Miss Information

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How do I meet guys who see me as a person instead of as the subject of their "Asian fetishes?"

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Dear Miss Information,

I'm a girl in my mid-twenties, and I feel pretty lost when it comes to love and relationships. I'm college-educated, live in a big city, and work at a job that I like well enough while I volunteer around and take on internships to find a vocation I really click with. I have a large group of great friends, and I'm usually really outgoing. I'm still figuring out what works for me, but I feel confident in saying that I have healthy relationships and habits.

I've dated a few guys here and there, but it never leads to anything serious. I had the sense that they didn't care about me, and that they felt pretty apathetic about spending time with me. I rustled up the courage to ask a boy out recently, and after our date I realized he hadn't asked me anything about myself at all! Sometimes I go on dates with guys who seem nice, but then they say really derogatory or misogynistic things about their exes/women ("that bitch was crazy," "slut," etc.), and it just turns me off. When I go out with friends, I don't feel comfortable being on "the prowl," so I usually smile and make a little eye contact here and there with boys I find cute. But they don't even look at me. I'm short (five feet), but even when I wear heels I feel invisible to the opposite sex. I'm Chinese, and sometimes when a drunk guy will come up to me at the bar and slur out that he has a "really crazy fetish for Asian chicks," I feel so sad that I'm being tokenized because of my race, and I feel invisible again in a completely different way.

I'm happy with my life and really like spending time with myself, but I'm twenty-five and I've never been in a relationship. My friends keep telling me that I'm smart and funny and attractive, but I'm feeling pretty blue and hopeless these days about ever having any sort of intimacy or love in my life. Sometimes I feel like there's this huge disconnect between me and any guy I'm interested in, and I try to be myself and honest and vulnerable, but all I get from their end is an apathetic shrug. What's going on? How do other people do this?

— Adrift

Dear Adrift,

Your letter reminds me of one line in Tim Kreider's "The Busy Trap" that especially felt like a Truth-Knife to the gut: "She once ruefully summarized dating in New York: 'Everyone's too busy and everyone thinks they can do better.'" Though it's easy to hate on New York, this strange mix of entitlement and looking around the room for a better offer happens everywhere. I also think it's especially true of twenty-somethings and younger, given how constantly bombarded we are both with affirmations of our own glittering specialness ("you have a new Tumblr follower!") and with "better options" (Did the guy in the sweater just make eye contact?) Our modern world, man!

Your situation is, to some extent, just a given of modern dating. There is an unbelievably high "miss-to-hit" ratio, and when you're stuck in a swampland of "misses," it absolutely feels hopeless. I could feel your stress level rising as your letter went on, though, which is where I want to draw your attention. You may not be able to go out tomorrow and find the right guy, but you can lighten up on yourself. It sounds like you're doing a lot of things right. Panicking about being single creates a black hole behind your eyes that makes you a terrible date, guaranteed. Going out is great, but if you're squeezing into Spanx just to get vodka Red Bulls spilled on your shoes, you may want to question those choices. A good guy doesn't need to be chased, hunted, or compromised for. It sounds like you're doing some chasing, hunting, and compromising — and it sucks, doesn't it?

If you're finding more than your fair share of misogynists and creeps, quit hanging out in their dens. Nice, thoughtful guys go the same places nice, thoughtful girls do: grocery stores and concerts and friends' parties. The flip side to how isolated we've all become is that many of us are grateful for connections when they do happen. Spark a conversation and see if it lands. You may not be able to control when Mr. Fantastic appears, but you may as well spend the meantime wearing comfortable shoes in places you like.