“What Can Hitch Teach Us About Healthy Dating?” Or: Ten things we wish we knew about dating, sex, and relationships when we were younger (#WhatsGoodMan Episode 4)

“Your relationship isn’t you being one person with the same wants and needs. It’s you being two or more people, all with their own sets of wants and needs, and trying to figure out where they line up.”
–tony the scribe

Our fourth episode is built around the question “if you had a time machine, and could go back and give your teenage self advice about dating, sex, and relationships in general, what would it be?” That question is very intentionally-phrased, in that this isn’t an episode that is going to be 100% relevant to every single listener. But our hope is that by talking about that question from our own perspectives, there’ll be something interesting, or useful, to take away.

Of course, our perspectives are limited! And we’ll be diving more deeply into other folks’ experiences of masculinity very soon. Also, thanks to our guest, Kelly Evertz.

If you like it, please subscribe (on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, all the usual platforms). If you really like it, please feel free to leave a review, and spread the word- share a favorite quote, or ask a question, or just share the link; we’ll be using the hashtag #WhatsGoodMan on Twitter and IG. Find our previous three episodes here.

Here’s the full transcript of episode four:

“What’s Good, Man?” Episode Four: “What Can Hitch Teach Us About Healthy Dating?”

OR: Ten things we wish we knew about dating, sex, and relationships when we were younger

Kyle: Welcome to “What’s Good, Man,” an ongoing, open conversation about men, masculinity and culture.

tony: We are your hosts. I’m Tony the Scribe, a writer, rapper and activist in Minneapolis, MN.

Kyle: And I’m Kyle Tran Myhre, also known as Guante; I’m also a writer, rapper and activist in Minneapolis, MN. We start every episode with three notes. First, this show is about masculinity, but it’s for anyone interested in that topic: cis men, trans men, people who don’t identify as men but have some kind of relationship with masculinity, and beyond.

tony: Second, this show exists because we listened to people, especially women, in our lives who told us that men need to speak up more about these issues, especially with other men. But we also know that “men speaking up more” isn’t always the answer. So we’re going to try and strike a balance, and be intentional about what stories are ours to tell, what topics we want to address, and how we want to address them.

Kyle: Finally, we’re not experts. We’re just rappers. We both have experience as organizers and educators around these issues, but we don’t have all the answers. We’re here to work through this stuff with you. Because we still have a long way to go. So let’s get into it. What’s good, man?

Cool. So how you doing today?

tony: I’m stressed, honestly. Let’s see. My strong and my weak are kind of like yours usually are. Mine are flipped right now and are the same thing. And that thing is that I moved this week. We’re actually sitting at my new house right now, which is really pretty, and I’m super amped about that. But I lived in the last space that I lived in for like four years. And it was a firetrap and I needed to get the hell out of there. But it also like, I don’t know, it was a huge part of my life. It was the first place I ever lived after college. So it’s been a week of like, a lot of crying and moving heavy shit. So I’m tired.

Kyle: Yeah, firetraps can be emotional investments as well and can have history attached to them. So yeah. This place is great. I wish you the best fortune here.

tony: Yeah. Thank you. I think it’s gonna be good. I think it’s gonna be a good period of my life. I’m looking forward to it. How about you? How are you?

Kyle: Yeah, I’m all right. Again, I don’t know when people are listening to this, but…

tony: You say that every time.

Kyle: I know. Because I don’t know! I went to the state fair. That, I suppose is like a pro and a con. It’s kind of like, I don’t know, I like animals. I like to see the horses and the dogs and the sheep. I missed the bunny rabbits, though. So that was sad. But yeah, other than that, it’s a good time of year. Some people see spring as a time a rebirth. But for me, it’s always mid-fall. And I think part of that is just because I’ve been a student for a long time and worked in schools for a long time. And so fall to me is a time of new beginnings and getting my to-do list in order, which doesn’t sound like fun, but is kind of fun for me. So trying to make the most of, particularly the next year; I mean, every year is important. There’s always a million things happening, but next year in particular: I want to be super intentional about where my energy goes.

tony: That’s what’s up. I’m super, super here for that. Let’s be intentional about talking about dating.

Kyle: Yeah. So when we first conceptualized this podcast, I was very excited about this episode because you know, we talk about toxic masculinity and like, gender binary socialization and stuff. It’s easy for that to become an academic or intellectual discussion. And it’s important for both of us that this podcast is not that. And I think one place where the rubber meets the road, so to speak, is dating. So I had homework since the last podcast we recorded. Tony made me watch Hitch, which I had never seen before. And we’re going to talk about Hitch and the lessons that we can take from it about dating.

We’re also going to talk about, you know, if we had a time machine and go back in time and give our younger selves, our teenage selves, advice about relationships and sex and dating, what that advice would be.

But before we get to any of that stuff, I thought it might make sense to step back a little bit and just talk about pop culture and the lessons that we learn, often very bad, harmful lessons that we learned from pop culture about dating. We all know people in our lives, especially women, who have like really, really terrible horror stories from like, Tinder or online dating. And even outside of dating: a lot of guys, I think both well-intentioned guys and shitty guys, just don’t really know what they’re doing. And that doesn’t ALL come from pop culture. But some of it does. And so when we think back to like, what lessons did we learn growing up just from watching movies and TV about relationships and sex and dating? Does anything come to mind for you.

tony: Yeah. I mean, one that feels really immediately relevant is this idea that dating was a perception of worth. And that the nice guys, or the good guys, or the strong guys, or the smart guys were always the ones who got the girl. And so like, if I didn’t get the girl, then it must mean that I wasn’t those things, you know, like that there was something wrong with me that made me not, you know, a good enough person to get laid, or have a nice date or whatever.

Kyle: Yeah. And even that language, like “got the girl,” I remember that when I was in high school. And that’s going to come back in this conversation. I think a few others that that come to mind for me, again, what pop culture teaches us about dating is that it’s fundamentally adversarial. Is that like, you know, you’re the protagonist of the movie, you’re the main character, which means you have flaws, you’re complex or interesting, and women are perfect and they’ll never pay attention to you. So you have to like, you know, for lack of a better word, hunt them. Which is super, super messed up, and can lead to all kinds of harmful behaviors later, which we’ll talk more about.

I think related to that is this idea that, I think sometimes it’s sex and sometimes it’s just a relationship in general—but the idea that sex is like a prize, it’s like this Holy Grail, Ark of the Covenant kind of thing. It’s the only thing that matters, which again, happens more in movies than it does in real life, I think. But then movies impact real life.

tony: I mean, it happens in real life, too, though, right? I think men are… I should talk about my own experience here. I think at times when I felt really starved for sex or a relationship or something like that, I’ve had this “if only I could” language with myself like, “oh, if only, you know, I could get laid, or if only I could get in a relationship, then I would feel much better about the world.” Right. And I think a lot of that is bullshit, ultimately. And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve recognized it as such. But when I was younger, I think I sometimes fell into that pattern.

Kyle: Yeah, definitely. It makes me think of worth, you know, like in capitalism or whatever. It’s money and cars and clothes and things. And then how women are always objectified in media. Not always, but very, very, very often objectified. And how they become another “thing” for a man to assess his own worth by which, you know, pop culture plays a huge part in that. I think another thing that comes to mind before we get to Hitch is there’s this conception that I think a lot of times is driven by movies and media: that everyone is always having lots of sex all the time.

tony: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Especially in college.

Kyle: You know, people might know this already, but I found this quote in a teen Vogue article; Dr. Paula England, a professor of sociology at New York University, surveyed over 14,000 heterosexual students at 19 universities about their sexual behavior. She told them to use the definition of “hook-up” their friends use to mirror the ambiguity on campus, finding that 40% of their most recent hook-ups involved sex. Her data, published in The Gendered Society Reader, shows that college seniors have hooked up with an average of 8 people over 4 years — that’s two a year or one a semester. Twenty-four percent of students have never hooked up, and 28% have hooked up more than 10 times. The other 48% fall somewhere in the middle, hooking up occasionally or with the same person consistently. So the whole “everyone’s doing it” thing? It’s a myth. Even though 91 percent of students say their campus is dominated by hookup culture.

tony: Yeah, I remember my freshman year when I got to college, I sort of had this perception that everybody was gonna be hooking up all the time.

