Hello, all you spectral orgasm otters of the intertwebs. Welcome to Ask Dr NerdLove, the dating column that can teach you how to overclock your love life.
This week, we're going to be reaching inside of ourselves. Sometimes we already know the answer but we need to hear someone else say it. Other times, it's a matter of overcoming our own self-limiting beliefs. Let's get down to it, boppers…
Dear Dr NerdLove,
I would like your perspective on some issues that I'm having with sex, if you wouldn't mind.
To provide some context, I'm in my mid-to-late-twenties, I'm queer, and I'm a virgin. Honestly, the virgin part makes perfect sense to me considering my history - spending the better part of your life in the closet AND being so busy with my education tends to put a damper on one's dating life. As I approach my thirties and become more interested in dating, I'm finding that there is one glaring issue that is holding me back and having a significant impact on my dating life and my sexuality:
I don't feel "sexy". I don't feel attractive. I don't feel - pardon my language - fuck-able.
This doesn't just apply to interpersonal relationships, but to my relationship with myself. I do masturbate. A lot. But that doesn't really mean much. I don't put any effort into it, just the classic quick-and-easy aided by erotic material. No exploration. No letting any other body parts in on the fun. No doing it for the sake of enjoying it. No slowing things down and taking my time. No variety. No toys. No seeing just how hard I can get off. I would be hard-pressed to call it self-love by any stretch of the imagination. Hell, it's usually not particularly satisfying when I think about it.
I can definitely see why I avoid dating, although other things do play a part. I don't feel like other people would want me. I don't feel sexy enough to feel like I'm worth any effort when it comes to sex with myself, so how could I possibly see myself as somebody that other people would want to sleep with?
What are your thoughts on my situation? Do you have any advice or opinions to give?
Your question is actually shockingly common, Meh-sturbation. This is something I hear a lot from guys: that somebody feels like there's no reason somebody else would find them attractive, so they don't bother putting themselves out there.
While I know this goes against the Dating Advice Guild's handbook, I'm going to let you in on a little secret: they're right. Folks aren't going to find them attractive, so there really isn't a point to putting themselves out there.
Now somebody call Sir Mix-A-Lot, because you know there's a huge butt coming…
That's because it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. Your attitude is going to control a lot of your dating success. One of the mistakes people make is that we believe that we perceive the world exactly as it is. This isn't true in the slightest; our brains filter our perceptions based on what we expect. Even something as simple as changing a lip movement can completely alter what we hear - Google "The McGurk Effect" to see this in action.
When you're convinced you're unfuckable and that other people couldn't possibly be into you… well, that's where you're right. However, it's not because you're the second coming of the Elephant Man, it's because of the way your attitude affects every other part of your life.
Let's start with the purely superficial level: your looks. An attitude of "It's OK, I wouldn't fuck me either" is going to colour everything you do. Your body language will reflect that attitude - you'll slump over and fold in on yourself. You'll turn away from people you might be interested in, for fear of catching their eye and seeing the "ewww" in their expression. It will affect how you dress and your presentation. Why bother putting in any real effort, after all? Your hair's ugly, so why bother spending the money to get it styled? What point is there in any skin care beyond the bare minimum, because who's going to even want to look at your face?
Of course, that doesn't mean that people won't find you attractive, unstyled hair, uninspired clothes and all. But you won't see them. First of all: you'll never actually believe they could be into you. No matter what signals they give, you'll always find a reason to disbelieve them. They couldn't be looking at you, they're looking at someone behind you. They're not looking because they like you, they're looking because they can't believe that you bothered to go outside. They don't like you, they just want something from you.
Second of all: you'll be rejecting them before they even have a chance. All that body language I mentioned earlier is going to scream "Don't talk to me!" and "I don't like you!" It's going to take a very determined person to push past all those silent "go away" signs… and you don't want to date those people, to be honest.
So… having given you all this downer talk, let's talk a little about how you can change all of this. As the hot dog vendor said to the Buddhist monk who gave him a $US50 ($66): change comes from within.
When it comes to being fuckable, you have to feel fuckable. Of course, this can seem like a chicken-and-egg problem: how can you feel fuckable when you're a virgin? By definition, that would seem to mean that you're unfuckable, right?
No… because basing your fuckability on other people is a mistake. You have to be the one who feels dead sexy. So you need to start changing how you see yourself.
