Is this what dating is like in 2018?
June 10, 2018 10:51 AM   Subscribe

I took a break of 5 years from dating after feeling discouraged. I decided to give it another try because I am at a very good point in my life right now. I'm a woman in my late-30s, own my own place, earn a good salary, have an advanced degree, have a wide circle of friends who care about me, and take care of and put effort into my physical appearance.

I have been on a few dates so far and feel utterly discouraged. I try to be discerning about who I meet. I look for a witty sense of humor, kindness, and the ability to discuss a variety of topics.

This is how my first few dates played out and I find myself feeling angry and wishing I could be sexually fluid and date women instead. Partly, I'm just disgusted with men in general and maybe that's coloring my experiences:

Guy 1: Talked at me the entire date. He told told me a litany of disturbing stories that triggered my depressive thoughts. I had trouble extricating myself because he just talked at me non-stop. I pretended to get an urgent text and ran away from him. Luckily, I didn't give this guy any personal details and blocked him on dating sites.

Guy 2: This guy seemed nice, but he said a few ignorant things about race (we're both white) and seemed not to have a breadth of knowledge from which to draw. I kept having to explain things to him that are just common knowledge. He invited me on the date, but then didn't pay. I usually take that as a sign of disinterest, but this guy really just seemed ignorant of the fact that women are paid less than men and spend more money on taking care of themselves in order to please men. He asked me on a second date and when I asked what he had in mind, he said he didn't know and asked what I wanted to do. I told him that I thought we'd be better as friends after that.

Guy 3: We had a nice first coffee date and I was considering seeing him again by the end of the coffee date. However, when we were saying "good-bye" he kissed me on the lips without asking permission or without me showing any signs that I wanted to be kissed. I feel angry with this guy and turned him down for a second date. I ended up going home and crying because I felt so upset about men afterwards. I was just so shocked and taken aback by the kiss. Maybe it's a small thing, but I'm demi-sexual and have that in my dating profile, so he knew that I wouldn't want to kiss on the first date.

Guy 4: I liked this guy. We seemed to have a lot in common and actually looked forward to future dates with him. We went on three dates and he was late to each one. I felt really stupid just sitting at a restaurant, waiting for him. I was near tears, sitting at the restaurant, before our third date and could barely get through the date. I felt he showed a complete lack of regard for my time and that ended up killing the excitement for him.

Guy 5: I enjoyed talking to and starting to get to know this guy. However, he started to send very odd/creepy texts that maybe he meant to be flirty, but came across very strange. I decided to slowly fade away because the creep factor made me feel unsafe.

After these dates, I feel very discouraged and feel like meeting someone with whom I can form a connection is just hopeless. This group of guys were the best options that I could find between OKC and Match. I look at these dating sites and find a bunch of guys who can barely string a sentence together, who "love to laugh," who are religious, and/or have a lack of curiosity about the world.

Is this just how things are today? Are my standards too high? I know I have a few unusual hobbies and interests and that being demi-sexual is unattractive and frustrating to many men. I am considering the possibility of becoming poly because my poly friends tend to be more kind, interesting, and curious about life. At this point, I'm one of the few in my friend group who is not poly and the lifestyle seems appealing if I could just be a secondary of one person.

Should I give up on the idea of a relationship instead? I'm not really sure if poly is truly right for me, but one of my asexual friends is dating a poly man as a secondary and it sounds lovely. I have been feeling a little lonely lately and thought that perhaps what I was missing was a relationship. I'm usually happy being single and having my freedom, but the loneliness is getting to me. Perhaps poly would be a good chance for me to have companionship without being in a full relationship. I also find myself really wishing I was attracted to women because I'm just so disgusted with men. If I do decide to keeping trying to date, are there better options out there? I have a penchant for nerdy pursuits, so was considering the idea of finding a meet up for video games (which I enjoy) or D and D (which I have never tried, but most of my friends are into it). Are there other hobbies and interests that attract intellectually curious/open minded men? Nearly all of my friends are in unconventional relationships, so it's difficult for them to give advice on how to navigate traditional dating styles. I'm also not a traditional person and enjoy making my own rules, but I've always been monogamous (although, I'm not particularly attached to that lifestyle).
posted by ItAllAdds to Human Relations (53 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Your standards aren't too high. It's hard to date now. I've been dating for a long time and have a lot of similar stories. I just recently met a man who is not like this. I had to think carefully about deal breakers and go on a lot of dates with men I wasn't compatible with. Now the guy I'm dating has some qualities that maybe would have been deal breakers for me in the past, but he's really right for me so far and it mostly just took a brute force approach / dropping people early and not going on dates with them if they seemed weird on text / being more flexible about stuff like educational background and instead being rigid about what educational background was a proxy for (curiosity, motivation, excitement about knowledge).

If you're lonely, hobbies that expand your world without having an end goal of attracting men are much better for this. Relationships don't make you less lonely really. Sometimes dating just makes me feel more alone.

Take care, expand your world, and maybe just stop dating for awhile. Go back to it when you feel less of a lack you're trying to make up for in your life (loneliness). Go into it when you feel more fulfilled in your life on your own accord.

Best of luck.
posted by sockermom at 11:02 AM on June 10, 2018 [10 favorites]

We went on three dates and he was late to each one. I felt really stupid just sitting at a restaurant, waiting for him. I was near tears...

This does not seem like a rational response. Do your friends never run late?
posted by DarlingBri at 11:07 AM on June 10, 2018 [49 favorites]

My guess is that you probably would have more luck finding someone in real life via one of your nerdy pursuits. In answer to "is this what dating is like in 2018?" my experience is that it is not. Location matters; not sure where you are. But I find there are plenty of funny, kind single men out there. I wouldn't have reacted in the same way as you did to these people, however. Re paying for the date, for example, I hear what you're saying about pay inequity, but I think it's also reasonable to believe that it's fair for both people to pay their own way (I know that I've made more than some men I've dated). Re lateness, I also find this annoying, but it sounds like you overreacted to me--how late was he? It's something that you could have discussed with him without immediately giving up. Re the kiss, do you know that he read your profile in detail? That's not to say any of these people could have been right for you, but it does sound like you're actually looking for something fairly unique. Maybe consider whether you could be more open-minded, but definitely try meeting people in real life instead.
posted by pinochiette at 11:09 AM on June 10, 2018 [12 favorites]

This does not seem like a rational response. Do your friends never run late?

OTOH, I think this is a rational response to chronic lateness in the early, exciting phase of dating. If someone isn't going to make an effort to be on time for a first or second date, he's going to be perpetually, annoyingly, plan-wreckingly late when he gets comfortable.

