DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m hoping you might have some advice for me. I’m a cis woman in her thirties who has somehow ended up with very, very little dating or relationship experience. Contributors include a needlessly long time spent at uni; a demanding career I’m quite invested in; a shy personality, and moving about once a year for work. Anyway!, I’m finding I’m getting kinda lonely – and I’d also like to have a family at some point.
Since apparently every even vaguely appealing guy I know from work is married, the other main options appear to be meeting someone through friends, non-work activities, or online dating. I’ve let my non-work life side for the last few years, so I know I need to make more of an effort to make friends and do things outside of work; though unfortunately a lot of my interests – singing, musical theatre, dance, sewing – don’t seem to be very popular with single dudes (crazy, right?!).
And that leaves online dating. Doc, I’ve made many excuses as to why I don’t like online dating: it’s artificial; I don’t feel like having to entertain a complete stranger for a few hours; I’ll feel obligated to keep dating regardless of my level of interest so long as they aren’t an actual Nazi; all of which are true – but the real reason is: I’m scared of guys.
Not scared for my life or physical safety, but scared of their expectations physically/sexually: if a guy asks you out on/goes on a date with you, does that mean he’s already decided he’d like to shag you? Are they hoping to end any and every date with a make-out session? Is it true that every man you know has pictured you naked?
I know these are incredibly juvenile things to think but I find them to be incredibly intimidating prospects – and conversely I find it extremely hard to imagine deciding I want to shag someone based purely on a dating profile or a single meeting. I get so worried about controlling guys’ expectations in a social setting, that if I’m in mixed company and I even think that a guy may be possibly slightly kind of maybe paying more-than-polite attention to me, I shut down socially on them unless and until I find out they’re dating/married to someone else (i.e. ‘safe’) – which I’m sure comes across as quite antisocial and is verging on clinical paranoia.
Does any of this have a grounding in reality? Is it bulls
t cultural conditioning? Both? In any case this is clearly an unhelpful attitude and most people manage to coordinate their dating expectations of each other more-or-less satisfactorily. So, any tips on how to change my brain around this?
Thanks in advance,
Scared Weird Little Person
DEAR SCARED WEIRD LITTLE PERSON: First things first SWLP: don’t underestimate the number of guys who you might meet through your activities. You may have to think a little outside the box, but your interests are hardly straight-guy kryptonite. I know a lot of singles groups that do regular karaoke nights, for example.
But let’s talk about your concerns. You’ve managed to hit the sweet spot between “ok that’s kind of accurate” and “you’re at an 11 and I need you at a 2.” For example: the idea that a guy has already decided he wants to bang if he’s asked you out on a date. While there’re certainly guys who’ll decide whether they want to hit it with someone as soon as they lay eyes on them, most guys are going to want to at least have a conversation, maybe dinner first. As I’ve told folks before: plenty of people – men and women both – have met someone they thought was sex on a stick… right up until they opened their mouths and said or did something that made them absolutely unf
kable. But the straight truth is, we generally don’t ask people out on dates in hopes that we might find them attractive so yes, if someone asks you out on a date, they’re probably interested in you on a physical level.
And if they’re interested in you physically… well, yeah, odds are pretty good that they wouldn’t mind a make-out session at the end of a date. Or in the middle of one. I mean, make-outs are awesome, so it’s kind of understandable that folks would be down for it if it’s on the table. But the fact that someone would be interested in it doesn’t mean that they necessarily expect it. As a general rule, people take each date as it comes. Most folks get that every first date is its own beast; some folks won’t kiss on the first date, some folks think not having sex on the first date is a waste of their time.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t have crossed wires; there can be times when one person thought the date went swimmingly and the other thought it was tooth-grindingly awful. One person may expect a simple good night kiss while another is thinking that a good-night blow-job is all but inevitable. And there are always a
holes out there who think that they’re owed sex because… well, mostly because they exist.
As for “every man has pictured you naked?” That’s a hard no. There’re plenty of folks who have, but there’re also many who haven’t. Again, it’s going to vary from person to person, but it’s hardly universal (or even restricted to men).
But the issue here is that you seem to be working under the idea that it’s your responsibility to somehow manage what other people think or feel and that’s not true at all. The idea that you are somehow responsible for how guys act or feel is absolute, unadulterated horse s
t. The fact that a guy may or may not be interested in sleeping with you on the first date – or even on just seeing your profile – doesn’t mean that you’re obligated to meet that expectation, or that you need to have made that decision yourself. The whole point of dating is for both parties to decide how they feel about one another. And seeing as it’s a double opt-in process, if one of you isn’t feeling it or needs a little more time to decide if this potential relationship has legs… well, that’s the game. Either it ends right there, or both parties decide to give it another round and see where it goes.
What you don’t need to worry about is whether a guy is interested in banging you meaning anything other than “this person finds you attractive.” Men are, presumably, able to manage their libidos and keep their dicks in check. Folks who can’t (or won’t) aren’t the responsibility of women to “manage”, they’re a
holes who shouldn’t be allowed to wander in public without a chaperone.
It sounds to me like you’re dealing with a lot of sex-negative, sex-shame-y f
kery that puts all the responsibility for “controlling” sex on women. It’s bulls
t cultural conditioning and the sooner you can start divesting yourself of it, the happier you’ll be.
Unfortunately, it’s also the sort thing that can be hard to shake; cultural conditioning is a motherf
ker, especially if you’ve lived with it your entire life. If these intrusive thoughts are really troubling for you, then it may be best for you to unpack things with a counselor or therapist. They’re in a better position to help pick these worries apart than a loudmouth with an advice column.
But seriously, SWLP, there’s such a thing as an overabundance of caution. Dating can be weird, it can be frustrating, it can even be scary at times. But it can also be very, very worth it.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)