Over the last 56 thrillion dating profiles I’ve looked at and the eleventy million bad first dates I’m endured, I’ve honed a fairly simple but robust approach to meeting someone new. Of the dating persuasion.
Not for me the simple ‘smiley face’ followed by the inevitable text ‘whatcha doing?’ from ‘Rob 1969’. No, I’m not twelve and neither are you Rob. I require, against Elvis’s wishes no less, ‘a little more conversation and a little more action please’. After all, if I’m going to be kicking off my pants and jumping into the sack, I’d at least like to know what your voice sounds like. Nope.. these days I follow my own rules; 2 emails, 1 phone chat, 1 drink. THEN, only then, do we get to go on a date.
Sounds rigid? Youbetcha.
- Have you ever been on a date with a man who bored himself to sleep? Literally a doze at the bar?
- Have you ever been on a date with a felon who lived with his dad?
- Has one of your dates explained that he only has 8pm-10pm slots available in his life? (M-F)
- Did one of your dates spend the entire first meet up reviewing his resume and work history?
- Have you showed up on a date to find out that he attended Woodstock (the original) – as a vendor?
- Did your date tell you all about how he watches S&M porn with his dad and they have the same taste?
Hence, these days, an essential part of my finely honed dating etiquette is the ‘pre meet up’ phone chat. Just like a job interview, this is the ‘screener call’ aimed at ferreting out the weirdos, those lacking in any social etiquette or conversational skills, or the complete odd balls who really shouldn’t be applying for the job at all. Its the simplest way to see if I want to learn more about you.. and vice versa.
Its so easy. Chit chat about nothing for 10 minutes, slip in some questions and watch for those low fences – employment (aka – do you have a job), living situation (are you still living with your ex? your parents? on a sofa?), general temperament (do you want to talk about the meaning of life in the first five minutes? do you find yourself hysterical?). Fall at these easy hurdles and I’ll mumble a potential future date, but I’ll never call you to schedule it.
Of course if they pass the screener chat, its no guarantee that our date will be great, but at least I’ve not spent the evening slapping on foundation, eyeliner and lipgloss only to be met by a monosyllabic moron who watches the tv screen at the bar instead of trying to learn anything about me at all. And hey, at 40ish, if I’m skipping a yoga class or a Masters of Sex episode, I want to make sure I’m going out to meet someone I’m interested in learning more about.
If we’ve chatted on the phone and you thought it went great… here are some of the reasons I won’t be calling you back after all.
1. You tell me you hate your job.
I don’t care. I’m not your mother, your self actualization coach or your wife. I am a stranger, just like someone you met at Target, and therefore bear no responsibility for your work woes. If its one of the first things you choose to share with me ever.. its not really a winner. I’d probably be more interested in your ability to guesstimate my bra size. Even if you do hate your job, that’s fine – I just don’t need to know at this moment in time. Maybe in 3-6 months time.. say when we’ve farted in front of each other. Then you can complain about your job. Until then, lets focus on whether we’ve got anything in common other than breathing.
2. You mention your ex more than once in the conversation.
I don’t know you. I don’t know your ex. And by virtue of her being your ex, I probably don’t need to know her – and certainly today and this call is not the time to introduce her. We’re meant to be interested in learning about each other.. not your past… not yet. And unless your ex is still in your life, (necessitated by kids, you serving time for her murder etc), then you don’t need to mention her more than once. Twice and I assume you’re still hung up on her; three times and I’ll just assume she’s holding a gun to your head. Not convinced? How often do you talk about your ex to a stranger you’re standing next to in Target? Exactly. To you, that’s all I am right now.
3. You couldn’t charm your way out of a paper bag
Part of the screener call is to see if there is any rapport between us. We’re not looking for break dancing and American Idol auditions, but we do need to know that holding a conversation with you isn’t going to make our eyeballs bleed and our ears wilt. Since we’re not talking about much – online profile data, the weather, the weekend, any odd similarities or coincidences, you should be on stable ground. Maybe make light of something (doesn’t even have to be joke), ask a question and sound interested at my response. Its not hard… charming can be as simple as listening and responding. Charming is not – suave, smooth, oily or creepy. It does not involve you telling me that you made my bikini picture your screen saver or that you’ve Googled me and downloaded my thesis on deindustrialization. No I did not hurt myself when I fell from heaven, and yes, they are real. And no, you’ll never get to see them. And no, talking about sex on the phone the first time we chat is a no no. Would you do that to some in line at Target? ‘Security!’
