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The Twelve Steps


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Until I was 22 I had never had a date in my life. I was both short and overweight, neither of which did much to bolster my self-esteem, and so asking a woman out seemed to me only slightly less futile than trying to bail out the ocean with a spoon.

Came the day late last year when I decided I had had enough of being lonely and decided to find a Girlfriend. So how does one do this? I eagerly delved into various How-To-Meet-the-Mate-of-Your-Dreams books, which told me the best place to find a girlfriend was through my male friends.

Um.....WHAT male friends? So much for that option.

Next, ask female friends. As it happens, I had one: a girl from a night-school class who had asked me to a movie once, and had just broken up with her boyfriend. The next time she asked me to a movie, I gingerly tried placing my arms around the back of her seat. "Take your hand down", was the icy reply. So much for that.

Then I was to meet people at school. No good; I'd already dropped out of school. Work? I worked in a firm with only one woman employee, who was 57 and had seven grandchildren. Not quite to my taste.

Meet people in social clubs, activities. I took a dance class, which was two-thirds male, with only one female under 30 (who was, of course, snapped up quickly).

Go to bars. With some trepidation, for the first time in my life I went to a dance club. Make eye contact with women, it was said, smile, then approach one. I tried making eye contact, but each girl would look at the floor, the ceiling, the lights, the stars, everywhere EXCEPT my eyes.

I could have tried, in spite of this, to try to talk to some girls, but I noticed the closer I walked to them the tighter the knots in my stomach got. I could have screamed, and nearly did. I left the bar dejected.

There remained tele-personal services. These were free for women and terribly expensive for men, but worth a shot. I placed a cute little ad, and waited for the responses. And waited, and waited......

Ok, maybe women want initiative. So I recorded responses to about 40 women's ads. Ten responded. I sent follow-ups to these 10. One responded. I risked giving her my number......

and she called! Miracle of miracles. Her name was Wendy, 20, unemployed. We ended up making a first date, which was a disaster, and a second date, which was also a disaster. She dumped me when I asked permission to sleep with her, saying "Real men don't need to ask permission". I'd seen dozens of No Means No posters in college and believed asking permission to be a gentleman's duty, but apparently not.

I kept trying responding to women's ads and drawing zilch. Finally I got a call from Christa, 18 years old, who promised to meet me for pool one evening I called her later that day to confirm and she said she had to cancel and go to Grandma's. After a few more runarounds like that I realized that was that.

There was Lisa, who said she was 19 but turned out to be 17, who called me one evening at 2 am and would I please drive across town to lend her $50 she needed to buy "medicine". I couldn't do that, for the very excellent reason that I didn't own a car. "You don't have a car?" she said with evident disbelief, "I thought you work in computers and make a lot of money". Yes I do, I said, I just haven't bought a car, fierce little environmentalist that I am. went the phone.

Tele-personals so far got me a first-date success rate of about 2 percent and a third-date success rate of Zero, and was costing me a fortune. So I turned to that legendary "virtual singles' bar" known as America Online. Finding women who lived nearby and sending them an Instant Message was, of course, magically simple.

I became almost addicted to AOL, spending as much time in the local chatroom as most people spend watching TV (2-3 hours a day). I must of emailed or sent messages to over 600 women over the next few months, of which maybe 200 responded, 40 talked to me for more than one minute, and I gave my phone number to 20. Of these, only ten actually called, and of these, met just four.

Some were notorious. There was Roni, who said she was "relieved you aren't black -- I'd never go out with a black guy" and proceeded to take me to a campground to barbecue hot dogs in freezing Feburary weather.

Elizabeth said she was really impressed with me, so we agreed to meet. We proceeded to argue politics much of the time, and afterwards she sent me an email saying she was "too busy" to ever see me again.

There was Sheena, who thought my web site was fabulous, send me sly emails on the weekend, then one day asked my height. I told her (5'5") - she replied she was 5'8". After that she wouldn't respond to my messages.

There was Jo, who on AOL was hotter to trot than Traci Lords in heat, but whose face when she met me had all the warmth of an icicle. Why? "You weren't what I expected".

Every single woman I talked to over 25 would not even consider meeting someone younger, no matter how much they said they liked me before I told them my age (22). One woman said my career ambition "frightened" her, another said I was "too smart" for her.

It got painful, the endless series of rejections, and finally I stopped. I couldn't stand being weighed in the balance and found wanting time and again. I couldn't understand why women didn't like me. Granted I am not that attractive (short and fat), but I was getting rejected before they even knew what I looked like. Was it my personality? My style? Did I offend? None of them would tell me *wny* they were rejecting, they would just give me the runaround.

So finally in late March I pulled out of the dating scene, and no longer contacted anyone on AOL who lived in the same province. The pundits say "you're still young, you'll find someone someday", but I find this less and less easy to believe. Hearing about people my age who are on their third or fourth girlfriend is enough to bring on an anxiety attack.

I don't know WHY women don't like me, it's just that they don't. And it hurts.

S-youth, Sept. 15, 1997.