Saturday, June 2, 2012

How Not to Get to Know a Girl on a Dating Site

I guess I'm doing another post about online dating. As I wrote before (I think) I try to respond to everyone that sends me a message, but it's getting really overwhelming and frankly a little impossible with the other things I need to keep up with. You can imagine that responding to so many messages has left me with a few pet-peeves. Recently, I was messaging a guy and I could tell that we weren't going to get along in person. I sent him a message saying I wasn't interested and told him that I hoped he found who he was looking for--the standard dismissal. Sometimes they ask why and  this guy did so I gave him the kindest, shortest version of the truth. It went like this:

"That's fine. Sorry it's taken me so long to get back to you. I'm just finding it difficult to find common ground with you. Something to talk about that we mutually enjoy and can expand on. I know a lot of people aren't into sharing like that but it's really important to me. You didn't do anything wrong per se, I'm just confident that if we can't have an interesting conversation online where we have the opportunity to think about what we're going to say before we say it, then meeting in person won't fix that"

I thought it was pretty concise without being cruel. I got my point across and I thought he'd be able to sleep well at night knowing it wasn't because I thought he looked weird or that I didn't think he was rich enough or something else trivial or shallow. We just don't mesh. The end. But then he sent me another message that basically said, "We didn't really talk about much, how can you tell?" An honest, and irresistible question. I took the bait. It was too tempting. All I wanted to do up front was be honest and here he was, presenting me with the opportunity for a second time. So, I told him. I don't even know if he's read it yet. Probably not. It's definitely not the most pleasant note I've sent but I thought it out and it comes from an honest place.  The following is my response, copied and pasted, exactly as I sent it to him:

"Okay, here goes: 

First exchange: You say we have a lot in common, but you didn't specifically say what. You don't say what in particular you'd like to talk about based on my profile. I'm left to guess what we might have in common based on reading yours. I read your profile thinking I'll find some clues there. Your profile is sparse on things I can talk to you about, ("So, you're humble and you like eating, eh?") but in spite of that I find college football and you wanting to make documentaries. I didn't mention liking either one of these in my profile, but they're two things we have in common. I ask you a question about documentaries 1) because I enjoy watching documentaries 2) I assume you also enjoy watching them if you want to make them and if you watch them maybe we've seen some of the same ones and 3) I think it's a topic that facilitates honing in on something we may have in common so that we can get to know each other better. 

Second exchange: You sort of answer my question. You give me genres you like but nothing specific. Biography, History and Science are pretty broad topics. I'm sure I've seen a few, but not recently. Now, Guns, Germs & Steel comes to mind (even though I didn't watch the movie I only read the book) but at the time I didn't think of it. I didn't want to ask you again what your favorite documentaries were at the risk of you misunderstanding the question again and either thinking I was stupid or making you feel stupid. When you mentioned that you wanted to do a documentary about innovation & grassroots politics I was like "BINGO." Even though it was still vague it was oddly particular. It made me think you had a subject in mind which piqued my interest. I asked you if you had a particular subject in mind. 

Third exchange: I'm disappointed again that you don't have any subject to clue me in as to who you really are by telling me what you're passionate about. You might be thinking now that you did tell me. You want to be "part of the solution" which you think makes you look like a guy who is kind and cares and is socially responsible, but it doesn't. This doesn't mean you aren't cool, kind, chill, humble, caring, [insert every good adjective here], you still could be, but if you are you're not doing a good job of coming across that way. What it does come across as is kind of naive and socially inept. Keep in mind that you didn't ask me any questions about football, documentaries, accounting, improv, economics, growing up in Texas/Oklahoma, working graves, leaving the church, the singularity, zombies, starting a business (of any kind), or guns, which were mentioned in my profile. You say that you like how I look wholesome but curse occasionally, which was something that I mentioned in my profile but it wasn't something to talk about. It was a statement. There's no real way for me to follow up with that that. So, the impression a girl gets is that you don't want to know what I think and you value (and believe that I value) looks more than other personality traits or interests in my life. I don't think you did it on purpose or to be mean so I blow past it. In a final effort to get you to talk about something, I bring up a topic I don't care about but it could be good because everyone experienced it. I'll admit that I don't really care about Memorial Day (it's not even a step up from talking about the weather), but there was a off-chance you did something nice, or saw a movie you wanted to, or you just love days off when you can hang out around the house in your underwear, or you had to work an you hate that. Anything even remotely specific would have gotten my attention. 

Fourth exchange: You didn't have anything to say about Memorial Day, good or bad. You asked your first question: "How was yours?" I didn't care about my Memorial Day. I worked. I've worked through Christmas for the past 2 years, so Memorial Day doesn't even register as a holiday on my radar. You have to admit, it was a pretty boring conversation at this point. I didn't care to answer the question and I didn't feel like trying to come up with another topic to talk about. 

So, in conclusion: You may have started the conversation (kudos on that-it's not an easy thing to do) but I was doing all of the heavy lifting in it. So, like I said before, if we can't come up with anything to talk about on here when we have time to think and give thoughtful responses, we're not going to be able to come up with anything in person. I don't feel the need to string you along so I told you as soon as I knew."

The thing I come across all the time that I wish I could change is this: Boys telling me outright who they are. They say, "I'm chill, funny, humble, the life of the party, hard-working, adventurous, loyal, etc..." The problem is, that I'm not a very smart girl if I just take your word for it. You know that awkward friend that everyone has that talks about how great she is at singing all the time, but then you hear her and she's really REALLY not? Everybody is like that in some way or another. No one is totally self-aware. So when you say you're humble does that mean all the time or just not right now? When you say you're kind does that mean the exception is when someone else is hitting on your girlfriend or when someone is berating your child? 

No one is anything all of the time and everything is relative. Maybe you were raised by jerks and so compared to everyone else you know, you're nice. Maybe you were raised by auditors and compared to them, you're hilarious.

If you want to endear yourself to anyone you have to share parts of yourself. Stories, obsessions, dislikes, what you really think about your friends and family, what you love about your job, what you hate about it, what you would do if you could do anything, why your favorite band is your favorite. You have to allow other people to put you under their own microscopes and decide for themselves. It's a scarier prospect, but in the end, much more effective. 

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