Morning Ed: Dating {2016.02.14.Su}

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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136 Responses

  1. LeeEsq says:

    Non-conformist women: I for one have always been fascinated by Protestant women.

    More seriously, its about economics. Men always had the feminine equivalent of the Bad Boy, they were called the Vamp or the Femme Fatale. Until recently, men were able to indulge in their taste for the Vamps and Femme Fatales because they had much less pressure to be virgins at the time of marriage and because the economic consequences of a romantic mistake were less for the most part. Since men were the ones working longer and at much higher wages or salaries, getting into a romantic relationship with a Vamp or Femme Fatale had fewer negative consequences than with a woman having some fun with a Bad Boy. Men also had the advantage of not getting pregnant. Before the 1960s she could end up pregnant and if the man turned out unable to earn a living than in a really problematic economic life waiting for her. There was also infinitely greater pressure for women to be virgins at the time or marriage. Being a non-virgin for an unmarried woman could have some significant social consequences. The social changes of the 1960s combined with contraceptives and legalized abortion allows for women to have their fun with Bad Boys while not experiencing as many economic

    Re: The Dating Scene, my inner misogynist is arguing that a lot of this seems because a plurality of women want to have their cake and eat it to when it comes to dating. They want to have fun with their bad boys but also enter into a romantic relationship with a man who can meet all the traditional expectations like income, a house, and emotional support but who isn’t needy at the same time but is also at home with their emotions Like most things in life, you really can’t have it all unless your very lucky.

    Re: Sex and hook-up culture. At this point I can’t tell who is having sex and how frequently they are having it. I’ve encountered evidence that most people are getting their freak on frequently and that a lot of people have horrible sex lives with the exception of a few people who have great ones.Report

  2. Damon says:

    It’s really interesting in the post 35 years too. LOTS of women, professional, busted their asses to become successful, but NOW they want the white picket fence house with the hubby and the kids. I can’t tell you how many profiles I’ve read of some woman who’s 38-44 who put that in her profile. Really. And how many guys, who either had kids or haven’t, post divorce or NBM, are going to want kids at 45?


    • El Muneco in reply to Damon says:

      Heh. On the other hand, if you are a guy who does want kids at 45+, and are looking for women in 38-44 (or, worse, 31-44), you get pushback because of the age difference. BTDT.

      I’m not as bitter about my dating experiences as @leeesq seems to be. But I agree with both him and the article – in my experience online, women who are pretty much a match up and down the line (income, education, politics, appearance, hobbies) respond about as often as random strangers in a club. I understand that there is a power imbalance, and I suspect that drives women, in the absence of in-person cues, to be particularly choosy about risking potential personal contact.Report

      • Damon in reply to El Muneco says:

        “On the other hand, if you are a guy who does want kids at 45+, and are looking for women in 38-44 (or, worse, 31-44), you get pushback because of the age difference.”

        Yeah, but as I’ve told several women in this predicament, “you’re fishing in an extremely small pool”, just like the 6 foot 4 inch female engineer I know who only wanted to date guys taller than her. o.0Report

        • Kim in reply to Damon says:

          Yeah. My friend the troll has one standard “dating advice” for guys.

          “Date Fat Chicks”

          Now, he does have solid reasoning for this… but it’s mostly just to troll folks.
          But it certainly does open up the pool of people…Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to Damon says:

          Sometimes you just have to accept the fact that biology decided to give you a losing hand.Report

      • Don Zeko in reply to El Muneco says:

        El Muneco:
        I’m not as bitter about my dating experiences as @LeeEsq seems to be. But I agree with both him and the article – in my experience online, women who are pretty much a match up and down the line (income, education, politics, appearance, hobbies) respond about as often as random strangers in a club. I understand that there is a power imbalance, and I suspect that drives women, in the absence of in-person cues, to be particularly choosy about risking potential personal contact.

        I’m not sure that’s a fair knock against online dating, though. I’ve recently gotten back on OKCupid, and sure, it’s frustrating. Women will respond a few times and then go radio silent without explanation, I get no response at all from 90% of the women I message, stuff like that. But the thing is, I hate initiating conversations with strangers, and that goes double for strangers in bars, so there’s no way I’d want to go to the trouble of trying to talk to dozens and dozens of people offline. If I did, there’d be no obvious way to screen people for basic disqualifying information that is available in a dating profile.

        Maybe the genetic/social lottery has been kinder to me than to @leeesq , but my take on the whole thing is that it’s a fairly shitty but not at all intolerable process, and the last time around I was pretty happy with the final result.Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to Don Zeko says:

          I actually think that I’ve done well in the genetic lottery even though I’m on the short side. Starting things isn’t a problem. I’ve had more than a little success with getting responses and going on first dates. Its going past the first date thats been a humongous issue. In my entire dating life, I’ve been able to get second dates with two women. It could be worse because the results of a bad relationships seem horrible but going by age, I’m way behind nearly everybody else in my age group when it comes to this factor of life.Report

        • El Muneco in reply to Don Zeko says:

          I think we three are all in a broadly similar place.

          My thinking about online is that, as you say, it lowers the barriers to first contact. That’s a good thing if you’re an introvert who doesn’t have the time/energy/inclination to hang out long enough in a hangout place to get the same level of sampling. It’s a bad thing if you’re an MRA-wannabee who likes sending pictures of yourself in a Putin shirtless pose (or even worse, pictures of Special Agent Johnson). So I understand that women are going to take especial care in screening, and that it’s complicated by the fact that there are no in-person cues to go by. I just wish it was less opaque exactly what criteria are commonly used – because the asymmetrical nature of the communication system (which I endorse, because blind cutouts are necessary to minimize harassment) prevents reverse-engineering.

          As you say, it’s shitty but it beats the alternative – and maybe I’d feel differently if either me or that girl in San Fran had had the ability to relocate on spec.Report

  3. j r says:

    Those last two links are rumble strips. They are the alarming and uncomfortable noise that you hear when you stray too far in either direction, the histrionic alarmism of the traditionalist and the plaintive self-righteousness of the amateur libertine.

    From the left side of that road:

    Being a single woman who enjoys sex means I have to constantly be defending my body and my morals, because if left to their own devices men will revert to treating me as nothing more than a collection of holes for their own use? This is acceptable? Is this the price a woman has to pay if she chooses not to be celibate?

    Hmm… how to put this delicately? Hyperbole aside, yes, this is the price that you have to pay. If you want to sleep with lots of different people, then some of those people are going to be shitty, inconsiderate partners who are more interested in their own pleasure than in your comfort or enjoyment. The same thing goes for men, by the way. As @leeesq says above, lots of people have come to the ideological belief that society owes them the ability to have it all, to have their cake and eat it as well. And lots of those same people get quite the wake up call when they realize that the real world doesn’t conform so neatly to their idealized theories.

    On a less acerbic note, it is actually not that difficult to lead a relatively promiscuous sexual life while minimizing your interactions with terrible people. It just takes a fair amount of screening work, the self-awareness to accurately gauge your boundaries, and the self-possession to banish people who transgress those boundaries. This woman’s problem is that she wants to outsource all of that screening work to society as a whole. Good luck with that.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to j r says:

      I’m not sure if you are really responding to the issue she raises. She doesn’t come across as entitled to me. Rather, I think she is talking about the assumption that many men — and society in general — seem to hold that women who like sex can be assumed to what any and all sex from anyone at any time. We see this often come up in rape cases when the sexual history of the victim is called into question. I mean, that is analogous to questioning how often a victim of theft gave money away or shared his personal belongings. “Are you sure you didn’t want him to take it? Maybe you DID want him to take your wallet. I mean, you did give money to 12 charities last year…” That’d be ridiculous. And yet we see that same logic often applied to female victims of sexual assault. Because the idea that women who like sex in certain contexts have no boundaries and no right to assert or even change those boundaries remains prevalent.Report

      • j r in reply to Kazzy says:

        It’s not so much that I think that she is entitled, rather she wants all the pleasure of eschewing traditional sexual norms, but none of the downside. I don’t fault her for wanting that, but I think it’s incredibly naive.

        If you want an active and fulfilling sexual life with a variety of partners, it makes sense to do your own screening rather than trying to rely on society’s overarching sexual norms to keep you safe and fulfilled. They were not meant for that. There is a reason why people who are polyamorous or into BDSM or swinging spend an inordinate amount of time discussing and delineating their own rules and boundaries.

        Also, she makes quite clear that she isn’t talking about rape, but still wants to deploy the language of rape culture. This is exactly what I mean by people letting ideology trump reality:

        Rather, I think she is talking about the assumption that many men — and society in general — seem to hold that women who like sex can be assumed to what any and all sex from anyone at any time.

        What assumption? Very few people really believe anything like this. If anything, the fundamental experience of being a man is the understanding that the pool of people willing to have sex with you is many times smaller than the pool of people with whom you would willingly have sex. Most men grok this and act accordingly.

        To put another way, if she is having a constant set of problems with the way that men are treating her, this is likely a problem of her individual choices and the dynamic of those relationships than it is some overarching societal problem with how men in general perceive women in general.Report

  4. veronica d says:


    You guys! OMG!

