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I don't know how to respond to jokes my dates make about me
September 25, 2012 12:06 PM   Subscribe

Last night I feel like my confidence was dismantled by my date. This has happened before, and I have an idea of what's going on here but I don't know how to correct it.

Some basic facts about me:

- I'm an attractive, in shape single 30 yr old male in NYC, dating around—majority of these dates are from OKC
- I look like I'm 30 going on 25—I just don't look my age, for better or worse
- I'm in graduate school, full time

My date last night is 34 or 35. Before we met we spoke on the phone. She made a point of saying that she doesn't usually date younger guys, but my profile sounded interesting and she enjoyed our phone conversation, so she was willing to meet. She's very sarcastic, to the point where I don't know if she's being serious or kidding around a lot of the time.

So we meet last night for drinks. With the first five minutes, she's referring to my babyface (her words), the fact I'm full time in school, and I look younger in person than in my photos. After being caught off-guard by said comments, I made a point of saying she's already pigeon-holed me, formed by some preconcieved notion. She responds that I'm taking her comments too seriously. This conversation occurred multiple times in different variations.

She also made a point of saying I did not take control of the conversation at any point to temper her remarks.

I'm not going to speculate on her reasons for making the comments. The point is I've had a couple similar situations in the past where a date taps into some sort of insecurity of mine with some off the cuff quip, and I'm stuck flatfooted—I just don't know how to come up with a quick comeback of my own. And because I don't, it creates a power dynamic where she has the apparent upper hand, and ultimately resents me for it.

So my question, as naive as it might sound, is the following: how do I respond to situations like this, where the date has a sharp tongue, and makes some quip(s) about me, and come back with a response in equal measure?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (76 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
Shrug it off and don't go for a second date. Sorry your date behaved like a jerk. I hope you eventually find some nice women who like younger-looking men and who don't care about "banter". You're in NYC, so there are bound to be at least a few thousand.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 12:10 PM on September 25, 2012 [37 favorites]


As someone with an abrasive and sarcastic sense of humour, I think she was being a jerk. I mean, a first date is usually when people are putting their best face forward, and generally I try to temper my sarcasm until I know the person I'm meeting won't be offended by it.

Granted, maybe she's screening for people who CAN take it, but on the flip side, it doesn't sound like she was even trying to be nice. She sounded like she was pinning all the responsibility of making the date go smoothly on you, not on both of you.

My response would be something like "is this a date, or an interrogation?" (or 'verbal onslaught') since it sounded like she barely asked about your opinion for anything (or seemed to care). Whether that applies to other dates with the same lack of tact, though, I dunno.
posted by Hakaisha at 12:11 PM on September 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


Sounds like her idea of her dating A-game is to be "all acerbic, all the time". You don't have to make some witty riposte, which is what it sounds like you're looking for. Just call her on it (or give her a puzzled glance and change the subject), and/or don't see her again.
posted by supercres at 12:13 PM on September 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


She doesn't sound very pleasant to me.

I once had a date tell me, "You remind me of me, when I was your age." He was... maybe three years older than me, at most? There were a few other remarks about my age and supposed corresponding level of immaturity. At the time, it threw me off and upset me a little, later I realized what an ass he was.

Why do you need a comeback? When people say stuff like that, it's about them and their insecurities, not about you and your shortcomings. Don't go on second dates with people like that. I find a sharp tongue charming, but there's a way to be funny and teasing without being mean, and your date didn't know the difference. If you're worrying about power dynamics on the first date, you don't need a second date to see where things are going.
posted by adiabat at 12:14 PM on September 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


Remember: "nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent." Sounds like the woman you went out with had all sorts of issues that have absolutely nothing to do with you and there's nothing you could have done to make her act like a decent, polite person.

Decide how you're going to allow people to treat you and stick with it. That doesn't mean you have to tell people off - you can just decide not to have a second date with anyone who's rude to you on the first.
posted by lunasol at 12:15 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Chalk it up to her nervousness, lack of real conversation. You are not alone with the 'baby-face' problem. What many men do is hide behind facial hair until time takes care of the problem.
posted by Cranberry at 12:16 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Oh, it's pretty simple really: I just have a portrait locked in my attic that slowly becomes more hideous and disgusting as I become more youthful and beautiful."

alternative

"Oh, it's pretty simple really: I bathe in the blood of virgins. Duh."
posted by jph at 12:16 PM on September 25, 2012 [31 favorites]


Well, she sounds like a total jerk, and I was going to say that you shouldn't take anything at all from this experience because jerks will be jerks... but you say this has happened multiple times, which is a bit strange. Somehow, you are winding up going on dates with abrasive, sarcastic people and that's not your thing. I wonder if your profile makes it look as though you'd be more into sarcastic teasing or banter? Not that I think what she said was banter, but if she was taken aback by your response, it seems like maybe SHE thought it was.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:16 PM on September 25, 2012


I know absolutely nothing about this woman, but I do see a bit of my (former) self in your description of her. It sounds to me as if she's got some sort of self-sabotage thing going on here, which means her comments have nothing to do with you and you should just let them roll right on off. If that's not true, she was being an insensitive jerk and, frankly, wasting your time. She knew how old you were. If she's not interested in people her age or older, she shouldn't have contacted you.
posted by pecanpies at 12:17 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sorry, to answer your actual question: you respond by continuing to be pleasant and polite, and then not seeing them again. Although I must say I loved jph's suggestions, too.
posted by pecanpies at 12:18 PM on September 25, 2012


I don't know, none of the things she said actually seems so terribly negative to me. You might consider that mild teasing is often a form of flirtation.
posted by ottereroticist at 12:19 PM on September 25, 2012 [19 favorites]


If you're not the sort of person who would normally fire back on "banter" like this, then why bother trying? So you can get a second date with someone who's forcing you (albeit unconsciously) to be someone you're not? That won't be good for either of you.
posted by Etrigan at 12:19 PM on September 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


I was really into this kind of acerbic conversational style -- in my early twenties. Eventually I realized that it was a kind of self-defense mechanism on my part (never show you might actually care about the other person's opinion of you!), mixed with a mistaken impression that being nice equaled being boring.

