Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“I Don’t Know How to Date”

Guest columnists and contributors are generously sharing their talents and insights while I’m taking some time to care for my new baby. Today’s letter is answered by prolific DW commenter and social media consultant, Sarah Huffman.

In every area of life except for romance, I would be considered successful. I have a career track job, a house, plenty of friends, and I am one of the faster women on the local triathlon scene. I am no head-turner by any stretch of the imagination but I am not ugly either. However, I am a 26-year-old virgin (heck I’ve never even french kissed anyone) with very little dating experience, and I have no idea how to start.I have friends in every demographic except for single straight men within five years of my age (most are male and significantly older). I clam up completely when I have the opportunity to meet anyone who is even in the right demographic. I am not interested in a fling and I want the option of waiting until I’m married for sex (I am not the slightest bit religious, I just don’t want to get hurt and I’m definitely not ready yet).

So, how do I get started dating? I’m lonely sometimes and feel like the only thing missing from my life is a man to eventually start a family with. — Looking for the Missing Piece

There are many reasons why someone may chose to wait until marriage to have sex. Yours is, how do I put this, complete crap. Fear should never determine what you do for a relationship! Should you avoid going to the doctor because you’re afraid of it? Of course not! Not only does the fear grow worse and worse, but that way of thinking can breed illness. For you, it has bred loneliness. Its an interesting phrase, to “clam up” when you meet potential dates. What does it mean to clam up? Do clams close their shell because they’re just uncomfortable and they don’t know how to act around other sea creatures, or do they clam up because some Red Lobster SOB is trying to steal their tasty tasty meat and they’ve got to SHUT THIS SH*T DOWN? Your fear has got you so hooked that it keeps you from even entertaining the thought of finding a date, let alone showing them your tasty meat.

So bad news, your reason for waiting until marriage for sex has no merit. Good news, you answered your own letter! Because the phrase, “I just don’t want to get hurt and I’m definitely not ready yet” is exactly why you are afraid of getting in a relationship in the first place! Look at you! You don’t even need me (PLEASE NEED ME). You aren’t afraid of sex, you’re afraid of intimacy. You’re afraid of finding the person you feel safe to share your soul with and finding out they were just using your soul as the ass pad in their bicycle shorts (look how I listen to what you like). You have shown that you have a lot of control over how and why you succeed at things. But you can’t control a relationship that way. Relationships are a swirling mass of chaos and “Why didn’t you text me?”s. But the more you date, the more you can control yourself and the setting of that chaos, even if you can’t control the outcome.

So, treat dating like you would a triathlon. From now on, I want you to set goals out for yourself every day to face your fear. Start small. Say one day, I’m not leaving this bookstore until I talk to one person I’m interested in. Join a running group and promise yourself to ask at least one person to coffee afterwards. Like running, once you reach one goal, make the next one and the next one more challenging. Just the fact that you will be putting yourself out there will ease the fear and will announce to people through your demeanor that you’re ready to date. You have to open yourself up to people to figure out what you want. Sometimes, you’re gonna get turned down. But that’s OK. Because there’s something about staring at the ocean from the beach afraid to drown and wading in the water knowing there’s a chance you can drown anyway. Its a risk, but once you’re in, you know its worth it.

* Sarah Huffman is a social media consultant who is freelancing art and photography along the way. She lives in Hollywood with her boyfriend, David, and their two cats, Mia and Daphne. She likes spending her free time spying on the neighbors through her window and ruining her boyfriend’s Netflix recommendations by watching bad reality wedding shows and movies starring Sarah Jessica Parker.

 

 

71 comments… add one
  • avatar

    scattol December 29, 2011, 8:29 am

    I really doubt that coffee after training is recommended. She needs to replenish her carbs and fluids and a diuretic isn’t the way to go.

    A shower after training that’s another story but maybe that’s a bit to forward for a first move 🙂

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    • avatar

      KL December 29, 2011, 8:33 am

      I don’t think they need to get the coffee right afterwards–I think the “afterwards” is modifying “ask,” as in “approach someone after training and ask if they want to get coffee sometime.”

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    • avatar

      cporoski December 29, 2011, 10:28 am

      My running club gets “coffee” every week, FYI. It isn’t a problem and we run 5 or 6 miles. It is more just going to the shop. Most people get a water and coffee. Also, two people met in club and are now living together. way to cute.

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    • avatar

      tinywormhole December 29, 2011, 10:39 am

      As a runner/triathlete, I would have to agree that coffee after a workout doesn’t usually sound too appealing. A beer, however, is always great after a hard workout and of course will take the edge off the first date nerves (I never understood the idea of coffee as a date activity anyway – who wants to crank up the caffeine response when they’re already feeling amped up and nervous?!) The beer date would occur after hydrating and consuming carbs within 1/2 hour of the workout, of course.

