Dateless-Man vs. PDA’s

Not really “versus” per say, just my opinion and a very recent anecdote. I figure I may as well stick with the post title theme at this point.

“PDA” stands for “public displays of affection” for those not in the know. It usually is specific to couples who make out in public or at least canoodle or otherwise act very couple like with physical touching and hugging outside. Perhaps in more restrictive countries or cities it’s less common than it is where I live in New York, but I would have no idea. While it is difficult to travel anywhere within NYC or the five boroughs for very long without spotting at least one couple doing so perhaps every other day, it certainly upticks once the weather shifts from winter to spring (even accounting for Valentine’s Day). I imagine it is similar for anyplace with a similar climate.

For someone who is a lonely, dateless, older male virgin such as I, PDA’s can be a difficult thing to deal with depending on your age or mood. Being exposed to it on a constant and consistent basis (such as on a high school or college campus, or within range of one) can feed into the stigma of feeling like you’re apart from everyone else and different from the rest of the norm. It can get hard to shake off the sense that “everyone else is doing it” if it seems that you literally witness almost everyone “doing it” during a commute or daily routine at school. Even going to sections of town where there are a cluster of bars, clubs, and/or movie theaters (as in, common date locations) can usually ensure a healthy dose of this even during weekdays or odd hours.

If you’re in the wrong or at least in an unhealthy state of mind, it can easily breed feelings of envy, frustration, and even anger at witnessing others seem to engage in primal pleasure that you feel has been “denied” you (as if you were owed it). As a teenager, I used to occasionally joke that, “if I was king of the world, nobody would be allowed to make out in public until I did.” I imagined it would have been a while until I did despite that circumstance. While anger never bubbled within me, frustration, envy, and resentment did during various periods of my youth if I focused too much on it, or didn’t put my mind on other things. While I never wanted to “take” any similar acts by force or wanted to interrupt with a shaky prudish fist, a part of me perhaps wondered (and feared) that some of the emotions I was feeling at this time and towards PDA’s were similar to what some serial killers (such as the Zodiac Killer) may have felt. Such thoughts never excited me; in fact such things usually scared or saddened me. I’ve sort of always known and felt that my feelings of isolation and alienation, and the reactions to those feelings, place me on a similar plane as some of the worst examples of humanity. Behind some of the worst people who ever lived, after all, were children with abandonment issues, or awkward youths who struggled with women. I always did my best to be the best person I could be, which was always a work in progress, but at times my internal reactions to PDA’s would make me wonder if I was really so morally superior to other terrible people in a similar state as I,  or if I was simply too much of a coward or simply “one bad day” away from snapping.

Growing up and having more important things to worry about, such as a job, bills, the health of family members, as well as keeping busy with work, hobbies, and friends helped dissipate many of these reactions to PDA’s. I’ve had many “bad days” since I was a teenager and never snapped or lashed out, or desired to become a predator. To a degree I think the choice to become a predator or not is a choice that someone makes deep down in themselves, no matter how mentally ill or sane they may be, by choosing their feelings and wants over someone else (even someone hypothetical). I’ve also had a lot of “trial by exposure” to not just PDA of strangers, but PDA among friends. I recall once in high school, I was at a friend’s house while he and his girlfriend were having sex in one room while another pal (and his lover) were necking on a couch a few yards from me. I’d zoned out on playing a video game; what else could I do? I can’t count how many times I was the unintended and unplanned third or fifth wheel when some of my friends wanted to make out or hook up. And boy did that used to make me envious. But over time, I realized I didn’t want to be the type of person who envied his own friends, and made a concentrated effort to alter my own reactions. This helped with stranger PDA too.

Last night on the train, though, happened to be a particular example. A young couple (mid to late 20’s) got on and naturally sat together. The man was tall, lean, and with dark blond hair and European features; the woman was Asian with short dark hair and a taste for flower printed tights. The way in which she seemed to gaze into his eyes from the side was intoxicating even from yards away. Their fingers were intertwined, her arm around his. Soon her leg was draped over his thigh. They never made out but simply the way they looked into each other’s faces, hung on each other’s words or minor actions, and enjoyed each other’s sheer company was obvious to anyone who wasn’t blind. Of course, logically speaking, we never see all of other people. We never see fights that happen in private, or so forth. For all I knew this was a first date.

Sure, I have plenty of desire to make out with someone (even if I don’t know how), or to make love with someone (even if I have even less idea of how). But this display had essentially boiled down all that I have ever wanted to experience within a relationship. In college I used to fantasize not of humping someone, but of what it would feel like to cuddle with someone in a bed, or lay together in the grass holding hands and looking at the stars. I attribute it to inexperience; my romantic desires never evolved beyond grade school, because my love life hasn’t. I know the euphoria of a new romance doesn’t last and that is usually when a relationship is tested (if not by one flaw or red flag from someone, from simple routine). Yet the intoxicating and hypnotic spell of mutual affection and desire alone seems to be what I have always craved. To be so into someone that just a ride on the train can seem like the most magical thing in the universe. Out mutual company is all we need; the set activity or event is just a detail or a formality. For as long as I could remember, I have desired it. But somehow, when I grew up, something about me was put together wrong and I’ve been unable to attract or incite this feeling of blissful, lovely euphoria with any woman I have desired. It doesn’t work if it is one sided; one sided attraction or affection is frustrating and distracting. It is all I have ever known. And getting used to the idea that this feeling between two people  who were just sitting together on a subway was something that may seem wonderful but I am clearly too flawed or mangled a person to ever experience myself, even once, even for a minute, has been one of the most painful and emotionally exhausting steps of growing up that I have ever faced. It’s moments like this, more than lustful pangs or so forth, which make me feel like I truly don’t belong.

