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Extreme Meek Over

I’ve been friends with a woman for five years. She had a boyfriend when we met, but they split two years ago. Due to a lack of confidence, I never formally asked her out, but I wanted to. Recently, another friend of hers made moves on her, and I realized I’d blown it. They’ve stopped dating, but it seems I’m not an option because she no longer returns my calls. Now, I lack the confidence even to try and contact her. Is there anything I can do?

--Waiting On A Friend

Oh, the trials and tribulations of the imaginary romance. You’ve spent five years of your life with this woman -- but only in your head. Of course you lack the confidence to contact her now. What are you going to say, that during imaginary sex with her, it’s possible you gave her an imaginary STD?

When you’re 5, imaginary friends keep you from being lonely. When you’re 25, they keep you from having a life. At the moment, you’re well on your way to becoming that 50-something guy on my boyfriend’s block who’s always sputtering that he'll never be one of those chumps who pays for everything on a date. No, he won’t, because he’s unlikely to ever have one, since he’s too socially constipated to speak to any woman who isn’t a clerk at 7-11 selling him beer. Of course, there’s always that chance a lost hooker will get a flat on his street, see the light in his parents’ garage where he lives, and offer him a freebie in exchange for putting on her spare.

Like this guy, you probably work hard to avoid acknowledging the existence of the weenie within; perhaps by clinging to helpful, action-stopping mantras like “good things come to those who wait.” Sure, they do -- if your idea of a “good thing” is the bus. No, women don’t make it easy for men. Just decades back, they’d flirt to signal to men that they could ask them out without being rejected or maced. These days, women often make it a complete mystery, or seem to be signaling at everybody at all times -- stopping just short of making lingering eye contact with a fire hydrant.

How can you know for sure that a woman wants you? You can’t. If you want a woman, ask her out. If she says no, gather up the remains of your ego, glue them back together, and ask somebody else. Had you done this when this woman came back on the market, you’d either be dating her or you’d have moved on to become a real friend. Instead, you were the friend version of the “funny uncle,” pretending you had platonic intentions while secretly festering with lust.

Think about what fun this must have been for her, always being on guard against those hugs that go on a little too long. What a surprise that she isn’t scampering back for more. In the future, categorize women when you meet them: “potential sex partner,” “probable friend,” or “not a chance.” Should a “potential sex partner” have a boyfriend, flirt subtly to tell her you’d be into her (if she’d just ditch the bum). In the meantime, avoid getting too chummy, listening to her boyfriend problems, or otherwise being “like a brother” to her, as it’s unlikely to catapult you into a relationship or her bed. Of course, it should leave you ample time to ponder important public health issues; say, whether having imaginary sex with somebody means you’re really having imaginary sex with everybody they’ve ever had sex with, real or imagined.

Posted by aalkon at June 1, 2006 2:09 AM

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Jesus, does your sneer have an "off" button?

Posted by: Malienation at June 3, 2006 9:23 PM

Evidently not.

What do you think I should have said, "There, there, dear...pine after her a few more years"?

Do offer your correction to my advice.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 3, 2006 10:44 PM

Look, I understand that the people that write to you know what they're getting. They don't expect (or want) Dear Abby, or, God forbid, Cary Tennis, the insufferable fussbudget at Salon.com. They are looking for practical advice, stated directly. Humor is part and parcel of what you do. Plus, you don't drag people in off the street. They come to you, anonymously. If they hate your advice or are offended, no one will know. The problem is, they'll know.

There's no excuse for abuse disguised as "straight talk". It may not seem like abuse to you, you're the one on the side of the quill. The letter writer is obviously on the shy side. I agree, he's gotta lay himself on the line more. But did you have to dredge up so many insulting images to make your point? Imaginary friends/sex? Socially constipated? Lost hookers? Parents' garage? Funny uncles? Hugs that go on a little too long? Did you really think that would help? Tell me, how hard do you have to work to make someone struggling with shyness cringe that much? Or did you just not care, figuring that since your gender is rarely on the hook for the first move, your own advice wouldn't get spit back into your face at some later date?

