Monday, 29 August 2011

Auntie Seraphic & How Many Dates?

New Poll Alert! It is about women and cars. Not women's cars, mind you, but women's attitude towards men with or without cars.

In my dreams I am brave enough to drive and have a hunter-green mini metro. Also in my dreams, B.A. has a Rolls and a driver to drive it. We actually own the Historical House and have a staff of 15. B.A. sits in the back of the Rolls in impeccable Edinburgh-wear shouting through his mobile to his sales rep at Christie's to bid up to £50,000.

This post is not about cars. It is about what kind of men women find really boring and how long women should give really boring men a chance.

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

What do you do when you have a nice Catholic guy who is very interested in you but you don't feel [as interested in him]? How much time should you spend dating him to try to see if something will develop?

Concretely, I met a guy through the internet. We exchanged some nice emails and a few telephone calls, and have now gone on three dates.

The first date went really well. I live in a different area, so I gave him a couple restaurant choices; we had a nice dinner and I would have liked to do something afterwards, but he didn't suggest it.

On the second date, we went to my second restaurant suggestion, and I also suggested a walk or something, which he agreed to. The conversation wasn't as lively, and I found out he didn't have a car, which is surprising [in my culture], and that he had some health problems, a little surprising to hear about on the second date, which to me is just a time to see if you like being around someone.

I just got back from the third date, and I was really bored. It felt like he was waiting for me to take the lead the whole time. I probably should have said I was bored and saw how he adjusted, but that felt rude...

I feel really shallow for being concerned about his car-less-ness and his health concerns. I know that has something to do with my reduced enthusiasm, but I also would really like someone a little more outgoing and eager to take charge... Should I move on or give him some more time?

I always enjoy your opinions,

How Many Dates?

Dear How Many Dates,

I always say that a nice guy deserves three dates. This guy has had the three dates, and nothing "caught fire." So I think you can toss him back into the sea for the girl who will be head-over-heels crazy for him by Date #3.

Date #1, not Date #2, is the date to see if you just like being around someone. One should be able to reveal more personal information on Date 2, but frankly I think that's more in the line of "I don't like anchovies" than in the "my ongoing health problems" department. However, perhaps this man thought his health problems might be something you needed to know. (Goodness knows why.)

I find it interesting that you were the one suggesting restaurants and walks and, yes, it is perfectly logical that you feel that you were taking the lead all the time. He doesn't sound like a man to take the initiative. Boring, indeed!

As for the car thing, you know better than I what is reasonable for your area. I would think it very odd for a man in [your culture] not to have a car, but such a lack would be more than ordinary in a big city or in a European city of any size. I am not so sure it is shallow; car-ownership is one way to gauge a man's maturity.*

I hope this is helpful!

Grace and peace,

P.S. 1 Guys, do take some lead, okay? Even if your mother is still packing your lunch and making sure you have your inhaler, non-mother women like men to lead. It makes us feel all fluttery.

P.S. 2 I cannot stress what a bad idea it is for men to be up front with health issues so early in a dating relationship. Most young women are not interested in becoming some guy's nursemaid. And you don't have to be a crazed Darwinian to think that a healthy guy might make a better dad for one's kids than a sick guy. A woman who has fallen in love with a man will marry him if he comes home from the wars with one leg and horrible burns. But a woman who has just met a guy is less likely to think illness is just part of his charm.

I dated a great guy who was severely hearing impaired. It took me a long time to realize just how bad his hearing was, and it was a while before he mentioned that his sight was going, too. He was, however, determined to make it in the "hearing" world and he never complained about his infirmities. Never. Not even when he realized it was time to give up driving. His attitude was "The Good Lord might have taken my sight and hearing, but he sure gave me great hair."

The deal-breaker? The deal-breaker was that--and I'm really sorry that I couldn't have come to this conclusion way earlier--he wasn't a Roman Catholic, and I really, really, really wanted to marry a guy like my Jesuit classmates though not, of course, a Jesuit classmate. There were other deal-breakers, too, but it came down to the Catholic thing and, of course, as the school secretary pointed out, I couldn't have really loved him. Dang. Truth hurts.

(I can think of circumstances where you wouldn't marry a guy even if you really, really loved him--or BECAUSE you love him--but that's a subject for another post.)

P.S. 3 That was in Canada, where you can have perfectly orthodox Jesuit classmates, so this is not a slight on dear old Benedict Ambrose. When Jesuit classmates complain that Nice Catholic Girls stare daggers at them when they admit to being Jesuits, I advise that they should immediately follow the words "I'm a Jesuit" with "Like Father Fessio."

