Savage Love Jun 1, 2021 at 4:52 pm





@103 Snowflake: Many thanks! :)

Because I scored this week's Big Hunsky (WA-HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!), Griz is disqualifying herself from claiming any further numerical honors until Dan's next column.
The Double Whammy (@169) is up for grabs next! :)


Ghost Dog @88 "the only way the boyfriend can be ethical is not be around when the date happens, not ask about it after, and overall do his best not to exist except maybe, maybe in a very limited social capacity."

It's not that hard to let prospective partners know if I'm the type to pass stories, emails, or photos along to another partner, or if I prefer those things stay private between me and the person who shared them with me. Privacy is just another area of compatibility to assess before you start getting serious.

For most people, asking "how'd your date go?" would be fine! But many people would be annoyed by follow-up questions like "so what did you do in bed and can you stroke me while you tell me?"

Imagine that a friend has just started dating someone. It's totally cool to ask your friend "how'd your date go?" And not so cool to ask your friend to give you all the sexy details.

What guys get out of ENM is the opportunity to date other people themselves -- not access to sexy stories and visuals about their partner's other partners (unless everyone enjoys that level of sharing).


AHOLE, you aren't an asshole for breaking up with her. It'd be worse if you stayed, knowing you aren't attracted to her, and don't want to be with her. It's wasting both your time, and pulling her in deeper emotionally.

I was rejected for similar reasons a couple of months before I met my partner. I'm grateful that he let me know, even though it stung a bit. I don't want to be with someone who isn't on the same wavelength sexually, or isn't attracted to me, etc. Both of you deserve better!

I agree with BiDanFan @17 and NoCute @35. I don't think you should tell her you aren't attracted to her or don't enjoy sex with her. That would be an asshole move, and needlessly cruel. "So please stop explaining... I don't need your reasons. Don't tell me, 'cause it hurts!" -No Doubt "Don't Speak"

I like NoCute's phrasing, or something along the lines of "I think you're wonderful, but I just don't feel we're connecting romantically the way I'd need for a relationship." You can offer to stay friends if she's interested, but she might not be (or might need a break first).

BiDanFan @45
Since he's been kinder to her than any of her previous boyfriends, I wouldn't be surprised if she feels he's better at sex than they were, as well! Hopefully she can find someone who is as attracted to her as she is to him, and who is more compatible sexually.


BiDanFan @17, 45, 56, 60, 70 Mrs Fox @40, 48, 69 JibeHo @49 fubar @50 Griz @59 Curious @76 Ghost Dog @88
I didn't think BiDanFan meant it literally as a universal. There was a time in my life where I literally did think that nearly all men were rubbish. I suspected that the ones who didn't come across as rubbish were just sneakier. They weren't just dumpster fires, they were raging infernos in Superfund sites! Even my Dad and brother were abusive.

So, saying that men are rubbish sometimes reminds me of that time in a painful way. It can make me wary and on edge around men for days, or a couple of weeks. I wasn't hurt by it this time, since I'm in a healthy place emotionally and mentally. The men in my life currently are wonderful!

I completely missed it being a joke. I still don't understand why it's funny, with or without a winky face. I'm not into slapstick or Beavis and Butthead or "Shame My Pet" memes, but I get in abstract why people find them funny. Probably it's not something that can be explained. I've only seen/heard it used by women who've just had a nasty breakup, dealing with rude guys on dating sites, etc., or women sympathizing with them.

Mrs Fox @48, Electrophile @78
I agree with Electrophile that saying that queer people/women are rubbish has very different implications and power differential than vice versa

Venn @62
There's definitely gender differences. When it comes to abuse, men are far more likely to kill or seriously injure women than vice versa. I think women are more likely to deliberately be hurtful emotionally than men.


Griz @100 I hope it brings you as good of luck as my previous win did for me! My new boss says that he couldn't be happier with me, and I've exceeded his expectations.


f_m_f @ 89
whether intended or not, your workplace experience could sum it up for those of us suspicious of too early flowers: Beware of the overdoers.

And when viewed in that context, fubar @ 66 may also have a point.


ROTBAN @ your original letter, 15, 21 BiDanFan @18
He might change his mind about monogamy, but it's not likely to be on your terms or timetable. My feelings about polyamory have changed since I was 27, and that's true of other people as well. It's worth checking in again about whether he wants to stick to your original deal and break up now to clear the way for new potential partners? Or see if things are working well enough to attempt some form of ENM (mono/poly, DADT, polyfuckery, etc)?


I don't think flowers are an expression of undying (unwilting?) love. Men have given me flowers or other romantic gestures early, especially if we started dating near Valentine's, Christmas, or NYE. I prefer a single flower or cheap supermarket bouquet instead of spending a ton of money at a florist.

Some of us need time to let attraction brew. Some people need sex to find out whether they're compatible and have chemistry. Attraction isn't exclusively visual, even for men.


I have to think that what anyone thinks is right is what they think 'Jesus' thinks is right. Jesus is not too high a standard. (Just to be clear, I'm not opening a discussion of theology: 'Jesus' is just a name for people's concept of absolute rightness). The Golden Rule is perfectly comprehensible; I don't think it matters whether it's taken as religiously derived or entirely secular. The Rule is quite adequate as a norm governing human life; and I think you tie yourself into knots supposing anything else, trying to work out the circumstances where it's permissible to smudge the rule.

In this case (setting up dates where a partner perves on the person you're meeting without their consent), I see no reason to depart from the Golden Rule.


Another lube suggestion:

DO read the reviews ( and not just the first page).


@9. CMD. Congratulations on becoming a grandparent!

@15. ROTBAN. You cannot present him with a fait accompli. If you want to date someone else, you should tell your bf you're meeting (first of all) someone else, leaving it up to him whether to break with you or not. Your hope (certainly in the letter) seemed to be that nonmonogamy is something he would like, that he would come to find workable and liveable, once he was actually in that set-up. Maybe yes, maybe no--but, as far as you can, you must let it be his full and conscious decision.


@107 Opalescent: Oh, I know---BiDanFan was joking. Although I have to agree with you, too---my abusive ex-spouse certainly qualifies under the rubbish category. I'm sorry to learn that your father and brother were abusive to you. And you're right about the tragically high ratio of men who violently rape, injure, and kill women and girls.
There are forms of what many think as screamingly funny humor that I don't see what's so hilarious, either. The Family Guy, to me, is a tasteless ripoff of The Simpsons in which the Husband / Dad is an obscenely fat, four chinned behemoth and the Wife / Mom and daughter are rail thin voiceless waifs. Total rubbish. And WTF is up with that repulsive Stewie?
I used to teach a cartoon drawing class at a Boys & Girls Club back when I was married, shuddering at the idea of kids as young as eight years of age proudly watching South Park, and openly talking about it. Kenny keeps dying. Stan barfing on Wendy? Puh-lease. I knew long ago that I could never be a Mom. It's just as well---being an auntie is a much better fit for me.

@108 Opalescent: WA-HOOOOOOOOO!!! Congrats on your new job working out so fantastically well! That's an excellent sign when you've exceeded your new boss's expectations. :)

@9 and @109 CMDwannabe: WA_HOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Congratulations on your new grandchild!! :)


@113: Thank you for that, subhubby! I needed the laughs.


AHOLE should break up with his lover before she supposes the relationship has more legs than it has. It's not likely to me that she finds the sex good, while he finds it disappointing--indifferent sex will be apparent to both parties. I see no problem with his saying, 'I value the friendship more than I do the sexual relationship'. Maybe she's tolerating the so-so sex herself for the sake of his supporting her parenting? Of course, we don't know that; it's also possible that she sees the relationship as respite from the responsibilities of childcare, or sees him ultimately as a co-parent or family member, and will be upset by the breakup.

Bi's 'men are rubbish' is surely a very evident and venial joke. And if I said, 'yup, I kind-of agree with you', that would also be a joke, though I kind-of do.


@ Griz. 115. Agree with you about the tastelessness of a lot of modern comedy. So much of it seems very mean-spirited in the guise of being "daring" or iconoclastic.

@ All. Does a potted plant count as "flowers"?


I've been ruminating a lot on "mixed signals" over the past several days, both because of the discussion here and the fact that I'm getting them from someone I am sort of quasi-dating, but whom I'd like to be really dating.

/Content warning for larrystone, et. al.: personal revelations and attitudes and experiences to follow:/

I've written here before the hamster that lives in my head and how I have learned that when it gets on its wheel, it means I need to assume the person isn't into me and react/respond/take action accordingly--which in my case, means back off, protect my heart, and let the burgeoning "relationship" just fizzle away. Of course, the hamster on its wheel is my way of conceptualizing being on the receiving end of mixed signals. When I find myself thinking, "why did he say --- if he didn't mean it?" or "when he said ---- did it mean --- or ----?" or "He said this, but then he did that; what does that mean?", that is my hamster going round endlessly, frantically, and getting nowhere. Almost always, the hamster wheel is spinning on the axis of "does he like me or doesn't he?" (Good lord, that sounds so 7th grade! Would someone mind passing a note: "Do you like nocutename? check box 1 for 'yes,' box 2 for 'no.'")