And the first step is simple: you're going to take better care of yourself. You need to treat yourself like you give a damn. So we'll start with your outward expression of your inner self: your clothes and your style. The way you dress directly affects the way you behave and what you believe about yourself. It's a trait known as "enclothed cognition". If you dress like a scientist with a white lab coat, you're going to behave and act smarter. Wear the same lab coat and call it an artist's smock instead and those behavioural changes disappear. So you need to dress in ways that make you feel sexy as hell. Start with finding your archetype — your sexy stereotype, the personal shorthand that most resonates with who you are. Use this as your base. This is the person you want to embody, so dress in the ways that bring you closer to them.
Then make sure you're dressing the right way, with clothes that actually fit. Most people don't wear clothes that fit properly, and it leaves them looking sloppy and un-put-together. Fit is king, no matter your size.
While you're at it: become a more sensual, sexual person with yourself. You've said it yourself: your masturbatory habits are basically "wham-bam-thank-you-glans". This isn't bad per se, but it does reflect your treating it as something perfunctory instead of a part of your sexuality. Spend some time getting to know your junk and your sexuality. Change up your masturbatory habits and explore yourself. Change up your technique; if you're a straight-up-and-down jerker, try using a corkscrew motion instead. If you spend most of your time on the shaft, try putting more emphasis on the glans instead, or vice versa. Go faster. Go slower. Stop and start; see how long you can keep yourself on the edge of orgasm without going over. Play with your balls too. Play with your prostate (carefully). Switch hands. Use more lube, then less lube, then different kinds of lube. Get a Fleshlight or a Tenga Fliphole and practice with those. Encorporate your sexuality into your being. You're not just a person, you're also a piece of meat, damn it!
And as you're doing all of this: look yourself in the mirror and see yourself as sexy and fuckable. Tell yourself how hot you look. Yeah, it feels crazy and woo-woo and might feel a little Silence of the Lambs (and you can expect at least one Buffalo Bill gif in the comments I'm sure…) but it really does make a difference. Doesn't matter if you're fat, heroin thin or built like a Greek god - believing you are hot as fuck will carry over into your every day life and people will respond to it.
But before they can see it, you have to see it. So let yourself be fuckable. You may have to fake it at first… that's fine. Faking it 'til you make it is how you start to build up the habits that let you develop into your fine, fuckable future self.
Dear Dr NerdLove,
I'm currently 30, recently went back to grad school to get a master's degree, and now have an awesome job I'm thrilled to have. While in grad school I played tennis with the tennis club (past being a big nerd, tennis is a life passion). I met a woman there who is now a grad student in the same field as me (she's now 22 if the age difference matters here), which made it initially easy to talk to her. We both like tennis, took similar classes in school, etc. After I graduated we've continued to play tennis regularly, which has been going on for just over a year now. She was in a relationship for most of that time, so I never thought of her much past a tennis buddy (even though I found her attractive from the start). When she broke up a few months ago, I realised I did have stronger feelings there.
We don't chat much outside of tennis (a few texts here and there), but our post-tennis chats have grown much longer recently, and we've shared a lot about each other. Eventually I decided I just had to know, and worked up the courage to ask her out (which was not easy). She gave me a soft but seemingly firm "no" saying that she was not ready for another relationship yet. (For what it's worth, I've also learned that her previous relationship was more troubled than it initially appeared, and that she's also having somewhat of a hard time in grad school.) Regardless of her reason, I took a "no" for a "no", and in my mind we would just continue being "tennis buddies" and I would otherwise move on and leave some space there.
Fast forward a little bit, and we were playing tennis again one night this week, starting at 7pm. We probably play for just under 2 hours (normal), and then sit down to chat for a bit. Neither of us ever look at the time, and before we know it it's 11:30pm and we're still sitting on the tennis court all by ourselves. I feel like we get along super well, we laugh and joke easily, and also talk about "serious" stuff as much as I do with anyone. And that was easily our "best" conversation/hanging out yet. As we're leaving she says she wants to clarify that when she told me "no" to a date she didn't mean to imply we couldn't hang out in addition to playing tennis.
It's clear that she likes me a lot — she wouldn't still be playing tennis with me, talking for hours on end, or indicate an interest in hanging out more if she didn't like me. And she initiates these things as much (or maybe more) than I do. But in what way does she like me? Seeing as I already asked her out, my assumption is that she doesn't see me as romantic material, but values my friendship. And we get along well enough that she's simply comfortable spending that kind of time and talking about anything. The other caveat here is that we've never been around each other for any reason but tennis. So part of me wonders if maybe she just doesn't know if she's interested yet, until we hang out otherwise.