If it makes you feel any better, you're an inconsiderate advice columnist in good company. I recall a response by sex columnist Dan Savage to one of his readers. Savage, who is gay, responded to a female writer's letter concerning oral sex by casually mentioning that he would "rather die than eat pussy" (he later emphasized he was serious). That sure was straight talk, pal, we get it, you prefer "outies". Do you think that helped his reader? I winced. Didn't you?

Posted by: Malienation at June 4, 2006 4:42 PM

Hey, I struggled with shyness and had no friends for much of my childhood. Americans are big sensitive babies and need to learn to laugh at themselves. I laugh at myself first and foremost. And regarding the "my gender" stuff - I give advice as an objective, rational party, not as a member of "the sisterhood."

I love Dan. If he didn't publicly make fun of me (on a loudspeaker, in front of 300 people, at the alt weekly awards once a year), I don't know if I could be sure I exist. America needs to look up its collective ass and figure out where it left its sense of humor and yank it out fast. PS Like Dan, I'm not into tuna, but I don't think I'd get all deathy over it.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 4, 2006 8:05 PM

Bemoaning the lack of a sense of humor in Americans sort of makes my point; workplace harassment seminars often point up the fact that verbal abuse is often followed up by, "I was just kidding". Society draws a line between what is considered appropriate behavior and insensitive bullying, and unfortunately grants women relative carte blanche to decide where best to draw the line (workplace standards are determined by the "reasonable woman" standard, not "reasonable person"). More unfortunately still, this attitude has spread to society in general, not just the workplace. You certainly seem to have taken advantage of that fact. Don't get me wrong, I would have preferred to be much, much meaner in my criticism, but what good would that do (not that it helped, you're pretty non-repentent)? I do reasoned, if strained, debate. Flame wars I can do without.

Posted by: Malienation at June 5, 2006 1:27 PM

Yeah, amy's advice was pretty harsh, but it sounds like the guy needs that and more. Unfortunately, hes probably a lost cause. If hes been able to successfully delude himself in the face of all evidence to the contrary about the way the romantic world really works, then whats a few advice columnist words gonna do? Nothing.

Having said that, I understand Malienation's anger when he says "Or did you just not care, figuring that since your gender is rarely on the hook for the first move, your own advice wouldn't get spit back into your face at some later date?". Nice phrase btw.

Amy gives the impression she completely takes for granted the grueling work men have to do by taking her advice to heart. Her defense of her position using evolutionary psychology, although laudable on a rational level, only contributes to her perceived empathy problem.

Fundamentally, the fact that shes a woman giving advice to men, advice that conveniently coincides with her best interests (ie let men do all the initial work and take all the initial risk ), makes her readers highly sensitive to any possibility that her advice is tainted by self interest instead of being truly objective.

Malienation's anger and distrust is completely rational. Not an inevitable conclusion, but a defensible one given the evidence.

Me? I think Amy should use less science and more rhetoric to defend her views. It'll piss off less people, it'll improve her image, and it could be vastly more successful. Oh..and I _am_ a working scientist. PhD Caltech 2002.

Speaking of Cary Tennis, did anyone read a recent column of his? A 23 year old woman wrote in saying "I've gone through a depressing series of five, six or seven dates, ... And then ... the guy suddenly goes cold."

She follows with "I can't even blame it on giving it up too soon, since none of these series of dates have involved any lewd behavior unless you count lingering hugs." LOL

Cary's brilliant, penetrating response? "Wait with grace and dignity."

The extent of his incompetence amazes me. I can't believe he is actually that ignorant, so why he didn't mention the obvious, even in passing, escapes me. Maybe he _is_ that ignorant.

The obvious? That if after 7 dates all anyone got was a hug then there is no real romantic interest. Any self respecting guy or girl would move on to something better. Its possible that her dates were at fault...repeatedly....but her comments about "giving it up too soon" and "lewd behavior" suggests that shes part of the problem in a big way.

Just had to share.

Posted by: peter at June 5, 2006 4:06 PM

I always have to laugh when people accuse me of being too big a bitch. It seems whomever was telling this guy, "There, there, duckling, it's okay if you sit around with your thumb up your ass for five years" wasn't quite doing the job.

Cary Tennis is the most tiresome advice columnist out there.

