Hello all you happy shiny pervert people of the Internets, and welcome to Ask Dr. NerdLove, the only dating advice column left standing in the Shatterdome.
This week we’re talking about the unexpected twists and turns life throws your way. What do you do when you meet someone who may be perfect for you… but they’re different from literally everyone you’ve ever dated? And what happens when someone you thought was your friend suddenly turns on you like a bad tuna sandwich?
Man plans and the gods laugh, so forget what you were going to do and just dig into these letters instead.
Hey Dr. Nerdlove!
I’m a big fan of your column and advice, so I figured I’d write in to get your thoughts since my friends haven’t been much help lately. So I’ve been single for about 2 years and to be honest, I’m tired of it. In the two years I’ve been single I’ve gone on dates here and there via set-ups by friends or girls I’ve met at cons or whatever, but I never really clicked with anyone. About a month ago a friend of mine talked me into trying Tinder (which I honestly think of as a wasteland for bots and hookups) but I figured WTH.
A couple days in, I match with this girl (we’ll call her Farrah) and we talk for about a week and decide to meetup. And we actually hit it off really well. She’s super funny and chill. And when we were getting the usual “first date” questions out of the way it wasn’t like pulling teeth. She was really easy to talk to and we have a ton in common. I think we ended up staying out for something crazy like 7 hours that night. And we’ve been texting ever since and gone on maybe 5 or 6 dates now and I really like her. There’s just one tiny problem...she’s not really my type.
And by that I mean...she isn’t the type of girl I usually go for. For one I’m Korean and all my exes in the past have been Asian. Farrah, on the other hand, is black. While I’m not racist and would consider myself “woke”, and she does speak Korean, I can’t help but worry about how my parents would potentially react to finding out. I’ve never dated a non-Asian and I have only heard horror stories from friends who have attempted to bring one home. Not to mention I’m unsure if she’d feel comfortable being around my friend group since like 95% of the people I hang out with are Asian as well. Then there’s the fact that I usually go for more petite girls...and Farrah is what I would call chubby. That’s not to say I’m not attracted to her. It actually surprised me how physically into her I was when we first met, because I’m not typically into girls that look like her I guess.
When I kind of brought it up to one of my friends (who has seen us together because we bumped into him and his GF when we were out on a date once) he commented on how he thought we look sort of funny together. And my roommate says he thinks that I’m just subconsciously trying to date someone opposite of my ex, since she cheated on me after three years of being together, and that being attracted to Farrah is just a phase. And a few more of my friends have just been kind of poking fun at the situation and have been calling me chubby chaser now. And while I’m not really the type of person to care about what other people think of me...every time someone I know says something like this...it gets under my skin.
I’m not used to this much attention being placed on me or the girl I’m dating...and it’s weirding me out. Because of that I’ve been kind of pulling away from Farrah and I don’t know where to go from here. Part of me just thinks I should learn to deal and tell everyone to mind their own business...and another part of me doesn’t know if I want the added stress. I also don’t want to potentially lose important people or relationships with the people in my life over a girl that I just met.
But I also don’t want to seem like a d**k to Farrah because she really is an awesome girl (She’s one of the best widowmaker players I’ve ever met) and I do really like her.
Am I just being overly dramatic? Do you think there is validity to what my roommate thinks? Is it weird to randomly be so attracted to someone who is nothing like what you normally like?
Out Of His Element
Funny thing about “types”, OOHE, is that we often have two of them. There’s the type that we think we’re supposed to have… and then there’re the people who we’re actually attracted to.
Your story is actually pretty common; you decide to date a little outside of your comfort zone of the “acceptable” type of person and you suddenly realize that you’re getting along with this new person like a house on fire. Now you’re wondering what the hell is going on. Why do you like this person when you’ve spent so long liking this other, completely different type of person?
And the answer is “socialization is a motherfucker”. A lot of the time, our “type” isn’t who we actually want but who we’ve been told we want.
We all love to think that we’re rugged individualists who’re too strong-willed and smart to be manipulated by the media and by advertising… and then a multi-billion dollar industry on Madison Avenue laughs and lights another cigar with a c-note before stubbing it out on a street urchin.
We get bombarded every day with hundreds of messages - of varying levels of sophistication - about who we’re supposed to find attractive or what body type we’re supposed to be into or what we should expect from an ideal relationship. Some of it is overt, some of it is covert. Some of it comes from the media… and a lot of it comes from our peers.
Case in point: you’re dating Farrah. And while she’s physically not what you’re used to, it’s pretty clear that she’s right for you in a whole lot of ways, particularly the ways that matter. After all, compatibility isn’t just about body type or sex drive, it’s about how well you two synch. It’s about the values you share and the interests you pursue. And - just as importantly: it’s about how she makes you feel when you’re with her.
