DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: had a nervous breakdown some time ago. I was depressed, not interested in life or anything, except my own misery. I recovered, with therapy, exercise and a great deal of blind luck. I’m healthier, stronger, more fit than I ever was. I’m doing very well right now. I am enjoying the attentions of a few ladies. Apparently I’m charming and handsome.
Well, until now. (Prepare yourself for the cringefest).
I met this girl A. through a common interest. I found her fun and extremely intriguing. After a while I realized that I had a crush on her. A few months later, at a party we attended together, I told her that I crushed on her and she gave me her number. She told me that she had a great opinion of me from when we met so I was overjoyed.
We texted for a while. In some occasion I texted her while drunk, but she found that extreme adorable and charming for some reasons. She invited me to go on a weekend vacation together with some friends of hers but I didn’t managed. I gathered the courage and asked her out for a date. Her reaction was “interesting”. She told me that asking her out for a date was something from the ’50s, giving the whole thing an air of sacred stuff. She told me she thought that going out was more in line with her thinking.
After sometime in which we texted almost daily (She got a nasty infection that put her out of commission for a while) I asked to see her and go together to a museum (a silly idea we put up together). In this time I dated other people without any problems, even with a great deal of fun. We agreed to have dinner together, (gently offered by her) while I booked the tickets.
It went awful. Like really really bad. I was so nervous that I even have problems recalling what I did in the specific. I remember that the conversation was lacking, and I had been annoying. But she laughed at a few jokes and the dinner was nice, I think. I remember her teasing me because I wished a good-day to the bus driver when we got off and because I tipped our waiter (I had better chemistry with the waiter than with her).
She told me that she had an awful day and that I behaved very badly towards her. I cracked few jokes, but she laughed so I thought it was fine. I don’t know what I did in the detail, I can only remember the awkwardness. I apologized and asked her if there was the possibility of a second date. She told me that she is not opposed to that, but not in the near future, because of the awfulness of the first one.
The problem is not this. I think I can manage with disappointment.
She told me a few things that shook me.
When I told her that I wasn’t behaving like myself, she told me that is a very hard thing to act like a different person for an entire afternoon. She also told me that she is good with people, but that I didn’t showed anything, comparing me to a hollow mask.
People I dated in this time told me they liked me because I was passionate, intelligent and kind. I never been happier in my entire life. I even picked up new hobbies and interests, managing to find new friends and people. I can’t stop thinking about what she said. Is this new me just a likable mask that I managed to fool different people?
Thank you for your attention,
DEAR FREEZING FROG: Ever notice how much easier it is to believe negative criticism than it is to believe positive comments, FF? Ever notice how we tend to seek out negative comments with an eagerness that we often only reserve for french fries and sex but how we tend to let compliments slide off of us without a trace?
There’s a reason for that. We have a psychological trait known as “the negativity bias”; we give greater emotional weight and importance to negative emotions and feelings than we do to positive ones. In fact, it takes about 5 positive comments to match the figurative weight and impact of one negative one. Back in the early days of human development, this was a necessity for survival; that prioritization of negative feelings meant that our Spidey-sense was highly tuned to danger. The fact that we couldn’t just brush off that weird feeling that something was wrong often meant the difference between getting eaten by a saber-tooth tiger in the brush and living another day.
Unfortunately, while we don’t live in the savannah with apex predators waiting to eat us any more, our brains haven’t gotten the message. We still have that negativity bias rattling around in our headmeats and it absolutely screws with us at times for no reason.
Case in point: the aftermath of your hot date with your crush. You’ve spent a lot of time and effort on yourself and you’re doing better by every objective measure. And yet now, one bad date and you’re feeling lower than a snake’s ass in a drainage ditch. All that hard work and well-deserved good feelings down the drain.
But speaking as an outsider and from an outsider’s perspective? All that’s happened is that you went on a date with someone you were radically unsuited for. And frankly, from the way you’ve described her and the way you describe your date… she sounds like someone who would describe herself as “quirky” and most other people would describe as “irritating.” Like someone who’s convinced that she’s a manic-pixie dream girl. Asking someone for a date was “like something from the 50s with an air of the sacred”? Um… ok? Asking somebody she’s only met a couple of times on a weekend vacation with friends – friends that you evidently had never met before? Well that sounds like a long and awkward weekend in the offing. “I’ll go on another date with you but not for a while so I can forget how awful the first was?”
Look, she sounds like she’s off in her own little world and it’s rapidly running out of oxygen.
Regardless, the evidence you’ve given speaks less to the idea that you’re a person who was acting out of character and more to the fact that you and she had next to no chemistry on an actual date. Maybe the two of you got along like a house on fire over text… but attraction has a physical component and the fact is that you didn’t mesh on that level. You wanted things to work and the fact that you two weren’t connecting threw you into panic mode. You were scrambling to make things work and, like the plot to a hacky rom-com, it just made things worse. Now, I don’t think you should’ve tried to say you weren’t acting like yourself; that’s ultimately an excuse. Unless you accidentally switched brains with someone, that was you… just a version of you making a series of mistakes, like people often do. But by the same token, her telling you that you’re just a hollow mask? That’s just her being cruel for no apparent reason.
