Friday, July 20, 2018

Dating Advice on Television Shows

Rediscovering an Old Favorite

I've been re-watching Friends recently (sharing it with my kids). A huge chunk of time on that show is spent on the dating lives of its six primary characters, and certain themes keep appearing that seem to reflect (if the TV shows I watch are any indication) mainstream society's views on what "rules" we should follow when interacting with the opposite sex.

Disclaimer: I started dating my husband when I was sixteen. We've now been married nineteen years. I haven't been in the dating world for a long time.

Nevertheless, I have some opinions. I know what would attract me to a man and what would turn me off. And I must say, I couldn't disagree more with the sitcom version of dating etiquette.

In the episode of Friends we watched last night, Ross was talking about how advanced computers were going to become within the next fifty years and how one day it would be possible for humans to upload their consciousness into a machine and live forever. The reaction of the others seemed to say that if he ever talked about that stuff to a woman he was interested in, he had basically zero chance of getting a date. Ever. For the rest of his life.

Um...I was kind of offended, if you want to know the truth. After all, there are nerdy women in the world. If this blog isn't proof of that, I don't know what is.

The implication on the show is that women will flock to a guy like Joey but will run screaming in terror from a guy like Ross. Again, I've not been in that world since...well...probably since Friends was still in its first season, but I know I'd much prefer a guy to come on with the nerd talk than come at me with a calculated, "How you doin'?" I'd recognize a genuineness in the first guy while recognizing that the second guy was just turning on the charm. You want to know something about charm? Charm is manipulative. If you want to get to know me, show me your true self. Don't show me the charismatic face you put on when you're trying to woo beautiful women.

My Experience in the Real World

Let me tell you the story of how my husband and I got together. I'd been acquainted with him for a while because we were in marching band together. He was a senior when I was a freshman, so he graduated pretty soon after I came along, but he was good friends with a guy who was dating one of my good friends, so we saw each other from time to time.

One day he came to a band competition our high school hosted every year. It was common for former band members to come back and watch other bands perform. Once a band nerd, always a band nerd, after all. He was sitting in the bleachers with his friend, who was naturally sitting with my friend. When I got a break (all band members were required to work the event), I came and sat with them. I remember very little about what we talked about. It was probably a lot of my husband and his friend goofing off while I and my friend sat and listened (we were both very shy and didn't talk much back then).

Then my (future) husband turned to me and, out of the blue, said, "Did you know that the United States is actually a representative republic, not a true democracy?"

Okay, before I go on, a little something you should know about me is that I am absolutely terrified of people thinking I'm not smart. When someone tries to tell me something I already know, I have this irrational anger reaction. So when my (future) husband said that to me, I responded with a curt, "Yes, I knew that."

He was surprised. He had just learned that in his college political science course. But I had taken political science in high school the year before and had already learned it.

Once I succeeded in making it clear that I already knew the mind-blowing information he was trying to give me, my mood improved considerably, and he and I lapsed into a comfortable nerd-talk session. I don't even remember what we talked about. Only that we talked and talked. And talked. So much so that my friend and her boyfriend (my husband's friend) began scheming to get us together. So about a week later he asked me out and we've been together ever since.

The moral of the story is that I'll take a Ross over a Joey any day. Joey might be fun on a first date, but seriously, what would you do for the rest of your life if you married him? I'd be bored out of my mind after a week.

Another Sitcom Example

Friends is not the only place I've heard this terrible advice. There is an episode of The Lucy Show (not something I watch regularly, but I happened upon it while flipping channels one afternoon) where Lucy is attracted to this handsome, wealthy man. She wants to know how to entice him, so her friend tells her to pretend to be interested in everything he's interested in. In this case, it happens to be duck hunting. So Lucy goes hunting. And hates every second of it. She asks her friend why she has to pretend to love something she hates. What if she ends up marrying the guy? Is she going to be duck hunting for the rest of her life? No worries, says the friend, after you're married you get to make him do the things you like.

Um...yeah...that sounds like a terrifically healthy marriage.

And it reminds me of another story from my high school years.

One More Story

It was before my husband and I got together. There was a guy in my Algebra II class who was being really nice to me. I told my mom about it. She began grinning foolishly and making all sorts of "ooh la la" noises. She saw romance on my horizon.

But, I said, he has long hair. (I didn't care for guys with long hair back then.)

She made her infamous pshaw gesture and said, "Oh, you can change him!"

I instantly gave up on any thought of a future with the long-haired guy from Algebra class. There was no way I was going to enter into a relationship based on one person's desire to "change" the other.

And yet this mindset is rampant. It's all over the television. I've seen it on Friends, The Big Bang Theory, Thirteen Reasons Why, Freaks and Geeks, and on and on. Why do people think you can't be your true self in order to get a date? I mean, if you want that date to turn into anything long-term, it seems to me you have to show the other person your true self.

But, like I said, I've been out of that world for a long time, so maybe I just don't understand.

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