DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I woke up in March and April of 2020 to the fact that I was an obese virgin that had no chance whatsoever of finding a girl to be in a relationship with, let alone just hook up with. After almost killing myself I decided to try and change. Between May and November of 2020 I lost 50lbs (from 205lbs to 155lbs) and started working out in September, meaning that technically I’ve improved my looks a lot. I still think I look terrible, though, even though I have no loose skin or anything like that. I think my face is awful, and an average build doesn’t seem to be good enough these days.
And I’m still a 23 year old virgin. I didn’t used to care, but it hit me like a truck when the pandemic hit. This weighs on me so heavily that I can’t seem to gain any confidence from my weight loss. With all social events and gatherings cancelled that most people recommend I should be going to now that I supposedly look better it seems that I’m doomed to graduate college a virgin. One of the worst things is that I have a job on campus at a building frequented by everyone and see so many couples just doing their thing, as if it’s proof that something is wrong with me because I couldn’t date or hookup before Covid and still can’t afterwards.
My grades are good, I have disposable income for dates, I have a job, but I can’t seem to find a girl interested. Considering how things are I feel like I truly will be missing the boat when I graduate. No girl wants to f--k a 24, 25, 26+ year old virgin these days, at least that’s the way I feel a lot of the time. I feel like I’ll never find someone to be in a relationship with if I couldn’t meet a single girl in college that liked me. I’m not asking for advice on how to hook up or anything like that, I’d just like to know some advice on how to get over being a virgin, or better accept that I’m more than likely going to be alone for the long haul.
— First Time, No Time
DEAR FIRST TIME, NO TIME: Alright FTNT, first of all: congratulations. Dropping 50 lbs is a lot of work, especially during the pandemic, when everything is on lockdown, you have infinitely more stress and you have fewer opportunities for working out.
But what you’re dealing with is something a lot of folks have experienced after significant weight loss — or even, in some cases, after major plastic surgery: that change didn’t magically fix everything for you. You’re still the same person you were before… you just wear smaller clothes. Losing fifty pounds is an accomplishment and I hope you feel good about having achieved it, but it was never going to be the magic bullet for you. This is because your body shape wasn’t the issue; the way you view yourself is.
If you look at your letter, you can see the signs all over the place. You list at a lot of externals, such as your weight, your job and your grades as evidence that you should be able to get dates, and the fact that you can’t is proof that something’s wrong with you as a person. Hell, you started your letter describing yourself: an obese virgin with no chance of ever meeting someone. It’s pretty clear that “obese” and “virgin” are intended as shorthand for “look at how awful and unlovable I am”, which is precisely the issue. You’re coming to this from the position that you’re inherently unlovable and unf--kable. And while you’ve made changes — again, no shade, you’ve put in a lot effort — your weight wasn’t the problem. There’re a lot of women who like big burly guys who look like how hugs feel — just look at some of the love that K. Trevor Wilson gets as Squirrely Dan. Neither, for that matter, is your being a virgin. In fact, there’re lots of women — in the comments here, on the DNL Facebook group, on Twitter and elsewhere — who’ve talked about the older virgins they’ve been with and how enjoyable those experiences have been.
Here’s a truth: your biggest obstacle is that, honestly, you don’t sound like you like yourself very much. It sounds like you run yourself down a lot, especially in your own head. That’s going to have a direct effect on your love life because your attitude is destiny. You’ve set yourself up for failure because you’ve defined yourself as being unlovable or undesirable and that’s going to hit everything you do. To start with, there’s the fact that you still insist that you’re ugly and that nobody will want to f--k a virgin. And while the snarky answer is “not with that attitude”, the truth is… well, yeah, not with that attitude. When you run yourself down like this, you cut your legs out from under yourself and fail before you even start. Not because you’re right and you’re too ugly or whatever, but because you believe you are and so you won’t make the first move of approaching someone. “Why would I,” says your jerkbrain, “nobody could possibly be attracted to me, so what’s the point?” If you do get pushed into talking to somebody, you’re more likely to half-ass it because why bother when it’s a foregone conclusion? Or you’ll be more likely to bail at the first sign of “trouble” — and by trouble, I mean “first thing that your jerkbrain decides is a sign that they’re not interested”. And even if you do get a number, then you’re not likely to actually, y’know. Text ’em. Or call. Or set up a date. Why? Because, again: you’ve already decided that they couldn’t possibly be into you. And so, often without having so much as made a move, decided that you’ve already failed and you’re just destined to be lonely.
And that all comes before the way your attitude is likely to come across to the people you do talk to. There’s a reason that Eeyore isn’t a sex-symbol, after all.
