Rewinding to Rochelle: Part 1 – The Mug Incident

Trigger Warning: This contains content that may be upsetting to some readers. While the incidents are real, all names are fictitious.

Rochelle was the sweetest girl I had ever met until this point. Just a few days before, Rochelle and I had become official girlfriend and boyfriend.

We were drinking tea with her mother, who was visiting from out of town. I stepped away to the bathroom for a minute and when I came back, she whispered in my ear:

Why the f*** didn’t you put your mug into the sink?

This blog entry is the beginning of my “Rewinding to Rochelle” series on what an abusive relationship can look like, based on real dating experiences from my past. My goal is to help you identify, avoid, and leave abusive relationships, by writing about red flags that I had dismissed at the time.

Back to Rochelle, you might be wondering why I had stayed with her – for two painful years. Well, I was young and had never had a girlfriend before. I had no good role models and desperately want to feel loved. Here was the main problem:

I was so insecure about my own self-worth that I couldn’t tell whether the problem was with me or with her.

In hindsight, the problem was clearly with her. While there are arguments in all relationships – and sometimes we regret things that we say – the question is whether there is a pattern of disproportionate and disrespectful language like the above. If there is, it’s an abusive relationship.

Interview: Dating as an Asian-American Man – Part 2

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

The Dating Introvert: What have you been doing to get better at dating?

Fu Quan: By making more mistakes than I dare admit 🙂 I would say I have been trying, adjusting, and trying again.

One problem was an inadequate set of reference points. My parents pressured me to do well academically all the way through to the end of my undergraduate degree, so I didn’t focus on social skills, and was completely oblivious to flirting. And, unlike American kids, I almost didn’t even think about sex because of the intense focus needed to get good grades.

Then, suddenly after my first degree, my parents were asking me about when they will have grandchildren! It is odd in America to graduate from college and not have any dating knowledge, let alone dating experience. My parents never talked about sex, and I rarely saw them hug or kiss.

… physical and verbal expressions of love is not commonplace. Whether it is between parents or parents and their children.
   https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/minority-report/201506/5-asian-love-languages

The Dating Introvert: And what about that “Three Date Rule” you mentioned?

Fu Quan: Yes :), my parents come from a time of arranged marriages. Their relationship started with a mutual introduction by their parents, followed by a small number of dates, and then the wedding. As a result, a date is taken much more seriously when compared to American culture.

So even though I know intellectually that America operates differently, I would be far too nervous on dates.

The Dating Introvert: I’ve got to say: The more I hear from you, the tougher it sounds.

Fu Quan: Yes, I think what helped me was to stop seeing my dating problems as personal failures. After all, I’m battling major cross-cultural differences!

I feel the culture I’m from focuses a lot on maintaining “face” – in other words, keeping up appearances. People may choose to suffer for years, or even life, to avoid the “shame” of admitting they have problem and asking for help. Rather, I ask sympathetic friends or a culturally-informed counselor for dating advice.

The Dating Introvert: Fu Quan, you’ve clearly done a lot of thinking about culture clash and dating. Do you have any other advice you would like to share with other Asian-American men?

Fu Quan: I can only speak from my perspective as a Chinese-American influenced by both cultures. I suppose men from some other Southeast Asian countries might share similar experiences. In any case, my advice is that it’s easier to date a woman in a similar situation – someone who is also caught between two cultures.

This is not always possible, so I would also recommend the following:

  1. Understand your dating audience: Americans care about dressing well, confidence/assertiveness, and social skills a lot more than education. People might regard your PhD as impressive, but it won’t help you get a date. This is hard to believe coming from my background, but it is true.
  2. Be aware of different attitudes towards sex: American culture is much more sexualized. So if you want to save yourself for marriage, ignore the fools on the internet who are shaming you for being a virgin. On the other hand, if you choose to have pre-marital sex, this is America, and you should not feel guilty about it.
  3. Relax! As I said, Americans do not take dates – especially first dates – as seriously. If you want to get to know a woman better, just ask her out. Go on dates with more women and discover who you really like, rather than worrying about the wedding.
  4. Acknowledge that dating can be tough: It is tough for many people but unfortunately, it may be even tougher for you due to cultural differences.

The Dating Introvert: Fu Quan, that was some pretty fascinating stuff! Thank you for the perspective – it will be great for the blog.

Fu Quan: You are welcome. I hope your readers like it.

The Dating Introvert: Until next time my friends, keep dating!