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    • avatar

      Ktfran December 29, 2011, 10:55 am

      Even though Sarah suggested that the LW should ask someone to get coffee afterwards, I don’t think everyone has to take it so literally. She could have easily said – and any one of these could be substituted – get a beer, juice, water, tea, carbs, trail mix, a bite to eat . . . whatever. And as KL pointed out, it doesn’t even have to be right away.

      The point is, ask someone to hang out, no matter the activity.

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  • avatar

    Liz December 29, 2011, 8:37 am

    Wow, I definitely think the response was way too harsh. First of all, the LW doesn’t only talk about sex, but about dating, and saying that she clearly isn’t ready for sex isn’t a crappy reason at all. In fact, I think it’s a very sensible and probably tough realization to come to. People are different, and for some people dating and opening up to potential partners is easier than for others. If LW really has a fear of intimacy concerning men in the right demographic she could work on that by talking to friends and asking them to help find available and unthreatening dates, even if it’s just for practice. Easing into dating by exploring different options is probably the best way, simply lowering your expectations when it comes to dates is always good, don’t look at it as ‘Oh this might be the man I marry’ but look at it as ‘hey, this guy seems nice, if there’s no romantic connection, maybe we’ll become friends’, even bad dates aren’t the end of the world!

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    • avatar

      CottonTheCuteDog December 29, 2011, 9:07 am

      Did you read Sarah’s last paragraph? That’s exactly what she says!

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  • avatar

    ReginaRey December 29, 2011, 8:39 am

    Great advice, Sarah!

    It’s true LW – The longer and longer you go without doing something, the scarier it becomes in your mind over time, until you’re practically paralyzed by fear of it.

    You’ve likely built up something in your mind to the point that you’re afraid, which means you don’t act, which makes acting seem scarier, which makes you even more afraid. It’s a very self-fulfilling cycle.

    Some of the best advice I can think to give women who don’t know or who are afraid to approach men is to stop treating it like an opportunity for you to fail. Instead, treat it as an opportunity for this dude to impress YOU. A date, or even a short conversation, is an opportunity for YOU to evaluate the person you’re with. You’re probably scared that you won’t know what to say, or that you’ll look inexperienced and embarrass yourself, and you certainly WILL if you go into it with that kind of mindset.

    Take Sarah’s advice and start very slowly, and very casually. Make a point to go to the next party that one of your friends throws (NYE, maybe??) and make it your goal to chat with one eligible man there. You don’t have to be interested in him! It doesn’t have to turn into a relationship! Don’t put that kind of pressure on yourself. Just practice having a conversation with a single dude. It’ll help make the experience of dating seem a bit less scary.

    And for you, a more inexperienced dater, I might recommend a few classic books to help demystify the world of men and dating: Why Men Love Bitches and He’s Just Not That Into You. Both really empowered me and helped me be more confident and aware when I knew next to nothing about relationships and dating. People are usually scared of that which they don’t understand, and simply reading these books will help ease that a little. Good luck!

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    • avatar

      MJ December 29, 2011, 9:28 am

      Those books are good, but if you have no experience with guys/dating at all, I don’t necessarily recommend them. It’s too easy to start interpreting all male behavior through the lens of those books, when in reality men are just as different and varied as women and one-size doesn’t fit all. When you don’t know what you’re doing, you grab a book and start thinking that “all guys think like this, so he’s clearly not into me” in some attempt to keep from getting hurt.

      LW, I say don’t generalize. Remember that all guys are different and want different things–the key is finding someone who wants what you want.

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      • Budj

        Budj December 29, 2011, 9:32 am

        Good point – aloofness could be a guy being nervous / shy and not disinterested….interestingly that is probably the vibe she has been giving off herself.

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    • avatar

      kittyk December 29, 2011, 11:17 am

      I just really liked this line “Some of the best advice I can think to give women who don’t know or who are afraid to approach men is to stop treating it like an opportunity for you to fail. Instead, treat it as an opportunity for this dude to impress YOU.”

      I think a lot of people who get nervous with new people could benefit from this shift in mentality. Make an effort to not be nervous and hope they like you, but instead as an opportunity to possibly meet someone great (or not great, whatev) and hope you like them. The ball is in their court to not ‘fail’.

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      • CatsMeow

        CatsMeow December 29, 2011, 12:23 pm

        Yep. The first time I went on a date with someone I had met online, I think I was trying to hard to impress him (or just NOT be “disappointing” – blind dates are scary!) that I didn’t realize how much I was really NOT attracted to him.

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      • avatar

        Michele December 29, 2011, 1:40 pm

        That line stood out to me too! Great advice on that one, ReginaRey!

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    • avatar

      kerrycontrary December 29, 2011, 4:19 pm

      Ugh such a great point RR. I think a huge sign of maturity in the dating world is when you realize that it’s not about “do they like me” but rather “do I like THEM?” So often we worry about whether we look/act right rather than focusing on evaluating the other persons quality.

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    • avatar

      WatersEdge December 30, 2011, 11:07 am

      I freaking love Why Men Love Bitches!!!! That woman is the worst writer I’ve ever read, but her ideas are dead-on.

