It’s taken me the better part of two decades to fully appreciate this about myself, but the simple fact is I’m attracted to aggressive, confident, successful men. Sure, intelligence, looks, height and (ahem) other sizes are all important. But if I’ve learned anything from the graveyard of exes I’m still digging, the personality traits of the Alpha Male are those best suited to handle yours truly (which is, admittedly, a daunting task). Unfortunately, some men have mastered the ability to ostensibly appear an Alpha, their confidence actually a cover for crippling insecurity. This sad truth could not have been more apparent than in a recent Tinder fail.
You may recall from Floats like a butterfly, Fucks like a bee that the GOAT and I called it quits last year. And by “called it quits,” I mean he dumped me because, among other things, my baby-making machine is no longer operational and he was finally ready to find a nanny and start a litter of his own. A pitfall of dating someone 14 years my junior, clearly. But in the two and half years plus that we were seeing each other (albeit “untitled”), we developed a bond that is unlike any other in my life. Or his. So we made a decision to try and stay friends, and have done so pretty successfully for the last eleven and a half months, with only a brief “slip up” (or maybe like 10) about 5 months ago. I won’t bore you with the details and risk straining even farther an already strained situation since, as the quintessential Alpha, he surely reads these posts to, at a minimum, see if there’s a random nod to him. But suffice it to say, that part of our relationship is now over for good.
And so in this new era of “The Champ and I” (new Broadway musical maybe?), we’re learning to navigate the new “us.” Traversing that terrain has proved far more treacherous for me, as the “me,” while he went and became a “we” so fast you could almost see the Road Runner cloud of dust under his feet. A surprise to both of us for sure. So in typical Kat fashion, while he was off doing some cute couple-y crap one Friday around Thanksgiving (which I knew ALL about because, well, we’re friends, right?), I uncorked another bottle of red, and decided to conduct a social experiment on dating. So I pondered – was there some way I could attract the coveted Alpha Male’s attention for more than a few drinks? Could I land one who wanted a real relationship where I’d get a title, and maybe get tagged by his friends as “family” in Facebook posts, or maybe even (gasp!) get introduced to his actual family over a cozy Thanksgiving dinner? What would it take to draw one out from the herd for more than a long-term situationship? These were questions the Cabernet (and vitriolic blood coursing through my veins) convinced me I could easily answer. And just so we’re clear, I was pretty sure I did not want to go on a date with anyone at that point. Dating is hard enough, but dating around the holidays is like opening a huge box on Christmas morning, except instead of finding a fluffy robe or new purse inside, it’s filled with every early-relationship landmine imaginable, all wrapped up with a big red shiny bow and curly ribbon. But seeing as the Happy Couple shit had put me in a very introspective mood (read: drunk), I decided to do it anyway. For science. So like any researcher worth her salt, I grabbed my phone and launched Tinder. Obviously.
Harking back to my high school days, I concluded that my experiment was best implemented using the Scientific Method.
Step 1 – Formulate a question or identify a problem: I’m single and profoundly perplexed by the lack of suitable men to date.
Problem. Clearly. Identified.
Not rocket science, that one.
Step 2 – Conduct preliminary research: Uhhh, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the last 5.5 years of failed dating attempts with Alphas and non-Alphas alike is more than sufficient background data.
Step 3 – Create a hypothesis: That the elusive Alpha Male can be more easily captured for prospective dating by tweaking specific criteria in the searcher’s own online dating profile.
Step 4: Conduct an experiment: With a newly refilled glass of Cab and my phone in hand, Operation Alpha was underway. As a dedicated social scientist, I decided the first step in testing my hypothesis was to cast a wider net. Now, this may seem counter-intuitive if the goal was to narrow the pool of candidates, but let me explain.