It almost feels like a youthful feeling. I tend to only see couples who are of a certain age displaying such infatuation with each other, at least in public. I’m sure that’s not true – in theory, romantic passion can exist at any age – but that can be the impression given especially by the media. This naturally only adds to the angst of the sort such as I. I’m no longer a teenager or in my 20’s. Once one hits their 30’s, thoughts of longer term planning and “real life” issues tend to complicate romantic entanglements, even if due to nothing more than experience. Is naivete part of attraction and affection, at least at the start?

I tend to be very reserved about my feelings – which I am sure is a shock to those who read this blog. Even in the hypothetical scenario of me being in some sort of relationship, would I be comfortable with PDA of my own? Would I be willing to cuddle or make out with someone in public? Or would I want it to be behind closed doors? Would that be a “red flag”? I certainly wouldn’t deny being at least a little “uptight”. Or would I be so lost in the power of mutual attraction, of the ecstasy of such a thing, that I wouldn’t care? Would a part of me even want to engage in some PDA as if to brag? I don’t know, and by my age, most people should know. Trying to coax a shy guy out of a thick shell may be something women may have tolerance for in high school or college, but after that when you’re supposed to be a “grown ass man” (modern slang)? Nobody has time for such nonsense. Life is complicated enough, especially for women.

It does seem sort of melodramatic and silly, doesn’t it? PDA’s sometimes (depending on my age or the proximity or the passion involved) cause me to feel things, then I feel things about the things I feel, then lament or become frustrated by the feelings I feel. It reminds me of those robots in sci-fi stories who lament about wanting to “have emotions”, without realizing that lamentation is itself a feeling. I’ve always found feelings to be overrated, in my opinion. They’re illogical and usually cause me nothing more than pain or frustration. The brief joy I get during outings with friends or by joking around sardonically isn’t usually worth the general sense of ennui or frustration that I tend to feel whenever I am not distracted by work or hobbies or think about my state for very long. I’m sort of like a reverse “Robocop” – I’d like nothing more than to become an emotionless robot. Humanity’s not been a terribly pleasant experience, overall; whether personally or historically. I can’t honestly say I’ve been “happy” for half my life, and that’s including infancy. I’ve felt like an “other” who didn’t belong since junior high, and in a way it’s never ended. I sometimes imagine what it would feel like to be free of emotional or physical pangs that I can’t ever express naturally with someone else. To simply no longer desire them again and move on with form and function, to not even miss those feelings. There are medications which can basically “make you a zombie”, but ironically I fear such things since I wouldn’t want to lose my intelligence or effect my own health. How I wish for some sort of psychological trick to just turn these desires “off” mentally like a switch and to no longer have them. After all, if I can’t ever experience the almost blissful and innocent joy of the sort of passion that is usually expressed with PDA’s, I at least don’t want the feelings one gets from longing for such things.

It certainly doesn’t help that longing for the feeling of “being in love” is a general, almost desperate thing. Desperation is a mood killer. It feels impersonal; women want to be desired individually, not because they merely were the first one who didn’t flee or retch. Even guys with plenty of experience sometimes have problems just dating for what they need, with things like “individuality” being details. With an inexperienced guy it seems doubly troubling, like someone is just looking to scratch notches on a bed post. Yet, whenever someone (usually a woman) tries to reassure a lonely older virgin, her narrative, almost to a person, goes like this: “I (or a friend) met a guy who was [similar age] and she didn’t care, and they’re engaged/married/dating for 5+ years so don’t give up!” And that’s more distressing than reassuring because it not only implies that someone such as I all but HAS to attach to the first person who hypothetically finds me attractive (which is, ironically, one of the fears that people of any gender have about dating older virgins), but that it implies that even under the best of circumstances, I will only get ONE chance at this. And I would, at least ideally, like the choice of the person I settle down with to be one made of desire and experienced preference, not out of desperation or “quitting while I was ahead”. But then again, I suppose there has to be a price for being different, for being put together wrong, and having your best option be “double or nothing” may be it.