Aaaaand then I grew up a little, and I mellowed.

In short, I don't think you're doing anything wrong in these interactions. Abrasive repartee is one conversational style, but a lot of us (even the formerly abrasive) find it unpleasant. Happily, you don't have to learn to deal with it, because instead you can find other people to spend time with -- people who make your comfort a priority in their interactions with you.

Nice, I'm telling you, is WAY underrated.
posted by artemisia at 12:19 PM on September 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


She was the insecure one, not you. The fact that you looked young made her feel old. That is all.
posted by unSane at 12:19 PM on September 25, 2012 [42 favorites]


She's a neurotic mess who likes to work her issues out on strangers. She thinks she's being hilarious in the Woody Allen movie in her head. In real life, she's a damn jerk. Don't think about this twice.

Dating is like parachuting into an egg factory as a way to make omelettes. You have to break all the eggs, one by one, and it takes forever, and you start to question if you even care about eggs or want to have sex with them, and then eventually you find an egg that's not broken that was hidden under a bunch of broken eggs, and then you move in with the egg and live happily ever after, okay really just for a while.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 12:19 PM on September 25, 2012 [36 favorites]


"Geez - that's pretty harsh! Haha, I guess now we know why you're single!" (wink) "But seriously, if we're going to spend all evening trying to find funny ways to be mean to each other, we should at least have a couple more drinks while we do it, don't you think? I'll let you buy this round, since your devasting comment stung my feelings, and then I can buy the next round for us once I've delivered my witty comeback."
posted by wolfdreams01 at 12:20 PM on September 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


Er, devastating comment, not "devasting"
posted by wolfdreams01 at 12:20 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


...how do I respond to situations like this, where the date has a sharp tongue, and makes some quip(s) about me, and come back with a response in equal measure?

"So you've been single for a while, huh?"

Seriously, though, if your date expects a conversational style that you find uncomfortable, why bother? Of all the cities in the world, you're probably in the best one to put your foot down about your date being a pain in the ass. Don't let it get to you, walk out if it gets to be too much, and don't play along with someone who thinks life is a bad knockoff of an Oscar Wilde play.
posted by griphus at 12:21 PM on September 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


how do I respond to situations like this, where the date has a sharp tongue, and makes some quip(s) about me

Shrug it off and move on to the next person. Some people thrive on conflict and are just poorly concealing their resentment. If this isn't a turn on for you, move on. The worst thing you can do is take it personally and desperately try to figure out how to ingratiate yourself with this person, no matter how good she looks on paper.

Take back your pride and make a conscious decision to write this person off. That's how you keep your confidence up.

I have been there
posted by deanc at 12:21 PM on September 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


It kind of sounds like she was negging you, which would be a weird but interesting reversal of "pick up artist" tactics.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:21 PM on September 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


I agree with ottereroticist. I don't think anything she said was that offensive on its own, it was just that it tapped into your insecurity AND you didn't know how to deflect it tactfully.

Also, online dating is difficult and makes people nervous. She was battling her nerves with misguided humor.
posted by Flamingo at 12:22 PM on September 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


By the way, if you need a line to use, I dimly recall, back in my abrasive early twenties, some guy once saying to me, "I'm sure you don't intend this, but your remarks are hurting my feelings."

And that (very honest and calmly spoken) remark made me stop twitting him and change my tune. You can only play the abrasive game if the other person is willing to match your acidic tone. Otherwise, you just feel like a bully!
posted by artemisia at 12:22 PM on September 25, 2012 [25 favorites]


This is what dating is all about, yes? To see whether you're a match? You found out right quick.

I would suggest looking at your profile to see what's attracting the nasty types. Maybe you have listed some favorite movies or TV shows that derive their humor primarily from people being jerks to each other? You might want to think about taking those out if so.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:25 PM on September 25, 2012


I also have a very sarcastic sense of humor, and part of the fun of ribbing someone is them ribbing me back. That she didn't stop when it was clear you didn't find it funny suggests she's kind of a jerk, as others above have said.

Giving her the benefit of the doubt, I would maybe say that she was "testing" you to see if your senses of humor matched.

In any case, in the future, the best thing that you (as a person who doesn't enjoy this kind of thing) can do is say, "I don't really think that's funny," and change the topic of conversation. You won't be seeing her for a second date, so who cares if she's put off by your reaction?

Personally, about the worst thing you can do is have some sort of witty comeback if you're really not feeling it. I was in a relationship for a while where it took months for my boyfriend to tell me that my sense of humor hurt his feelings, and I felt awful. ...But if I was really hurting his feelings all along, he should have told me so, and not played along. You have agency in this, too.
posted by phunniemee at 12:25 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


She was battling her nerves with misguided humor.

Either that or employing a screening mechanism to determine if her date was her type: a take-charge quick witted verbal sparring partner.

It sounds like you quickly determined she wasn't your type... what's to gain from "winning" in such situations?
posted by BobbyVan at 12:25 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sarcastic quippers are best matched with similar. I think Dorothy Parker said that to Oscar Wilde.

If you feel uncomfortable talking with them, I'd say it's more like you're not a match than that you need to change.

That said, having confidence in yourself makes it much easier to either let the snark roll off, or fire back with something similar. So if you wanted to practice for witty ripostes, something that requires quick thinking, like preparing for your grad school orals or thesis defense, or doing an improv class for the hell of it, could help.
posted by zippy at 12:27 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


She is worried that she looks old. Also, she thinks this is witty banter. Those are her problems. If it isn't fun for you, just politely change the subject.

