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My Cinematic Year, Part 5: Confessions of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl

If you like, see also: Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4.

Just a few weeks after announcing my availability to the world on OKCupid, I declared the endeavor a complete disaster and deactivated my account.

What went wrong? Let’s review!

THEY DIDN’T INTEREST ME

This isn’t really anyone’s fault; it’s just the truth. Maybe they were clearly incapable of facing the fact that they were balding, which is my admittedly shallow but ironclad dealbreaker. Maybe they listed Transformers as their favorite movie. Maybe they made what initially appeared to be hilarious jokes about their giant stuffed-animal collection … except those “jokes” turned out to just be factual information about their giant stuffed-animal collection. (This actually happened.)

Regardless of the reason, I knew right away that it wasn’t going to happen with a lot of these dudes. But what about the rest of them?

THEY FAILED TO BRING THEIR A-GAME

Wasting my time with a four-word message is bad enough, but winking at me? Really? Since when does this work, even in the real world? Men, have you ever winked at a woman in public, without making any other effort at all, and had her come running after you to proposition you?

“I couldn’t help but notice that you winked at me back there,” she said breathlessly, “and I’m hooked! You had me at squeezing one eye shut while leaving the other one conspicuously open.”

You might have the best profile in the world, but I’ll probably never see it. Winking at me or sending me four words of text is like leaving your waitress a two-cent tip: we’re both going to decide we deserved more, and we’d both be more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt if you had given us nothing at all.

THEY INSULTED ME IN HOPES OF DRAWING ME INTO AN EXCHANGE

Nice try, but no.

THEY APPEARED HATEFUL TOWARD WOMEN AS A MEANS OF COMPLIMENTING ME

“Finally, a girl with ACTUAL intelligence who isn’t a desperate skank!”

Uh … thanks?

Having slogged through the dating trenches myself, I do have some sympathy. There were certainly times when my OKCupid inbox made me feel as if I had holed myself up in my apartment and was shoving mouth-breathing zombies back with a broom through a chain-locked door while they reached through the gap in an effort to grope at my boobs.

But listen, bitter isn’t sexy, and if you want to actually find the intelligent feminist you’re looking for, coining terms like “bar mongoloid” (true story) is not going to get you there.

THEY BLAMED THE DATING CULTURE FOR THEIR MISDEEDS

When I call men out on bad behavior, they often say, “But you don’t know what it’s like out there. A lot of women DO want me to compliment their tits, on account of their desperate appetite for validation, and to text them incessantly, because a lot of women are so needy that they insist on knowing I’m always thinking of them! I’m a well-meaning victim of conditioning who is just trying to give your gender what it asked for!”

I’m confused as to why men will claim that society is forcing them to cater to women who are nothing like me while telling me I’m the only type of woman they could imagine a future with.

Don’t call me ten times a day while telling me that you wouldn’t call me ten times a day if it weren’t for all the peer pressure from the ladies. Your behavior represents you. It is who you are, and it is your responsibility. Do what the woman you would want would want. Put even more simply: be yourself.

THEY WANTED CREDIT FOR WHAT THEY HADN’T DONE

Sometimes, nice guys finish last because they mistakenly perceive being nice as an epic accomplishment when being nice is actually just a requirement for basic human decency. Quit pouting because you aren’t getting credit for not cheating on women or beating them, and then start actively being awesome. When women discuss men they’re excited about, they don’t say, “Get this: he hasn’t stabbed me in the face with an icepick—not even once!”

THEY MADE IT SEXUAL

I have zero daddy issues, I respect myself, and nothing in my ad leaned toward anything sexual; even my story about a six-thousand-dollar sex doll was family-friendly (sort of). That means that sexualizing me before you’ve met me or gotten to know me at all is just going to seem lecherous. I cannot abide by men who Take Liberties in this regard; I’m never going to see it as anything but ignorant of the fact that sex is the least of what I have to offer.

I’m not looking for a eunuch, just someone who has the good sense to keep his fantasies to himself until they don’t seem, you know, creepy as all hell.

THEY MESSAGED ME MULTIPLE TIMES BEFORE I COULD GET BACK TO THEM

I’ve already written about this, so I’ll just quote myself, if you don’t mind:

“If there is one single, crucial dating concept that single men and women everywhere need to grasp, it’s this: WAIT YOUR TURN. The failure to apply this simple rule in dating is staggeringly universal. If you are still single after years and years of sighting that spark of interest in someone’s eyes, only to wind up baffled and empty-inboxed, it’s probably because you don’t wait your turn.