Who thought touching on PDA’s would elicit this sort of essay, huh? At the very least I don’t get envious or angry about seeing such things these days, as I did in my youth. Most of the time I just brush it off; you’d be surprised how many couples one passes in daily life, even if they’re not smooching in public. I’ve done my best to get used to or suppress the feelings of loneliness which sometimes arise from it. But this last example for some reason struck me differently. It made me think about something in life which I know I am hardly owed, and isn’t necessary for survival like food or water, but seems like an essential spice of life all the same. And like spices, while one can consume food perfectly fine without them, they add to its enjoyment and taste. After all, can someone call a lifetime of bland, utilitarian food a lifetime in which one truly experienced food and what it could offer or be? And that almost magical sense one gets from being within range of a PDA can sometimes remind me that while I certainly may be better off than some people, there is still an invisible wall which I haven’t been able to pass between me and what seems “normal”. And sometimes, that reminder is not welcome.

Not that I’d want people to stop. If you’re into PDA, by all means, live it up. Enjoy what you have. Life is short. It’s one of life’s pure pleasures, and even if it’s something which I’m not worthy of, I wouldn’t want to deny it to others who are. I just wish I got a warning sometimes, is all.

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Steve Harvey: Master of Dating Advice?

And now for something completely different!

Now that we’re through with my vault of dating misadventures, and there’s a lull in fresh experiences to recount, it may be different to mull over a more minor reaction I had to something which relates to this blog. My job demands atypical hours (that is, not “9 to 5 Monday thru Friday”) and I’m a bit of a night owl to boot. Therefore, I’m usually awake in the a.m. hours and watching TV as I eat my dinner. Last week, I was channel surfing and happened to click onto NBC for a split second, which was airing a rerun of the “Steve Harvey” afternoon talk show from earlier in the day. I would have kept on going when the promo caught my attention for a reason which will soon be obvious. Apparently a man who was 30 years old and had never kissed a woman before (and was naturally also a virgin) had agreed to come on the show for advice, and Steve Harvey was going to help him. Apparently, Steve Harvey is more than a stand up comedian and game show host now; he’s a love guru. Considering some of the places I have sought dating advice online (or in print), I figured I would watch the segment and see what, if anything, was applicable or I thought may work for me. I also was morbidly curious about the entire spectacle.

I may as well give a little summary about Steve Harvey for those unaware, fresh from the “Dateless-Man Computer” (i.e. Wikipedia). He’s a stand up comedian who has been working the circuit since the mid 1980’s and was in some TV shows and movies during the 90’s but who has found greater success at the turn of the century. After hosting “It’s Showtime at the Apollo” and landing his own sitcom on what was then “The WB Network” (titled, “The Steve Harvey Show”) from 1996-2002, he toured with “The Original Kings of Comedy” for a stretch. He also began hosting a daily radio show in 2000. However, his star seemed to rise even beyond this in 2010, when he began hosting the syndicated game show “Family Feud”.

The Feud may still be famous for its original host, Richard Dawson, who was (in)famous for kissing EVERY SINGLE  WOMAN WHO EVER APPEARED ON THE SHOW. Other men have hosted it since, including Louie Anderson, Richard Karn (who’s since gone on to sell hoses in commercials) and John O’Hurley. I’m not a huge game show fan and “Family Feud” is usually a show I neither hate or enjoy. Being a cynic, I usually feel the families are too nice and when it comes time to pick two members for the final round, they always seem to pick the stupidest member of their brood (almost as if to ensure that nobody wins the $20,000 and/or the car too often).  Most viewers would get a better “family feud” eavesdropping their neighbors around Thanksgiving. At any rate, Harvey and the Feud seemed to click, and the ratings have gone up drastically ever since.

Knowing when to strike when the iron was hot, Steve Harvey utilized his buzz to get himself a daytime talk show in 2012. Considering the daytime talk show market is full of the graveyards of people who couldn’t hack it (not even Tony “The Boss” Danza), the fact that it’s going on four seasons is impressive. Steve Harvey’s since retired from stand up and ventured into other areas. A born again Christian, he’s started a dating website for women and often has themes revolving around relationship advice on his show. Last year, he famously botched the crowing moment of the “Miss Universe Pageant” (which he was hosting), which became a meme. Steve Harvey may be pushing 60, but he’s apparently at the top of his career right now.

This is hardly Steve Harvey’s first foray into the topic of older adult virginity on his talk show. I found two clips on YouTube from previous shows going back to 2013-2014. The first deals with a grandmother asking for advice for her 25 year old grandson who is a virgin (and who she wants to “hook up”). Harvey suggests that she leave that to the men in the family and jokes at the end that they “get him to a strip club” or words to that effect. The second has a woman who asks at what point is it weird to still be a virgin (as she is 28). After joking that she’s “at that point now”, Steve Harvey makes sure to stress that what she has is “a gift” who she should only grant a man who appreciates it. Now, I am not posting these to be overly critical; surely Steve Harvey makes less fun of these situations that many comedians would on TV. But simply as evidence that he likely has what could be considered a “typical” opinion on older virgins – that is, if it’s a guy he’d better lose it fast, and if it’s a woman she’s got something extra that only someone worthy should get (sort of like Thor’s hammer, only not a hammer). I’d seen these clips before watching the episode and they were in the back of my mind.

