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Oh my. Well, Scheherazade, I don't know anything about alpha-dogs, but I will say that my wife and I are very very similar types of people. She tells me that she used to think "I could never live with somebody I love, and I could never love somebody I could live with." Our years together are well into double digits. Moral of shopworn story: dispense with preconceptions and see where your feelings take you with this guy and other alpha-,beta-, and gamma-dogs.


I'm sorry to say that whatever excuses he gave, he wouldn't have given if he was into you. Put simply: "He's just not into you" - in that way at least.


I think the key is to find someone who's alpha in ways that don't conflict with your alpha. Or you could look at this as a growth opportunity and decide to tolerate the clash of alphas for a while to see if it resolves itself.

To me, it sounds like he's making excuses so he doesn't have to give it a real try.

energy spatula

This post really talks to me. I am often told I'm "intimidating," something I've lamented more than once on my own blog. I'm also told by male and female friends alike that I'm "too strong" and I have a "really strong personality" and that these things scare men and make them not want to be with me.

I have no idea what the answer is. I too am an only child, I've been single a long time...I'm not bitter (as I'm often accused of being), but I'm funny and gregarious and loud and opinionated and definitely a bit of a force. I just don't understand why that's bad...and I HATE the word intimidating too. It means to force people through the use of fear to do your bidding and it's a horrible way to describe a strong, smart, articulate, funny, insightful, life-enjoying woman. I hope you figure it out and I hope that when you do you email me and let me know what's up.


You described exactly how I feel as well. Particularly the reflection that your ability to make decisions on your own for yourself resulted from being on your own for so long, and how somehow this makes you feel unfeminine and ugly. Preach it, sister. You're hitting a chord with some of us out here.


A real man will appreciate a real woman. Not to knock your friend, but his excuse is lame and decidedly pre-feminist. If he's only attracted to weak women, as he is insinuating, then he has bigger problems than you.

A real woman deserves a real man!

Al Wheeler

I doubt Antony and Caesar were attracted to Cleopatra because she was weak and lacked self-confidence.
Partly it's the difficulty of finding someone in a small town, and partly other reasons, but not the alpha-dog nonsense that guy told you.


I do recommend that you challenge this guy to try out dating you if he's really into you.

I suspect that some people conflate "strong personality" with "demanding, unreasonable, and manipulative" when it is found in a woman. In both genders it can look like the same thing at first glance, but for some reason people tend to impute it to women incorrectly, and fail to spot it in men.

I also wonder if there are many women who are repelled by a strong personality in a man, but it is never articulated as an undesirable (set of) traits because of preconceptions about gender roles that would make any but the most nuanced articulation seem oxymoronic or simply incomprehensible to the speaker.

energy spatula

I appreciate what the two men (al and mip) above this comment are trying to say. But, and I speak only for myself, the whole "it's a poor excuse" and "you deserve a real man that appreciates a strong woman" thing doesn't really speak to the issue for me. Should men appreciate strong women? Obviously yes. Should men not make excuses if/when they don't feel a certain way? Obviously yes (not that this guy did or did not do that -- but just in general).

BUT, the point FOR ME is that what Sherry describes is a reality that many women are experiencing not just on occasion, but quite often, as they try to date and find someone. And, as we get older, and are single longer, and learn to navigate the world for ourselves, it only gets worse. The older I get, the more men I notice dating women who are completely vapid and ridiculous.

I always have that one guy friend that says "you know, a real man would appreciate you and your strong personality." And that's great, except it doesn't negate the many men who apparently are going to reject me because of my strong personality, slowly beating my ravaged ego into the ground in the process.


Energy Spatula, if I were standing on your street holding a sign right now, can you imagine what it would say?


How DARE he tell you that you need to be LESS for him to date you! FWIW from a girl who has a lot of guy friends and who is a huge filrt, that's not it. He has you in the category of undatable, obviously, and he might not even know why, but all he's saying is that he doesn't feel comfortable dating you. That's totally different. You are NOT going to be alone for the rest of your life because you are too much. That is bs. Guys want a girl they can look up to, who they think is way too good for them. They are absolutely never going to reject anyone for a strong personality. That's just something they say.

Look, I have a theory about this problem, in general, as it applies to smart girls - who really are the girls the guys want. And I hesitate to post it because I don't think it's going to go over well. But don't you feel like you're going to be alone for the rest of your life because some guy actually had the NERVE to tell you you should be less for him. I cannot believe you did not slap his smarmy little face. He may be a good friend, but he needs a MAJOR reality check. That is NO way to talk to a lady. I am appalled!