Occasional lateness, with texts updating me (traffic, family emergency, or whatever) is one thing. Arriving late without trying to text and say "I'm stuck in traffic" is a legit dealbreaker.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:11 AM on June 10, 2018 [69 favorites]

In the future, if a guy doesn't offer to pay for dinner on the first date, don't assume that it's because of a lack of interest, and definitely don't assume he doesn't care about income inequality. That would really not occur to most people. I never liked when men tried to pay for the date because I felt it set up weird pressure and expectations when we are still just getting to know each other. I feel you on having major frustrations with men these days, but when you are meeting new people it's best to assume they mean well.
posted by cakelite at 11:13 AM on June 10, 2018 [70 favorites]

With the usual AskMe relationship caveats (incomplete knowledge, projection of my own issues, cultural contexts, etc.):

There are a lot of people in the world whom you won't want to date, and the comparatively blind style of modern dating puts the onus much more on you to filter them out. A lot of the things that turned out to be deal-breakers for you would be acceptable or welcomed by others. E.g., many people no longer assume that the man should pay; many people are "fashionably late" to social engagements, even one-on-one engagements; many people do not discuss kissing in words.

That doesn't mean you can't expect your men to pay, or your men to arrive on time, or your men to ask, only that you probably do need to be prepared for these assumptions not to be universal or to go without saying.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 11:17 AM on June 10, 2018 [12 favorites]

I'm not saying that you really should have gone out with any of these guys any longer, but there's some stuff here:

He invited me on the date, but then didn't pay. I usually take that as a sign of disinterest, but this guy really just seemed ignorant of the fact that women are paid less than men and spend more money on taking care of themselves in order to please men.

I don't date guys anymore, but would not at all have assumed in 2018 that gender inequality meant a guy should automatically pay for dates. It's okay for that to be what you want. It's okay to just not go out with him because he doesn't seem very socially aware. But if a big part of your feelings about the date revolved around who paid and why instead of that part but you guys never had a conversation about this beforehand, it at least doesn't seem worth just assuming what this one thing said about his opinions.

I know the Ask/Guess stuff can be cultural, but I think at a certain point you have to get out of the Guess stuff in dating because it's just so time-consuming. Especially guy 4, in particular, might just have been inconsiderate, but you're never really going to know because it doesn't sound like you guys had an honest conversation about how his being late made you feel and whether it was really a sign of how he felt about you. Maybe lateness or lack of awareness of social issues are just a dealbreaker for you, but you're making a lot of this about how you think minor things express larger opinions that don't seem at all that obvious to me. If that's a big part of why you're deciding you don't like certain guys, more up-front communication might help.
posted by Sequence at 11:17 AM on June 10, 2018 [29 favorites]

With the guy who didn’t pay, I would think he should pay because he invited you, but your idea that men should pay because women as a group are paid less and spend more money to prepare seems a little odd these days. A female cardiologist who doesn’t wear make-up might have a date with a librarian. Maybe what you’re looking for is a more traditional man? I have a male friend who’s really just a friend who is super uncomfortable if I pay.

It is tough out there, and with the late guy, you didn’t say how late. Five minutes versus an hour makes a difference. Or maybe any lateness is a dealbreaker for you.

If you have really exacting standards, that’s going to make it harder. You’re allowed to do that, but you might miss out on someone great that way.
posted by FencingGal at 11:20 AM on June 10, 2018 [14 favorites]

have that in my dating profile, so he knew that

It's a superficial world. Many people are known not to pay attention to what's written in profiles.
posted by Borborygmus at 11:22 AM on June 10, 2018 [5 favorites]

I think, from reading your post, that you have some unspoken dealbreakers, and men are not mind-readers. You might want to communicate your thoughts to them more, and give them a chance to respond.

You say that men should offer to pay because many women are paid less. Many men have heard that they shouldn’t offer to pay, but only split, due to equality. That’s something that you should clear up with dates, rather than assuming what they think based on their actions.

If someone were late to meet me 3 times in a row, I would also be annoyed. But I would talk to them about it, rather than just dropping the relationship. They may not realize how it is affecting you, and they may change their behavior when they hear your experience.

Dropping someone because they asked you what you wanted to do rather than plan a second date? Again, communication. It may not be a lack of interest in hanging out with you, they may be very interested in doing something that *you* like. You won’t know that unless you ask.

I can’t answer about if you should try poly. But nothing you’ve said seems like it would be solved by being poly. These are interpersonal communication problems that you’re having, and assuming that this hypothetical poly person you want to find is a person you’ll communicate with, you’ll still need to talk to them. They won’t be able to read your mind any better.

Good luck! Dating is hard!
posted by greermahoney at 11:25 AM on June 10, 2018 [49 favorites]

He invited me on the date, but then didn't pay. I usually take that as a sign of disinterest, but this guy really just seemed ignorant of the fact that women are paid less than men and spend more money on taking care of themselves in order to please men.

I'm sort of your target demographic and every single dating site/app date I've been on has been Dutch, regardless of who did the invitation.

How late was the late guy? There's a big difference between five minutes and half an hour. Did he let you know he was running late?

In general, dating strangers sucks, in any generation. I suspect you'll do better looking for people you know IRL and can get to know and then suggest dating.
posted by Candleman at 11:26 AM on June 10, 2018 [7 favorites]

but I'm demi-sexual and have that in my dating profile, so he knew that I wouldn't want to kiss on the first date.

I'm just saying, I had to look up demi-sexual and **it turns out I am demi-sexual**. It might be a little unfair to assume that he read 100% of your profile and definitely 100% knew what demi-sexual means. If he had a vague grasp on it he may not have realized it applies to all romantic contact, rather than to overtly sexual contact.

This isn't to say that you should have kept going out with him -- it's fine to want to date someone who would ask before kissing you. But basically anytime you catch yourself thinking "they should have known" about a thing, it's usually a good time to stop and evaluate exactly what it is they should know and whether that's actually reasonable.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 11:30 AM on June 10, 2018 [54 favorites]

(Also, 5 dudes is a vanishingly small sample. Dating is a thing you have to approach with a vast well of patience and resilience, and a high tolerance for awkward. In some of these cases it does seem like you're describing someone you liked a lot, but then one awkwardness happened, and OMG BAIL. Very few relationships involve seamless telepathic connection from go.)
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 11:34 AM on June 10, 2018 [14 favorites]

I think you're making a lot of assumptions about gender here. For starters, I can tell you that dating women is not some magical panacea for dating woes; I'm a queer woman who dates people of all genders and I can tell you that everyone has their issues and challenges even with male privilege removed from the equation. It's naive to think otherwise and, frankly, unintentionally insulting to queer women who struggle with dating and relationships just like everyone else.

I'm also noticing a lot of internalized sexism and entitlement in various ways, like the guys-paying thing that people have already addressed. While I do think it's good for the asker to offer to pay, I'd be super insulted if a guy insinuated that he should pay because he earns more as a man, etc. And that's just another way to look at it.

You talk about how you "own my own place, earn a good salary, have an advanced degree, have a wide circle of friends who care about me, and take care of and put effort into my physical appearance." Guess what? That's awesome but that doesn't guarantee you a relationship or mean you're any less ready or prepared than someone who rents, doesn't earn much, and the like. We are told to work on ourselves to be our best for ourselves and potential relationships. We certainly all should but people who are poor, unattractive, lonely, etc. deserve happy relationships just as much as someone who has their shit together on paper. Lemme tell you, a lot of those people who have their shit together on paper -- rolling in dough, model-thin, own luxury cars and the like -- are actually really messed up on the inside, just like the rest of us but perhaps even more so due to a sense of entitlement. Some of the happiest relationships are between people who are very flawed but self-aware and full of love and acceptance and willing to work.

