One Way To Receive Useless Self-Improvement Advice

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. On Twitter, to his frequent regret, at @burtlikko. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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243 Responses

  1. Oscar Gordon says:

    Because of something some other attorney did, I need to change my career.


  2. Michael Cain says:

    On a similar thread fairly recently, didn’t “qualify to belay and hang out at climbing walls” have multiple reported successes?Report

  3. Mike Dwyer says:

    Oh man, this post has it all. Love! Comedy! Heartbreak (sorta)! Cultural analysis! I loved it Burt and kudos for hanging in there.

    I generally advocate the 1 year rule for divorces, although I have never been through one myself and probably read it in a Cosmopolitan magazine in some doctor’s waiting room. It seems like a good arbitrary amount of time though to signal to the world you have:

    A) Grieved the relationship properly
    B) Just about have the court stuff wrapped up
    C) Have (hopefully) acquired your own separate living quarters
    D) Had a chance to reflect on any mistakes you made and attempted to fix them

    In your case, with a (surprise!) divorce, I think it is fair for you to ignore D, but the world still generally demands A,B & C. Maybe that isn’t fair, but that’s the rules. You have to be careful if potential companions are willing to overlook any of those, because it might signal they have some judgement issues (the old quote about joining a club that would have me as a member comes to mind).

    As for online dating, some random thoughts:

    I met my lovely wife online 14 years ago. It was a different dating world then, pre-Tinder. My romantic story is that I put up a profile and the first girl that sent me a message turned out to be the love of my life. It’s completely true, but not without a little bit of fibbery. She neglected to mention she smoked (this was revealed about 6 weeks after we started dating and I was too smitten to let it ruin things). Neither one of us cared about religious affiliation and it has never been an issue. I also didn’t mention I was temporarily living with my mom while I finished my last semester of college. I was terrified she would think I was a loser and leave me, but she took it well when I told her I already had a year’s worth of rent on my own apartment set aside for after graduation.

    Anyway, we have a bunch of friends who are now married and met on eHarmony. So…it happens. Also, don’t discount doing it the old-fashioned away. There are plenty of singles groups out there. Or hobby groups (it’s nice to know you have something in common!)

    I’ll also leave you with this little bit of wisdom I once heard. You aren’t single. You’re an unclaimed treasure. Cheesy, but true.

    Good luck man! We’re rooting for you.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      One year… for what?

      Before you date? Ha! What world do you think you’re living in.

      I’m guessing there’s a period where you’re not too interested. Whenever that’s over… go for it! Whoever’s not interested will take a pass.

      Judgement schmudgement.Report

      • If you’re interested in going out on a date enough to seek a dating partner, that seems to be a signal that you’re interested in dating.

        What does “ready” mean? Many divorced friends assure me that decades after meeting, falling in love with, and marrying someone new, thinking back on what it felt like to have their former spouses leave them still hurts like hell.

        I’m closer to 50 than I am to 40. Seems unlikely that I have enough decades left in me to get to the point that I will be blasé about Natasha divorcing me. The emotional place where I can plausibly be is a) not wanting to get Natasha back, and b) willing to accept The Next Woman on her own terms as a person in her own right, rather than insisting that she be Natasha All Over Again.

        And I think I’m in that place. Maybe I’m not 100% right about that, but thinking that I’m in such a place ought to be a clue that I’m close enough to that place. As @damon noted below, we’re all kind of effed up in this world, and you just have to do the best you can.Report

        • Michael Drew in reply to Burt Likko says:

          In any case, my thoughts are with you Burt, if I haven’t said on Twitter. This can’t be easy to get through.Report

        • Damon in reply to Burt Likko says:

          It’s been over 7 years since “tech girl” bailed on our marriage. I’ve dated dozens of women in the interim, slept with a number of them, had a few decent relationships, and made a few good friends, and I still think about my ex monthly. That picture on my wall that we got in Zion National Park….that lamp that we got at a wine festival…etc.

          And you know what, it still hurts. Mainly because she was my best friend, so I lost a partner AND my best friend. Soldier on wounded. Best you can do. I’m not sure I’ll ever “get over” it, but I’m trying and I do think of her and our life together with less frequency..maybe by the time I’m 80 I won’t think about it at all.Report

          • Will H. in reply to Damon says:

            Don’t count on it.
            There’s a mindset you go into, of dealing with what’s in front of you.
            That, and you get better at dealing with the loss.
            But the loss will always be there.Report

  4. Saul Degraw says:

    Ah Internet dating how it makes everyone miserable and yet we seem to think of no better options.

    I’ve gotten most of the responses you’ve gotten. Not so much the atheist thing which does surprise me considering you are in greater Los Angeles. Maybe NYC and SF are much more secular than LA? I’ve also not gotten the lawyer thing or too many wild mis matches re education.

    I suspect that Internet dating sites provide too many options and it is easy for someone to just take a little thing and choose to move on or not instead of trying to see if something works. But this system also has its ardent and passionate defenders.Report

    • Don Zeko in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      I’m of two minds on this. I met my ex-fiancee on OkCupid, so for a while I thought that I had had a pretty damn good experience with it, but I’ve been trying to meet people online for the past year and a half or so since breaking up with said ex and it has been frustrating. Not quite as frustrating as your experience, Burt (my response rate is closer to one in ten and I’ve actually gone on some dates that were non-disastrous), but I’m still single and unhappy about it a year and a half out. I enjoyed the piece and I’d be happy to share war stories in a less public forum, but beyond that I don’t have much to offer besides condolences and a heartfelt good luck!Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Don Zeko says:


        I met my current girlfriend via on-line dating. I was just at a wedding where the bride and groom met via an on-line dating company. So it happens. It probably happens a lot.

        But it took lots of going out on one to four dates with a lot of different women over years before meeting my current girlfriend happened.

        I’ve been on very few dates that I would call open disasters (but they happened). But there were a lot of dates where I felt meh.

        My general experience is that men seem to have a lower bar for what should happen on a first-date via on-line meeting than women. Men seem to think “The conversation wasn’t too awkward! I had fun! Let’s try this again.” Women set a higher bar.Report

        • Don Zeko in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          Saul Degraw:

          I met my current girlfriend via on-line dating. I was just at a wedding where the bride and groom met via an on-line dating company. So it happens. It probably happens a lot.


          My general experience is that men seem to have a lower bar for what should happen on a first-date via on-line meeting than women. Men seem to think “The conversation wasn’t too awkward! I had fun! Let’s try this again.” Women set a higher bar.

          This sounds pretty plausible to me. I read Aziz Ansari’s book on the internet & dating and it suggested that people should be more willing to give somebody 2-3 dates to see how it goes unless the other person is just obviously unacceptable. I think that’s probably good advice, but liable to give somebody the wrong idea about how into them you are when you’re scheduling that 2nd or 3rd date.Report

          • LeeEsq in reply to Don Zeko says:

            Like I mentioned bellow, the two or three dates before you make a decision is what everybody born in the Baby Boom years seems to believe as revealed truth about dating. Very few people my age or younger, I’m Late Gen X or Early Millennial, believe this. Whenever I tried to argue the two or three date thing, I’ve been shot down pretty hard and have even been called a misogynist. The current paradigm is that there needs to be the spark on the first date and if the spark does not exist than no second date. This seems to be a really unwise paradigm from the standpoint of the average human but its the standpoint.Report

            • Kimmi in reply to LeeEsq says:

              If by spark we mean chemistry, well, you ain’t gonna get that on the second date (or the tenth) if you ain’t got it on the first one.

              The Nose Knows.Report

              • veronica d in reply to Kimmi says:

                This isn’t actually true. I’ve dated people who I warmed up to over time. That said, the “spark” is really nice when it hits.

                For example, right now I’m dating two people. One is really “sparky” (like OMG). The other is much less so. Both are really nice relationships in their own way.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to veronica d says:

                I’m speaking about a scientifically tested phenomenon.
                English is truly abominable about making that clear, I’ll admit.Report

              • veronica d in reply to Kimmi says:

                More “science.”Report

              • Will H. in reply to Kimmi says:

                There is conflicting data as to whether the science of pheromones is applicable to humans.
                Humans are much more complex than animals, and the disparity between attraction and mating is significant of that.
                The capacity to conceptualize future activities has a lot to do with it.
                Further, what data there is suggests that, in humans, any pheromone-based attraction is rather context-specific rather than broad-ranging.Report

              • Burt Likko in reply to Will H. says:

                Pity. If it were possible to synthesize a bottle of pheromone-based “You Want To Go To Bed With Me” juice to use as cologne or perfume, you could charge your customers literally anything for it and people would willingly pay.

                Alas, it isn’t possible, at least according to the current science. And unless I’m mistaken, there’s some trade going on in no-better-than-placebo pheromone products right now.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Burt Likko says:

                You’d be surprised at what IS possible with science. Finding colognes and stuff that ENHANCE one’s natural aroma is… possible. They’re custom, of course, and you can’t afford them. Capitalism leads to people publishing “this can’t be done” in the regular journals, all the while effective stuff is being quietly done for oodles of money.

                Nothing fixes “lack of chemistry” — but one can enhance one’s own chemistry. (By which we’re talking about that immunocomplex that people smell on each other and leads to insta-decisions).Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Burt Likko says:

                You don’t REALLY want to know what we’ve chemically synthesized in order to make women smell appetizing.

                Trade secrets and all that.

                Not that it should be surprising… Women don’t tend to express pheromones the way men do (men sweat)….Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Will H. says:

                It is applicable, just not “set in stone” stupid. The immunocomplex that people use to determine “love at first sight” (that’s lust, we get that, right?) isn’t the sole factor in people’s relationship decisionmaking.

                It exists. Like a lot of “bred in the bone” stuff, it can be compensated for, or enhanced, or minimized… but it surely does help to know about it!Report

          • Saul Degraw in reply to Don Zeko says:

            Not my weddingReport

        • El Muneco in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          Ywah, I get that impression as well – I’ll be on the way home thinking “That went pretty well”. Meanwhile, in her car…

          Oh, also – regarding “ten years minus to five years plus”. In my experience, recently women in my target group have started applying that to their own search, rather than the reciprocal. A lot of 45-yo consider even 5 to be a deal breaker.Report

      • Will H. in reply to Don Zeko says:

        The data says 12 women for every man, and mostly within a younger age group.
        This suggests that it is much more effective for women of a certain age than men generally.

        Still, those women tend to pick among the responses received. They just have a lot more to choose from.

        Not substantiated with hard evidence here, but my personal belief is that women tend to be better at picking prospective partners than men generally, so this works in the direction that it should.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Los Angeles is the birthplace of the Pentecostal movement and has a long history of fervent Evangelical Protestantism. When Los Angeles became a big city, White Protestants from the Mid-West formed the population base. Its more secular now than it was in the past but I’m guessing elements of Evangelical Protestantism linger, especially since its closer to Republican voting areas like Orange County or the Inland Empire than San Francisco or New York.Report

  5. Pinky says:

    That cover picture looks like Anthony Weiner sharing a drink with a 14-year-old girl. It probably is.Report

  6. El Muneco says:

    Like Saul, I’ll co-sign. I pretty much could have written this, if I were a better writer. It matches my experiences almost exactly.

    I did get a very nice response from the e-mail in iambic pentameter that I sent to the woman who mentioned in her profile that she liked poetry. But it didn’t turn out to be a lasting foundation, as no one outside of Stratford-upon-Avon can keep that up forever.

