“Ewwww! I don’t like that!”
“Just try it this once!”
“Just one little bite?”
“But you don’t even know what it tastes like…”
At some point when we were younger, we all had conversations like this with our parents–and if you’re a parent and you’re kid is older than 3, you’ve definitely had this conversation in reverse.
Perhaps there doesn’t seem to be a clear connection to dating here, but it’s actually not all that dissimilar. Because the truth is that you don’t know what you like until you try it–and a lot more stuff tastes good than we think as kids.
That’s the first place to start with pickiness: because when it comes to dating, we have very specific ideas of who we want, what that person looks like, what range of jobs they might have, what sorts of things they enjoy, etc.
Additionally, not settling, being demanding, and generally having high standards are often framed as being high value behaviors, but the flip side to that is a lot of loneliness, frustration, anxiety, and time wasting. It’s often the case that those ideas prevent us from meeting people who might make fantastic partners–pickiness beyond a certain point is a self-limiting belief.
At the same time, obviously not just anyone will do… so the questions we need to answer are:
- Where does pickiness in dating come from?
- How do I know if I’m being too picky?
Where pickiness comes from…
Pickiness from an evolutionary perspective is pretty simple: every animal, including humans, wants to select mates with traits that give their offspring the best chance of surviving and reproducing in the future (for further reading I recommend the selfish gene by Richard Dawkins–you might also enjoy my podcast on Power and Beauty).
Now for some species (called R-selected species) the threshold for what that means is pretty low, which is where the term “fucking like rabbits” comes from. Humans, however, are what we call K-selected species, which means we’re significantly more selective about who we mate with–which makes sense given that pregnancy lasts 9 months and our children take a long time to develop and become adults. BTW, the R/K thing is a bit oversimplified, but you get the idea.
Long story short, we’re pretty picky about who we go out with–especially women, who in an evolutionary sense are making a significant investment when and if they become pregnant (yes, I understand that with modern birth control and prophylactics, women can have sex without getting pregnant–but your hind brain doesn’t understand that). If you listened to the podcast on SOD, this is why men swipe right about 46% of the time, whereas women swipe right around 14% of the time.
Now, if we go back only about two decades, men and women could really only date people they came in contact with through work, social circle, or otherwise IRL, which limited one’s options. Today, however, with SOD, social media, filters on our cameras, and photoshop, who we perceive to be available and how attractive people are in general is greatly–and falsely–inflated.
Take Tinder, where we could conceivably swipe through hundreds if not thousands of people in a week–a feat that would be impossible to match IRL unless we set up an absolutely epic speed dating event. This brings us to the second question:
How do I know if I’m being too picky?
For women it’s actually incredibly simple. If you’re not attracted to the men you’re matching with on SOD, you’re too picky. Indeed, this is the basic reason why SOD doesn’t work very well: because women are far more picky than men, a dynamic develops where women are matching with men who are 10-20% more attractive than they are, and that’s why ladies, they tend not to stick around.
Turns out no one likes getting a bad deal.
For men it’s a little more tricky because unless you’re Chad, you might not match very often with women on SOD at all, even if you’re a reasonably handsome guy. So for guys what I’d say is to think about it this way: consider the sort of women you encounter in everyday life who you find attractive, and then ask yourself if you’d feel intimidated taking her for drinks, or coffee, or ice-cream.
If the answer is yes, you’re being too picky.
Now obviously there’s no perfect way to know where that line exists, but trust your intuition. We all have a sense of our attractiveness and what sort of person we’re capable of attracting–the warning here is that the more time you spend online, on social media, or using SOD, the more warped your perception is going to be and the more likely you are to be too picky.
Another good measure is time: if you’re single for months and months and going on very few dates, you’re probably being too picky.
The last point I’d make here is that if you are too picky, you need to alter your behavior. Attraction is attraction and we can’t consciously tell ourselves to be attracted to people we aren’t attracted to, but unless your sex drive is nil or you’re incredibly socially awkward, at some point you should find a balance of meeting people you are genuinely attracted to and who are genuinely attracted to you. One thing to consider here is how physically fit you are compared to what you’re looking for in a partner. If you’ve got a belly but you want someone with six-pack abs, you’re going to be disappointed.
And again, I can’t stress this enough: get the hell off dating apps and social media. Seriously, the more time someone spends on that garbage the more likely they’re flaky, narcissistic, and anti-social, which are not good qualities in a partner. For example, when I see women who are constantly posting on Instagram, that’s a huge red flag. I don’t want to date someone who’s on their goddamn phone all day. It’s weird. And gross.
And really, you shouldn’t want to be with someone who’s significantly more attractive than you anyway. Oh sure, we might feel that sexual desire, but the truth is that for a relationship to work, there has to be a balance. Men are attracted to beauty and women are attracted to power, and if those things are way out of whack, that’s a recipe for cheating or a break-up.
As I pointed out in the beginning, pickiness is often framed in a positive light–not settling, being demanding, having high standards, etc. And to an extent that’s true: one of the reasons I stopped using SOD was that I was simply not attracted to the women I matched with, so I said fuck it and figured out how to meet women I was attracted to IRL. I also took steps to get in better shape, working out, lifting weights, and adopting a ketogenic diet to improve my girlish figure.
However, we should all remember that so far (with some possible exceptions if you’re religious) Father Time is undefeated. No one gets to be young and beautiful forever, and if you’re being too picky, you’re wasting whatever it is you’ve got.
Remember, destiny isn’t a dating strategy–she’s a stripper.
As always I appreciate comments and you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.