I’m starting to date men who I’ve met online. I still feel out of my element: Are there any rules I should follow?—Michelle
I dated online just once, when a now-distant friend made me a profile, and I was instantly upset about having to interact so formally and officiously about something that I thought was just…alchemy. But! After advice columnizing, editing our Dating Diaries column, and talking to strangers about love and sex every day, I’ve developed a short list of online-dating laws that should be totally obvious but apparently are really, really not.
So: talk first. A phone call confirms that he is vaguely who he says he is—get his number and block yours before calling. Also, a lot of guys (and girls) are bad at email, so “his grammar/spelling/pop-culture references/sign-off choice sucks” is never a legitimate deal breaker, or indicative of him. (Also, a too-clever, too-perfect email relationship will not play out the same way when you meet. Don’t date your inbox.) Even after a preliminary phone-trial, don’t text. Pre-relationship texting is just very “It’s fine, you can treat me like a bro, I’m into it,” which is not how to be honest and specific about what you want.
However cool it is for immediacy, explicitness, and meeting slightly fewer secretly married guys than you’ll find at a bar, online dating lends itself spectacularly well to both deceit and straight-up stalker-ish weirdies. A professor at Michigan State University told Discovery News that most people lie in an online profile about at least one thing, which should convince you to be really safe and not give anyone your number, address, or life-details. It should also convince you that while he may be not be precisely 6’2”, your OKCupid-profile self (or your Facebook self or your work self or other idealized versions of you that have been nicely arranged and découpaged) is never the same as your self-self, either. So if he shows up and is short, whatever.
But be ready to bail. One million per cent of the most horrible Dating Diaries involve someone saying, “I don’t know why, but I stayed.” If you aren’t feeling it or if dude is objectively awful, leave. Leave! Why are you waiting for him to neg you, cop another titty feel, or not buy you a terrible dinner? This is what cabs are for, girl. Go home and try again, and message someone who seems, at the very least, nice.
My wife and I have a 16-month-old. We both work full-time and try to be equal partners at home. I don’t expect it to be perfect, but I know I am not doing as much as her and that she resents me for it.—Phil
In Hanna Rosin’s new book, The End of Men, she writes about “seesaw marriages,” where two people—typically people with university degrees—trade off financial and domestic responsibilities depending on circumstance rather than pre-determined gender roles. “As a result of this new freedom, more couples are describing their marriages as ‘happy’ or ‘very happy.’” But, she writes, “I realized that men, even if they check the ‘happy’ box, are not nearly so quick or eager to inhabit these new flexible roles as women are.” Not to minimize a massive, in-motion cultural shift, but doy. What all of this means for men is that even nice, cool dudes are still coming to terms with how to be a good guy.
In practical terms, consider giving in. Tony, a dad who struggled at first with losing his freedom and free time, told me that you have to “jump in head first. Just completely surrender to the process of becoming a husband and father.” There’s no other way, really; also, what your wife is dealing with (doing everything you do, plus more at-home labour, plus having to look hot in a pleated skirt) is just worse, which is why Gwyneth Paltrow is a thing. Everyone who operates outside of TV-sitcom stereotypes is in transition with this stuff. All you can do is the best you can do, which is probably a little more.
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