    I think the big problem is that it gets things the wrong way around. We winnow out with the shopping list then filter on mutual attraction, while in the real world it’s the other way around. Which is more fun, but you can’t do it while your code compiles.Report

  7. Stillwater says:

    There has got to be a better way to meet someone than this.

    Ditch the atheism and start going to church. What has atheism ever done for you?Report

  8. Burt Likko says:

    I read this over again about three hours after the initial posting, and cleaned up a few ambiguous points of grammar.Report

  9. George Turner says:

    When it comes to a man who has just ended his previous marriage, women are looking for a man who is firm, confidant, and decisive. They’re sick of wishy-washy, hipster, metrosexual men who merely “unfriend” the ex. What they respect and yearn for is a real man like King Henry VIII, who had not just one, but two of his ex-wives dragged into a courtyard to get their heads chopped off with a giant ax. Henry had women lining up after that because again, women want a man who is decisive.Report

    • As TR said… “It’s better to be wrong than wishy-washy.”Report

    • Miss Mary in reply to George Turner says:

      So that if it ends between the two of you, you can expect to lose your head too? No thanks! I do approve of your overall idea. Look to see how the man treats the other women who are or have been in his life.Report

      • George Turner in reply to Miss Mary says:

        I think there’s a site somewhere called “date my ex”, where they give reviews of their ex boyfriends.

        But truly, we know women aren’t all that concerned because six women married Henry VIII. You might wonder what fiance six was thinking, and I’ll tell you.

        *Catherine Parr looks at Henry VIII’s dating history at Who’s dated*

        1 Marriage annulled. Arrested. Died in a dungeon.
        2 Marriage annulled. Arrested. Beheaded
        3 Died after childbirth.
        4 Marriage annulled. Allowed to live.
        5 Beheaded.

        *Thinks “Henry is more dateable than Leonardo DiCaprio! I’m just what he’s been looking for!”*Report

    • I’m sure. The fact that Hank 8 was rich, good-looking, famous, and politically powerful were only fringe benefits for the likes of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. It was his decisiveness what made them swoon.Report

      • George Turner in reply to Burt Likko says:


        So some advice. Go to your dating profile and add something like “My divorce lawyer is pursing the death penalty.”

        You’ll be swamped with inquiries, with women asking “OMG, what did she do?”

        Then you reel them in with responses like “She disappointed me” or “She failed to produce an heir.”

        Then, women being what they are, some of them will beg to bear your children.

        So then you rate them by hotness, mutual interests, education, and whatnot, and you just work down the list.

        1. Marry. Annul. Jail.
        2. Marry. Annul. Seek death by lethal injection by the State of California.
        3. Marry. Divorce.
        4. Marry. Divorce.
        5. Marry. Annul. Jail.
        6. Marry. Shove off cliff while on vacation.
        7. Marry. Divorce. *A new record!*
        8. Marry. Lose her in a Guatemalan rain forest during a typhoon.
        9. Marry. Divorce.
        10. Marry. Sell off to a Qatari oil minister.


        Trust me on this. I used to run a dating advice column in Guns and Ammo.Report

        • veronica d in reply to George Turner says:

          Expressing hostility toward one’s ex is a huge red flag. If I see that on a profile, I can instantly picture six months later, myself standing before a judge begging him to issue a restraining order against the freak. I’m not the only person who thinks this.

          Of course, some women will like men like that, just as some women fetishize serial killers, and charming abusers often have a long string of victims.

          I mean, if you want to participate in that dynamic, then by all means. That said, men who hate their exes often seem to have a steady stream of exes to hate. One wonders why? Dysfunctional people find other dysfunctional people. The drama grows and grows.

          By contrast, it’s a pretty good sign when someone who can maintain cordial relationships with their exes. It means no judge. No restraining orders. No drunken asshole punching a hole in your wall.Report

          • Kimmi in reply to veronica d says:

            Depends on the exes. And how much the exes think getting back together would be a good idea.
            Critically, that last can change under the influence of alcohol.Report

            • veronica d in reply to Kimmi says:

              Getting along with one’s exes is a two way street. For a personal example, I have one ex to whom I refuse to speak. But that’s on her. (I really tried to stay friends. But no, she was a nightmare.)

              (We all have stories.)

              The point is, it matters what you put on your dating profile. Centering your hostility toward your ex is a huge red flag. It suggests you cannot control your emotions. It suggests you cannot “let go.”

              Big red flag! Big big big!

              That said, some women are awful. Some men are great. It’s possible to be a man with a terrible ex. Save that info for the third date.Report

          • Troublesome Frog in reply to veronica d says:

            Expressing hostility toward one’s ex is a huge red flag. If I see that on a profile, I can instantly picture six months later, myself standing before a judge begging him to issue a restraining order against the freak. I’m not the only person who thinks this.

            Absolutely. Even if your ex really was crazy or a terrible person, there’s nothing to be gained by dumping on them to people you just met. Strong indicator.

            I even look for the same thing when interviewing job candidates. I have two questions that boil down to, “OK, this is your opportunity to dump on past employers and coworkers,” and, “Tell me about how stupid you think non-programmers are.” It’s an amazingly useful filter.Report

            • veronica d in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

              Way off topic, but this this this:

              “Tell me about how stupid you think non-programmers are.”

              I’m happy to say I escaped this trap during my first job. One day we were in a meeting, where I’m pontificating nerdtasticly about {I don’t remember what}. Anyway, one of the senior marketing guys stopped me. He said, “That’s fine, but let’s step back and look at the business problem. After that we can discuss the technical problem.”

              I like that language. “Business problem.” Basically, what can we do to make money?

              Which of course, I had no fucking clue. I’m really good at math, but it turns out that doesn’t always help when trying to figure out how to get people to give us money.

              Anyhow, since then I treat that as a guiding principle: let the marketing folks figure out products and shit. Then build really great software that does that thing.

              Another example, I recall one time, on a client’s site, I couldn’t get a vendor to listen to me during a support call. So I gave up on playing whack-a-mole with their phone staff. Instead, I went and talked to the business owner. I said, “Hey, I’m a nerd. I’m getting nowhere. So I need someone to do that ‘executive thing’ and get them to listen to me.”

              He called over his head of sales, who spent five minutes on the phone. Soon I was connected to the senior support staff.

              I’m really good at some things, but not others. It pays to understand that other people are good at other things.Report

            • Richard Hershberger in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

              “OK, this is your opportunity to dump on past employers and coworkers,”

              I had an employer who was widely notorious within the field as a raging asshole, until he got disbarred (in large part for being a raging asshole, though that’s now how the court’s opinion worded it). I wouldn’t mention it now, were I job hunting, because it was about nine years ago and thus ancient history. But while I was job hunting the last time, and he was still a practicing attorney, it would have been odd not to mention it. My goal was to strike a balance of acknowledging the elephant in the room that he was an asshole without coming across as obsessing on it.Report

              • veronica d in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

                I was actually in a similar situation, not quite as bad. I just prefaced it by saying, “Okay, I know you’re not supposed to complain about your previous employer, but actually this situation was really bad. I’ve had lots of jobs. Most were really fine: some good, some bad, I take it as it comes. Actually, the first couple years at {last job} were fine, just the normal ups and down. But then, new manager, new command chain, some dysfunctional structures. Look, I’ve made plenty of decisions in my career. Some worked out well. Some didn’t. I own my mistakes. But this situation was waaaaay out of my control.”

                I think that gets the point across well enough.Report

            • Nevermoor in reply to Troublesome Frog says:


              We use this on client intake too. Few things are bigger red flags than complaints about previous lawyers, especially ones with good reputations.Report

      • Miss Mary in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Thank you, Burt. Not to mention, that was like 475 years ago. Dating has changed a little bit since then.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to George Turner says:

      Plenty of hipster, metrosexual men seem to have girlfriends and lots of decisive men like the ones you lionize lack them.Report

      • Will H. in reply to LeeEsq says:

        A lot of men with impotence have significant others, but that is no reason to intentionally seek it out.

        Similarly, there are men with few to no teeth that have girls hanging on their arms.
        I’ll let you decide on that one.Report

        • veronica d in reply to Will H. says:

          Is this meant to suggest that every “metrosexual” man is impotent and every “decisive” man (whatever that means in context) is not? Cuz, [citation needed].Report

          • Will H. in reply to veronica d says:

            You bore me.
            The mindless stretches of trying to read some hidden meaning into my words is a pathetic act of childishness.
            It suggests that you are largely incapable of straight-forward speech.
            For this reason, dialogue with you is a waste.
            I have better things to do.

            So go sit back and try to figure out what that insinuates.Report

            • veronica d in reply to Will H. says:

              Oh good grief.

              I find plenty of “manly guys” are actually wildly insecure little shits, putting up a “try hard” front. Which is not to say plenty of “metro” guys aren’t just as insipid. The point is, indeed “decisiveness” is a virtue, but plenty of guys go out and buy a pickup truck and power tools and try to act “the man” who are frightened little brats. Women can sense this clear as day. Trust me, “omg he’s overcompensating” gets said a lot. On the other hand, I have a close friend who is dating a “soft” massage therapist guy (with a ponytail!) who fucks like a tornado.

              So what is going on here?

              A man with confidence and an easy manner will win out over a grunting try-hard dipshit any day of the week, even if the first guy is metro af.

              And yes, you can see this if you actually look at the world. Dismissing all the “metro” guys as “impotent” is really pathetic. Some of those guys might be shitty partners. But trust me, some are amazing. The trick is, pick the style you actually like, so long as you look reasonably good. Really like yourself. Don’t be insecure.


              As an aside, I laughed my ass off when I read some quotes from that dipshit “redpill” guy in New Hampshire. My favorite:

              Yet even as he bragged about his conquests, Fisher also groused bitterly about dating hurdles.

              “Dude, I’m attractive and a business man. I own a small empire. I’m also running for political office, and I’m incredibly outgoing… And this site [OkCupid] files me in next to millions of other guys. Obviously I’m going to have more luck IRL,” Fisher wrote to another user in 2012.

              Elsewhere, he wondered why listing his accomplishments on dates, including his status as a candidate and “high level exec,” was apparently a turnoff to women, despite it being characteristically alpha.

              On a forum subtitled “Contemplative Dominance for the Modern Man,” under the username FredFredrickson, Fisher complained in 2012, “I cannot be honest about my accomplishments or ambitions without ridicule. I am running for a state political position, I’m a high level exec in a franchising company, and I own two business locations in state. I found that stating it simply… nets me negativity on dates if I’m honest.”

              Poor sad “alpha” guy.

              The “try hard-ness” is plainly evident. Don’t be that guy.Report

              • Damon in reply to veronica d says:

                “Poor sad “alpha” guy.

                The “try hard-ness” is plainly evident. Don’t be that guy.”

                Gonna agree. Successful confident guys don’t have to try. They don’t give a shit. They already ARE successful. They don’t need validation or to boast.Report

              • Will H. in reply to veronica d says:

                I’m not dismissing anyone.
                Quite the reverse actually.

                The truth is that over 45% of my sex partners have been men.

                0.45 * 160 = 72

                72 < 73

                Until now, through the eleven years I've been commenting at this site, only two here, perhaps three, know something about that.
                The rest is assumption.

