External Link: “Taming the Mammoth: Why You Should Stop Caring What Other People Think”

For dating, confidence is key and one of the best ways to get that confidence is to live an authentic life. This means ditching the obsession of worrying about what others think, and getting comfortable with being who you want to be. This ultimately attracts people who like you for being you.

“Wait But Why” has an excellent post dealing with exactly this. It calls that obsession a “Social Survival Mammoth” and introduces the notion of a “Puppet Master”:

a person or group of people whose opinion matters so much to you that they’re essentially running your life. A Puppet Master is often a parent, or maybe your significant other, or sometimes an alpha member of your group of friends.
[…]
We crave the Puppet Master’s approval more than anyone’s, and we’re so horrified at the thought of upsetting the Puppet Master or feeling their nonacceptance or ridicule that we’ll do anything to avoid it.

It contrasts this with your “Authentic Voice” that:

knows how you feel deep down about things like money and family and marriage, and it knows which kinds of people, topics of interest, and types of activities you truly enjoy, and which you don’t.

The post explains why listening to the Mammoth and Puppet Masters – instead of your Authentic Voice (AV) – is so dangerous:

When you don’t know who you are, … instead of digging deep into the foggy center of what you really believe in to find clarity, you’ll look to others for the answers. Who you are becomes some blend of the strongest opinions around you.

Losing touch with your AV also makes you fragile, because when your identity is built on the approval of others, being criticized or rejected by others really hurts.

It describes ways to identify the obsessive thoughts that are running your life, by looking for these clues:

1. where your fear is — where are you most susceptible to shame or embarrassment? What parts of your life do you think about and a dreadful, sinking feeling washes over you? Where does the prospect of failure seem like a nightmare? … If you were giving advice to yourself, which parts of your life would clearly need a change that you’re avoiding acting on right now?

2. the way-too-good feelings you get from feeling accepted … Are you a serious pleaser at work or in your relationship? Are you terrified of disappointing your parents and do you choose making them proud over aiming to gratify yourself?

3. anywhere you don’t feel comfortable making a decision without “permission” or approval from others.

The post concludes with why it’s important to listen to your authentic voice, and be who you want to be, rather than being a people-pleaser:

Being approved of by one type of person means turning another off. So obsessing over fitting in with any one group is illogical, especially if that group isn’t really who you are. You’ll do all that work, and meanwhile, your actual favorite people are off being friends with each other somewhere else.
[…]
You can start to relish the feeling of being viewed as weird or inappropriate or confusing to people, and society becomes your playground and blank canvas, not something to grovel before and hope for acceptance from.

Ultimately, the “Wait But Why” post talks about being more secure in who you are and reducing your anxiety levels. This lets you live a more fulfilling life and also makes dating much easier.

Until next time my friends, keep dating!

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Boundaries

Whenever a guy says “I’m so nice but women ignore me or treat me badly”, I commonly hear the retort that “being nice isn’t worth anything, because it’s the baseline for getting a relationship”. This is usually followed by an attack on how the guy has allegedly nothing going for them other than their niceness, and maybe even a further attack about how even their niceness is fake.

So let’s think for a moment about some guys who are in relationships – say Chris Christie and Newt Gingrich. They’re married (three times in Gingrich’s case), and I’m sure they’re both fine and accomplished people, but is “nice” really the first adjective you’d use to describe either of them? My point is that while being nice is an admirable trait and generally leads to healthier relationships, it is not actually a requirement for dating (sadly).

The real problem isn’t that a guy is too nice – it’s that he’s too generous. Consider this scenario: Stewie tells my friend Leonard that he (Stewie) isn’t doing well and asks for $70,000 immediately to make ends meet. Stewie adds that if Leonard doesn’t help, Leonard would be complicit in destroying Stewie’s marriage and career, since Stewie wouldn’t be able to buy a pink Mercedes for his wife and golf games for potential corporate clients.

Here, Stewie is violating boundaries by manipulating Leonard into putting Stewie’s interests ahead of Leonard’s own interests. But Leonard shouldn’t be pressured to solve other people’s problems. Now, Leonard is entitled to help Stewie if Leonard wants to, but he shouldn’t feel guilty about refusing to do so. Leonard’s financial needs & wants are important, and Stewie’s needs & wants shouldn’t be placed ahead of Leonard’s, unless Leonard is actually OK with it.

Nice guys aren’t just unlucky – they are being specifically targeted!

