Sunday 25 February 2018

Dear Mary: I'm 28, good-looking and everyone says I'm fun, but I've never had sex

Illustration: Tom Halliday
Illustration: Tom Halliday

Mary O'Connor

Q: I'm a 28-year-old guy. I've never had a girlfriend and I've never had sex. I am thinking of giving up on finding someone, and just try to have sex any way possible but I don't want to sleep with an escort as I think it's really sleazy and dangerous.

I would much rather be with someone I'm in love with. I am very good looking (not trying to toot my own horn, but I am) and I dress well and I am an interesting person with a good job and fun interests. But no one ever seems interested in me which is extremely frustrating.

I am kind of shy, so that could be a factor. I've tried speed dating and dating agencies but it led to nothing as women seem to only want overly alpha male tattooed rugby player types. I know my own mind and I am independent. I am thin but lean and muscular - just not monstrous.

Because I'm funny, women see me in a friendly clownish way, everyone says I'm hilarious but there is a lot more to me than being funny. As the years pass, it gets harder and more terrifying. I'm not ashamed, I am just worried that a woman in this day and age probably wouldn't want to sleep with a 28-year-old virgin. I lament all the wasted years of my youth and getting older and approaching 30 is bothering me.

I don't have any friends outside of my family. I find it hard to connect with people. I try to go out, but I just can't seem to meet anyone and I am at my wits' end. I am in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy but it is a slow process.

Loneliness and the fact that I have yet to experience physical intimacy is making me very depressed and interfering with my life in a very negative way. If you can offer any advice, that would be great.

Mary replies: reading your mail, I find it difficult to accurately assess your personality - there seems to be many different strands to it. If you are shy but come across as being clownish and funny then people are not seeing the real you. Hopefully this is being addressed in therapy.

I feel you are doing women a disservice when you say they wouldn't want to have sex with you because you are a virgin. In all my years as a counsellor I never heard anybody - male or female - complain about a partner's lack of experience.

On the other hand I sometimes heard derogatory remarks regarding people's indiscriminate histories. Be careful not to blame everything on your sexual inexperience instead of tackling other areas in your life that could be improved on. I presume you and your therapist have set goals for you to achieve so try to relax and don't expect too much too soon. You will get results eventually and will be happy that you persevered.

If you are anxious and uptight when you meet women, this will come across to them. A great way to overcome this is to stop wondering what they think of you and instead concentrate on them as people. Most people like to talk about themselves and will respond when asked what their views are on various issues. Please stop worrying about your age. You are still young and there is plenty of time for you to meet somebody and fall in love. If you are easygoing then it will happen when you least expect it.

My neighbour has become distant with us

Q. I have a friend, who has become progressively unkind to me and my husband over the past few weeks and I am not sure whether I should take action or not. It has come to the point where she has effectively severed our relationship through a text message to my husband, but I am wondering if that might actually be for the best for us. She is a single parent who  is twice divorced, the second time very acrimoniously.

Her young son is very close friends with my children, all of whom spend a lot of time together. Since we met four years ago, I had a feeling that eventually things may turn this way with her, mostly because she has a confrontational personality. She takes issue with others nearly every time we go anywhere, for things that most people would consider minor.

Because of this confrontational side, she has had a falling out with nearly every neighbour on her road for one reason or another. I don't think it has ever occurred to her that she may bear some responsibility for these relationship breakdowns - it is always somebody else's fault.

Until recently, this confrontational side did not rear its ugly head to us at all.

She has a veneer of pleasantries and smiles, but underneath she is extremely negative, territorial and slightly paranoid.

Extended conversations tend to descend into swirls of doom and gloom, away from which it is virtually impossible to steer her. Having said all that, she really does have a lighter side, and spending time with her can be very enjoyable and lots of fun.

I first began to realise her idea of friendship is quite different from mine, however, just a few months ago when she became upset that my daughter interfered with her plans one afternoon.

My daughter had locked herself out of the house and my husband and I were not yet home from work. She went over to my friend, who then became flustered with the arrival of my daughter and was late bringing her son to an appointment.

I received a pointed text from her just afterwards, to which I replied with an apology for the inconvenience.

I have since instructed my daughter to never go across to her house after school.

Honestly, Mary, that type of behaviour is not my idea of friendship. I'd move heaven and earth to assist my friend or their children in times of need.

Mary replies:  Neighbours are people that we see almost every day and that close proximity means that we have to be extra careful in our dealings with them.

Your friend has quite a history and it is certainly not easy being a single parent. It must be very difficult not to have somebody with whom to share things at the end of the day, or when the going gets tough which we all know happens in everybody's life.

As a result, friends and family should be very important. I realise that they are important to us all but they must be especially important to single parents.

This then makes her treatment of you and your husband difficult to understand.

Obviously, her personality is such that she reacts very quickly and not in the best way when things aren't going her way.

It sounds like she has already decided that your friendship is not what it used to be as she has sent that text. So go along with this and be friendly if she speaks to you but do not seek her out.

She is not going to change how she interacts with people.

My only concern is that your children and her son's friendship should not suffer because of this and so you should continue to welcome him into your home whenever the occasion arises.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting or email her at or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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