DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: Okay, so I’ve been reading your posts for a while now, using your advice to get out there to meet people and let go of my personal self-limiting beliefs. The thing is, while I do think I’ve improved I still don’t have a relationship, so maybe I haven’t improved enough? For context, I’m 27 years old, autistic and never dated or had sex.��I honestly don’t know where I stand on the desirability scale and I’m not sure how I can find that out. There’s things about me that I like, but there’s still a little more evidence that I’m not attractive.
In my friend group I’m known as the funny one, something that I know girls really like in a guy. I also enjoy cooking and baking and will often bring baked goods to parties as a potential icebreaker in case there are any women there. I also enjoy working out and I’m even working on some writing projects; I’m in the process of writing a novel and most recently I’ve been trying to write some material for standup comedy. I know these are good traits and hobbies to have, so that should suggest that I’m desirable.
I think that I am undesirable for a couple reasons. For one thing I never get matches on dating apps no matter how hard I try. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve created a profile, following your advice, shown it to female friends who said it was good, only to get no matches. I remember you saying that most guys suck on dating apps, which to me means that if you’re one of the few guys who doesn’t suck you will get matches. It would also mean that if you don’t get matches it’s because your profile is s--t and you have to start over again, this time with a better profile.��I also think I’m undesirable because every time I develop a crush the other person never seems to reciprocate. I haven’t had that many crushes, but the few I’ve had I was never “their type.” One of my former crushes actually became one of my friends, which suggests that she likes my personality but not my looks (if she liked both my looks and personality she would have no reason to turn me down.) Another one of my crushes asked me to go to the dog park with her, which we did about twice, and then kind of ghosted me when I asked to hang out for a third time.��I’ve also never had anybody crush on me, and if I did I think I would know. When I develop a crush on someone I always talk to their friends, get them to see if we would be a good match or if she likes me back. The fact that nobody’s ever gone to my friends to talk/ask about me in that way is one of the ways I know that nobody’s ever been infatuated with me. It’s also possible, being autistic, that a person was flirting with me but I had just “missed the signs” but I don’t think this is likely. ��For one thing, if I didn’t pick up on something and one of my friends did they would definitely tell me. They know how badly I want a girlfriend and I trust them to be honest and straightforward about that. There are also times when I thought girls were flirting with me at parties, only to find out they weren’t actually interested.
I’ve read enough of your posts to know that there’s nothing wrong with being older and inexperience and that I shouldn’t feel bad about it. Thing is, I still don’t fully understand why a desirable guy would take this long to find a partner. When you look at people with great social skills, who are in good shape and have cool, interesting hobbies, you never see them having this problem. They may have other relationship problems but the guys who fit that description are either dating someone or have a lengthy dating history by the time they’re my age.
I think the problem here is either I’m not desirable or I am, but I’m just the unluckiest desirable guy out there. If the second thing is true, then there’s probably nothing I can do to fix myself, if I’m unlucky. If the first thing is true, that I am undesirable that would suggest that once I become desirable I’ll get a partner and all these years of struggle will finally be over. What do you think? What should I do here?
– Possibly Too Unattractive to Date
DEAR POSSIBLY TOO UNATTRACTIVE TO DATE: I’ll just get the obvious answer out of the way first: you’ll know you’re desirable enough for someone to want to date you when they date you.
Now I’ll admit that this sounds flippant and that I’m not taking your issue seriously, but that’s actually the truth. There’s no “objective” measure of desirability because everyone’s got individual tastes. There’re traits that are generally more desirable or attractive than others, but everyone’s going to have their own metric about what makes someone hot and someone else not – and frankly, they may not even be able to articulate it to anyone who isn’t them.
The thing is, attractiveness and desirability isn’t math; you don’t have a list of attributes that give you certain amounts of points and if you add them up past a certain score, you’re datable. This is why you can have someone who is conventionally handsome but still leaves people cold, while you can have hordes of women who would let Matt Berry and Jesse Plemons do all kinds of horrible things to them.
It’s also why you can’t use something like dating apps as an objective measure of your attractiveness. Leaving aside my usual rant about how swipe mechanics f--ked online dating, dating apps aren’t objective measures of anything. There are all sorts of influences and dark incentives on dating apps that affect who matches with who and when. For example, just about every app these days uses algorithms to decide who does or doesn’t show up in your feed as a a potential match, and most of those algorithms are black boxes; you have no idea who is or isn’t seeing your profile at all or what influences this. You can struggle on dating apps through no fault of your own, but because the architecture of the app makes it that much harder.
Similarly, different dating apps have different audiences and demographics; part of the struggle is to figure out where “your” people are – the folks you are most compatible with. You can have the greatest profile in the world, when all your pictures are on point and your prompts drip with diamond bon mots and pearls of wisdom… but that doesn’t do any good if the majority of women on that site aren’t people who would be a good match for you.
