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The Blunder Years I’m a 24-year-old college student, single for over four years. Lately, every other girl I like hooks up with one of my friends, or agrees to a date with me, then calls to back out. Why is it so hard for me to get into a relationship now, let alone date? I’m in shape (5’6”/130 lbs.), intelligent, laid-back, and considered an okay guy. What steps do I take to find the right girl?

--Mr. Not Quite

Forget finding “the right girl.” Free yourself up to find the wrong girl now, because there’s no uglier time than midlife to have a midlife crisis. You jolt awake one morning prepared to sell your grandmother for a mean ride and loose women. As luck would have it, your grandmother is deader than your hair follicles, and your wife convulses with laughter at the idea of funding your automotive ambitions. The next thing you know, you’re the aging male version of a Catholic schoolgirl, pulling into the alley behind the grocery store before work to apply spray-on hair and snap gangsta hubs on the minivan.

If you’re like most people, you were Socrates as a teenager, a rare genius in a world of drooling morons. This makes it hard to recognize your 20s for what they should be, The Decade Of Extremely Bad Judgment: a lab to do dumb stuff and learn from it, taking care not to end up dead, incurably diseased, or in jail for more than two consecutive evenings. Sure, the official end of adolescence is 18, but for more and more people, it actually ends around 30. That’s their cue to start understanding exactly what idiots they’ve been, so they can try not to live and act so idiotically. Of course, some don’t hit this mark until 40. Others are still living in their parents’ garage at 55.

Let’s review freshman anthropology: Men like beautiful women, women like men with mojo. You’re a guy, 24, still in school, and girls probably picture you taking them on dates on the handlebars of your bike. What you really should be wondering about isn’t why you don’t get many dates, but why you get any dates at all. And, of course, girls too chicken to say no to your face will tell you, “Sure I’ll go out with you, just gimme a call,” then rush home to change their phone number. This is news to you? This is news to anyone?

Yes, sometimes “It’s not you, it’s me” really means “it’s you.” While it’s possible you’re coming on too strong, it’s likely you’re coming on too short. (Note to pint-sized angry letter writers: I’m just the messenger.) Studies show women prefer men who are taller than they are. Boguslaw Pawlowski, a Polish anthropologist, found that from a woman’s perspective, the ideal woman/man height ratio is about 1:1.09, which means the girls most disposed to see 5’6” you as more than their cute little friend are those around 5’0”.

Relax, crack the books, stop looking for girls, and just be on the lookout. The difference is in the desperation -- coming off like you want to show a girl a good time, not wrestle her to the ground and jam a ring on her finger. You’ve got quite a project ahead of you -- dating enough wack-jobs so you can readily identify them and either make them a lifelong hobby or get them out of your system. Then again, what part of more fun, sex, and freedom doesn’t work for you? (Much as it lacks the suspense of trying to break the speed record for going from prom to suburban disaffection.)

Posted by aalkon at February 4, 2006 7:30 AM

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You say it soooo well ! ! !

Posted by: joel at February 14, 2006 8:59 AM

Why, thank you!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at February 14, 2006 10:32 AM

