DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: First off, I’m a big fan – I’ve been following your website and YouTube channel for over a year now, and I’ve also read your book New Game+. I work as a psychologist, and I would say that a lot of your advice is very sound and follows the same principles I’ll use when working with clients. My question is around desiring women who you might not be compatible with.
Long story short, I think I’m a fairly desirable person; I’m fairly good looking (24 years old), I’m completing a PhD, I’ve competed in outdoor sports for over 10 years, I play an instrument, I’ve travelled and lived in several countries (on the flipside, nowadays I spend most of my days working late amongst grey-haired academics!). I KNOW how to talk to people and make a connection, and I know the importance of practising positivity in your daily outlook on life. Two years ago I broke up with my girlfriend (who was almost 10 years older than me, held a PhD) – I thought I wanted to marry her, but for several reasons I decided I wasn’t happy being with her. Since then, I found out she’s moved on, and I’ve accordingly developed a bad case of Oneitis, wishing I’d never broken up with her!
When the relationship ended I was determined to ‘play the field’ (I had a conservative upbringing and didn’t indulge in hedonic desires… until I came to my senses in my 20’s!). I’ve always had fantasies of being with a stream of fit, attractive, young women who I’m surrounded by at university everyday. However, my success in this venture has been zero – in fact, I’ve had sex once in 2 years, with someone who I was not even that attracted to as a person.
I’m stuck. I feel as though every time I make an attempt at speaking or flirting with these young, attractive women in their 20’s, they’re either A) uninterested, or B) think I’m weird as hell (I suppose I am a little bit ‘quirky’; I’m like the living incarnation of Dr Frasier Crane or Ross Geller). The flipside of this is that I often find THEM utterly boring or juvenile (but hot nonetheless!). Recently, I met a woman who is in her late 30’s who is actually very interesting and I get on with well… (an academic, moderately attractive), but I feel as though if I started dating her, I will be ‘disappointing myself’ by ‘giving up’ and not managing to sleep with the young women I ‘should be sleeping with’.
Here comes a longer stream of irrational beliefs: I feel like I haven’t had the dating life I’ve wanted my entire life. I don’t feel like any of my girlfriends or one-night stands were super attractive – I frequently lust after the gorgeous girls I see around me, but even the ‘thought’ of having sex with them seems impossible. I have never been able to ‘sow my wild oats’; I hear stories of ‘everyone’ around me who has slept with 10+ women, or people who are just ‘sleeping around’ as if it’s no big deal – and this causes me a great deal of anxiety and uncertainty in myself.
I have become obsessed with this feeling of ‘inadequacy’; like I’m somehow not good enough, or I’m missing out on all the sex that all the other good-looking people are having. I’d like to be able to look back upon my younger days and say “I slept with 10 girls, and I had the ability within me to have casual sex with beautiful women”.
I suppose I feel a bit like a failure at sex and dating, but I’m also conscious that I may be going for the ‘wrong types’ of girls? Perhaps Dr Frasier Crane shouldn’t be going for fit young 20 year olds, but should be going for the well-travelled 30 year old academics? Maybe this is a case of identity crises – a person who is caught between wanting to be a ‘young athletic man’ and a ‘grey haired academic’?
Any advice (or assistance with irrational thinking!) is greatly appreciated!
Be The Ball
DEAR BE THE BALL: There’s a lot to unpack here. Let’s start with the fact that you’re young, dude. Most of what you’re hearing about “everyone” around you banging out like rabbits on a meth binge is exaggeration and confirmation bias. Yeah, folks sleep around… but it’s hardly a case that you’re the last American virgin being left behind as everyone has marathon orgies. The lifetime average number of sexual partners for most people is around 7 or so. The fact that you’ve had three partners thus far – that you’ve mentioned, in any case – puts you pretty firmly on course to be in the center of that particular bell curve. More importantly though is that focusing on numbers is a great way to make yourself miserable in short order.
But I’ll come back to that in a second.
Instead, let’s talk a little about how you identify, because you’ve picked two very different archetypes. Frasier Crane isn’t what most people would call “quirky”. “Prissy”, maybe. “Snobbish” for sure. “A bit up his own ass,” wouldn’t be off either. Frasier is a virtual living stereotype of the Harvard-educated elitist with the benefit of money to back up his tastes. Ross on the other hand… look, let’s just go with “Ross is the worst” and leave it there.
