Saturday, March 27, 2010

"I'm a Confident Woman with a Positive Self-Image" - Really?

Something to think about ladies.  Of the 14 online dates I've been on over the past two years (yeah, I haven't been working it all that hard, see "An Unremarkable Life" post below), fully 12 of them have proven to be a 'coffee date' 'sale' based upon what I'd have to call 'false advertising'. That's a PRETTY high proportion and a significant expenditure of time invested in what turned out to be 'dead ends' for me.

What I'm talking about when I say 'false advertising', of course, is NOT the "Ab-Rocket" (although the idea that you can get something you want with no effort is directly related to the 'Cinderella Conceit'...) it's what seems to be the feminine penchant for stating in their profile that "I'm looking for an honest, confident man who is comfortable with himself", then posting carefully edited, cropped, posed, blurred/low res, old photos of themselves that hide their current shape.  A female friend of mine who is over 40 explained that it is not just an effort to keep their size under wraps, but also reflects a desire, having reached maturity and having gone through some disappointments with men, to find a guy who loves them for who they are, not for their middle-aged figure.

I get it.  Sadly I'm not hardwired to do so (see "...Male vs. Female Hard-wiring" immediately below) and, having maintained my shape, I unreasonably (according to many!) expect to date women who have done the same.  Trim women do exist (my ex, who's now in her mid 30's, being one of them), but either they have no need for the use of online dating sites because they're getting more than enough attention offline, or the trim girls who post recent pics illustrating their real proportions get so much attention from the lads that my sad attempts at witty repartee go directly into the 'delete' bin following a single glance at my photos, in favour of those who more closely resemble a Hollywood heartthrob!

The nature of online dating, however, seems anathema to seeing, in advance, a reasonable facsimile of how you girls look at the moment.  The temptation to 'fudge' is simply too seductive to resist!  Given the option between pressing 'upload' on recent full-length photos, or cropping them at the waist, or laterally across the thigh, or at above the upper arm, etc., most women just can't bring themselves to upload as-is.

Now while I 'get this', too, I urge you to think about the consequences.  You claim you want "honesty and confidence", but in the first moment of meeting you, your prospective partner immediately discovers you're somewhat lacking on both counts!  "WAIT, it's not the same for women!"  "You don't understand!"  "It's because of male fixations..."  Blah, blah, blah.  I call 'BS', ladies.  We're going to see you as you are anyway, so why try to hide it?

There it is again, that fantasy 'Cinderella thing' creeping back in!  AND in the minds of fully mature, experienced women, no less!  I am convinced that the REAL reason for so many of you, knowing full well that we ARE going to size you up immediately upon meeting you, are convinced, in your heart of hearts, that maybe, just maybe, we are going to lock eyes with you and realized that, despite your current proportions, you are THE ONE.

[Now if you are under about 27 and reading this (highly unlikely, given the effort it takes), you won't understand, so skip ahead, but if you are old enough to have gone through a couple of longer term relationships and to have dated a mess of guys, you KNOW that, while you've had a bunch of one night stands which initially, in your inebriated, spontaneous state, felt kind of like he was 'Mr. Right', in the cold light of day you quickly realized he was just another "Mr. Right Now" (more power to you for exerting your freedom to satisfy your natural and healthy urges!). Combining the deeply held desire to realize the fulfillment, even momentarily, of the dream of 'love at first sight', with alcohol, raging hormones and inexperience, is the fuel behind more unwanted pregnancies than irresponsible male behaviour, I'm convinced.  It's the primary element central, subconsciously, in driving the girl to abandon common sense.  All men need to abandon common sense is an injection of testosterone, which is exactly what young men experience constantly, starting at about the same time they start joining gangs and spraying graffiti...]