Kyle: I think a lot of these different variables and factors lead in to this kind of subculture of like the quote unquote pick up artists and these men who feel that they have to quote unquote trick women into sex or into relationships, which I think is an interesting connection then to this movie Hitch, which maybe reinforces that mold a little bit, but also breaks it in some interesting ways.

tony: …which is a humanizing biopic of a pickup artist, kinda.

Kyle: So can you break down, like for people who haven’t seen the movie Hitch; what are the facts they need to know?

tony: So Hitch. Romantic comedy from 2005. Stars Will Smith, Eva Méndez, Kevin James, and Amber Valetta. It’s one of the first big studio rom coms that had people of color in lead roles. Although there’s some super interesting controversy there actually; they cast Will Smith as the lead and then they were like, shit. Who are we going to cast as the other romantic lead opposite him? Because the perception was that if they cast a black woman, nobody would go see the movie except black folks. And if they cast a white woman, then racists would be super mad about it. So they ended up deciding that a Latinx woman was the safest ground. This is like, a thing that I’ve heard. I don’t know whether it’s actually true or not.

Kyle: Quick tangent: it is fascinating to watch this movie in 2019. It was made in 2005 and like, that wasn’t that long ago, right? I had just left college, or I was in college and that wasn’t that long ago… but it was SO long ago.

tony: Yeah. Completely different cultural time. My favorite thing about it: it’s like a perfect 7 as a film. And I talk about this with my homies sometimes. Like, you have your “7 out of 10s.” You have your 7s that are TRYING to be 10s and fail. And they end up as just okay movies, like Annihilation. That could have been an absolute 10… was not an absolute 10. Was like a 7 as a film. And then you have your 7s that are ostensibly shitty movies, but are actually pretty well done. And so it’s fun because of that. I think there are a lot of movies that are that way. But then you have your true 7s that are like, no, I’m not trying to be anything other than a 7 film. I am just trying to be a good, enjoyable popcorn flick. And I think a 7 executed well is one of the best things ever. So anyway, I’m going to explain the plot of the movie briefly, I. I am going to use spoilers, but that’s okay because nothing in this whole movie is surprising at all because it’s a rom-com made in 2005.

Kyle: I remember that comment, actually, watching it for the very first time, a week ago. 30 seconds into the movie. I was like, “oh, I know exactly was going to happen.” It’s not because I’m smart; it’s because the movie was very obvious.

tony: You’re also smart! So basically, Will Smith is a pickup artist. He helps men meet the women of their dreams. So men come to him and are like, hey, I have this girl that I’m really into. Will Smith comes up with some ridiculously contrived way to get the woman to fall in love with the man. They get married, live happily ever after. No big deal. Albert Brennaman is this insecure white dude played by Kevin James, who works in this accounting office. And there’s this like supermodel chick Allegra Cole, who he’s super into. And so he contracts Hitch out to help him get to meet Allegra, and date Allegra.

Meanwhile, Hitch is meeting this other woman, Sara Melas, and she is a journalist, basically, who writes a gossip column, like the society column rather. She’s not quite like a Carrie from Sex and the City columnist. But he goes to her and starts dating her and then sort of everything comes crashing down because she finds out he’s a pick up artist. Allegra Cole finds out that Albert has been using a pickup artist to try to get with her the whole time. And anyway, in like the denouement of the film, basically, Hitch realizes that Albert hasn’t even been using a lot of the tips that he gave him and that actually the things that Allegra likes about him are things that he had organically and that Hitch had nothing to do with. And then he also realizes that he’s been really insecure and unable to commit to relationships and incapable of dispensing with all this pickup artist stuff because he got really hurt as a college kid by another woman and got his heart broken. And so he sort of recommits to being vulnerable and being in, like, an actual authentic communicative relationship with Sarah.

Kyle: That was a good little summary. No Wikipedia or anything; you’re just doing that from the top.

tony: You know, I got you. Yeah. And then and then there’s this dude, Vance, who along the way is like the character that is meant to show us that Will Smith is not a scumbag. And he is absolutely a scumbag. He’s like a Wall Street dude with a super nice fancy suit. And he hires Hitch to try to get him literally in a girl’s pants. And Hitch is like, absolutely not, dog, I don’t do that. I’m not into that. My clients like women. My clients are not misogynists, basically. And that’s how the movie, like, sort of handwaves away some of the moral things that can come along with the premise.

Kyle: So right away, when you say Hitch is a pickup artist, I think in 2019, that means something really specific. And I don’t know the history of it. I don’t know what was going on in 2005. But pick up artists, in the sense of tactics like, “oh, I’m going to insult you over and over again to lower your self-esteem so that you’ll maybe go home with me,” like really messed up, weird psychological warfare, kind of non-consensual assault-y kind of stuff. Whereas Hitch, you know, my partner Uyenthi was saying: he’s basically teaching men emotional intelligence, which is a good thing, right? He’s teaching men stuff like, don’t come on too strong.

tony: Yeah, you know, you go 90 percent. She goes the other 10 percent. About kissing, about consent.

Kyle: That was a really interesting moment. And the emotional intelligence stuff is really interesting and positive. But at the same time, there was a moment at the end of the film in which Hitch says, out loud, in the text, “I help women get out of their own way. So great guys like Albert Brennaman have a fighting chance,” which I think totally gives away the game. In my head, it’s like “oh he’s helping men be more confident or whatever.” But in his head, he’s helping women get out of their own way, which is just kind of a messed up thing…

tony: That monologue is like, “you would never have even noticed a man like him,” which is not true in real life.

Kyle: Because he’s a “good guy.”

tony: Yeah he’s a “good guy.” And you’re really hot.

Kyle: So have you ever heard of Poe’s Law? It’s like an Internet thing. There are certain things that are hard to satirize because someone’s always going to take your satire seriously, unless you’re explicitly saying “this is satire.” So Will Smith, at the beginning of the movie… and who, by the way, is super charming and charismatic just as a human being, which makes this movie that much harder to analyze. Like, if it were any other actor besides Will Smith, it would be, I think, much messier.

tony: You’re like “Mark Wahlberg as a pickup artist. This movie sucks.”

Kyle: But the Poe’s Law thing is: so there’s all this stuff at the beginning of the movie about Will Smith saying like, “here are the basic principles,” like here are the rules you have to follow to meet women and have relationships. And that is very much upended by the end of the movie. But it’s presented in such a confident, charismatic, “factual” way, that I could totally see people watching this movie and not really getting the ending, and just keying in on that beginning part.

tony: Yeah. Because the movie starts with him talking about like the basic principles. And then at the end he says: “Basic principles. There are none.” Like, it’s basically the Wild West out here. And people are just people and you need to connect with them. But again, I can easily see how if you’re a young, insecure dude and you watch this movie, you’re like, oh, the takeaway here is that I just need to be all of these amazing things.

Kyle: There’s so much we could talk about her. Even the two female leads in the movie are both very, I think the way that you put it earlier was self-oriented; they have their careers, they have their own thing going on. And like a lot of Hollywood movies, that’s often presented as a negative. “Oh, you work too much, you care too much about your job. You just need to find a good dude.” That stuck out a little bit, especially in 2019.

tony: Yeah, definitely. It was like “you need somebody to make you feel whole.” On top of this. But I also think that gets lampshaded a little bit, right? Like, Will Smith is like oh you know, Allegra’s got her own stuff going on and that’s great. She doesn’t need you. So like, you don’t need to justify that. You know, you just need to kick it with her, basically.

Kyle: I think it is a smarter movie than I want to give it credit for. But it isn’t that smart. You know, even like on a quality level, it’s a 7. I think on like, a smart level, it’s also a 7.

tony: And you’re right. The context is really interesting watching it in 2019 because it feels like… pickup artists existed in 2005, and there had been like… Did you ever see that the pickup artist MTV show or whatever with Mystery? There was a whole MTV show.

Kyle: No. I just know the Bob’s Burgers thing about the Prince of Persuasia, which I think must be a parody of that.

tony: I did not know that’s a thing. That’s amazing. Anyway, we’re gonna do a whole other episode on pickup artists at some point, and red pill shit, all of that. But yeah, to lampshade: the reason why I wanted to talk about Hitch is that, despite all that, I fucking love Hitch. I love it. It’s a great movie. I enjoy it very much. Hitch and Music and Lyrics are the two best romcoms ever made.

