DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I am at my wits end trying to suss out why men only see me as worthy for sex, and not a relationship. I see you advise many men on being awkward and asperger-y, but if there’s a woman one related to my issues well I’ve missed it. I’d kill for some advice.
Grew up in rural hell, overweight since age of 8, relentless teasing followed and a spate of boys asking me out as a ‘joke’. My sisters say “toxic masculinity”, but the day it started to feel more personal was when I changed schools hours apart, lost weight, AND IT HAPPENED AGAIN. So no dating for me as a teen despite wanting is ever so badly.
Hit 18, move far away to the city, get down to a respectable 140lbs and feel it’s time to come into my own. Only skeevy men (like 60 year old bar flys and 50 year old tow truck drivers) ask me out, usually hinting it’s less out than in, and I become disillusioned. After hitting clubs, becoming more confident, and even asking a guy out I liked (only to have him lick my face like a dog) I decided this wasn’t the time.
I end up in NYC, gain the weight back to about 200, and a weird version of my prior problems begins again. Men asking me out, not as a joke, but only for sex and lying about actually wanting more than pussy (I mean, yeah I know it’s not uncommon). I’m young, naive, fall for it all, finally have sex, and get into two 1.5 month relationships. The final one ends when I find out he actually had never broken up with his prior girlfriend.
My life… gets worse. An unrelated GamerGate-like situation happens and my life is ruined, I gain PTSD and an anxiety disorder, also jump to about 220 lbs higher than ever before. I try counseling, first guy is great…the rest are awful.
I end up back in NYC last year, met a man I swore I was going to marry. I finally felt good about myself and my prospects for the first time in years. It had been about 4 years between the prior 1.5 and this man. We have similar interests, I find him wildly attractive, he challenges me without putting me down, and he doesn’t do anything wildly inappropriate when we meet.
We date but once again, it’s a secret. I set a boundary: okay fine cuz I’m crazy about you, but at the 3 month mark its either real or done. First month I swear by that BS about ‘something good comes after the rain’ but then it slowly becomes my worst nightmare. Turns out in retrospect I truly believe for various reasons he is a sociopath, and he was mimicking my emotions with no sincere care or feelings of his own.
It becomes emotionally abusive and I’m stunned in my 30s with all the work I’d done on myself that I’d fall for this crap. I no longer feel good about myself, he’s constantly mocking my weight, ptsd, and fact I’m just plain not good enough. He even went to meet my family, then claimed it was never serious and I shouldn’t have read into it!!! Shockingly I ended it after watching Archer and seeing him be that way to Pam, who my asshole ex was sure Archer would never sleep with.
We unfortunately are around each other, not by choice, despite the end, and I lose all my sanity within months. He gets a new gf and tells me how she’s thin and better than me. He continues mocking the fact I was alone, so sets me up with a friend of his thats only a friends with benefit thing. That ends not badly but because that’s just not my scene man.
I have a nervous breakdown. I move away again. I see a new therapist. She seems great until one day she declares I should have just kept my legs shut then abuser wouldn’t have been a problem! I swear off therapy forever as this is not the first bad incident I’ve had (the prior good guy was like 1 in 5 attempts). I go for the weed and prozac. And now I’m alone, 32, and in rural hell again.
When I was a kid they mocked me because I wasn’t good enough. Now I’m too good at what I shouldn’t be (have traveled, have done things out in the world when they haven’t left the state line), and still bad at what I should be (weight). I seriously pursued bariatric surgery after the breakdown, but I have a hard time believing I should seriously curtail my ability to eat and drink in life so maybe a few more bar flys will find me worthy.
Online dating sucks in the city and in rural hell. I am succinct and put no hookups, all I get is hookups despite the app, the area, the pictures chosen. And frankly not having kids and not loving Trump already made the replies low in this place.
All I can conclude now is that through a decade, through thin and fat, confident and not confident, good and sane and now broken, city and rural, the only constant is me. And it must be something wrong with me. I have literally never been asked out in a manner that didn’t imply it was going right to the bedroom (or just out and out said it). The only time in my life I could get interest is when I was looking for hookups to screw the pain away over my abuser. I can go to bars, concerts, lectures, book stores, whatev and nobody ever engages me. The last guy to engage me in a thrift store told me I should wear the thin shawl I was looking at for Halloween, and only it. When I quipped that would be mighty cold he laughed and told me to tell ‘him’ (bf/husband I assume?) he tried. He had to be over 55 and looked like the old barflys.
