Monday, 14 October 2013

Auntier Seraphic & Fair Chance

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

First of all, thank you so much for your blog! Love it! It's a breath of fresh air sometimes.

So here's the deal:

Small school, Christian student body. Most students take dating fairly seriously- as something that should lead to marriage. (Hence- "ring by spring") While this is quite an appropriate outlook, it seriously hampers the dating scene here. Making it pretty much non-existent. Guys don't ask girls out, even for a "you're kinda cool, let's get to know each other over coffee" kind of date. It's as if going on a date meant you were getting married (since many couples tend to date very seriously and are engaged by graduation). My friend at another university was very surprised to hear that I had not gone on any dates at school. It just doesn't happen here. To be fair, we end up with some great guys friends (who are definitely friend-zoned), and most of our serious couples started off by being friends.

Given all that, I [recently] had a conversation with a male acquaintance at a school function [...] [My] radar started going off as the conversation progressed- mostly small talk, but still. We have some [...] interests in common, but I'm just not interested if he tries to pursue. (Though I do give him credit for picking up a conversation. I am told I can be somewhat intimidating, or at least appear very poised and confident- just so you know what the guys have to deal with. "Approach with caution or a lot of confidence.")

Anyway, this got me thinking: how do you navigate these types of situations if they arise in college or later in life? On one hand, you don't want to shut guys down right away because they had the guts to ask a girl out or talk to her, which is what we'd really want happening on campus. I figured that, unless they're obviously on a "wife hunt" or total creepers, it wouldn't hurt to go on a date, give the guy a shot, and enjoy it. But on the other hand, if you're not really interested, would that just be leading them on? It's just really confusing, especially in this super serious dating environment.

Sorry if you've already covered this on your blog- you could just send me some links.

God Bless!
Fair Chance

Dear Fair Chance,

I stand by my "It's just coffee" position. Whatever the courtship culture looks like at your college, the experience of every girl and guy there is going to be unique. And I don't like this "ring by spring" attitude because it suggest couples feel pressured to get engaged and marry. Disillusionment will bring divorce, and I am all about preventing disillusionment and divorce.

I have written many times that the most attractive qualities are joy and confidence. Well, part of confidence is saying "Yes" to what you want and "No" to what you don't want. Therefore, if a man asks you out for coffee, and you want to have coffee with him--for ANY reason (you're cold, you need a coffee, he's funny and you could use a laugh)--then have the coffee. If the same man wants to hold your hand, but you don't want to hold his hand, give his hand a friendly squeeze and let go.

I do not think there is anything wrong with spending time with men you like because they are friendly and nice to talk to, as long as you do not feel this means you HAVE to do something else. You don't. You should, however, make a mild protest when they offer to pay, and insist on paying sometimes, especially when you intuit that a guy has a crush on you. That way he won't feel used when he gets over it.

Above all, you are not a failure if you don't get "a ring by spring". Sorry to diss your college culture, but what nonsense! That kind of attitude can ruin lives. Some people just aren't ready or called to be married right out of college.

I hope this is helpful!

Grace and peace,

Now that I'm 39+, my brain synapses are totally done joining up, I went to therapy for five years and I have a diploma in Lonergan Studies, it is all too easy to wonder why 20-something girls jump from "we had a conversation" to "he'll ask me out" and from "he asked me out" to "he'll force me at gunpoint to marry him." When I was 20-something, my brain zipped from A to Z too.

Too many young women make up their minds about their future with a man in fifteen seconds. Either he's cute, so they're getting married one day, or he's not so cute, so they aren't. It's like shoe shopping or, worse, skimming through faces on a dating website. I am personally a big fan of cute, but let's get real. Not all good guys resemble actors and not all cute guys are good.

In my experience, guys think girls are pretty or they don't, whereas girls either think a guy is cute, come to think of a guy as cute, or stop thinking of a cute guy as cute when it turns out he has the personality of either a dust-mop or a hyena. And this is why I think women should go out with a guy for coffee before dismissing him as "Meh. Not interested." Nice boys are usually uncomplicated and ask girls out for coffee just because they think the girls are attractive and kind. (Bad men are often complicated, too complicated for this post.) Being thought attractive and kind is flattering. Personally, I like best those men who think I am attractive and kind. Men of such sophisticated and discerning tastes are rare. Their value is beyond that of rubies. Did I mention the young Bangladeshi chef who tried to chat me up on the bus that Sunday? Oh, I think I did.