Apparently it is a regular bit on Steve Harvey’s talk show for people to send in requests to come on the show for advice for related topics and for whichever one is vetted the best by the producers, they get a segment. Hey, filling five days a week is tough! At any rate, the “30 year old kiss-less virgin” (as he would be called on Reddit or 4chan) was only identified by his first name; I forgot what it was so I’ll go by “Mitch”. He was exactly 30, so a little younger than me, and apparently was a paralegal as well as into playing tennis. For the record, he was white. It’s tough for me to gauge a man’s looks since I don’t look at men the same as someone sexually oriented towards them would, but he seemed about average in that regard; neither Hollywood handsome nor hideous (although his teeth were perfect). Height is also something tough to gauge on TV, as I have no idea how tall Steve Harvey is for comparison. It was quickly obvious that Mitch (who was dressed in a blue suit) was nervous, although whether because he was an anxious guy by nature or because he was on TV in front of a live audience (of mostly women) which would soon be broadcast to millions around the world wasn’t known. Naturally, revealing that he had never kissed a girl and that he was still a virgin came off pretty awkwardly; so awkwardly that when Mitch revealed that he’d already been on eight dates this year, Steve Harvey was genuinely surprised. Mitch described a typical first date as going out for ice cream and him trying to make sure there were no awkward silences by talking a lot.

The gist of the segment was Steve Harvey giving him pointers and then observing as Mitch interacts with a (presumably) single woman they’ve set up for him backstage. Throughout the segment, while Steve Harvey naturally had a little fun with things, he did try to encourage the audience to have sympathy for Mitch by saying “he’s my dude” and that “he was gonna set him up” and so on. Then came the advice. Harvey naturally stressed having “swag”, which is modern lingo for “confidence” and/or “charisma”. He suggested a jazz club as a date option over ice cream (“I don’t care if you like jazz or if she likes jazz; take her to a jazz club. You’ll come off as different from other guys”) since Mitch expressed nervousness about how close to sit with a woman  and when to touch her during conversation. Harvey claimed jazz climbs encourage close seating and the music fills space in conversation without being too loud. He also said that “chivalry wins women over” and stressed that Mitch should go out of his way, from getting his date’s seat to menus and so on. Upon seeing how Mitch seemed to awkwardly flail his arms around when he spoke, Steve said he should “cut it out with the arms, man” (which led to comedy as Mitch then almost sat on his hands). Steve then demonstrated a “move” he used to do at clubs when he was single with a middle aged women in the front row of the audience; he’d take her hand and seem to kiss the top of it, but in fact would just kiss his own hand and go, “That’s just for now, when we know each other a little better the next one’s for you”. The audience whooped and howled; I thought it came off as very corny and without “swag” it would likely be laughed off, and not in a good way, today. Mitch brought up that he wanted to “have his first kiss with someone special”, while Steve Harvey suggested that “have his first kiss with anyone he can” because getting beyond it was “the promised land”, which Harvey stressed he was having no part of.

As if this wasn’t awkward enough, then came the part where they brought in the woman from backstage for “practice”. This consisted of the pair being seated on the stage maybe a yard from Harvey and trying to go through the motions of small talk. The woman was attractive and seemed very upbeat about it. First, Mitch failed to get her seat for her, and then during their awkward small talk, asked her what shows she liked on Netflix. The impression was that this was leaning close to “Netflix and chill” territory – which is modern slang for going over to someone’s place to sleep with them. The woman asked, “Did you tell him to ask me this?” and Steve replied, “I didn’t tell him to talk about no damn Netflix!” Mitch justified it as wanting to know what shows she was into and later on brought up “Xena: Warrior Princess”. They both mentioned tennis (with Mitch offering to play a match with her) and while Steve Harvey seemed to be a bit wary of Mitch’s “game”, I do have to say the woman did her best to encourage him and seemed upbeat about it. Later on Mitch once again had to be reminded to take a date to a jazz club. Whether they went on a date or not is unknown.

I could sense the nervousness from the TV and with a twelve hour delay from Mitch the entire segment. I suppose one could say being willing to go on TV and admit to being a virgin, even without giving away one’s full name, is gutsy. Unfortunately, Mitch’s nerves made it difficult to tell for me as a viewer whether he was really like that or if he was like that because HE WAS ON TELEVISION with a FULL AUDIENCE and talking to A FAMOUS PERSON. Even some extroverts would get a little anxious under that circumstance. I also was wary of the advice; Steve Harvey comes from a different generation and I wonder if some of his “swag” would be outdated for someone half his age to try. Chivalry is nice, but it alone doesn’t cut it. Not being a guy who slams doors on someone or doesn’t offer to get a chair is the bare minimum. I can also see how going to a jazz club despite not being into it can backfire. If the woman doesn’t like jazz, and later learns (or suspects) that her date doesn’t and just brought here there for proximity, it can leave a bad impression. Probably the only real decent advice I got out of it was Steve Harvey suggesting that “normal touching” on a date begins with a tap on the arm or elbow at a high point in conversation; I’d read that before. The ambiguity of the woman who was brought in was also strange; was she a local single? A coach? An actress or other guest who was going to roll along with it for the sake of the segment? Or was there an awkward connection on TV in front of the audience? While I related to the man involved, I didn’t think the segment offered much practical advice for men in that situation and while Harvey hardly brought him up there to mock, naturally the impression was that this was a bit different from the norm. There was no vibe of “come look at the freak” (that’s “Jerry Springer”) but naturally the promos stressed he was 30 and had never been kissed.