P.S. 4 Note I said "car", not "nice car" or "sports car" or "Masserati" or "Beemer."

*To those who have read my book: Even Der Gute--who lives in car-mad Germany--has a car. I mean, Der Gute. By the way, he has a new fish. He phoned the other day, and he has a brand new pet fish.


hopscotch said...

Pro-car bias has birthed sprawl and damaged American communal life, and here we see yet another one of its negative effects: thwarted romance. No surprise that a romantic walk seems boring when one is used to radio blasting, AC roaring, and the world whizzing by. It was no doubt in this young man's economic interest to not own a car. Too bad that instead of being recognized as having the thrift and savvy any potential wife might admire, he is considered inadequate for vague reasons.

I'll go further: Much of the worst of dating culture came in with the car (backseats and all that), but despite their immoral associations they are seen as good or necessary even by good Catholic girls. What times! What customs! As Kanye West once said, "Jesus walks." So do good new-urbanist Catholics.

Meaghen said...

Perhaps if the car was the real reason she doesn't like the guy, this WOULD be an example of the negative effects of pro-car bias. To me it just seems like her heart isn't in it.

And as far as pro-car bias..when Henry Ford built the Model T he said that when he was through everyone would be able to afford one and almost everyone would have one. In a culture where cars are as common as TVs, I think women might see car ownership as an indicator of financial status, rather than a chance to go for a joyride. (I mean...some of us drive, too.)

The only other thing I would add is that much of the best marriage culture also comes in the back seat - with car seats. You have to have a way to transport those babies!

sciencegirl said...

Depends where you live, and how frequently the car-less person asks for rides. It's not very noble to refuse to own a car if you just bum rides off your friends all the time, and it can get irritating if you become like the other person's chauffeur. A car-less person who maintains independence and gets around fine without lots of help is commendable, though FOR DATING I think it's nicer if the date picks me up and drives us somewhere nice. I lived in American cities for years before owning a car, and I walked a lot of places. It was workable, but I got pretty tired of it after 2 years. As a woman, having no car meant I tried to get home before dark, which is around 5 in the wintertime, and couldn't go back to lab at night. When I got a car, I got it so I could do more fieldwork, and also found it great to be able to pick up people from the airport, and was able to extend my work schedule when I needed to. I was able to go to more parties and leave when I wanted to, not when my ride wanted to, and was able to visit my friends more. The freedom afforded me by the car is wonderful. The city in which I live is very dangerous for pedestrians -- I know of 3 people who were hit by cars while they were walking or biking. Muggings of pedestrians are quite common in the spring and summer, and students have even been shot and sometimes killed. Sidewalks are spotty, few and far between. Best of all, I was able to start mentoring and tutoring children who lived far enough that a car was necessary. In Chicago, NYC, or San Francisco, it might actually be much nicer to NOT own a car, but it would depend on the neighborhood and your work requirements. A car made my life tremendously better.

Meanwhile, if after 3 dates you wouldn't be excited to go on a 4th, then don't. That's all that really matters.

Seraphic said...

Hello! Note the context, please. I know men without cars go bananas at the thought that women turn up their noses at men who don't have cars, but women also turn up their noses at men in Silicon Valley who don't have jobs and men in Paris who don't know where to get a decent meal.

Where this girl lives, if you don't have a car, you are dependent upon other people for lifts. If a man can't take care of himself (that would be a man in New York City too meek to hail a cab), he's not going to exude that perennially attractive "I would protect you from bears" air.

My readers do not all live in urban areas. If this girl--knowing the local culture as she does (and you don't)--feels in her gut that a guy without a car IN THAT CONTEXT is not really courtship-ready, then I respect that.

For what it's worth, my urban sophisticate husband does not have a car. Stupid love at first sight! I fell in love before I could register that B.A. neither had a car or a plan to buy one. I think I imagined married life as one long, sophisticated series of cab rides from the city centre. HA!

Seraphic said...

Incidentally, since I repeat over and over again that men love who they love and not whom we THINK they should love (e.g. us, our best friends), I have absolutely no problem in saying that if it turns out women do prefer men with cars, suck it up, buttercup.

And when I say "car" I am not saying "status car that men envy other men for having." I am saying "major adult purchase that even some 16 year olds manage if they are willing to do the work on a 1990 Ford."

Meanwhile, being from Canada, I think there is just something a little wrong with the guy who does not itch for the freedom to drive away from Turnipville, Ontario or Saint-Ouain-Ouain, Quebec the day he gets his first driver's license.

