Sunday, September 7, 2014

Helicopter Parenting

I am not a parent.  I know it's a big surprise, but it's awfully hard to father children without even kissing a girl (actually reminds me of a "Boy Meets World" episode, but that's another story).  But, I have parents, and most of my peers have parents.  And our parents have parents.  So it's kind of easy to observe the phenomenon that is the practice of raising children.

There are a lot of different parenting styles, but probably the most common one today is known as "helicopter parenting".  Basically hovering over your child like a helicopter and watching our for their every move and every step.  You know, your parents will call up to complain about the grades your teacher gave you, or call the principal up to complain about something or other.  It's much maligned because it looks (and to the children feels) like parents are suffocating their children and stifling their growing up process.

There's an old Arab proverb that says: the first 7 years you play with your children, the second 7 years you let them get in trouble and the third 7 years you explain to them why they got in trouble.  It's a roundabout way of saying that you only learn by screwing up and sometimes learning why you screwed up.  Yes, you can learn by watching others screw up, but experience is almost always the best teacher.  If you always have someone there to watch you and make sure you don't make any mistakes, how are you ever going to learn for yourself?  Especially when there will come a time when your parents won't be there to watch out for you.  What will you do then?

Now, I know a lot of you will be asking yourselves where this is going and why I'm bringing this up.  I recently read a story in which a father (along with his wife) did a sweep of their daughter's room (I guess the equivalent of a cell check) and found a package of thongs under the mattress.  His daughter was 13 and he was wondering if this was just too early for a girl to be wearing that kind of undergarment.  And if so, should he put his foot down and forbid his daughter from wearing them.

I'm no expert on women's underwear.  But I guess the worry here is that his daughter might be trying to dress "sexy" at a young age, an age where really nobody should be sexually active.  I understand that, but I think at some point if you're worried that your daughters underwear choices might lead her to start having gratuitous sex at a young age it might already be too late.  If you've done a good job this isn't something you typically worry about.

Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, I don't think it's a good idea to want to control every aspect of your child's life.  You have to draw reasonable lines and pick your battles.  I understand protecting your kids from drugs and alcohol, or encouraging them to do well in school, and making sure they behave in your home.  But when you try to control everything, including what kind of underwear they wear the lesson children usually learn from that is not to stop doing the behavior, but rather to hide it better.  The mattress was used this time as a hiding place, so next time they'll find a better one.  Maybe a cutout in a book, or inside the box frame.

I'm sure some of you reading this had times when your parents tried to get you to stop doing a certain thing and you didn't want to.  So you just learned how to sneak around and do it without your parents knowing.

Again though, I'm not a parent.  So maybe some of you parents out there reading this think of full of shit.  I just hope that if you feel that way you're not one of those people complaining that today's young adults lack maturity and responsibility and independence, or mock us for being the "boomerang generation".  If we haven't grown into full adults yet, it's because we weren't allowed to.  

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Other People's Standards

Let's talk about standards.  According to the dictionary, it's a "level of quality" or "achievement", "considered to be acceptable or desirable".  In dating terms it's really what you're looking for and won't settle for less than.  At least I think that's a good definition.

I always see on dating sites or forums, and even when people talk in real life what people claim they're looking for.  Sometimes it's really generic, even seemingly easy to pass. A nice person who doesn't cheat, isn't looking for a one night stand, is respectful, doesn't need to be rich, can talk about intellectual topics, etc.  It sounds nice.  I mean hey, I'm those things.  Yet, whenever I message a girl like that on a dating site or talk to a girl like that in real life, it always goes nowhere.  So I've come to regard anyone who says they're just looking for a good guy with "xyz" generally nice sounding attributes as just blowing smoke out of their ass.  Let's not bullshit a bullshitter.  I know and you know, and you know that I know that you're looking for much more than that and you're just saying you aren't so as to avoid looking like a bitch (or a dick if you're a dude doing this with regards to women).

But, we've all heard of the infamous situation in which a great person is dating a piece of shit.  Or at least maybe not quite a piece of shit, but maybe a mildly irritating fart.  And you know this person could and should do better, but they aren't.  They're agonizing over why the person they're dating is engaging in certain behavior.  Cheating maybe, or getting mad when they want to spend an evening hanging out with friends rather than stay at home, something along those lines.  I look around and think about the number of normal, respectful, level headed guys I know who struggle badly with women and I wonder: "what the hell are all of us doing wrong?".

