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Sex + Relationships

Your Terrible Hinge Date Actually Reveals Something About Gender Psychology

Ladies, picture this: you’re on a Hinge date. (Yes, I know it’s quarantine and you haven’t left the house in like 6 months. Just work with me here and pretend.) Man is 6’1” and in grad school.  He seemed nice over direct messages, and you liked his hair in the pictures, so you figured you’d give it a go.  He let you choose the coffee shop and bought you a latte—all good things. You sit across from him in your cute sundress, give him a little smile, and ask him what he wants to do for a living.

Oh, boy.  Here we go. 45 minutes later, and the man is still prattling on about law school and philosophy and how people “just don’t know how to have a conversation these days.” You’ve said maybe 2 sentences every 10 minutes or so—not because he didn’t give you room to speak, but because he didn’t ask you to.  If the purpose of the first date is for us to learn about each other, then he is clearly missing the mark, you think to yourself.  At the end of the date, you know more about tort law than you ever thought you’d know, but he doesn’t know anything about you.  Yet he says he likes you, and he’d like to meet up again sometime. 

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I’m sorry, what? This man knows NOTHING about you; he just talked about himself for 2 hours. How can he feel anything at all for you?

Okay, maybe I dramatized the scenario a bit.  But I get the impression that experiences like this are more common than you might think.  According to a 2019 Pew Research study, Americans who have used a dating site or app in the past year say their recent experience left them feeling more frustrated than hopeful.  Many a female friend has come to me stating her male friend or Tinder date was self-absorbed and clueless, either speaking only of himself or hardly speaking at all. It’s interactions like these that feed into our collective female idea that men, in the wise words of Hermoine Granger, “have the emotional range of a teaspoon.”

But what if men aren’t as selfish as we think they are? What if… (crazy idea) our failure to communicate effectively is just as much our fault as it is theirs?

To find out why so many first dates go awry, I went on an Internet deep dive to find key differences between male and female communication styles. Ironically, some of the best dating insight I found was in a gender communication article aimed to help workplace diversity training, written by a woman named Simma Liebermann. Here are some highlights:

  • Women are generally relationship-oriented and look for commonalities with others, while men subconsciously compete with one another to establish dominance.

  • Women like to share and ask questions, while men like to tell and give information.

  • Women are generally better active listeners than men, giving non-verbal cues to indicate understanding.  However, men may misinterpret these cues from women as agreement, not affirmation, which leads to problems if the woman actually disagrees.

(Please keep in mind that these assertions are wide generalizations that do not apply to all people of all gender identities.  Everyone is different, and we must stay vigilant to include and accommodate those that do not fit the mold described here.  But I digress.)

In the example detailed above, Hinge man “told” the woman about his life and interests and didn’t give her an opportunity to share and relate.  For many of us ladies, learning about another person and building rapport involves more than just a one-sided conversation about interests.  My friend phrased it as “a conversation with actual stakes;” one in which both parties share personal information that actually means something to the “inner man” (or woman, in this case).  

According to Liebermann’s article, however, many men simply don’t share this view.  They are externally oriented, viewing their impact on the world (as expressed through their work, interests, and beliefs) as sufficient personal expression when getting to know another person.  A man may not ask the “right questions” on a first date—not because he doesn’t care about you, but because he does, and he wants to show you how cool and attractive and dateable he is.  You may have concluded that he’s quite self-absorbed and not at all interested in getting to know you, but he’s already busy planning your next date.

Well, everything makes a lot more sense now.  Thank you, Internet.  But understanding why men feel the need to mansplain Epicureanism to me doesn’t make it any less annoying when they do.  I’d like to actually enjoy my dates, thank you very much.  How can we meet in the middle?

Perhaps we women need to exercise a bit more patience when communicating with our male counterparts.  They really need to talk—why don’t we just let them?  But we must stick up for ourselves when appropriate.  Men probably need to be prompted to ask us the questions we’d like to answer; we, in turn, ask them the same.  We respect their communication style, they respect ours.

A wise woman named Donna Martini once said, “Compromise. . . is about deciding that the other person has just as much right to be happy with the end result as you do.”  If we walk into our Hinge dates with this principle in mind, I believe that their positive experience rate might just go up a bit.

Senior Integrated Marketing Communications major and Vocal Performance minor. Dreamer of dreams, memer of memes. Follow me on Instagram @jillynoelle!
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