                But I can tell bullying by taking the victim's stance when I see it.

                It makes sense that someone who would confuse genitalia with personhood also confuses connivance with wit.
                Try as hard as you might, and the two will never be the same.

                I dislike disingenuousness, without regard for other considerations.
                That is why I feel that you are a waste of time.
                How's that for decisiveness?Report

              • veronica d in reply to Will H. says:

                I really have no idea what you’re saying now, but I’m pretty sure I don’t “confuse genitalia with personhood.” Perhaps you could clarify.

                In any case, this subthread seemed to start with George Turner suggesting that being rotten to your ex (or at least seeming to) reads as “decisive” and thus not “metro.” I say that it is a sign of enormous immaturity that will drive away thoughtful women.

                You say — well, something about impotence, except I know a guy who has “performance issues,” but nevertheless has a really nice sexual relationship (because human bodies are complex and varied and there are many ways to achieve orgasm). So anyway, if you have a point, other than the fact you don’t like me, I’m not sure that you made it.Report

              • Will H. in reply to veronica d says:

                I gave two examples:
                A lot of men with impotence have significant others…
                Similarly, there are men with few to no teeth that have girls hanging on their arms.
                and you came across with:
                Is this meant to suggest that every “metrosexual” man is impotent and every “decisive” man is not?

                I call this “trying to read some hidden meaning into my words.”
                And I find it to be typical of those insincere in their communications to be the ones who say, “But what he really means is …” and then come up with something the speaker never said, because they themselves are unable to speak other than treacherously, they tend to project this on others.
                And that’s why I said:
                It suggests that you are largely incapable of straight-forward speech.
                It’s pretty much like a big, flashing neon sign “Incapable of Straight-Forward Speech” going off right over your head.

                And yes, you are largely incapable of viewing personhood apart from genitalia. You can call it “gender” if you wish. But it’s still one-dimensional.
                Your vocabulary is full of it, and most likely because these are the terms by which you are capable of viewing the world.
                And to be clear, that it’s gender-based is inconsequential.
                It’s the fact that it filters out a more whole view that’s the point.

                And to be clear, it’s not that I “don’t care” what you think.
                It’s that I have a deep and abiding disbelief in your capacity to form a valid opinion, much less state it.
                That’s a world away from simply “not caring.”

                And not to gloss over the “much less state it” part.
                What I mean by this is that, even were you to prove capable of forming a valid opinion at some later date, there is no doubt in my mind you would poison it somehow before you would permit yourself to communicate it.
                It’s that thing where every word is dripping with meaning, excepting the one thing the words actually sound like they’re saying.

                You homed right in on the impotence example, and deftly avoided mentioning the toothless example.
                It’s not as if a silence was created in that avoidance.
                That avoidance was a shout.
                Everything happens in context, and it is important not to confuse contexts with causes or messaging.

                But it seems rather par for the course that a response to me, coming from you, would be one made up almost wholly of misconstruction and avoidance.
                That’s sort of who you are as a person.

                Now, to my belief system, whether I like you or not is a fairly unimportant consideration.
                I’m not all about liking or disliking people, and I don’t really care, for the most part, whether people happen to like or dislike me.
                Reflecting on that, I believe this is grounded on conviction that I have something to offer beyond the superficial and transitory.
                Some people never get to that point, and that’s on them.
                Some people do, but react differently, and more power to them.

                “Am I getting something out of this?” is a more important consideration. I don’t have to like someone to learn from them.

                It’s not that you have nothing to offer.
                It’s that, whatever you have to offer, the offering becomes a game of subterfuge.

                On my part, it’s really just a matter of calling out unethical conduct.
                And there is not one topic, other than unethical conduct, that we may discuss until that is settled business.
                That’s the way they teach negotiations these days under the Kellogg model.

                To be clear:
                This whole business of, “Are you really trying to say [something out in left field} ?” is unethical, because what I really meant to say was what the fuck I said.

                And until we can come to an agreement on what I really meant to say, we can go no further.

                Now, you can play whatever character you want to here:
                The ignorant uncomprehending one, the badly-treated misunderstood one, the piercing hyper-intelligent one, etc.
                And it will still come right back to: What I really meant to say was what the fuck I said.

                No character can change the landscape, no matter how well you play it.

                And I understand that it’s no more than a character, generated as a mechanism of avoidance.
                So, I don’t really care about what character you come up with.

                Until we can come to an agreement on what I really meant to say, we can go no further.
                We can talk about this menagerie of characters you keep later, if you wish.Report

              • veronicad in reply to Will H. says:

                Dude, that’s not even remotely coherent.

                You’re very odd.Report

              • Burt Likko in reply to veronicad says:

                Ahem. Putting on my editor/moderator hat here.

                Thank you both for playing this exchange out completely and thoroughly and without profanity. You’re both valued members of the commenting community, and as you know I prefer a nudge to a shove when the temperature of an exchange looks like it’s generating more heat than light.

                So, here’s your nudge. Let’s move on to other subjects, shall we? Thanks in advance.Report

  10. Joe Sal says:

    Anectdotally a search radius to find a match for a right wing individual anarchist was about 1700 miles plus or minus. Of course that was without any dating service and high school grads were within spec.Report

  11. Miss Mary says:

    Oh my, I have so many responses. I think I’ll just say, thank you for sharing. It was both funny and parallel to my own experience of attempting to date online. I only made it four months before giving up entirely. I suck at regular dating, I’m even worse online.

    At first I decided that I would have an open mind and meet any one who asked to meet. That’s how I’d really be able to tell if I liked them or not! (With the obvious exception of those that sent me pictures of their genitalia. There just is no explaining this.) Hmm, I met some interesting fellas, but not a one that was for me. I think was favorite was the guy who was really in to wolves. I did meet one man that I thought I could try to make some sort of relationship with, but that just reminded me I don’t have it in me to compromise on key issues (religion, politics, smoking). We ended up being friends for about a year and a half, but even that fell apart because he drove me nuts.

    I did have a few men turn me down because I had been married before and/or because I have a child. Like your career being an excuse, this did not make sense to me. How can you tell if you’ll like someone or not based on whether or not they already tried marriage, children, or a certain career???

    Good luck on your search. Maybe you’ll be the guy to figure out how to make it all work. You can be the Mark Zuckerberg of dating and we’ll all owe you one.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Miss Mary says:

      So, I have to ask. If only to educate myself about my, um, “competition.” Because, holy shit.

      About what percentage of men opened up flirting with you online by sending over a dick pic photograph of their genitalia? I mean, holy shit.Report

      • Don Zeko in reply to Burt Likko says:

        My conversations with women I’ve met online suggest that the other straight men online have established an extremely low bar.Report

      • Miss Mary in reply to Burt Likko says:

        I’d say about 5-7%. Not an insignificant amount. Just to be accurate, they did not open up with the picture(s). They’d get a couple of emails in first. Then, of course, they requested I reciprocate. As if sending me nude photos of yourself didn’t rule you out, requesting that I send nude photos clearly demonstrates you are not the person for me.

        I kid you not, one of my girlfriends actually said she doesn’t mind this. She said she likes to know what she is getting herself in to before meeting the person. Her excuse is having seen a physically undesirable man naked before and she’d like to prevent a future occurrence. I can not believe it! I guess there’s someone out there for everyone.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Burt Likko says:

        I can also confirm through my own experiences and stories from female friends that most of our gender sets a really low bar.

        It doesn’t even need to be dick picks. I’ve also gotten the “Thank you for reading my profile and responding with specific questions and/or statements based on that profile and using coherent English” compliment from women.Report

      • Damon in reply to Burt Likko says:

        I’ve run across several profiles of women where they have images of emails they have received. Of the three emails I recall:

        1 was a statement that she should show a pic of her with no top on but her hair covering her breasts
        2) was an offer to hook up
        3) was a request to describer her “primarily nocturnal, semiaquatic rodent.” You know, the kind that builds dams.Report

  12. Jaybird says:

    Have you grown a beard? Try growing a beard.

    Note: This is the best advice you’re likely to get.Report

  13. Miss Mary says:

    Wait a second, you haven’t met a single person off of this website in person?! Dang, that took a minute to sink in, but it really does surprise me. I think that’s the problem. I’ve met you in person and I thought you (and your previous wife, sorry) were lovely! Once you finally meet someone in person, I think you’ll get much better results.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Miss Mary says:

      Yep. You’ve got it. Not a single meeting. Zero (0) dates. That’s a bit more than two hundred (200) out of approximately nine hundred (900) prospects to whom I’ve said, “Hey, you look like you might be interesting.” Of them, twelve (12) have written back, as indicated above.

      Yes, it is discouraging. Maybe I should look for your friend since apparently all she needs to see is a preview of the more, shall we say, intimate advantages of dating me. Or maybe a side-by-side comparison of my hand against Donald Trump’s (proportionally, my fingers are much longer than his, ifyougetwhatimsayinghereandithinkyoudo).Report

      • Miss Mary in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Oh my goodness, I just laughed so hard I almost fell out of my office chair. You should put something funny like this in your profile! You have to have a sense of humor when dating. It also really helps to have a similar sense of humor if you ever hope to make it past the first few dates with the person.

        That reminds me. One of the guys I met online was a research doctor at a prominent, local, children’s hospital. Owned his own home, drove a ridiculously expensive car, etc. Basically you’d think the guy had his act together. On the third date he cited the “third date rule” apparently in hopes of getting me to sleep with him. I left like 5 minutes later and never saw him again. I should have known after the second date when he kept asking if he was the first Asian guy I’ve ever dated. He showed me a picture of his twin nieces and made some comment about all Asian people looking the same when I mentioned that the girls were clearly fraternal twins.

        Coincidentally, my friend lives in Hollywood. The one person I know in southern California! But you’re way too good for her.Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Content note: Unsolicited feedback from an unqualified person

        Burt Likko: “Hey, you look like you might be interesting.”

        Is that literally all you say? Or some variation of that? If so, I wouldn’t be surprised by your experience. I’ve never dated online, but common sense tells me you have to make an actual, specific effort with respect to the actual specific person.

        For example if someone mentions [pop culture thing] in their profile you include a quip about it in your response.

        One thing that strikes me about your OP is your emphasis on how not-picky you are being. This strikes me as a bad sign. You should absolutely be picky. I think an Econ 101 reference is justified here. Your job isn’t simply to reduce your standards until you meet a willing woman. That isn’t how it works. Somehow, women can smell your not-pickiness and will avoid you. Stop writing to women who meet such generic criteria. Require that they write something in their profiles that makes you interested and write something interesting to them that shows you actually read their profile and are interested in them and simply not every breathing woman in a 50 mile radius.Report

        • Burt Likko in reply to Vikram Bath says:

          My opening letter is a template, which I tweak for each profile to try and comment on something interesting I read in the woman’s profile.

          My “econ 101” approach comes from other, lower-your-standards-and-meet-people advice I got when I was single and enjoying success with the ladies, culminating in my meeting Natasha. Ms. Absolutely Perfect might be out there, but you’ll never know, because you’re waiting for someone to hit every box on your punch list. Ms. Pretty Damn Good is also out there, and Pretty Damn Good is not Well Crap I Guess I’ll Settle.Report

  14. LeeEsq says:

    Besides what Saul said, another big problem with modern dating is that many people believe there is an intent need for chemistry or the spark on the first date because of Hollywood. Without chemistry or the spark, chances are you are going to get written off. Online dating also seems to be making it more difficult to meet people in real life. Since so many relationships happen online, many people seem to no longer see people they know in real life as potential romantic partners and see them in a strictly platonic way. It was harder to meet partners in the past, so people were more willing to put an effort into it or give things a shot before rejecting a person.