"Oh, no. Not me. I have no interest in the world outside. I have my Gameboy, and my mum makes me snacks and she never forgets to remind me to take my inhaler when I do leave the house, like, to go to 7-11. And you know what, man? There's no point in trying to meet chicks because they're all shallow b*tches who only like guys with cars."

Maggie said...

Good gracious, how we've made a mountain of a mole-hill here in the combox! I never would have thought that Seraphic's comment about the car thing was something of note.

For my 2 cents, with which everyone is perfect liberty to disagree:

1) what matters in this situation is the lack of spark the lady in question felt for the gentleman. She gave it a polite trial but no dice.

2) Her worry about his not having a car hardly seemed like the main reason she wasn't interested. It was long down the list of far more important things; ie, he didn't take the lead, she wasn't interested/felt bored, etc. Suddenly acquiring a car would not change those things about him.

3) I agree with Seraphic that owning a car is a subtle signal of a man's financial independence and therefore his ability to provide for a wife/children. (and if he's dating and out of school, that should be his motivation, anyway- to find a wife, etc.) It is not the only sign, clearly, and in a big city like New York or Chicago owning a car might be so unnecessary (and such a hassle) that it would be more prudent to *not* own a car. That's logical.

4) It's also true that I, personally, would be equally uncomfortable with a man whose car was ridiculously expensive, say a new sports car or a foreign model, over which he obsessed and about which he talked a lot. That would raise the red flag that his treasures are not in heaven, and it's hard to strive for holiness if you are more concerned about if the paint job on your car is marred than if your date gets home safely. (That's an extreme example, of course).

Claire Christina said...

I am completely ignoring the comments above me to talk about the poll.

I want there to be a middle ground! The car doesn't necessarily have to look expensive, but he shouldn't look poor. Now, bonus points for cool futuristic techie things the car does, but let's be honest! Men don't get those features to impress women; they get them because of their inherent awesomeness or to impress other men.
(Full disclosure: I voted expensive.)

Seraphic said...

Well, dear Maggie, my guess is that "hopscotch" is a guy because one way to get guys without cars to freak right out is to suggest that not having a care can sometimes be unattractive in a guy.

The truth is that guys care so much more about cars than women do. If a woman wants a car, she earns the money and gets the car, or gets a hand-me-down from her parents---just like guys do. If she doesn't, she doesn't: no big deal. And therefore, if she lives in a place so far from anywhere that everyone gets their driver's license ASAP, it is odd if an adult man doesn't have any car at all.

However, I keep hearing from guys over and over again about how women judge men by their cars. This even happened in the movie "Swingers." And yet I have never met a woman who really gives a darn what kind of car an attractive man drives. I couldn't for the life of me tell you what my best girlfriends' husbands drive. When they were dating them, we talked all about them for hours and hours, but somehow What Car They Drove never came up.

It's so odd. Women are forced to think 24/7 about when men find attractive, and yet the very idea that some women in some circumstances prefer adult men to have cars drives men up the wall.

Seraphic said...

But a nicely vacuumed car never looks poor, I think.

Anonymous said...

I understand about the significance of carlessness. In certain contexts it is a serious issue. But regarding your disapproval of a man's too-early revelation of his health problems - do you really mean that?

This sort of issue is always a source of anxiety, but I can understand that a man might want to reveal his problems as early as is decent. He wouldn't want to mislead the young women he dates, after all. Nor would he want to deal with the pain of rejection on the grounds of his health after some months of courtship. I suppose the latter is a selfish motive, but it strikes me as legitimately selfish.

So I think young men in this situation should be given a bit of a break - I mean in consideration of their motives and intentions, not in the sense that a woman should continue to date him if she isn't attracted. No woman should date a man after she decides she really isn't interested in him.


Seraphic said...

A break for what, though? As I tell women, on first dates, happy happy happy, good good good. You wait longer than two dates to start revealing your serious problems. We take a while to open up to new friends, so why jump the gun on dating relationships?

But the good news is that people who are not really ready for a relationship usually display their red flags right away. It is sad when they are puzzled that there was no Date 2 or Date 3, but if they replayed a tape of the date to blunt friends, the blunt friends would be able to pinpoint the "too much info too soon" moment.

Jam said...

I voted based on the word "ideal". Sure, as long as we're imagining, a car would be grand! I live in a city and don't own a car (and enjoy not owning a car) so if it were a guy in my own city I would probably not even think twice about his not having a car.

hopscotch said...

