Dating Advice: I Like Nerdy Guys, But They Don’t Like Me.

I am in dire need of your wise advice. My self esteem keeps taking a fantastic header over and over again and it’s starting to get frustrating. While I was blaming the guys, I’m starting to wonder what’s wrong with me.Here’s the scenario: I’m attracted to the kind of guy who’s… well, nerdy. The kind who’d prefer to stay home on Friday night than be out “living it up”. But of course these types are also usually virgins, or guys who’ve not had any real relationships. That’s not the problem though. These guys are always posting in dating forums and on their own journals about how they can’t meet a girl, and they’ve never (or rarely) had a girlfriend, because girls don’t like nerds, and they don’t initiate the first email, and they don’t respond to their emails, blah blah blah. Yet, when I email these guys, I either get no response or I get one of those responses that are obviously just them trying to be polite… and then they go back to complaining that girls don’t message them. I’m no super model, but I’m decent looking and I always fit, personality-wise, what the guy says he wants in his profile. It’s frustrating that a guy who can’t otherwise get a girlfriend doesn’t even want to talk to me online. Is there something I’m doing wrong? Am I chasing the wrong guys? Are they just hypocrites? And how does a girl keep this from bursting her self esteem every single time it happens? Patti

The people I like don’t like me. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Dear Patti, You’ve pretty much summed up the dating process: The people I like don’t like me. Wash, rinse, repeat. Our entire single lives are spent rejecting people who like us, and chasing people who don’t. It can be, suffice to say, exhausting and emotionally draining. Especially when you’re doing your best and asking tough questions like: ‘What can I do differently?’Alas, I don’t have a magic bullet for you. You sound bright, self-aware, and personable. You sound like you value an underappreciated portion of the population: nerds. (In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few nerds reading this want to figure out how to contact you). But that doesn’t solve your problem. It’s really difficult to feel like you’re doing the right thing and not get any results. Like dieting and exercising without losing weight, it makes you say, ‘What’s the point?’Without talking to you or evaluating your online dating profile, it’s impossible for me to tell you specifically what you’re doing wrong. What I can say definitively is that there is some sort of disconnect between how you see yourself and how these guys see you. Don’t take that too harshly: we ALL have a disconnect between our private vision of ourselves and others’ perception of us. This is not to say that nerds are above hypocrisy. They can state all day long about how they’re looking for someone to watch Battlestar Galactica and play Xbox with them, but, like most guys, they’re powerless in the face of a Maxim model.

Like millionaires (workaholics), tall, hot guys (narcissists), and brilliant men (stubborn, arrogant and neurotic), nerds are going to have their downside, too.

And, as I think this through, I would guess that this is going to be your biggest uphill climb. Guys who’ve been around the block, like yours truly, eventually, HOPEFULLY, come to the conclusion that it’s not all about initial attraction. Guys who have no experience with women have nothing BUT their fantasies. And if they’re picturing Tricia Helfer or Jeri Ryan or Olivia Munn as their dream partner, well, then, a cool down-to-earth chick like you doesn’t stand a chance. But you can’t control that. All you can do is be aware of it: you’re dealing with adult men who revel in adolescent behavior (sorry, nerds). Like millionaires (workaholics), tall, hot guys (narcissists), and brilliant men (stubborn, arrogant and neurotic), nerds are going to have their downside, too. As to your flurry of questions at the end of your post: you should not let your esteem get battered in online dating. There’s way too much volume to take any interaction personally. Approach it with the same detachment as buying a lottery ticket, and you’ll have a lot more fun. And whether you are coming across well in your photos, profile and emails, my guess is that, if you’re like most people, you can stand to use some improvement. I can’t tell you how many people are convinced that they’re doing a good job in online dating until they talk to me. It’s like being blind, until a friend lets you try on her glasses, or being a smart kid who finally took an SAT prep class. Which is why, if you really want to improve every aspect of how you’re dating online, I’d highly recommend It is literally the only system in existence that answers every single online dating question you have, including how to deal with rejection, self-esteem, profiles, emails and everything in between. Please come back and let me know how it goes.