My initial criteria included men ages 32-47 (or was it 46?). By definition, Alpha Males are typically successful, and as a general proposition, the older we are, the more likely we are to be established professionally. (Note: I am definitely NOT in this test group. Old? Yes; Professionally established? Meh, not so much). But based on this general notion, one could posit that by increasing the age cut-off, the odds of an Alpha being in the swipe pool should increase. After debating just how high I could go (fondly recalling the infamous old balls conversation with my mom on Mother’s Day from Who said a little BDSM never hurt anybody?), I landed on 32-52 as the new age range. Wider net – check
Alpha Males are also known for their presence and swagger. Not necessarily always the most attractive in the room, they’re still the guys who get noticed the minute they walk into one. It follows, of course, that they prefer someone with a complimentary presence on their arm. Plus, plain and simple, men are vain. If you know me, you know I have zero ego; but I have come to appreciate that I am an objectively attractive woman. Before I began this brilliant social experiment, my dating profile consisted of all selfies from the neck up. While I certainly don’t (and frankly can’t) hide my physical attributes in person, putting them on display on a dating app could have turned my Tinder into another Twitter or Instagram – entertaining of course, but probably not conducive to building an actual long-term relationship (the kind with titles and meeting parents and all that jazz). But since I think like a horned up teenage boy (I know “horned up” is probably superfluous there), I also know that a guy is less likely to buy the cow if he can’t even see the milk. And God knows men need their Vitamin D. Thus, I surmised that a profile consisting of nothing but head-shots could send the message that the woman is hiding her figure because she feels there’s something worth hiding. While an Alpha’s taste in the physical appearance of women can vary widely, what isn’t typically variable is their desire for a confident woman. A profile that creates even a perceived lack of confidence would likely garner the Alpha’s left swipe. So I scrolled my digital photo album until I found a few pictures that showed more of me to demonstrate that I am confident in my entire appearance without quite necessitating a #boobsftw caption.
With updated pictures and a larger age bracket, I set to swiping. Not surprisingly, I noticed substantially more profiles of men in their later 40’s or early 50’s. What was surprising was that I began to find the men more attractive than the usual crop. Perhaps it was just a skewed perception based on an increasingly tricky little crush I have (OK, not really that little) on a very Alpha early 50’s “colleague.” But maybe not. Maybe my hypothesis was correct and soon I’d have my very own Alpha to take home to mom and dad! After a few minutes of swiping, I came across a profile that seemed promising. He was 49, had a good career, and lived close to me. His pictures showed just enough to reveal he was attractive and fit, and his overall profile gave the impression of a self-assured man. What the hell, I thought, now probably on my 3rd glass of the grape-y goodness, and swiped right. Instant profile match. About an hour (and another glass) later, I received a message from him. Let’s call him “Rooster.” I replied. And for the next hour, we engaged in relatively witty, somewhat flirty banter. We both had been drinking, but there appeared to be a good flow to the conversation and everything he said about himself suggested I may have caught an Alpha in my newly expanded net. We exchanged numbers, sent a few more messages back and forth, and bid each other good night. For the first time since my heart was basically ripped out and shoved down the garbage disposal (along with some broken glass and battery acid for good measure), I drifted off to sleep with a smidge more optimism about my dating future.
I awoke the next morning to a text from Rooster who was ironically an early riser because, as you’ll soon learn, that was not the reason for his nickname. We spent the morning hours exchanging messages, and I explained that I’d be home most of the day with my kids, cleaning and having my best friend and her daughter over for a play date. Up until that point, Rooster seemed to be fitting the Alpha profile well – he was successful, confident and aggressive – he had already asked about getting together that coming week. But sometime during the mid-afternoon on Saturday, things started to get a little strange. He had offered to send me more pictures of himself that were not on his Tinder profile. Not that I had asked for them or anything. An hour or so later, he sent a few. While they weren’t bad photos, they definitely were not as appealing as the ones used to garner my right swipe. When I didn’t respond to them right away (because I was busy having a karaoke-dance party to Dua Lipa’s “New Rules” with 3 kids under 9), he “jokingly” prodded me with an “uh oh, crickets” text. Insecurity and the need for validation are not typical Alpha traits, so I was slightly concerned this test subject was going to derail my experiment. A little later, while discussing our musical tastes, we both realized we liked Broadway musicals. When I admitted I hadn’t seen one of his favorites, he tells me it’s coming to Philadelphia in January. And when I don’t immediately respond with “sounds great, let’s get tickets!” he mentions it again. In the back of my mind, a little alarm bell started to ring, barely audible, but noticeable nonetheless. I chalked it up to his unbridled exuberance for show tunes, but as time and the conversation went on, I became less and less convinced that Rooster would help me prove my hypothesis.
