DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’ve been a fan of your website for a while now, and a lot of what you write really speaks to me. I was wondering if you could help me out with an issue I’ve been having. I am, by all objective accounts, a pretty attractive guy. I’m a little on the short end, but I work out a lot, dress nicely enough, and I stay well-groomed. I am, after all, an Officer in the US Navy.
However, I can’t get out of my own head when it comes to dating. Any interaction with a woman turns quickly into over-analysis followed shortly thereafter by self-loathing. My internal dialogue ends up being along the lines of, “This girl is not being receptive because I’m too fat/short/ugly,” or “I am too fat/short/ugly to talk to this girl.” This has not worked out too terribly for me, as I am not a virgin, and have had girlfriends in the past, but it’s no way to meet someone I could actually settle down with.
A week or so ago, in an attempt to expand my comfort zone, I went on my first Tinder date. I thought it went phenomenally. We bantered, we laughed, we talked about our families and our hopes and dreams and at the end she said that she’d like to do this again. We texted a couple times after that, but then she stopped responding. I quickly went from elation to self-loathing and complete preoccupation with this girl. The fact that she didn’t respond reinforced all my initial aversion to talking to women. I fear rejection not because of public humiliation or anything like that, but rather the fact that rejection makes me hate myself. My question is what do I do about this? How can I get myself to a point where a rejection or a fade-away doesn’t make me question my worth as a human being, or more specifically, a man?
DEAR BAD LIEUTENANT: BL, you’ve got a nasty case of jerk-brain going on. You know, objectively, that you’re a good-looking dude. You know how to present yourself, you dress well… it’s just that you don’t let yourself believe it. As soon as you’re feeling even vaguely good about yourself, that little bastard voice in the back of your mind pipes up and repeats all of those little insecurities and doubts and shoots your self-esteem down in flames. Doesn’t matter that objectively, you’re a catch; your jerk-brain is there to kneecap you as soon as you think you’re making any progress.
This is one of the reasons why I point out that 80% of dating success is attitude – not just how you treat other people but how you treat yourself. I see this all the time in guys who’ve made sudden transformations. They’ve gotten in shape, they’ve changed up their wardrobes and have otherwise gotten their acts together looks-wise… but they still have the same doubts and anxieties they had before, and it slows or even stops the progress they’ve been making. You have to work on adjusting who you are insideas much as your outside.
Part of the problem you’re having here is that you’re making a lot of assumptions based out of low self-esteem and confirmation bias. But unless you’re Charles Xavier, you’re not a mind reader. You have literally no idea what’s going through somebody’s head. Your Tinder date, f’rex, may well have decided you were too short. However, it’s just as likely that she may have decided that there wasn’t any chemistry there. You may have let your anxiety get ahold of you and got a little pushy… or she might have decided that dating someone who’s active-duty might be too complicated for her. Or she may have been seeing other people as well and decided to pursue a relationship with one of them. There are dozens of potential reasons and very few of them have anything to do with you. Unless she straight-up tells you, you don’t know why she pulled the fade, and even then she might not be giving you the real or whole answer.
Rejection and the fade are all part of the dating game. Everyone experiences them. It just becomes a matter of learning how to handle them.
To start with, I suggest meditation. Mindfulness meditation can be great for getting a handle on how you feel and why, which is the first step in controlling those issues. It also helps to consciously reframe the situation whenever your jerk-brain pipes up with being too what-ever. When you start thinking about all the reasons why you were rejected, you have to remind yourself “no, I don’t know that,” and that this was a sign that the two of you weren’t compatible. The fact that things didn’t work out doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, it just means you’ve eliminated one potential mis-match and now you’re free to find someone you do work with. Couple this with developing an abundance mentality and you’ll find that yeah rejection isn’t fun but it’s nothing to fear. There’ll be someone else just as amazing (if not better) later on and now you’re free to pursue her instead.
You’ve built up your exterior, now spend some time building up your interior. Remember: your brain is lazy and wants to stay in the groove it’s already in. Carving out a new, positive groove can be difficult but it can be done. And once you do, you’ll find that your dating life will be much more satisfying.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: One of the big criticisms I’ve heard about the manosphere/The Red Pill/Pickup Artistry is that it doesn’t deal with the issues of men of color, especially East Asian and South Asian men. Yet as an Indian guy, the only people I’ve found who are willing to even discuss this issue are these very groups. Don’t get me wrong, they handle it in a very toxic, macho way that kind of ends up being along the lines of “get swole, buy our book for $34.99 and you’ll be able to conquer white b
*hes,” but that’s the only advice available for us; many “liberal” circles put the issue to “oh well most Asian/Indian men are very conservative and misogynistic,” which I feel to be something of an excuse, especially because a lot of first-generation Asian and Indian men tend to be disproportionately more liberal (at least from my own observations).
To make matters worse, an Indian-American acquaintance of mine bought into PUA/TRP-esque thinking, and has managed to have a surprising amount of success with women, despite previously getting rejected a lot. I’m honestly quite worried that my race will hold me back when dating (even many Indian women voice hesitation at dating us, and when I was younger, I heard “I don’t date Indian guys” a lot more than I’d have liked), but the alternative of buying into very misogynistic ideals that portray white women as the “prize” isn’t very desirable to me either, since it goes against many of my personal values.
I’m kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, I can choose to be alone (or at least be severely handicapped in the dating game) or I can become a person that I’ll hate. Could you potentially direct me to some resources that deal specifically with Asian and Indian men’s issues without a lot of the vitriol from TRP, or at least address this somewhere on your blog?
