Tag Archives: communication

Reversing the Polarity – A Guest Post.

[Guest post by J., from ‘The Things I’ve Done To Impress Women’]

If you half close your eyes, it feels like the world is moving in slow-motion. There’s no dry ice, but the atmosphere feels smoky as the figures before us turn and twist in slow motion. The neon blue lights underneath the half-finished stairs make the dilapidated basement feel like a half constructed Starship Enterprise, a chariot to the Dancing With Stars. She leans in to kiss me, and the world forgets to breathe for a second.

But… I’m getting ahead of myself. As usual.

A few days ago, the author of ‘Wish There Were a Manual’ got in contact with me over email, saying: “You might be a male version of me.” She’d been laughing at my posts over at ‘The Things I’ve Done To Impress Women’, and seeing as we both had dating disaster blogs, the logical thing to do seemed to meet up and see if we could engineer the worst date in all of dating history.

Strangely, that didn’t quite happen.

Online dating is so much about presenting a front to people, a shop window for people to browse. You need to be able to sell yourself, so it’s no surprise that a lot of people cut a few corners to entice people to sample their wares. Some might add inches to their height, some post old photos, some even ‘forget’ to mention their offspring. As both of our blogs had been wincingly honest in places, I was fascinated to see what it was like to go on a date with someone who already knows pretty much the worst there is to know about you. As it turns out, it’s pretty freeing not having to posture or throw your swagger about. Although I still managed to do that obviously, because I’m a complete idiot.

We’d agreed that we’d walk through Regent’s Park and She arrived with a backpack of shoes and a gob full of anecdotes. After grabbing a couple of organic ice creams we sat on the benches and discussed everything from Dutch/Chinese Stalkers to time travel, via would-be-boyfriends who can’t read social cues while getting touched up by drunken chavs. At one point she lay on her back and smoked into the sky, one knee slightly raised, and I started to think… yes.

After a while, she got cold, so we started walking through the park. We named a lighter, laughed at ducks and almost kissed. Although I unfortunately managed to time the kiss at the exact moment she said the word ‘toilet’, which made us both laugh and totally blow the moment. “I can’t kiss you after saying that!” she laughed, and her eyes sparkled. But we did anyway.

As the date drew to a close, she asked if I wanted to escort her to Waterloo to meet a friend. As I didn’t have anything else planned, I agreed, and we walked through the streets of London. Halfway through this walk, dinner in Waterloo became dinner in Chinatown, and I got invited along. We had a great time chatting with her friend, and he asked “Are you coming dancing with us?”.

I looked at her, and I thought I might.

We headed to the Blues Fusion night, splitting with her friend along the way. Alone again, we stepped though the streets, holding hands. We got to the basement club and were arrested with visions of dedicated dancers contorting and spinning to bass-heavy slow jams. I watched her dance with some other guys. She’s stunning to watch, and there’s motion in her poetry. I shyly tried a few steps with her. While dancing someone said we looked so happy. Another lady asked us how long we’d been together and She said, without hesitation, “Seven years”, and we then bantered back and forth with various improvised stories of our dating history, and about how to keep your relationship alive. The lady said “You can see you’re still in love – you look like you just met yesterday!”

We walked home through the night streets at 4am, and ended the night swimming in a ball pool. I felt so clear and relaxed and happy – it was wonderful to have someone accept you for the awesome idiot you are, rather than the wonderful lie you’d like to present yourself as. Before drifting off in her arms on a battered sofa, the last thing she said was “Don’t mess this up.” I’m sure I will/already have, but if nothing else, at least I had a night that felt like a slice of hot magic.

I guess, sometimes, two wrongs do make a right.

This is Muriel. If you want to read my account of the same night, head over to impresswoman.tumblr.com. No, it doesn’t contain a graph, but I’m talking about expectations, humor and reverse psychology. 

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The First Move- A Dilemma

I usually love being a woman.

However,  a few niggles include the gender pay gap (which makes me steam and rant for hours), the fact that I can’t sing bass lines, and the following situation.

The scenario is a date, or another situation that ends with the two of us alone. It’s likely we have been talking for a while, that we’re quite close, and that all the official date happenings are already finished. The movie credits have rolled, the bill in the restaurant is settled and everything so far has been going well. If this were still the rom-com we’ve been watching earlier, the audience could predict exactly where this is headed: the first kiss, some frantic making out, possibly a bedroom.

