How should I [36 M] approach dating in a city I find boring?

How should I [36 M] approach dating in a city I find boring?

I’m a math professor. I spent 7 years in grad school and a postdoc in cities I absolutely loved, where I met lots of interesting people, and where cool stuff was going on all the time. I had a difficult time dating, mostly because I wasn’t confident or socially savvy enough, but I met a lot of interesting people and at least put forth a good effort.

The job market in academia is extremely rough, and I was grateful to find a good job. The downside was that it was in an unexciting, somewhat economically depressed city, but I took the job and decided to make the most of it.

I’m in my fourth year here, and I still feel like a fish out of water. There is not much excitement here, and for the most part people don’t value excitement. Most people whom I meet value routine, predictability, and agreeableness much more than I do. People like to talk a lot, but (more so than in other places I’ve lived) it is rude to bring up politics, controversial current events, or to ask questions like «What do you do?» In general, my sense of conversational etiquette is quite far off from local standards of politeness, and it’s common for me to feel awkward as a result.

Indeed: I remember one OKCupid date (with a very interesting woman!) where I asked lots of questions about her hobbies and what she enjoyed doing. She seemed uncomfortable with it, and later told me (over OKC): «I can’t say that I really see those first few meetings as ‘interview like’, which is sort of what it sounded like you were looking for.»

Occasionally I do meet someone here who I really do find interesting and attractive. (For example I went to a folk music concert where the musicians were local and I had an instant crush on the bassist.) But usually I tend to flub things. I find dating awkward to begin with, and for the reasons I described above I’ve recently found it hard to act confident. And further complicating matters is the fact that my social life in general is not very active, for much the same reasons.

A further complication is…. I’m 36. I wish I was still 26, but — well, I’m not. That’s especially hard here, since most people in their thirties here are firmly entrenched into a predictable routine, and either like it that way or have apparently decided that they have no choice.

I’m quite active — I regularly show up to aikido lessons, social dances, and yoga, and I was doing improv comedy lessons also until the one teacher in town quit. So, I already do meet a ton of people and I do find this fun.

Finally, one weird twist: it’s been somewhat common here for women I meet to be romantically interested in me. In each case, I haven’t been interested. I feel kind of bad for my disinterest, like I’m being too much of a snob! But, generally, I’ve felt that these are nice and interesting people who are nonetheless leading lives that don’t seem especially interesting to me. Usually when I fall for somebody, it is because they bring out my good side — their presence has done wonders for both my patience and my sense of adventure, and has made the world look both bigger and more accessible. I find it strange when women don’t have the chance to see me as I the person I try to be, but are attracted to me anyway.

I don’t have the option to move (at least not in the short term), so I am hoping for advice on how to make the best of my present situation. Thank you very much!

tl;dr: I like a fast pace of life, and am living in a slow-paced town where I feel like a fish out of water. How should I approach dating?

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