Shyness and Desirability

I have been meaning to post something about my continuing shyness on here for the last month. It would have gone something like this:

Even though I have had numerous moments in the past five years where I’ve still made shy, I was convincing myself that things were different. What had changed? Well, I felt like my ex-girlfriend brought me out of my shell a little, principally by giving new found confidence in myself as someone people might actually want to speak to or know. And when we broke up, I assumed that I would retain this supposed new-found confidence, that I would be more friendly, more outgoing with strangers, especially with attractive women, who have always been the scariest kinds of people to me. The kinds of strangers I can talk to the least.

But no, I instead find myself doing the exact same thing before my relationship began: if a woman attempts to smile at me on the street or subway, or even just looks at me, I still do everything I can to avoid it, to pretend it isn’t happening, so I can regret it 20 seconds later.

Or something like that. And this has indeed been bothering me. But I think I have a slightly alternative perspective now.

So I am going through something right now, which I need to articulate, and I apologize because it’s a bit of a humblebrag.

When I was a teenager and young twenty-something I was not very attractive to (most) women. Now, that was for a number of reasons, principally my paralyzing, sometimes near-crippling shyness, the fact that I was slightly overweight, and the way I dressed. (Those are my guesses.) Now, I wasn’t as unattractive as I assumed, as various women through the years have expressed subtle interest in me, but I was unready and / or unwilling to believe that a woman could possibly like me. And so I almost always ignored it, or got myself so worked up into a state of utter confusion that whatever actions I took subsequently were, inevitably, the wrong ones.

But something strange has happened to me and I don’t really know when it started: apparently I am now attractive to (some) women. I am experiencing this both online and in person. I have an OKCupid profile and I am finding that women are almost as likely to contact me as I them. This is a big change from the last time I tried online dating. A big change. But it’s not just that; the reason I feel compelled to write about my continual shyness is because I keep having encounters with strange women where I am very aware of their interest in me. Now, I may not have the best understanding of women’s body language, but my understanding of that body language has grown leaps and bounds since I was a teenager. Let’s say my understanding has gone from utterly horrendous (i.e. non-existent) to average over the last 15 years. (On days when I am feeling particularly self-confident, I would say ‘above average’, but I don’t know if that’s fair.)

And I know this isn’t entirely new; even before my ex and I started dating, I had a couple of experiences on the subway, in my mid twenties, where I was very much aware of a woman taking an interest. (And one particularly horrible one in which a beautiful woman – seriously gorgeous – actually started talking to me and I did everything I could to get her to leave me alone. Ask me sometime, it’s a pretty funny story, if I can remember it well enough.)

But I really didn’t notice it that well until we got our dog; women would start smiling at me, making conversation and generally going out of their way to get me to notice them, if I was walking Fanny by myself. Kind of like what happens with men and kids. But I just attributed it to the dog and the weird interest women have in men with obvious responsibilities.

So why isn’t my shyness around women an entirely negative thing? Well, online it just isn’t a problem. I am not shy online, as you know. But in person sometimes it saves me, as it did last night.

Against my better judgment, I went out for beers with a friend I don’t get to see much last night. This is the fourth or fifth Sunday in the last five or six that I have gone out for drinks. It’s something that is hopefully just a holiday thing. Anyway, the inevitable happened: I drank too much for a school night and found myself fairly inebriated later at night than I would have liked. I’m glad I got to see my friend, but I definitely need to stop earlier when I do these things.

When I got to the subway, this cute young lady joined me on the platform. And on the subsequent subway ride she just wouldn’t stop making eyes at me. I mean, my body language knowledge is, as I said, average, but this lady was aggressive with her ogling. Now, maybe it was the booze, but I don’t think so. And I know that, were I another, more self-confident person, I might have done something I would regret. Why would I regret it?

Well, a few reasons.

  1. Firstly, she was young. I can’t tell you how young but I would guess a decade younger than me. That would only ever appeal to me while drunk. I do not like younger women.
  2. Secondly, if I were a different person, and far more aggressive about this stuff, and this had turned into Shame or something, I would be even more exhausted today than I currently am. (Is that a reason not to live a little? It may well be, for me anyway.)
  3. Finally, I am the kind of person who is 95% okay with the fact that I don’t go around having anonymous sex. It’s just not something that I particularly like the idea of. At least, the vast majority of the time.

And so, even if I acted on my base impulse in my drunken stupor, and my drunken intuition was actually right – and who knows if it was actually right – I’m sure I wouldn’t have made myself happy. And so my natural reticence in the face of attractive women did me a solid last night, and I’m happy about it this day.

And so now I have found myself writing a very different post about shyness, one that isn’t so “woe is me”, and that’s a good thing.

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