Before we get to the meat and potatoes of this post, let me start with a story. Don’t worry; I promise it’s relevant, and it’s about video games. Here goes:
When I was a senior in high school, widespread digital distribution for PC games was still a distant pipe dream. Sure, every once in a while, you’d get a developer who wanted to sell a title directly, and piracy via torrent was always an option, but generally speaking, it was discs or bust.
There was a game I wanted to play called Spellforce: The Order of Dawn. For those of you not familiar with the series, Spellforce is a hybrid RTS/RPG from a small German studio. It’s not great, but it has its charms, particularly if those are you two favorite genres. I could have bought the initial game in the States, but its two expansions were only available in Europe. So, I gathered up my funds and imported the three games, obscene shipping costs and all.
There was only one small problem: the game wouldn’t work. For some inexplicable reason, whenever I booted up the game, I would see the loading screen and get kicked right back to my desktop. When I checked task manager, the game’s process was still running, but the actual game just wasn’t there.
Well, I’m no neophyte when it comes to getting recalcitrant PC games to run, so I rolled up my sleeves and got to work. I trawled Internet forums. I e-mailed the developer. I cross-checked every process running on my PC, every update to every driver, and every possible hardware incompatibility. I stayed up late, left my homework till the last minute, gulped down meals in as few bites as possible, and let all my other hobbies fall by the wayside. I was going to have fun, damn it, no matter how hard I had to work at it.
This process went on for about a week before I thought to myself: “Just how much misery am I willing to endure for the sake of fun?” In the end, I shrugged my shoulders, dusted my hands off, put the games in a drawer, and bought something else (Battle for Middle-Earth, if memory serves).
In the end, I learned an important lesson from those games: After a certain threshold of driving yourself absolutely up the wall, something you want — even something you want very badly — is just not worth it. It’s time to apply that lesson again.
Here’s the problem: I’m a straight male, and have known since I was 13 that I wanted a monogamous, heterosexual relationship. The only problem was that 13-year-old me was very bad at attracting women. Then again, 13-year-old me was just finding a solid group of friends and taking some pride in himself for the first time in his life, so we can cut him some slack for not having much success.
High school followed, and the same thing happened. No matter how many times I got up my courage and actually asked someone out, I got rejection after rejection. There were exceptions, of course: rare moments of success when the stars aligned and I got a coveted yes instead of a no. But nothing ever panned out, and as always, the sheer numbers were against me.
It was OK, though, they told me (“they” being friends, teachers, and family). High school girls often don’t appreciate good guys, they said, but wait until I got to college. Then, they’d see all that I had to offer.
And, boy, in college, did I have a lot to offer! I got in shape for the first time in my life. I learned how to bartend and got rid of my last vestiges of social anxiety, killing two birds with one stone. I was in an a cappella group. I took a ton of interesting classes, read lots of great books, attended fascinating lectures, and explored the sometimes seedy, sometimes charming city I inhabited. I got out to parties and events every weekend so that I could meet exciting new people. And, by and large, I still got nothing but rejections.
It was OK, though, they told me. College is such a chaotic time that you can’t really expect to find a satisfying relationship. Just wait until you get out into the world and have a steady job, and girls will see how responsible and accomplished you are.
So, I went out and got a job. At first, I didn’t expect much, since I had a horrible retail job, and had to live with my mom to make ends meet. But then I got a less horrible office job. And then I got a real editing job. And then I got my own place. And then I got a freelance journalism job. And then I got a full-time journalism job. And then I got money to spend and money to save.
In terms of career and monetary success, the last five years have been an unparalleled success for me. I have broken into a very difficult field, and excelled in it. I live very comfortably in one of the toughest cities in the world, with a nice apartment in a stellar neighborhood. I’ve continued studying martial arts to improve my mental discipline and stay in excellent shape. I have interesting hobbies, interesting hangouts, and interesting people in my life.
But, for all that, I still get almost nothing but rejections from women. Every. Single. Time.
