The Nondating Life

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Part One: About your friends

(Previous Post)

So you want to start dating? Perhaps you were dropped on your head as a child. Perhaps you saw what was going on at Abu Ghraib and you felt left out. Perhaps you think that finding a complete stranger, convincing her/him to go out with you, enduring hours of anxiety, self-doubt, second-guessing, irritable bowel syndrome due to nerves and, eventually, an hour or two of inane chatter is a much more dignified way to get laid than simply calling an escort service.

Save yourself some trouble. If you want to get laid, get a hooker*. If you want to sleep beside a warm body, get a dog.

Whatever. Obviously, you're beyond the voice of reason, but I'm going to try to help you out anyway.

We'll start off small. In fact, this first installment will not deal directly with what you'd like to think of as your latest victim. But let's be honest, the only person who'll be victimized here is YOU. Dating, my friend, is like a nature program in bizarro world. You see the little fawn there in the grass, your ears perk up, you go into a crouch, you look over at the other members of your pride, they either look off in the other direction or shrug in approval and, zoom-zoom-zoom, you're hauling ass in pursuit. But at the end of the scene, the fawn's over at the watering hole nuzzling up to some other buck and you're the one lying in a pile of your own entrails, trying not to cry while the rest of your pride tries not to laugh at your foolishness.

But forget the fawn for now.

Let's look at the other members of the pride. Your friends.

You know what you should do? You should forget them, too. Why? Because they can't help you in your dating life. In fact, they can only do harm.

But they're my friends, I hear you protesting. They have my best interests at heart.

Of course they do. And that's part of the problem. They might mean well, but you've forgotten something. If you're in the midst of running down a date, you've lost any and all ability to hear what they're really saying to you. Sure, they'll offer support and advice, but no good will come of it.

Sometimes it will be their fault, many times it will be your fault. Why? Because there are two types of friends, those who will serve as cheerleader and those who will try to serve as scientists. You will listen too much to the first sort and not at all to the latter.

An example. Let's say you and your intended victim have been using company time and property to flirt via email. And at some point, one of you suggests the unthinkable, actually getting together in real life and starting off the evening sober. You get an email and you run over to your friends and pop into their IM windows.

Let's say the email reads:

"Hey, you. Let's get together at some point."

Here's the response you'll get from cheerleader friend:

"Ohhhhhhh, she/he is so into you. I mean, she/he said 'Hey, you,' and 'together.' That's so awesome! When's the wedding!?! :)"

Which is exactly what you wanted to hear. Your stock in cheerleader friend shoots up dramatically. Cheerleader friend is trading at $375.

Scientist friend will respond thusly:

"So? Did you guys make plans? Did he/she actually say anything else? Does he/she realize this is a date and not just hanging out."

Note that these are all perfectly valid questions. But suddenly you hate this friend. Scientist friend is a penny stock that you obviously picked up in a self-destructive rage one cloudy day.

Oh. I almost forgot about the third kind of friend, the one who not-so-secretly has a crush on you, or who you once fooled around with. You don't know why you tell this person anything about your dating life at all, but you can't seem to help it. Maybe a dirty little part of you likes to torture others, likes the jealousy. At any rate, this person's response is always the same.

"I don't know. He/she sounds like a douche/tool."

That person you can ignore ... and do. But you should be ignoring the other two as well. And you can't. Cheerleader friend is blowing sunshine up your butt and setting you up, possibly, for a fall.

And scientist friend is really, really starting to piss you off. What makes matters worse, scientist friend is a) simply echoing the little voices of reason and self-doubt that you've shoved into the dark recesses of your mind and b) seems to have somehow understood that you'd slightly edited the email before popping it into the IM window.

Because the original email read:

"Hey, you. It's been crazy on my end what with work and I'm just generally hating life, men/women in particular. I mean, why does your gender have to be like that? Really. Let's get together at some point. Maybe we could get a cup of coffee and bitch about our exes."

See, you haven't even been on an actual date yet and you're behaving irrationally, acting like a school girl passing notes in class, but worse, slicing and dicing up the notes before hand as if you were working at the Ministry of Truth.

But there you are. You've involved your friends. And now, not only must you deal with the pressure of dating, you must deal with the pressure of REPORTING IN. Of course, you don't mind so much with cheerleader friend. Who doesn't want sunshine up the butt? But scientist friend, who probably didn't want to get involved (once again) with your sorry dating life, is going to ask for updates now--out of duty. But every time he or she does your mood just turns south. (Meanwhile, that third friend is chiming in with "So how are things with the retard? You get the clap yet?")

And then the date happens.

If the ending of the date is anything from ambiguous to an outright disaster, you can count on your friends to fill their roles:

Ambiguous ending, like you got a peck on the cheek and another "let's get together":

Cheerleader: It sounds like it went pretty good to me. Maybe he/she's just shy. You totally have to call him/her again. I like this person.
Scientist: I don't know. Didn't sound like there were sparks flying or anything. I guess you could give it another chance. Wouldn't hurt. [Ed. note: Of course it could. A lot. Scientist friend knows this, but he/she is still your friend and doesn't want to completely crush all hope.]
Jealous one: Sounds like a bitch/dick to me.

Bad ending, like after two hours of stilted conversation, you're drunk and you end up kissing the person on the side of the head as he/she turns to hail a cab:

Cheerleader: I don't know. Maybe you were both just nervous. I'm still getting a good vibe. These things take time. [Ed. note: No, they don't take time.]
Scientist: Put a fork in it. It's done. I hate to say it, but if it went that bad, it probably won't get any better.
Jealous one: Sounds like a bitch/dick to me.

If it goes well, if it ends with a lingering kiss and concrete plans for a second date, everyone's happy, including scientist friend, who can grant approval based on objective evidence. (Of course third friend will say "I'm happy for you" in a way that puts you in mind of a stereotypical Jewish mother trying to guilt her oldest child into or out of something.)

And so it goes throughout the relationship--emails, dates and phone calls subjected to analysis by your friends--until finally it ends up in marriage (HAHAHAHAHAHA) or in heartbreak, at which point you hate cheerleader friend for MAKING you so delusional, you hate scientist friend for being right all along and you go sleep with jealous friend to boost your self-esteem.

Way to fuck up a friendship, dumbass.

And to think you could have avoided all of this by not dating. But that isn't going to happen. So, since you're going to move forward anyway, try not to involve your friends. Sure, you want some support in this hunt. And, sure, if things are going sort of okay, you want to share your joy.

But really, all things considered, it would be best to keep your mouth shut about the object of your affections until you're sending out the wedding invites.

*Full disclosure for those of you can't separate a writer from the writing: I've never been with a hooker.

Next post in the series.


  • You are a great writer. I laughed out loud and completely identify with what you're saying about friends' meddling. I always over-analyse my love interest's words/actions with my friends, and
    every one of them has a different intepretation, none of which accurate or helpful. But I could never have written about it the way you did.

    By Blogger workawhorlic, at 4:56 AM  

  • All of this is sooo true. I actually have become quiet about my "dating" habits. I don't tell anyone....its the smart thing to do.

    By Blogger Jill, at 8:12 PM  

  • Ken, I'm just re-reading this now, and realizing how frequently you hit the nail on the head. I'm frightened for you, really. But in a really good way.

    Keep up the great work...

    By Anonymous Esther, at 12:39 AM  

  • I've just been declared a 'scientist friend' by one of my best mates... which I should take as a bit offensive (considering it implies I am secretly hated most of the time) but when reading the alternatives... well, better that than some ditzy cheerleader shining sunlight up everyone's ass when what they really need is an umbrella. Wicked article by the way :)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:00 PM  

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