Periscope Depth

she’s not into you; she’s into the ideal of

(Part seven of my series on dating. My last entry, on how to deal with the Friend Zone, was last week)

Quick one in the dating series this week:

I’ve been leafing through The Personal Credibility Factor over the past week. It’s one of those self-help / life-coach books that’s big on assertion and short on footnotes. But then, so are most of the books in this genre (Men Are From Mars, etc. doesn’t source every single one of its statements). And I got it for $0.00 on Kindle, so I can’t complain.

One of the biggest aids to credibility, the author asserts, is being genuine. People who conceal or compartmentalize their feelings put up walls around themselves – what the author calls an “invisible fence.” Other people notice these fences subconsciously and withdraw as a result. They don’t trust someone who doesn’t appear genuine.

The book is targeted at business people who want their suggestions implemented. But I immediately recognized its impact on dating.

Lots of people (too many) think the reason that “jerks” get all the girls is because they’re jerks. They’re cocky, loud and blunt about what they want. “Nice Guys,” on the other hand, have to suffer in silence. The moral of the story: women want aggressive “alphas” who use them, disrespect them and then abandon them. Start insulting her hair and you’ll make progress.

Some of that may be true, but there’s a simpler explanation. Jerks get all the girls* because they’re genuine.

When you have a guy who flirts openly, says what he thinks, and makes aggressive moves, there’s no mistaking what he wants. No girl ever goes to a concert with that guy and wonders, “Was that a date?” This doesn’t guarantee she’ll hook up with the guy. Maybe she’ll just make out with him (remember, just because a girl makes out with a guy doesn’t mean she’ll sleep with him). But she’ll feel more comfortable around this guy, at least in a romantic context. Because he’s not being creepy.

If you don’t understand how unsettling romantic indirection is – how weird it is for a girl to be hovered over by a guy who’s clearly interested in her but won’t make a move – consider the following. Say you’re at a party with your friends. You’re standing in a circle in the living room. You’re holding court on some topic you’re an expert on: football, music, movies, whatever. You make some clever remark and everyone in the circle laughs. Then this one guy, a friend of a friend of a friend, jumps in with some comment. He talks a little too loud, a little too fast, and a little too vaguely. He punctuates his sentences with a nervous laugh. He tries to steer the conversation to his own (limited) areas of expertise. It’s clear to everyone that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. But he wants to participate in the conversation anyway.

Hey, did you see that hit that guy unloaded on the Patriots in their last game? Man, that was ... heh heh ... you know.

What’s your reaction to that? Are you flattered that he’s showing an interest?

No. You’re either going to be politely embarrassed and say nothing, or you’re going to talk over him to expose his lack of knowledge. Or you’ll make fun of him behind his back. Or you’ll just ignore him. Or, if you’re a real saint, you’ll slow the conversation down to his level to try and include him. But you’re not going to make friends with him – not based on that display.

Why? Because he’s pretending at knowledge in order to weasel his way into your friends. And insincerity is creepy.

Insincerity is a question of degrees, not an on/off switch. There are people who seem open, friendly and genuine all day long, except when you bring up their job or their family or one sensitive subject. Then their answers get evasive, their eyes dart around the room and they change the subject. Then there are people who routinely waffle on everything – the real creepshows. But once in a rare while, you get someone who’s genuine in everything they say and do. These people are bright lights in a sea of fog.

Of course, when it comes to dating, sincerity isn’t everything. If you fall in love with a stranger, confessing your crush on her may be genuine but it won’t do much for your dating life. Then again, confessing your crush on her will get it out of your system, which is a better cure than nursing it.

Sincerity isn’t sufficient. But it is necessary.

(Part eight, on how to ask a girl out)

* I still question if this is true, but it’s passed into conventional wisdom at this point and I can’t fight it.

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