All posts by Zack Taylor

I'm a 30 year old software engineer who has always been interested in social interaction. As a former actor, I spent a lot of time trying to understand where people are coming from and what causes them to act in certain ways. My dating life has consisted mostly of serious relationships, as I find the challenge of finding a companion much more interesting than the challenge of finding a date. I'm often found giving dating advice to friends and family as well as reading up on social interaction, psychology, and spirituality. You can follow me on Twitter via @zack_taylor.

Is it love?

“I…I have something I need to tell,” her voice quivered as she spoke. It seemed like an odd departure from the relaxed mood of our Valentine’s weekend getaway. We’d been seeing each other for a few months and decided to stay at a nice hotel. We had enjoyed the excellent room service and were rolling around playfully in bed.

“Go ahead, what is it?” I coaxed.

“I just need you to know…I love you.”

My heart must have skipped a beat as I stared into her deep brown eyes. I wasn’t entirely sure how to react. When my college girlfriend told me that she loved me, I insisted that she didn’t really love me. When my last girlfriend said she loved me, I gushed because I was so in love with her that I was dizzy. And now this girl.

I searched for the answers in her eyes. I wasn’t even really sure why she was still with me. I don’t think I treated her particularly well and yet she stuck by me. Sometimes I even felt that I was going through the motions. But why was I going through the motions? What made me feel like I had to?

She had always been so good to me. I wasn’t all that lovable of a character back then. I was slightly overweight with a receding hairline, a large list of dietary restrictions, and an anxiety disorder that got the better of me more frequently than not. Yet there was something she saw in me, something even I didn’t know existed.

Slowly reality started to seep into my head and my heart. How could I have been so blind? Of course she loves me, it’s obvious to anyone who saw us together. The way she looked at me. The way she guided me when I got worked up. And then there was the way she made me feel. I felt like twice the man when I was around her. I felt like there was nothing I couldn’t do with her by my side. No matter what bad thing happened during the day, I could look forward to seeing her and know that I would feel better.

The last time I was in love, it was frantic. We could barely be in the same room without tearing each other’s clothes off. We read love sonnets to each other and giggled at how silly we were. There was electricity in the air from day one and a sort of buzz that was intoxicated. But with this girl, I never felt that. What I did feel was calm, and for once in my life, content. Was it possible that this was love, as well? Maybe love didn’t have to feel so frantic and hurried, maybe love could be peaceful, gentle, and soothing. Maybe that’s the feeling of being with someone who truly accepts you for who are yet somehow makes you want to be more. In the very moment she expressed her love for me, an entirely new world of discernment appeared for my eyes. And I knew.

“It’s okay,” she said after a minute of silence, “it’s okay if you don’t feel the same way. I just needed to tell you.”

“No, no,” I injected, holding her close and looking into her eyes, “I love you too.”

The cynic’s guide to online dating

I’m not fan of online dating (I’ve written about this before), but there comes a time when the water runs so dry that you know you need to do something to change your luck. And it’s with this situation that I found myself back online trying to meet some new women. Almost instantly, I remembered all of the reasons I had forbid myself from online dating. Instead of just writing about it, I thought I’d let my inner cynic out to describe my latest experience. Cynicism set at maximum.

Pay attention to the username. If there’s an adjective in the username, it’s what she wants to be not what she is. Example: SexyGrl48. I’d bet you anything that this girl is not at all sexy. Another example: HappyGwen. Dollars to donuts that Gwen is, in fact, miserable. Stay far away from anyone whose username has an attribute that you desire in a mate (i.e., pretty, sexy, hot, etc.).

Only headshots means she’s fat. People who have nothing to hide don’t hide anything. If there’s not at least a three-quarters body shot on the profile, it’s probably because she doesn’t want you to see the rest of her body. If that’s what you like, hey, go for it. I just chalk that up under “not being honest.” Right up there with posting photos from when you were in college and hot.

Multiple photos with the same angle count as one. If she looks exactly the same, same expression, same angle, in every photo despite scenery and wardrobe changes, there’s something fishy going on here. Does she only exist in one dimension? Does she think that’s her good side? Without multiple points of reference, I don’t trust that I know what she looks like.

