Dear Dr. Kate,
I am 32 and I am still a virgin. Nobody seems to understand how much this bothers me. I am not a virgin because I am afraid of sex or because I was brought up in a repressive household. No, I am still a virgin because nobody is interested in me. Nobody has ever asked me out. I've never even held hands with anyone.
I don't really know why.
I mean, I know I'm not that attractive (really, I'm not. This isn't low self-esteem.), but I don't think I'm actually *ugly*.
Now I'm not really sure what I should do. I'd really like to try partnered sex, but if nobody is willing to be my partner, there's nothing I can do about it.
I've tried before to just realize that it's never going to happen for me, but then after a while, part of my mind will ask, "So when are you going to do something about the sex thing?" and then I will feel bad about myself all over again because nobody likes me in that way.
What's your advice?
Alone at 32
I wish I could see you face to face in my office, but email will have to do. I know that I don't know anything about you, but I'm going to give you my best advice from both my professional and personal experiences. And it's just one woman's opinion, but I hope it helps.
Re: the attractiveness question. Yes, undeniably some human beings are considered beautiful, by most standards. But attractiveness isn't just about aesthetics. So often, a connection happens with someone because of who they are - their intelligence, their sense of humor, their skill in the kitchen, etc, etc - and the chemistry follows. Many women find themselves attracted to men that are so not the picture of what they thought they wanted (shorter, bigger, balder), but find the man becoming more attractive with time, because of how they feel about him.
This is my roundabout way of getting to how you see yourself, and how that matches up with reality. Do you have physical deformities? Are you morbidly obese? These things, I'll admit, pose challenges to finding a partner - but even they are overcome, routinely. And if you aren't at peace (at least somewhat) with your face and body, you'll signal that to everyone you meet.
So I don't believe that your problem is really how you look. I wonder if you're out there in the world in such a way as to make connections with others possible - not just romantic ones, but ANY connection. Are you able to meet people with shared interests? People you can spend time with to really get to know? Are you working? In school? What do you do when you're not doing that? Or are you around the same set of people all the time--folks you may love, but no one a potential partner?
When you've looked in all the places you can and are coming up short, you need to work on expanding the pool. Community service...alumni organizations...on-line dating - whatever it takes, to get new people to cross your path and into your life. Use the Internet. Use your family and friends. I'm trying to avoid the cliche of "there's someone out there for everyone." But in a country of 300 million people, the odds are pretty good that there are people for you to meet that you just haven't come across yet.
Two other things to consider...
* Your sexuality. Are you attracted to men? to women? to both? Are you sure? Because if you're sending out confused signals, it's hard for someone else to interpret them right.
* Your expectations. Don't have in mind "is there a chance that (s)he'll have sex with me?" when you meet someone. Get to know them as a person - let them get to know you - take the pressure of the sex question off.
Because in the end, I don't want you (or any of my patients or friends) just looking for sex. Believe me, you can find someone to boink you if that's all you want (peek at Craig's List if you need convincing). For sex to be good, it first needs to be comfortable...that means both arousal and lubrication, and both come more easily when you feel really good about the one you're with. And since you risk pregnancy and STDs every time, the sex should be worth it.
All the best,