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  • Budj

    Budj December 29, 2011, 9:31 am

    Clamming up makes a guy think you are disinterested. You are going to have to take chances (dating = playing dice) to find a guy that is a good fit for you…meaning you will have to open up and go through some awkward turning down of guys until you find one where there is mutual attraction and personality fit…and yes…they might try and rush the kiss or heavy petting…but thats ok…most guys won’t be horribly offended when you say you aren’t ready and the ones that are either just want sex or are too insecure.

    If you want to wait for sex that’s fine, a good portion of guys would wait for you if they thought you were a good fit for them…don’t let that be an excuse to not put yourself out there for dating…you have identified what you want so go for it and be happy, you only live once, etc.

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    • avatar

      cporoski December 29, 2011, 11:53 am

      Right, If a guy rushes you. Smile, and say “slow down, cowboy.” The smiling means you like them but aren’t ready.

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      • avatar

        iseeshiny December 29, 2011, 12:00 pm

        And the cowboy means you like cowboys!

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      • avatar

        cporoski December 29, 2011, 12:33 pm

        I think Cowboy makes the guy feel like a man.

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  • caitie_didnt

    caitie_didn't December 29, 2011, 9:34 am

    “relationships are a swirling mass of chaos and ‘why don’t you text me’s”- this made me laugh and is SO true.

    as for the LW 1). you could probably benefit from some type of therapy if even talking to a dude leaves you terrified. 2). It sounds like you’ve bought into the “girls always fall hardest for their first” myth, which is complete crap. and 3). So you want to wait until marriage for sex and then…..what? what if you decide you’re STILL not ready? That’s the stuff quickie divorces are made of.

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    • avatar

      cporoski December 29, 2011, 11:26 am

      You are so right about the waiting for sex thing. I know a couple that is getting the marriage annuled because she still refused to have sex. This issue has gotten so big for the LW that she has to be careful. seeing someone will help.

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      • caitie_didnt

        caitie_didn't December 29, 2011, 11:47 am

        I personally believe that waiting to have sex until marriage is silly (at best), but what other people chose to do is their business. However, the LW’s attitude towards sex, at least as it comes across in this letter, seems to be that she’s totally effing terrified of it and it’s this big scary ordeal. That’s concerning and unhealthy, and I think she really needs to examine why she feels that way-maybe with a therapist, maybe by herself. Sex is a big deal, but it’s also not that big of a deal. The world won’t end if she has safe, fun, consensual sex with a guy who she doesn’t end up marrying.

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      • avatar

        cporoski December 29, 2011, 11:56 am

        Yea, Sarah said that the LW is afraid of Intamacy. I think she is way more scared of being hurt. Like if she gives her vcard to a guy, he will run right out and run her panties up a flagpole so everyone sees.

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    • avatar

      applescruff December 29, 2011, 11:27 am

      If you do seek therapy, LW, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to find a male therapist.

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  • avatar

    bethany December 29, 2011, 9:46 am

    The only way to get better at dating is to DO IT! It’s called practice! You can’t get better at something without trying it first.

    Try online dating- meet guys for coffee or lunch (low pressure dates). Go to a museum or on a hile or run. Meet people!

    There are plenty of people who might be a good match for you, but you’re never going to find them if you don’t put yourself out there a little bit.

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  • avatar

    CG December 29, 2011, 9:48 am

    This is really juvenile, but LMAO at “tasty meat!” Seriously, it’s a good thing I’m allergic to shellfish or I’d never be able to look at clams the same way again! 🙂 And great advice, Sarah.

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    • avatar

      Betty Boop December 29, 2011, 10:31 am

      I know it’s silly to point out but as someone scary allergic to shellfish and stupid pedantic, I have to point out: Clams aren’t shellfish, they’re molluscs! And darn tasty after having to give up the delicious bugs of the sea. And I agree that “tasty meat” was damned funny 🙂

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      • avatar

        CG December 29, 2011, 10:47 am

        LOL thanks for the correction! 🙂

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  • avatar

    MiMi December 29, 2011, 10:09 am

    What’s wrong with learning about yourself and getting some fun experience dating the kind of man you are naturally friends with, i.e. gentlemen who are older than your self-determined 5 year age range? I’m not saying break anyone’s heart, just get some practice so that when you come across someone who fits the bill, you’ll know what to do with him..

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    • avatar

      kerrycontrary December 29, 2011, 4:21 pm

      Yeh I don’t get why the ‘target demographic’ thing is such a big deal. I’m 24. I would have no problem dating someone who is 35. Yeh, there are different issues when there is an age difference but I’ve always heard older men are better because a) they may be more open to a serious relationship and won’t dilly dally around the point and b) they are more settled, know their goals, and will go after what they want. So go after those older men you know!

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  • avatar

    Addie Pray December 29, 2011, 10:44 am

    Great advice, Sarah. … and “using your soul as the ass pad in their bicycle shorts” made me laugh out loud. Btw, LW, I’m a little shocked; in my home town, the running club boys and girls were always getting action. More than the band kids. They just had so much energy to let out I guess.

