Rewinding to Rochelle: Part 3 – The GPS

This is part of my “Rewinding to Rochelle” series that sheds light on what an abusive relationship can look like.

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

It was a dark and cloudy evening in Rochelle’s hometown. We had just spent the afternoon with her family and I was beginning the hour drive back to the city.

Rochelle: Why are you using the GPS? You’ve been here before.
The Dating Introvert: Yeah, but I’ve only been here twice before and I’m not sure about the route.
Rochelle: You should be able to get to places without relying on the GPS.
The Dating Introvert: It’s dark and I’m not familiar enough with this area.

At that point, she pulled the power cable out of the GPS unit.

Now, I’ve never claimed to be a great driver. It’s hard for me to drive on a poorly-lit road at 40mph and need to suddenly choose between two closely-positioned freeway entrances – one going north, one going south. Given how dark it was, it was unclear whether the entrance to the north was before or after the “North” sign. As luck would have it, I picked the wrong one.

“God!” she cursed.

I took the next exit but there was no easy turnaround to get me onto the north freeway, so I had to take side streets. Sometime later I saw a different “North” sign but I was too late and blew past it.

“God! Now we’re going to be wasting 10 minutes because you can’t read street signs,” she complained.

Rochelle displayed a pattern of complaining about my allegedly incompetent automobile skills. For instance, she had previously implied that I was not a “Real Man” for not knowing how to change the oil in a car. For the record, I actually know how to change the oil in a single engine prop airplane. I just never got around to learning how to do it for a car.

Why was she so obsessed with ensuring that I drive in a particular way? She didn’t work at the DMV.

And what was the point of turning off the GPS? What does it prove?

With the benefit of hindsight, I now realize that she was obsessed with finding men who embodied the stereotype of (toxic) masculinity. And part of that is being able to drive recklessly and fearlessly. I’m not that man and I don’t want to become him.




I sat in my high-rise apartment staring at the sunset and the city below me, drinking Pepsi and eating a microwave dinner. Normally, I would follow my own advice of doing an activity to meet people, distract myself from my singleness, and hopefully even have some fun.

But tonight, I was tired and wanted to be alone – physically tired from a long day at work. And mentally tired from the emptiness of lacking someone to share my life with. And I felt some sadness for not feeling loved.

Sometimes, people in long-term relationships forget what it’s like to be single. They badger us with otherwise well-meaning advice, micro-analyze the things we said on a first date, and wonder out loud how we can still be single in a city of millions.

They tell us how we should be happy being single. But let’s face it, almost no one who is single for extended periods of time is truly happy, because they are missing a connectedness that is part of human evolution.

They tell us that having friends will fill the void. But they don’t. They can be too busy to hang out or too flakey, and they can come and go. And more importantly, they don’t share the same long-term hopes and dreams of a life together.

They tell us that “to be loved, you must first love yourself.” Obviously, it helps to have a positive self-image, but there are still so many people who don’t truly love themselves yet are in stable, long-term relationships. So I thought “why am I still single”? I’ve got a degree. I’ve got a job. I have interests. I’m nice. And my friends tell me I’m a catch – supposedly anyway. But dating is random, sometimes unfair, and not entirely rational.

I wanted to stop thinking about this. I wanted to have a night to myself where I stopped focusing on my singleness. So I inserted a Netflix DVD, sat back, and took another swig of Pepsi. And for the first time, I felt at peace. I finally understood that sometimes it’s ok to be single for a while.

Rewinding to Rochelle: Part 2 – The Restaurant Menu

This is part of my “Rewinding to Rochelle” series that sheds light on what an abusive relationship can look like.

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

Rochelle and I sat down at restaurant. I don’t even remember which one.

Rochelle: What should I eat?
The Dating Introvert: I’m not sure. I haven’t been here before.
Rochelle: I want to date a guy who knows what’s good on the menu and can tell me what to pick.

There are only two possibilities here. Either:

  • Rochelle wanted me to have visited all restaurants beforehand, to prepare for a date with her: This was obviously unreasonable.
  • Or, she wanted a guy who could “take charge” – the kind of guy who would order the steak for himself and then tell the waiter that “she’ll be having the salad”, without even giving her a chance to speak.

In hindsight, the conversation was disrespectful as she was putting me down, by basically saying that I wasn’t good enough. This was just another example of the abuse I dealt with throughout the relationship.

As for wanting the kind of guy who could “take charge”, she was seeking a toxically masculine figure. She wanted a sexist man who would dominate her and put himself first, because she confused misogyny with confidence and power.

In the years since, I’ve realized that she always sought out uneven relationships, where either she abused her partner, or her partner would abuse her. I wish I were making this up – in a future post, I will write about the violent man she dated next. I hope she gets help and breaks out of this cycle.

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!

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.

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!