And by ‘stupid,’ I mean they didn’t actually work. At all.
I’ve been off the market for a while now, but sometimes I think back on my younger single days and wonder how on earth I actually made it through in one piece. Like many young women, I was often insecure and not sure of myself, especially when it came to dating. But I was also a hopeless romantic, so it was important to me back then to be seen as desirable, especially by men I was attracted to.
Then there was all the bad advice I got back then about what cool, attractive, worthwhile men are looking for in a woman. I did some pretty silly things as a result and made dating a lot harder on myself than it had to be. Learn from my stupid mistakes. Maybe one day, when you’re settled (if that’s indeed what you want), you’ll be able to look back on your single days without cringing the way I often do.
1. I pretended I wasn’t as bright as I was.
I was one of those kids who was considered “gifted” when I was growing up. I got good grades and was super smart. I was also badly bullied for years for being a nerd or the teacher’s pet, so I got it into my head that being smart was a bad thing. Things didn’t get any better once I was older, dating, and starting to hear that men don’t like smart women.
I didn’t exactly pretend to be stupid, but I definitely tried to look less intelligent than I was. When men tried to get to know me and asked what I was into, I purposefully wouldn’t mention interests like astronomy, linguistics, or history. I also remember watering down many of my opinions when I expressed them. I worried a lot about whether my thoughts, interests, and values were “normal” enough, and I did this well into my 20s.
That really didn’t serve me. Most of the men who were attracted to that were dull and borderline-stupid themselves. Many of them were painfully insecure, and a couple of them even turned out to be abusive. All of them were utterly frustrating to be around because I couldn’t connect with them mentally or intellectually. Once I learned to be proud of my intelligence instead, I started attracting smarter, more interesting men I could see myself building a future with.
2. I felt the need to point out how ‘unlike other women’ I was.
As much as it pains me to admit it, I used to have a lot of trouble getting along with other women. I was pretty tomboyish growing up, so I hung out with my brother and his friends a lot more often than I did other girls. I also didn’t “get” a lot of the things I thought other women were about.
I didn’t like to gossip or make small talk; my female friends did. I didn’t want children or think babies were cute; most of the women I knew did. I wasn’t on a mission to change the men I dated the way many of my female friends were hellbent on doing. And so many of the men I knew would complain about these same traits in the women they knew.
I became proud of all the ways I thought I “wasn’t like other girls” and began to see that as a selling point when it came to attracting men. What I didn’t realize is that stereotyping other women and dumping on them for the things they might be into isn’t cute — not to other women and not to men, either. It made me look like a hypocrite who was trying way too hard to be liked, and no one thinks hypocrisy is hot.
3. I played hard to get.
When I was younger, my mother used to tell me that if I wanted to appeal to men, I shouldn’t be too available. I had to make them think I had a lot going on — so much that I barely had time for them. And, of course, acting like you were into someone you were attracted to was out of the question. Heaven forbid the person might actually realize you were interested and try to get to know you better.
So the more I liked a guy, the less attention I paid to him. I’d act as disinterested as possible, hoping he’d somehow decide I was worth chasing anyway. I’d go out of my way to talk about other guys all the time, hoping that I was coming across as super desirable and in-demand — someone worth having because so many other guys wanted me, too. Then I’d be stunned when all this somehow failed to make me irresistible.
Awesome men who are worth dating in the first place want women who are easy to be around and return their interest. You don’t want the kind who are only into women they think they can’t have. At best, they’ll lose interest the minute they're with you. At worst, they turn out to be toxic types who feed on drama and conflict. No, thanks.
4. I placed way too much importance on my looks.
As someone who was very awkward growing up, I thought that all my social problems would up and disappear if I were just prettier. So when I finally grew into myself a little in my 20s, I was thrilled. I also became overly obsessed with my appearance to the point where it became unhealthy.
I was terrified of getting caught out in the rain because I didn’t want the naturally curly hair I spent so much time straightening to get all frizzy and bushy. I never went anywhere without makeup on. My fitness routine was non-existent because I didn’t want to get bulky, and when I wasn’t happy with my weight — which was a lot of the time — I crash-dieted or outright starved myself.
I missed out on a lot of what’s great about life as a result. I also made myself really unappealing to potential partners. Sure, a lot of the men I dated liked the way I looked, but they didn’t like that I was more concerned with how I looked than with who I was.
Thankfully, I became more down-to-earth (and less shallow) with age. I still take pride in my appearance, but I’m much more balanced about it these days. I’m into being healthy, not thin. It’s always fun to look nice, but I don’t wear makeup every day anymore. I’m in my 40s now. There are way worse things in life than a little frizzy hair or some cellulite.
5. I went along to get along way too often.
When you like someone, you naturally hope they like you back. Part of making sure that happens means considering their wants and needs in addition to your own. It shouldn’t mean setting your own needs entirely aside, letting lousy behavior slide, or pretending to be okay with something if you’re honestly not.
I used to do this a lot — pretend to be much more agreeable than I was so that people I felt drawn to would think I was cool instead of naggy or bitchy like all the exes they used to complain about. I guess I thought that if I put my partners’ needs first all the time, they’d reciprocate by putting mine first, but that’s really not how it works. All going along to get along gets you, especially when you don’t mean it, is more of the same.
Worthwhile men can handle women with minds of their own and who know what they want. And the outstanding ones prefer them. They want partners to stand side-by-side with as equals, not doormats who are scared to speak up for themselves.
Before I stopped doing dumb, pointless things like these, I had a lot of complaints about men and about dating in general. I’d wonder where all the good ones were. I’d be baffled as to why so many of my partners turned out to be stunted, abusive, boring, or just a bad match in general. I didn’t get that I was making things way too hard — certainly harder than they had to be.
Then I got tired of it all, stopped trying to be someone I wasn’t, and started being myself, mostly because I was too exhausted to do anything else. It worked, though. I began attracting men who genuinely appreciated me for who I was, and I eventually found one who fit into my life so well, I married him. Who knew it was that simple all along?