I'm sorry you're having such a rough time with dating. I really want you to be happy and enjoying these dates and meeting potential partners. I think it's awesome and important to have high standards and be willing to walk away from any situation that feels off for whatever reason. I say absolutely focus on meeting people through nerdy shared interests! Online dating gives us quantity but not necessarily quality because so much of what we like about someone isn't something you can explain in writing or show in photos. We should have a list of things that are important and stick to it but the nice thing about meeting someone in person is that we realize a list is just that, a starting point. You're not perfect either and it's about finding someone who you love spending time with and whose strengths and challenges go nicely with yours.

It's super hard for anyone to find a good match because that's how life works. It's even harder when there are fewer options, etc. I think being older is actually a plus -- I say this as a woman in my mid-thirties -- because you can date a wide range of ages and you and your peers have a lot of experience under your belts. You know what you want and like and can ask for it, insist upon it, and walk away when it's not right. That's actually super cool and super sexy: it's where I am now but not where I was ten years ago when I'd be trying to fit for people and/or trying to make something less-than-ideal work. Also remember that most people post about bad dating experiences and frustrations on MetaFilter because they're asking for help. There are also lots of good experiences and positive moments that people aren't sharing. I gotta say that dating in 2018 is way better for me than ever before because, while there may be fewer options, I'm at my absolute best while also open for what life may throw my way.

I am sure that you will be meet someone rad and it will be worth the wait. I hope you can focus on yourself and fun for now and just see where life takes you. You are absolutely justified in feeling frustrated but perhaps reframing the situation as an adventure where you are the heroine might help. Because you are!
posted by smorgasbord at 11:34 AM on June 10, 2018 [47 favorites]

Since people asked, the late guy was 30 minutes late on each date and he had an excuse each time. I sensed it was something that was going to be a problem for me. Maybe it could have been worked around if I had been more tolerant.

I might be projecting, but I feel like I am required to be thin, have a nice haircut, cute clothing, and spend a ton of money on skin care, in order to find a date. These things end up costing thousands of dollars. I don't care much about looks or how a man presents himself physically, but I know that almost all men do care very much about looks, even the enlightened ones, so I resent that I have to spend thousands of dollars to present myself attractively, but they show no appreciation for the vast sums I've spent behind the scenes.
posted by ItAllAdds at 11:50 AM on June 10, 2018 [5 favorites]

It is totally unfair that women are expected to adhere to a higher beauty standard than men when it comes to dating in our society. That's why I only date people who match my standard -- in their own way, I'm not looking for a twin -- because I see it as being more about shared values than anything else. You admit to being resentful and that is understandable. This probably is coming out in the form of bad vibes for a lack of a better word. Why not start dressing the way you want, stop spending hundreds on skin care, working out so much, etc.? When you are showing the world your true self and best self, people will react well because people like authenticity and those who are comfortable in their skin. I really believe that the key here is being more true to yourself in how you're presenting to the world, and that will help you attract the men you really want to be with. Seriously!!

And, yeah, that guy was way too late. Two chances would have been fair; three was generous of you.
posted by smorgasbord at 12:01 PM on June 10, 2018 [46 favorites]

Can you clarify whether guy 2 just didn't pay for you or didn't pay for himself either? The latter would definitely bug me.
posted by joan_holloway at 12:03 PM on June 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

It's a superficial world. Many people are known not to pay attention to what's written in profiles.

Or had no idea what it meant. It's really not a concept I'd expect people OP's age or older to necessarily be familiar with. Now that I think about it, OP may be the first person I've ever come across her age who used that term to describe herself.

I resent that I have to spend thousands of dollars to present myself attractively, but they show no appreciation for the vast sums I've spent behind the scenes.

OP, it sounds like you are super resentful of the institution of dating in our society generally. This is extremely understandable and reasonable. And some of the guys you describe certainly sound like people you wouldn't want to follow up with socially. But do you think maybe you might be unfairly projecting some of that resentment onto the individual men you're seeing? It's not great to be starting off a date with the idea that the guy owes you something for all the suffering that goes into presenting successful femininity, even though that suffering is entirely real.
posted by praemunire at 12:07 PM on June 10, 2018 [31 favorites]

I know that almost all men do care very much about looks, even the enlightened ones, so I resent that I have to spend thousands of dollars to present myself attractively

It's worth interrogating how and why you feel you 'know' this. It is undoubtedly true for some men, but whether it is true for a given individual man in whom you are (or might be) interested is another matter altogether. Doing something you consciously resent in order to attract a date is setting yourself up for relationship misery. If it doesn't work, you'll feel even more resentful. If it does work, you're stuck doing something you resent for the whole span of the relationship, or feeling anxious about the prospect of stopping and wondering if it will result in confrontation or strife or a decrease of interest, or fretting over whether the person you're dating even likes you as 'yourself' -- or all of those things!

So if you don't feel like doing those things, don't! Worst-case, at least you won't be stuck in a relationship filled with resentment and anxiety. Best-case, you find someone you're actually compatible with.

How do you find someone who likes you for who you are? Open communication. A lack of open communication seems to be a running thread in the examples you've outlined here, and while it's hard and it takes practice, directly expressing your feelings will help a lot when it comes to dating. You're under no obligation to date someone who kisses you without asking, or who is chronically late, of course, but in instances where you like the person but find your needs aren't being met, a conversation is important. Instead of assuming your date isn't interested because he didn't offer to pay, or assuming someone doesn't care about you because they run late, you can have conversations about these things. You don't (to take one example) have to 'work around' your date's lateness, but it's not clear whether you had a conversation with him about how upset you were, either in the moment of the date or afterwards. If you just tried to get through the date without crying, then decided to break up, he has no way of knowing that his lateness hurt your feelings.

Incidentally, poly relationships very definitely will not help you get around this problem because they require even more constant, direct, open, and honest communication than non-poly relationships do. If you want to be in a poly relationship, you're going to have to get very comfortable with openly and directly stating your desires and needs and listening with an open heart when others state their own desires and needs.
posted by halation at 12:07 PM on June 10, 2018 [38 favorites]

yeah, the person who make the invitation must offer to pay, although I would not be all that happy with someone who always took me up on it and never reciprocated. but it's not because they're a man. even if you only date men who make the first invitation and consider that a gendered obligation, they're still supposed to (offer to) pay because they invited you, not because they're men. not a little distinction.

your note about most men having more money than most women is not wrong and is something men should be aware of, but I think it may be part of why awful men think you will like them better than you do. most men see the expectation for payment based on gender to be a sign that a woman's not a feminist, rather than a sign she is. so for that matter do most women. and men who seek out non-feminists to date are not pleasant people. it's a discussion you could usefully have with someone but not, I think, in the course of actually doing something that costs money. the non-payer in your anecdote was a waste of time for other reasons, but if this is important to you generally I would talk to a guy about it while on a date neither of you will be paying for.

the late guy, how late was he? up to 10 minutes I wouldn't care; more than that is disrespectful unless he explains/apologizes/texts to let you know he'll be late. but if he did do that, I still wouldn't care. but if this is important to you, that's fair. more than 10-15 minutes without apology or explanation, a bad sign even once.

