Miss Information

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Why is it so easy for me to find a hookup and so hard for me to find a boyfriend?

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Dear Miss Information,

I'm a twentysomething girl, and I'm constantly single. I haven't been in a relationship for three years, and I've never had one that lasted more than three months.

What I have had are flings. Countless flings. I enter every single one either hopeful that it will turn into a stable relationship — or worse, for sex, I will occasionally engage with people who are hard-hearted sleazes, knowing that they will leave me. (Can't be disappointed that way.)

I like to think I'm agreeable and intelligent. I'm not unfortunate looking. I have an interesting job that forces me to be busy, and have my own life. I have no problem picking people up. I just can't keep them.

Granted, it's possible that I have a thing for unavailable love interests. My current fling has a girlfriend. I'm absolutely head over heels for him, but I also acknowledge that what I'm doing is wrong and will hurt her.

The common denominator in all of my romantic problems is me. So what's wrong with me? Am I too aggressive or submissive? Do I like sex too much? Am I a reverse mermaid and nobody bothered telling me? I've gotta be missing something obvious.

— Sick of Being the Good Time Girl

Dear Good Time Girl,

After reading your letter, my first thought was, "'Reverse mermaid?' Is that a thing?" I dipped a shrimp net into the sludge that is my brain and came up with a boot and an empty can of Tab. I was busy envisioning a bass with shapely Barbie legs when it hit me: you were making a really good joke.

Anyway, to some extent, yours is a very common quandary of The Twenty-Something. Flakiness in general — defined as "disappearing one day" or "breaking up via text", etc. — is at an all-time high. Blame our ADD-addled brains or our dads for not hugging us, or something.

The lion's share of the problem, though, is something you yourself are aware of: that voice in your head groaning, "Unghhh why are the unavailable ones so much hotter?" That's the other part of the Twenty-Something Quandary. You want intimacy, you say you want intimacy, but since intimacy is difficult, it's tempting to find distractions. It's like you said yourself: it's harder to get hurt if you never really try.So, no: you are not broken. Your problem is terrifically common. But that doesn't mean you should let the flakes win.

A lot of finding a good relationship boils down to listening to your gut. If you pick up on any red flags, or even "a vibe that seems off," pay attention. It's easy to explain away a potential snag ("but I'm not dating anyone else," "but I'm bored," "but those cheekbones"), but making excuses for someone just means you're settling. If he clearly wants just a hookup and you want a relationship, that counts as a red flag. Letting him set the pace while you "hope for something more:" also a red flag. Stand up for what you want! Catching the situations that are bad for us is the easy thing; actually acting on that knowledge is much harder.

Ultimately, Reverse Mermaid, you've already got the skill-set you need; you just need a stronger spine. If you want a relationship, don't settle for booty calls. If you want a dependable boyfriend, don't agree to be his one phone call from jail. If you respect yourself enough to be discerning about whom you date, you'll find a higher caliber of guy ready to meet the challenge.