Thursday, May 22, 2008

D.C. Dating Sucks? Only if You Do!


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.
Any questions?

PS: I’m aware it’s a bit hypocritical to complain about complaining, but kindly just go with it.

47 comments:

Aileen said...

Well said, Shannon!

Personally, I've lived in a lot of cities and having enjoyed dating in DC the best.

It's all in the perspective.

Shannon said...

Thank you Aileen! I think this is your first visit, so welcome!

Jo said...

Very well said.

Capitol Hill 20210 said...

I don't blame the city - I blame my profession, thats all I date are fellow enforcers of the law or firemen -- no good can come of it either way for me lol.......the last three have been married - told me after they got theirs - "Is it going to be a problem that I am married?" - hmm well yeah duh - however I fell for the last one..........sigh......
The other guys I meet I apparently intimidate them because of what I do - it sucks -- ok I owe you many beers now after writing this.....

:-)

Shannon said...

Jo, thanks!

Zipcode, is it possible you're making Mistake #3? And I'll take an e-bourbon, please. On the rocks.

Capitol Hill 20210 said...

Shannon - I believe you are correct, however its the nature of the business we are in.....we all marry each other and screw each other lol freaking cops lol..........

Sending a e-bourbon your way.

I actually have one fool that pops in and out of my life - not married, 38, cute, pyscho, cop - texts me every 3 weeks - lol he is predictable kind of like a period lol

Shannon said...

Zipcode, I don't know if I can e-drink on the job, but that's never stopped me before! Try going somewhere you won't find any cops. Or do any posters have suggestions for the lovely Zip?

I've noticed that when I write about dating the guys sort of drop off the map...poke poke...y'all asleep or something? Hello?

Velvet said...

Nope. I actually blame the city. I do. I've lived in several major cities and most of them have their "dating personality." Atlanta is all frat boys and stoners. Miami is all foreigners. NY is all macho guys. And D.C. is a clusterf*ck is the easiest way to describe what you find here: all nationalities pool together to bring very different ideas about dating and mating. But to me, the general thinking of both men and women here is: "(S)He's okay but I can do better."

And so it goes...

Shannon said...

Velvet, I do agree that every city has its own vibe. But I also think the "I can do better" mentality has less to do with the city than with the popularity of online dating. Why focus on one person when another date is just a click away?

Capitol Hill 20210 said...

I also forgot to mention how funny match.com is -- every guy I went on a date on that site were all law enforcement as well hahaha.
Oh man, those were funny dates.
Eharmony is my next stop when I come back from San Francisco.

I do agree with Velvet - so right about Atlanta haha.

I have thoughts said...

Sorry, Shannon...I'd add a comment, but I've been with the same woman for half my life so I'm not qualified.

So I'll add words of encouragement. Sometimes you have to go through hell to get to heaven. Keep at it and be yourself and I'm sure you'll find somebody. In the meantime, enjoy your single self. You have a freedom that some would envy.

Man, I'm all sorts of sensitive these days. I am still a man, right?

Velvet said...

I think online dating here is more popular because the traffic is so bad and people don't get out of their neighborhoods. They get home and they don't leave their tiny little areas. I'm guilty of that too. But online dating, it's a mess. I'd like to say it doesn't work but most of my friends are hooked up with people they met online.

In places like Atlanta or Miami where tons of people go out all the time and aren't homebodies, you don't have to do the online thing. At least not when I lived there. In Miami, everyone ends up on Miami Beach or Coconut Grove at some point, and you can meet someone. Same thing in Atlanta - there are certain places people hang out and they all eventually end up there. But here? I don't know that we have that "one centralized place" where people go.

Ibid said...

In Kansas City I found that there just aren't single women. In all of two years I met 3. There were even pieces about it on the news.

DC has tons of single women but few who are actually free to date. Or, at least, women who share interests with me are fully booked. It's usually with work. 12+ hour days 6 days a week. A few have more relaxed work schedules but have filled the rest of their time with family and classes.
The last girl I dated flew off in a rage when I asked for a little help finding time when our schedules sync. Once every two weeks was the best we could do.
But I'm not sure if it's the nature of the jobs in this city or if it's the nature of women in their early 30s who are still single.

One of my big problems is that these over booked women need to accelerate the relationship right into physical mode by the end of the first date since they don't have time to date and really get to know the person. I, on the other hand, need to develop a comfort and affection for the person before I can even think of getting physical.

