Dear Prudence

Dear Prudence Uncensored: Never Been Kissed

This week, Danny M. Lavery and Isaac Fellman discuss a Prudie letter: never been kissed.

Danny: I wanted to spend more time in my original answer dealing with some of the LW’s premises/beliefs instead of offering practical advice, especially since she doesn’t yet seem prepared to *try* dating yet — but I’m curious to see where you want to start

Isaac: To begin with, my heart goes out to this letter writer — I’ve felt a lot of this myself, this sense that other people instinctively understand things about dating that I can’t even figure out intellectually. I also know very well the merry-go-round of “no one will ever be interested in me, except for the people who are interested in me, but they don’t count.” I’ve literally been married and I’m still capable of convincing myself of that! So I’m inevitably going to project about this question, but I would also want the LW to know that I recognize these feelings.

And as you said in your answer, I absolutely see why she wouldn’t want to date the couple of men who asked her out, but like — a) I’m glad she turned them down rather than let low self-esteem goad her towards them, and b ) they do sort of prove that people are interested in her, and it’s clearly taking a lot of logical work for her to make the legal case against her romancability

Danny: Yes, my heart goes out to her too! I don’t want to rush past that part — she’s clearly in a lot of pain and feels devastated

but I agree that those circular lines of reasoning of what does or doesn’t “count,” especially in comparison to one’s friends, is really self-defeating

like — do you want to go on a date with someone who interests you, or do you want a date to make you feel “caught up” with your friends?

not to chide the LW for such a feeling! but one of those things is possible to pursue and the other isn’t

Isaac: Nobody understands dating or how love comes about — that’s why people so readily fall prey to charlatanism about it, whether that’s “love languages” or “pickup artist” stuff

I think the letter writer understands this and is trying to push it away by creating all of these arguments, and I would urge her to listen to the excellent instincts that are telling her that this stuff is incomprehensible and confusing

Danny: and that idea that one ought to be “dateable” such that any random man on the street will do an about-face and ask one out out of the blue can be really pernicious for straight women, I think

Isaac: Yes!

Danny: “if I were a valuable woman, men would ask me out unprompted during the course of an ordinary day; the fact that this hasn’t happened is evidence that I am unattractive and damaged”

and I think that shows up in this letter, especially in the way she’s been asking her men friends to speak on behalf of all men, because they’re this uniform/external wielders of approval and rejection

Isaac: Which isn’t to say that romance isn’t worth it, and I’m speaking as a person who genuinely isn’t great at it — I wasn’t good at being married, and many of my early relationships came down to “I can’t express interest in this person, so I’ll wriiiiiiite some fan fiction for them!” Romance fucking owns, it’s just that nobody gets it, your friends certainly don’t

Sorry to cross-talk here but I really wanted to make this point

Danny: not at all! i don’t want to disparage the LW’s interest in romance at all either

it’s worth caring about

Isaac: You’re right about the process of looking for some kind of objective grade from nearby men

Danny: and you can see, I think, just how untrue that is based on this totally jumbled series of advice they’ve given her —

Isaac: I also think these guys are being goons for accepting the premise and saying “okay, you’re a 6.5”

Danny: Right!

Isaac: They’re a bunch of young guys who don’t know what they’re doing either

Danny: or “your friends are nicer” as if you and your friends are in an unending beauty pageant and you’ve just failed to win Miss Congeniality for the tenth year running

Isaac: Oh GOD

Danny: and presumably you don’t want to date any of those guy friends!

Isaac: you’ve just described HELL

A dystopian story about an unending beauty pageant which ends in a triumphant onstage kiss

Danny: dating always benefits from specificity

Isaac: also yeah I personally would not want to date those guys, and don’t get the vibe that LW does

Danny: who do you want to date? what kind of men interest you?

you don’t say anything about that, LW, but I would suggest trying to give that some thought

perhaps “men who do not rate women on 1-10 scales” and “men who like assertive women” might be on that list

Isaac: perhaps!

Danny: but I think the reason the LW wants to avoid dating apps or getting specific is because of this idea that “if I have to put work into this, if I have to express interest in someone else or state clearly that I want to date, that is itself an indicator of my unloveableness”

Isaac: This letter was nice to read because, even though it’s full of self-loathing, I also see self-possession and self-respect

Danny: yes I liked that very much

It would be great to date men who see and value those traits

Isaac: Also, yeah, “working for this would be dishonest”

very recognizable emotion

speaking as a man who refused to do any SAT prep because I wanted it to be an honest assessment of my intellectual faculties

Danny: oh honey

Isaac: yes, it’s me, a Honey

I told you i’d project!!

Danny: but it’s the difference between thinking of dating as: “I am a pearl of great price in a field and must wait for someone keen-eyed to recognize and identify my value and ask me out; if this does not happen that is because I have no value”

versus “I want to date men, which is not a shameful admission of weakness but something true and worthwhile about me; I am interested in trying to meet men on purpose”

Isaac: right!

Danny: and if in the meantime you are self-conscious about not having dated before, I think you have options!

you can look for casual hookups if you just want to get some early experience out of the way

and if that doesn’t appeal you can look for dates while mentioning casually but early on that you haven’t dated before

you needn’t disclose it as if it’s a huge failing, and you might be surprised to see other people on apps who have also not dated before

you are very much not alone, even if your current social circle includes only people who have dated a lot

Isaac: I’d also like to put in a word for checking in with yourself about whether you do want to date men — sometimes this feeling of brokenness also has to do with something you haven’t figured out about your sexuality or gender — as always, just a thought, to be considered or disregarded according to how you feel!

Danny: always worth considering! even if only to disregard, as you say

not alone at all!

Isaac: I’d just like to reiterate, as we come to the end here, that I really think most people feel lost and confused at heart by dating and relationships — the fact that you know it puts you ahead of the pack

but what you will need to let go of is the hope that you’ll be able to date or have sex without talking about what you want, acknowledging the existence of your own desire, and having frank conversations with other people

Danny: Yes!

And I really think you can do it!

it’s not going to happen to you like a force of nature

You laid out your case in this letter so well; you can make a case for what you want, too

that can feel painful if that’s what you think it’s supposed to look like

but dating is better when it’s something you choose to do, rather than something you wait to happen to you

Isaac: Exactly

Danny: and the upside of apps is that these guys will not likely know your friends

who you presently worry will “outshine” you

it’ll take some of the pressure off

Isaac: Agreed

It can be very freeing to flirt with a stranger

Thank you for having me on your last-ever Dear Prudence Uncensored!!

I love this feature and being in it twice has made me as smug as a little lamb

Danny: and he’s single, ladies!!!

(exeunt hurriedly, pelted by tomatoes)

Now available in your podcast player: the audiobook edition of Danny M. Lavery’s latest book, Something That May Shock and Discredit YouGet it from Slate