Remember when Jonathan Swift wrote “A Modest Proposal” about how people should eat babies to prevent them from being a burden to their impoverished parents and make them beneficial? And do you also remember how most people didn’t understand that he was being satirical?
Dating and Strategy wasn’t quite as satiated with satire as “A Modest Proposal,” but judging by the comments I received on- and off-line, it became evident that at the very least, other people were taking it far more seriously than I ever did (and I’m the one that took it seriously enough to write about it.)
There were a few significant misunderstandings from it that, as the author, I feel responsible to dispel lest anyone take anything too far.
Misunderstanding 1: My Stance on Who Should Ask Who Out
People most often told me or wrote comments to the effect of arguing that women should ask a guy out if she wants to. Often it seemed to be in the spirit of trying to counter things that I said in the post. Perhaps people just like to affirm their stance on the matter, but if they thought I was arguing against that, I’m not sure where the idea is coming from.
After all, the topic of the post is why not asking someone out that you like is strategically bad. If I thought people would walk away with anything from the post, it would be that traditional social scripts would be worth rewriting.
Maybe they just saw the “One does not simply ask a guy on a first date” meme at the top and then commented before reading the rest. Or perhaps ending the post with the rational reasons to cede the initiative made people think I was building up to that or something. I wouldn’t mind some feedback as to what part made you think I was against women asking men out.
Misunderstanding 2: My Use of War Analogies
Some people seemed to think that I was saying that dating is as bad as war (or something like that). I used war analogies because they provide the richest content for strategic thought and evidence.
To me, they also added to the ridiculousness by juxtaposition. Having dating topics next to military engagements was amusing to me, but apparently not to everyone.
I also wasn’t trying to compare the entirety of a war to a dating situation, but a particular engagement or strategic methodology displayed in a particular battle, aspect, etc. The post wasn’t a “WWII is like dating,” but “this one time, there was this thing in this one war, that was like this one part of dating.”
Misunderstanding 3: Prescription vs. Description
Some people seemed to think that I thought this way about dating all the time. Others thought I might be trying to advocate such a calculated approach to dating. The answers to those are “no” and “no.”
I, and hopefully nobody, consciously take such an approach to dating. I also don’t think it’s healthy to (I explicitly said that a “creeper” would utilize the methods described in the political section. Creepers are not good dating examples. Duh.) In fact, it’s precisely because people don’t think this way that this was enjoyable to write about. I could have written “People Sometimes Go To Movies On Dates,” but even writing the title was boring.
That’s not to say that the strategic elements don’t show up in some form or another in dating. People will usually say it differently, or describe the fact without using strategic frameworks to explain it (such as “if you want it, go for it,” or “put your fears behind you” or “don’t be shy.”) I think a lot of people recognize the significance in having the power to act on things they want, but perhaps not everyone is comfortable looking closer into how that power functions.
Misunderstanding 4: Girl Power
Some people seemed to think that I thought that girls were powerless. First, I did address the fact that alternate tools of influence besides asking people on dates do exist in the original post. The point is that giving up the tool of asking people out generally relinquishes final control over the situation.
After all, the Athenians still had power when fortified themselves behind their walls, but they weren’t able to control the engagement. The Allies and Axis both held significant power throughout the entire war, but they did not simultaneously have “the initiative” . In relationships, choosing not to utilize a direct approach doesn’t mean you don’t have any power, but you will have a much more difficult time controlling the situation.
I also think the word “cede” is very important. It’s not that girls inherently don’t have power, but traditional social scripts expect them to relinquish some of the most effective tools in relationships. As soon as a girl decides to ask a guy out, she has taken the initiative rather than ceded it, and every advantage has become hers.
One of the best thing about sticking my posts in places with strangers is getting feedback (even from confused people). There are few places in life where we can get honest and clear opinions about yourself or your work from people. All of you with no reason to guard my emotions are some of my best resources for improving my writing.
So whether or not you understood the article, I had fun writing it. It was a bit of a mash up of strategic theory, military history, sociology, and interpersonal relationships. It was fun to think about, but sticking all of that together basically guaranteed some ugly offspring. And I’ve made plenty of ugly babies on this blog, from Dating and Game Theory, to Toilet Paper Terrors, to Coke and Caffeine: Sin Juice or Garbage Juice, and more.
It’s enough ugly babies to feed a family of 6 for a month!
Keep seeking truth.
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