Believe me, I have considered moving again just to find a city where the women don't work so much.

lacochran said...

AMEN!!!

I do know of two men that combine your advice on Mistake #5 and the problem in Mistake #7 to disastrous proportions. These men are clods. Unattractive, unkempt, obnoxious clods who believe they deserve nothing less than a supermodel AND that she must accept them just as they are. Yeah, right. And they wonder why they're home on Saturday night. I say, washing your hair once in a while is not an affront to your self-expression!

Shannon said...

Zipcode, I met my boyfriend on Craigslist. So sometimes you can find something good in the bottom of the online dating barrel!

Thoughts, I feel inspired. Don't get me wrong, relationships are great, but there's a lot to be said for being single.

Velvet, the "centralized place" may very well be Casual Encounters on CL. I've noticed this town is very neighborhood-centered. I think there are many parallel versions of DC.

Ibid, it sounds like you're in a workaholic parallel DC - I don't really know many people who work such long hours. Jump the tracks, try something new! Or come here and bitch, we'll listen.

Lacochran, I believe it's unfair to hold your partner to standards you can't meet. I don't look perfect every day of the week, it would be absurd of me to hold anyone else to that standard.

Ibid said...

You know if you ever break up with Some Call Him Tim I'm gonna be all over you.

Foilwoman said...

Here's my two cents: people need to get over the idea that dating is supposed to be easy. Getting to actually know people is hard and risky. I've been dating a Guy (that's what I call him online) exclusively (we discussed it) for a few months. This is our first weekend away together. We like each other a lot, but I know spending 72 hours in someone's company is going to let me know a lot more about him and him know a lot more about me and some of what we learn might be dealbreakers.

And of course, anytime your meeting someone that can happen at any time. But anyone who thinks a person is a jerk (or making dating unnecessarily) hard by presenting a dealbreaker -- well for someone, it won't be. But that's why the whole thing is tough. The more you like the person, the more you're at risk. And most of the mistakes on your list seem to be people trying to avoid any risk. Of course, to do that, they'll have to avoid intimacy and actually getting to no anyone.

Take the risk. Try.

And I think that's why as an "older" (40s) woman, I find dating pretty non-stressful. I want to get to know people, but I don't need their approval. My kids love me. I can walk away. And most women my age are not interested in the scene.

Just MHO.

Shannon said...

Ibid, don't antagonize the Sorcerer Tim! He has the day off and may well be setting off explosions.

Foilwoman, I completely agree! My romance philosophy is, "Fall in love, get squashed, repeat as necessary."

Anonymous said...

but let's be real, folks. the workaholic nature of this place does tend to douse the romantic ardor of more than a few inhabitants. the nature of dc makes it a kind of metaphorical
salt peter.....

Shannon said...

Hi anon! I think this may be another case of parallel Washingtons - I have some friends who work very long hours, but I have many who do not. Sometimes it's good to try something new to see if you can track-hop to a new parallel.

Truth is, dating is a challenge no matter what. "Workaholic Washington" is an excuse, not a reason.

freckledk said...

"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."

Well said. This would also explain why there's constant male interest any/every time I go somewhere on vacation.

Carrie M said...

Isn't there always a reason why something is "wrong"? Workaholics. The city. Online dating. I agree that all of those things are issues when it comes to dating, but there's just always...something. It sucks.

However, well said, Shannon. All right on.

Shannon said...

Frecks, thanks. When I'm on a cougar prowl, I try to get into a "vacation" head space. Relax, be friendly, see things as novel. Of course, trying novel things helps.

Carrie M, I agree! Dating is an imperfect enterprise carried out by imperfect people - it's going to get messy, no matter what.

whatlizsaid.com said...

I think people like to give DC a bad rap in general. Dating is an easy target. Dating is hard everywhere, and it's a good cop out. Personally I thought dating in DC was great.

"Dating in DC is terrible" is about as old as "DC is so transient!"

Ugh, people.

CunningLinguist said...

I think you definitely covered all your bases.

I love #7! People do this all the time. I call it trying to date outside your bracket. Even if you do land someone, they aren't going to stay because that grass looks a whole lot greener when you are flirting with the hot girl at starbucks.

Shannon said...

UtterancesofLiz, yup. DC is "transient" for affluent white people...as in, a very small portion of our city. I just don't think it's so bad.

CL, for me, it's not about "brackets" so much as an understanding that it's all a numbers game - the more picky you are, the fewer people you'll meet who are dateworthy. Decide what your standards are and go from there.

