“So I studied computer science and business, spending my summers as an analyst in management consulting before deciding to move to the Bay Area to pursue my lifelong dream of programming for cloud computing. But once I moved here, I realized that the space is too crowded, with the industry leader holding 97% of the market share so now I work as a freelancer.”
No, I’m not interviewing a job candidate. I’m on a first date.
Welcome to the Bay, Trick. The epicenter of the tech industry, the place where social skills go to die.
As a 22 year old female in San Francisco, the odds are in my favor. Even if I posted a dating profile devoid of anything but a first name and gender, I would land numerous dates. It is what it is. Statistics.
But back to the avatar for most of my recent dates in San Francisco: He’s innovation embodied. He downloads all the newest dating apps while they’re still in beta, he probably has Macklemore hair, and he has the trendiest backpack I’ve ever seen. There’s a peculiar discordance between his scruffy look and the technicality he uses to describe his job. Which is pretty much all we discuss.
That and my job, too.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t inherently bad. These intelligent conversations are the best part about dating in the Bay Area (with handcrafted cocktails as a close second). And I always learn something new, leaving the date with a list of movies to watch, blogs to read, and places to visit.
People in the Bay Area are intelligent. But perhaps too intelligent for their own good. Too book smart to pick up on the fine line between bantering and bickering with one’s date. No, you’re not “challenging” me; you’re just annoying me. If I had wanted to date someone who I didn’t get along with, I could have stayed with one of my exes.
While I used to take my dates (both the events and the people) somewhat seriously, I now prefer to take the opposite approach. I like to sit back, swirl the straw in my gin and soda, and nod politely. Most of their startup ideas have already been done. Most of their views on mainstream media and the best bars in town are contrived. But we’re all a little cliché. After all, I’m a twenty-something liberal who drinks way too much coffee, enjoys hiking, and loves creative nonfiction. And even if this is a terrible date, I’ll end up with something to write about when I get home.
Dating in Manhattan is a full-time job, in addition to your full-time job, working out, doing laundry, grocery shopping, and trying to find a few hours of sleep at some point during the week.
If you have any serious intentions of getting out and mingling in the big city, you will most likely find yourself with a group of friends at a Happy Hour after work. You’ve just finished a 10-hour day and now you’re in a crowded bar on the east side pounding back $5 beers (which is the happy hour special, usually they are $8) and talking with people who are equally exhausted but smiling and getting buzzed anyhow.
Everyone is still in their work clothes and some guys keep their ties on to look extra special (read: douchey). You and a few friends spend a couple hours eating wings and then decide to head to the village. Someone knows a secret spot (that’s packed with other hipsters who are also excited about this bar oasis) and you continue drinking and looking around.
Finally a person of interest approaches. She (or he) is smiling and attempting to start a conversation. It goes well and you find a table together. As you walk away from your friends you can faintly hear them talking about your genitals getting acquainted with this other person’s genitals.
You sit and attempt to communicate over the blaring house music that seems to be in complete contrast to the laid-back vibe of velvet couches and tea lights. It sounded like she said “I love dick,” but she actually said something about lipstick. You try to smile in a charming way but it comes across as creepy because the lighting is weird and she is going on about cosmetics. Your mind starts to wander. You think about going for a Saturday hike on Bear Mountain… you have to be in Hoboken for a friend’s house party by 10… it would be nice to escape the city for a day… “Did you hear me,” She asks. “Uh, yeah, I totally agree,” you reply with another forced smile. “Good. I can’t date a guy who eats meat,” she says. Great. No steaks with this girl.
Several inconsequential conversations later, you leave with a phone number, a new facebook friend and three blogs you’ll never read. You’ll find a reason not to see this person again and end up back at happy hour the following week.
Rinse, cycle, repeat.
– John Powers