Negging

It is news to nobody that women receive a lot of online messages. From ‘hey’ to guys sending lewd messages, to unwanted cock shots, to men who send messages ‘arguing’ for why they should get to date you (‘we’re a 75% match! the algorithm is telling us to date!’), to messages that are just outright hostile.

I received a message yesterday that falls into that last category. I think it was a ‘neg’ though to be honest sometimes I’m at a loss to determine what might have motivated someone to send a particular message.

In the movie ‘You’ve Got Mail,’ Meg Ryan’s character Kate despairs that whenever she’s confronted with a jerk, she freezes, and it’s not until much later that she realizes what she should have said. There’s a point in the movie when she is actually finally able to do that, when she gives Tom Hanks a piece of her mind: it just bubbles up fully formed from her psyche, and she just lets him have it. It’s like in that moment, she connects with a part of herself that she never had before.

I’ve had a similar experience. Often in the moment I freeze from the shock that someone has been mean, and it isn’t until later that a good response occurs to me. Until recently anyway. Lately the snarky part of my personality has been bubbling back up to the surface. It’s been dormant for a while – in my last relationship, my boyfriend hadn’t really understood my sense of humour, and when I was snarky he often thought I was being mean and moralized about it, or he didn’t understand it, or he just didn’t think it was funny. So I think that I didn’t live in that place in my personality for a long time, and my snark just sort of atrophied. Post break-up it came roaring back and I’m just kind of going with it at the moment because I’ve really missed this side of myself (which to be honest I didn’t realize I was gone until recently) and also it’s just so cathartic. Especially when someone is a jerk.

So anyway yesterday a guy sent me a message on ok cupid, presumably negging me, and I was suddenly reminded of this xkcd comic:

Screen Shot 2016-03-19 at 6.08.48 PM

So here’s my version. I could still make it more my own, but I’m pretty proud of it:

 

okc neg

 

I’m not even upset about the initial message, because it gave me the opportunity to respond, and also to post about it. And it feels great. Honestly the most upsetting thing about the whole exchange is that this guy is an 85% match with me. I don’t know how the fuck that happened, but I think I might need to go answer some more match questions now…

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Awkward Moments

In my last post I noted that most of the time, a date is worth two beers. Sometimes, this is less true.

I can usually tell if there is dating potential pretty early on in a date with someone. I don’t have a formula for this, it’s just a feeling I get, one way or another. Someone can be nervous and awkward and still make it into the second date category, and someone can be very charming and not. I suppose it’s mostly based on the connection I feel with the person, regardless of window dressing.

This date came at the end of a long week of socializing, so I was already a bit nervous about it. But I had to be downtown anyway, and had arranged this date directly after another hangout. It was at a tiny little dive bar in a hip part of town but one in which no actual hipsters would frequent. It had a …. stabby … sort of feel to it.

I was nervous but I grabbed a booth. A few minutes later he came in, and sat down. In the first few minutes I could just tell that it was a no for me, but he was educated and interesting and I thought well this is fine, I’m having a good time.

At one point I got up to to go the washroom, and he got up to get us another round. I tried to pay but he’d already started a tab. I used to go back and forth about this, whether to pay or not to pay, and I think that how comfortable I feel letting someone pay depends on a lot of factors – so like, if I think I’ll see them again it’s okay, or if they make a lot of money and we’re only having cheap beers. I used to let men pay more often but honestly even when men say they don’t think it entitles them to anything (and even when they think they believe that)… I dunno. It can sometimes lead to resentment when I decline a second date, and more than that, it means that I feel awkward saying no to another date, and that, more than anything, is why I resist it. But if someone is going to insist then it feels weird to fight about it so I let him, and headed off to the loo.

When I got back, as I was sitting down, he said ‘So. Was it a good pee or a bad pee?’

‘Pardon?’ I said, startled.

He repeated himself.

So, like, it takes a lot to startle me. It takes a lot to offend me, or to overshare with me. I’m very open and I like it when people feel comfortable being themselves around me. But I honestly just didn’t know what to do with this question? I didn’t even understand what it meant. It didn’t seem like a joke. I mean, I can tolerate toilet humour even though it rarely pings on my humour radar, because I get that it is funny to other people and I accept that. But this didn’t even seem like a joke? I just… had so many questions.

“What would count as a good pee?” I asked.

“Pffff how should I know what you consider a good pee?” he responded.

I wasn’t sure what to say to that. Had he just said something kind of ridiculous and then decided to dig his heels in? I mean, fair enough I guess. I’ve been awkward on dates, definitely. But it kind of seemed like he didn’t even know what he was asking at that point. I mean, just… what? (A better question might have been: what is a bad pee? Was he trying to figure out if I had a UTI? An STI? Was he wondering what I was up to in the bathroom and didn’t know how to ask that? Was he paranoid that I was sending texts? That I was snorting coke? That I was making covert origami? I DO NOT UNDERSTAND.)

