It Must Be Something in the Water

Never have so many people worked so hard to get me some play. Yeah, that's right. I said it: get me some play. I was going to say "get me a booty call" but "get me some play" seemed funnier. It was a game time decision. I made it and never looked back.

And besides, it was better than titling this "Pimp That Professor."

I said that, too. And I'm not sorry.

But it just occurred to me that every person who has ever tried to fix me up has some sort of time in the area that I'm now living in. At the last job, there were two professors who'd evidently begun to hatch a plot to fix me up. Both had strong connections to this region. And when I came for a job interview here awhile back, a friend went out of their way to make sure I met a friend of theirs they thought would be perfect for me.. If that's the case, I wonder if there's a point where I'm going to start shoving my single friends at each other.

The other option that seems most possible is that at dinner parties here, it is customary to attempt to hook up the new guy. Heck, maybe it's not even about being the new guy: maybe it's bring some wine, get a prize. If that's the case, I probably shouldn't have been bringing six packs all these years. Whatever the case, it's odd but funny. I've now been to at least three dinner parties where someone has tried - most recently explicitly - tried to fix me up with someone also invited to dinner.

And every single one has been hilarious. They're like the Road Runner stealing birdseed from Wile E. Coyote. At one, I cleverly avoided talking with the intended. At another, a different guest was so talkative that the party broke up before dessert made it to the table.

Who could resist this kind of fun?


10 Responses to “It Must Be Something in the Water”
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Notorious Ph.D. said...

I've been in my current city for over six years now. Never once has someone tried to fix me up with someone. I'm afraid to think too deeply about what that means. But you should probably take it as a complement.

January 11, 2010 at 7:28 PM
af said...

See, this depresses me. I periodically meander over here from someone else's blogroll, and I've liked your posts on your dog, your job, your family, etc. I'm at a university in the middle of nowhere, and I'd be one of those women you'd be set up with. Why not talk to me (not the real me, of course, those versions of me at your place) for 10 minutes? We're just looking for love and/or sex and/or friendship and/or a decent conversation. We're disappointed when the cool new guy avoids us like we have the plague or something.

January 12, 2010 at 2:36 PM
Dr. Curmudgeon said...

Notorious: I really do think the fix-up mania has something to do with living here. It never happened anywhere else I lived. Thanks for the reminder that they do mean well. Sometimes I forget that.

AF: First, welcome - always nice to meet a new reader. Sorry I depressed you, though.

While I feel compelled to note that it was only at the first fix-up dinner-party that I intentionally didn't speak to the "intended," you ask a good question. The answer is probably a combination of things.

As that first fix-up and my "I won't speak" plan attests, part of it is clearly an adolescent view of things. But more importantly, I'm a private person, and the thought of meeting someone and deciding whether I want to go out with them on a public stage makes me considerably less than happy. I'm also more than a little bit of a control freak, and a fix-up doesn't work by any rules I understand, while it has consequences I can all too clearly imagine. Add to that the fact that I'm usually quiet in new groups anyway until I've figured out the dynamics (what jokes I can make, etc), and the whole thing starts to feel like waiting on the dock for the Titanic.

January 12, 2010 at 6:22 PM
af said...

Well, you don’t have to announce at the end of the evening whether or not you’re going to see “the intended” again! (I like “the intended”; it reminds me of Heart of Darkness.) Surely sometimes you interact with women in public - or upon seeing someone you might like, do you immediately head for a hermetically sealed room so that you can decide in private if you want to date?

I’m just sensitive about this because a friend and colleague of mine - someone I wanted to date, but that’s a whole other story - avoided dating and relationships entirely for over 12 years. He was also an antisocial and private person averse to setups. Then last summer a couple he knew visited him from out of town and brought a single friend along on some pretext; and now they’re moving in together. A woman had to literally be brought to his doorstep to get him back into dating.

This is much more extreme than what you’re talking about, but I see it as part of the same problem; nice, interesting guys rejecting matchmaking as some major intrusion of their privacy, when it’s just a time-honored tradition of introducing people to one another to see if they hit it off. It's not such a big deal.

January 13, 2010 at 12:13 PM
Dr. Curmudgeon said...