Dr. NerdLove I am seriously at my wits end. I’m lonely, bad at reading social cues anyway (the conclusion is I’m probably on the spectrum; but no one has ever done a full test), and absolutely baffled as to why I am so unworthy of genuine love. And I’d like to stress I find older men (of good taste, not barflys of course) handsome, fat and thin I’ve been with, white and black and latino. Most of my dates I end up paying my share (the last one the guy tried to sneak his beers on my tab… I just let it slide because it was so awful and I wanted it to end). I can’t imagine wanting a clean (hygiene and appearance) guy between 25 and 60 is such a high standard. The last tinder convo I had asked me if *I* was clean STD wise…after agreeing they weren’t looking for sex. I deleted it. I’ve done POF, Match and OkCupid too.
I’m lonely as hell and about to resign to it. Please help.
Fantastic Frustrated Female
DEAR FANTASTIC FRUSTRATED FEMALE: So here’s a secret of the advice industry, F3: sometimes it’s really hard to give an answer for people’s problems because their problem ultimately is “hey, society blows.” It’s not a satisfying answer because, well, it’s less advice and more just the advice-equivalent of a shrug. But at the same time, it can be comforting to know the problem isn’t you.
And that’s what’s happening here, F3. You’re feeling this frustration and despair because you’re a reasonable person in an unreasonable situation.
But your problem here – the thing that’s causing you the most distress – is that you’re taking things the wrong way. I’m an advocate that when you are trying to solve your dating problems, you should look for commonalities in your experiences. And, yes, sometimes the only common denominator is going to be you. But it’s incredibly easy to skip several steps and land straight on “it’s all my fault,” particularly when you have issues with depression or your self-esteem. Like Trying To Make A Choice from a few columns back, you’ve got the right data, but you’re drawing the wrong conclusions from it.
There’s a saying that I feel is relevant here: “Before you diagnose yourself with depression, first make sure that you’re not surrounded by assholes.” I would suggest a correllary: “Before you decide that you’re unlovable, first make sure you haven’t been dating assholes.” This is important because one of the commonalities you’ve discounted is that you’re dealing with a lot of assholes. And like demons of old, they are called Legion for they are many. This is in no small part because we live in a culture and society that has empowered assholes to be assholes with no real consequences. In fact, acting like an asshole is something that’s both tacitly and explicitly encouraged in men. Every time people laugh admiringly at the guy who “took his shot” by making an inappropriate comment at a woman or who backslap bros for crappy, harassing jokes, they spread the message: it’s ok to act like this. Hell, it’s cool to act like this.
And that social conditioning is a motherf
ker, because it teaches guys to not just act in ways that alienate women but it screws themselves over too. Take, for example, the guys who were into you when you were at your heavier weight. One thing larger women encounter all the time are guys who want to sleep with fat women but don’t want to date them. Sometimes it’s because they’ve been convinced that BBWs are “easier” or “desperate” and will put up with s
t that more conventionally attractive women won’t in the name of finding and keeping a man. Other times it’s because they’re legitimately attracted to large women but society has done a whammy on them; they’re more concerned about what their friends will think than owning their preferences like a goddamn adult. So they’re cool with banging a fat woman on the down-low but are embarrassed to be seen with them romantically.
And just as importantly is the fact that guys are taught that their value is in getting laid as often as possible, with as many people as possible, without getting tied down. Guys will treat you as good enough to screw but not good enough to “wife” because they’ve been taught to treat sex as a commodities exchange. It’s all part of the commodity model of sex, where women supposedly “set the price” while guys are supposed to pay as little as they get away with. So the name of the game becomes “what is the bare minimum I can give to get laid”, not “what do the two of us bring to the table that would make this great for both of us?” Combine that with the contempt guys are taught to have for women and hey, look, it’s why dating can be like dunking your head in a barrel of toxic waste.