I'm probably rambling at this point on what I bet is a common problem. The bottom line is I feel like I'm getting mixed signals, or maybe I'm not not reading the right signals. Is my "friendzone" assumption correct, or could there be more there? I'm admittedly not super experienced here, but I do like her a lot and any help is appreciated!!
Dude. There are no mixed signals here. There is no Friend Zone (because the Friend Zone doesn't exist) going on here. She's been incredibly straight-forward with you; you just don't want to hear what she's saying.
So I'm going to say it for her: She's not interested in you romantically or sexually.
Now, that doesn't mean she doesn't like you. She clearly thinks you're a cool guy and enjoys spending time with you and very clearly would like to be friends if you'd allow it. She just doesn't want to date or fuck you.
What do you do here? Well… either you give being friends a shot, or you just stay tennis buddies. Those are pretty much your choices… but only if you accept her as a friend, not as a girlfriend-in-waiting. Being her friend in hopes that she's going to change her mind and want to date you is a supremely shitty thing to do to somebody. Going into a friendship under the assumption that you can collect enough Nice Guy coupons to upgrade to Fucking makes you an arsehole.
Friendship isn't the boobie-prize of dating; it's not some secondary, lesser state that unworthy guys get relegated to. Friendship isn't what she's offering to keep you dancing in attendance on her. She's offering you friendship because she wants you to be her friend.
So if you can be her friend — her real friend, not the guy hoping that she doesn't know she's interested yet — then give it a shot. Otherwise: keep it on the tennis courts or, if you can't hack it, call it quits.
Either way: go date other people. The best way to get past a crush on her is to find the women who are interested in you.
Last week I made an impromptu visit to a GameStop, and this cute employee was helping me out. She seemed a little nervous, (I saw her breaking eye contact a few times too) which I thought was just retail social anxiety or something.
And right after I bought my item she introduced herself with a, "By the way my name is (name)." I'm in the "fake-it-till-you-make-it" stage when it comes to my self-confidence, and I was not in "fake-it" mode. All the air left my lungs and my mind went numb, and I barely breathed out a whispered "OK" and walked out the door. Which was rude and stupid.
I've been back to the store a few times and haven't seen her there. I really would like to talk to her and ask her on a date, but after her not being there. I was deciding to give up on the way home, but I had one last idea, that being to attempt one more visit and if she wasn't there, leave a note with my phone number. I think that would be somewhere within a combo douchebag/creeper zone of something not to do, which I why I'm writing you now.
Should I let it go, or not?
Game Store Romance
I've covered why it's a bad idea to hit on people at work before, but it's worth repeating: women tend to get hit on all the damn time at their jobs. This puts them in an awkward place because they're rarely in a position to be blunt — customer service, after all, means treating everyone with a smile and professional politeness.
Now, straight talk: there's nothing in your message that makes me believe she was being more than Professionally Nice. You don't talk about the long and engaging conversations you were having, the implications that she'd like to see you outside of work… nothing. So, as much as I hate to be the one to stomp big muddy holes in your dreams, you have to accept that you may be making a mountain out of a molehill.
So, no: leaving a note with your number's not a good idea. Even under the best of circumstances, it's a cheesy and frankly kind of passive-aggressive move that most people aren't going to care for.
(Also: for the love of all things holy, for all those reading along: do not try to track down the Facebook account of your crush.)
If you want to ask her out on a date, then you need to do it person… assuming she gives you actual "I'm Interested" signs. If she makes a point to come talk to you, talks about her life outside of the store unprompted, etc., then you have a shot and can say "Hey, I'd love to continue this conversation later. Would you like to get coffee/ a drink next week?"
Otherwise, if you don't see her again, don't sweat it. It just wasn't meant to be.
Good luck. *** What do you do to make yourself feel sexy? Did you make the transition from "crush" to "friends"? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments, and we'll be back in two weeks with more of your dating questions.
*** Ask Dr Nerdlove is Kotaku's fortnightly advice column for matters of the heart, hosted by the one and only Harris O'Malley, AKA Dr Nerdlove.
Harris O'Malley is a writer and dating coach who provides geek dating advice at his blog Paging Dr NerdLove and the Dr NerdLove podcast. He is also a regular guest at One Of Us. He can be found dispensing snark and advice on Facebook and on Twitter at @DrNerdLove. Dr Nerdlove is not really a doctor.