Friday, October 30, 2009

Where Do You Meet Them?

Though there are many tasks to take care of (the way you dress, the look of your place, how to hold up your end of an interesting conversation, how to compete with certain types of guys, etc.), today I’ll plunge into the deep end and begin writing about where to find women to date.

If you haven’t done a lot of dating, you need to say yes to everyone. Because you are practicing and you might as well date anyone who will have you. I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it here: better to practice and screw up with someone you don’t care all that much about. I know way too many guys who have little experience dating, and now they are in their thirties and think “I’ve got to find The One” (whether that means The One to marry or The One to be a girlfriend), and with this in mind, they go to a speed-dating event and, at the end of the night, choose only one or two girls that they think are really intriguing instead of saying yes to all of them. Or they get a response to their personal ad from a girl who’s “too fat,” “not attractive,” or “likes ‘Star Trek’ more than I do--what a weirdo.”

This is the wrong attitude.

Unless she says things like “between you and I,” “What’s so great about ‘Firefly’?” or “I once lit my cat on fire because I was bored.”

Women are everywhere. Sure, there are certain parts of the country where the statistics are against you (Alaska being the worst, and the Pacific Northwest also not great). But generally the statistics are in your favor. There are more females than males even at birth and the odds only get better as you get older--as long as you survive. Males are the weaker sex, after all. More likely to be miscarried. Shorter life spans. Like I said, weaker.

Bars, Coffee Houses, etc. I am not a huge advocate of picking up women in bars, coffee houses, the beach or anywhere else where you’re engaging in what amounts to “cold calling.” You don’t know anything about her. She doesn’t know anything about you. Unless you’re the type of guy who makes a great first impression (and how many of us is that?), the likelihood of getting a date is slim. Most women ( not all!) do not want to be picked up even if you do seem interesting to them. Every woman knows a serial killer can be very charming on first meeting. No thanks. We’d rather meet you in safer ways. Ask yourself: how many couples do you know who met in a bar? I can name exactly one. And they’re lesbians.

Parties. Parties, on the other hand, are excellent places to meet new people. Woman feel safer in this environment because she at least knows someone who knows someone who knows you, she has a chance to see how you interact with others and find out what others think of you. Having all this information makes us more willing to go out with someone we haven’t met before that evening. Never say no to a party. You’ve been invited to a Halloween party (or two) to go to. Don’t back out because the only costume you have is Niels Bohr and no one ever gets who you are. Go!

Next Friday: Blind dates, church, work, and hobbies.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Another useful technique for calming anxiety is meditation. Meditation is not just for religious people. In fact, meditation can be no more complicated or otherworldly focused than the breathing exercise described in last Tuesday’s entry. If you are spiritually inclined, consider taking a meditation class. You can usually find these offered through community centers and colleges/universities that offer not-for-credit classes, at spiritual bookstores and through spiritual groups (churches, shaman groups, etc.). Taking a yoga or Tai Chi class can also be a form of meditation. Prayer is a form of meditation.

The type of meditation westerners are most familiar with is similar to the breathing exercise I’ve written about except that instead of focusing on your breath, you choose one “concept” or word to focus on. Some do this with a personal mantra. Some choose an abstract idea like ‘peace.’

Find a comfortable, private spot that is free of distractions--e.g., you can’t hear the TV droning in the other room and no one will interrupt you. Sit in a comfortable position on the floor or in a chair. You may wish to sit in the lotus position. In any case, rest your hands on your thighs with your palms turned upward, so your body has an open posture. Close your eyes. For at least five minutes focus on the word you’ve chosen. If your mind wanders (and it will), draw your thoughts back to your word. If you’ve chosen the word ‘peace,’ notice your body feeling at peace. Notice your mind feeling at peace. Do this daily.

Up next Tuesday: Visualization as a Relaxation Technique

Friday, October 23, 2009

Dating is Not Easy

Dating is not easy for anyone--with the rare exception whom I’ve never met but could imagine exists.

The fun parts are browsing online profiles, flirting at parties, being set up (but not necessarily the actual date itself), and finding someone you like who returns your affections.