Hi guys. I love the vehemence of the way y'all are coming to my defense. But I'm uncomfortable at the way some of you are starting to slam my friend. There's a lot of the conversation I haven't shared, and a lot of nuance has been cut out. But the point is that this isn't coming from someone who is a shallow sexist chump. You'll have to take my word on this one, but if this were a person I could easily dismiss as an unreasonable, insecure jerk, there would be no despairing post. The bleakness comes from the feeling that strong, cool men who enjoy and respect my personality wouldn't want to date someone like me. That's a bummer.

I'll probably take this post down, but if I don't I'll probably try again to write something a little more cogent, later, when I've had some sleep....


Take my advice, take my advice! (Because I love to give it).


I think the problem (which both you and E.Spat seem to experience) is not that you have a "strong personality" or are "intimidating". It's that you just aren't meeting very confident and interesting men.

My wife has a "strong personality" and I have a "strong personality". We have many friends that laugh and laugh at the two of us together, calling it the "Dave & K____ Show". It's not that I don't "find her intimidating" it's that I'm secure enough in myself to let her be herself--and to love her for it.

When a man says, "you're too intimidating" I think it can only mean one thing: "I'm insecure and weak--too weak to let you be yourself." Sorry, I just don't have much respect for guys like that. It's a cop out. Someone who likes themselves, really, truly is comfortable with who they are won't have a problem letting you be who you are. In fact, that's what they will cherish most about you. That's why I love my wife: she wouldn't let me change her under any circumstances. Nor would I want to.

energy spatula

Well, if you were standing on my ACTUAL street it would probably say "I'm not gonna lie...I need a beer."

If you were standing on the theoretical street that is my (nonexistent) dating life, your sign would probably say "I'm just not that into you. And also, by the way, I'm not really going to call you tomorrow...that's just something I say to get you off my back."

Sorry, I'm being flip and I'm sure you're a wonderful man and very nice, although I'll admit your comment was a bit cryptic...but honestly, in the past three or four months I've gotten the intimidating line several times and so it's on my mind in rather an unpleasant way these days. Sigh.


Screw it - this is what I think. Go ahead and hate me:

1) Smart girls, good girls, sweet kind girls, tend to take people at their word. So a guy says something moronic like this alpha dog theory, and a smart girl will accept his premises, let him frame the debate and talk about it like he's serious. He's just saying something to say something. It's a game. You have to go behind what he's saying. Instead of "oh, we're both alpha dogs, what do we do about it.." ask "So you're not comfortable dating an alpha dog?" Get him to flesh out his premises, challenge him on his bs. (Try reading "the gentle art of verbal self-defense" for more on this). Make him explain the underpinnings of his argument. And recognize that little voice that says 'I am feeling like crap" and understand that means he is pulling something on you. It doesn't make him a bad guy. This is just something people do.

2) Smart girls tend to want to impress people with smarts. Which is really boring a lot of the time. You want people to feel good; that's what makes them want to be around you. Sometimes smart works, but you need more than that, You don't make friends because you both agree intellectually that the US middle eastern policy is in the toilet. You make friends because you both enjoy talking about it, whatever your respective positions. For some reason, when it comes to dating, people look for external things in common, when what you really want is feelings and experiences in common. You can't have that when you're showing off. Plus, like I said, it's boring. I'm NOT saying "let him talk about himself." That bs only works because people feel good talking about themselves. But you have to feel good too, so it's not the whole story. All I'm saying is, let him feel good however you can do it while being true to yourself. And stop showing off. (I really don't mean to be cold here. It's great to be smart and that's a strength to be highlighted, but you need more).

3) Smart girls let themselves be taken for granted, like that's going to get you a prize or something. (and I'm not saying play hard to get, that's just silly and usually totally transparent). This guy needs to prove himself the same way your friends need to prove themselves to become your friends. You will NOT get points for being sweet to him. He will just start jerking you around. He's an adult who can handle himself. Do not cater to his schedule in any way. Do not let him set the parameters of anything. Guys always try to test you to see how far they can push. If a guy says "I'm not sure what I want..." say "Ok." and walk off. He'll probably follow. But you have to have the confidence to leave him flat at any point. (Again, this is not playing hard to get. It's not accepting his bs).