I can’t really speculate as to the reason why. If I had an answer, I would have found a solution long ago. I’ve read an awful lot of dating blogs (particularly the excellent Paging Dr. Nerdlove), and the recurring theme seems to be that if you can’t find a date, you have to look inward and fix the things you don’t like about your own life first.
That, however, is where I run into a problem. I like myself. I like my job, and where my career is going, and the state of my health, and where I live, and my money situation, and my family, and my friends, and just about everything in my whole life, except for the fact that I can’t find a woman willing to give me a chance romantically. I feel I would be a good partner; they feel differently. That’s fine. That’s their prerogative. But “fixing” something about myself won’t help if I’m happy as is.
Nor have I been derelict in trying to find women to date. I’ve tried meeting people in person, meeting people online, letting friends set me up, and even gimmicks like speed-dating. I’ve tried asking out good friends and women I’ve just met. I’ve tried being absolutely straightforward and completely coy. I’ve tried every strategy I can think of short of engaging in repellent PUA tactics and approached every attempt with all the confidence and optimism I can muster.
Not only have my attempts failed, but they have actually gotten worse. Last year around this time, I was devastated because ten women in a row had rejected me. At this point, I have lost count of how many times I’ve been rejected since my last successful date, but I would not be surprised if it were triple that amount. I don’t know how, but women have actually found me less attractive as my living situation has improved. I always thought the opposite would be true.
I don’t know what’s wrong, and I don’t know how to fix it, and honestly, my friends and family don’t, either. I’ve asked good friends, casual friends, total strangers, and my closest family members what’s wrong with my approach, and no one has a solid answer. I have come to believe that this is because there is no solid answer.
The realization hit me when I was reading a post in Paging Dr. Nerdlove’s blog. Some men, he said, no matter how smart or handsome or successful, will just never find anyone. They may be perfectly viable mates, but if you run the numbers, some men (and some women, of course) just never find anyone. It’s the luck of the draw.
This was possibly the most freeing thing I’ve ever read in my life. For the first time since I was 13, I realized that the problem isn’t me; it’s just statistics. Yes, I’ve been dealt a bad hand (well, really, 14 years of bad hands), but it wasn’t my fault. I can’t change the fact that women don’t want to date me, but I can change my attitude about it. That’s why I’m officially taking my hat out of the ring.
From now on, no more dating for me. No more romantic entanglements with women whatsoever. Will this hurt? Of course. It hurts already. I’ve been near tears several times just while writing this post. But I also know, in my heart of hearts, that it’s the only healthy way for me to live.
As much as I tried to frame a romantic relationship as the one thing missing from my life, the truth is that it’s just Spellforce all over again. I tried and tried and tried to solve a problem without an obvious cause, and all I got in return was frustration. Except getting rejected romantically no matter what you do is much, much worse than failing to run a video game. Instead of frustration, you have heartbreak. Instead of wasted leisure time, you have doubts about your worth as a human being. I can’t live like that, and no compassionate person would want me to.
A friend of mine told me (correctly, I think) that if I wrote this post, people would see it as attention-seeking. Maybe it is, but it’s also incredibly cathartic. I had a problem that literally kept me up at night and drove me into paroxysms of intense misery on a regular basis. I have now solved it — admittedly in the most extreme way possible, but solved it nonetheless.
Does this mean that I’ll never know the intense satisfaction of a healthy romantic relationship? Yes. But I’ll also never have to deal with the constant, soul-crushing despair that goes with getting rejected at every turn and never being able to figure out why. Given the choice between a slim (and rapidly diminishing) shot at happiness balanced with an overwhelming helping of despondency, or a perfectly even keel, I’ve decided to take the even keel.
That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. From where the sun now stands, I will date no more forever. The only thing I can offer by way of advice is to be kind and respectful to the women in your life, even if you’ve suffered rejection like I have. Learn to let go, and you’ll both be happier for it.
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