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The Apparent Myth of “Just Be Yourself”

May 28, 2013

I clearly hate myself. Not only do I occasionally contemplate the notion of dipping a wary pinky toe into the dating waters again for reasons I admit are all but nonexistent, I also find myself taking it a step farther by occasionally wading into the sewage- and industrial-pollutant-laden waters of online dating advice.

Some of this shit (see, it goes with the above metaphor; I’m not just being filthy for filth’s sake!) comes up accidentally. A recent post on my Tumblr fave STFU, Couples, featured the Twitter feed of one Aaron Carter. Since there are no longer any Backstreet Boys for once-famous Nick’s little brother to ride the coattails of, he’s apparently decided to get into the business of dispensing love and other sorts of womanly advice:

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Hardly original, and the homophone confusion (what is my not, anyway?) makes my inner English teacher scream like someone’s shoving hot pokers attached to live cattle prods up her ass, but a lovely sentiment nonetheless. One I can fully embrace, in point of fact.

A pity he had to keep going:

Screen shot 2013-05-28 at 4.26.54 PM

If by  scaring off “a man” you think you mean scaring off “every man,” Aaron, I’d say my practiced bitchface is serving its purpose. And I wish I had some homophone or comma misuse to condemn here, but alas, I have nothing to go on but the obvious contradiction and flip-flopping between the two posts.

The fact that he just didn’t know when to stop, however, turned the readthrough from necessitating two ibuprofen to two Vicodin. Here was his final tidbit of wisdom for starstruck young ladies following him in the hopes of playing Six Degrees of Separation from Real Industry Players:

Screen shot 2013-05-28 at 4.27.20 PM

A weapon, eh? I’m not sure if good ol’ Backstreet Junior here made the right move with this one, since the mention of a weapon had me bellowing, “Shot through the heart/ And you’re to blame/ Darlin’, you give love/ A bad name!” and then going into an impressive air guitar solo. I mean, the fact that I’ve now got Bon Jovi and other real rock n’ roll on the brain can’t be good for BSB’s dwindling album sales and, by extension, Aaron’s shot at musical glory–or any glory–of his own.

Naturally, my feelings on concealing my confidence with tons of mascara and allergy-inducing perfumes are pretty clear. So as troubling as I find Li’l Carter’s messages and their reception by those aforementioned young, female followers, I can at least chalk up their intent as being the product of a pouty man-child projecting his personal desires for a woman whose beauty asserts itself–but delicately and florally, of course–over her independence and dismiss it with a characteristic eyeroll and a swig of 10% ABV beer to ease the strain on my liberally worked eye sockets.

When a fellow woman opines similar and more blatant advice on promoting daintiness over dominance, though, I have to reach for the real deal. Invisible sky deities only know how I stumbled across this shitty (no conceits here, just straight-up pottymouth) video from a dating-advice “expert”/ life coach of some form, but stumble upon it I did, and stumble straight to the nearest, cheapest bar to exchange two Vicodin for two shots of Jack Daniel’s I did as well:

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I really hope I misinterpreted or read too much (or too little) into Greenwald’s advice. Because this is the message I took away from this video: if you ever want a man to call you back after the first date, bury your confidence. Squash what you’re really thinking. Hide your sense of humor, if your sense of humor is more than G-rated. But do put on make-up and tight clothing and affect a giggle and give him the sense that he’s a Big Strong Man and you’re just a helpless little girl. And always remember to just be yourself, tee-hee!

If I did interpret this correctly, then you and I need to sit down for a no-nonsense, straight-up coffee date in which I sneer and belittle your ridiculous theories while flaunting my hairy pits, legs, and unconcealed acne, Rachel Greenwald. Because your advice is self-contradictory if mine is the self in question.

I’ve never considered myself to be a man stuck in a woman’s body or to have any issues with my sex and gender identity, but by Greenwald’s standards, I would not be considered feminine. Dolling myself up would be a prime example of not being myself, since I only put on a dress and heels for formal gatherings in which I would have to suppress my acerbic wit and snarky observations regardless of who my tablemates were.