Now it becomes clear why nice guys always end up being treated badly by people in general – women or men: there are predators in the world, like Stewie, who can spot over-generosity and target people like Leonard because they’re easy victims. Nice guys aren’t just unlucky – they are being specifically targeted!

We wouldn’t tell an assault or rape victim that they were attacked because they were weak. So we shouldn’t call victims like Leonard weak either. Instead, we should tell it like it is – that Leonard’s unfortunate experiences are both real and unfortunate. After that, we should encourage victims to develop firmer boundaries and be on the look out for predators exploiting their generosity.

But how does all this relate to dating? Well, some predatory women also smell Leonard as an easy target and string him along for money, favors, etc. Leonard might sense that these women are using him and don’t really like him. However, he fails to acknowledge his gut instinct or even clear evidence that something is wrong. Due to cognitive dissonance, he rationalizes his over-generosity instead of cutting these women out of his life e.g.:

* She needs his money to fly to Hawaii to meet her ex-boyfriend that she has “absolutely no feelings for”.

* Having just met, she demands that Leonard drive her to work at 5am every second morning, as if she – an adult – had not been capable of catching the bus before.

* She says that Leonard has to pay her college tuition because she has decided to stop asking her parents for money and because Leonard makes so much money that he would be cruel to not help her.

In all these cases, the woman is asking that Leonard put her interests ahead of his own. Unless Leonard really wants to do these things, he should maintain firm boundaries and say no. Consider these three possibilities:

1. The woman is actually giving Leonard a “shit test” to see he is “weak”: While she is a master manipulator and drama queen who needs to be dumped, she actually wants Leonard to say no anyway.

2. Leonard says yes: This is like giving a mouse a cookie. The predatory woman will make increasingly unreasonable demands until Leonard has to finally say no, at which point she will dump him.

3. Leonard says no: The woman dumps him because he’s a “jerk”. He might well be lonely for a while, but his firm boundaries mean that he’s actually dodged the bullet of an unreasonable woman. He can now spend time looking for someone better, because he deserves someone better.

The good news is that predators are the minority regardless of what The Red Pill or the right-wing might tell you. Most people are just living their lives and aren’t out to get you or Leonard. It’s only predators who are out to specifically target overly-generous people / nice guys. Simply put, the way to beat predators is to say no. They won’t stick around and you’ll eventually meet someone who respects your boundaries.

Until next time my friends, keep dating!

Entitlement

My friend Sam recently met Simone, Gabby, and Madison at a freshmen “Welcome to College” party at their dorm. Sam felt that they really hit it off and looked forward to hanging out with them again.

A week later, Sam was walking through the cafeteria with a meal tray, looking for a place to sit. Sam was excited to see the three women and a number of potential new friends sitting at a table in the center, and said “hi!”. Gabby turned to Sam, responded with a bored “hi”, and then immediately turned back to the group conversation. No one made room around the table so Sam stood there awkwardly for about 10 seconds, before leaving due to the lack of a welcome.

Upset at this apparent rejection, Sam asked me why it was so hard to make friends and why women were being so cold. As a good friend, I realized that I had to tell Sam “The Truth”: People like Sam are entitled assholes who expect they should be able to walk up to women, rattle off a few clever lines, and demand that those same women entertain them in the future. These people see women as objects to be “picked up” or trophies to be won. And worst of all, they get angry when women see through their put-on “Nice” persona and rightfully reject them for the scumbags they are. Maybe if they stopped being such misogynists, women would actually like them.

There is only one problem with this story: Sam is not a heterosexual man looking for a date. My friend Samantha (Sam) is a feminist heterosexual woman looking for platonic friends. And of course I didn’t say all those mean things to her!

The point I’m making is that too often people who say these kinds of mean things are jumping to conclusions about the motives of others they don’t like (and/or don’t find attractive). These mean people engage in intellectual gymnastics by inventing a narrative that those others are despicable, without necessarily knowing much about them – all while they are cheered on by armchair Social Justice Warriors on Tumblr.

Now, make no mistake. There are entitled misogynistic men. Sometimes, we encounter men who who have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems to us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. But some, I assume, are just good people — people who might just not be particularly popular or attractive. And while no one is entitled to be anyone’s friend or lover, do we need to impugn their reputation just because they dared to ask?

The flip side is that sometimes people who bring forward the asshole and “fake nice” accusations are simply projecting the fact that they themselves are assholes. And they get away with it because they are attractive and/or popular assholes. Let me give you an example. Madison posted this on the freshman Facebook page for her degree:

Madison: SUPER IMPORTANT.