I'd like to think that I meet most people's standards, but if I had to be perfectly honest I'd have to say I'm very skeptical.

So readers, what are your standards?  What are things you look for in a partner?  Things you would accept, things you absolutely wouldn't?  Do you think I'd meet yours or even most women's?

Personally, I don't know what my standards are or even should be.  I'd like to stay as open minded as possible but I can't honestly say I'm always successful in that endeavor.  In any case, feel free to leave your thoughts.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Inexperienced Guy Podcast 8/24/2014

The long overdue debut of my very own podcast. Please feel free to comment, leave criticism, or just whatever. And be sociable, share!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

I'm Not the Kind of Guy You Want to Date

I'm really not.  My life isn't that exciting; I mostly watch cool shows, read cool books, go to the gym, watch sports, hang out with my friends and every once in a while go see a movie.  I've never been outside of the US, I've never done anything dangerous or intriguing and I don't even have my own place.  I still live with my parents where I share a room with my little brother.

Furthermore, I'm a terrible kisser.  How do I know?  Because I've never kissed a girl before.  I've also never held hands or cuddled on a couch hell even seen a movie with a girl.  I almost certainly don't know how to please you sexually, my first time would probably last less than 30 seconds.  I am in no way that guy who can just take you and maul you like some kind of tiger.  Plus I'll probably turn into a stage 5 clinger as soon as you kiss me.  It's 100% guaranteed.

I also have no relationship experience.  So it's not like I have anything to offer you in terms of companionship and support.  I mean I support my friends and my family, but you're looking for a guy with a track record of supporting his partner and you know sharing his life with her and all of that stuff.

Personality wise, I'm a geek without the video games and comic books.  I geek out over history books and educational podcasts.  I work out and play sports, but I'm not that douchey jock, meat head gym bro.  I'm a renaissance man, lots of coverage but no depth.  It really cuts down on my niche appeal.  All the nerdy girls like video games and all the sporty girls hate history and educational stuff.  I'm in that no man's land.

I also have no career and not much money.  I just started a new job that will pay me a bit more but it's not like I'm going to be living in the lap of luxury over here.  I don't really offer that stable provider role that you're probably looking for.  Plus, I must not have ambition or else I'd be finding a way to get a career and most importantly I'd be finding a way to get a girlfriend.  Since I haven't, it pretty clearly shows what kind of guy I am.

I'm pretty sure that covers it all.  No matter what kind of girl you are, I'm not the kind of guy you want to date.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Relationships: the Be All End All of Existence?

Getting a girlfriend or getting married is not the end all be all of life.  It's a statement often made to people of my ilk, that we should concern ourselves with having a really kick ass life and not worry about dating and relationships.  It's true in a lot of ways but not as much as people who say it would have you believe.

Yeah, Sir Isaac Newton, who allegedly died a virgin, did more for the human race than any of the Kardashians have.  And I'm pretty sure none of the Kardashians are going to die virgins.  Correct me if I'm wrong on that.  So clearly, sex and dating and relationships aren't the only important thing of value in one's life.

But this kind of thing really misses the point.  The comparison I always love making is to sports (mostly because I love sports and think they say a lot about the human condition).  Winning a championship in sports doesn't make you great in and of itself, but winning one certainly adds to your legacy in a way that is undeniable.  I don't think anyone would say that Trent Dilfer (who won a Super Bowl) had a better career than Dan Marino (who lost the only Super Bowl he played in), or that Jeff Conine (who won two World Series with the Marlins) had a better career than Barry Bonds (who never won one).  But does anyone deny that both Marino and Bonds would have a much better legacy had they won championships?  I mean that's the first thing people point to when debating Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

Now, let's bring this back to dating and relationships.  I don't deny that a pretty shitty person who happens to have a girlfriend is still a shitty person.  That doesn't change the fact that being able to find someone (who isn't related to you by birth) who wants to share in your life and wants to share theirs with you greatly enhances who you are as a person.  Again, just like with sports championships, this doesn't mean that just any relationship will do nor does it mean that if you're not in a relationship (or married) that you're a worthless human being.  Just don't tell me that getting a girlfriend is meaningless and does nothing for you.  That's bullshit and I'm pretty sure you know it.

