Thursday, July 05, 2007

Email from a young woman with boyfriend worries

Most of the Dear GB emails I get are from gay guys, so it made a refreshing change when I received the following email from a young woman a couple of weeks ago:

Dear GB,

I like to think I am just a normal girl, intelligent, kind and not too bad to look at, but the truth is that while most people my age are in a serious relationship, about to get married, or married, I...


it's embarrassing...





This is the first time I have ever admitted it openly.

My problem is that the longer I go without a relationship, the more it frightens me and makes me feel unwanted, somehow unattractive and sad. I am usually quite shy in nature but this situation makes me be even more insecure around guys.

Another point is that what a guy may be expecting from me is probably not what I'm prepared to give him, I need to go slow.

Perhaps this seems stupid and you wonder why I wrote, but I'm sure some gays can identify with being scared of doing something you've never tried before, and with the feeling of loneliness and sadness.

Please give me your opinion and advice. Thanks.

I felt that an indication of her age, ethnic background, and location were important to do a good job for her, so I immediately replied asking a few questions. I guessed that she was in her mid 20's, which she confirmed, and regarding the rest she said

"I am Caucasian and a native of Italy, but have been living and working in London for 2 years. I have a good job, share a flat and lead a normal life. I don't think there is really anything strange about me, despite the fact I have never been in a relationship."

I've given this situation quite a bit of thought, and I reckon that there are two main possibilities to discuss. On the one hand this young woman might just be slightly shy, and perhaps never ended up being in a position to develop friendships with suitable boys when she was younger. But another possibility is that she never put herself into situations where she'd get more involved with boys because deep down perhaps she's gay. So I've got some advice for both possible situations.

If she's not gay, she does still have a problem, and I think there are some similarities to the problems that gay people face when they start to come out. The fact is that she feels that she's got a terrible secret, namely that she's never had a boyfriend, and as long as she feels it's a terrible secret she won't be able to make any progress. It's another example of the Confidence Mirror, this young woman feels very uneasy about the situation, and as a direct result of this, potential boyfriends will be put off. She can't expect other people to like her until she likes herself.

In fact I can see a lot of straight guys being really keen on the possibility of a relationship with a young woman who's never had a boyfriend. I guess it's unusual, which makes it special in a good way. If a guy is dating and searching for a woman to spend the rest of his life with, is he more likely to want a Carrie Bradshaw or a nice shy Italian girl? I'm sure lots of guys would prefer the shy Italian girl, even if they have to go slow to start with!

So I think she has to find a way to "come out" as a girl who's never had a boyfriend to one or two close female friends. It's completely analogous to a gay person starting to come out as gay, they feel terrible to begin with, but just telling a single person helps a lot and makes the perceived problem seem less important. But I reckon that as long as she tries to hide the situation, it will remain the most important thing in her personal life, and she can't move forward.

Lots of gay guys wish they knew how to chat up straight guys, but the truth of course is that we don't have the attributes that straight guys are looking for! So I don't know how to advise her in this respect, but asking a close female friend for advice who does have experience is a natural thing to do. When she does this, the advice will hopefully be useful, but it's the confidence building that's the most important thing for her to get out of it.

The other possibility of course is that she's gay, even if she hasn't consciously realised it yet, and perhaps she prefers girls to boys. She says she lives in a flatshare, and I can't help wondering if it's an all female flatshare. Another indicator is perhaps that she's been living away from home. The gay issue can result in people moving away from their home and family, either to stop persistent questions about opposite gender boyfriends/girlfriends, or to allow them to explore their true sexuality.

To get a female view on this, I decided to ask the young gay woman who wrote to me a few months ago when she was having difficulties in her sixth form, relating to an article she'd written about coming out. So I sent her all the information (having deleted this woman's name and contact details), and after a couple of days I got a reply. I started by asking her how the issue that she'd written to me about was now, and this is what she said:

Hey GB :),

All has blown over now and, and apart from the whiff of homophobia i now get from my head of sixth, it's fine.

In terms of this woman...if she was gay i think she'd know it by now, unless she was from a conservative or religious family which may lead to her repressing it. If that's whats happening then i can't help but think the email wouldn't be about never having had a boyfriend but about being secretly gay...I'm sure you might have felt it, it's one of those things that just doesn't go away until you address it..i don't think you could preoccupy yourself with the dilemma of never having had a boyfriend into your mid-late 20's.

