Act right part II

In this educational series/TED Talk/Nickel’s worth of free advice, I wanted to leave a little bit of room for something which I have considered lately as probably one of the most dangerous things of starting a new relationship: Charm.

Just knowing how things work out in relationships much of the time, I have to say that in the Snow White story, it was doomed from the start. Prince Charming might only have that going for him, just like your Prince Charming. Er…Princess Charming. Whatever. Adjust the pronouns as you need, because this shit is universal.

Charm

Charm gets you through the door but it won’t be what keeps you there. Being funny, interesting, having a crude joke, or a party trick will catch their interest, but unless you are in the Ringling Bros. eventually that shit is going to wear thin. Usually when someone is front loading the charm, it means that they will probably turn out to be a real piece of crap later on. Charm is nice, but it doesn’t last and anyone who has been burned by it will actively avoid it once they understand it is pretty much just bait for a deadly trap.

Some of my friends have recounted some of the most charming people they have spent time with later turned out to be horrifying monsters. They fell for compliments and sweet talk. So the next time someone sweet talks them, they won’t believe it, even if it is spoken with total sincerity…which is only about 1 in 1000 times.

Masks

Yes, I sound cynical. How the hell else are you supposed to meet people? On dating apps you are supposed to have a great opening line or you won’t get even a hello back. Those are supposedly what is required these days to even participate in the gene pool. (I’ll pass, thanks). Like most of us are doing these days, you are just wearing a mask. Masks are fine as long as they don’t exceed their purpose. Some of the greatest romances in stories have begun at masquerade balls…well, of course those also end in tragedy…bad example, Romeo and Juliet. But everyone wears a mask to some degree. It removes them from the situation just a little bit so they can operate. Some people wear a mask of alcohol, which they think emboldens them; The old Dutch Courage. For some, their mask is their physical prowess. Either a push-up bra, lots of makeup, big biceps, a six-pack of abs. Etc. This mask dazzles people who don’t really consider having to actually speak with someone they are involved with apparently. Masks are what you want the world to see, and even buy you some time until you decide what you want to reveal about yourself.

In time, all masks dissolve, however. Even if there is just another mask under that mask.

A schtick

Others have their schtick or their line of bullshit. In social situations I tell stories, make jokes, etc. but only when I’m loose or comfortable enough to do it. This is just in general too. The only problem is you have to have a receptive audience. I’ve been to parties where I hid behind a mask of just sitting in the corner and watching people. I know some people whose schtick is doing a parlor trick like drinking a lot of hard liquor in a short amount of time or demonstrating they have no gag reflex.

To which I have to say, I remember my first beer.

Movie quotes are a good mask, but eventually someone wants to know what you have to say, rather than something you’ve memorized from your favorite Quentin Tarantino flick.

At the end of the day, even if I am ON IT at a social gathering or just out in public, the introverted side of me kicks in and I just want to be quiet, listen to sad songs in my car, and breathe. Having a schtick also means that you eventually won’t be ON. Nobody can be.

You have to back it up

Charm is fine for breaking the ice. But even the sweetest person in the world won’t be charming all the time. You have to back it up with integrity, kindness, empathy, and putting in the work. Otherwise, once that mask comes off, if charm was all you had, they will see the ugliness you’ve been hiding, instead of the beauty behind the mask. Substance and character beats charm every time. Unless you are a sociopath, in which case, charm might be all you’ve got.

Act right

A while back, I wrote a post about just about any jackass who was dating any number of my female friends was named Steve. And acting like a jackass. Today while visiting with one of my female friends about her current situation, I got to hear about more douche-lagoonery. Combine that with some other tidbits I’ve heard lately for other friends, I decided it was time to talk about what is wrong with this picture. Just like Highlights magazine for children. Only this if for anyone struggling with dating.

Know when to say When

Her scenario: It’s Sunday afternoon. Do you know where your boyfriend is? Yes you do! He’s at the bar, off his face drunk and texting you to come get him. No, don’t, he says. No, wait, you’d better. Gibberish gibberish self-loathing gibberish. I LOVE YOU!!!

She is going to see this as a red flag. And for the love of Mike, don’t tell your girlfriend you love her for the first time in a drunken text. This is not the story she wants to share with anyone on your silver anniversary. Odds are you won’t make it that far.

Some of the other problems I have seen involve alcohol. I mean these days, people are drinking more, but compared to just about any other illicit, mood-altering substance out there, adding alcohol has almost never made a situation better.