The same goes from your watching the “lucky” couples or the idea that nobody wants to f--k a man who’s a virgin in his 20s. Ignoring the fact that you’re still fairly well in the median rage of the “first sexual experience” bell-curve, these thoughts and beliefs don’t have any grounding in truth; they’re just a form of psychic self-harm. Telling yourself that this is an inexorable fact is like an emotional version of cutting; there’s a perverse sort of satisfaction in telling yourself that you’re resolutely f--ked. But these are beliefs, not facts; the main reason you accept them as truth is because they hurt. It’s what YouTuber Natalie Wynn calls “masochistic epistemology“: if it hurts, it must be true. And the more it hurts, the more it goes from being a truth to THE TRVTH. So the idea that your being a virgin means that you’re stuck being a virgin — a catch-22 if ever there was one — becomes one of the fundamental laws of your inner universe. And because we all have a negative confirmation bias, you’re much more likely to take any reference to the unf--kability of an older virgin — whether it’s some rando on Reddit or a barely heard conversation on campus — as TRVTH handed down on stone tablets. Even when there’re plenty of women saying “um, no, totally f--ked an older virgin, it was great”.
And this attitude continues with the artificial deadline you’ve given yourself. I mean… let’s say that you graduate without having had sex. And? While this seems vitally important to you right now, the truth is that the only person this will matter to is you… and only because you’ve decided that this is cutoff. I mean, what if you decide to take an extra year? Does that push the deadline back? The logic makes little sense because it’s not about logic, it’s about feelings… and in this case, your feelings are lying to you.
Now the thing that’s most important in your letter is something that you breezed over: you apparently had a suicide attempt. That, my friend, is the single biggest indicator that you need to be talking to a therapist. And the good thing is that, as a college student, you have access to health services through your school. You should be taking full advantage of this; there’re few times in your life when you’ll have as ready access to mental health professionals for free, or at a much more affordable rate. As someone who’s dealt with his own mental health issues: trust me, that’s not something you can just muscle your way through it.
So that’s my first suggestion: get thee to the health services department, go. Make an appointment ASAP and start the process of addressing your mental health with the same determination that helped you lose fifty pounds.
My next suggestion: you need to be your own best friend. Let’s be real here, FTNT: would you put up with one of your friends insulting themselves like that? Would you stand by and just shrug at someone saying the things you’re saying? Or would you encourage them, point out that they’re wrong and do your damndest to make them realize that they’re wrong?
That’s the exact energy you should be bringing to yourself. That kindness, compassion and support that you would give to your best friend is what you should be giving yourself. Whether it’s shutting down the voice of your jerkbrain when it starts going off about how unlovable you are, pointing out how often feels aren’t reals or even just learning to treat yourself with empathy and gentle kindness, you need to be a friend to yourself.
And one of the ways you can do that? Stop treating yourself like you’re ugly or undeserving. Were I to guess — and I feel fairly confident in this because hey, been there done that — you are dressing much the same way you did back before you lost weight. I’m willing to bet that you’re still waiting for the point when you’re “ready” or “deserve” to dress up sharp or in the way that “Future You” will. But here’s the thing: you can start that now. Now is the perfect time to start treating yourself the way your Future Self would. In fact, this is part of what will bring Future You into being. As weird as it sounds, the way we dress directly affects how we feel about ourselves. It’s an outward expression of how we feel about ourselves… and our brains respond to it. If you dress like a slob, you tend to feel worse; I mean, look at your slovenly self in those ragged, ill-fitting pants and stained shirt. But dress up like you’re a million bucks… you start to feel like it. And that feeling reinforces itself; you feel better about yourself, so you dress better and carry yourself with more confidence. Because you’re dressing better and carrying yourself with more confidence, you start to feel more confident. And because you’re exhibiting greater confidence, other people will respond to that confidence… which in turn, makes you more confident.
This is why “faking it ’til you make it” is so important; you’re training yourself to become the future version of you, instead of waiting for the day he mysteriously shows up.
However, I think there’s a factor you aren’t considering, FTNT: we’re still in the middle of the most difficult times in living memory. There’s a global pandemic going on, more than 400,000 Americans have died and we’ve barely even started to crawl out of the mess that the Trump presidency left us in. One of the things that people don’t realize is that the stress of the pandemic is affecting everything we do. It’s eaten up our emotional bandwidth and turned up the volume on our anxieties and fears. We’re all stressed and we’re all dealing with reduced capacity. Much of what you’re dealing with is being exacerbated by how goddamn hard it all is right now. And that’s why it’s more important than ever that you go easy on yourself. We’re all carrying much heavier burdens than we realize and wondering why we’re not as happy, productive or otherwise normal as we were when we weren’t living under the spectre of a virulent plague.
Oh, and one more thing: you’re stronger than you give yourself credit for, FTNT. I realize things feel hopeless and pointless, but they’re not. They’re hard as hell, yeah… but you’ve proven you’re stronger. You’ve pulled yourself back from the brink of suicide, you’ve made significant changes to your life… those all take a lot of strength and courage. That alone is proof that you can do incredible things if you put your mind to it. If you want proof that things can get better… just look at how far you’ve come and how much you’ve already accomplished. You’ve done a lot, my dude, and that just goes to show how much potential you have.
So do yourself a favor and shake off some of the burden you’re carrying by getting to health services and talking to a counselor or therapist. That alone is going to be the single greatest gift you can give yourself this year. And when you let go of some of those burdens, you’ll have even greater capacity for not just improvement, but kindness and self-compassion. Those will be what help you build a happier, more fulfilling life.
You’ve got a great future waiting for you, NTFT. You just have to reach out and take it. You’ve got this. I promise.
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