Let your freak flag fly. Somebody’s gonna love you for it.
When you’re a single girl of any age, you’re bound to get some pretty interesting dating advice.
You’re probably familiar with the scene: my mom’s cousin’s best friend’s mother cornering me at a family gathering and quizzing me on Why You’re Still Single At Your Age.
Yes, this is a horrible scenario that we all find ourselves in. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Between nosy family and well-meaning but clueless friends who think you’re “just SO great!” and want to desperately help you fix the problem of dying alone, there is no shortage of dating advice out there. And while I’ve received some pretty good advice in my 30 years of life (half of which I spent as a single-and-dating chick), most of it is absolutely HORRIBLE.
Sure, we’ve all heard the classics about opposites attracting (not true!) and not giving away the milk for free. But let’s face it: These days almost all of us prefer to try the milk before making a commitment to this One Cow For The Rest Of Our Lives. But that’s not the only bad advice you can get. Let me take you on an adventure through some of the worst love and relationship advice I’ve heard throughout the years.
1. “Never let a man see you without makeup.”
My old-fashioned grandma gave me this advice, which she followed from Day One with my grandfather and continues to follow even now, years after his passing. Yes, SERIOUSLY. I guess this means I’m somehow supposed to avoid my man’s gaze in the morning, in the shower, when I’m having a bad day, am sick or (I can only assume) at the gym or beach.
While I can laugh off my grandma’s “wise words,” it’s tougher to do when the same wisdom came from an old boss, a top editor at a popular women’s lifestyle and mommy website. She vehemently told me I must always have my nails done and use eyeliner to highlight my very pretty, big eyes. And while I think there was a compliment hidden in there somewhere, the message was clear: Constantly look put-together and gorgeous, or else!
2. “Don’t text too often, and always wait 2–3 hours to write back.”
When I started dating my first serious boyfriend, the advice didn’t stop. One friend told me not to text my honey too often because, you know, he might think I like him too much. She had me read a book on the art of texting the opposite sex (yes, really!) and swore by its ridiculous rules, such as waiting 2–3 hours to text back so that I didn’t seem too eager and having a text “approved” by at least two friends. The book also offered my favorite “rule” of all time, which also happens to be next on this list.
3. “Never, ever agree to a same-day date.”
Apparently making a same-day date with a dude means you’re free, available and?—?gulp!?—?a loser with no plans.
Being a Desperate Loser is the worst thing you can be in the dating world, and so much of the advice I received was about how to avoid this catastrophe.
“Guys can smell desperation,” more than one person told me. Really? I thought. Maybe that’s just the magazine perfume sample I rubbed on my neck this morning?
4. “Don’t pick up the phone if he calls to ask you out.”
This is in the same vein as Rule #3. When my relationship ended and I was going on my first post-breakup date, friends cautioned me against a musician who actually called me to ask me out. CALLING ME? Who actually calls anyone anymore? “Desperate!” they shouted.
Turns out, he was just a sweet guy who really wanted to see me again.
5. “Keep some emotional distance from the guys you date?—?it helps you not to fall for them.”
Apparently doing everything you can to not form an emotional attachment is the way to go—or so went the advice I was given. Except they forgot to mention that the whole point of dating is to fall in love and live happily ever after, isn’t it? And you certainly can’t accomplish that without opening up and being vulnerable with your feelings.
After the musician, the teacher and the photographer (a friend told me to refer to guys by their professions or other identifying markers so I could keep myself from getting too attached), I had a loooooooong stretch of being single. Armed with crappy advice, sometimes I was happily dating, sometimes I was angrily “taking a break.” But no matter where I was in my life, my would-be Love Doctors kept writing verbal prescriptions—most of them bad ones.
6. “Maybe he’s not douchey—maybe he takes a while to warm up.”
One friend was told to keep giving a douchey guy breaks. Her friends assured her that he probably just needed time to get to know her and get comfortable with her. The reality? “NO,” my friend says. “If he’s a douche on date one or two or three, run away.”