So once again, my hamster is running on its wheel, even though I know that in order for me to protect my equilibrium and self-esteem, it's best for me to just walk away now. The fact is (as someone who in this climate can't be named once said), "the heart wants what it wants."

My heart wants love. And it doesn't come across many people that I think would make it happy (for what it's worth, I have serious doubts that current dude would make it happy or would be a longterm prospect--vastly different lifestyles, etc.--but I want the proper chance to find out if we could have something pretty good for however long), so when I am interested in someone, I'm not good about the game-playing that seems to be part of casual dating. So I stick around longer than I should (which I interpret as having poor self-esteem, and which I know is how it appears to the rest of the world), because I am hopeful. I'm always willing to let that hamster get on that wheel because I want it so much. (I realize how pathetic I sound now--and I don't even have alcohol to blame for the maudlinness: it's morning, and I'm drinking coffee. And yes, I know that I should want love less so that paradoxically, it will come to me or some such platitude. Blah blah blah--not the point of this comment. Trust me, I don't walk around with big, sad eyes imploring men to love me.)

But I'm sure I've sent my share of "mixed signals," too. I will admit that when I was a teenager, having discovered my newly-acquired powers over the opposite sex, I enjoyed the ego-boost enough where I probably wanted to ensure that I kept someone around who provided it. Not cool, I know; but I outgrew that behavior or at least that motivation for it by my 20th birthday. However, I have also undoubtedly set someone's hamster a-running. Because I have dated some men longer than I should have, men whom I should have ended things with as soon as I realized that I was not that into them and I could tell that they were really into me. I never let things drag out too long, and I bite the bullet and put on my grownup underpants and nicely but unequivocally break up these days ("Despite how much I like about you, I just don't feel what I need to feel to be in a romantic relationship with you"). But if you asked the guys in question, they may tell you that I strung them along for a few weeks sending mixed signals.

And having actually been in relationships with mixed-signal senders, I know that at least some of the men that set my hamster running were genuinely conflicted: I know they liked SO much about me, but just not QUITE enough, and they wished that they were less ambiguous in their feelings for me.

So I think mixed signals are a by-product of mixed thinking--of mixed desires--of that sense of wanting something to work out, but kind of knowing in one's gut that things aren't going to work out because, as someone wise on this comment section (I forget who) once said, you can't logic yourself into love."

And thinking that someone sends mixed signals because they themself are mixed in their feelings, well, that allows me to stay generally optimistic about humanity, as opposed to adopting the "men are rubbish" attitude it would be pretty easy for me to fall into. I don't wish to be a naïf, but neither do I want to become that suspicious and hard-bitten. It allows me to empathize with the mixed-signal sender, if I remember the feeling I've had of wishing so much that I were more into this particular person. I prefer to go through life with empathy and understanding.


@72. Fantastic. Exactly. It's a fun fantasy that should stay as a fantasy.

I wasn't quite sure here what Dan's advice (with the 'could') was. Was this a practical 'could'--'you could do it; you'd probably manage to pull it off'--or an ethical 'could' i.e. 'you /shouldn't/ do it in absolute terms, but you /could/ do it and the heavens wouldn't fall in; you /could/ do it and it would meet some kind of lower standard for acceptable perving'? It came over to me as the latter.

Where would one draw the line for acceptable (as opposed to unacceptable) perving? What about hooking up with someone you know is only after a one-night stand and filming the encounter with a hidden camera? Watching it once with your cuck partner, then deleting it? Watching it in your polycule, all of whom are sworn to secrecy? What would the lines be for roping someone in as an unwitting prop for your sexual fantasies or scenarios? Say, meeting an 'awful' person from a dating website in a bar or restaurant, flirting, then popping off between the entree and dessert course to get fucked in the toilets by your lying-in-wait partner? Your date will never know. Maybe they'd enjoy picking up the restaurant bill?

What these hypothetical questions suggest to me is that there probably aren't shades of gray here. You probably need someone's consent before getting them to engage in exhibitionism with you. What the lw was considering counted as a 'no' on the very broad grounds that it violated consent.


@Nocute 119. Very good point that mixed signals are a by-product of mixed -thinking, usually anyway. I don't think that A-hole is an asshole, nor do I think that everyone who sends mixed signals is an asshole -- I know I've send mixed signals myself, both as a by-product of being too "polite" to give a firm no, and as a by-product of mixed-thinking. I just also know that if I guy sends me flowers one day and dumps me the next, I'm probably going to be pissed and much more hurt than if those flowers never came, so if I guy isn't attracted to me, I would hope that he would not send flowers.

But I also understand that attraction is a complicated and changing thing. I am usually pretty aware of whether or not I am attracted to somebody, and it's more of the, 'but do I like them other than that?' thing that gets me all mixed up, but that isn't how it is for everyone. I feel like women are often shamed for not wanting to date an eligible man because they aren't attracted to him and are prone into trying to logic their way into attraction, but I am sure there are men that do this as well.

I have spent the last few years in an on-again/off-again toxic relationship with someone with serious substance abuse problems. He is currently in rehab and frequently texts me that I am a monster who has been toying with his heart since we met and demanding to know why. In reality, I think that my crime was sending mixed-messages, at first because I was attracted to him but knew that it was a bad idea to date someone with so many problems, and then later because I care about him but being with him doesn't work. He won't accept this explanation and wants me to proclaim myself a sociopath. (My apologies to Larrystone et al.)

So, I commend your inclination to give the mixed-signal sending men the benefit of the doubt. We should all try to do that as much as possible.


“Perving on someone without their consent” is fine. I do it all the time. No idea if anyone does it to me.

Which of course is the point. I think Dan and commenters should have left the Golden Rule out of this. Secret perving is fine, because it’s secret. The only ethical question here is the practical one: are you really sure that the perving will stay a secret? Obviously husband would have to be discrete, and wife would have to have a high level of trust in him. If you have any doubts about pulling it off, then you shouldn’t try. Even if you don’t have doubts, if something does go wrong, you will bear the ethical responsibility.

BUT. Dan got it wrong. There is never any conflict between (competent) secret perving and the Golden Rule. They are both cornerstones of civilization.


@88. Ghost Dog. I would think the person in the lw 's position and her boyfriend can easily be ethical. First, she can easily say something to her date like, 'well, I have a bf, and obviously I'm going to discuss us with him, but I'll follow your guidance if you want to maintain a high level of privacy'. Then, beyond checking in that she's (that his partner is) OK, safe and that they're on the same page with schedules and basically being honest, he can push relatively little when it comes to inquiring about the people whose bones his gf is jumping.

To my mind, there are two expectations for AHOLE's gifts of flowers. The first is that it's something he does when he's got his dating hat on--that his understanding of dating is that it comes with, or requires of him, a high degree of chivalry or 'form', and he offers this as a matter of course. It seems as if he's been off the dating market for a while, so it may come as a surprise for him that giving flowers isn't always the done thing on dates, or, equally, the kind of women he's dating may not have the same response (of 'too much too soon...!') of some of the women on this thread.

The second explanation is that the bouquets are something he gifted to get over, to try to get himself over, his own ambivalence over his not finding his new lover 'all that' as a sexual match. He might have felt that he should have liked her more than he did--in that she had estimable qualities: she was kind, thoughtful; she was a good mother; she may have had human qualities he had found missing in his ex in the long(er) relationship he had that had broken down.

My sense would be that there's some truth in both these rationalisations. AHOLE, the most important point is that you are not an asshole for not wanting to be in a sexual relationship with your soon-to-be-ex. You're not really an a-hole for having been as a default chivalrous. What would be a-hol-ish would be letting things progress beyond the 'getting-to-know-you' trial period. This advice remains correct, in my mind, whether you, in some absolute but unspecifiable sense, are 'too good' for this woman--like, you're better educated, more of a catch, more handsome or suave, have more options e.g. without kids, or in your work; like, it's evident that she would have 'lucked out' if she had held onto you--or whether, contrarily, she's 'too good' for you: say, she's kinder, she has more capacity for self-sacrifice, she can make a more wholehearted and unequivocal commitment. There's nothing wrong as such, to my mind, with either of these two broad ways of seeing your pairing up. You'll know which one you feel is right deep-down. Which is irrelevant to the matter of its the correct thing for you to do to end it.


Re 'mixed signals': I agree with Nocute pace @119 that people give mixed signals because they have mixed feelings.