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    • avatar

      cporoski December 29, 2011, 11:28 am

      That is the way my running club is. It is because you have so long to run that you get to know each other. Over five miles or 15 miles, you talk about everything.

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      • caitie_didnt

        caitie_didn't December 29, 2011, 11:49 am

        hmm…..I think I should try joining a running club. I really don’t like running though.

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  • avatar

    Kate December 29, 2011, 10:46 am

    Here’s another thing you can try. Online dating may or may not be a great way to find a relationship – I don’t know – but it is a good way to go on a bunch of dates and get over your anxiety. You just treat each date as a way to meet someone and make some possibly interesting conversation over a drink (or coffee I guess) for an hour or so.

    Treat it like a game. Tell yourself you’ll give it a shot for 3 months, and go on 5 dates. Figure out the “rules” to online dating and follow them… that way you have a safety net. You’re following a set of rules, and things are under control.

    For example, you could try the following:

    Read up on what makes a good profile, and the do’s and don’ts. Write one. Ask a friend to take a look. Maybe ask Wendy to take a look if she’s still doing that service.

    Look through the guys that message you, and respond to the best of the guys that show interest in you. Send them back a quick breezy email.

    If, within 3 email exchanges, they don’t suggest getting together for a drink or something, stop responding and move on.

    Set up a drinks date at a time that’s convenient to you. Make an effort to look nice. Meet the guy. Converse. Go home.

    If you do see him again, don’t get physical unless it feels right / comfortable.

    When he asks you out again, say yes if you like him and want to see more of him. Say no thank you if you don’t want to see more of him.

    Repeat.

    It’s easy – try it!

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    • avatar

      Christy December 29, 2011, 11:24 am

      Especially as a straight girl, online dating is a great way to boost your confidence.

      Which is key. You HAVE to get your confidence up.

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    • avatar

      Anna December 29, 2011, 11:25 am

      Trying for bonus points by plugging Wendy’s dating profile service? lol 😉

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    • avatar

      cporoski December 29, 2011, 11:31 am

      You are so right about saying yes. When I was dating (seems like a billion years ago) I always said yes to a date and gave every guy three dates to talk and get to know each other. Whether there was that immediate click or not. It was great. Don’t worry if he is the one or if he only wants one thing. Have fun and it will work out well.

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    • avatar

      Elle December 29, 2011, 1:30 pm

      This is great advice. I would suggest, after emails and before meeting, to talk on the phone a couple of times. Keep it short (10-15 minutes max – if it goes really well, you can ignore the time limit, but you also don’t want to invest too much time so early), and I think you will find that it will relieve some of the nervousness of the first time meeting.

      It would help to have some stories about yourself that you’re willing to share. They may come up in the conversation anyway, but it takes the pressure off thinking about them on the spot. Also, it gives you some power over what you are comfortable sharing about yourself with a stranger.

      About the phone – you never know who’s out there. Use a google voice number. I can’t stress this enough – if a guy turns out to be a guy who has a hard time letting go, it’s so much easier to block him. Also, he would have a hard time tracking down your address and place of employment. In my almost two years of online dating, I only met a guy like this, but it was the very first one. So the odds are low (maybe I was more careful afterwards and learned from my mistakes), but they are out there. (I’ve also heard stories from guys about women calling them 30-something times a day. While they were joking about it – “at least my stalker was cute”, I did not take it very well). Same thing with email – have a separate account for online dating sites and communicating with guys.

      And the last thing I learned – go into a date with zero expectations. I know people say this a lot, but it took me a while to internalize it. After 20-something first dates and very few second dates, I now approach a date as an opportunity to meet someone, since I know that the odds of it leading to something more are pretty low.

      I loved Sarah’s analogy – to approach dating the same way you approach training. Were you ready from the beginning to go on your first race? No, you had to train for it. I’d like to make an analogy with sex as well. If you never practice, you’ll never be ready. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t ready to have sex the first time either. He broke my heart – after being together for a year, he dumped me two weeks after we first had sex for my best friend. But I’m alive and well now. I learned from that experience, and moved on. You will be able to do it too. (And if you don’t think you can, maybe you should get counseling.)

      I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you!

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      • avatar

        cporoski December 29, 2011, 1:50 pm

        I know what you are saying about the phone calls but I disagree. Here is the thing about online dating. You email and talk on the phone and feel a much stronger intamacy before you even meet. It builds up the date in your head and makes it a bigger and bigger deal. I think the LW might get more anxiety that way.

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      • avatar

        Elle December 29, 2011, 2:44 pm

        I agree about the part where talking on the phone before meeting might build up more intimacy than otherwise. Heck, after 4-5 first dates, I would still get all hyped up about the next few ones. It took me about a year to lower my expectations of a first date. I think it was only because my dates were pretty spread out (I would have a new date maybe every 4-6 weeks.) I think it’s inevitable though. And I was suggesting talking on the phone only as a way to relieve some of her anxiety of meeting and talking with someone her own age.