Kyle: Music and Lyrics?

tony: Yeah. We’re gonna have a whole episode on that. We’re not going to have a whole episode about that.

Kyle: Real quick. You made me watch Hitch and the only thing I knew about the movie was that it was Tom from Parks and Rec’s favorite movie. So I went into it right away not liking it because I don’t like Tom.

tony: So anyway, I wanted to talk about Hitch mostly because I think there are lessons from it that are useful, but also because it presents really useful archetypes for us to talk about men who are trying to date. So you’ve got your Hitch, right. So he is really outwardly confident. But ultimately, I think the movie shows that he’s really insecure and really incapable of emotional vulnerability and kind of pathetic, honestly. I mean, he’s like mourning a relationship that happened 10 years ago and pretending that it doesn’t matter and that it doesn’t still hurt him and that he’s moved on, when in reality he clearly hasn’t done any sort of coping with that in the first place. And then you’ve got your Albert Brennaman, who’s actually a pretty great dude, seemingly, and really cares about women and wants to, like, empower his partner and have a really giving relationship. But he just lacks a ton of confidence and has no idea how to meet people. And then you have Vance who values sex over actual connection and thinks that any woman is attainable to him because he has money and that he doesn’t owe them anything and that he just gets to be super extractive. He’s a vampire, basically.

Kyle: He looks like a vampire! He’s very entitled. That’s another word I think we’re probably gonna come back to.

tony: And I think like that’s part of the thing about Hitch that I’ve always found fascinating is like, I know those three men. I’ve actually been all three of those men in different moments. And I think they’re really useful archetypes for talking about and thinking about how masculinity encounters dating. Right? Like, you’ve got your Hitches, you’ve got your Alberts, you’ve got your Vances.

Kyle: Yeah. And of course, they’re all straight dudes, straight cis dudes. It’s a 2005 movie, there isn’t a lot of other representation. But that’s also kind of what we’re gonna be focusing on today (editor’s addendum: in terms of our own identities, and what stories are ours to tell, and who the target audience of the show is, on some level. But don’t worry; that won’t be the only viewpoint that gets explored, as this show wraps up the first season and opens up into a second).

tony: So, yeah. And I think at the end of Hitch, again, Hitch says: “basic principles: there are none.” And it’s true that dating is not a science, and that there’s nothing that you can do to exactly figure out everything. But it’s not true that there aren’t good things to keep in mind. Or that there aren’t guidelines or that there aren’t social expectations or any of those things. So without further ado, ten things we wish we knew about dating as teenagers.

So and again, I just want to lampshade like this is from a cis-het dude perspective. And if that’s not your experience, that is super rad. But that’s what we got.

Kyle: And it is part of the target audience of this podcast, too. So there are a million more things we could say, but that’s the focus right now. Also, there’s a larger point here about advice. A lot of my work is like, first year programs, orientation stuff and sometimes there’s an expectation that going to “teach” these people what to do. I think “advice” is super interesting because something can be really, really, really good advice for one person and be really, really bad advice for someone else. And the reason I love how this question is framed as “stuff WE wish WE knew when we were younger,” is that it isn’t pointing at other people saying this is stuff that you should do. It’s literally if we had a time machine and could give ourselves advice, what would it be? And hopefully people can find something useful in that. It might not be all 10 points, might be a couple of points or whatever. But I think that framing of the question, as something that is reflective as opposed to didactic, is really useful.

tony: Take whatever is useful for you, toss the rest out. OK. And holy shit, do I have a lot of advice that I wish younger me knew about dating. So let’s get started.

1. The friendzone is not real.
It is not real, and not real in two senses, right? The first is that this concept of the friendzone that like, “if you are friends with a woman she has decided that she can’t date you” is not true, right? Like most of my relationships, both sexual and romantic, have come out of friendships. And that’s not because I look at my friendships as places that can be exploited to get those things. It’s because those are authentic relationships that I have with people. And when people are in authentic relationship with each other, sometimes their wants and needs around what they expect out of the relationship change. So it’s not real in that sense.

And then it’s also not true on a broader level of like, the friendzone isn’t a valuable concept because like, friendship is awesome. If you’re attracted to somebody, if you actually want to spend time around somebody, why would you not want to be friends with them? Like, why do you need some particular exact sequence of relationship escalation and sex or making out or whatever to validate the emotional connection you have with that person? So I think when I was younger, especially in high school, I had this perception that, oh, the reason why I wasn’t being successful in dating is because I was too nice. And because I had all these women friends and because I was so nice to them, they just thought of me as a friend and they didn’t want to, like, do anything else. And like in reality, most of that was because those women weren’t attracted to me, or weren’t attracted to me in that moment. And our relationships just didn’t make sense to evolve that way. And I think even if I had started dating some of those people, I very quickly would have realized that it wasn’t going to work out anyway.

Kyle: That’s so important. One of my favorite poems is this spoken word poem you can find online. It’s called “Friend Zone” by a poet named Dylan Garity. And I love it. It’s risky. He takes the first half of the poem, just kind of talking about this idea of the friendzone in a very straightforward, real way. And it’s funny; people are laughing. And then midway through the poem, it turns. There’s a line where he says, “A few months after my first girlfriend and I broke up, I heard she lost her virginity to the next guy she dated. At the time, I thought of this as a betrayal. Not her choice. As if she owed me something.” That idea of being owed, that idea of a sense of entitlement, is such a big part of this…

tony: That idea that if I’m just a good enough friend, or supportive enough, that I’m owed a relationship.

Kyle: I’m totally misquoting it, but there’s another line in that poem later where it’s like “as if women were machines that you put friendship tokens into until sex comes out.” I butchered the line but there’s something brilliant in that.

tony: Yeah. Fuck that shit.

2. Women are not another species.
So I think a lot of the time men, and especially young men or boys or whatever, get into this pattern of being like “I just don’t understand what women want” or like “men are from Mars, women are from Venus.” Or, you know, “they just speak a different language than I speak, and I just can’t ever really understand what they mean.” And I think all of that is meant to sort of dismiss what women are actually saying and pretend that what they’re saying isn’t what they actually mean. It sort of takes this base level assumption that women are inherently manipulative and are trying to manipulate you out of stuff. And you can’t trust what they’re saying because what they’re doing is something different.

And again: women are people. Women are just normal-ass people, the same as everybody else. And women largely want the same things as most men. Women largely need the same things as most men. And women largely can talk about wanting those things and needing those things in the same language as most men. So this perception that women are like, a different breed of person is totally ludicrous. I mean, it comes out in so many ways, right? It’s like this idea that women aren’t as interested in sex as men, which is super not true. It’s like, women just want assholes with money and not actual relationships with people, which is super not true.

Kyle: Or like, I remember being in high school and it isn’t always about the money side, but like, “the bad dude.” Women only want the kind of mean, shitty dude and not like “oh I’m such a nice guy; why won’t you pay any attention to me; I’m so NICE!” And how that niceness is so wrapped up in, again, the sense of entitlement which I think comes from everything we talked about earlier about how pop culture teaches us, objectifying women and saying that women are prize and yeah.

tony: Yeah.

3. Persistence isn’t always a virtue.
So sometimes, and Hitch is this way for sure; this is one thing that Hitch super ties into. But this idea that like, if you just keep working at a person or wearing away at them or hitting on them or showing up or whatever, then eventually they will fuck you. Eventually they will love you. Eventually we’ll be in a relationship together.

And there are so many different versions of this. I’ve seen a lot of them in myself. I’ve seen a lot of them in people around me. But like, seeing every interaction as sexual is one that immediately pops up. Or seeing compliments like, “oh, she complimented me on my shirt today. Maybe that means she’s…”

Kyle: I’d also add: treating every relationship with a woman as a potential partner. Yes. As opposed to like, another human being.

tony: Yeah, totally. Or like. “Oh, she asked me how I’m doing today. What does that mean?” You know, “does that mean she wants to be cool with me? Am I reading these signals right? What’s going on?” I think another way that men do this… a lot of men aren’t socialized into being super emotionally intelligent and like, doing good social listening to people. And I think one way I’ve seen a lot of women in my life get harassed is because they’re not saying no, but they’re saying no with their body. And men are ignoring it. Full stop. And that burden is not on them to figure out some way of verbalizing or doing other stuff, because those can come with all kinds of different dangers and stuff as well. But like, if a woman has her earphones in on the bus, she doesn’t want to talk to you.