There are also, to my mind, saving forms of social hypocrisy and indirectness in the early stages of dating. Do we as daters really want to hear, e.g. 'as a lover, you're a 7; as a mind, 6 1/2; as someone socially presentable I'd be pleased to take to parties, a low-to-middling 4. I'd be interested in a casual pick-up-the-phone FWB connection, especially if you could sometimes ferry me round in your car, until I have the self-confidence to look for someone better'. Daters sometimes do feel that sort of thing consciously, or they feel it without being able to admit it to themselves; and these unflattering but essentially truthful messages come out in the fumblings and overcompensations of mixed messages.

NB--this is absolutely NOT saying that the guy Nocute's seeing is giving mixed messages because he's thinking anything like that--my comment is intended to have absolutely no personal reference. It crossed my mind that the 'game-playing' which for Nocute characterises early dating may also refer to the 'game-playing' of maneuvering over the terms on which a relationship, which could be serious, is set up--e.g. who will visit whom, who gets to call the terms on which you do things together or decide stuff, who will as a default support the other, etc.


@118 Ens. Pulver: Ironically, why is it that I can laugh at Rodney Dangerfield's often raunchy rapid fire one-liners---at least in the 1980 film, Caddyshack, as loud, obnoxious real estate developer, Al Schervik at a snooty Florida country club (i.e., in the golf pro shop: "Oh, this has gotta be the worst looking hat I ever saw! You buy one of these, you oughta get a free bowl of soup..." Then turns, to Ted Knight, as Bushwood Country Club co-founder, stuffy Judge Evanhugh Smails wearing one of that very style of hat: "Oh, but it looks good on YOU, though!" followed by an eye roll)?
Is it that Rodney Dangerfield isn't verbally spearing me personally in Boca Raton, Florida? Or simply because he can laugh at himself ("I don't get no respect")?

It has been a lovely, productive weekend of continued progress on music scoring, thus far, and piano playing tonight--some of my earliest stuff, and some from a series for small instrumental ensemble, composed in memory of my mother. Medicinal, this.


With regards to the secret spying BF, I don't see how the GF wouldn't feel a pressure to perform if she knew her BF was surveilling her. If I were somehow in her position I'd feel a ton of performance anxiety, both from the normal stresses of a first date with a cutie, and from the desires of a BF who presumably wants to hear some flirting and see some pashing. Unless she's an actress or very confident, I think it would be pretty obvious that she was being disingenuous, and unless the bar/cafe has extremely fortunate interior design I think it would also be pretty obvious that the BF was listening in, too. I don't know about everyone else's lesbian first dates, but good ones for me have lasted days, so there's that too.


Ghost Dog @88 EricaP @105 Harriet @112, 123 JoeBurner @122Wambenger @126
I think it's ok to perve on someone privately, but I think that's different from setting up a double-date (triple-date?) unbeknownst to one of the people involved. I agree it's likely to make SPIED self-conscious. It's also likely to make ever introducing the date to her boyfriend a bad idea, if they do click.


Subhubby @113 thanks for the giggle!

Griz @115, Harriet @117 Ens. Pulver

I originally thought that BiDanFan meant it as "Unfortunately, the men in her life before you were all rubbish, but you're not" rather than as a joke. The joke sailed clear over my head, invisible and very un-evident! I still don't see anything funny about it, or about Harriet kinda-but-not-really agreeing with her. However, humor is subjective.

I agree that phrasing, style, etc. make a big difference. The Three Stooges come across differently from more modern slapstick, for example. I don't like mean-spirited humor, though self-deprecating can work at times.


Harriet @117
From what I've read about many women's experiences with casual sex, a partner who cares about her and wants her to feel pleasure might indeed be the best sex she's had, despite him being on a "different wavelength". We don't know her perspective. Regardless, he's not enjoying the sex as much as he should, and that's a very good reason to break up and find someone else. I want to add that I really thought your comments this week are very thoughtful, kind, and valuable!

Snowflake @102, 121 NoCute @119 Harriet @123, 124
I agree that mixed signals tend to be from mixed desires. I don't think AHOLE was being deliberately confusing or manipulative, he wanted things to work out.

I've definitely sent mixed signals as well, especially early on in dating someone. If I catch myself doing it, I try to explain what my mixed feelings are, behind the mixed signals. So, he might still be confused, but I'm just as confused, and we're communicating about our confusion! I agree with Harriet that I evaluate people on different axes and criteria, and they can be great in one area, but fall short in another. If it's something that seems like it might be an easy fix, I might bring it up. I agree it'd be unkind and rude to rate them out loud/in text like that!

Griz @115, 125
Thanks for the well-wishes, and I'm glad you're enjoying your music and sunshine! Turning your memories of your mother into beauty you can share, is a beautiful, if painful, process. I hope it brings you some healing and pleasure!


@128. Opalescent. It's funny, or mildly funny, because 1) it's an evidently inadequate overgeneralisation, and 2) there's something about patriarchy and power structures it's getting at, so the remark isn't arrantly wrong; but it's also evident that the remark is too coarse to say anything genuinely insightful about e.g. the reproduction of sexist mentalities in patriarchy. The combination of these two elements--irony and overgeneralisation, together with an audience in on the 'joke'--is probably necessary to make the remark 'funny'. 'America is a peace-loving nation', in the context of Latin American politics, might be a joke with a similar structure.

I think that making someone the unknowing accessory to your perving--like Hitchcock's female stars apparently changing behind a one-way mirror/window ... don't know whether Hitchcock actually set this up ...--is a bad thing.


Harriet @130 My irony meter is wonky! It works with some things, but others just leave my brow wrinkled! ;)

I agree with you that SPIED bringing her partner along on a date, or a cuckhold hiding in the closet without letting the other person know, or taking secret video, etc. are violations of privacy. I agree with Joeburner that it's reasonable to perv/masturbate over photos on Fetlife, etc. However, it's rude to send them "cumshot tributes" or tell them you did so unless they make it clear they welcome that kind of attention.


Nocute @119 - when you're ready to write an Ester Perel-style book or start your own advice column, I'm here for it.

I've gotten way off track with the gift aspect and have pretty much neglected AHOLE's letter. FWIW, I don't think he's an asshole, as long as he ends this romantic relationship soon and graciously (ie, don't say "gee, you sure are a swell gal, but I don't like you naked). All AHOLE is really asking is that tale-as-old-as-time question: "how do I break up with someone without hurting their feelings at all?" Which is impossible. There's kinder ways than others of going about it, but she's going to feel however she feels about it. I would also add that AHOLE should only say that he wants to stay friends if he really, truly means it, while being prepared for her to not feel the same way.

I also want to maybe posit that the woman in this equation may be pushing things a bit with the "you're the nicest man ever" talk (again, a lot of this hinges on exactly how long they've been dating). That's kind of a heavy thing to lay on somebody, especially if they haven't been dating very long. And maybe she meant it, or said it while still high off some great sex, but also sometimes people make these grand declarations to try to prematurely secure a relationship (or at least make it "harder" for someone to leave [as evidenced by AHOLE's letter]). I wish I knew how long these two were dating. If they were only dating for a few months, a statement like this would spook the shit out of me, TBH.

So, I've been out of the dating game myself for a hot mintue, so I'm probably the last person to advise on what's normal. I fancy AHOLE, as a recently separated person, is in the same boat. He may be very out of touch with what's "normal" (commentariat, I'm hearing flowers aren't too normal/expected these days absent a special occasion/holiday). He may also (I'm speculating here) be trying to replicate marriage- or LTR-level romantic gestures (whether consciously or unconsciously; it may simply be what he's more used to at this point in his life). If he has some friends who are more experienced with online dating, maybe he could talk with some of them to get a better sense of how it works. Regardless, I'm personally a big fan of slowed rolls, and would generally advise going more slowly in the future.


Opal @129 - great example of ethically sending mixed messages! I think that's fair, to be upfront about being unsure or confused oneself. I have gone through something similar, though the guy wound up blowing up at me when I decided to end things because confusion (and his aggressively trying to advance things faster than I was comfortable with vis à vis excessive gift-giving and premature declarations of luuurv). Apparently I was the bad guy for being confused, despite telling this guy constantly that I wasn't sure what I wanted and that he needed to slow things way down. * shrugs *

Wembenger @126 - I had the performance anxiety thought too with SPIED. Or, what if it's ungodly awkward and weird (the way first dates are sometimes)? It's such a spectacularly bad idea all around and I can't believe Dan teasingly quasi-endorsed it.


That's kind of you, fantastic_mrs_fox, but I suspect that people would rather take dating advice from someone who is actually in a successful relationship.


