States of upset can be times of prolific and profound production (alliteration FTW!): scathing poetry, songs, journal entries, essays, short stories…. Bitter poetry was my #1 outlet of choice, followed closely by hypothetical “spill all” letters (I never sent them, of course. They were for personal use only). Before I begin this topic, I’ll raise a glass to Livejournal, my old personal website, and various poetry journals.
Here’s the two things that grind my gears lately about the dating world.
1. Men won’t break anything off cleanly; they need some “time alone” or to work on themselves while you’re on the back burner, wondering where you stand.
There is this stigma in western society that telling someone “We just don’t click” will cause an uproarious scene too awkward to imagine and that serving a lie will “let him or her down easy”. Call me old fashioned, but I simply don’t see how hearing the same lie told to me an upwards of 20 times makes anything easier. On the contrary, it just adds to the vexing frustrations of a dating scene where no one says what he or she means. Dating a man suggests, at the very least, that I think he’s not a con artist. So, when he says something like “I shouldn’t be dating right now,” or “I need some time alone,” or “I need to focus on my issues for a while… we were just bad timing,” I take him at his word that he actually does still like me but times are tough. After all, if I thought he was a liar, I wouldn’t have dated him in the first place, right? But when that man (any of them) began dating someone within a week I was furious—and I wasn’t furious because I was dumped. Maybe that’s where the disconnect ties in. Trying on people to see if they fit is a natural and necessary series of steps to finding the right person. No, I was furious instead because this person clearly 1) didn’t respect my feelings enough to at least let me down truthfully and provide clear closure, 2) subscribed to the antifeminist Women Are Leaky Faucets of Catastrophe Who Can’t Be Dumped Without Terrible Consequences school of thought, 3) took it upon himself to construct a final memory of himself for me that was a steaming pile of bullshit, and 4) clearly thought I was an idiot who wouldn’t find out about his new girl immediately.
It all sounds dramatic, but I swear I’m not exaggerating the frequency of this situation. In fact, before I met my current partner I had played a cathartic game with myself: after being “put on hold” in favor of “time alone”, I took to Facebook to bet which woman he was seeing later that afternoon… because finding a way to laugh cynically about it is healthier than crying about it, in my opinion. Why Generation Y men think my hearing that we were two ships passing in the night would make me feel better amid such obvious evidence to the contrary (such as…. an engagement to another woman two weeks later…. I can’t make this shit up, folks!), I couldn’t say. It’s especially concerning when men must know how common a cop-out it is. After all, how many romantically-sound-but-poorly-timed ships passing in the night could there possibly be? Why can’t we talk about his opinion that we’re not working out, nod, talk out some positives and negatives to be constructive, and then shut it off on decent terms? Does every youngish guy feel that the faux-sentimental, tortured soul martyr, “I have issues, and you should go your own way before I drag you under” persona is even attractive?
2. The exaggerated behaviors are out of control and confusing as hell.
Egregiously mixed messaging. For men, it seems like it’s 100% game time every single date RE: their charm and RE: their need to succeed. It’s like a race against the clock, even if he doesn’t even know if he wants it to work. Do Generation Y men think that they can’t just talk to me over coffee without all the lavishness? I mean, I’m all for lavishness… but not if it’s fake. Not if we just met last week, and he doesn’t mean it, and he’s seeing three other women right now too.
Can’t we be chill for a while so that he can find out if he wants to date me before he is already dating me? I hate that we can’t converse about our interests without him gushing that he’s “falling for me” only to axe me by Thursday. It’s an indefinite source of confusion and frustration. Just like my other tick, it’s not about getting dumped. I expect some bumps, and I expect most things to not necessarily work out. What irks me is the lack of candidness, the misleading confessions of emotion, the meaningless overtures, and the excessively rehearsed rituals. This may seem like a given to me, but apparently it bears stating:
If you feel casually about me, then act casually about me.
Don’t pretend that you’re mad for me and you think I “could be the one” if you feel only a mild interest. I certainly don’t put on airs if I don’t feel it, but that just makes me a “frigid, prudish bitch” instead of an honest, well-meaning dater. Clusterfuck, much?
