About the Experiment

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Week 6: Tequila, Zombies, and Being High Maintenance

*This entry is rated PG-13 for some NSFM (Not Safe For Mom) language*

Matchmaker Week 6 started out with margaritas, a lot of honesty and laughter.  My friend Chelsea is the Matchmaker for this week, and she is like a sister to me.  We grew up together and one of the things I love about Chelsea is that she tells it like it is.  She calls me on my bullshit, and I know it's out of love.  I appreciate that my friends keep me honest with myself!

As we started talking about the experiment, we got to one of the things I hadn't been talking about at all in the blog, an elephant in the room: Attraction.

Physical attraction is a really important part of dating for me, so it may seem unusual that I wasn't talking about it.  The truth is that I haven't been attracted to most of the Bachelors, and I felt bad writing about not being attracted to them when I knew they could read the blog.  And there were always enough other aspects of compatibility that I could discuss so it seemed unnecessary to write, "He was really nice but I wasn't physically attracted to him so I would never date him."  I am, in the blog and life in general, trying not to be an asshole.  I don't need to date a male model (in fact, sometimes I find really attractive guys intimidating) but I want to date a guy that I like looking at and want to swap saliva with.  Is that too much for a girl to ask?  (No, it's not.)  So Chelsea wanted to figure out what I am attracted to and how we can convey that in a profile.

I realized that Chelsea had a very different outlook on OkCupid, and thus what a profile should be like, than last week's Matchmaker, my brother Greg.  Whereas Greg wanted to emphasize romance, vulnerability, and include as much detail as possible, Chelsea feels that it's better to keep a dating profile short and sassy.  We took out a lot of the details and added some sass, like "My friend Chelsea is the Matchmaker this week, so impress us both."  This is usually not at all what my dating profiles are like, and that's a really interesting part of the experiment!  My profile usually isn't as romantic/vulnerable as what Greg and I wrote either, and it's interesting to see who responds to different profiles and how they respond.

And it touches on another purpose of the experiment: looking at my usual approach to dating and why it doesn't yield the results I want.  In this case, it's that I tend to be the Chill Girl: I go with the flow, try to be as low-maintenance and easy-going as possible.  This means that a) I have a lot of great guy friends, and b) I get Friend Zoned a lot.  Some guys like the Chill Girl (one ex thought it was hot that I own my own drill), but a lot of guys don't want to date a girl who is one of the guys.  I love my guy friends, and believe that it's really great for guys and girls to have platonic friendships because it helps to see the other gender's perspective.  But I also at times have gotten sick of hearing from guys I'm interested in, "You're a cool girl, but..."

Part of Chelsea's dating philosophy is that if you really clearly express what you want/need, it's easier for someone else to fulfill that want/need.  I think there's a lot of validity in that, but where is the line between being clear about your wants/needs, and being demanding or (the dreaded) high-maintenance?

I've started reading different dating blogs lately, and I read an article called Why You Need to Start Being More High Maintenance on a blog called Matching Up, written by two Beverly Hills Matchmakers (not my standard reading material, and thus fascinating).  This article was saying that as women who are taught to be fit, beautiful, with great careers and exciting lives, "we are taught to be high maintenance with our lives," but being high-maintenance in relationships is vilified.  She goes on to say that it's important to have standards, be clear about expectations, and "If you are low maintenance, you will be treated as such." oof. But I see what she means. If I act like one of the guys, I'm likely to be treated as one of the guys. And she says that guys take cues from how a girl treats herself, and how she allows others to treat her. Part of having standards is feeling like you have a lot to offer someone and it's worth their time and effort to treat you well.

I'm not hoping that anyone calls me "High Maintenance" any time soon, but I do see that my Chill Girl ways often meant that my relationships were always on the guy's terms.  It's good for me to be more empowered in my relationships, to feel that I have a say in what my relationships look like and how I am treated (aka Boundaries).  I've found a key distinction between Boundaries and Being Guarded is communication, being clear with yourself and others about where your boundaries are.  Maybe that's a difference between Having Standards and Being High Maintenance: being able to communicate your expectations in a calm, clear way vs. expecting someone to read your mind or throwing a fit if someone doesn't meet your expectations.  Definitely food for thought.

Another way that Chelsea's Matchmaker week has pushed my comfort zone: she wanted new photos.  Specifically ones that show me smiling with teeth (I hadn't realized that all of my photos had closed-mouth smiles) and that show off my body a bit more.  Don't worry, Mom, nothing scandalous- but the photos on the profile were all pretty conservative.  And with the previously discussed Marketing of Online Dating: if you've got it, flaunt it (tastefully).

As often happens when I push my comfort zone, some weird/gross narratives pop up like zombies from shallow graves.  In this case, narratives like: "You can be hot OR smart, not both," or "If you show off your body, people won't respect you."  Which when it boils down to it, is the same as "She was asking for it," or the recent banning of yoga pants in schools because they are "too distracting."  The message is that women are responsible for however other people respond to their bodies and clothing.  If a guy says or does something that you don't like it was really your fault, he couldn't help himself.  This narrative is harmful to men and women.  It makes a woman's sexuality scary and dangerous, where women can't take agency or enjoyment from their own bodies, and men are "helpless" and have no control over their actions.  No one wins.  I don't consciously ascribe to these beliefs, and it's frustrating sometimes to find them buried in my subconscious.

But it's also not entirely surprising, because these narratives are embedded in our culture and my own life.  I remember being 12 years old and feeling like I had to pick between being a "pretty girl" or a "smart girl."  I was a bookish, slightly chubby brunette in a beach town where the standard of beauty was blonde and thin.  So I chose "smart girl," and when that baby fat turned into curves I generally tried to hide my body so no one would "think less of me."  For many years it was hard for me to understand that anyone even could be physically attracted to me.  And though I've made progress on my body issues, I'm definitely still working on it.  In order to take the pictures Chelsea was asking for, I felt I needed some liquid courage (tequila).  But I did take them, and I'm actually rather proud of them.  To push myself toward being pretty, feminine, playful, and even dare I say sexy, is definitely good growth for me.  And I definitely appreciate Chelsea for giving me a loving shove in that direction.

I'm also optimistic that as a society we are becoming more aware of the messages we're sending to young women and men about sex, bodies, and responsibility.  An article titled "Instead of Banning Yoga Pants, Schools Should Crack Down on Harassment" includes examples of female students posting signs around their schools protesting the dress codes.  My middle school banned spaghetti strap tank tops and I never thought of fighting it, much less with a sign that includes the statement, "I'm a fifteen year old girl.  If you are sexualizing me, YOU are the problem."  Fuck yeah, girl.  And articles like Yes, You Can Be a Gentleman and Have Great Sex (and the Good Men Project in general) show that men are also ready for these attitudes to change.  I encourage everyone to be conscious of the way we talk about people's bodies and sexuality, both other people's and your own.
And when those gross zombie narratives come up, don't be afraid to go all Shaun of the Dead.

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