At the same time, of course, I am for women doing exactly what they want to do, as long as it is not against God's laws. There is no divine law saying "You should not have coffee with a near-stranger you're not prepared to marry." If a man seriously thinks a woman has agreed to marry him because he bought her a coffee, he's either insane or doing that girl thing of going straight from A to Z instead of, like most men, just plodding along from A to B to C to D.

Men don't like being "led on"--that's true. But on the other hand, they want to be given a chance. So for heaven's sake give the ones who have the good taste and the manly courage to actually ask you out a chance. It's just coffee.


Stellamaris said...

What if you find them really dull and unattractive and are only chatting with them at a social function in order to be polite and not appear like a rude rhymes-with-witch? Should you still go out for coffee with them if they ask? I'm serious about this question. I often feel I'm attracting men so dull I would fall asleep on them if I didn't keep pinching myself. I can feel my eyes glazing over but they just keep going, and I don't know how to courteously extract myself from the situation.

Domestic Diva said...

Stellamaris, I say if it's really that bad, no. But I think girls often write off guys too quickly, and evaluate their "marriage potential" when the poor guys are nervous and therefore coming across badly. Give them a chance to calm down, to not be so nervous or try so hard, and to be who they really are. Then we can evaluate. Many's the girl I've known who didn't initially feel a spark but later did. I vote 3-5 long as he's gentlemanly and not obviously planning your future.

Seraphic said...

What makes them so dull? Is it the subject matter or do they talk in a monotone or do you not try to change the subject or do you work in a profession in which guys with autism flourish?

I am suddenly fascinated by the dullness of these guys.

Magdalena said...

Stellamaris, I thought the same (not that I am asked out very often, but thinking about the men around me who did show some interest in me). What makes them so dull? In my case it would be the chosen subject matter. But, Seraphic, you made me think if this was probably partly my fault, because as a matter of fact in the situations I am thinking about I didn't really try to change the subject. Hmm. I rather tried to get something interesting out of them in the topics they chose themselves, and tried to listen civilly even though I was bored.
One reason I found some of them dull, however, was probably their way of speaking, slowly, quietly, or with a lot of breaks, or without confidence. In that case, the topics chosen could have been interesting, but still talking with them was kind of boring. Bless their little hearts! And of course I know a lot of men who are interesting and kind and not boring at all!

Stellamaris said...

No, no autism. I guess it's just the total lack of subject matter - they don't seem to have anything to talk about at all. "How are you these days?" "Fine, how are you?" "Fine, thanks." Long awkward silence, unless I move things forward or manage to slip away (I don't know how - hence my problem). I'm not very good at small talk myself, so I find myself struggling to think of conversational gambits so we won't just be smiling and nodding at each other. Surely I shouldn't have to put this much effort into a conversation with a guy? And I hate feeling that I'm answering his questions about me in long form just to fill the void. I haven't noticed this when I talk with girls (or in groups - just with certain men one-on-one). What am I doing wrong? Could you write a Conversations with Men 101 post?

Seraphic said...

Ha! What a great idea! I have to admit that I am a bit horrible to young men when I first meet them unless they are instantly charismatic, but after I get used to them, I improve. And because I improve, they improve. Man, I'm old. When I was young, men scared the living daylights out of me, and now I am admitting that sometimes I am at conversational fault. Whoo! Why does everyone complain about being older than 30? It is AWESOME.

Stellamaris said...

That's why I wonder if I'm the problem - of course it's easy to chat with charismatic people, and I suppose I'm okay with drawing out shy women. But shy, awkward, quiet men are a conundrum. I've noticed that they will sometimes immediately start looking at me with sheep eyes if I make kind efforts to engage in conversation, and that makes me very nervous.
You want my honest opinion? You say that guys get turned off if girls show too much interest too soon, but I think girls are not much different. Catholic men would benefit from playing it a bit cooler at first. It would help me believe that it really is Just a Coffee, and he will not be totally crushed if I decide I don't want a second or third date.

Pearlmusic said...

I don't like the idea of asking out for coffee as a declaration of love either, but I know it does happen. I have a memory of a guy who asked if there was a place for him in my life and THEN asked me out, or rather suggested that I should come and visit him in his home town (he lived 3-4 hours by train away). I was so darn shocked that I didn't want to go.

