Sunlit Water

May 26, 2015

A Date? Me?

Filed under: Dating,Personal — by teofilo @ 12:29 am

So I had a date a couple weeks ago. Like most of my dates recently, it started when a girl messaged me on OkCupid out of the blue, and we ended up getting drinks at a bar in the neighborhood where we both live. It went okay, and she did say at the end that she’d like to see me again, but it was kind of frustrating in a familiar way.

Shortly into the date, she asked me what I do in my spare time. This question drives me crazy, as does the fact that it’s very common on first dates. I guess a lot of people really like to talk about their hobbies or something, because this keeps coming up in small-talk situations (not just first dates). For me, though, this is problematic, because what I do with my spare time is probably the least interesting aspect of my life. I mostly just screw around on the internet, which is what I said on this date after “nothing, really” wasn’t a sufficient answer for her. She immediately translated that to “videogames and porn,” to which I responded with “no comment” (which made her laugh), because there is some truth to that, although “Facebook and blogs” would be a more accurate characterization of how I spend most of my time. Regardless of the details, though, it frustrates me that I keep having to talk about this on dates when there are so many other things that I could talk about that would be more interesting to both of us.

I’m particularly frustrated that work isn’t considered more of a standard conversation topic on dates, because in addition to taking up a lot of my time and most of my emotional energy, which leaves little energy left for hobbies, my job is really interesting and unusual. I’ve been to lots of interesting places! My work involves a lot of interesting topics that regularly make the news! Ask me about that!

Now, of course I realize that I could just bring up these topics myself if I think they’re so much more interesting. And, fair enough, I probably should make more of an effort to direct the conversation in contexts like this. I’m sufficiently shy and awkward to make that sort of effort seem very intimidating, though, especially in a first-date context.

Anyway, I’m mostly just venting here. The date did go fairly well overall, and while I haven’t yet followed up on it I probably should. I do like her quite a bit, and I think there is still some potential despite the awkwardness of the first date.

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January 6, 2014

You’d Think So, But Actually…

Filed under: Dating,Personal — by teofilo @ 11:52 pm

This comic strikes a chord with me, and not just because I’m often not sure I like having fun. From time to time people say things to me like “women aren’t magical creatures whose motives can’t be figured out by mortal man” and “if you think a girl is into you, you’re probably right,” and, fair enough, I’m sure those are true as generalizations. With respect to the second in particular, though, my experience has been that I’m actually a terrible judge of whether a girl likes me or not. The thing is, while it’s certainly true that a girl who likes a guy is likely to try to give signals to that effect, it’s also true that women are socialized to be nice to guys in general, and it can be really difficult (for me) to tell the difference. It’s also true that some people flirt just for fun without meaning to imply any actual attraction, so even obvious flirting isn’t a surefire sign that someone is interested.

The upshot of all this is that when a girl is friendly and flirtatious toward me I am not at all confident that she’s actually into me sexually. The only way to find out, of course, is to make an explicit move myself, but when I’ve done that in the past the result has usually been that it turns out she’s not actually interested and was just being friendly or whatever. The most depressing examples of this dynamic were in college, where I would get this sort of rejection from girls that I wasn’t actually all that into myself and was only pursuing because I was so lonely. This happened several times, and it was a major blow to my confidence and disincentive to trying to hit on girls from then on. Putting your arm around someone and having her recoil in horror is an awful experience and it makes you not want to end up in that situation ever again. In retrospect there have been several very clear opportunities since then that I’ve foolishly passed up because of that lack of confidence.

The problem really began for me in high school, but it was in college that it manifested as a clear and consistent pattern. One obvious inference from this is that I didn’t go to the right college for me in social terms, but it’s hard to imagine how I would have been able to figure what would have been the right one given the information I had available when I was making the choice.

Ultimately I think this can all be classified under “patriarchy hurts men too.” The expectation that the man will make the first move means that the only thing a woman can do if she likes a guy is send whatever subtle signals she can, but to a lot of socially awkward guys those signals are indistinguishable from the routine signals women send to ingratiate men in general. If women weren’t required to send those ingratiating signals, and if they were able to make the first move themselves if they were inclined to, this would be much less of a problem. (Online dating does remove a lot of these problems, but it adds some additional difficulties and frustrations of its own, so while it’s better on net, it’s still kind of a pain.)

