Too many first dates

I'm a 26-year-old grad student and I've never had a relationship. Are my standards too high?

By Cary Tennis
Published March 4, 2004 8:37PM (EST)

Dear Cary,

I am in a rut. I'm a decently attractive 26-year-old grad student who is professionally and academically successful. I'm articulate, creative, culturally literate and very open-minded.

I am somewhat introverted but by no means socially awkward. Yet I have never had a relationship in my entire life. I find it difficult to pursue a relationship with anyone I don't find both physically and mentally attractive. Yes, I have a conscience, and I don't want to knowingly hurt anyone. I come across women I find physically attractive but not mentally attractive, and vice versa. This seems to be a common problem among intellectuals.

But I'm certain of the type of person I'm attracted to. She is not necessarily absolutely gorgeous, but she is somewhat physically attractive and more important a person who can carry an interesting conversation. So I have at least two major problems: 1) No experience beyond dating and 2) My rational side often overrules my emotional and physical needs. I have been on many first dates and nothing further. This suggests to me that many women are initially attracted to me but are completely turned off once they talk to me for a few hours. I can't help but think I have previously met my ideal match and somehow frightened her away.

This makes no sense to me since my friends describe me as one of the nicest people around. My female friends (who are in relationships) can't understand why I have difficulty, either. If I managed to get into a solid relationship I'm certain I would make an ideal partner. I have no misogynist tendencies, and have nothing but the utmost respect for women.

All these issues are complicated by the fact that I live in a small New England city as opposed to a diverse urban metropolis. Plus the school I attend has one of the highest workloads of any school in New England. Am I simply a late bloomer? Are my standards too high? Should I simply keep on continuing until I find the right person?

Frustrated and Disillusioned

Dear Frustrated,

The problem, as I see it, is clearly about making The Move.

You say, "I have been on many first dates and nothing further. This suggests to me that many women are initially attracted to me but are completely turned off once they talk to me for a few hours."

If a woman is attracted to you, and all you do is talk for hours, you're missing your chance to make the move.

What is the move? The move is any combination of physical actions and words that results in increased contact and arousal. The move takes things to the next level. The move starts the ball rolling. The move can be subtle or it can be blunt. But before the move happens, there is a tacit understanding that the move is coming. She knows it and you know it.

But maybe you don't know it. That's possible. So let's examine how someone would know that the move was coming, or what conditions would lead one to expect the move. Let's say you're with a woman that you believe finds you attractive. Let's say you're parked in a car overlooking a lake and it's 3 in the morning and you've had a few drinks. Let's say you're talking in a normal way about your studies or something, and between you there is that normal rhythm of eye contact and eye aversion: Look in your eyes, look down, look away, look in your eyes. It's a regular rhythm people use when talking. But let's say that while you're talking (you're concentrating hard on what you're saying, of course, so you might not be noticing) she looks at you, but then she doesn't look down or away but keeps looking right at you with her head tilted slightly back and her lips barely parted. Say she slides down ever so slightly in her seat so she's a little below you, and slides her hand on your leg, perhaps, or plays with a button on your shirt, or brushes the back of her fingers across your cheek.

Those would all be signs that it is time for the move. In fact, from her perspective, she's already made the move; all you have to do is reply! But you've got to do it now. Because by now she's made what she considers an open invitation. If you turn it down, it's like a slap. I'll bet you've been missing your chance again and again because you haven't done the initial reading.

Now, about the move itself: Every man must make up his own move. For some, it comes naturally. For others, it must be carefully thought out and practiced. You will have to do your own original research in this area. Just remember: It's an actual person in front of you, not a robot or a mannequin. So when you make your move, direct it at the person, not the body -- the body is how you get at the person, if you follow me.

Nevertheless the move is physical and concrete and it must be made and it must be made at the right time. Trust your instincts: You will know when the time is right. The only key is: You must make the move then. If you do not, that's it, the moment is lost, you take her home and nod politely the next time you see her, and she whispers something to her girlfriends and you'll never know what exactly it was she said but you have a good enough idea because of that feeling in your gut.

So get with it. Learn a move.

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Cary Tennis

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