Dater X: Bad Words

Sometimes, it can be hard to see a line until you’ve crossed it.

Last week’s post inspired an uproar that I did not anticipate, and I want to address it before we get back to my story. Allow me to be unequivocal here: this is an apology for my language.

It’s also a candid and absolutely frank explanation of the editorial choices that I made, and I hope that, as ever, we can all continue our dialogue about what it means to date and how we talk about it. Because make no mistake, dating means judgement: about others, and certainly (if we’re doing it right) about ourselves.

“Seriously desperate.”
“Ridiculously defensive.”
“Disrespectful…and selfish.”
“A child.”

Since I started writing this column, I have been accused of sleeping with people just to have something to write about (patently false, and incredibly offensive).

I have been called a liar about just about everything, from serious physical injuries to how I lost my virginity (every word that I have shared here is true).

I have been instructed not to drink, have sex, or use profanity (Politely: fuck that idea right in the face [sips wine and invites The Bartender over]).

It has been intimated that I have “major psychiatric conditions like BPD or HPD” (I do not, though how such an assertion is any less offensive than an autism joke, especially given that this “diagnosis” was made in seriousness, rather than in jest, is beyond me).

I share these names and anecdotes not as a means of defending the use of words that offended others on a similar level, but in the hopes that we can all step up to the table and acknowledge that outrage over name-calling must be universal, if it is to have any meaning at all.

Is calling a little person a “midget” derogatory? Is referring to socially awkward people as “on the autism spectrum” offensive? C’mon, guys. Clearly, it is. And while I hasten to point out that some of our most successful and beloved contemporary comedians (see: Seth MacFarlane, Ricky Gervais, et al) are happy to identify and mine others’ weaknesses for jokes, there are a number of other factors, including their audience and their voice, that dictate the success of remarks like those. Surely I should have known that this audience would not take kindly to expressions of judgement of this nature.

For that, I unconditionally apologize.

But I also have to add that dating is judgement. It is a process – often, a lifelong process – of judging others and comparing them to our own desires, no matter how personal or inconsistent or specific. And the speed daters that my friend and I talked about last week, in the intimate conversation that I shared with you, did not appeal to his personal, possibly inconsistent, obviously very specific judgement of what he is looking for in a partner.

Is that harsh? Sure. But cruel? I don’t think so. “I’m not attracted to you,” is not an insult. And the very act of speed dating is making snap judgements about others, judgements that must, by necessity, include their appearances.

When we date, we judge every potential partner by a deeply held, incredibly specific rubric composed of our most intimate beliefs about what might make us happy. And I defy anyone to honestly share that how a person looks or the situation in which we meet them does not play into that rubric and that judgement. What I’m saying is: the women at that speed dating event did not appeal to my friend, and the men seemed patently uncomfortable in a situation where he could only laugh at the absurdity of all of us blindly groping for one another, himself (and myself) included.

If I implied any further judgement, including that any of those people are not deserving of love or happiness, it was not my intention. If anything, I hope that I stressed what I have always said about dating: “I don’t think that anyone, no matter how long they have been single, should be asked to concede being physically attracted to their mate just for the sake of having one.” Not my friend, who was not attracted to the women at the speed dating event, and not the other women and men there, whether they found potential matches in the crowd or not.

The crossed line that I referred to at the beginning of this post was the one between mocking for the sake of laughing at our own absurdities and deliberate meanness. I make a concerted effort in every area of my life to avoid crossing it. I hoped to have explained that adequately in last week’s post, and it’s clear that I did not. For that, I am embarrassed and very sorry.

But I’m not going to step away from frankness and honesty in this column. The value of a diary is in its candid nature, and this is a diary: of one very specific, authentically flawed woman’s journey through the often murky quagmire that is looking for someone with whom to share a life. So while I hope not to offend you again the way that I did last week – and I hope (and I mean this!) that you will be sure to let me know about it if I do – I will continue to be honest, and clear, and candid here. I have written in the past that this is the story of my real life, and like any of us, it is not without missteps. Making those missteps public is a challenge, and I hope you will continue to share your thoughts on how I handle it.

I also warmly encourage you to show a little compassion, for me and for each other, in the comments. If all of us were perfect, after all, dating would be a lot easier – and a lot less interesting.

Coming next week: ongoing adventures with The Bartender, including our first bump in the road, or “How I Reacted When My Years-Younger Boyfriend Told Me He Doesn’t Want a Child.”

Until then,

Dater X 3.0