August 25, 2013

On Sex As Conquest

Filed under: Dating,Sex — by teofilo @ 1:11 am

I agree entirely with this. I can’t stand the whole idea of sex-as-conquest that is so prevalent in our society, and I absolutely refuse to play along with it. If someone acts like she doesn’t want me, I assume that’s the case and give up on pursuing her. This probably has cost me some romantic opportunities, but so be it. Some things are more important.

August 17, 2013

More Frustration (And Introspection!)

Filed under: Dating,Personal,Sex — by teofilo @ 12:41 am

I’m feeling kind of mopey right now. There are a variety of reasons for this; work has been kind of stressful lately, and the social prospects that I thought were developing a few weeks ago seem to have not really developed at all. My life is pretty good overall, and I have no doubt that with enough patience I’ll eventually be able to overcome even my formidable social problems, but it may take a while. In the mean time, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how I got to this point, and I think I’ve figured at least a few things out.

I guess what I’ve always wanted most of all is to have sex with women who want to have sex with me, but not in the context of a series of random one-time encounters with people I have nothing in common with, or in the context of a long-term relationship so serious that everyone assumes it will end in marriage. The problem, though, is that for a long time I sort of implicitly assumed those were the only two options. Back in college, when I was a frustrated virgin, I knew I didn’t want the former, so I assumed what I needed to find was the latter (and to eventually break it off before it got too serious, but that was a problem for later). I was aware of the concept of “friends with benefits” and so forth, but I didn’t really understand how it differed from a serious relationship. And, to be honest, I’m not totally sure I understand the distinction even now. The idea that I could be friends with someone, and have sex with her a lot but without any expectation of anything more, was something that just didn’t really occur to me.

So I spent my college years unsuccessfully chasing a serious relationship, which is what I thought I wanted. This involved a lot of poor judgment in who to ask out, and a lot of rejection as a result. After college, when I finally met someone I liked who liked me too and we managed to have sex, I rushed into a serious relationship (over her initial skepticism) without thinking it through or understanding what I was doing. And, of course, it eventually ended badly and I realized that, no, a serious relationship wasn’t what I had wanted at all. Not long after that I had a nice fling that was more or less what I had been looking for all along, but we were in different places in our life and it couldn’t really continue. Since then I’ve had three brief sexual encounters in as many years, and that’s all.

Looking back, I really wish I had realized when I was in college that I didn’t have to worry so much about doing this the “right way,” and just taken the opportunities that arose. I also kind of wish I had gone to a different college that was more congenial to my social needs, but that opens so many what-ifs that I try not to think about it too much. Whenever I read stuff about the “hookup culture” on college campuses I think “Yes, that. That’s what I want. Why can’t I find it?” Even in grad school, where I probably could have had the sort of social life I’ve always wanted if I had tried, I made a conscious decision not to, in order to focus on school and not be distracted by girls. I think that was the right decision as far as it went, but in retrospect there were really obvious opportunities I should have taken.

And now I live in a place where I still don’t know many people even after two years, and most of the people I do know have so little in common with me that they aren’t really plausible friends, let alone romantic partners. I know there are people I have more in common with here, and I’ve even met some, but developing social relationships is really hard for me so it’s been slow going. I just start to worry too much, partly because I’m afraid of rejection, but also because I’m really worried about being perceived as a jerk who assumes all women are going to be into him (or whatever). Lately I’ve been realizing that both of these things are inevitable and I need to just take the risk, but I’m very risk-averse so it’s been hard to put that understanding into practice. I’m sure I’ll get it eventually but for now I’m still just generally kind of lonely and sad.

February 3, 2012

Self-Knowledge

Filed under: Dating,Personal,Sex — by teofilo @ 10:23 pm

Longtime readers of this blog will recall that college was a spectacularly unsuccessful period for me romantically, and that it was only after I had been out of school for a few months that I finally managed to have a modicum of success in dating. You might think that, having reached that point and figured a few things out, graduate school would have been a more rewarding experience in this respect, but you would have been wrong. My graduate school experience was almost as sexless as my undergraduate experience, and to the extent that it was more successful that had nothing to do with being in school per se.

What I’ve come to realize from this is that school is actually a really terrible environment for me romantically. (Obviously this is not true for everyone.) On reflection, there have been two major aspects of school life that have interfered with my romantic success: the time-limited nature of the experience and the fact that you never really have any true free time while in school.