I think you're probably limiting your dating pool both with the demi-sexual label and with the way you sort of position it as abnormal/off-putting to men. again, specialized identity terms are things you're entitled to prioritize as you see fit, and I don't know exactly what you mean by it. but not sleeping with people unless and until you know and like them a lot -- not being kissed by strangers you haven't made physical advances to or physical requests of -- these are solidly average preferences not unique to any single sexuality. they are not the only way to be normal but they are completely normal.

someone making physical contact uninvited by any word or gesture isn't doing that because he forgot about your declared identity or even because he didn't know what "demi-sexual" meant. women who enjoy casual sex don't deserve or enjoy that treatment either.

spend more money on taking care of themselves in order to please men

if you do this, I recommend stopping. ideology - which I have plenty of - aside, it's not helping you meet men who please you.
posted by queenofbithynia at 12:10 PM on June 10, 2018 [9 favorites]

A coffee date? Where you sit face-to-face and talk? Sounds impossibly difficult. Better options, in my humble opinion, might be: a bike ride, the free monthly art night, a walk along the waterfront, a concert (a free, low key one), a comedy club, playing pool, even a movie, as lame as that sounds.

Join meetups, church groups, volunteer, take hobby classes - that's where you'll meet guys worth more than one date (again, imho).

In talking to friends (of various genders and sexual orientations) who are looking for partners, I sense a common theme: a person feels they'd be a fairly good catch, but feels they're rejected for superficial reasons. I've been hearing this for 43 years (Hi, Bruce S. !).

I don't know the solution, but know that there are lots of guys out there, really great guys, who aren't even trying because they've just given up.
posted by at at 12:27 PM on June 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

I don't think your standards are too high but maybe you're deciding too soon that someone hasn't met them. People say stupid stuff that doesn't come out right. People are late (how late are we talking?). There has to be some kind of compromise between giving people a proper chance and protecting yourself from bad men. I think you are maybe doing too much of the latter. This is understandable. Yes, many men are disgusting! However, many men are genuinely trying to fall in love, just like women.
posted by thereader at 12:31 PM on June 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

IMHO, if online dating is a uniformly unpleasant experience, you shouldn't force yourself to do it. Training oneself to become OK with being single is doable and has positive results whether you stay single or date.

Being poly isn't a panacea, but it's not a long-term commitment either - you could always try it out and then later decide it isn't for you. Given that you know a community of poly people you like, it seems an easier way for you to find companions (including dates) you like than doing "traditional" online dating sites.
posted by splitpeasoup at 12:32 PM on June 10, 2018 [3 favorites]

I don’t think these men are shining exemplar of the human race (late, sketchy texts), but I think you are in possession of some rather strange expectations of men too.

but this guy really just seemed ignorant of the fact that women are paid less than men and spend more money on taking care of themselves in order to please men.

I am pretty ignorant of this fact too... and I am a woman. I prefer earning more money and I dress how I want to dress, not to please men. There is some unspoken expectation you have here that may be baggage in your conversation, and also in how you treat potential partners.

The other possibly problematic misconceptions and assumptions that you appear to carry is :

1) Romantic relationships with women are easier. Though I never been in one, if my friendships with women are anything to go by, they are definitely not easier. They are equally as complicated and as nuanced as my relationships with men.

2) Poly relationships are easier and less lonely. If anything, poly relationships are much harder, much more communication between multiple parties required, a lot of talking and examining of feelings. (Is Party A okay with this? Is Party B going to be slightly hurt if I approach the subject but would that make Party A feel insulted if I do not?)

3) I might be projecting, but I feel like I am required to be thin, have a nice haircut, cute clothing, and spend a ton of money on skin care, in order to find a date. These things end up costing thousands of dollars. I don't care much about looks or how a man presents himself physically, but I know that almost all men do care very much about looks, even the enlightened ones, so I resent that I have to spend thousands of dollars to present myself attractively, but they show no appreciation for the vast sums I've spent behind the scenes.
You are definitely projecting here. You can be whoever you want to be. “Almost all men care about looks” is some “truth” that you have written into your head/ some narrative you carry, and you are rewriting life just so you can fit this narrrative. Well, guess what, that’s not true. Some men care about looks, yes, but some men also care about how interesting a woman is, how well she speaks, what kind of chemistry they have with her, etc.

Your preconceptions may turn off some of these men.
posted by moiraine at 12:49 PM on June 10, 2018 [10 favorites]

Meeting people in real life (first) would give you the chance to screen out most of those guys by gut feel before you waste your time and develop expectations that could be disappointed. Get out there - sure, go to game nights, whatever your interests are.

Regarding where to meet intellectually curious men - by associating with a wider group of intellectually curious people who might introduce you to someone cool.

I’d also get into some kind of recreational activity that has a social aspect or environment conducive to meeting people. (Anything - climbing, disc golf, MMA, volleyball, dragon boat racing...) If you like lifting, go to a smaller, niche gym (usually there’s a more laid back & friendly atmosphere than chain gyms), like a boxing gym or I guess a CrossFit box (though idk about those workouts, but if you can handle them...). There are also fitness challenges (tough mudder etc.), Masters sports. Or get a museum or rep cinema membership, attend public talks, get involved in your community, etc.

It’s also possible that people in your wider network (high school or university friends) will suddenly become available via divorce. Keep in touch with anyone you enjoy, basically. Also, people who share your preferences/values (Eg monogamy).
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:50 PM on June 10, 2018 [3 favorites]

Just leave off the online dating, if only for the time being; it is a mercantile in many respects, and your demisexuality is not going to work to your advantage in that environment. Coming off a self-imposed 5-year hiatus from the dating scene, online dating is putting a lot of pressure on yourself (doubly so, given what you'd like in a romantic partner).

Do meet-ups, join some groups, maybe volunteer if that's of interest to you, and you'll meet a lot of men in less-fraught settings. You can pursue a deeper one-on-one friendship, and perhaps a later relationship, with someone when he's more familiar to you.

(Also, if you identify as a monogamous, demisexual, heterosexual woman, poly romance is not in the same hemisphere as your wheelhouse. You're just frustrated, and disappointed, and a bit envious of your friend's successful arrangement. This is completely understandable.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:51 PM on June 10, 2018 [5 favorites]

“Men care about looks” is a little different from you have to spend thousands of dollars to look good. I know lots of women who are married and in relationships who don’t do that. In fact, I don’t know any women who do. Even fat women, probably the most looked down upon in our culture, find love. Yeah, you probably narrow the dating pool, but the guys who won’t date you if you don’t spend that much are jerks.

