I just got off the phone with a friend; we were talking a bit about dating, and about the dating experience of a mutual acquaintance. This has prompted some thoughts.
One of the most significant barriers to developing a sense of mutual emotional engagement with a “new person” is the tendency to level-set communication based on the modality of a couple’s first introduction. People who meet in bars, for example, will often spend their time focusing on the relatively mundane details of daily life, and they’ll do it in person — either together, or in the context of a larger group. By contrast, people who meet others through an online service will focus on e-mail or telephone communication, and will be both more selective in the detail they share, and structure conversations as part of a larger, will-this-be-long-term narrative.
The various modalities are not without their individual strengths and weaknesses. I’ve been fortunate to have come across some exceptional women in my online dating experiences, but I’ve been struck by a consistent pattern of behavior that “online women” seem to evidence in overwhelming manner. But first —
It has been eye-opening, in some sense, to have overheard two separate conversations in the last week. In the gym locker room, I heard two alpha-male types complain in detail about what they believed is the shallowness of the beautiful women they encounter in the bars and clubs. At a coffee shop, I heard a gaggle of youngish men relate at length their problems with finding women within the academic sphere or in their local communities.
Throughout my own experiences over these last two years, I’ve met women who have been quite beautiful, quite driven, and quite successful. But the typical profile is of a woman who isn’t completely sure of what she really wants, and seems to search for reasons to be existentially unhappy. The level of self-deception I’ve seen by some, and the subtle (and likely unintentional) level of emotional manipulation I’ve encountered in others, is leading me to really second-guess the type of women who choose “online” as their primary dating modality. This prompts the obvious question of whether there is genuinely a causal relationship between behavior and modality, or merely a random correlation.
Of course, no person and no situation is perfect. I’ve met some wonderful people who were well worth my time (Holly comes to mind first, but there have been others, too). Yet I’ve met a lot of women over the last two years, and upwards of 80 percent have demonstrated to some degree the same basic pattern of behavior: emotionally unstable in some manner with an approach that suggests a self-perception at odds with their presentation, and either seeking any warm male with a wallet and testicles, or seeking a male with a combination of characteristics that will probably never become manifest in the real world. Many of these women have been unhappy, but in their search for the ideal man to relieve their distress, they let the perfect become the enemy of the good.
The nice thing about all of this casual dating is that I have a much larger pool of data by which to assess my own relative worth. I’m more confident than I have ever been — I know that I am capable of attracting the interest of some very smart, very beautiful women. I know that relative to my competition, I’m more thoughtful and polite, and a better conversationalist. I also know that I have a few things to work on.
But the question remains. Is there genuinely a relationship between the behaviors I’ve seen in first-date situations and the context of how I meet her? Is this statistical clustering? Is something else at play? Do I need to search elsewhere?
Hard to say. But the journey hasn’t been without its benefits.