Believe it or not, I have sought advice and guidance from many places online and off. They have ranged to the “Doctor Nerdlove” site to the Playboy Advisor, and plenty of TV shows or online clips when I have been able to find them. It always feels strange, looking up advice on things that most normal people seem to “get”, such as how to flirt or what to do on a date or how to kiss or so on. It all seems very mechanical, like I am an alien trying to learn how to be human via studying books and texts. There’s knowledge to be had, but it’s not the same as doing or being. And life isn’t a sport; while there is some leeway or benefit of the doubt for learning many new skills later in life, such as sports or art or computers, dating seems to be considered a lost cause after high school. While there are relationship coaches and therapists, these things are still looked down on. A part of me wondered what I expected to learn at all. Instead it is something else to file away under the boxes of advice which I don’t think cuts it inside my mind. I sure know if I tried that weird hand kiss move, I’d either get decked or laughed out of the room. “Swag” is important, but that’s basically charisma; and if you don’t have it, you don’t have it. It can be faked or acted around to a degree, but I genuinely don’t think it can be learned.

I am naturally petrified at the idea of anyone knowing my status as a virgin over 30 who has never been kissed, either. I couldn’t imagine going on TV and revealing that or talking about it, even if I was wearing a mask. A few of my friends know, but they number in single digits and it is hardly something I eagerly discuss. Most of my guy friends seem to have caught on that talk about women or relationships is a bit “ixnay” for me. I never bring it up and neither do they. There are times I am tempted to make a Facebook post about it, seeking to retake control of my own anxiety by admitting it. “I AM _____ AND I AM A ____ YEAR OLD VIRGIN!” and typing out my feelings towards more intimate people than folks on a blog. Just to imagine what the freedom of not having to hide the secret might be like for a second. Fortunately, then reality sets in and I know it would be something I would have to live down. Eventually my co-workers would learn and it would become the talk of the office. My friends might even be embarrassed for me. I would get platitudes and pity that I do not want. It would not go well and I would ultimately regret it. I’m not even ready to meet one person in real life who isn’t a longtime friend to reveal the secret (or knows it through the blog). Group therapy sounds scary in that regard. TV? Not unless I was getting a seven figure paycheck out of it, and maybe not even then. I may be circus freak, but I’m not quite ready to admit it and embrace it. All I ever wanted was to be normal, to have a normal life. People who stumble and bumble their way towards things I have to study up on just to comprehend just don’t understand what it is like to be on the outside of life. To look at it as something you can see and even be a witness to, but that you can’t ever touch or be a part of.

It was an awkward viewing which I didn’t expect at maybe 2-3 o’clock in the morning. It made me glad, at least, that I had kept my secret and not been desperate to be on TV somewhere. There was no way I could crack it. I also imagined that there is likely better romance advice out there than that offered by Steve Harvey. It’s not bad, but there’s got to be another five answers up there on the board given by a survey of 100 people. It’s nice that I am not alone in this regard, but I already know that. The quest is to find a way out of it without destroying what is left of my esteem.

Either that, or learning to like jazz.

Faults Addendum & Dateless-Man’s Strengths

Who knew that an article listing my top ten dating faults would prove to be so popular? I want to thank everyone who replied and of course an extra thanks for those seeking to buck me up and/or flatter me with what they saw as my strengths. Considering one commentor suggesting I do a fault list got me inspired enough to do it, it’s only fair that I attempt to balance it out with a list of my dating strengths – especially since at least 3 or more commentors suggested I do that. I’m a bit of a pessimist, but even pessimists should bow to peer pressure now and then.

But first to get it out of the way, I thought I’d insert an addendum (or addition) to that top ten dating faults list. I’ve had some time to think about it and absorb some of the comments, and some of you out there disagreed with some of my faults. In particular, some of the ones towards the bottom of the list (such as “No Car” or “Not Tall”). To this I submit one which I suppose could be a side effect of some of the other ones (such as “Negative Attitude”), and that would be a “Bad Temper”. While I am not a walking rageaholic, I do have a bad temper when it is riled. I’ve known about this since I was a kid so I usually spend a great deal of time bottling it, as I do with most of my emotions. I tend to be so reasonable and patient that I imagine most people who know me would be shocked if I claimed this; some have never seen me angry or if they had, it hasn’t been since I was a teenager. Unfortunately, due to my lack of confidence I seem unable to summon it forth when it would have been useful – such as when I was being picked on during 7th grade or even high school. My own fears and anxieties seem to counteract it. Usually when I do vent it is in safer places or against lessor issues, and never against women. I’m not violent and my temper never lasts long, usually a few seconds. Because I know about it, I take active steps to make sure I don’t lash out with it and can manage it as best I can. But it still exists, and it arguably is more of a red flag than not being tall or not having a car. So for those who objected to some of those flaws, insert this one in the list instead!