    Most people I know who are my parents age or a little young, i.e. Baby Boomers, believe that you should go on two or three dates with a person before rejecting them. People in GenX or younger don’t find rejecting somebody after one date unusual. The entire system seems to be geared for the most social, extroverted, and conventionally attractive people at the expense of everybody else.Report

    • Miss Mary in reply to LeeEsq says:

      This is why Tinder is so popular, and I hope/believe will ultimately fail as a dating tool.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Miss Mary says:

        You need a particular type of personality and look to do well on Tinder. I’m not bad in my opinion looking but I have neither. Somebody needs to make a dating tool for bookish men that like extroverted women.Report

    • Roland Dodds in reply to LeeEsq says:

      I agree. I never really dated online, but I know for a fact my wife and I would never have been paired up using one of these sites. When it comes to personal tastes/interests/religion/education, we don’t share that many things. We would not have given each other’s profile a second look. Yet, we meet each other at the right time and all of that stuff just didn’t seem that important when compared to our other goals (having a family, etc.).

      For what it is worth, I say look into friends and acquaintances in your life.Report

  15. LeeEsq says:

    My experience with online dating has been disastrous has people on this blog are well aware. My experience attempting to date women I’ve met in real life has been not that great either. It seems more difficult to get into a romantic relationship than it was in the past. Some people have great success and other people have none.Report

  16. Jaybird says:

    Maybe soften the “atheist” thing by changing it to “lapsed Unitarian”?

    It says more or less the same thing but has a sense of humor about it that leaves the door open for those who might be okay with a non evangelical variant of atheist.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Jaybird says:

      On my main dating app, “spiritual but not religious” seems to be the go to choice for secular people that don’t want to say that they are atheists or irreligious.Report

      • Don Zeko in reply to LeeEsq says:

        So does that make me an idiot for figuring that I don’t want to waste my time with somebody who won’t accept an honest description of my spiritual outlook?Report

        • Burt Likko in reply to Don Zeko says:

          No, but it does mean you’re simultaneously “honest” and “celibate.”

          Like me, these days.Report

          • Don Zeko in reply to Burt Likko says:

            This thread is full of harsh truths, so much so that we really ought to have found a way to have this conversation over beers somewhere. If only Leaguefest wasn’t always on the wrong coast!

            Also in practice I don’t think the atheism is what’s holding me back. It may not have accomplished its objectives, but my OkCupid profile right now is a surprisingly effective algorithm for finding phd candidates at Duke.Report

            • Burt Likko in reply to Don Zeko says:

              If I didn’t have to carry a California mortgage all on my own, I’d be all up ins to have Leaguefest in New Orleans this year. But I do have to carry a mortgage in California all on my own so it’s become quite a bit more challenging for my household to stay afloat without that second income.Report

              • Miss Mary in reply to Burt Likko says:

                What I hear you saying is that you’ve just put your house on AirB&B and Leaguefest is in LA this year. 😉

                I’m so going when it’s New Orleans! Oh, who am I kidding, I go no matter where it is. I have no shame like that.Report

      • gregiank in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Might be amusing to put “religious but not spiritual” to see who bites on that.Report

      • Hoosegow Flask in reply to LeeEsq says:

        IME, it seems that sometimes religious folks feel the presence of an atheist is a judgement on their own beliefs. Similar to the way some meat eaters feel around vegetarians.

        Something like “agnostic” may seem a little less like a challenge, but there should really be “I don’t care what your beliefs are as long as you don’t try to force them on me and I won’t bother you with mine” option.Report

        • I hear you. That’s really my attitude: if a woman is religious, that’s her business, and it’s one part of who she is. If we date, we’ll get to know about that and many other things about each other and only then can we make an informed judgment about what’s really at play.

          One other thing that I think may be going on with the women who self-identify as “Christian” is that this label is used — by some but not all, and to some extent but not completely — to signal “I generally adhere to prevailing cultural norms and behave in a generally moral way.” To someone using “Christian” with that in mind, the label “atheist” implies the opposite — “I am an immoral person and I will behave in socially unacceptable ways.” And if that’s what the word “atheist” really meant, I wouldn’t want to be around one of them, either.

          When I’ve been able to talk with actual people, asking, “Hey, if you know anyone, keep me in mind,” they ask back, “So what are you looking for? What are you looking to avoid?” In that context, I can articulate what I really want. “She doesn’t have to be an atheist. Maybe she likes the people at her church, and that’s more than cool. That’s awesome. I do friends and family days really well. I’m just saying, if she’s all super-churchy all the time, that probably isn’t going to work for me.”Report

          • Richard Hershberger in reply to Burt Likko says:

            The unmodified “Christian” usually means, in American English, some sort of Evangelical Protestantism. That in turn runs a pretty long gamut from hardcore neo-Calvinist culty churches through Holy Roller Pentecostals. On another axis, it runs from “my entire life is centered on my church” to “I identify as Christian but have better things to do on Sunday”.

            I don’t know what the options are for dating sites. Are they free-form, or drop-down menus? I am liberal Lutheran. My wife was raised Catholic and still is, officially, but actually attends a Methodist church, including teaching adult Sunday school.Report

            • Pinky in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

              I wouldn’t assume that a self-identified “Christian” on a dating site is Evangelical. In other spheres, I probably would, but on a dating site it could mean anything from “passionately Presbyterian” to “closeted atheist” to “no sex before the third date”.Report

            • Saul Degraw in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

              The sites just generally have Christianity as an option. Maybe Catholicism too but it would take forever to list every branch of Protestantism.Report

              • Richard Hershberger in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                Having “Christian” and “Catholic” as the options pretty much drives home that by “Christian” they mean not only “Protestant” but “the sort of Protestant who doesn’t consider Catholics to be Christians.” The thing is, when I say that “Christian” in American English usually means “Evangelical Protestant,” this is a specifically Evangelical Protestant usage that they have been pounding for going on forty years now with enough success that it has oozed into general usage. Except, of course, among Catholics and Eastern Orthodox and non-Evangelical Protestants. For us, this usage is a deeply offensive “fuck you.”Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

                Yeah, that’s a total dick move. I’d be offended by it, and I’m not christian.Report

              • Religious Preference:


          • Damon in reply to Burt Likko says:

            I usually use the term “culturally christian”

            Any reference to god, various bible citations, etc. in a woman’s profile I “swipe left”.Report

            • El Muneco in reply to Damon says:

              I was just going to say the same thing. I’m not looking for a threesome, and if God already has primacy of place, if it’s that important to be on the front page…Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Jaybird says:

      “Unitarian Universalist (non-practicing).” or “Minister, ordained by the Universal Life Church.” Alas, the dating site uses radio boxes, not fill-in-the-blanks. I’ve softened it to “agnostic,” which is true (none of us can know if there’s a God until we die and either we meet Her or our existence snuffs into void).

      I could go further to “spiritual, but not religious,” but in my own estimation, that would be crossing the line into fibbing. I have the sensitive, starry-eyed, searching sensibilities of a songwriter, but to call myself “spiritual” would be just plain not true.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Burt Likko says:

        The problem isn’t that you’re using a dating site that requires radio boxes rather than fill-in-the-blanks. The problem is that you’re on a dating site that doesn’t require essays.

        I imagine that the people you’d most want to date would prefer reading 500 words on the splitting of hairs with a digression into your personal backstory to filtering by broad categories anyway.Report

        • Don Zeko in reply to Jaybird says:

          I do like that about the pre-Tindr sites. Having somebody write 1000 words about themselves is (often accidentally) extremely illuminating.Report

        • El Muneco in reply to Jaybird says:

          One reason why I don’t send as many feelers as some is that while the site diesn’t require an essay, I do.

          I put a lot of thought into my intro – how much to conceal and how much to reveal, the right tone, the appropriate balance of humor, avoiding references to 70s British comedy sketches… I expect at least complete sentences and at least a little introspection in return.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to El Muneco says:

            The problem is that there are people who are playing 13-dimensional chess with their profiles thinking “I need to get the cadence of this sentence *JUST* right in order for my potential soul mate to know that I’m the one just by reading it!” while others are content with vaguebooking their profile in the hopes that people will be struck by curiosity enough to ask a question and then you’ve got your foot in the door, baby!

            This was easier when our parents picked our spouses for us when we were 12 or so.Report

        • Miss Mary in reply to Jaybird says:

          I’m no dating website expert, but isn’t eHarmony (and maybe some others) have more robust requirements. Essay, 1,000 questions, something? Maybe Burt is on the wrong site, but how do you know? If it’s not glaringly obvious, like the idea of Tinder making me want to puke, or that site for single people who are pilots, how are you supposed to know which site has the right people on it? I’ve known several of my friends who would be on multiple sites simultaneously, but who has the time for that.Report

          • El Muneco in reply to Miss Mary says:

            They do have a more robust profile process, but I wonder about the matching algorithms sometimes, especially as you get more irreligious, more liberal, and more urban professional – which is not what they were originally designed for.

            Also, to keep customer interest, and therefore subscriptions, the algorithms are designed to keep the matches coming. If you’ve been subscribing for five years or more, you’ve already worked your way through the backlog. So it periodically starts shopping me around in California, then western Canada. I’ve gotten matches from NYC before, if they were a good fit in every area but “distance”…Report

            • Burt Likko in reply to El Muneco says:

              Yeah, IIRC there was some protest they gave when sued for discriminating against same-sex-seeking singles, claiming that their algorithms just didn’t work right for teh gheys.

              Which still seems like bullshit to me.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Miss Mary says:

            Deep down in my heart, I know that Burt will get more hits by just copying and pasting the lyrics to Cheap Trick’s “Dream Police” than by writing an essay that bares his soul to the world. Not because Burt is bad… but because the world is bad.

            That said, the best place to meet a suitable partner is someplace sideways… like, if you want to meet someone you can go rock climbing with, you don’t go to a dating site, you go to a rock climbing gym. If you want to meet someone to argue about books with, you go to the reading group at the local library rather than a dating site.

            The problem is that attached people go to those things too and it’s a complete roll of the dice as to whether you’re going to meet someone single there.

            But the upside of dating sites is that it’s a safe bet that the people on those probably want to meet someone. It’s the “are they someone who shares interests with me” thing that is 100% up in the air.Report

  17. aaron david says:

    Thank you for a great, bittersweet, but thoughtful essay @burt-likko.

    People love you, as evidenced by the numbers of responses here, so that is something good. But, and take this with a grain of salt as I have never online dated, you might be building your profile in the wrong way. As you are a lawyer, I am going to assume you have been in front of a judge or jury before. And when you are in that position you build your case to reflect the best things for them to see. You don’t fib about anything, but you move the truth to a more advantageous position. You have already moved from atheist to agnostic, and that is good. Any other negative signs need to be similarly changed to reflect you in the best light.

    Also, I would look to being not the best online profile, but the best dinner guest. Jay is right, you aren’t a check the box type person, but an essay type person. You need to let that shine.

