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Posts Tagged ‘dating’

I mentioned in an earlier post that, despite my misgivings, I’d registered for an online dating service last month.  I was a bit dismayed by many of the messages I received, but there was one in particular that struck me immediately and has become a sort of shorthand for all of the inappropriate comments strange and nearly-strange men make.

Oh, there are many worse messages out there, but there’s a distinction in my mind.  At a certain level of vulgarity, I have to assume that it’s intentional, that a man is looking for something fast and cheap and wants to make that clear from the beginning.  But this type of message seems different; it’s so common that I can only think of two possible explanations:  there are more truly vile men out there than I want to believe, or they think they’re being complimentary.

The first message in this series had the subject line “sexy”, and the entire text of the message was “your sexy babie”.

I’m a writer by trade, so the first thing that struck me was that the message was three words long and two of those words were misspelled.  When I got past that to the substance (using the term lightly), the whole thing just got worse.

I’m not one of those women who takes offense at words like “baby” (when they’re spelled correctly), but I do believe they should be reserved for people you…well…know.  And I’m certainly not opposed to a man telling me he thinks I’m sexy if a) he thinks that and b) I know him and c) he’s basing his impressions on more than a thumbnail headshot.  Coming from a complete stranger who knows nothing about me, it can only mean one of two things:  either he says it to every woman he contacts because he thinks that’s what we want to hear, or his criteria for “sexy” can be applied with a brief glance at a couple of photographs and two paragraphs about me.  In either case, he’s not a guy I want in my life.

I’m sure there are women who are flattered by that kind of comment and respond positively, and I was going along happily believing that men like this were simply looking for a certain kind of woman with those comments and probably finding them.

When the same man sent me “your sexy honie” and then “your hot sexy!!” (with no apparent recognition that he’d contacted me before), my theory was supported.

But just about the time I thought all was well again and was just cheerfully deleting those messages without a second thought, Mike went and told this woman he barely knew in an online forum that he’d like to see her under his Christmas tree.  Rocked my world, I gotta tell you.

See, if I’d seen that comment from a stranger, I’d have written him off pretty quickly. It’s not much of a leap to make assumptions about a guy who sees a woman as something that should be wrapped up and presented to him–especially a woman he doesn’t know anything significant about.  I’d think “tacky” and move right along.

But I know Mike.  I couldn’t make those assumptions, because I know who he is.  I know that he’s a great friend and a great dad, that he’s looking for a serious relationship and that he takes fidelity very seriously.  I know he’s smart and funny and creative, and that he takes pride in his work and feels strongly about doing what he’s said he’s going to do.  In short, he’s exactly the kind of guy you wouldn’t want to write off on a dating site or in some other public forum.

I shot off a quick comment to him about that line being pretty much on a par with “your sexy babie”, and damn if he didn’t defend it all over the place.  I’m not going to get into the details of his point of view–I’m sure he’ll do that himself.  But the bottom line is that it had never crossed his mind that the comment might send any of the messages that it sent to me.

That discussion, and both of our subsequent conversations about the issue with other friends of both sexes, have me thinking that this is an area in which there’s a real perception gap, and one that might have decent men cutting off whole huge sectors of the population as dating options and women ruling out guys who will never know what they might have done wrong.

Photo credit: xenia from morguefile.com

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heartmazeI am a hopeless romantic at heart and, at the moment, I am feeling a bit jaded.  But failure after failure leads me to this point where I simply sit back and think, “My God, it shouldn’t be this hard”.  I don’ t think that I am asking for too much by any means and I would think that women would want the same thing.

Why is it so hard to find someone to team up with on this journey we call life?  Someone to laugh with (it’s always funnier when there’s two of you), someone to listen to and talk to and know on an intimate level.  So many times throughout my day I find something interesting or funny and wish I had someone to share it with.  I find myself sitting on the couch watching television and looking at the empty space next to me.  Or wanting to go out to dinner and not have a table for one.

I think that we expect too much and have this idea in our heads about what our ideal mate is like and it’s impossible to see beyond that.   We get in our own way and move on too quickly without giving people an honest chance, without even trying to get to know who they are inside.  We play games to get what we want rather than ask for it.  We get advice from members of the same sex on how to relate to members of the opposite sex.  And we take that advice, going against our own judgment and gut feelings.  If you want to know what a man wants don’t ask your female friends, ask him.  Doesn’t that make more sense.  And yes, it is that simple.

