Monday, July 26, 2010

The Condom Bowl

This blog started as the result of a dating challenge that my friend threw down, The Arch Challenge. The task: seven dates, seven days in a row, seven different men. The reward: a glass bowl for the sake of holding condoms.

This challenge changed my feelings about dating altogether. It made me far more comfortable with dating, especially with first dates and blind dates, thereby making it easier for me to focus on the important aspects of the date. It enabled me to better assess each man and our chemistry, which in turn helped me figure out and fine tune what I'm looking for in a partner. Moreover, this challenge granted me a sense of humor about dating that I think everyone could do with a little more of. For people who can handle the intensity of seven straight nights of dating, I highly recommend this challenge.

There is one remaining Arch date that I never blogged about. It was the only one that was not arranged online; that is, I met him through mutual friends. He was also the only Arch date who wasn't a "first" date. I've been seeing him for the last several months, which is why my stories have petered out. I will be blogging about that date soon.

And now, I present to you la taza del condón.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Duck Penis Followup

In my last post about the evolution of Sperm, I mentioned female ducks evolving to have complicated oviducts to thwart insemination from male ducks who rape them. Here are videos and a picture of the complex duck penis accompanied by further explanation of how duck sex goes down:

Hat tip to "Peebs" for sending me this.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Threat of Sperm

I recently listened to an episode of Radio Lab, an NPR radio program, about reproductive physiology and how it's evolved in various animal species. It's a fascinating one-hour episode that you can listen to here: If you need convincing, here are some highlights/spoilers:
  • Performing DNA tests on bird eggs from the same nest revealed multiple paternity. As a result, further research into the monogamy of female species was done, and it was found that, in fact, the majority of animals are promiscuous.
  • Not only do male animals have to compete with each other in order to copulate with females, but their sperm within the females also needs to compete with other males' sperm within the females. Thus, many species have evolved in ways to better the chances that their sperm will be the winning sperm in inseminating the females.
  • The penis of a dragonfly is covered in backwards-pointing spires. It brushes and collects remnant sperm within the female during mating. Before ejaculating, the male will pull out, shake off all the other male sperm, then reinsert and ejaculate himself within the female.
  • Mating among ducks occurs as rape. So female ducks have evolved to have very complex vaginas. The longer the male penis in a species of duck, the more complex the female vagina. Their vaginas have off-ramps that lead to dead-ends meant to deflect the males from inseminating them. The main path that leads to the uterine tubes ends in a long, corkscrew-like spiral. Should the male make it through to this main path, the female can contract the spiral to keep the sperm out.
  • Human female bodies store sperm for up to a week until the woman ovulates and can make use of the sperm.
  • There are species in which the males have died out, and the women live on. This episode discusses what it would take for human females to dispense with human males.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Now for Some Good

Following my post on bad messages received on OkCupid, here are examples of good messages, many of which I responded to. Even when the message is good, though, there are plenty of issues that can arise within the men’s profiles. A great profile can counteract a weak message, but that weak message has to be inoffensive enough for me to click through to the profile.

And with that, here is a representative sample of good messages I received, followed by commentary. Note that most end with the person's actual name, which humanizes the online identity behind the message, and all but one reference something I indicate that I like in my profile. The more integrated or indirect the reference, the more successful the message.
subject: Sure.

You're right: the only way to talk is over a drink.

When you say "stinky cheese", are you only thinking of blues? When I was in Amsterdam a few months ago, it was ok that you can walk into a store and buy pot, but what I really liked was that you can walk into a store and buy raw milk Epoisses.

This message grabbed me mainly because of the mention of Epoisses, which is my absolute favorite cheese. Furthermore, it’s an obscure cheese, and he is aware that the sale of raw milk cheeses is heavily restricted in the U.S. These facts tell me that he’s probably somewhat of a foodie, which is a good match for me. He also shows by example, rather than simply stating, that he’s a traveler. This guy turned out to be “The Bone.”
subject: Hello!

Not that I place any real faith in OkCupid's matching system, but finding someone on *any* list here who can carry on an interesting/intelligent conversation has (at least for me) been about as productive as trying to order my lunch by blindly hurling a watermelon at a menu board tacked to the side of a taco truck.
The image conjured of blindly hurling a watermelon at a menu board on a taco truck is too golden to pass up this message.
subject: So, for our fifth date ...

