Several years ago I tried eHarmony, for about five minutes. It kept matching me with sad-sounding dudes with two small children. After I got away from there, though, I stayed on the mailing list, because the dating advice eHarmony sends is comedy gold (as are the periodic efforts to get me to re-up). Having gotten food, cat litter, and vodka to last me several days, in anticipation of the OMG CRIPPLING BLIZZARD New York is about to have, there's nothing I'd rather do than take a couple of shots and read Don Quixote while I wait for the storm to start, but I can't, because I have a Wednesday deadline. But, while I wait for these ibuprofen to kick in, I can tell you about the latest piece of advice from eHarmony, which just sent me an e-mail with the stern subject line "Time out, ladies! Let's stop being bitter about dating."
Yes, let's! Tell me how, eHarmony! Or rather, tell me how, Dr. Seth Meyers, guy who wrote the article that e-mail led me to! Dr. Meyers is apparently a psychologist specializing in "School Threat Assessment, Parenting, Relationships," and his website says he offers "The clinical truth—with dramatic flare [sic]." Let's see what he has to say.
Like everyone who writes dating advice, he starts out by saying that I'm totally justified in my feelings. "Getting angry makes perfect sense, too. In the same way that you’d be irritated if you had sent out resumes without ever getting an interview, going on lots of dates without finding a lasting relationship can cause the nicest and happiest of men and women to become a little bitter." Having looked through several useless dating advice books, I know that this is just the windup before the punch. Soon he's going to start telling me what I have to do to be less terrible so people will be better to me and I won't be such a dour, horrible creature.
"If you find yourself feeling bitter, it’s time to 1) be honest that you’ve become bitter about the whole dating process, and 2) create a plan to improve your mood about dating so that you attract good and sane people into your life." There it is: no, not the casual ableism, the fist sailing toward my face. See it? "Create a plan to improve your mood about dating so that you attract good and sane people into your life." This is something else all dating advice books tell you: the beatings will continue until morale improves.
"Ask yourself the following questions: Are you trying too hard? Do you come across as anxious or desperate?" I probably do, but sadly Seth doesn't tell you what to do if you really are anxious and desperate. "Are you scaring people away by trying to make too many future plans on date number one or two?" No, I'm scaring them away by talking about lobotomy. "On the other hand, are you not trying hard enough? Are you not verbally communicating your interest? Are you not taking the initiative to call him or her after your dates? Are you waiting for the other person to do all the work?" Which are legitimate questions, I guess, but Dr. Seth doesn't tell you what to do with the answers you give. He goes right on to his next piece of advice: "Ask your [best] friend, 'Why do you think I might be having such bad luck? What do you think I might be able to do differently?'" This is terrible advice for me because I've been pestering my best friends about my moribund love life since the Twin Towers were still standing, and the most they can ever do is kind of shrug. They don't know what the fuck is wrong; no one knows. I keep pestering people, though, because I'm convinced there's an answer that everyone has gotten together and decided to keep from me, like they think it will be better for my moral character if instead of letting me know about the trick with the shoes, they make me walk all the way to the Emerald City to learn it. I don't know if you should be encouraging me to think that way, Dr. Seth.
His next piece of advice is that I should go different places so I meet different people, which is reasonable.
Finally: "Sooner or later, we all hit a point where our emotional gas tank is running low, but the extent to which we seek out healthy self-soothing mechanisms determines how quickly and effectively we can break out of a bitter funk." He thinks I should take hot baths and write poetry and that kind of thing. These aren't bad things to do. You should, after all, strive to be nice to yourself. But he can't leave it at that, he has to follow it up with this: "If you take a step back and let yourself feel grateful about the positive things you have in your life already, you won’t feel as anxious about find a lasting relationship immediately!" And even this part wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for that last word. It reminds me of the time I asked my therapist about hypnosis and she said that it sounded as if I wanted a quick fix. I got pretty angry because of course I wanted a quick fix, what kind of idiot doesn't want a quick fix? After years of sitting across from you in this office, can I be blamed for wondering if maybe we can speed things up a little?
That's the kind of anger I feel toward Dr. Seth and his immediately, only in his case it isn't tempered by transference. How could I achieve transference with a guy who doesn't know the difference between flare and flair?