    And remember, everyone here loves you.Report

  18. Damon says:

    Burt, I sympathize. It took me over 5 years to find my current g/f. We’ve been together 2 years. Prior, my relationships lasted at most 6 months. I’m fully divorced.

    In that time I’ve gotten countess scammers it’s become so easy to tell them. 90% of the emails I’ve sent are never returned. It got so bad, I had to write them screen names down to keep track of the women I’ve emailed so I don’t email them again.

    I had one woman tell me that she knew all about me because of some song lyrics I put on under my name. Weirdest email convo I’ve ever had. I’ve met women who look nothing like their profile, and who were just out for a free meal. I’ve also met women I’m friends with to this day, 7 years later.

    Don’t sweat it. Make it a game and have fun. Don’t CARE. Good luck. It kinda sucks out there. As my ex SIL says, “everyone’s broken”. Just find someone who’s broken parts fit yours.


    Oh, and it’s eharmony, I thought they sucked. I had better luck with and OKC and POF.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Damon says:

      Your ex-sister-in-law is right and it’s good advice. Yes, we’re all broken, and sometimes the fractures of two pieces fit pretty well together.

      Or, as Leonard Cohen observed: everyone has cracks, but that’s how the light gets through.Report

  19. Burt Likko says:

    Now, here’s another thing about “”

    For some reason, a very high percentage of the women who post profile pictures of themselves post selfies taken with their phones while they are in their cars. Like, with seat belts on, in many cases while behind the wheel. Occasionally, with the vehicles visibly on the street.

    So, yeah. What gives with that? They can’t possibly be looking their best in that situation. And there’s enough of this that if I filtered for “Didn’t post a selfie of herself taken while driving,” statistically I’d have only got 6 responses back instead of 12.Report

    • Miss Mary in reply to Burt Likko says:

      I assume that they are looking their best when going out somewhere and so that is when they take the photo. Since they are single, it’s hard to find someone around at just the right time to take your photo. I’ve never taken a selfie while driving, but lots of people do private things (singing and dancing in my case) while driving because they feel like their car is their private space. It’s not, windows! No one wants to say, I think I’m looking my best right now so I’m going to ask a passing stranger to take 10 or 12 photos of me until I find the best one.Report

    • Damon in reply to Burt Likko says:

      I’ve seen a lot of bathroom mirror pics too–fully clothed ofc.Report

  20. veronicad says:

    Hey Burt,

    These days a lot of “dating site savvy” women see “atheist” as a codeword for “pushy guy who thinks he’s smarter than everyone else and won’t shut up about his IQ.”

    Which actually, I mean, it’s def a thing in some online spaces. Myself, I positively cringe when I encounter the “pontificating Dawkins fan guy.”

    Perhaps look for an “agnostic” option, or something like “undecided” or “searching.” That will convey the “I don’t go to church” information without signalling that you’re insufferably smug.


    Dating sites are filled with 3948029340994939393 thirsty dudes competing for 3548029340294939143 weird-lonely-choosy women. The “match” algorithms suck. So much time is wasted. Thus every jot and tittle of your profile is going to pass through some semiotic nightmare maze as women try to weed out the freaks.


    It’s almost always a bad idea to tell someone why you don’t like them. You’re totally correct. A simple “no thank you” is all the information you need. That said, just as women have to navigate the creep parade, you cannot go onto these sites without meeting plenty of very weird women.


    It might be worth your time to try Tinder and/or Bumble. It’s really just “swipe left/swipe right,” which is low effort for first contact. Granted, you don’t get as much info as you do with the more detailed profile/match based sites, but on the other hand, attraction is a weird beast. Profiles are cryptic and rather unhelpful. “Match algorithms” are pretty hit or miss. By contrast, A pretty smile is a pretty smile.


    Try to vary your profile/pictures/etc. Be empirical. Treat it like science.

    You can google around to find advice. Every other thirsty dude followed that same advice. Women quickly notice the repetition.

    “Oh look, it’s that same boring-ass intro paragraph as those other three guys.”


    I’ve met all my current partners of Facebook. I friend a lot of people. Thus I have a pretty big “extended network.” Thus I see a lot of cool posts from cool people. We chat on Facebook messenger. Sometimes we hit it off.

    On the other hand, the experiences of a polyamorous, queer transgender lesbian will perhaps not generalize.

    But still, the experience of “shared social network” plus “shared interests” plus “meeting in casual context” seem less fraught will bullshit than “meeting randoms on a dating site.”

    I dunno.


    Remember to be yourself!

    Ha! But seriously.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to veronicad says:

      These days a lot of “dating site savvy” women see “atheist” as a codeword for “pushy guy who thinks he’s smarter than everyone else and won’t shut up about his IQ.”

      Holy shit! That’s not what I’m going for at all! I’m going for “Will probably want to have sex at some point, and will not feel guilty about it afterwards.”

      …I kid. I’m going for “Does not go to church.”

      On the other hand, the experiences of a polyamorous, queer transgender lesbian will perhaps not generalize.
      * * *
      Remember to be yourself!

      Veronica, oh jeez. I wish you could see me grin and hear me laugh when I read that. I love having you around this site, more than I am capable of articulating. And I’m a very articulate guy. Thank you.Report

      • Kimmi in reply to Burt Likko says:

        … yeah, so read these things with a weather eye towards “how does this look.”

        Likewise, the whole “not symmetric” about ages looks … a bit off to me.
        Like, I’d be asking “Does he think that only MEN get to be not symmetric about these things?”
        Now, maybe i don’t ask that if I’m bored or desperate… but if I’m being picky, I definitely think it.

        I’d… at least consider changing it on your profile, and nixing people by hand instead.Report

        • Burt Likko in reply to Kimmi says:

          The women don’t get to see what search I have structured. They get to see if I contact them, or not. If they are searching for men 10 years younger to 5 years older than themselves, good for them. If that’s the case, and the algorithm works properly, we’ll be within 5 years of one another. (As noted in the OP, I don’t think the algorithm works perfectly.)Report

  21. Maribou says:

    I really enjoyed this post, I think I forgot to tell you that when I was proofing it. I agree with Miss Mary that in person you are very charming – in fact I was going to suggest that the old chestnut of meeting women in bars might work really well for you if it wasn’t terrifying…

    FWIW, if you are either letting people know you’re not fully done with the divorce paperwork yet OR not telling them but then disclosing it on further interaction, that would be a huge red flag for me no matter how delightful I found the person in question. So your luck may very well look up the minute that is no longer an issue.

    Separately, I would recommend doing as much as possible to be yourself on what axes you are allowed to do that, rather than having the most polished profile you can. Let yourself be a little rough around the edges, a little unpolished, instead of trying to seem perfect. (You are quite possibly doing that already.) Not typos, but be funny, without worrying about who won’t think you are. Let yourself be soft / gentle instead of making sure you seem manly enough. You’ll get the right kind of person that way.

    Agnostic rather than atheist is probably a good thing, given that it’s true, because my concern with “atheist” on a dating profile would not be “ungodly” like that one lady, but rather “will attempt to proselytize me unceasingly and or mock me for my weird heretical quasi-agnostic Catholicism”. Unfair, particularly since I only have that prejudice against men and not other genders… but there it is.

    Of course, I met my beloved at the age of 17 on a text-based interactive telnet system designed around postmodern philosophers, and we got to know each other because I was entertained by his stories of the women he was dating – and we didn’t *start* dating for like 3 years after that – so I freely concede that my advice might be useless as far as statistics go.

    But you only need to meet ONE person if she’s the right one… at which point the statistics become more or less a moot point.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Maribou says:

      It’s been immensely gratifying today to see so much warm, supportive feedback from everyone, yourself included. I’m truly touched by it all, and feel motivated to respond to everyone who’s taken the time to address me individually, in a way I don’t feel the need to when I write about law or politics or something less personal than this. Call it an expression of gratitude.

      At work, when we have clients with personality facets that promise to be less than ideal for jury presentation, we try and figure out how to sidestep that issue rather than train our clients to behave in ways foreign to their personalities. People are themselves, and very few people are any good at being or acting like anyone other than themselves. I don’t imagine I’m any different than that. The best I can do in circumstances where there are things (e.g., “atheist”) that promise to be unappealing to some people is sidestep the matter. We train responses as best we can, and we give clients “attitude assignments” (which are usually “keep your cool under pressure” assignments) and roleplay with them, but it never, never works.

      I figure dating is going to be the same way. I just am who I am. I don’t want to try to act like someone I’m not, because eventually I’m going to slip up and fall into my hold habit of being myself again. So I say to myself, “Self? Be yourself. Unless you can be Inigo Montoya. If you can be Inigo Montoya, then yeah, go ahead and be him. Otherwise, be yourself because you really can’t be anyone else.”

      Anyway, that’s my strategy as I go about searching for my Giulietta.Report

    • Miss Mary in reply to Maribou says:

      It should be said that I am not the person to take dating advice from either. I’m a 30 year old, currently pregnant surrogate who is SINGLE. My only pick up line is “don’t worry, the baby’s not mine”. I’d say I’m right there in the trenches with Burt, but, like the bathroom scale, I can’t even see the trenches over my expanding belly.

      So maybe you should just grow your facial hair and wear your leather jacket. Who the hell knows.Report

    • North in reply to Maribou says:

      Yeah I can’t offer any advice because I met my hubby in ’98 when I was 18 and we were chatting on IRC.Report

  22. Kazzy says:

    I’ve dipped my toes into some app-based dating and find the experience to be largely maddening.

    Ya know, just like real life in many ways. I think it feels different because there is a level of explicitness that doesn’t really change the calculus but nonetheless makes the failures much more obvious.

    What I mean is that you probably interact with… even if only fleeting eye contact in line at Starbucks… with dozens of potential mates a day, which themselves have yielded zero dates. But it doesn’t feel like going 0-12 or 0-200 or 0-900 because you weren’t explicitly seeing them as potential mates or being rejected as a potential mate.

    It isn’t exactly the same but all of the things that make meeting people in the real world difficult largely hold true in electronic dating.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Kazzy says:

      So here’s a story from just last week. I’m buying groceries. Single woman (no ring; I’m checking those things again) in line ahead of me. About my age, maybe a little younger. Let’s say a “7” for attractiveness notwithstanding that she seems to be not wearing any makeup or dressed in any particular way; she certainly caught my eye. I search my brain for a little joke I might tell, to see if I can break the ice.

      Then I glance at the checkout counter and see she’s buying one thing: a small box of a feminine hygiene product. And she’s staring straight ahead, avoiding eye contact with everyone. Now, I’m not grossed out by the fact that a woman has a cycle. Nearly all women do. That’s just part of being a woman and it wasn’t like I was planning on taking her straight to bed immediately after meeting her in line at the grocery store.

      But I do figure… she’s probably not feeling at her sexiest at that exact moment. And if some guy flirts with her under those circumstances, he might well seem like a creepy weirdo. I didn’t want to be thought a creepy weirdo, so I did nothing while she went about her business.

      Maybe you might say that what really happened was that I chickened out. That can be true at the same time as the other reason I just gave.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Burt Likko says:

        And her thousand yard stare COULD BE “Ugh, I’m cramping and just want to get the fuck home and to hell with everyone else.

        Or it could have been, “GODDAMNIT… this guy behind me in line is cute but right now I’m ugg-mugging and buying tampons so let me just whither here and die inside.”

        Or something else entirely.

