Tuesday, 1 April 2014

"He'll Never Get a Girlfriend If..."

I thought it would amuse my female readership if I reported that I had overheard a man saying of another man "He'll never get a girlfriend if..." Or was it "How will he ever get a girlfriend if..."? At any rate, I thought it would cheer you to know that guys say that about other guys, and it can be just as dumb as when girls say "How will she ever get a boyfriend if...?" about other girls because actually, as someone listening pointed out, the guy in question has no trouble getting girlfriends. So there.

But this leads me to wonder what qualities keep other men from getting girlfriends. I mean, serial killers in jail get marriage proposals. So this morning I will throw out some suggestions as I puzzle through the possibilities.

1. They never meet any girls. Many men are in male-dominated careers, and by dominated I mean there are only two women in the office/on site, if that. Or they are in high-pressure academic programs where the only way to survive is to keep their heads down and study. Although I have many reservations, in the case of men who are in male-dominated careers, I suggest internet dating. But I mean dating, not emailing.

2. They never talk to girls. Some men actually lose the ability to speak when introduced to new girls. It is amusing to witness, but not so amusing for the poor men. This is why it is a kindness to march up to guys known as "quiet" or "shy" and ask them easy-to-answer questions and, if they give short, strangled answers, chat gaily and non-stop for three minutes before buzzing away. Repeat the next time you see them. This will help them get used to you, and hopefully by extension to talking to women in general.

Three. They are dead boring. Some men--not the quiet ones--are dead boring, I have to admit. They talk about the same things all the time, and/or they talk in a monotone. They talk about things that interest them, and never wonder for the slightest second if these are of any interest to the women they are speaking to. I was once interrupted while talking about my novel to a recent reader of my novel to be told that Mass was available at some place where I am never going to go. This was of great interest to the man in question, but not to me. Incidentally, people, never EVER interrupt an author talking about her book with a reader. It is cruel.

I am not sure what can be done for men who are dead boring. The most obvious solution is to tell them that they are dead boring and they must ask people about their interests, not just launch into a discussion of their own. Also one could suggest they stop talking in a monotone. However, this seems very blunt, even for a North American. The idea of doing any such thing would make the average Brit faint. Maybe some kindly self-sacrificing man could do it, especially when drunk.

4. They never ask girls out. Before he went into the seminary, I had a fond idea that eventually some nice girl named Prunella or Penelope or something like that would propose to Seminarian Pretend Son in a rowboat in a big pond or river (or whatever) in her family's country place, and that would be that. Some men are so humble that they assume wrongly that they are just no woman's cup of tea and so are absolutely staggered to discover that they are. I imagine England is full of such excellent yet unassuming chaps; indeed, it always has been. Thus, in England, especially among the expensively educated, it is the lot of woman to prod man into marriage. I say England, not Scotland, because the Scots are markedly different. I think. Naturally there exceptions to my egregious stereotyping.

5. They ask too many girls out. I once had a neighbour who was indignant because although he gave his phone number to two waitresses at his favourite bar, neither of them called him. I pointed out that they would have certainly known he had given his number to BOTH of them. "So what?" he asked. Dear, dear, dear. Bless his little heart.

Closer to home, I know a nice young man, excellent company, who wears his heart on his sleeve and discusses his latest crush with all the women he knows. He has a new one every month, and it is very hard to keep track. Unfortunately, he tends to get crushes on girls he has told about the other girls, and naturally they do not take his ardour very seriously.

In such a case, I would counsel prudence and caution. Although in close-knit communities everyone will eventually know that one of their men has asked out one of their women, the fact that he tried to be discreet about it will stand him in good stead.

6. They pick badly. Newsflash. Beautiful young women prefer beautiful young men their own age. Some beautiful young women who have only their looks going for them may angle for less beautiful, less young men if these men are rich (and I mean rich), but men who read Catholic blogs are unlikely to meet them. So never mind them. Look for girls who look like you.

If you look at married couples, you might notice that, by and large, they have a lot in common. I am not beautiful but striking. B.A. is not beautiful but striking. He is short. I am shorter. He still hasn't finished his PhD. I still haven't finished my PhD. He loves women. I think men are the caffeine in the cappuccino of life. We are almost the same age. We share many virtues and we share many faults, which is very handy when it comes to forgiveness, the lifeblood of marriage. We are both mildly eccentric. The verdict of my dear friend Lily when she met B.A. was "I was so relieved. I thought he'd be too normal."