“You can’t charm your way out of it. [By sending multiple messages without waiting for a reply,] you are being impatient and disrespectful. You are communicating that you want dating to happen on your schedule, that you have no impulse control, and that you do not grasp the basic tenets of give-and-take that are so key to a relationship. The privilege of setting the pace of this interaction is not yours alone, so don’t claim it as such.

“Sometimes, they aren’t going to respond, even if you do it right and just send that one, disciplined, not-too-desperate-or-infatuated e-mail. But if they didn’t answer one e-mail, are they really going to answer five? And is the annihilation of your pride worth the slim chance that they will?”

THEY DIDN’T LISTEN

I had a few first-date rules that I communicated plainly (and, after some practice, unapologetically): everyone pays for their own stuff; everyone adheres to a casual “jeans and sneaks” sort of dress code; and no one makes a move on the first date. I won’t go out with anyone who doesn’t agree to these rules: no hard feelings, but we clearly want different things.

I created these rules to eliminate some of the awkward first-date “how is this supposed to go?” uncertainty, but it didn’t take long for another enormous benefit to reveal itself: I suddenly had a very easy way to determine whether my date was capable of following simple instructions.

If you pressure me to let you pay for dinner after I’ve made it clear that I’m a girl who goes dutch, you can’t be trusted to stick to your word or respect my boundaries … and if you imply that I’m ungrateful because I refuse to accept your money, that just tells me you like to use the guilt and doubt of good people as tools for manipulation.

Those rules turned out to be an excellent bullet-dodging method. I can’t recommend such things enough.

THEY MAINTAINED ABSURD, HOLLYWOOD-STYLE EXPECTATIONS

Hollywood has sort of screwed me over with the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. You know her: she’s played by Kirsten Dunst or Natalie Portman or Emma Roberts. She’s the unique, intelligent, witty girl who is here to fix all of your problems, solve the puzzle of your previously elusive happiness, and pull you out of your broody, lonely, misunderstood shell so that you can join her on an amazing journey that redefines your life. If she has flaws, they’re harmlessly endearing, and if she has dreams or aspirations, they center around finding someone like you to offer free therapy sessions to.

The men who almost got it right, the men who were so close (but so far away), were the ones who dodged the typical mistakes only to fail miserably at recognizing that I am my own person, with my own shortcomings and ambitions and busy schedule. I hadn’t been waiting for them to find me, and I didn’t power down in their absence, staring blankly at the walls and waiting for my hero to return, the main character so necessary to breathe life into my supportive, peripheral little existence.

These men also failed to understand that any glittery personality comes at a price. They loved how shrewd and kooky and funny I was … they just wished I could get rid of all the complications and neuroses.

Oh, man. I can’t not laugh at that.

Not only is the very best humor forged in a furnace fueled by suffering and mental dysfunction, but there isn’t an interesting person alive who doesn’t have baggage.

Relationships are inconvenient as it is; a relationship with an eccentric individual will be even more so. That’s the price you pay for all of this delicious weirdness. Dating a hilarious, brainy, original woman in hopes of a straightforward, servile relationship is like bringing home a pet tiger in hopes that he will fetch your newspaper for you every morning. Good luck with that.

THEY … WAIT, THIS ONE WAS COMPLETELY MY FAULT

The last mistake I want to talk about was the biggest one in the list … and it was mine. Recognizing it, and fixing it, may just have been the best thing I did all year.

27 Comments

  1. LisaAR wrote:

    Your point on those wanting the “quirks without the work” is so amazingly true–as is the rest of what you’ve nutshelled here. As a married woman, my challenges have changed, for sure, but I have to say some of the core issues are still similar!

    Sunday, July 17, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Permalink
  2. Please don’t think I’m mocking you when I say I’m on the edge of my seat waiting to read the rest!

    Sunday, July 17, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Permalink
  3. Bethany wrote:

    As someone who is still in the OkCupid dating trenches, I almost can’t stand how precisely SPOT ON this is.

    Especially, “There were certainly times when my OKCupid inbox made me feel as if I had holed myself up in my apartment and was shoving mouth-breathing zombies back with a broom through a chain-locked door while they reached through the gap in an effort to grope at my boobs.”
    Because, yes. MY GOD.

    Sunday, July 17, 2011 at 7:18 pm | Permalink
  4. Jenn wrote:

    Just today I was wondering if I was ready to “get out there” and try dating again. Thank you for the previews of coming attractions.

