Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Here are some practical tips from 4thDwarf on how to get answers to those questions we often have for our romantic partners but can't necessarily ask -- at least not at the beginning of the relationship. Maybe someday google will provide us with these answers...

Relationship Questions

When we start a new relationships there are things we'd like to know that we can't directly ask about. Here are some tricks I've picked up along the way:

The Age
1. Ask what their age difference is with any siblings. (For only children, ask about parents.)
2. Several days later, ask how old the siblings are. (Or parent.)
3. Do the math.

Do they want kids
1. Ask how old their mother or father was when they were born (can be combined with "The Age")
2. Mention you read somewhere many people feel pressure to have children at the same age, ask what they think about that. (If you didn't read it anywhere else, you read it here.)

Religious Beliefs
1. Ask about childhood stuff, what kind of school, sports, music/dance lessons, scouts/guides, etc.; how they liked it, any regrets, resentment, etc.
2. Ask about whether they got dragged to church or synagogue or whatever
3. Again ask about how they liked it, etc.

The Name (Method 1)
1. (Okay, no value judgments here, you met in a noisy bar, you exchanged numbers, but now you just feel too embarrassed to admit you don't know their name.) Have a trusted and outgoing friend show up at the place you're on a date.
2. Instruct the friend to give you a big hello and introduce themself using their full name to your date.
3. If your date doesn't say their name back, say, "this is uh..."
4. Your date will then say their name (e.g. "Kelly"), when they accuse you of forgetting their name, you say, "No, no, Kelly, it's just I started to say 'my date Kelly', but I thought that might be presumptuous or offend you."

The major weakness with Method 1 is you start your relationship with lying and if your date even suspects you lied, nothing you ever say will be trusted.

The Name (Method 2)
1. Okay. It's embarrassing. But just suck it up and admit you don't remember. No matter how long you've let it go.
2. Be frank about how embarrassing it's been.
3. Say that you've even thought about elaborate plans with friends showing up and introducing themselves.
4. Make a point of writing it down somewhere that you won't lose it along with their birthday and any other important information. Like their favourite food or flowers. [The writing down will (a) show that you care and (b) prevent having to go through this again. And notice that this method will demonstrate that you can be honest even when it's embarrassing to you.]

Any others?
I'm curious whether anyone else has methods for getting other useful information that's hard to ask for, or whether anyone has things they'd like to ask about but don't know quite how to do it in an appropriate way.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Short People Got No Reason to Date

Here’s something I came across while perusing the web: the Short Person’s Support Group. It claims its mission is to:

1. Support and provide reference material to persons of short stature.
2. Raise awareness of the social and economic issues facing short people.
3. Provide inspiration to short people to help better their lives and attitudes.

What grabbed my attention was the empirical study they conducted using data available from online personals regarding heights of men and women, and the desirability of the choice of partner based on such parameters. It has some interesting analysis for short guys to consider when examining the degree to which height discrimination is going on in the dating world.

Check out the analyser for yourself. The model will open in a separate window.

I’ve always felt that my height has been a personal advantage on the dating front. These statistics definitely confirm it. However, at the same time, preferring women on the taller side of average tends to offer a smaller market share to choose from.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Are you ubersexual?

Okay, so I don't have time for anything original, but I couldn't ignore the latest pop-culture tripe on today's front page of the local pet-finder. I just wish I could get the media hype with the "platonic gigolo" that Ms. Salzman has with this latest addition to the word lexicon about men (she also coined the word metrosexual). Maybe I need to construct a quiz. I think that's the secret to these things.

Here's the test. I seem to gravitate towards (B). Damn you, Steve McQueen.

But what sort of man are you?

1: Who best embodies the masculine ideal?

a) John Wayne
b) Steve McQueen
c) Orlando Bloom
d) Ben Affleck

2: When would you use moisturiser?

a) never
b) if you’ve overdone the sunbathing
c) when there’s a new product to try
d) every day

3: Do you regard shopping as:

a) something that women can take care of
b) a boring necessity
c) an entertaining way to spend Saturday
d) worth spending time on to get what you want

4: Who makes the major decisions on household expenditure?

a) you
b) a joint decision after amicable discussion
c) your partner
d) whoever knows most about the item in question

5: How do you most like to spend your spare time?

a) bodybuilding
b) checking out new indie bands
c) shopping, clubbing
d) sport, activities with partner and family

MOSTLY A: you are a RAMM (resurgent angry macho man) typified by the warrior politician, such as George W Bush, Vladimir Putin and Tony Blair.

MOSTLY B: steady, you are wavering between the egalitarian new bloke and the emo boy who is in touch with his feminine side but has lost his backbone.

MOSTLY C: you are a metrosexual, a heterosexual into male grooming and shopping as entertainment.

MOSTLY D: congratulations you are becoming an ubersexual, the confident, stylish, quality-seeking, masculine man.