Some men think like "it's now or never" or perhaps they think they will lose the girl if they don't tell her about their feelings at once. That's crazy! If the girl is really interested, she will be excited to wait with her heart pounding until they declare to be exclusive. If she's not, there's still a chance the spark will appear within some time.

So, again, coffee for the win :)
By the way, I don't mind if men speak little.

Seraphic said...

Pearlmusic, I don't mind either. Sometimes it is nice to sit there in dead silence, as if I am fishing, and see if that goads the nearest man into saying something. Fortunately this often works.

Julia said...

I only heard of this whole "Ring by Spring/MRS Degree" pile of rubbish recently, and it makes me very glad that I didn't attend a Catholic or other Christian university.

Seraphic said...

Oh heavens. The MRS is as old as the hills!

Julia said...

Well, I must be living under a rock I guess! I've never ever heard anyone in Australia mention those terms. Maybe that's because there aren't many religious universities here.

Stellamaris said...

I don't suppose I would mind a silent man either, if he were particularly nice to look at or intriguingly mysterious. But if he isn't either, I don't enjoy being goggled at hopefully.

Seraphic said...

Oh, Julia. I forgot you are in Australia. The "MRS" is an American and Canadian joke dating to the 1950s at latest. It didn't occur to me that it wasn't a joke everywhere in the English-speaking world. My apologies!

Bernadette Rose said...

Stellamaris, I know EXACTLY what you are talking about! Unfortunately for me, the very men who are so conversationally deficient very often fall for me, leaving me in horrible difficulties about getting out of spending time with them (having sheep's eyes thrown at me) without actually crushing their feelings. I don't mean just declining a date, which is relatively simple, but indicating that I would really prefer it if the guy did not just happen to be standing or sitting right next to me wherever I go.... Sometimes I feel like I'm doing something wrong, when these are the types I attract. I'm guessing an inordinate fear of attractive men is a huge part of it...I love the charismatic types, but I'm really shy of actually MEETING them, whereas the shy guys aren't intimidating, so I end up being nice to them, bored out of my mind, and asked on dates that I have no desire to go on.....
Seraphic, it would be awesome if you would do that "How to talk to men 101" thing. Pretty Please!

Jam said...

To be fair, the "MRS" is not really a religious college thing, just that it is pretty much extinct in secular circles. There isn't a catchy acronym to deride kids who just go to college for partying and fornication, sadly.

What I find dull in conversation is when I have to respond to lazy stereotypes, like "woman academic = feminist battleax". Oh, it's not necessarily his fault that I've had that particular conversation a billion times, but still. There's something about instantly going to the "oho, you must be a hard-charging career woman" well that's just so blah. I also find it deathly dull when the topic just doesn't change despite the fact that I am clearly not connecting. I'm not a sparkling conversationalist myself, I know it's hard, but golly.

Also, while I don't mind "what do you do?" the way some people seem to* any question that approaches "where do you see yourself in five years?" instantly introduces the spark and excitement of a job interview, which is to say zzzzz.

(* I knew a guy who was fervently opposed to this question on the grounds that when a girl asks a guy this it is purely to estimate his bank account. And then among the Catholic/conservative crowd I hear much groaning about how this reduces the human person to commercial action, oh the humanity, blah blah blah.)

Maria M. said...

Auntie Seraphic, I absolutely love your blog and pretty much everything your write, but I was offended by your comment to the effect that people with Autism are boring. My brother is Autistic, and he is one of the most colorful, interesting characters I know. He's very social and is more capable of holding an interesting conversation than many "neurotypical" people I know! I have at least a couple friends who also fall on the Autism/Asperger's Syndrome continuum, and I would definitely not describe them as boring, either. True, some people with Autism perseverate, but (depending on the severity of their condition) many have learned to curtail this in conversation with others who don't share their passions/obsessions. People with Autism can be very difficult to interact with (and live with!), this is true, but they have enough working against them without adding this misconception to the bunch. Thanks for giving me the space to say this!

JustAnotherCatholicGirl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JustAnotherCatholicGirl said...

"In my experience, guys think girls are pretty or they don't, whereas girls either think a guy is cute, come to think of a guy as cute, or stop thinking of a cute guy as cute when it turns out he has the personality of either a dust-mop or a hyena." I literally fell off my chair with laughter at this! Excellent description!