The Black Dog said...

Well said Shannon! I can think of a few friends that need this article forwarded to them, they might hate me for it, but they probably need that wakeup call.

I agree with mixing it up and trying something new. When I had come out of my previous relationship I basically started using the time to try different things and see where it would go. I found one guy because I started hiking again, it didn't work out in the end, but oh well.

I am with my current guy namely because he offers something much different from others, namely the love of riding roller coasters and watching sports. If I had not taken the time to try something different, in this case I had decided the summer before I met him to buy a season pass to Six Flags and use it, I probably never would have met him.

Shannon said...

Welcome, Black Dog! Please do forward this around - we can start a movement! Or at least call people out for being annoyingly self-pitying.

Justin said...

I'm late to the party, sorry, new laptop and all that..

One of my complaints about D.C is that no one is here for long. Even if you meet someone, they inevitably are ready to move, want to move, or already planning to move.

My best friend here just moved Monday :(

Justin

Shannon said...

Hi Justin, welcome back! You were missed.

I don't think DC is all that transient - it's just that a certain segment of the city is transient. I grew up in the area, as did many of my friends, and most of us have no intention of leaving.

Jon - The DC Traveler said...

A greatlist forpeopole 20 or 50. The bottom line is dating in any town can be woither great or gorrible. Most of it is about attitude, and what you bring tothe date.

Shannon said...

Thanks, Jon, and welcome! I think, when it comes to dating, most folks take it either too seriously or not seriously enough. It's rare to find the middle ground, and those people are usually taken (for obvious reasons).

A said...

Friend - You like policy "shit"...Chances are in DC, you'll meet "chicks" who're doing that. Chances are they'll dig you.

I was about to up and do the great East Coast gold rush. A google search on "DC dating sucks" brought me here. Bless you. Bless google.

It's very Richard Dawkinish of you to say this - "Fixing yourself won’t guarantee you’ll get what you want".

The funniest thing is, in the end game, no one seems to know what should be the net outcome of going out on all those dates. Merely hooking up? Relationship? What kind? It'd be so much simpler if people walked around with boards hanging on their necks - "Want: Athletic jock dude/"chick", knows Calvin Klein, has even had sex with Calvin Klein..."...Dating everywhere is a chore :)

Misha K said...

Interesting read. Never been to DC, but sounds like people in my City too (Columbus, OH).

I agree, people like to bitch-n-whine a lot. It takes work and effort to meet potential mate. If it was an easy thing, it wouldn't be interesting.

~Misha

Erik said...

I just happened upon this post...I'm not sure how (I think maybe your FAQ, but I don't remember how I got to your blog), but could you repost this. I've come across way too many people that make way too many of the mistakes you list here, #7 being the most common in my experience.

If you repost, I think you'd be doing the city a great service.

Anonymous said...

think dating sites had it pretty tough during the crunch



---------------
filipinaheart

Anonymous said...

well, if you're disabled u have it pretty tough in the dating game but there are specialist dating sites for disabled people



---------------
dating singles

Anonymous said...

i'm thinking of running dating site purely for the disabled



---------------
dating agency

Anonymous said...

i'm thinking of running dating site purely for the disabled



---------------
dating singles

Anonymous said...

think it make sense to think many dating sites operate diffrently with diverse opportunities



---------------
filipino girls

Anonymous said...

well, if you're disabled u have it pretty tough in the dating game but there are specialist dating sites for disabled people



---------------
dating singles

Anonymous said...

in a recent survey 90% said most dating sites could offer better protection against scammers



---------------
filipino girls

Anonymous said...

i'm thinking of running dating site purely for the disabled



---------------
filipino girls

Anonymous said...

think it make sense to think many dating sites operate diffrently with diverse opportunities



---------------
dating singles

Anonymous said...

well, if you're disabled u have it pretty tough in the dating game but there are specialist dating sites for disabled people



---------------
filipino girls

Anonymous said...

Hello

Looking for help and hope this is the right place.

I have had significant success finding and dadting great Asian Women using this [url=http://www.onlyasiandating.com]site[/url].

However I'm still looking for "the one" and wonder if anyone have any good tips on where I should look.

Chao

african woman said...

Well, studies show that dating sites are really fun and a great tool to help people find their partner through the internet. It also make sense that if you want to really enjoy staying in online dating just follow their rule and be smart enough!