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  1. 1
    E. Foley - Geek's Dream Girl

    Evan’s spot-on here (as usual). There’s obviously something about your profile that’s not ringing right with the kind of guys you’re trying to connect with. You may also be saying something in your emails to them that’s rubbing them the wrong way.
    One thing that I’ve found from a lifetime of being a geek and being in relationships with geeks/nerds – some don’t like being called a geek or a nerd. So if you’re emailing saying, “You seem like the nerdy guy I’ve been looking for!” he might take that entirely the wrong way.
    For geeks and nerds, it’s best for you to mention something in their profile that you also do or enjoy. Ask them what their favorite character is on a TV show you both watch, mention that you can play guitar on Expert for all of Rock Band 1 & 2, ask them what they thought of Zombieland.
    The best way to a geek or nerd guy’s heart is to connect with them about something that most girls don’t have a clue about. But don’t try to fake it – Fake Geek has a stench you can smell a mile away. :)

  2. 2

    The social awkwardness that you find so attractive could very well be what’s preventing them from writing you back. They may not know what to write to a real live woman. And an email may lead to a phone call, which they may not be able to handle at all. It might just be easier for them to complain about not being able to get a woman than to actually respond to one who contacts them. Don’t take any of it personally.

  3. 3

    I remember being called a “nerd”. I remember labeling her “clueless”.

  4. 4

    Hmm … I like the nerdy ones too. I always figured myself for a nerd, because I was good in school and not into going with what the ‘popular’ kids were doing. But I am not really a geek because, while I can appreciate many things, I don’t find myself utterly devoted to anything in particular, like ‘geeks’ seem to do. I also don’t play video games so I guess I’m not really part of their little club. You know it’s pretty lame when you can’t even get into that club!

    Anyhow, my experience with these guys has been the same as yours. They claim to want girlfriends but run when a pretty girl like you or me gives them a legitimate chance at that. I think it has to do with not wanting to grow up, which is fine – that’s a choice we can make – but I really wish they weren’t out there trying to get my attention just so they can freak out when they do get it.

    As a side note, I dated a bona fide ‘geek’ once and it was sort of annoying and a turn off how a 41 year old man had about $3000 worth of Star Trek action figures stowed away under his bed, movie posters all over the walls, a collection of DVDs that rivaled the local Blockbuster store, and Disney memorabilia everywhere. Do you really want to share your guy with that? ;)

  5. 5

    I laughed out loud when Evan called brilliant men stubborn, arrogant, and neurotic. That’s my boyfriend, to a T. Ha!

    I agree with the first commenter – if she’s obviously fetishizing them, then that might be off-putting, and the person who said that they may be too shy/socially awkward to respond might have a point, too (especially if the OP is really pretty).

    She might want to look at her profile, too, since whoever she’s e-mailing will probably check her out that way before deciding whether or not to e-mail her back. I don’t think she has to go over the top, just genuinely talk about the activities she enjoys and the type of relationship she wants.

  6. 6

    Hi Patti;
    Many men, not just nerds, don’t know what to do with a woman who they perceive, either, as being “out of their league” or not one of their crowd.

    Think about what the kind of man you are after likes to talk about.

    Try putting some hooks for those conversations into your profile and in your initial emails.

  7. 7

    Question for the “geek cougars”:

    Ladies, assuming that a nerd is a socially awkward adult, why would you want to spend time with such a person? I don’t mean that in a sarcastic way. I work in the IT field and I find dealing with socially awkward people exhausting. What attracts you about these people?

  8. 8

    Steve, #7-

    They’re not threatening.

  9. 9

    I think I like them because they are sort of non-threatening. I particularly love shy guys. ‘Regular’ guys can be loud, mean, cocky, or just plain rude and I can’t deal with that. Also, the nerdy guys are sort of ‘outsiders’ and I consider myself to be on the outside myself, so I guess I think of them as kindred spirits that way.

