Question: Is there any hope?

A commenter called Priya left this for me last week:

is there any hope? for me? A 25-year-old in urban Delhi? I don’t want this blog to be responsible for creating any hopes (reliable or imaginary) but god I am giving it a chance (knowing I will most probably be turned off from meeting guys I know are jerks -virtually and real(ly).)

The first thing I want to say is, yes there is hope. Of course there is hope. There is hope that you will be happy, just as there is hope that I will too, with or without one single man. If you want my advice I will only say this: please Priya learn to be brutally honest with yourself; you’ll find it makes everything at least 50% easier. It’s a difficult thing to learn to do, but you can learn.

But I also have to say no, all guys are not jerks. Just as all women are not princesses. Yes you might meet a lot of jerks in your time, but then you’ve probably been the jerk or the princess to lots of people too. There are always more than two sides to behaviour, and you can’t forget how we as a society train people to behave to each other, especially where sex and romance are involved. Sometimes people are horrible, yes, but you can still walk away. It will hurt like hell, but when someone doesn’t value you, walk away, even if a year later you still get that sinking paining feeling in your heart when his picture pops up on Facebook =)

But there will be guys who are kind to you, who hold your hand and take care of you. They might not be boyfriends or people you’re into, but they certainly exist. Some of my dearest friends, yaaron ya yaars, are guys, and when they make me feel taken care of it is as wonderful as when I have a great date. These guys might take some time to appear–it’s hard to be friends with someone of the opposite sex in your early twenties, mainly because you and he both need to get over all the nonsense we’re fed, and also because everyone else will refuse to believe it. But fuck them, and be open to guy friends. (Thought be prepared for them to vanish when they acquire girlfriends. The good ones though, they’ll be back.)

Everyone, male and female, is a person. Everyone has good days and bad days, triggers and quirks, things they can’t resist and things they can’t stand. Everyone makes mistakes; everyone hurts the people they love and care about. This doesn’t make them good or bad or jerks or not. I know I broke my ex’s heart when I broke up with him; I also broke my own heart though, and I did it because there was no other way forward.

Still, I will admit, there are some people who hurt you because they can. These are not nice people. These are jerks. And they come from both genders. So I guess the best thing for you to do is to value yourself honestly. Know your faults and know when to say you’re sorry. Embrace what you’re worth and hold that close. And when someone–guy, girl, old, young, whatever–doesn’t value it, walk away. There will be other people and they will value you.

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Question: Just how do you manage to sit through a bad date, do tell?

A girl emailed me some time ago (sorry life has been nuts so I took this long to respond) and told me that not all dates are fun. She’s been on an OKC date, after getting on it because I had inspired her, and it had been awful.

And well I met this one person today. He was just snobbish from the word go and I had a bad time. The only highlight of my meeting was the vanilla latte. This guy was obsessed listening to his own voice and a major pain. My last tinder date was way more interesting and super adorable.

Just how do you manage to sit through a bad date, do tell?

So for starters, I think you’re confusing the tools with the result. As in, I don’t think there are ‘better’ guys on OKC or Tinder–in fact most guys are on both!–but the main difference between the two is how each enables you to collect information on the person before the date. So, with Tinder, you get pictures, some words, an indication of how your social media lives interact, common friends etc., and a name. With OKC you could get nothing more than age, gender and location, or you could get details like favourite movies or books, things they think are funny, things they think are important, relationship status, what they’re looking for, etc.

Now, obviously each has advantages and disadvantages–it’s possible to scam Tinder by creating a fake facebook profile, surprisingly easy to do; lots of guys on Tinder don’t use their names (maybe girls too–I’ve never checked them out); the pictures might be misleading–so many times there is more than one person in the only photo and you don’t know who it is, there’s a girl and they’re at a wedding–wife or sister?, and so on. Also if you, like me, don’t really invest in social media–I don’t actually list my interests on Facebook, and the things I might have listed are from ages ago and are random like a TV show, and I have lots of random people on FB who come from work encounters and so on–the overlaps it shows you are no way to predict shared anything.