I have a friend who needs a ride up from New Jersey to New York City on the 17th at lunchtime. Would anyone be willing to do that?

Person: That’s pretty far. I think it’s going to be hard to find someone 😦 Good luck my friend!

Madison: I don’t need luck or unhelpful commentary. I need someone who will drive him.

And the crazy thing is that many people actually jump through hoops to appease people like Madison no matter how obnoxious she is. People might bend over backwards, doing favor after favor that Madison twists their arm for but at any point in the future, Madison could flip around and accuse them of having ulterior motives.

So my advice is that there is no point trying to befriend or date people who don’t respect you. Instead, associate yourself with kind people, try not to take rejections so deeply, and ignore the background noise of any mean things that are said.

Until next time my friends, keep dating!

Stop Trying to Make Everyone Like You

When I first tried to figure out dating, I was told to do activities to become an interesting person. However, it turns out that this advice is all backwards. The advice was about becoming interesting, to other people. It was about basing my self-worth on what other people thought.

This was a bad idea because I would go around doing activities (or favors) that I didn’t like, to try to make other people like me. I would also be strung along by people who would happily request gifts and help moving apartment, but who never respected me. And when I found out that these people didn’t actually like me, I would feel crushed because my self-worth revolved around them.

Well, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, despite the tendency of his office to shut down the George Washington Bridge to get back at a political opponent, has some great advice:

We’ve got to stop worrying about being loved, and starting caring about being respected again.

[Video – 7 seconds in]

So let me reword the advice I was given so many years ago:

You should do activities that you find interesting, and you and only you get to define your self-worth.

If you like playing hockey, go play hockey.  If you like knitting, go knit.

Do activities to build confidence and develop yourself into a person that you are proud of. You will eventually attract like-minded people who will like you for who you are.

After all, you can’t be everything to everyone. No matter what you do, some people will never see you as fitting their idea of attractiveness or masculinity (or femininity, for that matter). As a case in point, I once spent an extraordinary amount of effort trying to impress a girl – let’s call her Kaitlin.

After a nice flight on a sunny afternoon, I landed the plane and went to grab a hook (an aviation tool).

I was gone for maybe 30 seconds before she was openly flirting with another guy. And I hadn’t even had the chance to start pulling the 700lb plane to the parking spot, in front of her, using my hands!

Now, maybe people around here are all friendly like that and I was being particularly jealous. However, I can assure you that I’ve never had someone start randomly flirting with me, the many times I’ve been standing next to the runway of a regional airport. The point is that if Kaitlin actually liked me, she wouldn’t be flirting with other guys on almost every single date.

So, in summary, stop trying to impress other people. Work on impressing yourself first and others will be impressed by you.

Until next time my friends, keep dating!

Nice Guys and Society

Trigger Warning: This contains content that may initially appear alarming to some readers. The content will be clarified later in the post.

I know of an introverted young man who is college-educated, with a stable office job and a multitude of hobbies. He’s not out of shape, but he’s not ripped either. He’s also a bit shy but is one of the most ethical people I know.

Unfortunately, he has just been robbed of his wallet and stabbed at a party. He sits on a couch, trying to stop the bleeding. The pain is excruciating. Between sobs, he begs acquaintances for help but to his horror, he gets all this instead:

  1. “You are weak. Nobody likes weak men. You don’t deserve any help.”
  2. “You are who you associate with. If you hang out with violent people, think about what kind of person that makes you.”
  3. “Stop playing the victim card. You should start taking responsibility for your own life instead of blaming others.”
  4. “You were trying to pretend to be nice to the attacker, to manipulate them into liking you. News Flash: People are not coin-operated machines that accept niceness tokens. Thankfully, they saw through your deceit and rightfully stabbed you. You are the scum of the earth.”

Finally, help arrives. At least he’ll survive this one. While his wounds are being bandaged up, the man asks how he can avoid being attacked again. The advice is not much better this time around:

  1. “Be yourself.”
  2. “Why are you so entitled? Nobody is entitled to anything. You should work for it.”
  3. “It’s obvious to everyone else. Why should I spell it out for you? Are you stupid?”
  4. “You let people treat you badly. You should have set clear boundaries and let the attacker know that their behavior is unacceptable.”