(Also: teasing you for being polite to a bus driver and for tipping the waitstaff? The hell?)
Look, my dude: all that’s happened is that you’ve had a bad date. Dating is often a crapshoot; there will be times when you are just going to have dates where things wouldn’t go right if you held a gun to its head. It happens to everyone. It sucks… but all there really is to do is to get up and walk it off. It sucked, it’s over, now learn from it so you don’t make the same mistakes again. Just… not with her. I’m sure she’s a lovely woman in other respects, but nothing you’ve said makes me think that she’s right for you.
Oh, and one more thing:
There’s a phrase I like: if one person calls you a horse, then you’ve met a weirdo. If you meet four people who call you a horse, then you should start getting fitted for a saddle. That is: what one person says is one person’s opinion. When several people – presumably people whose opinions you can trust – tell you something, then the odds are higher that they’re seeing something you aren’t. You have had one person – a person whose judgement I find highly questionable – tell you that you’re faking all of the improvements you’ve made. You’ve had many others tell you that you’re good looking, charming, passionate and kind. The odds that you’ve been faking all this time and have fooled everybody but this one woman are so remote that I’m pretty sure scientists haven’t invented numbers to describe it. The far, far likelier scenario is that you’ve put in a lot of hard work – work that you should justifiably be proud of – and you met one weirdo.
Hang in there, FF. You’re doing awesome.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: A few months ago, I met one of my sister’s friends at a track meet. She kept asking me if I was gonna come whenever her and her other friend were moving spots. After the track meet, she invited to get Taco Bell with her friend. During our time at Taco Bell, she was asking a lot of questions to get to know me and a lot of questions about the Air Force since I’m enlisting in it. Once my friends found out that I’ve been talking to her, they all started teasing me that she liked me.
The following Monday, we entered school like 10 seconds apart and she saw me ahead of her, so she ran up behind me and did the classic “tap a person on one shoulder and appear on the other,” which then led to us talking until school started. Two days later, she asked me if I wanted to walk to school with her which I said yes because I started developing feelings for her around that time. After we walked together, I started thinking that she likes me, because she was the one who asked me – which is actually what one of my friends said later.
Prom was coming up and I was seriously thinking about asking her, but I didn’t know what she would say since she was friends with one of my sisters, so I had a friend ask her. She said my sister would get mad and left it at that, but when she found out that I was serious, she said she probably would’ve said yes. A week after we started talking, she told me that my sister was mentioning me to her more often, so I figured that couldn’t be a good thing… especially when she said she couldn’t tell me what my sister said. We talked a decent bit throughout the summer and hung out a few times. I really like her and want to make my move because I know it’ll eat me alive and probably regret not making my move because I’ll be leaving for Air Force BMT in October-Novemberish. I’m started to think that she might’ve liked me at the beginning but slowly stopped. While we did have some lengthy text conversations, I started all of them and she always ended them by her having to go to bed. I feel like if I hangout with her a few more times before I leave, it would help. She’s not friends with my sister anymore, so she wouldn’t be a problem. Recently after I told her she looked good with her new haircut because she was freaking out because she thought it was too short. A few minutes later, she sent me a video of an elephant eating another elephant’s ass then followed it up with elephants having sex.
Could those two videos mean something and be a weird way of dropping hints or is she trying to scare me away? How can I tell if she’s interested in me? And from the info that I gave you, was she interested in me at all? How exactly should I make my move as I don’t want to miss this opportunity and mess it up? Lastly, is there anything I can do that will get her to start text conversations more? I feel like I’ve been giving her signs that I’m interested in her but it’s hard for me to tell if she gave some back, especially over text. Thanks in advance and I look forward to hearing from you!
DEAR MIXED SIGNALS: First things first, MS: I realize I’m an Old, but I’m pretty sure that, in the words of Sigmund Freud, sometimes a wacky video of elephants boning is just a wacky video of elephants boning.
But more to the point: yes, odds are that she likes you. Things like asking you to come with her as she moves around the venue, coming up to talk to you unprompted and asking to spend time with you are all generally pretty solid signs that someone likes you, at least a little.
(Now please notice very carefully that I’ve been using the present tense.)
Of course, there’s a simple way to find out if she’s into you: use your words and ask her out on a date. Not “send someone to ask for you.” Not “ask to hang out some time.” A proper “yes, I like you as more than a platonic friend” date. It doesn’t need to be an elaborate thing. All you need to say is “Hey, $NAME, I really think you’re awesome and I’d like to take you on a date. How do you feel about $COOL_THING and $COOL_THING on $SPECIFIC_TIME?”
And then you’ll have your answer. She may say that yes, she does like you and would love to go on a date with you. She may say she does like you but can’t make it on $SPECIFIC_TIME but what about $OTHER_TIME? She may say that she likes you but doesn’t feel like she can do anything about it because you’re about to head off to boot camp.
Or she may say “no, thank you”. And while that won’t be fun… it’s still an answer. And now you can head off to the Air Force without regrets and fantasies of “but what if?”
But just remember: if you want to know for sure if someone’s into you – especially as a potential lover, rather than a friend – then the surest way to find out is to just muscle up and ask them out on a date.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)