Space and time aren’t just for Neil DeGrasse Tyson

When there are moments in a woman’s life that are surrounded by doubt, sometimes she needs some time to think. Usually (from my experience) this isn’t good for her guy if she says this, but if that is the case he doesn’t need to pour gasoline on that campfire. Any dick pics will be deleted, or probably just forwarded on to her other friends (men and women) with the eyeroll emoji.

When she says, “I just need some space” this is not the opportunity to send her texts illustrating specifics as to what you want to do to her sexually. Leave her alone. She might actually think of charming things you have done (don’t worry, guys, you won’t even know what she is thinking about that will save your ass. It won’t be the moments you were deliberately doing anything that charmed her.)

Read a room

If she breaks up with you, don’t do the same damned thing, being especially crude and nasty. You are just showing how tone deaf you are to the situation. Not to mention disrespectful. You aren’t getting points. You are losing even more points if you do this while you’ve been drinking. Eventually she will come to terms with the fact that you have no intention of respecting her. Her friends will hate you in time and anytime they hear your name mentioned, they will all spit simultaneously to get the undesirable taste of the thought of you out of their mouths.

Rough starts

Beginnings can be difficult as well, even though they represent newness and discovery and mystery. As you progress you will start to notice little things that make you go, “Erm? Huh?” Guys, you aren’t being mysterious by saying “I’ve done bad things in my past. You should probably break up with me.” You are actually giving her some insight as to how she needs to respond to whatever the hell it is you think is so heinous you need to be written off.

On the obverse side, if either of you is just learning about the other, full-disclosure should be appreciated and encouraged about any sexually transmitted diseases you might be carrying. With great Herp comes greater responsibility. I think Spiderman said that. Hiding that shit until either of you has an outbreak is not how you win someone’s trust.

If you have been married several times, that information should also be disclosed upfront. It might even be first date conversation. It should probably be included on your driver’s license right along with whether or not your are of consenting age or if you are an organ donor. Better yet, just have a face tattoo that indicates how broken you are as a person. Saves time! Especially if you are still legally married to at least one of them!

Miscellaneous is the largest category

If you meet an old flame and things get heated, and you wind up sleeping with each other again, it is a douche-lagoon move to ghost them afterwards. What might be worse is trying to smooth things over with lines such as “Just a friend helping out another friend” or “can you send me your half for the hotel room?” These are NOT ways to respond. These kinds of words hurt people.

If you are dating someone you just aren’t all about, don’t tell them a list of names of people you would jump at the chance to date again. For God’s sake, don’t marry that person, because they will always, always remember that list of names. If you have a list like that, don’t break someone’s heart until that list is no longer a thing, or the person you are spending time with makes you forget there ever even was a list.

A friend of mine recently told me that dating in your thirties is like shopping in a thrift store. Believe me, it is much worse in your forties. The sheer amount of damage any of us carry around at any given time should earn us a closer parking spot at the store. Try to be kind to each other, and respect others. Most of all, respect yourself.

Learn to act right.

Strange feeling

Maybe this should be my Tinder profile. If I was on it…which, yuck.

I’ve said it in the past, but this recent breakup has only affirmed my inclinations. I enjoy companionship and being in a committed relationship, but I abhor dating. But unfortunately it is a necessary evil to navigate the hearts and minds of two different people to understand compatibility. Those early moments are nice when you have an attraction, that spark that makes you giddy with excitement over the next time you’ll get to see them, the next clever thing you’ll say in a text message, or even the grand gesture you have in store to sweep them off their feet.

But as time passes, you begin to discover differences as well. Like how one of you likes 70s and 80s Progressive rock and the other would rather listen to 90s R&B. Those are little things and pretty trivial, but sometimes they pile up. At my age, each passing year or decade means that you have built another layer onto that wall between yourself and someone else.

I know at my age, I face a few limitations. For one, I’m nearly 45. My birthday is in September. I like whiskey, Diesel brand cigars, and cool hats if you want to send me anything (size 7 3/8). One of the limitations I have is that dating someone close to my age usually means someone who might not be able to keep up with me physically. This is an observation of how most adults my age are either crazy active physically, or have let themselves go to the point were walking from the car to the bar is the most activity they do. I’m not really into Yoga and crossfit and the physical abuse those who are truly obsessed with keeping the hands of Father Time at bay either. There has to be a middle ground.