Sunday I spent the day with my girls at my parents’ house, a fact I let Rooster know to the extent I might not be overly responsive to his messages. We already had tentative plans to get together that Monday for drinks near my house, but truth be told, I was starting to debate whether to go through with it.
Sometime in the late afternoon, (more than 24 hours before the date), Rooster attempted to confirm the details. Alphas by nature like to be in charge, and I figured one way of vetting that would be letting him take control of the date planning. Since we had already discussed the option of a specific place close to my home, I was expecting Rooster to merely confirm the time and we’d be good to go.
R: So are we good for tomorrow evening? 6:30? Did we just decide to do blue dog?
K: Yeah I think that works. 6:30 may be a little tight for me though.
R: 6:45/7? Tonys?
R: Or you tell me
K: Tonys? Ivyland?
R: I was doing voice to text and said blue dog by you or Tony’s by me?
R: Or anywhere
R: So I’ll figure 6:45 or 7 p
R: Just tell me where
R: If blue dog is easier for you, obviously, I can just be there waiting for you with bells on
Evident from the messages above was Rooster’s eagerness to meet me. What is not necessarily obvious is that every “R” above was a separate text, sent multiple minutes apart. Remember, I had told him that morning I might be slow to respond. Clearly, he didn’t quite grasp that concept:
(5:05 pm) K: Either is fine with me really.
(5:05 pm) R: Will do either of them have gluten free food? In case you’re hungry
(5:07 pm) R: Otherwise…Bar at PF Changs. 😉
(5:09 pm) K: Ok let me think about it for a minute…
(6:00 pm) R: Ok…gave you 50. Lol
(6:00 pm) R: Minutes to think about it…lol
I should point out that, as part of testing my hypothesis, I had been watching his messages come through; my delay in responding was now intentional.
(6:37 pm) K: Lol sorry. It’s an expression.
(6:37 pm) R: I know.. xo
(6:40 pm) R: Well… ??? Lol
(6:40 pm) R: Or would u want me to just make the decision…instead of trying collaborate.
The Alpha in me was growing increasingly tired of his equivocation, and, knowing I may be tainting the results, I decided to move things along:
(7:11 pm) K: I’ve eaten at both Tony’s and Blue Dog and they both have options. So either is ok with me.
(7:59 pm) R: Will plan to see you at Blue Dog around 6:45, 7 p.m. tomorrow 🙂
(8:31 pm) K: Ok 🙂
With the details of the date finally confirmed, my dedication to this social experiment was waning. Remember, I wasn’t really sure I even wanted to go on a date; I was still attempting (quite unsuccessfully) to wring out all that battery acid from my shredded heart while not losing a finger on the shards of glass. A bad date was the last thing I needed. So as Monday morning rolled around, I was starting to dread going. I decided I needed an escape hatch. Around 10 am, I planted the seed:
K: So don’t kill me but I may need to raincheck tonight. I felt kinda crappy yesterday and today I feel worse. I’m going to see how the rest of the day goes, but it may be a later afternoon/game time decision at this point. I’m sorry 😦
R: Well…I hope you feel better as the day progresses. Truly, my fingers are crossed to connect with you this evening.