So, yeah. You’re dealing with a lot of entitled s
theads, because society has taught guys it’s ok to act like that. The guys who feel entitled to ignore things like “not here for hook-ups” in dating profiles, the guys who think that showing up and saying “hey” is all they need to do before proposing sex, that harassing women on social media for the LULz is awesome and who think that making sexual jokes to strangers is the height of wit. Small wonder, then, that you feel lower than a snake’s ass in a drainage ditch.
Here’s what I suggest. First and foremost: TAKE A BREAK FROM DATING. I realize that you’re lonely and want companionship and love. But right now, you have been slamming your head into the wall so many times that you’re on the verge of giving yourself a concussion. You have a lot of willpower, emotional reserves and strength, but you’ve emptied the tank and you need to let them refill. That’s not going to happen as long as you’re throwing your heart and soul into the woodchipper. So put this on pause. Think of it as taking time to let an injury heal instead of continuing to aggravate it.
Next: Find a therapist that you like, who you have the right chemistry with and focus on your mental and emotional health. One of the things that a lot of people forget is that therapy is, in it own way, like dating. If you don’t have chemistry, then you’re just frustrating yourself. So make sure that you and your therapist actually have a vibe that feels right to you, that you feel like they understand you, where you’re coming from and what you’re going through. It may help to find one who’s sex-positive and has training with issues like emotional and sexual trauma. The American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists has a referral directory on their site that can help you find a certified therapist in your area. And if there are none in your area, you may be able to find one who will do sessions over Skype or Facetime. You need to focus on healing before you dive back into the dating pool. Just as taking a break from dating is letting your wounds heal, think of this as doing the work to get back into your fighting shape. It’s much easier to deal with the slings and arrows of outrageous bulls
t when you’ve taken care of yourself first.
Of course, you’re also lonely, so what do you do about this? What I suggest is that you focus on finding your people, your Team You. The people who love you, support you and have your back. These are your family of choice, the people who you bring into your life because they’ve proven to be good and kind and caring. Focusing on finding good friends and building solid, supportive social circles will help ease that loneliness you feel. But, I hear you say, that’s not the same as love or sex. And you’re right. But by putting your focus on making friends and building your social networks, you put yourself into a better position to find love – or something close enough to it – without having to jump into the shark tank. Most people find their partners, not through trawling bars or online dating, but through their friends and their activities. By prioritizing friendship – and character, and kindness – you’ll be meeting people who may not be the love of your life, but may be able to introduce you to him. And because these are good friends, people you trust, then the people you meet through them are more vetted and less likely to be the gaping rectal fissures that you’ve encountered before.
Just as importantly: take your time to get to know people before pursuing a relationship with them. While you can’t completely a
hole-proof your love-life, taking things slowly and getting to know people makes it easier to weed out the zeros and find the heroes. Finding the guys who are worth your time may take some time, but it’s better to invest those hours and days than it is to latch on to yet another asshat who’s idea of a good time is to shred your soul.
And if you decide to go back to online dating, then choose your apps carefully. Different apps have different cultures and goals. OKCupid and Tinder may be the 800 lb gorillas of online dating, but they’re also more generally oriented towards casual relationships and hook-ups. An app like Bumble that prioritizes women taking the initiative or Hinge, which is more relationship-oriented, may be far more your speed.
But more than anything else: take care of your heart and your soul. Being willing to step away because things are too much isn’t weakness or an admission of failure. It’s recognizing that you are important and that your health and happiness come before any bulls
t cultural meme about how being alone is the worst thing in the world. Sometimes the love of your life is the love of your life. Give yourself the love and healing that you need.
There are sh
birds out there and they are legion. But there are good people too. Finding them can take time and it can be frustrating. Many times, you may feel like you’re doomed to be forever alone. But I will tell you this truth: I have known many people who’ve been in your exact situation. Who’ve been stuck with guy after guy who told them that they were only good enough to sleep with. And you know what? They took their time, they took care of themselves and they found love. Real, genuine, lasting love.
It can be frustrating. It can be heart breaking. It can be infuriating. But love is out there. Just don’t let despair destroy you first.
You’ve got this, F3. You’re stronger than you know. Write back to let us know how you’re doing.
All will be well.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)