Archive | August, 2012

Rejection Done Right

24 Aug

Last night I experienced an exhibition of the rare, considerate date etiquette I’ve long prescribed from my soapbox—and I wouldn’t believe it had I not seen it with my own eyes. There we were having a great second date. The girl, whom I’d found in the OkCupid catalog, was cute, funny, and had great stories to tell. We meshed really well from the first moment and I was sure this was going somewhere. (This should have been my first warning—never trust a good feeling blindly.) We had some great drinks and food on our second rendezvous, a totally informal hangout at a really nice Belgian restaurant. There I was, getting all starry-eyed and thinking with tingling anticipation about making out with her before the night was over. There was the check arriving at our table. And there she was fidgeting at my standard offer to cover the charges.

“I have a confession to make.” Well, I knew which way the wind was blowing, but I let her proceed anyway.

“I’m not attracted to you…Does that change your mind about the check?”

Now, in my younger, more naïve days, I probably would have pussied out and paid anyway, awkwardly spouting non sequiturs and fingering dried French fry bits until we could part with a disingenuous hug and smile. But fuck that, I’m now 32 (yikes!) and I’ve had my time wasted enough that I don’t mind cutting my losses. So I was only too happy to accept 50% as a severance. And, after a few moments of contempt for this broad, we actually went back to our conversation with minimal awkwardness, both relieved of our very opposite pressures—hers to reject me in ma very direct manner, and me to clumsily insert my tongue into her mouth in front of an express bus driver. She bought off her guilt with money—the price of honesty—and I would not feel like a sucker afterward.

To her credit, this level of sincerity, while off-putting and somewhat insensitive, is exactly the kind of female dater behavior I’ve endorsed on the pages of this blog. Having been out with someone 2 or 3 times who was only too happy to have me foot the bill only to tell me, chicken-shit style over text, that she didn’t want to mislead me as to her intentions, I would much rather accept this knockout blow and get up before the count of 10 than be sucker-punched in the head and mugged. So, ego slightly frayed, but my wallet not ripped off, I’m still standing. On to the next one!

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Summer Ladies Poll

20 Aug

Dating Immigrant: Trying Something New

10 Aug

About 3 months ago, I tore myself away from OkCupid, everyone’s favorite free dating site, to try HowAboutWe, an online dating startup that’s been around a couple of years but is still fairly new to the scene. I found it through someecards, one of the sites with which they’ve partnered (one of the many cool innovations HAW has been engaged in), and at first mistook it for an online dating site for fans of snarky greeting cards.  This, of course, is not far from the intended effect, which is to connect interest-based communities and move away from the user-blind “dating warehouse” feel of many established players, such as Match (which, by the way, is now leading from behind by ripping off similar concepts).

HAW instantly sucked me in, not only with a really slick UI and smooth as silk Ruby on Rails design, but the concept of immediately focusing your dating energies on the date from the get-go as and away from selling yourself with cheesy/generic lines to a cataloged list of faces and proclamations to “work hard/play hard.” To be sure, [as a guy] you will still find yourself selling yourself to a cataloged list of faces, but HAW makes it a heck of a lot more fun–and easier. For one, even when you encounter the many annoyingly threadbare profiles giving you absolutely no insights into the Jack or Jill you’re trying to cyber-woo, with the click of a mouse you can indicate that you’re intrigued by their suggestion to “have dinner at an underground supper club led by a secret famous chef,” “stomp around in some puddles on the next rainy day–then warm up in a cafe or bar,” “take a trapeze class, cause why not,” or, of course, “walk the Highline.” With 2 or 3 clicks, you can be a little more proactive and build you own date using the built-in Foursquare geolocator–and maybe throw in a zinger or two if you’re so inclined.

In the last few weeks, I’ve gone on several dates arranged through the site. As always, some noticeable trends emerged. Here are a few:

  • Generally, people seem more eager than elsewhere (e.g. OkCupids) to get offline and quicker to offer their numbers. This makes sense. You start talking about doing something fun together, rather than asking if the other person is having a good day or how their Midwestern hometown compares to NYC. And this is positive. If the point of the site is to get offline as quickly as possible, mission accomplished. (The side effect of this is that for people who enjoy a more epistolary start to romance, this might be a bit disappointing. To them I say, look to other sites.)
  • Because women likely get flooded with messages the same way they do on other portals, most guys will be tempted to spam ladies with quick date suggestions or just to click “intrigued” on the girls’ dates. This is ineffective and perpetuates an endless loop–girls with too many “intrigues” will inevitably grow weary and numb, and guys will soon stop paying even perfunctory attention to profile details. So it’s really on us to take a more strategic and deliberative approach. Filtering and combining date invitations with personal messages may be the better plan of attack.
  • Women (and perhaps men as well, though I haven’t looked) often post amusingly unfeasible date ideas, such as “Let’s omakase at Masa and then bungee jump off the Statue of Liberty while discussing poetry.” I’ve already written about this phenomenon, particular to HAW. I’m sure for many these may serve as ice-breakers or conversation starters, many users might be put off by someone whose first date ideas all list ideas that require a private jet or a secret society membership. On the other hand, these may also serve as good warnings against people who wouldn’t be good matches to begin with. Whatever the case may be, I urge those who take meeting someone, if not the site itself, at least somewhat seriously, to give their date ideas a bit of thought.
  • There seem to be a fair number of immigrants from OkCupid. This is not surprising, considering the similar audience and the OkC fatigue all of us awesome online daters have encountered at one point or another. HAW does not guarantee better results, but it can be a really refreshing splash of water that you need after going out with some lamos on OkC or not getting any traction with your messages.

In addition to a nice layout and a very well designed app (with small kinks that can be refined in future updates), I also love their agile approach to future improvements. User feedback is crowdsourced with total transparency, and the top gripes and suggestions are no doubt continually monitored and considered for adoption by the product designers and software engineers. Basically, what few complaints I’ve had (e.g., include a subscriber flag so paid members know they’re not throwing their “dating resume” into a bottomless well of lurkers) have already been levied.

Bottom Line

There are no silver bullets in online dating, and HAW is no exception. Success is ultimately based on your level of energy, decent photos, a profile with some semblance of personality, an open mind, and above all a lot of luck in finding chemistry. What HAW is doing better than anyone else at the moment, INMHO, is making the experience much more fun. It feels like a site built by real people, not corporate tools (the founders are childhood friends and former teachers, no less!). You might find your true love, you might find yourself, or you might find VD and sue the bastard. Whatever happens, you might definitely have some fun and discover some awesome new spots in the process.

First Date Patterns, Part 1

7 Aug

Following is a list of “facts” and “rules” I’ve discovered about myself  when it comes to dating, online, offline, in a supermarket line, out of line, whatever. I by no means hold them to be true for every human being, but to the extent that life is often a solipsistic affair, I offer to you the few non-trivial patterns that emerge before me; some are patterns, other habits:

  1. Excitement and unease both descend upon me before a date. I don’t know exactly why this happens, and sometimes I wonder if this whole dating thing is not just a distraction from fulfilling my life in so many other ways. But before many, and perhaps most, of my dates, a sense of dread that isn’t quite nervousness sets in. Suddenly I have to act, I have to entertain, I have to needle, tease, flirt, provoke, and appease. The best of these encounters, which are few, will punch through this stupid onset of self-induced pressure, but quite often the “hour before” is beset with agitation. In a sense, this might be good. After all, we all need deadlines and a little fire under our feet to rise above the social flat-lining ennui of daily singledom and low-pressure routines. And yet no matter how excited I might feel before (and after!), it can seem like such a chore.
  2. What do I say next? Maybe this is applicable to most ice-breaking in social situations, but I really hate the feeling of having to come up with something to say. This takes away from genuine enjoyment and organic dialogue as you can never devote attention to what the person is saying and literally “live in the moment.” Imagine going on a thrill ride and ignoring the thrill as your mind races to consider what ride it’s going on next. Of course, age and wisdom have brought a more introspective attitude and I’m now often able to feel comfortable saying only what I want to say and even “enjoying the silence” on occasion. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fallen into the unproductive and unenlightening conversational race to the bottom.
  3. Picking out just the right place like it’s my OCD business. Now, I know that my general proclivities for endless filtering and curating through catalogs of choices, facilitated by the convenience of modern recommender systems like Amazon, Netflix, and Yelp, amplify my tendency to spend much too much in planning than execution. But I can’t help it. Most of the time, when I propose a date, I want it to be really cool…and super fun…and awesome…oh, and have an edge. You get the point! And if there’s anything I’ve found to be an almost indisputable fact of life, it’s that ultimately the venue shrinks in significance the moment a date begins. Sure, an artistically inclined girl might appreciate some gallery hopping or some conversation pieces, and a girl who loves fish tacos might have a foodgasm when you stop by some four-star taco truck. But looking for romantic connections is not tourism. Our minds soon disappear into a rhythm of careful prodding, gentle teasing, and mental shopping. Even when we’re not asking if this is the person you want to kiss/shag/date, your mind and body are making small calculations, writing things down, weighing and calculating. That’s why we end up listlessly paying the check at amazingly romantic cocktail dens or making out with reckless abandon in the back of seamy dive bars.