I think Amy is on the nose about dating. You learn about yourself and about relating to others. I feel it's important to add to this, however, to be up-front with girls/women. Don't lie and remember that you hold someone's heart in your hands and if you're not ready to do that -- no matter how casually or superficially it may seem for/to you -- then you need to mature first before bringing someone else into your mess. By the time you're at least more ready than you are now to be with one woman, she will have experienced liars and cheaters and, if she's had her fill of suffering and finally believes she deserves to love and be loved without all the b.s., a great guy will be just what she desires. [Note: Great guy does not mean push-over. No one with healthy self-esteem is a push-over. A great guy treats everyone with respect and kindness and he knows that people have their "issues" and are sensitive to them (abuse is a different can of worms that I won't get into now). Therefore, he is compassionate and, if he's wise, he understands that it has nothing to do with him. (If a guy/gal exhibits a lack of empathy, run and don't look back. This is a serious and dangerous "flaw" in the make-up of a person.) He doesn't bolt when things get intense (because it's not all light and fun). Rather, he sees his discomfort as an indication that his "buttons" have been pushed or that he's not being a good partner and that these times are opportunities to learn and grow.] In my opinion, nothing is sexier than a guy who is kind, comfortable with himself (usually because he established long ago the habits of what our culture holds as "good"/"right" character and is not trying to hide holes in his character) and, therefore, he is strong. If the physical attraction is even a little there between the two people, then (again, in my opinion) there is the recipe for something great. Ask any girl/woman if she finds a man holding a baby to be sexy. This is why. Babies bring out the best in most guys. They're gentle with them and their innocence. For some reason, they put the baby down and go back to living unconsciously and treating women carelessly. Yes, guys have also endured painful relationship experiences. (This is one of those conundrums...What came first, the chicken or the egg?) Two things: First, women (or the feminine aspect) are relationship oriented. Well-adjusted women want it to work out. If you perceive something we're doing as "annoying" -- talk about it and be open to hearing our perspective as well. (If you're a woman reading this, ditto!) It isn't about someone being right. Second, a person's history may be the "reason" for their crap, but it's not an excuse. If one can choose to get themselves to an important job interview/audition/meeting when they don't feel like it, are nervous, have their doubts, question the sincerity of the parties involved, they can choose to show up and make kinder choices in all areas of life. Oh, one more thing... I emplore you to not have the 'everyone else is being a pooh, then why shouldn't I?' attitude. Be the change you wish to see in the world. Be a guy who changes the way women expect to be treated. You'll be more desirable than you could imagine. If girls/women don't appreciate it yet, they just aren't ready. (By the way, have you watched this season's "The Bachelor"? Sure, the guy is a doctor, blah, blah, blah. But the most popular bachelors to be on that show have been the guys who are incredible people. Good looking comes a dime for a dozen. Lastly, it takes time to get to know someone and to know their true character. People can fake it for a good long while, so you have to know how to look and what to look for without them being aware of it. When they know, they change their game to suit their needs to get what they want. Did anyone see the Dr. Phil special last night and the "player"? Anyone notice how he squirmed and changed his story when he was confronted by the three women?) Observe. (Oh, and don't necessarily buy the "how he treats the waitress/service people" theory.) I hope this helps you and/or anyone out there.

Posted by: Annie at February 15, 2006 11:27 AM

"Relax, crack the books, stop looking for girls, and just be on the lookout."
dude, you said to stop looking but be on the lookout. That doesnt make sense.

Posted by: kellye at February 22, 2006 7:48 PM

Yes, Kellye, it does make sense, especially in the context of the 500 or so words that preceded it. Sigh. I'll explain:

Looking means actively searching.

Being on the lookout means noticing when a woman you might like crosses your path, but not spending your every moment craning your neck to find her.

It's an attitude thing. Interest over desperation.

Another thing: I walked out of the house today in high-heeled boots, a boiled wool pencil skirt with a fishtail, and a form-fitting little jacket, plus a beaded choker and chandelier earrings. I'm also wearing pink lipstick and mascara. Where was I going all dressed up like this? To the dog-groomer, the doctor (for a checkup on my knee), and to pickup the mail. Later, I went to Starbucks.

Hint: the name is "Amy," not "dude."

Posted by: Amy Alkon at February 22, 2006 8:18 PM

As a 23 year-old, I think it's kind of gross that people don't grow up until age 30. In fact, it's really gross to see them acting like fatter, balder 18 year olds. (I think Alexander Hamilton was 20 when he wrote the Federalist Papers!)

What's going to happen to all these people's children when they grow up with parents who don't have the energy to play with them--to take them on hikes, and teach them to play some sports?
Basically, it seems really silly to waste what could be the most productive, vigorous years of life on going to shitty bars three nights a week and trying to act like a teenager, waiting to "grow up" until well on the way to being old.

I guess I'm more worried about spending my potential midlife crisis worrying about what I might have done to make the world a better place, even if that's limited to just having been an awesome dad, than about how much poooosayyyyy, as the bros say, I could have gotten.

Also, it's the 90's. Chicks are dudes these days.

Posted by: steve at March 30, 2006 4:15 PM

"Also, it's the 90's. Chicks are dudes these days."

Steve, you might check your calendar. I believe it's March, 2006. Too many chicks are dudes these days - which is why they're all home alone wondering why they don't have any dates.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 30, 2006 6:19 PM

whatever, bro. it's hammertime.

Posted by: steve at April 1, 2006 12:51 AM

Amy, I wish more people knew about your columns and blog here in Sydney. Half the men at my uni wear their girlfriend's skinny leg jeans and the other half spend their breaks in the chemistry building away from civilisation. If only they knew it was ok to be themselves, as well as appropriate to the gender they were born. I finally found a good one, and that's only because he's 8 yrs older than me and hence not afraid to be a man. Sigh. When will these young'uns learn?

Posted by: Sarah at April 8, 2006 3:09 AM

Thank you so much. If you're so inclined, you might tell a local paper about my column, and maybe they'd pick it up. I do run in Canada, and around the world in the Stars & Stripes!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 8, 2006 6:38 AM

Mr. Not Quite,

Don't worry about the haters. There's always surprise sex.

Posted by: Ollie at February 24, 2007 9:10 AM

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