Maybe you move in an environment that’s completely different from any I’ve lived in, but this idea that you have to spend thousands (!) to date is utterly shocking to me.
posted by FencingGal at 12:57 PM on June 10, 2018 [19 favorites]

I might be projecting, but I feel like I am required to be thin, have a nice haircut, cute clothing, and spend a ton of money on skin care, in order to find a date.

you aren't projecting and you aren't making this up out of nowhere, but you are "required" to do this in order to attract one of a very, extremely, highly specific group of men who are mostly dicks. is this group very large as well as very specific? yes. are they easier and more predictable to figure out and then painfully/expensively adjust yourself to please than any other group of men? clearly. is any of this a reason why you should try to get a man like this when you aren't even one of the tiny number of women who actually likes them? I think no.

I know what you mean by feeling required, but really think about how many women don't have nice hair or clothes or skin and do have dates or permanent partners. why are you required to do these things when other women aren't? the thing that makes it a feeling -- even though it has real outside causes -- is that you can say no. there is a price to saying no, and absolutely it's true that women usually pay it and men rarely do. but there is a higher price to saying yes.

also there is a huge, huge mostly comfortable space between spending huge amounts of money and time on bodily upkeep and being filthy and unkempt enough to put off reasonable men. average men care about appearance: sure. they're like average women that way. but caring, having patterns of attraction, doesn't mean they all have the same tastes. you say "men" but you are talking about a very specific type, and the type who requires to be catered to, who likes women to buy his pleasure with their extensive self-fashioning and discomfort, is awful. common and awful. why work to attract a guy like that when you already know he's awful?

what it comes down to for me is that none of the things you're spending so much time on for men is a very interesting thing to talk about, except to other skincare/fashion/hair hobbyists. men who are interested in those things exist, but they're not the same ones with the sexist double standards. if guys don't don't want to talk about the process and don't appreciate the effects, either they're awful and why cater to them, or you're wrong about what they want and expect.
posted by queenofbithynia at 1:02 PM on June 10, 2018 [25 favorites]

You can be right about society in aggregate and men as a collective but that doesn't make you right about the man in front of you. You wouldn't want your date to expect you to answer for women as a monolith so it seems unfair to expect each guy to know and respond in a gendered way as though he conforms to a monolithic viewpoint. In fact, if you asked a guy, "How much do you think is fair for me to spend on achieving all this?" with vague gesturing to your whole body, face, clothes, hair and makeup, and he'd probably stammer and go, "Uh...nothing?"

So, I'm in agreement with some of the other commenters, you have an array of expectations of these individual men that seem informed by a sense of an aggregate unfairness or inequality in society. Maybe, for you, you are sensing that in aggregate you just aren't that into men, or monogamous relationships, or dating. You say you're around lots of happy poly people...well, I'm around lots of happy married people and happy coupled people and happy single people so....?

But, no matter what, at the end of the day, our partners and spouses are not a monolith. They are people who will have blind spots and foibles and ideas about how the world works and where you can come together is where you both have shared values, and are interesting to each other and support each other. Falling in love can happen in the strangest ways but you have to let things run around a little bit. And if you are wanting a more "traditional" relationship, then asking for that might be something to try. Someone who will pay for dates, take initiative, be traditionally chivalrous and perhaps religious too, in that they might be more likely to delay sexual contact and pressure. You don't have to settle or allow behavior that goes against your values but some of what you are talking about is just preferences and they seem more "old-fashioned" than is current. There are plenty of guys that like that, too, and may even have a hard time finding a mate in this modern world where women suddenly "have it all."
posted by amanda at 1:12 PM on June 10, 2018 [6 favorites]

Overall I believe you are looking for much more than any single event (or shorter series of events) will be able to give you, and I think this may be what is making you frustrated. Try to separate the events (dates) and think about "what do I want to get out of this single encounter?". For the first date that may just be "good enough for a second date, yes/no?". Don't try to understand their entire world view and the potential for your lives together in the relatively short periods of time you spend together. Find shorter, more achievable goals for measuring your compatibility maybe even on a date-by-date basis.

Also, be open and communicative as to your expectations. Percieved slights could be due to innocent misunderstandings or failure to clearly communicate (from both sides). Assumptions are just going to slow down and maybe even break your progress.
posted by alchemist at 1:13 PM on June 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

What do you tell your dates?

Guy 1: Did you tell him his stories suck / would he have shifted tone?
Guy 2: Did you ask him why he doesn't know these basic things / is he interested in learning?
Guy 3: Did you share with him your feeling that whoa it was definitely too soon for that kiss / would he have apologized profusely or shrugged it off?
Guy 4: Did you tell him you dislike waiting on him / would he have adjusted accordingly?
Guy 5: Did you tell him the text was creepy or given some other non-flirted response?

Not that you're entitled to give any of these fellows the time of day, but if you're curious as to what they're really like it might be worth the effort to ask them more questions. If you do decide to keep trying to date, these questions would show you if these men are the type to dismiss your directly-stated concerns, which IMO is a much clearer dealbreaker (as in you won't need to speculate or guess as to intent).
posted by The Biggest Dreamer at 1:40 PM on June 10, 2018 [3 favorites]

Guy 1: Did you tell him his stories suck / would he have shifted tone?
Guy 2: Did you ask him why he doesn't know these basic things / is he interested in learning?
Guy 3: Did you share with him your feeling that whoa it was definitely too soon for that kiss / would he have apologized profusely or shrugged it off?
Guy 4: Did you tell him you dislike waiting on him / would he have adjusted accordingly?
Guy 5: Did you tell him the text was creepy or given some other non-flirted response?

it might be interesting to find out if 1 would change his backstory and conversation style to please a stranger, why 2 has race issues, why 3 isn't concerned with verifying consent, and whether 5. makes women feel unsafe just for fun/ineptitude or because he really is a danger to them. interesting, but an incredible and unfair burden on her. and rude where it isn't outright risky. the one nice thing about a stranger-date is once you're sure a person is not for you, you're done. no exit interview necessary. sometimes I correct or lecture dates, but only for fun, never out of obligation. and I really don't think I should, even if it is fun. it's not what either of us came for.

like these are all good questions to find out if a man is a good prospect for an extensive renovation involving lots of labor and long hours. but she's trying to date. speculation and guessing are problems when they make you stereotype men you've never met, and when it makes you bad at finding/selecting guys who will be a pleasure to meet. but a guy right in front of you being unpleasant, all you need to know is that you don't like it. you don't need to investigate whether the guy can be fixed unless you are a fixer by trade.
posted by queenofbithynia at 2:00 PM on June 10, 2018 [12 favorites]

Oh man, no offense, but it sounds like what you want, I'd hate. Someone who assumed I'd spent lots on my appearance (and expected me to do so in the future) and therefore wanted to pay for our dates? Omg, that's almost like I'm providing a service (my appearance). I would sooooooo rather earn money at a desk job, buy my own meal, and continue to know zero about makeup. (Well, I wish I knew more about makeup. But not to meet their expectations.) I like the idea of being more like equals: equally trying to be in shape and well-groomed, equally able to carry our financial burden. Yes in aggregate, men earn more, and women's toiletries cost more, but that doesn't mean that this applies to any given pair.