As for this hooha from the guy above:

Fundamentally, the fact that shes a woman giving advice to men, advice that conveniently coincides with her best interests (ie let men do all the initial work and take all the initial risk ), makes her readers highly sensitive to any possibility that her advice is tainted by self interest instead of being truly objective.

Um, I'm kind of fearless, and had no problem ever asking guys out. Then I realized it doesn't work, and sets up the wrong power balance in a relationship. How did I realize this? Well, in my 20s, when it seemed I was doing something wrong, I made up a survey: "Our Date: A Customer Satisfaction Survey" -- and asked men I'd dated and asked out to fill it out and be brutally honest. Oh, yeah, I really recede from risk. Of course, accusing me of that gives pussy guys yet another helpful out from asking for dates. Jeez, if it's that big a deal, just make a pact with yourself that you're going to get your jaw wired shut and stay home whacking off for the rest of your life. No skin off my back. However, for those who seek to have sex with another person before they die, there's a whole Web site here filled with advice on how they might do that.

Guys who whine about what's fair and isn't fair aren't smart. You can, sure, whine about that until you're blue, but that won't get you dates. Newsflash: Life isn't fair. Deal with it.

And thanks, Peter, but if I were worried about pissing people off, I'd write like Dear Abby (and be much richer). I'd also avoid giving the finger to people in Hummers and a host of other bits of bad Amy behavior.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 5, 2006 8:10 PM

I think that what Malienation or whatever the name was summed up all his answers when he said that people know what they're getting into when they write you. It's like people who go on Judge Judy...do they really think she's going to say, well, you made the right decision? I think you're great, Amy, and I think that the science is what makes you untouchable, albeit, more callous-sounding. As long as we're complaining though, I'd like to tell you that I really wish you wrote more columns...I got through this whole website in two days. =)

Posted by: Brenda at June 6, 2006 3:28 AM

Thank you...and I wish your probably puritanical local paper ran my column so you'd get to read me weekly. You could ask them! I'm syndicated through Creators or I can send samples to them directly.

And PS I just love a guy who wants "less science" -- ie, more windy opinion. Isn't there enough of that -- unsupported opinion -- in the newspaper? I strive to not be one of the people shoveling that -- and it frankly takes a whole lot of work!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 6, 2006 6:14 AM

I'd ask them, but it's a little more complicated than that, because I'm in Germany...normally, I live in Washington, DC...does the Post run your column?

Posted by: Brenda at June 6, 2006 7:08 AM

No, they run the Tribune columnists. Yawn. But, you might try Washington City Paper. I do run in Stars & Stripes if you're over there in the military!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 6, 2006 7:48 AM

I'm really not sure why everyone is so upset about this column. A guy who is "friends" with someone for five years while secretly wanting to date her IS a little creepy. And a guy who is too afraid to take a little risk and put himself out there for a girl he really likes doesn't deserve a date.

Posted by: jen at July 2, 2006 8:58 AM

Here, here.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 2, 2006 9:04 AM

You gave the meek guy the best information he could receive. Why do you waste your time on the replies that try to poke holes into your honest insight? Delete the dufus. I admire you being a straight up sister.

Posted by: joel at July 3, 2006 1:35 PM

As a free speecher, I never delete anyone unless they libel somebody or post in somebody else's name. Or spam me.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 3, 2006 2:41 PM

What the guys needs is to read this book. www.nomoremrniceguy.com

Posted by: Jake at July 10, 2006 3:39 PM

GUYS!! don't ever ask for or follow dating advice from a woman! even though they almost always have the best intentions (i agree this amy can be pretty obnoxious), they'll almost always tell you they want a romantic guy that sends flowers and says 'ILY' all the time, just like in the movies. well, the movies ain't real life! has sending flowers and ILY ever gotten you anywhere? yeah, dumped. that's because what women SAY they want and the guys they actually STAY in a relationship with are two DIFFERENT things.

guys, you want real dating advice? check out www.doclove.com - don't buy his book, but do read EVERY article you can find archived on askmen.com. following the doc's principles has turned my love life around 180! no, i don't work for the doc or get any kickbacks, just a loyal follower. good luck, it's a jungle out there!

Posted by: orion4713 at July 15, 2006 9:22 AM

Um, which advice did I give that was wrong or bad?