As for the "power dynamic," don't try to use a witty or insulting comeback. Be confident enough not to play a game that doesn't interest you.
posted by Area Man at 12:28 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


With the first five minutes, she's referring to my babyface (her words), the fact I'm full time in school, and I look younger in person than in my photos. After being caught off-guard by said comments, I made a point of saying she's already pigeon-holed me, formed by some preconcieved notion. She responds that I'm taking her comments too seriously.

Are all three of these things true?

Do you have a babyface?
Do you look younger in person than in your photos?
Are you full time in school?

I mean, without hearing what and how she said it, this could have been completely inocuous. I mean, the first thing you'd notice on a date is how young (or old) a person looks. Having a babyface isn't something that is universally negative, you know. Though, I can understand how you'd might thing any mention of it was a dig. She might not have meant any of it that way.

And if she didn't, then her reaction to your reaction calling her out on it makes sense. She likely meant no harm in it.

You didn't click. Move on. If someone says something egreguously negative, then you can end the date right then and there. Beyond that, keep being polite.
posted by inturnaround at 12:31 PM on September 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Based on what you wrote in your question, it's hard to say if your date was a jerk or if you're a little too sensitive about some things. Let's assume it's somewhere in the middle - she was kind of being a jerk, and you could toughen up a bit. The second part leads to the KEY TO HAPPINESS IN LIFE: Stop caring what other people think, especially strangers that you meet for a blind internet date.

So your date made fun of your baby face? Having a baby face is probably a good thing, and who gives a flying fuck what she thinks? Not you! (Not anymore, anyway).

As a woman, I get "negged" by guys all the damn time, and that sounds like what she was - very clumsily - trying to do. It's annoying, but try to have a sense of humor (i.e., don't accuse someone of pigeon-holing you, just disengage).
posted by ablazingsaddle at 12:33 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Your problem is not what you said or didn't say on the date -- it sounds like a bad match that was not going to work out through no fault of yours (and incidentally I think telling you beforehand that she doesn't usually date younger guys was a red flag, and a faux pas on her part).

Your problem is that you're coming here the next day and asking the internet what you should've done differently, rather than writing this off as a mismatch and moving on to the next one. And I've been there, too, so I don't mean that to be insulting. But that's what indicates a lack of self-confidence, not your inability to come up with a good comeback to this particular girl's standoffish banter.

Remember, dating is not just about trying to get your date to like you, but about trying to decide if you like her. I'd recommend focusing more on the latter, because you already know and believe that you're worthy, regardless of how this or that individual reacts to you. And if that isn't true, start addressing that on your own.
posted by ludwig_van at 12:34 PM on September 25, 2012


She was probably feeling insecure about her own age. It can be difficult to find awesome dates when you're a 35 year old single woman - it seems like many guys her age are already in long-term relationships and/or married. Some of the ~35 year old single guys have been recently divorced and still have lots of messy emotions going on. Younger guys often don't want to date older women for a bunch of reasons, including the notion that her clock is ticking, ergo she is in a rush to settle down, and even if he is serious, he'd be forced into making babies too soon.

This exact scenario has played out with many of my single girlfriends over the last few years.

In other words, realize that when people are abrasive like this, especially in a situation like this, it's really an insecurity in their own minds. That might help you to take it less personally and make it into a tiny joke.
posted by barnone at 12:35 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think you might want to consider starting from the premise that this may be friendly, goodnatured teasing, not a deliberate attempt to tap into your insecurities.

If you assume good faith on their part, then any number of responses can work. If you smile and laugh with her, this works because it flatters people when they get positive responses to the things they say.

If you go along with her teasing ("Actually, I'm 19." "Actually, I'm 54.", or, whatever, there are about a million things you could say here, most of which are funnier than those ideas), she might think you have a good sense of humor in addition to flattering her by going along with her joke and giving her positive feedback on it.

If you're just really earnest about it, like, "Yeah, people always tell me I must be 19," you at least won't offend her and then maybe you can just ask her a question to change the topic.

But if you come from the position of believing she's being a jerk, then you don't have too many good options. I mean, you might as well end the date right there, right? Who wants to date a jerk? So if you're going to assume bad faith on her part, your options are pretty much limited to trying to change the subject and waiting until the date is over so you can get the hell out of there, or coming back with some crack that will put her in her place ("No kidding? I had a similar thought about you--you don't look a day over 40," or, "Well, compared to you I guess I look young--imagine what people are saying about us right now."). But I don't see much advantage in that.

Anyway, bottom line is: assume good faith, because it widens your options for responding, and if she really is being a jerk to you then it will be really clear by the end of the date, anyway.
posted by MoonOrb at 12:37 PM on September 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


she was insecure about how old she looked, and "i don't usually date younger" is sometimes code for "i prefer someone who takes charge/doesn't automatically defer to others around them." couple that with her saying you don't take control - i just think this was a bad match.

my husband is a few years older than me, but because of his baby face no one guesses it (sometimes straight up disbelieving me when i tell them). we're both in our 30s and he gets legitimately carded sometimes. i comment on his baby face all the time because i think it's absolutely adorable. i get a man who is mature, can grow a great beard, and clean shaven can pass for a teenager. don't always assume women are remarking negatively to your young appearance.
posted by nadawi at 12:38 PM on September 25, 2012


People do weeeird things when they're nervous. Especially on dates. Add in someone's insecurity and a bit of wariness (or mistrust) and you end up with this very surface attempt at banter with guards and defenses way up. This sometimes gets counterbalanced with abrasiveness, sarcasm and aloofness to hide the scared, vulnerable person inside. It sucks for everyone involved.