If you like spending time and energy on your appearance like that, and want someone who sees and appreciates that, that makes sense and seems like something you can find. But:

I resent that I have to spend thousands of dollars to present myself attractively, but they show no appreciation for the vast sums I've spent behind the scenes.

So fyi, you totally do not have to do this. You only have to do this if you want to attract the kind of guys who want this, which in my experience are not necessarily the most progressive kind of guys, on average. (Not to over-generalize, as plenty are great.) I mean, everyone has to stay in shape, see a dentist periodically, and generally take care of their health and hygiene. But my friend who buys everything second-hand and never wears makeup is in a really happy relationship. Maybe if you stop doing things you resent you won't so easily feel annoyed by a given guy? I don't mean to imply all of your annoyance is unfounded! But since this resentment you speak of keeps coming up, I feel like it's having an impact.

If you're spending all that money because you like looking that way? Okay cool, but then maybe don't be resentful? Own the decision as your own preference?

Or maybe you want to do it and you want to find someone who is really appreciative? Okay that's cool. Here's where I leave solid ground and start completely speculating, but I feel like the kind of people who will be openly appreciative (i don't know what you have in mind, but I imagine that you'd like them to be early, bring flowers, tell you you look nice, offer to pay) might be slightly more traditional and might be the kind of people you're screening out by looking for the intellectually curious and scoffing at people who "love to laugh." Not that a person with some of those traditional behaviors wouldn't be intellectually curious. But they might not foreground it in their post. They might foreground things that come across as cheesy. Anyway, you might want to disregard this parragraph if it doesn't seem applicable.

But my main points are that you can probably reduce your self-expectations in the "thousands on clothing and skin care" department, that it might help to get really clear on what you want and make sure that you're telegraphing those expectations and that you're filtering people in ways that maximize the chances that you'll find people who might meet them.

Online dating also just sucks. You'll meet a lot of unsuitable people. Good luck!
posted by salvia at 2:16 PM on June 10, 2018 [21 favorites]

I wouldn't suggest you stop trusting your judgment when someone creeps you out or makes you feel bad, but it kind of sounds like you keep looking for excuses on why you shouldn't give anyone a chance.

Guys aren't mind-readers and nobody's perfect. For the ones you've had a good feeling about until they did one weird thing, it might be worth trying to have an honest conversation with the guy about it instead of instantly writing him off. First dates are so awkward.
posted by wondermouse at 3:00 PM on June 10, 2018 [3 favorites]

He invited me on the date, but then didn't pay. I usually take that as a sign of disinterest, but this guy really just seemed ignorant of the fact that women are paid less than men and spend more money on taking care of themselves in order to please men.

It's not 1950 anymore. To assume the man is going to pay for all your meals/drinks because he's a man is silly. If I ask someone out for a drink and we each have 5 drinks, I don't feel I have to pay for 10 drinks. I feel like I will pay for the initial drink and that it was a mutual decision that we stick around and drink. Your consumption is your responsibility.

Regarding the tardiness, I state very clearly in my own profile that I appreciate punctuality. If someone's more than a couple minutes late repeatedly, I tell them that's not cool. If they keep it up, I tell them goodbye because it makes me think that they think their time is more valuable than mine. However, this has nothing to do with gender. Both sexes have punctuality problems.

I feel that to date successfully these days you have to go into each new person as if they're just a stranger you meet on the bus and start talking to. Sometimes it's good conversation you don't want to end and sometimes you get off at the next stop. But I never get on a bus expecting to exit with someone.

Further, if you're concerned about having to fake "emergency texts," tell any and all dates up front that you insist all first dates are one (or two, if you prefer) drinks. Then, you automatically have an "excuse" to bail, but if it's going great then you can change the rules.

All that said, throw gender out the window. Confront people as people and that's it. Whether someone is rude or punctual or cheap or vulgar... those are the things that offend and they'd offend you whether male or female.
posted by dobbs at 3:05 PM on June 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

Please erase this idea that women need to spent thousands of dollars on their appearance in order to please a man. It's utter baloney and I can't even fathom spending that much. Poor women get dates. Women who don't wear makeup get dates. The amount you spend has no correlation on whether or not you get dates, and it's certainly not a reason that men should pay for you.

It sounds like you're dating history has been a mix of some potentially unrealistic expectations and some plain old crummy dates. This is entirely within the realm of normal and it wouldn't phase me in the slightest if I were in your shoes. You seem really distressed, though. It may be worth taking some time off to examine your expectations and work out what's rational and what's not before you continue.
posted by Amy93 at 3:05 PM on June 10, 2018 [5 favorites]

Have you considered the very possibility that your best bet for future happiness is to spend more time with men in relaxed conversation without initial romantic intent. You must know someone whose husband you admire. Maybe take them out to lunch and pick their brains, does he have a brother?

Also works with any man you really think worth your time to have a meal or drink with. You can always ask if they care to go on a date with you.
posted by parmanparman at 3:21 PM on June 10, 2018

Thank you all for your answers! I am taking them to heart and will reflect on them. It's really eye opening to read that there is hope for even less than perfect people. I was teased mercilessly in school and I've put up walls around me and assume that most people are ill-intentioned. I've also had close male friends admit to me that they are only attracted to conventionally beautiful women. They have said that they are ashamed to be that way, but haven't been able to fix it. I listen to my friends talk about porn (both men and women) and all I can think is that I will never meet those standards. These are friends who are kind and liberal and intelligent in other ways, but it seems when it comes to dating that perfection is demanded. I probably am taking it out on individual men and judging them by my friends' attitudes. None of my previous partners expected these things of me, but it just seems like the way the world is now that I am supposed to be beautiful and amazingly sexual to attract anyone as a partner (neither of which is my true self). Maybe I need to re-examine some of my thinking and not assume the worst in new people. I know I'm not supposed to respond too much, but I wanted to say "thank you" and give people a little more detail into the reasons why my opinions are apparently (and thankfully) unusual.
posted by ItAllAdds at 3:36 PM on June 10, 2018 [12 favorites]

Regarding the late dude, it's pretty clear that he's habitually late and it's totally fair for that to be a deal breaker. If I were late for the first and second dates, even with great reason, I'd be damn sure I was early for the third one.
posted by Candleman at 3:51 PM on June 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

Just as a data point regarding the guy who kissed you at the end of the first date - back when I was online dating a few years ago, I remember reading more than once (on the internet of course) that if a guy doesn't kiss you at the end of the first date, it means he's not interested. So I kind of went into dates expecting it, although in hindsight it's pretty messed up to assume that should happen in any case.

There's a lot of junk advice like that floating around out there about expectations when dating. My now-husband did not try to kiss me at the end of our first date, so then I thought maybe he didn't find me attractive. This stuff is stupid.

