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