DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: For the longest time I really didn’t care about love. I’m all sorts of neuroatypical, and it took me a long time to sort out my orientation and gender identity, so all through my teens and early 20s, I was already grateful to have a few friends. Dating was way too complicated given how hard it was for me to even get out of my room. But little by little I became better at all things social, and while I’m still much of a weirdo, I’m no longer a loner. So I started thinking about love.
About five years ago, when I was 21, I met my first love. She was an amazing young woman, and we became close friends. She was also very religious, and going through one s
tty boyfriend after another. Those guys would use her commitment, cheat on her, then flung her aside. She was in a really bad place. It brought us even closer since I’m a good listener, I convinced her to give therapy a try and she managed to get better – this was her doing, I was just happy to support her. Eventually I confessed, and she told me very gently that she didn’t reciprocate – she was totally straight. We remained friends of course. A few years ago she finally met someone worthwhile and she’s happy with him. I’m friends with both of them, and she still comes to me when she needs someone to listen to her.
Last year I met another amazing woman. This one was bi – making progress. But she was dating someone and seemed quite happy with him. I would have taken that as a non-starter, except this woman behaved very ambiguously with me, playfully flirting, caressing me, etc. I’m aware I’m bad at reading signals, so I showed our convos to several people who all told me this was 100% flirting. I would have been cool with her being poly or in an open relationship, but the ambiguity of it all was really hurting me; I was falling in love more every day while not knowing if there was a chance. So I decided to ask her point blank if her behaviour meant anything or if this was just her way of being friends – and as I’d suspected, it was the latter. Finally knowing there was no chance of us getting together was preferable to the uncertainty, even though I was disappointed of course. But she seems to be very much in love with her boyfriend, and while I’ve never met him he seems like a good guy. I’m of the opinion that feelings are fluid, and if you think of someone romantically then you can also be their friend. So even though I still get a pang of sadness when I see her, I’m really happy to just be friends with her, and I’m sure my feelings will dull eventually.
But as you see, I seem to have a knack for becoming friends with amazing people… who don’t want to be more than friends with me. That’s logical: when you’re this amazing, people take notice, and so by the time they meet me there’s a good chance they’ve already found the one. I hope I never stop becoming friends with amazing people… But I’d really like, at some point, to find one who actually wants to date me as well. How do I find someone like that ? How do I get to be the one, for once ?
Thank you for your help,
Unsure and bittersweet
DEAR UNSURE AND BITTERSWEET: There are two things you need to do, UAB. The first is seemingly obvious, but I’m not entirely sure you’ve taken the step yet: you have to put yourself out there. It’s not enough to just decide “hey, I’m ready to fall in love!” and wait for the universe to provide. You have to make sure that folks know that you’re young, single and ready to mingle. Businesses have to advertise, writers and artists have to market themselves and single folks need to make it clear that they’re out, available and actively looking.
That means doing things like getting on the dating apps, especially right now, as we’re in the middle of a pandemic and everyone’s on lockdown. So the first thing you need to do is download the apps (I recommend Hinge, Bumble and OKCupid to start), get some great looking photos, fill out your profile and start swiping. It’ll take a bit of time as you learn how to spot what you’re looking for, but those hot awesome bi or gay singles — or even poly folks — are out there.
But for your next step… have you considered asking your friends if they had some single friends that they could hook you up with?
Here’s the thing: you may have heard the saying “you are the sum of the 5 people you spend the most time with“. This is 100% true. Despite what Paula Abdul and MC Skat Kat told us (Google it, kids), opposites don’t attract. With friends, as with romantic partners, we tend to attract — and are attracted to — people who are like us. For your purposes, this means that your awesome friends are much more likely to have friends who are as awesome. Now, whether those awesome friends are a) your type and b) of a compatible sexual orientation is an open question. But just as you need to advertise yourself to other like-minded singles, you need to let your friends know that you’re actively looking and would appreciate if they’d hook a buddy up.
And seeing as we’re all under quarantine at the moment, you’re actually in a position to take the plague lemons that life’s thrown your way and turn them into a quarantini. If your friends do, in fact, have someone who’s awesome, single and leans your direction, setting up a virtual happy-hour (or tea party or whatever suits your fancy) is the perfect way to get to know them in a low-stakes, low-investment way. Rather than the potential awkwardness of your friends throwing you two together in a room and saying “I think you two would click NOW KISS”, you can have a social gathering that lets you meet them in an organic fashion. If you two get along over the course of this virtual hangout, it’ll feel like the most natural thing in the world to say “Hey, I had a great time talking to you; can I add you on Facebook/Snapchat/WhatsApp?”
Once you do that, you’re in a position to get to know each other — and do some low-key flirting — on your own time. And while things didn’t work out with your friends, you’ll be in a position for lightning to strike and love to find a way.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I recently started college, and I’ve come across a problem a lot that you addressed in your article on male privilege. It’s as if as soon as a guy finds out that you read comic books, play Magic, and game you’re some trophy to be won. I happen to be the only single chick of the sort in the entire group, and I’ve gotten really angry within the past couple months because of the mindset. I’d love nothing more to find a guy who can match me in wits and interests, but they’ve become just as big of douches as the guys I avoid.
How do I win their respect? It seems my knowledge and my mind aren’t enough to be taken seriously, my feminine figure is what defines me. Do you have any advice that would help me in this situation?
– Seriously Irritated
DEAR SERIOUSLY IRRITATED: My first question is “Why are you worried about winning the respect of a bunch of douchebags, even if they’re fellow nerds?” S
t, by all rights, shouldn’t they be earning yours? I mean, yeah I can understand that these are supposedly your peers and all but if they’re acting like the same dicks avoid normally, I’d think you’d start looking elsewhere.
But hey, let’s deal with the situation at hand.
You have a number of options here, but I think ultimately the best thing you could do is refuse to play their game. If they’re treating you like a pair of boobs with an attractive hobby, refuse to engage them on that level. Whenever they’re treating you as “Potential Trophy NerdGirlfriend”, or giving you the “Isn’t it cute, she’s into comics!” attitude, shut them down. When they’re treating you as The Girl rather than as a peer, call them on their s
t. Point out exactly what it is they’re doing and refuse to be deflected, dismissed or derailed. This doesn’t have to be adversarial; your group may just be poorly socialized and not realize that how they’re acting and treating you is offensive. To mangle a quote: never attribute to a
holery what may be equally attributable to being ignorant.
Regardless: stand up for yourself and establish firmly that the way they’re treating you isn’t acceptable and it’s bothering you. Make them work for your approval and respect, not the other way around. If things don’t improve – if they don’t start reforming their behavior, then you may want to consider finding another group. There’s no point in rewarding them with your presence if they’re determined to act like dicks.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org