However, because this is reality, we’re both required to traipse around this obvious conclusion and instead wait till one of us makes the critical first move. Movies tell us that this first move is a long gaze into each others’ eyes, followed by a seamless swoop of the head leading to a long and passionate kiss. I’ll call this “the smooth swoop”.

Reality teaches me that the first move more likely pans out in one of three ways:

1) “the Mad Chicken”
Our heads are sort of close, then one of us suddenly moves their head a bit closer, the other turns their face slightly, we both attempt a kiss, but one of us ends up licking a cheek and the other finds their nose lodged in an eye. Not terribly sexy, but comic relief goes a long way, and as this situation establishes a solid awkward baseline it’s often possible to recover from there and turn the night around.

2) “the Scared Rabbit”
Our heads are sort of close, we look into each others’ eyes, and then both realise that the other one is watching for our next move. We don’t want to take that responsibility, so instead of moving in for the kiss we both freeze in space, occasionally blinking nervously.
It’s very hard to get out of this scenario. We might be saved by a fox howling outside, or a flatmate walking into the living room, shocking us out of your frozen pose. However, the embarrassment of our inaction is hard to recover from, and chances are that the evening will end quickly, with a mumbled goodbye at the door and quiet relief when the other has left.

3) “Cat and Mouse”
My least favourite scenario – this is when we’re both game for a kiss to happen, but as soon as one of us moves in, the other one, just to prolong the chase, wriggles out.

(nota bene: I’m not referring to situations when only one of you wants to make out!)

The first person takes this as a display of disinterest, and retreats. However, the tables turn and now the second person takes up the chase, trying to move in for a kiss.

This can be repeated almost endlessly, if both of us are stubborn enough. And yes, the chase can be sexy and fun.  My dislike for this last scenario is partly that I’ve so often observed it with straight men who are simply not comfortable with being the one that “gets kissed”. They retreat just so they can take the active part seconds later. Sometimes I’d like to be the one who makes the first move though!

In order to avoid getting cat-moused, I’ve settled on this final gambit as my preferred opening move:

4. “the (Power-) Drunk Super-Villain”
In most action movies, there comes a time when the villain has captioned our hero, bound him in chains and is planning his slow and ugly demise. Being a narcissistic psychopath, however, he appreciates finally having an audience and then wastes a good ten minutes of precious potential rescue time.  He explains exactly what evil things he did, what his evil motivations were, how he’s planning to do evil from now on and probably shares his social security number and bank details while he’s at it.

This never works out, because the pretty sidekick arrives in this spare time, frees the hero and they proceed to undo all the villain’s evil plans. Do not make this mistake as a super-villain. Silence is gold!

However, at the end of a date, this behaviour works brilliantly.

You lean in, you say “I think you’re really hot and I want to kiss you”, you look at them briefly to confirm that they’re not horrified by this proposition. Then you kiss. Dilemma solved.

Just hope the sidekick doesn’t come barging in at this moment.

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Badly prepared.

I’m dating! Again. Or still. My relationship status in itself probably deserves a whole post, but let’s stick with “I’m dating” for now. Anyway, I went on a date. A proper one. With a person from the interwebs.

Now this isn’t new to me or anyone who reads this blog. I’ve been finding online dates for nearly two years now, with varying success. Indeed, I’d call myself a salty veteran who has navigated the cliffs of dishonest profiles, the shallow waters of first messages and the treacherous depths of outdated profile pictures.

However, the person I met was a true landlubber. A. texted me twice to confirm our date on the day before and once to let me know that he’d arrived a little early. When I got to the coffeeshop, he was easy to spot as the most nervous looking person for miles. Looking at him, you would believe that this wasn’t a casual first date but a crucial job interview.

And he had prepared in true fashion. He greeted me, and as I asked whether he’d been waiting for long, he replied that he’d spent the time rereading my online profile. Charming.

We then proceeded to the actual interview, date, interview.

A.’s topics covered all the basics: my relationship status, my occupation, my living arrangements and what I thought of the weather. Whenever it seemed like the conversation would run dry, he shot out another question. After exhausting my life story in snippets of 200 words or less, we both leant back, and I was slightly relieved that the awkward part was over. Or so I thought.

“Well, I don’t think I have any further questions! Was there anything you wanted to know?”

I couldn’t help myself but said “I didn’t really prepare any questions, but maybe we can just chat?”