    There has been a big social/economic shift that lets women be more financially independent, and thus we are not forced into marriage. Likewise, we are way more open-minded these days about how we have sex, which is pretty nice, cuz sex is fun.

    I know it’s hard for you guys to empathize with women, but consider the living hell of a loveless marriage to a controlling man? OMG! There was no escape.

    Nowadays, women in their twenties are making decisions, and some of those decisions will turn out to be mistakes. Some will be hard to reverse. This is not new. Our grandmothers also made bad decisions, and then were trapped.

    In some ways the “hetero life plan” is a garbage. In other ways it is kind of nice.

    Well, at least some people find it nice. I find the idea of a quiet home in the suburbs and kids and a minivan — yeesh shoot me now. I’m a city girl.

    But all the same, some folks like that. I guess it’s pretty attractive.

    Except the parts where you have to take a gamble on some twenty-something dude-ling in the hopes he isn’t a terrible husband, while of course all the guys you passed over will be sitting there, each of them resenting you cuz you didn’t pick him. And he’s quite sure that he would have been great, just the best, if only you overlooked all his {stuff}.


    I mean, maybe he would have been great. Maybe not. But I ain’t gonna date a sadsack, and sour grapes are not attractive.

    So we get our career, and we get our romances, among a class of modern men who don’t seem to grow up — and trust me, that is not attractive —

    — when we ask men about this they blame us.

    Ha! As if!

    It’s hard to balance expectations versus what is available.

    I mean, I’m doing this right now. There is this one woman who wants me bad, but she leaves me cold. There is this other woman — oof! So we’ve had one “date,” which went okay-ish, but now she’s kinda distant, so — blah. Do I hold out? Do I take what is there? Do I stay home, drink wine, and play Neko Atsume?

    The point is, I’m figuring this out as I go. We all are. But women today — we’re not locked in to marrying young. We’re not locked into the cis-het-mainstream-package-deal. We’re figuring it out.

    Now what role do men play in this?

    Depends on the man.

    It seems as if lots of lonely men have advice for women. I think I’ll keep looking.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to veronica d says:

      My advice remains: you get to pick one trait. If you’re lucky, maybe two… but odds are you just get to pick one. (But, maybe, you get to pick two.)

      What’s the most important trait?

      Is it that they are relatively employable and appear to be the type to remain so until they die in their 50’s or 60’s?

      Is it that they are very, very, very physically attractive?

      Is it that they are into long distance running?

      Is it that they have read the same obscure books and plays that you have?

      Is it that they worship the same god variant?

      Pick the trait that is most important to you. Then run with that. Watch out: some traits are transient. Additionally: your present self may not be the best judge of what will be important to your future self.

      Be careful. If you screw up, you’ll have less leverage over that potential second trait in 5 years.Report

      • veronica d in reply to Jaybird says:

        I say, be open-minded about what you get in life. There is more than one way to be happy.

        Like, I never expected my life to turn out like it did — to say the least. But actually, I’m pretty happy. I still haven’t solved the how-to-relationship puzzle, but I do okay, way better than old-me did. (That poor boy-like-thing was a broken mess.) I have a pretty cool job, so that helps. I have to deal with a metric fuckton of day-to-day bigotry — so blah. That’s depressing.

        On the other hand, I never really wanted a normal life.

        Anyway, my point is, you can be happy with books and cats. Or not. You meet people in life. Some you might love. Some of them might love you back. Explore that. It’s an adventure. Maybe you don’t get the suburban “perfect life,” but I grew up in the ’burbs. I’ve seen that world for real. There was so much garbage, misery thinly disguised.

        Fuck that. Don’t be that.

        There are these women, middle-aged, unhappy with men, who wander into tranny bars looking to pick up girls-like-me. At least, I’ve personally encountered two of them, and talked to other trans women who have met more. (I suspect a very similar set shows up a cis-lesbian bars.) Anyhow, they’re been living the straight-and-narrow and they are hungry for something — I wanna say something authentic, although maybe authenticity has nothing to do with it. I dunno.

        Anyhow, I’m happy to share with them an evening. It’s fun. They’re delightful.

        They don’t come back. At least, the two I met didn’t come back.

        I guess that’s okay, if that’s the best they can have. But what life choices have they made, where every few years they have to step out to get the kind of love they really want?

        You have to figure out how to make your life work. If that ends up marriage to a hubby who putters around in the garage, along with competitive baby showers, and evenings out with the catty office girls whose husbands are cuter than yours, and all of that — then fine. Live it. Are you happy?

        My life didn’t turn out that way. I’m kinda glad.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to veronica d says:

          Oh, yeah, I suppose “long-term monogamy” was baked into my assumptions.

          If you’re down with short-term monogamy or non-monogamy, you pretty much have a lot fewer limitations. (That whole “iterated prisoner’s dilemma” thing that LTRs have is no longer an issue, for one.)

          There are a lot of upsides to that sort of thing.Report

          • veronica d in reply to Jaybird says:

            @jaybird — I don’t think anything I’m saying is incompatible with long-term monogamy. After all, my ex-wife and I made it fifteen years, and it took some heavy shit to break us up.

            I mean, gender transition is a pretty big deal, although she is bisexual. But still. My point is, the reasons we broke up were way bigger than the gender stuff.

            We are both so much happier now. I see our marriage as something precious. It gave each of us so much. She agrees. (We still talk a lot.) But all the same, it wasn’t something meant to last.

            There is a lot of room, I think, between being cavalier about commitment and expecting commitment to continue even if both parties are miserable. Which, my ex-wife and I said the words: “til death do us part,” and at the time we meant it. Then life happened.

            I don’t think you’ll ever draw bright lines about what commitment should mean, unless you’re keen on human misery. On the other hand, a shared life is a wonderful thing. There is no reason not to have that.

            And if it doesn’t work out: next step.

            Make your life work.

            (Don’t fuck over your partner. I take it as a given that you’re solid. My ex- and I both were.)Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to veronica d says:

      @veronica-d, I realize that the past romantic/sexual system was truly terrible for many people like all women, homosexual men, people with kinks, people that could not be in a traditional monogamous relationships. All revolutions have their losers and I feel like I’m on the losing end of the Sexual Revolution for something that I did not do.

      Most people my age have already been in a substantial romantic/sexual relationship and probably had at least a couple of flings/one night stands when they are younger. Actually, most of them are or were married and have kids by this point in their life. I had one brief and not good relationship in my late twenties and ever since than my dating experience has consisted of an endless series of first dates with a rejection about not feeling chemistry or rejection by silence. It took until 2015 for me to get two dates out of an encounter. Considering my circumstances, I think that I have a very good reason to be pissed and angry about the current romantic/sexual system because I feel like I’m getting a raw deal.

      Why should I support a bloody system that makes me do so much work for so much less? Why should other people get to experience the full range while I might have to jump into a serious relationship that involves taking care of somebody else’s kids or nothing. A lot of women want absolution for all their past experience but if they might have to bend a little because their less experienced partner wants to make up for lost time or might want something they do not want to provide, its considered a deal breaker. That man is after all “needy” and we can not have that at all. I feel that I’m asked to provide nearly everything in return for nothing. You accuse men of not wanting to grow up but my experience leads me to believe that is women who are the childish ones with their “I want to have it all” attitude.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to LeeEsq says:

        And I’d actually really would like an answer on this, @veronica-d. What does your system have to offer somebody in my position? The idea of being initiated into romance and/or sex might hot to some but to me it is revolting and I don’t care how patriarchal this comes across. Real experimentation is a mutual learning experience that occurs with people with roughly the same amount of experience. If my prospective partner did everything with other people first than I am not engaging in any meaningful experimentation. The chance of me getting the latter is highly unlikely, so tell what can I reasonably expect. A choice between life long loneliness or having to enter a serious relationship much sooner than I want? Somebody who will use affection as means and method of control? I’m feeling very cynical about all of this recently and nobody is making a good case against my cynicism.Report

        • j r in reply to LeeEsq says:

          I’m not Veronica, and my advice comes from a different vector (although, I wager that there is lots on which we would agree), but here is my response to your cynicism: you’re right, so now what?*

          And this is my exact response to the woman complaining that guys don’t respect her and treat her the way that she feels that she ought to be treated.

          If you want people to treat you better, you have three choices. You can complain that life ain’t fair. You can dedicate yourself to a life of activism in an attempt to change social norms to your benefit. Or you can make individual changes in your own behavior that bring you closer to getting what you want. The choice is yours, but I know which has the most chance of working.

          * ps – You’re also wrong, but no need to make this more complicated than it needs to be.Report

          • Chris in reply to j r says:

            Or you can do all three, which has always been my general approach.

            If all of your first dates aren’t going well enough to produce second dates, there’s a 100% chance that you are not good at first dates. Do everything differently. Feel free to complain, of course, but I wouldn’t recommend doing it while on the date.Report

            • El Muneco in reply to Chris says:

              There’s something to be said for, even if your goal is an LTR, dating as dating. There are exactly zero endeavors at which humans are naturally as good at their first time out than they are with practice. So you do some casual dating, thinking coldly about it as an apprenticeship or the Minors. Then when you can hit a curveball, you might be ready for the freaky breaking stuff you get thrown in the Show.

