The Disposable Dating Syndrome

by | Nov 4, 2010 | Uncategorized | 5 comments

Note: I wrote this post a year ago while I was still in the United States (and not traveling in South America), but realize that it should have been posted all along, so here it is! At the end is a postscript written from the perspective of my year traveling outside the U.S.

On a recent work trip to New York, the same conversation came up over and over again. People who didn’t know about Quirkyalone kept telling me that dating in New York was brutal. I was sort of shocked. I am so used to complaining about the brutality of dating in San Francisco and have become quite self-conscious about my complaints, wondering if it’s just me complaining or creating my own reality with a negative outlook. I was psyched, in a way, to cede the floor to another legion of people telling me how brutal it was to date in their town.

San Francisco is a city with an embarassment of riches in terms of the dating pool, but somehow, with so many people to choose from, we develop an ADD mentality.

It’s a disposable dating culture. we meet people online or off, go out, make out or sleep together (maybe), and may never speak again. It’s on to the next person without acknowledgment of the conversation or the kiss or the sex, or the promises made of how what we would do in the future. I have been complaining about the brutality of disposable-dating in San Francisco for a while now. I’m not saying that I am blameless in this regard either, whatever that would mean. I am simply pointing out that we have a consumer mentality when it comes to dating.

Perhaps this is just the nature of dating, but I can’t help but believe that online dating, in the way it dramatically increases the possibilities for easily meeting someone new, makes us treat each other more disposably. We operate outside the constraints of a moral community of friends and family, and it’s so easy to disappear into the ether, only to cross each oher when you see each other “online now” on

So imagine my surprise and satisfaction on a recent trip to New York City to hear people complain even more vociferously about the struggle of dating in their own city. Listening to people tell me unsolicitedly how hard it was to date in New York, I thought, Wow, maybe it’s actually worse here! In fact, one man in his mid-thirties, CEO of his own company, told me he was moving to San Francisco because he couldn’t find “l’amour” in New York. (He was French.)

Here’s a snapshot of what I heard. Much of the discussion focused on Manhattan. It’s easy to talk about one slice of New York and think you’re talking about all of it.

  • A married woman who writes about dating for Yahoo interviews singles for a living¬¨‚Ć says that people date differently in Manhattan. She used to live in San Francisco. They’re more driven and businesslike in their approach to dating in New York, she said. They make quicker judgments. (Gosh, I thought people made snap judgments here?) She believe that the New Yorker driven nature makes it harder for people to mate, but it is a fun place to be single because people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s have so much company.
  • An entrepreneur in his thirties told me women judge quickly on the basis of his wallet. He told me they try to suss out his economic status, subtly or not: Does you have roommates? He also thought that women in New York weren’t very interested in sex, only money. I thought New York had more sexual energy than San Francisco. Most people I know in Brooklyn say it’s easy to find someone to sleep with, and hard to find a guy who will buy you a drink.
  • A writer friend concurred that his dating life had slowed down in New York. He said New York can encourage a feeling of inadequacy, that there’s always someone who is more impressive. He concurred that there’s a velvet ropes kind of feeling in Manhattan, people always peering in to find someone more successful, richer, more beautiful. He also thought the geography of the city makes romance awkward. When you end a date, you say goodbye on the street or at a subway stop. You don’t get to make out in a car or a living room!

What to make of all of this?

The common theme in the complaints I heard in New York seemed to boil down to economics. That people are always looking for someone with more money. It made me reflect back on San Francisco, that people are always on a quest for a better fit, but just as often, to find¬¨‚Ć someone who’s a little more extraordinary and genius, an entrepreneur, an artist, somehow visionary and special. I remember a French guy telling me that his American friend who worked at Google felt that way, that women always wanted someone more extraordinary. That might have a ring of truth to it.

What can we do to combat the disposable dating syndrome? One word: acknowledgment. Even if you don’t have the patience or desire to get to know someone, at least you can acknowledge your date’s existence with an email, or heaven forbid, a phone call. You can not simply disappear. You can tell them one thing you liked about them even if you are not a romantic match.

I don’t claim to have all the answers, and frankly, I’m writing this final paragraph now after a year of traveling and distance from San Francisco. I’ve decided I don’t want to participate in online dating at all because of the consumer mentality that inevitably develops. But I’m open to hearing your ideas about how to lessen the brutality of the online dating game. How do you handle it if you go out with someone once and then decide it’s not a (potential) fit? Please share in the comments.


  1. Laura The Gypsy

    I share your surprise at hearing NYers’ dating woes. One thing I notice in NY is the comparatively more masculine (aggressive) approach men take to meeting women – they come right up to you and show interest. That hadrly ever happens in SF. Also, with our high population of gay men in SF (which I wouldn’t trade for the world), I understand women are statistically at a dating disadvantage. That combined with the high career success-orientation of women, means men aim higher. I think part of it is also a sign of modernization: monogomous, long term relationships are losing their relevance and even those in one seem to be developing this ADD you mention. (a.k.a. “OBO” as in “I’m married, or best offer.”) Just before my two year RTW trip, I had a nice physical connection with a fellow salsa dancer. He turned out not to be extraodinary in any particular way, and while he had a good heart and nice disposition, he was, frankly, not my equal. Besides, I was about to leave on an extended international trip. I sent a nice email saying nice to meet you, enjoyed the dance, the walk in the rainstorm, etc., and by way of acknowledgement, received absolutely nothing. Not worth the effort? Is this the way of the dating future?