Same goes for what Greenwald, Carter, and their ilk would likely consider to be acceptable flirting. Every time I try to bat my eyes and giggle like a nineties schoolgirl meeting Carter’s big brother, it comes across as painfully forced. The victim of my flirting realizes that none of is real as quickly as I do and moves on, and I can hardly blame him, since I’m as disgusted with myself as he is with me.

Not to mention that mind-boggling idea that femininity and confidence are obviously mutually exclusive qualities. Since when does being feminine necessarily mean being vulnerable and docile rather than being confident, even in a quiet sense where strength is implied rather than figuratively or literally drummed over a person’s head?

But since we are evidently in either/or land, I’ll go with “or.” Much better, in my view, to be scary but independent instead of comely but unconfident. To thine own self be true, or, as the kids would paraphrase Polonius, keep it real, yo.

Which I guess means my standards are too high to date Aaron Carter. Or any of the men who would date Rachel Greenwald’s groupies. Which in turn means I might as well enjoy my solo standing, because it sounds as if I’m the only one who will accept me when I’m truly just being myself.


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  1. I had to stop watching the video at “dating coach”. WTF is that? I’m glad I don’t have to find a date nowadays, because it’s clearly complicated beyond my abilities. So a woman is supposed to act helpless and stupid when in reality she’s intelligent and confident? What happens when the real her comes out but he’s smitten with the watered down version? I always liked women who were at least as intelligent as me (not difficult) and who were confident enough to tell that big guy who took her seat at the bar that SHE would kick his ass instead of saying “my date” will kick your ass! Lol.

    • Modern dating is clearly complicated beyond my abilities, too. Honestly, the very idea of going back on the market again is part of what prolonged my last relationship beyond worthiness!

      “So a woman is supposed to act helpless and stupid when in reality she’s intelligent and confident? What happens when the real her comes out but he’s smitten with the watered down version?” This is exactly what I thought when I first saw that video. Or it’s what I would have thought, had I been able to stop sputtering and foaming long enough to form coherent sentences in my brain.

      It’s nice to know there are guys out there who appreciate a woman who knows how to kick some ass of her own, though!

  2. don’t post this – but there’s a homophone in your second para ‘ Since their are no longer any Backstreet Boys’ – fucking spell check –
    anyway, you’re gorgeous, you know you are. Personally, I only allow myself crushes on dead authors

    • Oy vey–and me going off about homophone misuse later in the post! It’s a good reminder for me to be confident, but not OVERconfident.

      Dead authors, literary characters, television characters…these are all acceptable sources of crushes in my book!

  3. oh, my goodness – I just realised how rude that could sound – what I meant was spell checker, because microsoft is always trying to get me to write american english (and I won’t I won’t I won’t I tell you, stamps feet petulantly) – I did not mean it as a verbal command -hope that’s making myself clearer
    … have to admit to not bothering to watch the video, don’t want to fritter away my data allowance on stuff that I know will give me ulcers

    • Haha, the intent was clear! And Microsoft only has one setting for English?! Even though that’s my particular dialect, I’m in favor of dialectic diversity and sticking it to the man! Stay strong and resist on!

      • no, to be fair to microsoft, it does have uk english, but when you switch into and out of other languages for translating/editing/writing whatever, it goes back to usa english by default and i always forget…and i am probably conflating the sins of other software all under one banner…my fault for not switching to linux/being lazy…don’t get me wrong, i love reading usa english and american literature in general, i just like writing in my quirky syntax…diversity definitely rules

      • I use OpenOffice. Might have the same problem, but since I primarily use these software companies’ apparent default language, I can’t say for certain. At least it’s free!

        I love quirky syntax, although I’ve seen and been influenced by some in authors on both sides of the Pond. The fact that I’m currently on a David Foster Wallace kick right now means my sentences have unconsciously increased in length by roughly 300%, and I spent way too much time last night trying to figure out if there’s any way to add footnotes to WordPress posts.