4) Smart girls tend not to take themselves seriously as flirty women. Sheesh. You absolutely MUST have shiny hair, healthy skin and good grooming - which includes regular workouts. That takes time. That takes the self-confidence to say "I'm worth this." And that takes an attention to detail that all the people who are going to say "I don't have to change myself for a man" are, to be honest, maybe just too lazy to commit to. Lazy is not attractive. Making yourself look attractive is not changing yourself for a man. You have to take care of yourself because that's what people do. The man is optional. But no one, man or woman, really wants someone who has the issues that prevent them from taking their bodies and their sexual selves seriously. It might work for a while, but then the guy starts whining about the sports bras that are "comfy." (I hate that word btw). And the woman starts that bs about how he has to love her for her mind, regardless of the extra 30 pounds and the nasty underwear. Of course he has to love you for your mind! But your mind has to be clear enough to take care of your body in the way you deserve. And not being able to do that demonstrates, imho, issues. Work those issues out instead of claiming that everyone who paints their nails is vapid and into appearances. NOT taking care of yourself because of how you think it makes you look, as in shallow, is really being into appearances. Taking care of yourself for how it feels to you is not. (Oh, and if you gain wieght, fine, make yourself look good, and be healthy, but sometimes I think gaining weight is a symptom of other issues - I know I don't bulk up when I'm happy - and fair or not maybe that assumption is what drives men away from the heavier girls).

5) Smart girls tend to answer to this smart girl culture that puts all these rules on them that get in the way. Y'all are putting eachother down worse than the sorority girls. Get over it, and support eachother as sexy, beautiful women instead of whining every time one of you looks better than the others. I've been the cheerleader with the mean friends, but they are MUCH easier to handle than the smart girls censuring eachother for not being serious enough. I dont' know, but I suspect women who feel comfortable with their minds sometimes arent' as comfortable with their bodies and being attractive, and they put women who enjoy being attractive down for it. It's funny, I've never been with a group of girly girls saying nasty things about women with rough hair and no makeup, but I've overheard some truly horrible comments from those girls about girls like me. If women like this are really so above it all, why do they care? Trust me, the girly girls don't care about the others at all...

6) Smart girls tend to lecture people. Again, boring and obnoxious.

7) Smart girls tend to rationalize away their faults - as in "I'm told I'm bitter but I'm not" because they think everyone else is dumber than they are. S. sweetie, you're really not like this, or the one above, I'm just throwing it in because I'm on a roll. If people say something about you CONSIDER IT. Even the dumbest person is right about some things. Accept other people's intelligence, even if it's not equal to your own in everything, there are probably individual points where they're right and you're NOT.

Ok, I'm going to stop now. Sweetie, you are NOT going to be alone for the rest of your life. Anyone would be lucky to be with you. This is just a game. You learn the game and eventually you can tell the people who are playing it to be mean from the people who are playing it for fun.

Al Wheeler

S, I'm sure there are lots of nuances that you've left out, but if I were an unattached man, kissing an unattached woman, and then telling her that she isn't dating material, I'd expect a hard slap.

ms. f

It sounds to me like your friend is the kind of alpha-dog (like all alpha dogs, if we're really talking dogs here) who can't share the limelight with another alpha dog--which you've as much as said in your post. In his mind, it seems like he's established the idea of a relationship not necessarily as unequal, but as something not composed of two people such as yourselves. Which is really his loss--not to slam him, but to say that I'm sorry that this has caused you to turn a self-critical laser upon yourself. I don't think it belongs there. I think its harsh light belongs on those who think that competence, verve, smarts aren't what make up a cool person of any gender.


Obviously, I cannot speak for anyone but myself, but I do admit that I completely fail to understand the reasoning of the male in this situation.

I like strong women with ideas and personalities that challenge me, so I'm certainly not in a position to pass judgment upon the male.

I just write to note that there are men who do like to be with the type of person the male describes; my wife of 10 years is constantly challenging me in all arenas of life; people love her ability to make everything "brighter" and I'm loving every minute of trying to keep up with her. Certainly, I believe that there are areas of life in which she does not excel, but that I happen to do quite well.

But honestly, all that "barbie" stuff is just things that happen between her and other people. At the end of the day, I know that she wants to be with me and I want to be with her; everything else is pretty much immaterial.

I just wonder whether the male in this situation is as "alpha dog" as it appears. Could it be possible that his "alpha dog" behavior is a cover for his perception that he is not an "alpha dog" or perhaps a degree of not being comfortable with it?

Hell, there I go writing about the guy. My true point is that Sherry just hasn't found the right guy yet; nothing I have read would indicate a "un-dateable" tag. Being comfortable in who you are is NOT unattractive to someone who is also comfortable in who he is; at least in my experience.


I think alot of men like strong, independent women, but not if that strength and independence translates into rigidity, brittleness, inflexibilty and inability to compromise. The same applies to men, of course.

Of course an alpha dog can date an alpha dog. Did Bill walk away from Hillary because she was too smart?