... would you like to join me for a hot chocolate at Bittersweet on Fillmore?

Short and sweet, and it plays on my love for chocolate, which I mention in my OkC profile. (In regards to the subject, my profile states that I hate first dates and that I’d like to pretend that our first date is actually our fifth date.) This gentleman turned out to be “Bitterbore.”
subject: drink me


I moved up to the Mission and there are about a million bars within 5 blocks. Let's go grab a drink some time.

I'll even front you an embarrassing story: when I was 3 I spent all night tying hundreds of ropes all over the kitchen from one side to the other, so no one but little short people like me could weave through the spiderweb. Somehow I flooded the kitchen with two inches of water. My folks found me sitting triumphantly on top of the refrigerator.

Horrible subject line. However, I like that he shares a story up front, which shows a willingness to be open and friendly, and the story is pretty adorable. (My profile also mentions that our "fifth" date should be rife with embarrassing stories.)
subject: 4sq [my name, redacted]

Haha no way, are you the same [my name, redacted] that I keep seeing as mayor of places on 4sq?! Off the top of my head I seem to recall places like Philz and Monks Kettle.

The internets, amazing :)

The internets truly are amazing! It shows some level of insight that he drew a connection between my OkCupid username, my OkC profile, and the places of which I’ve been the FourSquare mayor. All that’s lacking in this message is something actionable, e.g., a question about me or a date request.
subject: Let's insult each other.

PS - Do you respect wood?
The rest of this guy’s message, which I won't waste anyone's time with, is crap. At first glance, the Post Script might also seem crass. However, it is, in fact, a classic Larry David line, and as I mention in my OkC profile, I’m a huge LD fan. It brightened up my day so much just to recollect that episode and to specifically recall LD, in all his glory, asking this question that I overlooked the other crap in this message and clicked through to the guy's profile.

How the Other Half Lives

A lot of men complain that women don’t respond to their messages on OkCupid. I’m going to attempt to explain why that might be the case by showing a representative sample of the messages I received when I was active on the site.

It's important to note that, when I was most active on the site, I was getting an average of seven or more messages a day. (It's hard to be exact because I deleted a lot of messages at the time, so I'm erring on the lower end here.) This doesn't include Instant Messages, Winks, or when people "Favorited" me, which triggers a message. The sheer number of messages I was receiving pushed me to be arbitrarily picky. For example, while in real life, I would date men up to the age of 35, on OkC, my limit was 31 simply in order to pare down the number of men I was talking to. Often, as you'll see, the content of the messages made it easier to filter as well. I tried responding to at least one message every couple of days. During the Arch challenge, I was responding to two or three messages every day.

I’ll limit this post to examples of bad messages that I received, followed by commentary explaining how they went wrong. And remember, while some of these offenses might not seem grave, I was receiving so many messages that even minor issues had to count as dealbreakers as a filtering mechanism. It was a game of numbers. There's a follow-up post to this showing good messages I received.
subject: who killed Gumby

I know you must get a ton of replies so I will keep this brief. I read your profile and I would love to know you better. Please look over my profile and let me know what you think.

A little about me.... I am 40 and I live in San Jose. I am in an open poly marriage. She knows I am writing you. I am 5 ft 9 in, 165 lbs, green eyes, brown hair with some gray on the temples. I have a photo but the site would not let it upload for some reason. I am seeking a lover and friend. I am open to more since I am poly. Please tell me more about you. I am very interested.