On OKC as well, it is possible to lie about age, relationship status, interests, what you want–pretty much everything, since it is user entered. But for me, having been on it for years, this is not a problem, because I can tell when someone is real. Unless they’ve invested ridiculous amounts of time in the profile, and in that case one date is fair price to pay heh. Of course the problem is, it’s not just the best part of who they are that people put on OKC, it’s also the best part of who they want to be and think they are. This is the tricky bit. ‘I read a lot!’ for a regular person might be a book every 2 weeks, while for me it means a book a day. The point is, you have to hone your ability to get a sense of a person online. It takes time. It’s taken me about 8 years! Of course it’s only the past few years all this has been mainstream so you can discount a lot of my early years online heh.

So which app works for you depends on what how you put yourself online (social media heavy means Tinder is likely better) and how you evaluate people (if you want a sense of how they think and talk then OKC is better), but either way you can’t control how the other person puts themself online!

As for how to deal with bad dates? Walk away =)

Ok, ok, long answer.

When a guy is boring, I try to find an innocuous thing to talk about while I chug my food so I can leave. When he’s self absorbed, depending on how bad it is, I ignore it and make errand lists in my head while finishing everything as fast as I can so I can leave, or I call him on it. To be fair this calling him on it is a recent phenomenon heh. Break your body language (lean forward, put a hand on the table, wave your hand–basically change position abruptly and obviously), and say ‘Hang on. Stop for a minute. I want to know if you realise what we’ve talked about since you got here.’ When he says no, you point out it’s been him. Not like that haan, you need to say ‘We’ve talked about your work, your childhood, your friends, your hobbies, <whatever>. Aren’t you the least bit interested in me?’

Odds are he’s nervous, or one of those infuriating types who doesn’t believe in asking questions ‘because it’s like an interview’. Maybe he’ll say, okay tell me about yourself. Be prepared to actually do that at this point, and you’ll have to make it brief and interesting, because you have to be as different from him about it as possible! Maybe he’s just a self-absorbed person and doesn’t get it. Then smile and say ‘Okay, well I’m afraid this kind of date is boring to me, so let me just save us both time and say it was nice to meet you, but I don’t think we can date.’ Offer to pay your share, or pay your share, and leave. Be kind, polite, gentle but firm. And walk away.

When it’s a creepy date, don’t bother with trying to make excuses. Just say, ‘Listen, this isn’t working for me. Thanks for your time.’ And leave. If you are not comfortable being that direct, use the old ‘Shit, my mom’s calling’, or text a friend to call with an emergency and get out.

What other kinds of bad dates are there? I can’t think of any…

Question: Dating many guys

The other day I got an email from a guy. He had many things to say, all complimentary heh, and a few questions. One of them if one I get a lot and I keep saying I’ll post about so here:

It just seems unnatural to me i guess. Like, as a guy, if i have a one night stand, and after the girl just sleeps on the other side of the bed and then we part ways, its easy to forget about her.

But when i sit with a girl, sharing stories, ideas & feelings, telling each other about our lives, for hours, and then parting with a kiss, this is the kind of stuff that’s gonna make me call her back, or intrigue me to a level that hampers my daily life! How can it not happen to you, or to the other guys?

In short: how can you date many people at the same time?

The short answer is: no one is serious.

The long answer however, is er, well, longer. When it comes to dating per se, I like to make the distinction between dating, where you’re sort of interviewing people for post of person I think I want to commit to and seeing each other where they’ve got the job as it were. Now people are different, much like organizations heh. Some places interview 100 candidates at the same time; some do select referrals one at a time. Well ok no one does one at a time heh. My point though is that some people are very gregarious and so they are not fazed by juggling several social commitments, don’t mind being out every night of the week and can keep track of many parallel conversations (or fake it at any rate hee). Some people can’t deal with so many stimuli and prefer to go slowly and carefully.