I don't wear makeup on most days, I don't look or act like a porn star, my hair is frizzy, and my clothes are inexpensive. It's okay to be true to your values, and don't try to make yourself into something you're not in order to attract a man. There are all kinds out there. And remember that although your friends might talk about stuff a certain way doesn't mean everyone feels the same way.
posted by wondermouse at 4:17 PM on June 10, 2018 [3 favorites]

It sounds like you're feeling a lot of pressure, and I'm sorry you're feeling that way. I was unpopular boy-wise in school and can relate to the way that shapes you. My current partner though, he doesn't notice if I wear makeup or not. He doesn't care that its been months since I've had my hair cut (oops) and that I never ever wear heels and that I let my leg hair grow in winter and only ever trim my intimate areas (shaved once, not for me). Most of the women I know in relationships only wear makeup for special occasions. If the 'work' you're putting in makes you unhappy and resentful, stop. You're enough the way you are, I promise. You deserve someone who is attracted to you the way you roll out of bed in the morning, and that's not an out-there expectation.

That said, online dating sucks because you're meeting a total stranger, and however you narrow it down there will be a lot of misses unless you're very, very lucky. I think this is a big reason why people often split the bill - there's a lot of these dates and nobody wants to always pay/ feel beholden /be presumptuous. Some people find this style of dating just doesn't work for them, so don't feel like you've 'failed' in some way if it's making you feel bad.
posted by stillnocturnal at 4:44 PM on June 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm a hetero woman in your same age bracket and in my experience our best bets are men who are recently (but not TOO recently*) divorced after a medium-length marriage. That way you know that he at least has the minimum relationship skills necessary to sustain a long-term committed relationship.

*If he talks a lot about his ex-wife, it's too recent. Also steer clear of anyone who puts the entire blame for the divorce on the ex.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:23 PM on June 10, 2018 [3 favorites]

I just want to provide a little bit of a counter data point: I am a lady your age, and when I was dating, it would be a dealbreaker for serious dating for me if men didn’t pay, and I have many friends with that preference as well. It’s usually women our age who do spend a lot of money on their appearance, but it’s worth noting that most people have no idea how expensive keeping up those appearances is. When I was dating I also spent thousands of dollars on skin care and bikini waxes and clothing and makeup too, and there were definitely a lot of dudes who only wanted the results without caring about how much work that took.

But also - I feel like a lot of answers to this question have missed that the pickings get slimmer as you get older. Aside from jerk guy’s preference for younger women, there’s also a lot of great guys that are already paired off, and the ones that have remained single for decades are not always great romantic prospects.

Your best bet, I would say, would be dating guys in their forties who are coming off a divorce at least a few years ago. They’re usually less demanding of physical perfection, having seen how that doesn’t always work out, and they’ve had to live with a woman so they are at least a bit more considerate.
posted by corb at 7:40 PM on June 10, 2018 [4 favorites]

In general, dating sucks. If you read any threads mentioning the book Attached these days, it comes up that the avoidant guys who don't want to be in a relationship for long (or have other problems) are always going back into the pool, whereas the decent ones get snapped up fast. So you should reasonably expect to have to go through a lot of bad people in hopes of maaaaaybe finding one that doesn't suck.

"Demi-sexual" is not a super commonly known term outside of the Internet, which is the only place I have ever seen it, so I would not assume "he should have known better." Also a lot of dudes can be pushy like that anyway. If you can't stand lateness, that's a legit reason to dump him now rather than be seething 12 late dates later. I don't know what to say on the paying thing these days, that may or may not happen but it really doesn't count as compensation for your crappy sexist gendered paycheck or how much you spent on beauty products. It's like the person who throws fits because the wedding gift they got wasn't enough money to pay for that person's meal at the wedding. You can't expect parity on that level.

Are your standards too high? I don't know how to answer that because well, the pickings are going to be slim and slimmer. I tend to think either you get lucky or you don't and a lot of women don't. It happens. If you just want a warm body, then fine, but if you want someone great, it's at best a maybe if you will ever find it. I don't know if poly is the solution there. If you already know some poly guys you wanna date that are already vetted, great, but there can be poly jerks too.

I can't stand dating myself, but I would suggest if you want to meet men, try the male-dominated geek hobbies that you mentioned. I have no idea if those are better quality dudes or not, but at least you'd be doing something you WANT to do and could enjoy even if all the men suck. I think it'd be better to meet someone who is doing what you want to be doing, if possible.

Dating is like playing the lottery and if you don't get a thrill from paying the money and getting your hopes up and the only reason you are putting money in is to win, and you never, fuck it.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:50 PM on June 10, 2018 [3 favorites]

Lateness: 30 minutes late three times is crazy. The first time, I'd let it slide. After the second time, I wouldn't have seen him again (or *maybe* if I really liked him I'd mention that it was problematic).

Kiss: Agree with those who mentioned he likely didn't read your full profile or didn't know what demi-sexual meant. Generally speaking, in my experience, it is not unusual or considered inappropriate for a man to kiss a woman on the lips without asking after a date. (Next time, you would be well within your rights to turn and give your cheek if you'd rather not have a kiss on the lips - though I suspect the man would be unlikely to ask you for another date in that scenario because he would assume you weren't attracted to him.)

p.s. - it is a bit rude to include "religious" in your list of things that make men unacceptable choices, e.g. along with "can barely string a sentence together", the implication being that religious people are somehow not smart enough or good enough. (Though obviously you are quite entitled not to date a religious man due to reasons of fit, the same way a vegetarian might not want to date a meat eater.)
posted by sunflower16 at 9:52 PM on June 10, 2018

guys in their forties who are coming off a divorce at least a few years ago. They’re usually less demanding of physical perfection, having seen how that doesn’t always work out, and they’ve had to live with a woman so they are at least a bit more considerate.

If this were really true, they'd be looking for (and already scooped up by) women in their late forties to early fifties who've also been divorced a time or two, not ones in their thirties.

I have heard this suggestion from other women before. as well as, of course, men. but the people whose interests are served by the widespread insistence that no matter how old a woman is, even-older men are a good bet, are older men.

entitlement-sexism doesn't give out with age and start cracking like knees and lower backs do. unfortunately.
posted by queenofbithynia at 11:57 PM on June 10, 2018 [12 favorites]

You mention several times things going so bad that you're practically (or literally) in tears over it; I think you're putting too much pressure on the events, especially first dates, to go well -- you're building it up so high that when you're (in your examples, definitely justifiably) disappointed, everything comes crashing down into despair. The first couple dates aren't supposed to be high-pressure -- sure, you're nervous, you're worried about doing things right, you don't know what's going to happen, but if things go sideways you shouldn't sweat it. Dating strangers you've only exchanged a couple emails with is going to have a lot of "misses," and the assumption that "if every single one of these guys were perfect, they'd already have partners" isn't totally unreasonable. That's not to say all are losers, but you have to filter a lot of guys who aren't a good fit with you until you find somebody who does. You should be relieved that these guys showed their true colors before it got too far into a relationship.
posted by AzraelBrown at 4:51 AM on June 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

but the people whose interests are served by the widespread insistence that no matter how old a woman is, even-older men are a good bet, are older men.

