I’ve had a The Single Life and/or a ZOMG! Teh Menz post a-brewin’ for a while. The problem is that it’s entirely based on me responding to articles, several of which I read about a month ago. So it’s all getting a bit jumbled about in my head. That’s fun, though, right?
What’s going to end up happening here, though, is I’m just going to put up a bunch of links.
People love writing about online dating. I’m no different, I suppose. I’ve written a bunch of posts about online dating. I haven’t written any lately, though, mostly because my ability to care about the whole thing is rather limited at the moment. Still, I’m always interested when other people write about it online dating. Mostly because about half of the articles end up being hilariously wrong or misguided.
Peter Ludlow wrote an article in The Atlantic as a follow-up to a different article written by Dan Slater. I read Ludlow’s first. That matters.
See, Ludlow’s article was all about how online dating has commoditized dating. I actually wrote about that exact same thing many, many months ago. One of the big problems that humans have is dealing with a situation where there are too many choices. One of the other big problems that humans have is dealing with a situation where several of the available choices are pie-in-the-sky fantasy, at best. Too many pie-in-the-sky fantasy choices could be the name of the next big online dating site.
I would never make a claim, however, that online dating destroys commitment, either in theory or in practice. I think I was pretty clear in my own musings about online dating that I was going in with incorrect attitudes and presuppositions and that I was pretty damaged. All online dating does is allow damaged people to meet other damaged people they wouldn’t otherwise meet and spread the misery farther and faster.
I read the Dan Slater article next, pretty much in the spirit of an anecdote that Ludlow then jumped off of with a sort of detached journalism. As such, I didn’t immediately notice that there were…shall we say, problems with the Slater article.
Amanda Marcotte and Alexis Madrigal sure did. This is the introductory paragraph from Marcotte’s article:
Last week, Dan Slater at the Atlantic wrote what may be the worst piece on online dating I’ve ever read, which is a truly remarkable feat in such a competitive field. Slater’s theory is that because online dating sites are a magical wonderland where men can meet and fuck an endless array of women, it means men will have no desire to get married and thus will be the ruin of marriage. If I were married to Dan Slater, I would get a lawyer on retainer now, because there’s projection all over this thing. And let’s be clear: Slater means men. He claims “people”, but as Alexis Madrigal (who, if you’re rushing to disagree with him, I should point out is male, so you might want to slow your roll, trolls) points out in the same publication, Slater didn’t bother to interview any women, much less any men that have a different experience from his buddy Jacob.
This is the second paragraph from Alexis’s article:
Narratively, the story focuses on Jacob, an overgrown manchild jackass who can't figure out what it takes to have a real relationship. The problem, however, is not him, and his desire for a "low-maintenance" woman who is hot, young, interested in him, and doesn't mind that he is callow and doesn't care very much about her. No, the problem is online dating, which has shown Jacob that he can have a steady stream of mediocre dates, some of whom will have sex with him.
That pretty much sums up Dan Slater’s article in a nutshell.
One of the real big problems with anyone who writes an article about online dating that’s primarily from one person’s perspective is that that one person might be wrong about a lot of things. I include myself in this. I don’t offer myself as a paragon of people who have experienced online dating, since I freely admit that I was kind of being a major asshole a lot of the time. Yeah, I might have just met some crazy people, but I probably didn’t do a damn thing to help myself, either.
So yesterday Amanda Marcotte offered up the diametric opposite of the “guy who just wants to get laid” article with the “woman who desperately wants to get married” article. Those are also fun. Amanda offered her thoughts as a counterpoint to Jill over at Feministe and, for the record, I can’t be arsed to read the original article, since I really don’t care. What I want to highlight is something Amanda points out that is a fascinating underlying assumption of all of these sorts of articles:
Now, I’m not married and don’t want to be, in no small part because the institutional nature of marriage leads directly to this kind of thinking, wherein “spouse” is a job you want filled instead of an outgrowth of your love for another person. But there’s definite ideological argument of gender underpinning these stereotypes of why women and men marry. Basically, the implication is that real love between men and women is a myth. This fits into a larger sexist belief that men and women are “opposites” who put up with each other out of necessity, but who don’t really like each other very much. Believers in this believe that women need men, who are their social superiors, to choose them and validate them. (Being unchosen is considered a fate worse than death, which is why so many conservatives think that it’s a game winner to “argue” that feminists are just unchosen women who are bitter about our lack of validation from men—validation that is our sole purpose in existing, apparently.) In exchange for validating a woman’s right to exist by choosing her, a man gets someone to look after him and his home, provide him regular sex, and have children that will be named after him.
A while back I went on several dates with a woman. She was intelligent and accomplished. She also seemed to be quite well prepared for the whole settling down thing and decided that I was the one to do that.
My problem there was pretty simple: I just wasn’t that into her. I tried to convince myself to change my mind, but I couldn’t bring myself to that. One of the interesting things about the way my mind works is that I draw pretty quick and accurate conclusions and then I spend about six months ignoring those conclusions until everything shakes out.
So what happened was I walked away from the first date, which went pretty well, all things considered, with Sons of Bill’s “So Much for the Blues” running through my head. I then proceeded to not really think about her much and act like kind of a dick the next time I saw her. In spite of that, though, she kept trying. It eventually hit the point where every interaction we had came down to a conversation about how we couldn’t get along.
It was pretty much awful.
This particular story is a bit different from the “women planning their weddings even though they’re single and will probably be single for a long-ass time” thing in that I don’t know that she was planning to plug me into a five-year plan in a marriage binder filled with clippings from Modern Bride or whatever. I bring it up, though, because it’s pretty obvious she had a plan, she decided that I was the ideal person to fill in that part of the plan, and she didn’t notice that I was very much not on board. Then, even though I pretty much played the role of major dickhead, she still tried to get me to play that role.
I think this is the danger of seeing relationships as a job and the potential job applicants as being interchangeable. You ignore the person in front of you for the person who is in your head filling the role you think they should fill. It’s a good way to get yourself hurt and end up developing extremely negative opinions of your fellow humans.
Protip: don’t do that. Seriously, if something isn’t right, even if you can’t figure out why, just go with that. Life is easier that way.
For those who don’t know, it’s basically a song about a guy breaking up with a girl and not giving a shit. Because he’s a total dick. And now he’s going to write a song about it, because breaking someone’s heart to write a song is a worthwhile trade. It also includes some of my favorite lyrics ever:
Yeah I wish I could write a song like Townes Van Zandt
Then I could be a son of a bitch and no one would give a damn
And I just keep telling myself that no one understands