If you are a brainy potato dumpling of a man, it is a good idea to court brainy potato dumplings of women. It is a bad idea to think, "Although I am a balding, overweight 5'6" thirty-two year old accountant with a marked physical resemblance to Winston Churchill, I shall court only 20 year old model-types." That's just not how life works. Go to the mall and look at the couples. The major discrepancies have to do with height. Short women don't mind marrying tall men, and tall men don't mind marrying short women. Tall women prefer tall men, and short men seem to prefer shorter women, which I think a bit sad, but that's life.

On the other hand, it is short sighted to think that women are "out of your league" just because of some ridiculous social construct like "where she went to university." If she's around your age, shorter than you, has similar interests, and has the female version of your figure (i.e. slim to your thin, athletic to your muscle, curvy to your fat), it doesn't really matter a damn if she went to Harvard or Oxford whereas you went to state or a red brick. If a woman turns you down because of where you went to college, that really is her loss because Harvard and Oxford men don't give a pinch of snuff for where women went to uni, so long as they think we're cute and fun, whatever than means for them.

I just remembered. Sometimes younger men fall madly in love with older women, e.g. their professors. In such situations, the younger man is going to have to think very hard and put forward his case in an honest and blunt conversation, and be extra-prepared to be shot down. This is particularly true if the young man does not have personal capital equal to the woman's higher social status, e.g. good looks, ambition, undoubted charm.

7. They are smelly. It's sad that they need to be told, but some do--especially some undergrads away from home for the first time ever. If a man does not wash daily, does not wear clean clothes, does not brush his teeth, does not wash his hair, does not wear deodorant, does not put odour-eaters in his shoes, he is going to smell. And women do not like that. We really do not.

Feel free to add your own thoughts in the combox!


Julia said...

Yep. The undergrad man smell.

When I was doing my undergraduate degree (in music), I often would practise in the practise rooms on campus. Oh my, I could tell when an undergrad man had been the last person in a practise room. Most of the guys didn't smell bad (I assume those ones left the rooms smelling neutral), but sometimes it was nasty. And since there was a premium on these windowless practise rooms, I had to take any room I could get if I wanted a room at all.

Seraphic said...

Ick! I can imagine. The stench of a university weight room is something different entirely. One has to expect it, and one can get used to it, and one can even come to like it. But a smelly music practice room is really unfair. Hmm. Maybe people should write letters and articles in their college papers: IF YOU DON'T WASH, PLEASE WASH.

Amusingly, an introductory letter to Niners (first years, i.e. in Grade 9) entering my high school instructed us to wash and use deodorant. Children don't need deodorant, but even teenage girls might, especially if, as the letter pointed out, there are 900 of them packed into one small building.

Stellamaris said...

Ahem. Concerning number 2, I have used your tactic and don't recommend it to any girl unless she has a thing for shy men who never talk to girls. Otherwise, you become the one girl who talks to them and therefore the one they will get a crush on. I'm sick of it. I feel like I can't be kind and civil to an obviously socially awkward guy without arousing his (unwanted) romantic interest. This doesn't exactly encourage my efforts to be inclusive.

sympatico said...

3a. I recently went out a few times with an NCB I'd been fixed up with. He talked non-stop, some of it interesting and some of it mindless chatter. At first, I figured he was nervous. But I started noticing that he'd ask me a question and then, without pausing, give me his own answer and keep talking in stream of consciousness, drifting on to one subject and then another. By the time he paused, we were so far away from his question that it seemed pointless to answer it. Also, if he did let me begin to answer his question, he'd interrupt me answering to give me his own answer and then proceed with the stream of consciousness. I was left with the distinct impression that he just wasn't that into me, except as an audience.

Sheila said...

Oh, the smelly men! The boring men! I remember meeting quite a few of each.

My kid brother (12) shows every sign of growing into a boring man. I worry about this, and don't know how to tell him because listening to other people and judging their reactions is the sort of thing that can't be taught. And yet, it is my duty to do it, because the longer it goes, the worse I imagine it's going to get! I worry it's my fault for hanging on his every word about everything when he was two. I spoiled him!

I'm not even positive that it's just boringness, either. It seems like a chronic inability to understand that other people have feelings and interests, just as you have feelings and interests, and that those matter to them as much as yours do to you. I can't really blame my brother for walking into a room and just starting off talking about football because that's what he was thinking about, and then wandering off without waiting for an answer, because he is 12 and it's somewhat expected. But when an adult man shows such obliviousness, I confess I wonder whether he is merely being careless (which is fixable) or if he is mildly disabled, which so far as I know is not. Is there a way to develop an awareness of other people, so that you don't do this? Do they have lessons you can go to, "How not to be boring"? Because I think learning social cues is a difficult job, and can't be done simply by being told you are boring.