Kyle: Or is reading a book…

tony: Or is reading a book: she doesn’t want to talk to you, bro. Or like, is at the bar alone with a beer and a book or looking down at her phone or any of those things like, she doesn’t want to talk to you. And the flip side: if she’s sitting on the other end of the bar and she keeps looking over at you and making eye contact and smiling, then maybe you can go over and say hi. And then if her body language stays super open and she smiles and starts talking to you, then she probably wants you to be there. And if she sees you coming and looks back down at her phone or turns around and looks at something else in the room or closes off her shoulders to you or something like that, then it’s pretty clear that she doesn’t want to talk to you and you shouldn’t bother her.

Kyle: And even beyond a body language thing, on like a language language thing: If you say, hey, how’s it goin? And it’s a one word answer. Just be like, all right. And then move on with your life. Go away. If it’s a I’m doing great. How are you? Then maybe have a conversation. But just to pay attention is so important.

tony: Yeah. And I think another one is this idea of grand romantic gestures. Holding out hope without reason. Being like, “oh, well, she hasn’t texted me back in three days since I got her number. And when I saw her at the office earlier, she, like, turned the other way and pretended like she didn’t see me. But, you know, maybe she’s just having a hard week. And it’s nothing to do with me. And all I need to do is buy her a bouquet of roses and she’ll see that I’m really in there.” And like, that’s just not healthy. It’s not healthy from the man’s perspective. It’s not healthy to, like, build your whole life around this hope for something that isn’t right there in front of you. And even if you get into a relationship with that person, it’s gonna have fucked up power dynamics because of how you got to that relationship. But then it’s not healthy for the woman either, who is like “why am I being bothered in this way when I’ve clearly not shown any interest in this person?”

Kyle: Which happened in Hitch a couple of times; the big grand romantic, dramatic gestures. But, you know, it goes back to the pop cultural myth of: you like someone, so your job is to convince them to give you a chance vs. you just live your life and you find someone with some mutual interest. And it isn’t a weird, adversarial, uphill, hunter/prey kind of struggle.

tony: Yeah, it’s like the whole joint with, is it Say Anything? Is that the joint with the boombox? That’s bullshit, man. That’s stalker behavior. You know, showing up outside somebody’s house after they’ve decided they don’t want to see you, and just playing loud music outside their window? It’s wild that we think of that as romance. And actually remembering that movie, that dude’s an asshole just like, in general. Or Robin Thicke is another great example of this, right. Where he, like, cheated on his wife and she left him. And then he released a whole terrible album of love ballads titled her name and was like trying to win her back. And it’s like, dog, if you just hadn’t been an asshole in the first place, then you wouldn’t have to be persistent. So anyway, persistence isn’t always a virtue. And actually a lot of the time it gets you in trouble. What number are we on?

Kyle: Four.

tony: Cool.

4. There are places to ask people out and there are places not to ask people out.
Kyle: And I think places is literal, like location. But it’s also kind of a deeper figurative sense of the word.

tony: Yeah, like social environments. So places not to ask people out: at their workplace while they’re working. Like, if you’re asking somebody out and they’re at their work and they’re working, especially if they’re in the service industry, then that likely means that they can’t physically leave. Like, they can’t tell you to fuck off or their manager will come out and be like, why are you being rude to that customer? So you don’t ask people out at those places just because you don’t even really know, you know, if they’re receptive to it, whether they’re actually experiencing joy at the experience of interacting with you, or whether they just feel like they have to.

Kyle: One more example of a pop cultural thing. How many movies are about hooking up with the bartender or with your barista or with some other person who is just working and you just, there’s this spark. And so I think that infects people’s heads sometimes.

tony: And again. I mean, all of these things with a qualifier like. Yeah, I mean, if your waitress is super, super, super flirty with you, you can maybe leave like a number on a receipt or something, you know?

Kyle: But you got to give them an out.

tony: Yeah, give them an out. That’s so important. Make it so that if they don’t want to pursue it or don’t want to follow up with it, they don’t have to feel embarrassed about that. They don’t have to feel unsafe about that. They just have to go on with their lives. Toss the receipt in the recycling.

Another one is at protests. Oh, man. Dog. Oh, man. Or just like, organizing spaces in general. When people show up to do political action, they’re not doing it with the expectation of getting laid. If they’re real-ass people.

Kyle: And if they are, they should go to hell.

tony: Yeah, exactly. And so for a bunch of reasons. The most among them probably that it’s just disrespectful and it re-objectifies those women into thinking about them as sexual creatures rather than as political agents, to get really theoretical about it; like, it doesn’t matter that you’re here because you care about this political cause, it just matters that you’re hot. And I feel entitled to interacting with you in this way right now. And then the, I guess, more pragmatic realpolitik version of it is it also makes people not want to come through. It makes people not want to do political stuff, or not want to go to protests or organizing meetings or whatever, if they feel like they’re gonna be running into stuff like that all the time and they don’t get an opportunity to just like, be there and engage like everybody else.

Another place that I just want to say is like, you know, maybe not objectively a horrible place to ask people out in, but probably isn’t going to give you like, a huge success rate, is in their social media comments. There’s the whole term like “reply guys” on this. Which is like, if a woman is posting about something that’s important or something that’s going on in her life, don’t just comment like, “oh, my God, your hair’s fire. Can I take you out next week?” You know, like, shut up and listen, first of all. And second of all, understand that, like, that woman probably gets 50 messages a day from random ass dudes. And catcalled and harassed at work and like all of these other places. And at that point, you’re just noise and you don’t have a real relationship with that person. And I think that’s part of the important thing is if you don’t actually know that person, why do you want to go out with them? You’re like, “oh, she just seems really cool.” Does she seem cool or does she seem hot? You know, is it about who she actually is as a person, or is it just about the fact that she’s attractive? And there are places to ask people out just because you think they’re attractive. That’s fine.

I think… I guess let’s shift over to places where you should ask people out, or where you can ask people out and it’s not creepy and weird. The first one is online dating. Online dating is a thing that has never really existed in the past, and it exists especially for, and exclusively to get you to know people that you want to go on dates with. And again, you still need to not be a creep, right? Like you still need to not objectify people. You probably shouldn’t be commenting on people’s body parts in random messages to them. But Tinder is mostly about finding other people you think are fine as hell and then trying to meet up with them either for casual sex or like to hang out or to maybe start dating and being in a relationship or whatever. And the same thing is true of OkCupid and Hinge and Bumble and whatever, Grindr, whatever platform you’re on.

Kyle: That’s another one of those messed up pickup artist things, the number strategy. Like, I’m going to send 500 messages to 500 random people that are mean, or like, an unsolicited dick pic or whatever. And like, is that the kind of person you want to be? And I guess someone who would do that probably isn’t listening to this podcast in the first place. But I just think online dating can be such a cool thing. And like you said, it hasn’t always existed, but can also be a really, really, really bad, toxic thing too.

tony: Yeah, and I don’t want to deride people who do send out a bunch of messages and play the numbers game, though. I think the critical thing in what Kyle just said is like, who send out a mean thing, right? Or who send out an unsolicited dick pic or like shit like that. Because playing the numbers game is honestly part of what online dating is as a dude. Like I was on OkCupid for, I don’t know, six months last time I was single and sent like a hundred messages and got like two replies. And most of the men that I’ve talked to have similar experiences with that, where like if you want to ever go on a date with somebody, you need to send a bunch of messages.

Kyle: Oh that just seems like a recipe for…

tony: Oh it sucks. Online dating sucks. But it’s a place where you can holler at people, right, in a respectful way. I also know most of the women that I know that have done online dating get like 50,000 messages off jump. And so again, like the numbers game isn’t necessarily the bad thing. I think the thing there is about how you approach somebody and is it respectful? And you can hit somebody up and be like, hey, are you interested in casual sex? And there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s chill, but don’t send them a dick pic without their consent or like hit them up on some super explicit sexual shit or anything like that. Like, come on, y’all. So there’s one place you can ask people out.

I think another one, which is honestly where I’ve gotten most of my dates over the years, is like, mutual social activities. So, and again, this one is tricky, right? Because it’s like, okay, so if you meet somebody at a party, that could be a place where you can ask them out on a date. If you meet somebody in your D&D group, that can be a place you ask somebody out on a date. If you meet somebody doing martial arts, that can be a place where you ask somebody out on a date. And I think the key there is like, don’t make it their problem if they’re not interested.