Fantastic @86, good point that meeting the kids or interacting with her in a way that would allow him to judge how good a mother she is might have also been too soon. Perhaps he has an impression that she's a great mother from her social media or because she checks in with the sitter regularly, but another potential red flag. Don't send flowers or meet anyone's children or parents until you're certain you want to remain a long-term presence in someone's life.

Curious @87, your wing woman clearly knew -that- woman well enough to know what she would like. One flower would seem, well, I guess less try-hard than a bunch, but personally I'd rather have chocolate!

Ghost @88, since you're an actual man I will apologise to you, and say that women can also be rubbish! It is, however, pretty rubbish to go from "it's creepy to spy on your partner's dates for your own titillation" to "men should just not exist." Of course boyfriends can ask how one's dates went. As a bisexual ENM person I expect my potential metamours to ask how my dates' dates went, just as my partners ask about mine and vice versa. Did I not suggest upthread that the ethical way to give the boyfriend a "peek" was to suggest that the new partner meet him socially, after a few dates? (Personally, I PREFER to get to know my partners' other partners! And indeed, sometimes this can lead to getting to know them very, very well -- so long as that's not the obvious agenda from the get-go, which will send creepy vibes and make me not want to be around that particular metamour.)

"How one's date went" is a different topic to "tell me all the details of the sex you had," which is involving a third party in someone's sex life, potentially without their consent. In ENM, unless there is an explicit DADT rule, one is expected to tell one's partner when they've had sex with someone outside that relationship, so if you consider that a violation of privacy, don't date non-monogamous people. And as a bi woman I know that my dates with women (and with men, in the case of my bi partner) can't help but inspire some titillation in my partners. As Ork said, that's just life. The point is to be honest, considerate and respectful to everyone involved, which SPIED's proposal is not.

Snowflake @95, another good point. Were these flowers given before or after sex had happened? Before, it could definitely be seen as a way to trick someone into sex. After, it would come across as an "I really like you and want to up the commitment level of this relationship."

Nocute @97, at no point was I suggesting AHOLE (or other people) did this intentionally! It would come across -to me- as a bait and switch, but it wouldn't have been intended as one. At the time, indeed, the gesture (on AHOLE's part) would have been genuine -- but premature, as those were nonverbal words he's now having to eat. So that's why I suggested holding off on grand-ish gestures like flowers until one has had more time to assess their feelings.

Thanks for sharing your example of how gifts can mean different things to different people, meaning that nonverbal communication is not always the most effective sort.

Curious @98, I am aware every moment of how lucky I am.

EricaP @105, yes, agreed on all counts.

Opal @106, good point that depending on what the mismatch is, she may think the sex is just fine. But indeed, she deserves someone who's as into her as she is into him.

Opal @107, of course I didn't mean it literally, and I'm sorry it was triggering and you didn't see the humour in it. No more men jokes, mmkay.

Nocute @119, let me just say you don't sound pathetic at all -- this sounds completely normal! I think all of us revert to middle school when there's someone we have the butterflies for. "Have a conversation" is easier said than done, especially when rejection is a risk. I hope you can get what you want out of this relationship and end it at the right time, before either of you gets too badly hurt.

Agree that mixed signals are the result of mixed thinking, hence the advice to err on the side of holding one's cards closer to one's chest until one's thinking is more solid.

Wam @126, another good point. The first date is when two strangers are supposed to be assessing each other for compatibility, attraction, things in common etc. Making it a spectator sport for the boyfriend would screw up this dynamic. SPIED would be under pressure to take things further to make the show better for the boyfriend, rather than evaluate the potential for a relationship/hookup on its own merits. Another way that this does a disservice to the date.

Harriet @130, thanks for getting and explaining my joke.

Fantastic @132, good point that Ms AHOLE's complimentary words may be just as overblown as AHOLE's flowers. Perhaps she, too, is trying hard to make this work out! (If not, that's something AHOLE can tell himself as he steels himself for the inevitable conversation.)


I agree that I'd rather take dating advice from someone as wise and well-spoken as Nocutename than someone in a happy relationship through pure dumb luck!


Actually, GhostDog @88, I don't agree with the resentful phrasing but yes, people don't have the right to participate in their partner's other relationships to any extent. No whining allowed about that, and no gendering. Some people prefer not to meet their partners' other partners. This is called parallel polyamory. If you're not happy with this, you should discuss up front what your potential partners' attitude is toward everyone meeting socially (which is called kitchen table poly) versus keeping everyone separate. But, in point of fact, one's girlfriend's girlfriend isn't, by default, one's girl too [1] -- you have to respect that she may not be into you, and she is unlikely to want to participate beyond socialising, if that. (And your partners similarly don't have the right to insert themselves into -your- other relationships, beyond a very limited social capacity. Again, this isn't gendered and I'm sorry my joke muddied the waters by potentially implying this is a rule just for men.)

[1] Lyrics reference: Type O Negative, "My Girlfriend's Girlfriend"


Ms Opal - Oh, things manifest in different ways, some more serious than others, but the main point was to set up disapproval of the Pick Me posts.
Ms Fan - I'm sure that, if we heard it said in person, the intent would have been as clear as it was in Northanger Abbey when henry Tilney claimed that nobody thought more highly of the understanding of women than he did; in his opinion Nature had given them so much that they never found it necessary to use more than half. (That would be equally good applied to men.)
Ms Cute - Don't rate your self-esteem too low; you have more than I do. I was rarely able to get up the view that how I felt about people made that much difference. I compare to how, in Loitering With Intent, Fleur ruminates about how one doesn't get rid of friends just because one doesn't particularly like them. I doubt many of the assembled company were worse at saying No than I was, mostly because it usually seemed as if I were just supposed to be grateful for any interest expressed in my direction.


"I am aware every moment of how lucky I am."

Aww, that's heartwarming.
Still, I have no doubt that you deserve the luck you made.

"your wing woman clearly knew -that- woman well enough to know what she would like."

She was an excellent wing woman, and a kind of mentor.
Also, (long story short) the overall situation we were all in called for some kind of subtle communication, which I think she was extraordinarily skilled at.

"One flower would seem, well, I guess less try-hard than a bunch, but personally I'd rather have chocolate!"

Good to know.
(Is chocolate "less try-hard" than a flower?)

I found the discussion about the 'love language' of small gifts very interesting. And discouraging. Because it is not what I would mean, and not what I've been told). For example:

"Were these flowers given before or after sex had happened? Before, it could definitely be seen as a way to trick someone into sex."

Maybe it depends on the gestalt of the flower-giver? Sure it would mean that if the giver were to /any/ degree a PUA (but surely that needn't be the default assumption here?). But if the giver were very unlike a PUA, me for example, it's very difficult for me to imagine anyone thinking that.

In such a case it seems to me it could simply signal romantic interest.

"After, it would come across as an "I really like you and want to up the commitment level of this relationship.""

And here I don't see how it needs to signal a desire to "up" anything; it could simply be a thoughtful gesture of interest to /continue/ something, no?

In this thread I've been sincerely alarmed to find that the very aware and astute women here are 'hearing' in gestures more than I think the majority of the people making those gestures imagine.

Or maybe what y'all are saying is on the one hand wise when women are looking to avoid shitty men, but OTOH not intended as guidance for good men?


oh, and does the color of the flower(s) no longer mean anything?


Curious @139, the answer to all these questions is that it depends on the recipient. Another reason to not give gifts too early, ie, before you know someone well enough to know that they're allergic to flowers or on a diet. If you know me, you know that I like chocolate and that it's therefore a better gift -for me- than something else might be. Someone else might take it as a comment on their weight.

"And here I don't see how it needs to signal a desire to "up" anything; it could simply be a thoughtful gesture of interest to /continue/ something, no?" It's interesting that you rounded up my interpretation to "needs" and yours down to "could." Sure, it "could" be either. Again, a lot of "it depends." Is it my birthday? Sweet gesture. Did we just have sex for the first time? I want to lock this relationship down. Coming on too strong? If I'm as smitten as they are, it could be exactly the right amount of strong. The whole point, as you seem to have concluded, is that women MAY in fact read more into the gesture than the giver intends, so the giver should give more thought to how it may be received. In AHOLE's case, he wasn't sure how he felt about her, yet he made a gesture that indicates to most people, "I have strong feelings for you!" If his goal is to not look like an asshole, aka to not hurt someone's feelings, flowers were probably a misstep. As the person who started this tangent, I did mean that as guidance for good men.


Oh, right, I forgot about the AHOLE letter writer completely. Pretty much the instant he told us he was "not attracted to" his new GF.

"women MAY in fact read more into the gesture than the giver intends, so the giver should give more thought to how it may be received."

That AHOLE giver most /definitely/ should have!