        Just like, “Hi, Burt!” could be, “I’m opening the door but you need to come through it because I don’t chase.”

        Or it could be, “He seems nice and I should be nice but I’m not interested. At all.”

        Or it could be, “I have no idea how this works.”

        I’m learning that when relationships become about game theory or strategy, everything gets infinitely more complicated.

        I’ve spoken here about my general refusal to aggressively pursue women on these things. Even if there seems to be a connection. If I say, “Let’s get a drink sometime,” and the woman says, “Yea, that sounds great. Let me check my schedule and get back to you,” I wait for her to get back to me and, if she doesn’t, I usually move on. If the connection seems a little stronger… as evidenced by more involved communication, not just “vibe”, I may reach out once but that’d be it.

        It’s possible the, “Let me check…” with no follow up is a gentle blow off. It is possible they are playing hard to get and want me to ask. Lots of things are possible. But what doesn’t seem possible is to say, “Hey… wait a sec… what do you mean here?” because that isn’t how you play the game.

        Ugh. It sucks.Report

        • veronica d in reply to Kazzy says:

          Cold approach is hard. That said, if you don’t want to be “that guy,” then you can try the body language approach. It works like this: stand in plain view. Does she notice you? If she does, smile and “open” your body language to her. If she responds likewise, say hi, pretend to be confident, and compliment her. “Can I say, you have the nicest eyes” (or whatever). She’ll likely reply with “thanks.” It doesn’t matter. Her words don’t matter. They will be a canned response. Instead of words, watch her body language. Does she remain “open”? If so, great! Keep talking. Let the conversation roll.

          (The exception, of course, is if she bluntly rejects you. If so, then leave her alone.)

          (Don’t take it too personally. Yes, it is rude. But keep in mind, most men who do “cold approach” are jerks. It’s not that most men are jerks in general, but the guys who routinely approach women in public are a particular subset of men. If a woman is very blunt, she’s just jaded by the parade of jerks. So it goes. Move on.)

          Don’t worry about sounding awkward. Of course you sound awkward. You’re a dude hitting on a woman in public. That’s literally the most awkward possible thing. Just stay confident and secure, even while being a bit awkward.

          I know that sounds contradictory, but it isn’t. Just tell yourself, “Yeah I’m super awkward, but so what? Everyone is, unless they’re some kind of weirdo narcissist or whatevs. I’m still awesome!”

          She might do that shy smile and looking down thing. If so, that might be a good sign. It might not. At this point, you need to get a yes or no. That’s it. Get a yes or no. Ask her out for coffee.

          Look, women do not hate being asked out. They hate pushy guy who cannot take no for an answer. They hate ignores body language guy.

          Eventually you get to, “Hey, I know this is weird, but would you like to meet for coffee? If not, that’s totally fine. I’ll leave you alone. But I had to ask.”

          And then let her answer.

          Easy peasy!

          (Except the part where it’s the hardest thing in the world. Except it’s actually totally easy.)

          So we have,

          1. Open your body language toward her.

          2a. If she smiles and opens hers, compliment her. (Yay!)

          2b. If not, leave her alone. (This will be, of course, the more common response. So it goes. Women have lives.)

          3a. If she remains “open” after the compliment, start a conversation.

          3b. If she does the shy smile and looks down, skip the conversation and go to step 4. Get to yes or no.

          3c. If she seems uncomfortable from the compliment, then leave her alone.

          4. Regardless of 3a or 3b, you’ll want to ask for coffee. Ask.

          5. During the whole process, always give her an easy “out.” People can sense this. It makes them more comfortable with you. (This is good general advice in life, actually.)

          It can be hard to distinguish 3b from 3c. If you get it wrong, she’ll live. You’ll live. Don’t worry too much.Report

      • Kimmi in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Definitely dig chickening out at that point. Maybe you’ll see her again next week?Report

      • Damon in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Here’s a thought. Disregard what you think she might be thinking. Crack a joke. See what happens. Zero F’s Given. If she’s cramping and crabby, so be it. You got to exercise the “take a chance” muscle. Might want to start on a likelier prospect, but still.Report

    • Kimmi in reply to Kazzy says:

      Picking up people in the elevator (particularly at a hospital) is seriously weird.Report

  23. Michael Cain says:

    As before, I extend my best wishes that things work out well.

    If Mrs. Cain were to go missing for some reason, and I was looking, I know that my first step would be e-mail to friends named Cheryl and Anna, saying that I was interested in going out with straight females for a play, or round of golf, or hike, or mountain music festival (since we’re approaching that season), knowing that Cheryl and Anna would compete with each other to fix me up.

    Is this a non-coastal thing? Is knowing a Cheryl and an Anna weird?Report

    • No, that sounds terrific.

      …Do Cheryl and Anna have any friends in California?

      I’d say “I’m asking for a friend,” but that would just be a damned lie.Report

      • Don Zeko in reply to Burt Likko says:

        I’m pretty sure my Cheryl and Anna live in Texas, Ohio, and California, respectively.Report

      • From time to time unsolicited e-mail from finds its way into my inbox. The service seems to be actual human matchmakers talking to you, then setting up lunch with someone they think is compatible. I like the idea of having a person involved.

        Of course, I’m old and out of touch. Assuming we make it to the end of the year, Mrs. Cain and I will both be 64 and have been married for 37 years.Report

  24. George Turner says:

    I’m not sure what age range you’re looking for, but I dug through the dating database at to find you some likely prospects.

    Marisa Tomei is currently single.
    Natasha Henstridge is currently single.
    Carmen Electra is currently single.
    Elizabeth Hurley is currently single.
    Eliza Dushku is currently single.
    Hilary Duff is currently single.
    January Jones is currently single.
    Natalie Imbruglia is currently single.
    Nicole Appleton is currently single.
    Bridget Hall is currently single.
    According to our records, Jenna Jameson is possibly single.
    According to our records, Katherine Towne is possibly single.
    Nastassja Kinski is currently single.
    Pamela Anderson is currently single.
    Heather Locklear is currently single.
    Rebecca De Mornay is currently single.
    Scarlett Johansson is currently single.
    Charisma Carpenter is currently single.

    They are all lonely, and would surely appreciate you for who you are, a person who can change their relationship status on WhosDatedWho.comReport

  25. Kimmi says:

    Well, Congratulations! You’ve managed to not strike up a conversation with an AI and get to the point of arranging a date with her. (A meatperson was eventually found to go on the actual date.)

    … so, erm, it could be worse.

    Part of the problem with all of this is that a lot of people who ARE good matches to a decently witty guy AREN’T actively looking. Try the library (this works even better if you’re looking for women with small kids), try a gaming club — or do the same thing online.

    If you’re more of an essay than a checkbox person, go find ways to get your name/face out there where it’ll seem natural.Report

    • Damon in reply to Kimmi says:

      Yah..the women in the rage of 35-55 (my old range) with kids in the house are high. If you’re not into being a potential step dad (like me), you’re options are more limited.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Damon says:

        In descending order of preference:

        1. Chose to not have children.
        2. Kids who are grown.
        3. Kids who are bright teenagers supportive of her interest in finding a mate.
        4. [This space intentionally left blank.]
        5. [This space intentionally left blank.]
        6. [This space intentionally left blank.]
        7. [This space intentionally left blank.]
        8. [This space intentionally left blank.]
        9. [This space intentionally left blank.]
        10. Younger kids, with custody split with her ex.
        11. Younger kids, with sole custody.
        12. Younger kids, but does not have at least equal custody. (This is lower than 10-11 because it suggests something unhealthy that she would not have at least split custody. If she has kids at all, then I want her to be a good mother.)

        I’m omitting out morbid but gratefully rare possibilities like “Had kids, but they died.” Because I just don’t want to think about something that awful.Report

        • Damon in reply to Burt Likko says:

          And it kinda depends upon what you want. That’s all good when looking for a relationship, but not when you’re looking just for a “hot mom” or 36 year old for “fun”. 🙂 Might want to consider a different profile for each goal. I’ve found several “dual” profiles on sites, where the woman is “divorced” or “separated” kids/no kids, etc. Busted!

          Additionally, 80% of every profile I’ve read has said “don’t just say hi”. Only 20% of emails from women to me had more than “hey there”, even when I put the same wording about this in my profile.Report

          • veronica d in reply to Damon says:

            To support @damon ‘s point, don’t shy away from hookups, even if your goal is something longer term. First, they can and do grow into relationships. Second, it can be a real confidence boost. Third, you will find women there who want relationships, but who have settled for hookup culture cuz that’s where the guys are. Finally, sex feels really good.Report

            • Burt Likko in reply to veronica d says:

              Thanks, @damon and @veronica-d . I’m probably inherently too classy to skip having dinner with her first, but I certainly agree: nothing wrong with just getting laid.Report

              • Damon in reply to Burt Likko says:

                Dude, never buy dinner on the initial meeting!

                Coffee/drinks/apps. Something where you can get in and get out for an hour commitment. I can’t tell you how many women I’ve met where my response was

                1) nope
                2) pics in person
                3) she cleverly disguised in her profile that she’s 500 pounds
                4) dumber than a box of rocks

                Why pay good money for a nice dinner only to watch your “date” talking with her mouth full, ejecting food particles, and talking about how “the jews are ruining the country”? And doesn’t take the hint when you say “some of my best friends are jews”.

                Nah. Coffee/drinks etc.Report

              • veronica d in reply to Damon says:

                It’s funny how @damon and I disagree on everything except dating.Report

              • Damon in reply to veronica d says:

                Everybody has at least one thing in common with each other 🙂

                I’ve never considered disagreement with another person reason to dislike them, hate them, fear them, not be friends/friendly with them.

                I hold ill will only to those who have earned it. 🙂Report

              • Burt Likko in reply to Damon says:

                Yeah. Good point.

                Dinner needs to be a second date. I guess I’m thinking that because, truth be told, I’ve never scored on a first date. Second dates, yes, third dates with even greater frequency. But I’ve not had the experience of going all the way after a first meeting. Perhaps I’ve never really tried. I mean, I know that this does happen and not just on the pages of Penthouse Letters, but I always figured, “Yeah this happens, but not for me.” Since I was married for so long, I never thought I’d ever have to try again and truth be told I was entirely cool with that.

                Besides, a decent dinner out is kinda pricey and I’m carrying a mortgage all on my own these days. If I still had my ex-wife’s income as well as my own, I could afford to go out on dates with other women much more easily!Report

              • Damon in reply to Burt Likko says:

                Here’s how I did it.

                First “date” meet and greet coffee/drinks (some women don’t even consider that a date.)
                Second meeting…museum, hike, etc. where you have time to talk and know that you won’t be hating life for committing to more than an hour with this guy.
                Third date. Now you can start spending money. That’ll weed out 80 percent of the women there since one of both of you will: ghost, “not interested” or flake.Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to Burt Likko says:

                Ugh! You guys are killing me with the cynicism. When I met Mrs.Dwyer, we talked via email a couple of times, then we talked on the phone (it was supposed to be a 10 minute conversation and after 60 minutes I already had a feeling I was in trouble). I had seen ONE picture of her from the neck up that in hindsight didn’t even remotely do her justice. So then we made plans for dinner. Arrived in separate cars. Part of the fun for me though is that i can seriously make small talk with anyone, so even if I realized it was a no-go, it was still a nice dinner and an interesting experience.