I recently found myself at a very large secular college for their homecoming weekend. I was invited by friends to join them for a party at a frat house (first time experience here, since having gone to a community college. Not an experience I wish to ever repeat lol)and I was shocked with how most guys were unable to carry on a conversation. For example, one very cute guy made his way over to me and he kicked up a conversation. I asked him what he does for a living (He was an alumni) and he told me he was an Engineer. I was like "Cool! My dad is an Engineer! Where do you work?" "At an office here at ---" "That's great! So what do you do?" (I'm waiting for build bridges, construct buildings, calculate cool stuff, consult, do inspections, etc.) "Oh..... I'm an engineer." crickets crickets crickets (alright, I said to myself, that's descriptive... let's try to salvage this conversation)"Ok, well good for you.... so do you like to travel? I was recently in the Philippines for work and I loved it." "That's neat, yeah I love to travel too." crickets crickets crickets And suddenly the most nearby party game grabbed his attention and that was it. C'est la vie.

Seraphic said...

Sorry about that Maria M. I suppose I have a lot to learn about Autism. Mostly I was thinking of men I have known who were just really very bad at social cues.

Seraphic said...

Okay, definitely I should write the Talking to Guys post.

Julia said...

No worries, Seraphic! And my "living under a rock" comment wasn't sarcastic either - sometimes I feel like I have no idea about current pop culture and slang. Maybe I'll ask Mum and Dad if they know what an MRS Degree is. "Master of Resource Sustainability?" Dad will guess.

"I knew a guy who was fervently opposed to this question on the grounds that when a girl asks a guy this it is purely to estimate his bank account. And then among the Catholic/conservative crowd I hear much groaning about how this reduces the human person to commercial action, oh the humanity, blah blah blah."

Jam, that's hilarious! Like, are we not allowed to make polite small talk any more without causing offence? Not to mention that the question "What do you do?" is not asking "What is your job?" or "How much money do you earn?" There aren't that many questions that one can ask a stranger. Talking about work or study seems fairly neutral to me.

TRS said...

Just chiming in, the "what do you do?" Question is typically applied to work. And yes, many men see it as "do you make good money?" Whether you mean it that way or not.

For myself, I hate that question for several reasons, first, I don't really like my job, but there are no other options right now. Second, because everyone wants clarification on EXACTLY what is it I do... And it's not easy to put in a nutshell, so now it takes 10 minutes to explain, when I only cared to spend 10 seconds on the subject. It's more fun for people who love their jobs.
Plus, in these economically troubled times, in which people are still suffering from or recovering from layoffs, unemployment or underemployment, (in the U.S. In particular) it's almost a rude question... because who wants to talk about losing their job or settling for minimum wage and trying to make ends meet when they are out socializing?
I dated a guy who was giving up his own failing business, and applying for full time corporate jobs... and having little success. He refused to go to parties with me, because he knew people would ask about his work, and he didn't want to face it.
Until we once again find ourselves in a 1980s boom economy again, for the love of Pete, don't ask people about their work!t

Jam said...

My take on the question is this. I have a lot of anxiety around grad school. I don't especially enjoy it as an exercise in itself, and I definitely don't enjoy living at poverty level in a "perpetual adolescent" role. The job market is dire (there are two job openings in my subfield for the entire US and one in Canada this year, and the Canadian ad is written entirely in French, so bon chance). There are many, many days when having to tell people I'm in grad school is deeply unpleasant for me as it brings up this anxiety - not to mention the blah conversations it often leads to.

But you know what? I firmly believe that less than half the population has any kind of motive for asking beyond just wanting to know something about who I am and how I spend my time. It often comes up in conversation awkwardly anyway (for instance if I mention students, someone will probably ask/ assume that I'm a teacher, and then I have to clarify). If you ever start becoming friends with someone without knowing "what they do" I find it's hard to feel like you really know the person without at least a vague idea (office worker, teacher, social work). And while I don't love the stereotypes some people apply to me when they hear my answer, hey, that's life. That person was probably already drawing conclusions about me from my clothes, the stories I told, the beer I was drinking, the fact that I'm at whatever event I'm at; if they're going to get to know me at all they'll get a better idea of me beyond those assumptions, and if they don't, I can't be bothered worrying about it.

