Dating With Science: A Terrible Date Is Better Than a Perfect Date
You, the reader, are probably a guy, and you are probably interested in dating girls, who are probably girls. At the risk of generalization, this feature will deal with ways that guys can attract and hold onto girls, using facts that come from scientists.
Science Fact: A date that goes too smoothly is often a worse sign than a date that is a total catastrophe.
Explanation: So you show up at Starbucks for a first date, certain that everything will, as always, go horribly wrong. In a segue makes zero sense to anyone except you, you'll blurt out something about how Joseph Stalin wasn't that bad, at least compared to Galactus, and you'll sit there helplessly as your mouth persists in citing Galactus's death toll, a statistic you were not even aware that you knew. When your horrified date excuses herself, you will for some reason get up as well; leaping out of your seat, you will of course knock over the table and pin her beneath it. "Help, police!" your date will yell, and you will flee in shame.
But this time, somehow, everything goes perfectly; instead of seeming nonplussed by the stupid sentences that keep escaping from your face, your date seems quite plussed indeed. She barely bats an eye when you find yourself blathering about which is the hottest Skrull, and her eyes remain unbatted when you start gesticulating wildly and fling your scone across the room, wounding a baby. She is, in other words, totally accommodating to your buffoonery. Surely you have found the perfect girl.
And then you wake up dead, with bite marks on your neck, because she was a Dracula all along.
Well, probably not. But she still might be a worse choice than the girl who wanted to escape your madness, and here's why.
The Science: In psychology, "self-monitoring" basically means adapting your behavior to please the people around you—so someone high in self-monitoring would smile obligingly as you theorize about what Stalin's superpowers would be, while someone low in self-monitoring would simply hit you with a brick.
Researchers tested people in relationships for this trait, and found that high self-monitors tend to be less happy and less committed than their doofy counterparts; the same restraint that makes them dateable also makes them less communicative in relationships. On the other hand, the kinds of people who are always saying things like "here's another interesting fact about droids" and "oh my God, I will strangle you if you keep talking about droids" tend to be more satisfied with, and faithful to, each other.
"But wait," you may be thinking, "I sound like a self-monitoring person! Does this mean I am just a horrible blob?" Not necessarily. Self-monitoring isn't an innately bad thing; in fact, it's associated with being well-liked, and with being good at jobs that require lots of subtlety and intrigue. So you may very well go on to become a beloved detective, or a popular wizard. You'll just be a single wizard, unless you work on the whole openness thing.
So What Should I Do About It?
Have you ever gotten one of those fake gift boxes for Christmas? You unwrap your gift, and the box says something awesome like Bacon Phone! A telephone that is made out of bacon! And you're like "Finally!" and then you open the box and it's actually just a fat wad of money, and you groan in misery. Well, if you are the kind of person prone to self-monitoring, be aware of how you comport yourself when you're dating; romantic partners expect genuine closeness and unfettered honesty from you eventually, and if they don't ever get it because you're too worried about hurting their feelings, the letdown is gradual but potentially relationship-ending, just like a Bacon Phone.
If you're just looking for ways to tell the artless and sincere from the crafty self-monitors, here are some things to try:
- Look for spontaneous emotion. People low in self-monitoring react more to both positive and negative occurrences, so if a clown bursts through the door and does a silly dance, and your date looks happy, and then the clown has a heart attack, and your date becomes sad, then you are probably fine.
- Ask a provocative question. "So," you could ask, "Don't you think it's time that we, as Americans, bombed the moon aliens, for their precious moon gold?" If your date agrees with this statement, then it's safe to assume that she is a self-monitor or a lunatic.
- Offer help with something. High self-monitors tend to offer their help, but try not to solicit help themselves. While your date is talking about whatever, shout "THINK FAST!" and throw a manta ray at her face. If she's all "HELP!! YOU ARE INSANE," then you are set. But if she's like "Aaargh, it is trying to consume me, like it consumes plankton! But it's cool, I don't mind!" then you have a self-monitor on your hands.
Are you a self-monitor? Have you ever dated one?