Anyway at this point I was staring at another whole pint of beer that I was going to have to get through before I could get out of there. After the next drink, he went to the washroom and came back and I was tempted to ask him if it was a good pee but I actually think I didn’t get the chance because he was like: So! Are you hungry?? And with a force that surprised even me, I was like: Nope! Sorry I’m at the end of a long week and my back injury (a real thing) is acting up and I think I need to go home to lay on my heating pad.

He was like: Oh. Okay.

So at that moment I knew that he knew that I was kind of done. And that’s hard, because I hate this part of dating, on both sides. It’s fine when you are both kind of ‘meh’ and it’s wonderful when both of you are into it, but just all of the awkwardness of the times when one of you is into it and the other isn’t, and feeling like I’m somehow responsible for other people’s feelings gets kind of overwhelming. It’s sometimes why I just avoid dating altogether. But anyway my point is that regardless, we finished our drinks and in fact I didn’t feel as terrible as I might have five years ago. Not because this person wasn’t a nice guy, he was. He paid for the drinks and stood with me waiting for the streetcar (which thank goodness only took a minute to get there) and we parted on good terms. And I think I’m realizing that being able to make a decision that is right for me, and then asserting my needs and wants and boundaries even when they go against the other person’s desires, is something I am getting better at doing, more comfortable at doing, bit by bit. And date by date. And that is something.

 

Adventures in Speed Dating

A friend of mine suggested a few months ago that we try speed dating. I was actually up for this because most of the time, I can tell in the first five minutes if I’m interested in spending an entire evening with someone. In the case of speed dating, I can check ‘yes’ for the people I want to spend more time with, and I don’t need to commit to more than five minutes with the less interesting ones. Plus, this speed dating event was organized by the Toronto Public Library system, so it was FREE. I could meet 25 people and not spend a penny (nickel?). As a graduate student, I find this appealing, as well as the ‘literary’ theme: we had to bring a book (or a DVD) to promote conversation. Surely this would mean that the men who go have self-selected as people interested in things at least remotely literary?

In theory, it all sounded great. In practice, it was a bit more awkward than I expected. To start off, there were fewer people on the ‘men’ side of the table than on the ‘women’ side, so each person on the woman side got several breaks. (The library is actually pretty inclusive when it comes to genderqueer folk – they still use ‘men’ and ‘women’ labels, so it’s still fairly binary, but you sit on the side according to which you get to talk to the people you’re interested in dating.) There came a point when I appreciated the breaks, actually. I took advantage by grabbing a donut and a coffee, or reading some of my book which was definitely more thrilling than a lot of the guys I ended up talking to.

After the awkward beginning of mingling that was reminiscent of a high school dance (the men hanging out on their own, awkwardly, the women in groups chatting to each other), and then some awkward organizational work to ensure that the table-switching would work out, we began. Except, half of the men didn’t bring a book or a DVD with them. They didn’t know! they claimed. (It’s called Literary Speed Dating?)

I had a few good conversations, and many less good ones. One guy could only speak about his love of the band Rush, and seemed to deflate when I admitted I wasn’t that familiar with their music. Another guy started off by talking about Fight Club. When I admitted that I hadn’t seen it (I mean, I know what the movie is about but) he literally spouted OH MY GOD I HATE YOU. He started to say something about Brad Pitt, and when I went to say something, he cut me off and said YOU HAVEN’T HEARD OF BRAD PITT? YOU ARE THE WORST. I have actually ‘heard of’ Brad Pitt, but he didn’t seem super interested in listening to what I was saying. I’m actually not sure if he was trying to ‘neg’ me, or if he’s just super awkward? Another guy had brought a Richard Dawkins book. To speed dating. I actually just unabashedly told him that he was going to scare off a lot of ladies with that choice, and he maintained he had to ‘be himself’, which, fair enough, but he might want to look up what a crazy old fuckhead Richard Dawkins has become in the last five years or so. To be honest, I think he was unaware of that fact, but that is actually a bad sign in its own way. (I checked that guy as a ‘yes’ though – maybe that says something about where my expectations were at that point in the night? Whatever he seemed nice, if a bit naive.)

At a certain point I started taking the absurdity of the musical chair aspect of the whole event into my own hands by greeting people by saying ‘Hello and welcome to my table!’ This amused some people, and startled others. I had other conversations, most of which were mediocre. After being a server for ten years or so (on and off), a teacher, and an actor, I consider myself a gregarious introvert – i.e. an introvert who has great social coping mechanisms, but by the end of the two hours I was exhausted. 

After the event was over, I was getting all of my winter gear on and struck up a conversation with some of the ladies who were also lingering behind. She asked me about a book my friend had just given me, and we started talking about historical fiction and history as narrative. It was the most interesting conversation I’d had all evening. And I realized that although speed dating is useful in terms of quantity, the quality is almost impossible to regulate. Even my bad dates usually are worth a drink or two. Well, most of the time. 