I like the word intended as well, because it suggests to me the system of social approval and involvement with a date that seems to be at work here. Funny the way implications work.

I'd disagree with at least one point: it's not a time honored tradition anywhere or with anyone I've lived with until now. I do think you're reading more of your circumstance into it. And it doesn't help that there are parts of the tales that are too peculiar to be told here without running the risk of (at least the feel of) easy identification. That story would, I think, help my case a little.

I don't, though, disagree with a polite introduction: who'd refuse a dinner party with interesting people? But the active engineering of it, particularly because it's so often semi- or pseudo-clandestine, galls me. It feels like it all becomes "Lucy" or "Ricky" at the end: you either feel like you're just helping or like someone is meddling. After all, there is the slight fact (that neither group has asked about): I'm not looking for a date.

Part of what your post and your thoughts raise for me - the interesting and unasked question in all of this - is what's the process on the part of the person I'm being fixed-up with? What are they thinking at these dinners? Do they know they're being fixed-up? That's part of what I meant when I mentioned not knowing the rules: being in a situation where only one of us may knows what's happening - and where it's almost impossible to find out the whole situation without feeding the fire - feels off to me.

January 13, 2010 at 9:35 PM
af said...

Sorry if I'm hijacking, but it's interesting for me too. And I'd really like to encourage setups; when I talk about a time-honored tradition, I'm referring to a (perhaps fictional!) era; didn't people do this in the 50s? or in Victorian England? or something?

Now it's almost as if people think I'll be offended if they suggest setting me up, which I am not, at all. I'm single, I like men, I'd like to meet the men that my friends know and like so I can see if I like them and they like me.

I've been set up in several different places, not just my current isolated college town, and it's usually one of two ways:

1) Someone says, "I think you and Joe would get along; do you want to be set up?" and I say, "okay." Then Joe is consulted and if he says okay too, he emails me or I email him and we have coffee or whatever. Nothing clandestine there.

2) Someone says, "There's this new guy in my department and he's smart and interesting and I think he might be straight and single. Maybe I'll invite him to that party, and you can meet him." So I go to the party and if he's there I try to talk to him. Maybe I dress a little better than usual, maybe my friend makes a special effort to introduce us. But that's as far as the clandestineness goes. If he's not in fact straight and single, or if he's just not interested, I might be a little disappointed, but it's not a big deal.

As for the meddling, it's typically very good-natured and quite mild, and here I have to go with Jane Austen: "For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors and laugh at them in our turn?" Of course I can see where that idea might fill you with horror.

If you really don't want to be set up, even casually, then you can tell someone about your (real or fictional) long-distance girlfriend or your vow of celibacy. Or be honest and say it makes you uncomfortable.

January 14, 2010 at 12:07 AM
ash said...

Ah, hell. I'll weigh in on this. You make some good points, af, and the setup scenarios you describe seem perfectly reasonable. What you need to understand about our good Doc C is that saying he's a "private person" is, quite possibly, the understatement of the century. I've known (and loved) him for more than a decade, yet I could not name a single person he's dated in that time. Not because he hasn't dated; hell, he may well have been thrice-married and divorced in that period and I--someone who I'm pretty sure he considers a decently close friend--would have been none the wiser! Seriously, the man takes his privacy very, very seriously. So it's not surprising to me that everything about the setup seems outrageous and assbackward to him. Other people knowing about a relationship at all, much less potentially knowing about a romantic possibility before he does??? No. Freaking. Way.

The second thing--and I am heading into slightly more speculative territory here--is that not all friends (even well-meaning ones) will hear you when you politely say "No thanks" or "I've got a girlfriend," or "I've taken a vow of celibacy." Depending on who's doing the setting up, there may well be an element of "I know better than you" at play. Or it could be one of our friends who just won't take no for an answer.

Anyway, I suspect that one or both of these factors may be coloring Dr. C's response.

January 14, 2010 at 9:06 PM
Dr. Curmudgeon said...

This is a pleasant break from abstract writing. Thanks for giving me a distraction!