Beware profiles with rants. I’ve come across a fair number of profiles that are essentially angry letters to the girl’s last boyfriend. If under “wants” she says something like, “A guy who doesn’t LIE or CHEAT. You guys who think you’re PLAYAS can move on to the next profile, cuz this fish ain’t bitin’. Respect your woman!” then you should definitely move on to the next profile because this girl is nursing wounds that won’t soon heal. She’s not ready to meet anyone for romantic purposes, she’s ready to meet someone to take her frustrations out on.

Girls who say they don’t want drama are usually the cause of it. If a girl says that you better not be drama, it’s because she’s already drama and doesn’t want competition.

Recently single = thinking about my ex. Never ever write to a girl who says she’s recently single, or otherwise just got out of a long-term relationship. That is, unless you like being the rebound guy that has to listen to what went wrong with her ex the entire time you know her. And deal with him still calling. And her still responding.

Obscured faces mean high opinions. A lot of guys mistakenly think that girls who post photos with obscured faces have a low opinion of their looks and are probably ugly. Actually, it’s the opposite. Usually, they think they’re really attractive and are “tired of guys hitting on them for their looks.” Except they really do think they’re good looking and love being hit on for their looks. You just don’t get to see what they look like without proving yourself first.

If there’s more than one girl in the photo, she’s not the cute one. Don’t fall for this trap.

It pays to be prepared

Second date. Still not entirely sure what the mutual understanding of the crowd in regards to sex. Three dates has always been what I’ve heard, though in my life, that’s rarely happened. Seven dates? Maybe. Longer than that and you risk losing the person…or so they say. I had only been out with this girl once before, and found her incredibly sexy. Yes, I’d love to sleep with her, but she’s also a really great person and so I didn’t want to push anything. It was a second date, and I didn’t know what would happen, but I did want to be prepared.

I knew that we’d end up back at my place. The restaurant was pretty close by, and I was sure inviting her back wouldn’t be a problem. I had no “move” in mind to try to get her into the bedroom, just a little bit of hope that things might naturally lead there. You never know in these situations – even the smallest thing could derail the possibility of a hedonistic night together. No, I wasn’t going to leave anything to chance. If we made it to the bedroom, it would have to be smooth sailing to the finish line.

The first thing I did was check the condoms I had in my room. It had been a while since I last entertained a young lady there, and I wanted to make sure I was ready. Condoms have expiration dates, so always good to double-check those to be safe. Six left from the original package and not past the expiration date. Sweet. I then made sure they were within arm’s reach of the bed.

Next up, a little cleaning. I think this is a piece that guys completely miss. Few girls want to get down and dirty if your place is literally dirty. I put away the laundry, made the bed, cleared the floor. I didn’t want there to be any looks of shock or disgust when we made it there. I made sure the steps leading up to the bedroom didn’t betray any bit of disorganization – everything within eyeshot was in its place.

I worked my way backwards to the living room (my typical dumping ground for whatever I’m too lazy to put away). The coffee table was cleared of everything but a few interesting books and remote controls. Lights were dim, music was playing. The usual mess on the kitchen table was stacked into neat piles. The kitchen counter was clean and I cleaned all dishes in the sink.

The last point of focus was myself. Clean clothes and a little cologne always make a good impression. Clean underwear (no holes!) and a little looser than usual pair of pants (no one wants to struggle to get their pants off).

It’s details like this that “clear the runway” for sex. It’s not about doing things that will get her into your bedroom, necessarily; it’s about doing things to ensure there’s nothing standing in the way. As for my second date, things went great. It turns out that she had prepared in her own way, as well. But a gentleman doesn’t share such details, you’ll just have to imagine for yourself.

I am Stan

I’ve known Stan my whole life. He and my dad were friends in college and kept in touch afterwards. I don’t remember ever being formally introduced to Stan, I just remember him being around. My dad would invite him over to watch sports from time to time, and the two would spend the day chatting about the current games before inevitably remembering some obscure sporting event from when they were in college. Almost comically, they would alternate who’s turn it was to invite the other over. And they never broke the cycle.

As a child, I thought all adults were married, and so I always wondered why Stan wasn’t. On the surface he seemed like a nice guy. He had a steady job, wasn’t bad looking, and was in shape (he was a dedicated runner). Yet for as long as I can remember, he’s been living with his mother in a two-bedroom apartment. He was always nice to me even though it was clear he wasn’t really sure how to deal with kids.

Nearly 32 years after I was born, Stan and my dad still get together regularly to watch sports. My dad, of course, has a wife and two sons. Stan still lives with his mom.