    Sunday, July 17, 2011 at 7:42 pm | Permalink
  5. Jen M. wrote:

    Can I just say a big AMEN! In the future I may make men read this before I go out with them.

    Sunday, July 17, 2011 at 8:46 pm | Permalink
  6. the muskrat wrote:

    I’m ambivalent about my never experiencing the online dating thing. I think it would’ve been fun in some ways, but then again, there are the issues listed above.

    Monday, July 18, 2011 at 6:44 am | Permalink
  7. Megan wrote:

    With the casual jeans and sneaks rule, you invented the no-brown-M&Ms rider of dating:

    http://www.compliancebuilding.com/2009/08/03/compliance-van-halen-and-brown-mms/

    Monday, July 18, 2011 at 7:07 am | Permalink
  8. People need to stop having expectations of others and just accept. You either like someone or not. Everything else is bullshit, so don’t be an ass. (Not directed at you, just people in general.)

    Monday, July 18, 2011 at 8:15 am | Permalink
  9. Deb wrote:

    So you proved that you’re too smart for them. Enjoy being single.

    Monday, July 18, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Permalink
  10. Jen wrote:

    I’m curious, Deb: was that a dig at me, or a genuine wish for me to embrace single life and enjoy it? It had a sort of “oh, snap!” feel to it, but it can be difficult to interpret tone in blog comments. I’m sincere when I say I would love it if you would elaborate either way, either in these comments or over e-mail.

    Monday, July 18, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Permalink
  11. Greg wrote:

    Hi, Jen. I sympathize with much of what you experienced, and I don’t mean to pick a fight here but merely stimulate discussion: If you’re already giving us multiple rules before we’ve e-mailed you and exuding the vibe that “sex is the least of what I have to offer,” might that not chase away some of us higher-quality blokes? The ones who don’t text five times a day? I mean, sometimes I want to wear my cords and nice boots!

    Monday, July 18, 2011 at 7:55 pm | Permalink
  12. Jen wrote:

    Hi, Greg, I’m all for discussion!

    To clarify: I didn’t list rules on my profile. I just listed them once the discussion of a date got under way. So they weren’t presented before anyone e-mailed me.

    The rules were also just first-date rules, so there was always plenty of time for cords and nice boots. Though, honestly? I’m an extremely casual dresser AND a minimalist who owns like three pairs of shoes. Clothes aren’t important to me, and if they’re so important to a guy that he’s balking at giving up on fashion for a day, I’m probably not his best match. And that’s the thing–I’m not saying someone who doesn’t want to dress casually is bad. I’m just saying he should probably not date me!

    By the time the rules were rolled out, a few cheerful, friendly exchanges would have already taken place, so I don’t think anyone thought I was like crossing my arms in front of my chest or anything. Some people have said they were intimidated by how sure I was of what I wanted, but they didn’t seem to mean it in a bad way versus a “dang girl, you SASSY!” way. Several of them thanked me for just flat-out telling them what I wanted instead of forcing them to guess.

    What it comes down to, I think, is that I don’t think using those rules for one date is terribly inconvenient. If someone disagrees, that’s fine, but they’re honestly too rigid for me. Humoring me for one night, especially since the rules aren’t “show up in a limo” or something, is the least of what I’m going to expect someone do to make a relationship work.

    I see nothing wrong with rejecting my rules and moving on–I don’t think that’s offensive at all. I see a great deal wrong with accepting them and then breaking that agreement. A big “no thanks” to anyone who does that. Period.

    As for exuding the vibe that “sex is the least of what I have to offer,” I don’t know that I … exuded it so much as it’s just the plain truth. My profile didn’t say FYI I’M NOT A SLUT SO STOP LOOKING AT MY BOOBS OKAY? Sex just kind of wasn’t mentioned, and I appreciated it when such things were left off the table until my suitor wasn’t a complete stranger. Because: ew.

    My decision to not put these guys on display by quoting my inbox has, in some part, forced me to ask you to trust me that I’m not being oversensitive to this stuff. Example: One guy, in his first message to me ever, offered to wear my panties on his head. PASS.

    Monday, July 18, 2011 at 8:20 pm | Permalink
  13. Greg wrote:

    Cool, thanks for clarifying some of that. And I have no doubt you can throw down some charming e-mails alongside your rules.

    I do trust you that you’ve heard from some blockheads. Still, I’m no James Dean, but a lot of us self-respecting guys don’t like being told what to do in advance — even if we agree with your terms.