Interview: Dating as an Asian-American Man – Part 1

I was recently in San Francisco and got a chance to catch up with my old buddy, Fu Quan (a pseudonym), a PhD student at a university in California. As we walked out of the Starbucks in the Ralphs supermarket, I noticed that his name was predictably misspelled on his frappe cup. The conversation shifted to his dating life, and I had a unique opportunity to ask him about his dating experiences as a Asian-American man.

This post is an edited summary of our conversation, with his permission, heavily reworded in the style of this blog.

Disclaimer & Trigger Warning: This represents the opinions of Fu Quan only and do not necessarily represent the views of this blog. Fu Quan makes generalizations about people and culture to allow for simpler explanations, in the context of a casual conversation. Like any generalization, they do not apply in all cases.

The Dating Introvert: Fu Quan, you moved to the United States from China when you were 7, so you basically grew up here. So I’m surprised to hear you talk about dating challenges that seem unique to your background as a Chinese immigrant.

Fu Quan: Yeah, dating here is complicated. It is a culture clash. Although I grew up in America, I internalized many values from the culture of my parents.

I had always thought of cultural differences as surface-level things like a different-looking hat or different-tasting food. However, it recently hit me that culture is a way of thinking. What seems normal in one culture seems rude in another. What is attractive in one culture is unattractive in another.

That Dating Introvert: Can you give examples of these differences?

Fu Quan: Yes but first some background is in order: China is influenced very much by Confucian values, and there is a big gap between the rich & the poor. They do not have the upward social mobility that America has. If your grades are bad, you will not get one of the scarce university places, and you will be doomed to a life of poverty. So there is a huge emphasis on academic achievement. Whereas in America, if you drop out of university, you might become the next Steve Jobs.

In my home culture, the “cool kids”:

  1. achieve high grades: because these are the guys who will end up making the money
  2. are quiet: because this is a sign of strength and intelligence. In school, they are given leadership positions, like your Prom Queen & King.
  3. wear fashion that would be construed as a bit feminine in America
  4. avoid conflict: because avoiding it is a virtue
  5. wait until marriage before having sex: because it is an ultra-conservative culture. This is a sign of restraint.

But in America, these things would fit the definition of being a Nice Guy and be highly unattractive.

In China, a brawny football jock who sleeps around would be seen as unsophisticated, and end up doing manual labor. In America, you give them scholarships to the best universities.

The Dating Introvert: Wow, those are big differences! But growing up in the United States, didn’t you notice the difference in attitudes?

Fu Quan: Well, you get conflicting messages. My extended family thought I was a hero for starting my PhD and not sleeping around. You grow up and you trust your parents more than peers (again, a feature of Confucian culture) to have an accurate read of reality. But my parents were born in the 1950s in China, so their idea of reality is different.

The Dating Introvert: But there are plenty of Chinese girls in California. Wouldn’t dating them avoid the cultural conflict?

Fu Quan: Let’s say that, broadly, there are two kinds of Chinese in America. There are those who grew up in America, who are more westernized. And there are those who just arrived in America, the more recent immigrants.

Some recent immigrants look down on me because I have “lost” part of my culture by not being able to speak Mandarin fluently. Some westernized Chinese women avoid me because they mistakenly associate me with the ultra-conservatism of China. They want to be seen as equals with men, they want to be sex-positive, and they want to be liberated from outdated ideas.

I should add that there are very few positive Chinese or Asian male role models in American mass media. Asian men tend to be portrayed as weak or comical. As a result, this stereotype means that even some non-Asian women will not date me because of my race.

The Dating Introvert: You sound like a serious racist 😛

Fu Quan: Our society has become so “PC” (Politically Correct) that I can’t – even as a member of a racial minority – talk about a racial problem that I’m facing, without being branded a racist or a whiner. Yes, it is up to me to be successful at dating, but you cannot ignore the broader societal influences.

There’s a 2014 Huffington Post article about this: Black People And Asian Men Have A Much Harder Time Dating On OKCupid.

The Dating Introvert: Stay tuned for Part 2 of this interview. Until next time my friends, keep dating!

It’s OK to Have Flaws

Forgive yourself for not being where you thought you would be by now.
   – Terri Cole

One of the key themes of my blog is to pursue self-improvement for its own sake and because, as a side effect, it improves your dating chances. It’s about taking personal responsibility for your own life and reaping the rewards in return.

However, I don’t want one message to be lost in all of this:

It’s OK to have flaws.

As a society, we have a tendency to come down hard on someone who hasn’t had much luck with dating – statements like “you’re weak” or “you’re not ‘Alpha’ enough”.