MOST of the really great relationship any humans have NEVER start with a moment of mind-altering, nether-regions-tingling, instantaneous mutual-recognition, as romantic and improbable as that would be.  The best, most well-grounded relationships begin with exactly the same pattern our ancestors went through during the seasonal tribal get-togethers that took place regularly during our hunter-gatherer evolution:

  1. Girl and boy notice each other amongst many others at a distance as the tribes come together.
  2. Some eye contact is made with both this one person and several others. 
  3. Eventually, as the day progresses to evening and they've had a chance to see each other doing various things (dancing, shooting arrows, wrestling amongst the boys, primping amongst the girls, etc.), they get closer and talk a bit.
  4. The parents notice and speak amongst themselves about whether there might be a good match in the works. 
  5. The family/friends offer their advice and approval.
  6. Maybe some kissing and canoodling goes on by the river-side.
  7. Then the tribes part ways for another three months and the romantic pressure builds, as well as the opportunity to meet someone else or lose the feeling of attraction.  
  8. Another tribal get-together takes place and the 'dance of romance' might continue.
Perhaps the courtship eventually built up over time into a marriage, perhaps it only leading to a new baby arriving, but what took place back then, and still does today when you meet a man at work and get to know him over many meetings and observations, is a slow build, NOT an instantaneous attraction.  The latter is NOT a good thing to base long-term compatibility on.  Starting as friends first has been proven categorically to be the best way to establish a long-term, solid, loyal (respectful) relationship.

How do we start off a decent relationship via online dating sites?  Easy, by not only revealing something about ourselves personality and interests-wise via a written profile and details about ourselves (divorced, no kids, 3 dogs, etc.), but also through some recent full-length photos that give prospective partners the chance, upfront, to see how the other person is going to look if we agree to a 'coffee date'.

I'm the first one to admit that I feel like I've aged 10 years in the past two since the end of my marriage (that's aged physically, emotionally I feel like I've finally climbed out of an ancient pit where 'old souls' go to die!) and I probably show it, but when you look at my range of photos, you're getting a pretty honest impression of how I look.  Professionally taken photos, or heavily cropped/edited shots, are hardly going to give anyone a realistic impression.

I went back to photos from my distant and recent past, from my two charming ex's and a few of many girlfriends (arranged chronologically--and two were in their mid-30's when the shots were taken) just to see if I was somehow 'colouring' my memories and that my predilection for 'trim posteriors' is a recent thing.  Nope.  Net-net, if yours is much larger than theirs, no offense, but sadly we're not likely to make it to home base, but best of luck in your search!

To read my more recent post about how human nature works most naturally in picking dates click here:  "The Dating Appeal Funnel."

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Same, But Very Different -- Female vs. Male Brain Hardwiring & Our Perspectives on "The One"

First the bad news: There is no "The One".
Now the good news: YOU are "The One"...
"Marriage is not about finding the right person. It's about becoming the right person. Many people feel they married the wrong person, but... it's truly about growing to become a better spouse."
Ladies, I get a lot of flack, especially from the more mature girls out there, for being attracted to women younger than myself who look after themselves well (i.e. are 'trim').  I try to explain that men's "visual preferences" in what attracts them to a potential mate does not age, evolve, develop or mature as their bodies and brains do; it is natural human hard-wiring (automatic responses) for men to continue to be attracted to women who are in their fertile years, but the rain of derision and cynical critiques continue!