Because social activities like that that you get involved in, like you get to actually know people. And so it’s natural that as you get to mutually know people, you might be like, hey, we actually have a lot in common. It’d be really cool if you wanted to go out on a date or hookup or whatever. And I think there’s nothing wrong with making the approach. The important thing to keep in mind is: don’t make it their problem if they’re not interested. Like, they’re allowed to not be interested. And you can just let it go. You know, like parties and stuff like that, too. And again, like that all comes back to consent too. Especially if you’re trying to holler at somebody, you need to pay attention to what they’re saying and what their body language is. And if you get any hint of them not being into it either because they explicitly say that or just because it seems like they’re not that into it, then don’t go after it. Like there’s no rule saying that you have to flirt with everybody or you have to try to go home with somebody. Just play it cool, man. Play it cool, man.

(tony the scribe interlude): Hey, it’s tony the scribe from the future. Hey, so while we were working on this episode in the editing booth, we realized that we didn’t really do a good job here of talking about the fact that lots of folks have different abilities around social situations. So some people can read social cues super easily. Some people can’t at all. Some people understand intuitively what boundaries physically are going to make people feel comfortable. Other folks don’t. So the cheat sheet here and we should probably dive deeper into this in a future episode, but it’s if you’re not sure whether somebody is comfortable with the way that you’re acting towards them, you can either ask them, or you can just decide to step away. And either of those are totally cool options. So, yeah, sorry about that. Okay. Break time.

(mid-episode break): Hey, hey, hey, this is tony the scribe. Welcome to Episode 4 of What’s Good, Man? If this is your first episode, thanks for joining us. If you’ve listened to the other ones, thanks for sticking around with us so far. Glad you’re enjoying it. If you haven’t gotten a chance, please subscribe to the show. Give us a good review on your favorite podcast app. A lot of people have been sharing the show on their social media with friends. We really appreciate that. Podcasts spread best via word of mouth. So it really makes a difference when you share the show with other folks like you. We also want you to keep the conversation going, so please use hashtag #WhatsGoodMan on social media. If you want to chat about the show or about the topic or if you’ve got a critique or anything like that, we want to hear it all. Otherwise, my Twitter is @tony_the_scribe. Kyle’s is @elguante. You can also find us on Instagram, Facebook and at wgmpod.com There are transcripts for every episode there, too. Feel free to reach out if you want to say hi, offer us ideas for Season 2 episodes, or book us for a live show. Our theme music is by daedae and letmode. They kill it every time. All the other music is by me, including this extremely indie rock shit. I’ve never done anything like this before, but I’m really happy with how it turned out. So yeah. Let’s get back to our conversation around healthy dating. Thanks for joining us this time around.

5. Quality of sexual interaction matters more than quantity.
So there are so many different ways to put this, right, but I think 3 manifestations of it are like, “bases,” sexual partners, and orgasms. So on the bases front, I think there’s like the forever question of like, “how far did you get?” (singing) Like, “tell me more, tell me more. Did you get very far?” And honestly, some of my best sexual experiences have not involved penis/vaginal sex, or oral sex, or any of those things at all. Dome of the most fun I’ve ever had with another person has been makeout sessions or not even. Sexuality is bigger than how far did you get or like, what body parts came into contact with other body parts, you know?

Okay. Sexual partners. You can have sex with 20 people and every single one of those sexual experiences can be really shitty, especially if you don’t know the person, especially if you don’t match needs with them, or get to know each other’s bodies, and what each other likes, and those kinds of things.

Kyle: It’s this idea that sex doesn’t necessarily have to be some profound, spiritual like, you love the person kind of thing. But it does take some empathy, some communication, some transparency and vulnerability. And that, I think, is lacking from a lot of how we talk about “hookup culture” and stuff like that.

tony: Yeah. And I mean, I’ve had really caring, fun hookups in my life with total strangers sometimes. But again, it’s not about… like, I spent some time in college hooking up with a number of different people. Just having like one-off hookups with people at parties or whatever. And then I spent part of college in like, a friends-with-benefits-ship that was just mostly sex and friendship. We weren’t really dating or anything like that, but I had way better sex in that than I had with all of the other people that I ever hooked up with. And I think sometimes masculinity and socialization can get us to think that it’s the number of people that you’re able to sleep with that matters and not the depth of your sexual experience or how much fun you’ve had or, you know, those things. And I guess I don’t say that because I think we should re-put the focus on how many times you’ve had sex either. I’m just saying, you can have really, really great sex, and you can have really bad sex. And having sex with more people doesn’t make you better at it. It doesn’t mean you’re having more fun. It doesn’t mean you’re a better person.

The last one is orgasms, too, I think especially for “woke” feminist-type dudes, myself included at different points, can get into a pattern of like, caring a lot about whether their lover has an orgasm or how many orgasms they have. And if you talk to a lot of women and other multi-orgasmic people, it’s not really the number that matters. A lot of people’s favorite sex doesn’t involve orgasms at all. So I think it’s important to not quantity-over-quality that, too, right? Like, I’ve heard a bunch of women in my life talk about fucking dudes who treat them like they’re a video game. Like, oh, how can I hit the high score? You know, how can I get you to come four times in an hour or something like that? And that’s like objectifying, too, right? And is about quantity more than it’s about quality. And like, man, just ask people what they want and work with them to get to where they want to be.

Kyle: Like it is a good thing to be concerned about mutual pleasure. But “pleasure” and “orgasm” are not synonymous. Pleasure can take a million different forms.

tony: Totally.

6. Mutual escalation is key.
So we’ve developed this incredible technology, actually, to make sure that relationships escalate mutually and that you don’t end up just jumping off a cliff and finding nowhere to land. It’s called flirting. And like, I think what’s really important, that a lot of folks miss and that I missed when I was younger, is this idea that, man, why are you pining after somebody that you barely know? Like, if you see somebody, and you’re crushing on them on Instagram or Twitter or whatever, why do you need to make it some whole thing? You’re not in love with that person. You don’t know that person. You probably don’t even like that person that much. You’re just attracted to that person. And another piece is, people who go on a couple dates and are instantly like, “oh, my God, this is so important. I’m so into this person” and are like, utterly crushed if they don’t show up. And not that there’s anything pathetic about that because it happens to all of us, I think, on some level. But like, that’s not the goal, right? The goal is mutual escalation.

The goal is: somebody says hi to you. You say hi to them. They open their shoulders up a little bit. They smile more. They’re like, how are you doing today? You’re like, I’m pretty good today. How are you? People keep going deeper and deeper into these layers of vulnerability. And finally, you’re like, hey, what’s up? Do you want to go grab ramen tomorrow night? There’s this new spot near my house. We could have drinks. And they’re like, yeah. Absolutely, let’s do it. And then you go do that. And there’s more mutual escalation, right? More flirting. Maybe somebody brings up sex as a conversation topic. Like it’s a thing that you start talking about. You start talking about relationships. And then it’s a question of, okay, do you want to come back to my place? Maybe we could hook up. And that happens. And then it’s like, OK, so now we’re at a different level, like, are you down to keep seeing each other? Are you down to do this every week? Are you down to do this every couple of days or are you down to move in together? Are you down to get married? You know, that’s how escalation works. And that’s like how relationships work.

Kyle: And it’s just it’s also, I mean, you’re doing a really interesting job of kind of explaining consent. Like how in every stage of a relationship, consent has to be a part of that. Like, at any point in that story that you told, the person could be like, “nah I don’t think so.” And then they go in different directions. And that has to be respected. Even within the “do you want to hook up?”, there could be multiple, multiple stages of consent.

tony: Oh yeah. For sure. And for your own sake, you don’t want to dive in super deep and become super attached to a person that you don’t know that well or that you don’t have reason to trust already. And for their sake, it’s actually a huge problem when one person is way more invested than the other person and starts bugging them about it and making it difficult. And I actually think this is one of the hardest things about relationships: figuring out where people are at and whether you’re at the same place and whether your wants and needs are the same things and then figuring out how to deal with it if they’re not. And like, how much re-alignment can you do to try to get in line with each other? And at what point do you need to just call it?