The hard parts are:

*Writing your online profile
*Walking up to a stranger in whom you’re interested and initiating conversation
*Embarrassing yourself in front of a woman you like
*Asking for a woman’s phone number
*Calling a woman for the first, second, third time
*Asking a woman out
*Being rejected
*Not meeting anyone who’s single!
*Being turned into a friend by a woman you have a serious crush on
*Going on a first date
*Going on a second date
*Leaning in for that first kiss
*Having sex for the first time
*Breaking up
*Having to start the whole process over and over and over again

You will not find the woman of your dreams by doing nothing. You will have to risk rejection, embarrassment and a broken heart. It will take time, a lot of dates that go nowhere and a lot of blows to the ego before you’ll be in a relationship.

And dating someone who has become your girlfriend isn’t easy either. Maybe when you’re in the “in love” stage it seems easy and perfect. This enthralled state is mediated by hormones--the same as the kind released during childbirth. It’s good for the species. It serves an evolutionary purpose. But when that purpose has been fulfilled, the “in love” feelings go away. It’s as hard, just in different ways, to be in a relationship as it is to be single. You may prefer the kinds of problems that come with a relationship to the ones that come with being single, but there is still work to be done. If your relationship is easy, I’ll be willing to bet that your relationship is lacking intimacy.

Or she’s having an affair.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Making Use of Relaxation Techniques

This week I’m writing about breathing and muscle relaxation to help with panic attacks and other anxiety issues.

Breathing. Concentrating on your breath helps you relax in the moment and it also helps you to pay attention to your breathing and have better control over it when you’re in an anxiety-provoking situation. If your breathing is relaxed, slow and calm, you will feel less anxiety. Notice how quick and shallow your breathing becomes when you’re nervous. Learn to notice, and therefore control, your breathing by doing the following exercise.

Get into comfortable clothes and find a comfortable and private place to sit or lie down. Take deep, diaphragm breaths. You should feel your stomach go up and down. Breathing through your chest is shallow breathing, which only contributes to feelings of anxiety. Draw your breath in slowly as if you were breathing in the smell of a rose or a lilac. Fill your lungs as completely as you can. Think of yourself as breathing in love and peace. Now slowly exhale. Exhale as slowly as you inhaled. Control your breath so that it doesn’t come out all at once. Think of exhaling as breathing out anxiety, letting go of your worries, pushing them out of your body. Your mind may get distracted. That’s to be expected. Bring your thoughts back to your breathing. Do this for five minutes every day. You can even do this in bed before you get up in the morning or at night to help you fall asleep.

Muscle Relaxation. Just as breathing exercises help you to notice your breath and control it better, muscle relaxation techniques help you to notice where you carry tension so that you can remind yourself throughout the day “Drop and relax shoulders” if that’s where you hold tension. When you are anxious or panicked, your muscles respond by tensing up, and this muscle tension in turn makes you feel even more anxious. Doing these exercises will help you gain control over your bodily reactions to stress.

There are two muscle relaxation techniques I like. The first one you practice in a sitting position. In a comfortable chair, close your eyes. Close out all distractions. Think about each muscle group in turn, starting with the larger muscle groups, one at a time (shoulders, then back, then gluts, then quads), tense each muscle, hold for five seconds and release. Move to the smaller muscle groups--arms, calves, feet, hands, neck, face, eyelids--and do the same thing. Tense, hold, release. This helps your brain understand the difference between tension and relaxation in your muscles.

The second exercise is a good one to do before bed. Lie down in loose, comfortable clothes. Again you will be thinking about each muscle group, one at a time, starting with the larger muscle groups and moving to the smaller ones. Only this time you will not be tensing the muscle. You will concentrate on each muscle group for a full minute, focusing on relaxing the muscle completely. You’ll notice that even after you think you’ve relaxed the muscle, there is still tension there if you keep your concentration on the muscle group for a full minute. As you move to the next muscle group, continue to keep the muscles you’ve already relaxed tension-free. You’ll end with relaxing your eyelids. Notice how your body feels. Notice which muscles it took the longest to relax completely. These are the muscles you need to remind yourself to unclench throughout the day.

When you find yourself becoming anxious, notice your breathing, notice your muscle tension, and practice slowing down your breathing, taking deeper breaths and releasing the tension in your muscles. As you make your body relax, your mind will follow.