I am, obviously, in the former group. I love people. It’s like people, and new people, are my drug. I love finding out stories and figuring out quirks. As such I’m very happy to meet a stream of new people. And the dating that I’m doing is very casual. I rarely see the guys more than once. Yes we talk, we might kiss, but this doesn’t mean that there is enough of a connection to hook my heart, and so far none of them has given me any cause to think any of theirs is. Well my heart did get hooked once and it hurt like hell to get over it, but I did. And it only got hooked because the guy did and said things to lead me to suppose he was interested. But then again, he could be forgiven for thinking I wouldn’t be because after all, I’m dating 50 guys right?

Wrong.

Here’s the thing. I am dating a lot of guys, but every single one of them knows it. There’s nothing I hide about dating, about what I want, about what I feel. Every guy knows I am looking for love, and that I don’t think I’m going to find it. Now this is not just because I’m laying it out on this blog–I also tell them. And because of the blog, every guy I’ve gone out with has had a chance to look inside my head and see how I feel about him, after one date. So really, I’m the one in the dark here. I am also very open: ask me and you will get an honest answer. This is also something the guys know. So if you are someone who walks around talking of the value of honesty, you cannot blame me for reading your signals as honest, and you cannot say you didn’t think I was serious, because all you had to do was ask.

But my particular case aside, since I am definitely an unusual one, I really don’t see how anyone can offence at someone they’ve gone out with once dating other people. As long as you’re honest–‘I have a date’ not ‘I’m hanging with a friend’–respectful–‘Do you want to hear about dates or not?’ and kind–‘I’m sorry, I really like this other person so I can’t date you any more’ or ‘I don’t feel the same way as you do; we should stop dating’–you are not, in any way, transgressing.

As for calling a girl back, if you want to, do it. And if she wants to, she should do it too. Of course the way we articulate the rules these days, calling someone and saying you like them is a symptom of horrific clinginess and and indication that you are a psycho stalker who has married then in their head, so there’s a whole other can of worms there, but at least you’ll know you were honest and you communicated your feelings, so you did all you could.

When to walk away

This morning I got an email from a friend I’ve made on this blog. He’s single and lives in Bangalore and periodically writes to me about his OKC travails. This one was about a girl he was talking to who shut him down when he expressed his political leanings. He sent me their conversation and it was a really long one, and I could see very early on that she wasn’t really interested and he should walk. That’s when it hit me. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this project, it’s when to walk away. This applies mostly to online dating of course, but I think it translates quite well to in person.

The hardest thing to do when you’re interested in someone is accept that they’re just not that into you. Yes, like the movie. But once you start, it’s super liberating. You’re saving your time and theirs. Honest! When you’re sitting there trying so hard to keep this person engaged you don’t have the bandwidth to notice people who are into you.

The first sign is when a person isn’t interested in you and your life. This is where that whole asking questions thing I’m harping on about comes in. When it comes to dating online, especially for a girl, you’re wary. You don’t want to give out too much information too soon. I know I don’t. You try and keep conversation to things that are personal but not identifiable.What do you do? How do you like to unwind? Mountains or beaches? What’s the last book you read? (Yes, I’m giving away my game here. Hee.) But, after maximum five rounds like this I’ve decided if I want to go any further, at which point I say okay, this is my name, this is where I work etc. and switch to gmail. But when I don’t? It means I’m not really thinking of you as an option but I’m bored or I am enjoying the validation of your interest. I’m pretty sure this is the same when a guy does it too, so if I’m engaging with a guy who isn’t giving me proper answers, or who’s dodging my questions, I will ask him why he’s dodging. Then he’ll dodge that one too. Then I say ok, thanks, bye. Good luck. And walk away.

So if someone is asking a lot of questions, which you’re answering openly and in a conversational manner (I like beaches but god I love the mountains much more. I love cold weather and ugh humidity. Plus I don’t get the Goa scene. Or drink beer. Or eat seafood. You see?), and isn’t responding to yours unless you push, or you’re having to repeat questions a lot, or you’re asking questions and they aren’t at all, then walk. Because they’re just not that into you. Online or offline.

