About the Experiment

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Date #8: A Bullfight at MOCA

When I wrote about Date #4 I listed some General Rules for a (Bad) First Date.  Since then I've learned that to some guys, setting Rules for a First Date is like waving a red flag in front of a bull.  Introducing Date #8, featuring Bachelor #12 as the bull, and myself as a matador.  Olé. 

We had an unusual bullfighting arena: the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Downtown LA.  He had suggested meeting there, and I hadn't been in a while so I agreed.  I find it interesting that I hadn't been on a museum date before this experiment, and now 4 of the 8 dates have been at museums!

Bachelor #12 had read quite a bit of the blog and was at times self-conscious about it, saying that he knew too much about me.  He's a very intellectual and very intense guy.  He is 25 years old and Non-Monogamous, which I found interesting because Bachelor #9 is also 25 and Non-Monogamous.  As it turns out they are very different (although they both call me a hipster, which I find funny because I figured I'd feel less hip dating younger guys).  As we chatted about relationships he said that all relationships are temporary and all we're left with is what we learn from each other, which I found rather profound and appropriate as I'm learning from all of the different bachelors.

But he set the tone for the date fairly early on by saying, "I'm going to break all of your First Date Rules."  At the time I actually interpreted this as an advanced apology for potential social awkwardness.  But upon reviewing the date as a whole, it now seems like more of a statement of intent.  I don't know if he wanted to challenge my First Date Rules to make me feel foolish for having stated them, or if he just found it odd that I'm not the most socially normative person and yet was setting Rules.

Either way, he indeed did break almost every First Date Rule that I had outlined.  Perhaps most strikingly (and sort of hilariously) as he was telling me about his philosophy studies and his own personal moral code, and he said, "For example, I'm not sure that there's anything wrong with killing babies."  He would later tell me that in philosophy debates, "killing babies" is a frequently used example.  I took some philosophy courses and was perhaps not as shocked by this statement as some would be, but I think I'd been zoning out a bit during his rant and so my first thought was, "Why am I standing in an art museum listening to this guy talk about killing babies?"

New First Date Rule: Try to avoid talking about killing babies. 

Let me poke some holes in my red flag: I never meant the Rules to be iron clad, I think there are generally exceptions to every rule.  Different people's First Date boundaries will be different, and a good date is when your boundaries are compatible.  I expressed my preferences while writing about Date #4, and am continually learning about what factors contribute to a good or bad date for me.  And this date was no exception.

For as long as I can remember, when I was talking about what I was looking for in a partner, I would say that I was looking for a guy who challenged me.  This date with B#12 made me think about what that means, and what I'm really looking for.  By starting off the date saying, "I'm going to break all of your First Date Rules," he was definitely challenging me, and it can also be seen as saying, "I'm going to make you uncomfortable."  I'm not looking for the type of guy who just says, "Yes, Dear" to everything, but I'm also not looking for a guy who will intentionally make me uncomfortable (especially on a first date).  I've been with a lot of Challenging guys, I've been with a "Yes, Dear" guy or two, but only lately have I experienced what it's like to be with a guy who is Nurturing.

I hadn't recognized how much I'd gotten used to a calm, nurturing dynamic until after this Bullfight Date with B#12 when I realized, I'm tired of relationships that are so combative.  I push myself a lot, constantly, and a guy who is supportive is better for me right now than one who is pushing.  I'm also a rather stubborn person, so being pushed toward something can just makes me resistant to it.  But if someone can give me the space to work it out on my own or give constructive feedback, it's a smoother process.

Boom, paradigm shift: "Challenging" gets moved down the list of traits I'm looking for in a guy, and "Nurturing/Kind" moves way up.  Not that Challenging it totally off the list, but even that the way someone challenges me is more in the Nurturing/Kind way than Aggressive.

I realize that Nurturing is not typically seen as a masculine tendency.  I briefly dated a guy a few years ago who was condescending and when I talked to him about it he said I was looking for him to be nurturing and "Guys aren't nurturing."  Luckily I'm finding that's not true!  Maybe Kind or Supportive are more comfortable words for guys.  I stay away from the word "Nice" because guys sometimes get caught in "Nice Guys Finish Last" and it can motivate them to act like not very nice guys.

It's also interesting that B#12 matched during my friend Chelsea's Matchmaker week, which was more aggressive profile, while B#9 (who is nurturing) matched during my brother Greg's Matchmaker week, which was a more romantic profile.  A few things I take from this:

1) I am more compatible with a guy who responded to a romantic profile than an aggressive profile.  I really would need more data on this because B#9 was the only guy that I actually went on a date with from Greg's Matchmaker week.  But I think I should lean toward dating more romantic guys.  Also the way I'm represented in the profile may affect the way the bachelors interact with me.  B#9 said he'd thought of challenging me about my First Date Rules but decided he didn't want to be that way, perhaps because I'd been portrayed in a romantic/sensitive way.  B#12 probably generally challenges people, but may have been even more challenging with me because that profile had presented me as a more aggressive person.

