The Dating Nerd is a shadowy figure whose whereabouts and identifying details remain unknown. What we do know is that he is really, really good at dating. He’s been on more dates than you can shake a lengthy bar tab at, and he’s here to help the average guy step his dating game up a notch — or several.
Hey Dating Nerd,
So there’s this girl I met on Match.com. She’s amazing. She’s beautiful, we have all the same interests, and the conversation is going great. I moved things to texting pretty quickly and smoothly. The only thing is that she’s always flaking out on me. Like, we make plans, and then she cancels them at the last minute, or she’s always busy. It seems like she’s ready to take things offline, but then the actual date never happens. How do I handle this situation and get her to finally meet up with me?
– Chasing After Perfection
Hi Chasing After Perfection,
The way to deal with a flaky person is to not continue pursuing them. Forget they exist. Move onto your other online dating matches. Or get new ones. Or just go to the gym, or read a book, or do anything else that will bring happiness and/or meaning into your life. Because anything would be better than wasting your life on chasing after someone who won’t show up.
“Flaky” is a nice way of saying “unreliable.” It’s a word that can also be applied to lovely, delicate pastry, which might fool you into thinking it's not so bad. So you shouldn’t use that word. You should use the word “unreliable.” Do you tolerate unreliability from co-workers or friends? Do you wait around for people who don’t show up if you're not trying to date them? Probably not. So don’t wait around for someone you met online who doesn’t take your time seriously.
“But Dating Nerd,” you respond, “this girl is just busy, and if I keep chatting with her, she’ll have some time eventually, and we’ll make sweet love, and live happily ever after.” Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way. Someone who wants to see you will see you. They will make the effort. They will treat you like you’re valuable, which you are. If she’s actually, genuinely, significantly interested in you, she’ll say, “This is a really busy week, but why don’t we hang out Saturday afternoon?” And then, on Saturday afternoon, she'll show up and you'll spend time together. She won’t say, “Um, I don’t know, maybe I’ll be free sometime in 2020,” or make vague plans and never follow up on them.
If someone does that to you, they're sending a very clear signal, which is that you are not a priority. Sorry to break it to you, but she’s just not super-excited about you. Maybe she’s willing to see you at some point, maybe she’d even take you back to her place after a few drinks to hook up — but only if she’s bored or lonely. To this girl, you’re like a 7-11: She doesn’t like you all that much, but you’re there if she needs a little snack. Is that the kind of person you want to be? Is that the role you want to play?
Maybe you think she’s so great that the answer is yes — that you’ll sacrifice precious hours, self-esteem, and cognitive capacity for even an outside chance of a disinterested makeout. She’s just that amazing; even a little taste of her magic is worth the effort. Well, you don’t really know, since you haven’t met her yet, and you’re most likely wrong. Most likely, you’re engaging in an incredibly common form of stupidity: You’re falling for scarcity value. The more she’s unavailable, the more she seems like a mysterious, supernatural nymph, who’s living the life you’ve always dreamed of inhabiting, somewhere in a distant curtained room you can’t currently access. Several times a day, you gaze at her profile pictures, mentally Photoshopping yourself into each one.
Don’t let scarcity value fool you. Chances are, she’s not some sort of supernatural nymph. If I had to bet, I would wager that she’s just an average person. Which is what average means: It’s what most people are. Don’t be like a kid who suddenly thinks a Tonka truck is the best toy ever just because some other kid is playing with it and he can't have it. Don’t assume that people are cool just because they don’t want to spend time with you. This is not me being harsh — I’m actually sympathetic, because it’s a very human, easy mistake to make, and I’ve made it before.
Betty had the coolest profile I’d ever seen on an online dating site. So she must be a cool person, right? She had long, curly, beautiful dark hair that framed an exquisitely severe face. Her job was super cool — she was an architect, and a successful one at that. She drove a cool car, her outfits looked good, and so on. Seriously, what could be more attractive than a total babe with the power to construct a skyscraper?
The only problem was, she wouldn’t see me. She said we should meet up, and then at the last minute, she would get a call from work, or she felt tired, or whatever. (These calls from work were possibly fictitious.) But I was not deterred. Weeks of carefully crafted messages later, she finally met up with me one night for a beer. Probably because she felt bad for me, or she needed some attention. (We’ve all been there.)
And the tragic thing is that, when I finally met her, Betty turned out to be… OK. She was certainly pretty, but a little less pretty than her profile pictures made her out to be. Also, while her life, on paper, was super cool, that didn’t necessarily make her personality amazing. Conversation was polite and unremarkable. We didn’t make each other laugh. We certainly didn’t get into any substantial discussion of stuff that actually matters. It was all idle chit-chat, in other words. One of those first dates where you both get drunk because you’re bored, make out a little, say you should meet up again, and never do. Not worth the hours of effort I put into meeting up with her. Not even a little bit.
My date with Betty happened before some maturation occurred — before I became the kind of person who wouldn’t waste my time on a date like that. The maturation basically consisted of an increase in my self-esteem. When somebody’s not that excited by the prospect of hanging out with you, that should make you less interested in seeing them, not more. Playing hard to get is for childish people. Don’t go out with childish people.
I know that when you’re a single dude it’s easy to fall into the mindset that you’re the underdog — that you’re just some schlub, going around and trying to fool women into spending time with you. Your job is to avoid that mindset. Respect yourself and your time, and don’t act servile towards people who don’t respect you and your time. Not only will pursuing unappreciative people make you unhappy, it won’t even get you laid.