You Might Be Too Much For Some Men And That’s Okay

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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?
Thank you!!!

*I used to say things like “So where have you traveled?” or “You haven’t…?” Ick. At least I’ve learned that lesson.
Age: 26
City: Philadelphia
State: PA

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.

Thoughts?

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4 comments

  1. Moxie, you’re spot on. Be yourself, yet do cultivate good social skills and social filters and let the dating chips fall where they may. Sadly, there are many men out there who are very insecure and hide this by an aggressive, blustering attitude. A lot of “you’re intimidating” is insecurity and folks knowing it’s THEY that don’t measure up. Many blogs tell women to “date down” to men of lesser attainment and education but in reality this often fails because men still see themselves as providers. We do, do best with equals. Why aren’t we telling men to “level up” instead?! A dude once snapped at me; “you just want someone who is successful!”: hell yeah, as the alternative to success is failure.
    On line has degraded to folk looking for a pen pal and those with few/no options at home or have major problems. It seems to work best if you’re very average: height, looks, education, race (meaning White), profession, interests.
    Even in my isolated, mountain town, I make an effort to socialize with tourists IRL every day in places like art openings and the coffee shop and avoid locals -only venues like the plague. I take yoga, drive down the hill to the Whole Wallet (whole foods) so I can buy better food and talk to people. Bookstores, Farmers Markets, etc. Folk in the city have tons of IRL options for meeting like minded people; use them.

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  2. Hear! Hear! And I think the heart of the matter is this: “men online are ambivalent about dating”. What I’ve realized over and over is that the dating population online is comprised of mostly avoidants. That is men (and probably women) with avoidant attachment styles that can’t bond with a human in normal way due to early childhood issues but they still crave the intimacy and closeness. I know it sounds like a lot of pop psychology, but when you think about people who are in the dating market longest (assuming divorced men get remarried), it makes sense that those are the ones with attachment issues. And guess what avoidants don’t like? Conflict! The inevitable conflict that comes from direct communication and sharing lives. So it stands to reason that unless you’re going to twist yourself into knots being someone less “abrasive”, it’s not going to work long term with someone who sees you as threatening in some way. Also, consider the many “screeners” that ask questions just to eliminate you from the running over some perceived incompatibility. Commitmentphobes looking for a way out.

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  3. I think intimidation comes in two flavors:
    You’re too much of a catch. Meaning you’re more successful in your career than he is, you’re a public figure in your field, you’re very educated (like, above a MA level), you have a high-end lifestyle, or you are very ambitious and go-getting. Like, you’re a fitness professional who sells her own shakes/bars type deal.
    or
    Your personality is…a lot. You’re outspoken, strong, opinionated, perhaps loud and brassy. You swear, you get heated, you are passionate, you don’t hesitate to tell a man (or anyone else) off.

    In a weird way, I feel like the second group almost might have it easier. In my experience, there are plenty of men who are totally okay with a brassy, balls-y, funny, outrageous chick. But…she had better not be well-to-do, educated, and brainy as well. It’s cool if she’s a “motorcycle mama” type that’s maybe none to bright, so he can still feel like he is the superior one in some way.

    It’s a cliche, but men want to feel wanted and needed. They want to bring something *valuable* to the table, and many men don’t get or can’t give what most modern women want the most: emotional support, true connection, and lifelong companionship.

    It’s easier to offer “wisdom”, humor, money, prestige, “toys”, fun times, sex, good looks, protection, a house/home, kids, etc.

    So if you’re a woman who has a big personality AND is a “catch”, you may have it harder than the woman who is only one of those two types of intimidating.

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  4. This is so true!! I’m related to several very assertive, competitive women who are sometimes overbaring and condescending. They are also brilliant, kind and very fun. They knew their audience and tended to have some pretty awesome men in their lives.

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