You Asked It

Just Wondering

Advice about crushes, being called “sweetheart,” and ultra-negative friends.

I’m 19 and I’ve never been in a relationship, or even on a date. I’m not shy and I can have a normal talk with a guy that I like, but somehow, right when I am starting to think something might ~happen~ between us, it turns out they consider me “just a friend.” What am I doing wrong? My friends have told me I should pretend to be more “girly” and “simple-minded.” —Mariana, Mexico

You sound like you’re armed with a couple of great tools for dating: You’re proactive and outgoing, which is already two steps ahead of where I was at 19—I could barely even talk normally with people I thought were SEXAY. And you’ve got the gift of self-possession, which will help you in all your romantic endeavors to come. Yeah!

I’m not sure from your letter whether the “just friends” part of your attempts at flirting happens before or after you’ve actually taken the step of asking your crushee on a date. You’ve said that sometimes you start to think something might happen between you and a guy you like, which makes me think you might be waiting for him to make the first move. If that’s the case, I think it’s time to take matters into your own hands. It sounds like you’re comfortable being upfront with crushable dudes, so next time you see the special guy, be as clear as possible when you ask him out to avoid any just-friends-style confusion: “You are super. Do you want to go on a date with me?” THAT should take all the ambiguity out of the situation. If you are having warm, funny feelings about someone, don’t feel like you have to wait for him to ask you out and not the other way around.

If you have actually asked guys out and been turned down, that’s a different kettle of fish. I know it can be supremely discouraging, but again, can I say how great it is that you know what you want and how to go after it? This means that you’ll be ready to PRESS PLAY when a great guy comes along who likes you back. And rejection from this or that person (or people) doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you! There are so many reasons why someone might not respond to a romantic overtures: They might be in a bad place in another area of their life, or like someone else, or not be interested in romance at all, or be getting ready to make a big life change that makes starting a relationship inconvenient. And, of course, they just might not like you that way. This hurts, but it sounds like you’ve been able to move on from this in the past, so chalk it up to experience and move on. Behind every “successful” overture are countless rejections, so take every “no” as a step toward a “yes” with someone else.

Based on the assumption that you are interested in an equal, awesome, loving relationship (and not an exhausting, debilitating one based on falsehoods), I don’t agree with your friends’ advice to pretend to be something you’re not, especially if that includes the term simple-minded. Also, I plain can’t see the benefit in going out with someone who would want their partner to be dumb—like, urgh! If you’re a smart, curious individual who likes experiencing new things and/or discussing ideas, being with someone who’s not into that stuff would just be pure fun-killer.

As far as the “girly” thing goes, I wasn’t aware that ALL DUDES IN THE WORLD like women to act super “feminine”…and that’s because it just ain’t true. It’s everyone’s prerogative to act as “masculine” or “feminine” as they like, and there are guys who are attracted to girls anywhere on that spectrum. Sure, some guys seem to date only traditionally girly girls, but plenty more have tastes that include girls that don’t embody those traits. You can’t read minds to find out what would be the “right” way to act with any particular guy. That’s not to say you can’t be a bit more flirtatious or dress up more when you’re around someone you’re crushing on—do that for sure! But when you’re romantically involved with a guy, ideally it’s because they like you for who you are and who you want to be—not because you conform to or aspire to a made-up ideal that you’re guessing they might like. Pretending to be someone else is emotionally taxing and unsustainable in the long run. It’s an unfair way to treat yourself, and it’s unfair to the other person, too—no one likes to be lied to (which is kinda what you’d be doing if you pretended to be something you aren’t).

Finally, you mentioned being 19 and never having been in a relationship or a date. DON’T WORRY. THAT IS TOTALLY FINE AND NORMAL. I know you’re excited to step to it and experience the wonderful world of romance and sexxx for yourself, and that’s great! But don’t feel like you’re weird or unusual. Dating and love are a matter of timing in addition to compatibility and attraction and all that stuff. But if you’re keen to kickstart your dating life, it’s not a bad idea to start with your friends: Tell them your’e interested in spending time with dudes romantically, and ask if they know anyone they can invite on your next group hang.

If you think about what you want in a guy and let other people now what that is—rather than obsessing over what some hypothetical guy might want in you—your romantic journey may start sooner than later. GOOD LUCK! —Estelle


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  • Lillypod December 25th, 2013 1:11 AM

    ugh yes my skin crawls when some dude calls me —-YOUNG LADY — that has to be the grossest one of all..

  • uuultraterrestrial December 25th, 2013 9:33 AM

    Ugh to the pet name thing- it bothers me too, depending. I work in a call center and older folks call me sweetie and honey all the time. When it’s a younger person, especially a man, it does become gross and unwanted, but I think older folks are just trying to be sweet and friendly most of the time.

    I really find it difficult to be rude to people who have no idea (probably) that what they’re doing could be construed as offensive , so I’d probably say “I prefer to be called___” and leave it at that.

