i have no illusions, i lost them in my travels


Follow-up to Friday’s blog

The funny thing about life is how much you get away with when you no longer have a dog in the fight. The ONLY reason I’m able to spew forth on these topics of gender-related oafishness is because I’m a member of the subset of perpetrators, and I haven’t had to deal with the goddamn dating pool for about seven years. Which, in several ways, would seem to make my advice useless, but to paraphrase Wordsworth, I do get the benefit of “emotion recollected in tranquility.”

Many folks have written to me about their own situations, and I would beg of them to write in the comments section, where their stories can find the right oxygen for conflagration. Besides, I can’t claim I’m particularly right about any of this. I’m speaking of a certain kind of guy milling about the womensphere of various college towns and hip cities, and I’m more than happy to hear about the wondrous exceptions you have met (and occasionally married!)

I also realize that commitment-phobia and emotional retardation is an equal-opportunity employer, but I think it afflicts women in vastly lower numbers than men. Two factors ensure this: the plummeting fertility rates over the age of 41; and the disgusting way aging women are undervalued in a society that grotesquely fetishizes its young.

Besides, guys possess a unique ability to morph the boundaries of their morality to the terrain of any given situation – give them an inch, and they will take the inch. If you give them 27 women to date, they will not stop at 26. They are patently unable to dictate the end of the lengths to which they will go; when someone says “at long last, do you have no shame?” they will be confused by the wording of the question.

I don’t say this as some self-loathing weirdo, nor do I think guys are inherently malevolent. In fact, most of them are downright well-intentioned, and as I said, have convinced themselves they are still looking for true love. But they come to the game so poorly-equipped for any real communication – between themselves and women, at least – that they surrender to the cheap joke, the guffaw between two guys at the urinal, the “boys will be boys” loopholes, and the fact that “lothario” sounds so much more fun than “slut”.

For their part, women routinely mistake their charisma for depth, their bursts of honesty for true commiseration, “childlike” for “childish”. They might date a complete zork believing that the zork will never leave them, not realizing the zork pines for the fjords of every other woman on earth.

The good news is most guys can be rehabilitated, but it does involve the trickery and steadfastness mentioned in Friday’s blog. It requires the full-scale abandonment of two tenets they hold dear: that they will live forever, and that there is always someone hotter/smarter/cooler than the person they’re dating now. Once they let go of this double-headed chimera of bullshit, you might consider taking them seriously.

0 thoughts on “i have no illusions, i lost them in my travels

  1. LFMD

    Hi Ian. I have a lot of work to do today, but I need to throw my two cents into today’s post. I am 39 years old, and I honestly do not know any men like those you have described. Never have. All the guys I know eventually married in their 20s or 30s. Perhaps my friends and I are lucky? Maybe yes, maybe no.
    Your post hints that the dating pool is a nightmare, but what happens to us all after we have found the mate and married? Maybe that is the topic for a whole other post, but my personal opinion is that dating is the EASY part. Marriage is harder than hell. I love my husband and we have been married for 13 years. But, I admit that there have been many moments when I have hated him. Not liked him. Wished he would disappear. And, I know that he has felt the same way about me. I have resented all the problems that I married into (inlaws), and I think that living with the same person, day in and day out, is much more difficult than dealing with the dating scene.
    On many levels, the reality of marriage is very frightening, especially once children are born.
    Dating was easy for me. Looking back at my wedding day, I feel as though I was a naive lamb led to the slaughter.

  2. LFMD

    Eek. I just had some coffee and read my comment. Not very Hallmark-esque, eh? Anyway, you know what I mean. Marriage is like dating for the long haul. . . which makes it harder.
    I hope my husband does not read this. Love you, honey!

  3. Anne

    I agree with everything LFMD said in her first post above. You don’t need to equivocate, L! Marriage is terribly hard work and requires commitment, patience, forbearance, and sacrifice — not things we modern folks are necessarily well schooled in. Dating is the fun, sexy part; you’re correct.
    Maybe it’s a slacker thing and I’m totally out of touch (entirely possible!), but I just haven’t met those cads Ian is writing about. I’m sure they exist. But I’ve lived in a college town most of my adult life, and while I’ve known a few Peter Pans, most of the really (IMO) desirable, interesting men are appropriately mature and open to commitment.
    Interesting thread. Don’t stop holding guys’ feet to the fire, Ian, just because some of us don’t see what you see. ;-)

  4. LFMD

    Thanks, Anne. I was afraid that I had gone off the deep end (again).
    Yeah, I never met the dating Peter Pans, but I know a lot of married Peter Pans. So many of my friends who have been married 10+ years seem to be in a state of marriage-regret or mid-life crisis or whatever. Many of the women I know who were so eager to get married and could talk about nothing else but their boyfriends are now bored, unhappy, and contemplating divorce. Two friends have met similarly unhappy men online and gotten involved in cyber-emotional affairs. Other men I know have gotten divorced and now cannot commit to their current live-in loves. Makes me wonder “where did the love go?”
    My parents have been married (to each other!) for 40+ years. I have no idea how they have stayed together and in love all this time!

