Earlier this morning, I was reading a piece on How About We’s blog The Date Report about men who are “serial daters” thanks to the ease of online dating web sites. Blogger Justin Rocket Silverman wrote about a piece in The Atlantic by Dan Slater called “A Million First Dates” which argues that online dating allows people the ability to act like kids in a candy store. Some men feel they can easily discard women or brush off getting dumped , because there’s always the chance someone “better” is waiting for them online (AKA “Bigger-Better Syndrome”).
In the Date Report piece, Silverman writes about “Jacob,” a guy in The Atlantic‘s piece who admits he doesn’t know how to maintain a successful relationship with a woman. Thus, he cycles through women with no consequence. That wouldn’t be a problem if he were casually dating; however, he’s involved in serious relationships with women he lives with, whom he just discards whenever they get sick of his bullshit. Jake gets dumped twice in the piece by women who are underwhelmed with him and is described by ex-paramours as “lazy, aimless and irresponsible with money.” But why take those criticisms to heart when he can just find some other lady online licketysplit?
At first I assumed Jacob was under the impression he’s some kind of stud, but reading the Atlantic piece reveals instead that he’s more generally an emotional mess. So Jake sounds like he should be tagged and entered into the database as “undateable” at best: your garden variety jerk. Alas, then Silverman shares his own tale which sounds a bit like Jacob’s:
There was a time when I flirted free and easy, online and off, regardless of whether I was dating someone or not. (In my case living around dozens of bars was actually one of the problems, but not because I was going there to drink.) Now, things have changed.
For one, I’ve realized that the big attraction to many women, whether as photos on a dating profile or as strangers at a bar, is that I didn’t know them. And they didn’t know me. Sure, I could have become a Jacob, and spent my time getting to know these women just well enough to not be attracted anymore. But at some point my own role in the pattern becomes impossible to ignore.
He then writes about another online dater in the Atlantic piece named Alex. Alex is the anti-Jake in this piece. He sounds mature and respectful. Alex dated to refine his taste in women and get to know himself better, so when he found someone “special,” he snatched her up. He’s been with the same woman for years.
Here’s the part in Silverman’s post that bugs me:
Alex is a good guy, and has been with the same woman for years now. I’m a good guy too, it just took me a little longer to act like one.
My nose immediately wrinkled. Earlier in the piece, Silverman admitted he used to flirt “free and easy” even when he was in relationships. He described new, random women as appealing because “I didn’t know them. And they didn’t know me” — which suggets, at the very least, that getting ego-fluffing attention was more important than, say, developing relationships. So why does he need to qualify himself as a “good guy” in this piece? I’m not sure you get to call yourself a “good guy” if, for a long time, you were not actually acting like a “good guy.”
I want to be clear that I think it’s great the author recognized his “role in the pattern” and changed his behavior. Yet the thing that smells fishy about it all to me is the somewhat defensive-seeming need to label oneself positively while admitting a long-standing pattern of shitty past behavior. Insisting that you’re really a “good guy” or a “nice guy” seems like overcompensating to me. For all my critiques of the Nice Guys Of OK Cupid Tumblr, one thing I can at least appreciate is their commitment to pointing out that lots of men who describe themselves as “nice guys” are anything but. Generally speaking, if a man goes out of his way to advertise that he’s not a bad person, it raises a red flag as to why he feels the need to label and characterize himself thusly — self-justification perhaps? Plenty of dudes seem to think they can still call themselves “nice guys” or “good guys” when they sure haven’t acted that way, including, to give a more extreme example, guys who rape. I’m not conflating flirting-while-partnered with rape, but I am saying there’s a tone deafness to what actually makes a guy a decent bloke.
Of course, good people still make mistakes sometimes. All of us have our dating bumps and bruises; I certainly have behaved in ways that I’m not proud of. Most people don’t feel the need to qualify themselves, however, and I’m pretty suspicious of whatever impetus there is behind the need to do so. I don’t think these labels really clarify anything to anyone, except, perhaps, the person using the label. It’s probably just better to just be a good person and let that speak for itself.
Contact the author of this post at Jessica@TheFrisky.com. Follow me on Twitter.