  2. marie

    NYC is a nightmare for women. None of my female friends have settled down happily except for a couple who met guys online .but most have not even if they try online and off. These are attractive, smart, successful women. There are tons of emotionally and financially needy guys who feel they have to be in NY for the career they imagine they have but don’t. They will not compromise and get a day job. They look for responsible women who will let the guys move into their apt. and live rent-free. The women here are so lonely they allow this to happen. I even went on an Internet date with a guy and he bragged about doing it. Finally the women wise up and give up on men entirely or leave the city but by then they’re old. I imagine there are nice guys but they are too shy to approach women. The ratio is staggering, way more attractive women than attractive men–all my classes, social things are like 30 women to one weird guy.

  3. SeaSerpent

    I am not surprised those people said dating in NYC is brutal. I used to live in NYC myself. When I lived there, I found the city had lot of emphasis on being rich and beautiful and successful and cool and hip. Nowhere was this attitude more reflected than in the dating scene. If you’re female, men expect you to look and dress like a supermodel. If you’re male, women expect you to have shitloads of money. You can’t just be yourself; you’re supposed to live up to all those ideals. From what I read and heard about NYC today, it seems these attitudes have only intensified there. NYC has become this place where only Sex and the City types and other rich white people can afford to live. As a result, it’s becoming very homogenized; the opposite of what it used to be. Someone once called NYC a cross between Dubai and Disneyland. I think that is the best description I ever heard. I’m glad I don’t live there any more. I got sick of feeling I always had be hip and cool and successful and maintain an image. I was sick of feeling I was supposed to care what other people think but pretend to do the opposite. Now I live in San Francisco. I’m not saying San Francisco is perfect either. It is just as expensive as NYC, and the people here can be very cliquish. But at least I don’t feel I have to live and dress like Carrie Bradshaw all the time. I can be my laid back self and no one seems to care. I don’t plan to stay here forever, but I do have lots of friends here. As for the dating scene, I just don’t participate in it any more because it has too many pretentious, obnoxious game-players in both NYC and SF, and I refuse to meet any more of those people. Believe it or not, it is possible to meet men elsewhere; whether in a class, or political group, or anywhere else where you share common interests.

  4. Ezra Cornwall

    First, I don’t live in New York City. Not only can’t I afford it, but it seems that everyone from the mayor on down is doing their dead level best to turn the Big Apple into a shopping mall, devoid of all the small businesses and local color which made the city great.

    I’ve been on OK Cupid for a while now after a brief relationship which I found via OKC ended. But I guess you could say I’ve got a new attitude. My old one was one of desperation, my new one is one of exploration. As in, what’s in this surprise package? Who am I going to meet? Thus far I’ve met a cottage entrepreneur, a librarian, a few artists, a couple of polyamorous women (damn, but why do these types all seem to disappear off the radar after 2 e-mails?) and a poet. No F2F encounters as yet, but we’ll see what if anything tomorrow brings.

  5. Brooklyn Girl

    I live in Brooklyn and work in Manhattan. First some observations, then some criticism. Take it or leave it.

    What I see a lot of is arty, arrogant mainstream guys expecting women to offer them everything, while bringing nothing themselves to the table. I’m Latina, and I get the very attractive comeon of guys yelling, leering and staring at me, following me around giving off creepy vibes and expecting women to fall back naked with our legs open for them. I see tons of single moms herding around abandoned with strollers full of whining larvae for giving in this. In NYC, I also see a lot of lesbians. The lesbians look happiest of all and seem to form actual couples, two interesting people interested in each other’s spirits and minds. That’s attractive.

    Men no longer seem interested in this any more. We’ve bred them as wolves so now they exist as pirates: yo, ho, ho, and give me the map to the booty.

    For the record, I’m Blacktina (black/Latina mix), and trying to pick between becoming one of those lesbians – a tough switch of mental wiring, but probably worth it – or staying QA.

    Right now, QA is too depressing. It’d be an easier lifestyle if we were all HAPPY about being single. I’d rather stay off the site and be content with my single little self than obsess over an RO and accept the forum being Bonegirl’s little playground, which it truly appears to be. This is my first and last comment here, because lurking for a year has taught me either you do as BG says or else. Screw that. If I wanted a boss, I’d go get a man, y know?

    Sasha, you clearly “have it” for Latin men. Why not just freaking date one and stop bombarding your own site with what’s become an obvious obsession for Godsake? This is Quirkyalone, not Latin Lust Disguised As Love Of Latin Dance.

    And Bonegirl and Ursa, STFU already. I have not even posted one comment at the forum and after months of lurking am sick of seeing your names after every freaking post. Every post someone writes, the two of you have some “expertise” to lend. And you’re cruel to newcomers. Why not let them say what they got to say? This forum has no freedom and you’ve lost me before I even joined you, for it. You’ve made this site no fun to visit much less stay for. I mean really: why would anybody post here after really STUDYING that forum?

    If this is what the single community is, I elect to get a lobotomy, join the smug marrieds, and be happy. Really: no wonder they’re smug; I’d be happy too if I weren’t a Quirkyalone. This site and its forum are miserable and full of the socially handicapped. I’m single by choice and feel good about it. makes you feel awful for being a single and that’s not what I thought the book was about. Again screw that. What a miserable, toadish little forum and what a boring, boring website. Quirkyaloneness could have been FUN! It’s become The Latin Connection and Bonegirl’s Thotz & Musingz.


    Take my name and email off your list, I’ve changed my mind and am not joining QA.

    Really: Who would?

    A little spice from New York, take it or leave it.


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Hi! I’m Sasha

Executive and Life Coach on a mission to help women connect with their bodies to pursue their truest desires in the bedroom and the world.

Author of Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics (HarperCollins) + To-Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soul Mate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us (Simon & Schuster).

At work on a memoir called Wet, about adventures in healing through sensuality.

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