Friday, August 15, 2014

How You See Yourself

It's hard for me to see myself as someone somebody might be attracted to.  It's not so much that I feel like I'm "ugly", rather I see myself as "unattractive".  I've had people (men and women) tell me I'm funny, or smart, or good looking but that's never translated into anyone being sexually or romantically into me.

It's one of those things that's hard to put a finger on.  Unlike being fat, or having bad hair or social anxiety or some other noticeable trait, it's hard to correct the problem.

Some of the advice I get is usually telling me to get a career and move out of my parents house.  And while I agree that those things can't hurt, I'm skeptical that those things alone prevent me from having a happy dating life.  I have friends who dated while living with their parents, and at one point I was in college while living at home, which is not all that unusual.  So I don't think I can lay the blame only on those factors.

The other kind of advice I get is to "put yourself out there more".  I'm not a homebody.  I have friends and I do stuff.  The past two weekends I haven't spent more than an hour total at home.  It's hard to have more of a lively life than I do now.

A few weeks back a friend of mine asked his wife to invite one of her friends to hang out with us.  The implication of course being that hopefully I'd meet her and hit it off.  Thing is, I've heard variations of this before.  "There's this girl you should meet" is a phrase that gets bandied about from time to time.  Nothing ever actually happens though.  I don't want to be that desperate guy begging his friends to fix him up with someone and I feel like if they were really serious about it they'd do it anyway without prompting.

All of this really feeds into what I wrote at the top.  If I was really sexually attractive wouldn't I have an easier time with this whole thing?  People always talk about how easy getting sex and relationships are in this day and age compared to the past, but that's not been my experience.

Ladies, some guys are just not confident.  We've never had a girl like us so we have no idea how it feels or how to tell.  It's a much safer bet to assume disinterest and go from there.  So you might think you're giving us hints but we're not very good at interpreting them.

What this means for me?  I don't know.  There's a girl I've grown to like over the past few months (though I still have feelings for "Becky") whom I haven't yet asked out because we work together.  When I get a new job I may ask her out, but I have zero percent confidence that she'll say yes.  I mean why would she?  I like her, which means she doesn't like me.  At all.  In fact she probably barely tolerates my presence.

I'm sure this is unhealthy, but what can I do?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Okcupid's Experiment

So apparently Okcupid experiments on users from time to time.  And everyone is up in arms about it.  Feeling betrayed, tricked, outraged, all of the above.

I'm not exactly sure how I feel about it.  On the one hand it feels like not much more than elaborate trolling, which has its merits from time to time.  On the other hand I do feel like it represents bad business ethics.  Don't get me wrong, I don't think anyone has a case for fraud, nor should any government agency get involved (I think the market can and should determine what happens) but I think I would feel uncomfortable experimenting on my consumers like that.

If you didn't read the post, Okcupid did three different experiments: two dealing with photos and the third dealing with the match percentage algorithm.

The results:

-When no one had a photo on the site (due to a intentional "glitch" on the site) conversations went longer, more detailed and people exchanged contact info more often and were more satisfied on the dates they went on than they were in cases where they knew what the person looked like before hand.

-When asked to rank personality separately from looks, users generally rated both the same.  Even when the profile contained absolutely no text just a photo.  Essentially the profile text was irrelevant to your rating.

-When told they were a great match (with a fake compatibility percentage to boot) people generally acted like it.  And vice versa when told they were a bad match.

Part of me feels like maybe this explains my absolutely dreadful record on dating sites.  Or I should say a big part of me wants to believe that.  Obviously that's wishful thinking.  But to be honest I didn't really use the matching algorithm as faithfully as some might, and I don't often "rate" profiles.  So maybe I was never involved in any of these experiments.

This is one of the reasons I think it would be wise to approach online dating with a grain of salt.  You just never know whether the person you're messaging just isn't interested or is just a part of a laboratory experiment.

I do hope that Okcupid applies the same standards to people who create profiles to run their own unsanctioned experiments.  Obviously it's their site and they should be free to do with it what they want, but I think it would be good etiquette and good science to allow others to run their own experiments.  Either as a way to reproduce their results or as a way to test other hypotheses.

But I'm not sure how I feel about the whole thing.  I like the knowledge but I'm a smidge uncomfortable with the tactics used to get it.  How do you readers feel?