Did you know that if you send a quick thank-you e-mail after a first date, the guy is not likely to ask you out again — even though he says he appreciates such gestures?
And ladies, be aware that your date is quietly sizing you up as a potential future mother for his children. But don’t you dare bring up the idea that you might want kids someday, or he’s outta there.
Men often talk about how complicated women are. Well, pot — meet kettle.
These are just a couple of the insights that Rachel Greenwald, a dating coach and matchmaker from Denver, pried from male brains during 1,000 “exit interviews” with guys who never called their dates back.
Greenwald has written two books on dating. The first, “Find a Husband After 35: Using What I Learned in Harvard Business School,” became an international best-seller that was translated into 23 languages. The latest, “Have Him at Hello: Confessions from 1,000 Guys About What Makes Them Fall in Love Or Never Call Back” (Three Rivers Press, $14.99), contains dating advice that’s not always what you want to hear, but is guaranteed to open your eyes.
Greenwald, 46, was born and raised in Denver, but lived in Boston for 12 years, where she attended Wellesley College and Harvard Business School. She spends her summers in Old Orchard Beach, where her grandparents once owned a motel and her mother now has a home.
Greenwald is married and has three children, ages 9, 13 and 15. She and her husband are about to celebrate their 18th anniversary as they do every year — with a nice dinner in a Portland restaurant. While she’s in Maine, she’ll be appearing at One Longfellow Square to give some advice on “My 7 Best Secrets to Find the Right Man.”
Q: Your new book is so detailed and obviously very well researched. But honestly, by the time I was halfway through it, I kind of felt like it’s a miracle that anyone gets into a relationship considering how many immediate assumptions are being made about the other person. Do you feel that way sometimes?
A: I think what has slowly happened in the last few years as online dating has exploded is that there’s this mentality that there’s always a better match just a mouse click away. And so daters’ mentalities have changed. The mentality now is that they feel this almost arrogance that there’s so much volume out there — so many men, so many women — that they’re now looking to rule out instead of rule in. And so I think it’s a miracle that anyone gets together, but this is a recent phenomenon, and it really comes with the arrogance that there’s always someone better out there. You could be out to dinner or to coffee with someone, and you could be back at your home computer in an hour sorting through other singles.
Q: You have all these categories of women that you call “date-breakers,” including The Boss Lady, The Bait & Switcher, The Park Avenue Princess, The Closer. Was there one category where you thought the guys were really being too judgmental?
A: I think both men and women are way too judgmental. I think that we’ve come to create stereotypes so quickly. We just have so much information thrown at us all the time now through social networks and the volume of people that we are exposed to, that our brain has to create stereotypes just to sort through the volume. So I don’t blame anybody.
The category that surprised me the most, I think, was the No. 1, The Boss Lady date-breaker. What was different about it than I expected was I think women go around with the assumption that men are intimidated by their success, and in reality he just doesn’t respond to her abrasive personality. And peeling back that layer, it’s not that she has an abrasive personality, it’s that she is behaving in a social setting the way she has been rewarded at work. She is sticking up for herself, she is overly independent, she’s argumentative, she’s confrontational, and these are all things she has been nurtured and trained to do.
Q: I think it’s a little confusing too, because you always hear guys say that confidence is attractive to them, and they just want women to be themselves. But nearly your entire book is made up of women who were just trying to be themselves and yet men still made all these inaccurate assumptions, labeling them something they were not.
A: Definitely, it’s a tricky line to distinguish what’s confident vs. what’s maybe argumentative, almost. It’s very long interviews with these men. It’s not quick little conversations. So in probing what they really meant by all the things they said, they were very clear in saying they want a woman who is confident and assertive and independent that also has a softer, nurturing side to her, a feminine side. They just didn’t want to feel like their relationship was the same thing as being in the office. Even the toughest Boss Lady has a soft and nurturing side, she just doesn’t show it first. She’s got her game face on.
Q: And your whole point in the book was, whether your advice feels right or not, it’s what you have to do to get to the second date.
A: Right. I definitely don’t want women to change who they are or pretend to be someone they’re not. The point is about sequence. The sequence is the key to the whole thing, to present your soft and vulnerable side first because that is feminine energy and men are initially drawn to feminine energy. But what will keep them is the more masculine energy, almost, that makes you interesting so that you’re not just some arm ornament.
Q: Another thing that could be confusing is some of the guys said that they thought some women were “too nice,” and they considered that to be desperate.
A: Or boring.
Q: I could get off on a whole philosophical discussion about what does it say about our culture that if you are “too nice” or show any kind of real interest in a person, they consider you “desperate”? Maybe they’re just a nice person. I hear that from women too, you know?
A: That’s a really key point that you just made. This isn’t just about what men are saying about women. Women are saying the same things about men. I could have written an entire book called “Have Her at Hello” because clearly this is not just one gender; however, men don’t buy the self-help books they need, so publishers won’t publish them. Women ask me all the time in my lectures, “Why aren’t you speaking to men?” I would if more than seven of them would listen. Everyone on this planet has made false assumptions about someone that later proved untrue. That’s what the focus of the book is about: It is inevitable that first impressions in dating are misleading, so what do you need to do to get past that place so you can really decide if someone’s right for you or not?
You don’t have to like it. No one’s going to read these reasons that men describe and say “Oh, I really enjoyed hearing that,” but it’s what’s necessary to make the connection. And it’s a really hopeful message, because what it’s saying is, “You know that last date you were on when he didn’t call you back? He wasn’t not calling you back because he didn’t like you. He never got to know you. So what do you need to do to allow him to see how really great you are?”
Q: Where did the follow-up e-mail thing come from, and why is that a bad thing?
A: When I was dating, before e-mail, I wouldn’t write someone a letter or I wouldn’t call a guy to thank him, so this whole sending someone a thank-you text or e-mail the next day is also very recent. It was interesting to me to see that it has kind of broken the unspoken male-female code that the man pursues the woman. In the interviews it came up very early on, where a guy would say to me, “We actually had a pretty good date. I liked her and there were maybe some concerns about X or Y, but it was a pretty good date. I’m not really sure why, I just never asked her out again.”
And I would start to probe that. Well, you know, if it was a pretty good date, what happened next, after the date? And inevitably a lot of these guys — about half of them — reported that one of the things that happened next was she sent him a thank-you text or e-mail. And in the same breath that men were saying, “Yeah, that was nice. I appreciate it,” they were also describing something that was hard for them to articulate. They were feeling deflated, like the mystery had been taken out of it or they basically perceived it as a strong signal that she would like to go out again.
And as I started asking about that, many of them admitted they respond differently to a woman they’re not sure is going to say yes or no. They don’t know if she had a good time or not, and part of their DNA, I think, is wired to pursue those who retreat. Not that a woman should be mean or anything like that, but she should preserve a little mystery and play a little hard to get. When you go on a date and you do not like the guy and you don’t want to see him again, do you still send him a thank-you e-mail? Most women don’t. They only send the thank-you when they want to see him again. It really is a signal that they want to be asked out again. It’s a thinly veiled disguise. In poker, you call it a tell.
Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org