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

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.

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