Dateless-Man vs. A Forum Ban

“I’m a victim of circumstance!” – Curly Howard, “The Three Stooges: Disorder in the Court” (1936)

A bit of a disclaimer before I get into this. This is easily a topic I didn’t expect to cover here, and it may actually be the most immature thing I have typed up for this blog. I actually missed posting an installment in August, and missing a month is something I dislike doing if I can help it. I actually have some good news to report on. Last year I applied for a city job, and last month I actually had an initial interview regarding it. It went well enough that I’ve been invited to the second step of “the process” (their term, not mine) of landing this position. If successful, training begins a week before Halloween. It’s been an interesting experience, since I have rarely applied for a job while I currently had one, or at least have gotten further than just shooting a resume and cover letter into the Internet or taking a test. Nothing is set in stone yet, but it alongside having to renew my health insurance and other work related things have taken up a lot of my spare time.

As a further disclaimer, it’s possible that I may be 100% in the wrong about the situation and circumstances I am about to report. The only side of a story I can usually state with total accuracy is my own. I do my best to understand another side or motivation, but I am in my own head more than others. A part of me hesitated to even make this a topic, since it comes close to chest thumping. It comes close to bad-mouthing someone online at a forum where they cannot defend themselves — even though I have linked this blog once or twice, and it’s easily found on Google once you type “Dateless Man” — seriously, it’s the third link that pops up. If anyone from the other venue wants to chat about this below, I welcome it. And in the grand scheme of things, it’s really not a huge deal.

However, I’m overdue for an article, and this made me feel things. It’s related to the topic of the blog, and it’s either this or share memories about The Mask. So let’s dig into it.

As I have mentioned earlier this year, I’ve been participating on a discussion on reply forums hosted by Doctor Nerdlove. He’s an online love advice guru for geeks online, and probably the only one whose advice I would actually come close to recommending. There are an endless amount of love advice “experts” online, in bookstores, and on TV and radio. Many of them may offer free tidbits online, with the ultimate goal being to sell you on some books, audio tapes, CD’s, a newsletter, personal coaching services, and so on. Other examples I have stumbled upon include and Frank Kermit. Heck, even talk show host/game show host/comedian Steve Harvey has gotten into the love advice game. Harris O’Malley, a.k.a. Doctor Nerdlove, also sells books, but he offers considerable services online. He has a weekly blog, podcast, and has an advice column via submitted letters once a week on his own website and every 2 weeks on Kotaku (a video game website, of all places). He’s been at this since 2011 and has a steady and healthy community of commentors in his weekly reply section. So much so that he used to offer weekly “open discussion” posts just to allow people to talk about topics outside of his article that week.

As he tells it, Doctor Nerdlove (DNL) struggled with romance as a youth. He didn’t have sex until he was 19, and even afterward considered himself someone who was “no good with women.” He entered the Pick-Up Artist (PUA) scene and while it helped him have sex and meet women, he didn’t like who he was becoming to do so, nor a lot of the toxic attitudes that are a part of the philosophy and scene. He’s since become a romantic adviser who has sought to subject some of the few “good” elements of the PUA scene and put a more understanding and even handed spin on it. Most often, it means issuing tough love to “truths” of manhood. I don’t think I stumbled upon his website until 2014, and I didn’t begin reading it semi-regularly until late 2015 or early 2016. During one of my “woe is me for I am virgin” fits at the time I googled one of his articles about older male virginity and it began from there. While I’ve heard more advice on dating than I could ever retain since high school from dozens of sources and while I hardly agree with him on everything, DNL comes as close to being a romance adviser whose take I usually respect. Reading his work has helped me gain some perspective in addition to my own work here on the blog, purging myself of feelings and memories I don’t tell anyone.