  5. Megan

    LFMD: Thanks for your candor. I could have written the second paragraph of your post.
    However, I’ll still take it over the dating scene. I found Ian’s Friday entry spot on.

  6. kaz

    i wish i had commented yesterday, but i’ve been helping my best friend pack and prepare for a move in the midst of her divorce. i’m not quite wearing the rose colored glasses these days, and i’ve had my time wasted by enough of the men about whom ian is writing, that i’m self-publishing a book that came out of a near-miss relationship that became my own personal “come to jesus”…
    check out http://www.theartofwooing.com
    the site just went up and the book will be available in early january. the book isn’t a how-to or an anti-male tirade, it’s about the communication break-down that has happened in the wake of women’s lib and the sexual harrassment backlash. as a social psych major, and the daughter of two rocket scientists, i have always been prone to theorizing. and, as i entered the dating pool myself and survived too many messes, i started to come up with some patterns.
    unfortunately, i don’t have the time this morning to go into it, but, briefly, i think we have lost a consistency across the sexes. in the 1950s, if you were a housewife who went out after dinner in fishnets and red lipstick, you knew which message you were sending and you knew it was the same message men would recieve. if he gave you his varsity pin, it was pretty clear. well, those days are long gone. when is a coffee just a coffee and not a come on? this is the oversimplified theory, and there’s more to it, but i think this topic is not just another one of ian’s rants….
    those of you who have found a mate and settled down, good luck as you survive your marriage. but there is truth in what’s been posted here. it’s a pathetic and frustrating nightmare for the rest of us. sigh.

  7. Hodi

    My hip little southern town is a Mecca for society cougars and MILFs from S. Carolina, Atlanta, etc. had dinner with two of them last night, the mothers are hotter and far more interesting than the daughters. The younger men they date get to sleep around once in awhile, but go well out of their way to protect their benefactors. The younger women they sleep with are desperately looking for mates but they are usually sullen, underemployed service workers who want to talk about the Man and the next underground band. It is kind of a zombie contingent of really uninspiring twentysomething women.
    There is a lot of socializing here, but none of the “going-out-shirt” wearing and hipper than hip club scene in NY, LA, Atlanta or possibly Charlotte. It is a small town and you Will see someone again. This doesn’t mean there is a lack of intrigue, but daters tend to mind their manners and many of the married couples are by far the biggest socialites and partiers. There simply is not a large enough contingent of people to establish the kind of trends or behavior that you’re talking about, but there are plenty of singles, it’s just a different scene.

  8. AJ

    I can’t believe there are women on the planet who haven’t experienced at least one of these ambiguous, non-committal, self-important, multitasking, can’t-be-bothered jerks. They’re either REALLY lucky or living in a bubble. (I’m gonna go with A. Thank your lucky stars girls!)
    I had my first encounters with them in high school nad for many years had done my best to avoid the type. But recently, in the past few years it seemed as if that was all that was out there. They had changed their facade enough to fool even the most discerning of us. They even seem sincere and sweet now… but they aren’t. And I’m hoping that the trend will end, but I have no illusions either.

  9. Neva

    I’m having difficulty with these posts because I don’t really think we can throw people into categories. Some men have trouble with commitment and are jerks to women. Some women are pretty bad themselves. I know I treated some people badly in relationships back in my day before I “grew up” so I’m not sure this is just a male thing.
    Some people are just unsure of themselves and what they want and maybe never figure it out. Others are lucky enough to find the right person either earlier or later and it’s the right time for them. I think you may be oversimplifying people a bit.

