DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I want to begin this message by commenting on how much I truly appreciate your humorous and kind article on dating advice for short men. As a 23-year-old man of 5’6 with some acne and no romantic experience to speak of, I need all the self-esteem boosts I can get. I wouldn’t say that I’ve got a huge chip on my shoulder about it, but I fear that I may be headed in that direction.
That said, I believe my predicament goes further than my stature. You see, I am currently in grad school at a relatively rural college town full of young persons aged around 18-22, a prime demographic for height prioritization and uninteresting conversations. There don’t appear to be many women older than myself on Tinder, and though I get frequently 4-5 matches every two 2 days or so, no one ever responds, and if they do, the conversations eventually peter out anyway.
Though my program is fully funded and provides a sweet stipend, I found myself having to move back home with my folks for the summer, and this will likely be the case for the remainder of my twenties (I’m aiming for a doctorate), since my field typically doesn’t fund students over the summer. Of course, I can’t really do much to work on dating when I live at home, since living with one’s parents as a young man is considered unbecoming, and also because I will be moving back to school several hundred miles away in a few weeks. With all of that in mind, I could use your help in figuring out where to meet women this next school year. I’ve always been told to “get out there,” but it is not clear to me where “there” is. I don’t believe bars would be the best fit for me (for the aforementioned reason concerning my height), and there aren’t many opportunities for meeting grad students in other departments. I do love visiting the university’s art gallery and nearby bookstore, but those seem like unpromising settings to encounter the same person routinely and strike up an acquaintanceship that could lead to something more, don’t you think?
One last thing. Though I am a little awkward and shy, my sense of humor has always been an immense social asset. I have always been the hilarious guy in any group, and I have always had many female friends or acquaintances, but I simply don’t know how proceed. I thank you very much for your kindness and willingness to help me out with this.
Piled Higher and Deeper
DEAR PILED HIGHER AND DEEPER: This is the sort of problem that can be split into two separate, if related issues.
The first is one of simple demographics. Some people struggle to find dates or relationships, not through any fault of their own but because of pure demographics. Living in a rural area — especially an area where the population is going to vary drastically between seasons — means that you’re going to have a smaller pool to draw from when it comes to meeting people. In cases like this, you essentially have three options. The first is, simply work with what you have. This isn’t always the best choice, and for some, like LGBTQ folks, it can limit your options to single digits… but it is an option. The second is to move. This isn’t always the easiest choice or most viable, especially now, but it is a valid one. If you have the resources — either in terms of money or friends — moving to a locale where the demographics are more in your favor is a perfectly legitimate option. Even if you have to crash on a friend’s couch for a bit or live with roommates until things are a bit more stable, this is an option that a lot of people choose.
The third option is to find ways to expand your dating pool. There’re a number of ways of doing this. One is to expand the radius that you’d be willing to date. A lot of people in small towns will often expand their search radius on dating apps to include more areas, especially if there’s a larger city within a reasonable distance. While this can cut into how often you could meet up with your matches — you do have to factor in commute times — it’s something a number of folks will do, especially if they have their own car or have access to reliable transportation.
Another option is to look less to things like cold approaches or dating apps and start to rely a bit more on the resources you currently have… such as your social circle. Even in this day and age, most people don’t meet their partners on dating apps; the majority of folks tend to meet their partners either through shared activities or through their friends. You may not have a lot of chances to meet people, but your friends very well might. Of course, you have to be somewhat proactive; you can’t just hope that your friends will intuit that you’d like them to possibly introduce you to someone they think you may click with. Letting them know that hey, you’re single, you’re looking, dating apps are kind of a nightmare, and do they know anyone you might click with?
Of course, you also want to put some effort into expanding your social circle and meeting new people. This is part of why — schedules permitting, mind you — it’s worth pursuing hobbies or passions in ways that bring you in contact with other folks who also love those hobbies or passions. Having those shared interests serve as an instant conversational starter as well as make it easier to connect with them and start forging friendships. You may not meet the love of your life at your local tabletop gaming store or a MeetUp for, say, folks interested in podcasting, but you may well meet the people who might introduce you to her.