I know what you’re thinking: What kind of messed up world does this guy live in? I should mention one important detail about this story: When I wrote “stabbed”, I meant stabbed in the heart (metaphorically).

The sad thing is that some young men, especially Nice Guys, who are trying to understand dating are subjected to this kind of abuse. Why is it that men who are perhaps not the most confident seemingly the target of so much venom? And why is it that such well-meaning men have so little dating success?

In short, why does society attack the victim?

Gender Roles vs. Equality

I have a simple explanation. A Nice Guy is someone who does not conform to our society’s cultural expectation for masculinity – things like tallness, muscularity, stoicism, unwavering confidence, leadership, assertiveness, etc. Nice Guys are shamed and bullied by social conservatives who, consciously or not, demand that people conform to defined gender roles.

A girl once told me that she wanted me to be more like her ex, “a Real Man who could change the oil in a car”. I didn’t see the need – I could just pay the car dealership $60 and not worry about getting toxic oil on my hands. Anyway, it turns out that the Real Man had a DUI conviction so could no legally longer drive. Not sure whose oil he’s going to be changing.

On the other hand, people who support gender equality support doing away with fixed gender roles. A woman should be able to be assertive at work without being labeled a bitch. A man should be able to be less forceful with his opinions, without being labeled weak. A woman should be allowed to have sex without being accused of being a slut. A man should be allowed to be a virgin or a bit socially awkward without being accused of being a loser.

Some people claim to support equality but simultaneously expect that a “Real Man” act in a particular way. In order to deal with this contradiction, cognitive dissonance kicks in and they rationalize their hatred of Nice Guys by turning the term on its head – by saying that Nice Guys are not actually nice.

I can understand this craziness – after all, they themselves are warriors for gender equality who don’t actually support equality. Instead, they are closet social conservatives.

My Advice to Nice Guys

The battle for gender equality is going to be won in the future. In the meantime, it’s better to recognize today’s landscape for what it is. You can still do things that make you conform a bit more to the gender stereotype, without compromising the good parts of your core identity. If you’ve always been a lightweight, you don’t suddenly have to become a bodybuilder. If you’ve always been a bit shy, you don’t suddenly have to become a salesman. But it couldn’t hurt to go to gym or to practice social skills, as it will increase the number of people you appeal to as dating partners.

Having said that, you should date actually progressive women who accept your core identity. Yes, you should work on improving surface traits like clothing or people skills, but you should never compromise on who you are inside. That’s what it means to “be yourself”.

If someone treats you badly – because they don’t accept you for you – cut your losses and stop dating them. Don’t stay in a bad relationship because doing so permanently eats away time. That time could have been better used for finding a good relationship. And the longer you stay in a bad relationship, the worse the break-up will feel.

Toxic Masculinity

Finally, I think one of the worst things a Nice Guy can do is overcompensate and try to become super-masculine, also known as a Black Shirter. Manipulative junk like pick-up artist strategies, as well as the college rape epidemic, probably originate – at least in part – from misguided attempts to fulfill an unhealthy stereotype of what it means to be a Real Man. Instead, men should respect women instead of some pick-up “bible” they got from the used bookstore.

Until next time my friends, keep dating!

Explaining Dating with Shirt Theory – Part 2

Note: Please make sure that you have read Part 1 first.

Going Dark: Black Shirts

Transparency into the type of desired relationship is a key part of Red and Green Shirt dating. The final category is the sinister Black Shirter, a person with a hidden agenda who pretends to be someone else. Here are some classic stereotypes:

  1. Red pretending to be Green:
    • The aggressive “player” who sweet-talks a woman by saying that he is looking for something long-term and for commitment, but instead uses her for a one night stand.
    • The woman who preys upon a man inexperienced at dating, acting as if he’s the center of her world but is actually using him for money, favors, and/or attention. She strings him along with no intention of ever entering into a long-term relationship. Before moving on to her next victim, she accuses him of being a “doormat”, a “pushover”, or “not a Real Man”, perhaps adding “we weren’t dating, we were just hanging out.”
  2. Green pretending to be Red:
    • The guy who goes around harassing women with vulgar pick-up lines that he got from a Youtube video.

Black Shirt behaviors are fundamentally manipulative and rooted in insecurity. It could be that someone got burned in the past and at some point decided that they would rather be the abuser than the victim. For instance, I bet that many members of “manosphere” started as Green Shirters who attempted to date a series of Red and/or Black Shirted women, and were predictably rebuffed due to the shirt mismatch.