              Same principle as job interviews.

              Mind you, I don’t exactly follow this advice, but it’s probably better than what I’m doing instead.Report

            • Kim in reply to Chris says:

              Then you get the people who will wind up with contracts about “expected behavior” on the first date.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to LeeEsq says:

          I think you are failing to recognize your role in your predicament, @leeesq . The “revolution” didn’t say things HAVE to be different… Only that they can. You can still find what had been the norm; it just might be harder. But you have a very specific set of circumstances and very specific wants/needs. That’s (mostly) on you. And if you don’t want to budge off that and take @jaybird ‘s advice, you’re going to continue to feel frustration.

          As @j-r says, shake your fist if it makes you feel good, but it ain’t gonna get you anywhere.

          Ask yourself: Why has your dating life proven so dissatisfying? Is it because the nut is too hard to crack? Or are you using the wrong tool?Report

        • veronica d in reply to LeeEsq says:

          @leeesq — Dude, I don’t even know what to tell you. So far as I can tell you’ve had the same chances at love as any of us. I mean, you get dates. Women with share with you an evening, with the potential for romance. It’s not like you face some weird, unfair bigotry — which I do face that. So.

          I mean, short guys get a raw deal, sure, but it ain’t like being trans. Not hardly.

          And as far as your other shit, being “old fashioned” or whatever, look, personality is a legitimate reason to reject someone, as is character, hobbies, interests, and so on. Which is to say, the relationship between social justice and romantic attraction is very tricky, and believe me, as a politically engaged transgender woman, I’m often splitting some pretty fine hairs on how to talk about this stuff in a way that respects the choices that others get to make.

          Anyway, my point is, there is a pretty thin line between hating the choices people make and hating their right to make that choice. The way you’re talking, about how great everything used to be or how you want a woman with just a particular history — well that sounds like the latter. Actually you sound bitter and sexist as fuck. That’s a terrible life plan. (Hint: those “redpill” fuckers aren’t actually happy. Make your choice. Place your bets. Live your life.)

          You get dates. The people you date aren’t interested. I see no signs they are acting in bad faith. So what now?Report

          • LeeEsq in reply to veronica d says:

            Its very natural for people in my position, in my thirties with only one brief and not pleasant relationship that went no where. I know that most likely anybody I’m going into a relationship with is going to have much more experience than I am. What really annoys me about it is that I’m not given any slack for not enjoying the slog I’m going through or my lack of experience.

            A lot of dating advice for men is that revolve around having to prove your value to the woman your interested. This advice comes in misogynistic and non-misogynistic forms but none of it makes me feel better. I don’t like the idea that as a man inherently lack value or that women inherently possess value that I must earn. Its really hard to feel confident when they entire system is telling you that your inherently worthless and we all know that confidence is very important for dating. Its like a really bad sales job.Report

            • Don Zeko in reply to LeeEsq says:

              I don’t see why that has to be expressed in gendered terms. People don’t want to date people that they don’t value, so trying to get in a relationship necessarily means convincing some other person that you have value to them.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Don Zeko says:

                It does not have to be expressed in gender terms but in my experience even many progressive people do express it gender terms. The dating advice for heterosexual men is that it is your job to prove value and build the initial attraction. A lot of this is because even in our egalitarian age, men do most of the initial approaching.* Since men do the approaching, the woman has value to the man already because otherwise he wouldn’t approach her and he has to work to show his value.

                *There is a lot of ink spilled on why this is. Some argue that its because there is still a strong stigma against women being forward in their romantic and sexual pursuits. I find this partially but not wholly convincing, and on a few occasions I’ve been asked out by women so this isn not just frustration speaking, that the wanting to have your cake and eat it to that I’ve critiqued above applies here. A lot of women do not approach because they simply do not want to and they would not even if there was no social stigma involved. They want to be the ones that get pursued rather than pursue.Report

              • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

                It was my impression, from a brief and cursory reading, that women are more likely to send out the first signals — one of which includes eye gaze, but that guys get to… actually do the asking out.

                Are you missing those signals?Report

              • veronica d in reply to Kim says:

                OMG I could write a lot about this. In fact, I have a bunch of essays on the topic over on Tumblr. Unfortunately, Tumblr is impossible to find anything on. So anyway. Briefly, if you think that women “have it easy” in this regard, you have no fucking clue. Like, good grief no!

                First off, if it feels like an “approach,” then you’re doing it wrong.

                You get that, right?

                Okay look, like many of you, I also am shy and socially anxious and I get that you can’t just turn this shit off and on in your mind. I understand. Really. I understand down to my bones I too cry at night. Fuuuuck.

                But this is hard-on-the-inside, not hard-on-the-outside.

                Like, climbing a mountain is hard-on-the-outside. Talking to an attractive person is easy as fuck. Just, you know, talk to them. Say, “Hi.”

                The point is, the difficulty comes from inside you. (And me.)

                I know it’s hard, but it’s hard cuz YOU, not THEM.

                And if they brush you off? If they are rude?

                I think you already know the answer to that.

                (And literally right now as I type this, that woman I have a crush on that I’ve been talking about just texted me so now I’m in full freakout mode, but nevertheless my commitment to pontificating on the Internet remains strong!)


                Look, flirting is a two way street, and we gals do a lot of work in the hope of attracting the attention of some person — which in my case I mostly date women (and that is its own confusing mess). But still, I am attracted to men and I do want to date them (some of them) and like —

                — well it seems like a lot of guys want to feel like they are running the situation. Like, feminism isn’t always right about men, but we do notice real shit, and there is a thing where (many/most/a lot of) men like to feel in control. It’s a thing.

                And you know, most women are not big time feminists. You get that, right? Your typical woman likes some parts of feminism but not others, and what she wants from men will vary, cuz she’s person with her own heart and mind. Respect that.

                But my point is, women who play the het-typicial dating game very often have little control of who or where or at what pace things happen at.

                We can say “no.” We can stop the process. (Well, sometimes. There is some dark shit here also. But let’s skip over that and talk about basically decent men and women.)

                But that one power we have, to say “no,” which so many men elevate as some kind of premium thing — it’s all we got. And when men fixate on one of us, like when they get all “she has so much POWER over my boner!!!” — well we didn’t ask for that. SO FUCKING MUCH happens according to the desires of men.

                You guys don’t even realize.

                There is that quote, I think from Douglass Adams, about how a big critter can sit on a smaller critter, and the big critter doesn’t notice, but the smaller critter sure does.

                Flirting is two-way. Women work hard to look enticing, way harder than most of you guys. Plus, we flirt, we smile, cast glances, pose. Men with (for lack of a better term) “game” (which just means social calibration) notice this, and they effortlessly talk to us, and gauge interest, and make clear their attractions — and classy men do this without being crass assholes. (Not that I mind a bit of crassness now and again, but I’m a washed-up old punk rock tranny, so yeah.)

                Anyway, men who talk about “oh noes I have to approach” — you are so far from “getting it.”

                Find your own awesomosity. Then bring it.Report

            • veronica d in reply to LeeEsq says:

              @leeesq — Honestly, dating advice is almost uniformly garbage. But more, most dating advice from feminists is preposterously terrible garbage.

              Which, it often contains good “life advice,” since a lot of us gals see self-actualization as more important than getting laid. But as dating advice? Blah.

              Most relationship writing is adversarial. Think of it this way, no one wants to read articles about how great relationships are and how harmonious the genders can be. That shit is boring. It’s way more entertaining to turn your lens to mr. “dark-triad” dudebro and his torso shots, versus the queer sex-positive feminist with a variously hued dye job. Now, that’s a good story. It has drama, intrigue, sexual tension. She can make fun of his penis size and then fuck some other guy (or maybe girl) with all the qualities the writer imagines she is attracted to (but probably is not).

              Stop reading that shit. It isn’t helping you.

              Keep in mind, most of us, when we read that stuff, are entertained, and then we get on with our lives.

              Which is to say, I’ve met men (and women) like those in the articles. Hell, I’ve been sexually assaulted by men (and one time a woman) like those in the articles.

              But most people are not like the people in the articles.

              Stop reading that shit.


              I’m not going to give you any advice, cuz dating advice is shit, no doubt including mine.

              (I can give great advice on how to be painfully shy.)

              (My basic advice for everything is “take estrogen, grow tits.” I suspect that might not work for you as well as it worked for me.)

              I’ll say this. You deserve to be happy. But we deserve to be happy also. If you go around all pissed off and resentful at us for our happiness — well you better goddam hide that shit cuz it’s a dark cloud.

              One time I was talking to my therapist about how hard it was to meet people at clubs. He asked, “How do you act?”

              I was like, “I just kinda hang out.”

              He then asked, “Do you think maybe you’re kinda putting off bad energy, like a defensive vibe?”

              I nodded. Of course I was. He nodded back.


