Another year is on the record books, and with it another couple dozen Ask Dr. Nerdlove columns. Such love, loss, and heartbreak! So much bad sex, so many toxic partners and jealous exes! It was a lot to unravel.
I’ve really enjoyed editing Harris O’Malley over the last few years, mostly because I get to post terrible Shutterstock photos along with headlines like “Ask Dr. NerdLove: My Guy Jerks Off A Lot. Like, A LOT.” It is also continually illuminating to read the advice Harris gives to his various letter writers, and rewarding to see him hear back from people who took his advice and improved their circumstances.
Below, find all of the Ask Dr. Nerdlove columns we published in 2016, starting in January and going through to this very week. We’ve still technically got one more to go in 2016, so keep an eye out for that as the New Year draws near.
Take it away, Harris:
That having been said, the problem isn’t that there’re all these guys who want to bang your girlfriend, AWF. The problem is you. You’re jealous of these other guys who’re suddenly in her life. See, the fact that other folks wanna sleep with your sweetie doesn’t mean that suddenly your competition has increased and now your relationship is in danger. The fact that other people might want something doesn’t mean sweet fuck-all if she doesn’t want to sleep with them. The problem is that you don’t seem to trust her or your relationship and that is relationship poison.
I think the biggest problem you’re having isn’t your emotional development but in the fact that you look down on yourself. I think you have a hard time believing in the possibility of people being attracted to you and dismiss their signs and indicators of interest. I think you also put a lot of pressure on yourself to get a result, which is a great way to induce some serious performance anxiety. You get entirely too caught up in your own head and end up being stiff and awkward and making other people feel uncomfortable.
First: when someone tells you that they’re trouble - not in that “James Dean” way or the “Bad-Girl-With-A-Heart-of-Gold-Who-Mostly-Just-Smokes-Weed-On-Occasion-And-Listens-To-Emilie-Autumn-And-The-Birthday-Massacre” kind of way - believe them. Your crush has laid out, in point-by-point fashion, just what’s likely to happen when the two of you date. She’s not asking for someone to save her from herself, she’s trying to let you know that in all likelihood, she will cheat on you if you ask for a monogamous commitment from her.
OK, man. I want you to recognize that this is coming from a place of concern and with the understanding that you’re cockstruck for her. But with that being said:WHY IN PLUPERFECT HELL ARE YOU STILL EVEN ASKING ME THIS QUESTION??It was bad enough when she was just cheating on you and rubbing your face in it. But as soon as threats were made? You should’ve been out of there like all of Hell and half of Hoboken was after you.
Sexual satisfaction and sexual compatibility are a critical part of a relationship, and it’s something that we rarely talk about when it comes to relationship health and maintenance. In fact, sexual satisfaction is incredibly important… right up until it isn’t. It’s very hard to complain about sexual dissatisfaction in a relationship without running into the buzzsaw of social judgement, particularly when there’s an issue of libido mismatches. If you complain that you’re not getting as much sex as you want, then the cultural narrative tends to be that it’s your fault somehow. You’re not doing enough housework, not making your partner feel special or loved enough or some other issue and the only thing to do is suck it up and deal.
I’m also not entirely thrilled with the fact that K decided to finally tell you how she felt after you got engaged. If K had written in to ask about whether to tell her newly engaged crush how she felt, I’d tell her to back off. I know movies and pop-culture tell us that everything’s forgiven in the name of True Lurve, but it’s incredibly selfish and unfair to sit on those feelings only to drop them on somebody when they’ve committed to somebody else. It’s not just about the two of you now; there’s also that third person in the mix. Now K’s just dragged H into your mix and everything’s fucked up.
Of course, It’s almost a cliche that guys (and increasingly women, although the social opprobrium and slut-shaming still exists) are supposed to fuck around before getting “locked down” with one person. But not everyone wants tons of sex partners, nor does not having had them mean you’re “missing out”. The thing about sex is that it gets better with practice and with trust. Some strange gets that novelty, but the more trust and intimacy you have with a partner, the more you both get out of it because you have the foundation you need to really explore. As a wise man once said: “I hear the second time around, they let you do the weird stuff.”
That being said: some of the behavior makes me cock an eyebrow. Six times a day every day? He jerks it several times an evening in order to get some sleep?! This makes me suspect that it has less to do with any addiction or any endorphin rush than it does dealing with having high levels of anxiety that he’s trying to relieve. If that’s the case, then he’d be better off talking with a therapist than just pounding it out every 20 minutes.
As frustrating as this may be, the best thing you can do is focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t. You can set boundaries about how they can and can’t speak to you, to your girlfriend or about your girlfriend in your presence. You can tell them that she’s important to you, you’re planning a future together that likely includes marriage and kids. You can emphasize to them that, while you don’t want to damage your relationship with them, you’re also not going to put up with bigotry. Either they can accept your relationship and your girlfriend or they can accept life without you in it.
And while I know you love her and want things to work out, I’m going to have to be applying the Hobnailed Boot of Reality here: your relationship is basically fucked.
But I’m going to have to be honest, D&C: you did a lot of the work yourself. This was not a particularly elaborate hoax; there were enough red flags flying around this person to host the 2008 Olympics. The first and foremost is that this was someone on a dating site without a profile photo. This is 2016, not an AOL chat room in 1996; nobody who’s serious about online dating has a profile without a photo attached. Even anonymous Craigslist hookups will post something—a torso shot, abs, ass, something. So that right there is red flag number one.
