I’m openly lesbian. I’ve been out for about four years now, and so far, so good. My problem is that I don’t have the confidence to approach women in person, and I can only talk confidently to girls online. I’ve been bullied a lot previously, and have psychological issues due to that, so I’m always terrified to talk to a girl, in case she rejects me cruelly. I don’t like clubbing, at all, so going to gay clubs is out, and I’ve never been in a real relationship. There’s not much in the city I live in, and while I am moving soon, I still have this crippling fear. Any tips? Or am I just a completely hopeless case?
Anna says: When I was seven, I developed a huge crush on this hot eight-year-old brunette. We both went to summer camp at the YMCA. At the time I was so tomboyish that I didn’t wear girls’ swimsuits and instead wore baggy shorts and a towel over my head every time I had to go into a gendered bathroom. I was so tomboyish that my crush thought I was a boy, which I was secretly elated by—until she caught me going into the girls’ bathroom and proceeded to make fun of me in front of everyone for using the “wrong bathroom.” It’s been over 20 years and yet I can still recall the particular devastation that welled up in me at that moment, from being humiliated by someone I liked. When you wrote about being “rejected cruelly,” that was my first thought. I offer it not as a comparison to bullying or trauma, just to point out that some misfortunes stay with us, but they don’t have to dictate our lives.
You are not hopeless. Please write this down with a large Sharpie: I am not hopeless. I am absolutely capable and worthy of love. Fear is an a$$hole and I refuse to listen to it. I’m awesome. I have a shiny soul and great abs (or equivalent).
I’m struck by the amount of people who write to me and apologize for everything—for having a problem, even! Granted, The Hook Up is an advice column, so no one’s writing in with how wonderful and fulfilling their relationships are, but still. Ladies, you do not have to apologize for your existence! You have a shiny soul and great abs (or equivalent)!
I’m sorry you have been bullied and rejected. That’s awful and it’s okay to feel repercussions from such mistreatments. If it’s something that you feel is paralyzing you, I urge you to seek counseling. It’s hard to go through that shit alone; sometimes asking for help is really the best alternative.
I moved on from such incidences of rejection (and trust me, there were many, many more in the coming years), and so can you, honey muff. You’ve got a great big gorgeous life ahead of you. Your past isn’t keeping you from that, but your ideas about yourself are. So that’s what we need to work on.
If you can talk to a girl confidently online, you can do so in real life too. You might be more nervous, but you are every bit as capable of carrying on a conversation with a cute girl face to face. If it helps you to start the conversation online, then go for it, but don’t let fear keep your desires limited to tiny, pixelated boxes. Start slowly. Talk to a cute girl every chance you get. It doesn’t have to be sexual. Ask her for the time or where a girl can get a decent frappucino. The point is to get you comfortable talking so that you’ll realize talking is not a big deal. And rejection isn’t either. It really, really isn’t. As I’ve said before, being rejected doesn’t mean you are any less desirable or smart or funny or kind. It simply means that one person wasn’t right for you at one particular time.
I find it much easier to introduce myself to people online, so I empathize with you there. The trick is not to let the safety and control we feel when sitting behind these glowy screens stop you from living your life. Or from finding out where a girl can get a decent frappuccino around here.
Your life is calling, my friend. Will you pick up?
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 The Hook Up questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.