              Good luck.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to veronica d says:

                There is a good chance that I might be giving off a negative aura. However, I really don’t have to like being on the receiving end of other people’s self-actualization, which amounts a lot of feminist dating advice to be telling me. Why should other people’s self-actualization involve a lot of interesting romantic/sexual experiences while I’m supposed to be content with fulfilling whatever their current needs are if they decide to enter a relationship with me latter? This is the wanting to have your cake and eat it to attitude that I was criticizing above.

                There are too many people who want to be able to have a wide variety of romantic experiences but end up in a mature, loving, and stable relationship with a person who will willingly provide all the traditional things without question. If a man expected this from a woman, he would be rightfully called out for his misogyny but when women expect this from a man, its somehow feminist. To me it just seems greedy.Report

              • veronica d in reply to LeeEsq says:

                @leeesq — Dude OMG!

                The advice about self-actualization is about your growth, like internally, as a person. I mean, take it or leave it, but it is offered in good faith.

                Honestly, talking to you about this is really frustrating, and this isn’t the first time we’ve gone down this road. But seriously, you sound like the kind of guy that women warn each other about.

                Like, I’m telling you flat out: it’s you. The problem is you, all you, not the world. You’re a mess and you need to fix yourself.

                You’re being an energy suck and completely selfish. Everything you’ve written is about what you lack, but not what you can provide. You complain about how people want things from you, and how you ain’t getting things, but are LITERALLY OBLIVIOUS to the fact you want something from them. Like, it’s a two way street, and all of us are working hard to find happiness.

                You’re completely disrespectful of women, of our agency, our needs, our desires. We’re people.


                I’m not surprised you pine for the days of oppressive patriarchy, when women had little choice.


                Like, this is empathy 101. Ask yourself: what do I offer?

                If your answer is “bah! why do I have to offer anything? why do people expect so much? it’s unfaaaaaairrrrrrr” —

                — then you’re acting like a spoiled crybaby.

                Every single person on this thread has told you the same thing: it didn’t come easy to us either. But we rolled up our sleeves and climbed the ladder, which you resent and refuse to do. We’re not lying. I’m single right now and dealing with the hard shit right now. I’m lonely and sad and annoying my friends with tedious monologues about the woman who didn’t text me back.

                Whatever. She’s doing what she needs to do. I get to be sad. She gets to be free.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to veronica d says:

                I’m sorry for being pissy about this subject but I’ve never said anything about pining for the days of oppressive patriarchy. In other parts of this thread, I explicitly stated that I recognize the ways things are now are better in general for many people. That doesn’t mean that I’m personally satisfied with the way things are in my life and I’m the one who has to live my life.Report

              • Damon in reply to veronica d says:

                @leeesq @veronica-d

                Funny, I’ve always been of the mind that you needed to be yourself and not give a damn what other people thought. Confidence is key I think as well. Also, I will say that I’ve had more women chase me, or not let go, when I was a TOTAL ASS and didn’t care about pursuing dates with them and even rejected them.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Damon says:

                Word, Damon.

                I’ve written about that very thing myself (my memory barely extends that far back…). Course, now I’m reminded of a linky Will posted that obese people get laid more than thin not-obese people. Maybe they’re onto sumthin.

                Add: well, not the “total ass” part. Just that genuinely not-caring is viewed as interesting.Report

              • Kim in reply to Damon says:

                I know a straight guy who used to cruise gay bars for free drinks. (he was rather poor — and not of age — at the time).

                Yes, confidence is hot, and being an ass will still get you dates.Report

              • veronica d in reply to veronica d says:

                @leeesq — I stand by everything I said.

                @damon — That’s not incompatible with what I’m saying. My point is, you get what you get cuz the other person wants what you got. And likewise the other way. You go for them cuz you want what they got. The best in you meets the best in them — or in my case the most sordid and desperate in me meets the most sordid and desperate in them. But whatever. The point is, it’s free and equal.

                And actually, trying to be everything women say they want in bad Internet think-pieces is a losing strategy. Go back and read what I wrote about dumb relationship articles. They are a genre of entertainment. We gals love reading them.

                Girl power! And don’t’cha hate those shallow men and their torso shots!

                Nice guys!

                Don’t read that shit (unless you can read it as detached entertainment). Instead, go out and be awesome in yourself. People like awesome people.Report

              • Damon in reply to veronica d says:


                I didn’t intend my comment to be an argument against what you were saying V. 🙂Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to LeeEsq says:

                And I’m really sorry if my response seemed very aggressive but it did bring up a particular nightmare scenario for me in dating that I described in the initial response.Report

              • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Why not sit down and write an essay about what you want in terms of interesting romantic/sexual stuff? I’d be interested to read it, and not merely for trolling purposes. (really, I don’t troll that much)Report

        • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

          If your partner did “everything” with someone else first??
          Dude, most people are not sex workers.
          If we grant that most women age 30 have had about six sexual partners…
          There’s still a 20% shot, if not more, that you have sufficiently different interests/equipment that nearly everything can be experimental between you. (Sex, in particular, is done differently with different sets of equipment and different experience levels).

          Sex is mostly a mental thing, and that goes doubly so for women. (eta: and “third gender” folks, which is probably more of the folks around here than will admit it).Report

        • Francis in reply to LeeEsq says:


          I’m writing just to offer my compassion, for what it’s worth. You seem to be a decent guy and I’m very sorry that life has dealt you such a hard hand. I wish you best of luck in these matters of the heart.

          My only cure for cynicism is to get involved in something that matters to you. Do something, anything, on the weekends that you think you might enjoy.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I was with you up to a point, but now I’m just confused. If it weren’t for the sexual revolution, you’d probably have married a reasonably desirable woman ten years ago. All in all, not a bad deal, and if you were complaining about how the sexual revolution has made that option less accessible to you, I’d get that. But now it seems like you’re complaining that it’s diminished your ability to have flings, which is a real head-scratcher, because as hard as that may be for you now, it probably would have been even harder back in the 50s.Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to Brandon Berg says:

          Maybe but part of me doubts whether or not I would have had better luck under a more conservative courtship system. Part of me easily sees myself in the same situation I’m currently in even with more conservative norms.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to LeeEsq says:

            So wouldn’t that suggest the issue is you and not the system?Report

            • LeeEsq in reply to Kazzy says:

              These aren’t mutually inconclusive. The problem could partly or even mainly be with me for a variety of reasons and the system could still be slightly or every fished up.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Oh, agreed.

                And please know I’m not trying to criticize. It seems like your asking for feedback and I’m trying to offer some honest feedback. Beyond what little I see of you here, I don’t know you from Adam and wouldn’t purport to know what you’re doing wrong on your dates or how the system is fishing you or whathaveyou. It just seems like somewhere in the interaction between you and “the system” there is a disconnect. You might be able to impact the system slightly, but you can definitely control for your own contributions to the issue. So I always recommend starting there. Focus on what you can control.Report

              • Chris in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Dating is hard for everyone. I’m not sure it’s ever been easy, and it certainly hasn’t been easy since we started “dating” instead of courting or arranging or whatever it is people used to do within various cultures and social strata. It is a skill, though, and one that takes practice to get good at, even if it never becomes easy.

                You’ve talked about having female friends before. You should double date with them (not necessarily all at once!), and when the dates are over, ask them what they think you could do differently to increase the chances of getting a second date.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to LeeEsq says:

                I agree with Chris: dating, as a formal construct, is hard. For everyone.

                My only advice (which is worth what you paid for!) is to perhaps go in the other direction on this. Imagine, all the way to your bones, what it would be like to not care so much about “finding someone”. That process may reveal to you what you’re hungup on, what blocks you create, and ultimately, what you’re trying to achieve (yes, I used that word intentionally) by finding a longterm mate.

                The reason I say that is because my guess – informed, but still a guess – is that if you could get yourself to a place where you didn’t CARE so much about finding a partner … you’d find a partner.Report

              • El Muneco in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Another possible complicating factor: people in general are notoriously bad at game theory, and may just not be understanding where they are in the process, and not have their filtering thresholds set properly (c.f. this that showed up in my feed today).

                I suspect that part of my problem is that I’m also demanding too much similarity going in, leading to false negatives pre-approach, and then filtering on the receiving side is leading to false negatives post-approach.

                I wish I’d done what some people even geekier than me do and spreadsheet a record of everything I’ve done, so this is anecdotal, but now that I think about it I can’t detect any strong correlation between “strength of compatibility”, “positive response”, and “dates after first meeting”. With one outlier, who was basically me with different plumbing.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to El Muneco says:

                Another possible complicating factor: people in general are notoriously bad at game theory

                You’ve just restricted the target zone by a factor of a thousand…. 🙂Report

              • veronica d in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Personally I recommend punk rock and kick boxing, but then I don’t get many dates so…Report

              • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

                If, and I do say “if” the problem is a lack of “chemistry”… one might be best served by expanding dating pools to people that you are significantly different from, genetically speaking.

                Sources cited (again) upon request.