Unlike the list of flaws, which I sort of did a first draft of years earlier in a spiral notebook, listing off my strengths (at least in terms of dating) ventures a bit more into uncharted territory for me. Although there are a few things about myself that I have some pride in, I try not to be an arrogant person or someone who overestimates themselves, especially in areas like dating where I objectively know that I’ve routinely failed. In the 1973 film “Magnum Force”, which is the second of the “Dirty Harry” film series, Harry Callahan (played by Clint Eastwood) famously adds to his list of catch phrases with the line, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” I certainly always feel that I certainly know mine, which sometimes prevents me from getting in over my head. Add in “Negativity Bias“, a psychological theory which suggests that negative things feel more “honest” to some of us than positive things, and listing positive dating traits can seem like a more challenging and dishonest exercise. After all, clearly no woman has thought any of my strengths outweighed my flaws enough that she became romantically interested in me. It can feel like listing off the positive traits of a car that is a lemon, and being a used car salesman trying to unload…myself. “Sure, the engine catches on fire and there’re no seat-belts, but check out the nifty cup holder!” And while I’ve never said that I have zero positive qualities, the trick is having ones which are genuinely romantically appealing to other people in enough ways that they counteract the “red flags” that I have sticking out of me. While I think over them, a part of me almost always seeks to counteract them with caveats. I suppose I could have asked some of my friends who are women, but without knowing the context it might have seemed like I was fishing for compliments. And I haven’t told my friends that I write a “lonely man blog” during some of my free time.

But, enough dawdling! Let’s see how deep I get into this. Remember, these may not me my sum total of positive qualities as a person, but the ones which I feel via experience or interaction are my most positive traits towards women I would like to date.

Dateless-Man’s Top 10 Dating Super Powers!

1). Sense of Humor

This is a no-brainer for me. I all but over rely on my sense of humor to be sociable with people. I seem to always be able to come up with some sort of quip or wisecrack about something in my environment or life when I have to. This isn’t to say that I can’t have serious or straightforward conversations, but there’s a reason why I attached to Spider-Man as one of my favorite superheroes as a kid. It is because of this that people who know me seem to doubt I am shy or afraid to talk to women at all. What I lack in confidence, charisma, good looks, or anything sexually appealing I usually try to make up for in laughs. At the last speed dating event I attended at the New York Comic Con last year, I surprised myself by how well I was able to utilize this, even when things got awkward. Unless someone is a fairly humorless person, I can usually get almost anyone to laugh. It’s almost an unconscious ability; I’ve always been able to do this. I usually stick to more PG stuff until I get to know my audience, and I’m hardly a stand up comedian (even if I have had no end of people suggest I try it out since high school). It’s a useful skill for life in general; it can be a very cruel and depressing enough place without being able to find something to laugh at, even something dark. My own dating exploits and lack of game would be utterly hilarious if I wasn’t the one experiencing it, after all. This used to fade when I got nervous, but I think in recent years it’s become more formidable.

2). Understanding

To the best of my ability I try to be reasonable and understanding towards other people, women especially. I don’t judge a woman by her past, or her profession, or her hobbies, or her libido. Being a social worker for a while allowed me to better learn how to be more of an empath towards others, to be able to place myself in their shoes as best as I can to be better able to understand where they are coming from. But to be honest, I think I was able to do this a little even before I went to college. I’m not the sort of guy who would judge a woman by her ex’s or by abuse she suffered, nor have any misconceptions about her based on whatever she was into (at least when compared to the average guy). In fact if I liked a woman, there is little she could tell me about herself which by itself would scare me off. “You hide bodies for the mob? Well, I’m a telemarketer, so to each their own.” As a part of this, I do not have a “Madonna/Whore” complex like a lot of men I know, including many of my friends and co-workers. It’s hypocritical, among other things. I imagine because of this, it’s been one reason why I’ve been able to have friends who are women without getting too mixed up over feelings for long. This isn’t to say that I’m perfect or don’t have trouble thinking women all think as a “hive-mind” or can get mired in stereotypes about gender (especially since growing up in the 80’s I was fed a lot of them in media), but I do my best to avoid being stuck in that quagmire all the time with everyone.

3). Intelligence

I hesitated for quite a while before I put this one on. But, I thought about the people who knew me that if asked this question, would likely note that I was “smart”. It always feels vain and misguided to claim this about myself to such a degree – I feel like those animated shorts when Wile E. Coyote faces off against Bugs Bunny and makes sure to always introduce himself as “super genius” before he gets flattened or blown up. And for someone who has been told by others for as long as he could remember how bright he was, I always felt like a blithering idiot who just couldn’t figure out how to fit in or do what was expected of me all the time. Nor am I intelligent in a terribly useful way – such as about computers, engineering, or finance. While intelligence in a woman certainly is something appealing for me, I wonder how appealing it is to women if it isn’t projected in a way relating to economics or identity. Mark Zuckerberg’s intellect is easy to see as attractive; he’s used it to make himself wealthy and famous, and to connect untold millions across the globe to each other. That all said, I’m at least aware that my deductive reasoning skills are usually above most average people. That actually hasn’t made my life any easier; I can certainly understand how the saying, “ignorance is bliss” arose. And to be honest; if I was a total hunk with a huge bank account, even if I was dumb as a post, I’d never go home alone (and vice versa; if anything I’ve known plenty of men who seem to actively dislike women smarter than they are). Naturally, this includes being articulate and being able to type well enough on a blog. But, if only to fill out the numbers, let’s just put this on and move on.

