We are overdue for the blog feature where I answer the search strings people typed in to find this place as if they are questions. Let’s do it!
First, as is traditional, a song:
RIP to one of the coolest, realest artists I was lucky enough to share the space-time continuum with.
:cries for the 100th time this week and it’s only Tuesday:
Let’s do this.
1 “How to tell someone you don’t like talking on the phone.”
“I’m not a phone person – can we take this to [text][email][chat] instead?”
“I can’t do a phone call right now, can you text/email/message instead?”
It’s okay to have strong preferences and needs around how you best communicate, and it’s also okay if those preferences are flexible and negotiable depending on who you’re communicating with, your mood and energy levels at any given time, what people in your life has access to, their strong needs or preferences, etc. You absolutely don’t have to have one blanket rule for everyone in your life or strive to be fair about this.
I wasn’t the biggest phone person before, but it turns out I prefer it vastly to Zoom (there’s a reason for that), and I’m enjoying catching up with people like it’s 1991 again, flat on my back with my feet up, twirling the charging cable around my finger like it’s an old spiral phone cord.
2 “Is it normal to hate talking on the phone when dating?”
It’s normal – or at least not uncommon – to not enjoy the phone or prefer different means of communication (see above).
I think the necessary follow-up question here is: Is it the medium or is it the conversation partner? If you don’t usually like talking on the phone, but your companion makes a normally difficult thing fun and easy, that’s a good information. If you don’t usually like talking on the phone and this person makes the prospect even less appealing, or if you do like talking on the phone with friends and family but not with this person, that’s interesting information about chemistry, compatibility, communication styles, etc.
Social distancing means that in-person dates are on hold for now and people can’t rely on non-verbal chemistry so much so figuring out how and whether you can have a comfortable, connected, enjoyable conversation with somebody is front and center for the time being. I think it’s always good to pay attention to your own enjoyment and comfort levels, especially when first getting to know someone, and “am I actually enjoying this” is perhaps a better question than “am I weird for not enjoying this as much as I think I am supposed to.”
3 “It it appropriate to put a sign on door to let neighbors know you’re resting.”
I love looking at a posted sign – especially a highly-specific rule – and wondering “What’s the story that prompted this?”
This question is a bit like that. There would be no need for a sign if these specific neighbors weren’t prone to interrupting during rest periods, right?
In that case, a sign that’s like “I work nights, please do not disturb” or “Don’t wake the baby” and then redirecting anyone who would be tempted to knock or ring a bell to another means of communication (email, text, leave a note on one of those dry erase boards people hung on their doors in the dorms) might work. “Leave your calling card on the silver tray in the hall, Jeeves will see to it.”
Sometimes people see general “To Whom It May Concern” notes and think, “Ah, but they don’t mean me,” so consider having a conversation with said neighbors along the lines of “Please text or email vs. just stopping by and I’ll get back to you when I can, or leave whatever it is on the mat, I’m often resting during the day and would prefer not to be awakened unless it’s a true emergency.”
4 “My husband teases me always about my health problems.”
If you’ve already had one sincere “Stop it, that’s off limits for jokes” conversation and he’s still doing it, your husband could be afflicted with Irredeemable Asshole Problems.
Post-quarantine I’m envisioning a National No-Fault Divorce Day, with flower crowns and maypole dancing like in Midsommar as everyone celebrates being freeeeeeeeeeeeee. There will be pro-bono lawyers working the crowd, and judges at kiosks throughout the park, and in the parking lot a giant swap meet for household items as everyone tries to rebuild a functional kitchen from their half of what’s left behind. “I’ve got two blenders and a bread machine I never use, trade you for a cordless drill and a decent cutting board?” “No cutting board but there are three jars of coriander in my spice cabinet, I can throw in the drill, some placemats, and a home brewing kit?” “Done!”
Maybe see you there?
5 “Grown men who only want to smoke weed and play video games.”
If you meet an adult man who likes doing this *and only this* with his free time, probably assume that this is pretty much how he is. Weed is relaxing and video games are fun and there’s no upper age limit where that’s not true of the people who find that to be true. Assume that he has chosen freely and leave him to it!
If this is not how you are (just guessing from the “grown men” phrasing), look for partners, friends, housemates, co-parents (!!!), etc. who do things that you enjoy (or at least don’t find stinky, ridiculous, and annoying).
