"But he's so niiiice!" Please. (Courtesy of twoday magazine)

One of my coaching clients said to me recently, “I just want to find a nice guy.” I had to call bullshit on her. Especially since she had just finished telling me that the most significant relationship of her adult life was this sexy but slippery beast of a man whom she couldn’t say no to. And he knew it. This was a man whom she had dated, then not dated, then sorta dated. Just when she was thinking it had subsided, she’d get the text that would make her heart jump.

The point is, this dude is not a nice guy. He’s not a great communicator, he’s not even honest. She’s moving on and it’s probably for the best. But when she tells me she just wants someone nice, as we all have said at one time or another that we do, well, I don’t believe her.

The Problem with Nice

Here’s how I know: She has met several nice guys. And has zero interest in any of them. If I had a penny for all the women who say, “But he’s so niiiiice, why can’t I like him?” (Complete with the long, whiny emphasis on the word “nice,” and paired with the crinkling of the brows, and caricatured heart wrenching that girls tend to do when they have complete and total access to someone they don’t want, but feel they should.)

That’s like saying, “But broccoli has so many vitamins and minerals and powerful phytochemicals that will make me healthy and strong. Why can’t I like it?” Because you don’t. Period amen.

We think we have control, or should have, over the kinds of people we desire. We don’t even have control over the things that make us hot and bothered. We don’t! And it comes much to our chagrin, and sometimes our shame. But one thing won’t change it: Wanting and trying to like someone.

I realize I’m dealing with two different issues here. Some people really do want nice guys. But I’m not alone when I say that most of us are bored by them.

I will add here that the opposite of “nice” isn’t “mean.” Not in my book. It’s exciting, thrilling, a little scary. It’s decisive and masculine. Though it’s not unkind. Kind is important.

In her book Mating in Captivity (a must read), Esther Perel talks about the importance of distance and uncertainty, and that you can only have as much passion in your relationship as you can tolerate uncertainty (an idea she borrows from Tony Robbins).

Nice is a chair by the pool. The opposite of nice is a long path that curls out of view, somewhere cast in sunlight and shadow–and entices you to follow it. Even though you’re a little scared. No relationship just stays put–and if it does, it’s dead in the water. So you have to move–and my idea of thrilling is someone who invites you to find your edge, and then push past it.

The Nice Guy The Guy You Want
Says: Where would you like to go? Says: Show up at this address at 8pm. Wear heels.
Calls before you have a chance to wonder if he will. Calls only after I’m dying him to and hoping he does.
Wears his heart on his sleeve. Makes you want to explore him.
When you’re with him, you’re content. When you’re with him, you’re ravenous.
Is always available May be available
Makes you smile Makes you hot
Sex is comfy and cozy Sex is thrilling and a little scary
He sees you as his strength He sees you as his weakness

 

(Not sure who you are? Here’s a tip: If you bitch and moan that girls don’t like you when you try so hard to be…nice–well, there’s your answer.)

My point is this: Women want a man who is direct and not afraid to be assertive. Too “nice” can often mean overly accommodating, can’t make a decision without your input, and, well, a little bit feminine. He also likely does things wanting points for “being nice”–and that’s just annoying. Don’t be nice; be yourself.

By the way, I don’t want guys to think I’m “nice,” either (and I’m fairly certain they don’t). And that’s fine by me. I aspire to far more, and so should you.

So unless you want to commit sexual suicide, you’ll drop the nice act–because nice doesn’t make you noteworthy; it makes you, well, nice. Average. Fine. And I don’t know anyone who’s happy with being that. In fact, I think people who say they want that believe that’s all they need or can handle. And to that I say you’re dead wrong.

 

You think she's dying for bling?

You think she’s dying for bling?

There is a great myth out there being sold wholesale to single people: You’re incomplete if you do not have a partner. There’s also the time sensitive version: You’re incomplete–and a failure–if you do not have a partner by age X.

I’ve got news for you, people. This is complete and utter bullshit.

