Hey, Dan! I read HOPE's message to you and your response. I totally agreed with your take but I wanted to expand upon it a bit to help out HOPE. Like HOPE, I was a 21-year-old virgin, a college dropout, and I experienced (undiagnosed) acute depression when I was younger. Reading HOPE's letter to you brought back memories.
Anger and frustration come from powerlessness; a perceived lack of control over one's own life and own circumstances. My short answer for HOPE: Don't worry about love right now. Fix the things in your life that you can fix. Confidence comes from building up tiny successes until you no longer view failure as a stopper, but more as bump in the road, and which can serve to motivate you further to achieve success.
In HOPE's case, I'd suggest he do what I had to do. Start at zero. Get the stupidest, shittiest job, and show up. After a few months of working a stupidly shitty job, you'll be motivated to get a slightly less shitty job. Sooner or later you're working in a job that's not so shitty. HOPE should consider going back to college if he feels like he can use that education for a career. Otherwise, just bust your ass at work and people will notice who is working hard and who isn't. Also: take care of the small stuff when you can, stop thinking about doing something you've always wanted to do and make a plan to do it. Planning is cheap—just paper and pen. List things out that you want to do, what you want to fix, and tackle them one at a time, even if they're super-simple things.
Once a person can look at a list of accomplishments, no matter how insignificant, it's easier to feel more confident, and confidence comes off a person like an aura—people notice.
Judge Only Effort
Thanks for sharing, JOE. Some more reader advice for HOPE... after the jump.
You were right on with your recommendations to HOPE. Therapy to get his head together, and anti-depression assistance.
I was a desperate 29-year-old virgin once. I finally got laid when I decided it was never going to happen so I might as well quit being desperate and just enjoy life as a perpetual virgin. About three months later the hostess at a party cornered me and it happened. I have been forever grateful to that lady.
There was one thing to be said for being a 29-year-old virgin: when it finally did happen I knew true euphoria. I was high for three days without benefit of drugs. It was amazing.
All Grown Up Now
I know you are very knowledgeable and thoughtful, and I have read your column religiously for years, but I have to for the first time question your advice. You suggested that Hopeless Over Painful Experience go see a medical doctor and get meds for depression. Surely you have some glancing awareness of recent studies indicating that SRRIs may be totally useless in treating depression, and hopefully are even more aware that for a huge percentage of men (me included), these drugs lead to zero libido and erectile dysfunction (not likely to help a person with anger issues deal more constructively with women). And if that's not bad enough, I can tell you, as someone who came near to committing suicide during withdrawal from these drugs, that they are often highly addictive and even when you withdraw at the recommended slow rate, you can become extremely depressed while doing so.
You might have done better to start with your second recommendation—and maybe allowed a professional therapist who actually would understand this individual's problems to decide whether drugs might be helpful. I hope you will consider what I'm saying at least enough to do more research on this subject before you blithely tell people to go see a medical doctor and get some anti-depressants.