How a person actually is at their current age > How you think a person should be by a certain age, so select for current compatibility, not imagined future potential. You will be so much happier if your relationships aren’t ones where you see yourself as the responsible, permanently irritated parent sniffing everyone’s hair to see if it smells of concerts and view the other people in your life as permanent Large Adult Sons with bloodshot eyes who need to be motivated and molded into something else.
6 “My parents text me too much.”
If you’ve tried asking them to cut this down and it hasn’t worked, or if the pandemic is bringing out old anxieties and old habits that you thought were settled, try responding pleasantly at regular, predictable intervals when you have the energy and capacity to reply, and completely ignoring non-emergency communications from them the rest of the time. They may not like it (and may temporarily increase the flurry or test your resolve) but they will very likely adapt to it if you stay consistent.
You might slightly reduce conflict even further by changing any conversations about this from “You text me too much! Jeez!” to being more about you and your own self-care habits. “Oh, I’ve been putting my phone on silent so I can read in the afternoons.” “I’m trying to not be glued to the news and social media, so I’m logging out for big chunks of time every day,” “A good window to reach me is between 5:30 and 6:30 pm, if I don’t respond right away I’ll try to check in around that time every day.”
My folks are not frequent texters but this seems like a good time for the story of how I was in class & meetings all day with my phone off and then went to the movies without checking messages since I just needed quiet, and the dark, and solitude, and Thor: Ragnarok on the biggest loudest screen I could find.
I came out of the movies, went to a solo dinner, and finally turned my phone back on to find a bunch of texts and voice mails from my mom along the lines of “Please call when you get this.” “Still trying to reach you, get in touch when you can.” It’s like, 8:30ish my time so 9:30 pm on the East Coast, everybody should still be up, so I call my mom’s cell back. No answer. I call my dad’s cell. No answer. I call the house line. No answer. I leave voice and text messages everywhere, and start to worry. There is zero chance that they are not home at 9:30 on a random Tuesday unless something’s up, so what’s up?
I call my older brother’s cell – is there an emergency? – no answer from him. Now I’m really worried.
Does my aunt know what’s up? She at least texts back that she knows of no emergencies but she’ll check.
When I finally hear from Mom, she tells me she called and texted because she has a question for me. Oh? Ask away! I’m dying to know!
The question? She wants to maybe buy a machine to convert Dad’s extensive VHS collection* to DVD or computer files as a holiday present and did I know which one was good? Otherwise maybe we’d have to find him a new VHS player on eBay because his most recent one gave up the ghost and he had nowhere to watch his stories. And sorry about not picking up phones, they’d both fallen asleep on the couch watching TV as had my brother.
When my heart rate returned to normal, we made a family agreement that thenceforth A LITTLE CONTEXT with any “please call me” texts or messages was ABSOLUTELY MANDATORY.
*Lest you thought I was the most intense cineaste in my family, my dad’s deep attachment to his VHS collection tells a different story. ❤
7 “My husband is not re-evaluating his life at all since the corona but I feel that I must leave because he has shown me that he has no empathy at all.”
There are going to be a lot of divorces in the next two years and that’s probably a good thing and I promise am not making light of how painful that is with all my party planning earlier in the post. (“Two, no make that three, working can openers…who’s got a bread knife?”)
People get married for lots of reasons, one of those reasons is “You are the person I’d most like on my team when the rough parts of adulting come for us” (sometimes summed up in vows as ‘…or for worse’ ‘In sickness and…’ and ‘…and for poorer’). A partner who knowingly and uncaringly makes a crisis harder on you? Somebody who shows you that they are not on your team? Isn’t the right match for what comes next, even with the best of hopes and intentions. I’m so sorry, I hope whoever searched for this is staying safe and being very kind to yourself and making solid plans for a safe landing.
8 “My partner wants to go everywhere with me is that healthy.”
Pandemic life is making it so nobody is getting a balanced, preferred, comfortable, safe, ideal mix of alone time and togetherness, but in general, if you’re dating someone who wants a different amount of togetherness than you, it’s 100% an issue of compatibility and 100% worth discussing, like, “You seem to want to do everything together, but I need a certain amount of alone time and one-on-one time with my other friends and family to be happy. Can we agree that I’ll be more proactive about inviting you along when I want to do stuff together, but if I just say ‘I’m going for a bike ride,’ it’s neither an automatic invitation nor is it a rejection?” vs. “Hey, I have a lot of anxiety about being invited, included, excluded, and not reading the room about that stuff so can you make it really really clear when you are inviting me and is it okay if I ask what you mean? I promise I’m not trying to pressure you if the answer is no, I just can’t always tell, and everybody who has ever told me they ‘need space’ broke up with me within a week so it would reassure me a lot if you could be way more specific than that.”
