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Dear Kiki: Any advice for a social outcast looking for connection?


Questions about love and sex in the Iowa City-Cedar Rapids area can be submitted to dearkiki@littlevillagemag.com, or anonymously using this form. Questions may be edited for clarity and length, and may appear either in print or online.

I am a man in my mid 20’s. The metro area I live in has around 130,000 people living here.

Growing up, my friends and I always felt like outcasts. We tended to keep to ourselves somewhat and didn’t relate well to others. Other people’s actions always seemed shortsighted and their tastes very crude (Insane Clown Posse was very prominent, if that tells you anything).

Only recently did the revelation come that we weren’t simply socially inept. It turns out we were actually extremely nerdy and didn’t have any role models to help us direct our creativity and curiosity. This revelation came as we are now rather involved in many hobbies/pursuits and are curious about pretty much everything. E.G. the kind of people who spend hours reading Wikipedia for enjoyment, know how to fix everything, etc.

My problem is that we seem to have trouble with making casual conversation with most others, especially women. Interestingly we can have perfectly fluent conversations with certain people, but many quickly become confused about what seems to us like basic observations anybody should understand. I have been told by a friend that his girlfriend doesn’t like me coming over because I make her “feel stupid”. Many even seem resentful that I made it through college and act like I am somehow superior to them (although I make a particular effort not to bring up college or appear arrogant).

I haven’t been in a long-term relationship since high school. There have been a few women who I could have good conversations with and relate to well but they have been significantly older than I, hence not really an option to date. I don’t look for particulars (e.g. sharing the same hobbies) and am mostly concerned about simply enjoying each other’s company.

To complicate things further, the above stated difficulties tend to drive people like us to more solitary activities and shy away from crowds and events (introversion seems to be kind of a feedback loop).

What kind of advice could you offer as to how to connect with somebody I could get along with?

Dear Outcast,

The feedback loop of introversion is legit, definitely. But there are ways to put yourself out there that don’t involve crowds, per se. And I’m sorry, Outcast, but putting yourself out there is what you’re going to have to do. Volunteer opportunities are always my go-to advice for folks looking to expand their social circles: smaller numbers, built-in topics of conversation, baseline shared acceptance that the world around you matters. In your case, given the interests you lay out, I’ve got two suggestions for you.

The first: Is there a makerspace in your metro that you could either join or volunteer at? Curious, intelligent people who gravitate toward mechanical, hands-on pursuits (“know how to fix everything”) can often be found at such places. In the absence of a stand-alone business of that sort, you might look into partnering with your local library to create such a thing for your community.

The second: Look into programs that offer you the opportunity to mentor. You had the experience of struggling through high school due to a lack of like-minded role models; now, as an adult, you have the chance to serve as that role model for some other kid in your community. Big Brothers/Big Sisters is the most common such program, but most metro areas have less formal versions at local youth centers, etc. You get to make life easier for someone like you, and you can meet others your age doing the same.

The thing to avoid, Outcast, is any impulse to be anything other than yourself. There are people out there of all genders and backgrounds who share your way of experiencing the world. You won’t find them if you spend your time with people who are resentful of you or accuse you of making them feel “stupid.” Don’t stress over “making casual conversation” — your ideal matches will likely be as bad at it as you are. If you dedicate yourself to finding less isolated ways of chasing the passions you already have, you’ll start to find the people you are meant to know.

Good luck; let me know how it goes for you!

xoxo, Kiki

This article was originally published in Little Village’s July 2022 issues.


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