This past weekend, a friend I hadn’t seen in a while sent me an email inviting me to a barbecue. I see him periodically, and I looked forward to catching up with him and seeing how big his son has gotten. Then it occurred to me: the last time I saw him was also at a barbecue at his place last year. I wondered if his son, who was three last year, would even remember me. I’m not sure what his wife thinks of me – this single guy who never asks to bring a girl over. She and I always chat politely.

All of a sudden it hit me: I am Stan. I’m the single guy who comes over every once in a while. Granted, I don’t live with my mother, but that distinction seems particularly arbitrary at this point in time. That’s me. My friend’s son is going to know me from his childhood, and maybe into adulthood, as the guy who stopped by periodically…alone.

Sometimes, they just don’t know

So you’ve been reading this blog, perhaps other dating sites and books, trying to pick up on subtle hints that someone is interested in you. You’ve read about indicators of interest (IOI), the subconscious actions that give away a person’s romantic attraction. You’ve mastered listening to the words that someone else is saying and finding hidden meaning. You’ve even paid attention to small moments of seemingly harmless physical contact. Yes, you’re convinced, this person likes you.

In some cases you’ll be right, yet in others you’ll be completely wrong. Why is that? The reason is actually very simple. At some point during life, you start to refine your behaviors as you interact with others. Everything becomes more streamlined and develop a rock solid persona. People come to know you as a “type” of person, meaning that they can predict your reactions to certain types of situations. You play be a set of rules that are defined by you based on your past experiences. Your flirting behaviors, those that are intended to attract another, fall into this category as well.

I’m sure you’ve met someone who completely lacks the ability to flirt. We’ve all run into them at one point or another. This can happen for a number of reasons such as never having been in a situation to flirt (often a misconception) or being so bad at it that you just give up (more common). Equally awkward are those people who have no idea that they’re flirting and, therefore, end up in uncomfortable situations all the time.

I recently asked out a girl that I’ve had a crush on for a while, and was incredibly excited when she said yes. I had gotten all kinds of signals from her. She complimented me seemingly out of the blue both on my work and on my style; she implied she’d like to see me again and then followed up by actually saying it; she was overly friendly, laughed at my jokes, and generally agreed to everything I asked. When I asked her out to dinner, she said she it sounded great and that she’d look forward to it. I had asked a few questions designed to determine if she was seeing anyone (i.e., so what did you do last weekend?) and there was no mention of a boyfriend. What I didn’t know: she had no idea this was a date.

She had to cancel our “date” and when we talked about rescheduling, she revealed that she was seeing someone. Certainly something that one would think to mention when someone asks you out to dinner, one would think. As our conversation went on, I could sense the confusion. She literally had no idea that she was sending me signals and no idea that I had asked her out on a date. To her, I was just the friendly guy at work that she talks to sometimes. What more could there possibly be?

The initial anger I felt faded away pretty quickly as she told me more stories of her mixing up guys’ intentions. This poor girl literally had no idea when guys were flirting with her, let alone when she was flirting with guys. My anger turned to sympathy – this girl is so completely lost. Who knows how many guys she’s inadvertently hurt in the past. And I instantly felt sorry for the guy she’s seeing, after all, does he know that she’s accepting invitations for dinner from random guys she meets?

We can do all of the studying on dating and flirting that we can, but none of it makes up for the uniqueness of each personality. For someone who doesn’t realize that she’s flirting, or someone who doesn’t realize that someone else is flirting with her, the rules don’t matter. The words she says don’t mean what you think they mean, and the looks, smiles, and winks are nothing more than the playful acts of a child. You’re reading into these signals as if they matter only to be left disappointed and confused. Don’t blame yourself, there’s nothing you could have done differently.

For some people, they just don’t know.

At least she likes you as a person

My friend’s words rang empty in my ears. That’s just great, she likes me as a person. I suppose that makes me fit for cat-sitting while she’s away with her boyfriend, or that if we were both at a party she would definitely not ignore me or run in the opposite direction.

Of course, talking to a girl about a girl tends to lead you down this path. I know my friend was just re-living her own dating antics. I’m sure at some point she genuinely liked a guy in a platonic way and was shocked that he didn’t consider that a good thing. Guys and girls think differently that way. Guys rarely utter the words, “I like you as a friend,” to anyone, let alone a girl (after all, you never know when a night of loneliness or drinks could end up a night to remember, right?).