Dating and Rejection

I started going on dates again a couple of months ago. The first couple of dates were actually really lovely. The first was in a trendy bar, and the second was at a café. Bars, in my opinion, make better first dates than coffee does, but that’s for another post. Both were with smart, handsome young men grad students at the university that has adopted me while I write my dissertation from afar. Conversation was good, and they were both enthusiastic about me in a way that I found flattering. (Men can definitely be enthusiastic without being creepy, even when the recipient isn’t interested, but that’s also for another post.)

In any case, both wanted a second date, and though I felt positively towards both of them, I just couldn’t find enough excitement in myself to justify going out with either of them again. In both cases I replied to their request with something like ‘I had a good time, but unfortunately I don’t think this is going to a second date for me.’

I can’t remember where I got that wording, but I kind of love it because it lets me be honest and say ‘I’m not interested’ but without saying those words and without saying anything at all about the other person. Even ‘I’m not interested’ sounds kind of personal, because it implies the inevitable ‘IN YOU.’ Like, there’s just something about it that sounds cold to me, so I find those words difficult to say. There’s something about ‘this isn’t going to a second date for me’ that makes it more about the fact that we are not a match, that it’s about the situation, or something, that feels accurate and yet not unkind.

They both took it well, though the second guy wrote back ‘It looks like those messages you receive when you don’t get a job!’ I kind of bristled at that (even though he didn’t mean it unkindly) because I think it’s really hard to find language to reject people that everyone finds acceptable. Because it just sucks to be rejected. And later, when I recounted this to someone, my friend, laughing, suggested I create a form letter for rejection – exactly like the kind that you get when you apply for a job, except this is for dating.

So I did.

Bureaucratic Form Rejection Letter #1:

Dear (insert name):

Thank you for your application. We received a high number of competitive submissions for the position. Although the first date was enjoyable, limitations of space, time, energy and compatibility are a reality, and we regret to inform you that we will not be able to accept your request for a second date.

Do take care, and we wish you all the best in your future endeavours!

Here I Go Again (On My Own)

I never dated until I was in my late twenties. I mean, when I say that, I mean that I never dated properly, i.e. ‘to go on dates’ with someone as though you are both inside a metaphysical date bubble, or something. I met my first boyfriend when I moved to Scotland to do a Masters degree after undergrad. I ended up chatting to him in my somewhat consistently foiled attempts to avoid another guy who was not getting the hint that I wasn’t interested. That, coupled with his Italian roommate who played cupid/wingman, we started dating two weeks after I had moved across the pond. We dated for just over 3 years.

My second boyfriend I had already known from my social circle. I absolutely didn’t expect to get together with him, but he visited me one weekend shortly after I’d moved to NYC, and it just happened. We dated for about a year and a half.

At the end of these two back-to-back relationships, it was five years later, and I was single for the first time in what felt like forever. That autumn I moved to NYC to start another degree. I was chatting online with an American friend in California who was telling me about all of the dates she had lined up. I asked about this ‘dating’ situation – how does one get ‘dates’? She told me that she used an online dating site. It sounded terrifying and fascinating. It was 2009, and online dating hadn’t quite caught on yet in most cities, but in New York it was entirely mainstream. She recommended OK Cupid. I signed up, and embarked on my first dating adventures.

Now, at this point in my life, I had just moved (back) to NYC. I had never really committed to the city the first time around though, so while I had a couple of good friends, I didn’t exactly have a lively social life, and online dating helped me fill in my evenings while also getting to know the city I had decided to give a second chance. And stories. Ohhhhh did I have stories. So. Many. Stories.

I had watched Sex and the City when I was in my early twenties, and I remember feeling incredulous that these women would date so many men, not to mention so many bizarre men? When I started dating in New York, I finally understood. (I also started understanding Seinfeld on a far more profound level but that’s for another post.) You see, New York is an incredibly difficult city in which to forge lasting connections. The city is like one enormous shiny object. There is constantly something else to do, someone else to date, someone else, in fact, who might even live on your train line, or in your neighbourhood. NYC also attracts lots of strong personalities, so there are a lot of energetic, ambitious people, but all with our very own very particular neuroses. And online dating encourages a kind of gambling mentality: maybe, if I just roll the dice/push the button again, this time I will win. Maybe this time. Maybe this time? You go out with someone, and even if they’re nice, somehow, even though you mean to call them, even if you both have the very good intentions of seeing each other again, it just never quite happens…

Needless to say, I went on a lot of dates. I’ve had five relatively serious relationships in my life, fifteen or so semi-serious relationships, and many, many, many dates. So many dates. I’ve probably been on at least 100 first dates since I started going on dates. So after a fairly recent break up with Bachelor #5, I found myself back here, but I felt I needed something more. Some kind of support system. Or a way to vent about bad dates. Or, more accurately, some place in which to process both my dates and all of the complex feminist analyses that accumulate in my head about the ethos of dating in North America.

So, welcome. Welcome to my blog that details the experiences of at least one feminist as I try, once again, to navigate the complex and often consternating world of dating. I hope that I can create value out of even the most mediocre experiences.

Let the games begin.