Dear Breakup Girl,
This is kind of a biggie. I’m 23 years old. I still live at home with my ‘rents for financial reasons while I’m in graduate school, completing a degree in elementary education.
To get down to it, I haven’t had a date since I was 17. It’s not for want of trying. The times when I thought there was some mutual attraction, I would ask to see the person more socially, not necessarily on a date, but out. The few times that anyone has said yes over the past 6 years, it’s always turned out they were just being friendly, but were already involved with someone else. Plus, I suppose I’m not that good at reading “signals.” That takes experience, something I am greatly lacking.
Most of my friends are women, but I’ve never been able to move a friendship to a romance, nor have I really tried. I would consider it almost a betrayal of that friendship. I’m not into the bar scene, or clubs (I can’t dance). I’m not into religion, so meeting someone at church is out. I’ve tried personals, both online and off, with 0 success. For all that my best friends are women, none of them has ever set me up with someone.
Now it seems that all my friends are engaged, or involved in serious relationships (and as a consequence have little if any time to spend with me). My little sister, and my best friend’s little sister (same age, 3 years younger) are engaged. And every attractive, intelligent woman I meet seems to be married/engaged/or otherwise seriously involved. (I’m only meeting people at school and work. I hate going out by myself, and never meet anyone when I do.)
I so long for the approval, attention, and affection of another, that this desire is affecting my school work. And it has negatively affected my social life. People either think I’m really weird, or that I’m gay simply because they’ve never seen me with a woman.
I would really like to find someone to have a relationship with, but don’t have a clue as how to meet someone. Much less develop and grow the relationship. I could give my heart away in less than a breath — all it would take is someone showing a genuine interest in me. Do you have any suggestions?
1. Is there any any any way you could move out? There’s nothing inherently lame about living with your parents, especially when it’s part of a deliberate financial plan. But how about student housing, an apartment share? I just think that still sleeping in your Underdog sheets could be contributing to your sense of being left behind.
2. Rethink your stance on friendship-to-romance. This move is a risk, but not necessarily a betrayal. You don’t sound like the kind of guy who’d be like, “Your friendship is worth a lot to me — but getting laid is worth even more!” You do sound like the kind of guy for whom friendship would a comfortable place to start.
3. If you want to be set up, ask. Maybe your friends think you’ll feel patronized if they make the offer.
4. Don’t give up on the internet personals. These are really not loser.com. This approach circumvents lots of your concerns. At first, all you have to read is e-mail, not “signals” (which, by the way, no one is good at. It’s less about “experience” than it is about bravado.). You don’t have to go out alone; you can go online alone. No praying, no dancing. No (well, less) guesswork about why you’re there, about who’s already involved. Try it again.
5. Caution: I hope, even after all this time/pining, that it would take more than someone showing an interest in you to take your breath away. Or, at least, that after your breath were taken away by a glance, a touch, a call, that you’d also hold out — with the same person — to make sure that the affection really does go both ways (and to your brain, not just to your lungs).
You’ve been in a big long rut, kiddo, and I understand why you’re losing patience and hope. And it’s okay to be hapless frustrated I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing guy … in a letter to BG. But just as you wouldn’t bring that guy into your classroom, don’t bring him along on a date. Be brave.
This advice was originally published November 16, 1998.