Where does it come from? Everywhere. Your parents, neighbors, bosses, billboards. The idea also works well in novels, screenplays, and love songs. And unfortunately it tends to put women in the trapped position of being both passive and culpable: “What’s wrong with you? Why does a nice girl like you not have someone? Why hasn’t the right person come along for you?”

The biggest problem, however, comes when we buy it. And keep buying it. Far too many of us do. So my advice? STOP SPENDING MONEY IN THE MYTH SHOP. Every time you talk about it, believe it, prove it to yourself, and try to convince other people that you are a washed up, useless thing because you’re unmarried, or about as lovable as a lone sock, you are ponying up cash to the myth shop and keeping it in business. Put your wallet away, please.

Time to Evolve Your Thinking

The idea that a lifelong pair-bond is the ultimate and only worthwhile expression of a life well lived is predicated on the notion that the single life is flawed, empty, and worthless. That you couldn’t possibly be happy without a steady partner, bound by law, at your side. I vehemently disagree. (And you already know what I think about people who marry themselves.)

I’m not the only one who thinks that this is nuts, narrow-minded, not to mention rapidly becoming an outdated idea in the modern world. (Check out Bella DePaulo’s Singled Out, and while you’re at, this screamingly popular piece in the Atlantic by Kate Bolick, or Single By Choice in Boston magazine, where I was featured.)

No One Completes You

As a relationship and dating coach, a big part of my work is to help women (and men, by the way) see themselves as whole and complete, as independent single people who may have any number of fulfilling, intimate relationships (and yes, more than one at at time, in fact). To stop seeing their lives as stalled vehicles on the road to some Perfect Adult Life–and to start putting themselves in the driver’s seat and taking full advantage of the open road.

If this sounds like you, know that to lock onto this idea that there’s This One Perfect Person out there waiting and you’re on some crazy-making goose chase to find him is making your life worse, not better. You may think this is mature behavior, but that’s like saying a horse has a really wise and focused perspective because someone has slapped blinders on him.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What would it look like to take full advantage of your single life? Are you reading, traveling, doing the things you always said you wanted to do? Why not?
  • What kinds of relationships would you want to be in? (Because single in my book means unmarried, not celibate.)
  • What is holding you back from living a fuller life?

(Want to know if you’ve got what it takes to be single? Check out the quiz I wrote for Anderson Cooper.)

Until you can really visualize what life could be for you now, rather than what it would be if it was written by a Hollywood screenwriter, it’s hard to move things forward. And it’s time to get moving.

(Find out more about what I do, and set up your initial consult! It’s on me.)


Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

There once was a woman from Fargo who married herself. It’s true. She’s not the only one, either. But let’s stick with Nadine, who was featured on the Anderson Cooper show a while back. She did what she thinks was a cute, quirky thing that I’m sure she knew would get a lot of attention, and that would seem to “mean” something, but to my mind it’s no different than when chicks get the yoga symbol for peace stamped on their low back, and think it makes them “deep.”

Fact is, Nadine actually undermined the single movement in this little ceremony (which is what I told Anderson myself). When you get married, you’re not single anymore. Nadine has effectively removed herself from the dating pool, since she’s married to herself. She’s opting out of being single. She doesn’t get the benefits of either being married or single. Plus, she’s buying into the idea that you need to be married to be complete. And you don’t.

(And, if you are married to yourself AND dating whomever you like, as Nadine seems to imply, is your marriage one of convenience, until someone better than, well, you comes along?)

Look: I like the sentiment here: She decided to stop waiting around for some ideal mate and embrace her life and herself, and stand on her own. OK, fine. But: Please don’t tell me we now all need to have a ceremony to do this. Please. I thought one of the great hidden benefits of being single was NOT having to spend thousands of dollars on a single day’s event. To be fair, if you decide to marry yourself just like Sue did in the TV show Glee, or you’re waiting for that special someone to come along, it may be in your best interest to do some research into finding the best dress. The decision may not be easy. If you are looking for inspiration, to visit site click here. No matter who you end up marrying, if you’re happy, that’s all that matters.