Me, I am sometimes boring because I get shy of the company, so I try talking to break the tension, and then I get excited by my topic and forget to take a breath. It's very unfortunate, but not terribly hard to stop doing, once I notice I am doing all the talking. Then I get shy and awkward again and stop talking altogether .... sigh. I am not so good at parties. :P

Sara said...

Stellamaris, ME TOO!!!!!!!! I totally sympathize! Auntie, please address this!
How can one be polite and make an effort to put shyer men at ease without getting them to fall in love with you? I think it's a crying shame that people don't make an effort to bring quiets into the conversation, but fact is fact.

I am extremely shy (And, incidentally, quite introverted, so I generally just take time to warm up to people and do not feel the need to talk every second of every moment.) and I empathize deeply with shy guys (NOT meaning socially awkward -- those guys I just feel awful for and am kind to no matter what.), but I DO tend to be the only girl who reaches out... HELP! :-O

Leah said...

I wouldn't worry too much about your brother, Shelia. I've taught jr. high for years, and trust me, very rare is the twelve-year old who doesn't love the sound of his/her own voice above all others. :)

For any given question I ask, out of six students raising their hand, four or five will have the EXACT same answer, and unless I'm careful to remind them to put their hands down if someone says what they wanted to say, all four or five of them will proceed to say the EXACT same thing. It's kind of hilarious, actually.

I think girls in general tend to listen and interpret responses better than boys, but I also think it's something that comes (to a certain extent) with time and maturity. And I do think it's something that can, also to a certain extent, be taught. Or learned, at least. I would have to think more on that.

Heather in Toronto said...

Sheila, fear not. I think that every remotely bright twelve year old I have ever met has been kind of insufferable that way. It's actually pretty awesome to be a bright twelve year old, because they obviously know everything worth knowing about their chosen subject and they get to show great philanthropy by deigning to enlighten the ignorant masses. Most grow out of it when the rest of their brain development catches up with their knowledge of really interesting facts.

One thing I feel I have to note is that not all of these shy and/or boring grown-up fellows are culpably so. A guy who goes on in a monotone about his favourite topic and fails to notice social cues of folks being bored or uncomfortable has a pretty good chance of having some form of autism, and his eccentricity has a neurological basis. So it is sometimes necessary to cut them off with a "That's great, but let's let so-and-so share what they think too" since they may have a great deal of difficulty noticing more subtle social indicators.

Happily, plenty of these absent minded professor types out there do manage to find love somehow, so I do not despair totally of their prospects.

Leo said...

Let me add:

"He'll never get a girlfriend if he always comes off as a big shambling mound of neediness."

Some fellows really do seem to believe that if they present themselves as little lost puppy dogs in need of wuv, twu wuv, some nice lady will take them in from the rain. This sort of unconfident, low-testosterone approach is mildly bearable when coming from a gawky 14-year-old, but repulsive when coming from an ostensibly grown adult.

Is the origin a misplaced, self-deprecating sentimentality? A response to a cold relationship followed by a painful breakup? A deeper lack of self-worth? Who knows? And who cares. Women like quiet confidence and self-mastery, not Charlie Brown bellyaching about how nobody likes him.

My lovely single friend G is suffering from this problem. A recent suitor spent half of the first date whining about his cold, cruel ex, and after the date he besieged G with a never-ending stream of texts and e-mails featuring pictures of puppy dogs and cute kittens and big-eyed bulb-headed kids enjoying Tender Moments. He thinks he's being romantic and vulnerable. Instead, he's snuffing out whatever infinitesimal microbes of attraction that G might have felt for him. And he's middle-aged!

This fellow needs a good guy friend - a Leo, if you will - to advise him to ditch the kittens and present himself as a confident adult. Otherwise...he'll never get a girlfriend.

Seraphic said...

Ah! Yes, I forgot about the side effect of being the one woman to talk to the shy guy. Being safely married, I forget that one does not always want the shy guy to fall in love with one. Being old and married, this is much less likely to happen to me. And I must say it is great fun being able to tell shy guys how great they are without having to backtrack at all later. Like the handsome and amusing Sprachmeister, for example.

Okay, well the solution is that you get your female friends to ALSO talk to the shy guy. You tell them that talking to the shy guy has to be a group project because although he looks like he could be an interesting, real, dating-type guy, you don't want to run the risk of him falling for you because you are, not the ONE, but the ONLY one.