                You CANNOT be helping yourself if you’re dating people who on average have the same great-great-grandfather as you.Report

  5. Maribou says:

    two things:

    1) if online dating isn’t working for you (general you but specifically also people expressing their frustration in this thread), i suggest finding other ways to date, or better yet, other sites. for people who want the fairly traditional model, eHarmony seems to work best, but ymmv. Matchmakers tend to work, if they have a good track record. Free sites are usually “you get what you pay for” unless you are in a niche community.

    I have generally found, as someone who has watched a LOT of my friends (male and female) go through this, that romantic happiness comes from being happy – deeply happy – with your own company first, and then sort of working up to things from there. (Start by making friends with your friends’ female friends – or at least socializing with them – *without* trying to date them. If you take away the dating motivation, I think you can be more analytical about how your various ways of interacting do work with women, don’t work, and/or work best with exactly the sort of person you’d theoretically like to date, so fish the rest of ’em. (or, er, don’t fish the rest of them, I suppose.) If you already have lots of female in-person friends, feel free to skip this step.) I’m not sure how I fit into this theory, having been encoupled in one way or another since I was 17, but I hypothesize that Jaybird and I were just really really lucky to have each found someone who was committed to the project of each one of us being happier with ourselves. (even if we didn’t phrase it that way at the time.)

    I know the above is hokey, but it’s hokey because it works.

    2) @veronica-d among a class of modern men who don’t seem to grow up — and trust me, that is not attractive
    actually, I disagree. there are ways and not ways of growing up. i’d be doomed if I had to spend my life (or even chunks of it) with someone who didn’t make fart jokes and laugh so hard they fell off of things once in a while. Someone who didn’t like my more childlike aspects, interests, and hobbies. Someone who wanted me to get serious and have kids and move to the suburbs and otherwise enact what I think a Grown Up Person does, because that was what they were doing with their own lives. Fortunately enough, I don’t find such people even passingly attractive, unless they have a dry wit and a debonair smile, and even then it wears off quickly.

    The trick for me was finding someone who was grown up – or willing to work on growing up – in the right ways, and still 5 or 8 or 13 or 17 in the right ways, ie ways that matched me or challenged me or just made me laugh a lot.

    Still a heck of a lot of work, but worth it. A grown-up would not have been.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Maribou says:

      I tend to think of growing up in terms of responsibility. Fart jokes? Comic books? By all means! But failing to pay rent because you blew all your money on Magic the Gathering cards? Or gambling? Or opera tickets? That’s a responsibility issue.Report

      • veronica d in reply to Kazzy says:

        What Kazzy said. I’m 48 and I have purple hair. I love to go to rock shows and dance silly — cuz I don’t care.

        But I mean, it’s more about growing up “on the inside” — like finding that real strength and perspective that comes with age, even if you still have a child inside.

        There is an enormous difference between “childlike” and “childish.”Report

    • Morat20 in reply to Maribou says:

      FWIW, around here they have several “singles” things that are effectively “Let’s go do something!” (rock climbing, kayaking, art shows — it’s pretty varied) that’s basically a company that puts together (and advertises) groups of single people and sends them to events.

      You choose the events you’re interested in, and the basic gist at least you’ve got that in common with everyone else there. If nothing else, you get to do something fun.

      But then, I knew my wife in high school (although we never dated. I remet her late in college, but we didn’t date. Then after we graduated we ended up working in the same building and, well….). Of course, that led to virtually everyone we knew in school saying things like “you married WHO?” to her..Report

    • El Muneco in reply to Maribou says:

      “for people who want the fairly traditional model, eHarmony seems to work best”

      I’ve been on there quite a while, and it’s interesting (both from a social and technical standpoint). In particular, I suspect that it’s better the less you deviate from certain social norms (i.e. religious vs. non, politically moderate vs. extreme) – that the weighting has a tendency to overcompensate when it finds two people whose extremes match, and that creates a “false positive” due to swamping a lot of little things which add up once you have talked for a while.

      I mean, I already live with and have sex with a smart, shortish, pedantic techie who likes long-distance running. It doesn’t help to be matched with a woman who is exactly like me in all the ways that don’t matter.Report

      • Damon in reply to El Muneco says:

        On the opposite side of the equation is my profile on OK Cupid, which I wrote as if it was “Doctor Evil” from the Austin Power’s movies.

        Verbatim questions from the site:

        “What do you think about often?”
        1) World Domination
        2) How to defeat my niece’s plans for world domination
        3) Minions: Hire or genetic engineering?

        “Have you ever been arrested?”
        No, but I’ve had to “evade and elude” LEO while carrying 22 kilograms of weapons grade plutonium.

        I had several women email me as if they were applying for the “head minion” job. No lies.Report

        • Kim in reply to Damon says:

          Well, that doesn’t tell me that you are anything but someone who’s a tad witty and amusing. (If I was looking, that’s enough for me to at least take a second glance)

          About as good as the Pizza Hut profile (which got tons of free press, so that’s a compliment)Report

          • Damon in reply to Kim says:

            Yep, something to separate yourself from the “maddening cow”.

            Surprisingly, “I survived a volcanic eruption” doesn’t get any comments, and it’s one of the true statements on that profile. 🙂Report

            • Kim in reply to Damon says:

              Dude! Where and when! I want details!
              [I do collect stories, in case you haven’t noticed].Report

              • veronica d in reply to Kim says:

                Now I’m picturing Kim on some other forum, posing some preposterous volcano theory and selling it with “but I know this volcano expert…”Report

              • veronica d in reply to veronica d says:

                Oh and I know this one girl who lives in a handmade cabin in the wood, who claims she has been struck by lightening three times. That’s pretty cool.

                And she’s a looker (but sadly way out of my league).Report

              • Kim in reply to veronica d says:

                Honestly! haven’t you learned anything about the stories I tell…?
                A friend of mine survived a volcano eruption…
                Just like a friend of mine is a comedian.
                Just like a friend of mine created a pot-smoking elmo twitter account and got Wall Street to google it (Qwikster).

                And please don’t believe my packs of lies, they’re all true.

                Just like Old Man Henderson (which a friend of mine made up… and friends of yours had the unbelievable stupidity to pick a fight with.)

                But I maintain that the best story I’ve ever heard ends with “We got hacked by a fourteen year old GIRL!!?!”Report

              • Damon in reply to Kim says:

                Mt St. Helen’s. 1980

                I was fishing near the Canadian border with the family and we were returning home the day of the eruption. My dad drove straight into the ash cloud. We were going south and it was going north east. Got stuck around Grand Cooley Dam. Lived in someone’s house for a few days once they closed the roads. Not as exciting in detail but TECHNICALLY works for a dating profile 🙂Report

              • Kim in reply to Damon says:

                Was the person whose house you were living in there at the time?

                Honestly! You’d rather live without the excitement. I know a pair of idiots who went to Acadia during a Hurricane (it was March). They wound up skating around an ice patch on the top of a mountain — blown by the wind. On the plus side? They managed to rescue some gaming dice from the weather station that had blown away…Report

              • Damon in reply to Kim says:

                Yes it was. That’s actually another interesting story…

                So we pulled into a little town and ran into the Captain of the Fire Brigade, who said they were setting up a shelter in the local school gym. My dad said some words to him, the Fire dude looked at us, and then invited us to stay at his house for the duration.

                After we drove away and on to the guy’s house, dad turned to me and said “This is why you dress nicely while traveling”. The man had a point. (This was something of a point of disagreement with me and him in my younger days) 🙂Report

              • Kim in reply to Damon says:

                I tend to dress like a clueless Silicon Valley executive while traveling (the kind who is trying to do casual, but… doesn’t actually know casual)
                In NYC, some tourists were convinced that my husband and I were celebrities, and started taking pictures…Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Maribou says:

      I agree with that Maribou. Good comment.

      My wife and I have actually had conversations about that exact thing, where we effectively give each other permission, as we go down the long road to growing up and evolving in our different ways, to move on from this relationship if it no longer serves our needs or suits our purposes. The beauty of a marriage is that two people go on that journey together. But also that neither partner knows exactly where anyone will end up. The journey’s the thing, tho, seems to me. That’s what ties it all together.Report

    • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Maribou says:

      I have to say, #1 is really damn true. Since this past summer or so I’ve gotten involved with a new group of friends that’s pretty large and gender mixed and it’s actually helped a lot with my general happiness and my general level of social anxiety. Am I going to date any of these women? Probably not, since a lot of them are either in long term SO’s.

      But, the fact there’s a solid group of people where almost every weekend, out of the two dozen or so people in the group chat, there’s a few people willing to go to trivia, go out for drinks on a weekend, head to a random thing, or in some cases, a bunch of us all rented a house in Portland for a weekend.

      Now, the truth is my actual dating success isn’t much different that it was before. But, I don’t care as much because instead of staring at my laptop screen every weekend like I was doing for way too damn long, I’m doing stuff and if something happens while doing stuff, OK. And if it doesn’t, it’s still OK.Report

  6. Tod Kelly says:

    LeeEsq: I realize that the past romantic/sexual system was truly terrible for many people like all women, homosexual men, people with kinks, people that could not be in a traditional monogamous relationships…

    Why should I support a bloody system that makes me do so much work for so much less?