    For instance, the don’t-make-a-move rule. I don’t know if you mean sex or even kissing, but I’ve had great first dates where we didn’t get physical and I saw her again. I’ve also had great ones that went the other way. And I’d rather not have the script dictated to me in advance. It’s just a buzzkill is all, and other guys may see it that way too. I would rather she turn me on before she cools me off.

    As for my demands, I would wear nothing less than clean panties on my head.

    Monday, July 18, 2011 at 9:33 pm | Permalink
  14. Jen wrote:

    I think it’s interesting that rules as mild as the ones I’ve laid out would amount to any really troublesome level of “telling someone what to do.” This is, simply put, what I want in a first date. While I’m understanding that someone else might not be interested in such a first date (in which case they are of course welcome to refuse), I don’t know how to feel apologetic about having requirements.

    If they do accept, they accepted, and they are to stand by it. Period. If they don’t like it even while agreeing with it, as you mentioned, that’s on them. If you think something is wrong with the way an interaction is going down, absolutely stand up for yourself. Don’t go on a date that aggravates you. That would be the last thing I’d want in anyone.

    I don’t think a woman should feel unreasonable about wanting to wait until the second date to kiss, or until marriage to have sex, or whatever her personal boundaries are. I don’t think that makes her bossy or demanding at all, at least not to the right person.

    If a guy accepted my rules but added his own–I don’t know, maybe he hates long first dates or maybe he’s really passionate about avoiding coffeeshops–I don’t think my reaction would be “Just who do you think you are, Mr. Bossypants?” and more like, “You’re insisting that we avoid restaurants that make fish because the smell makes you wildly ill? Well … sure, okay,” or “Hmm, you’re insisting that we do the jitterbug down Main Street while wearing potato sacks? Weird, no thanks.”

    I sincerely believe that the right sort of person would feel relieved at my rules. “Oh, thank God, I don’t have to iron anything. Oh, thank God, I don’t have to sit there and wonder whether I’m supposed to be putting my arm around her right now. Oh, thank God, dating isn’t going to bleed me dry financially for once.”

    Anyone who lacks that reaction isn’t for me. I see no reason to bristle at being “told what to do” if what the person is suggesting makes perfect sense to you. If it doesn’t make perfect sense to you because you prefer blazers and can’t live without first-date kisses even when the second date might be readily available for all the kissing you want? We’re simply not a match, and that’s just fine.

    Fatalism really is a beautiful thing.

    Monday, July 18, 2011 at 9:49 pm | Permalink
  15. Greg wrote:

    As I said, many a guy CAN live without kissing on the first date (though good luck with no sex till marriage unless he’s very religious or castrated). He just might wonder why he’s being told what he should wear, how much he should pay and how little he should touch her before the first handshake has been made. He also might wonder how many more rules he’d face later. I would consider it high maintenance and taking the spontaneity out of a first date.

    Hey, it’s your life and I was just interested in the topic. But I’ve seen some strong women who made a lot of demands of men, only to wonder why they end up attracting wimps or jerks. There’s a book that’s kept many a woman needlessly single, and it’s called “The Rules.”

    Monday, July 18, 2011 at 10:21 pm | Permalink
  16. Jen wrote:

    I’m assuming religion in the “no sex until marriage” example, so I agree that it’s unlikely beyond that sort of situation.

    Contrary to what you’re saying, though, I don’t think the average dude I’d be interested in WOULD wonder why he’s being told what he should wear, how much he should pay, and how little he should touch her (although this is a melodramatic way of putting it, as “let me pay for my own food” and “let’s dress casually” do not, in my estimation, amount to treating the man like a marionette). I think he would likely shrug and assume that I don’t own many dresses (survey says: TWO, one for funerals and one for weddings!) and that there are a lot of scumbags out there that have necessitated some boundaries.

    If you are the mild-mannered sort, that’s the obvious conclusion versus the more calculating “clearly you are just trying to control me.” When I ask that we each drive our own cars and meet in a public place, I think almost any man would think, “Ah, okay, she’s making sure I’m not going to dismember her. That’s reasonable,” not, “You’re just trying to prove I’m your bitch, aren’t you.”

    I, too, am just interested in the topic. I’m well aware that it’s my life, don’t worry. :) I think talking about this stuff is good, because the dating world is steeped in weird philosophical conflicts just like this one.

    Monday, July 18, 2011 at 10:58 pm | Permalink
  17. Kerri Anne wrote:

    You just cliff-hangered us! Which yes, that is a now a verb, and one that should herein make you picture Sylvester Stallone and his frightening arm muscles hanging off a steep rock face.