धन्पवाद (Thank you),
Secret Asian Man
DEAR SECRET ASIAN MAN: OK, I’m going to preface this with the reminder that as a white guy, I’m not going to have the same in-depth knowledge, insight and experience into what it means to date as an Asian man. I’ve got, at best, second and third-hand information based purely out of my observations, so I don’t want to speak to other people’s experiences as though I’m an authority. Take everything I have to say on this topic with appropriate levels of salt. If I miss something, misstate it, leave something out, get things wrong or just inadvertently offend, then I apologize in advance.
Now with all that being said: the issues surrounding people of color of any ethnicity and dating in the US are incredibly complex because it’s all part of a giant tangle of issues surrounding America’s history with… well just about everybody.
OKCupid founder Christian Rudder mined the data on OKCupid and found that Asian and black men had a distinct disadvantage in online dating outside of their race.
(Meanwhile, black women had the greatest penalty of all, even from black men – a troubling issue in and of itself).
It’s easy to write this off as “people are racist”, but it ignores the tangled web of issues surrounding the history of minority races in the US.
One of the biggest issues is Asian men – including Pakistani, Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Nepalese, Korean, Burmese, Malay, Filipino, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, etc. – face when it comes to dating is how they are perceived and portrayed in society and the effect that media has in determining our standards of beauty. For a very, very long time, Asian men were coded as un-masculine, if not completely sexless. Jokes about penis size abound, piled on top of stereotypes of academic obsession, sexual and social naïveté and an obsession with white women. The popular image of Asian men in media is the polar opposite of the hypermasculine ideal that we’re sold; brainy, doughy men are hardly men at all, etc.
Media representation doesn’t help either, not when the recognizable Indian face in the media is Apu from The Simpsons. Indian men in tv and movie are far more likely to be seen as Taj in Van Wilder, taking over the sex-obsessed foreigner role from Sixteen Candle’s Long Duck Dong. It’s rare that you’ll find Asian men presented on the same level white men, either as ass-kickers or as lovers in media. The few martial arts heroes are the exceptions. The fact that Steven Yuen’s character Glen in The Walking Dead was as much of a capable figure as Daryl or Rick – not to mention being able to be in an interracial relationship with Maggie – is depressingly unusual and rare in American television. There’re even fewer when it comes to portrayals or representation of South Asian men.
There has been some changes in the way Indian men are portrayed in media – iZombie’s Ravi is portrayed as a desirable catch for example – but on the whole those stereotypes get reinforced regularly. Even the Asian men who are portrayed as attractive are coded as being less “ethnic”; Ravi, for example, has a posh British accent rather than Bengali or West Indian accent.
Combine that with other issues regarding Western standards of beauty and attractiveness – especially surrounding skin color – and in-group stereotypes (the “Indian/Asian men are conservative/chauvinistic” beliefs you mentioned earlier) and you’ve got a perfect storm of post-colonial issues that can combine to make dating more difficult for Asian men.
But “difficult” isn’t the same as “impossible”.
With this all of this in mind, let’s talk about your circumstances, SAM. Right now, you’re falling into a common trap of a false dichotomy. You’re not stuck choosing between toxic TRP/PUA misogyny and being sexless. You’re falling for the same line of s
t that many other men have fallen for – the idea that in order to be successful with women, you have to be an ass
le who treats women badly. It’s bulls
t, period, end of story. There aren’t women out there who are thinking “Man, I really wish I could find a guy who would treat me badly, dismiss my desires, wants and fears and treat me like his personal Fleshlight!” Disrespect isn’t an aphrodisiac, no matter what people tell you and acting like a hypermasculine d
kbag isn’t the key to sexual success.
(Of course, it doesn’t help that the top results for “dating advice for Indian men” includes such luminaries as Return of Kings and Stormfront (!?)…)
As I’ve said before: the advantages presented by so-called “bad boys” are in presentation, not in the behavior. Confidence and assertiveness are attractive; arrogance and disrespect are not. Being willing to put yourself out there, to not shy away or be diffident has far more to do with dating success than negging or playing status games or treating every woman like she’s a club-going party girl. Treating your ethnicity as a handicap to overcome is going to sabotage you from the get-go; feeling as though you have to apologize for being Indian or Asian or overcompensating by acting like a hypermasculine douchebag is only going to sabotage your chances.
Now this isn’t to say that you won’t have challenges, but challenges can be overcome.
Sometimes it may be a clash of cultures, especially if you come from a traditional background and you’re trying to date people who don’t share that background. Sometimes it may just that people you’re interested in may not be willing to date a South or East Asian man; as frustrating as it may be, this is good for you. After all, if they’re willing to dismiss you based solely on your race, why would you want to date them at all?
Online dating may not work for you if you’re interested in interracial dating; as the OKCupid data has shown, people may be less likely to respond to someone of another race. This means you may want to prioritize meeting people in person and let online dating be your back-up.
The great thing about meeting people in person is that folks tend to be more open to serendipity in ways they often aren’t when it comes to online dating. We’ll often be attracted to folks we’ve met in person that we might have passed on if we saw them on an app, because we got a chance to know them as people first. That means that we’re more likely to encounter the qualities that draw us to them that we might never have known about if we just read their profile instead. They may not be our perfect match on paper but in person they’re just right.
Prioritizing meeting people in person gives you the advantage of playing to your strengths and using them to overcome any knee-jerk responses they may have on an app. Being able to win them over with your personality, your charm and your humor gives you a leg up when you can demonstrate it in the flesh instead of hoping that someone pauses long enough to read up on you before swiping.
That will help you find the success you want rather than being a misogynist assbag.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)