him.
Hopefully he’ll take the hint and quit acting like he’s 16. If not… well, sometimes the only way he’s going to learn is to get his butt dumped a few times first.
Dr. Nerdlove is not a real doctor. Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)