Is Speaking Your Mind on a Date a Turn-Off?

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Conventional wisdom has it that there are three topics of conversation you should avoid on a date: Don't talk about politics, religion, or money. You could say that's shorthand (or longhand, really) for: Don't bring up anything that might be controversial.

I myself go out of my way to bring up these kinds of topics very early on in a courtship. I want to know which opinions and beliefs most define a man before I begin dating him. I just would not match up very well with someone who went to church with his family every Sunday — or with someone who didn't feel strongly that it was important to strive to treat others as he thought they'd like to be treated — so why waste each other's time? Why not get that stuff out of the way early on?

But even (or especially) when I meet a man whose rules of personal conduct seem copacetic, I don't shy away from spirited debate. Much as it's pleasant to find yourself saying, "Me, too! Me, too! Me, too!" on a first date, that can get boring after an hour. So if a new movie comes up, and I find myself disagreeing with the person I'm talking to, I let him know what I think. Ditto, if the topic on the table is a recent article in The New Yorker, the way the U.S. is handling the situation in Libya, or simply the quality of the music playing in the background. (Of course, it can be just as interesting, if not more so, to simply ask a person why he thinks the way he does, or how he feels about certain choices he's made... I don't insist on a polemical discourse at every possible moment.)

Nonetheless … I've felt in the past that my opinionated personality doesn't always go over so well on dates. (Not to mention how it occasionally doesn't go over so well on this blog!) Often, I've gotten the impression that opening my mouth to say what I really thought about something turned a dude off.

I mention this after getting wind of a piece by The New Republic writer Jonathan Chait. In response to a public discussion about the dearth of female writers in the world at large (and more specifically in important U.S. opinion journals, news magazines, and literary publications), Chait wrote: "My explanation ... is socialization predisposes boys to be more interested both in producing and consuming opinion journalism. Confidence in one's opinions and a willingness to engage in intellectual combat are disproportionately (though not, of course, exclusively) male traits."

This got me wondering: Do you think Chait's right? Does society encourage males to have more confidence in their opinions and to debate them intellectually — leaving the females in the cold? Are females more likely to concede points and back away from argument? Do you think this kind of thing impacts the realm of dating — so that opinionated women are a turn off for many men?

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