Me? I’m going to be 32 in a few months and to be honest, I have all of the friends that I need. I’ve never been one to keep large groups of friends – I find trying to manage and maintain those friendships takes just too much time. So I’ve always kept to a relatively small group of close friends and then a larger group of acquaintances with whom I may occasionally get together, but who ultimately may come or go from my life without much regard.

This isn’t to say that I’m looking for marriage right now, far from it. What I am looking for is romance, intrigue, and yes, some sex would be nice. Liking me as a person doesn’t get me any of those things, and since there aren’t currently any openings to be a good friend, I really don’t see the purpose in continuing our interactions.

“I’m glad we had this talk,” she said, “so now we’ll be able to hang out in groups and do things together!”

Still not getting it. Rejection stings, and the consolation prize of being a friend doesn’t take that sting away. Though it’s nice that she doesn’t hate my guts or is completely revolted by my presence, there is no real future here. We’re not friends now, nor will we ever be in the future. You’re an acquaintance – someone I know, someone I’ll say, “hi,” to when I pass in the hall, and maybe even someone I’d stop and have a conversation with if the situation came up. But we’re not friends, nor will we ever be.

Book review: How to Find a Woman…or Not

How to Find a Woman...or NotImagine that you have an older divorced buddy who decided to throw himself into the world of dating. Imagine the same buddy going up on stage and delivering a comedy/advice show all about his dating adventures to you and all of your friends. If you can imagine that scenario, then you’ve imagined Gary Morgenstein’s new book, How to Find a Women…or Not.

Make no mistake, this book is highly targeted towards those who are in a situation similar to Gary: past a first marriage, a little older, and trying to get back into the dating game. If you happen to live in New York, you’ll also benefit from recommendations on where to take the older woman for a nice date.

The content delivery is exactly what you’d expect from a sarcastic standup comedian. There are few sentences that slip by without a parenthetical side commentary, which can make the book seem more stream-of-consciousness than it really is. The other thing you’ll find a lot of in this book is lists. Almost every page feature either a bulleted or numbered lists of things you should keep in mind. The downside of this approach is that it breaks up the flow of the book, so reading it straight through is a little bit tiring. The upside of this approach is that you don’t have to worry about getting lost if put down the book and pick it up later.

Where the book really shines is towards the middle, when Gary takes on Internet dating. Having been through the Internet dating experience and emerged with my own battle scars, I could really relate to this section. He deftly dissects the ins and outs of Internet dating and how to keep your sanity while making an attempt to meet someone interesting. I love the title of Chapter 10,  “Online Dating and Other Surreal Experiences”.

Gary really explores all realms of dating, including the value of gay friends, how to avoid losing your job while dating at work, why getting setup with someone by friends isn’t always a good thing, how young is too young, and of course, sex. He moves swiftly from one topic to the next, peppering the text with “Morgy Rules,” Gary’s pieces of advice that you’ll want to write down and remember, such as:

Remember the woman always chooses. ALWAYS. They decide if we can touch their private parts, not us. If they deign, we sleep with them. If they don’t, we don’t.

Note that this book is not a step-by-step guide to dating, but rather a book-length comedic rant about dating in general with some words of wisdom sprinkled throughout. Being younger than Gary, I had a little bit of trouble relating to some stories (dating women with children, needing to pack the little blue pill just in case, etc.), but I can definitely imagine those older than me relating very well to this. How to Find a Women…or Not is recommended if you enjoy sarcastic/funny writing on the complex topic of dating and the adventures a 50-something year old divorcee can still have in the quest for love and happiness.

The talk

There’s a fairly small number of reasons that relationships end. Well, there seem to be a lot of different ways to end relationships, but they all boil down to three things in my mind:

  1. There’s someone else. Whether that means someone actually cheated or not is irrelevant; interest in someone else usually leads to the end of a relationship sooner or later.
  2. Big argument. He left the toilet seat up one too many times. She doesn’t like his friends. The number of arguments we have in relationships is infinite, but it just takes one big one to throw the relationship away.
  3. Going separate directions. This is also sometimes called “outgrowing” your partner (to be polite, of course). It really means that you both dont want the same thing anymore, whether that be in your career or relationship.

Perhaps the most heartbreaking is number three because it seems like there’s nothing “wrong” with the relationship. The problem is that it’s not exactly “right” either. That’s usually when the talk happens.

