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Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - Page updated at 01:56 P.M.

Pitching woo pretty scary for guys, too

By Diane Mapes
Special to The Seattle Times

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We've gotten lots of reader response since writing last month about Seattle's dating scene. Today, we hear from the men. Got an opinion? Join our dating forum at www.seattletimes.com/dating. You'll also find Diane Mapes' previous stories online.

He sees her from across the room. Blond, petite, a cosmopolitan nestled in the palm of her hand like a cool pink flower. She looks in his direction and there's a surge of electricity. Within seconds, he's at her side, wracking his brain for an opening gambit while one of her friends spins a long, rambling story. The story ends, there's a round of laughter, and he touches her elbow.

The laughter immediately stops and five women turn as one to glare at him. The petite blonde's eyes become frosty, the electricity disconnected. He feels himself growing smaller and smaller, and slowly starts to back away before the women can crush him beneath their expensive pointy-toed shoes.

Welcome to the Seattle dating blues: the guy's perspective.

He said, she said


"There are tons of people out there who are single, male and female, but both are looking for someone who fits their standards for a 'perfect Prince Charming' type guy or a 'perfect L.A. 10' type gal ... these kinds of people generally do not exist. If you're single and complaining about it, it's not because you can't find someone to date, it's because you can't find someone who's 'good enough' to date."

— Aaron, 29, Redmond

"We're inundated with images of models that represent less than 1 percent of the population and we all get the idea that that's the kind of girl I want and that's the kind of guy I want. It's not realistic. Most of us are ordinary, and ordinary doesn't look like that."

— Carey, 54, Bothell

"From what I see, the men just need to show up with some semblance of clothing and be breathing. Women's expectations are not great. But the guys all want to date the aerobics instructors, the Victoria's Secret models, the J.Lo's. But nobody looks like that in real life. J.Lo doesn't even look like that in real life."

— Judith, 58, North Seattle

"If you're a couch potato and you're looking for a bodybuilder, it's not going to happen."

— Katherin, 48, Snoqualmie

Sure, women have their woes: passive men, commitment-phobes players, workaholics. But men have their problems, too. Husband hunters, gold-diggers, cold fish, and the infamous "circle of death," the tight clutch of princesses as illustrated above.

"Those girls are intimidating," said Paul Lukinich, a 36-year-old Seattle native who's currently single. "Imagine men not wanting to get chewed up and spit out by a pack of lionesses."

Venus guy traps

But just who are these lionesses? Certainly not the same women who've been bemoaning the dearth of Seattle men?

According to Nathaniel Hollywood, a 37-year-old Seattle bachelor who teaches dating classes through Discover U, they're most likely part of the Top 20.

"Men are visually oriented," he said. "We have the 80 percent rule. Eighty percent of the men ask out 20 percent of the very pretty ladies."

Does that make for a bit of an attitude problem among the favored few?

"The good ones have a ton of choices," said Lukinich, who sees the rule put to practice every day at male-dominated Microsoft. "They're in the minority, they like the attention and they take advantage of it."

But not all men are attracted to snooty princesses. "There's not one standard of beauty," said Hollywood. "Artists will go after girls with lots of tattoos and piercings. Entrepreneurial types will go for the businesswomen. But I do notice sometimes that the women who complain they don't meet anyone don't make themselves approachable. To take on the dynamic of a full of group of ladies can be intimidating for most men."

Women might try being a bit more receptive when guys come up to them, Hollywood said. And men should try sticking it out for at least five minutes.

"A woman can be reflexively defensive upon initial approach," he said. "She'll think, 'Why is this guy talking to me? He could be a nut job.' But that's just an initial reflex. Try to get something going beyond that."

Any other thoughts on how to break through the armor?

"My whole metaphor for that 'circle of death' is that it's like a football kickoff," said Lukinich. "The receiver is like the girl, and you have to break through the wedge to talk to her. I either give it up or try to find a moment when her blockers aren't looking."

