God knows we women have been given a great deal of advice about how to behave in dating. We have been informed that we cannot be needy, talk about our ex’s or ask when we can see you again. We’ve been told the various ways we can seem clingy, insecure or just somehow unappealing. We’ve taken these rules in, read multiple bestselling books on the various ways we’re doing things wrong, and provided you with our new and improved versions of ourselves for your dating pleasure.
Men, meanwhile, have been all but left out of the loop. And I’m here to tell you that some are wilting as a result.
In the simplest terms, these are what I see as the three dating basics that men seem to most need help with:
Ask us out.
This may seem obvious. Or maybe, if you’re a thoroughly modern man, you think we should come to this decision together. If you think that, you’re wrong. You guys still make more money than us and you still instigate most of the dates. And yet, as any woman who’s been on a dating website surely knows, there are, seemingly, millions of men out there who are apparently happy to wile away their time emailing back and forth with us about their various likes and dislikes, feelings about everything from the state of movies today to why they like going on solo camping trips, without ever making a move toward seeing us in the flesh. Guys! We already have too many emails to return and pen pals are, really, a thing of the past. There’s absolutely no sense in emailing a potential mate back and forth for days or weeks or months on end when we could meet and feel as attracted to one another as a vegan is to a steak. It’s imperative that you get the ball rolling by asking us out. The worst that can happen is we say no and if that’s the case, you can always write us off as shallow or horrible.
People seem to think this is the woman’s domain. I’m here to tell you that it’s not. I’ve sat on dates with strangers who have regaled me with tales of parental abuse, suicide attempts, nervous breakdowns and homelessness. I have felt pain for the person, pity for the person and horror for the person. What I have not felt in those situations is attraction to the person. It’s not that we don’t care that you’re dad belittled you or your mom liked your brother better. But I beg of you: please let us like you before you saddle us with it. There’s an unfortunate leap the mind can sometimes make when we desire intimacy with another person: that if we share something intimate, then we will be close. I know all about this: it was my old way of bonding—until I realized that it not only made people uncomfortable but also drove them away. Just because you’re a dude and thus supposedly not great at sharing your feelings doesn’t mean you can tell us overly personal information and make us swoon. Nothing is less of an initial turn on than feeling sorry for someone.
Don’t let us split the bill even when we offer.
This is a tricky one but, essentially, most of us are giving you a test. We want you to take us out, even if we make more money than you, because it makes us feel—well, taken care of. But many of us don’t want to communicate this because money talk can be awkward and we certainly don’t want to appear presumptuous. So we do some version of the fake wallet reach. “Oh, let’s split this,” we say. In my extremely unscientific survey of men out there, I’ve discovered that the majority of men wave our hands away and say, “No, I’ve got it” or “Thanks for offering” or “Please, it’s my pleasure.” But some don’t. Some say, “Great” or “Of course” or simply take our credit card, hand it to the waitress with their own and explain that it should be a 50-50 split. I don’t blame men for doing this: they could be taking our offer as some sort of an indirect indication that we don’t really like them or that we’re offended by the notion that, in 2012, the presumption would be that men bear all financial responsibility. But most of us—on the first date, at least—would prefer that you take care of the bill. In other words, though it’s indirect and not fair, we do not mean it when we say we should split the bill. We are cuing you to refute us. We’re judging you if you don’t. So why do we offer if we don’t mean it, you ask? Well, some of us have had the experience of allowing a man to pay for a date he asked us on and then hearing, “So, is this how it’s going to work then? Am I going to pay for everything we do together?” Oh, yes, we have. So take some comfort; at least you’re not doing that. Unless, of course, you’re the guy who did that to me.
Anna David is the author of the new Kindle Single Animal Attraction, which is about how her relationship with her cats impacts her relationships with men. She’s also the author of the novels Party Girl (HarperCollins, 2007) and Bought (HarperCollins, 2009) and the memoir Falling for Me (HarperCollins, 2011). She conceived of and edited the anthology Reality Matters (HarperCollins, 2010), is the Executive Editor of addiction and recovery website The Fix, and has written for The New York Times, The LA Times, Vanity Fair, Cosmo, People, Premiere, Us Weekly, Details, Playboy, Redbook, Self, and Women’s Health, among many other publications. She appears on NBC, Fox News, CNN, and other networks discussing either relationships or addiction. Her next book, which she’s writing on the actor Tom Sizemore, will be released in 2013 by Simon & Schuster.