I’m feeling really disheartened by dating right now. It’s not that I don’t think I’m worthy of love but the opposite. For the first time in my life, at 27, I’m feeling very positive about myself. I am funny, sporty, and hot — and I have a cool job and cool friends!
I hate to say this, but the men I’m encountering just don’t measure up. They are literally the freaking worst. They are bad communicators, emotionally stunted, and don’t act their age.
When I meet someone I find attractive, we have sex twice and then he ghosts me. And the guys that actually do want to date me are usually unattractive or otherwise too normie or dorky. As for dating apps … I truly have no words. If that’s who Hinge thinks I’m “most compatible” with, I thoroughly disagree.
What gives? Should I date someone ten years older than me? Should I just not date at all?
As Bonnie Tyler asks in “Holding Out for a Hero,” where have all the good men gone?
Dear Damsel Unimpressed,
Your letter takes me back to a few years ago, when everyone on the internet liked to talk about how “men are trash.” The phrase started as a hashtag a few years back and quickly proliferated as an easy shorthand for women to complain about men. In a 2019 piece for the New Inquiry, writer Asa Seresin referred to this phenomenon as heteropessimism: “performative disaffiliations with heterosexuality, usually expressed in the form of regret, embarrassment, or hopelessness about straight experience.” Heteropessimists rarely stop dating men, Seresin pointed out; they just talk about how men suck. Sound familiar?
Let’s start with where I think you’re right. It sounds like some of the men you’ve dated are pretty subpar. An emotionally stunted bad communicator is the last person I’d want as my boyfriend, and it seems like lots of women would agree. (See the recent Psychology Today article that went viral for suggesting that straight single men are struggling to find partners because women are raising their standards when it comes to emotional availability and communication.)
I don’t think you should compromise on those qualities, so I understand your frustration. But finding someone emotionally available isn’t necessarily a matter of gender and age. The extent to which someone is able to communicate about their feelings depends on all sorts of stuff, like their childhood, past relationships, and current life circumstances.
I wonder if, instead of trashing all the men you meet, you might consider approaching the people you’re seeing with a bit more open-mindedness. Let me ask you this: When you hit an emotional wall with someone, do you tell him that? Or do you dismiss him as emotionally stunted and move on to the next? I would suggest being more patient with men who are open to working on themselves and prioritizing emotional availability — not looks — when you’re filtering potential partners.
Speaking of aesthetics, Damsel Unimpressed, your other concerns about the dudes who want to date you as being “normie” or “dorky?” Let’s try to unpack those a little.
My definitions of normie and dorky are, respectively, uninspired conformity and total misunderstanding of what’s cool — basically, things that aren’t a big deal and don’t matter much when it comes to whether they’d be good boyfriends. Literally who cares if a guy picks the wrong pair of shoes? Do you like talking to him? Is he kind? Ask yourself if that sort of thing is more important than hotness and see where you end up.
Am I telling you to settle? Not necessarily. I think if you want a relationship, you might just need to be patient, get to know someone, and avoid making snap judgments. It doesn’t matter how a guy cuffs his pants or if he listens to the right podcasts or picks photos with good lighting. That just tells you he knows how to package himself for consumption, that he has learned a certain set of aesthetic social rules, which, honestly? Kinda sus. What actually matters is whether you get along, if he’s kind and genuine and has all the more important qualities you’d prioritize in a good friend.
Mostly, I think having a heteropessimistic attitude might become a self-fulfilling prophecy: You expect men to be trash, so you look for reasons why they aren’t good enough. Doing this might be tempting because of the real power differential between men and women, but I think it would be helpful to stop. It’s just making your life harder.
I concede that it’s tough out there, but it sounds to me like you’re just waiting around for some magical, perfect man to appear. The problem is he doesn’t exist! If you still want to hold out for a hero, I’m not going to stop you. But I hope you give a few normies a chance in the meantime.
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