Really, the first date is the first chance to make a good impression. And if the guy’s being a jerk on Date 1, then you can’t really count on him to be Prince Charming on Date 2. It’s best to just cut ties and run away ASAP.
7. “NEVER flirt with a coworker.”
I was told never to date in college (um, why?) and definitely to NEVER flirt with a coworker, because you don’t want to make things awkward. Forget the statistic I once read that something like 60% of us meet our life partners through our jobs since, ya know, we spend a huge chunk of our lives with coworkers.
This advice also fails to take into account that sometimes it’s fun to flirt with coworkers, and sometimes dating a coworker actually works out. And sometimes hooking up with a coworker (guilty!) isn’t really all that awkward and you’re able to remain work friends after all.
8. “Play hard to get—always and no matter what.”
This particular nugget is one of the most popular I’ve heard, and something a guy friend of mine once swore by. Another friend recounted being told to pretend to be someone she’s not, while one male friend was advised to “just treat her like shit” or “ignore her completely” to maintain the upper hand in the relationship.
Another guy friend recounted the horrible time that two women urged him to NOT wish “happy birthday” to a girl he had met and was hoping to start a relationship with. You see, they reasoned, it would make him seem too needy or desperate. “So I didn’t,” he said, “And the girl never talked to me again.”
9. “Don’t let him pay.” “Don’t invite him over for dinner.” “Don’t use big words.”
Female friends recounted tales of horrible, vaguely (and not-so-vaguely) sexist advice, such as being told never to let a guy pay for a date because “it means you owe him something.” What?! What happened to simply acknowledging that it’s okay to let him pay and still say no to sex if you’re not feeling it??
Then there’s the girl whose boyfriend told her—AS HE WAS BREAKING UP WITH HER—not to use big words because it was “really unattractive.”
And, possibly most terrifying of all: “Make sure he loves you more than you love him.” A friend received this advice when she was only 19 years old. Being so young, she took it to heart, and it took a couple unbearably boring and emotionally unsatisfying relationships before she learned that a good relationship didn’t mean finding the first guy who will give you an ounce of attention and just sticking with him.
Another friend was urged never to invite anyone to her house for dinner because it means you’re DTF. So, um, is it okay to invite a guy over for dinner if you are DTF? What’s the real rule here? “I make you dinner, you give me an orgasm,” perhaps?
10. “Keep dating him because he’s REALLY nice.”
Personally, this is one of my favorite pieces of awful advice: I was once encouraged to keep dating a guy I had no real chemistry with because “he was really nice”—since that’s apparently the only requirement for letting a man get into my pants. Then I got advice to excuse bad sex because maybe “it’ll get better with time.” It didn’t.
11. “Try to be more ‘normal.’ Reveal your weirdness slowly.”
A friend told me the worst advice he ever got was to try to be more “normal” and keep his weirdness under wraps—to slowly reveal it as he went along and allow people time to get used to it. “What a stupid piece of advice,” he laughed.
And the advice he now gives himself before a date? “My job on the first date is to polarize you. Either I completely alienate you, or I make you interested. Anything in between those two poles is a waste of my time and yours.”
12. “Don’t be so aggressive!”
And my all-time favorite WORST piece of dating advice: Don’t be so aggressive!
For a period of several months, a couple friends told me to not be so aggressive in my dating. You see, I have what some people would call a “strong personality.” I don’t know if it’s because I’m Latina and stereotypically loud, or because I was raised by a strong woman, but I am always honest, to-the-point and not afraid to be 100% myself.
Apparently, this is a bad thing in dating. I was told that I would put some guys off, that they would be intimidated by my personality and that it would “send the wrong message.” But I honestly enjoyed talking about anything and everything, and didn’t shy away from topics such as sex or kids or my career ambitions.
Going against every instinct I had, I tried to take that advice for a bit and toned myself down. I ended up dating guys who were nice and sweet, but could never find the spark I needed to sustain my interest in another human being. It was months before I figured out what the real problem was: Following bad advice that only resulted in me not being myself.