FYI, Operating on the "if you have a vagina you're a moron" principle is sure to get you a lot of dates. Also, it doesn't help to be tacky, either -- which is what it is to post ads for some old fogey giving dating advice on a site I pay for.

By the way, where in all the columns I've written do I ever tell a guy to buy flowers or say "ILY"? (apparently the cutesy-man abbreviation for "I love you").

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 15, 2006 5:31 PM

well, after re-reading most of this thread, i have to admit your advice isn't all that bad. i've even read a couple other columns and i like how you related dating to cave men and women (i agree that the dating game can trace its roots to prehistory). you're just so overwhelmingly obnoxious and belittling about it, kind of like the low self-esteem playground bullies at the middle school i teach at.

must you belittle, humiliate and opress your writers? yeah, they've done something stupid...that's why they're writing to you for advice. dishing out 'tough love' doesn't require the disher to behave like a complete asshole.

i didn't say women are morons, just that what they SAY they're looking for in a relationship, is usually not the kind of guy they end up STAYING with, ergo, guys should not follow dating advice from women. for example, i followed my best friend's wife's (and other women's) dating advice for years and wondered why i never got any dates. after following doc love's advice, i've had 2 awesome girlfriends. further, this same buddy's wife, who now scoffs at my admiration of the doc, dumped her 'nice guy' fiance back in the college for a guy (my bud) that is totally un-romantic, was always dumping her and blowing her off, and even threw a beer in her face one nite in college. i'm not advocating treating women with anything but the utmost respect...the point is, whether he even realized it or not, my buddy was a CHALLENGE (they're now happily married for 15 years with 3 kids); the exact opposite of the 'nice guy' she dumped then later advised me to be. other women's advice i have sought was all along the same lines. women can follow other women's dating advice, but men absolutely should not. period.

my post was not an ad, but advice just like you dole out (minus the double helping of obnoxious). besides, i've seen other URL's in these threads.

my guess is doc is about the same age as your husband...old fogey or not, his advice is right on the money.

the flowers and ILY were not a quote from you, but an EXAMPLE of what most women SAY they want from a guy. unfortunately for the poor sap that's followed this advice, the woman soon tires of a 'nice guy' and dumps him because he's 'too easy'.

guys, don't think you're getting access to 'the inner secrets of the female mind' by asking a woman for dating advice. ask a man that's been successful with women.

Posted by: orion4713 at July 17, 2006 1:14 PM

I don't have a husband, because it's irrational to assume your love would stay alive forever, and I don't make promises I can't keep. That said, I have a boyfriend, and we're very happy.

Because other people post URLs doesn't mean it's polite. Thinking for yourself will probably get you much further than "follow the leader."

Again, you make a silly assumption with your "ask a man 'that's' been successful with women" ...a guy may be successful because he's rich and doesn't have to try too hard, or because he got lucky. I look at information and see if it's wise and follow it if it is.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 17, 2006 2:03 PM

ok, you can't make any points of your own OR refute any of my points, so let's nitpick at minor details that have no bearing on the discussion/argument/debate in question. were you a member of the oj simpson defense team, by any chance?

cases in point:

husband, boyfriend...i stand corrected...but what does that have to do with that 'old fogey' doc being about the same age as your bf?

"think for yourself" - let me get this straight...YOU'RE telling ME to be "polite"?!? surely you jest! brings to mind a story about a pot, a kettle and some name calling...

"silly assumption" - i said "ask a man that's been successful with women," which clearly implies a PATTERN of success with more than one woman, not just some dufus that 'got lucky' once. further, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know NOT to ask brad pitt or donald trump for dating advice because these guys, as you correctly say, don't "have to try too hard."

let me rephrase for the stupid guys (and the obnoxious female advice columnists): "ask a 'regular guy' -- not too rich, handsome, well hung or famous -- that has a history of being successful with women."

Posted by: orion4713 at July 17, 2006 8:39 PM

Um, I can't make any points for myself? There are probably thousands of pages of my points on this site. What I try to avoid doing is wasting too much time responding to comments like yours, which are light on logic and even lighter on wit (although you surely think you're hliarious -- that OJ crack killed somebody, I'm sure).

Over on my blog, Crid, Lena, Radwaste, and others make a lot of intelligent arguments. They're treated with respect. If you earned respect, you'd get it, just like they do.