I think what you mean is that you’re something of what other people might call “an old soul”. It sounds like you have more life experience than the average bear in their early 20s – which is actually a plus in the attraction department. However, it also means that you’re going to be in a different stage of life than a lot of people your age. The average age of PhD candidates is 33; most people in their early to mid 20s have just gotten their undergraduate degree and are trying to decide what to do next.
Your early and mid 20s tend to be the years of discovery; you’re dealing with adult responsibilities (for the first time, for many) yet often still have the drive and interests of the young.
That stage of life issue is going to be pretty crucial. One of the reasons I’m a believer in the old rule of thumb that the youngest one can date is “half your age plus 7” is because this keeps you relatively within the rage of someone who’s had similar life experiences. As someone who just crested over 40, I personally find the idea of trying to seriously date someone under the age of 27 to be mind-bogging at best; ignoring the lack of shared cultural touchstones, we’d be in such different places in life it might be hard to make plans in the first place.
Now the reason I bring this up is because similarities are an important part of attraction. The more you have in common with someone, the more you’re going to be attracted to them. This includes things like shared interests, educational levels and social outlook. This is something that a lot of folks overlook: no matter how hot somebody is, if you can’t have a decent conversation with them, it’s really hard to have satisfying sex with ’em.
Believe me. I’ve tried.
So therein is going to be part of your dilemma; if you can’t really relate to the young hardbodies you see wandering around, you’re going to have a hard time trying to bed them.
But this isn’t the issue so much as your attitude about it. You, like a lot of guys, have bought into the idea that you’re “supposed” to be having certain kinds of sex – that wild, no-strings sex that everyone else SEEMS to be having at the drop of a hat. And while that’s not a bad thing if that’s what you want, it sounds to me less like you actually want this and more that you feel like you should be capable of it. It seems to me less that this is an actual need so much as a desire to be someone who could have that kind of sex – a bragging point to shore up your masculine bona fides rather than just being someone who likes to screw.
And that… isn’t so healthy. Trying to screw around to prove a point – whether it’s your virility, your desirability or just old-fashioned validation is a great way to not just frustrate yourself but to frustrate yourself and tie your self-worth to things outside of your control. When you fail to get laid, your self-esteem drops into the crapper and when you do succeed… well the sex is rarely actually worth it. In fact a lot of it kind of sucks. You end up sleeping with people who may be traditionally attractive but don’t actually do anything for you. That’s a recipe for the walk of shame afterwards, asking yourself “why did I even bother?” To add insult to injury is that it doesn’t even make you feel better. You won’t feel more satisfied or more manly. In fact, the fact that it hasn’t made you more confident will just make you even more upset and anxious.
To make matters worse, you let this belief that you’re “supposed” to be having this kind of sex get in the way of relationships you do want. To quote the sage: there’s a million fine looking women in the world, dude. But they don’t all bring you lasagna at work. Someone you click with, who love for their mind and want for their ass is almost always far better for you than “hot but enh”. Those are the ones that you kick yourself over later. It’s only in hindsight that you realize what you gave up… especially when you realize just how rare it is.
Now this doesn’t mean that relationships are the answer either. I have been on both sides of the equation, my dude. I’ve given up potentially great relationships because I wanted to screw around and they weren’t down with that. I’ve also been in relationships for longer than I should have been and missed out on opportunities because of that. But what I can tell you is that, all things being equal, the quality of the connection will always make you happier than quantity of bodies. The better the connection you have with someone, the better the sex tends to be because you’re able to actually connect and communicate. You’re able to really share with each other and find the things that turn you both on.
And besides: the second time around, they let you do the weird stuff.
But for real, BtB: I think your problem is that you think you’re supposed to be one way, when you really aren’t. Again: been there, done that, started the blog. I thought I wanted to be the club guy. Fast forward far too many late nights and way too much wasted money and that’s a big-assed nope. I was trying to swim against the current of my life’s particular river and believe me: that was a lot of time and energy I could’ve been spending elsewhere. I don’t regret it – it’s what brought me to where I am right now, after all – but man it’d have been nice to have learned those lessons a little faster.