I don’t mean to sound like my life is empty and I am miserable being alone.  I’m not.  I enjoy my life and I am perfectly comfortable being single.  I do, however, get frustrated by the fact that I know so many single women who want the same thing, someone to share their life with.   Women who make excuses like, “I’m focusing on my career” or “It’s too hard to date when I have kids to raise”.

Really?  Because I have those same things going on.   I’m not looking for someone to take care of me.   I’m not looking to be a burden, I would hope to be an enjoyable addition in a womans life, an asset.  It seems like a negative outlook on dating to see it as a burden or one more thing to take up her precious time.   Time that she could be spending complaining to her friends that she can’t find a good man.   When the truth is that she could have what she want if she could just get out of her own way.

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No, I’m not talking about the “right place, right time” sort of timing. I’m talking about realistic expectations about the development of a relationship. Mike’s written two posts recently that contained passing references to time frames that twisted my brain into knots. One was his attempt at getting inside a woman’s head with a recitation of the things she might have wanted to consider before giving up and moving on.

I disagreed with almost everything Mike said in that post, but one thing that really jumped out at me was that he was talking about a woman giving up on a relationship because she wasn’t getting the level of serious response she wanted after three weeks.  And I just kept thinking, “didn’t give her his heart”?  In three weeks?  Really?   I’d be a lot more concerned about a guy who thought he WAS “giving me his heart” in three weeks.  I could flip a coin, maybe:  Liar?  Or just an immature guy who has no idea what love is?  Either way, he’s not stellar relationship material.

I had the same reaction when I read Mike’s post about introducing women to his daughter, and learned that some women felt it was unreasonable that he didn’t want to make it a family affair in the first few weeks. In my mind, the “couple of months” Mike mentioned was wildly ambitious.  Of course every situation is different, but in my mind the reasonable point to start thinking about introducing someone to my daughter is between six months and a year.

And then, just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I read a discussion in an online forum in which it seemed that a large number of people thought that if there hadn’t been sex by the third date, something was missing and you’d better just move on.

I can’t help but think these accelerated time-frames are part of the reason that endings are so accelerated as well.  False intimacy is created when we say “I love you” after two weeks, to someone we barely know.  False intimacy is created when we have sex with someone we’ve been dating for a month (and think that’s “waiting”, because so many people would have done it the first night).  False intimacy is created when we drag someone we barely know into the tableau of our family and try to create not just one relationship on a foundation of sand, but many.  And when that false intimacy doesn’t hold up, we break up, move out, get divorced, move on and start the whole thing over again.

Maybe, if we’d all slow down in the beginning, the ending wouldn’t come upon us quite so quickly.

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As parents we don’t enjoy the same freedoms as single people who don’t have children, We have more to think about than our own feelings when it comes to dating. If you share the excitement of your new date with your children then you will probably end up sharing your misery if things don’t work out. So, when is it safe to introduce the kids to the new person in your life?

It seems that most people can put their best foot forward for a couple of months. Beyond that, their true colors start to bleed through the painted on mask of good qualities. Whether it’s the man who is secretly a control freak but has to get his hooks well into you first or the woman who saves her frustration so she can let it all out at once and blame PMS. Heck, I’ve known women who didn’t just have a period once a month, they had an entire novel.

Am I suggesting that you lie to your children when you start dating a new person? Of course not, you just don’t tell them details. You wouldn’t tell your children the details of your sex life so why tell them the details of dating. When my daughter was younger I would schedule my dates around times when I knew she would be at a friends house or the skating rink. This allowed me to date and yet avoid any questions from my daughter when I got home.

It was a red flag for me when women would be offended that I would hide them from my child. It’s not offensive to try to protect my daughters feelings and I would hope that any new woman in my life would understand that not all dates turn into lasting relationships. It worried me if a woman was being too pushy about taking a place in my family within the first few weeks of dating. After all, what is the rush if we are planning on spending the rest of our lives together.

It can actually be enjoyable to get to know someone before you complicate things by introducing your children into the scene. It can also be less stressful by avoiding some of the pressure and additional expectations that come along with dating parents. Eventually, you will have to tell the kids and integrate them into the new relationship. But that is only if the dating actually leads to having a relationship and you won’t know that for a couple of months.