You clearly don't think for yourself, or you wouldn't have posted what you did above.

My personal life is none of your business, unless I care to reveal it to you, which I don't -- not any more than I have. Your repeated huffy demands for information says more about you as a man than I'd really like to know.

You don't know why a man has been successful with women, and his success doesn't necessarily mean that he has special knowledge.

And FYI, it's a man "who" has been successful with women, not "that." I didn't correct you the first time, but it's grating seeing you err time after time.

It's my site. I pay for it. It's rude to post ads for other sites. It's kind of like going to a restaurant and running around telling other patrons to eat next door.

The fact that this doesn't occur to you, and you, sheeplike, excuse yourself for advertising some other guy's site because others have posted URLs says you don't think for yourself, and aren't the least bit embarrassed to admit it.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 17, 2006 8:57 PM

jesus christ, do you even remember what we're arguing about here?!? what i meant was, you've made no points nor refuted my point that A MAN SHOULDN'T FOLLOW DATING ADVICE FROM A WOMAN. if i'm so light on logic why have your responses addressed everything BUT that point? could it be because you're light on substance? you remind me of the comedian that has no act and no jokes but gets on stage and harasses audience members with insults and profanity. yes, the rest of the audience laughs some, but these so-called comedians are NEVER the headliners.

i could give a shit whether you treat ME with respect or not. oddly, you've treated me with more respect than you have the people that write asking for advice...and we're having an argument. i've called you obnoxious, and you've called me sheeplike, but that's a heck of a lot tamer than your responses to advice seekers. what gives? are you coming on to me?

"huffy demands for information"? - huh? besides the fact that i've made none, what exactly do those fictional demands say about me as a man? or was that empty statement simply a shining example of your lack of substance?

"You don't know why a man has been successful with women, and his success doesn't necessarily mean that he has special knowledge." true, and let me add this: his success doesn't mean he knows WHY his techniques work, which is a key ingredient in teaching those techniques to others. i remember asking some players for dating advice back in college. their advice was too vague to be of any use. they didn't know what they were doing or why it worked, they were just, in part, very lucky that their natural way of dealing with women was exactly what women wanted. do i need to add more to my thesis statement? ok, "keep asking until you find such a guy that can explain his techniques and why they work." hey, i just happen to know one...he calls himself doc love!

"who" vs. "that" - definitely a critical detail in this debate...gee miss cochran, you forgot to point out my lack of capitalization (another oj reference because you're still dancing around the point). well, my grammar mistakes can only mean one thing: you've completely won this argument...i'll retreat with my tail between my legs.

if the owner of the restaurant treats his customers the way you treat advice seekers, they would certainly eat elsewhere next time without any intervention on my part. however, i would not hesitate to suggest another restaurant where patrons are treated with dignity.

what's wrong with me posting about doc? afraid of a little competition?

in summary of the posts between you and me, you've not responded to either of my two main points (both of which i've made repeatedly but you've conveniently ignored): men shouldn't follow dating advice from women, and that you're entirely too nasty to advice seekers. you've also made no significant points of your own, except that i'm rude for posting a url on your site. you have, however, referred to me with clever descriptors like "sheeplike" and "cutesy-man", you've corrected my grammar and netiquette, and you've addressed every other inconsequential crumb in my posts that you could find an iota of fault with. these are EXACTLY the same tactics used by the simpson defense team. you were right, my oj crack wasn't funny...because the truth hurts.

ps: you HAVE wasted too much time responding to comments like mine. my time. now go back to what you're good at: treating people like subhumans when they ask you for advice.

Posted by: orion4713 at July 18, 2006 7:32 AM

Oh, how I wish I had come across this thread when it was still new. I'd just like to point out that orion4713 seems to be basing his declaration that men should not listen to dating advice from women solely on the fact that the women he knows personally have given bad advice or advice that seems to contradict how they actually react to men. Some people are more self-aware than others. Some people--quite possibly, maybe even probably, the same people--give better advice than others. The fact that the women orion knows don't seem to be terribly self-aware or give good advice is no basis for an argument that no woman could possibly give a man good dating advice.

Posted by: Nora at October 31, 2006 4:43 PM

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