        It might even work to her advantage – if she gets all clammed up during the date, the guy might give her another chance, because she sounded personable on the phone. If the LW gets more than two dates online, she can try it both ways, see which one fits her better.

        One more piece of info for the LW – guys are nervous during dates too. I had a date once with a guy – 6″3, cute, great body (he used to be a soldier), smart (MA in some technical stuff about communications), who barely said a word the first 15 minutes that we’ve met. I made a couple of jokes, and he didn’t even crack a smile. I thought my jokes were bad, but it just took him a while to loosen up. Before our third date, he wanted to know if I would sleep with him. I couldn’t give him a straight answer (if it felt right, maybe, but I was already feeling pressured, so chances were pretty slim), so the third date didn’t happen. Another guy said maybe 10 words in the 45 minutes of the date. Frankly, after carrying the conversation for so long, I needed a break. I would ask him a question about himself, and he would give me a one-word answer. He was very concise, I give him that. 10 minutes after the date, he sent me a text that he was so nervous during the date because I was so beautiful he was stunned. Bulls**t (in the tone of the guy from the “Drinking out of cups” video).

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    • avatar

      Christy December 29, 2011, 7:19 pm

      This is great advice! I tried online dating after being a single for a while, and it was great because each date was very low pressure. I didn’t have to impress any particular guy because there were plenty of other guys (most women get tons of messages on those sites). And I found someone awesome after just a few weeks!

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  • avatar

    shelllo December 29, 2011, 11:03 am

    I think online dating would be a great way to meet more people and work towards “goals” that Sarah suggested. If anything, I think you may get too many responses. You sound like an interesting, fit, fun girl so be prepared for a lot of feedback. But heres the thing. Only agree to meet with the people who truly interest you. Get some dating experience out of it. You could meet someone great or decide that method of dating isn’t for you. At that point you can pursue men with the added confidence and removed stigma. Best of luck LW!

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  • avatar

    eelizg23 December 29, 2011, 11:22 am

    I second the online dating thing. I have an acquaintance who is not very social, doesn’t like to drink, does not want sex, etc, and she found her boyfriend on OKCupid. I like it because it’s an easy way for me to rule people out and not have to waste time. But she should definitely pursue dating the old-fashioned way at the same time.

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    • avatar

      Kate December 29, 2011, 11:35 am

      Agree, she should ideally do both.

      I also should have mentioned above… One reason why this should be easy and low pressure is that on a first date you do NOT talk about past relationships, so your lack of experience with guys is not on the table. You just make normal conversation like you would with anyone, be yourself (but only in a positive light), and then go home. Going on a series of first dates is a great way to get your confidence up, and of course if you are interested in someone you can see him again. But the whole point is to put your best self forward, so your limitations are not evident. I recommend reading up either online or some dating books, if you think you need it, about what to do and not to do on a first date.

      And forget about the fact that this is a guy and omg it might lead to a relationship!!! Don’t put any expectations into it other than having a potentially nice conversation with someone new, building up your experience, and gaining confidence.

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  • avatar

    _jsw_ December 29, 2011, 11:23 am

    LW, you might want to consider seeing a therapist for a short time to see what might be underlying all of this. There’s not anything wrong with not having dated much at this point in your life, but given all of the other things you have accomplished, many of which are not trivial, I wonder if perhaps there is more to it than simply being afraid of getting hurt. You’ve certainly achieved other goals that involved risk.

    I suspect that perhaps you aren’t simply afraid of getting rejected. Maybe that’s all it is, but maybe there’s more. There are many potential reasons/causes/issues/variables, and I think that figuring out why you’ve not done more romantically would help you to get past those reasons and move on in the way and direction that’s right for you. You don’t seem – from the few paragraphs – like someone who would, for no real reason, fear talking to men your age. If there’s more to it than that, resolving those things is probably better than just plowing ahead and getting dates.

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    • avatar

      Addie Pray December 29, 2011, 11:24 am

      Good points. Great advice.

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  • avatar

    Carolynasaurus December 29, 2011, 11:36 am

    Sarah, I usually love your advice, and your advice when it comes to dating and putting yourself out there isn’t bad, but I find it incredibly rude to judge anyone’s reason to not have sex. If letters to Dear Wendy in the past have shown us anything, they usually leave something major out. And even if she hadn’t, she shouldn’t feel like some freak because she is not ready at 26 to have sex. That’s all it boils down to. She’s not ready. When she’s ready, she won’t be afraid of being hurt.

    It doesn’t make anyone a freak, less of a feminist, immature, conservative, or any other insult that gets thrown around about choosing to wait. It’s her decision and she didn’t want an opinion on that, just how to date.

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    • caitie_didnt

      caitie_didn't December 29, 2011, 11:52 am

      But at the same time, avoiding sex solely to “not get hurt” as opposed to a religious reason is sort of abnormal. I suspect that there’s a bigger underlying reason why the LW is terrified of physical intimacy, and that’s something that should be sorted out with a therapist.

