I have been dealing with this issue for a while now. First off, I made a promise when I was younger that I wouldn’t date till college. Now I’m a college freshman who wants to date, but still don’t feel ready—even though I want to be. It is frustrating for me because I think I am more mature and stable than most people my age. I try to tell myself that timing is everything and that the right person for me may not be ready yet.
I am interested in this one guy that goes to school with me. We see each other around campus sometimes. I’m hoping to officially introduce myself to him this week since we go to the same meeting once a week. I’m just afraid that I will get my hopes up that he might like me when he has no interest in me at all. I’ve never been in the situation where a guy likes me back. So, naturally, I don’t know how to approach this. What should I do Auntie? How can I get past my fear of a guy never liking me back?
Well, there’s an interesting question, Sparkler. Because the thing about that fear—as opposed to a fear of, say, ghosts or shark attacks or homicidal dentists —is that the thing you’re afraid of is already a foregone conclusion. Liking someone who doesn’t like you back isn’t some weird, soul-crushing, once-in-a-lifetime potential horror show of an experience; it’s something we all go through, most of us more than once.
And when a fear is totally founded and reasonable, then the way you get past it is by living through it. Because sure, you’re afraid to get your hopes up lest this guy not return your feelings. But if you do, and he doesn’t, then what happens? Will the world grind to a halt on its axis? Will you literally die of disappointment?
Because if that was your plan, sweet pea, I’m afraid I have to spoil it for you: Being rejected is a bummer, but it won’t actually kill you. If you flirt with a guy and get nowhere in return, you’ll live to flirt another day. Whereas if you don’t, then granted, you haven’t risked rejection—but you also have approximately zero chance of a sordid and thrilling love affair, and c’mon, that’s no fun at all!
Meanwhile, though you don’t explicitly say so, this is what I’m taking away as I read between the lines of your letter: you say you don’t feel “ready,” but what you really seem to mean is that you don’t feel certain. You seem to have based your entire dating strategy around the misguided notion that you’d someday reach a point where it wouldn’t be scary to put your feelings on the line. The problem is, it’s always scary, because as mature and stable and smart as you are, you are also a person, and people are afraid of rejection. They just don’t let themselves be ruled by that fear, because doing so would stand in the way of falling in love.
So, what should you do? Only this: recognize that you’re afraid of rejection, and then go ahead and risk it anyway. Strike up a conversation (“I see you on campus all the time but we haven’t officially met” is a great opening line, for the record) and flirt a little, and if the guy seems amenable, flirt a little more, keeping in mind that the most catastrophic potential outcome of this entire endeavor leaves you no worse off than you are right now. If the worst comes to pass, and he’s not interested, then you won’t have lost anything. Whereas in the best-case scenario, you could end up experiencing the unparalleled joy of putting your face all over his face, romantical-like. And while of course you are your own master, and this is all entirely up to you, surely you must admit that last thing sounds like fun. Right? RIGHT.
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