But everyone has flaws. Yes, this includes that girl who chose to publicly embarrass you instead of politely turning you down. Her flaw could be that she’s mean. And yes, this includes that guy with the flashy car and loud mufflers. His flaw could be that he’s insecure.

On social media, people tend to only post positive things about themselves. As a result, it’s easy to get depressed when everyone else has supposedly perfect lives – when your life has so many problems.

But strangers and acquaintances rarely tell you what is wrong with their lives. As you get to know people on a deeper level, they open up, and you get to hear that they too have problems. For example, they’re beautiful but they have a chronic medical condition. They’re givers but they always get taken advantage of. They have a prestigious job but they’re miserable. They have a gigantic house but they’re up to their ears in debt. They have a girlfriend but they’re in an abusive relationship.

Don’t ever get trapped into thinking that you can’t date because you have flaws. People more flawed than you still get dates.

Change The Things You Can Change

Having said that, this isn’t a free pass to say that you can just “be yourself” and be lazy. If there’s something you can easily fix (e.g. hair style or clothing), you should just do it. If there’s something that’s hard to fix but important to address (e.g. shyness), you should work on it.

Clearly, some flaws hurt your dating chances more than others. Take it from me – I’ve lived it. I’m not great-looking and it’s probably the thing that hurts me the most with dating. It’s not fair that our culture is so shallow and rewards people who were born with good looks, even if they have no other redeeming qualities. But I just accept that the world is unfair and I make do with what I was born with. So I go to the gym and I dress as well as I can. My objective is to mitigate my flaw, rather than trying to become the most handsome man on the planet.

Additionally, I focus on becoming very strong in things that I can become strong in, such as confidence. Confidence is probably the Number Two thing, behind physical attractiveness, that helps with dating. By doing activities, going to classes, and trying new experiences, I can build confidence by acquiring skills and getting good at something.

Finally, there are some flaws that you can’t doing anything about. For those flaws, my advice is to “own” the flaw and move on, instead of being insecure. For instance, if you are balding due to age and a comb-over looks bad, just shave it all off. Be proud that you look strong and bold, and work on things that you can actually change.

Until next time my friends, keep dating – even if you have flaws!

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!

Stop Watching “Sex and the City”

I always tell people that they should never get dating advice from movies or pop culture, because there’s a difference between something that is meant to be entertaining vs. something that is meant to be accurate. A perfect example is Sex and the City, a 2008 film about Ms. Carrie Bradshaw’s engagement to Mr. Big, a successful businessman in New York City. She is either unemployed, independently wealthy, or has great working hours, because she can afford to spend 3 days with her friends sorting through clothes over a bottle of wine.

The film is a sad and tacit endorsement of domestic violence. When Mr. Big gets cold feet on their wedding day, Ms. Bradshaw brutally attacks him in front of a score of witnesses – none of whom even lift a finger to defend him or call 911. Instead of a follow-up scene where the police come to arrest Ms. Bradshaw – for felony assault – the film is one that says that violence is ok, that glamorizes criminal behavior, that drags our society into the gutter.

Even worse, Sex and the City portrays this classic example of an abusive relationship as being the new normal, by having Mr. Big eventually marry Ms. Bradshaw. Most likely he rationalized the assault as a “one-time thing” and that “deep down, she truly loves me”. In a sequel, the film’s writers ought to portray how a real abusive relationship ends: either Mr. Big finally gaining enough self-esteem and courage to leave his abuser, or the alcoholic Ms. Bradshaw finally pummeling him to death.

Lastly, the film sends the misleading message that if one squanders their 20s and 30s with irresponsible life choices, they will still have plenty of chances to get married at 40 to a stable and wealthy partner. The film’s writers are either ignorant of statistics, or pandering to a gullible audience who will repay them with purchases of movie tickets or DVDs.

It is time for us, as a society, to take a stand against domestic violence and abusive relationships. So instead of modeling our relationships based on Sex and the City, we should instead look to those of our friends and family who are in loving and stable relationships.

Until next time my friends, keep dating!

External Link: “See The Ratio Of Single Men to Women Where You Live”

If you are wondering whether moving to another city will help you with dating, check out this extremely detailed, interactive graph:

http://labs.time.com/story/see-the-ratio-of-single-men-to-women-where-you-live/

Using detailed Census data from 2011-2013, TIME calculated the ratio of unmarried men to unmarried women for every region of the country for a variety of age groups … the map can also be filtered by college degree status.