Advice, Hope

Advice – 19 And Counting

Dear Cary,

I’m a freshman in college, I just turned 19, and I’ve never been kissed or even had a serious boyfriend. I was totally fine with this in high school — I went to a very small school  and so the guys in my grade felt too much like brothers to go out with. In ninth grade, I went out on a few dates with a junior, but I was shy and he was much more experienced and we stopped dating a little awkwardly. The next year, we randomly ended up interning at the same company and I started to like him a lot, but he was leaving for college and he didn’t seem interested. Junior year, I found out that he was, and we reconnected briefly over winter break but decided not to date long-distance. There were other guy friends of mine who expressed interest, but I didn’t connect in that way with any of them. There weren’t significant relationships by any means but there was enough of that teenage intrigue to occupy my time and make me feel wanted. I had my own crushes. I was on student council and the honor roll and I had an inseparable best friend and a great group of larger friends. I’m very close with my family. Sometimes I felt impatient and wondered when I would meet a guy that things might stick with, but overall I was happy. I’ve always been confident in my looks – I love clothes and makeup. I’m an athlete. I even did a little modeling in high school. I always was fine with waiting and trusted that good things would happen in college.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t been true. I’m from the West Coast going to school on the East Coast, and I’ve experienced significant culture shock. It’s been hard to make friends, especially guy friends since I live on an all-girls hall. I have a great gay friend and three really close girlfriends, but it’s been a struggle to find a larger group. I don’t drink or do drugs, not for any religious/moral reason, just because I don’t like their effect on me. Since I’m an introvert, I don’t do as well in big group settings. But I really am good at close relationships – they’re incredibly important to me. I’m fiercely supportive of and loyal to my friends and family. I’m a good listener and I love taking care of people. I think I would make a great girlfriend, but I haven’t had a single guy express interest in me this year. There’s been the typical “so-and-so thinks you’re cute,” but I don’t trust people who like girls based purely on looks and rely on middle-school tactics like that. I’m usually pretty laid-back, but I’m starting to freak out about this a little bit. I can’t talk about it with my friends here because most people just assume I’m more experienced than I am and I’m too embarrassed to tell the truth. This embarrassment is new to me but the label “19-and-never-been-kissed” seems so awful.

I worry that it will never happen. I worry that my shyness is more off-putting than I realize, and that I don’t know how to get over my introversion. I worry that I come across as too old-fashioned and formal: I wear mainly vintage dresses and I love domestic things. I worry that I come across as prudish because I don’t swear or take part in the college party scene. I worry because having a family one day is incredibly important to me, and falling in love is part of that. I worry because this is not under my control. I can’t make it happen, and yet lately I can’t seem to let it go. It’s more than embarrassment, it’s sadness. Love and lust and all related things seem like such an integral part of the human experience, but I have no personal understanding of them yet. How can I grow up if I’ve never kissed a boy or been in love? How do these things start happening? Should I be worried? Should I keep waiting for somebody important or should I just go for guys to get past this awkwardness?

I feel like I have to put in the obligatory disclaimer here that I’m a feminist and I have big goals for myself, academically and career-wise, but this is an area I need help in.

Thanks!

19

This question was emailed to me by my lovely friend LillianLemoning who seems to always know what I need even when I don’t have a clue.

Oh, 19.

I myself was (am) a bit of a late bloomer.  I thought it meant something terrible about me.  In high school I feared that I would graduate college with little more than a kiss under my belt (not like that, get your mind out of the gutter).

Here’s the magical part.  From the day that I feared no guy would want to kiss me ever until the day after I had the best kiss I could ever have dreamed of, I didn’t have to change a thing.  It wasn’t like it took a hollywood makeover or a class in how to flirt so that someone could find me attractive.  All I did was ask someone to hang out and kiss me.  Then I started paying attention to the way guys treated girls they liked and started noticing that behavior being aimed at me.

You’re a freshman in college.  I know that seems so old to you because it’s the oldest you’ve ever been but when I was a never-been-kissed 14-year-old I thought that was old maid material too.  It took until a year after I graduated from a tiny private school surrounded by ‘brothers’ for me to figure out how to interact with guys too.  Don’t feel left behind, you’re right on track.

Other than that, if you aren’t into drinking (which is fine, but it might eliminate potential mate-meeting events) you’ll just have to meet people in other places.  I know it sounds so cliche but join clubs and teams.  Make friends with the girls on your floor and grab lunch with her and her co-ed buddies from bio.  Also, you don’t have to drink at parties.  Bring a soda bottle and don’t tell anyone what’s in it (you won’t be the only one pulling that trick).  Who knows, maybe there’s some awesome designated driver there praying someone awesome and sober is around to talk to.

Go places, meet people, look them in the eyes and notice when they like you.  That’s basically the important stuff.

Other than that I’ll tell you this story that makes me feel better when I think I’m going to die alone surrounded by cats (which would suck because I hate cats.  When I become an aging spinster I’m going to have an awesome aquarium!):

My friend *Sari got married a few years ago.  Sari is the kind of girl who has been dating for almost her entire life.  She kissed some boy in middle school and hasn’t been ‘single’ for more than a few months at a time since then.  When she was a kid she was best friends with the only other girl she’s ever met named Sari.  Other Sari never dated ever (yes seriously this is a true story).  Other Sari lost her virginity to some guy in college who she didn’t care about too much and broke up with a few months later.  Original Sari did it with one of her many boyfriends somewhere between high school and college.   Original Recipe Sari technically hit all the benchmarks earlier.  First kiss, first boyfriend, love, virginity, you name it.  Other Sari was understandably bummed most of their schooling years.  A few years ago Other Sari got married (a little after Original Recipe Sari) to someone great.  Apparently Other Sari met him and just knew.  She didn’t need first hand experiences with other guys to know what was going on with this one.

You’ll be fine.  Just keep on trucking and saying hello to strangers.  Doesn’t matter which kind of Sari you are, they all end up happy in the end.

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