Miss Information

I'm in my mid-twenties and I've never been kissed. Am I doomed?


By Cait Robinson

Dear Miss Information,

I'm a female just past her mid-twenties. I've never been on a date, I've never been kissed, I've never had sex, I don't have many friends, and I'm without a defined sexual orientation. My "nevers" and lack of social network are getting harder to handle as I get older. I want to get out there, but I have no idea how or where to start. I'm beginning to think that I might be screwed and looking at a lifetime of solitude. Any advice on how to get my life going, both social and romantic?

— Just A Few Problems

Dear Just A Few Problems,

You are absolutely not screwed into a lifetime of solitude, though "Lifetime of Solitude" sounds like an excellent Tumblr of bad poetry, and if you don't start it, I will.

Start small. Pick up your local alt-weekly and find a bowling league/book group/cooking class. Use MeetUp.com to find activities with like-minded people, or find a worthy volunteer cause to work with. Pursue activities you are passionate about: passion is an attractive quality, and others will pick up on it. Friendships will be made when your attention is elsewhere. Go for the pottery, stay for the cute boy in the back.

It takes relationships to make relationships. And, in general, to make relationships, you have to allow vulnerability. Vulnerability is the difference between a conversation that starts, "How about this weather we're having?" and a conversation that starts, "Oh my God, let me tell you about how I just fell in a puddle in front of a group of nuns." The former is so boring that it makes listeners want to crawl under a table; the latter creates a spark and a list of follow-up questions. These are two extreme examples, but generally, the more of yourself you put out there, the more others will have to connect with.

As for your list of "nevers": they may feel big to you, but in the scheme of things, they get a shrug. Each of us is on an individual and separately-terrifying trajectory. Ultimately, you are not behind. Self-discovery is vital at any age. A lot of people couple up, get married, and have kids without ever having to look inward. Those are often the people who cave later in life. Get that introspection out of the way now, and you'll set yourself up well for the future — angst-Tumblr or no.

 

Dear Miss Information,

I met a girl in a brothel in New York a few months ago. We had sex and it was really lovely. We left each other with assurances that we had both had fun, and that we would see each other again. She was quite special, and I hoped to see her again, perhaps regularly. After a week or so of phone tag and reschedules, I saw her again. We met, and talked, and played about, and had just as good a time as we did the first time we met. So I asked her to have dinner with me. She accepted. This is rare. This is good.

I picked her up after she finished work one day and we walked to a restaurant a few blocks away. It was fabulous: we ate, drank, talked, and laughed for hours in the restaurant. We shared our life stories; I told her about my checkered past, she showed me pictures of her son. When the waiters threw us out, I offered her a ride home. She accepted, she invited me up, and I spent the night.

We've seen each other often over the last few weeks. Each time we meet she is more relaxed, less guarded, more forthcoming: more giving, more open, more honest. She's said she's in love, and so have I. We both mean it. 

There are, of course, one or two little flies in the ointment:

First, the girl: she supports herself, and has for some few years, by sleeping with men for money. When we first met on a professional basis, she told me, in full tough-guy mode, that she liked what she did and was proud of being able to do it. I wanted to believe that that was the truth, and I was happy to believe her. Now that she's in love, the (other) truth emerges that she is seriously miserable.

I am of an age and a disposition such that I don't want a stable relationship and a child in my life at this point. Thirty years ago, perhaps; now, no. I have the resources to support her while she reorients her life, but this seems like a huge thing to offer without a commitment to a relationship of a more enduring sort. On the other hand, I don't want to leave her in a situation which she now finds distasteful.

We've talked around this situation a little bit. Any thoughts? 

— John

Dear John,

The "I can take you away from all of this!" trope should warn you that you are on the wrong track. Well-intentioned though it may be, it's a tired cliché. In actual life, Julia Robertses aren't swept away by Richard Geres. Every sex worker I've ever known has rolled their eyes at the frequency — and misguidedness — of these proposals. They are far more common than one might think. Often, they are their own form of fetish.

Call girl or not, nobody should financially support anybody else in a casual relationship: that dynamic hinges one party's entire livelihood on their relationship with the holder of the bank account. You supporting her would be just a slight variation on the "money for affection" transactions that are already making her miserable.

