To have my romantic acumen assessed and repaired by a dating consultant.
State your hypothesis in the form of a prediction that can be verified by the results of the experiment.
Since I started writing this column, "normal" dates have been relatively hard to come by. Every day I’m bombarded with invitations to sex parties and dildo seminars, so I’m never short on things to do. Problem is, my friends now think that fixing me up on a date is akin to recommending Michael Jackson as a babysitter. I started using online personals to meet people but soon discovered that selling myself to a stranger isn’t my strong suit. My dating life is going down the pan, and I’m about to pay a professional for some relief. But it’s not what you think: a three-hour tête-à-tête with a dating coach might be just what I need to release the charm and charisma of a young Warren Beatty.
Please list all the materials required for this experiment (including, if applicable, how they were obtained).
Dating coach (1)
Blind date (1)
In this portion of your report, you must describe step-by-step what you did in your lab. It should be specific enough that someone who has not seen the lab can follow the directions and recreate the same lab.
First Impressions Consulting is based in downtown Manhattan. For $275 one of their staff members all of whom hold Ph.D.s in psychology will take you on a simulated date, evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, then come up with solid psychological explanations for your gargantuan porn collection and chronically callused right hand. After I faxed over a signed agreement that effectively said DO NOT TOUCH THE PSYCHOLOGISTS, I was told to show up at a downtown coffee shop at eleven a.m. that Saturday a full two hours before I’d typically get up and think about brunch options.
Bleary-eyed and dazed, I made my way to the meeting place, where an attractive redhead in her late thirties was waiting outside. “Grant?” she asked. “Yes!” I replied, thankful to be spared the indignity of picking my fake date out of a crowd. “I’m Susan. Pleased to meet you,” she said, extending a gloved hand. “I just love the cold, don’t you?” “Yes,” I lied, kicking off ten seconds of excruciating silence.
Over coffee and a croissant, Susan and I went through the usual preamble of awkward blind dates. During the next hour, we swapped the usual demographic information (where we grew up, went to school, traveled, etc.), then inexplicably went off on a huge tangent about paranormal activity in Connecticut.
I was nervous. Not only was my date fifteen years my senior, but I was acutely aware of being evaluated. Susan noted every move, gesture and comment I made, and she certainly didn’t go out of her way to make me feel at ease. During lulls in the conversation, she’d just look up at me expectantly with raised eyebrows. I filled the gaps with furtive gulps of coffee, as the Rolodex of my mind flipped around in search of an appropriate conversational nugget.
I managed to make Susan laugh a few times, but toward the end of the hour we began to recycle topics. I felt like a radio DJ struggling to fill dead air while straying further and further from the script. Finally, Susan stopped the madness. In a motion reminiscent of an unmasking-the-villain scene on Scooby-Doo, my interrogator produced a clipboard from her bag. “Let’s break out of this,” she said. “I’m Dr. Anne Demarais.” I had to restrain myself from hugging her, so great was my relief at being let off the hook. Dr. Anne asked me to complete a questionnaire and swing by her office in thirty minutes. I scribbled down answers to questions like, How do you feel you came across during the date? and Did your date with Susan feel awkward? and made my way over to meet Anne, the psychologist formally known as Susan.
First, we reviewed my questionnaire. I told Dr. Anne that being evaluated made me a nervous wreck. “But whenever you meet anyone, you’re being evaluated, aren’t you?” she countered. I thought about that as the good doctor reviewed her notes with a knitted brow. I was convinced that I was about to be cut off at the knees.
“You are what I’d call . . . ” began Dr. Anne, ” . . . a high-level performer.” She showed me the score sheet. The things I did “exceptionally well” included “introducing topics,” “not appearing excessively concerned with impressing Susan” and “discussing interests and hobbies passionately.” Things I did “satisfactorily” included “not expressing neediness,” “showing honesty and integrity” and “not denigrating self.” (Yes, the results may surprise some people.)
But the real point of this venture was to pinpoint exactly where I’m shooting myself in the foot with the ladies. According to Dr. Anne, I took little interest in “Susan.” I didn’t use her name in conversation and, aside from cursory questions about her schooling and where she’d traveled in Europe, I missed several opportunities to ask what she liked to do, her hobbies and interests, hopes and aspirations, yada, yada, yada. I also failed to offer any compliments whatsoever.
I think that’s because I felt like I was hitting on a friend’s mom. How could I take an interest in someone who’s pretending to be someone else for money? I knew I could do better in a real-life situation with a girl I was interested in.
I complained that I found “Susan” a bit chilly. Anne said that because I had good interpersonal skills, she had decided to raise the bar by adding a few clunky silences; in doing so, she was giving me an opportunity to draw Susan out more. Faced with my slightly quizzical expression, the doc broke it down for me. “You seem to relate your life in a series of anecdotes which are all very funny and interesting,” she said. “Like your story about being the singer in a rock band. Susan asked you several questions about that. Susan may have been a concert pianist, but you really didn’t think to ask her.” She went on to say that although I had all the charm of a grade-A mack, my lack of interest (in “Susan,” at least) put a serious dent in my game.
Dr. Anne said that creating a great first impression is based on two things: the entertainment value you provide by offering information about your own life; and, more importantly, how you make other people feel about themselves: appearing to give a shit about their dreams, laying the groundwork, making them feel special, etc. etc. Once you’ve done all that, she explained, you can move to “the next stage.” (Although she didn’t specify, I assumed this was the make-out stage.) For the most part, the evaluation boosted my ego, and I left the office with an extra spring in my step.
Little did I know what was to come.