The other solution is to talk to only those shy guys who are terribly cute, like the aforementioned 20-something Sprachmeister, and I know where he is on Sundays.

Nzie said...

Sheila, I second the remarks above. 12 and 13 are horrible ages for boys and girls -- even nice children are rarely their best (something I can attest to both in myself, and the students I taught). Adults probably should make him stick around to listen/answer/participate, but I don't think it's a major cause for concern.

Ooh, I can see the shy guy thing being a problem. Luckily it hasn't happened to me. There was one person at my uni who was painfully shy, but I started saying hello, and my friend joined me, and then we had extremely soft-spoken conversations from time to time.

Also, I second #10, and for any gentleman readers around, I also add that if you're going to use cologne, make sure it matches your body chemistry (get a female relative to check it out on you), and don't wear too much. Younger men in particular sometimes overdo the cologne. Cologne done properly can be great though; I sit next to a friend in one class, and he picked a good one for himself and wears just enough that I get a truly delightful whiff every now and then.

Iota said...


And on top of all the advice about the typical behaviour of young teens, Sheila, just in case your brother turns out to be a little more self-absorbed than normal, don’t worry to catastrophically either.

Rhetoric (the art of conversation and public speaking) is a learnable skill. Talent plays a role,. but it's not everything. In fact even people you might refer to as “mildly disabled” can learn this kind of stuff (see e.g. Asperser’s Syndrome – high functioning Autism). The problem is more often not knowing you’re bad at it, not understanding how big a deal becoming better could be, or believing that you can’t learn it.

Not everyone will ooze charisma, of course, but I’m assuming the point isn’t to make your brother the most popular public speaker and party host that side of the Atlantic. :-)

Rosemary said...

I've run into this same issue with a few men: Often they won't take that extra step and just ask you out. I've run into men at various social functions, and they seem interested, but will not follow up by taking that extra step. I admit it could be because I am happily single, but more than once I have thought to myself "If he asked me out, I'd say yes."

Sheila said...

Thanks for the reassurance. I taught 14-year-olds mostly, and though they were terrible in so many ways, none of them (except perhaps one) were THAT socially awkward. My 10-year-old brother also has more awareness. But I hope he's just "in a phase" and will grow out of it ... or that he can learn some better skills with effort. Because if the next time I come home he regales me with more physics and Java Script, I think I may go bananas.

sciencegirl said...

I think it worth noting that most of the shy, nerdy men I know are married! At some point or other, they asked the girl out.

Most people who are annoying, pedantic, shy or awkward do not have Asperger's or autism! Working in the sciences, I met many (neurotypical) people who seemed almost proud or braggy regarding their few awkward moments or mildly rude episodes -- like these made them geniuses. It's like they all watched these TV shows where outrageous rudeness is excused by an unstated diagnosis and coupled with breathtaking intellect, serving less as a disability and more as a superpower. Then a student who ACTUALLY had Asperger's joined us, and a lot of the most socially rude were the least accepting of that student's odd mannerisms. Furthermore, whereas that student took trouble to be polite, gracious and kind, other people with easy social function stepped all over each other because they just didn't care.

Most of the "awkward" men I have known were actually pretty skilled social creatures with other academics or with their guy friends. Maybe some guys just stop trying after being shot down in their youth by other immature people and forget that women have grown up just as they have.

Iota said...

@ Sheila,

"[...] he regales me with more physics and Java Script"

Oy, the young man has cool hobbies! :-)

@ sciencegirl
Oops, never meant to imply that awkward = Aspergers. Just that if you want to learn the skills, you can do that to an extent even with a different wiring.

People who just don't want to stop being boring or rude or whatever are, well, people who just don't want to. I suppose there might be no easy fix for THAT.

Kate P said...

I would add, if he asks a gal out, he should have plans prepared for the date. Spontaneity is nice on occasion, but always plan to show the gal a nice time. Wandering around or "I dunno, whaddya YOU wanna do?" aren't fun. I like a man with a plan.

I've been there with becoming the object of a crush after talking to shy men. I was a magnet for creepy crush guys in my 20s.

Lisette said...

I really enjoyed this post!!! Best post in a long time!!

Seraphic said...

Maybe I've been married too long, but isn't it a good thing when men ate attracted to you? Naturally you're not going to be attracted to all of them,but maybe some of those shy guys deserve a chance!

PolishTraveler said...

Great post!! I agree with all of your points, Auntie.