    I’ll go ahead and weigh in a bit here, because I want to invite you to consider that part of the reason you can’t find satisfying answers to your questions is that your questions are flawed out of the gate. I would argue that it’s not just women, LGBT, and non-mainstream folk who are better off today than they were a few generations ago; straight men, too, are victors in the so-called sexual revolution.

    When my parents were young, the social norm was for them to “hook up” as soon as they were adults and (if they were male) had a steady job, where “hooking up” means getting married for life. The degree to which a potential betrothed was a good fit in terms of compatibility, lifestyle choices, temperament, and general happiness were secondary luxury items that you would be shamed for caring too much about finding.

    This is not gone. It is very much open to you. If you really want that kind of marriage, it is damn easy to achieve. There are online dating sites where with very little effort you can find someone willing to marry you, if your priority is simply finding someone to say they will marry you.

    You can opt for this type of marriage today, but you do not have to opt for this kind. You get to choose. You can dive into the kind of marriage that was more common in a previous age, or you can try to find someone who you choose because of them and who they are, and create a life where the two of you are equals.

    That’s not “so much less,” man. That is so, so, so much more.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Word up from my man @tod-kelly !

      I suppose I might add: do you expect that your marriage will end in divorce? If so, you needn’t be all that picky about who you marry. (Query if what you really want is to marry. If you want to have kids, marriage is not necessarily a prerequiste for that anymore. If what you want is the Ward-and-June-Cleaver thing, that’s available too.)

      Also, how long is your checklist? How much filtering are you doing? Be honest. I’m not suggesting without more evidence that you’re filtering too much or too little. But be honest about how you’re filtering. Looks, geography, income, education, sexual history, interest in kids, religion, alcohol use … none of these are insignificant. But at the same time, they all are insignificant, too. When the puzzle pieces fit, you ought to be able to dismiss something that otherwise would be a “dealbreaker.”

      What I’m saying is, be cognizant of what you’re looking for. The more you’re willing to compromise on a temporary, provisional basis, the less you’ll find yourself actually compromising at all.Report

      • Kim in reply to Burt Likko says:

        “When the puzzle pieces fit, you ought to be able to dismiss something that otherwise would be a “dealbreaker.”

        I wouldn’t marry someone who wasn’t Jewish. My husband converted (and not simply because I said it was necessary… actually, I think it was more because he liked the Jewish sense of humor, which may seem like a bit of a flawed way to evaluate a religion, but… eh? Comedians, amirite?).Report

  7. aaron david says:

    There is a lot of good advice in the comments here, especially Stillwater and Chris. Now I am going to give you a few bits more.

    1. Never come across as some sort of knowitall. Never try to be the best, most knowledgeabe, talkyest person on the date. Let them talk a bit more than you. Pay attention to them, let them ask questions, but never dominate the conversations.

    2 Be fun. Talk about things others find fun, learn a few jokes, when you ask those questions, ask about fun things. Listen for the fun things. And by fun things, I mean things society in general finds fun. You might have to go to some potty humor movies, or at least put the idea for that on the table. Come across as normal, someone that is seen as introducable.

    3. Stop dating. That might sound counterintuitive, but listen to me. Get off the websites and start getting invited to dinner parties. You wont meet anyone there that you are going to date, and you wont try. What you are looking for is people you know and like to say “I have a friend/sister/whatever you might like.” And then you are in the mode of actually meeting real people, and all that get to know/ is he for real/etc. stuff is already taken care of.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to aaron david says:

      Thanks for the advice but these are things I am doing or at least attempting to do except for three. People have tried to introduce me to people to date but they tend to introduce me to people they would like to date but can not in my experience rather than the type of person I’d be attracted to. Many times they introduce me to types of woman that they know I’m explicitly not attracted to. In my experience, I don’t trust their judgments.Report

  8. katherinemw says:

    I’ve never used dating sites and wouldn’t (mostly because I don’t have any interest in starting a relationship that way; also because I’ve heard from a lot of women who use dating sites that unwanted dick picks and general creepiness from guys are pretty much guaranteed).

    I’ve only had one boyfriend (for a couple years on-off, about 10 years ago) in all my life, and I’m nearly 30. But since I think sex before marriage (or at least, sex without the strong intention for a permanent and exclusive committment) is wrong, and I have no intention of ever getting married, I’m pretty much a dead end as far as dating is concerned.

    I don’t think any person’s inability to get a date is emblematic of some broader social problem, or something wrong with the opposite gender. It’s just something that happens.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to katherinemw says:

      I can’t remember whether I’ve asked this before, but if I did I don’t remember the answer: Is the combination of religious conservatism and radical economic leftism unusual in Canada too, or just in the US?Report

      • I believe it is an international phenomenon. At least from Central Europe and points west. Not sure about Latin America. But the internationalization of (mainstream) right and left is a thing (though variation and degrees differ).Report

      • Marchmaine in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        It is very common in Catholic circles – especially internationally; in America there’s a distinct subset, but it is a very intentional community…

        But even then, what you mean by “leftist” economics is not marxist leftist.Report

      • Maribou in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        It’s quite common in Canada because what you see as “radical economic leftism” is just “economic leftism” there, not at all shocking in a basically socialist-and-aware-of-it country, and there are several traditional religions – Catholics and Mennonites are the two that come to mind – which are as or more likely to include economic leftists as any other strand of economic thought. (Catholics are quite divided; but I’ve never met a Mennonite who was economically to the right…)

        I don’t think it’s all that uncommon in the US, except that there are purportedly fewer economic leftists here (say purportedly because, well, look at how Sanders is doing).Report

      • Left-wing Christians aren’t especially unusual in Canada. The United Church I’m currently attending is very progressive and strong on issues of social and racial justice. And I’m Mennonite; the Mennonite church has a very strong belief in the need for social justice.

        To quote a hymn paraphrased from Menno Simons: “True evangelical faith cannot lie sleeping, for it clothes the naked, it comforts the sorrowful, it gives to the hungry food, and it shelters the destitute. It binds up the wounded man, it offers a helping hand. So overcome evil with good, return someone’s hatred with love, that’s true evangelical faith. We must become everything to all men.”

        I wouldn’t regard myself as a social conservative in general – my moral views on personal behaviour and relationships are ones that pertain to myself and my choices, not ones I seek to impose on anyone else. (Being pro-life is different, to me, in the same category as opposing war and capital punishment – it proceeds from a value for human life.) But to the extent that I am socially conservative, I’m definitely an outlier from the Left.Report

  9. @leeesq

    I think I’ve mentioned before that I was in a similar situation to yours for a very long time, although perhaps not quite as long as you’ve been. I’m 42 now and things didn’t start happening until I was 31 or so. Unlike some of the others above, I don’t have a lot of actual advice. The advice I tended to get was either good, but stuff I already knew (treat the person with respect, expect that she’ll respect you, etc.), or bad.

    I totally get the frustration of what seems like an expectation in western society (or at least the US) that by one’s 30s, the man ought to have already had some experience and if he doesn’t there’s something wrong with him. I firmly believe that expectation does exist and that there’s a window in which it’s more okay for the man to be inexperienced (say, between 18 and 22 years old) and after which it’s not okay, or is less okay. I don’t believe that expectation is fair.

    At the same time, I’ve found that the expectation is not necessarily as powerful, unrelenting, and categorical as it seemed to me when I was in your shoes. It was there and it was bad and it made things difficult, but it wasn’t destiny.

    I can’t speak for you, but for me, the common denominator was indeed myself, my ways of acting and talking to people. It took me a long time to realize that. There were aspects about me that ranged from innocuous (like how I carried myself) to very concerning (I get angry quickly, I tend to be controlling) that at the time didn’t seem to me to have anything to do with my (lack of) success at relationships but that I’ve later discovered really did affect me. Again, I hardly know you beyond these blog pages, so I don’t know if that’s your situation or not, I’m just describing myself.

    How did it start to work out for me? That story isn’t uplifting. I did things I’m not proud of. Nothing violent or felonious–and I won’t go into details–but things I regret that involved lies (both lying to myself and others) and things that go against my (and, I suspect, your) moral code. I don’t recommend that route. But in my case at least, it led to self-discovery and self-knowledge. I’m skeptical of casuistry–of minor sin leading to greater salvation–but in some ways, this was a case of that. (All the while, I need to own that my actions did hurt someone else’s feelings.)