Now this from Dr. Louann Brizendine, author of "The Female Brain" and "The Male Brain", clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, from an article on (click for link).  Maybe some of you single gals (and married!) can turn this info to your advantage...
The Bottom Line
The human brain is the best learning machine on the planet and human beings are capable of making major changes in our lives. But there are some things that the male brain and female brain are not likely to change anytime soon. And it makes more sense to deal with these brain realities, than to argue with them or ignore them.
The best advice I have for women is make peace with the male brain. Let men be men.
We're the Same, But Very Different!
Although women the world over have been doing it for centuries, we can't really blame a guy for being a guy. And this is especially true now that we know that the male and female brains have some profound differences.
Our brains are mostly alike. We are the same species, after all. But the differences can sometimes make it seem like we are worlds apart.
The "defend your turf" area -- dorsal premammillary nucleus -- is larger in the male brain and contains special circuits to detect territorial challenges by other males. And his amygdala, the alarm system for threats, fear and danger is also larger in men. These brain differences make men more alert than women to potential turf threats.
Meanwhile, the "I feel what you feel" part of the brain -- mirror-neuron system -- is larger and more active in the female brain. So women can naturally get in sync with others' emotions by reading facial expressions, interpreting tone of voice and other nonverbal emotional cues.
Perhaps the biggest difference between the male and female brain is that men have a sexual pursuit area that is 2.5 times larger than the one in the female brain. Not only that, but beginning in their teens, they produce 200 to 250 percent more testosterone than they did during pre-adolescence.
If testosterone were beer, a 9-year-old boy would be getting the equivalent of a cup a day. But a 15-year-old would be getting the equivalent of two gallons a day. This fuels their sexual engines and makes it impossible for them to stop thinking about female body parts and sex.
And So Begins the 'Man Trance'
All that testosterone drives the "Man Trance"-- that glazed-eye look a man gets when he sees breasts. As a woman who was among the ranks of the early feminists, I wish I could say that men can stop themselves from entering this trance. But the truth is, they can't. Their visual brain circuits are always on the lookout for fertile mates. Whether or not they intend to pursue a visual enticement, they have to check out the goods.
To a man, this is the most natural response in the world, so he's dismayed by how betrayed his wife or girlfriend feels when she sees him eyeing another woman. Men look at attractive women the way we look at pretty butterflies. They catch the male brain's attention for a second, but then they flit out of his mind. Five minutes later, while we're still fuming, he's deciding whether he wants ribs or chicken for dinner. He asks us, "What's wrong?" We say, "Nothing." He shrugs and turns on the TV. We smoulder and fear that he'll leave us for another woman.
Click to enlarge
Not surprisingly, the different objectives that men and women have in mating games put us on opposing teams -- at least at first. The female brain is driven to seek security and reliability in a potential mate before she has sex. But a male brain is fuelled to mate and mate again.
Until, that is, he mates for life.
Despite stereotypes to the contrary, the male brain can fall in love just as hard and fast as the female brain, and maybe more so. When he meets and sets his sights on capturing "the one," mating with her becomes his prime directive. And when he succeeds, his brain makes an indelible imprint of her. Lust and love collide and he's hooked.
The 'Doting Daddy Brain'
A man in hot pursuit of a mate doesn't even remotely resemble a devoted, doting daddy. But that's what his future holds. When his mate becomes pregnant, she'll emit pheromones that will waft into his nostrils, stimulating his brain to make more of a hormone called prolactin. Her pheromones will also cause his testosterone production to drop by 30 percent.
These hormonal changes make him more likely to help with the baby. They also change his perceptual circuitry, increasing his ability to hear a baby cry, something many men can't do very well before their wives are pregnant.
And a word to the wise for all the young mothers who are reluctant to let your husbands hold and care for your newborn. The more hands-on care a father gives his infant, the more his brain aligns with the role of fatherhood. So, hand over the baby.
His Emotions Run Deep
Although men have earned the reputation for being more stoic than women, they actually have stronger emotional reactions than we do. They just don't show it very often.
Studies of men's faces show that the male brains initial emotional reaction can be stronger than the female brain's. But within 2.5 seconds, he changes his face to hide the emotion, or even reverse it. The repeated practice of hiding his emotions gives men the classic poker face.
It's his poker face and his analytical response to personal problems that can put him in the doghouse. She's crying as she talks about what's wrong with the relationship, and instead of hugging her, his mind is racing to find a way to resolve the problem as soon as possible. With practice and because of the way their brains are wired, men use their analytical brain structures, not their emotional ones, to find a solution.
They enjoy this advantage, but women often take affront to it. When you're telling your husband your problem and he tries to solve it instead of hearing you out, you may think he's being insensitive. But that's not what's going on in his brain. He's working to solve the problem so he can relieve your pain as quickly as possible. Not because he doesn't care or doesn't want to listen, but because he loves you.
So, ladies, while married men both love and are deeply bonded to their wives, and they learn/adapt to continuing to feel sexually stimulated by their partners even as their partners' bodies change (and MANY will never cheat), single men of any age (especially those who have never had the satisfaction that comes from being fathers and happen to be highly testosterone-charged) are naturally going to pursue what I'd call 'pre-cougars' in their early 30's (that would be two stages earlier than 'pre-sabre-toothed tigers').  Sorry!  (But I still find mature women more interesting to chat with.  ;-)

Note that the author does mention 'The One' above in relation to a male's instinct to bond emotionally.  I believe, having read 1,000 women's profiles in which they mention that they are waiting to meet 'The One', that men and women do see this VERY differently.  Men use their analytical tendencies to evaluate the issue, while women use their emotions.