The time-limited aspect was really more of a problem for me in undergrad than in grad school. It generally takes me a fairly long time (weeks to months) to decide if I’m really interested in someone, and given the compressed time frame and frequent breaks of the school context it would often seem that pursuing a given person wasn’t really “worth it” given the limited time that would be left before the next big disruption. This was particularly a problem for me in undergrad since I was (in retrospect weirdly) focused on finding a serious, long-term relationship rather than a casual hook-up. In grad school I would worry about this a bit, but I had decided that I was not actually interested in anything serious or long-term, which took off a lot of the pressure and made the limited time less of a concern.

The lack of free time was a much bigger issue in grad school, though. In general, one thing I really dislike about being in school is that I never felt at ease or like I had any time to myself. There was always something that I should have been doing, which made it very difficult to enjoy any of the time when I wasn’t in class, even though there was a lot of it. In both undergrad and grad school, but especially in the latter, my friends generally seemed to study a lot more than I did, which made it even more difficult to be social. Even if I wanted to hang out, the people I would have hung out with were probably doing something more important. This made finding time for dating and so forth really challenging, and for the most part in grad school I just didn’t bother trying. In retrospect this was probably a bad call, since I met a lot of great people, some of whom seemed to like me rather a lot, but it’s hard to see these things in the moment.

Now, of course, I have plenty of free time, but I don’t know anyone where I am. This seems to be sort of a fundamental trade-off between school and non-school; in school there are loads of opportunities to meet people but no time to hang out, whereas out of school you have all the time in the world outside of work but don’t necessarily know anyone or have any easy means of meeting people. I still prefer the non-school situation (not having real free time was incredibly stressful and I never want to go back to it), but I can see the trade-off much more clearly now than I could when I was in school.

June 27, 2009

Oh, Hell

Filed under: Blogs,Dating,Personal — by teofilo @ 5:54 pm

So it seems that having one’s ex-girlfriend read one’s blog can be problematic.  Who knew?

December 23, 2008

Maternal Wisdom

Filed under: Dating,Personal — by teofilo @ 3:47 pm

I’m in Albuquerque, visiting my family and preparing to go up to Santa Fe tomorrow for Christmas.  I got in late last night (it took forever to get here thanks to the weather) and talked to my mom a bit about the breakup and such.  She had some things to say about it that helped me to clarify how I feel and what I think was going on.  The way she put it was that the problem was that I met a wonderful person too early.  I think that’s right.  We’re just in very different places in our lives right now, and as a result our attitudes toward the relationship were different in a way that was not ultimately sustainable.  Another way to think of it, as my mom also put it, is that she’s 25 going on 30 while I’m 24 going on 18.  Although the actual age difference is very small, the differences in background and experience are a lot bigger, and that was ultimately the problem.

December 18, 2008

I Cried. I Never Cry, But I Cried.

Filed under: Dating,Personal — by teofilo @ 11:19 pm

The end of a relationship is never easy, even if you see it coming a long way off, and this one was no exception.  While I think we were both expecting this to come at some point in the near future, it was still a hard conversation to have.  They always are.

I don’t know why it is that my interest in and commitment to this relationship began to wane, but it did, and once it did it was only a matter of time.  I felt (and feel) awful about the fact that she was still so committed to it and to me when I didn’t feel the same way, but there wasn’t much I could do.  I often have a hard time figuring out just how I feel about things, which often makes things unnecessarily confusing and difficult for people around me.  I think in this case a lot of it can be attributed to my lack of experience and resulting difficulty understanding what exactly I want and why.  Certainly none of the blame is hers, and I still love and respect her and hope to maintain some sort of friendship, if possible.

In any case, this is a major change, painful but necessary, and I think and hope that things will ultimately end up better for both of us as a result of it.

April 14, 2008

Still Pretty Great

Filed under: Dating,Personal,Sex — by teofilo @ 10:01 pm

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while.  This woman’s insatiable.

March 29, 2008

Awkward

Filed under: Dating,Personal — by teofilo @ 1:51 pm

So things are going great with the new girlfriend (we’ve even changed our Facebook relationship statuses!), but there’s on little issue that makes things a little, um, odd: her first name is the same as my sister’s.  It’s a common name, so this isn’t really all that surprising, but it can make talking about one or the other of them (with, say, my mom) a bit confusing.

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