I was just trying to illuminate the other side of the coin, on which the receiver might consider being a little less critical of the gesture than I noticed a few commenters were upthread. (Which is understandable given that this week's letter writer was an AHOLE, but having myself forgotten about our AHOLE I just wanted to take a more generic view. Which interests me by this point in the week far more than the LW-view, particularly when I stopped caring about AHOLE before I finished his letter.)


curious, I don't think that shitty men--if by "shitty men," you mean men who try to use flowers as a rather cheesy shortcut to getting laid by presenting them indiscriminately and too early in a dating relationship--are going to really care what the women on this comments section think about that technique. So I do think it's only the "good" men who are even paying attention. And I do think that it is mostly "good" men who give flowers. The issue is when someone makes a gesture that signals an emotion most of us don't believe can be genuinely felt until some real time has passed.

I don't think that what the women here are saying is all that complicated. Dan often talks about people showing good judgement and the different ways that they signal a lack of it (another way to think of it is the phrase "emotional IQ"). Like if on a first meeting, someone said, "I want to marry you. I want you to meet my parents tomorrow," we'd all think that that person had problems that would render them undatable (except for those who have read too many Nicholas Sparks novels and would find such a statement romantic), and had revealed their emotional issues by saying that. Or if on a first meeting, someone brought up the topic of fetishes (assuming that the meeting was more to initiate a dating relationship, not just a hookup that had been discussed at length via other media). We'd all agree that that person showed poor judgement. For many of us, that apparent lack of good judgement would make us not want to go out with them.

Similarly, many of us read someone coming in with what our culture has deemed a Grand Romantic Gesture extremely early in an acquaintance as a sign of poor judgement, or of not knowing the social cues, of showing low emotional intelligence. Flowers are generally read as a message of affection, and there is simply no way that most of us think anyone is capable of feeling true affection on a very short acquaintance.

I mentioned before that I have had several men bring me flowers on first dates. Two of the men brought a huge, showy, rose bouquet to our first meeting (in both cases, a dinner date). Both of these men were incredibly respectful. Both were newly divorced and probably a bit nervous about reentering the dating pool. Both, I'm positive, saw the flowers as gestures of courtliness and gentlemanlike behavior. In both cases, the flowers were given to me at the restaurants where we met and both times, the gesture was misinterpreted by the restaurant's hostess and the servers and other diners, as a signal that a public proposal was going to occur (in one case ) or that it was an anniversary being celebrated. I suspect that when those men acquired more familiarity with the current dating scene and dating etiquette, they put an end to that gesture, if for no other reason than it is an expensive one.

One dude met me for a half-hour coffee date and brought me the flowers on a first proper date after that. He brought me flowers on our second date, and flowers on our third date, all of which occurred within a two-week period, My home looked like a florist's shop! He definitely wanted to have sex with me, but I think he also wanted--or was so driven by lust that he thought he wanted--to be my boyfriend. I put an end to it with the "I'm not feeling it" statement after the 3rd date, because I wasn't, not because there were too many flowers.

But another guy rushed me big-time with flowers and then ghosted me--receiving the charge of sending mixed signals. Both the former gesture and the latter non-action--too much too fast, and total radio silence--are extreme, over-the-top, unnecessary. Both together left me wondering "what the heck?" I think that he wanted to get in my pants but didn't want to date me, thought I was more interested in him and panicked, but who knows.

I do think that there might be something to the gift of a single flower, versus a huge bouquet, and I don't know about color, but I believe the type of flower may signal different intent to different people. Someone presenting me with a single flower seems charming to me (and while I love roses, a different flower would suggest an individual point of view and also that the gift was more in the spirit of friendship and making a good first impression rather than a misplaced signal of love, and I would appreciate it much more). There's something about being presented with a big bouquet that translates somehow as obligation--on both people's parts. I can't explain why. But a single flower seems to demand less from both the giver and the receiver and is therefore less fraught.

Does this make sense?


Whelp. In the time it took me to compose my screed, BiDanFan nipped in @141 and a MUCH better job of explaining the contextual associations.


Curious @142, AHOLE stepped into the comments @33 and clarified that it's not that he didn't find his partner attractive, rather than he didn't experience sexual chemistry with her. So, to prove my joke was a joke, I gave him the benefit of the doubt (see my defense of his mixed-message sending @68). Maybe he sent flowers because he thought that's what you do. Maybe he was really into her until the clothes came off. Hence the advice, don't send romantic signals if you're the sort of person who can't be with someone you don't click with sexually, until you know whether you click sexually. AHOLE hasn't come back so we can't grill him on his flower habits.

Nocute @143, "Flowers are generally read as a message of affection, and there is simply no way that most of us think anyone is capable of feeling true affection on a very short acquaintance." Well, I don't know about that. I do think it's possible to fall hard for someone within a few months. (I've certainly done it!) So while I would read flowers as "I'm falling for you," I wouldn't necessarily read flowers on the fourth date as "this personal is too emotionally stunted to be dateable." I would just read them as "I'm falling for you" and my response would depend completely on whether I was falling for them.

Big bouquet on the first date? Nope. Interestingly, like AHOLE, your bouquet givers were recently divorced. That was my reasoning (@68) for cutting AHOLE some slack in not knowing how to do dating. It was less a "you screwed up, pal" and more a "the more you know" tip for him. He needs to relearn how to date, and his first few forays are going to be learning experiences.


Who knows? Maybe AHOLE had been dating this woman for 3 months, he was on his way to her house for dinner, had stopped by a Trader Joes to pick up a bottle of wine, saw some pretty flowers at a low price, and thought it would be nice to give them to the nice woman he was on his way to have dinner with.

It probably was exactly that, to him. Or maybe it was her birthday and he thought it's s nice gesture to give someone flowers on her birthday. Or maybe it was to celebrate a raise she'd been given.

The point is that based upon his life experience, AHOLE thought that giving a woman he's dating flowers was a nice thing to do, not a signal of his undying affection, and based on her life experiences, this woman interprets the gesture as a more significant one.

It doesn't even have to mean that she interpreted the gesture as more significant that AHOLE meant; perhaps she simply meant that she's not used to being treated decently by men she's dating, not used to being given any consideration at all. Which is what she really was saying. This woman's been dating jerks, and this guy has been labeled a good guy both by her and all through his life. He doesn't want to not be a good guy. I like the way fantastic_mrs_fox said it @ #132: "All AHOLE is really asking is that tale-as-old-as-time question:"how do I break up with someone without hurting their feelings at all?" Which is impossible."

You can break up with someone and hurt their feelings, not by the way that you do it, but merely by doing it at all. That doesn't cost you your good person status. What does cost you your good person status is breaking up cruelly, by saying something hurtful, or by hanging around for a substantial period of time once you know that you're not that into the other person and you can tell the other person is that into you.


@145: BiDanFan, I didn't mean a four-month's acquaintance was too short a one to develop strong feelings. I certainly have within that time frame. I meant more like a first, second, third date thing. Although it depends on so many factors.

I know there have been men I felt seriously about after 3 dates. Of course, some of those dates were multi-day affairs, and there was a lot of emailing, texting, and talking on the telephone, which gave us more time and opportunity to get to know each other, and the chemistry was strong. And the men obviously felt strongly about me in those cases in that time frame. I can't remember when flowers arrived in some of these cases, but I know I wouldn't have read anything creepy, sinister, or premature about them.


BiDanFan: I like the way you phrased your intent as being "less a 'you screwed up, pal' and more a 'the more you know' tip for him. He needs to relearn how to date, and his first few forays are going to be learning experiences."

Exactly. I agree that I don't think it's a coincidence that my big-bouquet-on-the-first-date givers and AHOLE were/are recently divorced. I don't know AHOLE's history, but both the men in the case of my examples were very nice, but very dorky, socially awkward guys, whom I don't think had much dating experience before they married.


Curious @139 - I'm so glad you want to keep the gift-giving conversation going because I'm finding it fascinating as well (agreed, moreso that the letters at this point). It just brings up so much interesting points about culture, the way men and women are socialized, and intent.

Does color/flower type matter? I don't know that people care much these days, but I was told (by my parents and grands, who are more old-fashioned and from a part of the country where a certain surface level of manners [yes ma'am, yes sir, you don't call people older than you by their first name, etc] is more engrained than my current geographical locale) that roses are particularly significant and that their colors have specific cultural meanings. Like, yellow roses are indicative of either friendship or commemoration, whereas red roses = LOVE. I don't know that any of this is common cultural knowledge at this point and I wouldn't overly read much into the type. Probably roses are best avoided until later.

BDF's @141 and Nocute's @143 are chock full of great examples of context and why it matters. For better or worse, I think a lot of women may calculate how much money their date may have spent on a gift. Bouquets can get damn expensive, and if the man is paying for a dinner date on top of a big, showy bouquet that may have cost as much as dinner itself, it can put a kind of pressure on a woman, a sense of obligation as Nocute said. Or it makes a first date look like a marriage proposal to the rest of the restaurant (I personally would have been beyond mortified). Maybe these men meant nothing nefarious (especially if they were recently divorced and rusty on their dating game), but when it feels like too much too soon, it belies a certain emotional immaturity or desperation, both of which are profound red flags that most wise people would steer away from.

