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We met at a book party about shoes. My friend, a fashion columnist, lured me there with promises of free champagne-based cocktails and his friend lured him there with promises of “networking,” by which now I’m pretty sure he meant “babes.”
Us both being cynical, native New Yorkers wearing sneakers instead of Louboutins, we naturally gravitated toward each other and spent most of the night downing champagne and enviously mocking the poised, beautiful people floating around us. It was a pretty good meet-cute.
Heinrich — we’re calling him Heinrich — wrote occasional dating columns for Playboy and Cosmo, a sort of “bro correspondent,” as he called it (under multiple nom-de-plumes). When he told me this, I was impressed and amused, but also a bit wary. If I started actually dating this guy, would I appear in his columns? Would he be using me as an experiment for his dating theories? But me being me (a “romantic adrenaline junkie,” as my friends euphemize my horrible taste in men), I was also very intrigued. And so it began.
And now I will write about dating someone who writes about dating and the lessons I learned in the process:
1. Texting is high-level psychological warfare.
“Oh yeah, I’m a super calculated texter,” he told me on our first date. “The punctuation of my texts mean almost as much as the text itself. If you ever see me write an exclamation mark without a space before it, either I’ve won the lottery or almost died. Or I’m on some really great drugs.” Judge me as you will, but at the time I found this neurotically charming and also assumed there was some writerly hyperbole occurring.
But I soon found out the truth. Starting after this date, we began texting for hours at a time. By our second date, we had probably exchanged three times more words over text than we had in person. And we were good at it too; witty, sexy, culturally relevant. It was almost addictive, like a sort of intellectual foreplay.
Unlike Heinrich, I tend not to think about my texts very much. I try to text how I speak, make jokes as they come to me (whether or not they work over text), and respond when I feel like responding. Since this was not Heiny’s method, he assumed this was not my method either, and I quickly realized each of my hundreds of iMessages were being subjected to the analysis of an expert. Every emoticon expressed a world of emotion to Heinz. The amount of time I took to respond was a perfect calculation of my feelings toward him.
About three dates in, before we were even past the goodbye-kiss stage, I sent him one too many picture messages and he stopped talking to me for four days.
When I questioned him about the disappearance later, he said he thought I was taking our relationship too seriously too quickly and wanted to give me a “time-out” to slow things down. I just wanted to send him a picture of a dog peeing in snow.
2. I became an emblem for ALL women.
Although writing about dating can be helpful and informative (I’m doing it after all, aren’t I?), it can be dangerously general. I find that many writers, particularly writers writing for websites mostly aimed at the opposite gender (women writing for Playboy, men writing for Glamour, etc.) begin to start thinking of themselves as representatives of their gender and age group.
Though Heinrich was a talented writer, he was often guilty of this in his articles, and I soon found that he began imposing this representation on me. Or assuming that the observations he had made in his articles about women automatically applied to me as well.
From the pretentiously cloth-bound book I was reading at the bar before our first date (it was for school, I swear!), he deduced that I was “the intellectual type” and therefore “the relationship type,” therefore the “sex-is-a-meaningful-union-between-two-souls type.” This is, quite frankly, untrue.
Yes, I think sex is better when you’ve known the person for more than 24 hours, and the best when you’re in love, but I like sex as much as the next SLYF. (Sexually Liberated Young Feminist, an acronym I just made up.)
So by the third time he ran away in the middle of a 10-minute make-out session, I had to ask what was up.
“Oh, I thought you were, like…the waiting kind.” he perplexedly replied.
This was not the only assumption he made about me. He also decided I loved scotch (I’m more of a gin gal), and was a pseudo vegetarian (chicken soup feeds my 20-something soul), and seemed proud of himself for making these assumptions based on his immense (read: questionable) people skills.
After seeing a few of these red flags, I withdrew a bit and decided that Heinrich was more the casual cocktail-buddy type. He took this as me trying to beat him at his own game, playing hard-to-get, messing with his head to get him to like me more. Quickly our communication became so fraught, our idea of what our relationship was so different, that even the sexual component fell apart. Heinrich, out of pure insecurity and intimidation, stopped being able to “perform” and eventually became so embarrassed by it that he disappeared for good.
Luckily, I was never invested enough in the relationship to really take a hit from the experience, but I did learn a lesson:
3. Overanalyzing is the plague of our generation.
There are some articles blaming Carrie Bradshaw for this plague, and thousands blaming technology, just Google “millennial” and “dating” to find them (some were probably written by ol’ Heink himself).
And yes, I think it has made it worse, but this sort of miscommunication is as old as language itself. I would propose that we all date silently but that’s perhaps too revolutionary a suggestion. Instead I propose that we use it to our advantage, fight the urge to read between the lines, and just be honest. Or at least, that’s what I’m going to try do from now on.
And I will assume that my future communication partners are being honest as well, no matter how cryptic the text, even if this is not in fact the case. If all goes well, they will realize that I am playing no games and stop the games themselves. And if they start making up false meanings for my actions, then they can go meet up with Heinrich and mansplain women to each other over brewskis.
But my dream is we all solve the “millennial dating crisis” together and all just stop. We are of the “Yes We Can” generation after all (take that as an Obama or a Bob The Builder reference, as you see fit). So lets start a dating revolution.