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.


Ezzie said...

Very good post.

FWIW, those examples sound more like the guys themselves than the system, though I guess maybe some of the guys are trying too hard, thinking this is their only shot? Don't know.

Cringe-worthy, indeed.

Diana said...

You've obviously never met my mother.

Erachet said...

Lunch date?

Josh M. said...

My theory is that the greater pack mentality amongst girls while they're in school enables them to beat the weirdness out of each other, while weird guys will just find other weird guys to hang out with.

In the defense of some of your past dates, it could be that they put an excessive amount of pressure on themselves to "lead" the conversation to the extent that they decided that saying something without first gauging it for stupidity was better than saying nothing, but the examples that you gave are rather bizarre by any standard.

SJ said...

Apple, what about the guy who said that there was nothing else he wanted to know about you? I think that definitely makes it onto the list.

EsPes said...

this post is amazing. we could be the same person.
i could have written this exact post not changing a single thing!!!!!!

the weirdness threshold makes sense because even if in a few months he would do something that would bother u in the beginning- guys should be on their best behavior in the beginning... so if hes dancing in a store, and thats him on good behavior.... who knows whats in store for the future. make sense?

G said...

Aren't there any guys out there who are sophisticated enough to know how to behave in public and with a girl?

No, next question...see how easy this can be :)

Ezzie said...

G - You're supposed to say "only after they get married... if then." :)

David_on_the_Lake said...

I'm ashamed of my gender...

(I do have the say though...the "eurotrash" comment takes the cake..)

MordyS said...

Apple, if I may...

I'd like to sincerely apologize on behalf of the entire male gender for the all the cringe-worthy and weird things that you've experienced through your encounters with us. Yes, we suck. Yes, very few of us really do know how to behave.
I'm sorry. Truly, truly, truly sorry.

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

Hm. Interesting article. Interesting comments. Personally, I've recentely taken interest in the idea that the early separation of the sexes in "our" ultra-orthodox circles create some "overly feminine" female societies, and "overly masculine" (so to speak) male societies. What I mean is that witout guys to influence them, the girls schools create personalities that can only relate to girl-related things and ideas. The same with the boys; all they learn to discuss is Gemara and sports. This phenomenon leaves guys wondering what a group of girls is consistantely giggling about, and a girl on a date wondering why her date is so impersonable.

Now, such guys and girls do end getting married (with each other), but only as a result of nature obviously, not because of a real social and intelectual bond between them. That is a benifit I feel modern society has bestowed upon us; guys and girl who grow upwith very similar cultural influnces, and similar intelectual expectations- something which creates a greater understanding and friendship between the sexes.

Ruthie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I am quite female and quite agree with you, Apple, but in guys' defense, they seem to be at least partially trainable- if he knows you don't like when he yells across the restaurant (and likes you enough to care what you like), he'll make sure not to do it again, potentially making the 2nd date slightly less painful. (That was a very long sentence.) Of course, some guys can only change after a lobotomy is performed, which is why it's preferable to do research on these gentlemen before deciding to commit a few hours of your life to them...

Erachet said...

Now, such guys and girls do end getting married (with each other), but only as a result of nature obviously, not because of a real social and intelectual bond between them.

I don't think that's true in the slightest.