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Science Advice Goddess: Bark Ranger

Amy Alkon on

I'm a divorced guy in my 40s using dating apps. I'm keenly aware of what I do and don't want in a woman and make it clear in my profile. For example, I write, "If you're in a weird co-dependent relationship with a five-pound dog," we are not a match. A friend looked at my profile and was all, "Man, you have to delete that." I see no problem with what I've written. Who's right?

--Constructive Honesty

Admittedly, when people advise women, "Find a man who's like a dog!" they mean like a big loyal-to-the-death black Lab, not a purse-sized poodledoodle that spends a quarter of its life getting foofed up at Monsieur Marcel, the doggie hairdresser.

Of course, because a woman has a tiny ridiculous dog doesn't mean she's rife with psychological shortcomings. Including that bit in your profile -- and especially as you worded it -- says a few things about you, none of them lady-magnetizing. And sure, you wrote, "IF you are..." (in some sort of unhealthy relationship with your micro dog). However, even women who are emotionally together (and maybe even dog-free) are likely to swipe left or knock your profile into the little trash can icon.

Most problematically, this remark and other similarly cutting ones in your profile suggest you're an angry guy: a big flashing skull-'n'-crossbones "STEER CLEAR!" for women. "Anger-prone individuals are volatile and frequently dangerous" -- to the point of violence, evolutionary social psychologist Andrew Galperin and his colleagues explain. Women, on average, are smaller, physically weaker, and thus more physically vulnerable than men, which is likely why they err on the side of overperceiving signs that a guy might be a Mr. Angry. In fact, per the Galperin team's research: "A single instance of angry behavior" in "new acquaintances" is enough to provoke this keepaway motive -- even when their anger seems justified by the situation at hand!

Your sneering about behavior being "weird" and "co-dependent" is another red flag -- suggesting you view life through puke-colored glasses and are quick to think the worst of total strangers. That's Bigotry 101: using one infobit about an individual to leap to all sorts of ugly assumptions about them. It's toxic, irrational, and unfair -- and, if it's your go-to thinking, perhaps something to work on changing, lest you pay an unintended price (both in an ugly-first view of others and in others seeing you as a person to block, delete, and/or avoid).

By the way, "co-dependent" is an insulting term that's in need of either retirement or scientific validation. It's generally understood to describe two individuals in a persistent dysfunctional dance. The "enabling" individual temporarily eases the suffering of the other person (or pet!) -- in ways that, in the long term, are harmful to both. "Co-dependence" was flung on the public by self-help authors -- without any scientific basis: no evidence for the long lists of its supposed symptoms. It's now promiscuously applied to shame people -- to the point where showing none of the supposed symptoms gets used as proof of one's co-dependence!

 

That said, you're wise to try to proactively shoo off women who are wrong for you, as it could keep you from wasting your time and theirs on the phone (or worse, on a happy hour date that flies by like a week of medieval torture). However, there's a way to tell the wrong women, "Yoohoo, move on!" without coming off scolding or demeaning (and in turn throwing out the babes with the bathwater).

Probably the best constructive yoohoo is subtle fact-stating, like mentioning you're an atheist to discourage interest from those on Team God. Similarly, in the "who am I?" portion on a dating app, a 40-something, Johnny Depp-alicious hottie of a guy posted, "Living a plant-based life," suggesting he doesn't just eat vegan; it's major in his identity. If, like me, you are committed to "steak-based living," you know to give a big sad pass to Mr. Pirates of the Cauliflower-ribbean.

It's tempting to try to escape the emotional toddlers by announcing you're seeking someone "psychologically healthy" or "emotionally solid." Probably pretty useless. Those who have an unhealthy relationship with their dog -- or their mom, crystal meth, or tennis -- are often the last to know or admit it.

Ultimately, you might simply accept that you'll likely end up on a date or two with women you'd do anything to avoid. Keep first dates casual -- like meeting for coffee for an hour -- and your disasters will at least be Hobbesian: nasty, brutish, and short. Finally, I must say -- while typing this with my tiny, "My Little Pony"-like Chinese crested curled up asleep in my lap: Five pounds of dog may elicit laughs -- till it's cleanup time and you need a single sheet of Kleenex instead of a backhoe.

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Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave., #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or email AdviceAmy@aol.com (www.advicegoddess.com). Follow her on Twitter @amyalkon. Order her latest "science-help" book, "Unf*ckology: A Field Guide to Living with Guts and Confidence."

 

 

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