And from everything you’ve said: she makes you feel great. You’re even realizing that you’re attracted to a woman who’s a little bigger than what we’re told is “acceptable”. This happens to people every day; they start to realize that what they actually want is different from what they thought they want. And if they’re smart about it and emotionally mature about it, they make the adjustment and everyone’s happy.
All of this is why your problem isn’t with your girlfriend, OOHE. Your problem is with your fears… and with your asshole friends. Making fun of you for dating someone who’s not fashionably skinny? Not cool. Telling you that you’re only into her because she’s the opposite of your cheating ex? Not fucking cool. Telling an interracial couple “Yeaaaaah you two look funny together?” Really not cool.
(And really, considering that your ex treated you so badly… maybe dating someone unlike her is exactly what you fucking need.)
It’s not surprising that it gets under your skin. These are people whose opinions are presumably important to you, people who are supposed to care for you and support you and have your back… and they’re giving you shit instead of being glad you found someone you’re into. By making jokes about your dating someone who’s big and beautiful instead of the socially “ideal” type, they’re tapping into a lot of the societal bullshit that surrounds being heavy and leveraging that social pressure against you. Social pressure like that is hard to ignore. It’s no wonder that you feel weird about it all.
Now, here’s my question. You know you’ve got something good with Farrah. You enjoy the time you spend with her and you’re attracted to her physically. You’ve got that physical and emotional chemistry that makes the beginning of a relationship so much fun.
So why, in pluperfect Hell, are you going to toss that away? Because your friends are being dicks about it? Fuck them. They can get with the program or they can get the hell out of your way. This is a time when some strong boundaries and an unwillingness to take shit is going to be important.
“You guys look funny together.” Well, get fucking used to it, because she’s awesome and I like her. “This is just a phase.” Did I ask you for your opinion? “You a chubby chaser now?” I like her, so either get over it or fuck off into the sea. Stand your ground. They can either be happy for you and adjust their attitudes, or they can piss off and you can find better friends.
And what about your parents? It can be a legitimate worry - some people just aren’t comfortable with interracial relationships. But then again, your parents may well surprise you, too. But the fact of the matter is: it’s way the hell too early to be worried about your parents and her parents. You’ve been on a handful of dates together; you’ve got a while before it’s time to meet the parents.
However, your worries about the future are fucking up your present. You don’t know how they’re going to feel about you dating someone who’s not Asian. All you’re doing is projecting based off of hearsay and worst case scenarios, and in doing so, you’re borrowing trouble from a future that may never come.
The best thing you can do right now is just be and let the future take care of itself. By the time you get there, you’ll know if this relationship is one that’s meant to be short term, as many are, or if it has long-term potential. And if it’s the latter? Then you can cross that bridge when you come to it.
But in the meantime: enjoy what you have. It sounds like you’ve got a good thing here. Don’t let nebulous fears and assholery grind it away.
Hi Dr NerdLove,
First of all, thank you so much for your site and for all your wise, thoughtful words. As a woman it is really refreshing to read rational and respectful advice about dating where important things like boundaries and autonomy are not treated like juicy challenges that simply form part of the ‘game’.
You write a lot about how not to be a red-piller, why not to neg women or hate them just for not smooching you or wanting to be nothing more than friends. I am writing to ask for tips on how, as the receiver of these behaviours, to speak to the person who is behaving this way.
I am in a sticky situation with my colleague. I haven’t been at the company long and when I first joined he and I immediately had to work very closely together since we’re the only two developers working on our side of the project. We got to know each other, had tons in common, and before long there was a lot of flirting going on — mutual I might add, and nothing that felt like it was crossing a line. We hung out outside of work a few times and there were definitely a couple of ‘moments’ but nothing ever ‘happened’ because I’m a very nervous person when it comes to romance-y stuff and it wouldn’t have been the greatest idea to engage in hanky panky considering how closely we have to work together. Then I went on holiday for a couple of weeks; all was good.
When I came back, his behaviour was suddenly unfriendly, rude and aggressive, and it’s been getting worse ever since. He’s vile to me and critical of everything I do, not just in terms of my work but also my personality and habits and tastes and, well, everything. It sure feels a lot like negging in that even when things are going well and we are getting on okay/I haven’t done anything to tick him off, he will suddenly bring out a masked insult to put me back down. A couple of times I have asked him what is going on, and a couple of times I have told him he is upsetting me and I don’t find his tone or groundless accusations to be appropriate, but he will always laugh and accuse me of being oversensitive, taking professional feedback far too personally or failing to deal with constructive criticism.