The second sign is when someone doesn’t have time for you. You’ve gotten to the date stage, gone out once, maybe twice, and then suddenly there’s no time for you. Now I’m the last person in the world to fuss about someone being busy–I’ve been insanely busy these past months. But, for example, whenever #6 called, I’d take it. Whenever #8 texted, I’d reply. And when I was crazy busy and had to keep cancelling on #17, I checked in, like a text every few days. So if someone is so busy they can’t actually meet, and your schedules mean you can’t actually talk on the phone, you can always in this day and age, text. Or email. You can always send up a flare saying hey! I’m here! I haven’t forgotten about you! The main point is, though, that you will only do it if you’re into someone, and if someone isn’t doing it (I’m talking about over say two weeks here, not two days), then walk.

The third sign is when they want everything their way. No, I want to go for a drive. I want to tell you about my day. I want to hang out with my friends. I want you to spend more time with me. This is not something that really pops up too early, though if it does, don’t walk, run. Heh. It comes back to the same basic principle as #1, it’s a give and take, a sharing, an attempt to be equal, to be partners in the game. This means that sometimes your bad day takes precedence, and sometimes mine does. Sometimes I put up with something in your life and sometimes you put up with something in mine. If everything is their way, then walk.

The fourth sign is hiding you from people in their life. There was a whole SATC episode about this I think, where Carrie is Mr Big’s dirty secret. As a fat girl believe me I know what it’s like to be a dirty secret! Ain’t nobody going to be jealous of the guy who’s dating me, not at first sight, not as a rule. (That’s a whole other post!) Of course, some people are all let’s stay in our bubble. Which is great, but the point is, when you’re into someone you want them to integrate. At some point you’re going to talk about them to your friends. You’re going to run into someone you know when out. You’re going to go over to their place. It’s when you never go out, or when the phone rings and they go to the other room and mutter, nothing just doing nothing by myself that you need to worry. Or rather, walk.

A related sign is when they aren’t interested in the people in your life. Okay your house is a mess, but they could come over once? I know with my ex I told him, clean sheets, tea, milk, bread and eggs in the house. And then I went over a lot. Even though it was a *shudder* boy house. There was this Colombian guy I dated in New York. Told me I was the most amazing girl in the world, swore he would learn English so he could go to India and ask my father for my hand in marriage. But never, ever asked me back to his place. Granted this was probably because he was embarrassed by it (I was very posh and he did work in construction), but he never even said come to my neighbourhood. So I knew he wasn’t serious. Which is a good thing because I wasn’t serious either ahem.

The fifth sign is how they react to a problem. When someone I’m dating is upset with me (actually when anyone I care about is upset with me) my first reaction is how can I fix it. Granted this might not work every time; it might not be my fault as it were, etc. But still, my first reaction is to try and figure out how to make it better. If someone’s first reaction is defensive, then you might have a situation. Like with #6, he’d call me randomly from cockpits and whatnot and while it was fun it was difficult to talk and I really wanted to talk because of course I never saw him. So I texted to ask why he always contacted me when he was about to vanish and he shot back: You don’t hear me complaining that you have a job and need to work and earn your daily bread. There was a sign if there ever was one! Of course you gotta be careful about how you articulate the problem, and of course sometimes someone’s having a bad day and so on. But there’s a reaction that goes: It’s not my fault; I couldn’t help it; you do this, this and that and I don’t like it. That my friends is a walk-inducing reaction.

Of course, if you want to be the one who ‘saves’ said person you’re dating, and make them a better person, then don’t walk. Stay and suffer my friend. Been there, done that, have the psychological scars =D

Dear

I got this email last week. I actually get asked a lot about how to navigate the murky world of online dating. So here’s what I told her.

