Miss Information: How can I stop being every woman’s backup plan?

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Dear Miss Information,

I’m a twenty-three-year-old professional male who’s been browsing online personals. A lot of the women sound amazing. Better than I expected. However, I also see a lot of women who say stuff like, “Looking for a serious boyfriend,” or, “What I really want is to eventually be married.”

I want that, too, but there are limitations. I don’t want to waste anyone’s time, but I also don’t want to go out with someone who’s expecting me to be their boyfriend after the first date. I’ve turned away a couple of girls who had such wording in their profiles. This is them contacting me, not me contacting them. My friend who’s more experienced tells me that this is rare. Women don’t make the first move very often (on this particular site, at least) and that I’m being crazy.

What do you think? Am I really just commitment-shy and in denial? I wish I could tell women not to put this kind of stuff in their profiles. I’d be much less scared if you ladies kept things more open-ended. — Stops Before He Starts

Dear Stops Before He Starts,

You don’t like relationship talk in your online personals, I click away screaming at the slightest mention of sex. Does this mean I’m a prude? Hopefully not, considering I write this column, covering topics from cuckolding to transsexual escorts and which used to feature a marquee shot of me lookin’ all nakedpants.

I just find it to be a turnoff. I don’t feel the need to question it. Why would I? That’s what Internet dating is for. You see something in a profile you don’t like, you move on to the next. It sounds callous, but those post-work hours are valuable. Why go on a date hoping what someone says isn’t true when you could be on a date with someone who doesn’t use the B-word or have nuptials on the brain?

If it were something more nitpicky, if you were ruling a girl out because she mentioned the wrong book or band, then I might tell you to ease up. But it would be the same kind of situation if you were older and had a burning desire to settle down, purchase a hybrid, and pop out a couple of Brooklyn Kennedys and Jayden Sebastians, and therefore wanted to avoid women only interested in short flings. You’re twenty-three and just getting started. Go with what feels right. But if your experience is anything like everyone else’s, you’ll find dating online is an ongoing process of tweaking and adjusting your expectations.

Readers, have you ever reversed a position when it came to online profiles?

Dear Miss Information,

I had an epiphany recently: I seem to be the "last resort" or "backup plan" for women. I’ve never gone on a proper date with a woman I’ve asked out or pursued romantically, I just get strung along.

The only relationships I seem to have and the scant few dates I ever go on are with women who seem to have completely given up on finding a guy who has the qualities they’re looking for. I actually had a lady friend say to me today, "I’m sick of guys. I actually think dating you wouldn’t be so bad. You’ll do, so wanna go out?"

I turned her down; I felt degraded. I knew that as soon as a more appealing guy came along I’d be yesterday’s news before my ass even hit the curb. I’ve been there before and learned my lesson.

I’m certainly not God’s gift to women, but I’m not a bad-looking guy. I’ve had an encouraging number of women tell me that I’m handsome, sharp, and stylish. I’m career-driven and get shit done. I flirt and play the dating game the best I know how, and I’m not a suck-up. So what is it? I’m at a loss. I have to be projecting something that’s contributing to the problem.

My only theory is the immaturity of my age bracket — I just turned twenty-seven, and I feel more disconnected from my peers every day. I find most people my age kind of un-relatable.  I work very hard to put all of that aside, and give everyone a fair chance, but lately I’ve been discouraged.

Any advice for a guy who always feels like the fallback plan? — Captain Deferred

Dear Captain Deferred,

I’m not trying to inspire a mutiny, but I fail to see how one random remark from a female automatically makes you the backup plan. Are you sure this girl wasn’t kidding around or flirting when she made those comments? I know I’ve said stuff like that to guys, and guys have said stuff like that to me. The “I hate dating, you hate dating, let’s settle” bit is hardly original. It’s rom-com boilerplate. Either she trusts you enough to kid around or she likes you and is wooing you in an immature and roundabout way.

Let’s say I’m totally wrong, that I’m being a Pollyanna. Why would you let someone who is that outwardly bitchy and that insensitive make you feel "degraded?" An unkind come-on is something you brush off and move on from. Reserve your emotional energy — and the dramatic adjectives — for a real relationship.

Oh, that’s right: you don’t have those. You get strung along by women who wind up treating you like shit. Why is that? I don’t have the exact answer, but I think you hit on something big when you said, “I have to be projecting something that’s contributing to the problem.”

I’ll take that, minus the word “projecting” and its incense-and-patchouli connotations. It’s too easy to blame something on vibes. They’re amorphous, hard to quantify. You can’t set up a “Vibe Chart” on your wall or have your best friend thump you on the arm when you’re slipping. Most people give up, pull the “I’m so misunderstood” card, and blame it on others’ unfair and unyielding perceptions.

What would happen if we took the unknown thing you’re “contributing” to mean your behavior? From what I can tell, it might include one or more of the following:

  • Going after women who haven’t shown signs of being interested.
  • Continuing to pursue said women, despite getting negative signals.
  • Being afraid of rejection to the point where you fail to take any risks or move so slowly that you position yourself as the asexual friend.

You could also be running with the wrong crew. Thirty is the new twenty, or so the Jay-Z song says, but there are people in their late twenties who aren’t frivolous. Could it be that you’re trolling the same haunts with the same friends and expecting to find a meaningful connection? Don’t get me wrong, it could happen. I met my beau at a grody East Village joint that smells like a urinal cake. I hadn’t been to that urinal cake in months because I’d been trying to write more and drink less. I know this is hypocritical, considering I just discounted the karma stuff above, but I do think the universe rewards you when you break patterns. Even half-assed attempts. Why not pick something from the list above or your own if you think I’m way off base — and give it everything you’ve got? Best of luck, Captain.