Why you can’t get a girlfriend

And why your pick-up artist is making it harder for you

I’ve been on this planet for twenty-four long, drawn out years. Sometimes it seems like a lot longer, if I’ve spent too long going through my message requests. Throughout it all, from training bras to conference calls with Madrid, I’ve endured both the brilliant and beastly of male attention. I’ve seen success, and I’ve seen failure. I’ve been repulsed, and I’ve been overwhelmed.

And I don’t hate you, incels. In fact, I hope I can help.

Surprisingly for some, although definitely not for others, I haven’t always been the girl in the bright red lipstick rolling her eyes at frightened men in Players. In fact, if you knew me at all before I turned twenty, I think you’d find it surprising that I’d even be let into a club, let alone one where I’d have the dubious honour of having a Lord pin me against a vodka stained piano surrounded by hollow-hearted civil servants bellowing Mr Brightside. So, let that be a lesson to the bitter hearted among you: I was unattractive, too.

I was an outsider, a nerd, a weirdo, a loser. I was the one with long empty weekends and a deep loneliness that cut into my bones. I was the one with mud brown eyes, a clumsy gait and hair that stuck out in an uneven, untameable mass. I was the girl with a skirt below the knee, the girl in the library, the girl who wouldn’t get drunk or smoke weed. That was me. I was one of those girls. The girls you forget. I know the bitterness well. I know the taste that lingers in your mouth when you enter a room and realize that no man is ever going to look at you. I know what it’s like to lie awake and taste the salt of your tears when you wonder if anyone will ever love you. I know what it’s like to sob into the mirror because once, just once, you want to be held and looked at like you’re someone. So no, I don’t hate you. I don’t sneer at you for what I once felt pulsing through me too. I just hope you know that on the other side of it, there is always a girl looking into the mirror wondering if any man would ever give her anything in this world if she looked the way she did before the miraculous transformation of adulthood, and if she can ever heal from the wounds that insecurity had left her. Be kind. You might look at a girl and think she has it all: sex, attention, power, but it is rarely so clean cut or precise in an underworld fraught with self doubt, the shadows of childhood and the scars of what has been.

So, here goes. Here are my five ways to improve your chances of getting a girlfriend.

1. Change your attitude to women.

This is the hardest, but the most important. If you see women as Pokémon to catch, you will never be happy. Women aren’t some ethereal damsels that exist to wait for your attentions and quests to win them. They are your lawyers, doctors, accountants, nurses, politicians. They’re worried about tax returns, the next election and their sister’s birthday. They are people. Even the pretty ones who call you a creep or make a face: they have their own stories, sadnesses and fears. Maybe she’s heard that joke six times in an evening. Maybe she’s never had a landlord that hasn’t attempted to sleep with her. Maybe she’s scared of a strange man approaching her at night. Maybe she’s exhausted by the fifty men who beg for her attention ever day. Maybe she’s started to feel like a thing, something to be won. Until you can comprehend a woman as a person in her own right, rather than someone who owes you anything or has an algorithm you can hack, you will never have a successful relationship.

2. Embody your best traits and work hard at them.

This is called ‘processual becoming’ and while it sounds very Gwyneth Paltrow, I promise you it isn’t. Women, much like you, probably, aren’t attracted to people who hate themselves, don’t work on their flaws and wallow in misery. You will have positive qualities: perhaps you are incredibly creative. Extremely gifted at poetry. Fluent in three languages. Perhaps you can write code in a way no one else can. If you engage with creating a better you, you will find there is a far wider, more extraordinary world out there than simply pursuing women. You will be happier, you will feel more whole as a person, and you will pull through. Start there, and before you know it, you’ll be more confident and able to find someone you truly want to be with.

3. Find a woman who ‘gets’ you, not an eye-candy trophy.

The woman you think you want is probably not the one you will end up falling in love with. You might think you want the svelte, toned and delicate woman who speaks with an accent that makes your hair stand on end, but that is largely superficial. Learn to let it go if she doesn’t like you. Attraction is not love. Love will surprise you, as it does us all in the end. Love is when you want to call someone to rant about a Betsy DeVos article at 4am, because they are the only person who will understand. Love is when you walk three blocks in the snow just because they were too tired to stock up on their favorite coffee after a shift at the hospital. Love is waking up in the morning and being delighted to find a snoring human dribbling on the pillow next to you, purely because that lump is your best friend, your soulmate, your other half. Love in mundane, ordinary, and the most precious thing in the world. And when you find it, you won’t care whether the person you share it with is beautiful, admirable or successful: because they’ll be the one who truly understands you.

4. Don’t bully or manipulate a woman into engaging with you.

If you have to pressure her at all, you aren’t being ‘manly’. You aren’t ‘showing you’re interested’. You’re being frightening and not following her personal boundaries. You might think it’s witty or charming to track her down online after seeing her in Starbucks, or refusing to move until she gives you her number on the street, but it isn’t. All she’s thinking is “Great, now I have a new stalker.” Messaging her fifty times won’t work, making her feel insecure won’t work, and whatever other nonsense your pick-up artist has told you isn’t going to help either: the best, best case scenario you can get from this is getting a large number of scared women’s numbers. That’s not winning, that’s not going to cure your loneliness. If you want to start a conversation or friendship with a woman, you have to follow Rule 1: treat her like a human.

5. Don’t associate being single with failure.

Remember, being single isn’t an unnatural state of being. I know Jordan B Peterson and the rest of the Manly Brigade have put out a lot of stuff about being 14 and married in the medieval village context, but how many couples do you know who are still going strong after marrying in their teens? There’s a reason most of us choose to marry later: we understand we are still developing, still finding out who we are, still working out what we need and want in a partner. If I went off who I loved at 14, I’d be married to a man I have nothing in common with and who I’m pretty sure thinks I’m the creature from the dark lagoon. You’re still finding yourself, and there’s no ‘right time’ to do that. You’re okay. You’re going to be okay. Whether you are 18, 24 or 38: you haven’t got a ‘sell-by’ date stamped on your head. I promise you, if it hasn’t happened yet, it’s because you weren’t there yet on your path. I have relatives who married in their fifties.

I got through it, and so can you. Hang in there.

Anthropologist with an awful lot to say about everything. Opinions entirely my own. Usually. madelaine@madelainehanson.co.uk

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