Up next Tuesday: Meditation as a Relaxation Technique

Friday, October 16, 2009

Dating is Not About Sexual Gratification

Even though you’re desperate, and even though it has been a long time (or maybe you’re a virgin), geeks, in general, seem to have this one under control, if only because you are too shy to act in favor of your own narcissistic impulses. Still I feel obliged to mention this one to caution you about two things.

When, *if*, you do sleep with her, remember that she is not a masturbatory tool. She’s an actual person with sexual needs that might run counter to your own--e.g., her being on top might be more pleasurable to her while the reverse may be true for you, tilting her hips back away from you might do it for you while tipping her hips forward might be better for her. Pay attention to the subtle cues of her body, and the pacing of her breathing. (I’ll write more about this later.) But don’t so focus on “giving” her a orgasm that, once again, the act of making love becomes about you--only this time about your sexual prowess. Yes, she wants to have an orgasm, but making the act about a particular physical goal can detract from the enjoyment of the moment.

Second, geeks say more than they should. Is it nervousness? A product of valuing honesty and transparency in all things? A lack of social skill and tact? Yes, yes and yes. No one wants to hear everything you’re thinking. Silence is better. Even awkward silence is better. Being honest and open for geeks is *way* too often about revealing their own deep-seated narcissism. Is that the kind of flaw you want to show off? Or is it the kind of flaw you want to change right now by changing your behaviors? So don’t talk about how sexually deprived you are, or she will think “So we’re doing it because you’re hard up, not because you’re into me.” And don’t talk about how nervous you are about how you will perform, or she will think “This is going to be the worst sex ever” or “It’s all about him apparently--*his* orgasm, *his* making me have an orgasm, *his* sexual skill or lack of it.” Think about her. Ask about her. Getting the focus off yourself will help you relax and be less self-conscious.

Up next Friday: Dating is Not Easy.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Taking Care of Your Body

Taking care of your body is the first category of behaviors that I'll talk about that can diminish anxiety.

Yes, this is where I recommend what your mother has been telling you all along.

Limit Your Caffeine Intake. Caffeine sneaks in everywhere it can: sodas--even ones that aren’t colas, coffee, chocolate, some aspirins, non-herbal teas, some liqueurs (e.g., Kahlua, Frangelico), energy drinks, flavored bottled water, etc. Completely cutting your caffeine intake will not get rid of all your feelings of anxiety, but caffeine does contribute to jitteriness.

Get Enough Sleep. Most Americans are sleep deprived. The experts say you should get eight or eight and a half hours of sleep every night. They also say you should get sleep in increments that are divisible by 90 minutes. Which eight and eight and a half are not, so you figure that out. The idea behind the 90-minute sleep increment is that human sleep cycles are approximately an hour and a half.

Get Proper Nutrition. Most people know what this is. Most people do not do it. If you want to know what good nutrition is, check out Harvard’s Web site ( or the federal government food pyramid ( And, no, peas and corn are not vegetables nutritionally speaking. And grains that are not whole grains (and whole wheat is not the same thing as a whole grain) are pointless globs of glue for your stomach. Stick with products that have ingredients that would appear in an average kitchen. (No nitrates, preservatives, dyes, msg, high fructose corn syrup, etc.)

Exercise Four to Five Times per Week. Pick something you enjoy--team sports, weightlifting, biking, walking, running, hiking. Pick something that can become a seamless part of your life so you don’t feel you have to go out of your way to do it. Joining a gym that you have to drive to is a pain in the ass. But if you have a gym at work, use it during your lunch hour. You have no excuse for not doing it. Or get a treadmill or stationary bike, put it in front of your TV and hop on (the treadmill or bike, not the TV) and watch a Mythbusters marathon. If you have a buddy you regularly go to dinner with, start running together instead.

Up next Tueday: Relaxation Techniques

Friday, October 9, 2009

Dating is Not Therapy

Dating is not a way to solve your mood disorder, or make you happy, nor is it a substitute for having a life.

Of the men I had as patients when I was working as a therapist, many terminated therapy when they got back together with their girlfriend/wife or started dating someone new. And sometimes that was a good time to move on from therapy, and sometimes they left because that affirmation from a woman momentarily elevated their mood and submerged their problems under the surface. Certainly dating can brighten the day of a depressed person. For a day. Or a week. Even a month. But the depression doesn’t go away. I’ve talked about this before when discussing Myth #4, “My Life Will be Perfect When I’m with Someone.” Don’t use a woman as a crutch for your emotional neediness. If you had psychological problems before you started dating, you will still have them even if they have temporarily gone underground.