  • flocha December 25th, 2013 10:32 AM

    Agh thank you for the thing about when people call you pet names it’s actually really creepy but apparently it’s ‘rude’ to get annoyed because they’re being ‘friendly’

  • Jtm315 December 25th, 2013 11:20 AM

    The worst is when you get those pet names from someone (a stranger) YOUR age…. Ugh. It feels so condescending.

  • Isil December 25th, 2013 12:37 PM

    Mariana, please don’t behave like a person you aren’t. Do not try to be “more girly” or “simple minded”. If you haven’t found the person who will love you as who you are, that does not mean that you have to change. I’m sure you are amazing as the way you are. A friend of mine hadn’t had any boyfriends or even dates until the age 20, just like you. And now she has a really healthy relationship and her boyfriend respects her in every way.

  • shaaash December 25th, 2013 1:07 PM

    PET !! NAMES !! ARE !! SO !! GROSS !!!!!

  • lizabeth December 25th, 2013 2:26 PM

    I absolutely DESPISE being called sweetheart, sweetie, etc. by anyone. It’s always said in the most belittling and condescending ways. Bitchface works really well in these situations :p

  • loonylizzy December 25th, 2013 6:17 PM

    I have the same problem as SMF, except my friend’s family doesn’t believe in mental illness and won’t take her to get help, and she’s a minor without access to reliable transportation so she can’t go to a therapist without her family’s support. I’m doing all that I can to help her, but it’s getting to the point where I’m her friend, mother, and therapist all at the same time, and it’s really emotionally taxing. I just can’t bring myself to back down on our relationship because I’m afraid she’ll do something terrible to herself if I do, but she really needs professional help! Does anyone have advice for me or her?

    • Anaheed December 25th, 2013 6:43 PM

      Is there a counselor at her school?

  • michelley-elley-elley December 25th, 2013 8:29 PM

    I have personally always liked being called pet names/terms of endearment. I come from a household where the names I get called aren’t usually very nice ones, so being called “sweetheart” or “honey” or something like that is usually well received by me. I completely understand why it makes many girls uncomfortable and it can certainly be used in a demeaning way but I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t enjoy it. I always feel a little guilty for liking it because as a feminist I should want to be called by my real name, and don’t get me wrong I prefer to be called by my real name, but it’s just never bothered me.

    • GigiGigi December 25th, 2013 10:06 PM

      I totally get you. Sometimes when no one takes the time to call you something appropriate you just become accustomed. Then someone calls you ” sweetie” and you feel like not everyone is as rude as the people you interact with on a daily basis at home. tbh, I don’t think it detracts from your feminism, it’s just your personal preference.

      • michelley-elley-elley December 25th, 2013 11:14 PM

        Exactly! Thanks for understanding and respecting my opinion, I really appreciate it :)

  • julalondon December 25th, 2013 10:44 PM

    I feel like the “Sweetheart”-thing is such an American/English Germany where i grew up no one ever calls you names like that, but when i was living in England and working as a Sales Assistant i got called “Lovely”/”Beautiful”/Darling” A LOT and it freaked me out sometimes, especially because i SO WASN’T used to it!

    As for the depressed-friend-thing; i feel you!! After my best friends mum died i suddenly became her therapist/mum which was ok, because, when something that terrible happens to you your friends have to be there for you. We just got to a point where we BOTH got very negative about everyone and everything around us and started to abuse alcohol so that MY OWN mum had to help us BOTH. So please, take care about YOURSELF as well and not only look after your friend!! <3

  • kelsey December 26th, 2013 2:29 AM

    GAH! “girly” and “simple minded”???? Yeesh!
    To the gal worried about not dating at 19: I found my first boyfriend at 21, and he LIKES girls who are more weird and androgynous. He says he finds them intriguing – “girly” types are not his cup of tea. Which CATEGORICALLY PROVES that changing yourself into something “guys like” (besides being a bummer) won’t work – because guys are just as complex and unique as ladies are, and they all want different things.

    Never settle for changing yourself to be with someone. It’s so much better when you hang in there and find someone who likes YOU.

  • Isabellla December 28th, 2013 6:30 AM

    I wish I had this article to read when i was trying to cut back on seeing my negative friend! Just a lil warning though, when I did, she didn’t react well at all and pretty much said I was really selfish and that i ‘deserted her’. So maybe I didn’t go about it in the right way. But sometimes, when you are talking every day it’s kind of like just cutting it back a little bit can feel v. drastic… so my advice 2 you is put yourself first. It’s not selfish in my eyes, because if you need to do that to protect your own happiness it’s probs. a signal that the friendship isn’t super healthy anyway. I guess if you decide to cut down communication just be aware that the friendship could become very different- but that’s most probably not a bad thing!

  • EmilyInWonderland February 20th, 2014 12:05 AM