I don't want this to degenerate into a 'complain about shy men' fest but I do empathize with Stellamaris and Sara! I was painfully shy as a kid so I tend to take pity on shy men and try to draw them out of their shells. Or, I used to, until I realized a lot of these shy men only needed a little of what they saw as encouragement to fall head over heels and then feel resentful that I wasn't interested in dating them. Note the 'take pity' above - which excludes attraction. Sometimes, I just want to put someone - man or woman - at ease and draw them out socially, not date them. Especially because having overcome shyness myself, I know it is possible. In the long run, though, it becomes exasperating - and boring and unattractive - to be the 'shy boy rescuer.'

But, I think the problem is not so much with shy men as with awkward, creepy men (especially those middle-aged) who often surface in Catholic circles and think that just because you share the same beliefs you SHOULD LISTEN TO THEM TALK AND LET THEM FOLLOW YOU AROUND AND THEN TEXT YOU FOR MONTHS. Orthogals had a great post up a while back that addressed this.

Leo, I also agree about the needy men. So unattractive! Part of the issue might be that some of these men (like most people, in my opinion) legitimately need at least some therapy, and there seems to still be a stigma attached to men seeking this kind of help. So, they resort to unburdening themselves of their past on first dates and then are surprised that they don't get more dates.

Still, a man can probably make all of these mistakes/blunders (well, except not washing) and find someone. We say in Polish 'Każda potwora znajdzie swojego amatora.' which basically means there is someone out for there for everybody.

Seraphic said...

The solution is to say "No." And if they don't give you a chance to say "No", set up the chance yourself--the subject of today's blog post.

As for the middle-aged men who follow young women around, they do not know that they are unattractive unless they are told. We all need to stop being so outwardly polite and so inwardly seething. It's dishonest. What we need to do is say, "Excuse me. I'd like to say hello to some friends now" and "I gather from your many texts that you're interested in being friendly with me, but I am not comfortable with intimate relationships with men in their 40s."

Although such men abound in old movies and books, gallant men no longer stride up and say, "Is this man bothering you, Miss? Begone, varlet!" Thus, you have to say it yourself.

You have a choice: charitable abruptness or seething silent resentment. I remember making that choice about a male friend of mine. He was talking so endlessly that a light went off in my brain and I said, "So and So, do you have OCD?" And, startled, So and So admitted that yes, he does have OCD. And I said, "Well, I think you're having an episode and I should interrupt you."

Really, we need to speak up. In fact, maybe we need to man up, i.e. talk to men the way men most easily understand. "Bob, you've been talking for 10 minutes flat. Give it a rest." "Pete, you're my dad's age. I'm not interested." "Mike, you don't need a girlfriend. You need a therapist. Until you deal with your resentment, you are never going to be good marriage material."

Such masculine forthrightness might also serve to make us seem more like men and thus, hooray, less sexually attractive to the Bobs, Petes and Mikes.

Anamaria Scaperlanda Biddick said...


I agree with all above from teaching that middle school is an extremely awkward age, which often manifests itself in long diatribes on a given subject. And definite lack of social awareness.

But, in case there really is something going on, check out this: http://www.nldontheweb.org/nldentrylevelreading/nldcharacteristics.html
if he shares other characteristics. I have a friend whose grown son has that but it wasn't diagnosed until high school. He would have certainly been better served had he been helped earlier.

Heather in Toronto said...

Oh, Sciencegirl, it's certainly not the case that being socially awkward always has a neurological basis, and if I gave that impression I apologize. It's just that "someone who goes on in a monotone about his favourite topics and doesn't notice that he's boring people" describes so perfectly a number of people that I know who are on the Asperger's/autism spectrum to one degree or another that I thought it worth a mention. Those I know are generally quite receptive to a kindly phrased reminder that they need to let other people talk too (unlike the merely socially boorish).

I do know what you mean about rude people fancying themselves special snowflakes who are dispensed from the normal rules of social discourse. Most of the genuinely "neurologically eccentric" people I know are lovely people who happen to have a harder time following social cues and don't always succeed, whereas people who merely fancy themselves eccentric as an excuse to be rude are just jerks. It may not be easy to tell the difference at first meeting but over time it becomes pretty clear.

Anonymous said...

This is a lovely post, and I really enjoyed it. The comments are very insightful, and amusing too. I'm particularly interested with the one on 'boring men'. Incidentally, I've gotten to know a NCB with whom I don't share much in common, but somehow I find him attractive. However, because of the way he talks i.e. monotonous and he goes on forever about subjects of his interest, my friends think he's boring and annoying even and they have no idea how I could be interested in him.