Let’s be real here: your continuing crush on L isn’t continuing “despite” her “flaws” — more on that in a second — it’s because you want to bang her. Your pain isn’t because of her, it’s because you won’t acknowledge your feelings for her conflict with your attitude towards women and sex and you’re blaming her for not conforming to your vision.
Men have vastly overestimated the idea of just how large an erect penis is supposed to be, ranging anywhere from six inches to seven and a half. In reality, it’s actually significantly smaller: studies published in the British Journal of Urology have found that the average size of a normal man’s penis is five inches erect. So yes, while you’re a little off to one side, you’re still pretty damn near the center of the bell curve. Medically speaking, unless your penis is smaller than three inches erect, it’s not unusual.
Most porn sex ain’t fun. But when you get to gay porn, the rules change. The poses are different, the acts are different, even the camera angles and lighting adapt. And while most lesbian porn is shot by straight men for straight men, it has a different feel than the usual poles-into-holes action that straight porn has. It feels less mechanical or unpleasant and more human.
But here’s the thing: you’re not in a position to help her with these things. You are not a doctor. You are not a nurse. You are not a trained counselor or therapist. You aren’t trained to deal with this, period. Your staying isn’t going to fix her, and sacrificing yourself isn’t going to actually achieve anything other than making you miserable in the process. Dating somebody isn’t a blood-oath where you’ve bound yourself to somebody and forever forsake your own self-care in exchange for them. You are allowed to leave, and in this case, it’s likely the best option for you.
When you’re convinced you’re unfuckable and that other people couldn’t possibly be into you… well, that’s where you’re right. However, it’s not because you’re the second coming of the Elephant Man, it’s because of the way your attitude affects every other part of your life.
Ultimately, I think you’re borrowing trouble when you don’t need to, NFI. I think that you’re letting your fear of being alone—an understandable, if not terribly logical one—get to you. The fact that you’re in a relationship doesn’t mean you won’t still die alone. Relationships, after all, do end—either in a break-up or in death. Even if you and your best friend were to make it last for the next 40 years, there’s no guarantee that you’ll die in the saddle before she does.
Here’s the thing: all that is bullshit. We treat being an older virgin - especially male older virgins - as though it says anything about that person other than “they haven’t had sex yet”. We have a cultural narrative about manhood and sexuality that’s invented out of whole cloth and promoted through pop-culture: that your first time needs to Mean Something, that you have to lose it by a certain age (ideally high-school, by university at the latest) and in a certain way because it goes on to define you. It should be an event, because it’s the final milestone between you and being a Real Man.
Lots of “ugly” guys have girlfriends—so many, in fact, that it’s a trope in fiction and real life. Fat guys have wives. Short guys have long, happy relationships. Hell, I’m 5’8”, same as you, and I’ve dated women who tower over me. Not being concerned about being short is intensely appealing, especially to women who’ve gotten stick from dates and boyfriends about wearing heels. Good looks may help when it comes to dating, they’re not the end-all, be-all that people think they are.
Of course, boundaries are only good if you enforce them. You have to be willing to say “no” and recognize that “no” is a full sentence. You don’t need to explain or justify your reasoning because that just becomes your opening offer in the negotiation; now she has something to leverage against you to compel your agreement. A flat “No” or “I don’t want to”, with no elaboration, doesn’t give her any material to work with. Now the toxic person is just down to threats.
To you, your being a virgin is like a giant neon sign, a scarlet V blinking overhead. It’s an indicator of someone who’s managed to miss out on his window and now he’s screwed because who could possibly want somebody who’s still a virgin at his age? That big ol’ V is symbolic of everything you should already have figured out by now and the life that you think you should be having but aren’t.
Thing is though: your virginity is pretty much irrelevant to most of this.
But here’s the thing: no matter what she chooses, you have to stick to this. If you cave in and let things go back to how they are now, then all you’ve done is shown that a) you don’t respect her choice to be with him and b) you’re not serious about making her choose. If she can have her man and her side-piece too, there’s really no motivation for her to finally dump the dude. You’re going to be stuck in this relationship limbo for good… even when she breaks up with him and ends up dating someone else.
And let’s be real here: dude’s story about his ex is fishier than the dumpster at behind Nobu. His girlfriend of several years up and disappears out of the clean blue sky—with her family’s support, at that—because of a false alarm with her health and shows back up like nothing happened and expects to pick up where they left off? First of all: OK, yeah. Sure. Second of all: even if he’s telling the God’s honest truth, why in pluperfect hell would he want to date her again?! That’s an unbelievably shitty way to treat someone you supposedly love and are getting ready to share your life with.
But as with all things involving toxic ideas around being a man, The Real Man checklist takes something inherent—being a man—and turns it into something conditional. Once your gender is based on external factors, it becomes something that can you can lose… or have taken from you.
And so another year of love, dating, and life advice comes to an end. As always, if you’d Harris to give you advice in his column, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and put “Kotaku” in the subject line. And if all this wasn’t enough Nerdlove for you, you can always find more at his website, Paging Dr. Nerdlove.