The kinds of complaints I hear from men about underwhelming first dates vary. Sometimes they don't find the woman in question terribly interesting, or smart, or cultured, or grounded. It's always funny to me that they can make such generalizations ... because the one complaint I hear from women again and again is, "He never asked me a thing about myself! Just blathered on the whole hour about himself until finally I faked a herniated disc and limped out the door, before breaking into a run in the hopes of getting to Trader Joe's before it closed."
It does seem to be a real problem — males who are clueless, conversationally, on a first date. The guy is so busy bragging about himself that he doesn't notice you've gotten a few Demerol out of your bag and swallowed three (to numb the pain of the non-stop diatribe you're being subjected to) or that you're calling a cab or that you're signaling the bartender for the tab. In fact, I often wonder if that kind of guy would even notice if you passed out from pure boredom and slipped off your chair.
But why are so many of them so bad? Why haven't they yet figured out that by going on ... and on ... and on without showing the least bit of interest in the person on the stool next to them, they're ruining their chances (and making us miserable)?
Psychology professor Robin Dunbar offers some insight into the problem in his new book, How Many Friends Does One Person Need?: Dunbar's Number and Other Evolutionary Quirks (opens in new tab). He indicates that the male tendency to verbal incontinence has actually served them well through the years — and that talking too much is, for men, akin to the tail-flaring that peacocks do. They display their beautiful feathers whenever a peahen passes by because pea-ladies choose a dude based on the awesomemess of his plumage. Similarly, as Dunbar puts it, "men switch into advertising mode when women are present. Have a listen to the same man when he is talking only to other men and compare it with what he talks about when women are present. ... His conversational style changes dramatically. It becomes more showy, more designed to stimulate laughter as a response. ... It's competitive, and it's a manifesto."
Understanding this, maybe the next time a guy talks ... and talks ... and talks ... on a first date, you can remind yourself he's just trying to impress you. Perhaps that will make it easier to bear.
Then again, maybe you should just say, "Listen, Mr. Peacock, could you fold your feathers up for five minutes so I can tell you a few basic biographical details? Like my last name?"
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