Monday, October 10, 2005

[This is my last post for the next while. I’ve got other things on the go that I have to divert more attention to. But I’d like to keep this blog going on a regular basis. If you’ve got 800 or more words you’d like to publish somewhere, and you think this place is a proper home, drop me a line. --thechairatcanadadotcom]

The Double Date

Recently, a woman I had met through a mutual friend called me up for a date. When I casually mentioned it to a guy friend, he asked whether she had lined up someone for him to escort for a double date. After all, that’s what was customary for our parents. People went on double dates. There would be the core couple and the tag-along blind date couple. From all those movies from the 1950’s, it seemed to be that the woman always had a shy cousin visiting from out of town that needed an escort. Why she couldn’t stay home and watch tv by herself, I never understood. On the men’s side, the wingman usually was an army buddy or former college roommate who tended to be the comic relief to the story line.

But this wasn’t just the stuff of movies.

Looking into the receiver and smiling, Chip wasn't the brightest of twoI’ve heard enough stories from my parent’s generation to understand that many of my friends’ parents met on these so-called escorted blind dates. The stories were as generic as those B-movies. The core couple that introduced the pair didn’t continue the courtship, while the escort couple eventually fell in love and got engaged after a few weeks. The facts seemed to defy intuition because of the sheer randomness of the connection. I began to wonder about it further. If such styles of dating had more than a modicum of success, how come it has all but died out in current dating culture? Moreover, should we be looking to resurrect the noted “double-date” of days of yore?

The purpose of the double date appears to have been two-fold. First, it allowed for quasi-supervision on a couple’s dating behaviour. With adolescents, this meant that parents could feel partially assured that Tommy and Betty-Sue weren’t going to get into too much trouble if Chip and Tammy-Lynn were chaperoning them. Victorian sensibilities carried into the twentieth century so to speak. For adult women, this probably offered a feeling of security as well. In addition, the double date could be considered a low-threshold event for guys and girls to get to know one another. For many, particularly the shy, having to hold a one-on-one conversation over the course of the evening was just too much to hope for. Better to be with a larger group, where the flow of conversation can continue without one having to engage at every point along the way.

The double date started off bad. Real bad.
Of course, most double date stories I have come across usually involved a reasonably well-established core couple. In 1950’s parlance, they were considered to be “going steady”. While the above-mentioned elements were considered for bringing along the extra couple, other motives were often at play. The most common one I heard of was the “set-up” date, where one member of the core couple was desperately trying to find a partner for their close friend and it was up to the other partner to pony up someone for the ritual (some would say sacrifice). I don’t have statistics on the success of such efforts. It seems to me that the sheer overtness of the caper probably created too much pressure for the coupling to happen.

To hide the forced situation, I’ve also heard of the “stealth” double date. This is where neither party is aware that a set-up is taking place. The core couple, dating experts that they are, decides not to tell the potential couple that they are being invited to a double-date. It’s all kept very casual, with the hope that the natural chemistry between the two will make romance blossom. Sadly, I’ve never heard of much success for that method. In fact, the one case I know of, the only pairing that happened was an affair one of the core couple members had with one of the stealth couple participants months after the original date. Talk about chemistry.

Similar to above, with non-core couple double dates the dynamics are much more fluid. In fact, this is one of the downfalls that I’ve observed. If at least one of the pairings isn’t established, one often gets two of the participants trying to jockey for position in wooing the interest of the same person. Which makes sense wI saw her first!hen you think about it. While everyone has his or her type, it’s amazing how often we end up competing for that “type” with our guy buddy or girl pal. And when I think of all the parties I’ve gone to over the years, it’s always the same available woman or guy that everyone seems to be chasing after. Line up ten women and ask ten guys whom they desire the most, and eight of them will pick the same woman. Do the same for women, and maybe six will pick the same guy. While I won’t go into the differences in the numbers between the sexes, the fact is that this overlap exists and it makes for a serious challenge in the world of double dates.

After illustrating nothing but risks and consequences associated with the double date, why is it that it was so popular in the past and why did it work in some cases? I want to retract what I said earlier about the risks of being too overt. With men, at least, overt is what we operate best in. More than once, I have been invited to dinner parties where the intention was for me to meet some available single woman. Of course, the clever individuals attempting such matchmaking thought by not telling me, it would make it seem less forced and improve the odds. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Almost in all such circumstances, I would hardly make the connection. In fact, it was more likely that I would hit on someone who wasn’t available or interested, which made matters worse. I’d hear afterwards that my potential love-interest was completely turned off when I flirted with the caterer. Often, I would be disappointed that I didn’t know about such a prospect until after the fact.

“She was single?” you could hear me ask. “That Kyle she kept talking about is her cat? Not a boyfriend? I just assumed…”

Another phenomenon that has clouded the world of covert courtships is the greater integration of people of diverse sexual orientation in mainstream life today. I have chatted up many the cute and interesting lesbian in my day -- all to no avail. Subtleties in that realm serve no one’s best interest, at least when it comes to romance. Throw in the growing interest in modern day “just friends” platonic relationships, and it becomes clear that something more overt in the courtship game needs to be re-introduced. The double date may be just the ticket.