He nodded solemnly. “Ok. Well, if anything comes up you can still message me, I guess.”

There’s nothing wrong with being literal or with being new to dating, and I’m the first to admit that awkward can be charming. So all this didn’t scare me off as much as it maybe should have.

However, the conversation never became less stilted and I couldn’t help noticing that A. looked horribly uncomfortable. I found out that this was indeed his first date through the site. To break the ice a little I chose the meta-approach and asked him what his best outcome of the online dating would be.

I expected an answer somewhere between “meeting some fun people” and “finding a long-term girlfriend”.

However, he replied:

“I’m looking for some hot lady friends!”

The juxtaposition between the nervously flushed guy who was barely able to string two sentences together and this grandiose statement made me giggle.

He looked at me and quickly clarified “Oh, and I want you to be one of them.”

However flattering, I had to decline the job offer. The whole evening had felt like a chore and we had completely failed to establish a connection- in fact I’ve had job interviews that left me more personally touched than this date!

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Taking My Own Advice- A Timeline

Over the last few years I’ve accrued a certain experience with consoling friends who newly got out of relationships. I don’t think of myself as a particularly emotionally tuned in or apt at dealing with other people’s crises, but most of the time being online late at night and not being a complete dickhead is sufficient to be approached by friends and acquaintances in distress.

Either way, I’ve talked to a lot of people who’d just been broken up with. And in a way, each one of these people had a unique story. A story about long-term partners, recent dates or fuckbuddies. A story about cheating, fighting or slowly fizzling out. A long, drawn out, painful epic, or a quick text on a Thursday night.  The uniting element is that someone, in some way told them “What relationship we have will end here”.  And however unique the circumstances are, however unique the pain feels, there is something fundamentally universal to being broken up with. This means that the limited helpful advice that can be given will be almost insultingly similar to every victim of a breakup. I’ve dealt out this stuff verbatim for years.

The two rules that stick out are:

1)  Stay away from your ex.

and

2) It will take time, but you will be ok

2011 was the first time I had to put this advice into practice myself.

The first rule  is very straightforward and practical, a clear guideline for behaviour and questions. Should I call him? Should I go to his best friend’s BBQ? Should I let her know that I downloaded that program she likes? Should I set my facebook status to “thinking of you…”? Please refer to rule 1.  No, you shouldn’t.

Don’t call, don’t visit, don’t hang out where your ex hangs out. Don’t provoke “chance” meetings, or organise awkward run-ins at third-party friends’ karaoke parties.

In my case this was relatively easily achieved by not living on the same continent as my ex. Changing some settings in my favourite chat protocols was all that was needed for successfully avoiding my ex and not talking to him for the next 6 weeks.

Rule 2) is a bit trickier, as it doesn’t present any clear-cut advice, but some rather vague reassurance that at some point in the future, life will suck less than it does right now. There’s no deadline, no definite answer. There’s also no consequence to your own behaviour, no guideline apart from “hang in there, dude”. It’s undoubtedly true in almost all cases (after all, due to natural fluctuations in happiness, at some time things will be better, and you’ll overcome the local minimum you’re experiencing right now). However, it’s not immediately helpful to hear, especially when no-one can tell when this magical ok-ness will happen.

Ever the social scientist, I’ve volunteered for my own little case study and took detailed notes.

This is highly subjective, I’m not aiming to replicate the results anytime soon, and of course your timeline might be vastly different from mine. But if you’re at a local minimum, and asking all your friends “WHEN THE FUCK WILL IT BE BETTER ALREADY?” maybe you’ll take a little consolation from this tale.

Perceived Happiness over Time from Day 0 (Break-Up)

Interpreting the graph should be easy. X-axis represents time in days, Y-axis represents level of personal well-being and contentment. For future reference: it took me about a two weeks to a month to be fully functional in daily life again, two months until things were normal 90% of the time, and three months until I could genuinely look back on the relationship without pain.

And yes, sticking to my own advice was the right strategy for me. Following the first rule and not being around my ex let me appreciate that my life without him is as colourful and complete. Instead of dwelling on what was missing I filled the empty space with old and new friends. The second rule became a mantra that brought me hope. In future, I will update it to “It’ll take time (approx. three months) but you’ll be ok”. It might be universal advice after all.

Although all my friends were helpful and supportive throughout this experience, this post is dedicated to K.