See my @133. I liked the guy in question a lot, was extremely attracted to him (Nocute, this guy gave me middle school, butterflies in the stomach feels too, so please don't be down on yourself). But I was in a hard place emotionally and mental health-wise at the time and didn't feel like I was in good enough order to be in a relationship with him. I told him all of those things, unambiguously, repeatedly. He still showed up with gifts nearly every day, and though his gifts were thoughtful and nice, I felt smothered by it. I told him he didn't have to keep buying me gifts, that it was starting to feel like too much, especially since we weren't anything official and I wasn't sure we would be. Told him I liked him a lot and that he didn't need to try to impress me with gifts, that the pleasure of being around him was more than sufficient. And then he started telling me he was in love with me. After like three months of non-dating/awkwardly super flirtatious whatever-the-heck-we-were, he says he's in love with me. Starts comparing me to other LTRs he'd been in. And that's when I realized I'd stepped in a huge pile of shit with this guy. I told him at that point that he was beginning to freak me out, that he did not at all know me well enough to tell me to bring "love" into it. He chose to ignore both my requests to stop bringing gifts and to stop with the L word, and I finally ended things. We never had sex, despite both of us obviously being ridiculously attracted to one another, and I don't know to what extent it was all an attempt to get in my pants vs a genuine desire to be in a relationship with me. Regardless, his obvious emotional immaturity and inability to respect my boundaries (or even really Hear me when I told him I was unsure about it all) were deal-breakers.

Sorry, that was a long rambly-pamble to get to the issue of indicating a level of feeling or affection that is mis-matched to how long/how well the two people know each other. I think women in particular are socialized to be on high alert for disingenuous men who are Only After One Thing, and we perhaps overly analyze aspects for signs of significance that men may not be intending. Add to the mix that most (if not all) of us have been duped and played and hurt at some point by a man who used gifts or honey-dripping words to up the ante or indicate that he was more serious than he was, and it just kind of adds to this notion that one must Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts in the dating scene. Makes us look more askance or suspiciously at gestures that may not really mean anything at all. Personally, for me a disingenuous gift is far worse than no gift at all, as it almost becomes a token of how not well this person knows me.

In the case of Good Men, honestly a lot of women will probably look askance at their goodness, too, at least initially. But in my experience, the pleasure of someone's company who I really enjoy is much more valuable and meaningful that any bouquet or gift. Being a decent human being who isn't trying to play games or buy affection is it's own attractiveness. I would so much rather someone forge a genuine connection with me first and get me a gift that shows that they know me well and care. The first gift my husband gave me (right before we became a couple but after we'd been friends for about a year) was at Christmas. He'd asked me what I wanted and, being one who isn't much into gifts and always draws a blank when asked, I tossed off some silly comment about "get me something shiny." On Christmas he presented me with a box that he had wrapped in a collage he made, marked "Box O' Shiny," filled with various small gifts that were sparkly and shiny. I was so struck that he'd actually turned a throw-away comment into a genuine expression of affection; the handmade wrapping and showing that he had really listened to me (even when I was being a goof) was so unbelievably touching. I still have that box to this day!


Maybe the Fox just isn't much one for gifts? BDF and Nocute are making me feel like a salty ice queen. And perhaps this is all the more reason you should wait until you know someone well enough to know what kinds of things they like or don't like. To wait long enough to know BDF loves chocolates, that Nocute likes single stem or small bouquets, or that FMF doesn't like gifts and would rather you bought her tickets to that new exhibit at the art museum than a $40 bouquet.

I got the impression from AHOLE's letter that there were multiple instances of gift-giving ("occassional flowers" reads to me that he has given her flowers on more than one occasion). If they only dated a few months (Dan indicates this is the case in his response, but I don't know if he got that from specifics from the unedited letter or if he's leaping to a conclusion), then multiple gifts feels a bit much, to me. Like Nocute indicated with the florist's shop analogy, gifts staking up in a short period of time can feel overwhelming. It sounds like the woman in the letter is happy about these displays, but now AHOLE is feeling perhaps he set the bar too high or got her hopes up overly much. I certainly wouldn't suggest to any man to act "less nice/good" in their dating practices, but to maybe take things slowly in the gift-giving department, as it clearly means very different things to different people. Context, context, context.


"a huge, showy, rose bouquet"

Obviously that is wildly inappropriate for a first date. That jumped out at me before I even took time to read @143 and I was gonna point out that that was poor judgement. (Despite their good judgement in being interested in you, nocute!)

(It's also possible that it could instead be ignorance that needed some training.)

"both times, the gesture was misinterpreted by the restaurant's hostess"

Of course, that's the right way to interpret it.

"Both were newly divorced...I suspect that when those men acquired more familiarity with the current dating scene"

Yes, perhaps they just were ignorant.

"Does this make sense?"

Yes of course. As I wrote, I've only ever given one flower once on a first date, and even then only because it communicated something necessary in a special situation that needed communicating.

"a big bouquet that translates somehow as obligation"

Yes of course.


Could we talk about what's right for a moment? And it need not be couched as a romantic signal.

In /any/ social relationship (regardless of how much romantic potential has been established) one might want to demonstrate thoughtfulness and kindness.

What would be a good way to do that on a first date? (Naturally what venue/activity one ends up at would be a good start.)

May I reminisce for a moment? A couple decades ago one of the first women I met online met me for the first time across the street from a coffee shop in a park. She brought a delightful but modest snack. (I just bought my stupid ass.) It was wonderful, but OMG she was already so far out of my league without the tasty whatever it was she brought. I forget when she said that she was feeling the ticking of her biological clock. She was unfortunately not as impressed with me as I was with her; for all I know (lol) so much so that I deserve blame for her totally postponing her search and going directly to motherhood.
Oh well, presumably for the best, but I think I woulda been a good parent.

"AHOLE stepped into the comments @33 and clarified that it's not that he didn't find his partner attractive, rather than he didn't experience sexual chemistry with her."

Ah, thanks. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt that (like most LWs) he simply communicated suboptimally in the letter. I wish I could go back in time and read the letter with what he meant instead of what he said.

"simply meant that she's not used to being treated decently by men she's dating"

This reminds me of the most painful story in my life.

I'd (because of circumstances I once talked about here years ago) secretly loved her for 16 years. Barely saw her for the majority of it.

To my epic surprise we got together for a while. At first I did a good job of showing good judgement WRT a new relationship, but then my undisclosed and asymmetrical feelings got in the way of my judgement.

I don't think it was any gesture I made, though. But I do remember her speaking well of how well I had treated her.

It's true, money and implied obligation matters.

But it needn't always. With one GF we were so close, and I had so much money and we were both so unmaterialistic, that nobody cared that I paid for a vacation to somewhere that involved airfare. It didn't make it any worse, or cause, that I got broken up with during it.


Curious @151 - I hope I'm not coming across as materialistic in my comments. I'm not at all, and one of many reasons I'm not really into physical gifts (I'm more of an "experiences" person - take me to a museum or botanical garden and I'm Jell-o!). In the instance of the vacation with your GF you mentioned, it sounds like it was appropriate to the level of relationship you had with one another that you would pay for everything without her having to feel "obligated." You already had a shared level of connection and seriousness about one another, so it was not an inappropriately grand or showy gesture on your part; your GF would have no reason to read the situation that way. This is the context that's lacking in AHOLE's case, however, and lacking in a lot of the examples that BDF, Nocute, and I gave. It's that context piece.


"hope I'm not coming across as materialistic"

No, not at all. But since you ask I have had you in particular in mind all thread. And you see why, you said yourself @150 that "the Fox just isn't much one for gifts...BDF and Nocute are making me feel like a salty ice queen."

I'm thinking that just like (as many including you went on @150) givers should be sensitive to what receivers might think the gifts mean, I've been trying to send you psychic messages that receivers might try to not assume too much about what the givers meant.

Hopefully this shall forever be moot for you, and congrats to Mr. Fox for navigating your waters.

I have no idea if the following is in any way relevant to anyone, but in my view it's very healthy for social relationships to involve a subtle interplay of reciprocal giving, and I've known people who have a difficult time receiving anything who stifle a joyous element in their relationships.


Gift-giving is fraught with landmines. I know of two couples who went into therapy about it.

