Re: dating advice?

What follows is my reply to a message about the titular topic. This is shared with permission, while the identity of my correspondent remains a secret. The uppercase text is my edit to conceal potentially identifying information.

I believe what I wrote is not specific to this case, so please interpret it mutatis mutandis.

Maybe I shouldn’t ask you this and sorry if it disturbs you […] do you have any tips to find a date? […] I am YOUNG MAN looking for a woman.

No need to apologise. You did nothing wrong. At worst, I would answer that I have nothing to write and we would each go our ways.

I don’t know if I am the right person to tackle this issue. I will tell you what I think and let you be the judge.

You told me about who you are, but you did not write anything about your cultural background. I don’t need to know about it, although it is important for you to be mindful of, as it determines the set of perceptions and social expectations associated with dating, romantic relations, marriage, and the like.

Does your culture expect of young men to be in a relationship? If, for example, you visit some relatives, do they ask you questions such as “why didn’t you bring your girlfriend with you?” Depending on the culture, these questions may be more intrusive, like “when are you going to get married?” They already assume things and demand conformity with them. They intimidate you. You feel uncomfortable to answer “I don’t have a girlfriend.”

If your culture has such expectations, it conditions you to think of dating as a means to an end. You are effectively being bullied to find a woman—any woman—which will be used as a medium in pursuit of the goal of fitting in to the social norms. In this regard, the culture is not teaching you to value the person, but to prioritise what the person gives you as “social points”.

This is a nuanced distinction, yet it matters greatly when it comes to your disposition. If your primary objective is to placate the people in your milieu, you will focus on appearances. By “appearances” I do not mean how beautiful the woman is: I refer to all those surface-level features that make the society treat you as a “good man/husband” who has a “good woman/wife”. What those are depends on the particularities of your culture. For example, in a traditional Greek setting, a “good wife” does what her husband says; a “good wife” must stay at home to take care of the kids… You get the idea.

Appearances of this sort dehumanise and necessarily objectify the person. You will be searching for a “good woman/wife” and you will be ignoring the substance.

My first advice, then, is to disregard what society thinks and to focus on the human being. Be honest with yourself by admitting that you do not know everything: you can flourish as a person by learning from what your actual/potential partner has to offer, such as interests, hobbies, etc.

My second advice, which follows from the above, is to not give in to the pressure of conforming with appearances. You do not need to be in a relationship for the sake of being in a relationship. In other words, don’t just pick a woman to simply mark this to-do item as “done”. Be selective and only try to approach someone you are in sync with.

The third advice is to not be entitled. No-one deserves another person. If a woman says “no”, it means “no”. Full stop!

The fourth advice, following from the third, is to work on your self. Don’t be lazy, don’t be dirty, don’t be a bully, and don’t be pretentious. To elaborate a bit on the latter, don’t say lies such as “I play sports” just to impress her only to then reveal that you are not a sportsman. Show who you really are and what you actually like to do. And because there is no entitlement, be open to improving yourself further, without going to extremes.

The fifth advice is to not be a nerd or a geek in the negative sense of those terms. What I denote with those in this context is someone who obsesses about a given topic and does not understand that the particular setting is not conducive to such a discussion. For instance, I never talk about philosophy when I have tea with a neighbour. I don’t tell people how I like/use Emacs, what free software is, and the like. If someone asks, I reply. If you are a nerd/geek in this negative way, you are being egoistic and dogmatic or close-minded: you just want to do your own thing and don’t give others the opportunity to broaden your horizons. This links back to advice number 1: you don’t know everything and that’s okay.

The sixth piece of advice is to not play silly games. I recall from my high school years how people were supposed to pretend they were not interested. This is a bad habit because it sends wrong signals and causes confusion. Be straightforward and ask the person to do the same. Communication is key to being honest, which underpins all of the aforementioned.

My seventh advice is to not treat her as Ms. Perfect. Don’t tell her lies such as “you are the most beautiful woman in the world”, or exaggerations like “you add colour to my grey routines” (not to be confused with poetry). That’s bullshit. Speak the truth and stay grounded in reality. The woman you like is a human being: she is imperfect like everybody else—and that’s fine.

In short: keep it simple; keep it real.

There probably are other considerations to be made, such as following fashion trends or whatnot, though I really am out of my league here. But I assume you already know that.

Whatever you do, do not allow others to bully you into thinking that you absolutely need a partner. There is nothing wrong with being single and, as I noted above, it is better to be this way than to treat people as means to an end.