DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: It seems I have run into a problem. I’m a late comer to the dating scene. I started out having my female friends set me up with some of their friends. To me, I feel like we really hit it off. But when my “girlfriends” fill me in, it always seems to come down to the same thing.
Apparently, I come off as one of those guys who think going old school is a good way to get into a girl’s pants.
Let me explain. Despite the fact that I just recently turned 21, on paper I sound like an old man. I’m the kind of guy who listens and enjoys Frank Sinatra along with the rest of the Rat Pack. I wear collared shirts and I never leave the house without my trademarked fedora. My movie collection includes classics like Singing in the Rain and The Godfather. I’m also the guy who nurses a glass of scotch while my friends are downing shots and pints. I also think a good way for a guy’s night is sitting around a table with drinks and playing poker. When on a date, I’m polite as I can be. I push the lady’s chair in and out, and pay for everything.
In short, I put the “old” in Old Spice.
So what do I do? While I’m willing to admit that when I think suave men, I get pictures of Sinatra, Gene Kelly, Sammy Davis Jr., etc. I’m not using it as hook. It just happens to be me. I mean its not like I’m a person who does all this ironically…
What can you prescribe Doc?
An “Older” Man
DEAR AN “OLDER” MAN: Yes, there’s nothing worse than a guy who holds doors and pulls out chairs for his lady friend… how dare you sir? Have you no shame?
OK, time to be serious.
First of all: there’s nothing wrong with liking Scotch (presuming – and you’ll have to allow for my whiskey snobbery here – you’re drinking the good stuff. And not mixing it with Coke or something horrible) or preferring Texas Hold’Em to beer-pong and Quarters.
The problem you’re having is that you’re 21 and presumably so are most of your friends. So are all of the women you’re looking to date. Most people in their early 20s don’t tend towards the terribly sophisticated; most of them are still enjoying the thrill of being out of control and experimenting with the outer bounds of excess before wisdom (and consequences) convinces them to calm the hell down and grow the hell up. You may be a bit of an old soul but the majority of your peers aren’t.
We also live in an age where our interests, activities and participation in sub-cultures become increasingly stratified and exclusionary. There’re so many people who define themselves by what they consume or identify solely with the activities they pursue that they treat anyone who DOESN’T consume or do the same activities as an outsider and to be viewed with suspicion. This is how you end up with folks who honestly thought GamerGate was about “ethics in games journalism” and treated the presence of women who like video games as a bizarre conspiracy against them.
(It’s also how you end up with modern day online cults like QAnon going from people buying into conspiracy theory pranks on 4chan to earning a place on the FBI’s watch list. But I digress).
We’ve increasingly found new tribes, some more exclusive or exclusionary than others. Part of how we signal our affiliation with these groups is through how we dress and act; we’re literally wearing our identity on our shirtsleeves. We use these outward signifiers to tell people who we are and — in the process — find other members of our “tribe”.
But by that same token, these tribal markers, whether it’s a Wolverine tee, a “My Other Car is a Tardis” bumper sticker, a Deathly Hallows tattoo or dressing like you stepped off the set of In Like Flynn, ALSO comes with stereotypes about who YOU are as a person.
Here’s the thing: the way you dress and your interests are going to make you stand out against the crowd. This is both a good and bad thing – it’s good because you’re cultivating a rich inner life and interesting hobbies. You also clearly have a grasp on your archetype and a sense of style; these will serve you well over time. It’s bad because most of the people your age just aren’t going to get it. Dressing like a combination of Mad Men and The Rat Pack is going to come off to others like an affectation — and to be fair, it is. But that’s going to affect how people see you and what they think of you. They’re going to think that you’re either just being odd for the sake of being odd or that you’re being ironic somehow. They may also feel as though that you’re making fun of them or looking down on them as being somehow less or inferior for liking to do shots or listen to… whatever the hell kids are listening to today. College is often a time when people start indulging in cultural snobbery and using their interest as “proof” that they’re somehow superior to the rabble around them.
Hopefully you aren’t doing that. Nobody appreciates feeling as though they’re being condescended to.
It also doesn’t help that the fedora was adopted by douchebags as part of their clan uniform, which leads to guilt by association. The old-fashioned look tends to get picked up on my people who’ve got old-fashioned attitudes, which is why the fedora tends to come with “m’lady” references.
So what to do? Well, you basically have two choices. If you’re happy with who you are – and you certainly sound like you are – then I hate to say that you’re going to be spending a fair amount of time single as you look for people who can appreciate your uniqueness and can appreciate what you have to offer. Your peers will eventually catch up to you in maturity, but it could take a few years. If this is going to frustrate you, then you might want to consider toning down the Rat Pack angle a little – or at least accent it some with more modern trappings. There are a lot of ways you can have a retro or vintage look without looking like you raided your grandfather’s closet.
You can ALSO look for folks who might be more in line with your particular archetype and interests. The Rockabilly crowd may be more tattoos, tees and cars, but there’s a lot of crossover with the sort of 60s suave fair that you’re going for.
And just as an aside: kudos for you for being polite, but there will be plenty of women who regard old-school manners with a certain wary eye.
Remember what I said about the whole “m’lady” thing? Holding doors and pulling out chairs has it’s old-school charm, but it also hales from a time when women were thought of as the weaker, inferior sex – and women are going to be wondering if you’re holding on to those same attitudes to go with your Chairman of the Board suits and record collections. Not to say that some old-fashioned politeness is bad, mind you, but it can raise some women’s suspicions. You may have the style and swagger of the 60s, but you’ll have to reassure ’em that you’ve got a 21st century view of the world.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)