Full Disclosure

Fact is, I actually had a dream myself years ago that I was getting married: I was in white dress, carrying red roses (reminiscent of my private all-girls’ catholic high school graduation where grads take to the aisle in a white dress, something that always raised some flags for me). And in the dream, there was no man, nor was I waiting for one–and that was just fine with me. I call this metaphor. I call this A DREAM. I didn’t run out and start printing invites.

What About the Real Single Issues?

Now, let’s get one thing straight: Nadine isn’t marching on Washington to make her marriage legal–it was a ceremony, not a civil rights statement. I’m guessing, anyway, from the footage we see in the segment in which she kisses herself in the mirror, takes herself out for Indian food, and then home for a candlelit bath (all great things, though I don’t call that a date. I call it living).

I wish the segment showed less of Nadine talking to herself in her rearview mirror, and more expert insight, from someone like Bella DePaulo, PhD, about the reality that singles face in our culture–and not having a wedding day is the LEAST of it (a cogent argument she makes in her must-read book Singled Out).

All in all, I think Nadine took an empowering and timely sentiment, and put clown makeup on it. My fear is that what could be seen as a brave, symbolic step in theory ends up sheer spectacle in practice.

And you now, it’s too bad–because more and more people are realizing that there are many ways to live a life well outside the confines of traditional institutions (like, ahem, marriage). So, then, why take a fresh, inspiring message and cloak it in exactly that?

My 3 Strategies for Single Peeps

If you happen to be single and needing some support, here’s some advice I offered on the show. (Also featured on the Anderson site complete with pics of sad looking ladies)

Stop singing the same tired song. You know the song: “There’s no good men out there,” “I’ll never find anyone,” “I’m a failure because I don’t have a partner.” What story do you keep telling people and why? I guarantee it’s getting you nowhere fast. Focus on what you want now, not what happened in the past.

Tell family and friends to back down. Make it clear to them that you love them and appreciate their support, but your life is not a problem to be fixed. You have to lay down the law. And realize that if you’re making choices for other people, you’re not living your life. You’re living theirs.

Redefine single: Broaden your perspective. As a single person, you have the ultimate and enviable freedom of connecting with whomever you want! It doesn’t mean being a hermit. Figure out what it is you really want—and stop using fear as an excuse to not pursue meaningful connections with other people.

 

Want to put yourself out there but loathe the thought? Check out my online webinar, Stop Hating Start Dating. I’ll change the way you think about dating.

 

Would you date this bread-eating man? Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and Ambro

I was just featured in a story (“Single, Sexy, and Gluten-Free”) that made the front page of DNAinfo.com for a spell (second to the breaking news about the prostitution ring) on a topic so seemingly miniscule that I can’t even believe it merited a whole story: Gluten-Free Dating. I was like, is that even a thing? Turns out, it is.

Simply put: There are lots of single people out there. And, incidentally, lots of them have pinpointed gluten as the culprit of their digestive and other woes. But just because you opt out of some choices on the menu doesn’t mean you can’t go out to dinner with a dude, right? Of course not.

But the reason this is a thing, if it even is, speaks to a larger trend and its ensuing questions–what role do the (massively growing number of) food sensitivities play in our lives–not just in the kitchen, but out on dates? What do they say–and not say–about us?

What’s the problem?

Some of the women DNAinfo reporter Serena Solomon interviewed (and some I’ve spoken with) say yes, they are concerned that if they’re on a date with a gentleman (or lady) and they break out the roster of “foods I can’t eat” at a restaurant, the eyes will roll. But remember how people used to roll their eyes at vegetarians 15 years ago? Now, it’s just a fact: Some people don’t eat meat. And nowadays some people don’t eat bread, pasta, beer, or any of its yeasty cousins.