2) Let's talk about gender roles.  Stereotypically, aggressive is masculine and romantic is feminine.  Yet, Chelsea (female) is our aggressive example and Greg (male) is our romantic example.  I am looking for a masculine man who is in touch with his feminine side, as I am a feminine woman but I also am in touch with my masculine side.  I prefer Power Tool Therapy to Retail Therapy; I'm happy to put on a dress and heels for a night out but spend most of my time wearing yoga pants and running shoes.  I really hope that our society can move past such strict ideas of gender norms because they can be really harmful and limiting to both genders (and anyone that doesn't feel they fit into the gender binary).

3) I actually need to get more comfortable with my romantic/sensitive side.  Today I apologized for "getting all emo" to a friend, and she lovingly scolded me a bit for minimizing my feelings.  I've realized that being with a nurturing guy allows me to let my nurturing side show more, which I actually like.  But it takes a bit of adjusting (and reminding myself) that I like nurturing guys and the nurturing side of myself.

4) How do I figure out who is Kind/Nurturing?  At least for the experiment: OkCupid has a section called "Personality" in which they show which personality traits are strongest in someone compared to average.  One of those personality traits is Kind (I believe Compassionate is also on there sometimes) so I'll be paying more attention to that in guys' profiles.  Also, I've started to notice that some guys list "Kindness" on their profile as something that is important to them.  And I am working on getting better at recognizing the way people show kindness or empathy in communication, online and offline.

If you need more evidence for why I might prefer Kindness, check out this article: Science Says Lasting Relationships Come Down To 2 Basic Traits. (Spoiler alert: the 2 traits are Kindness and Generosity).

But now back to the date, where I hadn't figured out that paradigm shift yet...

I felt like B#12 and I weren't really clicking, but he suggested that we get drinks so we could get to know each other in a different setting.  From the experimental perspective, I was curious: would we connect differently in a different setting?  B#9 and I had recently discussed whether the setting of our first date affected how much we connected.  So why not get a drink and see if a change of scenery brings a change of tone?

We went to a nearby bar and got a booth, and we did seem to connect better over drinks.  Maybe a drink helped both of us relax a bit, and we were a bit more playful in our debates.

**This is now where anyone (i.e. family members) who don't want to read about anything remotely sexual should stop reading.  Love you all.**

One round of drinks turned into two, and we got a bit cozy in the booth.  When he put his arm around me and kissed me, I kissed him back.  I was a bit surprised myself, but I also felt like, "Why not?"  I tend to be a rather serious person, and sometimes it's nice to let go a bit.

But his hands were wandering a bit more than I was comfortable with, and when I had pushed his hand away from a certain area twice he said, "You're only half fun."  I was taken aback at this and asked which half of me was not fun, and he said the half that was pushing his hand away.  Bam.  Any goodwill that we had accrued quickly evaporated.

I think I've mentioned that I'm working on boundaries, and I know that one of the reasons it's difficult for me to clearly express physical boundaries with guys is that I'm worried they won't like me if I say "No."  So when a guy essentially says that he likes me less because I was saying no (even just with body language) it was frustrating.  The good news is that I didn't give up my boundaries, I stood my ground and he didn't try again.  He apologized and said he didn't want me to feel pressured, but acknowledged that clearly I had felt pressured.  The bad news is that after the date, I didn't feel good about what had happened.  I was blaming myself, wondering what should I have done differently to prevent that from happening.  Should I have worn a different dress?  Not gotten two drinks with him?  Not gotten drinks at all?

I am still working on boundaries and communication, and I know I could have been clearer with B#12 about my boundaries (and clearer with myself).  But we'd also fallen into a trap that you might not think that two people who had spent the evening discussing philosophy and unusual moral codes would fall into: guy feels that he is entitled to access to girl's body, girl feels shame and guilt.  I don't intend to shame myself or B#12, but to point out that if even two very educated people who are very aware of and often eschew social norms can get caught up in these gender dynamics, it's a good thing for us to take a beat to think about.

I firmly believe:

Consent is sexy. 

Everyone should feel safe and heard, whether it's a first date or a tenth.  

I've heard from a few guys lately that it's difficult for guys to navigate modern masculinity, and I would suggest reading articles like Yes, You Can Be a Gentleman and Have Great Sex, or basically anything by Jordan Gray, or other articles at The Good Men Project.  And ladies, check them out too.  Both genders' struggles are entwined, and it would help for each to have a better understanding and empathy for the challenges of each gender.

B#12 texted me several days after our date to plan another date.  I told him that I didn't think we should see each other again because I think we're looking for different things and I felt that my boundaries weren't respected, but I appreciated what I'd learned from the date.  He was very apologetic, and I told him I appreciated it and hoped it could be an opportunity for learning and growth for him also.

It's unusual for me to be so upfront with someone about crossing boundaries, and I really appreciate that B#12 was apologetic instead of defensive.  This blog forces me to be more honest with the bachelors than I normally would be, but it's been really positive and encouraging.  I also appreciate that the blog allows me the space to (or requires that I) analyze each date and what I learn from them.  And I appreciate each of the bachelors for being part of the experiment and letting me write about them!

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