As Seraphic guessed above, I am indeed a guy. I'm also entirely kidding (sorry, ladies!) about the nefarious effects of auto-bias on the erotic economy. It makes perfect sense for a woman to prefer a man who is financially stable and who is able to take care of a high-maintenance item. Both things, I would guess, come in handy in married life.

Much more worrying, and what I do take very seriously, is the effect this bias has on the formal economy and on our policy decisions. But that is neither here nor there.

Domestic Diva said...

Like Claire Christina, I'm wishing for middle ground on the poll. I have a lot of respect for guys who are thrifty and live within their means, so a car clean enough to sit in is fine by me. I don't need the expensive car.

But the car also speaks something about his ability to provide for me in a potential marriage. So if his clean car was kinda cheap to begin with and also has a cracked windshield, missing hubcaps, and seems to be ready to break down at a moment's notice, I'm wondering if he will be able to support me in the manner to which I have become accustomed. If, however, he has an old Honda Accord that's clean and well taken care of, I see that as knowing how to manage his resources well.

Just another Catholic girl said...

I come from an area where not having a car means you cant possibly have a job or any means to support yourself. Everything needs to be driven to in the country. My father's first question about a possible date seems to be, "Does he have a car?" I doesn't matter to me what type of car, as long as it runs, gets him from A to B with no trouble, it's good enough for me. I don't intend to be my boyfriend's chauffer all the time. But I also agree that in a big city, no need for a car, its more expensive to own one there!

I think I might also wonder if he has too nice of a car. Why is he spending so much money on such an expensive thing? Isn't a Chevy good enough? Unless of course I knew he was a millionaire, then it really doesnt matter... ;-)

Moderation is the key in my book.

theobromophile said...

Cars: my family has a cutthroat car competition going... who can rack up the most miles. I'm in second place with over 270,000 miles on my Volvo, getting creamed by my father (approaching a half-million on his Volvo), while my sister takes the bronze with 130,000 on her Focus. This is an actual competition, with actual trash-talking, Facebook posts, and bragging rights.

So... men who spend loads of money on flashy new cars? Eeewwww. Now, men who will buy a car (perhaps a nice one, but slightly used to save money) and drive it for ten or fifteen years? Now you're talking.

berenike said...

You've left out an option in your poll for "would have a car but only if it was necessary given life situation".

Moreover, not being from Canada, my first instinct is to lean to the chap from Saint-Ouain-Ouain, Quebec, or Burwash Landing, Yukon, who could get up and leave if he wanted to, but instead puts his mind and effort into a life where he is. I expect a 4wd is handy in Burwash Landing, but if he's got things organised without one, hey, so much the better.

Anonymous said...

When I was 24, I dated a guy who didn’t own a car, but borrowed his sister’s. I already owned a car at that time. Granted I come from a place, a car is really not all that necessary, and living with you family (if you’re in the same city) is the norm. While it didn’t bother me too much that he didn’t own a car, I was not too thrilled about taking his sister’s. Especially since she disapproved that I was from a different community. However the guy was very nice but extremely boring. I agree on the three-date concept. I went on five thinking that he was probably too shy and might improve over time. He did not. I found the need to initiate conversations, rather than them flowing effortlessly, getting irksome. Bottom-line, it wasn’t the car; it was the fact that at the age of 31, the guy really didn’t have the capacity to take the lead in any sphere. Although he liked me and wanted to marry me, I just couldn’t see myself go through with it. It would have been a horrible mistake.

Seraphic said...

Berenike, I didn't say the chap had to leave Saint-Ouain-Ouain forever, just that he was itching to see what lay beyond it. You know, like the third son in the fairy tales who wants to make his fortune.

It can be hard for Europeans to understand just how far places in North America are from each other and how patchy the bus and train routes. (Cities in Poland are certainly distant, but Poland has amazing train routes.)

I'm really sorry this all turned out to be about cars, but that's what happens when unmarried American male readers without cars see the words "no car" too close to the word "boring."

The fact that too many huge American cities are ugly messes impossible (or too dangerous) to navigate without a car is supposed to confer sainthood upon American men too poor or disorganized or obsessed with Peak Oil to own a car.

There are circumstances in which having a car or at least a drivers' license are as necessary to adult flourishing as knowing how to read.

I'm sick of men without cars blaming women for preferring men who have shown themselves capable of flourishing in their own modern-day societies.

So far the vast majority of readers would settle for a guy having a car clean enough to sit in. And we're talking their "IDEAL" guy here. And I keep thinking about a guy from my neighbourhood who bought a used Cadillac from his weekend job earnings when he was 18.