"Open poly marriage" was a bit of a shocker given that I didn't mention being open to it in my profile. It's good that he was up front about it, but the specific way in which he brings it up is creepy; specifically, "She knows I'm writing you," the refusal to show a photo, and "I am seeking a lover and friend. I am open to more because I am poly." WHAT MORE?
subject: HI
I am 40 years old but still feel like 30, well most of the time anyway. I like to think that it's because I have always been fit from cycling/racing for the past 25 years and I tend to eat healthy but do enjoy trips to IN&OUT Burger from time to time. If you think that I may be too intense or have a inflated ego because of being a top athlete think again. I have been told by friend and other cyclist some of whom I have coached that they like the way I don't make them feel like less of a rider on or off the bike. I don't have anything to prove, I am just a guy who has been lucky to have faster legs then most at the right time and have a few cool trophies to so for it.
This guy is outside the age preference I expressed by nearly a decade, but don't worry: his feelings-age is within bounds. This message proves that he has the very thing he says he doesn't: an "inflated ego." The entire message is about what an amazing "top athlete" he is. He says he doesn't make his friends and other cyclists feel like "less of a rider on or off the bike" ...because he is a better rider than them, on AND off the bike (what does he mean by riding off the bike??), and he's showing me how humble he is despite his (humbly self-asserted) greatness. Even if I could overlook bad spelling and grammar, given that his whole message is about comparing himself to others, it's a little disappointing that he messed up the word "than." He doesn't mention anything we have in common or why we'd be a good match which makes it seem like a form letter that he sends to all the women he's interested in. In the rest of the message, he doesn't ask me any questions and just says to message him back if I'm interested, as though nothing about me matters. Every last morsel of this is so bad, it leaves me wondering if this guy was trolling me.
subject: Hi There

You seem to be very articulate in expressing yourself.
“Cocky and Funny Comment on your profile”
When complimenting a woman on her personality or intellect, evidence should be supplied. Otherwise, it just sounds like a line, and it makes me think, "You don't even know me!" This could have gone over much better if he had said something like, "I love the way you describe first dates in your profile; very articulate and spot on." Also, I can't tell if he's trying to be clever and funny with this, "Cocky and Funny Comment on your profile" part of his message, or if this is a form letter and he forgot to fill in the part where he's supposed to make a cocky albeit funny observation about my profile. Fail.
subject: hey gurl wanna bone

i luv u porfile so holla at me
This kind of message is very common. I'm neither interested in hooking up with random men from the internet, nor is it at all a turn on to be hit on so crudely. Also, the horrific spelling/grammar/English situation is a dealbreaker on its own.
subject: yes yes

It can be like that. I liked your profile but didn't know what to say right off. I still don't. It can be like that. But I do like stinky cheese -- some of it anyway. I once had this cheese, well, I suppose I can't remember the name due to PTSD. I hope forgetting the name doesn't mean that I'm destined to eat it again unawares. But strong flavors suit me just right.

This guy sounds insecure. He shouldn't be telling me that he doesn't know what to say to me; or perhaps he should tell me why he doesn't know what to say so that I don't immediately jump to the conclusion that he's insecure or intimidated. This comedy act about the cheese is bad on several levels. One, I don't find him funny. Two, his humor was a bait and switch on how we relate. 'We relate on this one thing! Just kidding...we don't.' That seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of how to relate to someone, how to initiate a relationship. If he didn't relate to anything in my profile but still liked it and wanted to chat, he should have expressed why he was drawn in and then shared a little about himself rather than fabricating a connection to the stinky cheese. Three, the cheese story further makes him come off as insecure and weak. He's indirect which makes me wonder if he's confident enough to be direct. He highlights being a little bit forgetful and fretful; even if it is a joke, he's unnecessarily painting a first impression with a flawed brush. At the end, he expands his talk of "stinky cheese" to all "strong" flavors. Since he showed that he doesn't like stinky cheese, is he extending this to say he doesn't like any strong flavors? Is he really alluding to not liking strong personalities? Does he not like strong things because he has a weak constitution? Signing the message "m" also wins him no points. Am I supposed to call him, "m?" He should have either signed the message with his real, full name to humanize himself, or left off a signature altogether. Upon reflection, I wonder if "m" gleaned from my profile that I have a strong personality and messaged me just to let me know that I would give him PTSD.
subject: hi

I am mansour man 37 from Egypt I saw your photo on okcupid and I like you can we talk and chat I am online now my e-mail is


send your e-mail to chat with you please
His grammar is wretched, which is a turn-off for me, though his revelation that he's Egyptian could mean that his proficiency in writing English isn't great. That said, it's easy enough to use an online translator to work around this. Also, revealing his email address right away appears reckless and desperate and escalates the "relationship" far too quickly. Asking for my email address right away shows he isn't thoughtful about my privacy and boundaries.
subject: this american life

Yes, This American Life is pretty awesome!
Yes, This American Life is, indeed, awesome. You know what else is awesome? Examples. Actionable messages. Complexity. He should have mentioned a story he particularly likes from the podcast. He should have also made an actionable comment in his message such as, "Would you like to go out for a drink sometime?" Or, "How did you first get into This American Life?"

