Hello, Internet! Welcome to Ask Dr. NerdLove, the only dating column that knows what to say when the earth quakes, and the poison arrows fall from the sky, and the pillars of Heaven shake.
This week: what can you do when the person you like is out of your league? Is there even a point to trying? Meanwhile, another reader is having sexy dreams about her co-workers instead of her boyfriend… what does this all mean?
It’s time to look up into the eye of that big ol’ storm and say “ok, give me your best shot.”
Let’s do this.
Dear Dr. NerdLove,
I just moved to a new state several months ago, and I’m finally, albeit very slowly, integrating myself into a new group of friends. I have a ridiculous crush on a girl in the group, who I will refer to as S. Problem is, she’s completely out of my league.
I’ve dated girls who were out of my league in the sense of physical attractiveness, but S is on a whole new level. She teaches music at a private school, is proficient at every musical instrument she touches, speaks at least two foreign languages that I know of, is extremely intelligent, and seems to have a great sense of humor. Plus, she’s super adorable. I, on the other hand, am an out-of-work animator who hasn’t had a steady job in five months. I’ve been playing the guitar for 20 years now, and I still suck at it. I live with my aunt and uncle, and the most sexy thing you could say about me is that I own my own car.
Basically, S is abnormally successful and talented, and my life is a joke. I’d like to ask someone else in the group for advice, but I’m afraid it would get back to S and make her uncomfortable around me, assuming she isn’t into me. But I really don’t want to give up on this, as unreachable of a goal as it may seem, on the off-chance I might be able to pull it off. I’m pretty introverted, and I don’t make friends quickly, so I don’t want to alienate myself from anyone. I kinda feel like I’m in high school again. Should I take a risk and ask someone in the group if it’s worth pursuing S, or should I just cut my losses and move on?
Hopelessly Outflanked, Dude
HOD, I’m gonna give it to you straight. Right now your problem isn’t that S is “out of your league”. It’s that you’ve got a whole host of self-limiting beliefs that’re going to make dating hard for you no matter who you’re interested in.
Let’s start with this truth: there’s no such thing as “leagues”. There’s people who’re into you and people who aren’t. That’s it. Some of the people who aren’t into you are going to be more conventionally beautiful than you may be. They may be more accomplished than you are. That doesn’t put them “out of your league”; that’s just the circumstances of their life.
The idea of “leagues” or “punching outside of your weight class” or “outkicking your coverage” or any other clever phrase is a noxious one because it assumes that there’s an objective standard that sorts people into categories of “who is capable of dating whom” and has absolutely no basis in reality.
Here’s what decides whether or not someone is “in your league” or not: what do you bring to the table?
We don’t date a person’s face or torso (or at least, when we do, those relationships tend to fall apart pretty quickly), nor do we date their accomplishments. We date people as a holistic whole - their bodies, their minds, their personalities, the complete package. Do good looks help? Of course they do. Nobody says otherwise. Having money can also help… as long as you’re interested in people who’re interested in folks who have money.
But when you get hung up on a perceived lack in one area - looks, accomplishments, money, etc. you miss the forest for the trees.
This is what leads us to the next self-limiting belief you’re dealing with: the idea that you need to hit a certain number of benchmarks in order to be datable. You’re getting hung up on issues that are by their nature temporary. You’ve had a hard time finding a steady job. Ok… so have lots of people. The economy sucks and people are having to scramble for work. You can’t play a guitar like Eddie Van Halen? Well, it’s a good thing that you’re looking to date someone, not start a band. You’re living with your relatives? That’s really not that unusual; nearly a third of people aged 18-32 live with family, and that’s gone up since the recession.
It’s not a question of having the most desirable job or the coolest apartment. Anybody can lose their job. Anyone can have a hard time finding an affordable place to live. It’s a question about what your current circumstances say about you.
So you’re not working in your dream job. Are you sitting at home, filling your days with marathon Bloodborne sessions, or are you busting ass trying to get work? Are you putting in the sweat-equity that comes with trying to achieve your ambitions, or are you just coasting through life? So you live with family. Is it because you’re unwilling to leave the nest or are you saving money so you can achieve your goals in the future? Being a slacker who’s trying to avoid adult responsibilities isn’t attractive. A person who’s got ambition and drive is.
But people aren’t attracted to you for your job or your apartment. They’re interested in you. In what you bring to the table.
(Of course, if they are only interested in those things, then you should be glad they’re not interested in you. They’ve demonstrated that you really don’t want to be dating them. That’s what we call “pouring a little chlorine in the dating pool”.)
Now what you bring to the table is going to vary. Pablo Picasso was nobody’s idea of a model, but his talent and passion made him incredibly appealing to his wives and lovers. Serge Gainsbourg was not a pretty man but he oozed sex appeal and his list of conquests included some of the most desirable women of his era. One of the oldest cliches in dating is “I have no money, no car and no apartment, but I’m in a band” for a reason: musicians have long been wooing and winning women through the ages. Placido Domingo and Lucciano Pavarotti were both notorious for their seduction of women. Hell, watch that old clip of Paul Potts singing in the 2007 season of Britain’s Got Talent; when he hits the climax of Nessun Dorma, you can watch an audience full of women hit their own climax.