The alternative is dating someone younger than me, which means likely someone who has put off having a kid to pursue their career. They might be looking to start a family. I know that I just don’t have it in me anymore. My son, as awesome as he is, wears me the hell out. For someone who often daydreams of the day when they don’t have to worry about keeping anyone else alive, or paying child support, it would have been much more convenient if he had been born a few years earlier. I’m ready to be done with kids for a while, but I will cherish these next few years when my son is at that age where kids are fun and not yet assholey teenagers.

But there are days, as active as I am, where I don’t want to run and jump and play and I just want to have a mellow day. Which does indeed suck for him. I think my dad hit that point at 32 though.

So, yes, younger women are off the list too. Not to mention the few times I have been out with someone ten years or more younger than me we don’t have a lot in common. When they talk about Arthur the Aardvark, it’s based on their own viewership, unlike mine, which was always under duress because it’s what was on the TV while I was trying to get my kids to school. There’s a good chance that if you were born during the Clinton Administration, we won’t have much to talk about.

My former gf said early on, “I’m done raising children and boyfriends.” I think I might have adopted that philosophy. My son being the exception to the rule of course.

So, dating…

Not since unrestricted submarine warfare has there been a more extensive use of subtrefuge, tactics, and sitting around waiting for the other to make a mistake than dating. I have no desire to interpret red flags or sort through the incoming data of what is bullshit and what is real anymore. I don’t care to get to know what someone’s favorite songs are anymore, learn the names of their childhood pets, or other information that will probably just get shitcanned anyway once everything falls apart. I am also done with trying to coordinate times to see each other, growing intimacy, building on healthy communication skills, and the big one: allowing myself to trust again.

Even if I meet someone who knocks my socks off, odds are that she will have cats, and that’s a deal breaker. Always with the stupid cats.

Dating these days is fucked anyway. Quite a few of my female friends have heard my stories of grand gestures for women I was in relationships and they have been amazed. Their reaction is usually “Nobody has ever done anything like that for me!” The sad truth is at this point, there are only a few of us left who are stupid enough to make grand gestures. In this dating climate, you either get called a Simp or you throw these grand gestures at women who take them for granted, or never experienced them because the women that have come before them burned these poor bastards out on grand gestures.

Right now, if the end result is the same from phoning it in vs. grand gestures, what do you think your man is going to pick? This is why men send dick pics to women rather than having any kind of meaningful conversation. Chances are that women who are on these sites don’t want coffee brought to them at work on a lark. They just want that D. The common ground is people are all on online dating to scratch that itch.

Nobody would even know what to do with a grand gesture at this point anyway.

So, the strange feeling that I have is I’m just done. I anticipate my singleness to last quite a while, without anything romantically fulfilling in the foreseeable future. I have my son to take care of. My book to write. And time to think. Over time, I’m sure I will build up my wall with my own personal opinions, biases, and boundaries that I won’t see how it would ever be practical to let anyone in anyway.

Future deal breakers would probably be “I think people who don’t put ketchup on their hamburgers are awful.” Or “Your car takes Premium gas only? Well, when the Revolution comes, I hope Robespierre cuts your head off in the first round.” Some petty Jerry Seinfeld shit right there.

Believe me, the last go around, I gave and received a good deal of grand gestures. But that doesn’t change anything about how it all ended. It was a nice journey while it lasted, but I’m just tired. The idea of getting to know someone to those depths again…I just can’t. I look at my friends trying to make sense of their relationships, and I think there are better uses for my time. Like watching a new Netflix series.

This is not a world for the Romantic at heart. It’s a world for selfish assholes looking to scratch that itch. People looking for attention, validation, approval. I don’t fit in.

So, the strange feeling that I have is contentment. Companionship is a wonderful, amazing thing (when it works). Believe me, when it doesn’t work and you are stuck with that person, and I speak from experience, there is no worse hell on this world. Yesterday I went on a solo adventure. I didn’t have to coordinate times, I didn’t have to wait for anyone, and no one had to wait on me. It was a full afternoon of new experiences that I had just for myself. I get to enjoy those moments too. I don’t need anyone to bear witness for my life. Well, other than my faithful readers. That much is nice. I don’t need to worry about keeping anyone awake at night because I can’t sleep, and I don’t need to have that pit in my stomach telling me something is wrong or that someone is drifting away based on how they worded a text.

This way is fine. Do I sound bitter? Okay, that’s fair. Maybe I am. But that is just another layer of bricks in my wall which is called a Defense Mechanism. Sometimes it’s lonely, but otherwise, it’s doable. And I don’t need to second guess myself based on the behavior of others. Maybe one of these days I can move somewhere that allows pets. Definitely not a cat.