Leandra Medine: Amelia brought to my attention an article from Daily Mail UK, which I guess makes this a questionable topic to round table, about this man named Blake Lavak, who’s 53 years old and has published a book on what women are doing wrong when it comes to reeling in “Mr. Right.” The way that he describes the process of finding a man seems systematic and soul crushing, and it goes against everything we’re conditioned to believe about locating your soulmate and allowing emotions and instinct to get you there — but again, that’s what we’re conditioned to believe. It might be interesting to talk about whether or not there is some merit in taking this guy’s advice at face value.
Amelia Diamond: My friend sent this article to me jokingly and said, “All you have to do is suck dick!” She was making fun of his philosophy — I like how he keeps on referring to men as “Big Tuna.” I think he’s ridiculous and the concept is ridiculous. I guess what I find interesting is that we’re re-approaching this idea that there is a system to fall in love. There was that recent NY Times article about the 36 questions, backed by science, that lead to love — I’m interested in our fascination with having a set of steps for love.
Krista Lewis: I feel differently about the NY Times story because it felt more like questions designed to help you get to know someone better, whereas this just feels like a guide to tell women how to behave romantically and what they should do with their bodies.
Charlotte Fassler: He’s also 53 years old and he’s recently single after a 15 year marriage, so his advice can only be so applicable to everyone. I think one of the things that resonated with me was when he said, “I think you should definitely sleep with the guy on the first date. It shows that you’re interested.”
He doesn’t take into consideration that in this hook up culture, people do that regardless. If a girl sleeps with a guy on the first date, it’s totally her choice and it’s what she wants. But I think there is this supposition that doing so can set a precedent for a relationship to be more sexual-based. Especially with young guys who think they don’t have to work for anything.
LM: Don’t you sort of feel like a story about bagging a man makes the man seem much more docile than the woman, who has to be this proactive hunter — doesn’t that totally perpetuate this theory that men don’t have to do anything?
CM: I don’t think his concept would hold up with young people.
AD: If what he says has any merit, he’s certainly not portraying it in a way that’s accessible or welcomed by women. The way he’s portraying his concept compared to the way the old guard portrays it, it’s almost as if women can’t win. If our grandmothers’ generation followed the passive female approach, where you sort of wait for the guy to call, pursue you…
LM: I’m the third generation of women who propose to men.
AD: I love that. My family is old school. So there’s the version where the woman is passive and the guy does all of the work, and you don’t have sex with him and you make him wait and work for everything. The spin on that is that it gives the woman the power right? Like, you get to sit home and do nothing and the guy has to do all of the work. But that doesn’t seem like it totally works; it kind of gives women no power. And here is this guy saying — on the flip side — “women, take the reins, go after the man, sleep with him on the first date.” And yet somehow, even though it’s the opposite scenario, it seems once again like there is a lack of female power.
LM: Well, that’s because this is a classic case of being spoken at instead of to. What single girl in New York with a good job is going to listen to a 53-year-old man who is telling her that she can “win” the man of her dreams in 60 days? It’s difficult for me to relate; the whole concept of dating in 2015 is beyond me because I’ve been married for three years, but this idea that women have been doing it wrong makes the concept of romance and falling in love seem so sterile that marriage almost starts to feel like a literal job.
You don’t need to be in a relationship to survive. Yes, they’re wonderful — like truffles on pasta — but the pasta is still there if you decide not to season it.
CF: Relationships are also work. It’s not like you get your guy and it’s GREAT!
Esther Levy: Obviously this guy is trying to manipulate every girl who feels lonely because men like this exist. It reminds me of that book, The Pick Up Artist, where this guy basically claimed he had the formula needed for guys to pick up girls, which is essentially to give them backhanded compliments, or “negs,” I think they were called.
KL: When Blake talks about his sister, there’s the phrase, “What’s wrong with me that I can’t land a man?” Which is based on the assumption that there’s something wrong with a single woman.
CF: He tries to humanize himself by bringing in his sister.
EL: Okay, not to keep on bringing up The Bachelor, but that’s why this show has run for 19 consecutive seasons — in many ways, nothing has changed. A lot of these women are really beautiful and intelligent and they have good jobs —
AD: Do they?
EL: There’s a newscaster this season! Jillian — she just got voted off. But if you go back to season 1 and compare it to season 19, there is literally no difference. It’s the same sob story of, What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I find love? It does make finding love seem like a chore or task that you need to win at.
