Dating Advice Hates Us

Play hard to get.  Be approachable.  Don’t text right away.  Don’t sleep with him on the first date.  Don’t be too easy.  Don’t be too reserved.  Don’t be intimidating.  He probably doesn’t approach you because you’re unattractive.  He won’t approach you if you’re TOO attractive.  Don’t be too innocent.  Don’t come on too strong.  Don’t settle.  Don’t be too picky.

Um, hello.  Is there any chance I can behave like my normal self and still get a date??

Under the guise of trying to help us, dating advice serves more to drive us absolutely cray-cray than actually help us get a date.  And it doesn’t work.  I know, because I tried it.  Yes, I am a fool.  My impressionable teenage self actually thought this stuff was legit.  In reality, it is just a bunch of women’s magazines recycling the same headlines over and over, and a bunch of self-proclaimed “experts” trying to make money off of their books. (Think Like a Man, anyone?)

What if I told you that you could follow every rule in the book, do everything right, walk on eggshells, and follow a very narrow set of acceptable behaviors…and still not succeed?  Welcome to the world of dating.

Dating is unpredictable.  There is no one formula or recipe to getting what you want.  There is no “secret”.  It’s not like baking a cake…where you know if you mix these ingredients together in this order, you will more or less get a cake at the end.

The bad dating “advice” I refer to has been preached by both women and men.  But it sucks all the same.  It is always very patronizing.  It always implies that being you is never enough.  That you have to suppress your actual intentions, try to be coy, and always put on an act.

Contrary to popular belief, it is actually not helpful to ask someone of the opposite sex for dating advice.  This is for two reasons:

1) People do have individual preferences when it comes to choosing partners, and one girl’s advice won’t necessarily be helpful for landing another girl.  I know, because my friends and I always disagree on what we look for in a guy;

2) People are actually not good at articulating what they want.  An excerpt from a book, called You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney comes to mind:

“THE MISCONCEPTION: You know why you like the things you like and the way you feel.  THE TRUTH: The origin of certain emotional states is unavailable to you, and when pressed to explain them, you will just make something up.” (pg. 64)

This conclusion mainly comes from statistical evidence, but to explain his point, Mr. McRaney describes an experiment where a group of people got to choose from a collection of fancy paintings and posters to take home.  One group got to just take something and leave, while another group had to explain verbally their selection.  Assuming that all other variables were in control, they saw overwhelmingly that those who had to explain their choices chose poster’s with inspirational quotes and other sayings, while those who didn’t chose nice paintings and fancy artwork.  In other words, those who had to rationalize their choices chose posters with words on them, and those who didn’t chose the more abstract stuff.

The way I interpret this is that when a person tries to explain why they like a certain guy or girl, do not take it too literally.  In reality, attraction is more inexplicable and abstract than we like to think.  It is not clear why we are more likely to fall in love with one person but not another.

The problem with dating advice is that it makes us forget that romance is emotional, not logical.  I think it is when we try too hard to be methodical and systematic that we fail.  I’m not saying to lay out all your cards on the first date.  But I shouldn’t have to feel like I’m putting on an Oscar-winning performance every time I interact with a dude.

When I think about the guys I previously dated, I never got the chance to date him because I called him exactly 3 days after our first date or because I perfectly timed our hookup.  It was because there was this general thing called “chemistry” and “compatibility”.  We got along and enjoyed each other’s company.  Of course, there are the everyday rules of being polite and considerate to one another -rules that you would apply to any other friendship or interaction.  There is the rule of not being a creeper/stalker.  But as for specific “dating rules”?

If I like a guy, why can’t I act on it?  Why can’t I smile at him, compliment him, and invite him to dinner?  Why do I have to just stand there (or sit there) and wait for him to confirm if I’m desirable?  If I want to sleep with him on the first date, why shouldn’t I?  Maybe I’ve been going through a dry spell.  If it turns out that he thinks I’m a dirty ho-bag for doing so, then I know sooner than later that I don’t want to date him!  If a guy really thinks sex on a first date is inappropriate, he wouldn’t agree to it or propose it in the first place.

There was a wonderful, innocent time when I thought that romance involved two people liking one another.  When I was in high school, my crush was someone I adored, who always made me giddy and smiley, and gave me the warm fuzzies.  Then one day, a group of love experts came along and decided to make love, attraction, and romance the most stressful and complicated battle of egos you could imagine.

People of the world: just do yourself a favor and chuck that “How to Find Mr. Right” book into the trash can.  You are not going to find a date hiding behind self-help articles.

Dating is a lot like learning a language – you eventually just have to put yourself out there and start interacting with people.  Will it be awkward?  Yes.  Will you make mistakes?  Of course!  Will you make a fool out of yourself?  Sometimes.

There will be miscommunication and you will, at times, say something stupid.  But that is all a natural part of dating.  Very few people are perfect when it comes to this stuff.

So just do you and learn from your own mistakes.  You will learn so much more.

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About emma

My name is Emma, and this is another blog where you will encounter my ramblings and musings about various things.
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