Subscribe By Email

Subscribe below!

Subscribe by Email

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Modern Romance and Advice on How to Date by Someone Who Barely Did It

In a sense we are all like a Flo Rida song: The more time you spend with us, the more you see how special we are. Social scientists refer to this as the Flo Rida Theory of Acquired Likability Through Repetition.
I believe I've spoken before about how bad I was at dating. I need to give myself a bit of a pass because just about all of my dating experience happened when I was a teen and I definitely have talked about how bad I was at being a teen. I was basically a baby when I got married and so a lot of the adventures of modern adult dating are mostly theoretical to me. Maybe I'd be better at it, but if we're all being honest with each other, I probably wouldn't be.

Went downhill from this point, honestly.

When I was in high school I went on maybe a lot of dates. At least more than my friends, though that might be kind of a leap because my friends were the maybe-I-should-beat-Final-Fantasy-7-one-more-time-this-weekend variety. Listen. I also spent plenty of weekends honing my Goldeneye skills instead of attempting to woo, but I also hold the distinction of bailing on a video game tournament I was winning to go on a date. So my priorities weren't completely skewed.

My dating, though, was weird. First of all, I worked at a movie theater, and one of my friends worked at Dominoes. Basically this was when I peaked. A lot of my dates were free movie and free pizza. I wanted to spend all of my money on CDs and VHS tapes, so this was pretty much a go-to and I'm sure super impressive. I went to two dances during my high school career. One was a super casual date with a girl who had a boyfriend and honestly I don't get that. The other was because a guy I was working with asked the girl for me, and for dinner we went to Wendy's. I had a lot of fun and it's one of my favorite memories from high school, so naturally I never went to another one.

That might be the theme for my entire dating career. I had fun, so I never did it again. Essentially I'd ask a girl on a date, we'd have fun (I think. I did, at least), and then I wouldn't call her again for three months. I imagine this was confusing. A lot of these girls I really liked. Why did I do this? I don't know. Sorry.

At the time, and I hope this has changed since, girls were told that it was rude to say no to a date, so us guys basically could get a girl to sacrifice one of her precious weekend evenings whenever we wanted. I never thought of this as selfish. I was told that as a teen boy it was my right to take out a girl anytime the whim came to me. That was a pretty cool social loophole for the guys. Girls, not so much. If I try to put myself in the girl's position, I imagine you'd start to dread that phone ring. Like, just let me read a book for once.

What good even comes of this? I get the basic idea, that we should treat everyone as human beings, but there's a difference between being polite and human to someone and giving them 3-4 hours of your weekend just because they asked for it. We have a hard time as a culture, and I think specifically the culture in which I was raised, saying no. No's a pretty important word and nobody should be considered rude for using it. No would solve a lot of problems.

If we're raising young men with egos so fragile that a "no" destroys them, the error is in how we're raising boys, not how we're raising girls. When we teach girls that they're rude for saying no to a boy, but also that boys are essentially monsters who need to be held in check by they way you dress and act, it's a wonder they don't jump into lion cages at the zoo. It would be rude not to.

Here's the thing. Say you're a social butterfly and a guy asks you out who doesn't run in your social group and you're afraid your friends will laugh at you. So you say no. Is that a jerk move? Probably. Is it your choice? Absolutely. You miss out on what could have been a lot of fun because you let the rigid high school social hierarchy make your decisions. That's a bummer, but guess what, you get that choice.

Say a guy asks you out and you're a little iffy on him. Like he sets off your creep alarm. Chances are he's just awkward and if you get to know him you'll enjoy yourself. But there's also a chance that being alone with him could be at best uncomfortable and at worst dangerous. Maybe if it were a group date with people you knew, it would be different, but in this case you're getting the willies. You can say no.

Your friends and the guy might think you're rude. But, like, how dare they? Margaret Atwood said “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” The stakes are higher than we think. My thought on this is it's better to be frank and honest than scared or hurt. In a recent survey of American university students, one in four college-aged women have experienced some kind of unwanted sexual advance. These range from unsolicited kissing and touching to rape. It's amazing women go on dates at all, honestly.

