DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I've gotten myself into a bit of an anxious state after a date went bad a few days ago.
For context, the date seemed to go quite well initially. Despite the initial plan falling through we found somewhere else to go and had a bit of a laugh about the situation. A couple of hours after the date I sent a quick message just to say thanks and that I'd had a fun evening. She called me and told me she was upset that I hadn't made a move. I apologised and said that it must have been miscommunication largely down to a lack of experience. She then said that she'd be quite happy to come over and "fix" that. Being the idiot I am I made the same mistake twice in misreading the situation and thought she was joking so laughed it off. I realised my mistake immediately from her change of tone, tried to backpedal but she gave me a "whatever" and hung up.
No big deal in itself, plenty of other people out there. Problem is that we have quite a number of mutual friends and there's a get together next week that not only she will be at, but there's a high likelihood that I'll have to interact with her (it's a social dance where we rotate partners so everyone dances with everyone else). I don't want to not go but at the same time I don't really relish seeing her again, especially since our last interaction ended on such a sour note.
Should I not go? Should I duck out early to avoid her? Should I mention something to my friends so that I don't have to dance with her (without really letting on why)? Or maybe all of these options are simply cowardly and I should just grin and bear it if I'm forced to interact with her? These things seem so much less sticky when it's with people I don't know to well...
Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
An Anxious Idiot
DEAR AN ANXIOUS IDIOT: When you're starting out, sometimes it can be hard to pick up on the signals that someone is sending you, AAI. Hell, sometimes you miss out on even the screamingly obvious.
Let me tell you a story from my bad old days. There was a night when I was working as a cartoonist and doing some work for the college paper. It was late and the only people in the office were me and another young woman who was putting the final touches on the layout. While we were talking, I mentioned that I was an anime fan. While she wasn't that big a fan, but she'd seen a few movies. In fact, what she really dug were the horror genre and wouldn't you know it, she had one movie she'd wanted to see back in her room but hadn't had the guts to watch it and would I like to go keep her company so she'd feel safe?
(That movie, incidentally, was one of the most notorious animated pornos of the 90s.)
My response? "Nah, thanks, I want to get this finished before I go to bed."
It was only days later that I realized that what she was doing was asking if I'd like to come up for a hot cup of sex.
Now in your case AAI, you managed to miss her signals and inadvertently told her that you thought it was hilarious that she was interested in you. So, not gonna lie: you managed to jam both feet in your mouth with room for her fist for dessert. However, the good news is that this isn't as bad as it could be. You were kind of an idiot, but honestly? This isn't social doom... unless you compound that mess. See, the problem is that laughed at her. That stings. A lot. Ducking out or trying to avoid her - or asking your friends to keep her away is just going to end up doubling down on the impression that you really don't like her. And THAT is going to make things far more awkward than if you just sucked it up.
If you want to fix this, you're going to have to smooth over that mistake. That means you need to apologize to her. Preferably in person. The fact that you two are going to be at the same event together is the perfect opportunity to do this. The best thing you can do is go over to her and say "Hey, can I talk to you for a second? Listen, I messed up last week. I completely misunderstood what you were saying and I thought you were joking around. I think I may have come of like I was laughing at you instead of with you and I'm just really sorry about that. I really think you're cool and I got nervous and shoved my foot in my mouth. So, again, I'm sorry."
Once you've said this: leave it alone. The ball's in her court now, and she'll let you know how things are going to go.
Now that having been said: it's entirely possible that she's not quite as pissed as you expect she is. It's not impossible that she gets that you said something stupid and the whole thing is water under the bridge. It may even be something the two of you will laugh about later on. But you should still apologize, if only so that you don't freak out every time you see her from now on.
And, honestly, AAI? Don't be ashamed of making mistakes. Mistakes are signs that you tried something outside of your comfort zone. We learn far more from our mistakes than we do from our successes, which is why it's important to go out and make mistakes. The key is that you learn from them and make different mistakes in the future.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m a 49 year-old gay male that has been in several but relatively continuous long-term relationships ever since coming out at 23. For the past six months, however, I’ve been single – which is the longest that I have ever been single. Although I have enjoyed these past 6 months, I would prefer to be in a relationship. But I think I am too jaded now. Ideally I want the next relationship to be the last one. I want to make sure that I choose wisely to improve the odds, as much as humanly possible, that this next one will work out.
So I want you to analyze my selection process and tell me if I need to tweak or flat out change some of it, because, I don’t trust myself anymore.
Let me start off by saying that I am above average in looks (a solid 8), fit, relatively healthy (physically, emotionally, and mentally), financially stable, and genuinely an all-around good natured nice guy. It is relatively easy for me to find guys to go out on a date. Most of them soon after want to pursue a relationship whenever they realize that I’m a “catch”. I, on the other hand, recently find myself now holding off more than I used to. Am I too jaded?
So here is my process.