What nets out is that your average man does not really believe that there is ACTUALLY a single individual woman out there that he will magically and mysteriously match with at some metaphysical level -- he's satisfied when he comes across a lady who is 'good enough'.  Women, on the other hand, really DO believe, in their heart of hearts, that this fantasy is true.  [And the nature of online dating, with its endless supply of new profiles of (apparently) available men, encourages girls to believe it can deliver the fantasy!]

Emotionally many women find it extremely difficult to let go of this fallacy (although I've noticed that divorced women, having been through their idyllic 'white wedding' and experienced some failure/disappointment, are somewhat better at being open minded with regard to recognizing that you need to check each other out over time, i.e. MORE than a single 'coffee date').  Especially among the women in their late 30's (even early 40's) who may have been engaged or lived common-law, but have never been married, the fantasy continues to be held tightly clenched to their breast, blocking them from meeting literally hundreds of potentially ideal mates.

These girls (using the term intentionally, as they are still nursing a 'girl-like' fantasy), versus the men who pursue them, both online and off, do not use the notion of "the chemistry between us will decide if we move on past the initial 'coffee date'" the same way that men, or more mature girls, do.  Guys see the first date as a chance to evaluate (per Lori Gottlieb's very accurate research) Men's 3 simple criteria for a second date:  
  1. Is she attractive enough, 
  2. Interesting enough, 
  3. Warm/giving enough to spend another 2 hours with?  
These women, who have not let go of what I call their 'princess phase' (click for post), at that first meeting with a guy they've 'met' online continue to have expectations as high as they were at 16.  Much higher, in fact, as at 16 years old they 'fell in love' with the paper boy, the guy sitting next to them in geography class, their hot teacher, their next door neighbour, the guy selling fries at the fairground, etc.

TODAY they are waiting for lightning bolts and a musical sound track -- so when the guy sitting across from them at the 'coffee date' (secretly their "Mr. Right", but nervous as hell on that particular day, or more than a little 'put off' by their 'shopping list' approach to questions, etc.) doesn't lean in and begin showing signs of instantaneous rapture, they write him off and refuse a second date.  In fact, if, from his poorly photographed profile pics, she does not see what, in her mind's eye, is the face of her fantasy "Knight in Shining Armour", then into the delete bin he goes!  The endless supply of more and more guys' profiles online seductively makes them feel like he's just around the corner, and the appeal of carrying on is quite irresistible, sadly.

Sure, we regularly hear 'fantasy-perpetuating' stories about immature dreamers living in a fantasy dimension of their own creation who claim they found 'love at first sight' (there a LOT of those stories in celebrity magazines about starry-eyed 'Taylor Swift-types'...), but come back a year or two later and you find that what they found was actually 'projection': projecting the ideal each had in their minds onto the man until reality catches up with them and demonstrates that we cannot change someone else into what we want by loving them enough -- people are who they are and we have to love them as is.  Realistic, level-headed people recognize that 90% of really strong, lasting relationships began with several meetings or 'sightings' in a row and gradually developed into a mutual attraction.

You are NOT going to recognize your next viable relationship match from a head shot, ladies (see my post about eHarmony).  You'll have to kiss a few frogs and work as hard at online dating as you do in the gym or at your job to find him -- and it will take a few dates with him to recognize that he MIGHT be a match!  (See my follow-up post: "I'm a Confident Woman with a Positive Self-Image.  Really?")

Sunday, March 21, 2010

An Unremarkable Life

So, I've emerged from 'my cave on Mars'.  After a couple of years in the dark, in the silence, licking my wounds and slowing regaining the emotional energy required to be a decent date, much less a partner, I'm back to considering a first date or two.  The questions one gets about one's 'story' led me to contemplate it...

