I’m 54 and had gastric sleeve surgery 11 months ago. I’m now getting some of my self confidence back and entertaining thoughts of dating again. I’m incredibly shy, and embrace my dorkiness. It’s been seven years since I’ve last dated or been intimate with a woman. To say that I’m nervous about it is an understatement. I’ve had conversations with some women on Instagram, but they are just scammers wanting money or a relationship because they fell in love after only 4 sentences. I want to make some new friends and date, but I’m not immediately looking for a girlfriend. I like to take my time and get to know someone first. Guess I’m old fashioned. I’m also a teacher and work a lot. How do I meet new people?
Hi, friend. Congratulations on being ready to venture back into dating! Because of how your letter begins, I want to note that weight loss is never a prerequisite for either dating or regaining one’s self confidence. That said, I’m excited you’re feeling ready to dive back into the dating world. As a culture, we spend a lot of time talking about all of the ways that dating can suck; it becomes easy to forget how fun it can actually be! Especially when you’re feeling relaxed and ready to take your time.
After a long break from dating, it’s not surprising that you’re apprehensive and not sure where to start. When that many years have passed, going back to just about any of the things we used to do can feel intimidating! I’m thinking right now of the first time I went to a rock climbing gym, after a lot of years away from the wall. My body had changed; I needed new gear, and I knew it would all feel different than back in college, when I went four times a week. I was scared of looking silly, of feeling like a beginner again. So I put it off, and put it off, and pretty soon a decade had passed since I’d last climbed. When I finally squared off against my fears and went climbing again, it felt amazing.
All of which is to say: I know that fear, of jumping back into something that no longer feels familiar. It’s real, and valid, and it’s hard to push through. As you’ve put out feelers on Instagram and started to want more connection in your future, you’ve already started pushing through that fear, and I want to recognize that! You may feel shy and nervous, but you’re doing the work, and that’s not easy. It also means you’re capable of doing even more.
So! It’s 2023. How are we meeting people these days?
Some apps are better than others if you like to move slowly.
While you’ve learned that Instagram DMs aren’t necessarily the way to go, meeting people online is definitely still a possibility! Since you’d like to get to know people a bit before you decide whether you want to actually enter into something romantic with them, there are a few options here. Apps like Tinder, Match, and Hinge are worth checking out, but you may want to put a note in your bio that you like a slow burn, and want to get to know a person before starting anything serious. Apps that are less centered on romance might also be of use here — for instance, Bumble BFF gives you the chance to meet people online in the context of friendship; then, if there’s a point where you sense your feelings are changing, you can check in (IRL) to see if your match is feeling the same way. There’s also Meetup.com, which centers around events (such as a hike or dinner group), rather than pairings. And speaking of events:
Volunteering is a great way to meet people when you’re feeling shy.
When I first came out and didn’t know people in my community, I started volunteering at social events and fundraisers for my local LGBTQ+ center. At the time, with one foot still in the closet, I was so scared of other queer people that I could hardly speak out loud, but volunteering gave me tasks to do, tasks I shared with other people. Conversations were able to start really organically, and over time, I started to get to know some of the other regular volunteers. I met some amazing friends, and a couple of those friendships blossomed later into relationships! As a teacher, I know you probably don’t have the time and energy to volunteer on a regular basis. But queer centers tend to put on a lot of events they need occasional help with, and that can be a great space to meet other local queer people. Once you’ve started to meet new people, that social momentum will snowball, too — the more people you meet, the more of their friends you’ll meet, and more opportunities will open up in your social galaxy!
Summer classes and rec leagues are great too!
I get it: you’re a teacher, and your job isn’t exactly nine to five. But it is September to June, and depending on where you live, there may be some interesting adult ed classes offered throughout the summer in your community! Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn to watercolor, or take up yoga. Maybe you live in one of those cities with a queer dodgeball league! The more engaging, social activities you can schedule for your time off, the more likely you’ll be to meet good friends — and maybe more, in time. And in the meantime, you might find your next talent or hobby!
I know I’ve just thrown a lot of ideas at you. If you’re a homebody like me, it might all be feeling like a lot. Remember, you can always try one or two of the strategies I’ve listed at a time, and learn as you go what seems to be working best for your life. If you live in a smaller city like mine, you’ll also learn pretty quickly which apps (and classes, and sports) tend to have participation from queer people in the age range you’re looking for. And once you get through your initial fear of the unknown, and go on a few good dates with real people, people who are interested in getting to know you as a person, I promise that all this work will start to feel like fun. There’s no other feeling like it, that electricity when you realize that you’re sitting across a table from someone who’s funny, and hot, and wants to get to know you better. Someone who might take your arm on the way out of the restaurant, someone who you just might want to kiss on this date, or the next one.
It’s work to get there, but it’s worth it, and it’s everything you deserve. I wish you all the best. 💙
You can chime in with your advice in the comments and submit your own questions any time.