Maybe from there you can figure something that works for everyone, but “Nope, together, always, or else you don’t love me right!” definitely isn’t the default setting.
Insisting on constant contact and togetherness with a partner (which often goes hand in hand with excessive monitoring of their activities) is a means of control. If this applies to you, I recommend looking at the resources the good people at LoveIsRespect.org have put together as a way to start planning a safe way out of a relationship where this is the norm.
In either case, “Healthy,” “normal,” etc. aren’t reliable markers of what you’re allowed to need and expect. If someone convinced you it was perfectly normal and healthy to want to do literally everything with you, and this is how all other couples everywhere interact, like “We’re in love now, Google it” and you didn’t want that? Then you’re the boss of you and your needs are important whether or not they match a template. ❤
9 “How to respond to a guy on online dating who asks ‘what are you looking for on here?'”
I’ve answered versions of this many times before, whether sincerely (Be very honest about what you are looking for, including “I don’t actually know” or “I’m hoping I hit it off with someone who will want to get married and have kids someday” and “I am looking for a bag-pipe playing sex unicorn with large feet and a larger trust fund” if those are what’s true for you) and jokingly (“I’ll know it when I see it.” “A willing patsy for a Double Indemnity-type situation.” “Hmmm, you seem like you have an answer prepared, so what are you looking for?”)
Can we be very, very honest today?
I haven’t online dated since 2012 but I did a ton of it before then and I’ve done a lot vicariously through my friends and all of you in Awkwardland.
“So…what are you looking for on here” is a very basic question, an obvious question, and it should be a fairly neutral, easy question with an obvious answer (“I’m looking to…date…people?”). I shouldn’t be mad at it. People are testing the waters, it’s understandable, it’s like “so…what do you do?” in the pantheon of American small-talk. The oatmeal of questions. Not everything has to sparkle, goddamnit.
And yet, I’m pretty sure I’ve never once had an actually good date where I wanted a second one with anyone who has ever asked me that. Just seeing it in my search terms month after month makes me want to yell SWIPE LEFT at it.
Theories as to why it bugs me so much:
- I didn’t use online dating to meet women (browsing in feminist bookstores while sporting a strong shoe-and-glasses game worked for that), so my online dating experience is 99% with straight cisgender men and this immediately reads to me as a question that a guy asks every single person they write to right off the bat whether or not he’s read your profile. The dude who was just playing a numbers game of sending the same message to everyone to see who bites? That dude had nothing for me, nor I for him.
- It’s not a connecting sort of question, it’s a weed-out sort of question that makes a flirtation suddenly and immediately feel like a job interview.
- I feel like there’s always a secret question in that question, and it’s never a cool secret question, it’s more like:
- “I can’t think of anything else to ask and I have no idea what I’m doing.” Honestly, fine, this is the most benign, salvageable version of this, let’s just get through this in one piece.
- “Let me zero in quickly on whether you are looking for the same stuff I am, but in a way that makes you put it out there first.”
- “Let me zero in quickly on what you’re looking for so I can pretend that’s what I want, too, just long enough to possibly have sex with you with the minimum effort on my part.”
- “Let me zero in quickly on what you’re looking for in a way that makes you try to guess what I’m looking for and tailor/audition your wishes to what you think I want.”
- “I get more casual sex when I pretend that I’m looking for a relationship and less when that becomes apparent so I like to keep my wants ambiguous until I know what I’m dealing with.”
- “If I know what you are looking for, I can selectively edit my life correctly to seem like I fit the bill long enough to entice you to overlook the sketchy stuff like how ‘separated’ means ‘I absolutely intend to tell my wife someday that I want to separate, once I’ve met the right new woman’ and ‘single’ means ‘separated.'”
- “Let’s not waste time with small talk, a total stranger I just walked up to in a virtual bar. Are you going to try to trick me into making babies with you right away or are you going to be cool and let me date you for 8 years while I wonder if parenting is really right for me and then leave you when it’s too late for you to make babies because I got my 23-year-old assistant pregnant on last quarter’s sales retreat and now I think it’s time to really follow my dream of being a dad?”
- “You’re not going to try to gold-dig my $27,3000/year salary like all those other lying vultures who couldn’t appreciate a REAL MAN who is NICE, right?”
It’s an obvious question so the answer should be obvious, too, right? So why is it a constantly recurring question in my inbox and my search data?
