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Auntie SparkNotes: How Can I Stop Being an Overthinking, Awkward Mess Around Guys?

Auntie SparkNotes is on vacay this week, so we’re publishing some of her vintage gems to help ease your back-to-school anxiety!

Dear Auntie SparkNotes,

So there’s this guy. Or not, or maybe—I’m not sure yet. But there is a problem. As a general rule, I suck at being a human being (we’re talking awkward, incapable of making conversation, general horribleness, etc.), especially around the opposite sex.

I am 18, and’ve never dated. And what makes it even worse is that there has never been a chance for me to date. Every time I get near a single male I deem attractive or interesting, I freeze. Completely. I can hardly speak, move, or even blink (okay, the blinking is a hyperbole, but the rest isn’t). In the rare case that I can actually speak to a guy, which typically has to occur over text since I can actually articulate myself in writing, I end up freaking out and trying to end the conversation after a while because I don’t know what to do. I always look and sound like a total idiot, and I know it makes guys dislike me. I understand that I am unattractive (my team once called me an ogre, and they were not lying), dim, and friendless, but I would desperately enjoy being semi-normal for once.

And what makes all of this so much worse for me is that I have an acute case of FOMO that doesn’t seem to ever go away. It seems like everyone around me is dating and enjoying themselves, and all I ever do is lock myself in my room and read. (Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy my books, but I would also like to actually live for once, instead of just reading about life.) I hate to admit it, but I hate being lonely all the time. It would be nice to have someone to hang out with (and make out with).

I’m sure you are wondering why I’m even writing you, since I haven’t exactly posed a question yet. So, here is my question: how can I go from an overthinking, awkward ogre to a normal girl who doesn’t break out into hives every time a guy speaks to her?

For one, it would help to stop spending time with people who tell you that you’re an awkward ogre.

Or if you can’t do that, then you could at least stop acting like they’re right.

Have you ever seen A League of Their Own, Sparkler? Because that’s what I thought about when I read your letter. Specifically, I’m thinking about Marla Hooch. And on the off chance that you haven’t seen A League of Their Own, Marla’s story can be summed up thusly: She’s the second baseman for the Rockford Peaches, and while she’s not an ogre, exactly, she’s also not about to win any beauty contests, especially compared to her dainty, ladylike teammates. And yes, Marla’s physical shortcomings are played for laughs at first. But once the action starts, she knows her value, and so does everyone else. She’s fierce on the ballfield, she’s a loyal teammate and friend, she loves her dad, and she’s the best damn hitter in the league.

Which is why, when her teammates dress her up and let her loose on a roadhouse dance floor, Marla doesn’t just bumble around and feel awkward and apologize to the world for all the ways in which she doesn’t meet its standards.

She gets on stage, all pumped up with drunk confidence, and sings a spectacularly bad rendition of “It Had to Be You” to the dorkiest guy in the room—who is completely smitten and can’t take his eyes off her.

Why am I telling you this? Because apart from the fact that A League of Their Own is the best movie ever that everyone should watch right now, this scene so perfectly demonstrates what happens when you stop being sorry for being you, and start walking around like you’re just as worthy of happiness as anyone else.

Marla was entitled to happiness, and so are you, Sparkler. You’re a person, you deserve a good life, and you don’t have to apologize for existing in your current condition before you’re allowed to reach for one.

Which is why, starting right now, I want you to stop talking about how much you suck at being human, and start seeing yourself as a whole person who brings a unique set of qualities to the table. And if physical beauty isn’t one of those qualities, then guess what: it doesn’t matter, because how you look is not who you are, and it’s not all you have to offer. I don’t even know you, and I know that you have a charming, slightly dark sense of humor that keeps you from being too mopey or self-serious. I know that you have the resilience to be content on your own, but the heart and courage to admit that you’re lonely. I know that you have the deep well of empathy and imagination that all people who love books possess—and on that same note, I know, sweet pea, that you are not dim. Nobody spends that much time reading without a lively mind to show for it.

And if you can start seeing yourself in terms of your assets, and stop walking around like you’ve got “I’m sorry I’m so dumb and gross and awkward,” tattooed on your forehead, I think you’ll find that not only will you stop overthinking and second-guessing yourself in every conversation, but that everything about trying to connect with other human beings gets easier. People look to you first when they’re trying to figure out who you are and how to treat you—and if you project the expectation of being treated like an equal, then that’s what they’ll do.

That’s why confidence is so important, even if you have to fake it. And as someone who’s clearly internalized a lot of self-loathing, undermining nonsense about what a troll you are, faking it is probably what you’ll have to do at first. But you can do it, Sparkler. Act like whatever you have to say is more than interesting enough to hold people’s attention. When you talk to a guy, imagine that you’re trying to figure out if you’re interested in him, not the other way around. If someone rebuffs or rejects you, pretend that you don’t have the time or energy or even desire to mess around with people who think you’re beneath them.

Imagine you’re Marla Hooch, wearing a borrowed dress on a roadhouse stage, not caring about the opinions of ridiculous people who don’t get you—because you’re busy singing to the one person in the room who does, and who looks at you like you’re golden.

Play that role of girl who’s fine with who she is, and can’t fathom why you wouldn’t be fine with her, too. Do it enough, and soon enough, it won’t be a role anymore. It’ll just be you. And while it may take a while before you find someone you connect with on a romantic level, what matters it this: when you do find that person, you’ll recognize him as a good match for you, and you won’t feel like you need to apologize to him for thinking so.

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