Tuesday, March 13, 2007

L'odeur des poissons

My attitude towards dating the past week has been one of resignation and low, low expectations interlaces with brief moments of optimism and determination. When I told Chi that one of my priorities for now is dating and finding a man, she criticized me for not sounding like someone who was putting in enough effort.

At the start of last weekend, I probably had at least seven outstanding e-mails waiting to be read and replied to. Maybe two men were good bets on replying, the rest would offer odds as good as roulette.

Two that I must admit I didn't expect were from Pacer and ArtHawk.

First, let's go over the easy one.

"Hi Pandax,

You may have seen me on yyy.com.

You have a beautiful smile. Let us be friend. Pandax....it a cute name.


His profile is so well written and detailed in comparison. I suppose he's wanting me to check out his profile since I shared one with him. Still, there's not much to make of this. He used the word "friend" and made no effort at creating a conversation or asking me to meet him for coffee as the original posting offered. So... is there any reason to write back? My gut says "no," but I suppose the foolishly optimistic part of me that worries I'm being too critical and overanalyzing thinks that he deserves one more e-mail?

Now, with Pacer, because I told him how I was uncomfortable with his "questionaire", I just assumed he'd give up.

Apparently not:

Hi P,

Thanks for the making the effort to write back, especially because I'm sensing that this may not be your preferred approach in getting to know people (which is entirely understandable).

I'm sorry if I overwhelmed you with my last message. That wasn't my intent. [...] I see now that you may need more personal contact with your matches in order to develop a more intuitive first impression. There's certainly nothing wrong with that... .

Let me try and offer an analogy as to my perspective, coming from one who has become available for dating after many, many years of being "out of practice." I ran into this film just after [ending my subscription] about a young woman who places an ad in a paper and meets with all these different kinds of men at a cafe. [...] I could really empathize with this character as to what she had to put up with and how much wasted effort she had to invest. [...]

I'm not opposed to meeting you sooner, rather than later, but I do feel there
are certain things you need to know about me beforehand. And...vice versa, if
you are so inclined (but I won't insist, if you're not).


The very first thing that stood out? Not too hard to guess - "certain things you need to know about me beforehand." Yipes!!! Yeah, that's a way to start conversations that scare off people you just met. My guess? He's recently divorced or broke off an engagement? It would explain why one of the pictures he posted appears to be of a semi-formal group photo with everyone else cropped out. He's dressed nicely and it's obvious that there's someone standing next to him and a child (6-9 years old) sitting on someone's lap.

As I've gotten older, I've come to understand divorced people are not always freaks or losers as they can be portrayed. They are not that different from people who dated for many years, lived together, and then broke up for what ever reason. In this day and age, the two living situations aren't that different in some cases. But, I've had bad experiences with divorcees in the past that bias me. What is unique is the baggage like alimony and kids that complicate things. That, I'm not sure I want to deal with that.

But, I'm jumping the gun. It seems the most likely answer, but there could be a million other things he thinks he needs to say. Maybe he doesn't realize he's making this sound too serious.

Then there's his rant about the movie with the tiring dates and wasted time. Um, what does he think dating is? I don't like it any more than him, but that's how these things work. There's no magical formula that's going to spit out a ticket telling him who's door to knock on and propose. Online dating, personal ads, etc., are all channels for helping us meet other people, it's not meant to be a means to an end. Meeting people is a necessary investment which he doesn't seem to understand. I have a mind to explain this to him but is it really my responsibility to teach him?

I totally know where he's coming from. I've been there. Every few days I want to give up and accept an eternity of singledom. It's easier to not do anything than to have to spend time going out to sit with a stranger for an hour. But I got past that. I understand that hiding behind a computer screen won't get me very far.

I appreciate his honesty. In that respect, we'd probably get along very well or end up absolutely exasperated at our collective lack of tact or subtlety. I have sympathy (to a point) for his frustration. He needs to get more perspective from his friends about how dating works these days.


Admin said...

Yeah, Pacer sounds like he's still "out of practice". It's just a meeting, pal!

As for ArtHawk, why wouldn't you send him another e-mail?

Pandax said...

Admin: I don't feel like answering because he gave me no indication that he's interested. He saw my profile which provided him with many photos, interests, and something about my personality. His form-like response with "let us be friends" just isn't very inviting. He made no effort which translates to me as "I'm not interested."

If you think I'm wrong, I'd be curious to hear why.

