The only thing worse than dating in DC is listening to people complain about dating in DC. Getting trapped inside someone else’s dating rant is a recurring nightmare of mine, on a par with showing up to school naked for a pop final exam I didn’t study for that happens to be in Cantonese with Cyrillic characters and a background soundtrack of pop country and coffeeshop spoken word, all performed by Gilbert Gottfried.
Here is a synopsis of the date complaints I’ve heard over the years:
All men in DC are boring boorish egomaniac workaholics with no manners who think they’re players and treat women like dirt. They talk big but don’t follow up, don’t want to commit, and all the good ones are married or gay.
All women in DC are boring unfeminine hags who watch too much Sex and the City and aren’t nearly as funny or smart as they think they are. They talk endlessly about their stupid jobs, they see every date as spouse shopping, they can’t dress themselves, and they’re too materialistic and shallow.
I am aware that dating is a bit of a grind. From time to time, I have been known to go on dates. Sometimes these dates are bad enough for a good story, but more often they’re just OK. And sometimes they really work out. By no means am I a dating expert. But as a lack of expertise has never stopped me from mouthing off, here we go:
Shannon’s Law of Dating: The moment you say, “All (blank) in (blank) are (blank),” it’s over. Pull the plug. Leave town. Get a mail order spouse. Take up macramé. Whatever. Just. Stop. Dating. At least for a while.
Once you say “All (Blank) in (Blank) Are (Blank),” you’ve given up. You’ve externalized your internal problems. You’re aren’t the victim – the dating scene of D.C. is. And all because you’ve started to make some crucial mistakes:
Mistake #1: You’ve started to see your romantic quarry as the enemy, something to be dominated, controlled, and one-upped. This is why I see a lot of Pickup Artist stuff as counterproductive, as it’s all about one-upsmanship and power games. This is also why I cringe every time I see a commercial that depicts men as too stupid to perform basic household tasks, or a Cosmo article about how to trick a man into loving you. Could we all please remember we’re human first, and gender second?
Mistake #2: You see your city as the problem. Sometimes people move to new cities, and start getting more dates. That’s not about the city, because wherever you go, there you are. It’s because a fresh start has given you a more positive outlook, and being new to town has made you more open to meeting new people.
Mistake #3: It’s a cliché, but the definition of dating insanity is doing the exact same thing over and over and expecting different results. If you go out every weekend to the same three bars with the same three people, and you’re bored with everyone you meet, try something else. Duh.
Mistake #4: You’ve made too big a deal of things. Let’s say you meet someone who is practically perfect in every way. You run off and get married and it’s lovely. Well, your happily ever after is still going to include your friends, your family, your job, your favorite movies, your daily fun-size Snickers, your magazine subscriptions, your gym membership, your great-aunt’s cookie recipe, and your car payment. One person can only change your life so much, so spread your focus a little. Relieve some of that pressure before you get bitter.
Mistake #5: You’re changing who you are so you can be more appealing. Generally speaking, I prefer to be myself and let the chips fall where they may. If you think you need to be a flirty girly type or a “cocky and funny” guy, and start acting in a way contrary to your nature, it’s going to come across as weird and creepy. Weird and creepy? Not hot. Plus, the effort of keeping up the charade is going to exhaust you before the third date. (Depending on who you ask, I’m an abrasive unfunny preachy feminist buzzkill or a big-hearted sarcastic goofball with a reliable moral compass. Neither one really bags the boys, but whatever. I’d rather be attractive to one good man than a hundred so-so ones.)
Mistake #6: You aren’t clear about what you want. “I slept with this guy, which to me means we’re exclusive, but I found out he’s seeing other people!” Well, did you explain what your values were before hopping into bed? “I keep telling this woman I don’t want a relationship, but when I see her three times a week she acts like she’s my girlfriend.” Duh, if you’re asking her out that often, you’re saying one thing and doing another. No wonder she’s clueless. So, every step of the way, say what you want, then follow that up with a corresponding action.
Mistake #7: Your standards and your expectations are out of whack. I'm not saying "Settle for the first clod who will take you," or, "You're really great so be picky!" Just understand that the higher/more specific your standards are, the longer it will take to find someone who meets those standards. In fact, you may never meet that "right" person, and that's OK too. So adjust your timeline expectations accordingly. (Caveat: Don't hold potential partners to a standard you yourself cannot meet. Must be athletic? Must be successful? Only if you are, too.)
Daters of D.C., I still love you. This is a little bit of tough love, and I hope it’s taken in the spirit it was intended. And that spirit is: the problem isn’t the town, the problem is not the people you meet, the problem is you.
Fixing yourself won’t guarantee you’ll get what you want. But if you’re comfortable in your own skin, the hiccups of dating won’t matter so much.
PS: I’m aware it’s a bit hypocritical to complain about complaining, but kindly just go with it.