Saturday, July 27, 2019

Dating Apped Out

We have long been at pains to warn people off of the advice doled out by New York Magazine column Ask Polly. Alas, some people still think that Polly is a fount of wisdom. She is not. Many people must think so, because many people read the column. More, I daresay, than read this blog. And yet, her admixture of therapy culture bromides and essence of psychobabble can only lead people astray.

Not to be too negative, but the column provides an unadulterated look at what therapy is offering, and what happens to those who follow its guidance.

In a recent letter a woman who calls herself Dating App Detractor writes to compliment Polly on her wonderful advice. This 35 year old woman has drunk deeply of Polly’s swill and continues to be a loser at love. Duh!! Might there be a connection? If she,she doesn't see it. She does not question Polly’s wisdom and does not imagine that perhaps buying into such silliness does not make her the most attractive romantic companion. It probably makes her insufferable. 

But, as her pseudonym suggests, she blames it all on dating apps. Naturally, she does not tell us which dating apps she has selected. There’s a considerable difference between Tinder and Hinge. 

We do not know about her job or career. (Except that she works with data.) We know very little about her family or friends. We do not know whether she is generally considered to be attractive or unattractive. We know nothing about her as a social being, as a member of society, as a woman with a life. 

I have often noted that people who write to advice columnists seem to have undergone too much therapy. It’s gotten them to the point where they think of themselves as bundles of inchoate emotions, not as functioning social beings. 

And naturally, as the letter suggests, DAD thinks that the road to romance must require her to be independent and autonomous. Where have we heard that before? After all, if you take that advice seriously you risk becoming self-centered, self-absorbed, self-indulgent and self-involved. Why do you think that becoming a self-sufficient bundle of inarticulate emotions will make you more lovable?

She writes:

I’m a huge fan, and I’m so grateful for your writing. There is one area, however, where I think you may have a blind spot, and that is the absolutely terrible plight of trying to find love on dating apps.

Your general advice about the pursuit of love always resonates: Build a life alone that you love; hold onto your belief that love exists even when it makes you feel vulnerable and uncool; if you meet someone you think you like but they’re tepid or not fully invested, go ahead and tell them to fuck off. I now read this and think, “Yep, got it, great advice, duly noted.” My execution is sometimes imperfect, but I remain fully convinced that you are right about these things. However, that belief doesn’t change the day-to-day, grueling nature of what “being open to love” in 2019 entails.

So, the first question is: why not throw out all of the dating apps and find a more human way to find love? It's so obvious that even Polly suggests. In truth, she should not be looking to find love. She should be looking to find a suitable mate. And yet, by a calculus that no one dares to mention the older a woman gets the fewer prospects there are. 35 is the age where female fertility begins a precipitous decline. And when women tend to become more desperate.

As for the substance of the advice, telling men to fuck off because you think that they are tepid or not fully invested is awful advice. It bespeaks arrogance and insolence. How does she know what they feel, whether or not they might feel closer to her if she stops acting like a love sponge and stops imposing absurd demands on a burgeoning relationship. Has anyone ever suggested that young women stop leaning in, stop being so free about offering their sexual favors and try a little modesty. We note that DAD says nothing about the sexual aspect of any of her relationships. This might mean that they do not exist or it might mean that she is none too proud of herself.

We must note, though we do not like to do so, that the woman does not speak in terms of finding a husband or of getting married or of having a family. She talks the woke language of partnership… as though she is an associate at a law firm. 

Keep in mind, DAD defines herself as a unique autonomous individual. This means that she will probably come across as desperate. 

Worse yet, the woman, having tried the Polly formula, is incapable of thinking that Polly is a fool, so she blames it on the apps. It’s a lot easier than recognizing that she has been duped by an advice columnist.

DAD continues. We note that she has never really had a sustained relationship. Which would lead you to believe that she is doing something wrong:

I am 35 years old, and I have been on and off dating websites or apps for almost a decade. During that time, I’ve met a very small handful of people I ended up caring deeply for, or felt I could deeply care for, but for various reasons it has never worked out. In fact, my longest relationship in that time was just shy of a year. No deep, abiding loves, no planning a life together, absolutely zero domestic bliss. Just lots and lots of mediocre dates with a touch of minor heartbreak.

It’s impossible to estimate how many first dates I’ve gone on, but even given all the weeks and months I’ve sworn off the apps, it’s easily over 50 and likely closer to 100. One hundred men, no true love! That’s so much time wasted on men who had no meaningful role or impact on my life, men I forget as soon as I say goodnight.

On good days, I’m happy for these experiences. Bad-date anecdotes are funny. If nothing else, these encounters bring color to my life. But it is truly — and I can’t emphasize this enough — exhausting. I hate it. I want ZERO MORE DATE ANECDOTES. I am so sick of my happily partnered friends who have nothing but good intentions, asking me, excitedly, to recount every detail of every date. I don’t want to do it anymore. Please, can we just talk about your Sunday of going grocery shopping and folding laundry with your partner? That sounds great.

