This is my response to a popular The Frisky post entitled 10 Things Guys Should Do On A First Date. I want to publicly say that this post and the millions of posts like it on the internet, written by both men and women, are stupid.
By stupid, in this case I mean stereotypical, sexist, heterosexist, gender biased, diversity squelching and generally ignorant. Let’s forget for a minute those folks who don’t even neatly fit into a male/female category, for whom the rules of how to act on a date based on gender are probably most dramatically absurd.
Let’s just think about the number of men and women from all different races, classes, ethnic backgrounds, educational levels, with differing political persuasions and professions, some of whom grew up on farms or suburbs, others in cities, some who were born on other continents or studied overseas—not to mention, those who belong to as many religions as you can imagine. Really? You are going to make a list of rules of how people should act on dates with one of 150 million females (and that’s just the U.S.) as if there is any one thing these women would have in common.
Admittedly, lists like this for women are equally absurd but I think there are less of them these days because it’s just too politically incorrect. As my brother points out, it’s still okay to make absurd generalizations about women to help men, but not as okay to tell women how to please men. So for all the straight men who have argued to me there are now rules men have to follow that women don’t “because of feminism,” I am here to tell you that if these are the rules you are referring to, they are stupid.
Let’s start here and take at look at some of the more stupid of the 10 rules.
Take Charge. We do not want to decide where to go. We will never tell you this, but it is true. Ask us what kind of place and/or food we like; then, pick a place like that. Do not leave it up to us to choose. You are the man. Act like one.
Brilliant. Guys, if you want to date someone who’s been in some kind of coma and missed second wave feminism, go ahead and take this advice. Who wants to date someone who would state they don’t want to have to make decisions? If acting like a man means telling women what to do because it takes too much exertion for us to figure out what we want, that is offensive to everyone. Seriously?
Mind Your Body Language. If your legs are crossed and your hand is over your mouth, we will unconsciously think you are hiding something. If you are sprawled out all over with your legs spread wide and your hands behind your head, we will think you are a slob or generally loose. Sit up straight, lean in closer, and keep your hands where we can see them.
This makes men sounds like monkeys in a cage under observation by some suspicious observer. I don’t know about other women, but I would never be observant enough to notice and/or take the time to read that much into a man’s gestures. “Keep your hands where we can see them.” Really? Because all men are predatory and not to be trusted to even move their hands out of sight? I don’t think so.
No Pawing Allowed. If you’re going to score with us at some point, we will let you know. Trust. Occasional physical contact is OK — a hand to the small of the back, a touch of the thigh, a brief holding of the arm while making a point. Do not grab anywhere in the red light zones. If we want your hands there, we will put them there.
Pawing? Now men have been demoted from monkeys to dogs. Sensational! I know some readers may be stunned by this, but some women like things to move quickly in the physical department. Yes, I’m talking about s-e-x. There are also men who want to wait, take it from me. We all need to be aware of others’ boundaries. I have had many female friends complain that a man is never making a move, and others complain that one is too forward. If you want someone to know your boundaries you have to tell them. This is true for persons of both genders.
Pay. Feminism, shmeminism. Take care of the bill without comment. That is what we want. Wave off any offer to go dutch. We lied. We don’t want to pay half.
Uh, ladies, are you as pained by this as I am?? W.T.F. I would like to state for the record that while I am biologically female and also identify with a female gender identity, I do not consider myself part of any we that wants to put up a sham of wanting equality only to have a man refuse to treat me as an equal. This is not sexy. Women should indeed pay half. If you don’t agree, date women like the one who wrote this post. If you do, date women who will pay half. Please do not read shit like this and then go around whining about how women are only interested in money and dating is so expensive. Bunk.
When I hear my single male and female heterosexual friends complaining that all men this or all women that, I want to say where are you looking, and how hard? What would you be willing to compromise to meet someone who doesn’t expect you to follow a gendered script? Would you be willing to accept someone who doesn’t follow other culturally prescribed scripts? Someone who doesn’t have money? Someone short (mostly for women)? Someone of a different race or religion? Someone who identifies as GLBTQ? Someone who doesn’t meet your friends and families expectations? Someone divorced? Someone who demands equality in other areas in addition to splitting the bill?
Most of the rest of these are not so bad, but I can be put under the category of good advice for anyone.
Everyone needs to ask questions and listen. Everyone. People who ask questions and listen are more successful in most aspects of life, including dating. These social skills predict success better than IQ, education, etc.
Act Right, Boy. We really do not care if you are secretly neurotic, deeply insecure, or mildly nuts. We are interested in how you portray yourself. Act confident, interested, engaged, self-assured, ambitious, and happy. We like that. Thanks.
We’ve all been on those dates where people reveal way too much, too fast. If you’re a shrink like me, you’re probably married to that person.Yes, there are those of us who are impressed by someone who will speak openly about his/her emotional life and past struggles. Of course that depends on the way it’s presented. Everyone has a different level of tolerance for airing personal baggage. But in general, it’s probably best to be yourself, without talking like you would in my office. That goes for men and women.
Bottom line—if you don’t like the rules don’t follow them, and demand partners who don’t either. I often hear from men and women that they get better results with internet dating when they present themselves in a very gendered way, or in ways that don’t suit them. Remember high school? I probably would have been more popular if I had done a lot of things that didn’t suit me too, but I didn’t do all those things. Hell, I’d probably have more people reading my blog if it was called “Naked and Horny in the Suburbs” and included photos of me in compromising positions.
Quantity is not everything. You are better off with 10 dates with quality people you might actually like than 100 sheep who are blindly following cultural norms. Quantity is for conformists.
If you don’t follow the rules it makes it more likely your peers and future generations won’t either. If you don’t like the expectations of the people you are dating, date other people. Here’s a tip: talk to people. When the bill comes, start a conversation. Even if it turns out you’re totally incompatible, that’s good information that could save you a lot of hassle. You get to have a genuine exchange instead of being fake and following some script that’s going to lead you nowhere anyway. And who knows? Somebody might just learn something.
(A version of this piece originally appeared in the author’s blog, Undercover in the Suburbs.)
Lyla Cicero has a doctorate in clinical psychology, with clinical interests in relationships, sexual minorities, and sex therapy. Lyla is feminist, LGBTQIAPK-affirmative, sex-positive blogger at UndercoverInTheSuburbs.com, where she focuses on expanding notions of identity beyond cultural limitations in the areas of gender, sexual orientation, motherhood, and sexuality. Follow her on twitter @UndrCvrNSuburbs.
~Editor: Lori Lothian
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