I think at least some of the anxiety about answering it is about sensing there some kind of a test being administered by someone who is already showing they haven’t put much thought into things. Like, there is clearly a right answer, something they are looking for, so why won’t they just say? Or, it gets asked so often, like one of those job interview questions like ‘what is your greatest weakness’ so surely someone has written a guide to turning it around, like ‘my greatest weakness is actually how awesome I am,’ so can someone put out the cheat codes already?
“It’s just efficient for figuring out if you’re on the same page or not.” You know what’s efficient? Actually reading people’s profiles and only messaging the ones who seem like they might like you and vice versa. See also: Leading with what you are looking for.
If you have asked this question in the process of dating, or love someone who did, I don’t think you are inherently boring or bad. “Do we want the same stuff y/n” is an important question for finding someone who is compatible with you, so please do not feel the need to share examples of how this is good, actually, I blanket-believe you and blanket-support you in your happy love story and I will die content in my theory that it worked out because you quickly skipped past this awkward question the way people fast forward past “so what do you do” and found something meatier to talk about when the formalities were over.
But my answer to the general “how should I answer this?” is, now and forever:
Answer it literally however the fuck you feel like answering it at the time. Do not worry about giving a “right” answer, secret or otherwise, because there isn’t one. There’s only what you actually want and how it intersects with what the other person wants.
However you answer, it will either lead to a fun conversation where you learn something true about each other (because everybody starts asking & answering more specific questions), or it won’t and you’ll probably never have to talk to the person again.
If you fail a total stranger’s boring secret test? OH WELL, GUESS YOU WANTED DIFFERENT THINGS FROM LIFE.
Please never, ever worry that you will get this wrong somehow or that there was some magical, maximally palatable way with just the right mix of reassuring and fascinating and sexy but unthreatening way – like the hot girl taking off her glasses at the end of a 1990s movie about prom dates and becoming the Objectively! Hot! Girl! for a moment and then putting them back on and becoming accessibly hot once more- that you could have answered that would guarantee that the person would have fallen in love with you if only you had known what it was.
Thank you for coming to my Ted talk.
10 “What to say when someone says ‘why should I date you.'” & “What does ‘Give me one good reason I should date you’ mean in online dating.”
I had just typed the answer to #10 and then dipped back into the search terms to see if there was anything else, and found…this. Okayyyyyyyyy.
“Why should I date you?”
“Why should I date you?”
Sounds like a you-question.
“Why should I date you?”
Sir/Ma’am, this is a Wendy’s.
“Why should I date you?”
SWIPE FASTER. LEFT! ONLY LEFT!
“Give me one good reason I should date you.”
You…messaged…me? I don’t actually know who you are? Wat?
“What’s one good reason I should date you.”
Lol, I’m not going to date you, but I’ve got five minutes, so be honest – does that actually ever work? Do people actually start listing reasons like they’re trying to convince you that you should take a chance on them? Tell me all about that!
Look, there’s an outside chance that “what are you looking for in a relationship/ on this site” is a sincere question with no hidden messages or tests, we all start somewhere, basic is always better than mean.
“Why do I actually want to date this person” is a question to ask oneself, definitely explore that.
“Why should I date you?” is what you ask when you think Alec Baldwin is the hero of Glengarry Glen Ross and you practice the speech in the mirror to yourself in the morning when you think no one is looking but hope that at least one of your housemates is awake enough to overhear how hard you nailed it today and you jerk off in the shower to the tantalizing prospect of a worshipful secret audience while your housemate desperately googles “Best earplugs for total silence.”
“Why should I date you” is for when you are actually contemplating becoming a contestant on The Bachelor and you know that the dullard-of-the-month-club is 100% going to ask you that on camera and you need to find the right mix of charm and smarm to snag your rose and the opportunity to go on a humiliating hot air balloon ride “solo date” while America watches you resist your impulse to toss this polo-shirted absolute void out of the basket like excess ballast and rise, rise, rise forever into the sky, victorious and alone like some avenging Valkyrie, in which case, carry on.
“Why should I date you” is a “neg”, in my opinion, which is a gross, pathetic pick-up-artist strategy designed to manipulate you into auditioning for being worthy of someone who would ask you THAT instead of wondering wait, why the hell am I auditioning for this person’s approval? Can’t they see I’m hot and cool and nice? Is this actually a job interview? I don’t actually want to be on The Bachelor?
Friends don’t let friends reward negging. Never answer this question. It’s a trap.
Comments are open. Be gentle. Be gentle specifically with me, I’m rusty. ❤