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      • avatar

        Carolynasaurus December 29, 2011, 11:57 am

        Just because you don’t understand it doesn’t mean it is abnormal. You don’t know what “not getting hurt” could mean. She doesn’t have to validate her decision. She just threw that in there because some people think being a virgin at 26 is a big deal and they should get it over with. She doesn’t think it’s a big deal and she doesn’t want to get it over with. She just wants to know how to meet and talk to cute boys.

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      • caitie_didnt

        caitie_didn't December 29, 2011, 12:27 pm

        eh, from a numerical standpoint being 26 years old and a virgin is well outside the normal range. I don’t think she would have brought it up if it *wasn’t* becoming a big deal to her, and I still think it points to an underlying fear of physical intimacy. But it’s her loss when she ends up married to a guy she’s not sexually compatible with.

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      • Lyra

        L December 29, 2011, 12:22 pm

        Ummm actually it’s a pretty valid reason. Just because she isn’t ready for sex right now DOES NOT mean that she is terrified of it! My take on it is that she wants to date, but doesn’t want to complicate things by having sex. And in ways sex DOES complicate things. People are overanalyzing her words waaay too much. She said she’s not ready. Period. End of story. It’s out of place to tell her that her views are “abnormal”. What IS “normal” anyway? Might there be a bigger reason why she’s clamming up whenever she talks to potential suitors? Maybe. But I’d bet that she just doesn’t have the practice and just freaks out because she doesn’t know what to do or say in that situation.

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        kerrycontrary December 29, 2011, 4:23 pm

        I totally agree. While I do think that it’s out of the age range of “normal” I would rather hear that someone can make the mature decision they are not ready for sex rather than someone having sex before they are ready. Plus, if she hasn’t had much dating experience what, is she just going to jump into the sack with someone?

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    • Lyra

      L December 29, 2011, 12:03 pm

      I completely and totally agree. Just because someone is not ready doesn’t mean they are terrified of it, they just aren’t ready! Yes, she said she doesn’t want to get hurt in her letter, but I took that as she just doesn’t want to jump right in and have sex. She wants to start dating. Sex can complicate things in a lot of ways and she just doesn’t want that complication right now.

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      cporoski December 29, 2011, 12:28 pm

      I totally disagree that it just boils down to not wanting to. There is something major underlying this and she is either omiting it in her letter or to herself. If she is biologically normal (which this might be the issue) she has been having feelings since she was what 12ish. not going pass a closed mouth kiss is an issue and it is one that clearly bothers her otherwise she wouldn’t write. Noone is using the word freak but she has to get to the bottom of why she is waiting. Frankly, everyone I know who waited until marriage sprinted down the aisle as soon as they could.

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      Sarah December 29, 2011, 12:49 pm

      I don’t think the issue is at all that I think she’s weird for not wanting to have sex at 26, I hope that didn’t come across to you. My issue is that her reason is that she doesn’t want to get hurt and that’s why she’s not ready for sex. That’s a fear based reason and I get a little “Finger waggin southern lady” when it comes to fear based decisions, I admit :). If she had given any other response that was not a fear based one, I would have not called her on it. If you are afraid of something, you are going to avoid it like holy hell. Like, if you were afraid of getting tattoos, wouldn’t you avoid going into tattoo parlors? Her fear is keeping her from moving forward with men. I honestly don’t think its an issue when she has sex, heck she could wait til after marriage and I think it would be fine, but she needs to stop being afraid of it.

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        savannah December 29, 2011, 5:04 pm

        Your advice did read to me like you thought she was very weird for not wanting sex at 26 and therefore pretty harsh. If she was 17 or 21 and she had written in and said ‘I’m definitely not ready yet’ when it came to sex I feel like the DW community would have applauded her self awareness and not said that she needed to go to therapy because she feared intimacy (from the comments, not your advice) I think part of the issue here is that our culture is really sexualized so that we think it is ‘abnormal’ for a 26 year old not to want sex. But she really does not have to justify it any more than ‘she’s not ready’.

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        Sarah December 29, 2011, 5:43 pm

        Why would anyone applaud a girl for letting her fear and anxiety take over a major portion of the satisfaction in her life? I don’t care what age a girl is, if she says she doesn’t want to get hurt and that’s why she wants to wait until after she’s married, I’m gonna tell her that she has to get over her fear of sex before she can figure out when she actually wants to have it.

        If she had said I only want to have sex with one man for the rest of my life, I would have left it alone. If she had said, marriage is an important institution to me and I want to live my life based on its values, I would have left it alone. But she didn’t say that. She gave a fear based reason. And her fear very clearly, at least to me, has become a major component in how she deals with men, or doesn’t deal with them.

        Its like saying, “Dear Wendy, I want to make it a priority in my life to become a nurse but for some reason it hasn’t happened. Btw, I’m afraid of blood. What’s my problem?” We’d all same the same thing. Get over your fear of blood. It doesn’t mean you gotta start jabbing syringes in people on the street, but you do have to get over you fear before you figure where its gonna go on your path to become a nurse.

