Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog


Dating: Stop the Insanity

Katie has a post on dating centering on the book The Year of Saying Yes, written by Maria Dahvana Headley, a woman who decide that since she'd been on so many bad dates, she should stop picking and choosing and just say yes to virtually everyone who asked.

A commenter at Katie's echoed a complaint I've heard many times from many women, that they regretted going out on at least half the dates they'd been on.

Now in baseball, batting .500 is phenomenally good, but in dating, that's disastrous, especially for a woman. I mean, c'mon, you get to pick and choose which offers you take. If a guy asks you out and you don't think it has a hope in hell of working, you can say no, and be about your business. I know you can do it; I've heard it myself many times.

So many times.

So, since you have your pick of offers, the fact that fully half of them suck so badly you would have rather stayed home has to say something about your criteria for selection now, doesn't it?

Let's look at it like shopping for produce in the supermarket. You're checking out tomatoes, and going by feel, you pick the ten best, but when you get home, 5 of them are wormy and rotten. Now the next time you go to the grocery store, are you going to pick tomatoes the same way, or are you going to alter your criteria for selection, trying to pick some that aren't quite so mushy?

So why should dating be any different?

But no, for some reason we keep looking in the same places for the same kind of person who more often than not repulses us because we refuse to examine our selection criteria.

A definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over while expecting different results. Let's stop the insanity, shall we?

And that's exactly what Ms. Headley did, albeit in an extreme way. She recognized that her criteria were counter productive, and because she had no idea how to adjust them, she abandoned them altogether. Now I don't think you have to do anything that radical if you can accept the notion that if half your dates are utter disasters, you're choosing the wrong dates.

Let's look at it like mining for gold for a minute. First, you have to know what you're looking for. Develop a list of the things you want in a partner. If you want to strike gold, and know it when you do, you'd better know what it is you're looking for in the first place. There's lot's of fool's gold out there, and if you aren't careful, you could wind up tossing a dull, unrefined gold nugget out for a worthless, shiny piece of pyrite.

Next, you need to know where to find what you're looking for. If you're following a vein of coal, gold nuggets are going to by mighty hard to find. So the choices you make for your potential date will begin to narrow down the appropriate locations where they might be found. For example, if my criteria for a date included a certain, shall we say, moral flexibility, looking for my dream girl at a church's singles prayer breakfast probably would not be very rewarding. On the other hand, if I were looking for a woman who shares my love of music, I should be looking at different music venues, whether clubs, bars, or what have you.

OK, most of us are pretty good at these first two parts. Now comes the hard part. Actually dating. As I pointed out, this is easier for women than men, because, face it, we're coming at you. You get to pick which guys you go out with. Guys on the other hand, have to rely to some extent on the shotgun blast. Ask, ask, and ask again until you get a yes. This is not altogether a bad thing because a guy's criteria will by necessity be broader than a womanís, and he is therefore exposed to a wider array of women within his criteria. You have to take the bad with the good.

So, you go out on 10 dates; 1 is great, 3 are so-so, 1 just doesn't work, and 5 are downright ugly. You've got wormy tomatoes my friend and it's time to go for the less mushy ones.

So how do we do that?

Ask yourself some questions. What was the difference between the dates that worked and the ones that didn't? How did the worms fly under your radar? What weren't you looking for that you should have been? Were there warning signs that you ignored because of other positives? Unless you're dating complete strangers, you know enough about the folks you're going out with to be able to trace the disaster to its source. Once you've done that, see how it applies to your criteria.

You may just have to tighten your standards a bit, or you might find that something you thought you were looking for in a date is something you don't want in a relationship. Not to venture too far into clichť, but the whole "Bad Boy vs. Big Brother" thing just screams of poor initial selection criteria. The Bad Boy sweeps her off her feet and then breaks her heart, and then the sweet young thing cries on the shoulder of her best guy friend about how "there aren't any nice guys left in the world," and she's so lucky to have him as her friend. The obvious solution never occurs to her because she doesn't evaluate her selection criteria.

But we're smarter than that now, right? We know that if half our dates end in disaster, then we need to pick our dates a little bit differently.

So we've evaluated what went wrong, changed our selection criteria a bit, which may also require a change in location, and we go out on a new cycle of dating. If we've done our homework right, we may go on fewer dates, say eight this time, but now 2 are great, 3 are so-so, 2 just aren't right, and only 1 is a horror story. You've gone from 4 good dates and 6 bad ones to 5 good dates and 3 bad ones.

You can find a lot of gold like that.

Now, I hear what you're saying. "It's not that simple in the real world. You donít always know what went wrong, or even what you're looking for."

You're exactly right. We don't. In fact, I'd argue that if half your dates are disasters, that's proof right there that you don't know what you're looking for. So what are you going to do about it?

