Anyone who knows me even just a little probably knows I would not be the first person to ask for dating advice. But I think I found a guy who might have benefited from a little coaching from me.
I was out walking around Lake Harriet when I found myself eaves dropping on a first date. This was one of those online dates, indicated by the verbal clue “your profile” mentioned repeatedly by the woman grilling the man. She was set in a fact-checking mode and it appeared obvious that he was growing weary under the interrogation.
They did seem like a nicely matched couple though. Aesthetically they complimented each other well. One could imagine that they shared similar lifestyle, background, and interests. And for a fortysomething couple they looked fit and attractive.
But…oh boy…he was on the ropes! I’ll admit to finding it a bit entertaining as much as interesting. The poor guy simply could not get it right. Over and over she would say things like “you said in an email” or “but you wrote in your profile” and followed up with a simple question, like “so do you think there should be different rules for different genders?”
Let me give all the guys out there a tip. Have answers to questions like these ready and rehearsed. Even a Republican can appear to be thoughtful on this issue, at least for a while. It should not sink your first date. Fuge a little, roll with it…try to find out how much of an issue it really is for her. After all, this is merely a question offered in the “dating advice” section of many online dating blogs. She might not have an answer herself! So whatever you do, don’t cave…don’t throw in the hat.
“Wow, that’s a heavy one…”
She wasn’t taking that answer.
Incidentally, as an aside, I can see how being a Republican in the dating world might have its advantages. Conservatives today really don’t expect answers with much thought and substance; they just kinda want to feel like there’s something somewhat kinda relevant at work around the question. Too much fact and thought generally makes conservatives uneasy, so a clever evasive move is likely the best strategy for those people, especially if you can make the issue seem like someone else’s problem. Try this:
“I think a lot about gender issues and I think it is important that people with genders think a lot about it too. There isn’t enough of that, just too many rules.”
Bingo. You’re home free and on your way to a boring, fashion-starved coupling with a like-minded social accessory. Yuck.
Ok, but back to our couple. Trying to keep up with the conversation was a challenge, by the way. I had to stop to tie my shoes, pretend to make phone calls, drop things, and all sorts of other tricks to match my pace to theirs, and even then following them wasn’t easy.
“What do you think of rules based on gender?” she asks him again.
“Boy, maybe I should know you better,” he replies.
“No, really, what do you think? Do we need different rules or what?”
There’s always the chance this guy isn’t real clear about what a gender is…a lot of people have the problem. And rules? Shoot…you have gender rules? Maybe he wasn’t hearing her above the sound of the wind and waves. Nevertheless, you should never be caught off guard. But this poor dude was in over his head. And his date wasn’t Gloria Steinem, either. This was more of a quasi-social policy, arm chair philosophical point of interest. I don’t think she was expecting a brief dissertation critiquing Foucault’s problematic convergence of power, sexuality, and the body. Nothing very deep. But he punted nonetheless.
I lost the conversation here, but I had to listen on and they were falling behind me. Slowing down would have been too obvious. I think I was already appearing to snoop on a relatively empty walking path. How, after all, did I manage to keep showing up just a step or two behind their walk? They were beginning to notice.
So I jumped ahead and feigned a rock in my shoe. As the couple passed I heard her say above the blowing wind, “Well, now you know…!”
Those are words you don’t like to hear, especially on a first date. “No you know.”
Oh, god…reminds of a time when a woman went to some effort to teach me about some esoteric wine in a very demeaning way. Do we have time for another aside? No, another time…
So back again to our couple. I quickly get my shoe on again and catch up. He’s desperate to explain himself and fumbles about, much to his date’s amusement he fumbles about and things seem to be…ironically enough…working. Humor, even at your own expense, can be a refuge. But then his efforts take a bad turn. He offers this: “Hey, I care about this…I understand…Women are a big part of my life.”
Brilliant! I doubt it was intentional, but he managed to quiet her questioning.
If you’re a woman on a first date, the words you probably don’t want to hear are “Women are a big part of my life.” Think this through. There’s no way to win. You might be a Mommy’s Boy, maybe a player…perhaps you design lingerie with little appliques on it. Or worse…maybe you collect it. Or maybe this really isn’t the first date you have been on in months. Just what does it mean to say that women are a big part of your life? No, no….you want to avoid this answer. Not good. It requires a lot of back peddling and discursive reparations. If you’re not careful, you will sound like a misogynist in the end, then were are? Back to gender and rules, I suppose, and you could end up answering the question without intentionally saying anything.
I’m not sure where the date ended. I started to feel badly about things and a little impolite about eavesdropping so I found my natural pace and left them behind me to sort out where to go next. I don’t know, I have a feeling — because I’m good about these things — that they likely had a nice night together, will share an email or two when they get home, and plan to meet again. I doubt the faux pas (unless you’re me) are ever really as significant as they seem at the time. People have a way of coming together, even in the most inelegant ways. In this case I kind of hope so.