The Dating Game: Coming Online

Megan Carpentier
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I know that there’s a book called The Rules, but the real truth about dating is that there aren’t any. And over the next eight weeks in my guest column here at Bitch, I plan to explore why that is, and maybe why that’s a good thing. But if you want to snag the kind of dude that wants the kind of relationship described in that book with the kind of woman who would play those games in order to “win” at the dating game, then go do that. This column isn’t for you.

The truth of the matter is that, if you view dating as a competition, then you’re far more likely to lose than to win. Games are zero-sum by their very nature, consisting of winners and losers. But the more you put yourself in competition with those around you for partners, the more you get invested in winning rather than finding out whether a specific person is right for you, or whether being in a relationship is right for you. And that, after all, should be the end result of dating: figure out what is right for you, who is right for you and for whom you are right.

Now, I’m not totally sure everyone (or anyone, if I’m being honest) should listen to my advice on dating: after all, I’ve been doing it for 18 years with admittedly intermittent success. I’m not into poofy white dresses, religious or civil ceremonies by which some god or some state signs off on my relationship, pleasing either of my parents with my relationship choices or even necessarily being in a long-term, monogamous heteronormative relationship with just anyone. If those are things that are really important to you—more important, than, say the specific person (or people) with whom you’re in some kind of relationship that works for you all—then I’m not sure I’ve got a lot of thoughts that will help you. As I’ve previously written, I believe that you can often be better off alone—and being in a relationship with a great partner doesn’t change that belief of mine. So if you’re looking for answers about how to find a partner, full stop, take what I have to say with a grain of salt. Sometimes, doing what is right for you won’t result in having someone specific to share your awesomeness with—and quite often, that might well be (as Mary J. said) just fine.

But if like many people you’re not sure what the fuck you’re doing when it comes to dating, why sometimes it feels like more effort than it’s worth and whether there are other people like you out there who think dating is fraught, confusing, weird, unnatural and designed to achieve an end result with which you’re not sure you’re comfortable, then join me here for the next few weeks and let’s talk.

I’ll be talking to other people, too—because my experience at dating is certainly limited by my race, class, sexual orientation and gender identity (to name a few things), but that doesn’t mean dating is limited or has ever been limited to people with my background or experiences.

And if you have questions or topics you’d like to see addressed, leave a comment below or Tweet at me.

Image via ~BostonBill~ on Flickr, licensed through Creative Commons

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12 Comments Have Been Posted

Very excited about this

Very excited about this column!!!

"In real life as in Grand Opera, Arias only make hopeless situations worse." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

So excited for this! tricked me into another three months and online dating is making me ragey. I always wonder if there really is anything anyone can say to me to make my dating life better (who even really knows what the hell I mean when I say "better"), but you're making me anxious! In a good way.


I have been on Match for about 2 years (wow that seems like a really long time) and I have met some really cool guys. I have dated a couple of them, but not all worked out, as I guess the "real" dating world is like too. One thing that is difficult with match is that if i am not physically attracted to the person, I won't even look a their profile, which is extremely shallow, I know. Also, I don't know how queer friendly is, as I identify as a heterosexual female interested in heterosexual males.


As a 45-year-old woman currently being pursued (to my surprise) by a man young enough to be my son, I would be interested in a discussion of the "cougar" stereotype and the realities of older-woman-younger-man relationships. Were our ages more even, I could see enjoying his company, but I'm put off by the idea that people will think I'm a perv for dating him.

The "cougar" stereotype

I for one see nothing wrong with "cougars". It's hardly perverted to be attracted to someone younger or older. It's perverted to judge other people's sex lives.

Open Relationships

I find that as I get older, I get what I need from different people in my life, and can't imagine finding even most of what I want in one person. I'd like to see the topic of Open Relationships discussed.

HH~41, Atlanta


I normally just lurk, but I love Megan from all the other places I've read her and I love Bitch and I love reading about dating, so I'm happy enough to log in and post about this!

IMO, is a scam. I found my partner of two and a half years on OKCupid, which I know has gotten some flack in the past for questionable attractiveness policies. I still think that it's great because it was free, and the first date I had was with him.

I questioned our immediate chemistry, wondering if I should go one dates with other people I was talking to, but I realized that being with him was truly what I wanted.

He had tried eharmony in the past, but had only gotten "hook-ups," not people he felt compatible with enough to seriously date.

I feel like paying for dating sites is not exactly worth it, and that if it's meant to happen, your partner will probably be on a free site as well, so you might as well use those too.

I'm interested in the topic

I'm interested in the topic but I currently identify (I'm still pretty young) as an asexual. I think that it would be interesting to have that included in the discussion, seeing as we're often overlooked as an orientation. Most people assume that because we don't like sex, we don't want relationships, but that's often not the case. Anyways, I'm looking forward to the column!

totally clueless

i cannot wait to read your articles!
i'm pretty late to the dating game (32 years old and have never dated ANYONE.) and i thought i'd try to put myself out there, but i have no clue what to expect. although i know i may be better off single, and that is ok, it's difficult to ignore societal norms that tell me that i should be paired with someone. so i'm looking for some guidelines, or "what to expect" and "what not to expect", or if i should expect ANYthing at all from dating. i want to make sure being alone in my awesomeness is a perfectly viable option.

Oral Preferences

I always thought oral sex was a basic act that everyone did and enjoyed, but I've been finding that more and more women I meet DO NOT enjoy receiving. About half of the heterosexual women I've talked to about this either have no problems giving, or the other half don't give oral either. I don't know if I'm being judgmental, but I find myself having a very negative reaction to women who give oral sex but cringe at the thought of receiving (specifically in hetero relationships). I would really love a thorough discussion on this topic. Is it lopsided (or even anti-feminist?!) to only give and not receive in hetero relationships? Is there shame associated with this preference? Does the lesbian community also find this preference to be common? Am I thinking too much into this?

Game Theory Fail

"Games are zero-sum by their very nature, consisting of winners and losers." Ever heard of non-zero sum games?

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