Maybe she thought (or other women have thought) you were actually younger than you said you were and her insecurities about her age and cougar-esque stereotypes sent her into this strange attack mode, in an attempt to be cool and unbothered? I think everybody in their mid-30s doing the online dating thing has to spend some time wrapping their head around this game and face the insecurities that they probably thought they were past already (due to age and previous experience). Men have their own deal, but I think women in their 30s especially struggle with online dating in places like OKC, where they're among a sea of younger 20 y/o's who aren't yet facing the youth/ageing woes full bore yet.

Regardless, this is not about you and shouldn't be your issue. But you can be sensitive about it, and that would demonstrate an inner strength, confidence and kindness that can be very appealing.

So perhaps on the next date, if things start going in this direction, try softening a bit and saying something nice to try to put your date at ease. It doesn't cost you much to show a little vulnerability in a meet-halfway sort of way. If she bites your hand, then you've seen some true colors and you're done there. But if it works to reduce the edginess of it all, then you've bridged a little gap and accomplished something kind there. And maybe the two of you can then move onto other subjects.

Also, simply frowning works when somebody says something you don't agree with or like, but don't want to get into with words. It gently reflects back on what what was just said and that can be really powerful for de-escalating a situation or making somebody check themself.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:39 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Without speculating on her reasons for saying those things, whether she was truly concerned or trying to be funny, or genuinely thought she was being flattering (possible), or whether she is just an insecure jerk with no idea about how to behave... you never lose by being open, mild and non-defensive about your genuine response to this sort of comment. Address it head on.

"It's funny that you picked up on that, I was worried about age coming on this date. I don't want you to automatically think I am too young for you based on those things."

"You mentioned how young I look, it's actually a problem for me in [x/y/z] context, I was kind of hoping that wouldn't be an issue here."

You always win with this. You have preserved the possibility that she is pleasant but tactless and clueless and didn't know that she was making you uncomfortable (I have been in this situation - and been horrified that my "banter" was hurting my date rather than amusing him). You haven't been defensive about her remarks, or bitten back. You have self-disclosed and created an opportunity for getting to know each other better and dispelling some of your mutual fears and concerns. The worst case scenario is that she continues to be a bitch, in which case you solve the problem with an abrupt end to the date and not calling again.
posted by yogalemon at 12:43 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I made a point of saying she's already pigeon-holed me, formed by some preconcieved notion

This is where you lost. She likely wanted to see if you would submit or if you would put her in her place. You submitted. The problem is that she does not respect a man who would submit.

You mentioned that she was very sarcastic. I frankly would not have even gone as far as the date if I knew of her sarcasm from the phone or other communications. Sarcasm is not feminine and therefore not attractive to me.

People will scream, but I would recommend learning some game such as in the blog I linked in the last paragraph. For example, in this context, your riposte could have been to question whether a 35-year-old woman like her could afford to be shooing guys away. Something about how you wouldn't have described her as a baby-face. Or, you could "agree and amplify" by quipping about some benefit that your youthful appearance gains you (which would not be a hard sell).

Do I need to ask if you picked up the tab?
posted by Tanizaki at 12:44 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


So my question, as naive as it might sound, is the following: how do I respond to situations like this, where the date has a sharp tongue, and makes some quip(s) about me, and come back with a response in equal measure?

Well, several people have pointed out that a better option would be to stop dating meanyfaces, especially since it's a buyer's market for heterosexual men in NYC.

But that doesn't answer your question. If you want to give as good as you get, I would suggest taking whatever difference your date chooses to highlight and turning it back around on them.

"You have such a babyface! I don't normally date such young looking guys!"
"Really? That's cool. I don't normally date such..." pause, as though you're scrutinizing her face for wrinkles and casting about for a tactful word "...mature looking women, but I liked your profile."

"Jeez, you're still in school? I've been working for, like, 10 years now!"
"Yeah, I thought about doing that, but I didn't want to become just another office drone, you know? Not everybody has the chops to make it through grad school, and I figured it would be a waste if I didn't get my (Master's/Ph.D./whatever). "

It seems to me like an unpleasant game to play, but if you want to play it, you should at least practice and get good at it.

As a side note, it's weird that a 34 or 35 year old would consider dating a 30 year old to be dating a younger person. I mean, yes, obviously there is a 5 year difference in age. But it's not like a 15 year old and a 20 year old. After 30 a few years' difference seems pretty irrelevant.
posted by jingzuo at 12:46 PM on September 25, 2012


People will scream, but I would recommend learning some game such as in the blog I linked in the last paragraph. For example, in this context, your riposte could have been to question whether a 35-year-old woman like her could afford to be shooing guys away. Something about how you wouldn't have described her as a baby-face. Or, you could "agree and amplify" by quipping about some benefit that your youthful appearance gains you (which would not be a hard sell).

And then at the end of the date, he would have won over someone who was unattractive to him and has an unpleasant personality! Woohoo!
posted by deanc at 12:51 PM on September 25, 2012 [21 favorites]


Lots of good advice here - call her out on it gently, call her out on it aggressively, banter back; do whatever feels right for the situation. To some extent it's difficult to advise without really hearing how the words were said and seeing facial expressions - the same exact words could have been gentle banter, or even flirtatious, or they could have been spoken by someone being a massive wang.

Whatever you do, don't start parsing this stuff in terms of "submission" and "non-submission", or spouting drivel like "sarcasm is not feminine", lest you come across as some socially inept PUA wannabe dolt whose best model for human interaction is The Dog Whisperer.
posted by ominous_paws at 12:53 PM on September 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


she does not respect a man who would submit. ... Sarcasm is not feminine and therefore not attractive to me.... I would recommend learning some game such as in the blog I linked in the last paragraph. For example, in this context, your riposte could have been to question whether a 35-year-old woman like her could afford to be shooing guys away.

Please don't learn this lesson from your situation.

Either she is just an asshole (in which case, you win by not dating her) or she is a nice person who was a conversational style that you don't click with (in which case, again you win by not dating her).