  • I was an unremarkable child, best remembered for scowling in family photos and saying "I HATE you!" in early family films.   With my best friend, Anthony, I built forts in the forest and collected golf balls in the Don River, selling them to the passing golfers (yes, sometimes it was their own ball they were buying back...).  We spent the days from morning to dusk out adventuring, our lunches in our little backpacks.  Too bad those days are over for most kids.  Sad, really.  
  • Got IQ tested in public school and was shifted into an accelerated program, but dragged my feet until they returned me to the lower level class all my friends were in.  I was happier there, convinced I was just an average kid, pulling C's pretty consistently and embarrassing myself playing air guitar in class.
  • For fun I'd often drive my parents crazy by taking apart my latest purchases just to see how they worked, like a new 10-speed bike, a Honda dirt bike's engine, or a new watch, disassembling them down to the gaskets and push-springs, then reassembling them (no, I never had a disaster!). 
  • On the strength of a hastily thrown together portfolio, I got accepted into Ryerson's interior design program, but decided I wanted to do something that was just a tad more mind-bending (although I still spend WAY too much time on design), and can't say I made an error in judgment.  My brain requires a regular work-out or it tends to 'freeze up'...
  • Spent 6 years, total, in post-secondary, moving from low C’s in Year 1 (being under-motivated and somewhat 'the rebel') to summa cum laude in my final year.  I wanted to better understand why we humans do the odd, self-destructive things we do and majored in motivational psych — my thesis was on the evolution of romantic love.  My post-grad was in advertising and PR.
  • After graduating I spent two years of traveling around the globe, working for a time in Sydney.  Experienced China before the tourist boom, hitchhiked Japan end to end, Siberia, Malaysia, and a lot more.  I highly recommend it. (Just don't do it newly married...)
Timbuktu and Back Again

  • I took to advertising like a duck to water and averaged one promotion per year working on soft drinks and beer accounts, moving from a junior  to senior executive in record time.  Developed stand-out new processes and tools in my junior roles, followed by share-of-market-breaking campaigns in later years.
  • In what little spare time I had, Peter Stewart and I created a singles social club that garnered a 5,000 name mailing list and considerable notoriety called "Lucy, Ju Got Some 'Splainin' to Do!" (because "Lucy, You Have Some Explaining to Do!" didn't have the same Ricky Ricardo ring to it), aka "The Lucy Club".  A lot of people still remember getting lucky at those quarterly parties...

  • Became bored and frustrated with the Canadian ad agencies' ‘no international transfer’ policy and ‘dropped out’ of the agency biz  to open a new media firm, the first of it’s kind in Canada and a principle source for cinema info during the early years of mobile phone penetration.  
  • In parallel, with a couple of partners, Andre Meurer and John Blackburn, I opened a singles bar in Toronto that became enormously successful (before extenuating circumstances forced its closure).  Its nickname was "Lost My Coat" as it was the bar above a restaurant at 90 Avenue Road called "L'Entrecote" and so many patrons left in the dead of winter semi-clad.  Our 'official' name for it was "The Quiet Little Jazz Age Cocktail Salon Upstairs at 90 Avenue Road", but that never caught on for some reason...
  • I moved to Europe and over the next few years got promoted into a Regional VP role working on the P&G business.  After some years working in Europe and the Middle-East, I moved to the beach in Mexico with the Dutch wife I'd met in Toronto, married while in Warsaw, worked with living on the Caribbean, and divorced in Toronto.
  • Ended up spending several years building Cancun's most successful ad agency and eventually expanded to an office in Mexico City to take the business national, but the endemic corruption and backroom dealing finally sent me packing back to Toronto with my three Mexican dog-ters: Edwina (14, an 'almost' Mini-Schnauzer street rescue), Lotty (13, a "Mexicana" -- street dog rescue) and Cappuccino (10, Eddie's daughter with a poodle lad from the neighbourhood, hence an 'almost Schnoodle').
  • Now I consult: developing marketing insights, keynote presentations about the future of marketing and workshops that look forward to where marketing dollars will shift after the “social marketing” bubble collapses.  
  • What I'm good at, I've learned, is making connections between disparate things that others don't see, like suggesting to P&G many years ago that their 2 in 1 detergent would only start selling well when they labeled it with "Now With the Fresh Scent of Downy"  (Of course they're analytical and averse to change, so said no, but now they're overdoing it, co-branding every product in their line-up.)  My other blog, my professional 'soap box', is where I vent about the things that would bore you to tears.  
What's Coming Next?
  • I have the nagging feeling that I haven't done enough yet with my life (likely the lack of progeny contributes to it!) and want to make a difference.


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