And I think that’s actually a really good transition to point number 7, which is:

7. Be honest with yourself about what you want.
So like, I think when I was younger, I used to think, “oh, I want this particular girl. I’m just so hung up on her that, you know, I’m totally gaga over her.” And now like me looking at 14 year old me, it’s like, do you want her or do you want someone. Do you even know her, or do you just think she’s fine?

And like, that’s cool. But like, if you actually started, you know, if you actually got into a room with her and started talking to her or making out with her, whatever, you might realize that you’re really different people. You don’t like her at all, remember?

Kyle: Especially in high school, the kind of inevitability of like, we may not have anything in common, but we are in parallel social circles and like on a popularity scale, we’re at around the same level and we are around each other sometimes. We should probably date. That’s not a recipe for happiness.

tony: No, not at all. Another version of that is like, dudes who want relationships but claim they just want sex are just like, oh, I’m just trying to holler at people. But then get really bitter and angry when they sleep with somebody and somebody blows them off. ‘Cause it’s like you didn’t communicate that that’s what you wanted. And it’s not fair of you to hold that against somebody when they communicated clearly what’s going on. And then the flip is true, too, right? Dudes who want sex but claim they just want relationships who are like, oh, yeah, I just want to find somebody who’s gonna be the right fit for me. And then they get laid and they’re like, oh, well, actually, she has all these problems and I’m not really into it. And, you know, I’m not really feeling ready at this exact moment for dating. It’s like, if you’re just been honest about what you wanted from JUMP, you could’ve found somebody whose needs align with yours and then you wouldn’t be a scumbag. And again, I’ve made a lot of these mistakes. They’re not fun mistakes to make. So be honest with yourself about what you want, right?

8. Clear goddamn communication. Communicate clearly.
So you can’t just know what you want. You have to communicate what you want.

Kyle: And sometimes in the process of communicating, you figure out… because maybe it’s not super clear in your own brain what it is that you want. That’s why I think it’s doubly important to just be transparent and authentic and like, have conversations with the person that you happen to be dating in that moment.

tony: I think my first relationship could have gone a lot better, honestly, if both of us had been a lot clearer about communicating what we wanted, because one of the things that was going on was I wanted to see her more than she had the time to see me. And I think if I had been able to more clearly say to myself, like, oh, this is actually how much I want to see you, and like, if we’re gonna be in a relationship together, this is what is healthy for me, then it would have gone a lot better. But as it was, she was just sort of like, oh, I’m doing my own thing. And we haven’t seen each other in three or four weeks. And at a certain point, I got really bitter and resentful and was like, what’s wrong with me that you don’t want to see me more often? And if I’d just been clear and communicative about what I wanted out of the relationship and what I needed out of the relationship, then we could have avoided all the bitterness that resulted from it.

And I think like that communication is so important. It’s important when you’re trying to date somebody, but it’s even more important once you’re in a relationship with somebody. And I think that’s a really important part of being in a clear relationship with people, is being able to actually express yourself and be heard.

Kyle: You know, we’re going to a whole other episode around consent, but I’m thinking about the way that consent is talked about a lot of times, like on the internet or in a college orientation class or whatever: it’s very individual. And it’s very much about sex, right? It’s like, so when you are in a sexual situation, make sure you have consent to like, move to the next level or whatever. But consent is such a bigger framework and a bigger, I think, idea than just sex. And just on an individual level, it’s about how you SEE the other person, or multiple other people, potentially; how you see them, how you respect them as human beings who have their own needs and wants and all that stuff. It relates to every facet of a relationship, not just sex.

tony: Yeah, and I think, like, you’ve got to communicate your own wants and needs clearly. But then, the other person is a person, and you have to listen to them too. And that means you have to internalize what they’re saying. Like, you have to not just hear it, but you have to actually take it in and have it matter to you, even if you don’t like what they’re saying. Even if they’re like, oh, well, you know, I actually don’t want to kick it next weekend because I’m busy. And then Friday rolls around and you’re like, hey, I really want to see you this weekend. You have to listen to people to have clear communication and then respect what they’ve told you.

And I think one of the nice things about clear communication is that it reinforces how important you are as individuals, and that your relationship isn’t you being one person with the same wants and needs. It’s you being two or more people, all with their own sets of wants and needs and trying to figure out where they line up. So that feeds into point nine.

9. Co-dependency isn’t romantic. It’s dangerous.
If you ask most couples who have been together for like 40 or 50 years… I actually asked my grandparents this the other day because it was their 60th wedding anniversary and I was like, yo, what’s the secret to your relationship? And they were like, distance.

They were like, actually, it’s really important to not have your whole life be the other person. And for you both to have your own shit that you do in your own space and for you not to be super tightly tied together at every hour of the day and night. Boundaries are a key part of the best relationships.

And I think when you get into a codependent place, and especially like, I think it’s really hard for a lot of men because I think we’re socialized into not being able to have meaningful relationships with other men…

Kyle: That’s a whole other episode too!

tony: Yeah, we got to do that one for sure. But like, we’re socialized to not have deep relationships with other men, and we’re socialized most of the time to think of women as unattainable objects, rather than other people. And so a lot of folks I think have a really hard time being in friendships with women. So then all of a sudden when you look at, well, people don’t feel comfortable being vulnerable with dudes and they don’t feel comfortable being vulnerable with women except women that they’re dating. And all of a sudden people are treating girlfriends like they’re their therapists. And I think that’s really unhealthy and dangerous. Again, part of relationships is sharing feelings, but it’s not fixing feelings for each other. And it’s certainly not being each other’s only support. People need networks. People need a number of different places to go when stuff gets hard. And this idea that one person is going to be your end-all, be-all partner, romantically, sexually, domestically, friendship-wise, is ludicrous.

Who’s got the range to do all those things perfectly? And what are the odds that you’re going to find somebody whose needs line up with yours in all of those dimensions exactly the way that you need them to? And so I think it’s important to remember, too, that like, you need to be happy with yourself before you’re trying to be perfectly set up in a relationship. There are ways that you can be really, really happy and really, really single, right? And like, I think that when you approach dating as a person who is largely self-reliant, like has space to be vulnerable, but who already has a social network, already has most of their needs met, then I think you’re a better partner.

And like, one way I think about this especially is with masturbation, ‘cause like a lot of people, I think when they don’t masturbate they’re just like… their bodies can be fuckin’ in wild places, being like, “oh we just really, really, really need to date this person or we really want to date this person because we can’t get these needs met in other places.”

Kyle: So when sex is the holy grail, but you need someone else to give you the Holy Grail or whatever; that’s not healthy.

tony: Yeah, right? And it’s like dog, just go home and whack off. Like, seriously, it’s going to make your whole life better. You’re going to approach your relationships with other people in more humanizing ways rather than just being like, “is this the person that’s going to fuck me? Is this the person that’s going to love me again?” Like you don’t need another person to be able to get those needs met. And even with, like, I don’t know, physical intimacy outside of sex, like kissing or hand-holding or cuddling or like those things, you don’t necessarily need a partner to get those needs met either, if you have friends that want to engage in those things with you. And so I think it’s just really important to say, like, codependency is not the goal. And the more needs that you can get met outside of that relationship, the healthier that relationship is going to be once you end up in it.

Kyle: And I think especially in the conceit we’re working with here of going back in time to give your 16, 17 year-old self advice: I think that point about “it’s okay to be single” is really important because I think… You know, I’m thinking back to myself when I was that age and I could understand that to an extent like, yes, it’s OK to be single. But I think it’s worth saying that it’s OK to be single for like a long time, for years and years and years. It is OK to be single. It isn’t that we have to bounce back and forth between relationships to have worth.

tony: Yeah, my current partner, Emy, is a beautiful, beautiful woman and people are always surprised when they hear that she wasn’t in a full, committed relationship until her mid 20s, that she went through high school and through part of college, and then through a good couple years of her adult life without ever being in a relationship with anybody. And she says she’s way happier for it.

And so, again, I think it’s totally cool to wait until you feel like you find something that’s worth doing right rather than putting yourself and potentially another person through a really difficult, fucked up, hard situation, because you feel that need to be dating somebody now.

And I guess the last part is also around that self-reliance piece.

