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.

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