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The blunder years

I'm a 24-year-old college student, single for over four years. Lately, every other girl I like hooks up with one of my friends, or agrees to a date with me, then calls to back out. Why is it so hard for me to get into a relationship now, let alone date? I'm in shape (5-foot-6, 130 lbs.), intelligent, laid-back, and considered an OK guy. What steps do I take to find the right girl? -- Mr. Not Quite

Forget finding "the right girl." Free yourself up to find the wrong girl now, because there's no uglier time than midlife to have a midlife crisis. You jolt awake one morning prepared to sell your grandmother for a mean ride and loose women. As luck would have it, your grandmother is deader than your hair follicles, and your wife convulses with laughter at the idea of funding your automotive ambitions. The next thing you know, you're the aging male version of a Catholic schoolgirl, pulling into the alley behind the grocery store before work to apply spray-on hair and snap gangsta hubs on the minivan.

If you're like most people, you were Socrates as a teenager, a rare genius in a world of drooling morons. This makes it hard to recognize your 20s for what they should be, The Decade Of Extremely Bad Judgment: a lab to do dumb stuff and learn from it, taking care not to end up dead, incurably diseased or in jail for more than two consecutive evenings. Sure, the official end of adolescence is 18, but for more and more people, it actually ends around 30. That's their cue to start understanding exactly what idiots they've been, so they can try not to live and act so idiotically. Of course, some don't hit this mark until 40. Others still are living in their parents' garage at 55.

Let's review freshman anthropology: Men like beautiful women, women like men with mojo. You're a guy, 24, still in school, and girls probably picture you taking them on dates on the handlebars of your bike. What you really should be wondering about isn't why you don't get many dates, but why you get any dates at all. And, of course, girls too chicken to say no to your face will tell you, "Sure I'll go out with you, just gimme a call," then rush home to change their phone number. This is news to you? This is news to anyone?

Yes, sometimes "It's not you, it's me" really means "It's you." While it's possible you're coming on too strong, it's likely you're coming on too short. (Note to pint-sized angry letter writers: I'm just the messenger.) Studies show women prefer men who are taller than they are. Boguslaw Pawlowski, a Polish anthropologist, found that from a woman's perspective, the ideal woman/man height ratio is about 1:1.09, which means the girls most disposed to see 5-foot-6 you as more than their cute little friend are those around 5 feet.

Relax, crack the books, stop looking for girls and just be on the lookout. The difference is in the desperation -- coming off like you want to show a girl a good time, not wrestle her to the ground and jam a ring on her finger. You've got quite a project ahead of you: dating enough wack-jobs so you can readily identify them and either make them a lifelong hobby or get them out of your system. Then again, what part of more fun, sex and freedom doesn't work for you? (Much as it lacks the suspense of trying to break the speed record for going from prom to suburban disaffection.)

The loaf of the party

My girlfriend of six years just broke up with me because I'm "drifting through life unmotivated." I swore I'm through drifting, but she says she's no longer in love with me. Could I possibly still have a chance? Could she fall in love with me again? -- Too-Late Bloomer?

There's nothing like the sound of a woman slamming the door on a relationship to wake a guy up from a six-year nap. Wow, news flash, women like men who are going places, and not just to the refrigerator for another beer. Your girlfriend waited a long time to respect and admire you, but you never rose off the couch to the occasion. You can tell her you're motivated now, but inaction speaks louder than words. If there's any chance, it'll be slim, and down the road, and only if you do something with your life because that's the kind of person you are (as of five minutes ago), not because you want her back. At the very least, be grateful she's hectored you off the couch -- because you'll need all the motivation you can get to find another sucker who will invest six years into hoping stagnant water runs deep.

Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, No. 280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com (advicegoddess.com).

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