Dating sounds like fun

"Support for the dating-challenged," proclaims the front page. Many of the site's users have gone years, decades, or even their entire lives without romance.Some identify themselves as suffering from "love-shyness," a condition, though not recognized by any mental health authority, that is characterized by extreme anxiety over any romantic or sexual interaction.I heard the woman calling Michael's name before he did. The woman, thirtyish and friendly-looking, was under-dressed for the cold October day and kept moving in place to keep herself warm. A member of the opposite sex was nerve-racking enough, and I figured that I was adding to his stress—that Michael feared I'd inadvertently reveal why I came to Boston to meet him. " When she knew for sure it was him, she got louder, trying to make herself heard above the crowd exiting the subway station: "" Michael tensed up, as if preparing for the possibility that he'd have to flee. Michael's eyes darted back and forth, from the woman, to the dog, to me. " She sat on a nearby step and beckoned over Michael's skittish beagle, rubbing its face and cooing: What a nice dog, what a cute dog, what a friendly dog.For several years, Michael has been the owner and administrator of love-shy.com, a Web forum where men—and a smattering of women—talk about their struggles with sex, love, and dating.

They use the site as an advice depot, confessional, and water cooler, complaining frequently about the impossibility of making themselves understood by "normies" or "noncels." Michael has sunk countless hours into the site. But offline, he almost never mentions it—much less that he hasn't dated anyone since he was 17, and has had sex just once in the decade-plus since.

Now they're losers, weirdos, and potential monsters.

This contributes to a climate where, as Michael sees it, it's better to "just keep quiet, because otherwise you can be misinterpreted in all sorts of negative ways." For Michael, our conversations were minefields, with the potential for misspeaking—or being quoted out of context—lurking in the shadow of every question. Too much hate, too many "crazy ideas." So why, I ask, is he still running the place? "Partly habit." We're sitting in the living room of his one-bedroom apartment.

His one high school girlfriend, with whom he'd lost his virginity, completely drove their relationship.

"She started kissing me," Michael recalls, obviously still a little proud.

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