I know that, as a reasonable, open, attractive woman, if I keep trying, I’ll find someone eventually. Romantic notions aside, statistically, something eventually has to work out. But what if that means, say, another 62 first dates over the course of five years? All that swiping, all those tequila-sodas, all that very precious time. And out of those 62 men, I’ll feel a genuine connection to maybe four who won’t work out, and maybe No. 63 will be IT. (I work with data in my professional life, can you tell?) And by IT I simply mean someone who inspires me to get off the dating apps for a significant amount of time. Okay, great. But will all that time lost on all those men really have been worth it? Despite societal pressure and the excitement of those few close calls, I remain unconvinced.

(And I won’t even go into the very flawed nature of trying to find love on these things at all! It is so hard to look at pictures and a small bio and know if this person might excite you. Why don’t more people talk about that??)

So that’s the crux of it. If I find the process so grueling, why should I do it?  My life as a single person is already pretty great, so what if I spent all that date time going on long walks with my dog? Getting really, really fit (the only thing standing between me and a Megan Rapinoe bod is MEN)? Reading books? Making veggie lasagna with my friend, her husband, and their 3-year-old? Isn’t that a better use of time than drinking at a dark bar with a man I’m most likely to find boring and unexciting? Why do I have to keep on spending my time this way? Can’t I just lean into my life of being single and abandon the pursuit of a partnered life?

Dating App Detractor

She does have one point. She understands that dating apps are not a very good way to meet people. Pictures do not tell you whether you are compatible. We do not know why her married friends do not offer to introduce her to men, why she does not meet men at parties, why she does not entertain more. But no, she has read Polly, so practical solutions do not cross her mind.

As for that Megan Rapinoe bod-- in an incoherent phrase-- doesn’t she understand that most men are not looking for women with a MR bod. Some women are, but DAD does not seem to understand the difference.

Polly does not tell this woman to stop reading Polly. She blames the sick, fucked up culture. But Polly does recommend that she throw away her dating apps and try some more human methods of introduction. 

Put all of the time and energy you used to devote to dating and dating apps into building a church of like-minded people who also dislike dating apps. Pledge to throw parties for single people. Enlist your coupled-up friends to scour their brains for single friends to invite to your single-people parties. And beyond that, recruit them into your community of like-minded humans who want a better way of connecting honestly and being real and supporting other neurotic, funny, smart, interesting human beings in their midst. Reject the notion that we should all be out in the world all by ourselves, fishing around for new strangers to save us from loneliness, to save us from the crushing sadness of this alienated world.

OK, the last has a ring of truth to it, but the fact is, Polly wants to blame it on the world. If she really wanted the woman to overcome her feelings of shame, she should not have blamed her problems on the society or on advanced capitalism. The woman’s problem is that she has taken advice from the wrong people. 

At the conclusion, Polly offers what she usually offers, psychobabble. She tells DAD to do what she loves, to have more therapy, to get over her shame. She should have stuck to the sensible advice in the last cited paragraph.


trigger warning said...

DAD's real problem is she's flotsam in the gene pool. It's nearly always the case when desperate women describe themselves as "attractive". "Attractive" is the singles version of "runs good" in the used-car market.

UbuMaccabee said...

Ouch, this is what a certain type of woman sounds like inside when she hits the wall...hard. I bet even her dog is looking for a way out. Not even the ancient Greeks would want to have sex with a woman who aspires to look a woman who looks like a skinny teenage boy. Just glad she didn’t have kids. I have $1000 says she cried her eyes out when Hillary lost the election. Mmmm, who is up for some yummy veggie lasagna?

Sam L. said...

I've never seen or used a dating app. But then, I'm old, and I'm married. My "dating app" was my two neighbor ladies who set us up.

"Bad-date anecdotes are funny." I trust she doesn't tell them to her dates.

"...the only thing standing between me and a Megan Rapinoe bod..." How about that Rapinoe personality/attitude? Could be a real turn-off.

That last para by Polly...makes SENSE. Never thought I'd see that!

jfmoris said...

Wanting to be like Megan Rapinoe is a clue to her politics. Trying to find a man among the left who is EAGER to take on a committed relationship is surely much harder than finding such among more traditounally minded conservative types.

When a woman is young she may have enough charms to entice men into a foolish contract, but spending her time with men of low morality is going to leave her bitter. Combine that with some feminism and the 'Hillary surge of hate' after the 2016 elections - I'm sorry, but I avoid hostility and I no longer hope for tolerance from leftist types.

whitney said...

Tequila and soda? Gross. She needs a new drink

David Foster said...

One thing that I note in comments about dating from *both* men and women....they don't, for the most part, much like it. At best, they see it as a necessary evil, a means to an end of finding a long-term relationship partner or at least getting someone in bed. There doesn't seem to be any sense of interest or fun in meeting people and getting at least a little bit acquainted with them.