                And that’s the whole thing. You’re getting back in the game. You’ve got to put in the reps. When you’re talking about scoring on 1st, 2nd, 3rd dates etc…it makes me wonder exactly what the goal is. If it’s just to get laid, that’s what Tinder is for. According to my single buddies, that is like shooting fish in a barrel. If you are looking for a RELATIONSHIP then maybe the old-fashioned way isn’t a bad plan.

                P.S. My baller move on my first date with my wife was to call the restaurant ahead of time, give them my debit card info, and tell them I didn’t want to see a check come to the table. It eliminated the who-pays? silliness and showed her that I still preferred to act like a man on dates.Report

              • Burt Likko in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                That “don’t even bring the check” thing is a total baller move, dude. And I am absolutely going to use it, if and when I get to a deal-sealer dinner with The Next Woman.Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to Burt Likko says:


                I don’t know where I got the idea (I’m almost certain it was not an original). The trick is to have a good line to give her when she looks at you with confusion. I just sort of waved it off, gave her a dopey smile and said, “I don’t like to argue about the check.”

                She still tells people about it.

                When all these jaded bastards on this thread (still love you guys!) get done telling you how to be a player, I’m happy to offer all the romance wisdom I have. I seriously think I have watched every romantic comedy in the last 30 years. It’s a little embarrassing to admit it, but I’m a sucker for that stuff. And it’s surprising how many women have never really been treated to a proper romantic date. Play your cards right and you’ll blow their socks off.Report

              • Miss Mary in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Interesting. I always offer to pay on dates. My date paying makes me feel uncomfortable because of all of the people I’ve heard say “she just wants a free meal”. Ugh, cynical much? Maybe it’s a generational thing, but I don’t want a man to pay for me, especially on the first few dates. After an established relationship, fine. But in the beginning, I’m my own person, I can take care of myself.Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to Miss Mary says:


                I completely respect your approach there, but I’m also positive that would bother me and make me think the girl wasn’t fully committed to the ‘process’. I am pretty progressive on gender roles as a general rule, but dating is one of those very few areas where I like to do things like my grandparents did.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Mike, MissMary,
                I figure folks like you might could at least think of compromising.
                Guy pays for dinner, Girl pays for movie.
                I would feel like paying for my share is at least the “decent” thing to do… but I would understand if a guy wanted to pay for the whole thing (so long, of course, as he wasn’t pressuring me).Report

              • Burt Likko in reply to Miss Mary says:

                So let’s say I’m on a date with you.

                I reach for the check, and you protest, “No, I’m happy to pay.”

                That’s a good move on your part. But my move is:

                “No, I insist.”

                “Really,” you say, “I’ll pay. At least my part.”

                “Tell you what. Are you having a good time? If you are, then I’ll let you pay for our next date. Cool?”Report

              • veronica d in reply to Burt Likko says:

                @burt-likko — Alternating is a good solution. That’s what I do with one of my partners.

                (The other is wildly underemployed, so I just pay for everything cuz I’m a stinking rich software engineer.)Report

              • veronica d in reply to veronica d says:

                But let me add, the “I insist” part would drive me bananas.

                Nope! Red flag! We’re (potentially) partners. We discuss. We compromise.

                Gosh knows I don’t wanna deal with “plant his flag on the hilltop guy.” Please no. What a lousy way to cap off an evening.

                On the other hand, imagine saying, “Let me pay for this. You can get the next date. By the way, do you like {restaurant in similar price range}?”

                See! Nice move there! Especially if you guess right and I really do wanna go to that other restaurant.Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to veronica d says:


                It’s interesting how different minds work (maybe this is a guy vs. girl thing or just a personality thing that is gender-less). I looked at the check thing as a potential sour moment that could ruin an otherwise enjoyable evening, so my goal was always to just get through it as quickly as possible so we could continue the date. Perhaps my approach represents the male tendency of problem solving and yours represents the female tendency of talking things through and seeking compromise?

                Not saying either of our approaches are wrong, just a different way of viewing things.Report

              • veronica d in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                @mike-dwyer — Right. I mean, obviously it worked for you, and to be fair, there are women who really want the classic date experience, where the man decides and pays and all of that. Anyway, it worked for you and yours. Yay.

                (I’m the type of feminist who wants women to be free to choose the kind of romantic situations they want, including fairly traditional structures, as long as this is in fact freely chosen and freely maintained.)

                But yeah, even a hint of “control” drives me up the wall. Likewise, I honestly work hard to not be the “controller” myself. For example, in one of my relationships I make far more money than my partner, so yeah, I usually pay. On the other hand, I take this as an additional responsibility to never let that become a “control” factor.

                But I have to concede, I’m an atypical demographic.

                I notice a ton of ink is spilled over what “women these days” want — and that misses the point that women want different things. Plus, people seem to map their own social preoccupations onto this; about which, I do not claim I’m immune to this tendency, although I try to qualify my statements to at least not be too heavy handed.

                Like, you’ll hear men say, “Darn-it, women want strong men with a firm hand!”

                And yes, some women do. But I suspect that the men who say this are really talking about their own issues with masculinity.

                Plenty of women don’t want that.

                On the other hand, well I suppose my pathologies are obvious enough. I have a rather fraught relationship to masculinity. (A lot of trans women do. We have baggage.)Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to veronica d says:


                I think from my perspective I was always going to be the kind of guy that pays, opens doors, pushes in their chair, etc so it was easier to just get it out there early. Other than the paying thing, I never thought there was a ‘control’ aspect to good manners. I get the way some women feel about the financial part (as a consolation though, until about 6 months ago when I finally caught up to her, my wife has always made significantly more money than me and not only has it never bothered me, but I told my daughters about it – it was a hell of a good example she set for them).

                I do think though that, living in the south, I would say the majority of girls I dated pretty much expected the guy to pay. There’s some pretty well-documented cultural stuff there where some of the daughters of all those baby boomer feminists are kind of drifting back to the older ideas about gender roles because it’s natural to go in a different direction than your parents.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to veronica d says:


                Is it the idea? Or the language?

                If the response was, “I’d really like to,” would thag change your response?Report

              • veronica d in reply to Kazzy says:

                @kazzy — Yes. Saying, “Please, allow me,” would be totally fine. I’d say, “Fine, but I get next time, and we’re getting steak!”

                See, fair’s fair.

                Plus yummy steak.Report

              • Miss Mary in reply to Burt Likko says:

                That’s nice, Burt. I like that idea. Taking turns is fair, leaving your date feeling like they are your equal partner.

                I get where you’re coming from, Mike, and maybe you or that guy your out on a date with is a genuinely nice person and doesn’t mind paying even if they know that things aren’t going to work out. But when you’re on a date you subject yourself to being analyzed after. I can’t stand the thought that someone would say something about me to their friends implying that I am selfish enough to date a man just for a free meal.

                As a single mother, dating is very expensive. I have to find a sitter for not just the date but transportation time too. I bet our date isn’t within a 5 mile radius as my sitter, and I’m guessing it’s in the evening or on the weekend when sitters charge premium pricing. Then, again, and it may just be me, but I have to pay or participate in paying. I’m giving up time with my family and friends to spend time with a stranger.

                It’s no wonder people are picky or give up easily on dating when it is so time intensive, emotionally exhausting, and expensive.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Miss Mary says:

                Miss Mary,
                This is why I suggest trying to meet people at the library.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Burt Likko says:

                Yeah, this seems classy.Report

              • Damon in reply to Burt Likko says:

                Let me add to this.

                Remember that you always run the risk that the woman’s offer to split the bill could be a test. I got into a fight with a now ex g/f and she said that she new a lot of women who would use this. If the guy accepted the offer to go dutch, they’d never see the guy again. So either way you’re screwed. Go with what works for you, but remember, keep the cost low. That way you can go on several dates and not have a Cash flow problem.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Damon says:

                I’m going to second what @damon said. Offers to pay are generally saying she doesn’t want to see you again but doesn’t want to take advantage of you or a test. I hate this test but a friend of mine once diagnosed my problem as thinking that gender equality means that we can get rid of all this dumb traditional and testing stuff. He might be right. There are simply traditional expectations that I can’t do well at.Report

              • veronicad in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Yeah, this is the “shit test” theory that the PUA guys are constantly complaining about. The thing is, I’m sure women like this exist. On the other hand, there is no reason to suppose that that particular woman on that particular night was shit testing, rather than simply expressing her actual values. Plus, would you ultimately want to date someone who is that full of shit?

                Like, I personally know some women who 1) are hetero and 2) date men and 3) basically despise men despite being attracted to them. So it’s complicated. If you end up on a date with such a woman, well, you’ll likely get hung out to dry. She might mess with you just to see you twist in the wind.

                Sorry. Rotten people exist. Some of them are women.

                I know other kinds of women, on the other hand, who are every bit as hetero, who like men quite a lot, and want to go on cool dates with cool guys with minimal bullshit.

                Sadly, I cannot give you good tools to tell them apart, other than meeting them and using your normal social spidey-sense.

                But still, these theories (such as the “shit test” theory), while they are true sometimes, for some women, ultimately form a kind of self-sabotage. You’ll built up these tools to defend against rotten women that will undermine your ability to build trust with decent women. It’s a losing game.

                It’s better to use your words. Let her use hers. Believe what she says. The women you will want to date know what they want and know how to say it.Report

              • veronicad in reply to veronicad says:

                As an aside, Mark Manson has a great policy for dealing with “shit tests.” The moment he senses a woman is playing head games with him, he calls her on it. If she cuts out the bullshit, he lets things go on. (We all get one chance to fuck up. Plus, misunderstandings happen.) If, however, she tries another mind game, he literally cuts off the date right there. Bam!

                According to him, when he does this, the women often become apologetic and clingy, but too late. He walks away.

                This is exactly the right thing to do. He avoids a headcase. He gets the good feeling of living up to his own values. Plus, if she does get “clingy,” he gets that ego boost, while still walking away.

                BTW, women should do the same thing to headcase guys. Obviously.

                (There is a reason for the breadsticks meme.)Report

              • Damon in reply to veronicad says:

                “Yeah, this is the “shit test” theory ”

                Yes, it is. In my experience, “more than half” of the woman have offered to pay sincerely meant it and did seem to be interested. Either way, I paid. Just working the odds. Additionally, I would find activities that limited the initial cash outlay to the third or fourth date.Report

              • veronica d in reply to Miss Mary says:


                Beware the sample size of one.

                To me that would ring as “control freak guy.” I’m really looking for a more equal power dynamic right up front.

                (But then I mostly date other women, so that probably matters.)

                The point is, different women who are going to have different views of this. The question is, what kind of role does Burt want to play? Certainly there will be women who want that. But still, the one-size-fits-all het-norm dating script is no longer the only game in town.

                The good part, you have a lot of choices as to what gender-game you wanna play.

                The bad part, so does she.

                The worst part, good grief it’s hard to find someone who wants to play the same game you wanna play.

                On the latter point, I find words help.Report

            • Damon in reply to veronica d says:

              Let me add to that point..

              Had a initial meet up with a women, rather attractive. No idea what I was doing, but she was major into me. Sitting at a restaurant having apps/drinks, she’s “you’re so cute, i want to kiss you”.