His website hosts a comment section after every article, much as WordPress does. It naturally features “regulars” and it often became a community forum of sorts. I lurked there for a while and eventually decided to comment myself and become a part of it. It would be the first time I was becoming part of a forum revolving around my romantic issues since college. The format at the time was “IntenseDebate” (it has since become “Discus”) and it was possible to hook it into a WordPress account. For login ease, as well as a bit of cross promotion and continuing along the the theme, I naturally used the same moniker there that I do here. At the time I thought it was innocent enough, but in hindsight I probably should have seen how it would lead to being misunderstood. Yes, this is foreshadowing.

DNL himself rarely interacts on the forums much, at least since I was around; he did sporadically in 2015-2016 and that has dwindled to almost nil since. He’s understandably busy and therefore has to designate moderators to police the forum. As with anything involving romance – especially involving unpleasant truths men need to hear – the forum gets a steady stream of trolls, troublemakers, lunatics, Men’s Rights Activists (MRA’s), GamerGaters, and all around malcontents in between genuine advice seekers and givers, and opinion sharers. The forum once had roughly 3-4 other moderators, but over time and circumstance that had dwindled to one acting moderator. For the sake of not wanting to call someone out where they can’t really respond easily, I’ll therefore call him “The Mod” (or “the Mod” or “Mod”). The Mod had been serving this role for a while but over time, instead of making up 20% of the forum’s “ruling body”, he soon became 80-100%. DNL can overrule him on things like bans or opinions but rarely if ever does.

I bring all this up because when I got on the forum, I was pleased by it’s open mindedness and stream of ideas. I never solicited advice – merely sought to offer my own opinions, takes, or experiences – yet naturally I got plenty in turn. In hindsight, that being the theme of the website made it obvious. And for a while it was interesting, being able to have more discussions about things regarding my state and related topics outside of the blog. I mean I have great commentors at this blog too, and I’m grateful for all that. But the balance of position is different. It’s my own blog – all those who reply are guests. There, I was a guest like everyone else. Unfortunately, over time I made one enemy, and that was The Mod.

Without airing his dirty laundry, like most people the Mod had to overcome a lot of adversity in his life, including a physical handicap. He also works and has worked professionally in the helping industry. He helped moderate the forums for years, and while his intentions were always good, over time I feel he developed tunnel-vision. He had seen and interacted with so many lonely men with issues with strange screennames that they all began to blur and gel. It’s human nature after a while to categorize people under that circumstance almost immediately. He determined my alias meant that I saw my virginity as an identity and it implied I didn’t want to change. I told the Mod that it was a name chosen due to the convenience of my blog, and due to my own fondness for superheroes and it being the title of a comic strip I once toyed with writing and drawing in college. The Mod never believed me, however, and from then on his views on me would steadily become more rigid. From then on, the Mod determined that I refused to accept the (unsolicited) advice given to me, despite there being no way to prove what I retain and what I ignore. Over time he would consistently inform me of what I was doing wrong and why I shouldn’t be posting whatever I posted. None of my posts were angry or insulting or had any sorts of vulgarities or so on – which I imagine frustrated him because it made me a hard nut to crack. Older male virgins were a dime a dozen there; but one who wasn’t angry at women or spoke in crude terms about them? Less so. First it was that I posted too much about myself, so I must be selfish. Then when I would offer more objective opinions or takes on situations without bringing up myself, I was an ill informed hypocrite who didn’t know what I was talking about. The Mod would insist that my posts should get shorter, and simpler, and more sparing – first in nicey terms (“Brevity is the soul of wit; women like wit”) and later in more blunt and hostile terms as if I had violated an unspoken rule. Finally, he would insist I was repetitive. I would ask what topics where my opinions would be more acceptable, and I never got an answer.