You’re wonderful, and everyone can only wish for a friend as caring as you are. Thank you.

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Just Ctrl C Ctrl V (part 2)

I’ve recently described the phenomenon of the well-crafted generic message that is posted to hundreds of girls at once, equivalent to flyering your neighbourhood with valentine’s cards.

There are many different approaches to constructing these messages, and I would like to highlight some of them.

Speaking to a large group of people yet achieving that everyone in the crowd feels uniquely addressed is a form of art, and a skill honed in expensive management classes and nights down the corner pub. One strategy that I previously discussed, is to keep the message very short and concise. This will intrigue the reader and make them hunger for more.

Today I will share a message with you that followed quite the opposite approach. The writer decided to reveal everything, and draw me in with full, honest disclosure. He discusses his employment details, his goals in life, his hopes for our relationship, and his medical history. He also alludes to sexual preferences. All in all, a self-summary that could not be more open. What else could a girl want?

But read for yourself.

Example B:

I am Egyptian man I work a lawyer and I have 25 years love life simple hope that Atovq through this site to find a Wife is shared by my life in the future and had a children and live in peace and I am open-minded and it is not none other bad, to search for Wife by sites the net and I hope you understand me

I’m good-hearted man looking for love do not look for the shape I’m looking for a good heart and a sense of fulfillment I am sincere and I hope to get to know a lot about you and your love of your life and future .. Surely I do not know what is possible in the future I am, a pair for you.
Obviously, you are so beautiful white heart Ok I’m raring to get to know you.
Do not leave me

I want to marry you, I did not unprotected sex never in my life I really need to get married and wish to marry a foreign girl Do you agree, and I admitted I did not never unprotected sex with any girl in my life

Full message, no edits. Life is that good.

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Just Ctrl C Ctrl V (part I)

The more attentive of my readers have noticed and the more pestering of my readers have remarked that my blog posts have been getting less frequent, and that I haven’t reported a current date story in quite a while. Well spotted.

Yes, I haven’t been on a first date since the beginning of the year. Instead, I met what my mother calls “someone nice” and have had a few whirlwind dates with him which quickly spiralled from “dating” to “going out” to “seeing each other”. While this is great, it means that I have no hilarious stories of terrible dates for you and I don’t intend to share the gooey, doe-eyed stories that my current dating life could inspire.

However, I’m blessed with friends whose dating life is much more turbulent and entertaining than mine and hope to share their tales of woe and my take on them. Recently, many of them have taken up online dating. Obviously I’m very opinionated about this, but  I don’t know whether they are not afraid of anything or simply haven’t heeded my warnings. In the following posts, I’ll highlight some of my experiences regarding online messages. Sorry, this post quite clearly targets hetero males, because those are the ones messaging me.

Sending a message on an online platform is the equivalent of introducing yourself to someone at a rave party at an international airport. As a girl, you simply have to be there, but as a guy it’s really difficult. You’re not the only dude at the party, girls are overtired of seeing the same thing over and over again, and there’s a lot of background noise. Your mission thus is to be brief and memorable, while not being creepy or trying too hard.

Yes, this takes a lot of time, and most women won’t even have the decency to respond to you. So why waste your time on elaborate witticisms and references to their favourite pokemon? The temptation is large to just write this one more-or-less fantastic catch-all message, and spam every single female in a 10 mile radius. Someone will respond, right? Right?

Wrong. Or actually: maybe. But your message has to be darn good.

The following examples are all taken from actual messages that I have received online. I’m fairly sure that they were not drafted with me specifically in mind, and would bet good money that copy and paste were involved.

Example A

u r sexy sexy

Note that this is the entire message. No opening or closing formula, no question, no punctuation.

In a way, this message is the Bauhaus example of online messaging. Reduced to the minimum, it does away with all the useless details, rationalising the effort that goes into massproducing pickup lines while preserving their functionality.

And isn’t there a certain poetry to the simple form created by this minimalist approach?

“u r sexy sexy” is not just “You are sexy.” but can also be parsed as “a a’ b b”, indicating a classic form at the foundation of this seemingly radically modern message. The repetition of “sexy” at the end of the line can be construed either as a stress and consolidation on the word sexy, which would make the meaning “You are very sexy indeed”. An alternative interpretation, due to general lack of punctuation, can lead us to believe that the second “sexy” is meant to address an intrinsic quality of the reader as in “You, the inherently sexy one, are sexy.”.