Your willingness to improve her life is understandable, in that it's hard to watch someone shiver when you have means to light a fire. But she's an adult woman who has (presumably) made informed choices in her life. If she's seriously miserable, then it's contingent on her to save herself. Granted, sex work pays the bills more efficiently than almost anything else, but that's a cost-benefit ratio she needs to work out for herself. She can find a way out if she wants; she just has to rely on herself and a network of supporters — preferably supporters whom she's never seen naked.

If you want to support her financially, you can continue to be her client. If you want to be in a relationship with her, you can buy her a white picket fence. But you can't do both.

Have a question? Email missinfo@nerve.com. Letters may be edited for length, content, and clarity.

Commentarium (35 Comments)

Oct 17 11 - 12:28am
Had a few problems

Dear Just A Few Problems,

I was in the same situation as you a few years ago - I didn't start dating until I was 28. As Miss Information said, the biggest thing is you have to be willing to be vulnerable (and really open yourself up to possible embarrassment) or things will never change.

Oct 17 11 - 5:26am
IrishB

"I met a girl in a brothel in New York a few months ago. We had sex and it was really lovely. " would be such a great opening line for a short story or novel........

Oct 17 11 - 8:25am
Cin

I don't understand how John can say to this girl he is inlove with her, and then disclose to us that he's not willing to pursue a stable relationship?. It could sound like he's leading her on to get the sex without paying...? - And still, he's willing to support her financially. On the other hand, it sounds like it bothers you that she's a sexual worker having sex with other men regularly. If you want to get the fun, the sex, the conversations and support her but not the feelings/commitment, then get to a provider-customer arrangement with her until she re-orients her life.-

Oct 17 11 - 9:06am
JCF

Few Problems, Miss Information speaks the truth. People like to hang out with other people who are fun. So put a smile on your face and get out there! OK, yeah, I know, that's easier said than done, and it means making yourself more vulnerable and increases the likelihood of crazies and outright rejection, but you're not getting anywhere on your current path. Push yourself a little into social situations, and you'll find that in your 20s, it's not as bad as you might think. (Got hurt in high school? This isn't high school anymore.)

John, prostitutes are expert actresses. They know exactly what to say. Don't get trapped into giving her money for nothing. You want to pay her higher than going rate for some occasional exclusivity, fine, but that's as far as this should go.

Oct 17 11 - 9:56am
mm

The first letter writer could also perhaps benefit from seeing a therapist, particularly if she can find a practical-minded cognitive behavioral person who will prod her to get out there and even give her little homework assignments to push her past some of the fears or worries that might be holding her back.

I say that as someone who got some good results for mild anxiety and some social phobias that way. It was well worth it.

Oct 17 11 - 12:24pm
BrosephofArimathea

Righto. This sounds like the situation CBT was made for.

For the second reader, the advice is good. Sometimes you have to let someone live their own life because moneying one's way out is not as good a solution as it first appears. And decide whether you're in it for the sex or the relationship and tell her.

Oct 17 11 - 3:58pm
GeeBee

This CBT acronym is getting way overused. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Certified Bicycle Training (that's a thing you can do in the UK to make your motorbike insurance give you a discount), Cock and Ball Torture (that's a thing you shouldn't bring up on the UK community web site all your cousins read, trying to be funny about someone looking for the previous one).

Oct 17 11 - 3:25pm
Dea

It sounds like the second guy may have some control issues, whether or not he acknowledges it. The fact that he claims to be in love after such a short period of time yet doesn't want a relationship (which as Cin said, makes no sense) serves as evidence that he needs to have the upper hand in some way. If you're paying for sex, that's a very controlled arrangement in which the buyer has the control. If you want to be this woman's savior, you're still the one in control, since you're the one doing the "saving" and controlling the purse strings, while she is completely dependent on your goodwill, and needs to conduct her life and herself in a way that you approve of to keep herself afloat. I'm not saying that John is consciously being malicious, but control and power imbalance is a powerful issue in sex and relationships that derails many a liaison and I think is usually a negative thing for the person with less power.

Oct 17 11 - 4:49pm
Gee

+another

Oct 17 11 - 3:45pm
j

I was in a similar position to the first letter writer, I'm guessing (like myself) there is a whole lot of shyness. It's easy to tell someone to be more assertive and ask out a guy/girl...but very hard to do for some people.