To make matters worse, I know this isn’t just a case of the men I’ve dated “being assholes”. For the most part I don’t think they were. I’ve noticed the same behavior in my own gaggle of straight male friends as we swap stories over lunch. They were guilty of the same crimes: the introductory grand gestures, the masterful first few dates, and the creative efforts to win their girl’s affections only to discover a few weeks in that she wasn’t all that and a bag of chips. But by that point, she was successfully romanced, and my male friends would ask how they could let her down easy. I just stared at them and couldn’t believe it. “Why did you do such-and-such if you weren’t even sure you liked her yet?!” I would ask, dumbfounded. They answered simply that they thought they liked her at the time but admitted they didn’t know anything about her. I thought to myself, Well, sometimes I think I like a guy, but I don’t buy him a ticket to his favorite opera, bring him flowers at his work the next morning, and tell him he was the most unique dude I’d ever met all because I thought he had a nice beard and liked a few of the same bands as me.
I shit you not: I had a guy surprise me at my office with flowers the day after a fabulous date and take me to lunch, gushing over how much he liked me. But when I asked a few days later about exclusivity, it was like I had just dropped the marriage bomb or something. “Well, let’s not jump into things….” he said. Huh? You came to my work with flowers, not the other way around. If you wanted to be coffeedates, we could have just been coffeedates….
I just want Reasonable. Representation. Of. Feelings. Most of my WTF moments stem from this issue. Oh, you’re actually not crazy about me? Then why have you been telling me every weekend since we met that you’re crazy about me?
Or, my absolute favorite example of this I’ve ever experienced:
Him: *dreamy eyed after we’d been together a month+* I’m falling in love with you.
Me: Wow! I feel the same way. I’m so happy to be your girlfriend.
Him: W-what? *shakes head, flabbergasted* Well, we don’t have to put a label on it. Are you fixated on that? ….I-I don’t want to be pressured into that situation.
That situation. Fixating. Thinking of me as more than a regular weekend hookup was a situation, and my thinking on our relationship was a fixation. If it weren’t so horrific I would have laughed. Sounds like he’s falling in love, for sure! Needless to say, we didn’t last long after that. He pulled an “I need some time alone” over the phone two or three weeks later, immediately started seeing a friend-of-a-friend, and then unfriended and blocked me on le Facebooks.
It’s alarming, isn’t it? As soon as you return a man’s affections and want him too, he seems to lose interest. Scary, rapey stuff at an evolutionary level.
Overly flattering someone you’re only mildly interested in takes cojones. Perhaps it’s the equivalent of a male peacock’s elaborate feather display: all distraction and no substance. I can’t speak for what pushes the modern dudes to act this way, nor can I correct it. But, I’d be interested in the aggregate dating experiences of a few men in my demo to see what it’s like from the other side; how do women fan or not fan this flame in their experience, how are these expectations set up, etc.? It’s damned disheartening to learn that someone didn’t actually like me as much as
I thought he did he said he did, and I hope that some women’s nostalgia for the age of courtly love isn’t exacerbating a man’s need to rise to [what he thinks are] my expectations. Because I sure as hell am not setting any of these goalposts.
While I’m ranting about the ridiculousness of dating, here is a fun anecdote from just last week. A man in what I’d estimate is his late forties (with 2 kids, btw) asked me out at my office’s warehouse (which is a male delusional self-entitlement issue aaaaall of its own considering I’m only 25), and suddenly all of his little annoyances made sense. He constantly gets underfoot by going out of his way to take things out of my hands, grabbing things out of other people’s hands right next to me just so he can be the one to hand it to me, and ungracefully shoving his arm in my face because he’s trying to hold a car door open for me that I am already holding open. He thought he was flirting. I can’t believe he thought he was flirting all this time. It all clicked when he asked me to hang back and then cornered me with his proposal.
Advice: When you almost knock me down just to hold the door, and then you block my passage through said door because you’re now in my way, …….just pack up and go home. Why do so many men think women like being treated like invalids and that it’s somehow perceived as romantic? Pushing me out of the way so he can get that thing on the top shelf for me? Asshole, I’m probably 5 inches taller than you! On top of that, he knows not a single point of interest about me…. His rationale was simply that he “thought [I] was cute” ….and young. That’s it, folks. That’s all you need to pursue sex with girls half your age.
Thanks, Zooey. Good night!