Girl on the Net wrote at the weekend that the best partner is one who loves the “bad” bits of you. While there are some statements in that article that give me some significant quibbles, I’m not interested in digging into the flaws of the argument. I want to look at the strong element of value in the concept. Here’s the passages that I think sum it up:
It’s really important though, because if you can love my enthusiastic singing, you can love all the other bits of me that might be annoying or tricky or unphotogenic. The way I snore and talk in my sleep, the panicked way I run through the station to make sure we’re ten minutes early for a train, the way I come home late at night and fling my shoes across the room before lying face-down on the carpet.
The way I fuck.
If you want me to fuck you like I really really want to, I need to be comfortable that you’re going to embrace it. No ‘euurgh’s or ‘what the fuck?’s or ‘I don’t think you’re doing that right’s.
So, what’s the most important quality in a partner?
I think it’s enthusiasm. Enthusiasm for me and what I do, even when I do it wrong. Enthusiasm for trying again, and failing again, and laughing together on the sofa. Being as comfortable with someone’s quirks as you are with their successes. Let me sing in the kitchen, lie face-down on the carpet when I’m drunk, and whisper my weirdest fantasies in your ear.
As I said, there are ways I could find fault with the thesis, but there’s an underlying truth, which is that statement about enthusiasm. I once wrote an idea for a song with the title, “I want the bad things about you” which was about just this principle, the idea that someone’s bad singing, or snoring, or whatever, is as much a part of them as the other stuff and it’s not stuff you put up with to get the other stuff.
The thought that crossed my mind, and that is really the focus of this post (even if I don’t spend many actual words on it), was to think about how these ides fit into the process of meeting/finding/attracting a partner: the very start of the relationship, the first few bricks in the foundation that builds that atmosphere of acceptance and enthusiasm.
In the seduction community/PUA materials I’ve seen (I’m thinking especially of Hayley Quinn with this, but the same concept appears in various forms in different places) this is subcommunicated in the language of teasing, which they tell us is the most important part of flirting. IIRC the way Quinn says to do this is pick on something to comment on, smiling, make a mild “criticism” and conclude the remark with “I like that!” I have my doubts about my calibration to pull this off, but in the language described, “I like that” and non-verbally showing pleasure (voice, smiling, body language), communicates that what sounds like pointing out a flaw is in fact accepting the person. Dr Nerdlove counts himself outside of those communities (and is critical of them) but gives very similar advice about flirting.
I haven’t done well with trying to meet people with “cold” approaches, and am somewhat removed in most cases from a network to develop “warm” approaches. That leaves me with internet dating as my main option for approaching potential partners.
OKCupid sort of build this into their profile system with the section “What’s the most private thing you’re willing to admit?” and Charlie Nox’s “Babe Hack” ebook on how to use OKCupid emphasises that this is what you use it for. This is the point where you put the “counter-argument” to the thesis that “you should totally date me!” and then discredit it. In other words, you say, “this is my singing badly in the kitchen, what’s your reaction?” Too many people (and Nox specifically says not to do this) either don’t answer the question or put “If I told you that it wouldn’t be private” – ignoring the “willing to admit” part.
It can be hard to take the first step in showing the bad bits of you. My “most private thing” is a cop-out, but in the rest of my dating profile(s) (I use basically the same text on Plenty Of Fish and a couple of others) I mention being introverted, overuse of movie quotes, listening to bad (“ridiculous”) music and air guitar. If someone reckons I’m worth replying to in spite of, or because of, those things, then it’s got a much better chance of being a good match. Equally, I ask about unique features and a story about themselves, often talking about achievements and also embarrassing moments (again,. emphasising the “that you’re willing to share”) – it puts out (I hope) a message of enthusiasm and an opportunity for them to test my acceptance and enthusiasm based on the story. Again, acknowledging it’s hard to go first, I try to include in a message my own answers to any questions; which means telling a slightly embarrassing event from my own life to encourage the same in reply. I don’t yet know what’s the best way to compose a first email on these sites (annoyingly lots of people have different, and contradictory, advice on this matter).
Reid Mihalko put it more strongly: use your profile to scare off people you don’t want, and who don’t want you. “I sing badly while washing the dishes” should be right in there, so only those who are okay with bad dish-washing singing will bother. That’s tricky to negotiate if you aren’t getting many replies anyway, and there’s always the feeling that you can get used to stuff or introduce it gently later, after some attraction has started. It’s been a familiar discussion for at least ten years: when a kinky person puts a profile on ‘nilla websites such as POF or OKC, how soon do you introduce the “oh, by the way, I’m kinky?” Do you put it upfront, on the assumption that people who are likely to be interested will respond, and those who don’t respond never would have explored anyway; or do you leave it off, or drop subtle hints, and wait until a relationship starts to develop before talking about it, in the hope that the emotional connection inspires trust so that they are more likely to admit to their kinks? One option places “accept me” first, while the other risks rejection but opens the offer of “I accept you”. Each has its merits, but I’m inclined towards trust, then acceptance: for someone to admit to being kink-curious, or to break with a ‘nilla norm that they’re used to needs a safe environment. As Girl on the Net puts it:
Sometimes men ask me how they can find a woman who is kinky and imaginative and open to lots of new things in bed. I have a much much longer post coming on this at some point, but my initial gut reaction is to tell them this:
You may already know one, but it’s possible she doesn’t want to tell you about her passions. Maybe she wants to sing loudly in the kitchen. Maybe she wants to dance at that wedding. Maybe she wants to get naked and hump you with enthusiastic passion in the middle of the living room floor. But she’ll struggle to do any of these things if there’s an ‘ouch, please stop that’ look on your face, or if she’s heard you laugh when she’s fucked something up.
In building a relationship from the beginning, from that first point of contact (be it through friends, a cold approach, or internet dating) the exchange of trust and acceptance has to start somewhere, with little things. Then when you get to things like kinks, sex, and so on, there’s a foundation.