The common factor here is simple: these people all know how to make women feel. That ability to stir emotion, to make them feel good is the single most attractive trait a man can have. You don’t need to match S’ unlocked achievements, you just have to be able to connect with her on an emotional level. You may not be able to play the guitar as amazingly well as she can, but you share that passion for music. You may not be living your dream career, but you have ambition and talent that she can appreciate and relate to. Worry less about leagues and more about “can you make her laugh?” Are you fun to talk to? Can you show her a good time? Can you demonstrate that you get her on a deep, fundamental level? That is going to be what makes the difference, rather than whether you look good on paper.
I get that you’re worried about losing your friends if you ask her out and she says no. But here’s the thing: there’s nothing wrong with being interested in someone. It will only be as awkward as you make it; if you don’t treat it like a big deal, it won’t be a big deal. If she turns you down, then simply shrug your shoulders and continue on like nothing’s changed. The man who can take rejection well is the man who women prefer to be around.
But quit beating yourself up over the idea of “leagues”. Give her a chance to see you - not your career or your living situation but your best, authentic self. Show her what you bring to the table, and you’ll be fine.
Doc, I need your help.
My Boyfriend and I have been together for a little over three years. We get along fantastically, we’re into (most) of the same things as long as we avoid discussing politics while drinking beer, and we both genuinely care for each other a whole hell of a lot. Only problem is we have a relatively tight living situation, which can prove annoying sometimes.
We’ve recently hit a pretty rough patch - lots of petty squabbles erupting into enormous arguments, resulting in one of us usually threatening to leave (which of course never happens once the anger wears off). We seem to be doing better now, mostly due to the fact that I put my foot down about the way we’d been fighting, and then went to stay elsewhere for about a week. Things have been fantastic since I got back, and we’ve made the mutual agreement to alternate how much time we spend living in the same place, at least until we can get into somewhere that affords more space. But the thing is, as much as I adore him, I feel like all the fights recently (and, admittedly, the not-very-nice things that were said by both of us) has had an immensely detrimental effect on my feelings for him. I’m happy when I’m with him, but when we’re apart I find myself doubting and wondering if we’re really as perfect for each other as I’d always thought.
Not only that but I’ve started having dreams recently about meeting other men in a romantic sense (one dream starred a member of NoFX, only a much younger version fortunately...or not), and once I dreamt that a coworker I’ve never really talked to before kissed me and confessed feelings for me. I always heard that dreams like that were the representation of some kind of unfulfilled desire, which scares me because I’ve never really had dreams like this before over the course of our relationship - usually all my “fun” dreams just starred my boyfriend.
So I’m wondering if I’m just getting over the last bits of all the fighting we’d been doing, or if my subconscious knows something my heart hasn’t caught on to yet.
Not Sure Anymore
You’re reading too much into this, NSA.
You had a fight. Fights happen; you take any two people, no matter how compatible they may be, and you’re inevitably going to end up with conflict. That’s just how people are. Show me a couple that never had a fight and I’ll show you a couple who’s one bad day away from exploding into balls of flaming bitterness and resentment. The key isn’t to avoid fights but to fight the right way and to make up afterwards.
I’m not surprised you’re a little shaken right now; you’ve had a pretty hard-core, knock-down, drag out brawl and it probably shocked the hell out of both of you. Having some doubts afterwards is entirely understandable. But that’s why it’s so important to take the time to reconnect and remind each other of that core of love, respect and affection you have for each other. You made it through that rough patch, you’ve worked on those underlying problems and you’ve pounded out a way to help avoid future blow-outs. That says a lot more about the strength of your relationship than the fight itself.
Now about those dreams of yours: they’re perfectly normal and natural. The fact that they’re stressing you out highlights one of the things about the way our culture socializes us with regards to relationships. We’re taught that if we love someone, we’ll naturally never think about or be interested in anyone else, and that if we do then something’s wrong.
Love doesn’t make your libido disappear, nor does it mean we imprint on people like goslings. You can love somebody with your whole heart and soul and still lust after someone else; that doesn’t mean your love is any less, it just means you’re a human being with a libido. Monogamy doesn’t mean you won’t want to sleep with someone else, it just means you choose not to. Finding somebody else attractive, having a crush on somebody, even having a little dream nookie with someone else doesn’t say anything about the strength of your relationship. Dreams are dreams; it’s actions that count.
(And frankly, if dreams are unfulfilled desires, I really don’t want to think about what that says about my zombie nightmares.)
Don’t stress out about the fight or your dreams. They happen, and they’re completely normal. Focus on connecting with your boyfriend and maintaining that core of respect and love you have and this will all seem like…
...well, like a dimly remembered bad dream.
Did you and your snugglebunny survive a nasty fight? Have you dated somebody people thought was out of your league? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments and we’ll be back in two weeks with more of your dating questions.
Ask Dr. Nerdlove is Kotaku’s bi-weekly dating column, 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.
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. His new book Simplified Dating is available exclusively through Amazon. 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.
Illustration by Tara Jacoby