SAFAFU: Why Can’t I Meet Anyone?

By Cathy Reisenwitz

Dear Fuck-Up,

I can’t find anyone to date!

I’m a 29-year-old, hetero, cisgender, conventionally attractive, college-educated female. I broke up with my boyfriend a few months ago and I am having trouble meeting men.

I don’t like going to bars, they’re loud and expensive and I’m a bit socially anxious. Online dating usually works like this: I meet a guy who meets all my qualifications, but when we meet, there’s just no chemistry.

What am I doing wrong?

-Frustrated and alone


According to polling, most people meet their significant others through their friends, at work, or through online dating. But there are limits to all three approaches.

Here’s some of what you might be doing wrong, and how you can do better.

You’re not shopping at the right grocery store.

grocery store

Sometimes our friends just aren’t good sources of dating partners. For example, most of my friends are several years younger than I am, but I find myself more attracted to men who are at least slightly older. I’d also rather date someone who worked in the for-profit sector, but most of my friends work at non-profits.

And online dating has its limits. Chemistry is super hard to predict from a profile. Dating at work can be fraught, and is sometimes infeasible.

The first step to finding someone to date is to be where the people you want to date are. I remember listening to a co-worker at my first job complain about not being able to find a man. She was drop-dead gorgeous, smart, funny, and fairly well-paid. I identified her problem very quickly when I asked her what she was doing to meet men. Nothing. Then I asked her what her hobbies were and what she did after work. She worked out with a personal trainer, went to a women’s Bible study, and knitted in a women’s group. That she ever got a date was a miracle! She never even encountered men outside of work!

Figure out in broad strokes who you’d like to date. How old are they? Then go be where they hang out. Do you like sporty guys? Volunteer to referee for a league. Do you like nerdy guys? Go to some your local tech meetups.

You’re advertising wrong


Take a good, hard look at your appearance and public persona. Whether it’s good or not, people make inferences about people from their appearance. If you’re getting lots of attention from the wrong kind of guys, and none from the kind you want, it may be because you’re putting out confusing vibes. For example, if you wear a tube top, orange tan, and heels, you may get more attention from muscle-bound, GTL bros than suited-up bankers. Similarly, if you wear a conservative skirt suit a GTL bro might pass you up while the lawyer chats you up.

There’s nothing wrong with having purple hair and tattoos (ahem). But they increase the likelihood that the conservative guy won’t bother trying to talk to you because he assumes you’re not into him. So if you want a conservative guy, you’re going to either have to tone down your appearance when you’re out hunting, or go and approach him.

But this goes beyond appearance. Again, good or bad, people often look each other up online before investing time to get to know them in real life. If you are, say, just for the sake of argument, an openly feminist, sex-positive, anarchist who’s written about her adventures in polyamory, referenced group sex, and writes a sex advice column, you can’t be surprised when more traditionally minded men look you up and either assume you are not into them, or are themselves not into you.

As someone who actually wants a more traditional relationship, I’m still trying to navigate this. It’s certainly harder than putting a cardigan over my tube top.

What I’d say for sure is this: Life is full of tradeoffs. You might have to choose between your purple hair/sex column/machine gun hobby and the kind of guy you want in your life. As for me, writing is bae. I imagine looking back at my life in 30 years. I imagine not having another romantic relationship. Then I imagine not having lived my truth authentically, which for me is out loud and public. I imagine not having contributed my observations and experience to the conversation, not tested my ideas out on an audience, not having inspired people and enraged them. Not having intimately connected with masses of strangers.

And I’m like, lol, worth it.

Besides which, you have to ask yourself, why do I want to be with someone who’s not down with my Browning 30 cal? There’s a quote I love, from Howard Thurman, about choosing a career. “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” The only relationship worth being in is one that makes you come alive.

You’re thirsty


Dating advice is frustrating as hell. Be into someone, but not *too* into them. Be flirty, but play hard to get. Always keep them wanting more.

Fuck all that noise.

Here’s the secret: Don’t act, be. Don’t pretend to be too busy to respond to his text immediately. Actually be too busy.

There’s a huge difference between an amazing person who’s really into you, and an insecure person who just wants to be with someone. When a busy and in-demand person makes time for you, you feel flattered. When a needy and desperate person gives you attention, it feels like a burden that you’re not sure will be easy to get out of.

Instead of worrying about how to look like the former to whoever you’re dating, work on being amazing and finding someone who really does it for you.

Again, this is something I have no idea how to do. As soon as I start to really like someone, I drop all my friends and stop writing and just wait for them to text me back because that’s so much more exciting in the moment than my normal life. I have a very dear friend who I totally freaked out by being a stage-5 clinger when we started dating. Getting a boyfriend will probably require outgrowing being super into men who are in love with someone else. So obviously that’s out.

I digress. Going back to the grocery store analogy, they say never go to the grocery store when you’re hungry. Well, it can be just as bad, but in the opposite direction, to go when you’re really full. If you’re meeting man after man, and none of them are tickling your fancy, it may be because you’re not in the mood for man. Stop wasting your time going to the grocery store.

Maybe you’re having a lull in sex drive, or you’re still recovering from a bad breakup, or you’re actually gay or aesexual, or you’re depressed. But consider the possibility that you’re not in a relationship because, while the idea of watching Fresh Off the Boat in sweatpants and easy access to sex sounds good in theory, in practice you don’t actually want a relationship. That’s okay. Really. Not everyone needs someone. What we all need is someones. We need a group of close friends. We need a safety net and a network. Consider whether your desire for a man isn’t really a desire to have a friend, and whether friends can meet that need.



Images: Giphy (3); Kathryn/Flickr

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