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      • caitie_didnt

        caitie_didn't December 29, 2011, 6:48 pm

        I wish I could thumb this up a million times because I agree so strongly!! Avoiding sexual activity of ANY kind, at the age of 26, because of “not wanting to get hurt” is neither mature nor rational. Everyone gets hurt in life, that’s how it goes. Choosing to isolate yourself to prevent getting hurt will prevent you from being hurt, but you’re in for a lonely, cold existence.

        Besides that, if someone is afraid of or uncomfortable with sex or physical intimacy- guess what? That fear or discomfort doesn’t magically disappear the second a wedding band lands on your finger. And then what? How long will she expect her husband to wait until she’s “comfortable” or “safe” enough to have sex? A week? A month? A year? Longer? That’s both unfair to her husband and totally unreasonable, because marriage and sex are typically a package deal.

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    cporoski December 29, 2011, 11:42 am

    I tell people all the time that they have “Gotten really in thier heads” about an issue. Like you have talked yourself out of alot things and it has become a complex for you. Now you are behind the eight ball and each passing day, this issue becomes larger in your head. The act of losing your v card has become bigger, scarier, and you want the guy to be more perfect. for the majority of people who lose it, it is with the hormone filled high schooler or dorm mate that was available at the time. Once it was done, it wasn’t scary anymore.

    So just ease yourself into it. Give yourself permission to let the pressure go. There is a dating service out there called “its just lunch” so take that attitude. just keep telling yourself it is no big deal and you will be fine.

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  • Lyra

    L December 29, 2011, 11:45 am

    Whoa. That’s some pretty harsh advice. I agree with the last paragraph in starting small and setting goals for yourself when you aren’t experienced in dating, but saying her reason for not wanting sex before marriage because she’s not ready doesn’t have merit??? That’s harsh. She’s not ready for sex. Big deal. She’s the ONLY one who can tell if she’s ready or not. Sex is a big step. Some people can just jump right in, others can’t. That’s just how it is. In my book, telling her that she’s wrong in her VERY personal decision is pretty derogatory.

    LW, my suggestion is to start reaching out to potential suitors. Maybe this means getting together with your friend group or running group (as long as there are some guys in said groups) once or twice per week. Maybe this means you start talking to more guys and YOU do the approaching and start the conversation. Maybe this means you bite the bullet and ask a guy out on a lunch date. The worst that could happen? You get a “no”. That’s it. And these steps show that you are actively looking for someone to date. Guys might come out of the woodwork when they see that you are open to dating.

    The key? Baby steps. Setting goals might work well for you just to get you started. Make a goal for yourself to not clam up whenever a potential suitor starts talking to you. Put yourself outside of your comfort zone. Take a deep breath and ENJOY it!! Dating should not feel like a chore; it’s meant to be fun. If you are having problems finding guys of your age, let your friends know you’re actively searching and maybe they can introduce you to some of their guy friends. But above all, have FUN! 🙂 Take it at your own pace and enjoy the ride. Good luck!

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      cporoski December 29, 2011, 12:17 pm

      L, I think what Sarah is saying is that the LW was using the vcard/marriage thing as an excuse and a reason not to date. I think she was totally right. Sarah wasn;t saying that you have to start sleeping around. But more don’t put up barriers before even starting. It is like any excuse like “i can’t lose weight because I have a bad knee” OR “I just can’t save money because I need xyz.”

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      • Lyra

        L December 29, 2011, 12:33 pm

        That might be the case, but saying that the LW’s reasoning “doesn’t have merit” was pretty offensive. I think this situation is actually a LOT simpler than people are making it. She wants to date and have fun. She doesn’t want sex. She just wants dating tips. The LW wants to know ways to get past that nervousness and the clammy hands stage. It really seems that simple.

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        Ktfran December 29, 2011, 1:01 pm

        I really don’t think it’s that simple because the LW brought up sex. Maybe Sarah focused on the sex part too much, but I think her underlying message was well thought out.

        Of course, the LW should have sex only when she’s ready. Not because others think she should or because she is feeling pressured. However, the way I read it, is that her attitude about sex and being afraid of getting hurt is crippling her from dating. Heck, you can get hurt without sex. I know I have. But that’s part of learning and growing.

        I really don’t think Sarah, or anyone, is telling the LW to go out and have sex. I think they’re really trying to say do not let the fear of getting hurt – and she states she’s afraid to have sex because she might get hurt – stop you from finding someone you want to spend your life with. People will, and most likely have, picked up on this from the LW and won’t approach her because of it. Budjer touched on this and I think he’s spot on.