Without further context it is impossible to decide between these alternate hypotheses, and the sweet ambiguity lets our brain toggle between the different meanings, adding a flair of mystery to this message.

All in all, a masterfully crafted first approach. My interest in the fine literary mind shrouded in mystery behind this line was piqued.

The only question was what to respond to this level of poetic genius. All my answers seemed prosaic (!) and trite, my phrasing overly elaborate and my similes too garishly colourful compared to his serenely minimalist style. I didn’t want to resort to copying him and churning out something along the lines of “yo yo hot”, but my original ideas just couldn’t compete.

In the end, I gave up. I didn’t dare to respond to this iconic message.  Sorry, modernist1*, I don’t think it’ll work between us.

The take home message: Don’t overcraft a message, and leave some room for the other person to come back to you. This is not about showing off your creative writing class or creating a monolithic block of text, but about inviting the other person to a conversation. You don’t need to be hugely original, but you should open up a topic that makes it easy for the other person to respond.

*name changed by author.

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FWB- a Three Letter Word

The topics for most of my blog entries usually come to me in the guise of dates I go on myself, occasionally through a story a friend tells me. Today’s post is inspired by not one, but two friends, who told me virtually identical, and in any case similarly frustrating stories.

Casual relationships, fuckbuddies or friends with benefits are a common occurrence in the realm of modern dating. This form of relationship offers people who don’t want a romantic relationship, or who haven’t met a suitable candidate, the opportunity of stability, familiarity and regularity while dispensing with the need for intense emotional involvement and romantic commitment. At its very best, a casual relationship can tick all the boxes. The prerequisite is that this level of involvement is what both parties want – a  casual relationships makes a rubbish consolation prize when you’re madly in love with someone.

However, all too often you’ll find that after a few dates you have two people with different levels of emotion and expectations. Person A is happy to keep dating casually, is open to a sexual relationship, but doesn’t want to become more involved romantically. Person B however is falling in love, would prefer to make the relationship more committed and exclusive, and wants to bind person A to them.

This outset can lead to the following scenario.

B: I really like you – I think we should consider a serious relationship!

A: Hm, this is fun, but I don’t want a serious relationship (right now/with you, etc.). If you’re interested in more, we should probably stop seeing each other,  otherwise you’ll get hurt!

B: Oh, don’t worry, I promise I won’t get hurt. Let’s just continue to see each other casually.

A: Sounds good to me!

We have two people, two different demands, two different emotional perspectives. Yet almost invariably, B will step down and through some sort of jedi mindtrick absolve A from the guilt of hurting them, while continuing the relationship to A’s specifications. In both of my friends’ stories, this was the case.

Let me make this really clear: I’m all for friends with benefits. Being FWB can be absolutely wonderful, giving two people exactly what they need. But in this scenario, only A  gets what they need, whereas B ends up making unreasonable concessions, out of fear of losing what little affection A is prepared to give them. Surely that can’t be right?

But how can you avoid this situation? What if you’ve fallen for your friend with benefits?

Oh, honey. Yes, it’s tempting to think that things between you and A are going to be complicated either way, and that being fuckbuddies is a good way of keeping them in your life. However, if what you really want is a proper monogamous doves-balloons-and-heartshaped-lollipops relationship, you’re setting yourself up for heartache. If A is willing to risk that just so they can still sleep with you, they’re not really worth your love, and they certainly don’t make a good friend.

Step away, please.

And what if you’re on the other side? What to do when you find yourself in A’s shoes?

What is the appropriate response when you realise your friends with benefits  is way more into you?

The usual answer from A to this is: Surely it’s not just my responsibility to deal with this.  B is a grown-up who is responsible for their own emotional well-being, and I should be able to trust them when they ensure me that they won’t get hurt.

That sounds nice, but somehow the resulting scenario feels all wrong. I’d therefore  like to offer the following caveat: As the less involved party you have a certain responsibility to protect the more vulnerable B. If you’re indeed friends, this might be the moment to look out for your friend. As previously mentioned on this blog, it’s unreasonable to expect someone in a state of mental delusion to make a responsible choice. Tell B that you don’t think its a good idea for you two to hang out anymore and then stick to it!

If you’re not friends, just fuck them over and enjoy your ride. But please don’t complain to your other friends afterwards about how you didn’t see it coming, and really wish B would get over things and you could still be friends.


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