Got something to add on this subject? Post a comment.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The Platonic Gigolo

This past year, I began an unusual relationship. Deborah* had recently been dating a less than perfect fellow who was not ready to commit to the partnership and domesticity she desired. She wanted children. John* was done wanting more kids, having one from his previous marriage. She liked going out and socializing with her friends and family; he didn’t like her friends and avoided her family. She was outgoing and gregarious; he was pensive and brooding. After a year of trying to find some middle ground, Deborah decided that the relationship should end. She began dating again and eventually crossed my path.

Our first few dates went well. We both enjoyed each other’s company, and from my perspective it appeared to be developing into something more substantial. While the romantic overtures were restrained, our get-togethers hinted of courtship. We were seeing each other almost twice weekly, sharing both laughter and serious discourse with each encounter. I was invited to her nephew’s birthday party. She introduced me to her friends and work colleagues.

Feeling like this was more than just platonic, I finally made a move. Surprisingly, Deborah did not see our situation exactly the way I had viewed it and confided that she was not looking for a romantic relationship. We were just friends. Living most of my life as a single, I have received and delivered the “just friends” speech at more than a few points along the way. I took it in stride.

Once becoming newly befriended (instead of boyfriended) I learned that things were not quite finished between Deborah and John, and that she was still spending time with him. Moreover, while admitting that “he isn’t good for me”, she said that she could not sever her connection to him so easily and was still hoping to work things out.

Partially taken aback by this revelation, it wasn’t the first time I had been thrown for a “bad boy”. Yes, deep down I longed to be a bad boy but I never could wear it that well. At worst, I could be a “not-so-nice-guy” or maybe -- with a stretch, “indifference-boy”. But I had given up long ago on being the bad boy to the point where I had even overcome the whole nice guy versus bad boy hang-up that so many guys whine about when trying to understand what motivates a woman.

With nothing worse than a slightly bruised ego, I accepted my newfound platonic relationship with Deborah and wished her the best in sorting out her matters of the heart. I liked her as a friend and looked forward to the infrequent Sunday brunch dates that usually defined such casual relationships for me.

But things progressed differently.

Firstly, I began to see more of Deborah rather than less. Now we were seeing each other at least twice weekly and often more frequently. Secondly, she continued to invite me to family and social gatherings where one would think we were a couple, except for the fact that we weren’t a couple, and she was still spending time with Mr. Bad Boy (as I secretly named him). Was she revising her thoughts about us? I felt reasonably certain that she was not looking for anything beyond friendship, though I remained confused about the status of our relationship.

“You’re the beard,” says the Consultant, my long-time woman friend and part-time counsel on such ill-defined matters. While women have been chasing bad-boys long before the days of James Dean and Marlon Brando, according to the Consultant , some modern day bad-boy chasers have added a pragmatic element by appropriating the same techniques gay men have been using for decades in order to meet social convention. I was Deborah’s cover story: Mr. Nice Guy – the man you can take into any social situation and feel assured that you will meet peer expectations.

What were you expecting? The socratic gigolo?I couldn’t dismiss the theory outright. Friends of past girlfriends always liked me. Parents and family mostly approved of me. I could enter a room full of strangers and become completely engaged with the conversation, whereas Mr. Bad Boy would rarely go out with Deborah, and when he did, it often resulted in a dreadful evening for them both. In this new world order, I would go to the social and family functions, get an A-frame style hug at the end of the date where she’d then head off to Mr. Bad Boy’s place. I was the platonic gigolo.

As for my position on the matter, I do enjoy the things we have been doing – including the public couple stuff. And I don’t feel jealous about Mr. Bad Boy. Some friends have cautioned that I should get out of this situation before I get hurt. Perhaps, if I were hopelessly longing for something more with this woman, but this is not the case.

I’ve already decided that I’m not letting this relationship undermine any chances to meet any new romantic interests. Though I do understand that if I’m perceived to be part of a couple it doesn’t exactly advertise my availability to the world. But what better way to exude some bad boy appeal to a new love interest than with the optics that one is currently partnered. Okay, so I haven’t quite resolved everything on that subject.

One thing’s for sure: if I’m going to be a platonic gigolo she’ll have to start paying for the theatre tickets. I’m through with this Dutch treat stuff. Which leads me to wonder what Mr. Bad Boy thinks about this arrangement. He may actually approve of it, as it gets him off the hook for all those social and couple functions he so dislikes. On the other hand, maybe this is no different than cheating. I’m sure we can come to some understanding. To start, I’d be willing to coach him on embracing the joys of the Sunday brunch date. Maybe in return he can teach me how to become more brooding.

*not their real names (yeah, boring, I know)