R: Even if it’s just for a true happy hour.
Sometime in the late afternoon, I pulled the plug:
K: I was looking forward to it but I really don’t think it’s the best time. I feel like crap.
R: (sad face emoji)
R: Look at it this way I can’t bee too touchy-feely and try to kiss you (tongue out emoji)
R: Could just get you some chicken soup and hot tea.
K: Haha cute.
R: Well I was really looking forward to seeing you.
K: I know me too. I’m really sorry.
Realizing my decision to feign sickness and write this otherwise seemingly normal guy off completely may have been, on some level, a knee-jerk reaction after all the bad experiences I’d had, I softened a little:
K: We can raincheck.
R: I knew I shouldn’t have sent you any other pictures, LOL
K: Omg stop
K: That’s ridicuous
R: LOL, just saying
R: The really could be a correlation there
R: Well I don’t know if or when you’d want to raincheck,
R: I figure between your OKCupid dates your Tinder dates and who knows what else, it might be a while for me to break into the rotation (tongue sticking out but no wink emoji)
By way of background, I had sent him my full OKCupid dating profile because it says far more about me than the character-restricted Tinder one. In one of the screenshots, there was a notation that I had “99+” profile likes. When he commented on it initially (with an air of what I now realized was snarky insecurity), I explained that I had not been on the app actively at all; in fact, I had been trying to deactivate it but couldn’t remember my password and the password reset function hadn’t worked despite numerous attempts. I specifically told him I had not had any real luck with online dating on any of the sites. I had also JUST said we could rain-check, so his “if” was entirely unnecessary. I read his last messages again and the passive aggressive tone became even more apparent. As you can imagine, I was now starting to get pissed, not only that he was ruining my experiment, but that he was, frankly, kind of a dick.
K: Ok if you want to think that you can. But I just really don’t feel up to it. It’s not like we’ve hung out before. Call me crazy but I would prefer to not feel like dog shit when I meet someone for the first time.
R: You have any idea if or when you’ll actually want to rain check.
R: And for me, I was just eager to get to meet you in person and see if there was as much of a Vibe or chemistry face to face
R: And then actually set up an actual real date at some other point in time if we are both on the same page.
R: Well,? Can I call you on your way home, instead of all this texting.
Yeah, so a couple of things here…
- His eagerness was never in doubt.
- There was never a discussion about this being a quasi-date to see if a real date was worth it.
- WTF is the “Well?” for, dude.
Not really having any plans that weekend, I tried to simultaneously be accommodating and hopefully salvage my failing science experiment:
K: I’m busy here and there this weekend but maybe we can grab a drink or coffee Saturday or Sunday afternoon?
R: Perhaps Saturday. Sunday doesn’t work for me.
R: Can I call you on your commute home and actually hear your voice?
That was the second mention in 10 minutes of calling me, neither of which I had responded to intentionally. About an hour or so after that message, right when he anticipated I would be commuting home (but was actually sitting at my desk), my phone rings. It’s him. I don’t answer. Twelve minutes later, he calls again. I don’t answer again. I send no further messages. I spent the rest of the evening having a few drinks with friends, thoroughly entertaining them with the Rooster story, and hoping he had taken the hint.
R: Hey! How are you? Happy Tuesday. Just trying to check in to see how you’re feeling today. Hopefully better. (Blushy, closed-eye kissyface emoji).
Ugh, clearly hint was not taken. I don’t respond.
Four hours later:
R: U ok?? (slightly frowny-face emoji)
K: I’m ok. But yesterday’s conversation and not one but two attempted phone calls really left a bad taste in my mouth. That’s just not something I’m ok with, so I’m sorry but I’m not interested in meeting you at this point.
After reading this, I’m obviously assuming he won’t keep pressing. I mean, I’ve said about as clearly as possible that I am not interested in meeting him. But as you’ll soon learn, reading comprehension was clearly not his strong suit.
(To be continued)