No worries, AF, I don't think you're hijacking a thread - that's pretty much what this post is about. Poor Notorious might be wishing she wasn't getting notifications (if she is getting them - and if you are, and you feel like you're being spammed, just let me know, and I'll create a post where we can move the thread), but otherwise I think we're good.

I do wonder how much gender plays into it - maybe more than place. I don't think I have any male friends who've ever asked to or wanted to be set up. And, of course, using Jane Austen as a justification of the setup just makes me laugh a little because it tempts me to make jokes that would likely distress my heavily female readership. I suppose I deserve it for invoking Lucy and Ricky - good thing I didn't bust out Hemingway on fix-ups. I'm sure there must be something terse and scathing in one of his books somewhere. Instead, I'll go with "Good fences make good neighbors."

And Ash has hit on part of the problem: in many cases, the fix-up isn't something you're consulted about. Remember that the first one - the one where I didn't speak - I wasn't supposed to know about. It was pretty much a weird attempt at a relationship coup by a recently married couple, one of whom probably can't cope with the lack of details as well as Ash has. And sometimes it isn't something that's known about before obligation has set in. In the most recent fix-up, I'd agreed to dinner before there was any mention of a fix-up. And the face I made and the long "Ummmmm...." didn't seem to give any pause before this particular Matchmaker skipped out.

Fix-ups are truly strange situations if they would require me to either reveal something I would rather not or lie. Particularly since I've made no secret of dating, at least in that I'm all too willing to bust out one of the funny dating stories I've amassed. Certainly my inclination to privacy is a bit extreme - after all, my most revealing spot is probably this blog, written under a pseudonym and that only a few people who actually know me have ever heard of. Even so, I think the fix-up is probably a polarizing idea, and I do wish I felt like people fixing folks up thought about that a little more.

January 14, 2010 at 10:17 PM
af said...

Yeah, I knew it was risky to bring in Austen, but I figured since I’d referred to Conrad, a man writing literature for men, it would somehow balance out.

I think it’s true that women usually initiate matchmaking, both as matchmakers and matchmakees. In the ten setups that I remember, four were arranged by married couples, one by a gay guy, and five by women. But it’s not just women who are interested in being set up: in these ten, there were at most three that the guy didn’t know about; so that’s seven guys who agreed to be set up. I know in at least a few of those cases I was told that my intended had complained about not being able to meet women.

What’s funny is that I think there are more men than women looking for dates online. Maybe women are inclined to want the security of dating a friend of a friend - this is certainly true for me, though I’ve done some internet dating - whereas men prefer more privacy and are okay with meeting women who are total strangers, whether it’s online or in a bar. I just plain don’t get the privacy concerns; I am fairly reserved myself, and have never been the type to give detailed reports about prospective or current relationships to my friends, but actually hiding the fact that I had gone out on a date or was in a relationship would be really strange.

But it is a guy thing, I agree: once a friend of mine mentioned that he was going out on a date, and I (an unambiguously platonic friend) said, “That’s great! Who are you going out with?” and he said, “Someone I know.” I gave him a lot of trouble about that.

I will agree that some people will not stop trying to set you up if you just say “no thanks” or even claim a vow of celibacy, unless you are actually a member of a religious order that requires it. But you know why this is? Because in most cases people do not *really* want a “break” from relationships. A break from “dating,” and all the work and awkwardness involved with it, sure; but honestly, if you are not seeing anyone, wouldn’t you be happy if someone great just showed up? (It’s funny, by the way, that you haven’t said why you’re not looking for a date, even in this anonymous venue. Watch out! One of your close friends might find out you’re seeing someone!!) Or, okay, maybe you wouldn’t, but it does happen. And love is great, when it works, so why not try to find it however you can?

I've spent way too much time thinking about this, when I should be finishing syllabi, but it's been therapeutic - I'm surprised to discover that I'm still kind of an optimist.

January 15, 2010 at 12:35 AM
Dr. Curmudgeon said...

Hooray! We've succeeded in the two-pronged mission of "The Doctor Isn't" - wasting too much time and restoring one's optimism about dating.

Okay, maybe that isn't the mission. But optimism seems like the ideal point to step away. Thanks for playing!

January 15, 2010 at 12:05 PM