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The 33-year-old Virgin

Roderick wrote:

I'm a 33 yr old man and I'm a virgin - no sexual experience whatosever, never even kissed anyone. 10 years ago I was exactly the person you're now imagining - I'd grown up in a small town, been the school nerd, was absolutely crippled by shyness, didn't take care of my appearance, and so. However I've worked hard on myself since then, and I now live in a big city, have a good job, and am outwardly entirely normal. Unlike one of your other correspondents I don't have such a bad self-image, but I'm mortally afraid of embarrasment, of friends and colleagues finding out my secret, of my carefully built facade being brought crashing down. For this reason I've avoided what few opportunities with women have presented themselves, and of course the older I get the worse the problem seems.

I always hoped that somehow I'd meet the right person, none of this would matter, and it would just happen. Amazingly enough it almost did - A couple of years ago I met a lovely girl with whom I had fantastic chemistry, and who seemed obviously interested in me. Sadly I was still too afraid to do anything about it, and eventually she got involved with another guy. They've been on-and-off for a year and a half but are still together, and it's clear that I'll only ever be friends with her now. I'm still desolated by this and am worried that I've lost my perfect match, but I'm so tired of being lonely and unhappy and of spending all my time thinking about her, I'd like to move on.

Trouble is that brings me right back to the original problem. I can't go back to just waiting for lightning to strike - that might be years, it might be never. One of my best friends said to me that she 'can't understand' why I don't try internet dating. I replied something about not liking the idea of blind dates and finding it difficult to make conversation with strangers, which is all true, but not the real reason. The real reason is the old fear - suppose I do find someone that way and get through a couple of dates - what am I going to do then? For goodness sake I don't even know how to kiss anyone, never mind anything else. What on earth would I say to the woman - that I've been in a religious cult, or in jail? She's going to think I'm a complete wierdo, and it'll all be an appalling disaster.

If I don't conquer this problem soon I never will, and will end up alone for the rest of my life. I've thought about seeking 'professional' help.. but it seems morally dubious and I doubt I'd really go through with it. How else can I break out of this catch-22?

Dear Roderick

First, I'd like to take issue with a few things you've said:

"my carefully built facade" is worrying; avoiding the subject is one thing, fiction only adds to the problem. Stop it.

"I've lost my perfect match" is twaddle; you never had a real relationship, so you are guessing, and using her as an excuse. Stop it.

"waiting for lightning to strike" is twaddle; it will never strike. You have to make it happen. Ask Igor.

"One of my best friends said to me that she ..." Wot? So you can make female friends, then?

"If I don't conquer this problem soon I never will" is twaddle. If it wasn't true when you were 12, 16, 20, 24 .. why is it suddenly true now?

"alone for the rest of my life" is twaddle; there's plenty of people with a vibrant circle of friends until they reach the eighties and beyond; they don't need to go to bed with any of them!

I'm sorry to be so brutal, but you really need to get a grip. You need to be honest with yourself, and preferably with others, and you need to know what you want.

You've learned by now that there is no magic wand, no easy way out. So you need to make a plan. And if the plan lets you down, review it, revise it, and start again. So long as you move forward, then the Grand Plan will be worth it.

I can help you with the early stages ... the later bits will depend on details not yet available.

Some thoughts to consider (in no particular order)

1. Stop thinking about yourself all the time. It takes two to make a relationship, and if you spend 50% of your time thinking about the other person; their needs and interest, you'll cut your anxiety levels in half. Just like that.

2. Stop obsessing about the Sex Act, and set your sights a little lower; a conversation, a date, a second date (and see #1 above)

3. Stop seeing women as creatures from another planet. You'll never understand them (no man ever did), but you need to learn that they have a variety of interests, tastes and styles; some will suit you, some will not. Avoid those that frighten you, and train yourself to be attracted to those with positive qualities.

4. Concentrate on friendship. Friendships build little by little; friendships cannot be forced ... but they can be assisted. They need effort, concentration and work. And, by gum, they need honesty. So pick the moment carefully when you reveal the boring and uninteresting fact that you have not kissed a woman before.

Now, all that I've said is simple common sense, and will have come as no surprise to you; you've thought it before, you've been told before. Fine. Now LIVE IT, make it so.

Note: for some men - not all - a visit to a prostitute may provide some of the answer. Not for all. Some may have legal issues (depending where you live), some may have moral issues. There may be practical issues - but if you are desperate enough, you'll find a way!

If you have thought about it, and dismissed it for 'moral reasons', you may care to examine those reasons. The only acceptable moral excuse is that you do not wish to be part of a system that 'uses' women. That's a good solid reason, and one I respect.

If, however, your 'moral reason' is that you are too good to spend time with a prostitute, then you deserve to remain a virgin forever; because you are not 'too good' for anyone; none of us are. Think about that.

Good Luck!

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