If you're worried about looking young, consider other nonverbal ways to signal you are older on future dates with other people, like (not for everyone but works for some) facial hair, or a different haircut, or glasses, or somewhat more formal clothes, etc.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:54 PM on September 25, 2012 [13 favorites]


I wouldn't try to hurt her feelings in return. That's just immature.

Fundamentally this is a communication issue. She was being sarcastic (which has nothing to do with gender) and you didn't understand what she was getting at. Happens all the time.

When something like this catches you up, just ask, "I'm sorry, what are you trying to say?"

Her response should clarify if she is really being mean or if she thinks she's stating facts or if she is trying to flirt.
posted by tooloudinhere at 12:54 PM on September 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


The most elaborate game women are usually playing on dates is called flirting.

This whole thing about women "creating a power dynamic where they have the apparent upper hand, and ultimately resenting me for it" thing is not a healthy way to view your interactions with the opposite sex.

Figure out what style you prefer for flirting, and then flirt back. As long as you are genuine the dates will probably respond positively. Agree that you should assume good faith.

You don't need game, you just need confidence.
posted by skrozidile at 12:57 PM on September 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sarcasm is not feminine and therefore not attractive to me.

It's fine to say sarcasm is not feminine to you, and therefore not attractive to you. However, I find that sarcasm is just a way of communicating (amongst people I know, mostly as a way for humour) and have no problems with it.

@OP: What jumped out to me was that that particular woman wanted a man who would take control (of the date, of the relationship, etc.). If you have no interest in such a relationship dynamic but are consistently getting these dates from online, maybe check to see if you come off differently online. Maybe your insecurity about your "youthfulness" made you overcompensate in writing your profile like the alpha-est alpha male type?

When I was single, I went on many dates with people from online. I was always appreciative when my date told me right off the bat what type of a relationship (casual, serious, open, kinky, etc) they wanted, and I was always frank with what I was looking for. If there was no match, that was okay--that's why it'd dating. She may not have the confidence/awareness to be so clear about what she's looking for, but ultimately, you just weren't compatible and there was no need to try to hurt her for it.
posted by ethidda at 12:58 PM on September 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


learning "the game"/pua/manipulation techniques will probably get you laid. but if you want a partner, it's a shitty footing to start on. there's value in learning confidence, but if any of your self-help materials include phrases like "sarcasm is unfeminine" you're probably pretty far down a vile path.
posted by nadawi at 12:59 PM on September 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


So, look.

You don't like to be teased like that by your dates. This is just fine. You're allowed to like what you like and not like what you don't like.

The question is, how to avoid--at least, insofar as it's possible--making dates with people who will tease you like that? This question doesn't have to be answered by any nonsense PUA formulas about "shit tests" or sarcasm being "unfeminine" or "winning" in a battle of wills or any garbage like that.

If this is happening a lot, you are somehow unwittingly sending a message that people are interpreting as you liking this. Maybe, as I suggested above, it's something you're saying in your list of favorite movies/TV shows/whatever. Do you have shows like "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" or "Everybody Likes Raymond" or "Seinfeld" as among your favorites? Because the people on those shows are always dissing each other pretty savagely, and it makes sense that someone who loves dealing out savage disses would think that a) those shows are awesome, and b) if you like those shows, too, you and she would be buddies in savagely dissing each other and HILARITY WOULD ENSUE.

Do you say you have a sarcastic sense of humor? Do you say you like giving your friends a hard time, or pulling pranks, or anything else that might suggest that it's open season for ragging on you mercilessly because that's how you relate to others?
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:00 PM on September 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


No one should be thinking about "power dynamics" on a first date.
posted by Lieber Frau at 1:03 PM on September 25, 2012 [24 favorites]


I wasn't there and I think a lot of people above have pointed out some likely scenarios, but is it possible that she was checking to see if your profile was truthful? I mean, if you look younger, you're in school and so on, she might be trying to see if you are, in fact, 30 and not 21 or something. A lot of people spin their profiles or even post fake information. Maybe she was worried that you're actually 12 or 15 years younger than her - and that you were perhaps on some plight to land an older woman while you're in school. It's just a thought that crossed my mind.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 1:05 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Regardless of personality type or intent it doesn't sound like this sort of person would become a better match for you with increasing familiarity, put it down to experience and move on.
posted by epo at 1:10 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think trying to find a mean way to respond to these remarks is definitely the wrong way to go.

I also agree with those who have said that they may not be jokes at your expense, as you are perceiving them to be. Just guessing, it sounds like you are very sensitive about this issue and you see any remark related to it as an insult.

I look young too and I get remarks on it EVERY DAY. I don't think every person who comments on it is trying to be mean to me. I think they are just making small talk. It's kind of like if you say you're from Minnesota and people go "oh, it's COLD up there." Yup. It's cold in Minnesota in the winter, but it gets really old to hear that same comment every time. But I understand that it's just people's way of making small talk, and these are things I need to expect and not get all pissy about.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 1:11 PM on September 25, 2012


After being caught off-guard by said comments, I made a point of saying she's already pigeon-holed me, formed by some preconcieved notion.

That response doesn't make sense to me. How was she pigeon-holing you? Her comments were a bit tactless, sure, but it doesn't sound like she was actually insulting you. From what I'm reading here, it sounds like she felt a bit odd dating a younger man to begin with. This is a hang-up for a lot of women, not wanting to be seen as cougars or what-have-you because society is stupid.

It sounds like she went into it hoping she'd feel less weird about it after meeting you, but then she noticed that you really do look young, and then the whole school thing. It almost sounds like she was talking to herself, forgetting that you'd have feelings about these things - her thought process probably being something like, "Oh... yeah, this feels weird." I wouldn't be surprised if she feels like she acted in a ridiculous matter, but it's kind of a moot point since it sounds like neither of you felt comfortable with the other person and thus no future dates are in the cards.