Do interesting things and maybe you'll meet someone, get to know your body so when the time comes you know what feels good and what doesn't, and definitely jump into Internet dating. Don't put up a profile yourself at first, respond to guys'.

(My wife and I met thru the personals here on Nerve, so give them a try!)

Oct 17 11 - 4:10pm
ER

idea for any girl that is desperate: log on to reddit, wow, or anything of the like. Take part in some group interneting like any of the other legion of guys out there. Then, announce yourself to be a girl. You will be popular.

Oct 17 11 - 6:42pm
j.cruel

YIKES. Login to reddit? Then she won't mind the idea of spending her life alone.

Oct 19 11 - 1:08am
ER

also true for wow. but at least she won't think of her self as worst off anymore

Oct 17 11 - 6:08pm
anonymous

JAFP: This is pretty much the exact same advice I got when I was in my twenties and had no experience. Now I'm almost in my fifties and still not one step further ahead. Sometimes everything you try just leads to more rejection. No matter how happy I made myself look, no matter how outgoing I tried to be, no matter how cheerful and interested I was, no matter how many new and exciting things I tried... Still never been kissed. Still never held hands. Still never had sex. You can put yourself out there all you want, but it won't necessarily ever lead to an actual date.

Oct 18 11 - 12:16am
Kevin

You still have plenty of options to change your life, depending upon your interests. Don't just "put yourself out there"...initiate conversations with potential men, and if you think you two might work but he doesn't "bite", say "you should ask me out sometime". If he still doesn't bite...he's not interested.

Or sign-up to online dating. Or go speed-dating. Or look for casual sex on Craigslist.

No matter what route you pick...or all of them...expect ups & downs, rejection, hurt feelings, etc. But also fun, and new experiences. Hopefully one day you'll get everything you want.

Oct 17 11 - 6:37pm
ncb

I was also a pretty late bloomer- I'm charming and funny around my friends, but new people made/make me nervous, so for years, my instinct was to extricate myself from conversation with them as quickly as possible. Not surprisingly, this was not a winning way to befriend new people; rather, it made them think I didn't want anything to do with them.

I'm a fan of faking it till you make it. I make myself talk to people, and the more I practice, the less awkward I feel. Start off by talking to people you have a built in escape from, and that you really don't care about the opinion of, like grocery store check out clerks. Then, move on to talking to the other people in the line. Join an activity, and make your "homework" to ask people about themselves. Note: I've found that when I'm talking to strangers, asking them about themselves can seem invasive. In lines and whatnot, comment on something you can both see- a magazine story, the crazy toddler three lanes down, the holiday decorations etc. With people you know you'll see again, ask them about themselves- doing the getting to know you thing is polite.

And good luck! It's tough, but it is rewarding. Next step for me? Casual eye contact. I'm realizing that while I think I'm being polite and non-invasive by not looking people in the eye, many of them are unnerved by my lack of interaction.

Oh, and if you're really, really freaked out by social stuff? Find a therapist. My best friend has social anxiety/agoraphobia, and the feels that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (in particular) drastically improved her quality of life.

Oct 17 11 - 9:08pm
nope

LW#1 needs a therapist. I know Cait loves giving the "Work on yourself and the guys will come!" advice, but I don't think it's that simple. Perhaps if she was just saying she couldn't find a partner, but she is also saying that it is difficult for her to maintain friendships and frankly, although this is not what the LW wants to hear, by the time people hit 30, their friend circles are pretty defined. Not that it's impossible to make new friends, but it certainly requires a bit more effort than it did when you were younger, and it was already hard for you when you were younger. A therapist can help push you and make sure you stay on the right track in terms of making the effort to reach out to people.

And oh yeah, TRY DATING WEBSITES. I know we are all in love with this "love will fall into your lap when you stop looking for it" idea, because it's a hell of a lot romantic than going on a bunch of blind dates off of a website, but it's also a lot less likely to find a person (especially a highly introverted, anxious person) love.

Oct 17 11 - 11:20pm
red

Just a Few Problems,
I can relate to your situation and I want to say that it can get better. I met a man a few months ago who became my best friend. Now, this man is the person that I see myself having a future with. Alhtough the waiting wasn't always easy, it was worth it and I'm glad things happened as they did. My partner and I are enjoying working our way through all of my "firsts" and I'm sure you will find the same thing. Just remember that the things that are most meaningful aren't always easy.