              Next thing we’re in her car making out like school children. She came over later that night and spent the night. We arranged for her to come over a few days later. She blew it off. Hey, the one night stand was fun. I guess she got what she needed.Report

  26. Will H. says:

    Statistics tell me that the next person you will date is within five miles of where you live or work.
    Statistics also tell me that you have probably already met her.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Will H. says:

      Were these statistics derived in urban areas? Exurbs have a different vibe than big cities. It’s probably even worse for folks in rural areas; there are parts of California not too far from here where people simply lack any neighbors for a five-mile radius.

      With that said, I recognize that I’m in a thriving community of about half a million people. And if that proves insufficient to provide an adequate dating pool, there is a rather large city an hour’s drive away.Report

      • Will H. in reply to Burt Likko says:

        I had the same question, and the answer is, yes, the data is rather consistent across the board.
        I find that interesting with the snap-chat crowd, that they’re still only reaching toward a very small portion. Digital connectedness seems rather restrictive in the end.

        That said, “greater than 80%” means something like:
        A Saving Throw of 14 with a penalty of -3 on the die.

        Or, however you want to look at it.

        If you can recall making a Saving Throw like that, the odds are somewhere along those lines.Report

  27. Richard Hershberger says:

    I am (a) mid-fifties, and (b) coming up on my fifteenth anniversary. Which is to say, I know nothing about modern dating. Also, I (c) have been a total nerd my whole life, (d) never had the flowing locks and impish smile to make womenfolk moist in the nethers at the mere sight of me, and (e) had all the usual youthful social awkwardness.

    Once I figured it out in my early-to-mid twenties, I never actually had all that much trouble meeting women, taking “meeting” whatever way you wish. The key is that I had a very active hobby in the SCA. There was an old joke that “SCA” stood for “Society for Consenting Adults” and there was some truth to this. (Probably still is, but my interests have evolved and I’m not in the SCA anymore, so I can’t really say.) It is a large group, roughly gender-balanced, where people naturally interact in the course of normal activities. I met my future wife there, a couple years before we actually started dating. We knew we had chemistry and interests in common before the question of dating ever arose. We were engaged about six months later.

    The modern method of pre-filtering based on what seems to me deeply flawed assumptions, followed by eventually meeting in person to find out if you can actually stand one another’s company, much less have any sexual chemistry. This is crazy. Not in the old “only losers do internet dating” sense, but that this is an absurdly inefficient way of going about it. The only obvious advantage I see is that it in theory casts a wider net, rather than restricting the candidate pool to people you know in person. But this advantage seems to be more theoretical than practical.

    In retrospect, I got lucky on the timing. I met my wife as I was starting to wind down my SCA activities. So was she, and having kids sealed that deal. I transitioned into my 19th century baseball hobby. While I have formed satisfying friendships within our happy band of brothers, it wouldn’t be a great way to meet women.

    The SCA, incidentally, isn’t just about meeting women. I haven’t been hit on by a guy in the fifteen years I’ve been married. I choose to believe it is because I exude a strong “married” vibe, and not because I no longer have what it takes.

    So the upshot is that if internet dating doesn’t work for you, get a hobby. Pick one that (a) actually interests you, so that you won’t be bored out of your skull, and (b) is roughly gender balanced. Practice that impish smile and off you go!Report

    • Kimmi in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

      “If you can’t get laid at Pennsic, you’ll never get laid at all!”

      The SCA has a well deserved reputation for being the nerdy activity where people actually have sex and hook up.

      Hobbies and such are great ways to chill with people, and discover a ton of people that aren’t actively in the “I Think of Dating as a Hobby” bin.

      [And, as noted above by others, since you’re in the awkward stage of divorce, this allows you to softly develop friendships that you might build upon later into a larger commitment.]Report

      • Richard Hershberger in reply to Kimmi says:

        “If you can’t get laid at Pennsic, you’ll never get laid at all!”

        I can attest to the truth of this. Fortunately, it was after I had figured it out, so I was on the right side of that ledger.

        I was never super active in con-based fandom, but my sense was that it was somewhat similar. I don’t know about the gender balance. I suspect that it is more balanced now, but I don’t know what sort of age range is typical.

        Also, Ren Faire. Those people made the SCA look like a bunch of monks.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

      I’m in an active hobby with a lot of women, West Coast swing dancing, and the rules about dating within hobby are weird. The social range is incredibly wide from people who would be considered incredibly attractive and cool to very nerdy people and everybody in between. There are wealthy, well-educated people and working class people. The race and age range are diverse from twenties to retirement. Dance events attract people from around the world if its big enough. Most people are friendly. I know that some couples met through dance but others seem to really not want to date fellow dancers. There has to be some people sleeping around because of the nature of the hobby but all talk about seems generally discrete. I’ve never been in a situation where dancing could lead to something more but you know it has to happen.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Oh, come on, people in dance clubs have got to be hooking up. At least some of them. I realize the dancing itself is structured as to where people touch one another. But it’s still something that demands close physical contact and interaction between the genders.

        Two lawyers here at my office are hobby and ballroom dancers. One has done some competitions, but doesn’t like it because there’s too much standing around waiting, too many rules about moves they have to do in the routine, and not enough actual moving of feet. As they describe it, they are the youngest people in the room: one is my age and the other is pushing 70. That, however, is a function of the kind of dancing they’ve chosen to do: waltzes and such are going to attract an older crowd than swing and country.Report

        • veronica d in reply to Burt Likko says:

          I have a friend who met her b/f at a swing dance club.Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to Burt Likko says:

          I know it does happen and I know couples who met via dancing. I assume that casual sex occurs to. My attempts to date people I’ve met through dancing have led nowhere. One was a big almost on my part that still haunts me. The others were just the usual.Report

        • Joe Sal in reply to Burt Likko says:

          I had a similar experience as Lee, hundreds of hours, thousands of gals, no luck, not even once.Report

          • LeeEsq in reply to Joe Sal says:

            Professional dancers are divided on the wisdom of dating, having sex with, or marrying your partner or a student. I’ve known professionals who married to their partner or at least dated them and others who believe that is unprofessional and can’t end well. Some professionals will date students if their is a mutual attraction and others will never consider it. Even among the hobbyists, there seems to be fewer pairing off or casual hookups than one would expect.Report

            • Burt Likko in reply to LeeEsq says:

              Well, I’m not going to be a professional dancer. It seems like a fun thing to do in its own right, and it seems like it would be a likely place to meet people, particularly eligible women or (if there really is a taboo against directly dating a fellow dancer) people who know eligible women.Report

            • Joe Sal in reply to LeeEsq says:

              I didn’t do professional, most towns of my youth containing a population over 200 had a voluteers fire department dance as a fund raiser. If us fellas would take turns driving, we could reach two or three a month.

              That’s a prospect rich environment, with varying ages and varying degrees of sobriety. A lot of dancing, a lot of fun, zero hookups. It was a good skill set to be able to adapt dancing with nearly anyone at any level of sauced.

              I kept it as a surprise for Mrs. Sal that I knew how to dance, sometimes mystery has it’s own quality. I made sure our first dance was smooth as silk, like we had been dancing together for a lifetime.Report

        • Richard Hershberger in reply to Burt Likko says:

          Dancing is definitely a part of SCA culture, and a great way to flirt. Said flirting may be merely recreational, but then again it may not. If I were (a) single and (b) looking for a dance culture, and didn’t want to go the SCA route, I would get into Contra Dance. I only dabbled in my youth, but it is a lot of fun, and of wide age range.

          Of course the caveat is that if you are just looking to use the activity as a way to pick up women (even hoping for a long-term committed relationship, and not merely screwing like bunnies for one night) people will pick up the vibe and be turned off by it. This is why it is absolutely important to pick a hobby you enjoy on its merits. Hobbies are good anyway. Everyone should have some non-work-related subject upon which they can totally geek out. People with no geek subject are boring.Report

    • Anne in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

      “If you can’t get laid at Pennsic, you’ll never get laid at all!”

      hee, hee, I can attest to that went to two Pennsics single and found a boyfriend at each one. One short term one much longer term. If for some reason something happened to Dear Husband. I would think of getting back in the SCA for the dating pool. Haven’t been involved since I left Denver in 2000 but still in touch with many good friends I made in the SCA

      Hang in there Burt, your a fine catchReport

      • dragonfrog in reply to Anne says:

        Atheist Lord help me if I ever have to rely on my hobbies to meet a partner. I’m into women, and women are by and large not into my current or hiatused hobbies…Report

        • Burt Likko in reply to dragonfrog says:

          Hmm. Maybe what I need to do is join the local chapter of the Pink Boots Society.Report

        • Kimmi in reply to dragonfrog says:

          What are your hobbies? I am now curious.Report

          • dragonfrog in reply to Kimmi says:

            Current: Bike repair and tinkering; brewing and moonshining
            On hiatus: analog electronics, primarily the making of 70s/80s-tech synthesizers; gardening

            Gardening is sort of emerging from hiatus, now that we’re properly moved into the new house. I’d guess it’s the most gender-balanced of the lot, but also not all that sociable.Report

            • Kimmi in reply to dragonfrog says:

              Bike repair is the sort of thing that you will run into people, if you do it at a shop. (I assume you don’t mean motorbykes, which may attract a different crowd).

              Brewing and Moonshining remind me a lot of the SCA (our Baron was big into that sort of stuff — he was the local Brewmaster).

              Gardening sounds like it is really tough to meet people through (although… going to gardening Classes might actually work)Report

              • dragonfrog in reply to Kimmi says:

                Yeah, making booze is mostly at home on my own, but it does have the advantage that one can share booze at social events, and then chat while drinking it.

                I have not been to my city’s homebrewer’s club evenings, but, well, I have a stereotype in mind of what demographics I’d see on scanning the room…

                Bike repair is great for meeting people and making friends – I volunteer at a community bike workshop, helping people troubleshoot and fix their bikes, find parts, etc. In summer it can pretty hectic, I’m usually bouncing between stands keeping three or four projects moving; in winter it’s much slower, and the winter cyclists are often more familiar with the maintenance they need to do, so there’s much more opportunity to chat and socialize. It wouldn’t be so great if I were hoping to date someone I met that way though, as it’s mostly guys in there, by at least 5 to 1.Report

  28. Vikram Bath says:

    LeeEsq: West Coast swing dancing

    I reluctantly joined my wife for ballroom dance classes and eventually realized that I’d have benefited from taking them far earlier. Particularly for men, it forces men to take responsibility for making decisions at a micro level and accepting the risk that you will make the wrong choice. This seems like a good habit for many men to develop though I suspect Burt already has it.

    And, yes, it’s also something of a plus for men that far more women are interested in it than men are.Report

  29. George Turner says:

    Before you get back into the dating pool, there are some important films you should watch.

    WW-II VD film #21484
    WW-II VD film #45324

    It’s out there, and you could catch it. Even clean, proper looking girls could have it.Report

  30. Jaybird says:

    Depending of the level of crazy you’re willing to endure, you may wish to volunteer at the local animal shelter.Report

  31. notme says:


    If you don’t have one already, maybe you should grow a beard.

  32. Mike Dwyer says:

    Just saw this and thought, “Maybe Burt shouldn’t be in too big a hurry to get back out there.”Report

  33. George Turner says:

    How to Succeed with Brunettes 1967 US Navy Dating Etiquette Training Film MN-10283C

    I’m not sure if any of that would work with blondes, but for brunettes it’s wonderful advice.Report