  10. 10

    Most of the people I know are “nerds” – either have PhDs already or are in the process. Most of them are not, IMO, socially awkward, but perhaps we are using different definitions?

    I think there is a big difference between being shy and being socially awkward, but maybe that’s me?

  11. 11

    Steve #7 – Ha ha! You asked good questions. Have you ever read Scott Adams’ “The Dilbert Principle”? He has a chapter on “Engineers, Scientists, Programmers, and Other Odd People” that explains the appeal of nerds:

    They’re usually smart.
    They can fix things for you.
    If you mate with them, you’ll have brainy children that will get a doctorate and a high-paying job before they have sex.

    I like nerds for the first reason, anyway.

  12. 12

    @Helen #11, but why nerds ( socially awkward people ) then?

    There are plenty of smart people who are not socially awkward ( i.e. difficult to interact with ). Why not go for a smart guy who isn’t socially awkward?

  13. 13

    I was a nerd when I was younger, and am still attracted to nerds, But, at the risk of sounding unsympathetic, I suggest that trying to date a person who lacks social and dating skills is doomed to failure. Especially considering the strength of the male sex drive, a man who has not developed the skills for successful dating, it is unlikely that you, despite your wonderful qualities, will overcome his inability to enter a relationship.
    If you do succeed, you will have to go through the agony of his learning how to be good relationship material. He won’t know how to make you feel lvalued as awoman, solve a dispute, or be a good lover,– those things all require practice.
    I am sure there are many men who would be attractive to you who have the social/romantic skills to satisfy you, but you may need to look at different potential partners.
    Think about what it is about the nerds that attracts you and seek men with those characteristics. I like the sense of innocence, which is harder to find in someone who has assumed their place in adult socializing, but they do exist. I had a girlfriend that was a member of a fantasy/science fiction writing group and it was loaded with people who cultivated their innocent view. Yet they had to have social skills or their prose wouldn’t ring true.
    Keep looking there are many men out there looking for you.
    Good luck!

  14. 14

    I had to chuckle at Helen’s answer. And much of it is true. Frankly, I don’t think most nerds are socially awkward. I think they’re intelligent, have a quick wit, enjoy intellectual stimulation, and aren’t into the whole party-party-party scene. And frankly, that’s right up my alley.

  15. 15

    I agree w Roger. I’ve always been attracted to ‘nerdy’ guys and have had the same experiences as OP. Many of these guys just don’t know HOW to date – that they should follow up after a date, etc. And if you do (thinking oh, he’s just shy) it doesn’t work b/c the guy then feels further intimidated.
    I also find that many guys who used to be nerds but went on to have successful careers and now feel they are entitled to date only women who look like supermodels.

  16. 16


    I swear, we’ve had identical experiences! We should start a support group together….lol

  17. 17

    I actually think Evan presented a unique and right on opinion on this. And one that I never thought of myself. I usually like nerdy types to. But not nerdy-virgins that live at home types. I guess just more geek chic. However, it makes sense that nerdy guys might be more led to think in fantasy mode and set unrealisitic standards.

  18. 18

    Roger #13-

    It’s understandable for most Westerners to believe that being in lots of relationships primes you to be a pro when it comes to the “One.” It is a logical conclusion, I won’t deny that. But I also think it interesting how Westerners, Americans, in particular, start getting into ‘relationships’ at a very young age and then divorce in such high numbers later.

    In Eastern countries, however, most people’s first relationship is their marriage. Yet Easterners have a far far lower divorce rate. How to explain this? Yes, there was a taboo against divorce for a long time. Yet, not every Eastern marriage was, surely, unhappy. The people who never were in relationships learned by being with each other. And they weren’t (aren’t) comparing their spouse to some past boyfriend/girlfriend, because- well, there wasn’t any past boyfriend or girlfriend to make a comparison with. So, it’s obviously possible to learn how to be a good lover/husband, etc. without having the experience of it before.