Truth be told, I have not found that this has put any kind of dent in my social life, and hasn’t so much as raised an eyebrow from any of the gents with whom I’ve shared a meal. (In fact, one even went out of his way to seek out gluten-free restaurants, which I assured him was not necessary, since I’m a voracious carnivore and can find a dish on practically any menu. But the sentiment was sweet.)

G-FREE ADVICE (which I use myself)

Look at the menu beforehand. Ok, this is obvious. But since you can, why not? It takes the anxiety out of wondering if there’s anything you’ll be able to eat. My friend Sloane Miller, author of Allergic Girl, recommends to her clients that they call ahead if they’d feel more at ease, and ask about their gluten-free options, or, if your allergies are serious, talk to the chef.

Don’t make it a thing. You’ve made a simple choice to skip gluten–just as you may choose prime rib over halibut. You don’t have to spend the first 10 minutes of every meal defending your choices or apologizing for your intolerances (in fact, I’ve long believed my digestive tract should apologize to me).

Leave your bowels out of it. Your date may just be curious, as I said, and ask you why you’ve opted out of wheat. You don’t need to discuss bloating, diarrhea, or any other unmentionables. If you’re Celiac, well, you have a pretty sound medical reason. For the rest of us undiagnosed masses, you don’t need a doctor’s note to prove your point! You just say, simply, that you feel better when you’re not eating it. The end.

Make it a discussion, not a monologue (don’t preach). If your date DOES have questions about that choice, which he may, don’t freak out or clam up because you think he thinks you’re weird (unless, of course, you’re in 7th grade, in which case yeah you should freak out about this and everything else). And, it goes without saying: Don’t preach. Just because YOU have had a fabulous experience going off meat or gluten or soy or dairy doesn’t mean the other person cares to be converted. While dietary restrictions alone shouldn’t have to be a dealbreaker, you getting religion about a specific diet and annoying everyone with it can be.

Remember: Diets aren’t high-maintenance; people are. Please. I’m sure you know a few high-maintenance people who can eat anything at all and are still insufferable. And yet, many women do fear that they’ll come across as primadonnas because they won’t eat everything on a menu. Let me remind you that primadonnas make their choices OTHER people’s problems; you are simply taking responsibility for your own.

Why hide it? Many people are actually quite interested in other’s dietary choices and how they work for them, and may in fact be considering making a change in their own lives as well. This is why I don’t get the chicks who hide or lie about their food sensitivities. Why? Part of what makes a date fun is when people share things about themselves, and understanding someone’s preferences is part of it. I was asked about my g-free choice by a date recently, who then went on to offer some insight into his own choices: He had gone vegetarian two years ago, and lost 30 lbs as a result. I loved that he shared that–you can make a dietary choice a chance to get to know someone better, not hold him at bay.

Gluten is not a necessary ingredient to a great date. Trust me on this. Just because you can’t have a roll or a piece of chocolate cake doesn’t mean it won’t be fun. Don’t get hung up on the idea that you won’t be able to enjoy a date because of any of your dietary restrictions. The food and restaurant are the context, the circumstance, but they alone do not determine the quality of a night out or a connection. I’ve enjoyed plenty of great food with plenty of lousy people, and I’m sure you have to.

So bring on the g-free love, people. It shouldn’t matter one bit what you order–or what you pass on. And in the end, if your date has a very hard time with the fact that you can’t break down the protein found in wheat, then that in itself is a red flag–and I’d say the thing you should really pass on is him.

(Tune in to FM News New York (101.9) where my good friend and former radio producer Jennifer Sendrow did a series of short bits on the topic. Card that she is.) 

Attention all the single ladies.

So you’re single on Valentine’s Day. Good for you. Fear not–I won’t patronize you with ridiculous advice that 1) presumes you need pity, 2) insults your intelligence, or 3) suggests that you need a bubble bath and a new pair of shoes because you don’t have a boyfriend.

Ok, so maybe some ladies LIKE to celebrate the holiday with a hot bath and a journaling session. Some seek to mark the holiday with a decadent meal or a pricey purchase. And still others enjoy belting out a round of “I Will Survive” before weeping soundly into a glass of Veuve Cliquot. But I think we can do better than that.