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        Sarah December 29, 2011, 1:59 pm

        To me, anytime you push off something important in your life because you’re afraid of it, is a reason that has no merit. If the LW wrote about a job she really wanted but was afraid of having an office closer to her boss, we would tell her to get over that, wouldn’t we? Because the greater good is that she get’s the job (relationship). If she thinks her reason of being afraid of taking the job has validity, she’s never going to get up the nerve to work for the promotion. That’s why I feel its important to be tough about that, because the longer she thinks a fear has merit the longer she’ll fear it.

        I think this letter has little to do with sex though, but when I said “You have to open yourself up to people to figure out what you want.” I meant that mostly as to her choices for dating and sex. I don’t think she can know at all how she’s ready for sex until she starts dating. It could be before marriage, it could be after, but I don’t think she can know that yet. Its like driving, you can’t have your foot hovered over the brake pedal if you ever expect to press on the gas.

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      • Lyra

        L December 29, 2011, 4:36 pm

        Thank you for clarifying that, Sarah. When you put it in that way, your point does make more sense to me…I don’t wholeheartedly agree, but I see your point. I do still think people are overanalyzing the letter, but I’m glad you clarified things. 🙂

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        cporoski December 29, 2011, 2:03 pm

        I think it is more than that. this isn’t a phase, it is a lifetime. She has socially checked out for a decade. There is a reason for that. It isn’t like she is doing everything but, she hasn’t even had a boob honk. I get that some people are late bloomers, but this is a life path that she needs to address.

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      • Lyra

        L December 29, 2011, 4:47 pm

        Remember what your first date felt like? Remember what it felt like when you first asked out a guy? Remember how awkward your first kiss was? Remember how nervous you were when you started dating? How you wanted to do EVERYTHING right? I’m guessing the LW is feeling overwhelmed. She wants some advice as to how to get over the awkward clammy hands stage. Yes, there might be some anxiety in there somewhere, but she’s NOT abnormal because of it!! I have two friends who are 23 and 24 and have never had a date or a kiss or anything. My 26-year-old brother has never been on a date. Does this mean they’re abnormal? Absolutely not. Everyone has their own reasons for not dating. Everyone “blossoms” at their own pace. We can’t judge because we don’t know the whole story.

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        ele4phant December 29, 2011, 9:59 pm

        I agree I think there is nothing wrong or abnormal about her, we all were nervous and clueless when we first started dating.

        I do think that waiting so long only makes it worse, it just gives time for anxiety to build. The longer we wait to jump in the game, the harder it gets to start. I don’t think she’s in need of therapy or intensive help, but I do think she needs to make an effort to push herself out there; not just wait until she “blooms”.

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    Jubietta December 29, 2011, 12:20 pm

    I had two thoughts from reading the letter, one physiological one psychological…

    I learned recently that being anxious kicks our body’s sympathetic nervous system into gear, that’s our flight or flight instinct. The unfortunate part of that is that the parasympathetic nervous system, the part that gives us peace and calm and relaxation, can’t work when the sympathetic system is engaged. So, if the LW is anxious, even at a low level, when she’s in the presence of someone she sees as a potential love interest there’s a physical reaction at work that’s contributing to her “clamming up.” It’s very similar to what happens to some men with erectile dysfunction. There are ways to work through the difficulty, and a counselor might be very helpful.

    Psychologically, I find it interesting that the LW has friends in all gender and age ranges except for men near her age. I wonder what uninvestigated beliefs might be behind those unconscious choices, what expectations she might have about people of that age and gender. In my life I find I avoid women who are my mother’s age and it took me a while to realize I was projecting my fear and distrust about her onto people whom I didn’t even know. I would echo what other commentors say about the LW checking in with what she expects to happen on a date and perhaps release those that are future-oriented and hold onto those which are of-the-moment.

    I would love to hear an update on this one. I love happy endings!

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  • katie

    katie December 29, 2011, 8:43 pm

    LW, all i would say to you is that talking to a potential boyfriend is no different then talking to the bunch of guy friends you already have. trust me- not one person ever has just met someone and instantly became a couple. thats not the natural progession of things. just meet people, be friends with them, and let things happen naturally if they are going to happen. i am a huge advocate of being friends with someone before you date them- so just start there. just make some friends!

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  • Amanda

    Amanda December 29, 2011, 10:46 pm

    LW,

    I know where you’re coming from. I was like that, oh…about 2 years ago. I hadn’t even been kissed at that point as was positively terrified of getting hurt. Want to know how I got over it?

    I stumbled into a relationship (it started out with me tutoring him in Spanish) that should have left me all kinds of damaged and screwed up. It was the worst pain I’d ever imagined.

    But you know what? I recovered. I’m okay. Yeah, it sucked. Completely. I never want to go through that again. However, I’m not letting that scare me away from anything else.

    So, to answer your question, how do you start? Don’t concentrate on the fact that you might get hurt. I’m a firm believer of never getting into anything expecting the worst because you will get it. So, just start not concentrating on that to begin with.

    Next step? Ask your friends to set you up! You’re friends with them, right? So they have to know people you’d get along with. Make it known that you’re looking for someone special! Trust me – the Universe has a way of helping you out once you make it known what you’re looking for.

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