But let’s talk about your second issue. You’re making a classic mistake, PhD: you’re assuming that your beliefs are fact, and reacting to that, instead of actual experience. This issue runs the gamut, from your height to your living with your parents… none of these are the deal-breaking obstacle that you think they are. You are, however, reacting to them as if they were… and that makes all the difference. As much as I hate the phrase “feels aren’t reals” — mostly because it’s used to imply that someone’s being emotional and not cold-blooded and logical — it certainly applies here. You’re making assumptions about what other people think based off of things that you’re worried about, without actual evidence. I would, in fact, be more than willing to bet that a lot of the anxiety you’re feeling coming from feedback you’re getting primarily from other men, not from the women you’re interested in dating. Men, especially men in certain communities, have a tendency to assume that they’re experts in what women want or think… without actually, y’know. Listening to what the women in question have to say. If I could have a nickel for every time a guy goes off about how women only date men who are x height, have y income or z body types while women are standing there saying “um… no”, I would be swimming through my money bin like Scrooge McDuck.
To start with, let’s talk about living with your parents. First and foremost my dude: the economy is in the s--tter. We are dealing with absolutely unprecedented levels of economic disaster and unemployment. Living with your parents right now isn’t a sign of failure to launch or that you’re some over-developed man-child, it makes a lot of economic sense. Considering that we’re about to see a wave of people getting evicted or foreclosed on — barring some very fast action from Congress (and I wouldn’t hold my breath on that) — the fact that you’ve got a place to stay and helps save you money doesn’t look like you’re immature, it looks like you’re making the smart play.
But even before COVID-19 destroyed the world economy, people were likely to understand. In 2019, nearly a quarter of Americans aged 23 – 30 were living with their parents. Between student debt, an increasingly unaffordable housing market and wages that haven’t kept track with inflation or cost of living, it’s entirely understandable that people aren’t getting apartments or buying houses or condos the way they were back in the 90s or 00’s. Anyone you date would not only understand but likely has friends or relatives who were doing the same thing. For a lot of folks it’s a simple economic necessity.
Would bringing someone home be a little more complicated? Possibly. But not necessarily more so than dealing with bringing someone home when you have roommates. And at 23 and someone going for his doctorate, you should be in a place where you could tell your parents that you’re dating and also sexually active and start making allowances for how that’s going to all work.
(And failing that: there’re still hotels and motels. I recommend the HotelTonight app if you need to find a place last minute.)
Your height is, likewise, a thing that you’re more concerned about than the women you’re likely to date will care about. Just as men are often more flexible in their preferred body types or hair color or what-have-you that folks give them credit for, women are equally as varied and flexible in terms of their types and preferences. While there will always be women who only date men of a certain height — just as there are always men who will only date women of a certain weight or breast size — there’re far, far more who are more concerned with the holistic person and not just whether they can reach the top shelf at the supermarket. And, to be perfectly frank, if a woman isn’t willing to date you because of your height, the flaw doesn’t exist in you, it exists in her. That’s an indicator that she’s someone you don’t want to date. I mean, come on… do you want to date someone that shallow?
And while I’m sure you’ve seen women on Tinder or OKCupid who say “6′ or taller”, they’re not the majority. They’re not even the plurality. They’re just the ones you noticed; you didn’t notice the ones who didn’t have those restrictions in their profile. Confirmation bias is a thing, my dude. If you, to pull a random example, were to buy a Subaru Forester today, tomorrow you would suddenly see Foresters all over the damn place. Not because the number of cars on the road had changed, but because now you’re expecting to see them. They were always there; you just didn’t have cause to notice them before. So it is with dating apps; you’re noticing the women whose height preferences exclude you because you’re looking for them, even if you don’t realize it. You’re not seeing the ones who don’t because their existence isn’t as meaningful to you right now.
Change your outlook and you’ll notice far more women who’d be dying to give you a shot. And as an aside? When women have a problem with short guys, it’s not because of their height… it’s because of their attitude. If you’re someone who’s not hung up about his height, then you’re going to have far, far fewer problems than you’d expect.
And, incidentally: consider dating tall women. They love guys who are confident in themselves to not be intimidated by an amazon.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org