Well, first thing, we're not going to keep using the same criteria that's been failing miserably, are we? Absolutely not. But what criteria are we going to use? There are two answers to that question. First, we adjust our criteria as best we can, going by gut feeling if necessary. Second, and most importantly, we loosen up. We go out with somebody we probably wouldn't have before. Somebody who seems nice, but that you previously wouldnít have chosen for a date for some small reason. This doesn't mean you go out with a definite no, but that you give the maybes a shot. In my case for example, I'd pass on the girl with the meth addiction, but I'd go out with the goth girl with the piercings and tattoos. Who knows? It could work.

Now in this case, we find ourselves dating more, rather than less, say 12 dates instead of 10. 1 is great, 5 are so-so, 2 just don't work, and only 4 are ugly. We have 6 positive dates and 6 negatives. At least now we're breaking even, and weíve gone from half our dates being ugly to just one third. Thatís an improvement we can live with.

Now then, getting back to the mining analogy, we've got a steady supply of ore, some high grade, most mid grade, but we've eliminated a large portion of the dross. Now we have to begin to refine what we've got. The process is simple; any date that's great, good, or even so-so warrants a second date. If you limit yourself to just the great first dates, you may miss out on the rough cut diamond in the mix. After the second date is plenty early to start cutting down the field.

And that is the second part of the process, narrowing the field. There are three scenarios to deal with here. First, if after two dates, you have one or more candidates for a real relationship, it's time to ruthlessly narrow the field. Do so nicely, because all too often, candidates 1 and/or 2 may not work out, and you will have to pick up where you left off. But you do need to concentrate your efforts where they will do the most good, and you can't do that while you're playing belle of the ball. On the other hand, if there are no front runners, be a little more liberal. There may be a slow starter but a strong finisher in the field. (OK, somehow I've switched into a horse racing analogy. I'm not sure how, but it seems to fit, so we'll go with it.) Cut the ones that can't run with the pack, and see if anybody is able to separate themselves over the long haul, in this case, three or four dates. If nobody does, then you're in the third scenario, where you go back to the beginning, and go on some more first dates. Again, adjust your selection criteria based on your previous results to try and get better results. The good news is that by this point, the majority of your dates will not be disasters, making the process a lot more fun, and much more likely to end up with a real relationship.

Now, I know what you're saying. "This is way too systematic an approach. Where's the romance, Rich? Where's the excitement, the mystery, the love?" Well, let me ask you something. Where's the romance in hiding out in the bathroom, calling your girlfriend to get her to come rescue you from another date from hell? If a little systematic evaluation can minimize these horrific dates and maximize the potential good ones, isn't it worth it?

I think so.

OK Mr. KnowItAll. If you're so danged smart, how come you're still single?

Personal choice. (Bonus points to those who get the reference. In fact, if you get the reference, and are female, single, and between 32 and 48, we should go out. Seriously. We should. Especially if you know where to find a vermicious knid and how to survive an attack by a ravenous bugblatter beast.)

Seriously, I don't date much for many reasons, including the fact that I am human, and just because I know what to do doesn't mean I always do it. My life keeps me very busy, which makes it very easy to avoid dating. Asking somebody out is hard to do even in the best of circumstances; even the gentlest ďnoĒ is painful. Itís easier to let the days slip past without asking than it is to risk the rejection. On the other hand, I can honestly say that even though I haven't found the woman I want a relationship with, of the 30 or so dates I've been on over the past couple of years, only 1 has been frighteningly bad. Most have been in the so-so category and I believe that was because I was looking in the wrong place. I'm still trying to figure out where the right place is.

So I am using my own advice, just in very slow motion. Like a glacier, even though I'm slow, I'm persistent, I'm irresistible, and I will carve great gouges in the earth wherever I go.

On second thought, perhaps the glacier wasn't the best analogy I could have chosen.

You know, looking back over what Iíve written, Iím reminded of one of my New Yearís resolutions, which was to date more. Itís the first of March, and Iíve done nothing towards that goal. Itís time to change that.

Now I could do like Ms. Headley, and go out with anyone who asks me, but that would be an empty promise if thatís all I did, because even in these modern times, most of the time itís still the guy asking the girl out. Add in my own reclusive habits, and itís even worse. I could live up to that promise and not come one step closer to fulfilling my resolution. So I have to go a step further.

Like I said, fear of rejection is a powerful factor that has kept me from dating much. Another factor is the high standards I have set for my ideal woman. Not in looks so much, but in how I respond to her. I have to have a nearly instant chemistry with a woman or I wonít pursue the relationship. In fact, at times, I insist on the chemistry being there before the first date, which just goes to show that smart people can be very stupid sometimes.

So there are 3 things Iím going to do.
  1. I am going to go out with anyone who asks me (thatíll be easy enough).
  2. Iíll go out on any set-up anybody I know (and trust) wants to arrange. (Thatís going to be tougher. I have a lot of would be matchmakers in my life.)
  3. I will ask out any woman who piques my interest, regardless of whether I think I have a shot at all, or whether I see any long term potential. (My aim here is to become immune to rejection through sheer numbing repetition.)

Weíll see how it goes.
Posted by Rich
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