Eh, I think some of it has to do with men emotionally maturing at a slower pace than women, too.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:20 AM on June 11, 2018

Eh, I think some of it has to do with men emotionally maturing at a slower pace than women, too.

that's a good reason for an average 23 year old woman not to date an average 18 year old man, but these hypothetical prospects for the OP are established adults long past the brief gender discrepancies of adolescence. a man who looks back with regret on the youthful indiscretions of 35 but claims to be grown up at 45 may be a good time but who would trust him with anything important? he's not mature, he's just tired.

the idea that men act like unsocialized creeps for a few extra decades because their brains are just a little slower than ours is insulting even to men in their twenties, but up to 25-27 or so it's at least sort of plausible. after 30 it loses all power to convince. men who only realize they have to treat women kindly after 40 haven't gotten better; they've realized that women won't hold still for mistreatment anymore. and no woman who doesn't have her own sketchy past needs to accept that as the best we can hope for once past the bloom of youth.
posted by queenofbithynia at 8:28 AM on June 11, 2018 [11 favorites]

Is this what dating is like in 2018?


After these dates, I feel very discouraged and feel like meeting someone with whom I can form a connection is just hopeless.


It's a numbers game, and all you can do is try to be a decent person as you go through the process. Will it work out in the end? I have no idea -- I'm certainly not optimistic about that part, myself. But the more you date, the better your chances become, and you learn more about yourself, which is a worthwhile goal in its own right.

The dates you've described are pretty typical, I'm afraid. There are good ones and bad ones, but the vast majority are ones which are with good people who are trying to muck through this thing just as you are, only for whatever reason aren't a match, and that's OK. Keep trying -- or don't. Whatever you think is best for you.

But is this what dating is like in 2018? Yes. Absolutely yes.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:48 AM on June 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

Hi. I am very much like you (also demi-sexual--though I didn't know that term--and also had a very hard time internet-dating possibly due to that). I am now married to someone I met on OKCupid in 2012. I have advice. Here it is.

When you're on a date, and you're starting to feel negative about the guy--say, because he's talking at you, or he was 30 minutes late, or any other thing that makes you feel negative about the guy--mention it to him. There's no reason not to. You have very little to lose at this point, because you've already pretty much written him off, so why not make the situation more interesting with some honesty? Who knows what could happen. I'm not saying be rude or offensive, but saying "Hey, I feel like it's hard to get a word in edgewise with you right now" to a talking-at-you guy might change the dynamic a lot and may lead to a more interesting conversation. Talking-at-you guy may have been talking at you because some people talk too much when they're nervous, and a first date can make a person nervous. Late guy may have some some executive function issues or other mitigating issues (and still may not be the guy for you: I wouldn't put up with late guy either).

I also hated being kissed on first dates. HATED IT. To the point where if a guy kissed me "too soon" I would immediately write him off and decide any potential relationship was spoiled. Why? I spent most of my romantic life dating guys I knew as friends for years first, and a first kiss was always a delicious long-term long-awaited seduction prize. It was a high. Missing out on that prize, that high, made online dating seem sad and rote and boring. But online dating is completely different than slow-build real-life attraction, and it cannot be judged on the same metrics, and you have to adjust for it if it's going to be a positive experience for you. It took me a really long time. I get it.

I had in my profile that I needed to know someone for a bit, and pretty well, before I could be physically attracted to him and that because of this, I preferred to move slowly or even be friends first. The friends first thing never happened (I think this would have been very hard to do with online dating) but plenty of guys did give me time and space. I think if you spell it out like this--even including that you really prefer not to be kissed until you know someone fairly well--it will be clearer. The kissing guy could have interpreted demi-sexual to mean you didn't want to sleep with him right away, but that kissing was not off-limits. If it is, be really clear about it.

My next advice is really annoying and I am pre-emptively sorry. It is to only give each guy the seriousness he deserves. Late guy was not enough of a person in your life to be worth tears. I mean, of course he was because it happened, but next time, try to mitigate your attachment to any particular guy until it's been a bit longer. Three dates is not long enough to care that much. Try to treat each guy more casually until it gets more serious, beyond the "going on dates" phase.

My last advice is to treat dating like an activity in which you meet new humans and hear their stories. Try treating first dates less like "doilikehimdoilikehimissomethingwrongwithhimdoihatehim" and more like "this is a human being that I don't know yet. He is inherently interesting because he is a human being in the world." If this human being in the world is still interesting to you after the date, then it was a success and there should be another date. If you've learned all you care to learn about that human being after one date, then it was a success because you learned about a human being, but you don't need to learn more, so you are done. A friend of mine does online dating right now and he also hates it and I told him that he was putting too much pressure on first dates. The only question you want to answer on a first date is "am I sufficiently curious enough about this person that I want to spend more time to get to know him?" NOT "do I want to jump his bones?" NOT "is he good long term relationship material?" NOT anything else. First impressions are not accurate enough to write people off. I used to do this all the time and I missed out on plenty of good guys who would have been fine partners.

I was lucky enough to meet my husband at a time in his life when he also wanted to move very slowly (he kissed me on the 8th date. 8th. date.) so we managed to work it out due to that, but if I hadn't, I'd still be having a hard time internet dating. I had just started to realize the above things I mentioned back then. I wish I had realized them earlier--not because I think I should have ended up with someone other than my husband, but because I think I would have enjoyed the process of dating more. I hated it so much. Some people don't! But they are the people who don't put as much pressure on it.
posted by millipede at 8:54 AM on June 11, 2018 [19 favorites]

So, like a few other people have said, I really doubt very many people know what demi-sexual is, unless you explicitly explain that in your profile. And even then I think it's a hard thing to wrap your head around.

I'm in my mid-40s, and only realized I'm graysexual a few years ago. I literally had never heard of the asexual spectrum at all... and was kind of flabbergasted when I started researching. This just wasn't a thing that existed when I was younger (well... technically it did, just not practically in a way that would have been recognizable to me).

What I'm wondering is if the last time you were dating (5 or so years ago), you were also aware that you were demi-sexual? I'd be curious if your current self-awareness has changed your outlook on dating in a way that makes it seem harder than it was before. Like, you might have disliked someone just randomly kissing you before, but I think it's easier to get pressured into stuff you might be otherwise uncomfortable with when you think something is wrong with YOU, instead of it being a legit orientation/preference/etc..

I imagine you're going to have to be really explicit in your conversations going forward, even if it's really uncomfortable. It's their own fault if they don't read your profile, but there also doesn't seem to be any reason to waste time if your orientation, and everything that goes along with that, is going to be a dealbreaker for them, too.

Anyhoo... food for thought. Good luck out there!
posted by TrickOrTreat at 7:42 PM on June 11, 2018

men who only realize they have to treat women kindly after 40 haven't gotten better; they've realized that women won't hold still for mistreatment anymore. and no woman who doesn't have her own sketchy past needs to accept that as the best we can hope for once past the bloom of youth.

yo also even if a woman has a "sketchy past" or is "past the bloom of youth" she does not have to put up with mistreatment, holy shit.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 11:54 AM on June 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

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