Posts tagged honesty
Since my days writing the Jewish Week column, I’ve occasionally acted as a Lorax for Jewish singles: I speak for the women who are also struggling as we encounter men who range from oblivious and inconsiderate to deliberately rude and cruel. I try to balance things – I mean, the Mean Girls of Tina Fey’s film of the same name certainly exist in the dating realm as well – but the reality is there’s a real imbalance when it comes to cruelty. And every time I think I’m done with this post, I encounter another anecdote, another tale of ludicrous human behavior. I try to write with a balanced sense of where the blame lies and attempt to avoid gender stereotyping. But with the title of this post, you get an idea where my head is at.
I’ve of late been privy to some rather disturbing dating anecdotes in which grown men behave like babies, or teenagers, or bullies on the playground exploiting the weaknesses of the women they date/hook up with/rely on. These men bill themselves as single, divorced, separated or even still married. Through deliberate deceptions or lies of omission, they leave the ladies sad, crying, disillusioned, distrusting, damaged and increasingly cynical. Some of these stories were even told to me by the men in question, with a mixture of pride and matter-of-factness. They don’t think that they’ve done anything wrong, or even particularly remarkable, and maybe, if analyzed by dating experts, they haven’t.
All the questions we ask of ourselves and of each other – are there rules and should we play by them, why are men scared of commitment, can Mars and Venus ever have a conversation, why do women ask if their outfits make them look fat, who pays on a first date, why hasn’t he called, etc – don’t produce any real answers to speak of, because every person’s situation is different. But we keep asking our friends because we need reassurance. And the eventual outcome of this constant querying is Cosmopolitans and camaraderie, dining and commiserating with the other amazing people who fill our lives while we’re waiting for “the one, ” or “a one.”
It is rumored that there are good-hearted guys out there, the “nice guys” who “would never treat you like that,” the ones who smile and mean it. But the guys referred to in the title of this post are ruining it – and us – for the men who would make suitable partners. If and when we’re lucky enough to encounter more gentle considerate souls, we may not trust them, because our experience has taught us that to protect our fragile selves, we should trust no one at all.
But I’ve long believed that – as idealistic and perhaps unlikely as it sounds – we can earn each others’ trust as we swim in what is sometimes a murky and somewhat seedy dating pool. But we will all of us – men and women, those who behave well and certainly those who behave less well – need to treat each other more honestly and considerately in the courtship and dating process. Like anything worth doing well, it takes practice and effort. But a perhaps foolishly optimistic voice in me says that it’s possible.
Communication today is a series of short missives, texts, instant messages, tweets, or if we’re feeling verbose, emails. And none of us has figured out quite how to do it: either we self-edit like our lives depend on it and parse every letter of a person’s response, or we don’t edit at all – saying whatever we feel and then “unsaying” what we wish we hadn’t said with a simple “J/K.”
What if we were more honest with each other, turning off the self-editing and being real with each other in every medium – from the instant message to the text to the in-person conversation? Is that too risky? Too scary? Too unreasonable?
Last week, I met someone who told me that while he had not met his wife through JDate, but that the process of going out with (200!) women from JDate had made him a better dater. Well, that figures, right? I mean, practice anything 200 times and you’re going to get better at it. He noted that the process had made him better at his job, too, had trained him to listen better to people, even if he wasn’t overly interested in the subject matter.
But I was more intrigued by his description of his process – that he had obtained feedback even from dud dates that made him able to improve to the point of being able to meet his soulmate. He told me that after any woman told him she didn’t think a next date was a good idea, he told her that he respected her decision, but that if he had done anything that annoyed her, he’d love it if she’d tell him what it was.
I was fascinated, and tried to imagine myself as one of these women. How honest would I be? How sincere would I have thought he was in his “desire to learn”? It made me think of the tongue-in-cheek suggestion I made to friends years ago about handing out evaluations (or sending a surveymonkey link) to dates to enable honest feedback on dating technique and reactions to compatibility based on the dating experience.
While it’s very easy to joke about this, many people do a “post-game” analysis (let’s be optimistic and NOT call it a post-mortem) of their dates: this could include self-assessment (“did I talk/fidget/play with my hair/order/eat too much?” etc.) or sociological observations about behavior of the other person (“did s/he like me, or just tolerate me?” “was that banter or arguing?” etc.). But all of this assessment happens internally: is there a value in externalizing, vocalizing, concretizing this analysis as a way to evaluate performance and potential, and perhaps as a learning tool? And are we all man (or woman) enough to accept the criticism?