Most of my knowledge about dating predates 2003, as I spent pretty much the entire last decade in a monogamous relationship.
I've never seen "Lost," either, but I have a pretty basic understanding of its major plot twists just by virtue of that fact that I'm on Twitter, have a subscription to Entertainment Weekly and am generally tuned in to what's floating around in the cultural ether. What I'm saying is: I know what "the hatch" is and I also observed plenty about dating culture throughout my non-dating years.
I've looked around on OKCupid and thought to myself, "Daters deserve a medal, because people are fucking horrible." And while for the most part I've always found the process to be mostly fun, I understand that for a lot of people, dating sucks. It sucks to be vulnerable, to put yourself on the line night after night. It sucks to meet people with whom you don't even seem to share a fundamental language.
And as far as I can tell, the only antidote to dating's soul-sucking nature is kindness, and the willingness to see the person you're out with as more than just a jumble of potential assets and weaknesses, but a fellow human like yourself.
Essentially, when it comes to dating, we should all be following the golden rule: Treat others as you'd wish to be treated.
Which is why I winced when I clicked on the link to this article entitled "18 Things You Wish You Could Ask on a First Date," and read questions like, "How much money do you make?" and, "What age did your Dad go bald?" and, "Can you lift up your shirt for a sec?" YIKES. Is that really where we are now?
And it's not just this one article. I've long cringed reading status updates in which my female friends eviscerate potential dates, mocking them for dorky quips or ill-advised pictures. I'm all for having standards, but it seems like so many of the women I know demand perfection in a potential partner, no matter what baggage she herself may be lugging around. And the more successful and intelligent the woman, the more likely she is to be downright cruel about enforcing those standards.
"I'm going out with a short ginger!" a co-worker proudly proclaimed to me a few weeks ago, continuing when I just stared at her unblinkingly, "I just think he's been passed over a lot because of those things, but I'm going out with him. And later this week I'm going out with an overweight bald man," she finished up.
It was like she wanted a medal for being willing to give a human being who didn't fit her physical ideal a chance.
In general, I don't think 1-1 comparison when it comes to these sorts of things makes sense -- women have been oppressed for thousands of years, men haven't -- but in this case, imagining a man saying these things about a woman he's dating, or dissecting her profile on his Facebook page, makes me feel extremely icked. I mean, let people be people for god's sake.
Maybe it's the proliferation of Internet dating that's led to a general meaning of dating culture. Just like those crazed dickholes on YouTube telling cute kittens to go kill themselves and calling supermodels "fat," a lot of Internet daters seem to lose track of the fact that there's A PERSON behind that collection of info slapped up with a couple of pictures. (I personally tried to remember that not everyone is a great writer, and a lot of guys online are perfectly nice people who are doing a poor job representing themselves.)
Or maybe it's that we women get dicked around by so many dudes that we develop some kind of Post Traumatic Shithead Disorder, wherein the perfectly reasonable desire to watch out for red flags and dealbreakers morphs into a complete, paranoid intolerance of any human flaws.
To be clear, it is important to enter into any potential relationship with your eyes open, and there are lots of very real warning signs one should heed. (Senam covered a few of them here.) I'm from the Oprah school of thought that people who are bad people usually let you know pretty clearly and early on, and it's important to listen.
It's also possible I'm overly invested in giving people a chance due to the fact that I am a pretty robust and constant mistake-maker. There's a lot about me that doesn't fit the traditional package of what a man is expected to be looking for -- I have a history of addiction, I'm a bit overweight, I'm on antidepressants, I'm "slutty." I'd never make it past the radar with most of the women I know.
Ultimately, I'm not above a little gallows humor. One of my friends recently went through a breakup and she regularly texts me screenshots of some of the real fuck-this-life "I wanna eat your pussy"-level messages she gets to her online dating account. But while some guys really are dickheads, some guys are just not for you, and wouldn't it be kind of you to give them a pass without comment? It's just good karma.