These men concluded that they should pretend to be someone else – what they call “Alpha”: a muscular, selfish man who puts his desires in front of others, who defines relationship success in terms of what sex they get, no matter what effect this has on their victims. They perpetuate a toxic masculinity based on simplistic, misogynistic principles. There are too many loud Black Shirters polluting the internet with bad advice and they should be ignored.

Always Look For Same Colored Shirt

For long-term success, the keys are to:

  1. Only try to date people with the same-colored shirt
  2. Follow advice that is applicable to that shirt color:
    • Green Shirters: should try to develop a friendship first
    • Red Shirters: should be assertive with their sexual desires.

eHarmony is a Green Shirt dating website, whereas Tinder is a Red Shirt website. OkCupid has both kinds of people.

By following this advice, you won’t have to pretend to be someone else and as a result, you will be seen as authentic. And since the two of you will have the same dating style, you no longer need mental gymnastics to figure out if she likes you.

My Dating Experiences Finally Explained

As a Green Shirter, I spent years making these mistakes:

  1. Trying to attract Red Shirters: I would talk to Red Shirters about our common interests, but they were probably thinking “Boring, Boring, Booooooring! Next!”
  2. Listening to Red Shirt advice: such as “if you haven’t had sex within X days/weeks/months, you don’t have a real relationship”. That might be true for a Red Shirter, but it’s absurd for a Green Shirter who puts more weight on friendship & commitment than short-term sex.

In conclusion, I hope Shirt Theory removes a lot of confusion around dating and finally allows you to be your best authentic self.

Until next time my friends, keep dating!

Explaining Dating with Shirt Theory – Part 1

In Dating Advice That Works For You, I mentioned that a given piece of dating advice might not apply to you because everyone is different. In this post, I use “Shirt Theory” to elaborate on one major difference: the relative importance of the physical vs. emotional parts of a relationship to you.

Note: I wish to credit an anonymous friend who helped me develop this theory.

Red Shirts and Green Shirts

Shirt Theory places people on a spectrum between two extremes, although there is an extra (and dark) category that I’ll explain later:

  1. Red Shirters: value the physical over the emotional. Their primal urge for sex drives the relationship, so the quantity and quality of it is extremely important.
  2. Green Shirters: value the emotional over the physical. They enjoy spending time with each other doing activities, talking, and laughing. The core of their relationships is based on friendship – sex is only a bonus on top. Most likely, they started as friends to being with.

Mismatching Shirts

Shirt Theory states that two people only click if they wear the same colored shirt. Tension and misunderstanding comes from mismatching shirts. This cleanly explains different experiences people have with dating. Consider the following two scenarios:

  1. Red Shirter asking out a Green Shirter: The Red Shirter might begin with overt sexual overtures, such as an invitation for sex on a first date. The Green Shirter would see this approach as too sexual & pushy, and might say things like “people have personalities and are more than just bodies” and/or regard this as sexual harassment.
  2. Green Shirter asking out a Red Shirter: The Green Shirter will first try to get to know the Red Shirter by doing activities that platonic friends might do. Their objective is to find out if there’s a good match before moving on to anything physical. In doing so, the Green Shirter might be accused of being a “Nice Guy” – the Red Shirter might think that the Green Shirter is “asexual”, is “not assertive”, or “is trying to manipulate me into sex by pretending to be friends”.

In both cases, the person doing the asking would be considered “creepy”, which is why it’s such a poor choice of word.

Neither Shirt is Superior

We Americans stigmatize rampant sexuality. No one wants to be known as the person who “gets around” and it could even hurt your chances at employment. As a result, Red Shirters hide among us, living in the shadows.

Your sex drive, religion, and/or values may inform your decision to wear a Red or Green shirt. But I don’t believe we should judge people for choosing one shirt over the other:

  • Red Shirters: If two adults mutual consent to an overtly sexual relationship, who are we to judge whether their Red Shirt relationship is better or worse than ours?
  • Green Shirters: If two adults have a “boring” relationship where they go to museums with each other but have never kissed, is their Green Shirt relationship not as real as ours?

Having said that, I personally believe that it is very difficult for a Red Shirt relationship to last because the frequency of sex will inevitably decline. I believe that friendship, and therefore the Green Shirt approach, results in the most stable long-term relationships. As a result, this blog primarily describes the Green Shirt approach.

In Part 2, I will complete this theory by examining Black Shirts.

Until next time my friends, keep dating!