      • let me know if you can – and really good to know I can’t afford to read David Foster Wallace soon – I’m currently reading Mo Yan’s Republic of Wine, and there’s 4-5 pages of multi claused Joyciana 😉

      • Oy! Yeah, you might want a serious breather between that and DFW! If you’re still looking for American authors, I’d recommend David Rakoff–Canadian by birth, now American by citizenship, laughed-so-hard-I-pig-snorted-in-public funny in any English-speaking and -reading country. Also likes to vary the length of his sentences. 😀

        And I will let you know–I will have to do battle with the beast known as OpenOffice Docs sometime this weekend (okay, that was a horrible exaggeration. It’s a good program. I’ve just gotten too used to posting directly to WordPress or other sites).

  4. I was never good at dating, and never much enjoyed it. I’ve long thought I hadn’t done it right, but now I have confirmation. I was/am myself with men, and it rightly scared the wrong ones away, HAHA!

    • I’m right there with you. I’m terrible at dating and also share the lack of enjoyment for it, and while I did have a few requests for second dates, I never could get excited enough about having to repeat the whole damn process to go through with it. But keep scaring the wrong ones off–if nothing else, they make for great cocktail hour stories with friends!

      • Oh, I got a right one about fourteen years ago. We didn’t have our first “date” until we’d been married for about a month!
        I’ve got plenty of those cocktail hour stories! *snark*

      • Fourteen years…you obviously did something right! 😉 Nice to know there is still hope, even if I’m solidly entrenched in the land of hopelessness when it comes to romance.

  5. Oh, bravo for this post. It honestly boggles my mind that in 2013, there are still people espousing the whole women should be seen and not heard thing. I didn’t bother to watch the video, just read your summary, and for a minute I thought I was reading dating advice from a Regency aristocrat. People need to get their shit together, man. I don’t date at all and I find myself ridiculously happy about it, especially when I hear my friends tell some of their stories about their experiences doing it. I figure if I meet the right guy, I won’t have to pretend to be someone else, so I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing. If it happens, it happens, and it will be the actual me and not me pretending to be some ideal woman. Let me tell you, I know exactly what you mean when you talk about how awkward and stupid you feel when you try to be flirty. Any time I try it, it definitely feels forced.

    • “Dating advice from a Regency aristocrat”…HA! Had she actually titled the video (series…it was a series, and I guess I really wanted to lose 25 minutes of my life that I can never get back, so I watched every. single. video) that and worn a period-appropriate costume, it would have been significantly better. Hmmm…I think I have my own YouTube/BlipTV series in the making!

      I’m right with you on being ridiculously happy about not dating. Most of my immediate circle is likeminded in simply not giving a fuck about finding “The One,” whoever that poor soul is supposed to be, so I have a lack of thank-goodness-that-wasn’t-me stories, but I also have no pressure from anything but the internet, Disney movies, live-action movies, television, women’s magazines, etc., none of which I take very seriously.

      • Oh I would watch the hell out of if it you did make that! Haha and the internet and Disney movies… I am totally on the same page. If I want romance, I just read a novel. It’s so much easier and I don’t have to even move off my couch.

      • Agreed on the benefits of novels. If I ever have a burning desire to see romance, there’s always Netflix–same deal with the non-necessity of getting off the couch!

  6. Oh dammit. It’s stupid how men need to be fed the false notion that they are “stronger” and we’re the “damsels in distress” in order for them to be attracted to a woman- and it’s even stupider how most women happily agree with this shit. Confident women are the sexiest! WHY CAN’T THE WORLD UNDERSTAND THIS.

    • Also, this Aaron Carter is something else. Apart from his oh-so-useful advice, his grammar skills are off-the-charts-mind-blowingly-impeccable! 😛

      • I have a hard time taking someone who can’t understand the difference between “your” and “you’re” seriously!

    • I DON’T KNOW. And I just read a piece on Slate indicating just how much women buy into this “damsels in distress” crap, because apparently a majority of women surveyed say they feel the need to be passive–to be the objects of desire–in order to get turned on. It was yet another of those articles I read and said out loud, “Who the hell conducted this survey, and why didn’t they ask me?!”

      • Exactly. See, the good ones never get asked. 😦

  7. I like it when a woman is sassy and has wit. When I feel I made a shitty joke and the girl laughs at it anyways, I just think “My joke sucked. Suck up…” then I bang her anyways and never call her back.

  8. Ahaa, its pleasant conversation regarding this article here at this
    webpage, I have read all that, so at this time me also commenting at this place.

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