Thursday, September 20, 2012

Advice Column

I do not often get asked for dating advice.

When I do I am torn between several ways of approaching dispensing the advice.

Should I deliver it in a contemplative Guru on the mountaintop way?

Perhaps I should indulge some self help pseudo-psychology name-dropping: Jung? Leo Buscaglia? Skinner? Jack Kevorkian? Freud? Rhonda Byrne? Stephen Covey? Josef Mengele? Deepak Chopra? Richard Bach? M. Scott Peck? Frida Kahlo?

Actually I don’t think I would ever attempt emulating Rhonda Byrne or Stephen Covey.

My best received dating advice is usually non-topical like:
“If you pull the pin, wait three seconds and run like hell”

Should I just listen and nod? I am often forced to do this as many people who  talk about dating, whether they are asking for advice or not, make no sense. It shows respect to nod while listening. Asking questions that uncovers the incomprehensible core of a statement is rude. {Just nod and pretend like you understand what I mean by that if you do not.}

I have been told that dating in the state of Utah is especially difficult. One young woman described multiple first dates where she would tell the prospective partner that she could not (or maybe it was did not want to) have any more kids. She said this was a “dealbreaker” for most men, and that she brought it up on the first date because she did not want to have to “waste a bunch of time”.

I tried to just smile and nod, but I think a “What are you talking about?” may have slipped out.

Another interesting concept is that of “project guys” . Some women will apparently date men that they feel the need to “work on” in order for them to become “acceptable”. Admittedly I am usually presented with this concept in a hindsight reference: “I don’t want to date another project”. This is common enough that I usually catch myself in time to knowingly smile as I listen and nod.

Modern dating is apparently divided into three parts:

1) Going over the CV. I personally think the idea of online dating sites is wonderful. However several people that make the mistake of telling me about using them make light of overstating qualifications, education, or work experience on their CV. The idea is apparently that “Everybody does it” or “I want to date someone who would not necessarily go out with me”. The use of carefully selected highly flattering pictures which may be years out of date is standard practice.

2) The interview aka the 1st date. This is apparently a modern invention which replaces actually doing something with another person which you both might enjoy. I suppose this is a necessary transition phase to slowly morph from being a fictional online character into a human, but it seems to be a poor replacement for “Here we are doing something together that we enjoy why don’t we go do something similar just the two of us?”. [Note to history buffs: There was apparently something in olden days called a "first date"  but was a very different thing]

3) The actual dating. One reason I do not get asked for advice is that I have apparently never been really good at this. Some people are wickedly good at this phase.
One woman told me about how she endured miles of bike riding that left her bruised and chaffed to bleeding to “get to” a particular guy. When I suggested that her bike did not fit right she remarked that she married him and never rode again; “Fixed that problem” she said.
Another woman, who I imagine has a huge collection of high heels and clothing to match, has taken up fishing. She now knows the names of all sorts of lures and tackle components. She even sounds like she really enjoys it when she talks about it, and I hope she does. There are tons of people who love fishing, and it is wonderful to be introduced to something that you discover you really enjoy by someone you are developing a relationship with.
My male friends often talk about not wanting to be seen with people like me so as to not offend the person they are dating.

The persistent idea that the early phases are designed to minimize the potential for lost time by “wasting time with someone it is just not going to work out with” suggests that there is an end-game. There is some measure of success.

“Not being alone” is an often supplied measure of success, but “wasting time” with people prevents being alone. Is there some more subjective companionship that requires more than just proximal co-existence? Is this a plea for intimacy?

Getting married is a popular goal ascribed to other people’s dating end-game. You would think if this were the measure those folks who get married multiple times would be considered the best at dating. However, past marriages too-often appear to be strings of ex-riddled children. If there is a positive it hides under mounds of baggage; at least amongst the very few successful serial brides and grooms I know.

I –of course- like the nauseatingly-sweet goals: “grow old together”, “Have someone that really knows you”, “Just trusting someone”, “a Life partner”…and of course “Love”.

Despite the fact that I like to imagine such ephemeral goals advice should be easily distinguished from simply vomiting up rainbows. All advice, especially dating advice, should be concrete, and based on actual fact. For instance:

M18 Claymore mines have the words “FRONT TOWARD ENEMY” inscribed on one side. Know which side is which when you set stuff up.”



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