I think what bothers me most is that this cultural stance (not to mention the caricatures I’ve just drawn for you) presumes that single women should feel bad about Valentine’s Day, and worse, that we can do little to stave off the despair besides crying or consuming–or both.

Where Valentine’s Day Went Wrong

How did one of the most innocuous holidays become so completely polarizing? The holiday itself is arguably kept afloat to give consumer products (namely greeting cards, jewelry, flowers, and candy) a mid-winter boost. The long, yawning weeks between New Year’s and Easter could use something, anything, to break up the winter doldrums. Sex and chocolate isn’t such a bad idea.

But somewhere along the line we got the idea that the holiday was only “for” couples; that single people are second-class citizens, all hail the couple. Why you’d assume that anyone in a relationship is generally happier than someone who isn’t is beyond me–and assuming that having a partner on Valentine’s Day somehow makes your life better (than, say, being Irish on St. Patrick’s Day) seems just insane.

Single? You’re Hardly Alone

Need I remind you just HOW many people are single in this country, on Feb 14, as well as every other day of the year? The U.S. Census reported in 2009 that there were nearly 100 million unmarried Americans. And 53% of them were women.

A 2010 census shows that 51.6 percent of households are headed by unmarried adults–up from 44.9 percent in 1990 (source: unmarriedamerica.org). So if you have this image that you’re cutting a lonely silhouette against a world of couples, think again.

3 Reasons to Love Being Single on Valentine’s Day

Yes, Valentine’s Day celebrates romance–but it’s also about romantic ideals. That’s something we can all partake in if we want. Hating romance just because you don’t happen to be in one is like hating beaches because you’re not currently on vacation on one.

(And I’m pretty sure if you asked most couples if they are living a “romantic ideal,” at the moment you’d get a lot of laughing in response). Here are some reasons why being single on this great Hallmark holiday ain’t so bad.

1. Pressure’s off. Being single on Feb 14th, if you ask me, is a free pass. If anything, pressure is on for couples–if it’s a new relationship, it’s all about what the dude did to make or break this one day. If you’re in an older or more seasoned relationship, this holiday can sometimes serve as an unwelcome benchmark–what did you used to do that you don’t anymore, etc. I think there’s a lot of pressure on couples to prove something (to themselves, each other, or other people) and I don’t envy that one bit. Think I’ll pass this round.

2. We have the luxury of uncoupling romance from relationship. Last I checked, romance and relationship were not synonymous. Romance is not limited to being in a relationship, let alone being married. Some of the most romantic things I’ve ever done I did when I was single. The point is this: Your life is what your life is, and to take an occasion such as this to magnify your own misery and denounce yourself utterly unlucky in love is–well, it’s wasted effort if you ask me.

3. We singles have something that coupled folks don’t have: The air of romantic possibility. There’s something far more romantic about being single if you ask me–an air of mystery and potential that, let’s face it, people in 20-year marriages do not necessarily have (unless they have a special arrangement). How you view your life creates your experience of it, and so if you choose to see it as a tragedy, that’s probably what it’ll feel like. But view it as a romance–which by definition is a narrative filled with heroic deeds, pageantry, and romantic exploits–and the world opens up. You might take a risk, reach out to someone new, try something completely out of character. If you see your life as a romance, then you can assume that it can have a happy ending, whether you’re part of a couple or not.

 Want to read more? If you haven’t checked out this stuff, you should: 

All the Single Ladies by Kate Bolick, The Atlantic Monthly 

Single by Choice by Janelle Nanos, Boston magazine (full disclosure: I was interviewed for this one)

One’s a Crowd by Eric Klinenberg in the NYT (his brand new book is Going Solo)

Singled Out by Bella DePaulo, PhD (LOVING this book; really a must-read for singles)

Alone Again, Naturally by Dominique Browning (NYT)