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Why Don't Women Like Me Back? On Always Being the Guy Who's Just a Friend

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This post originally appeared on Bustle.

By Chris Tognotti

Hello. My name is Christopher Tognotti, and I'm no good with women.

This is a slight generalization, perhaps, but that's how it feels. Whether I've been bright-eyed or gloomy, fat or slender, young(er) or old(er), the ladies have never seemed to love me quite as much as I love them. My days as a fit gym employee involved no more fulfilled loves than my days now as a portly writer.

Let me lay it on the line: At nearly 28 years old, I've never been in a proper relationship. Even further -- I've never actually been on a date with anyone I felt a real flare of passion for. I'm not virginal in any other sense, but at least for me, the emotional droughts feel much worse than the sexual ones.

Many people I know can measure out sections of their adult lives by the benchmarks of sustained, serious relationships, and that's an ability I find myself brutally envious of. I've cried over the feelings and experiences I've longed to have, and cried to the people who, one way or another, haven't provided them.

That's not to say I haven't spent time with women I've liked or fallen for. I've been more or less surrounded with women since my childhood, having always gotten along more easily and naturally with girls than boys. As you might expect, I've sometimes found myself smitten; a situation considerably more perilous when the person you desire is also your friend. Which is to say, someone with whom you might be wrecking something that's already pretty good.

I have a handful of images frozen in mind of the moments at which I've told people how I truly felt about them. I've become adept at reading the language of rejection: It's most often been the eyes where the answer comes first, while the face stays still. You'd be shocked how easily the thought I really like you as a person but I'm not attracted or interested in dating you can be conveyed with just the flicker of an eyelid.

"Local heterosexual white man dissatisfied with love life." I know, some headlines aren't as grabbing as others. There is at least one way in which I'm not dissatisfied however: my own ability to weather life and love's disappointments, and to never blame the women who reject me in the process.

Perhaps you've heard this story before, of a self-proclaimed "nice guy" who feels miffed by the romantic inattention of a close female friend. But assumptions that the alleged "nice guy" may be making -- feeling aggrieved, maybe even angry, that she couldn't be more open-minded, or see how great a couple they'd be -- fall perilously short of anything describable as "nice."

Vehemently complaining that a woman is dating somebody else instead of you hinges on the assumption that she'd want to date you otherwise. I understand the impulse, even the drive to convince oneself that such a romance could flourish.

And it's true -- friendships can sometimes lead to pretty awesome relationships -- or so I'm told. But if a man is basically complaining that female friends aren't actively seeking to repay their platonic kindness with sex, then let me say, clearly and loudly: that attitude is full of sh*t.

Sometimes, the answer to the question "why don't they love me?" is best given simply: because they don't. The amount of mental exhaustion I've put myself through in dodging this truth is embarrassing in retrospect.

I owe immeasurable amounts of my life's happiness and well-being to women who've never been anything but my friends. Those relationships, and the experiences shared within them, are not consolation prizes, or pathetic stepping-stones. Unless, of course, you decide to treat them as such.

I'd love to end this on a note of some burgeoning optimism. But in truth, I can't. It simply wouldn't feel true to my heart, my state of mind, or my expectations right now.

But I'm buoyed by the knowledge that all things change in time, and that what (or who) waits around the corner could also be a pleasant surprise. It might sound small, but if dime-store optimism is the best I can muster, I'll try to take it, every time. In that way, I'll always be a romantic.

Image: Sean Hurlburt

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