    Tuesday, July 19, 2011 at 12:05 am | Permalink
  18. Heather B. wrote:

    Oh my God, I’m loving this. Especially this one as an OKCupid girl myself who has seen the worst of the worst. No wonder people like to refer to it as “OKStupid”. But I did meet my most recent ex via that site and it wasn’t all that bad.

    Anyway, waiting for the next installment.

    Wednesday, July 20, 2011 at 9:02 am | Permalink
  19. Molly wrote:

    “Contrary to what you’re saying, though, I don’t think the average dude I’d be interested in WOULD wonder why he’s being told what he should wear, how much he should pay, and how little he should touch her (although this is a melodramatic way of putting it, as “let me pay for my own food” and “let’s dress casually” do not, in my estimation, amount to treating the man like a marionette).”

    Yet this was such a deal-breaker to you, that if a man didn’t stick to your Rules, he was out of the game.

    “If you pressure me to let you pay for dinner after I’ve made it clear that I’m a girl who goes dutch, you CAN’T BE TRUSTED…” (talk about melodramatic) “…to stick to your word or respect my boundaries … and if you imply that I’m ungrateful because I refuse to accept your money, that just tells me you like to use the guilt and doubt of good people as tools for manipulation.”

    This is what I would call a negative interpretation. Some men might get very offended by this because of their upbringing and your refusing to let them pay could be seen as an affront to their perceived self-worth. Men don’t have the greatest communication skills and what you see as manipulation probably is just a manifestation of hurt feelings. It seems you don’t have the greatest understanding of men. I am constantly disappointed in the cultural emasculation of men and to think of all of the women out there complaining about the lack of good men out there, yet turning down potential mates because they don’t follow their Rules, I can’t help but shake my head. I married a man who was absolutely NOT what I thought was “my type.” But I gave him a chance and I couldn’t ask for a better partner. Just a little food for thought…

    Wednesday, July 20, 2011 at 10:42 am | Permalink
  20. Lena wrote:

    I just got on OKCupid. Now I’m wondering if I should just give up. I have a character that a lot of guys could probably not handle. I’ve already met a guy who resembles a stalker.

    Wednesday, July 20, 2011 at 11:17 am | Permalink
  21. Jen wrote:

    Yes, Molly, if a man didn’t stick to my rules, he was out of the game. Because my goal is not to appeal to everyone ever, but to find someone who is right for me.

    My interpretation of these men is “negative” because my feminist personality causes me to see it negatively. I am the sort of person who is going to perceive it negatively, thus I should not be dating someone who behaves that way. It doesn’t make me better than them. It makes me incompatible with them.

    Me dating someone who saw paying for things as his manly duty would be a complete and utter disaster for both of us. You’ll just have to trust me on it, or not. I trust me.

    Wednesday, July 20, 2011 at 11:20 am | Permalink
  22. Danger wrote:

    I never realized that deeming oneself to be worthy of certain standards or expectations would be so upsetting.

    Asking for what you want: it’s how you get what you want.

    Sincerely,
    Team Worth It

    Wednesday, July 20, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Permalink
  23. Jen wrote:

    Lena, don’t give up on it until you read the next post, because it gets better. OKCupid secrets, revealed!

    Wednesday, July 20, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Permalink
  24. Robin wrote:

    I used a different site but I think no matter which one you use, you’re going to see a lot of the same things. My story has a happy ending too but Jen’s right…the more you know what you want and ask for it, the closer you’re going to be to getting it! Be patient too, since you may have to meet a lot of people before you meet the right one (or however many tickle your fancy!).
    Can’t wait for the next installment (as usual!) and good luck to those who are still on-line dating. And be careful…always!

    Wednesday, July 20, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Permalink
  25. Molly wrote:

    I can see from your blog that you’re a very intelligent woman. Just don’t shortchange yourself. People will never cease to surprise you.

    Wednesday, July 20, 2011 at 10:02 pm | Permalink
  26. schmutzie wrote:

    I just wanted to let you know that this weblog is being featured on Five Star Friday:
    http://www.schmutzie.com/fivestarfriday/2011/7/22/five-star-fridays-158th-edition-is-brought-to-you-by-mignon.html

    Thursday, July 21, 2011 at 11:29 pm | Permalink
  27. Amy wrote:

    I really enjoy reading your stuff. I have had a pretty similar online dating experience. Any suggestions on an OKC name? I thought something tricky may weed out some crazies.

    Tuesday, July 26, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

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