You have a boring life if your job and your girlfriend are all there is. A relationship should not be like a heroin addiction. You should still get out of the house once in a while. You should still attend lectures, go to art galleries and be politically active even if the women you are dating aren’t into those things. What are you going to talk about with your girlfriend if all you’ve got in your life is a job and her?

When you are finally dating, look over the last month of your life: are there events you didn’t attend, activities you didn’t do, people you didn’t see that, if you weren’t dating, you would have gone to, done and seen? If you let your relationship become like a drug, you have become someone whose defining characteristic is “boyfriend of X.” And once that heroin gets taken away--and 99 out of 100 times, relationships do end--now you’re just “ex-boyfriend of X.” No one wants to date or hang out with someone who has no life. There’s nothing to talk about.

And no one wants to hear about your ex-girlfriend.

Up next Friday: Dating is Not about Sexual Gratification

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Can I Panic Now?

We’ve addressed self-esteem, but what if it’s more than that for you? What if some kinds of social interactions cause unreasonable fear? What if you completely avoid certain social situations because they provoke too much anxiety about doing something embarrassing or humiliating in front of others? What if you suffer from social anxiety?

Maybe you experience panic attacks. You find yourself in a social situation, even one you enjoy, and then all of a sudden this fear grips you. Are you going crazy? Are you going to die? Your body seems to be out of your control, your heart is pounding, your hands tremble, and you feel like you might be having a heart attack. But you’re not. You’re having a panic attack.

If you suffer from what you think is social anxiety or panic attacks, you need to see a professional. At first this may be your regular GP to rule out anything being medically wrong. You need to clear up whether you really have social anxiety or panic disorder because there could be other things going on. You may be taking a medication that causes panic-like side effects. Or you may have an illness (and these are usually not fatal) that is causing panic-like symptoms.

Then if it really is social anxiety or panic attacks, you need to see a professional who specializes in anxiety disorders. Yes, your GP can prescribe psychotropic medication for you but a specialist will be up on all the latest developments in types of medication, dosage, etc. Also keep in mind that anxiety disorders can be co-morbid with other mental health issues, such as depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Seeing a specialist will help sort out exactly what’s affecting you. Medication as well as cognitive-behavioral therapy could help.

You may have all kinds of reasons why at this stage in your life you have yet to see a doctor about your symptoms. Or, if you have, you didn’t follow through on his/her advice. Stop making excuses and go to your doctor. In fact, stop reading this blog right now and call your GP for an appointment. Don’t have a GP? Call a friend, right now, and ask whom he sees. You can tell him you want to get a physical (which is true) if you feel uncomfortable revealing more.

Stop reading. Make the call.

In addition to seeing your doctor, there are steps you can take to diminish your symptoms. In the next few weeks on Tuesdays, I will talk about (1) taking care of your body, (2) making use of relaxation techniques, (3) feeling your feelings, and (4) practicing.

Up next Tuesday: Taking Care of Your Body

Friday, October 2, 2009

Dating is Not Life Out of the Ordinary

Years ago when I was a freshman in high school, bemoaning the fact every night in my diary that I didn’t have a boyfriend, I remember drinking in all my youth pastor said about dating. I loved to hear about dating, talk about dating and get advice about dating. Advice that wouldn’t need to be used for a couple of years.

But that’s all behind me now.

Anyway, the one bit of advice my pastor gave that’s worth repeating is this: don’t do anything with a date that you don’t intend to do for the rest of your life. Don’t do things in the courting period that you wouldn’t continue to do if you stayed with this person for the rest of your life.

It’s disingenuous.

If you give her foot rubs every time you see her, ask yourself if you would be willing to do this every day for the rest of your life. Don’t treat this mere girlfriend better than you would your wife!

It’s obvious but… I know you’re desperate to have a girlfriend, but don’t say things you don’t believe just because you think she wants to hear them, or do things you hate and act like you love them. You don’t want her falling for someone you’re not.


Be yourself.

Only less narcissistic.

Up next Friday: Dating is Not Therapy