But then of course i might be wrong lol!

If she does feel like pursuing the gay route then there's a really friendly charity/organisation called pace ( that run several groups. Girlesque is for women aged between 20-26. I've met several of the women that go and they are really lovely people.

Hmm...if she was planning to meet some gays then that would probably be her best bet (it's held in central London as well, so easy to get to) as The Scene can be just the tiniest littlest bit intimidating when you first start off.

Pace also do one-to-one drop in sessions if she wanted to talk about anything.

My personal advice, though, would be for her to get some male friends. Start talking, networking, eventually dating and playing the field. It's about feeling comfortable with someone and maybe she's never had a BF because shes just not comfortable around men.

Is there anyone she fancies at work or something? That might be a good starting point.

OR she could be asexual. lol. That would be different.

Anyways, it was nice hearing from you and i'm always open for advising the ladies as, fab though you are, you're not one of us!

When I saw this reply, it did occur to me that Italian families can be quite religious, so perhaps she IS trying to pretend that she's not gay. In any case, if she has any doubts it wouldn't do any harm to do one of the one-to-one drop in sessions, because it's bound to be on a 100% confidential basis. Even if she's not gay, another advantage of a confidential counselling session would be that it would give her an opportunity to "come out" to a complete stranger as a woman who's never had a relationship, which might be easier than a discussion with a close friend in the first instance.

Does anyone else have any other ideas here?


Anon1 said...

Did you ask her how she came across your website? If she was researching gay issues then it might shed more light on the situation.

Not stereotyping girls here but I think that your blog appeals to many females with the saucy stories, uncle agony column and accounts of relationship politics so it does not necassarily mean she's gay.

Anonymous said...

Personally i don't think she is gay. I'm a straight female in my early 20's and i've know a few girls in the same situation. What i discovered was alot of my friends and indeed myself meet guys through being 'set up' i don't mean blind dates more like introducing guys they know to be single at parties etc. But if she's shy about not having a boyfriend she's probably not being open about wanting one and most people wouldn't even try to set you up if you were acting like you didn't need/want to be. I'd suggest telling some female friends, who know her well and would know what shes looking for. Hey if you're reading i wouldn't worry too much, you sound like a strong independent woman, and believe it or not there are alot of guys that would find that very refreshing!

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with the previous post that she should tell her friends and ask them to set her up with someone. I am sensing a confidence issue more than anything, just like GB pointed out. But I don't think any comparison should be drawn between her problems and the problems faced by young gay people. Today's world is after all somewhat homophobic. Gay people, specially the young, need to contend with a lot of social and family pressure. They have to worry about how will coming out affect them family wise, career wise ... This girl certainly does not have to worry about these things.

It is always difficult to take the first step, but nobody can do it for her. She will need to summon the courage somewhere somehow on her own. In today's image obsessed world, it will be very helpful to glam up. This might help her feel more attractive and wanted. I think some guys will find her situation a massive turn on. If she wants to take things slowly, maybe she should go for older guys, as they are more likely to 'behave' themselves. But it depends on the person really. There are definitely guys out there who are willing to take things slow (specially the better educated ones, e.g. doctors, academics...) I might be stereotyping here lol. Anyway, I think she should feel more relax about the whole thing and try out different people, while staying in her comfort zone.


Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm the girl who sent the email above to GB and would like to clarify a couple of things.

In order to avoid speculation, I can say with no doubt I am not gay, although I can understand why you may have thought that.

Also, I am a regular reader of blogs and came across GB's site by chance.

With regards to my situation, GB wisely sums it up: "this young woman might just be slightly shy, and perhaps never ended up being in a position to develop friendships with suitable boys when she was younger" and this line really 'hits the the nail on the head':"The fact is that she feels that she's got a terrible secret".

I guess I decided to tell a complete stranger (or rather, a few) about it so I'm already one step forward.

Thanks to everyone for your comments!

hallie said...

The earlier responses made me think of this article, a sort of intro to lesbianism c/o The Dinah Project. Maybe there are others out there who'd like it
It could be useful.