The best thing written about modern dating is by The Last Psychiatrist, and it’s so good he felt compelled to delete it, Don’t Settle For The Man You Want. It’s about narcissistic monster Lori Gottlieb, a woman who can’t see herself for who and what she is but is compelled to ladle advice out to everyone else. She thinks TV shows like Will & Grace and movies like Titanic are somehow real… “Nothing characterizes the dumbest generation of narcissists in the history of the world better than using throw away cinema as a template for life.” Lori can’t find a man for many reasons, one being that “She wants someone who will see her the way she wants to be seen and fulfill various other roles she has planned for him, leaving herself free to ‘grow.'” People are people, not roles, and not props in another person’s drama, however much social media tries to convince us otherwise (the best women I’ve met and dated in the last decade use social media minimally, if at all: not a coincidence). Lori is an expert in the negative, not in the positive,
A reasonable question might be, what kind of a man is this woman looking for? I defy you to answer this question. She’s two books and at least three essays into the topic, and still I have no idea. What I do know, however, is what she’s not looking for. That’s where her laser focus is pointed.
She is all “want” and no “give.” Real relationships mean give and take. Too much of either makes them impossible or dysfunctional. But, lots of people (especially women) have been trained to think like Lori: the man is an accessory to their life, not a person with whom she’ll build a new thing. Religion used to try to fight against narcissism, but it’s dead, and now it’s all about you. Advertising tells us so. And we have good psychological defense mechanisms that prevent us from realizing that we only want to take and never want to give. “Gottlieb figures that because she’s attractive and intelligent, the problem must be her standards are too high or men are threatened by her. Wrong. The problem is she is daring someone to like her.” Well that is one problem, and not the only one. But the key word “standards.” Listen to single women and you’ll hear endless talk of “standards.” Listen to married women and they’ll talk about how much they love their kids. Coincidence?
Listen to women’s dating podcasts (I don’t recommend it, but xbtusd listens to them, masochistically) and the idea of “standards” recurs over and over again. It’s right up there with “Living your truth” and letting emotions rule, and ruin, your life.
Advice to men on dating is all about conquering emotions and being effective. Modern advice to women on dating is all about letting emotions get in the way of success (that is, having a family instead of becoming a spinster). The language of “standards” is a little too narcissistic, and a little too opposed to compromise, and to the give and take that is necessary to do actual relationships (as opposed to watching Hollywood versions of relationships). It’s a little too much of “serve me” and not enough of “we’re going to build something together.” The word “settling” is similarly odious. Everyone “settles” in some sense, seen over a sufficient time horizon. To not “settle” is to commit to a lifetime of loneliness.
What’s the result of not trying to build a relationship with another person over a long period of time? Being single or mostly single might be super fun ages 18 – 35, particularly in big cities like NYC, but a lot of women are going to learn it’s less fun at 40+. The Sex and the City template is dangerous and seductive because prior to it, no one had really depicted women doing what those women do. Which can be fun! For a time. But where does it lead? A lot of women are shocked by the dropoff in the quality and quantity of male attention at the far side of 35 (many beyond 30), and particularly at the far side of 40. People routinely live to 80+. What happens to the second half of a person’s life without a family? The dating podcast girls pretty much never go there (they are never age 45+: younger women don’t listen to older women).
What’s fun in the short term can be dysfunctional in the long term. Men analyze markets; women feel their feelings. The girls on podcasts hem and haw about what does it mean to settle, because it’s been decided that settling is bad. But if you can change the definition of settling you can forgive yourself for making a sane compromise. The thing that’s still fun at 29, 31, even 33… can become sad at 41. Look around New York, it’s full of spinsters who don’t settle and can’t exist with a normal person. Normal people have strengths and weaknesses. Failure to accept that fact means being alone. Normal people aren’t movie or TV characters. As The Last Psychiatrist says,
This woman should have a scarlet “ME” on her shirt. What makes me happy? What do I want? You can’t run a relationship this way, you can’t run a life this way. But the longer she stays single, the more self-absorbed she becomes, the more she thinks about what she needs and wants.
A relationship is about the other person and the thing the two people create jointly together. If your frame is “match my ‘standard'” or “settling,” you’re trying to build a relationship on a fucked up frame. Frame does matter. Has to be some give, some take. If a relationship is all one or the other on one side, that’s not so good.
Dating apps are the other problem: a woman who gets used to dating apps learns the “infinite man fallacy.” Swipe dating encourages women to leave the moment they have a problem, because there’s always another guy. This works when she’s in her 20s, and thin, and works steadily worse after that. Dating apps also create a male class of super-players, or superpredators, who are physically hot, photogenic, and can thus date and sleep with dozens or hundreds of women. For a woman, a guy who doesn’t meet her “standards” eight weeks in can be jettisoned. For top men, romance is demystified and commoditized. And women on dating apps are participating in that process. Everyone is part of the market that’s complained about, like everyone is part of the traffic they complain about. Almost no one talks about the demystification and commodification of romance for apex men (except me).
Why do we see these outcomes and complaints from women? Hypergamy. And asymmetric preference: men find the average woman attractive and the inverse is not true… “As you can see from the gray line, women rate an incredible 80% of guys as worse-looking than medium.” Women begin to receive an almost impossible-to-imagine deluge of daily attention on social media (as early as middle or high school) and, later, dating apps (if she’s on them). The attention storm just happens, women must believe. Many do believe that good things “just happen” to them romantically, that they manifest good things happening to them simply through their mere existence. Women choose from men, and men strive to be chosen. If this is your worldview, then settling is bad because surely, inevitably, Mr. Big will come along and solve all your problems…until he doesn’t, and she realizes Mr. Big was several dicks ago and is now married to a girl 10 years younger and having a family.
“Standards” and “I’m very picky” and “I won’t settle” are all cues that someone is, like Lori Gottlieb, too self-involved to be in a true relationship. It’s also dangerous to be too judgmental of others, because they will turn around and be judgmental of you. The extremely severe and judgmental will match up with other extremely severe and judgmental people… or no one, leading to the epidemic of aging alone and sterility we see. Aging alone and sterility are some of narcissism’s fruits. Meanwhile, those who can understand compromise find each other (in the case of men, especially if we have game). People who compromise and match won’t be living in NYC and going to brunch to talk about their hookups. They’ll be dealing with their kids and families. The old joke is about a guy searching for his key at night under a street light. Another guy comes along and asks the first guy if he’s sure he lost the keys there. The first guy goes, “I didn’t, but the light’s better here.” The invisible matter, the unseen, the unrealized, the search space in which it doesn’t occur a person to look: that’s often the most important stuff. I continue to scream into the void by writing here in the vain, foolish hopes that I might be speaking to a few people who don’t realize how wide and deep the search space goes.