    Again, none of this is advice. As Veronica says above, most dating advice isn’t helpful, and I’d add that’s the case even if it’s good advice. Some of the advice given in this thread is very good, even if much of it is in my opinion very dismissive of your experiences. I just wanted to say that I’ve been there and, with some luck but also some introspection (and through or in spite of making some mistakes), things have worked out for me and they might for you, too. Whether they do or not (and I have no way of knowing if they will), you are a good, worthwhile person and your past relationship history is not all of who you are.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

      Regarding perceptions and pressures about levels of experience at certain ages, a few thoughts…

      1.) It doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect older people to have more sexual and relationship experience. I mean, this just seems to be natural.
      2.) That said, there are going to be people who “buck the trend” for any number of reasons and there should be no shame or judgement, nor assumption that any individual’s reason is a “bad one”.
      3.) However, looking at Lee’s particular situation, since it seems as if he is trying to gain that experience and has failed to do so, that there is something “wrong” with his attempts. If someone has a 10-year gap in their resume during a time they were actively job seeking, that looks different than someone with a 10-year gap in their resume because they stayed home with children.
      4.) I wonder if one of the things “wrong” with Lee’s attempts is that he is seeing relationships with people who are more experienced and/or are looking for someone with more experience. I believe he said above that he would ideally find someone with a similar level of experience so that their is a mutual exploration going on. But what steps is he taking to secure that specific scenario? Is he up front with his potential partners about both his level of experience, his desire for their level of experience, and his desire for their desire for his level of experience (typing all that made my head hurt)? My hunch is that most people who are older-but-less-experienced want to partner with someone who is more experienced. I think Lee’s goal of mutual-exploration-in-their-30s is rare. Not wrong or weird or deviant… just unique and rare. That is going to severely limit the number of potential partners. Would only seems to perpetuate the cycle.Report

      • Gabriel Conroy in reply to Kazzy says:

        I’m not sure I disagree with anything your saying, except that perhaps the assumptions your point #4 isn’t something I saw so much in Lee’s comments. (I see how you inferred those assumptions, I’ll just leave it to Lee whether those are true.)Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

          I’m pretty sure @leeesq said he wanted people of similar experience… An understandable preference. But when he goes on dates, are the women ACTUALLY in that same boat?Report

          • LeeEsq in reply to Kazzy says:

            Ideally, yes. Realistically, I think this isn’t a possibility without some other rather big trade-offs.Report

            • Kazzy in reply to LeeEsq says:

              Such as?Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Kazzy says:

                They will probably be from very conservative backgrounds and wanting something entirely different that I do in a relationship.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to LeeEsq says:

                So you’re looking for a 30-something single woman with limited dating/sexual experience who skews liberal and wants a… well, I’m not sure what type of relationship it is you are seeking… one that is explorative both physically and romantically? Open-minded to trying new things?

                That is a relatively rare bird.Report

              • Don Zeko in reply to Kazzy says:

                Strangely, the odds could probably be worse. It’s not like @leeesq is trying to find someone with a really specific kink, for example.Report

              • El Muneco in reply to Kazzy says:

                Not necessarily – a look at my contacts suggests: Married straight out of college, late start to career due to only child being born soon after, grew apart over the next decade and divorced, kid now all grown up, she’s in mid-career and (obligatory sports metaphor) is now hitting the dating market like an NFL player at the end of the mandatory rookie contract, and a little out of their depth due to it being so different to when they first signed up.

                Admittedly, that makes her 42 rather than 32, but then I’m a little older than the other guys on this thread.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to El Muneco says:

                I said rare… Not nonexistant. And Lee said kids are a dealbreaker. I mean, somethings got to give, no?Report

              • El Muneco in reply to Kazzy says:

                I hope I didn’t sound hostile, unusually for me that wasn’t my intent.

                I’m just saying that I’m in a fairly similar place as @leeesq and looking for a lot of the same things. Like you say, kids at home are a non-starter (if I wanted to be a step-dad, there’s at least one former co-worker I could have possibly hooked up with), but after a certain point, empty nesters are functionally equivalent to being childless – adult children are basically just extra in-laws, after all…Report

              • veronica d in reply to Kazzy says:

                So you’re looking for a 30-something single woman with limited dating/sexual experience who skews liberal and wants a… well, I’m not sure what type of relationship it is you are seeking… one that is explorative both physically and romantically? Open-minded to trying new things?

                That is a relatively rare bird.

                I know quite a few lovely women who match that profile. Of course, there is a complication…Report

              • They insist on programming in typeless scripting languages? Yeah, that’s a deal-breaker.Report

              • Troublesome Frog in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                I had to look the other way on my wife’s perl programming for a long time.

                If she had used emacs instead of vi, I’m not sure we would have made it.Report

              • One of my wife and I’s first fights was over where the curly braces ought to go in C.Report

              • veronica d in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Myself, I’ll only date someone if she has at least two commits to the Glasgow Haskell Compiler mainline. Or maybe a really low Erd?s would be fine.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to veronica d says:

                @veronica-d and @el-muneco

                Again, my argument isn’t that Lee can’t find what he’s looking for. It is just that the more parameters you put on your search, definitionally the fewer potential matches are going to exist.

                (All numbers made up.)
                You want a woman: 50% of the population
                Straight: 80%
                Cis: 98%
                Single: 40%
                30-39: 15%
                Liberal: 35%
                Limited sexual/romantic experience: 15%

                Assuming all that is independent, you’ve now reduced your potential mates to a (made-up) .1%. That’s… not a lot. And that is to say nothing of who the person actually is. If you prefer blondes or curvy gals or smartypants or whatever.

                I guess what I’m saying is that blaming the system or shaking your fist at the sky when you are REALLY, REALLY specific about what you want is just ignoring reality. Either loosen up the expectations or accept that you are trying to thread a really thin needle.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

      Thanks for the support. The going against the moral code thing is what really gets me. A lot of dating advice that I get online or from people I know in real life seems to be a combination of things that go against what I consider ethical and moral and also deeply unfair/expensive*. There seems to be a sort of causal lying in a lot of dating that I do not think is a good thing. I was at single’s event with a friend once who attempted to sell me to a woman he knew there by taking something truthful about me and boosting it to the level of an outright lie. I immediately corrected the situation but afterwards he told me that these things are something that you need to do to impress women. The idea of my romantic success being based on either luck or having to do things that I basically consider slightly to very unethical seems to be a bad deal. My theory is that you really shouldn’t lie to get into a relationship or even a one night stand because it is deceitful and a bad start.

      *The unfair/expensive advice is basically paying others to help me catch up to speed both in terms of commercial sex and the more legal option of going to dating coaches to improve my technique. This strikes me as unfair because it basically seems like I’m being asked to bend towards other more than others are willing to bends towards me. My feelings about commercial sex are complicated and I’m not entirely ethically comfortable with it because of issues of consent and whether or not the person really wants to be doing this sort of thing. Finally, all of these options are on the expensive side.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Re: bending

        If you want people who don’t want you, you can’t expect them to bend.

        Like it or not, there are “market forces” in dating. It seems you are advocating regulation of some kind or another. Though it really isn’t clear what you’d like to see change.

        So, let me ask point blank: What societal changes regarding dating/gender norms/whathaveyou would help you out romantically?Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to Kazzy says:

          At least the one where the idea that instant attraction, chemistry, or spark is possible for most people. A lot of dating seems to be based around this and I’m not really that good at it.Report

          • Joe Sal in reply to LeeEsq says:

            Spark is usually code for instant attraction. Are you a looker, or just so-so?Report

            • LeeEsq in reply to Joe Sal says:

              Probably more towards the average side.Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to LeeEsq says:

                That may be a part of the problem, being eye candy gets you a lot further along in the process.

                Play to your strengths, get in shape, wear boots that make you taller and for crying out loud, smile!

                Remember that first interesting, gutsy, bad ass, crazy thing you did when you were young? Be that alive and pursuant of a partner to such fun.

                You don’t have to be gushy or chatty, just let your spark shine through.

                Getting kicked in the heart to many times can dull the better part of what makes you interesting.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Joe Sal says:

                I work out, I have a good body and a not bad looking face. Women have complimented my hair. But I’m also rather hairy and short, only five feet five inches. In aggregate I lean towards average but I’m not all meh.Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to LeeEsq says:

                I think if you want better responses you will have to work more into the eye candy territory.
                If your girlfriends arent getting tacky and trying to knock the bottom outta ya you have a ways to go.

                Boots and inserts get you to near 5′-7″ and thats pretty respectable.

                Also getting that initial eye contact and chemistry is important. Don’t try to analyze if the woman is a take home to the parents in the first glances.

                Your eyes should have a mischief and playful spirit.

                The last needle to thread is the control issue, all women are different and some like an assertive guy, and for some to much is a putoff, that takes a lot of observation and patience, but never demand control, and whatever happens do your best to have a no worries attitude.

                Sorry if you already know this stuff, just trying to help ya along.Report

              • Kim in reply to Joe Sal says:

                Honestly? Better to work on the voice than the body.
                Creativity can get you pretty far too — I’ll go ahead and suggest an Improv Comedy course, simply to get your brain in shape and cognitively flexible.Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to Kim says:

                The threshold for ear candy is probably much easier to achieve. Going from a 5 to a 7 voice tends to be easier for guys than going visually from a 5 to a 7. (I’m making the assumption that he is around women and can pick up on the vocal preferences.)

                Your correct in that it helps, but your right about the genetic diversity/boring thing also.

                (The other thing I didn’t consider is that his closet may look like Sauls. Got any pointers on fashion Kim?)Report

              • Kim in reply to Joe Sal says:

                Okay, we’ve gone into the weird.
                I’ve never gone into a bar looking for a date, or someone to pick up. (I have gone to dances, but, you know, high school and college).