    To repeat, most Americans have had tons of relationship experiences- it obviously hasn’t helped them in becoming better partners since a lot of them Still can’t figure out how to make a relationship last.

    PS- I realize it’s weird that I keep saying “them” since I’m American myself. I just can’t relate to having three boyfriends a year, so it seems a little other-worldly to me.

  19. 19

    DowntownGal said:
    >” many guys who used to be nerds but went on to have successful careers and now feel they are entitled to date only women who look like supermodels. ”
    Wow! I guess I’ve been missing out! Does this mean that all these years of enjoying going out with women with a nice smile, fun to talk to, who treated me as a friend/perhaps lover were a waste?? And I was fool enough to mary one and have what I thought was 25 great years and a couple of wonderful children. I guess I could dump my girlfriend of the last 18 months and go for somebody really hot looking.LOL!
    I think looks are terribly over-rated. No longer in my 20s, I can assure you, looks are not that long lasting. Skin wrinkles, things begin to sag… What does last is simple things like, are they fun to hang out with, do they treat you with respect?
    I believe the people who look really hot online are no hotter than the rest. Your feeling is simply your hormones attaching to a picture with no actual physical experience. You have no way of knowing how hot they will be when you meet them.
    Online or in person, the hot looks are just like any other advertising-a come on that may not deliver the inner beauty that makes a person shine for a lifetime. Don’t stand in line for that bombshell, evasive nerd or who ever doesn’t return your interest. Go out with the “merely attractive” one who, like you, is looking for someone who can be truly special.

  20. 20

    JG #17, I agree. Evan brings up another good point, that some gals tend to date nerdy guys thinking they’ll be easier to ‘date’ – faithful and treat them well, presumably because they’d be happy that a cute girl is paying attention to them. Also that they’d be better boyfriends because they’re nicer people than the a-hole/bad-boys.

    All too often it’s what Heather describes. Even if a guy needs some work in the dating dept nudging him along won’t make for a good relationship. If he’s not callling you or blows you off because he’s too scared, it’s just the same as if he were doing it because he’s seeing someone else/playing games. The gal gets just as disappointed eithher way.
    So a word to all of you ‘nerdy’/socially awkward guys out there – don’t be scared. If a gal seems interested and you’re not sure, be a man and pursue her. Don’t worry abt what she may think of you – worse thing is she’ll respect you, and you’ll gain experience. Best thing is she’ll be impressed and want to date you. But you won’t know until you try.

  21. 21

    Re: people being not unhappy in Eastern marriages in the olden days…isn’t it possible that a person could be unhappy, but since there is no option, one’s happiness or unhappiness is not even worth considering? If there’s no field on the other side of the fence, it doesn’t matter whether or not the grass there is greener than the one on your side.

  22. 22

    @ Joe, #21 – That’s how I’d read it, too. I know my parents’ generation (I’m 30) and earlier didn’t really ever ask themselves whether their jobs provided them with personal satisfaction and enrichment. My dad just found a job that he was capable of that paid a decent salary and did it. I never heard him talk about loving his job, and I think he thinks I’m a bit weird for getting a PhD “just” so I could find work that interests me, but I never heard him complain about his job, either. Nowadays we expect to have it all – which is possible, but takes a lot more work and initiative and compromise than people realize.

  23. 23

    Nerds are appealing because they are interested in something besides money, sex, and themselves. They might be delighted by philosophy, physics, astronomy, engineering, biology, math…

    I am strongly attracted to people – both men AND women – who have a passionate interest and aptitude in an intellectual or artistic field.

    That said, you can’t date a nerd and expect your relationship to be the same as “normal” relationships, or those depicted in the mainstream media. Nerds usually don’t conform. If you’re fine with nonconformity, you will have no problem dating a nerd.

