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The Sad Clowns of Dating

Dignity in romance is not a scam, but it’s hard to find

In DESIGNS FOR LIVING, columnist Marlowe Granados dispenses sound advice in a noisy world. Send your rants and pleas to [email protected] for Marlowe’s consideration.


Sweet, sweet, agony Aunt Marlowe:

I exited a long-term relationship and have missed the cultural transition into dating apps. I am comfortable approaching people in person, but am interested in the range of people apps open up. That said, I have nearly zero patience for texting and messaging, and am firmly a “set a plan, execute plan” person. Seems like dating apps are premised on long-drawn-out flirtations. How do you minimize time-wasting and navigate this hellscape? I am not looking for love (because that’s a thing I give myself), just hoping to make some ditz buy me champagne and oysters.

All my love and discontent,

Zero Patience

Hi Marlowe,

How does a girl date but keep her dignity? Or is dignity a scam? After taking one too many hits to my pride and my heart, the idea of re-entering the dating scene and being openly desirous makes me feel like the clown putting on face paint meme.

Sad Clown

Dear Sad Clown and Zero Patience,

You are not alone, which is why I’ve included both of your letters. How do you date without sanding off the edges of your dignity, especially now? It will not be easy, but I can guarantee there will be stories told with friends and even a bit of saucy fun. Dating apps have, to be sure, changed the landscape of romance, and we are all forced to find ways to adjust. That doesn’t necessarily mean changing your standards. Dating is like anything else—you must find a style that suits you.

Dating takes practice, and it’s not that you want to become a skilled trickster (though maybe you do, and that has its own benefits), but it is something that takes time if you want to be comfortable doing it. There is something to be said for learning how to talk to a complete stranger and see yourself through someone else’s eyes. When you throw yourself against the lives of other people, it is easier to understand who you are. Who are you in comparison to other people?

In the moments leading up to kissing someone for the first time, I feel painfully shy. For some reason, it is embarrassing to openly want something and move toward it. Sad Clown, I can imagine that these few moments for me are just a taste of what dating must feel like for you. I want to equip you in all the ways I know how.

Imagine all the people meeting in low-light wine bars, who come from entirely different lives, industries, and family structures. The possibility that any of these people might find the other interesting, desirable, or even worthy of cohabitation seems rather low. That is not pessimism—the fact people are together at all in this climate is astonishing. It’s truly strange that anyone sparks my interest in any capacity—and I take notice of it. Take a risk and be desirous. You never know when it will happen again.

Dignity is not a scam, but unfortunately, you will always have to fight for it. You will have to be a bit brave in that sense.

Shape your expectations according to your personality. My own expectations are to have fun with people I want to get to know—that can be dangerous when you believe all experiences are good, but I make my own way and stick to it. Zero Patience, I love that you want champagne and oysters. You want that without the premature song and dance, and I want you to get there without a sweat. I, too, have zero patience for messaging several strangers at once, for days on end. Who has the time?

Some people enjoy chatting with strangers without the intention of meeting. Not me. I once told a man that it was annoying to text so much, and that I had “bigger fish to fry.” If he didn’t want to meet me, could he please stop asking how my day was? Finally, that was the evening we went for drinks. He told me then that if I hadn’t given him an ultimatum he would have gone on messaging me until the “end of time.” To sociopaths like that guy, I suggest saying, “I hate chatting on these things, here’s my number if you ever want to go for a drink.” The best part of being that way is if you put your cards on the table, the weak ones will fall away. Zero Patience, if you are a “set a plan, execute a plan” type of person, find someone with a similar personality even if they’re just to have a little fun with.

And know that it is perfectly fine to walk away from a date. Finding out that a person does not suit you for romance is an underrated win. As a woman, being able to decide instead of waiting to be decided on is ideal. You must ask yourself, “Do I only want to be with someone out of loneliness?” Or, “Is this person treating me in a way that I like, but I doubt I can reciprocate,” or the popular, “Do I feel pressure to continue this in any way out of guilt?” Know that just because you’ve been on a couple of blasé dates, it does not mean everything, and everyone is bad. If I could tell anyone who wanted to venture into romance this, I would. There is no such thing as failing.

Dignity is not a scam, but unfortunately, you will always have to fight for it. You will have to be a bit brave in that sense. If someone is treating me in a way I wouldn’t let my closest friend be treated, I give that person a piece of my mind. Let the sentiment ring in their ears, even if they never learn from it. There is a circular dating economy in cities. Don’t let cruel people get away with bad behavior, or else they’ll make it worse for everyone else down the line.

In a word, it’s never all that bad, but if you don’t have energy for it I suggest taking a little break. We joke about revving up the apps. Notifications flash on my phone with urgency, but if I can’t find time in my schedule to make it work I just don’t. On the other hand, I’ve interrupted conversations with strangers and sat with people who were never expecting me. Something about a flicker of attraction, or a charged touch, makes it all worthwhile once you find it. I want you to be filled with intention, hope, and that initial thrill of possibility.