So, I’m 32 and I live in Bangalore and I’ve been following your blog religiously. And I love it! Big thumbs up to you. It really gave me hope and I crawled out from the rock I’ve been living under and signed up for OKC.
Now, the reason I’m writing to you is because I wanted a few tips/advice/insight on how to go about the whole thing. I realised as soon as I filled out a near decent profile and put up a pic, out came the creepies and pushy men in hoards! It freaked me out so much that I just disabled my account! hahaha… I know a bit drastic and overly dramatic!
Having never tried online dating (or even regular dating for that matter) before, I just wanted to know how you manage to be so chilled out and calm about the whole thing. And does it get better and easier after a few interactions?

Okay so the way to deal with OKC assholes is block delete. occasionally report. But really, you can’t take them seriously. I mean the numbers are horribly stacked–for every guy who writes to me that I consider replying to something like 50 shits write! I’ve received all sorts of nonsense on this account too, telling me I have a mental illness, that I’m lucky to be India where the gender ratio is skewed; one charming Pakistani guy told me I’m so ugly I should kill myself (I reported him). I think the larger point is that there are nutjobs EVERYWHERE! It’s true that with a profile yes online you give them easier access to you but then you also have the power to dismiss them as nutjob strangers. If a friend’s friend you met at a party starts badmouthing you, which they are also wont to do (see point about nutjobs everywhere), it’s more painful because it’s right there, and also they can then talk to other people. the shitfest that will come from THAT aspect must never be underestimated. A ranting or creepy stranger online is still just online, unless of course you have given away where you live or what you do or anything in detail.

I have found that the method that works is to actually write to guys yourself. I used to try and read their profiles and give them a pithy hello email that references something they do and come off as cool and all but it’s too much work. Because the good guys on OKC know they’re the good guys, and know they have the power, and the reason they’re on OKC is that they’re slightly nervous about dates and dating, so any whiff is excessive enthusiasm will scare them off. These days I just say something simple, like ‘hi, you seem interesting, would you like to talk?’ I’ve had excellent results with this. Sometimes they reply with if you insist, and then I just say no no I don’t insist, no wish to force conversation on anyone, and then move on.

I suppose on some level it’s working for me right now because I’m not too invested. I’m not hoping to find Love or the One or anything like that. To be quite honest my dating philosophy is very simple–the goal of any date is to secure the next one. And honestly, what does it mean when you want a second date? Does it mean you know you want to spend your life with this person? No. it just means they haven’t triggered any of your own particular neuroses, and probably showcased some things about them that appeal to you. With #2, it was just how relaxed he was, loud and expansive and fun. With #6, it was how efforty he was and how much he made his interest clear. (This btw is ridiculously rare. never happens, and  has been followed by snatched phone calls and random midnight texts and no sign of seeing him again, so it is important not to invest too much into effort too. Not to say he doesn’t want to see me again, but the intensity created by the effort might not hold up.) Of course sometimes it’s inexplicable: with #8 I just want to see him more. Heh. But the larger thing holds true–take it as it comes and don’t be planning the future one way or another. Then you see what happens. Of course this is FAR easier said than done. I still get fidgety about not being able to talk to #6 sometimes…What to do. We are human only. But this too shall pass!

As for your profile, it’s very tempting to go into great detail, but, think about it. When you read someone’s profile and they’ve got like 5000 words in there do you actually read it? You don’t. Well, I don’t! Try to limit the bits about what you like to brief detail–maybe 5 authors not all of them, etc. Even if you do like things like travel and cooking and photography, find something specific about that too because these days everyone does these things, you know?

OKC says to put photos that show your personality. I’ve always done close up face ones because I’m worried the whole body will scare them, but now I’ve got one up where I’m being silly, and apparently it appeals, OKC tells me. Also it really does showcase a part of who I am, randomly stopping in the street to point at things and look shocked dramatically. This does not mean I’m holding my profile out as some great thing; its still too long. They say limit to 1000 words all told. But then I’m a textual person, what to do. I do try and fill out as many fields as possible, because when its showing snippets OKC randomly picks a section and if its blank well then it’s blank.

And yes, it gets easier. You learn to listen yo your instincts and trust them. You have a couple of not so nice experiences and you’re fine and you realise that it’s not so extreme after all.

I have no idea if this will help anyone much, but hey at least it’s out there.