I don’t want to make assumptions or come across as arrogant, but I am wondering whether he had some kind of realisation while I was away that we weren’t going to get together and became angry at the world, and by extension me, for not giving him the girl he wanted and/or did all that hard work flirting for. I can’t think of any other reason why he would so unexpectedly start behaving so unpleasantly.
It bothers me a lot because it feels like constant attacks all day every day, when I am trying my best to do my job in a relatively new role. I’m a very insecure person and his comments really hurt me, especially considering how personal they feel given that we started out on the path to at least a good friendship. I am as disappointed as he may be that our frisson fizzled out, and I have tried to show him that I want us to be on good terms nonetheless, but he knocks down every attempt at friendliness or peace offerings. He seems to get off on knocking me down in general, as cuttingly as possible. Nothing I say seems to get through to him.
So what approach can I take to ask him to stop and at least try to be civil? How do I penetrate the wall of hate and resentment that he has erected against me? How can we talk about the issues surrounding our tricky relationship/romantic tensions without him exploding (he has a very short temper) or gaslighting me? Can I (please, lord) avoid getting our boss involved?
To be clear: his behaviour has put out any romantic spark there might have been between us and I’d rather date a malfunctioning circular saw taped to an angry bear now that I have seen this side of him. Nonetheless, I have to work with him on an at least neutral basis in order to not feel like s**t at the end of every week.
Thanks in advance if you are able to say something about this situation or in general give advice for those of us on staring down the barrel of people like this.
First of all, I’m sorry that you’re going through this. However, I do think that you should be congratulated because you very clearly dodged a bullet in dating such a lovely specimen. This is sounding very much like a case of Crouching Nice Guy, Hidden Douchebag. Since he couldn’t prove a lover, he’s decided to instead prove a villain.
Which is to say: yeah, it sounds like he’s pissed that he couldn’t get into your pants and now he’s lashing out at you. Unfortunately, if that’s the case and he’s let his disappointment in love curdle into anger and bitterness… well, there’s really not going to be any talking about your issues. Especially if bringing up the topic triggers his temper.
He’s made it clear that he has no interest in trying to sort this out like civilized people. So the question then becomes: can he be a professional and just do his job, or is this going to continually be a thing.
And there’s the rub. Because as much as I know you don’t want to get your boss involved… you may need to do so, if only so you can preserve your own career. If your professional relationship is strained to the point that it’s affecting your performance at work, then you’re risking your job and that’s not gonna fly. So at the very least, you may want to give your boss a heads up about what’s happening. And if you do so, you will want to document it extensively - note down times he’s approached you, what he said, what you said, etc. This is the sort of behavior begins to invoke the words “creating a hostile work environment” and that is a phrase that makes people sit up and take notice. Your boss may or may not choose to intercede directly, or they may give you the option of making a lateral movement at work and not having to interact with your former friend. Yeah, it sucks to have to go running to the higher-ups… but that’s still going to suck less than being unemployed.
Meanwhile, I will direct you to what I’ve told other people who’ve dealt with harassment from friends and frenemies: boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. If you possibly can, keep your conversations with him strictly about work and strictly about the matter at hand. If he veers off into other areas, drag it back to the immediate topic. If he starts getting insulting, then leave if you can. If you can’t, then put up the Wall of Out of Fucks. He’s not responding to politeness or appeals to decent behavior, so it’s time to stop being polite. When he insults your work, tell him that if you wanted his opinion, you’d ask someone else. If he tells you that you’re being oversensitive, tell him that he’s being an asshole. If he says you can’t handle professional feedback, tell him that he’s not even slightly professional.
But if at all possible, don’t engage and don’t listen. Not because you “won’t give him the satisfaction” but because responding to him in any way besides dismissing him sets the frame that he has a point. If you’re arguing that you’re not oversensitive, then you’ve put yourself into a position where his view has validity. If you argue about his critique of your work, you’re saying that he could have a point.
So cut off that line of attack by simply never giving him that authority. That’s why The Wall of Out of Fucks is important. It robs him of his power to hurt you because it makes his opinion invalid. It’s your Tibalt against his Capo Ferro. It’s your deflector shield against his turbodouche lasers. The less you let him set the terms, the less power he has to hurt you.
It won’t fix things… but it can at least keep you going until one of you gets transferred to a different project.
Did you fall for someone completely unexpected? Did you deal with a bitter former friend? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments. And meanwhile, we’ll be back with more of your questions in two weeks.
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? Writedoc@doctornerdlove.com and put “Kotaku” in the subject line
Harris O’Malley is a writer and dating coach who provides geek dating advice at his blogPaging Dr. NerdLove and the Dr. NerdLove podcast. His new dating guide New Game+: The Geek’s Guide to Love, Sex and Dating is out now from Amazon, iTunes and everywhere fine books are sold He is also a regular guest at One Of Us.