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August 31, 1998   CONTINUED e-mail e-mail to a friend in need


Dear Breakup Girl,

Well, here you have yet another of those "I haven't had a boyfriend in __ years, am I pathetic?" letters. Except combined with one of those "I am __ years old and haven't ____ yet, am I pathetic?" letters. I'm 19 years old and I have never had a relationship of any kind, unless you count a disposable camp/vacation fling several years ago (which, while fun, was very brief, decidedly casual and ended badly). I am constantly surrounded by dating/engaged/even married friends, teen romance movies and TV shows like Dawson's Creek and Buffy etc. where these decidedly younger people are far beyond my experience (I know it's just TV but it's still depressing) and letters in your column from an army of young lovers. Well, I haven't had a hint of romance or even lust thus far, and I don't understand why!

Well, OK, I do. I was one of those driven, Straight-A Activity Girl Overachievers in high school, and while that was handy in the scholarship department it did not exactly work wonders for my love life. It didn't bother me (much...) at the time, because I figured there was plenty of time for that Later. WELL it's Later, and still no luck! I've seen my college friends hook up while I stay horribly single. Now I'm feeling lonely and wondering where I went wrong. It's not like I'm ugly (decidedly average looking to tell the truth). I get along well with people, I'm reasonably funny and interesting (so I've been told). But, you guessed it, I'm horribly shy. I don't know what to do. I know things will be easier once I've jumped into the dating pool, but I have no idea how to do that. Please help.

-- Lonely

P.S. Am I pathetic???

Dear Lonely,

The boy on South Park who throws up on girls when he talks to them, he's shy. Anywhere else on the scale, shy is normal, universal. It is also a red herring, even an excuse. We are all shy. Really Loud people are shy people overcompensating. People we think are cold or aloof are ... shy. We are all scared that something embarrassing or bad will happen when we talk.

The only difference is that some people, for whatever reason, happen to have done more work to strengthen the muscle that overrides this fear. And this is something you can just do, with force of will. (For more on "shy," see the next letter, and the update from "Shy and Confused" in the Shout-Outs below.)

So, how you jump into the dating pool is: you jump into the dating pool. And as far as I know, that means: you jump into your life. You already have friends, college, stuff going on. Those can be veritable boyfriend factories, if you let them. Go ahead and be Activity Girl again, but not the way you did in high school, where your main activity was Doing What I'm Good at to the Deliberate, if Subconscious, Exclusion of What I'm Afraid Of. And by the way -- despite what you see all around you, which I know is galling -- 19 really isn't that old.

Breakup Girl

P.S. YOU are NOT pathetic. Asking "Am I pathetic?" more than once is getting there, though.



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