Aside from that, the whole power dynamic thing is weird, and it sounds like you're just better off dropping people who play that game. Dating doesn't have to feel like a competition.
posted by wondermouse at 1:12 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


she's referring to my babyface (her words), the fact I'm full time in school, and I look younger in person than in my photos.

She's teasing you. There is no power dynamic you need to correct. Your insecurities are your issue, not a glowing target on which these dates have zeroed in. What you need to do is laugh.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:14 PM on September 25, 2012 [11 favorites]


Please don't respond to her (or people like her) by being mean back, with the suggestions above like "I guess we know why you're single!" She may very well be a mean jerk who is trying to be a jerk at you, but she could also be a sarcastic, nervous woman who is trying to flirt by teasing you. That's my personality and if someone was offended and responded in many of the ways that people have suggested in this thread, I would be devastated.

That said, the fact that she got defensive and didn't apologize from the moment you said you were hurt, well, she was probably being a jerk at you.
posted by telegraph at 1:15 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


[This needs to not turn into a side-discussion or a referendum on PUA stuff.]
posted by cortex at 1:17 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


how do I respond to situations like this, where the date has a sharp tongue, and makes some quip(s) about me, and come back with a response in equal measure?

What's going on here is that you're floundering due to:

1. Being caught off-guard, which is the least of the problems
2. The other person hitting on your insecurities, which makes you have a mild panic reaction
3. The pressure of the social situation (a first date) compounded by the pressure of the moment, which adds to the panic

You feel like you're on the spot, and that's what is making it hard for you to volley back.

Here is my advice.

ONE: Cultivate a handful of Swiss Army Jokes, and keep them in the holster. These are tiny bits of humor that you can apply to different situations. What will then happen is conversational sleight of hand: It will appear to the other person that you have just fired back with a bon mot, when in fact you've just said a funny thing and tied it into the situation somehow.

For example: If she says you have a total babyface, you would then say: "Man, if I had a nickel for every time I've heard that, I'd have...(half-second pause) forty cents." (This joke works much better conversationally, if said in a completely off-handed tone.)

She then laughs at your wit, not realizing that you could have responded with that to anything.

Figure out some of your own.

TWO: Cultivate witty friends and go out drinking with them. What you need to do here is basically learn to relax and you won't learn to do anything at all if you don't practice. The Algonquin Roundtable is no more, but surely you know some people with good senses of humor. Learn from them.

THREE: If all else fails, go the Cyrano route. Figure out what you're insecure about and come up with some Swiss Army Jokes about those things, and in the moment you will demonstrate that you're better than she is at making fun of you.

"Well, yeah I'm full time in school - if I skip any, they won't let me go to prom."

"Yeah, I probably do look younger in person. Those photos are of the same guy as my fake ID. Remarkable likeness, I think. Anyway, another round?"

But ultimately, what you need to learn to do is not give a shit when someone hits a nerve regarding your insecurities. It sounds like what happened here is she said something - it's not clear if this was teasing or just making an offhand comment about how young you look - and it hit a nerve and all of a sudden you're having a serious conversation about how she pigeonholed you. First dates should be light and fun, you know? By reacting the way you did, you sent a signal that (a) you do in fact give a shit - a lack of confidence is a huge turnoff to a lot of women - and (b) you're not much fun.

Are these things true? No! Well, one of them is, a little. But you are fun, are you not? Yes. Yes, you are fun. So be fun. Be comfortable in your skin, be confident, act like you don't give a shit and practice your wit with like-minded friends.

It takes practice, so you may have to do a lot of carousing with witty people. But that's the best kind of practice, so sally forth, and good luck.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:24 PM on September 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


It kind of sounds like she was negging you, which would be a weird but interesting reversal of "pick up artist" tactics.

I agree that's it's negging. But I wouldn't call it a reversal; it's just plain ol', straight-up negging. And I wouldn't call it weird; it's common and boring. Most women probably don't do it, just like most probably men don't do it. But I don't think it's rare for women or men to do it. Instead of focusing on how to come up with witty retorts (which implicitly legitimizes the whole thing), focus on how not to date those kinds of people.
posted by John Cohen at 1:27 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


My favorite thing to say when someone hurts my feelings, whether intentionally or nor is, "harsh." I learned this from Clueless.

It's perfect really, it implies no judgement on what the other person said, only that my perception of what they said was that they hurt my feelings.

"Your still living with your mother, are you some kind of loser?"

"Ow. Harsh." Then wait. If an apology is not forthcoming, or at least an explanation. Time to motor.

Here's a phrase that will serve you well in the land of blind internet dating: "You know, this doesn't seem to be working out. It was nice meeting you. Good luck." Then pick up the check, pay and leave.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:28 PM on September 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I should also add that I think a lot of people who don't naturally look young think that making comments like this are complimentary, and indeed many people do take them that way.

After all, looking young is supposed to be a good thing in our society. It's just for people like you and me who get that all the time and who are sick of hearing it that it stops seeming so nice.

There was this good thread on the same topic a while back that you might get a laugh out of or would help you get a laugh out of such situations.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 1:28 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


People are who they are, it just wasn't a good fit. There's nothing we can say that would determine that she was out of line or you were too sensitive, I think your different conversational styles clashed. You could have cut the date short, I've certainly been on OKC dates where the second beer was, well, not a mistake, but definitely superfluous. Regardless, don't take it personally.
posted by rhizome at 1:36 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


She made a point of saying that she doesn't usually date younger guys, but my profile sounded interesting and she enjoyed our phone conversation, so she was willing to meet.

You don't need to go out with people who are acting like they're doing you a favor by going out with you.

You're getting some good advice in this thread about what to do when dating people like this, but the fact is, you don't have to date people like this.
posted by headnsouth at 1:51 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Speaking of harsh! How can anyone here tell what's going on without knowing what her body language was like, or the tone of voice she used, or how she was looking at you while she said it?