DonnaK said...

Hi, Pandax -- I've been reading your blog for a while and thought I'd jump in and share a different perspective.

You say that ArtHawk is not interested. Yet he must be at least nominally interested, otherwise why would he have emailed you? His email seems like a reasonable opening volley.

"Let us be friends": His perspective may be to approach dating by finding someone who can be a friend, and going from there. Maybe he's a great guy but clueless about dating and thinks that offering friendship is a non-threatening way to get going. Who knows?

Yeah it was short and there were typos. Maybe he was in a rush... online dating is really time consuming. Maybe he's not fluent in English. Who knows?

Is it really a deal-breaker?

An appropriate response might be, "Hey, ArtHawk, you are pretty good at giving email compliments. :-)".

My advice is to keep a very very very open mind and don't dismiss someone on the first little flaw or misstep. People are way deeper than can be conveyed in a short interaction. A little glitch can be representative of who they are or an exception. Who knows, until you find out more?

Sounds like you and Pacer have at least a couple of things in common: you're both very intelligent and articulate and you are both experiencing angst about dating. He's struggling with how to go about it just as you are. (Just like most of the other non-playas using online dating.)

Here's how a date could work with Pacer. Go in with the attitude of just hanging out and trading some conversation and laughs with some single guy over wine. Take the pressure off for the date to work out. If it doesn't work, you got to meet someone, you got to check out a restaurant, you got to practice your dating & flirting skills, you got one guy closer to your goal.

Don't expect it will work out, but also don't expect it will fail.

Forget the list of burning personal questions for the first date. Save them for the second or third date. Focus on some common topic of interest (eg. the perils of online dating). Share some of your honest impressions about it... like how you have no idea how to flirt or how easy it seems for some people. And ask him to expound on his (touchingly earnest and thoughtful) message so you can get a sense of how he thinks.

Talk about the things you really like in life, things you are passionate about, things that are positive and why you like them. If you really like pandas and he thinks pandas suck, great! You were yourself and you discovered you and he are not on the same wavelength. If he likes pandas, even better.

Talk about some unrelated article that you read and what you found interesting about it and get his opinion.

You will find out a lot about how he is with these seemingly unrelated topics.

Instead of hunting for flaws and differences, hunt for strengths and commonalities. Spend the date talking about them. Ask the guy about things that he is evidently proud or jazzed about. This will make him feel more relaxed and comfortable and confident. If he says something that surprises you, probe further.

When it comes time to ask the personal questions, don't worry about it. You both know you are looking for someone compatible, so it's not rude. Try some combination of: Well you seem like an interesting guy. I hope this isn't too direct/I am curious about some basics/This is awkward for me but I'm curious/Can I ask you some frank questions?/I have to admit, that phrase "there are certain things you need to know about me beforehand" sounds mysterious. Did you do hard time for murder?/You probably have some personal, direct questions for me; as I do for you. How about if we trade some. You first.

Guys are still expected to make the first moves, but they have fears of rejection too. They will not stick their neck out if they don't get some read from you that you are interested. So if think you want to see the guy again, make sure he gets positive vibes from you. Laugh at his joke, touch his arm, smile and nod, compliment him on his shirt/hair/passion for his hobby/recent success/punctuality. Be the one to initiate the hug at the end, and make it a GOOD one. (Do all of this anyway, just to get used to it and to observe the reaction you get.)

Sorry for the inadvertent length. Hope this is of some help, Pandax! We're all rooting for you.
- DonnaK

Pandax said...

DonnaK: I'm on the fence about ArtHawk. As independent as I am in the real world, dating is a whole different ball game. From past experience I've found that the more I have to drive the dates, the less interested the guy is. It's human nature. Also, I guess I'm just old-fashioned about wanting to be wooed a little.

Thanks for the pep talk. I know sometimes I need to clear my head of past bad expectations. I'll give ArtHawk another e-mail, but I still need for him to initiate something beyond simple e-mails.

As for Pacer, my impression is that he's not ready for dating and needs to get some advice from his guy and gal friends. I would agree that I might have things in common with him, but I've been in his position and this is not good timing. I have every intention of writing him back as a friend, but I'm not looking for a relationship with him.

I'm not clear if the "burning question" comment was in reference to Pacer or for dating in general. I would agree those questions are meant for later dates, but in his case and one friend's opinion they should be upfront which, in my opinion, just ruins the fun of getting to know each other.