Bill/Hill? That is the best you have. Her icy 1000 yard stare and his hand in the cookie jar smirk.

Men get enough of a challenge from the rest of their life, if they are ambitious. The last thing they need is competition with their significant other. You can say that you should not compete with each other, but anyone who has gone to an Ivy and distinguished herself professionally should have been smart enough to know that men don’t want a challenge and vote with their feet. In a sense, you have outsmarted yourself.

No man I know wants a mackevellian alpha alliance. A relationship should be the refuge from the tempest, not the tempest itself.

Additionally, if you want all of this 'alpha female, independent womyn' stuff you have to accept all the things that go along with it. My grandmother washed dishes and took care of a flock of children and grandchildren for her whole life and is the happiest woman I have ever met. That is not the only route to happiness, but anyone who seeks it must look in the mirror. Nine times out of ten, what separates you from what you want stares you in the face.


I really like reading everyone's comments on this. Everyone loves giving advice - so here is mine.

Sherry - it sounds to me like:
1. This guy obviously has a thing for you -
2. is scared of what that might mean -
3. hasn't sorted out his feelings on the subject -
4. and wants you to sort them out for him.

I think there should be consequences for all of this - and not judgmental consequences based on his behavior - but on how it affects you.

He shouldn't get to reap the benefits of you without having to pay the price of a real relationship - because who knows - he is probably secretly willing to pay the price - but wants to see if he might could get it for free first.

Tell him you have enough friends and to call you sometime when he wants a relationship. Harsh - but self preservation in friendship/relationship crushes is crucial.

Because he sees you as such a strong person I'm sure it hasn't occurred to him that he might be hurting you. Tell him - and then remove yourself and let him figure stuff out.


Your crush sounds like a wonderful man - smart, charismatic, well-read, and fun. Unfortunately, he's not attracted to you. Whether it's because of your physical appearance or certain aspects of your personality or a combination thereof, he doesn't want to date you and it's not because you are too smart and independent and alpha-doggish. He is trying to tell you in the most gentle way that he is not attracted to you. He is trying to allow you to maintain your dignity and keep your friendship intact with the minimum amount of awkwardness. He knows you're interested in him but he doesn't feel the same way. Deep down, you know this already.

In general (with exceptions, of course) men don't rule out potential dates because they are too smart or too strong or too confident. That's not to say that there aren't men out there who would rather have a woman they can dominate, but that desire isn't found in all men. And even men who feel uncomfortable if a woman is smarter or more successful than they are (which isn't the case here anyway, as you said he is as smart, as confident or even moreso than you are)will lay these concerns aside when they are attracted to a woman. They may try to change or control an independent woman down the road once they have secured a relationship, but most men don't use confidence, strength and intelligence as disqualifying factors when looking for a relationship IF they are attracted to the woman.

For whatever reason, he isn't attracted to you enough to want a relationship with you. He might be using the term "big personality" as a polite euphemism for characteristics you possess that are not positive. He might only like redheads, he might be attracted to women who wear high heels all the time and he might like a certain kind of nose.

The point is - it doesn't matter why he isn't attracted to you as much as it's important to recognize that he is not attracted to you and move on.

There's no reason to ascribe any heavy significance to the fact that he's not into you - it doesn't mean you will be single forever, UNLESS this is a familiar refrain in your life, in which case you need to examine what it is about you that is turning people off.

I know many smart, successful, independent, funny, talented women who have no problem getting dates from a variety of men (from "enlightened" feminist types to "macho" chauvinistic types and everything in between), so this issue can't be simplified to "you're just too smart and wonderful for most men to handle."

I'm sorry if this comes off as harsh, it isn't meant to, but I don't know you and I suspect that many of your friends and readers are too worried about hurting your feelings to be honest with you.

Perhaps you have standards for men that are too high, standards that you don't even meet yourself? If you aren't willing to give a little in a relationship, to forgive some imperfections, perhaps you are trying to date men who are doing the same to you?

Do a little self-examination, improve what can be improved, and then move on. Don't dwell on the men in the past who said they were "intimidated" by you - it was most likely their way of saying "I'm just not attracted to you." This doesn't make them bad people, and it doesn't make you destined to be single forever. Holding that belief can lead to a bitterness and desperation that is palpable and very unappealing.


My thoughts on this matter are tinted by my view of "Alpha Dogs" in general. I generally find that those who have to be on top have issues pushing them there. Really strong people are comfortable with being themselves and don't care about where they fall on some pecking order. I think once you meet a man who is comfortable in his skin, then you have found someone who isn't bothered by your "intimidating" nature.

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