LM: Which is probably why it’s become so difficult, right? The same way that as a writer, when you’re looking for an arc or an angle you can never find it because something beyond you is contingent upon it coming to fruition.
AD: I agree. I have female and male friends that have been like, “Why can’t I find a girlfriend or boyfriend?” The fact that this book just came out and has press on it sort of ties into the fact that we’re still searching for this love potion. It’s like the one uncrackable thing. This is the one unsolvable. We just want someone to tell us how to do it. It’s why we text our friends, “What do I say?” Does your friend ever know what to say? No.
CF: They’re just going to rely their own experiences and relate them to yours.
AD: Totally. Pull up your own bullshit, your own biases and experience and craft a weird text that honestly, holds no weight. I don’t think that one text has ever swayed a relationship in a new direction.
KL: Unless it’s a bad dick pic. This is a formula like that just ignores that people have different personality types. People are introverts and extroverts and it’s great to have the confidence to go up and talk to guys, but for some people it’s just easier if the guy pursues them. I think so much of any relationship depends on the person grasping at the formula. It’s like, “Oh if I buy this thing, I’ll be really cool.”
AD: Does that mean that anyone who buys into this book does it because it promises that they’ll meet their match in 60 days? Is there ever advice for that woman or it just always a crapshoot?
LM: How frequently are men dealing with these questions? Are they?
AD: Well, The Game is a book about guys learning how to pick up girls. I don’t think all men — just like I don’t think all women — are trying to find love.
LM: Esther, what was the courting like between you and your husband?
EL: It was surprisingly traditional. It was also before Tinder, but even before those dating apps, guys would primarily speak to girls via text. We had mutual friends that had told him about me, and he just approached me at a wedding and introduced himself. It was refreshing and I liked that. He didn’t play the whole texting game. If he wanted to hang out he would call me and we’d hang out and we weren’t texting that entire day either.
I think the problem with these formulas is that they’re not specific to girls who are dating or single. As a married woman, I wonder if maybe I’m not doing everything “right.” Maybe there are a whole other set of rules I should be following or maybe there’s something I don’t know despite having met my partner. I think that’s a problem that isn’t specific to single people, I think it’s a wider issue.
LM: If you ask Abie what initially attracted him to me, he’ll say it’s my assertiveness. I booked our first date. We were chatting on AOL and I was like, “When do you want to hang out, we’ve been chatting all week.” And after our first date I was like, “So when do you want to see me again?” Again though, it was a lot of, when do you want to see me, not when can I see you. It’s me being assertive but in a way that still left the ball in his court.
KL: And it’s just a way of cutting the bullshit. I want to see you again but I’m going to put it on you.
EL: It’s kind of like what we were saying last week about the fluff surrounding an e-mail. Just cut to the chase.
CF: I don’t think Lavak is saying “cut the bullshit.” I think he’s saying, “Ladies, bow down. If you want a guy to fall in love with you, you pay for him, suck his dick, obsess over him and make him feel…”
LM: This is just the most dramatic way to rebound right? He’s coming off a 15 year marriage.
What frustrates me about this concept of finding a guy in 60 days, is that it goes against everything women are bred to believe — and I don’t mean inherently inclined to believe — which is that you grow up, you realize what you like about yourself and realize what you want in a partner and then as a result of that, find someone or let that person find you and it just happens.
AD: But I think there’s always been that question of, “Tell me how to do it.”
LM: Well then I guess my next point is that commercialism ruins all forms of art across the board. This is happening in fashion because couture is not a flight of fancy anymore, it’s a viable business that moves product, and that was the last pure bureau of the industry. There’s an argument that Jeff Koons has sort of ruined fine art, right?
KL: I feel like the Internet, and people being so glued to their phones that they’re not open to making conversation, has made it more desperate or more pressing that you find someone because you’re not just going to meet someone in the street.
AD: I think it takes the pressure off. If there’s anything that dating apps have taught me, it’s that there are literally a billion hot guys in this city.
CF: If you’re depressed over a guy IRL, you can go on Tinder and find that there are 300 guys you could conceivably go on a date with. You don’t want to, but you like knowing that.
LM: I have an idea, why don’t we talk about our notions of romance. What is the ideal romance like for you?
AD: There’s one where it’s easy and just kind of instantly happens. It’s like that movie thing where you just meet a person, can’t stop talking and boom, it’s on. The second one is where there is this very obvious tension — totally opposing view points between two people where you almost hate this person, can’t stand them or be in the same room as them and then suddenly, boom, it’s on. But never in my life has anything good ever come out of games. I refuse to play the waiting game, because nothing good comes of it.
