The Last Piece Of Dating Advice You’ll Ever Read
It is rare to find a subject of equal importance to sex columnists, psychologists, Taylor Swift and college students. Dating, like dieting or parenting, has become one of those subjects we splatter words and dollars at in the hope of finding one, magical piece of advice that will change everything.
I sat down to write dating advice. Somewhere between ‘sex’ and ‘Taylor Swift’ I stopped myself. I imagined my best friend, middle school mentee or younger cousin reading it and realized I wouldn’t want them to because I’ve done that and it’s never helped me get a date with someone I like. What I would tell them, and what I’m about to tell you, is that it’s all bullshit.
Aside from being sexist, ridiculous or misguided, whatever anyone else has to say about your dating life, no matter how qualified they may be, isn’t going to bring you any closer to finding someone that makes you happy.
A little background. I’ve read a LOT of dating advice. When I was a freshman in college I had my heart broken and vowed never to let someone or something hurt me like that again— an idea I now recognize as not only limiting but impossible.
To get over the break up I decided I would become a dating Yoda.
No one would ever be able to outdo me again if I was armed with knowledge. I watched YouTube videos, listened to books on tape and read articles about dating. I spent that semester doing an independent study on how to become a woman that no man would ever turn down or break up with or forget to text back. My syllabus was dotted with tears and trips to the ice-cream vending machine in my dorm’s basement but I did learn. I learned how to play hard to get and how to keep a man interested. I learned about the biology of attraction. I learned what makes relationships work. Or so I thought I did.
One book I returned to religiously during my studies was E! Anchor Giuliana Rancic’s “Think Like a Guy: How to Get a Guy by Thinking Like One.” In the years I owned my copy (which I donated to Goodwill a few months ago) friends would pull it off my shelf and laugh at the advice.
Don’t… giggle during sex, admit you were a bad student, kiss on the first date, be a slut in bed, wear a costume that requires a mustache, obsess over babies and puppies, let yourself go, fight in public, cry around him, admit you’ve slept with more than 5 guys, or own a dog that fits in your purse.
Do… learn to accept football, be a good cook or a great faker, wax, know how to make the perfect drink, let him go to Vegas, love good music, and talk like a lady not a trucker.
The first time I read it, despite recognizing how sexist her advice was, I’d thought I’d found my bible. For years I tried to follow her rules. When a man upset me I’d pull the thin purple book off the shelf and thumb through its pages until I felt like I knew what to do better next time. It worked, to some degree. I would preach to desperate friends about the merits of playing hard to get. I even once sent a dear friend a 2000 word email titled “Scout’s personalized dating advice.”
It reads like I had a Cosmo shaped tumor in my frontal lobe.
- Let him see you enjoying your singledom
- Flirt with him, but only a little
- Flirt with other guys a in front of him to make him jealous
- Wow him with your self-confidence
- Don’t be clingy
- Don’t be too available
- Always leave him wanting more
- Take it slow—don’t mention kids on the second date!
- Avoid being or appearing needy
- Be vague in conversations, make him work for information about your life
So here’s what happened after said friend read this advice and we discussed it over margaritas. She listened to carefully before responding, “but Scout, that’s not me. I can’t do that.” I was frustrated. I was trying to help her after a series of failed dates and flings. A year or so later she met a guy in a chatroom. It wasn’t a dating chatroom, in fact it was a chatroom for people who work in environmental protection. He remembered a project she’d worked on and complimented her on it. They began emailing, then talking on the phone, then Skyping, so on and so forth. Today, almost a year later, he is one of her best friends and a person that, despite their unconventional relationship, she loves more than anyone she would have met my way.
And that’s the problem with dating advice; it tells you to be someone else.
If one were to follow every piece of dating advice that crossed their path they wouldn’t have a moment left to genuinely connect. They’d be too busy lying about what a good student they were, pretending to listen, making sure not to swear, flirting with the waiter (just a little bit) or pretending to like football.
You are never going to meet the person who is right for you if you’re pretending. And this is the hardest part, because often we let all of the advice being thrown at us convince us that what we now isn’t good enough for someone to love or be attracted to. Enter late night Google searches for “how to wow a man.” Believe me, I’ve been there.
You may not believe it but there is someone for everyone. Trust me. I briefly attended a school for kids with learning disabilities (I’m horribly ADHD) and saw some of the sweetest, most loving relationships between people that you would never in a million years imagine dating anyone.
Employing my self-taught skills I’ve gone on dates with wealthy and handsome trust fund babies, a member of a relatively popular band, a pilot, a professor (no, I was not his student), a professional opera singer, entrepreneurs with impressive start ups, much older men, etc. In general the types that one may brag about landing a date with. And you know what? I didn’t enjoy any of them.
Screw the advice. Screw changing yourself and how you feel to fit the mold of what you think a partner wants because you know what?
You won’t be able to hide who you are forever.
Werewolves wouldn’t exist in popular culture if humans were able to bury parts of themselves forever.
If you are someone who likes to be in constant contact with the person you’re dating they should know that. If you are obsessed with puppies or babies they should see that. And despite what the magazines, books or scientists say, isn’t it always people who break the rules that get the best results?
Rancic and her hard earned, hard bodied husband have been making headlines recently for fissures in their marital bliss. Meanwhile, a lovely couple I know met because she walked up to him at a bar and said, “have we slept together before? We should.” They went home together that night. Two years later they live together in a beautiful Upper West Side apartment. A 30 year-old friend met her husband at a club. She danced with him all night because she thought he was gay. They now have a darling son. The most anti-online dating friend I have met her current boyfriend after my insistence that she try Tinder, just as a joke. And I, someone who fancies themself romantically strategic, met someone over the summer in Brazil in a way I had absolutely no hand in and proceeded to break every rule I’d so carefully studied. But I’m happy. And so are all of my friends who met someone without pretending, manipulating or compromising themselves and what they want.
You don’t need to change.
Stop thumbing through magazine dating tips in line at the grocery store or Googling “how to make him like you.” When you meet that person you won’t have to think about it. It will feel easy. Sure maybe you’ll put on a bit of a front at first. It’s natural to want to impress someone we’re falling for but eventually you’ll find that you don’t need to pretend anymore. And if they don’t love you more for it then they’re not someone you want as your partner, your teammate.
I was going to leave you with a Taylor Swift quote, but couldn’t do that either. So as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.
By: Scout MacEachron
Scout MacEachron is an assistant producer at NBC News. She fancies herself a writer, photographer and videographer. Scout graduated from Barnard College in 2014. She lives in New York City and is obsessed with crossword puzzles.
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