Campus Life advice

For the lonely and lovelorn this Valentine’s Day

Auntie Matter on love that ‘pricks like thorn’

If you have questions for Auntie Matter, please submit them at Questions have been edited for length, clarity, and content.

A wise MIT professor once told Auntie that the hardest part of human life is finding love. With that in mind, Auntie presents Valentine’s Day selections about finding, and navigating, love.

Dear Auntie,

My boyfriend seems incapable of giving me compliments, and I don’t know how to explain that I’d really appreciate the occasional nice thing said about me. The last time I brought this up, he wrote a neural net to generate compliments and then has a cron job send them to me every morning. I’m not sure how to tell him that AI-generated niceties aren’t quite what I’m looking for. Please help.

— Digitally Distressed

Dear Distressed,

There are a few possibilities that could explain your boyfriend’s behavior, all of which warrant a serious reconsideration of your relationship. The first is that your boyfriend is extremely clueless. Seemingly, this is the most innocuous explanation, but while clueless men may appear cute at first, buyer beware. One day your man looks like a lovable dope; the next, he computerizes his compliments. While you may be able to get through to him, you should think about whether you want to put up with someone who is so lacking in good sense.

Another possibility is that your boyfriend has done this actively to hurt you. The action is so thoughtless that, while Auntie is usually a proponent of the old adage, “never attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence,” your boyfriend might actually have been ill-intentioned. This is MIT, however, so he’s probably just clueless. Regardless, if you discover your boyfriend is actively trying to hurt you, you should break up with him.

A final option is that you ask for too many compliments, and your boyfriend is exhausted, the neural net being a form of cyber protest. From your question this does not seem to be the case, as you describe yourself as repeatedly (“the last time”) asking for “occasional” compliments. However, you should ask your boyfriend if he feels this way. (Auntie leaves as an exercise for the reader the implications of the fact that Distressed has had to bring this issue up on multiple occasions.)

In any case, you will have to talk to your boyfriend about his motivations, and how his behavior has affected you. You should try both to communicate your feelings and understand his. While Auntie is skeptical, he may be able to explain himself. Your relationship admittedly looks dubious from this letter, but perhaps you will be satisfied with the resolution to this conflict. Auntie wishes you good luck with your dumb boyfriend.

Dear Auntie Matter,

I’m a junior, and I feel really lonely. I’ve gone on a bunch of dates, and I’m on Tinder, but nothing sticks. I never feel the spark with any girls I go out with. When I do really like someone, she is never into me. I want to find a girlfriend, but I’m losing hope. What am I doing wrong? All my friends have or have had girlfriends, and I feel like I’m behind the curve.

— Looking for Love

Dear Looking,

Your letter gives few hints as to the cause of your dating problems, so Auntie will speculate on a range of possible causes and offer some solutions.

You might be emotionally unavailable — either not willing to open up to your dates or hung up on something (another woman, a situation in your past, etc.). You might not have clear or realistic expectations, either for the women you are seeing or the dates themselves. If any of these are the case, you’ll want to do some self-reflection. Think about whether you are being held back by old baggage, or whether you are trying to fit your dates into boxes before you meet them.

You might just be awkward around women. You wouldn’t be the first awkward MIT guy. (Trust Auntie, she knows.) And aside from general awkwardness, you might have poor hygiene, lack of etiquette knowledge, or other problems that make dating difficult.

Auntie has a concrete solution for awkwardness/poor hygiene/lack of etiquette: make friends with more women. There are many benefits — women can help you analyze your dating problems, and they can set you up with other women. Interacting with women will help alleviate any awkwardness you have around them. However, two caveats — first, if you want to date a woman, just ask her out. Do not start a friendship in the hope that she will someday want to date you. Second, you should not intend to use these women: make friends with them because you like them as people and want to be a good friend to them. Then, when you have a genuine friendship, you can ask for help, as friends ought to do.

Lastly, you might simply be unlucky. It’s not always easy to find someone you like who also likes you. In this case and in any case, you must simply keep going. Be brave and patient in your pursuit of love.

If you really want love, Auntie, as always, believes you will find it. Your yearning for love is charming and human and valuable — while it may be painful, cherish it.