DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m a 25 year old guy trying to get back into dating after a few months of hiatus following some unpleasantness with my ex.
Online dating is something I generally don’t enjoy and am not terribly successful at. I much prefer to meet women out in the world, and all my best relationships have started after meeting girls at school or through mutual friends, where we can get to know each other over multiple interactions and get comfortable.
Now that I’ve graduated and settled into my 8-5 life I’m naturally not meeting many single women my age (most coworkers are 40+, and dating coworkers seems unwise anyway).
I do sometimes meet women I’d like to ask out in the world, but they are often working, or on break, or reading, and one of my defining dating faults is my desperate desire not to be invasive or bothersome.
Do you have any words of wisdom about asking working women for their number? I include also reading women because as a book lover myself I’d like to date another but also know being distracted from a great book can be annoying. And I fear few things more than being an annoyance.
Thanks a ton,
Hesitant to Bother
DEAR HESITANT TO BOTHER: The question you’re asking is a classic example of asking for the wrong thing. HTB.
Hang on, let me explain:
The best way to meet women is, honestly, the way you’re most comfortable with. We tend to bring our expectations with us to whatever method we choose and that inevitably affects the outcome. Expect to badly at cold-approaches and you guarantee you will. If you hate online dating, then you’re not only going to put in the effort or energy required, but you’re going to be miserable trying.
In your case, you’ve had the most success meeting women through warm approaches – that is, striking up conversations with women you’ve already had social connections with, whether it be classmates or mutual friends. This isn’t terribly surprising; that’s how most people meet their partners. It’s lower stakes and not as stressful as trying to approach a stranger in a bar.
The tricky part, however, is after you graduate from college, the pool of people you have those social connections with shrinks like a puddle in the Sahara. And as when the watering hole dries up, causing the local wildlife to wander further afield, when our social circles contract, we tend to look to other ways to meet people.
That brings us back to you, HTB. The issue here is that you’re asking for the wrong advice. Your best option isn’t approaching women at work.
The thing about approaching women at their place of employment is that they’re rarely in a place where they’re looking to meet someone. More often than not, their minds are focused on the needs of the day and they’d really rather get through without too much hassle. This doesn’t mean that you are a hassle, HTB but almost everywoman has a story about guys who approached her at times when she’d just really rather be left alone. When you combine this with women in service-industry professions who are professionally nice – that is, who will be friendly and flirty because it means the difference in a good tip and no tip – then you get folks who’ve been inundated with dudes who think that a smile is more than just a friendly gesture.
So while this doesn’t mean that you are necessarily a bother to them, HTB, the odds of your doing well with this approach are low enough that it likely isn’t worth the time and effort it’ll take. And while there are guys who buck the odds, they come in two flavors: the guys who got one-time lucky and the guys who are skilled, socially. The lucky ones’ success can’t be replicated and the ones who are skilled got there through time and experience.
This is why the best thing you can do isn’t doing cold approaches of women who aren’t giving you approach invitations, it’s to rebuild your social circles. Think about life in college: you were studying, sure, but you were also doing things. You were going to events on campus, you were hanging with your friends, you were going to the places where people were. This gave you the opportunity to meet people in locations and at times when the social contract said “yes, you’re not only allowed to talk to strangers, but it’s encouraged”. You can do that now.
Take the things that you’re passionate about and engage with them in ways that bring you in contact with other people. Check your local alt-weekly for events or get-togethers that strike your fancy. Check Facebook and Meetup.com for regular local groups that you’d like to try out and get to know the people there. And don’t just look to the folks who are attending as potential partners, think a few steps down the line. You may not meet someone you’d like to date just then… but the friends you make at the event may well have friends who are your type.
Approaching your love life this way will make things easier for you in the long run. Because it’s more in tune with your previous successes and your natural inclinations, you’ll not only be more comfortable meeting women like this, you’ll enjoy it more. That’ll help encourage you to keep working at it, instead of letting the frustration of rejection grind you down.
Plus: you’ll grow your social network and meet new and awesome people. So it’s win-win, really.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I met this girl online and we’re really attracted to each other. Problem is, due to a software issue in the dating service’s location settings (imagine selecting from a list that only has multiple entries of “Washington, United States”) we’re actually located in opposite ends of the country. She knows this since she was the one that approached me – a really happy accident, by the way.
We are about 6-9 hours by train away from each other depending on the rail connection. Neither has to drive because public transport is really good.
I planned a really nice date in a city that splits the travel time somewhat equally between the two of us (Plan A) but she’s currently busy and is unable to devote 4+ hours traveling there. Her official stance on this has been “wait and text”.
Since I have not visited her city before I was thinking of going up there for a weekend (fully announced) and having her show me around town. (Plan B)
Should I execute Plan B? I’ve been keeping it very cool and low-pressure so far and I’m afraid announcing Plan B shows hints of desperation – traveling across nearly the entire North-South span of Germany just for a first date feels like clingy behavior to me.
On the other hand, I really don’t want this to fizzle out over text! We have something really good going over text but small talk only goes so far before it has to be replaced by conversation about shared experiences and actual contact. I feel like I’m on a timer here.
Any advice you could offer is much appreciated.
A Promising Start
DEAR A PROMISING START: My dude, I am going to save you a lot of heartache: never, NEVER just drop the “Hey, I’m about to be in your city next week, how about you show me around?” on someone when you’re long-distance. That’s going to put a lot of pressure on somebody to be your tour-guide and event coordinator, not just your date, and that’s before we get into the part about how she’s already busy.
You would be far better off getting an invite to come visit instead of just arriving - announced or not. This way you’re not just about to impose on her, it’s become an arranged event that she’s actually looking forward to.
Here’s how you set the stage to getting an invitation: next time you’re texting and talking about how you’d love to see each other, seed the idea of a visit. “Hey, you know I’d love to meet up in person and I’ve never been to $PLACE. How would you feel if I came up?” Now, instead of just announcing that you’re going to be there, you can actually make a date of it. If she likes the idea, you can even incorporate some low-key flirting into making plans: “So if I did come, where would we go? What is one place you think we should see?”
This lets the anticipation build and make things more interesting and exciting, instead of a sudden surprise. This way, when you do get off that train, it’s the culmination of the building of some delicious tension and excitement, not just pressure to perform.
And if she’s not feeling you coming to visit… well, now you’re not out the train tickets and an uncomfortable weekend.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, email@example.com)