I could easily read this as: she liked you and/or thought you were cute. She engaged in light teasing and flirting. You took her deadly seriously and react in a way that reads as defensive, or maybe she even feels attacked. She in turn defends herself and feels awkward that you don't get that she's flirting. Maybe she thinks you're reacting that way because you aren't into her.

Since you said this has happened before, I wonder if you are usually good at reading non-verbal signals? Do you realize when women are flirting with you?
posted by peep at 1:53 PM on September 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think any arguing over whether her comments were simple teasing/flirtation is moot; the poster doesn't like that behavior. That's okay. I don't recommend a second date.

More interesting to me is that this has happened before. I think it would be more helpful to ask why it bothers you so to be called "babyface." Is it an ego thing? Do you want to seem sophisticated? Do you feel like you're not being taken seriously? It sounds like a sensitive spot for you, and while I don't think it's a "do not date until you figured this out!" dealbreaker, I think it's worth further reflection.

(I'm speaking from experience; I'm 27 and am regularly mistaken for a college student. Each time I feel the need to shout "Look at my business card! I am a big boy who pays his own bills and has a car! May I impress you with a nuanced take on science, philosophy, and current events?" For me, it's about being taken seriously as an adult. Also, it doesn't help that I dress mostly in t-shirts and jeans. Maybe that's part of it. But, if you want babyface sympathy, shoot me a message.)
posted by Turkey Glue at 1:57 PM on September 25, 2012


Oh, and something that may help your confidence: If someone is engaging in light teasing, they're flirting; if they're flirting, they're attracted to you; if they're attracted to you, the range of your jokes that they'll laugh at and be charmed by is a lot broader, so you don't have to deliver a perfect, Oscar Wilde-esque putdown - you just have to show that you're confident and funny.

Other comments have said (correctly) that you don't have to go on another date with someone like this if the dynamic doesn't work for you, but I kind of got the sense that the crux of your question was just how to handle having your insecurities poked in situations like this, so, you know, take whatever advice works best for your desires.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 2:08 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Please don't respond to her asshole ways by being an asshole back. What are you hoping to gain by that? The unending respect of an asshole? The love of an asshole? The affirmation that the asshole was initially wrong and that you are amazing?

Just don't date these people again. If they make you uncomfortable enough, get up, politely say that you need to leave, and walk out.
posted by Shouraku at 2:10 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


How do I respond to situations like this, where the date has a sharp tongue, and makes some quip(s) about me, and come back with a response in equal measure?

I don't think you should try and escalate the situation into some kind of hurtful quip war. Why not do something along the lines of what Ruthless Bunny suggests ("Harsh!")? Or just say "I'm kinda sensitive about that actually", let her apologise and then say "No worries" and change the subject. You could do it in a light manner.
posted by bimbam at 3:13 PM on September 25, 2012


You have a baby face, you're 30, and you're in graduate school? And she sees these things as bad. Yes, there is a problem here and it sure as hell isn't you. Unless you try to win over these types of biting, sarcastic types. It doesn't sound like fun to be around those types. Be thankful she showed you her asshole so early as you proceed not to go on any further dates.
posted by SillyShepherd at 3:17 PM on September 25, 2012


Some people like a little bit of teasing, some people don't. It's one of those easy ways to determine if you're on the level with her. It's okay not to be on the level with her. It sounds like you might be a bit more cerebral, someone who might like to talk about ideas and facts more than you like to toy around with immediate social dynamics.

I don't think you should be as offended as so many in this thread are making it out to be in the same way that I don't think you should feel bad about not joining in. The truth of the matter is that she's probably just not right for you and you should see this as self-affirming. You like the people you like because that's who you are.

But to specifically address your question, the thing that's helped me in the past in getting over my personal sensitivity to perceived insults is reminding myself that the universe is huge and this immediate conversation is such a speck that it doesn't matter in the context of all things, that none of the individual statements matter and they're not worth the retrospection or the care that I'm giving it. It helps me to be more expressive and emotionally honest, which is one of those cruxes of figuring out whether or not someone is right for you. But, like most personal mantras, it's something that's unique to how I see the world and it's liable to only work for me.
posted by dubusadus at 3:23 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Schedule shorter 1st dates; meet for a drink or coffee, so you can end after a half hour if it's not going well. If it's going well, you can always say "I'm enjoying spenidng time with you; want to get some dinner?" It's a crapshoot, assume that many of the people you'll meet will just be a bad match.
posted by theora55 at 6:23 PM on September 25, 2012


how do I respond to situations like this, where the date has a sharp tongue, and makes some quip(s) about me, and come back with a response in equal measure?

You respond by putting this type of banter on YOUR list of deal-breakers and crossing these women off your list instead of trying to be something you're not: someone who is comfortable in conversations like this with people you barely know. Your date has to make a good impression on you, and if you don't find yourself rejecting some of the people you meet, you should seriously raise your standards. (I'd find this behavior from your date obnoxious enough to pull a pocket veto: rejection without any follow-up communication.)

There is no response that you can give that will turn someone who likes to make comments like that into someone who doesn't, and if it's coming up within the first few minutes of a first date, you can be sure it's a personality trait of theirs that's pretty ingrained.

Just like in War Games, the only way to win is not to play.
posted by alphanerd at 6:56 PM on September 25, 2012


It's fine to say sarcasm is not feminine to you

I... don't really think so. It's okay if it isn't attractive to him, though. For sure.

