Saturday, March 28, 2009

"It will be fun."

I have some attached friends who do happen to fit into the matchmaking stereotype. They're not overly anxious to package their single friends off to someone else, but occasionally they do look at me with thoughtful pursed lips thinking how fun double-dating would be if they could find a fourth. Thankfully, I've managed to stay away from having friends recommend too many prospective dates. It's bound to be odd, setting up friends with other friends; they've just set themselves up as the middle-men (or women).

My friend (let's call her Alex) is one such attached person. And she's made a ... perhaps "project" is too strong a word. She sent me a link earlier this week from the "woman" section of Yahoo. No, I didn't realize there was one, either. Apparently it's called "Shine", and if it's not specifically indicated to be for women, there are an awful lot of pink fonts and pictures of shoes.

Alex sent me this link, on Four Things Guys Notice About Women, and wanted to know what I thought. I'm not sure if there's a trick here I'm missing; I almost expect to start receiving relationship spam, as though answering obligates me to hearing about the local single bars. That basically happens anyway when I read "The Pitch". ["The Pitch" is the free local counter-culture paper in Kansas City, from Village Voice publishing; very similar to another VV publication in St. Louis, "The Riverfront Times".]

I assume that whomever writes these articles is being paid, which seems like an awesome job. Put together a small pile of anecdotal information, place it under a snappy headline emphasizing a number and both sexes ("Seven Things Women Don't Know About Men's Feelings"), and get paid.

Really, I'm just bitter that no one's paying me to write things like that. I do it for the sheer narcissism. On a completely unrelated note, let talk about me!

I have a sneaking suspicion Alex sent me this because she thinks I don't ACTUALLY think anything about the women I have dinner with, and she's trying to prompt me. "Other guys think about these things; you should, too!" In truth, I (like many people) can't stop thinking about all manner of things related to the date.

Ordinarily, I don't talk much (if at all) about my personal dating on this blog: you'll find no "Andy's Dates" tag in the right-hand column. That's partially a defense mechanism, since it wouldn't be fair to anybody to immediately post my GOOD/BAD list for each person the morning after, though if I were so catty, it would probably generate more traffic. It's also a matter of semantics: people don't really go on DATES in the beginning of a relationship. Well, they still do, but they don't call them "dates", because that sets up certain expectations. Tellingly, the people that talk about "going on dates" most often are already married; the date is just trying to make time for each other over food that isn't leftovers.

Let's go through the article author's list of what guys notice:

- What you order for dinner. I notice this. Sometimes it's because a date is going so poorly that by the time we've gotten around to ordering dinner, I'm desperate for something to do. Much more often, it's because whatever the woman orders sounds pretty good too, and do I possibly want that instead of what I got? Good thing she ordered first; I have time to change mine. Who cares if I'm a copy-cat?

- The First Date Outfit. This only gets notice from me if it's ... unconventional. Is she wearing a Bjork-swan? No coat, even though it's freezing? Does whatever she's wearing take more than two seconds to settle into place? These are all conspicuous. Other than that, I'm only occasionally struck by fashion impulses. I occasionally think, out of the blue, that the color someone is wearing is very flattering, but I couldn't say whether that's a measure of my own lack of fashion or other people's poor choices.

- How one smells. Good smells are very pleasing. Neutral smells are also pleasing. Bad smells are INCREDIBLY memorable and NOT AT ALL pleasing. This is stating the obvious, I'm sure. Seldom have I run into women who don't smell, at the very least, inconspicuous. For me personally: I have no idea what is or is not an expensive fragrance. Please don't spend a lot. Also, avoid scents that remind too much of food. A hint of vanilla is sexy. "You smell good enough to eat" is not. I went to the movies with someone who had a lemon fragrance so strong, I was torn between wanting to clean my kitchen or order a meringue pie.

- General politeness. Super huge. My perception of this is constantly "on", no matter what the situation or genders I'm near. People who don't engage in common politeness get a sort-of shocked scrutiny from me, because it is so foreign.

To their list, let me add a few others that I notice which may or may not be particular to me.

- Eye contact. I'm paying attention to this one lately because I'm trying to correct a behavior of my own. I noticed that I seldom made eye contact when I was talking to someone, which is a behavior I'd like to modify. I found that when people made eye contact while I was listening, I felt better connected with what they were saying. As always, moderation prevails: talking to someone whose head sympathetically bobs as my head slightly turns is a little creepy.

- Facial and oral piercings. I have a strange fascination with these piercings, which I don't feel is either negative or positive. I find them almost completely distracting in conversation, which is bad. But, I find them (and their stories) interesting, which is good. We don't have a cultural history of facial piercings, so I'm mostly curious what motivates people to get them. Surprisingly, I've encountered some people who are reluctant to talk about their piercings and the motivations, which surprises me. I'm so attuned to piercings that I was once able to diagnose someone's photograph as being backwards based on the position of a piercing. They hadn't noticed the flip.

- Ablative proxies. That's a gussied-up term for what I call "armor" in my conversational shorthand. I use the term to denote any method of protecting personal thoughts by the interposition of a shield. The shield can be physical, such as tattoos, piercings, or especially clothes or body postures. It is more common to be behavioral, such as an inflated attitude of frustration to mask other feelings, or disparaging an object one is worried about being ridiculed for liking. "Ablation" is the process of vaporization or abrasion of a material, such as a glacier, and a "proxy" is something that stands in place for something else. Ablative proxies function as lighting rods, because they attract the attention and critical observation away from something more fragile or less-desirous of being damaged.

- Smiling. In my opinion, this is like shouting "Heil Hitler!" at your wedding: it can instantly change the way someone feels about you. Questionable analogy aside, nothing improves a woman as fast as smiling. Again, moderation! Having been to dinner with the immoderatly dour, however, I can tell you it's like picking the way across a bog: every step is an effort because the ground pulls you down.

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