DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I had a normal love life until my early 30’s. Once I hit about age 32 (when women, I think, start evaluating dates more as potential long-term partners), all I got was first dates. After this happened many times and being turned down for a second date by a woman who I was positive had a great time, I told her what was happening to me and asked what I was doing wrong. She told me I didn’t meet most women's financial standards for a man. She suggested I trade in my brand new sub-compact (which I bought debt-free) for a used ‘Vette and describe my job in a way that would make it seem higher in the hierarchy than it was. I wrote her off as a shallow, materialistic jerk. Several years later, though, when I was on vacation, there was mix-up with my car rental and I got a convertible sports car instead of my usual economy. Four women flirted with me because of the car.
I’m a social worker. My income has been a hair above or below median family income in my city for years and is likely to remain at that level. I work with people who’ve sustained spinal cord and brain injuries. I’m well-known in the disability community as a fierce, relentless warrior who’ll go to the wall to get my patients what they need. I’ve saved countless families from homelessness, guided people through unimaginable emotional trauma, gotten a brain-injured wife out from under the control of the husband who battered her into a coma and forced insurers to spend thousands they didn’t want to. Does all that not matter to the vast majority of women since I drive a Prius and live in a 700 square foot condo?
I can’t imagine doing another job solely to increase my income, but I don’t want to go through the rest of my life with no significant other. I swim laps and lift weights so I check the box of being in good shape. Since I've been a social worker for years, I must have good social skills. I have diverse interests so I almost never take a woman out for dinner and movie. A date with me is usually a play, concert, poetry reading, art exhibit opening, etc. and I always pay, so I check the box of not being a cheap, boring date. I’m good with money so I have literally no financial worries. My condo’s paid off and I travel all over the US on vacations. If I cut out the trips and sold the Prius, I could easily afford a loan to get a Porsche, but I love to travel, and the freedom of having no debts, although not as much as I love having a girlfriend.
Should I buy the Porsche and describe my job in misleading terms? That seems like a lousy way to start a relationship, but it’s a lot better than no relationship!
Brental in the Rental
DEAR BRENTAL IN THE RENTAL: Congratulations BitR: you've fallen victim to one of the classic blunders, the most famous of which is "never take advice from someone who's promises to teach you 'better dating through hypnosis and mind control", but only slightly less well known is this: women don't give that much of a s
t about your car.
So I get that you're frustrated with your current dating life; you're having a dry spell for reasons that seem inexplicable to you. I understand why you would be casting about for answers. However, the problem here is that you're taking advice from someone who is taking her own reasons for not wanting to date you and making the sort of universal declarations about the Female Hive Mind that you usually only see from MRAs and MGTOWs. Whenever I hear people say that you have to have X car or Y income in order to date, I always want to see some actual numbers. Not just whatever Psychology Today article they're failing to understand, but some legitimate, peer-reviewed research, published in a reputable journal. And then I want them to explain to every male/female couple at any particular Wal-Mart on a Sunday afternoon that they don't actually exist. Even a cursory look around the country is all it takes to see that people who aren't driving Porsches and Corvettes are still somehow meeting, falling in love and getting married.
If your date had some strange Carrie-Bradshaw-esque "Could I really date someone who doesn't have a 'cool' job?" moment, then hey, more power to her. Everybody gets to set their standards wherever they choose… even if those standards seem incredibly shallow and arbitrary to the rest of us. But honestly that sounds far more like the kind of advice you could expect to get from dodgy subreddits, not something that's actually practical and worth pursuing.
Now I understand why this advice burrowed its way under your skin like a tick; it hews very closely to one of the common and pernicious beliefs about what women want from a man — advice that's usually given by other men who don't actually listen to what women say they're interested in. Men are far more likely to insist that women only want to date the guy with the high-power job, the sports car and the bigger paycheck; women, on the other hand, tend to insist that no, they really want to date someone who’s a responsible adult who can actually contribute to the household finances and handle the responsibilities that come with being an adult in a relationship.
But because belief that women fundamentally want not just a provider, but a socially-impressive provider has been reinforced over and over again by society and pop culture, it's very easy to believe it. You've heard it over and over again and that often means that there's a part of you that worries it might be true. So when someone comes along and spins the exact same yarn to you... well, yeah, it's gonna tweak that little anxiety.
But like I said: if only people who made above the median income were getting married, then at least 38.1 million people would be unable to ever find a partner. Believe me, if that were the case, we would be hearing about that all the time.
This isn't to say that having more money might not bring some women to the table who might not otherwise be interested. Money is a great way of attracting certain types of women. However, just having lots of money ends up attracting women who are interested in money, not you. And hey, some folks are cool with that. But it doesn't sound like what you're actually looking for.
I do, however, want to dig into your example of how a car made a difference to your social life. You say that four different women flirted with you because of the car. What, exactly, makes you sure that it was the car that made the difference? Did they only flirt with you after you said "hey, did you see my sports car over there?" Were they uninterested until they saw the valet pull your car around and then suddenly changed their minds? Did they see you drive up and start flirting after you hopped out? Was it literally the car that made the difference? Or could it be that driving a "cool" car made you act a little differently, a little less insecure and a little more cocky and self-assured? Especially after someone you went on one date with told you to get a Corvette?
Because I rather strongly suspect that if we drill down, we're going to find that the car was just of a magic feather — something that gave you permission to unlock behavior and an attitude that you haven't had access to in a while. It's kind of astounding the things that will affect how we behave; something as simple as telling somebody that a white coat is a doctor's coat instead of an artist's smock can cause people to perform better on cognitive tests. Believing that your rental gave you extra cool points can be all that it takes to have a little more swagger in your step and a willingness to act a little bolder. People are more likely to respond to that than seeing that you had a Jaguar logo or whatever on your keyring.
The problem isn't your job, it's not your car and it's not your condo or the fact that you're in great shape, financially speaking. It's that you listened to one person who thinks that Prius' just aren't "cool" enough.
There're any number of reasons why you might have hit a dry spell in your love life. It could be anything from changing demographics in your city, to the women you're pursuing and where you're meeting them, to changes in your presentation, attitude or even just having a rough couple of months where s
t just didn't work because sometimes you hit a bad patch for no reason. But what I can tell you is that there isn't a woman out there who says to herself "man, the last thing I want is a guy with compassion, who saves lives, travels extensively and is almost entirely debt free. Better to find a guy driving a car he can't afford and lying about his job."
Are there women out there who'll judge you by how "impressive" your job is or how "cool" your car is? Sure. But then ask yourself why, in pluperfect hell, would you want to date them in the first place?
There're some amazing women out there looking for a guy exactly like you. Focus more on meeting them and less on the women who clearly aren't right for you.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org