What's up, everyone? Welcome to the latest installment of Ask Dr. NerdLove, the only dating advice column that understands the difference between Tsundere and Yandere and why you should run like hell from both of them.
This week, we're running the relationship spectrum from a young man who thinks he's been Friend Zoned and another guy afraid to screw up his first relationship.
Let's do this.
Hi Dr. Nerdlove
I enrolled into a university and I met this girl (Let's call her Strawberry) who has always been such an eye catcher. Every time I see her, it brings out the smile in me. So she lives at the same dorm as I am and she lives two floors below me. (I'm not a stalker, somehow I got to know her roommate, Pineapple. I have a weird choice of names but yea)
After 2 months I finally got the chance to speak to Strawberry. Her roommate invited me and Strawberry out for a cup of coffee and we got to know each other better. We talked till late night and Pineapple had other friends to attend to, so I walked back with Strawberry because she felt tired. When we got back to the dorm she asked me to sit awhile and she wanted to talk to me, so we ended up talking till the next morning about her life, about the tragedy that happened to her sister. She said talking to me was like no other because I paid full attention to her while she was speaking, (yes because I was really into her). During finals period, she was always tense and worried about finals and she regularly missed breakfast. Throughout her finals week I gave her moral support and of course buying breakfast and sometimes made breakfast for her to serve her in front of her room.
Winter term came and we had different math classes but it was at the same time in the same building. I walked with her more frequently now and we got closer. I helped her out in many ways, applying for scholarship, adding and dropping classes, followed her to her advisor's appointment (all because she asked me if I wanted to tag along), so I went with it. We would always have dinner every night (with Pineapple too) and we just had that time to "bond". Everything was going well and we even constantly cook together and to eat together. I would also help her in her math because she was uncertain and weak in maths. Many things happened this term and of course with new terms come new people.
A new guy (Apple) came into her life after finals for Winter Term. He cooks and I think he looks better than me. They would have physical touches between each other, share the same couch while watching TV and lots more. She knew him for maybe two weeks and you can see them always hitting each other (in that nice sweet way). She knew me for 6 months now, I'm always trying my best to be nice to her and all I get is being poked at my arms, and it was only twice. (I literally counted because it meant a lot to me)
So everything happened this morning, she asked me whether we wanted to make breakfast. I went down to find her alone, (because she's always with her roommate, Pineapple) So I was shocked but yea it made me happy for a while. We made breakfast and she would bring up the spoon for me to taste and I would do the same back. So after preparing breakfast, we went out to the TV lounge to eat while watching TV. Suddenly this guy (Apple) came and shared the sofa with her, they got really comfy which kinda disgusted me. They would hit each other and roll around on the sofa together. I was heartbroken and I just left them because I was too disgusted to be there. Am I just a toy to play around? Is this a game?
I invested too much of my time on a beautiful vase and it broke today...
Well this brought back unpleasant flashbacks. I've been where you are SI. In fact, when I was in college I had the great joy of watching a girl I'd had a crush on for years hook up with a guy in my class after she came up specifically to see me. But as much as I sympathize… well, I hate to say this, but you've basically done this to yourself.
Now before I get to the nitty gritty, I want to take a moment to address the topic of The Friend Zone. Specifically: it doesn't exist.
Here's the cold hard truth about "The Friend Zone": all that's happened is that this person doesn't want to date you or sleep with you. That's it. There's no malice involved. You're not being exiled, tricked, toyed with, kept on "the friend ladder" or any other horseshit, she's just not into you the way you're into her. Period, the end.
(Before folks start in in the comments about the one who blatantly "kept them around for entertainment value" or whatever: yes, occasionally you will find somebody who's a user and strings people along for giggles or attention or whatever. That's got absolutely nothing to do with the Friend Zone and everything to do with the fact that those people are assholes. Completely different thing.)
Part of the problem with the concept of the Friend Zone is that it presumes that a sexual relationship is the primary reason to interact with women, and friendship is the consolation prize, the vastly inferior substitute. It encourages dudes to treat women like vending machines where if you put enough Nice Guy tokens in, eventually sex falls out. Holding on to an attitude like that is going to run counter to the idea of actually talking with women like human beings.
And the thing is: the Friend Zone is insanely easy to avoid. Case in point: Sad Investor's situation.
Let me break it down for you. Strawberry hasn't been toying with you or keeping you around because she's mean. She thinks of you as a friend… because you've been acting like a friend. You've been hanging out with her, talking with her, helping out with classes and paperwork, even making sure she eats properly during finals week.
You know what you haven't been doing? You haven't been treating her like someone you want to date. You haven't made your move. You haven't asked her out on a date. Not "to hang out" or "study" but actual kiss-at-the-end-of-the-night date.
