The Hook Up: Unresponsive texters and dealing with social anxiety

Hi there! I’ve been dating this girl for two months and some change. When we get together, it’s amazing! We have so much fun, have great sex, and she even makes me fresh squeezed orange juice in the mornings. The problem, though, is that when we aren’t together, which is often since we’re still in the early stages and we’re both busy, she is practically radio silent, and not responsive to my texts, like ever! It makes me so self-conscious and like I’m being blown off, but then we get together in person and everything is fine again. What do I do?! — Hung Up on Hang Ups

Anna says: I hate to break it to you, darlin’, but it seems like your gal’s just not a big texter. Consider yourself lucky. Most girls can’t stop effing texting you, to the point where you have to take your phone to the toilet just in case you need to respond RIGHT THERE with the ever-pressing tongue face emoticon. Take heart though. It doesn’t seem like she’s not texting out of a lack of interest — clearly you’re organizing these dates somehow, perhaps using ye olden forms of communication (note passing, e-mail, Words with Friends, phone calls, the Twitter bird, etc.).

Not everyone’s down w txtn (or G-chat or Facebook message or Skype or whatever). We are inundated with ways to communicate every aspect of our lives — sometimes people get socially exhausted and don’t want to deal with one more beeping noise. Some people are also lazy or inconsiderate, but then, maybe also they have better priorities than being attached to their phones all day long. (Not that I know many people like that, but I am sure they exist).

If you stop going on dates, or if the dates themselves become terse and awkward, then you might have a problem, but as it is, I don’t hear any huge warning bells going off. There’s a slim chance it could also be the content of the text messages. If you’re sending texts as conversational filler, those are easy to ignore. Things like “Hi,” “Finally got off work” or “This morning I saw a woman wearing ladybug pants and spring-loaded Teva sandals!” Not that those aren’t important snippets of your life, because they are, especially the bit about the ladybug pants, but some people see such texts as simple FYIs, and not anything they need to respond to. If you’re asking pertinent questions, like “What time are we meeting again?” and she’s blowing those off, that’s more annoying, but still nothing that can’t be resolved by picking up the phone and asking.

I have a similar problem with e-mail. Basically every girl I date is not into e-mailing and I never figure it out until after I’ve sent them 70 sonnets about how pretty I think their hair and smile are. It’s not that they didn’t like me or my exemplary rhyming (though I’m sure that was the case some of the time), it’s just that that wasn’t how they liked to communicate. I used to get salty about it — I took so much time to write to them and can’t they just send a haiku back in response?! — but now I don’t let it get to me. If I reeeeally feel like I need to write a girl a poem about vagina metaphors via e-mail, then I will. But I also try not to expect anything back. It’s easier that way. And then if they do respond, it’s like a magical volcano of heart sparkles. Everyone wins.

I’d suggest you take a similar approach. Try to embody a more laissez faire attitude, expect that your gal’s probably not going to respond, and find other ways of communicating that work for both of you. Also, so you don’t drive yourself banana sandwiches, take a tit for tat stance: Send her one message (two at the MAX) for every one that she writes to you. That way, you’re not sending 30 messages into the void and coming off like a possessed person, or someone who only sits around all day thinking of what emoji best conveys the kind of anxiety you feel when people don’t text you back :-/. Cool? Cool, or as my mother texted me recently: B-).

Hi Anna, I’m incredibly shy (and arguably the worst conversation starter in the whole world) in fact, since this is somewhat anonymous I might as well say I have social anxiety (just take it to mean extreme shyness). Anyway, back on point, my problem is I’m really not sure about what to do about this woman at this soccer club I go to. I’ve been going a good few months now, but I don’t talk to her much (or anyone else really, but when I’m around her I get extra quiet) and I’m actually really attracted to her. I know she’s bisexual, and theres always a certain tension when we’re around each other which I’m pretty sure she can feel.

Thing is, I’ve been told I give the impression that I actually really dislike her, and she acts around me sort of how I do around her, so I have no idea if she could like me or hate me. I’m always told to strike up conversation with her but I’m awful with that and were always in a group. She’s also leaving the country in a couple months or so (but coming back in less than a year), and I don’t want to give her the impression I hate her as she leaves. I guess my general question is what do I do in this situation? — Indecisive

Anna says: I don’t doubt you’re shy, Indecisive, but I can guarantee you’re not “the worst conversation starter in the whole world” (that would be Geraldo Rivera or James Van Der Beek). I’m also sorry you struggle with social anxiety — it’s such a common problem — not that that makes it easier, but it’s good to know you’re not alone. Anyway. There are a lot of question marks in your question, and unfortunately (and fortunately!) the way to find the answers is to talk to this soccer babe.

I know that seems scary, but it’s not as bad as it seems if you get there with baby steps. Per this helpful social anxiety website I found: “While avoiding nerve-wracking situations may help you feel better in the short term, it prevents you from becoming more comfortable in social situations and learning how to cope. In fact, the more you avoid a feared social situation, the more frightening it becomes.” The site goes on to suggest you work your way up the “anxiety ladder” (by getting help from an extroverted friend, for instance, or saying one sentence to your crush) until you’re comfortable broaching the bigger, more terrifying conversations, like “I think you’re the bee’s shinguards! Can I buy you a Slurpee and a mini muffin?”

Another suggestion is to avoid mind reading. You can never really know how people feel about you unless you ask. Sure, we can use non-verbals and hearsay to guess how people might perceive us, but that’s hardly a foolproof method. Not that I’m suggesting you sidle up to her after practice and be like, “So, do you hate me?” What I am suggesting is that until you talk to her, you’re not going to have a very good idea of how she feels about you — and not to burst your bubble or anything, but her feelings could very well be “nothing or neutral.” The sooner you work up your nerve to chat and flirt with this girl, the more you’ll know about her and whether she might want to see you naked. So take some deep breaths, tell yourself how awesome you are, and just go say hi already. Before she leaves the country, preferably.

Hailing from the rough-and-tumble deserts of southern Arizona, where one doesn’t have to bother with such trivialities as “coats” or “daylight savings time,” Anna Pulley is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. Find her at annapulley.com and on Twitter @annapulley. Send her your Hook Up questions at askthehookup@gmail.com.

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