In short I think it's a legitimate question whatever the economy is doing. For better or worse your occupation is probably the most useful piece of public knowledge about you for getting-to-know-you purposes. I think the question itself is perfectly legitimate. As askers we should be considerate to the way people respond, changing the subject if needed, and, it should not need saying, evince no judgment or disapproval (if we feel any) but only interest and enthusiasm. As answerers, if we dislike the question, we should figure out our own personal best answer; how can we answer in a way that will keep it from stirring up emotional baggage and give the other person something to work with.

What I think makes for flat-footed conversation is when the person follows up with "where you do see yourself in five years?" -- "so what do you want to do with that?" "do you want to stay doing musical theater or are you still hoping to get into opera?" "are you hoping to get into management?" Like I said, this kind of thing puts me into job interview mode which is un-fun (if it doesn't reduce me to Academic Job Market Cassandra which is no fun for anyone else). Plus, come on, asking someone about their hopes and dreams in their career is a bit prying. If you get to be friends you'll get a sense of this later on. I would say that this line of questioning seems more sinister, although I've known people (cough*men*cough) who've pursued it who've been married or otherwise "not interested" -- so apparently some people think this is innocent stuff.

A little TOO NCG said...

I am a NCG who has never officially dated, but who would *like* to date the right type of NCB.

This topic has been plaguing me since high school. I am one of those textbook nice girls with a pretty smile who would rather die than make anyone she is conversing with feel uncomfortable or uneasy. I am great at noticing when under-confidence is giving someone trouble, and have a knack of rescuing conversations with under-confident NCBs.

It's a useful skill to have, but it comes with a problem. I get asked out by all the under-confident men when I really, really, REALLY prefer men who are confident.

Anyway, I am constantly reproached by my own and others' criticism that if I want to get married so much, why am I turning down dates from all these NCBs?

Though it IS only coffee, the extreme under-confidence of these men make me absolutely loathe to go out for coffee with them (which they will interpret as a lot more than coffee) and then disappoint them by turning down any more dates. You know, those types of guys who can't be "just friends"...or who are so anxious about getting a gf that they over-interpret any pleasantness of yours into something far greater than you mean by it?

Though I can't claim to be omniscient, I know myself very well and know my own tastes in men. After a conversation or two I can usually know whether they are my type or not.

I don't know...perhaps I am a hard-hearted creature after all. :/

Seraphic said...

A few thoughts. First, if you don't want to go out with someone, don't go out. There is no law saying "Thou shalt not date." I think all NCBs deserve a chance, so I think NCGs should go out for a coffee with the NCBs if they like them okay, even if they don't instantly think the boys are marriage material. But that's just me, you know?

Given my life back, I would rather just just never dated at all and just waited until I was 38 and met B.A. What would I have been like, though, eh? I wish I had had that confidence, not to mention foresight.

But I am curious as to why you think these guys are under-confident when they were confident enough to ask you out. Do they tell you during coffee that they don't think they'll ever amount to much in life, or do they stare at their toes, or what?

One good way to attract really confident guys is not to talk. If you sit there not talking, but looking beautiful (or intellectual or whatever) then only a confident guy is going to talk to you. And I think that basically sums up the book I hid from my mother under my bed.

Seraphic said...

*Whoops. That should be "There is no law saying 'Thou SHALT date."

Magdalena said...

Seraphic, now I am really curious about how you do this: attract really confident guys if you don't talk, just sit there looking beautiful.

Maybe I am not looking beautiful enough, because my experience is, if I don't talk much to anyone, nobody will talk to me. Your experience seems to be different. What do you do that it works?
I hate being at parties and having no-one to speak to. This happened to me all the time when I was a teenager and in my early twenties, because I am very shy. And if you are shy, it somehow shows, and nobody - myself included - really enjoys the effort to get a shy person to talk. But still today, being much more confident and open and smiling more and so on, sitting there silently doesn't really attract anyone who is not my friend already to come over and talk to me. So the overall question is: what do I have to do that people think "this seems to be a nice girl I would like to talk to"?

Seraphic said...

Well, that's the catch. You can sit there like a fishing lure, smiling to yourself, waiting for the confident men to come to the party, or you can talk to people and risk meeting the under-confident guys your fellow reader meets. You could go to a different party every night for ten years, smiling quietly and waiting for Mr Confidence. Or you can work on becoming world famous and then go to parties where people will talk to you because they feel like they know you already.

Magdalena said...

Okay, I will try the last option! :D
Until then, I will switch between the other two options according to the situation.