In the first few years here there was so much pressure. My grandparents would ask me, “You’re living in New York now, are you dating or seeing anyone?” It gets hard to reply, “I’m hooking up with this kid…”
LM: Well, especially when it’s your grandparents. But you specifically, as strong a woman as you are, it’s consistently fascinating to me how old school you are about your dating regimen.
AD: I am and I always will be. I am old school. You wanna see me? Tell me. Take me out, call me. Or at least in the beginning. I think relationships should 100% be a mutual partnership. But I think there is something to romance and being wooed and having someone walk you to your door.
LM: I guess the first leg of my relationship with Abie was that way. We met when I was 17 and he called me the night before my SATs to wish me good luck even though he was a senior in college. He acknowledged the fact that I was in high school, which to me was impressive for a 21-year-old guy. But when we got back together, all of the fireworks and romance that I adored about the first leg of the relationship were completely absent. And I struggled with that. But it occurred to me in the 5th or 6th month of the relationship that passion dies, right? That the conversation on finding The One is so dense because the things that you look for in a partner often don’t turn out to be the things you need for a marriage to work.
AD: I think that’s why when you hear my complaints about guys, which can be perceived as “old school,” it’s because I am looking for a gentleman. I think it comes down to how my dad was and how he was raised. It was a true family of gentlemenz with a Z, and it’s not a chauvinistic or sexist thing, but I do believe that a man should hold open doors and such. I think the guy should pay for the first dinner and it doesn’t have to represent their power over you or them trying to buy your love or whatever. It’s just this old school vibe.
I always remember my dad would say that it’s not about the money. When he was 23 and living here, he was so broke. He had enough money to pay for rent — he always had a “gig.” But when he liked a girl, he wanted to show her that he liked her. So even if he didn’t have money for a nice restaurant or whatever he’d find some cool, weird Chinese place or his favorite hot dog stand on the corner.
EL: Is your dad Ryan Gosling in The Notebook?
AD: Yes, basically. Whereas now, I’ve spoken to guys who have said that they’re scared to open a door for a woman because they’ve been yelled at before. There’s even a meme that says, “I’m the kind of feminist who still wants you to pay for my dinner.”
EL: My idea of romance is someone who will watch Broad City with me.
CF: I think my idea of romance is something where you don’t have to question whether the other person likes you. I think we’re constantly analyzing moods and questioning whether or not the objects of our interest want to be with us. At the end of the day, you want to be with someone who also wants to be with you. Having to work too hard to get someone to respond to your texts or make a plan with you, or you feeling like you have to badger someone to hang out with you, that’s never going to amount to a relationship. It has to be a two-sided pursuance.
People tend to obsess, or just not see the bigger picture. And it’s hard, because you completely get tunnel vision when you’re into someone. But yeah, I guess my idea of romance is a balanced, two-sided relationship.
KL: Which I believe too. But I’ve never been in a relationship to draw experience from. Any conjecture is drawn from one-month-long hook ups. I came off this year having a crush on this one guy in my friend group. He’s really quiet — speaking of being attracted to men who remind you of your father, my dad’s really quiet — and plays music and is cute. After trying to “pursue” him or send a text saying, “Hey, I really enjoyed talking with you at this party,” I could never tell if his responses were friendly or into me. But that felt so much more satisfying than being pursued by a guy. I feel like if a guy is ogling me or actively trying to be suave or cool, that makes me feel so uncomfortable. It feels predatory.
AD: You would rather it be a subtle push and pull than have a man straight up pursue you?
KL: Yeah. It feels more of a two-sided thing that way. It is a very subtle balance though.
CF: That might be why you don’t like Tinder. Because you’re judging people based on their hotness and they’re pursuing you for the most part. And you’re kind of like, On what merit are they pursuing me?
LM: You know what my mom used to tell me? Wait — never mind. I just realized it wasn’t my mom, it was the book Why Men Love Bitches and I just had that realization. My mom has co-opted this theory and sold it to me as her own! This just occurred to me! Her theory is the entire premise for a NY Times best seller!
AD: What was it?
LM: Her point was essentially that the smart girls always end up with the best guys because they’re a little mean. Because in order to be a smart girl you have to be a little bit aggressive. I don’t know about that though.