    Every single man I dated in the past was a nerd. My husband is a nerd. I am a nerd. Now our kids will (ideally) have their PhDs before having sex. :) (Just kidding!)

  24. 24

    She sounds extraverted. It also sounds as though she wants an introvert more than a “nerd” per se. It’s possible that the typical man of either group usually is put off by outgoing women. Regardless, maybe she should judge the way women usually do (and contrary to old beliefs) – on looks, but not on stereotypes, say, “nerdy-looking”. A man with decent, maybe slightly unusual style who radiates a sort of quiet warmth might be her best option.

  25. 25

    I think your troubles reflect the flaws of the men you’re pursuing, rather than a problem with your appearance, approach, or character. I love classic literature, keg stands, MMORPG’s, clubbing, scientific theory (esp. quantum mechanics), science fiction (esp. quantum mechanics), house parties, Dungeons and Dragons, bars, movies, museums, traveling to major cities and seeing everything possible in a weekend, etc. I think a person’s “nerdiness” shouldn’t effect their social skills and their zest for life.

    I look at shut in nerds the same way I look at monosyllabic frat boys. Their life lacks balance. I learned that early on. I spent early high school with my nose in the books and video games. I spent late high school stoned and drunk, continually partying. By the time I made it to college I managed to have the time of my life and still pass my classes.

    It sounds like you’re not looking for someone who’s “nerdy”, it sounds like you’re looking for people who have problems relating to and interacting with others, and who lack a general passion for life. That doesn’t sound like a fun relationship to me.

  26. 26

    Robert #25- I would have to agree with “Their life lacks balance.” Too much of anything is bad! Even things labelled as “good for you.” There should be a healthy balance. Being nerdy is totally fine, obviously, but I don’t know how great it would be to date someone that introverted. Dated a nerd before, by every aspect of the definition, and it’s not all it’s built up to be. I know that sounds mean, but really they’re so clueless in the dating game. The date I went on consisted of me asking questions about him and him talking about himself the entire time. Since he didn’t know how to date(by that I mean know how to make conversation, which he had no CLUE how to go about it… AT ALL), he stared blankly back at me. I’m not saying they’re all like that, but if you think he’s introverted and nerdy there’s a pretty darn good chance that’s how he might be. Having a date like the one I just desrcibed doesn’t really give you a good look at how a second date might be. Just another observation. I’m not going to tell anyone how or who they should date.

  27. 27

    meetmeinoutrspace, I know what you are saying, I remember having dificulty conversing while on a date. I took months of counseling to learn the art of conversation. You are right, not all men are like that, but, a good, many, many are.

  28. 28

    I went out with an econ professor one time- I’m a nerd at heart myself, and his e-mails were hilarious. So…I spend two hours getting ready for this dude, and he shows up with a huge hole in his sweater. He was a nice guy, but the fact that he asked me to lunch and then refused to eat (uncomfortable for me since I was starving) and did not make eye contact with me once (come ‘on, I know I’m not that hideous :-D) was- let’s say, a dealbreaker

  29. 29

    Oh Sayanta! You MUST avoid the econ professors. :) I say this as a one-time economist myself. I’ve attended many econ conferences – they’re the conferences that never serve free lunches or coffee – and have had many funny experiences. E.g., if I wanted a small coffee and another attendee did too, he would insist we get one large one and then split it because the cost was a little lower that way. Even if I didn’t know him well!

    The nerd in me says: yes, that makes sense. The “socially proper” me says: yes, but there is value in having one’s own coffee that exceeds the few cents we managed to save.

    The guy who showed up with a huge hole in his sweater to take you out: don’t take it personally. Almost certainly, he didn’t notice. Not eating and not looking at you, though, when I bet you’re gorgeous? Yes, those are dealbreakers.

    (Speaking of nerddom: just found out that I’ve had a paper accepted in Science – whoo hoo!)

  30. 30

    Just because he wasn’t eating doesn’t mean you couldn’t eat…

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