Next up, some of the best messages I've received on OkCupid.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The 4 Shot Plan

I haven't posted in a while, so I thought I'd return on a positive note for the men folk with an oldie but goodie.

A couple years ago, one of my closest friends introduced me to one of his closest childhood friends through Facebook, "Big Brown." It wasn't meant to be a setup, especially since he lived kind of far away from me; we just had a lot of obvious similarities. We ended up becoming great friends over IM, so when I was planning a trip near his home base, we decided to meet up for drinks and dinner. We clearly had a lot of chemistry, so this was shaping up to be a date, which made me slip into nervous mode.

Big Brown knew of my aversion to dates at the time, and so he came up with the brilliant "4S Plan." He arrived at the bar before me and ordered four shots of tequila. When I showed up, we didn't say a single word to each other. We each downed one shot, then a second shot, waited thirty seconds, and only then did he say, "Hi, I'm Big Brown."

To be clear, I'm a petite, 5'2" lightweight who was happily buzzed after two shots. As one can glean from his handle, he probably didn't feel the shots much at all. I didn't mind, though. A toasty me is a comfortable me, and we got along swimmingly.

The rest of the date isn't much of a story, but it's worth noting all of the amazing things he did that made it one of the best dates I've had:
  • We left my car at the bar, and he drove us to dinner, which was on the other side of a rather large town. We had hung out at the bar long enough to sober up quite a bit, so it wasn't just out of practicality that he drove. It was gentlemanly, and he was willing to drive far out of his way back to this bar whenever the evening was over.
  • He knew I loved sushi and Japanese food, so he did his research ahead of time and took me to a Japanese restaurant with the perfect first date ambiance and excellent quality food.
  • Observing my enthusiasm for this type of food and my eagerness to order specific things, he let me order our entire meal for both of us.
  • He stepped out of his comfort zone to taste a few of the food items I ordered, overcoming personal preference in order to explore with me. However, when he still didn't like those items, he was honest about it, which made for a good laugh. He showed that he was adventurous but didn't compromise himself.
  • In the middle of the meal, while I was in the restroom, he gave his credit card to the waitress and instructed her to charge it whenever we asked for the bill. This was genius for several reasons. 1) He eliminated the awkward, "Who pays?" moment at the end. 2) It exemplified security and masculinity. 3) It showed extreme generosity. He didn't know how much the bill would total at the end of the night. I was the one who ordered the food, so he wasn't even in control over the cost. He clearly wanted to treat me, and it made me feel special. It made me feel like I was worth the trouble of a man sneaking his credit card to a waitress because he wanted me to be happy. 4) It showed me that he was enjoying his time with me.
Big Brown and I didn't end up working out as a couple, but we became great friends. This is a clear example that women can and should have standards.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Han Solo

Once I completed the Arch challenge, it was pretty clear to me that I should start enforcing standards. People are always telling me that I'm single because I'm too picky. For those people, this blog is proof that I'm decidedly open-minded in terms of whom I'll grant a first date, and that having standards is categorically different from being picky. Decidedly and categorically. I'm simply not going to have meaningful conversations with someone who has fundamentally different interests. The Hungarian would not have been interested in hearing about the Radio Lab episode on inter-species emoting.

When I recovered enough from the Arch challenge to venture out for another OKCupid first date, I decided to go for someone radically different. Sick of all the impotent types I found myself on dates with, I thought it'd be fun to go on a date with an asshole; an honest-to-goodness asshole who put statements in his profile like, "You should message me if... You probably went/go to a good school. You're literate... you prefer modern art/architecture (Bauhaus = yes, Raphaelesque cherubim = not so much)...You should have your shit together most of the time..." At the very least, I was sure to get a good story out of it. To be clear on just how much of an asshole I expected this guy to be, here are other choice snippets from his profile:

"...sometimes I just sit back and go with the flow (and heckle the idiots who are in charge, when necessary)."

