There’s a wide spectrum of bad dating behavior (BDB) that we know is wrong: things like canceling dates, waiting for forever to text you back, or kinda-sort of flirting with your friend after three too many bourbons. There’s no gray area—these are bad things. There are other dating habits, though, that we wouldn’t suspect bother you—and we’d be wrong. Here are five occasions when a good guy might unknowingly display BDB.
Only Texting, Never Calling
It’s one of the great philosophical debates of our time: to call or to text? As part of my research for a dating book I cowrote, I interviewed hundreds of men and women in New York bars, asking this very question. The responses were pretty surprising. Roughly 99 percent of men said something along the lines of, “Texting. Who talks on the phone anymore? A call would be awkward.” What these guys didn’t know is that, just a few tables over, in the very same bar, women were saying, “Yeah, of course I like texting. It’s easy. But when a guy never calls? It’s spineless.” We don’t realize this. It’s not that we’re dodging the phone because we’re not into you, it’s that we assume, maybe wrongly, that you’d view the call the way you would if we sent you a fax or a telegram—puzzled and a little creeped out.
The Quasi-Booty Call
The text comes at 10 P.M. “Hey, you out?” He’s drinking, he’s bored, he’s horny. Is this acceptable behavior? Sure, it’s more gentlemanly to arrange a date in advance. That’s not too much to ask. And I’m not defending the quasi-booty call. But sometimes it’s just as simple as this: He was planning on hanging with his friends tonight, and he did, but now he’s hoping to see you too. It can even be a mark of intimacy—you’re at that place where you can ditch the formalities. Key exception: If he only wants to see you at 10 P.M. and never makes plans in advance—then kick him to the curb.
Not Taking You to Dinner
Dinner is a tough first date. If things go sideways, it’s hard to escape, and you’re forced to sit through an awkward ceremony of appetizers, entrees, and dessert as you both compute what to throw down when the check comes. So, given that fear, it’s OK if your first date isn’t a sit-down dinner. But after the first couple of dates, we should be making reservations and ordering coffee to extend the night even further. Some guys are just stuck in their routine—always drinks, never dinner—without really thinking about the message it sends. And other guys are just, well, cheap. Suss out which one you’re dealing with by suggesting “a great sushi place” you heard about for date number-three and see if he bites.
I’m often skeptical when we talk about the “differences between men and women,” as I suspect that, 90 percent of the time, we’re more similar than dissimilar. But stonewalling falls in that 10 percent. Plenty of men really do have a hard time talking honestly about our emotions, so if we’re faced with a Big Emotional Talk we’ll change the subject, bottle up our feelings, or deflect the awkwardness by making a (probably bad) joke. Or, we stonewall—put on a stoic, blank, emotionless face that implies, wrongly, that we just don’t care. Once again we’re sending you the wrong signal. It’s not that we’re emotionless—we’re clueless.
Pulling The Slow Fade
There’s a special place in hell for men who never return a call (or text) and abruptly disappear forever. But sometimes we fade out a little more slowly to “make things easier” for everyone. If we’ve only been out a few times, the logic goes, who wants or needs a messy break-up call? So instead, we just take the easy way out—and yes, this is amateur hour. After lots of trial and error (the key word being “error”), I’ve learned that it’s better to have closure—even if it’s awkward—than the lingering sting of quiet abandonment. Then again, a while back, embracing this progressive new mind-set, I called to break things off with a woman and she said, exasperated, “Why couldn’t you have just faded away? Who wants this call?!” Sometimes you can’t win.