10. Romantic and sexual success is not under your control.
So my friend Jane has this really awesome sort of maxim that I’ve always loved. She’s like, “only 40 percent of your relationship is ever under your control. And 40 percent might be pushing it. 40 percent maximum. These are the things that you have control over, and the other person gets 40 percent, too, and then 20 percent is just random fuckery. Like just absolutely wild. Is it environmental? Is it timing? Is it any of these things?

And so when me and my first girlfriend ever broke up, I was really, really, really hung up about it and felt really bad about it and was blaming myself a ton and was like, what did I do wrong that this didn’t work out? And Jane told me that. And like, honestly, it’s been one of the things that’s really stuck with me. Is that, like, it’s not just about you. You are not the hunter and women are not your game. It’s about both of the people. And it’s about a bunch of different things that go on around them.

Dating is about finding someone whom you want to spend time with and a person that wants to spend time with you. Whether that’s sexual or romantic or whatever. Not about trying to convince someone else that you’re good enough for them.

Kyle: And like, that person exists.

tony: Yeah.

Kyle: You know, I’m not always a super happy, optimistic person, but I do think it’s important to note here that that person does exist, that they may not be in the place you’re looking. It may take some work on your end to like, change those environmental factors; not that we have all the control over it. But to impact them in some way. It’s not hopeless. Is there a better way to say that?

tony: I mean, I think I had a very strong perception when I was younger that it was hopeless, you know, for me at different points. And was just like, there’s, you know, something wrong with me or, you know, I can’t find somebody or people are only interested in other people or I keep falling for particular people that are into me or whatever. But I’ve had a lot of really healthy relationships in a whole bunch of different ways, right? Some of them really serious. Some of them really not serious. And I don’t mean to put that like I’m some sort of like super healthy, emotionally intuitive, Casanova because I’m fucking not right. But I have been in that place. And it gets better. And as long as you continue to put the work in, there are people out there for you.

Kyle: Mm hmm. Well, I mean, I want to… if the listeners have not noticed already, these points are all yours. And I want to thank you for your vulnerability, on all 10 of these, which I think are really, really useful, practical, good advice that I wish I had when I was 16.

tony: Man, thank you. And like, one of the reasons that I put these together rather than Kyle, just to lampshade it, is that I’ve done more dating than Kyle has. Especially in the last couple years. And so let’s talk about that. The last thing that we’re gonna do right before we close this one out is just talk about real world examples. So doing this episode, it can seem like, you know, there are so many things to keep in mind and it’s so impossible to thread the needle. And I’ve heard that a lot, actually. I’ve heard a lot of men say that it feels impossible to thread the needle of like being a creep and still dating people in modern day life. And I don’t think it’s impossible. So, like, you know, I think Kyle and I are gonna share stories of how we met our current partners and how those relationships escalated. And again, like just to say, like, it’s not impossible.

Kyle: So, I mean, I’ll get to my story in a second. But I think one thing I’d take away from these 10 points if I were to add anything or bring anything else to the table, would be the importance of just doing stuff like joining organizations, but not to find a partner, like join organizations, play a sport, or find cool hobbies, or take classes, or do stuff and meet people outside of the specific places where we are taught we are supposed to meet people. I’ve been really lucky to have healthy relationships with really cool people over my life and the common threads have been that I never made the first move. We don’t want to oversimplify. It isn’t just about not making the first move, but it’s about how we intentionally create space where maybe the other person makes the first move, but it’s also not out of nowhere. Like, it’s not just the whole burden is on them to make that move. And again, some of that just takes the emotional intelligence that you’ve done such a good job kind of elucidating in these 10 points of paying attention to context, clues and body language and all that stuff.

But it was all with people who I had a relationship with before I had a relationship with, you know, like whether as friends or people who did similar work and like respected each other and it grew organically from there as opposed to me doing a ton of work to MAKE it grow. So here’s the thing, right? Like, relationships are not hunts where the it’s usually the man has to go out and hunt, usually the woman. That’s super toxic. At the same time. I do think that the total complete 100 percent opposite of that, of being completely 100 percent passive kind of puts the burden on someone else, who maybe does like you or maybe does want to holler at you. But putting all of the burden on them to do all of the work of making the relationship happen. Like if we bring this conversation back to Hitch, that whole 90 percent, 10 percent thing about the kiss was really interesting.

tony: Yeah. So listener, what happens in that scene is Hitch is showing Albert how kisses work. Like, you lean in 90 percent of the way and you let her come the other 10 percent. You never go 100. You never just kiss her. You always present an opening and then she can follow up on it if she wants to.

Kyle: And I think, you know, you can make the argument that it should be, instead of 90/10, like 50/50 or 60/40 or whatever. I think as long as there’s always, and we’ve talked about it a couple times in this episode, as long as there’s always an out. I think I’m a very, very conscientious person; and I don’t say that to big myself up or say how great I am. It’s just a personality quirk that I have. When I speak, I use a lot of qualifiers, which I know you’ve noticed when we do this podcast. And I think it’s always really, really important where someone can have a graceful “nah I don’t really feel like it,” and you’re like, cool, right? Like, that’s really, really important. And so if it’s between 50/50 and 90/10, like I would lean more towards the 50/50, but I don’t know what the numbers are because again, this isn’t a science. It’s an art.

tony: So my current partner and I met through mutual friends and she was working with a friend of mine and he invited her to a party that I was at. And so we sort of met at this party and she was running around telling people that she’s a professional bear wrestler. And I was like, that is the most ridiculous shit I’ve ever seen. This woman is beautiful. What is happening here? Like, I just totally bowled over. And so for a little while after that, I, like, try to become better friends with her. Probably partially to try to date her or like get a chance to know her better, because I was definitely attracted to her from jump. But I was also just like, this person seems really interesting. So a couple times I sort of hit her up and was like, hey, we should hang out or do you want to grab coffee or stuff? Like that and didn’t really get much of a response. It wasn’t like super negative; it wasn’t like “absolutely not.” Or like, I don’t want to do that or anything like that. It was just like, you know, I’m really busy right now. And so after a couple times of that, I was sort of like, you know what? She doesn’t seem into it. I’m not going to pursue this. But she kept showing up to parties and started coming to parties at my new house when I moved in with that friend. And so I started seeing her more often at my house. And like we ended up after a couple parties staying up super late and talking. And I was like, this seems like a pretty cool person. And she doesn’t seem like she’s uncomfortable around me. Right? Or that she like is bothered by the fact that I had tried to kick it with her earlier. Right. So what ended up happening was after a party at our house one night, she was like, man, I’m kind of drunk. I don’t really want to go home. I don’t really feel like I can get in the car and drive or anything like that. I was like, OK, cool.

Two options. You’re welcome to take either one. I have a couch you can sleep on or you can come sleep in my bed. And we don’t have to do anything. Like, it doesn’t have to be a thing. But you can either take one of those places or, if you like, need to catch a ride from somebody else. We can work that out.

Kyle: And so let me interrupt you real quick. People talk all the time about how consent takes all the romance out of sex and relationships. But that’s a super romantic story, the way that you frame that.

tony: Yeah. And she said, yeah. Come sleep in your bed. And so she came and slept in my bed and we didn’t do anything; like she literally just slept there.

And that happened, I think two more times after different parties we had where I was just like, cool, you want to crash in my bed? Like we could cuddle; it’d be tight. And she was like, yeah, actually, that sounds super great. And I think a key point there is that even though we didn’t know each other super well, she was comfortable enough with me that she was like, sure, I’ll go sleep in this boy’s bed and like, not trip about what’s gonna happen. And then finally, like the fourth time or something like that, that she stayed over at a party. We like both got into bed after the party. And I was like.

Do you make out and she was like, yeah. Absolutely. And so we like started making out and then like all of a sudden we were dating. Well, first we hooked up and then later that week or later that month, she like, sort of ambushed me. And was like, “what was that? What are we like? What’s going on?” And that freaked the hell out of me at the time. But we, like, ended up sitting down and having a deeper conversation about it.

And it totally worked out. Because I was like, you know, I didn’t necessarily know what I meant by making out with you that night. But like, actually, yeah, I would like to date you. So, like, let’s go on some dates. Let’s see how the thing works. And now it’s like two years later and we’re still dating.