4). Sensuality

Although I have never had sex, or even had a make out session, before (and at this rate, probably never will), I do believe I am sensual. Supposedly, women like this. By this I mean that I am not looking to merely mount someone, thrust a few times, and then roll over and go to sleep. When I fantasize about sex or making love I imagine it as a completely sensual affair. Kissing, cuddling, holding, caressing, massaging, and so forth. I am not looking for physical interactions with a woman to be short or quick. I envision it as a sort of physical art if done right. And all art is subjective, dependent on the whims of both the artist and those experiencing the art, and has to even adjust and change towards those whims and expectations. What each person deems as sensuality differs, but I think everyone to a degree wants it. As badly as I would like to have sex, I don’t consider it as a completely one sided affair; I would want her to get pleasure out of it, too.

5). Does Not want Sex at All Costs

To some limited degree this probably helps stifle my attempts at dating (alongside sheer cowardice and inexperience), but overall this means there are lines I would not cross in order to sleep with someone. I do not believe in drinking to excess nor taking advantage of someone who has. I don’t play manipulative pick up artist games (like “negging”) towards dating. While I would not oppose a “one night stand” or going behind hand holding on the first date, I’m not aggressive about pushing someone’s boundaries. Consent is key, end of story. As much as I may desire somebody, I still respect them as a person with their own desires and needs, chief among them to feel safe and comfortable. While I have been tempted with ideas involving seeking out a sexual surrogate and a legal brothel in Las Vegas, ultimately I would refuse to utilize either even if money were no longer a roadblock towards them. I don’t see women as flesh to be conquered, and I don’t subscribe to the “all’s fair in love and war” motto. The irony is that when the topic of me doing a list of strengths came up last month and I replied in the comments section, I wrote that I’d struggle to list more than a few and jokingly included, “not a date rapist”. Well, here we are. Regardless, I would not want to pressure someone into sleeping with me and would want such a choice to be something they were actively enthusiastic about – even if such a thing would probably make me suspicious (or concerned that they were misinformed about me). Obviously, I am not one of those guys who subscribes to the “she didn’t say no” mantra and instead go with the “she has to say yes” mantra instead.

6). Self-Awareness

I’d argue I have this to a fault, but lack of it is definitely a problem with many men. They seem ignorant of their own faults and/or ignorant of how they come off to other people, especially women. While being acutely aware of all of my faults (or at least most of the ones I’ve identified) may cripple me with asking anyone out, it also allows me to attempt to compensate on them, work on them, or at the very least not bombard someone with them deliberately. To be forewarned is to be forearmed, after all. That also means that I’m not looking towards a woman to identify my flaws and work on them for me; that’s a journey I’m already on which is independent of her. I know I can have a temper, so I am work on it. I know I have a negative attitude, so I work on it or acknowledge it, etc.

7). Loyalty

I’m a loyal friend, so it stands to reason I would be a loyal lover. I don’t imagine myself ever cheating on someone, and not merely because I sincerely doubt two people would ever be interested in me romantically in general (much less at the same time). While I’m not avidly looking to settle down with or marry the first woman I date, and would like to have some experience before I made that plunge, I’m also not looking for a harem either. I feel it’s wrong to juggle romantic relationships as if they’re rubber balls. Once I’ve made a connection with someone, I don’t scare off easily. If she has some faults or demons, I’m willing to face them with her. In real life this doesn’t count for very much, nor is it sexually appealing, but I do think it is worth a mention.

8). Not an Addict

I am not addicted to any substances. I am not an alcoholic nor am addicted to any other drugs. While I am willing to have a drink or two in social situations I don’t avidly drink to excess nor do I rely on it as  a crutch. To a degree this is bad because most people in their 20’s seem to live to get plastered and I could probably use some “liquid courage” (to the point that a few times my pals have remarked, “the bug up his ass slips out when he’s buzzed” about me). But I know the danger of relying on it too much; alcoholism runs in my family. In fact my awareness that I am an “addictive personality” means I limit what I become addicted to. For the moment it’s the Internet, comic books, anime, and chocolate, and I intend to keep it there. Many men out there are addicts to something or other and I know that can be a major red flag (and/or an inevitable relationship killer). I have many red flags, but this isn’t one of them. I also don’t judge a woman who enjoys some alcohol or some recreational drugs (such as pot) so long as she isn’t an addict either.