I suppose this would be fine were it uniform; if the Mod merely treated everyone like this. But he didn’t. There were a handful of long term regulars whose opinions were valued more than others – who could even be critical of him on occasion without fear of a lecture or ban. Others would be allowed to issue insults or devolve into nasty arguments which the Mod would allow to fester for random intervals. Some of the regulars were active woman-haters or frequently cursed people out during disagreements. But the biggest case of all was a poster who, for above reasons I will dub “The Pal” (or “the Pal” or “Pal”). The Pal was someone who would brag of posting while drunk or stoned, and offer crude, lewd, and occasionally rude missives which would showcase that this was no exaggeration. Jokes about women’s genitals were hardly rare, for instance. He would even brag about topics such as deliberately sleeping with “ugly girls” he didn’t like just because he could, or that he deliberately drove while under the influence more than once. He would often suggest excessive alcohol and/or marijuana as romantic stimulants. Whenever someone was offended, the Pal would brush it off as a joke due to his substance habits.

The Mod, however, never policed his behavior. The Pal could get away with posts which would issue warnings at least and bans at most from anyone else. As the Mod told it, the Pal was a longtime member of the forum. In the past he’d been a malcontent and been banned. However, he took some of the advice to heart, had more romantic success, and then returned. When he got flack from longtime posters for past ills, the Pal took it in stride. And for this, the Pal was untouchable. The most the Mod would do is intervene after some argument the Pal haphazardly provoked got too nasty with words to the effect of, “C’mon man, you’re making me look bad.” The Pal, to his credit, always knew when to apologize or placate, but it was a predictable routine. And the only reason I know all this was because one of the longer term regulars called the Mod out on this special treatment, and rather than belittle them, the Mod responded honestly. One argument or one misspoken word or misunderstood joke could get anyone banned for a week to a month, if not forever, except for the Pal. The Pal could make a crude joke about “smashing” some vaginas, go “my bad, I’m just stoned tee hee” and that was that. Ad infinitum.

One of the themes of DNL is to become a good man rather than a “nice guy.” That means standing up against toxic male behavior and being an ally of women. After one advice column, where an angry older male virgin had started a fight insisting everything was wrong and tearing into women and feminism, I jumped in. Like a lot of guys he was dismissing the opinions of women, and poo-pooing experienced dudes as “not knowing what he went through” and all that. I felt I could use my experience in this instance to rebut him, and add to the chorus against him. Demonstrate that I lived some of the philosophy of the site, and my own life in general.

The Mod chose that time to try to pick another fight about my avatar name and undermine me. Even one of the respected regulars replied, “Dude, seriously!? Do you think now is the best time to get into that?” In a rare show of grace, the Mod relented.

Things came to a head this spring when an advice column regarding an older virgin triggered me to reply. I often did when that topic came up, since I lived it. Among the things I tend to disagree with DNL on is his underestimation of how difficult older male virginity can be to overcome. He often advises, “It’s all in your head, just try, etc.” in longer words, and while I get the positive spirit of it, I usually tried to offer my own experience. The Mod took umbrage with a lot of my replies and started taking things out of context. Casually mentioning “never going to the prom” as an example of life milestones which I lacked due to inexperience which made me difficult, I sparked a whole argument about what’s mainstream. Mentioning the word “mystique” once in regards to my friends losing shyness with women from experience somehow got the Mod to determine that I was a sexist in so many words. It became obvious by now that any statement or argument I made, the Mod would interpret in the worst possible way. It got so extreme that I could have probably said it was raining cats and dogs and he’d criticize my flippant defense of cruelty to animals. The Mod then began suggesting I had to apologize for misstatements for “weeks” despite some apologizes I made after being misunderstood within posts from a 7 day period, or one week. Frustrated, I applied the same anal retentive technicality hair splitting to him that he offered to me, while suggesting he didn’t need to think like a hammer and see everyone the same, and that I felt he was a good mod. Against my better judgement, I decided to see if he could accept any criticism from me, even if I wrapped it around a blanket of kissing his ass. Also against my better judgement, after several salvos of his blunt and aggressive criticisms and judgments of me and anything I said, the Mod randomly chose to relate to me when I mentioned growing up with a chronically ill mother who I still have to tend to. His own parents struggled with illness you see. I suppose in hindsight, I should have swallowed emotion and accepted the token olive branch. Instead, I noted how the Mod suddenly was treating me with dignity only after I offered something he could relate to from his own life.