Oct 17 11 - 11:32pm
FA

JAFP may well be doomed. Some people are. ForeverAlone is not a meme for nothing, alas.

Oct 19 11 - 10:43pm
CaitRobinson

@FA Oh sure, but as a meme, isn't it almost always used by people who AREN'T going to be forever alone? Those people use it self-consciously/ironically to laugh at their own dysfunctions, but that's not the same as admitting that they're actually wed to their cats and cable TV. The only people who are "doomed" are those who give up.

Oct 18 11 - 12:11am
m

First letter "Each of us is on an individual and separately-terrifying trajectory." EXCELLENT advice! I see some similarities with myself and J.a.f.p. Maybe we should make-out? :) The point is that the movies lie. Not everyone is lightyears ahead in terms of experience. You're not screwed for life!

Second letter: also solid advice. If you don't want a child around and she has a child, that's it! The end. The child (and her job) are part of the package. You cannot be in love with only half the package. I see no problem with giving her extra money, as long as you don't expect anything from it in return. (Other than massive amounts of good karma.) Give it as a gift or don't give it at all. And ask yourself this: if you gave her a car or something and then she decided to stop seeing you, would you be ok with that? Or would you more realistically feel like she "owed you"? Because then you're still a john but worse.

Oct 18 11 - 12:14am
Chase

LW#1, my response keeps getting blocked, I think because I recommend you using one of those pages on the internet through which single people are able to meet each other, which is making me look like spam. OK. However, I think it's an important point to get across: meeting people in real life, by accident, may work for some people. And it's a lot more romantic than putting time and effort into meeting someone, so we like to pretend it'll work for everyone. It hasn't worked for you. As you get older, the social spheres you operate in will only get firmer--making new friends becomes harder, not easier, especially for someone who's highly introverted and anxious.

Thus, I would recommend two things. 1: Get a therapist or personal coach. Someone you can work with, to set specific goals and make sure you're staying on track. Someone who will push you and who won't allow you to give up. 2: Sign up with one of those things on the internet where single people can meet each other. Don't wait for love to fall on your lap. Do the legwork. Make it happen. You have to take control of your life. If you were a man, you wouldn't get this advice: "If no one has approached you, swept you off your feet, and helped you work through your issues while you put in no effort, so you must be fucked forever. Sorry." There is no one, male or female, for whom that is true. Now is not when you give up; now is when you get your second wind. But don't think that being a woman means that it should or must be easy. It might take a lot of time and effort, a lot of shitty blind dates, maybe a few shitty therapists, and definitely going way out of your comfort zone. But, LW#1, love is worth it. You are worth it. Do not give up on yourself.

Oct 18 11 - 12:17am
Prince Charming

There isn't always a happy ending.

Oct 18 11 - 1:14am
Jay

Just A Few Problems:

I'm having it tough right now too. Same situation. I'm in my late 20s and I yearn-- YEARN- to hold hands with someone, to have that intimate connection. I imagine sex would be quite exciting and fullfilling, but I'd just as well start small with a kiss with no expectations. I have moral issues going to prostitutes and i've struck out at bars, but I try to stay positive, even if it's against my negative nature. I'm still slightly hung up about this girl that I had a major HEART-ON (not a typo. I felt little sexually for her, but she made my heart thump ever so much), but through no fault but my own, things went south on a potential relationship. I still miss her and she'll forever be someone special to me, but time passes, and little by little, I'm feeling better and ready to get up on that horse and try again. It's not easy but I haven't given up. And nor should you.

Oct 18 11 - 3:01pm
thinkywritey

It seems most people think LW#1's solution is to "date people." She kinda doesn't sound that interested. No defined sexual orientation? So... no fantasies? No masturbating? It's okay to be sexless. It's even okay to be without a romantic partner, no matter what the movies tell you. Do you have friends? DO NOT DISCOUNT YOUR FRIENDS. A lot of us make the huge mistake of bemoaning being "alone so alooooone!" when surrounded by actual friends who actually love us. (Not only is it insulting to them, you're just ripping yourself off!)

