Name: ACComment: Thank you for reposting and enhancing your column on why women should be discerning about who they listen to when seeking dating advice. I was struck by your comment on what it means when a man tells you that other men find you intimidating. It’s something I heard back in college and it’s a tough pill to swallow. After lots of reflection and information gathering, I believe my unappealing trait at the heart of that comment is a case of insecrurity-based showing off. I know that I need to change that; it’s something I am always trying to work on and be aware of in both my professional and personal life. That said, I worry that I still haven’t found the line between sharing enough of myself to be intruiging/exciting and talking about the stuff I’m proud of so much that I seem like a braggart/jerk. The insecurity is at its worst when I’m on a first date with someone I’ve met online (OkCupid), which is exactly when I need to be at my least show-offy. My core tools for managing it now are trying to keep stories brief, ending them with related questions that don’t throw down a gauntlet,* and carefully watching body language. I think it’s working– I’m getting asked for follow-up dates– but I know I can do better. Do you have any other ideas for how I can work on getting his attention as someone with lasting appeal without being showy/brassy?
*I used to say things like “So where have you traveled?” or “You haven’t…?” Ick. At least I’ve learned that lesson.
MY ORIGINAL ANSWER:
I think it’s important not to get too in your head about all of this. You don’t want to come off robotic or like you’re programmed. If you’re spending all this time analyzing your behavior and taking the temperature of your date, you’re not present. People can absolutely pick up on whether or not someone is tuned in to a conversation or trying too hard. You know what the problem is, you’re making the necessary tweaks. Just trust that you’re doing what you need to do and let everything else unfold naturally.
Remember, the word intimidating is used to soften the blow. People aren’t really intimidated by a person with a strong personality. They just find her/him abrasive or caustic or combative or smug. These are words that have been used to describe me, so trust me. The majority of these people that come at me with these critiques aren’t intimidated by me. They just don’t like me. And you know what? That’s okay. I mean, it’s not okay to be obnoxious or rude or insensitive. But there are times when, no matter how you try to say something, somebody somewhere will tell you you’re too much. Especially if what you say touches a nerve. Being able to hear that criticism and do some self-inventory and decide whether or not they are right is really where the growth and change begins. Sometimes those people are right and you need to dial back the no nonsense and sass a bit. Even then, those folks might dislike you. You have to accept that not everybody is going to like you. But you have to like you.
I’ve come to realize, especially over the last year where I’ve had no fucks to give, that the most important quality I seek in a man is grit. I’m not easy to date. I’ve said that before. I’ve made many adjustments to my personality, but there are a few aspects to who I am that probably won’t ever change. Anybody who is going to be in my life or walk beside me needs to find that kind of confidence attractive and not be threatened by it.
So, while I think it’s wise to adjust your sarcasm settings and not say everything that comes to mind, it’s also important to accept that you are who you are and that you’ll need to find someone who accepts that part of you. You don’t want to become some passive wall flower just to get a guy to like you. Eventually the real you will come out and he’ll wonder what happened to the other woman he was dating. You can’t base your perception of yourself on how a man or woman sees you. You have to know who you are, know your flaws and be willing to concede when necessary. But that doesn’t mean you have to cut out a portion of your brain or completely alter your personality.
The idea that women have to soften themselves to attract a man is a dated and sexist belief. You know what? A lot of men like tough outspoken women. They like being with a woman who can stand up for herself. We’ve been brainwashed to believe those men don’t exist, but they do. However, I will say that I believe those men aren’t online. I keep saying this: online dating is now a place for men who either can’t meet women in real life; are far too picky; or are ambivalent about dating. Yes, there are exceptions to that rule, no question. But I firmly believe they are just that: exceptions, not the rule. Gutsy men aren’t hiding behind their cell phones, swiping left and right all day. They’re out there in the real world meeting women. Every week at the gym I’m meeting someone new, male and female. The people who really want to connect with others and forge friendships or relationships are putting themselves in situations where they can interact on a human level. There’s a reason why the men I meet at our activity events are more socially adept than those who attend the the meet-markety type bar events, where they skulk around and never talk to anyone. In a crowd that big, they can hide, just like they can hide behind a profile and pretend to be available.
If you – a woman – have been told you’re intimidating, you need to do three things:
1. Perform an honest self-assessment. Are you intimidating or are you rude? How can you tell? People have no qualms about showing their disdain for someone rude or aggressive. Pay attention to how people react to you. Do they make excuses to get out of conversations? Do they avoid you? Learn the difference between someone intimidated by you and someone turned off by you. Someone intimidated by you struggles with their own insecurity. Someone turned off by you matches your confidence., which is probably why you like them.
2. Get your ass outside. Fuck online dating. Those guys can not handle you. They’re weak. They’re looking for a woman who will defer to them.
3. Believe. This is the hardest part. Believe that there is someone out there waiting to meet someone like you. I struggle with this one every day. Stop wondering if something is wrong with you, because there likely isn’t. You’re tough because you’ve had to be.