Instead… well, it sounds to me like you were hoping that Strawberry was going to do the heavy lifting for you and notice all the ways you've been there for her and realize she's madly in love with you and then it'd be cartoon birds and sloppy makeouts forever after. Except it doesn't work like that. You have to take the risks and make your play, and you didn't.
You know who did make a move? Apple. He started flirting with her, playing around with her and making it clear that he was into her as a potential lover, not as a friend. He wasn't assuming that just being nice was all it took to win her heart because really, being nice is the baseline for human interaction. And if you've been doing all of this just to get her to date you… well, I hate to say it, but you haven't been a good friend to her. Hanging around her because you have an agenda isn't friendship, it's a way of trying to use someone to get what you want and that's a shitty way to treat a person you care about.
So, here's what you do: accept that you're friends with Strawberry (and that being friends is a good thing on its own) and then you move on. I know it sucks; I've been in your shoes more times than I can reliably count. But there will be other women who will be as awesome and amazing as Strawberry, and this time you'll understand that if you want to date them, you have to make your move.
Hey Dr. Nerdlove,
I'm 23 years old and I've recently gotten my first girlfriend. She's really great.... pretty much everything I ever wanted in a girl. We're both huge math nerds, vegetarians, and other things in common. The thing is, I'm really inexperienced and I really don't know what I'm doing.
She actually had a crush on me first. When I learned this it sort of weirded me out. I've only had 1 other girl have a crush on me. She initiated everything pretty much: she first talked to me, she asked me out on our first date, she touched my leg at the movies first, she kissed me first, etc. I really never have had a girl do all that for me.
On our past dates, we would do a soft kiss on the lips, but I could tell she wanted more this time. So, on our last date, she was driving home. When we were almost to my car, I told her she was my first girlfriend. She sounded a little freaked out, but not overly. Then, when I was about to leave, she went for a kiss. At first, I just kissed her on the lips, but then, she went for more. She put some tongue in there. I made out with a few girls at parties before, but never somebody I cared about. I got really uncomfortable and ended the kiss prematurely.
I really like her a lot: I enjoy talking with her and we have a lot in common. I just don't want to mess this up. For our first few dates, I could just google things beforehand and get advice, but I really couldn't find anyone in the same situation as me now. So, like, how do I get better at this stuff if I really can't practice? Is there anything I should say? Should I apologize for being a weirdo and never having a girlfriend? What's some general advice?
Thanks a lot,
OK, N00b, take a deep breath and calm down. Seriously, you are inventing problems where there aren't any. Let's look at this objectively: she approached you first. She asked you out. She kissed you. She has done everything to let you know she likes you short of beating you over the head with a giant sign that says "I LIKE YOU, DUMBASS".
Suffice it to say: this is going to take some serious doing to screw up. But it can be done… especially when you're constantly freaking out about the possibility of screwing things up. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. But if you let go of that belief that you're walking on the knife-edge between success and failure, everything will quickly get so much better.
Right now, you're anxious because you've never had a relationship before and don't know what you're doing. You're hoping that there's a walkthrough or a FAQ, but there really isn't. You're not a weirdo because you haven't had a girlfriend before. Everybody starts from the same place and learns as they go.
Here's a secret that folks who've had more dating experience have learned: there is no one way to have a relationship. There are some general practices that help smooth things out, but in the end, every relationship is going to be different because every person is different. The key is that you learn to relax and take each relationship as it comes. Every relationship is a learning experience; you're learning about her and about yourself at the same time.
And here's the thing: she wants this to work as much as you do. This is new to her too, and she's just as exhilarated and nervous as you are. She's worried about messing up, that she's going to say something or do something wrong and it's all going to fall apart. You're both in this together.
So take another deep breath, relax, and talk to her. Explain that you're crazy about her and you're nervous because this is all new to you. Don't apologize, because there's nothing wrong with having not been in a relationship. Get it all out there so she understands where you're coming from. And believe me: she will understand, because she's feeling it too and the two of you can work through it together because that's the whole point of relationships.
So take a breath. Relax. It's going to be fine. You're going to be fine.
Remember your first relationship? Do you have stories about how you made your move that won the heart of your honey? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments section, and we'll see you in two weeks with more of your questions!
Ask Dr. Nerdlove is Kotaku's bi-weekly advice column for matters of the heart, hosted by the one and only Harris O'Malley, AKA Dr. Nerdlove. Got a question you'd like answered? Write email@example.com and put "Kotaku" in the subject line. Man, woman, single, married, he's got advice for everyone.
Harris O'Malley is a writer and dating coach who provides geek dating advice at his blog Paging Dr. NerdLove and the Dr. NerdLove podcast. He is also a regular guest at One Of Us. He can be found dispensing snark and advice on Facebook and on Twitter at @DrNerdLove. Dr. Nerdlove is not really a doctor.