Agreed that you should try not to think of this as an elaborate gender power play, just for the sake of guarding from bitterness (there are a lot of "guy" things that have annoyed me in the past while dating, but I found that thinking of them in those terms just made me not like men, and suck at dating them). I actually have this exact same experience with men and women, both when dating and when just hanging out. I've learned that what you really have to do (and this is a life skill, a self-image thing, not just a dating tactic) is to say something like "yeah, I'm quite the heartbreaker" or something that reclaims what is actually a great thing about you. I mean, you're attractive. That's a win. I had to learn to do this from within some deep chakra rather than learning it case by case, so in other words, I just had to learn to value myself. And if someone says something I'm not so confident in ("okay, miss fashion plate,") I'll just brush it off with a "you don't say" or "how kind of you" with a bit of sarcasm.

I've had guys play the "well aren't you smart one" card when they feel threatened or whatever bs (see, poisonous gender power games) and I'll just say "yeah, I hold my own," or something to that effect. Sometimes that bugs them more and sometimes it wins them over. It is flirting, just... aggressive flirting. I actually kind of learned to like it once I got good at it. It's fun to showboat a bit. When it's about my looks I'll just play it up a bit, pat my hair or bat my eyes to say, "yeah, I'm hot, what are you going to do about it?" I know guys who do something similar (either an exaggerated feminine gesture for comedy's sake, or a smile and a shrug for a more serious, masculine statement). Throwaway statements like "what can I say" are your friend, too.

That doesn't mean you have to like these people, it'll just make you feel more in power of your social interactions. It's a good skill to have, even if you avoid people like that for intimate relationships. My boyfriend and I do a fair amount of teasing like this but it definitely waited until we already knew each other well. I've just found that taking a more active role in defending myself has done a lot for my social self-image.
posted by stoneandstar at 7:43 PM on September 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


how do I respond to situations like this, where the date has a sharp tongue, and makes some quip(s) about me, and come back with a response in equal measure?

Sometimes the sarcasm is flirting. So you can ask "Are you hitting on me?" if it's fairly light. I've said some stupid, stupid things to men I was attracted to. In some cases they probably found me hostile, and I've had to teach myself to err on the side of polite.

If it's truly unkind, then there's no need to enter the power play. Sometimes you can trump the BS just by being frank and observational. "I don't understand why you'd say that." Or "It seems to really bug you."
posted by bunderful at 8:14 PM on September 25, 2012


There are people out there who like to tease, and find people that get easily wounded to be no fun. There are also people who would sooner die than twist the knife on someone who's in pain. Given that you struggle with insecurities, you need to find one of the latter type.

Relationships about connection which comes from being natural and open. Flinging a come-back when you're genuinely wounded will probably not come off as light-hearted flirty banter, but rather defensiveness or even hostility. The way forward is to work on getting past your insecurities so that light teasing genuinely doesn't bother you. Then the first thing that comes to your mind might actually be light-hearted and fun, and you can say it. If it actually stings you, it's probably best to just admit "Y'know, that stings a little, I feel kind of weird about the way I look". Say what you feel. It'll be genuine and you'll have a chance to connect.
posted by PercussivePaul at 8:41 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Flinging a come-back when you're genuinely wounded will probably not come off as light-hearted flirty banter, but rather defensiveness or even hostility.

QFT, and I'd been trying to formulate a way to put this so eloquently. Forget gentle teasing, I've had people flirt with me by saying what on the face of it were incredibly rude things. In a few cases it's taken me a beat to figure they were meant flirtatiously, and say something equally horrendous back. This has worked out fine, but if what I'd said had come a place of genuine hurt, suddenly we'd have moved from flirting to actually fighting, which is not good.
In these situations I think there are two things you gotta figure out. First, the intent behind the comments - if they're meant in a flirty way, or just meanness. And second, if you're ok with those comments and that intent. You're allowed to not be ok even with flirty put-downs, if you find them difficult to deal with. That's totally fine. However, if you're as confident in yourself as you say you are, you might find there's mileage in allowing yourself to be confident that these comments *are* just flirtation, and responding in kind.
(The above advice comes from a Brit. Sarcasm is not so much a frequent part of our discourse as it is the very matter from which it is hewn, so this may be more acceptable to us than the average Mefite)
posted by ominous_paws at 10:58 PM on September 25, 2012


I'm not going to speculate on her reasons for making the comments.

Well I am. She was feeling self-conscious about being a few years older than you, and thought she would 'get in there first' as it were by making a bunch of quips about how young you are, before you said anything about how much older she was!

So my question, as naive as it might sound, is the following: how do I respond to situations like this, where the date has a sharp tongue, and makes some quip(s) about me, and come back with a response in equal measure?

I wouldn't recommend you go in for a conversational style which sounds miles different from your own, which is more straightforward. Something like, 'haha, you've made your point' and then take control of the conversation and steer it onto a more straightforward, less early-20s 'all sarcasm all the time' route. If you try to come back with ascerbic comments when it's not in your nature to do so, you'll end up feeling like the inferior one in the conversation. I used to try to engage like this when I was a little younger - some person would fire a quip at me and I would try my best to fire one back, but it got exhausting and I never felt really comfortable in that kind of situation, so now I tend to be much more straightforward in conversations and just let the wit and the humour surface organically from the subject matter and how comfortable I feel.
posted by Ziggy500 at 2:15 AM on September 26, 2012


A lot of comments suggest that she was mean.

She may have just been teasing you. Friends, family, and lovers often tease each other.
posted by jander03 at 9:18 AM on September 26, 2012


I didn't see this mentioned above.... look at all the sample replies that have been posted and notice which ones are a jab back at her vs which ones are a jab at yourself (self-depracating humor). In my opinion the jabs at her seem mean, but the jabs at yourself seem good-humored and confident. So if you are going to take any of the advice listed here and try to practice, my vote would be not to practice being mean.
posted by CathyG at 11:06 AM on September 26, 2012


people who tease repeatedly on the same topic during a first date, when the date has shown they're uncomfortable, are either bad at reading people or sort of jerkish.
posted by nadawi at 12:08 PM on September 26, 2012


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