His reply was, “well, **** you then,” and later banning me for a week. Only he never calls it bans, he calls them “vacations”.

From then on posting became a stress game where I never knew when the Mod would beam in for another round. Where anything I posted would get dissected, misunderstood, and told it didn’t belong while some MRA specialist could whine about a lack of pity sex and it allowed to go on for dozens of replies, or while the Pal could make another stupor-inspired statement. Last week I made the error of criticizing that the Pal suggesting that marijuana was the answer to stress induced impotence (due to an off handed remark by DNL in the column) triggered an argument with a few people suggesting I was a harsh anti-drug zealot on par with “Reefer Madness”. I sought to reaffirm my stance (that suggesting substances, especially ones not prescribed, to deal with emotional issues, can be a slippery slope to addiction for some people), and while most of us agreed, somehow I was coming at it from the wrong angle. And then the Mod came in with tirades that featured some of these lines:

“The cherry is that you refuse to actually do anything about your own life while telling other people how to improve their lives, as if you actually know a thing about doing so, and on top of that you routinely spread BAD INFORMATION and bad advice about literally everything you talk about.”

“You’ve got a blog you can pass out bad information and play coy with people in the comments”

“I know you don’t want to improve your life, but that’s sort of the thing here, so for a host of reasons; goodbye, gawd bless, and enjoy a nice long vacation from this section.”

The Mod gets paid to counsel people for a living.

And so went the permanent ban. Most posters who don’t curse people out, deliberately insult them, or advocate for rape rooms (seriously, sick guys come up) maybe get a second finite ban, maybe a month, before a third strike. I just got two. Even the Pal replied, “Aww dude that’s cold.” I’ve since joined a spin off forum formed by fans of the column which isn’t officially sanctioned by DNL but has many of the same people. The Mod is not a mod there, which is good. I get along with everyone else. However, the pace is slower as it’s not a site linked out much nor driven by the latest advice column or article. I was contacted by another poster who confirmed that from her angle my treatment was a little strange and that some of the issues regarding the Mod and his abrasive style and bizarre hypocrisy were not just me being petty or biased.

So, yeah, an entire diatribe about how someone was mean to me online. I said this would probably be one of the most immature things I posted here. Experiences such as this were not uncommon in the past, I guess I figured since I was older and the people there were too, that I could commiserate with people there about my feelings regarding relationships without being recruited for the latest he-man woman hater’s march. Unfortunately, online forums are always privy to personal politics and interpersonal hypocrisy. I know the Mod probably didn’t hate me insomuch as he hated “yet another ignorant older virgin man,” and that it wasn’t personal so much as having a hammer and seeing himself surrounded by nails. But it was still a little frustrating, and only highlights why I usually chose to be a lone wolf when it comes to being open and honest with how I feel about this sort of stuff. Much the same way as I became yet another symbol of angry virgin men to the Mod, he may have become another avatar of the sorts of holier-than-thou men I have dealt with who talk a big game about authority and righteousness yet prove to be just as petty and hypocritical as anyone else.

The zen is still here. I don’t feel lower about myself for being single or a virgin over this. I have to admit, I did have an immature, emotional reaction of wanting to dive into OkCupid, successfully date and even get into a relationship or two just to be able to return with a new name and tell the Mod to stuff himself. I’m a man, which means sometimes my emotional reactions are the same as a seven year old’s regardless of age. Disbelieve me? Just look at Congress.

On the plus side, I am headed into a second interview for a better job next week. I am very anxious about it and any number of things could still go wrong. I just felt my latest unsuccessful foray into seeking a sense of togetherness regarding my relationship status. And sometimes I wonder why I have ennui. I know this was a weird one, but thanks for reading. Hopefully future installments won’t be as political.