Trust the voice of wisdom when I tell you that you’re better off pursuing the women you’re actually attracted to instead of the ones that society tells you that you should want. If you click with slightly older, more accomplished women… well, that’s going to be way less effort than trying to maintain your erection and pretend you give a damn what that 20-something coed has to say.
Now, if you are someone who needs sexual novelty or who has a high sex drive and wants to bang out, then hey, I approve. Rock out with your c
k out dude. But even then, you’d be better off pursuing women you share commonalities with – even if they’re (gasp) in their 30s, instead of nubile 20-somethings. At least then they’d be people you’re genuinely interested in and can have some sex you might actually enjoy. Plus: you’d be surprised at how many women in their 30s and 40s would be down for some no-strings sex with a hot 20-something dude.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: First, a little backstory, but I promise I’ll get to the point eventually. I’ve read a lot of your articles these last months. This, combined with reading Brene Brown’s ‘Daring Greatly,’ has been a big help in pushing myself to get out there and make connections – I’m 22, almost 23, and was starting to despair (genuinely lose all hope) of ever meeting someone who I liked that would (miraculously) like me in return. But these two resources gave me the push to try and actively put myself out there – still barely worked, I never would have managed to message her if she hadn’t sent me a like, and it still took me nearly 3 days to screw up my courage – but it changed my life. The last seven months have been some of the happiest in my life. She’s just as nerdy and socially awkward as I am, we share about 90% of the same interests, and it’s great; it is even worth going long distance. She’s a couple years younger than me, and we’re both virgins, and it isn’t technical, either. Hell, she was even my first kiss.
Now, even though I know it’s irrational, I’m having huge anxiety again. Why? She’s hinting that she wants to become physically intimate, which I definitely don’t have anything against. Problem is, I still have almost non-existent self-esteem, much less self-efficacy, where romantic and social issues are concerned. Despite everything I know (and probably also because of it) I’m terrified of being… disappointing.
It’s irrational, I like her and she likes me and so on, but I know in my gut I’ll never forgive myself if I let her down. And in spite of everything I’ve learned (I research basically everything) about different precautions, I’m also terrified at the remotest thought that I might cause her the slightest pain. I want to, but all this conflict in my head is tearing me apart!
If you have any advice for me, please! I need all the help I can get, because I’m exceeding my capacity to work through my issues on my own (again). Anything you say can only help – I reckon I’ve already done about as much damage to my psyche as possible, lol!
Please help. She’s coming to visit this weekend, and I can only stall so much!
Stuck In First
DEAR STUCK IN FIRST: I’m going to do you the favor that you need and tell you exactly what to do: DON’T have sex with her.
For real. Take sex off the table. Just accept that it isn’t going to happen this time. Because right now, you’re freaking yourself out over something that’s entirely theoretical and that’s going to make it impossible to actually enjoy her visit. So sex? Not happening. Can’t disappoint her sexually if you don’t actually have sex, yo.
So instead, you’re just going to relax around her. Savor the feeling of being with her. Pay attention to the little things: the warmth radiating from her skin, the scent of her shampoo in her hair, the way she fits up against your side. Be in the moment with no agenda other than just the two of you being present. Don’t worry about performance, being an amazing lover or the risk of disappointing her. Just take each moment and be incredibly present. Let each touch, kiss or caress be it’s own goal and just appreciate how it makes you both feel.
And you know? You’ll probably both be a bit curious. So talk. What does she like, anyway? What turns her on? Cool, here’s what you like and what gets your motor running. And maybe there’s this thing you’ve been interested in but have never done, what about her? Oh, that’s something she wants to try? OK so like this? How does this feel? How does it feel when she does that to you? Ok, lines might start to blur and that resolution that you’re not going to have sex may start to feel a little strained. That’s ok. You’re doing the right thing. Keep that dialogue going – asking, sharing, checking in and just being present. But without expectation – after all, you’ve already let go of the idea that you need to perform for her. So now you’re free for the two of you to talk and share and experiment and see what works for both of you.
Trust me: things will take care of themselves.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, email@example.com)