And that’s before we even get into the fact that most dating apps have a very lopsided male-to-female ratio; Tinder is practically at a 3 to 1 ratio. Or the fact that dating apps are very inefficient in general; recent studies have found that it takes approximately 57 matches to get one meet-up on average on Tinder. And it takes 5 separate meet-ups to get one hook up or romantic relationship. The average Tinder user reported having two matches.
This is why you can’t objectively measure how hot you are or hit the right switches and then get all the matches. Attraction doesn’t work that way. Attraction and attractiveness is a multi-axis graph and there’re often a host of issues that affect attraction that you simply can’t factor in or account for or work around. That’s just human nature. Learning how to work with this is part of learning how to date.
It’s also why I tell people that online dating should be a supplement to how you meet people, not the dominant or primary way you do so.
Now, one thing that’s important to consider is that having traits like a great sense of humor or being a great cook isn’t going to automatically win people over; people aren’t going to just smell the humor on you or divine that you’re a wizard in the kitchen. When, where and how you display those qualities matters – the dating version of “show, don’t tell”. Are you interacting with folks so that they have a chance to get to know you and see these great qualities? You make your friends laugh and that’s great… are you talking to women and helping them have a good time? Are you creating opportunities for folks to sample your cooking?
Similarly, there’s a question of how often you’re seeing people and having a chance for them to get to know you. Having a great sense of humor doesn’t mean you roll up on a stranger, do your tight five and get straight into someone’s panties – attraction, especially the kind of attraction that leads to relationships – is built over time. Despite how it feels, the love-at-first-sight-leap-into-a-relationship-with-someone-you-just-met dynamic isn’t how most people operate. This can lead to short-term, casual hook-ups, but not anything that actually lasts – not without some actual substance to back up the initial sense of attraction.
Most people meet someone and attraction is built as they get to know each other. This is part of why most folks meet their partners through shared activities or mutual friends. It’s also why propinquity – how often someone sees you, interacts with you and so on – is one of the most powerful, yet under-appreciated forces in attraction. The more time we spend with someone, the more likely we are to form a friendship or romantic relationship with them.
This is why I talk about “dating slow” – a lot of folks struggle with dating because they’re trying to speed-run attraction and it just doesn’t work like that. Even people that are conventionally attractive find that relationships take time. Conventional attractiveness certainly makes the initial connection easier, but it’s not a guarantee of anything. There are men and women who are stupidly hot that struggle to meet people and to find relationships.
And someone being attracted to you doesn’t necessarily guarantee that they’ll make a move. Women are just as shy and worried about rejection as men are. Even when they think a guy is the hottest thing since World War III, they may not feel like they can say or do something about it, for all kinds of reasons.
And there’s also the fact that people in general are bad at picking up when folks are flirting with them.
So yeah, it’s entirely possible to be desirable and still be single. You could be hot as hell as a straight man, but if most of the women around you are either not interested in straight men, not single or not interested in romance with anyone, then it doesn’t do you any more good than having millions of dollars’ worth of bitcoin that you can’t convert into fiat currency.
There is always an element of luck when it comes to dating. I’m fond of saying that meeting a potential partner is a matter of right person, right place and right time, and if those three factors don’t come together, it’s not going to happen. You can be in the right place where your perfect match would be… but you showed up at the wrong time. That’s not because of anything wrong with you, it’s just pure random chance. Dating isn’t math, it’s blackjack; you can improve your odds by playing “correctly”, but you can still lose.
Or to put it another way: even if you’re rolling with advantage in D&D, you can still roll a critical fail.
The best thing you can do is focus on maximizing your odds. You want to be looking for the people you’re most compatible with and spending time where those people are likely to hang out, getting to know folks and spending time with them to take advantage of propinquity, and to use those opportunities to demonstrate your desirable qualities.
That means making sure your style and presentation are on point, being social, interacting with folks – including people you’re not trying to date, building your social network and looking for (or creating) opportunities. If you become part of a community at, say, your local tabletop gaming store and make friends there, hosting a regular cookout or dinner party and encouraging them to invite friends means that not only are you creating an opportunity to show off your skill in the kitchen, but you’re creating greater opportunities to meet people by having friends invite their friends.
Yeah, this takes work. Yeah, it takes a certain amount of trial and error, and it’s certainly frustrating. This is why I’m a big advocate of embracing the things you love and finding ways of doing them that help you meet people; that makes the process less of a hassle and more something you enjoy. You’re getting to do things you’re passionate about while meeting folks who are also interested in those things – that’s far more enjoyable than forcing yourself to go to bars you hate to talk to people you don’t like.
But like I’m always saying: nobody said that this would be easy; just that it would be worth it.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org