Kyle: I love how you mentioned the “what are we” conversation. And you said it freaked you out. And my immediate, like, knee jerk response was, “oh no!” Because, again, pop culture teaches us that that’s a bad conversation. That’s a scary conversation. When it shouldn’t be. That’s a beautiful conversation.

tony: And it was scary. But it worked out, you know? It was scary because it mattered. It was scary because we’re having a conversation about what our relative needs and wants were and whether they intersected with each other. And there was a very real possibility that they weren’t going to. And they did. And that’s super rad.

Kyle: So one of your points was that persistence isn’t always a good thing, but I think patience can be a good thing. Like I hear about how we, over time, build relationships with people. So I don’t go super in-depth into specifics, but like, you know, we met at work and we worked together for months and months and we were friends for months and months and months. We would watch movies together and stay up late watching music videos when that was a thing you could watch on TV because I’m older than you. And like for months and months and months and months. And then eventually it became a relationship. And I think the thing is, like those months and months weren’t…

tony: wasted.

Kyle: Yeah, they weren’t the precursor to the relationship. They were their own beautiful friendship. Yeah. Relationship can be like, lowercase r or capital R; they’re all beautiful things, right. And we should treasure relationships of all kinds, whether they’re sexual or not, whether they’re romantic or not. And I think that’s one big takeaway from this, that, again, if I could go back in time and give myself advice would be to treasure those friendship relationships, those like make out and have fun, but not graduate to dating relationships; treasure them all and like respect people; treat them as human beings.

tony: Yeah. People are human beings. People have different wants and needs. Talk with them and enjoy them. You know, if your whole perception of dating and relationships is that it’s like some miserable, horrible mess and that it’s a game that it’s impossible to win at, and it just gives you a shit ton of anxiety and those things, the first place you got to start is with yourself. And shifting your understanding of what relationships are and how to participate in them and how to show up to them as a whole human being looking to have fun with folks. And there are a lot of great ways to do that. Talking with your other homies about what that looks and feels like, right. That’s one way to do that. Meditation or journaling can be another way to do that. Therapy, I’ve found, can be a really great way to do that. But again, if you’re showing up to the idea of dating, you know, super disillusioned and bitter and stuff, you’re not going to be fun to date for anybody. And that doesn’t mean that you’re not a great person, or that there’s something wrong with you or any of that. It’s just like, maybe you’ve got a little bit of work to do on the front end. You know?

Kyle: Cool.

tony: Cool. So what’s good, man? Healthy dating, healthy dating is good man.

So for the last word this week, we have Kelly Evertz on the show. Kelly is a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin Superior. She studies marriage and family therapy with a focus on couples sex therapy. Kelly enjoys the challenge of addressing bold and uncomfortable topics such as eroticism, infidelity, shame and vulnerability. She welcomes challenging conversations that have the capacity to change both herself and others who invite growth and humility into their lives. You can find her on Instagram at @kellyevertz.

Kelly, what’s the last word? What should we be thinking about RE: dating and vulnerability and intimacy?

Kelly Evertz: Thanks, Tony, for having me. This is so exciting; what a good topic to be confronting and challenging and talking about. If it’s OK with you, I do have… there was one point in the podcast where I found my body kind of triggered and it was around the topic of Tinder. And I found that actually I think a lot of people think of the topic of dating apps as a numbers game. The more people I match with, the more likes I put out there, the higher my chances are of potentially meeting someone. And I struggle with thinking about numbers game as a way of dating healthy period. I’ve used them (bumble, hinge, tinder) used them on and off for the last 10 years. It’s worked zero point zero times in my whole life and I’ve found that to be a pattern in many other men and women that I’ve talked to. So I see the benefit to online dating apps as a way of meeting people and getting yourself out there and maybe challenging some of your own insecurities and ways to grow as an individual, but to see it as a numbers game… I just don’t know if that’s a healthy way of approaching dating, if your intentions are to meet someone and build a relationship with someone. That was like my initial thought after hearing the podcast. Yeah.

Another thing that, well, I guess. OK, I’ll take a step back. Another thought I had was that the whole motive behind this podcast is toxic masculinity. And in my personal experience with online dating, with those apps, those are the places, Tinder in particular, where I’ve experienced the most toxic masculinity. It makes my head spin just thinking about it. I remember like, loading the app and feeling like, it’s now a game, like, that word “game” just keeps coming up, and it felt good to swipe and then, oh, I made a match and there’s this burst of dopamine that comes through you when you make a match. And there’s like a low motivation to start a conversation with one person because I want to keep swiping and keep making more matches and keep getting more rushes of dopamine to my brain to boost my own self-esteem and confidence. And it became more literally of a game to make matches than about the initial intention of meeting someone and having a really authentic relationship moving forward. So that was my thoughts on dating apps.

Another thought that came up that really relates to my studies as a relationship therapist and a sex therapist is the theory of attachment. And I’m hoping to, maybe this is my way of spreading the word about attachment theory. It was the one thing that I found most helpful when I began to really approach dating in my own life intentionally. So attachment theory. It’s based on early childhood experiences and I won’t go into too much psychology on it. But the way that we were brought up in our childhood really plays a huge role in how we navigate and portray ourselves in our dating life and relationships as adults. And there’s kind of this spectrum with attachment. It goes from anxious to secure to avoidant styles.

There’s like three core styles and there’s tests you can take online to find your attachment style. I personally lean towards the anxious side and the anxious and avoidant are on kind of the two extreme ends of the spectrum, and it’s approaching relationships from a fear based mentality versus a love or safe, secure place. Anxious people tend to want to be really close with their partner and feel that their partner is going to turn and leave them or not want to get as close as they want to. They find themselves ruminating about the relationship, thinking about it all the time, wondering do they really like me? Are they thinking about me? What are they doing right now? When am I going to hear from them again? When do I get to see them again? So it’s just so many ruminating thoughts and worry. It comes from a place of worry and anxiety. And avoidants tend to want a little more space, independence, autonomy. I can handle closeness, but only so much. And then I need to push away or need my space. Their fear is kind of being swallowed up by the relationship. And then that secure place is kind of that happy in between, that Goldilocks in between. I feel safe and secure with my partner and I can have my own independence and my own autonomy and I can turn to them when I need them. And I can also turn to other friends or look to myself in times of need.

It’s ironic; those that are anxiously attached and avoidantly attatched, tend to wind up in relationships together and they don’t go well. You get these like really high highs in the relationship and then really low lows and it can feel really passionate and romantic and intimate. But it’s not healthy. And so what I’ve learned about becoming a more secure person is that healthy relationships can feel boring to me at times because I don’t feel those really high highs or those really low lows. I want you so bad. Come back, be with me. Yeah, I hope this is all making sense; there’s just years and years and years of research about it and I’m trying to tie it all up and put her bow on it and explain it.

A friend of mine explained it in a really neat way. Anxious people tend to be more like dogs where you come home and they’re right there at the door and they’re so excited to see you. And I love you and I’ve missed you. And what have you been doing all day? And I just want to spend all my time with you. And avoidant partners tend to be more like cats, like, hi, you’re home, I see you. I’ll come say hi when it’s on my time. Okay, now I need my space. I love you, but I’m going to love you from over here. Kind of a little bit distance. So yeah, attachment styles. I just think it’s really cool when I’m intentionally going into dating to kind of know where my set point is at my feeling healthy right now in who I am as a human, or am I coming from a place of insecurities and fear and worry; that really plays a role in who I pick as my partner in my life at the time.

There is a book; I’m going to plug one book that goes into attachment. It’s called Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller and it’s been really powerful to read. There are different questionnaires and you can pick and choose different chapters to read about this topic.

To tie it into toxic masculinity… as I said before, I feel like each individual, as we are like confident in ourselves and feeling secure in who we are as a human and unapologetic about what we bring to the table… I guess for me as a woman, when I’m feeling that way, I want to have nothing to do with toxic masculinity. I can see it as a red flag and I can run the other direction. When I’m feeling insecure and lonely and questioning my own self-worth and lovability, that wall comes down and I find that I will accept toxic masculinity into my life because I don’t feel worthy of anything else and I’ll take anything is better than nothing. So I just encourage everyone to look inside and love themselves and challenge those insecurities. And in turn, I would hope that healthy dating comes as a byproduct of that.

tony: Thank you so much, Kelly. That was fantastic. So one more time, that was Kelly Evertz. You can find her on Instagram at @kellyevertz. Thanks. This has been What’s Good, Man? And we’ll see you again in two weeks.