Seraphic said...

Esther, you have hit the nail on the head. Men who have no get-up-and-go are boring. Men who set goals for themselves and are willing to work and scheme for what they want are exciting. Men (not teenage boys, but men) who would rather borrow their sisters' cars then manage by hook or crook to get their own are boring. Men who make plans and follow through are exciting.

Boring men may be very good men, and exciting men might be very bad men, but what we are talking about here is what makes men attractive to women who are just getting to know them. Since we have to think 24/7 about what makes us attractive to men, it would be nice if men thought for five minutes about what makes them attractive to women and not always come up with the perennially insulting answer "money".

It could be that modern-day men have been totally ripped off by having everything handed to them on a plate or told that it's better to have nothing than to work for something. It could be that Ritalin has spiritually castrated zillion of boys. That's very sad.

But we don't have to date and marry men who bore us rigid.

People from umpteen counties read this blog, and this whole "no car" conversation is very much an American thing. But, really, if a 31 year old American (or Canadian) guy wrote to me asking why he doesn't connect with women, I would ask: 1. Do you have a job? and 2. Do you have a car to take women home after dates?

berenike said...

I've been investigating Nunavut, so I'm getting a good idea of how remote one can be :)

Bernadette said...

It's all been said already, and yet I feel compelled to chime in...

Three dates is more than enough to know that you're not interested in a guy. Car or no car doesn't matter, a girl shouldn't have to go on boring dates. Plus, it's not nice to string a guy a long when you know the answer is no.

I live in an area where, while one can get along without a car, it does make things much, much more difficult. Having a car is crucial to my continued employment, so I would wonder whether a man in my area without a car was really economically viable.

However, I do know some men who choose not to have cars for various reasons, and who get around just fine on bicycles, motorcycles, public transport, living within walking distance of their work, etc. I can admire the strength of principal that made one friend bicycle ten miles to the swing dance every week (and then home again after a few house of dancing). So I think as long as a guy can get to the places he needs to go, I don't care whether he has a car or not.

Shiraz said...

Just a thought -- I think your poll is flawed. I voted for having a car clean enough for me to sit in as I really don't care about cars, but rather thought it was a Good Thing if a man has practical skills and KNOWS how to drive in case of emergency. Having a car or not is irrelevant, but as an example, my fiance hasn't had a car for a couple of years now, but can certainly drive cars and trucks as well as boats and light aircraft. So if we're ever on the run and need to, action-movie style, take whatever vehicle is to hand we're set :-). But yeah, maybe there should have been an "I don't care about car ownership" option that didn't mention and inability to drive...

sciencegirl said...

I think this conversation could help men in even countries where car ownership is uncommon, because they could extrapolate that to whatever is the expected responsibility of their own country. Say a man lives in a country very different from America, where it is the most honorable responsibility for a man to take care of his parents or aged relatives, and still live in his childhood home, but where pets are considered weird and kind of gross A man who said something like "Hey, I don't much like my parents or grandparents, so I live in a tiny apartment by myself with 4 dogs who all sleep on my bed," he might find the ladies less interested. The same man could actually find a lot of attention in the USA. As you said before, a Frenchman who did not value delicious food or wine would really be a disappointment to women there. If a man switches countries, it's important to know what to expect from his new society. Sometimes foreign students settle in America or Canada and want to date the native women. Whether these women are from their ethnicity or not, it's good to know what they value and what they consider signs of maturity and respectability -- and what they consider red flags.

Seraphic said...

That's a really good topic, Theobromophile. I think I should do one for Canadians and then get women from other countries to post their national "red flags."

Shiraz--alas! You are right! But I thought some girl or other might find it admirable that a man was so anti-car, so pure of diesel-tinged sin, that he didn't even have a license.

theobromophile said...

Thanks, Seraphic! I look forward to reading that.

On a side note, one of my friends was once lamenting how his daughter was hesitant to go out with a guy she met on a Christian dating site because she didn't think he was cute. My advice, shamelessly stolen from you, was to give any man who has good character three dates. My friend's head snapped up and he said, "That's really good advice! I'm going to tell her that."

Seraphic said...

Oh good! Steal away. I did not like B.A.'s photograph the first time I saw it. I thought, "Blah! Beard!" But then I reflected that you can't judge a man by his photo, which might be the worst photo taken of him ever.

I honestly don't think we can judge men, and their attractiveness for us, by their amateur internet photographs. And that is just one more problem with internet dating.