I love experiences as gifts, home-cooked meals, things, flowers, music, cards, just about anything hand-made. But--and here I'm talking about gifts from any and everyone, not merely romantic or would-be romantic partners--I have to already feel a connection to the person before a gift seems appropriate and the gifts I appreciate the very most are the ones that are the most personal, that indicate that the person really knows and gets me. One of my favorite birthday gifts ever came from a friend who was too broke to buy me a present; she wrote a top-ten list (à la David Letterman, who featured a top-ten list every show at the time) of the things she liked about me. It was thoughtful and deeply personal. Nothing she could have bought would have been half so appreciated.

However, I also have a very close friend who buys me atrocious presents, which are made even worse by her prefacing the giving of each by telling me, "as soon as I saw this, I KNEW nocutename had to have it!" To be fair, the gifts sometimes do reflect an interest of mine that she knows about--it's just that in themselves, they are not my cup of tea. For example we share a mutual love of horses (I don't love horses, but I am using them as an example, because if she's reading this, I don't want to hurt her feelings) and she once gave me a set of napkin rings with horses on them. Which I don't think I'd love even if they were beautiful, as I don't tend to use linen napkins and napkin rings aren't really my style. But to make matters worse, the rings themselves were objectively ugly, and I wouldn't have wanted to use them even I were a napkin-ring-using kind of girl. And there stood my dear friend, beaming with the joy of having given the perfect gift. (Naturally, I thanked her for them and made sure to use them next time I saw her--I'm not a monster. Then one of them was destroyed in the dishwasher and oh, dear, I had to throw the others away.)

I've been showered with gifts by different people and some are appreciated and some not. I once dated a man who was a very infrequent and reluctant gift-giver. Yet when he gave me gifts, they showed a lot of thought and that he really knew me.

Personally, I am a very affectionate person, with my family, friends, and anyone else I love. I love making someone's favorite treat for no reason, or finding just the right card or present. Sometimes I find a bunch of little "perfect" gifts, so I kind of pace them out in a drip-drip-drip manner. One of the things I miss most about being in a relationship, of having my person, is the opportunity to give the little gifts, the funny cards that feature in-jokes, the baked goods, etc.

Ironically, I once dated a guy (the same one who sent me a cd of a singer he liked that I was unfamiliar with), who was very uncomfortable with every silly little gift I gave him, though he gave me several "just like this, for no reason" gifts. He was uncomfortable because to him, they signaled a depth to the relationship he thought it didn't have and that he didn't want it to have. Yet he wooed me in part by giving me all sorts of "just like this" presents. Then he'd say he didn't see us together for the long haul. My poor hamster went berserk.


Curious @153 - I've definitely been picking up on what you've psychically been laying down. And I have never been ungracious in receiving gifts (because manners).

Nocute @154 - "I have to already feel a connection to the person before a gift seems appropriate and the gifts I appreciate the very most are the ones that are the most personal, that indicate that the person really knows and gets me." This x100.

I will echo your experiences in ridiculous gift-giving. Growing up, I had a couple of aunts who could never keep track of how old I was (now that my oldest niece, who I'm pretty sure is 2, has graduated high school, I sympathize with not keeping up with the ages of far-flung relatives). Every Christmas and birthday I received ridiculously age-inappropriate gifts from them (think toddler toys for a fourth grader or Barbies for your sweet 16). Though I appreciated the thought, it bothered me so much. They could have called and asked one of my parents "hey, I have zero idea what the Fox would like, do you have any gift ideas?" And to some extent (maybe this is materialistic, idk) I feel bad when people spend money on a gift that just shows how little they know me, you know? When giving gift cards became less "tacky" that was a happy day for me.

I echo Nocute's sentiments about experiences or small things that show you really care (that Top 10 List is so adorable and sweet, and exactly the kind of thing I would rather receive than horse napkin rings, say).

Curious, indeed, Mr. Fox and I mutually aren't much one for gift-giving, though the few gifts he's given me over the years have been absolutely spot-on. For my first birthday after our marriage, he drove me out to the middle of the desert to a fossil bed to pick out my very own trilobites (he knew I'd wanted one since I was a little kid, and had asked one of his friends who was into fossils where he could take me to pick some out). I mean, that was a bucket list thing, that was huge for me. Again, nothing huge and grand on its face, but showed how well he knew me and that he'd put a lot of thought behind the gesture.


Nocute @154 - "My poor hamster went berserk." Took me a minute, then once it clicked I lol'd. I think mine would have, too.


I'm very much an 'experiences' person too. But, perhaps because I'm also not the world's most creative person, I remain curious about how to bring that kind of thoughtfulness to a first meeting. The ones typically for 'coffee' (though I don't drink it). The elegant little snack I mentioned above (the one that just proved to me how much better she was than me lol) is the only thing I can think of.


Curious @151: "In /any/ social relationship (regardless of how much romantic potential has been established) one might want to demonstrate thoughtfulness and kindness. What would be a good way to do that on a first date?"

On a first date? Be on time, presentable and cheerful. That's it, really -- particularly if you've never met the person. If I showed up to an internet date and someone had brought me a gift, I'd find that weird. (And it was -- the woman who brought you the "thoughtful" snack was after your sperm! Aieeee!)

Aside from that, I think it is very dangerous to try to make "rules" which can't possibly apply to every person. One woman might find a simple bouquet of flowers that one had obviously picked up when buying the bottle of wine they brought to dinner charming. Others might find it overwhelming; still others would think it was cheap. The point isn't finding a magic answer that will make everyone happy, it's establishing compatibility. And you can't know someone's preferences or indeed their history -- until you have that conversation about exes, you'd never know that Mrs Fox had an ex who scared her off by showering her with gifts, and that's why she looks a bit panicked when you show up on the third date with a cute stuffed bear. I agree with Mrs Fox and Nocute that it's the thought that counts; something that's personal to me will be far more cherished than something expensive or which appears designed to ingratiate or impress. This is in a relationship context, but one evening I was entertaining my partner at home, and had to excuse myself to try to win an eBay auction for some boots in a particular brand/style. I just missed out and was so disappointed. So my partner bought me a new pair of boots in the same style. This is a partner who is a total grinch about Christmas and birthdays, but that he would buy me the boots I'd just missed out on to cheer me up means that doesn't matter. So we can't sit here and say to you, "Oh, some boots or a trip to find fossils would be great gifts!"

In the interest of alternative-to-hetero experiences, I also dated a trans woman who showered me with gifts, basically findomming herself, and similarly ignoring my requests, pleas, and commands to stop. Like Fox says, it wasn't about the gifts themselves, it was about not respecting my boundaries. And I dated a woman who gave me little gifts, which I interpreted as a sign of more affection than she actually had for me (I think the gift giving was cultural, as she was from a different country). When she said I was just a FWB to her, my hamster protested, "But you gave me presents!" To her the presents didn't have the meaning they did to me -- though I admit to some level of wishful thinking, too. And back to heterosexuality, my last live-in partner was absolutely atrocious at giving gifts and not once did he give me flowers. In the scheme of things his other good qualities meant I forgave his clueless cheapness. Honestly I'd rather mingle finances with someone who doesn't splurge on stupid stuff, and gifts I have made clear I don't want are stupid stuff.


"was after your sperm!"

LOL. She was after someone's sperm, but once she met me she wasn't after mine.

I really didn't think the snack was weird; but hmmm, if she wasn't so spectacular, had /she/ been weird instead, I probably would have.

(It /was/ probably about her being extra eager because of her ticking clock, but I don't feel like that's weird. While I'm not someone with a preference for having kids, I honor that some want kids and that their biological clocks do tick. I wonder how a woman that seemed so great to me ended up in that situation; I can't recall; maybe she'd planned to have kids but had gotten out of a relationship a couple years before. Or maybe she had no interest in kids, maybe she only told me that as a story to let me down easy.)

I couldn't agree with you all more about what's wrong, what doesn't work. And what's impossible to know, /particularly/ on first meeting.

"On a first date? Be on time, presentable and cheerful."

(Yes, thankfully that's easy.)

But she found something that worked for me with her, and in that I was impressed and envious. (And I couldn't help asking if you relationship wizards might have similar suggestions about what would be right.)

OTOH, she could have /not/ done that and I'd have been no less interested, in that I couldn't have been more interested. Perhaps that's a lesson I can take away. That, and that I did my best, there was no rabbit I could have pulled out of my hat to do better.


curious2 @151: "What would be a good way to [demonstrate thoughtfulness and kindness] on a first date?"

Besides BDF's solid advice to be "on time, presentable and cheerful," I'll add that one should spend as much time listening as talking, and be generous and courteous to the servers.


Yes, of course. I should specify that I was looking for a mystical secret too inscrutable for creativity-challenged me to imagine. I know I don't show it here, but I think I've got the basic principles of humanity well-handled.

Oh and I was really thinking about the initial 'coffee' meeting.