                And I’m no fashionista.

                Basic thinking on fashion:

                Don’t look like you’re suffering from mange. This means get a bath, don’t be smellable from across the room, and wear something minimally neat.

                Secondarily: if you’re going for “I look straight” — don’t wear pink as a guy.

                Third: Americans are way, way too obsessed with body odor. Humans smell, it’s natural. Humans communicate through smell. Invest in a cologne that people like on you. And if you’re a bit sweaty at a dance, don’t panic, you’re just communicating.

                … again, I’m not exactly the greatest person to ask about fashion.Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to Kim says:

                Well, I’ll throw a couple tips in there.

                The shirt matters. No suspenders, something that hides and shows physique at the same time.

                Durable and comfortable enough that it makes her want to snuggle into it while it is on you, if not steal it outright to wear around her home for a week. No dizzy or distracting prints. Not a Polo, full button up.

                That’s about all I got in the fashion dept. 🙂Report

          • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

            Do you need me to cite sources? That instant attraction is based on particular immunological genes — and it’s NOT some thing you can really be bad at, not really. It’s something where you might need to try to find someone who’s more genetically distinct from you… (Definitely not dating someone who’s on average related to you by the fourth generation! That’s probably going to result in you smelling… boring).Report

          • Kazzy in reply to LeeEsq says:


            I don’t know if most people seriously believe in this. I think we tend to use it as a rationalization after-the-fact. Everyone tells of the time they met their current partner and accompanies the story with birds chirping and harps playing. We romanticize the moment. But press them and you’ll find it was usually a more complicated process. Which doesn’t make it any less real or valuable or legitimate. I remember when people asked about how Zazzy and I met, I asked if they want the romantic version or the naughty version. Both were true… just framed differently.

            Now, if your argument here is that you are unsuccessful because your potential mates are looking for a “spark” and aren’t finding it… that explanation can cover a TON of different scenarios.Report

        • Tod Kelly in reply to Kazzy says:


          “Like it or not, there are “market forces” in dating.”

          Are there? I’m not so sure. (And to be clear, I mean that I’m actually not so sure; I’m not disagreeing at this point.)

          I tend to be of the belief that all adult relationships (friendship, dating, marriage, employment, neighbor) are equal two-way streets, whether or not we choose to look at them that way. There are certainly power dynamics in all of them, but I think that the power in each is pretty much limited to what has been agreed upon (usually unspoken) by both parties.

          To stay on dating but sidestep LeeEsq’s situation for one moment…

          Usually when I hear someone refer to ‘market forces’ in relation to dating, it’s centered around some scenario like this:

          Sally is under 30, and she looks and dresses like a supermodel, so her market value is high. She will therefore look for a man who of equal or greater market value. This might be a man who is famous, a man who looks like a top-tier male model, or a man who is very, very rich. You can ask her out, but she will likely say no because she is holding out for something of equal or greater market value.

          This can certainly be true. I think we’ve all known a Sally (or her male equivalent), and we all know someone who has found themselves rejected by a Sally (or her male equivalent). So yeah — market forces.

          But the thing is, those market forces are only relevant to someone if they opt to play in that market.

          The above scenario only holds weight (and/or makes like seem unfair) to the degree that any given man has a relationship criteria that puts its ultimate value on all of Sally’s superficial traits (under 30, her looks, wears expensive clothes) and her relationship preferences (must be rich, famous, or look like a model).

          If, on the other hand, you do not choose your relationships on the basis of how much someone looks airbrushed — or if the thought of being in a LTR with a woman who judges you based on their your of fame and money makes you throw up a little in your mouth — then those market forces mean squat.

          So I’m not saying that market forces don’t exist in dating. But I am saying I’m not so sure they aren’t something one voluntarily and unnecessarily chooses to participate in.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly says:


            Perhaps “market forces” was the wrong term. I’m barely a layperson when it comes to economics!

            What I mean is that if Person A has something that Person B wants more than Person B has something that Person A wants, then Person B is probably going to have to do more ‘heavy lifting’ to make the ‘transaction’ work. Person A can walk away with a ho-hum; Person B can’t. So the onus is on Person B.

            This is true regardless of whether what Person A possesses and Person B covets is looks or personality or an awesome mug collection.

            Lee said: “This strikes me as unfair because it basically seems like I’m being asked to bend towards other more than others are willing to bends towards me.”

            It seems like this is the expected outcome if Lee wants what he is bending towards more than whoever holds that wants what Lee has.Report

          • DensityDuck in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            “I tend to be of the belief that all adult relationships (friendship, dating, marriage, employment, neighbor) are equal two-way streets, whether or not we choose to look at them that way. ”

            That’s…what a market is, an “equal two-way street”.

            “If, on the other hand, you do not choose your relationships on the basis of how much someone looks airbrushed…then those market forces mean squat.”

            No, they don’t “mean squat”. You just place a higher value on other things. You’re still operating in a market context, you just want a different product than someone else might.

            You’re right that when someone snarks about “market forces in dating” they usually mean people who value hot/rich/tall, but it’s not some noble refutation of the concept of markets to say that you prefer something else. Any more than airplanes refute gravity.Report

            • I think I agree with DD, but I’ll add that looking at dating as a market works for some things and not for others. The question in my view shouldn’t be, “is dating representative of market forces?” Rather, there should be two questions: “In what ways is dating representative of market forces?” and “What does looking at dating as representative of market forces tell us and not tell us [i.e., how useful is it to look at them that way]?”

              To be clear, I’m not exactly sure of my own answers (other than mostly signing on to what DD said).Report

          • LeeEsq in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            Reducing courtship, dating, and romance to economics always seemed like a dangerous endeavor because it lends too much credence to what the misogynists say about how heterosexual woman see men. I’m not willing to go towards the high-status interpretation of dating that many people seem to go for because it’s a rabbit hole that should not be followed. There are things like market forces at play though. All things considered, conventionally attractive people of both genders have an easier time getting into relationships than other people unless something is really wrong with them. Reducing everything to biology seems wrong though.Report

            • Kazzy in reply to LeeEsq says:

              “conventionally attractive people of both genders have an easier time getting into relationships than other people unless something is really wrong with them.”

              As it is for funny people and engaging people and…Report

            • Tod Kelly in reply to LeeEsq says:

              “All things considered, conventionally attractive people of both genders have an easier time getting into relationships than other people unless something is really wrong with them. ”

              This is true enough, though I would make two additions that I think are important:

              1. Getting into a relationship is not always a good thing.

              2. “Being attractive” is a different thing than “being good looking.”Report

            • j r in reply to LeeEsq says:

              Reducing courtship, dating, and romance to economics always seemed like a dangerous endeavor because it lends too much credence to what the misogynists say about how heterosexual woman see men.

              Does it bother you at all that this is backwards rationalization? Either this has merit or no merit in describing the world or it lies somewhere in between. It’s odd to me that you would dismiss an idea, not because of the truth or untruth of it, but because you reject where it might lead. Seems like burying your head in the sand.Report

            • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

              Unattractive people trigger bad things in people’s unconscious. Luckily, it’s pretty hard for a guy to be unattractive, and there are normally ways to fix it. (Guys, shower, yes?).Report

              • veronica d in reply to Kim says:

                I’m almost never attracted to men, so it’s always kinda surprising when I am. Like this guy the other day, skinny Mediterranean looking dude. He just had an vibe. Total yumz. I can’t explain it.

                One thing, I’m never attracted to a man in a group of other men. Never. OMG.Report

              • Kim in reply to veronica d says:

                Lol. I do know a guy who slept with a lot of lesbians, who were probably a bit confused the next day (“umm… that was really fun…”).

                Of course, it probably helps that he’s pretty androgynous, brainwise.Report

              • veronica d in reply to Kim says:

                You know how many times I’ve seen a man, talked to him, just had a vibe with him — and then six months later I run into the same person and now she’s looking really pretty in a skirt!

                Two of my high school g/fs turned out to be lesbians. But like, I wasn’t androgynous at all. I lifted weights, wore faded jeans and tee shirts, hung with “the guys.”

                Gender is …. something.Report

              • Kim in reply to veronica d says:

                Our brains are weird, weird things, and I think the whole idea of saying that there are two genders is … kinda silly and defies current state of research. (thank the military, they’re the only folks who don’t feel a need to kowtow to the liberal feminists).Report

              • Kim in reply to veronica d says:

                Yeah, but people totally don’t understand things in terms of game theory.

                If there’s a market for “women in men’s bodies” who get along really well with lesbians… that’s a bona fide survival strategy (by which we mean makes the next generation). I mean, seriously? That breeds well.

                It’s not the only one, and it couldn’t possibly be the main one for most guys (barring significantly more lesbians than I think is actually the case)…

                but it’s there.Report

      • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

        engaging a commercial sex worker doesn’t need to actually include sex. Sometimes it might just help to understand that other people are going through what you are… and some of them are already married.

        A few hundred an hour isn’t bad for some insight into the human condition, is it?

        And you can feel good and virtuous, because you know you aren’t paying them for anything more than information.Report