The talk is a completely heartfelt admission by one of you that things can’t stay the way they are. It can center around any number of topics but the end result is the same. Sometimes this takes one of you by surprise while others know that the relationship is building to the talk.

Why is it called the talk? Because it’s usually initiated by saying, “we need to talk,” or “can we talk?” When you hear either of these, you know that your relationship is going to take a sudden turn. And frequently, you will have no choice in the matter. Your partner has already made up his or her mind, and things are about to change.

Most of my relationships have ended with the talk. That doesn’t necessarily reflect anything about my dating style, just about my choice in women. I tend to pick partners that I respect and admire, and I hope that they feel the same way about me. Thus I’ve only ever been cheated on once and only ever had a big argument end a relationship once. The rest all centered around the talk. And in some ways, that has been more difficult.

Ending a relationship with the talk always leaves the door open. You don’t hate each other, there’s nothing concrete to point to as a dealbreaker. It’s kind of exciting thinking that you could run into that person in another place and time and things might actually work out. But in the short term, there are more questions than answers.

This doesn’t mean you should pick a fight or cheat to avoid the complexities of the talk, just that you should be prepared.

Introducing the Dating Thoughts Community

It’s been a couple of years since we started Dating Thoughts, and we’ve met some incredible people through comments on the various blog posts. One post in particular, I’m tired of being single, has become a story around which an entire community has appeared. Apparently the sentiments of that post struck a deep chord with readers and so many keep coming back to update each other on their lives.

Several people have since written to us, expressing the desire to have other ways to communicate with one another through the site. This is the very reason we started the Dating Thoughts Community on SocialGo. The Dating Thoughts Community is a social network centered around the theme of dating and love, and it’s a place where you can interact with other Dating Thoughts readers as well as the writers themselves.

Don’t get us wrong, we don’t expect people to give up their Facebook or MySpace accounts to join our community. We just aim to provide a social experience for those who want to further discuss all of the ins and outs of dating life. As such, we’re moving our forum to the Dating Thoughts Community site, where there are many more options for communicating with one another.

Please consider this your personal invitation to join myself and the other Dating Thoughts readers in our community. It’s absolutely free to sign up. We hope to see you there soon!

The suddenness of love

Summer: “One day I woke up and I just knew.”
Tom: “Knew what?”
Summer: “What I was never sure of when I was with you.”

This heart-wrenching scene from the indy hit 500 Days of Summer truly delivers the crushing honesty of love: it is sudden, both in its arrival and its departure. We’re meant to feel sorry for Tom, who has been head over heels for Summer, the girl who said that she didn’t want anything serious. Yet when she ends up married to someone else, her initial demands of being casual seem like a slap in the face. How could she have lied to him in that way?

The truth that this film so brilliantly captures is that we cannot predict love, we cannot control love. We think that we have life all figured out and we know exactly how we want, or will allow, someone else to fit within the architecture we’ve already laid out. And then that someone appears out of nowhere one day and we’re thrown for a loop. This isn’t the way it was supposed to happen and certainly not the way you had planned. Yet it feels good, perfect.

Everything happens just as suddenly as depicted in the film. One day you wake up and there’s a person there that you seem to have known forever. But you haven’t, and you’re continuing to learn more and more about each other every day. The whole experience is a joyous, wild ride that you can’t possibly imagine ending.

Another day you wake up and don’t recognize that person anymore. The light switch that was so quickly flipped on is just as quick flipped off, and the relationship is over. No one has any idea why or how this happens, and for those of us who have experienced it, the whole situation is disconcerting. You try to figure out what’s wrong but you can’t quite put your finger on it. Just as you couldn’t say what was so right when the relationship started, you also can’t identify why it’s over. It literally is just a feeling you had when you woke up.

The suddenness of love is what makes it so wonderful and so terrible all at the same time. It’s a wild, wild ride and we’re all just hanging on for dear life. The more time we spend pondering the suddenness, the more easily we may miss new opportunities that are right in front of us, as captured in one of the movies final scenes with a new girl.

500 Days of Summer DVD
Girl: Have I seen you before?
Tom: Me? I don’t think so.
Girl: Do you ever go to Angela’s Plaza?
Tom: Yes… That’s like my favorite spot in the city.
Girl: Yeah, except for the parking lots.
Tom: Yeah, yeah I agree.
Girl: Yeah, yeah I think I’ve seen you there.
Tom: Really?
Girl: Yeah…
Tom: I haven’t seen you?
Girl: You must not have been looking…