Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A test of will

Ezzie has a post up talking about dating and how people have unrealistic expectations of their dates. Right on. I completely agree; maybe I even fall into that category. He does say that different things bother different people, which is very true: Because people perceive things differently, what person A thinks is a dumb or invalid reason for breaking up might be very a valid and legitimate reason for person B to do so. And what person B thinks is something small enough to ignore and continue dating might be a dealbreaker for person A.

I think everyone has what I like to call a "weirdness threshold." Meaning, everyone has a limit to which they can stand weird/off color/embarrassing behavior on dates. One girl might think it's hilarious when a guy starts to dance along to the music in a store, and another might be embarrassed and turned off by that. (This is different than an hashkafic/halachic threshold, which is a whole other topic.)

So much of one's weirdness threshold has to do with context and timing. If you're in a place where it's okay to act goofy (like at an arcade or some sort of place like that), it's a lot less strange than if a person starts to act silly in the middle of a restaurant. In the example I gave above, if it is a month into dating the person, it might be a lot less embarrassing or strange for them to start dancing to the music than if it's the second or third date.

This may sound shallow, but I think a weirdness threshold can also be affected by one's level of attraction to the other person. If you think a person is so adorable that even when they do a bad version of a robot dance in the middle of Barnes and Noble it's cute, then you'll be much more forgiving of that kind of behavior than you would be of a person whom you are still unsure whether or not you want to be within three feet of them.

I had an experience recently where a waiter didn't give my order to the kitchen, so my dessert never arrived. A second waiter came to the table to apologize and offer something else, which I declined. I told him to just forget the order I had placed and he left the table. My date felt bad and asked me a few times if I was sure that I didn't want any dessert. As he was asking, I noticed that our original waiter was bringing out the exact cake I had ordered earlier (presumably for another table), and I told the guy I was with that I kind of wanted the cake after all. "Let me call the waiter back!" he said, and proceeded to lean backwards and yell across the restaurant, "EXCUSE ME!"

I appreciated his concern but his execution was mortifying to me. There were a lot of other people in the restaurant and I thought it was a big breach of etiquette for him to shout across the room. This wasn't enough of a reason to break up with the guy, but what if this had occurred a month into dating and not on the third date? Maybe I wouldn't have been as embarrassed because I would presumably be more comfortable with him, but for a third date, it was a little too much for me.

Which brings me to another point. (This might not be so nice but it's been bugging me.) WHY do guys sometimes do such... loserish things? A few examples of loserish things that have happened to me:

1. A guy called me back two seconds after I broke up with him by phone because he wanted "to tell me something." And what he wanted to tell me was so ridiculous that any sort of good impression I had of him was completely shot after his ill-advised call.

2. A guy told me that his fitted shirt made him look like "Eurotrash."

3. Two minutes into a date, I was told that the guy had "nothing to say." (Okay, so why are we on this date?)

4. Ten minutes before a first date, the guy called to cancel without giving a reason.

5. After eating spiced food, the guy told me his breath probably smelled bad. (Why? Why? Whyyyyy?)

Maybe a better phrase (since loserish isn't really such a nice thing to say) would be cringe-worthy. So why do guys do such cringe-worthy things? Can anyone explain? Aren't there any guys out there who are sophisticated enough to know how to behave in public and with a girl?

Ugh. The shidduch system is often so stilted and awkward; it can really try one's stamina and patience and often stretches the bounds of the weirdness threshold. But sometimes I don't know if it's the structure of the system or the guys themselves who make dating into such an endurance test.