I give off the wrong vibes

Remember to put the events I mentioned last week on your calendars.

Dear Meredith,

I'm a 25-year-old woman, and it has been seven years since I've been in a relationship. Not just a serious relationship -- any relationship at all, or any date with a guy I've had positive feelings for. I had a few dates last spring when I was giving online dating a whirl, but they were pretty bleak. I've had a couple -- literally two -- guys ask me out in person in the past seven years, and I wasn't interested in either of them. There have been a handful of guys I have been seriously interested in, but they've been either not interested, already in relationships, or about to start dating my friend (don't even get me started on that one).

As for me: I'm not drop-dead gorgeous, but I'm fairly pretty. I think I'm pretty pleasant to be around. I have an active social circle: I sing in a very social choir; I work at an office full of young people; I live in the city where I went to college and am still close with a lot of college friends. Granted, these aren't all the best ways to meet guys (my co-workers are mainly women, and choirs tend to be weighted towards men who are not interested in women), but I do socialize with a lot of people. Obviously there are a lot of fluky things that can result in dry spells, but it just seems like in such a long period of time, something should have happened with someone.

My conclusion here is that the problem is most likely something I'm putting out there. I'm not very comfortable with guys romantically, not having had further-than-friendship interactions with anyone since my high school relationship ended. If I do have a crush on a guy, I'm not shy about trying to spend time with him. But if I don't already have strong feelings, it's hard for me to flirt in a way that might lead somewhere. I find myself pulling back. I'm not sure that's totally a bad thing -- after all, I don't want to lead people on -- but I'm afraid that my reserve in this regard keeps guys from considering me as a romantic possibility even when I'm perfectly friendly with them. I also get really embarrassed at the idea that other people might think I'm romantically interested in someone. Is there any way I can turn off this scared-of-romantic-interaction vibe? Anything you can tell me to change my mindset? Again, it's not an issue with guys I have feelings for, but that happens really rarely (maybe once every two to three years).

Is there anything I can do besides be patient and hope the next seven years don't go by before something clicks with a guy?

– Needs to Stop the Vibes, Cambridge

Don't force yourself to flirt, NTSTV. It'll come off as unnatural. The whole point is to be you, not someone else.

The only thing I want you to work on is your embarrassment about dating. If you're afraid to admit your feelings -- or to fail at love in front of others -- you're going to have a tough time finding a partner. There's no reason to be embarrassed about putting yourself out there. Everybody gets dumped. Everybody gets lonely. Every relationship is a risk.

Start dropping hints to friends that you want to date. Big hints. Maybe go on more online dates. Go on second dates with people who aren't totally awful. Accept the fact that after college, we don't always have the luxury of getting to know someone well before we date them.

Really, I think the "vibe" you're talking about is the embarrassment thing. If you're too embarrassed to show a romantic interest in someone in front of people, it's going to taint your whole aura. (Yeah, I said aura.)

And know this -- if you're limiting yourself to dates with people with he-could-be-the-one potential, those dates aren't going to happen often. Two-to-three year gaps sound normal, unless you're willing to date with a very open mind.

Readers? What's wrong with her vibe? Is seven years a weird dry spell? Am I right about the embarrassment thing being the issue? What can you tell about her from the letter? Discuss.

– Meredith