Questions?

Let’s talk about questions.

Well, first, let’s talk about Bumble. I downloaded Bumble again the other day, and then went on a swiping-binge for like, over an hour. At which point I had like, twenty matches waiting for me to message them (what’s great about Bumble is that women have to message men first. What’s not great about Bumble is that it works on a gender binary which ugh).

Anyway I had a bunch of matches, and I sent them all the same opener (b/c time constraints and b/c you get zero to go on re: profiles, so might as well). I asked them how their holiday is going and what the last movie they saw was and what they thought of it. Their ability to respond to what seems like a simple question will tell me a lot about them right away.

I copy and pasted this message into each Bumble chat box, and waited. As of today, I’ve been chatting with a few people. Some of which started well, but all of which fizzled out pretty fucking fast. And you want to know why they fizzled out so fast? Because the men I was chatting with stopped asking me questions.

You might think it’s that these men lost interest, but I actually don’t think so, or at least, not necessarily. Instead, I think it’s because of a social failing of our culture, one in which men are afraid to ask too many questions. Or just don’t realize that they should be asking questions. I have heard from men, over and over again, that they feel like questions are ‘intrusive’. I take it this is because questions do have the ability to be aggressive, violent, even.

Except, when you are having a conversation with someone, especially someone you are trying to get to know, not asking questions is a big problem. Because, for starters, I don’t want to just give some big monologue about myself. And I certainly don’t want to ask HIM a million questions (hello I’ve been on too many of those dates and justzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz).

Sorry. Dozed off there. Where was I?

Questions can be aggressive, violent even in the right context. When things are one-sided like an interview or an interrogation, questions become pointed, they magnify, they are sometimes designed to make the recipient of the questions uncomfortable.

I love the movie Magnolia in part because it’s about question-asking, and the aggressive ways that fits into human relationships. There are lots of scenes in which we see this kind of questioning play out: a Jeopordy-style gameshow in which a child is being made to ‘perform’ his intelligence on national television, much to his anxiety and discomfort. Tom Cruise plays an egomaniacal pundit who submits to an interview to aggrandize himself and finds himself the vulnerable target of extremely personal questions that he wasn’t expecting. A police officer enters the home of a drug addict to respond to noise-complaints, in which she dances around his questions to avoid him discovering her stash.

But when it comes to conversation, questions can also invite. They can create openings, and connections. They can tell you about the question-asker, what that person wants to know about you, what about you interests them, and what they want to hear about. I have found it really upsetting when boyfriends *haven’t* asked questions, precisely because it subverts intimacy.

I once told the Ex that he didn’t ask me enough questions, and to ask me more questions. His response: “Oh. Ok. Um…… (long pause). So… have you ever been hang-gliding?”

Sigh.

What annoyed me about this question, well, one of the many things that annoys me still about that question was its deliberate subversion of intimacy. This question wasn’t about anything he already knew about me, it wasn’t based on his desire to get to know more intimate things about me, or sparked by something he wanted to have a conversation about. It was simply a question. It was any question.

When I got upset about this bald lack of curiosity about me (on a number of occasions), his reply was that of course he was interested in getting to know me, but that he wanted it to happen ‘organically.’

Right. Well, sorry for asking, but how the hell will you ever get to know someone ‘organically’ unless you ask them some goddamned questions once in a while?

Questions, in this context, are not intrusive, they show me that you care. They show me that you want to hear what I have to say, which is pretty damn important as a woman searching for a man, let me tell you. It shows me that you find me interesting, that you want to make a connection, that you are going to hold up your end of the conversation and not make me do all of the emotional and intellectual labour of pushing it forward. Of moving, ultimately, the relationship itself forward.

And so those Bumble conversations sit there, and I keep looking at them, unmoved.

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Speed Dating: Part 2

So I don’t think I’m going to go out of my way to do speed dating anymore.

This isn’t to say speed dating is terrible. I think it works for some people. Recently, I went with a friend who’s in town until the fall, and feeling frustrated dating-wise, and it worked out well for her, and so in that sense it was worth it for me to organize this for both of us.

We went to one organized uptown, and because my friend is a year older than me, it means that we ended up doing an event aimed at a slightly older demographic than I’m used to. By which I mean the ladies had to be 35-45, and the men 37-47.

In part, I was interested to see what that would feel like for me, since in the past five years I’ve dated younger (both relationships the other person was four years younger). For lots of reasons I’m now prioritizing maturity, but that doesn’t always track with age, but I was just curious to see if this would feel good or weird or interesting or just different.

And it was… just different, basically. It was slightly better organized than the TPL one, though also slightly less interesting. I’m not able to make genuine comparisons about more than just my two individual experiences, but the older crowd seemed to have their shit together a bit better. They also dressed a bit better. Most of the men I talked to were in insurance, or were headhunters. This is not a super important fact except that it always seems to throw people when I say I’m a grad student? Like, whenever I say this around people who are older, I kind of feel like I’m 20 again or something? I mean, I’m not the oldest grad student ever, by far, but somehow still ‘being in school’ makes me feel like I’m not old enough to be there. Not to mention the fact that I look young, which I’m happy about but at the same time, I think the combination of how I look and the grad student box means that I kind of seem too young for this crowd. At one point, the very handsome gentleman I was talking to leaned forward and said: “So, (my name), how … old … are you?” I think he was maybe just checking that I wasn’t in the wrong place (there was a parallel speed dating event happening next door for a younger crowd) or something but to be honest it felt kind of condescending.

There was a guy I heard about from some of the other ladies who was kind of aggressive and ‘touchy’ and kept offering to bring everyone to an oyster bar/his wine villa (or something), but I am still not sure who that guy was because apparently when I get nervous I just talk about myself a lot to avoid having boring conversations with strangers? I dunno. I’m not sure if that means more work for me, or if it’s a brilliant tactic, but it is what it is.

There was one guy who was pretty verbally aggressive, shouting about how dating is like looking for a job, and you have to know what you want, did I know what I wanted? Was I serious? Did I want marriage? Children? It was pretty near the bell-ring, so I thought I would just fuck with this dude, so I was like, “Lol, yeah I know what I want, I want a feminist.”

He sat way back in his chair and was like, “WELL WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? THAT I THINK WOMEN AND MEN ARE EQUAL? OF COURSE I THINK THAT. I THINK WOMEN ARE EQUAL.”

Mmmmmhmmmm. Sure you do, dude.

Anyway the main reason that I won’t do speed dating again is that I don’t trust my judgement. You see, if I’m presented with a string of people like that, I’ll choose the best ones out of THAT GROUP. (And by ‘best’ here, I just mean, closest to being a match for me/someone I’d maybe be interested in going on a date with.) And so I checked off two lovely gentlemen: a Scotsman living in Toronto and a doctor who talked about how he might be a novelist if he couldn’t be a doctor. Both handsome and interesting, at least from what I could tell from a 4 minute conversation.

And yet. And yet? And yet when the Scotsman contacted me I realized I wasn’t actually interested in going on a date. But I didn’t realize that until days later, when the reality of going out with one of these men sunk in. I mean, he’s not horrible, he’s perfectly lovely, but I just wasn’t interested. It’s like the context of the speed dating event tricks me into thinking I’d go on dates with people that I later realize I don’t, and then I need to say no when I’ve checked them off as a ‘yes’ which feels kind of mean, like I’ve developed buyer’s remorse or something and it’s just too damn stressful.