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Okay, Mike, let’s say for a minute that I buy your rationale.  I don’t–I think that the vast majority of the time the reason a man (or woman) holds back is that he (or she) doesn’t want to commit.  Maybe that’s because of where he/she is in life and maybe it’s the specific person in question, but for the most part I think that people do what they want to do.  But I’m going to go with it, for the sake of argument, because I think that your theory has a fatal flaw even if you’re right. Because any relationship founded on machinations is doomed to fail, and that’s what you’re describing.

Anyone who is trying to guess the right thing to do to “get her to like him” or to keep her interested or send the right message isn’t being genuine–and I think that any relationship not based in honesty is completely pointless.  I kind of think you believe that, too.

So in the scenario you describe, we have a person who isn’t willing to be himself, isn’t willing to act naturally, isn’t willing to take a risk, yet really does want a relationship.  But any healthy grown-up knows that you can’t form a relationship by playing people and manipulating them, by showing what they want to see instead of who you are.  So that only leaves us with two possibilities for the guy who is attempting that guessing game, doesn’t it?  He’s either not a healthy grown-up, or he knows what he’s doing can’t possibly lead to a meaningful relationship and he’s doing it anyway.

So it seems that you’re suggesting that we gals should cut a guy some slack when he acts distant and disinterested because really he might be a great guy who just doesn’t want to show it because he doesn’t know how to act, is trying to guess how to get the reaction he wants from us, and is getting bad advice from his friends.

But, geez…I almost think intentionally distant is better than what you’re describing.  The last thing in the world I want is to be with a guy who doesn’t trust his own judgment, isn’t willing to take a risk, and consistently goes to the wrong people for advice.

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I find that I am unreasonably bothered by those reality television shows where one person will date twenty members of the opposite sex and narrow it down each week until they find “The one”. It’s an absurd concept that has no practical purpose in the real world.

Sure, there are people who do this, both men and women, but what are they really accomplishing? How can you possibly see this as a precursor to a real relationship? If anything, it may be a great tutorial on how to become a cheater or a player. You might be able to justify it by saying that you wouldn’t buy pants without trying on a couple pairs first. But pants don’t have feelings and people are not a commodity that can be bought and sold.

I had a friend who decided that he was ready to settle down and find a wife. He had just turned thirty and his plan was to date six women in hopes that one of them would make a perfect partner. He ended up finding himself in a rotation pattern where one or two women would drop out of the running and he would have to replace them with a new contestant. His theory sounded good, dating six women would make him six times more likely to find a wife. The reality was that dating six women made him six times more likely to NOT be taken seriously by six different women.

There’s nothing wrong with juggling but let’s face it, clowns juggle. If you are looking to have fun and not get serious then this may be a good way to accomplish that. But if you are actually dating with the intention of finding someone to share your life with, you might want to think about dating one person at a time. What message are you really sending by rationing out a small piece of your time to someone who your are treating like a pair of pants that will eventually end up in the garbage or at the thrift store?

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Mike, I think this whole “too many choices” thing takes us right back to the issue of how we look at other people.  You’ve made the argument in favor of weeding people out in advance, but I think that’s the very same mentality that leads people to think of one another as “choices” rather than as other people who can play varying roles in their lives.

If we encounter members of the opposite sex as options to choose among to fill an empty slot in our lives, of course we start fearing buyer’s remorse…sure, this one might look good, but I haven’t checked all the shelves yet.  I don’t really know whether I’m getting the best deal.

If, however, we take people as they come–if we interact with them naturally and view them as humans instead of prospects and don’t start sizing them up to see whether or not we might want to “buy” the moment we lay eyes on them–then there’s no reason to make any kind of choice at all in those early days when we don’t have enough information to choose in a way that makes sense and lends itself to certainty.  We can get to know a variety of people in a variety of contexts and explore moving one toward a romantic relationship if and when our inclinations have grown in that direction based on the relationship we already have.

It frees us from having to line up virtual strangers and try to guess which one might or might not be a good “prospect”.  It frees us from interview-style dates and it frees us from circumstances in which we feel compelled to start crossing off rules to make a “relationship” that was never a relationship at all “keep” working.

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