But I think that, however impressed I was by what a woman did for me (and a bit ashamed it made me doubly outclassed), I feel a bit better about it now realizing she did it out of eagerness, and I guess there's no gesture that would really help anyway.


I think I'm fairly lucky not to have much experience of receiving romantic gifts due to the general poverty of the prospective givers. My favourite non-romantic gift would probably be the photo collage I received from a university bridge club I mentored for about five years.

My sympathies to Ms Cute for the horse napkin rings. Finding that too many people took getting others "the perfect gift" far too seriously in a way that seemed to be asking for canonization rather than a form of appreciation for the receiver, I tended to try taking it from the other end and giving people things that sometimes were relatively utilitarian in themselves but had featured in some way in a particularly brilliant conversation.


@129. Opalescent. Thank you! I'm making a special effort not unintentionally to wind people up.

We just don't know about the life or sex-life of the woman AHOLE has been dating. It's quite possible that she finds the sex better than he does, just because he's essentially respectful and makes an effort to please her, just as it's possible that she's also aware of an incompatibility re sex. One possibility is that the sex is not good enough in his mind (without being terrible) to get over the negatives of dating a single mother. If this is how it is, he shouldn't feel that he's an asshole for splitting. There are still things he can offer her, if she's agreeable, in the way of friendship. He shouldn't prolong the relationship.

@131. Opalescent. Yes. We agree on all these cases of perving.

@134. Nocute. I don't think whether someone's currently in a relationship is any index of how much they understand about the dynamics of sex, dating and cohabitation.


Curious @159: "I really didn't think the snack was weird; but hmmm, if she wasn't so spectacular, had /she/ been weird instead, I probably would have. (It /was/ probably about her being extra eager because of her ticking clock, but I don't feel like that's weird.)"

Weird, perhaps not; a red flag, yes. And again, a compatibility thing. If you were in a similar boat, you might be thrilled to meet someone who was also keen to settle down and have kids and not waste a few years on getting to know you. Me, I'd run like the wind. And yeah, the gift impressed you because she had already impressed you. You hadn't impressed her, so there was no physical object that would have magically changed that. As for why she hadn't had kids, indeed, perhaps she had spent too long in a relationship hoping she could change his mind, or, who knows? You spent, what, a couple of hours with her. You only saw the surface. Like everyone, I'm sure she had faults, and I'm not going to speculate on how they contributed to a relationship history that found her unhappily childless at the time she met you. But I'm pretty sure she would have scared off a series of sperm donors, I mean, potential partners, despite her looks and achievements, if she led with her clock on all her dates! Your "one that got away" is someone else's dodged bullet. :)


@ Nocute 134/ Harriet 163 I totally agree with Harriet's final point -- I actually find that often the people who give the worst sex and relationship advice are the people who have been married to the same person since they were young and haven't done much dating around, had much rejection, etc.


And I feel like my advice would probably be irrelevant to most people because I'm the opposite of heteronormative, so what I want is the opposite of what straight mono's want! "What should I do on a first date?" Well, what I'd want would probably put the typical straight woman right off, so I hesitate to recommend it to someone who's likely dating typical straight women. :)


Curious et al, re "the mystical secret" of what would be a good gift on a date, if you really wanted to bring one, something small and low-key that related to your earlier conversations might be nice. So maybe a particular book which your date said she'd love to read, and you just happen to have a copy at home that you don't mind parting with. Or if she expressed an interest in your travels to Japan, and you brought an unusual Japanese snack for her to try.

As someone into thoughtful quirky gifts, both giving and receiving, I would probably appreciate something like that. Though even the examples above are not without risk and may compound the feeling of awkwardness if the date goes terribly. So probably safer to leave it till at least the second date, so you can better ascertain whether you a) like each other and b) your date likes gifts. And if the gift-giving doesn't come naturally, don't force it. Plenty of other, probably less contentious ways to show interest and appreciation.


"have kids and not waste a few years on getting to know you"

Oh that's right, I remember thinking at the time that being in a rush to have kids with someone was another red flag. I forgot about that. Yikes.


I think BiDanFan and EricaP have the perfect advice about what to bring to a first date, especially if that date is an initial meeting. Bring yourself, promptly, with you teeth brushed and your clothes and hair and fingernails clean, and bring your good manners.

It's not that I'd see a gift as a red flag--a phrase which I believe is getting overused, because red flags are supposed to signal DANGER, and I don't think neediness (for instance) is necessarily particularly dangerous--but it's unnecessary and unless you really know the person, it's not always so easy to anticipate what kind of gift would be appreciated.

Plus, for many people, the vast majority of first-meeting dates are likely to also be last-meeting dates. Think about how you'd feel towards or what you'd want to do with some silly little gift of something you may or may not even like /without/ the context of how you received it, given to you by a person you didn't especially enjoy meeting that one time. I'm 99% positive that 99% of them end up in the trash.


curious2 @161 "I think I've got the basic principles of humanity well-handled."

You'd be surprised how many people don't tip well when on dates.

"I was really thinking about the initial 'coffee' meeting."

And so? There are servers to treat courteously and tip well at a coffee shop.


"many people don't tip well when on dates."

Good point, I'm sure you're right.

While in school I worked in a restaurant, so I always tip quite well. Sorry I forgot that that's uncommon.


My absolute favorite Anthony Bourdain quote: "If you're a cheap tipper or rude to your server, you are dead to me. You are lower than whale feces.”


That's pretty much how I feel too.

It amazed me how poorly customers treated the wait staff. It was like customers were taking out their bad days on their servers, knowing they could get away with it with their tips as leverage. (Incidentally, AFAIK, no one punished abusive customers by doing anything to their food.)

I know it's difficult for people to afford eating out, but I feel like if one can't afford to tip what servers deserve, one can't afford to eat there in the first place.


A new column is up.


@169 nocutename: WA-HOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! Major congrats on scoring double prizes in this week's Savage Love by scoring the Double Whammy---Lucky @69 + Big Hunsky @100 = Double Whammy @169)!! Good things come to those who wait! Savor your newfound riches and bask in the glory. :)


Curious @157 In addition to being courteous to any waitstaff and tipping appropriately, I think you can mention ways you've been kind and thoughtful yesterday. If you volunteer, or did something to brighten someone's day, it can be good to share. Of course, some people might feel that it's bragging or oversharing, so it's not a universal.

Speaking of which, women are not a hive mind! As you've noticed here, there's a broad range of reactions to flowers and other gifts. Personally, I find it charming, and especially appreciate it around Valentine's Day and Christmas. The gentlemen I've dated who've done that checked in with me first, to get an idea of what I'm interested in.

I also made it mutual, if possible. A couple of them said I was the first person since Junior High or so to give them a present for Valentine's Day! It can be trickier to find Valentine's chocolates that aren't feminine, but some are gender neutral. :) It's always wise to ask about allergies and preferences.

It's important to abide by any boundaries they set, of course. I've frequently picked up on how kind and thoughtful someone is on the first date (or first time I've interacted platonically with a new friend). It's hard to put into words what those signals/cues are, it's more about intuition. I've only been mistaken in my judgement a couple of times. I believe in both cases, it was more that they changed due to other life pressures over time. They still showed kindness and thoughtfulness in other aspects of interacting with me and other people, but had a fragile/spiky spot where we became porcupines to each other.

I prefer dates (especially early on) that are in motion and give us something to talk about. Museums, outdoor sculpture gardens, flower gardens, mini golf, indoor rappelling, walking along the creek (in a safe area, with people around), the beach, and dancing are a few examples. A lot of those are cheap or free, or they already had membership to the museum/etc. Covid restrictions have made it trickier, but a lot of options are outdoors.


BiDanFan @135
You didn't trigger me in this case, I am fine! In the past, similar comments have really messed with me, especially if I'd had a negative experience with a man/multiple men recently. I was flinchy and skittish even around co-workers who I'd never had an issue with before, or afterward. I struggled to sleep. That kind of thing. Fortunately, my mental and emotional health have significantly improved, and the men in my life have been wonderful lately!

Mrs. Fox @133, 139
Thank you! I agree it's really important to communicate about where I'm at. Men tend to be excellent on picking up on my emotions. If my emotions are a tangle and confusing even to me, it's important to let them know what's going on. Sometimes, those conversations bring more clarity to me as well. I certainly don't expect them to read my mind!

Sometimes it does involve bringing up "heavy stuff" from trauma in my past. I don't want to induce trauma bonding, or make them feel obligated. Au contraire, I'd rather let them know what my issues are up front, before we get too emotionally involved.

If a man pushes for closeness, even in a "nice" way, too fast, it's a huge red flag for me. If he didn't back off, I have dumped him, similar to your situation. Boundaries are important! If he'll overstep on one, he's likely to in other ways, and that kind of thing can be a sign of obsession or stalker tendencies.

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