Agonising is a brand new collective blog, in which a bunch of self-styled “interfering busybodies” attempt to answer their readers’ Life Problems.

Having always fancied myself as a bit of a Marge Proops/Ann Landers (delete as appropriate), I didn’t hesitate to sign up with the team of counsellors, headed up by Clare “Boob Pencils & Sympathy” Sudbery.

Today, having prevaricated for quite long enough, my first piece of online advice can be viewed on the site: I’m 25 and Still Single.

If you would like to add your own words of advice – and I suggest that you read the site disclaimer at the top of the page before doing so – then the site’s comments box is at your disposal.

I’m 25 and Still Single

Today’s answer comes from Mike.

A Problem:

I’m starting to think there is something really wrong with me. I’m 25 and still single. I don’t mean single now, I mean I have always been single. I don’t seem to attract many guys and the ones I do are losers, stoners, non English speakers and old men. The really old kind, the kind who could be my dad. Ewww. As the years pass by my standards slowly drop but I don’t think they’ll ever get that low. What am I doing wrong?

An Answer:

Dear lovely lonely lady,

In order to get to the bottom of what – if indeed anything – you are “doing wrong”, we would have to have a longer conversation than this medium will allow. So let me fire off some theories based on past experience/observation, and let’s hope that some of what I say might be relevant to your own particular situation.

My biggest hunch is that you might be over-thinking your situation, and that this state of mind might be putting off would-be suitors.

Are you trying too hard? Because if you are, then I have to say – and forgive the harshness of tone here – that “desperate” is NOT a good look. People can spot it a mile off, you know. It’s one of life’s more unfair rules – because, if all you think you are doing is clearly signalling your availability, then why should that put people off? Availability is good, surely?

However, the trouble with this strategy is that people can see it for what it is: a strategy. This might lead them into feeling manipulated, or boxed into a corner. Because if you come on too strong, too quickly, you are effectively short-cutting all the little stages that people go through when they’re deciding whether they are attracted to each other.

I saw this happen very recently. A friend of mine was approached at work by an extremely attractive woman – a real “catch” – whom he had only just met. In physical terms, she couldn’t have been more perfect for him. And yet, this woman blew it completely – by acting “foxy” in an all too obviously staged way, and by asking him to spend the weekend with her in another city, after less than five minutes of conversation. The trouble was: she hadn’t attempted to get to know him as a person before leaping in for the kill. This made my friend feel that, essentially, he could have been anyone, and that this woman’s supposed attraction to him was entirely arbitrary. His response was to avoid her at all times after their initial meeting.

The other problem with the “blatantly signalling availabilty” approach is that, unfortunately, you WILL attract the losers, the chancers, the people much less attractive than you are… in other words, the desperate crowd. They’ve sensed a window of opportunity, and are wagering that you might just settle for anyone… even (shudder!) them.

My remedy? Tone your approach down a little. Give the guys some breathing space. Don’t signal your underlying agenda. Indeed, try to put all of your expectations on ice. Just take things slowly, and incrementally. Chat to them. Find out about them. Allow them to feel relaxed in your company. For if you can demonstrate that you are at ease with yourself, comfortable within your own skin, confident but not arrogant, open but not wide open, then men will find that VERY attractive.

But there’s another danger: that of “playing hard to get”. Yes, it’s good to hold certain things back – to increase your mystique, your allure, and to hook the guy’s interest so that he wants to find out more about you. However, “playing” at anything is a fatal move. Most men HATE it when women attempt to play these kinds of games with them. Men are, by and large, pretty straightforward types… and because of this, they can view “feminine wiles” as baffling at best, terrifying at worst. So, once again, the best strategy is to have NO strategy.

Alternatively, let’s look at the opposite possibility. Maybe you aren’t trying hard ENOUGH? Is your shyness and lack of self-confidence being misread as aloofness? Are you giving would-be suitors the impression that you’re somehow positioning yourself as “above” them? Or are you the girl hiding in the corner, staring at the floor, body language completely closed?

If any of this is true, then you need to build up your confidence levels. Again, I’d start by ditching that “I don’t want to be single” agenda. It sounds counter-intuitive, but trust me on this. Focus instead on having a good time with your friends in social situations. Keep your attention on the crowd that you’re with, fully immersed in their company, and making an active contribution. This way, the un-selfconscious ease and enjoyment of life which you display will reveal you at your most attractive. As you toss your head back and laugh at your best friend’s funny story, someone on the other side of the room may well be clocking you, and thinking: she looks like a fun person to be around. Keep practising this, and people will start to come forward.

In my time, I’ve been the guy with “desperate” tattooed on his forehead, and I’ve also been the nervous wallflower hiding in the corner. Ironically, it was only when I decided to abandon my quest for The Perfect Partner completely, that he turned up – at a particularly inconvenient stage in my life, it has to be said. With my agenda freshly torn up, and no games left to play, all I could do was respond naturally and instinctively to the situation as it really was, not as I might previously have projected it to be. Nearly twenty-one years later, we’re still together. My longest relationship before that was about three months. Go figure!

So, believe me, anything can happen – if you only let it. The very best of luck to you.

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