Dear men of the dating world, we women beg you to learn the basics of human interaction.
Once upon a time, my enjoyment of dates was measured by whether I got a second one. This wasn’t hard. I dated men, so for the most part all I had to do was seem interested in his life and not make him feel nervous. My participation in these dates consisted of encouraging head nods, large smiles, and a few prompts to keep his stories going. Real simple.
It took me almost a full decade to realize how much I hated these dates.
First dates are not naturally enjoyable. In order to have a good one, someone has to put in the emotional work.
And in the heteronormative dating world, that person is usually a woman.
Women are socialized to take on the burden of emotional labor, not because we want to, but because we are taught to make other people feel comfortable.
That’s got to stop. We can’t do it anymore. At the very least not all of it.
So here are a few ways men can help with the emotional labor on dates, in the hopes that at least one women’s first Tinder date might not leave her deflated and lacking in hope for the species.
Also, because the rules are so goddamn simple.
1. Ask a question
I know, you’ve heard this a million times. And yet...
Do not wait for silence. Women will fill that. Again, not because we want to; we feel the imperative to smooth over your awkwardness for you. Stop taking advantage of that. Step in before the silence.
However, if there is silence, maybe ask a fucking question.
If you’re really struggling on this one, don’t worry! Simply repeat the question that the woman literally just asked you. She probably only asked it because she has something interesting along those lines to share ― namely herself. Give her an opportunity to do that. Who knows? You might even enjoy what you hear.
2. Respond with feeling
Nope, don’t just nod. It’s fine; you’re not doing anything wrong if you nod, but NODDING IS NOT ENOUGH. Let me repeat: nodding is not enough.
I know, showing too much emotion may make you feel... feminine, and you may think that will make you seem unattractive (Gender norms suck for everyone). But I assure you, it won’t. Really. I promise.
Have you ever said the word “aw?” Now’s your chance!
3. When you don’t know something, that’s okay. Don’t freak out, don’t avoid the thing, and for the love of God do not try to mansplain the thing
Take a breath.
Now one more.
Admit you don’t know the thing.
Be curious about the thing you don’t know about.
If she’s brave enough to share her feelings about the election ― how the defeat of the first female nominee crushed her heart and soul as a woman and represented the complete distrust in her gender that she feels every single day ― take a deep breath and admit you will never understand that experience. Then really, honestly try to understand it.
WARNING: Curiosity is complex. Don’t be a jerk. And don’t pry into her like she’s a human textbook. She’s a person. Her place on this earth is not to teach you things for your benefit, but giving her the space and encouragement to share is key. Feel her out (figuratively!). Understand that there’s a good chance she’s coming from a lifetime of being silenced in some way and it may take time.
This sounds complicated because it is. People are complicated, including you. Deal with it.
4. If You Talk For More Than Four Uninterrupted Minutes, Stop Talking
Change the subject. (See: Rule 1!) She doesn’t care. Relieve her from her self-imposed, societally enforced duty to pretend that she does.
If you forget this rule and do talk for too long, take a page from our playbook and apologize for it. Yep. Not kidding. Say sorry. We do it after forty seconds; you can do it after four minutes.
5. Make Eye Contact
Real talk: your date’s disinterest in your way-too-long story/lecture doesn’t go away just because you can’t see it.