4. Why so serious?
We’re strangers on the phone. Attempt to make a lighthearted conversation happen, or at least something vaguely interesting. It doesn’t need to be funny, or even light.. but you can’t bring up the death of your mother, your fallen army buddies in Iraq or the state of abortion rights in Texas. Sure I’ll discuss this with you until the cows come home at some point in the future, but its NOT ‘chatty’ ‘get to know you’ conversation. I don’t need to know that you’re trying to figure out the second half of your life (yet), that your crippling social anxiety makes it hard to leave the house most days (yet), and that you’ve not had a date since 2006 (ever). I’m not a free therapist and if I need a drink after talking to you for 20 minutes, the likelihood is that you need a therapist. Not a date.
5. Its takes two
A conversation is an exchange of ideas, sounds, vowels.. but most importantly, voices. There should be two people talking on the phone during a ‘screener’ chat. If there’s only one – either of you – its not a good sign. I once sat on a call with a guy for 35 minutes while he discussed his life. I ended the call and realized he’d not asked me a single question about myself. He probably felt great – he’d offloaded a bunch of stuff while someone listened and asked questions. Free therapy.
Apparently my profile – all 350 words of it – gave him everything he needed to know about me so questions weren’t necessary from him. I’m apparently better at writing than I thought.
If its only your voice you hear, you might as well hang up unless you’re an egotistical maniac. If s/he can’t interject, respond to a question with more than a single word, you’re not a match. His match is a stoned socially anxious hermit, or a woman who likes the sound of her voice, and hers alone. Since you’re already single, you already have silence in your life. You don’t need silence accompanied by farting. You have a dog for that. The only way this guy moves to an actual date is if your FWB has tapped out. This guy is a perfect FWB – quiet.
6. Liar Liar
Everyone lies on their profile right? (I’ll never be 5 ft 3 without shoes on.) But when its apparent that his profile was about as realistic as Lady Gaga’s hair, its going to be tough to get to an actual date. Once women find a loose stitch in the sweater, we can’t help but pick at it until we’ve unraveled a whole new reality omitted from your ‘About Me’ story. When I ask you about your medical specialty and you told me ‘General?’ with a question mark. When I asked where you received your culinary education (note – ‘around’ isn’t an institution) or even when I calculated your actual age based on the length of your marriage, women can spot a fibber at 15 feet. And if we can spot it over the phone, we’re not likely to bother with the actual date. You’re probably still married.
7. Not feelin’ it
The dreaded non specific ‘chemistry’. Yes, it exists over the phone. Its what makes you talk for an hour by accident or hang up, excited to learn more. And sure, I probably have missed some great guys due to bad phone chemistry but I’ve also saved myself some terrible bad first dates. We might chit chat and its all very pleasant for 15 minutes, but if nothing has grabbed me, (or you) and we’re running out of things to say… it doesn’t bode well for an actual date. Its at that point that one or both of us would start knocking back the tequila to make it more interesting. So no… lovely person I just spoke with. You did nothing wrong, you were offensive in no way and you asked me about myself. But like most people in the queue at Target, some people you don’t need to talk to for more than 5 minutes in a lifetime. And apparently, we just did that. Good luck. Next.
8. The phantom caller
We agreed to chat but then you text at 10pm. I return your call and you don’t pick up, instead I get an email. You’re desperate to arrange a date via text and email, but you won’t pick up the phone when I call and actually speak to me. I’m all about the social media and email, but in dating, at some point you have to physically meet the other person and exchange words. A text or an email can get you to that point.. but its no substitution for a live conversation. So no, even if you’ve left 3 messages at weird times, and texted me repeatedly, we’re not going out until you and I have spoken live. We’re not 15, we’re grown ups and if you can’t ask a woman out by the time you’re 40, you’ve got bigger problems than me not calling you back. Grow a pair buddy.
So yes I’m rigid, cold and not a little cynical about this dating stuff, but then if you’d been stiffed for the bill by strangers, stood up by nervous nellys and ignored in favor of the bar maid, you’d be right there with me too. So if she’s not calling you back… consider if its any of these reasons. And if not, maybe she just didn’t like the tone of your voice. Sorry. What can I say. We are, after all, women. And we do control all the vagina.