  10. CM

    LFMD, and anyone else out there who hasn’t experienced these cads…consider that you met your husband in college. If you did, you are never going to relate to what it’s like to be dating post-college.
    There are three more specific things that should be said to guys:
    1. Stop considering any woman who is 5 pounds overweight “Fat,” and even if you see a woman who is fat, stop being obsessed with how “fat” women are in general. And if you are, stop saying they’re “fat” with the same tone you’d use when saying someone’s a crook or a dick.
    It is sometimes hard to control weight, and just because it’s easy for your guy friends and for certain girls you know to stay thin, doesn’t mean it’s the same for everyone. And really, consider that when you’re chiding some girl for eating only a salad for dinner, or refusing your offer of desert or alcohol, she is probably trying to stay skinny because of guys like you.
    2. Don’t assume that just because a woman is more emotional than you or treats situations differently than you do, it means she’s “crazy.” Women and men just sometimes see and handle relationships in different ways. Yes, there ARE crazy and high-maintenance women out there (plenty of them in the NYC area), but don’t lump a woman into that category if she cries because you didn’t call, or is upset that you forgot her b-day, etc.
    3. Stop comparing a woman you’re dating to one you have a crush on but never actually dated. You can pursue a woman based on looks alone, and find out that she treats you like crap in a relationship. I’m not saying you should settle; I’m saying, don’t compare every woman who likes you to the ones you can’t get. It ain’t fair and it ain’t doing you any favors.

  11. Susan

    My experience is the opposite of LFMD! I thought dating in college was awful (in retrospect). Had a boyfriend for a couple of years in college I was crazy about….turned out bad in the end. Wish it wouldn’t have but I blame both of us…immaturity, high expectations (on my part), etc….Long story short…moved after college to another college town (that charming one in VA…Charlottseville) and met my husband almost immediately because I wasn’t looking. All the things that were so hard about dating just never applied to him. I never had to worry if I was wearing something “cool” enough, saying the right things, etc… He thought I was awesome the way I was. 13 years later it is still the same…and that is after 2 kids. Kids do change things but we had ours later in marriage (age 4 and 2 weeks old) so maybe that history we had before kids helped. That is a topic for another day…

  12. LFMD

    You know, I should really have given some full disclosure earlier. I have dated 2 people in my life. First was College Boyfriend, whom I dated for 3 years. Second was Law School Boyfriend, who is my husband. Only kissed two people. Only had sex with two people. Never really had a chance to meet The Jerk About Whom Ian Speaks. I understand it is out there, and it is REAL. Ick. Yuck. Bleh.
    Kaz — I checked out your site, and you are far too intelligent and talented (and cute) to be subjected to this bullshit. I am sorry. If I knew any great available men in your part of the world, I would arrange an introduction!

  13. kaz

    LFMD, thanks for checking out the site! and, as tedious and wasteful as all the drama is, i ended up with some great growth and a book to boot! i wish SOMEONE out here knew great available men, but it doesn’t seem to be…alas.

  14. swf

    As much as I am opposed to categorizations, it does seem to me, from personal experience, that there are a greater number of men afflicted with the peter pan syndrome or classic sociopathic behaviour.
    I cringe to even suggest this gender stereotype. Why? Because these are my friends and my brothers, my colleagues and relatives. I am lucky to know lots of wonderful guys – but they are either not single or are just (as much as my mother doesn’t believe it) my platonic friends.
    And I think I’m cursed with the burden of having an amazing set of brothers and often wonder if the bar has been raised unrealistically high. I don’t think my brothers were ever cads. But they also had the advantage of having great sisters who kept any caddish behaviour in check! And now they all have amazing wives, who have made them even more amazing men, which, maybe has been part of my problem, perhaps creating a distorted view of what guys are really like. Do you know what I mean? I wonder if women who grew up with more than one brother have a harder time finding a mate?
    At the end of the day, I just want to meet someone who I don’t think, about a month into the relationship, is suffering from a head injury.

  15. connor beach

    Kaz, I’m a day late telling you but that book looks beautiful. I won’t be surprised if you woo your soulmate instantly when he stumbles on it. You really made something good out of something bad.
    I definitely dated some of the losers Ian describes, up until I started going to the church where I met my husband. There I met a super bunch of single people who weren’t just out to play the field. The church where we go feels like a cool music venue when you step inside, has 15,000 attenders at three campuses, and 70 percent are single—and mostly all committed to respectful dating. I realize most people reading this are liberal and not particularly religious, and probably wonder where the heck all these conservative Christians come from. Well, based on my experience, a lot of the Christian guys I met were former cads as Ian described who had gotten fed up w/ themselves and decided there had to be a deeper way to live, a better way to meet a woman, a better way to find out if she is worthy of being one’s wife. Many in our circle of friends (we met in our 30s and 40s) are now married and seem to be thriving. PTL as we people say.


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