9). Decent Voice

This is definitely reaching, but at least it allows me to list more than seven. While I certainly don’t have a perfectly seductive Barry Manilow/Keith David deep voice, I don’t have a high pitched or terribly nasal one either. My voice does technically aid me in earning a living. At worst my voice sounds like a recording one gets for “Moviephone” or the announcer on the Staten Island Ferry. While I do have a slight “Nu Yawk accent”, it isn’t as pronounced as it is for many others (to the point that not everyone notices when I talk to them out of state for work). Hey, if I was willing to note “Not Tall” as a flaw, I may as well note “Doesn’t Have the Worst Voice” as a strength, darn it!

10). Likes Cats

Firmly in the “reaching” territory, but it’s apparently important enough that online dating sites such as OKCupid have a specific section for it. While there is overlap in regards to the “cats vs. dogs paradigm”, the cliche is that men prefer dogs and women prefer cats. I’m actually the exact opposite (to the point that I have a phobia of large dogs). Some women fret about being seen as a “crazy cat lady” if they have more than two; to me I just call that a “pride”. I used to have a cat as a kid and they always remind me of a simpler time in my life. In fact the only downside to this is (and please forgive the dirty joke that is coming) if I was invited to a woman’s place and she had a cat (or cats), I might be distracted wanting to play with the wrong kitty. In general I am pro pet and I don’t get envious about them; I know some insecure guys may fret that “she likes a pet more than me”. Pets are family; most lovers come and go. I’m gung ho for and not repulsed by even “unusual” pets like snakes, ferrets, lizards, or spiders in general.

It took me a while to go over this (which is why this entry wasn’t published in April) but this is honestly the first time I ever went over such a list with any sort of thought and also the first time I did so and managed to reach a tenth one. I don’t believe I left any major ones out; unlike with the flaw list I couldn’t endlessly come up with things I neglected. To a degree I am adaptable to the point that I’m willing to engage in a woman’s hobbies even if I’m not initially into them, but that’s fairly standard. Relationships are supposed to be two way streets, right? I also feel I am flexible in terms of what attracts me compared to the average guy, but there’s also no canonical way to prove that.

So now there’s a yin to the yang, a light side to the dark side. The question now is, what does it mean and what to do from here? Do I honestly believe that these strengths accurately match or compensate for the flaws within me? No, I don’t. And clearly I’m not alone in this reasoning since I’m in this dateless state. In theory these are the things which I am supposed to lead with in dating, whether online or in person. I’ve never been especially good at doing so, least of all because it always seems patently dishonest to me. I know in sales you use the positives as selling points and omit the negatives, but life isn’t supposed to be sales. It feels like seeing to promote ignorance about myself, or capitalize on it. I know everyone has their own faults and imperfections both in themselves and in relationships; that’s normal. What isn’t normal is to have no relationship or romantic experience past age 30, which is where I am. At best I am beginning a journey which for most began as teenagers and where most are now reaching its end. I am woefully behind schedule in a world which has little pity for such things. Dating in one’s 30’s is difficult even for those with plenty of experience; with zero it’s almost impossible. It’s dating on “hard mode”, and I can’t even get past “easy mode”, and there are no shortcuts, cheat codes or guidebooks to help me.

It isn’t as if no woman has found me funny; I’m just not funny enough to be romantically appealing. More than one woman has found me understanding; I’m just not understanding enough for that to be sexy. And that’s the ultimate disclaimer with this strength list; none of them individually or combined have ever been enough. Maybe that’s part of why it is easy to have a “negativity bias”; the flaws in our lives seem to be more potent and challenging, worth more “points” on the unofficial character sheet of life. It doesn’t matter how funny or understanding I am if I have poor confidence. It doesn’t matter if I want to be a sensual lover if I have a negative attitude or zero charisma. Until I can either fix or negate my flaws, the strengths are just details. They’re decent wrapping paper for a hollow or unappealing present. They’re tasty icing on a bland or repulsive cake. It’s not a fact which I blame women for or have any resentment or anger towards them for; the faults are mine, as are the strengths.

I think this has been a decent exercise for me. The question is where to take it. My least worst option is OkCupid and I doubt I have the fortitude for the long hard slog it takes to get anywhere with it. I know from the experiences of others that it’s very possible to go on dozens of first dates which never go anywhere. “Warm approaches” would be ideal but my social circle doesn’t go deep enough for it (and even if it did, I’m too embarrassed to all but beg friends to do the work for me). Yet clearly I’ve been unable to truly accept my perpetual loneliness despite my best attempts and intellectual desire to do so. I’d love to just flip a switch within myself and abandon all emotional and spiritual desire for companionship or love forever, but I don’t think one exists short of hypnosis (and maybe not even then). Chemical castration is expensive and dangerous, and likely wouldn’t aid in this regard; the longing isn’t due to lust exactly, but something within which I can’t fill in or wall over despite my best efforts. I don’t know what it would take to do so; perhaps some tragedy which I don’t want to face.

Anyway, those are my Dateless-Man super powers. Thanks for the suggestion, everyone, it’s been an interesting experience. They may not be good looks, confidence, or charisma, but they’re still mine all the same. I’d still prefer nigh invulnerability, though.