The playbook of love

Ah, the game of love — the scrimmages, the penalties, the blindsiding tackles. Who hasn't felt as if they've been cut off at the knees during a casual pickup game? Sometimes by an overly protective friend ("She doesn't want to dance with you, loser!"); other times, by someone who seems to show a little too much interest.

"It's an old saw that women want to commit very fast," said Hollywood. "And I've heard horror stories."

What kind of horror stories? The woman who tells you she feels there's a cosmic connection five minutes after you've met. The "Rules" gal who says she can't sleep with you unless you give her a ring — after you've known her all of three hours. The caller who phones you 16 times a day after a one-hour coffee date. Or the first-time Internet date who shows up at your house with a plant, a dog treat, a bag of groceries and a freshly baked pie — or three.

Shopping for soulmates

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the insta-wife.

"After one meeting, I'd invite a date over for dinner," said Kent Wright, a divorced 40-year-old. "And it was like, 'He has a home, a car, a job, he keeps his house neat, he's polite — I want to get into that situation.' We'd have a dialogue on the Web site and two meetings and they'd be looking at bringing their toiletries over."

The insta-spouse can happen to anyone; there are just as many horror stories about the man who came to dinner — and never left. Similarly, there's another common character lurking about Seattle's coffee shops and speed-dating sites. "Sometimes, you get the feeling that people have a checklist," said Wright. "Did he open the door? Did he pull out my chair? Did he talk incessantly about himself? They're like secret shoppers."

Gold, can you dig it?

Obviously, there's nothing wrong with wanting to date someone who can pay his rent on time. But troll through Craig's List (www.craigslist.com) and you'll see a few ads (complete with telltale misspellings) that seem a bit more focused.

Exhibit A: "Fit young woman looking for a Sugar Daddy ... please include your piture."

"I know that gold-diggers exist," said Jodi Brothers, a 28-year-old East Coast transplant whose life as a Seattle singleton is on-air fodder for her fellow DJs at K-ROCK radio. "But a lot of the time, when girls look for money it's not about 'Will you buy me a big-screen TV?' It's about 'Do you have a job? Are you committed to something?' "

And what about those women who ask a man what time it is, just to see if he's got an expensive watch?

"If you don't want people judging you based on what kind of watch you're wearing, don't wear it to a bar," she said. "There's a broad spectrum of women who date a guy because he has money. There are girls who don't have a career or any aspirations and want someone to take care of them. And there are girls who have money, who've done well, and they don't want to end up being a sugar mama."

Seattle's Christine Stelmack, owner of 4M Club Ltd., a matchmaking service for those she calls "the millionaire next door," hears the word "gold-digger" a lot, despite the fact the women she introduces her clients to are attorneys, physicians, scientists — some millionaires in their own right.

"I don't feel that a woman should have to apologize because she wants a man who is responsible, gainfully employed, or reasonably ambitious," she said. "Ambition in a man is a turn-on."

And speaking of turn-ons, what is it men want again?

"Men want beauty, beauty, beauty," said Stelmack. "And, often, the ones that are complaining about gold-diggers are the ones who want eye candy on their arm. It's a double-edged sword."

So, where is the love?

"People's preconceived notions stick so deeply," said Wright, who despite the insta-wives and secret shoppers is still out there looking for his match.

"Guys lament the cold women they can't approach, thinking all women are in that zone. Women have had guys who are just looking for a notch in their bedposts, so they have to be careful. Decent guys get punished and decent women get punished, because everybody gets lumped into that whole experience."

With all the finger pointing, going on, it's a wonder any of us even try to date. But we do. Why?

Because we love each other's company. Because life's short and Saturday nights can be long. And because now and again, when a surge of electricity momentarily connects that blonde with the cosmo and our shy hero at the bar, it's the genuine article.

And that's something to shout about.

Diane Mapes: dimapes@nwlink.com

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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