"...I read a lot, a few books a week. Too much to list here... any well-written textbook on any subject... Academic journals..."

"...Do you like picnics with Brillat Savarin and jamon? Foie gras burgers..."

His job category was listed as "Executive/Management." Clearly, I was dealing with a bona fide, egotistical Han Solo.

Outfitted in jeans and a nice top, the SF norm, I made my way to a popular cocktail bar to meet Han "grey pants/jacket + blue shirt" Solo. He was more goofball than asshole, making many quirky faces and kooky gestures perhaps belying nervousness or discomfort. The closest he came to being an asshole was being too conversationally clueless to make me feel listened to. He didn't ask followup questions when he clearly should have. For example, when I told him I'd been spending all of my time reading and writing lately, Han "I read a lot, too much to list here" Solo didn't ask me what I'd been reading or writing.

The more I learned about Han Solo, the more it became obvious that he entirely misrepresented himself in his profile, sometimes ambiguously, other times outright. He states in his profile, under the section asking what he does on a typical Friday night, "I hate being a couch potato, so I do go out quite a bit, even just for casual dinner. Or sometimes I do go find some all-night party in a warehouse/forest and stagger home at sunrise... And that goes for all the other nights of the week as well. Either way, I don't sleep very much." When I asked how often he goes out, he responded, "Once or twice a week." He genuinely felt that this counted as "quite a bit." The closest Han "stagger home at sunrise" Solo came to an all-night rager in the past week was having dinner with his brother.

He displayed more conversational incompetence by creepily demonstrating a depth of knowledge about my identity that I never revealed to him. He admitted to Google stalking me, which would have been fine if he either hadn't mentioned it or if he had used the information as an ice breaker. However, throughout the date, Han "this is why you're" Solo would lean in, make a creepy face reminiscent of the witch offering Snow White a poison apple, and in a lowered voice, state some fact about me like, "You won a Hitachi Scholarship in high school."

Han Solo was so quick to pay the bill, that my offer to pay my share came awkwardly after the fact, and I was unable to insist in order to send him the signal that I wasn't interested. However, I give him huge props for taking care of the bill without second thought and for not making a big deal out of it.

Later that evening, in order to "level the playing field," Han Solo texted me with the URL to his website. The title of the website was, "The Lair of the Motherbrain." It was a "click to enter" style site, and the object one was supposed to click to enter was a throbbing brain. This was the first and last throbbing organ of Han Solo's I would ever choose to see.

Post-mortem for the boys:
  • Ask girls questions about themselves. Almost everyone loves to talk about themselves. Almost everyone loves it when other people show interest in them by asking them questions.
  • Show that you're listening and paying attention. One way of doing this is to try to make a reference or two to something meaningful that a girl said earlier on in the conversation.
  • When you hit the age of, say, 22, and you're serious about finding a girlfriend outside of a Star Wars convention, scrub your websites of nerdy, gamer, Star Trek/Wars/etc. language.
  • If you're doing online dating, make sure you're representing yourself honestly in your profile. Get a few of your friends together. Show them several other men's profiles side by side with your own. Don't tell them which one is yours, and see if they can pick it out.
  • It's not unusual for you to stalk the person you're about to go out on a date with. However, if you're going to do it, there are some rules.
  1. Consider stopping yourself short and not diving in too deep. The more you know, the harder it'll be for you to hide that you've stalked her.
  2. If you fess up to stalking her, be casual about it, and play down the extent to which you stalked her. "Oh, I just searched for you on facebook" is a great one. Admitting that you Googled the person is tougher because often, you'd need to figure out more facts about her before the Google results become meaningful.
  3. Only bring up one or two things you learned about her from the stalking. Any more than that, and you will appear creepy.
  4. If you bring up a thing or two that you learned while stalking her, make it conversational. "Hey, so facebook said you grew up in Southern California. Are you from LA? What was that like?" Just because you feel awkward about it doesn't mean that you should bring it up in an awkward fashion. And for that matter, if you feel so awkward about it, then it's probably a sign that you shouldn't bring it up at all.