Here's Louis CK: “How do women still go out with guys, when you consider the fact that there is no greater threat to women than men? We’re the number one threat! To women! Globally and historically, we’re the number one cause of injury and mayhem to women. We’re the worst thing that ever happens to them! If you’re a guy, imagine you could only date a half-bear-half-lion. ‘Oh, I hope this one’s nice! I hope he doesn’t do what he’s going to do.’"

It might be worth taking a step back when you're a man and think about the messages your behavior is sending. A good thing to ask yourself is this: "Am I acting like a psycho?" You'd be surprised at how often you are, even though you think your intentions are pure. Do you give a girl a dozen roses on your first or second date? It seems sweet to you. It can come off as too intimate to her. Do you call a lot, when she hasn't called back? Do you try to keep track of who else she's dating? Or constantly ask who just texted? Are you just in her space a lot, but not watching for cues on whether she's into it? On a date you're just trying to get to know her to see if she's worth pursuing. She's doing the same thing, but also constantly monitoring you for signs that you might kidnap her and keep you in your basement.

A lot of this is old-fashioned dating advice. As Aziz Ansari points out in Modern Romance, dating has changed. A lot. 
...younger people are so used to text-based communications, where they have time to gather their thoughts and precisely plan what they are going to say, that they are losing their ability to have spontaneous conversation. She argues that the muscles in our brain that help us with spontaneous conversation are getting less exercise in the text-filled world, so our skills are declining. When we did the large focus group where we split the room by generation—kids on the left, parents on the right—a strange thing happened. Before the show started, we noticed that the parents’ side of the room was full of chatter. People were talking to one another and asking how they had ended up at the event and getting to know people. On the kids’ side, everyone was buried in their phones and not talking to anyone around them.

Ansari is a pretty funny guy. A lot of funny people get book deals, and like some of the ones I've reviewed on here, these usually result in a set of essays that more-or-less tell you how said famous funny person became well-known. They're filled with anecdotes and how-did-I-get-here advice. I like them. Modern Romance, though, is way different. Ansari enlisted a sociologist and together they did an honest-to-goodness research project. They interviewed people in Tokyo, Buenos Aires, Paris, Wichita, probably other places.

The result is a treatise on the state of modern dating that manages to be pretty funny, too.
Carol, I can’t describe how you make me feel. Wait, no, I can—you make my mind release pleasure-inducing neurotransmitters and you’ve flooded my mind with dopamine. If the experience of snorting cocaine and getting so high out of my mind that I want to climb a telephone pole with my bare hands just to see if I can do it were a person, it would be you.
I don't know a lot about dating, as you have probably learned by now. I met my wife the old fashioned way: she was my sister's best friend and she and my family had essentially arranged our marriage before I even met her. I know. You've heard the story a million times. It worked out pretty well. Really well, actually. She's been great. I've been... ok. But she's been great. I'm an extremely lucky guy.

That smile in the little kid picture of me up top is because
someone from the future showed me who my wife would be.

People don't meet that way as much anymore. And with dating apps and phones that act as multi-functional communication devices, folks looking for a date are doing it a lot differently. It comes with its pitfalls. Like a panda bear emoji at the end of her flirtatious message. What does that mean? Or  swiping right on other potential dates on Tinder on their way to a date you set up on Tinder just in case that one doesn't work out. Saying no to a dating profile because she's a Patriots fan (understandable) but potentially missing out on a soul mate (unlikely).

We can look for soul mates now, argues Ansari. Instead of finding a good-enough marriage, we look for a perfect one. With so many more options available to us, we can be more discerning. But the way we research things online, from cars to cell phone chargers, has spoiled us into thinking there is a perfect solution for every need.
But now we want our partner to still give us all these things, but in addition I want you to be my best friend and my trusted confidant and my passionate lover to boot, and we live twice as long. So we come to one person, and we basically are asking them to give us what once an entire village used to provide: Give me belonging, give me identity, give me continuity, but give me transcendence and mystery and awe all in one. Give me comfort, give me edge. Give me novelty, give me familiarity. Give me predictability, give me surprise. And we think it’s a given, and toys and lingerie are going to save us with that.
 I love books like this, because it gives me a glimpse into a weird world I don't know much about anymore. Thank heavens for that, by the way. There are enough hapless men out there, heaven knows the world doesn't need one more.