And if you don't have friends? Do that. Forget the hand-holding, face-kissing, get-the-party-started stuff, and just find some people who make you comfortable. Meetup seems like a decent idea -- it's not a "are we gonna get married or NOT!" pressure cooker, and some of them have active online discussion forums as well, where you can get your feet a little wet before sitting down to dinner with a table of strangers.

Of course, I think sitting down to dinner with a table of strangers is ALSO a great place to start...

Oct 18 11 - 5:15pm
nope

Hmm. I definitely didn't take LW#1 to be saying she was asexual or somewhere around there. She seems to want sex and romance, as its absence really bothers her--something generally not true of asexual people. I saw the "lack of a defined sexual orientation" thing meaning that she is probably on the bisexual spectrum, but feels uncomfortable saying that as she has slept with neither men nor women.

Oct 18 11 - 3:51pm
Kevin

Nerve's auto-anti-spam filters suck. They censor completely reasonable, vanilla responses, and such filtered responses appear to never get reviewed & approved, they just go into limbo forever.

Oct 18 11 - 4:23pm
Yet

This comment just got through. Why do you think that is?

Oct 18 11 - 6:57pm
Alex Heigl

Kevin, I believe the comment you're referring to was trapped because it featured "Craigslist," which is a common source of spam -- that's why it got stuck. I've since approved it and it appears above.

Oct 18 11 - 6:58pm
LS

John,
Why not try supporting her in non-"kept woman" ways? Help her make a resume, look through the classifieds together, collect the numbers of some resources that help low-income single mothers, etc.

Oct 18 11 - 10:46pm
technetium

JAFP,
I could have written your letter, except I'm 29. So at least you can feel that there are people out there just like you. I'd look at making friends before jumping into dating, since that has helped me feel less alone. I found a few of my college friends on facebook and saw that they lived nearby, decided to meet up, and met a lot of my other friends through them. Or go find something that you like (I'd suggest a local convention because people are friendly, have the same interests, and inclined to talk) and force yourself to talk to people and try to keep in touch afterward. You could also join a group like Kiwanis or some other volunteer organization. To make yourself talk to people, you can treat it like a game or goal where you can give yourself a check mark or a treat if you talk to someone.

Oct 19 11 - 10:07pm
JCB

Is it possible that the letter writer is asexual or something of the sort? I only mention that because of her lack of "defined sexual orientation". If she really wants to get dates, your advice is great. But if she's only lamenting her "nevers" because of societally-induced pressure to do what's expected, she'll "never" be happy. The truth is we treat solitude like it's a horrible curse, but for some people it's their most comfortable and content state. I think she should do a bit more soul-searching before rushing out and signing up for a bunch of hobbies.

Nov 20 11 - 6:57am
Misty

There's a seecrt about your post. ICTYBTIHTKY

Nov 20 11 - 1:05pm
piocdspc

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Jan 09 12 - 9:48pm
alateralligator

I was in a similar situation and I commend the first writer for sticking herself out here! I felt I could not tell anyone, I was so ashamed and alone. My long-term conundrum was due in part to innate shyness, related and untreated depression, scarce money to go out, and my "non-hottie" looks as my mother bluntly says. Lamentably those factors did not reduce my libido, which for some reason(s) skyrocketed during age 27 to the extent that it impeded my concentration and non-sexual performance. Being in school without health insurance or income meant that CBT or coaching therapy was inaccessible to me, however much I knew I needed that help. Desperate, I finally gathered the courage to try online dating/coffee, which didn't get me far physically, but like the commentators above I recommend it as a starting point because there's less to lose. In comparison, with an acquaintance around the same time, I suffered a couple of nights of humiliation from my inexperience and his shock at it (naming a guy's behavior as not nice or unempathetic does not provide complete comfort for the already insecure!). I eventually got lucky in terms of being in the right place at the right time, summoning my courage, and taking a chance on being more comfortable with someone who was culturally different and culturally appropriate for the no-strings-attached experience that I desired. We were mutually attracted; he didn't ask many questions, except for my consent; and he was amazingly more sensitive than the known acquaintance. He will never know how grateful I am for the respect that he accorded, which every woman deserves. I bet that this first letter writer knows what she has to do, as I did, and I wish her the best escape from the vicious cycle, sooner than later! There is no shortage of assholes out there but that must not diminish her ambition to change.