1. I usually start by determining how sexually attracted I am to the other person. Unfortunately when the guy is "super hot", I then find myself ignoring "red flags”. The last guy I dated was a Greek god physically, so I ignored the fact that he was a functioning addict for several months. I’ve also tried dating guys that I wasn’t all goo-goo-gaga over their physical attributes (say a 6 out of 10), but had other qualities… However, with these guys, the physical aspects that I didn’t find attractive became bigger over time. So how much weight should one put on initial sexual attraction without it becoming a blinding force or a future hindrance? My current feeling is that I should look for other solid 8s.
2. My next step is determining if it is easy spending the day together. Do we have similar interests? Do I enjoy talking to this person? But I also want him to have his own social circle or interests because I don’t want to be joined in the hip, so we also need to be able to be apart and be comfortable with that. However, it seems that most guys take the time apart as an opportunity to have sex, not to take up golf or join a book club. Am I being unreasonable?
3. Which brings me to my next step – communication and transparency. Life has taught me that most people lie. They lie to create a persona that they want to be – rather than just own up to who you are and embrace it. So it takes me months or years before I find out that the guy cannot be monogamous, or that they have anger management issues, or that they have a drug addiction, or whatnot. So now I usually find myself digging into people’s back stories to find out the truth, rather than just taking what they say at face value. But that usually takes a lot of time. Is there a faster way to get to know people’s true core?
Thank you in advance for your fresh perspective.
Too Judicious or Jaded?
DEAR TOO JUDICIOUS OR JADED: I think your biggest problem is is that you're trying to ward off every possible problem before it can happen. A lot of folks do this; they want to find the perfect path to the "best ending" of the relationship without taking any real risks. The problem is: you can't eliminate risk when it comes to dating and relationships. You can have as many systems and procedures set up as you want, but humans are chaos personified; no matter what precautions you take, people will slip through. And honestly: the amount of testing you're trying to do is going to push dudes away before you even have a chance to start wondering about their long-term potential.
Don't get me wrong: you actually have a better grasp on things than you realize. You have a pretty good idea of what you want and - critically - where your blindspots are. The place where you go off the rails is in how you're trying to compensate for these blindspots.
Take your plan to deal with your willingness to ignore danger signs in dudes with the hotness. The key isn't "just date guys who're moderately hot" it's "get your libido under control so that you don't let your junk make your decisions for you." I mean, I get it: I've dated and slept with people I knew were bad news, but as soon as the clothes came off, all those red flags just mysteriously vanished. But there comes a point where you have to realize the problem is that since they aren't going to stop being garbage fires, you are going to have to exercise more self control. Learning to turn down smoking hotness may be a challenge, but it's a necessary one. Otherwise you're just going to find yourself going after those 9s and 10s and then saying "Well that's another fine mess my penis got me into" afterwards.
(And as an aside: I really dislike rating people like that. It's dehumanizing whether we're doing it to women or men.)
Similarly, your plan of "how easy is it to spend the day together” has a pretty big flaw. In the early days of a relationship, it's gonna be pretty damn easy. You're both going to be on your best behavior because this is all still new and fresh and exciting. Your brains are getting drowned in dopamine and oxytocin and everything is amazing and wonderful and easy. It's later on, when you're more settled into the relationship that the little quirks you thought were so cute and charming start to become annoying... and then irritating and then become dealbreakers.
I think what you need to do, more than anything else, is start by making sure that you're looking for the right people. It seems like you're hoping for a committed, monogamous relationship. While that can feel rare in the gay community, there are dudes out there who want the same thing you do: they want to find someone and settle down. Start by looking for people who're more likely to be on the same page as you. Part of this may hinge on where you're meeting them - while you can find dudes at bars or on Grindr who're of a mind to settle down, you're more likely to find them through your social circle or get-togethers where hooking up isn't the main goal.
Next, if you want to know what they're actually like, then remember: deeds, not words. You need to pay attention to how they behave, not what they say. How do they treat you? Are they considerate and attentive, or dismissive and evasive? How do they treat others? Are they polite and courteous? Catty and dismissive? Excessively flirty and inappropriate? Are they drama magnets where nothing is ever their fault, or do they have their shit together? Are they the sort of person who actually lives their professed values or do they say one thing and do another entirely?
How do they respond when they're frustrated or disappointed? How do they handle conflict? What about when you disagree with them or turn them down?
And, for that matter: how do they respond if you open up a little to them? Do they reciprocate and share more about themselves? Can they be honest with you? Do they close up? Or, for that matter, do they overshare, dishing out more than is really appropriate for where you are in your relationship?
None of this is foolproof and won't keep out the assholes and the liars... but it certainly cuts down the number considerably. The more practice you have paying attention to how they act, the better you'll be able to tune your Spidey-sense and catch out the undesirable prospects.
One more thing you need to keep in mind is that dating is a numbers game. Sometimes we'll get lucky and meet the right person right off the bat, but more often than not, we all have to go through some bad dates and awkward relationships before we find the person we need. But you can't get through to the guy you need without taking a chance. So go out and date a little. Keep your head in the game (instead of your junk), keep your eyes open and take your time. Give yourself a chance to get to know these guys for who they really are and you'll find the one you've been waiting for.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)