Dear Prudence

Dear Prudence Uncensored: “Coming Un-Hinged”

This week, R. Eric Thomas and Shannon Palus discuss a Prudie letter: “Coming Un-Hinged

R. Eric Thomas: Hi Shannon! Thanks for chatting today! So, tell me, what did you make of this letter writer’s dilemma and her Younger-style possible solution?

Shannon Palus: Hi Eric! My instinct is … do not lie about your age on a dating app!

From all my experience on the apps, one important thing I have learned is that: The whole enterprise can feel like it’s about quantity. It’s like you’re playing a video game, or something, where what’s on the line is your sense of happiness and self-worth, and more matches is a higher score. But really, for many people, what can work better is not being overwhelmed with matches, and just sitting tight to find someone who really does want to spend time with you and vice versa.

Eric: That’s a really astute way of putting it. The gameification of dating doesn’t serve anyone. But it seems like the LW is not getting anywhere trying to find someone quality. Does that change the strategy, if she wants to stay in the game, as it were?

Shannon: I was really intrigued by your answer that this is a marketing issue, not an ethical one. I agree with you that it’s not the worst thing if she wants to change her age, and see what happens there. I’d still advise disclosing sooner rather than later, in that case. But I wonder if she could instead try leaning into the marketing angle of the apps a bit more. Maybe get professional photos taken? In the era of Instagram, tons of photographers are in the game of capturing people looking casual-yet-effortlessly-beautiful.

Eric: That’s a great idea. There are ways of changing a narrative without fudging the truth. I empathize with this LW a lot. When I was dating, I was very attuned to the marketing side of the whole endeavor, but it really took the joy out of it. And my fear is that while her solution might work, it won’t make her happy. It’s kind of a Catch-22. Or a Catch-46, I suppose

Shannon: Ha! I also want to take a step back from the issue and point out: She doesn’t have concrete proof that it’s her age. She’s making an assumption. Now, of course she’s not wrong that we live in a society that undervalues women as they get older. But I think it’s all too easy to take an undesirable outcome from dating, and conclude the problem must be something on your end. Maybe Hinge has gotten less popular over time. Maybe people are less interested in dating during this phase of the pandemic. Whatever she does about her age, I wonder if she can just shake up her strategy other ways: another app, or maybe by attending a speed dating event.

Eric: Wow, yes—I hadn’t even considered that aspect. But it’s true: Dating on apps 5, 10 years ago was a completely different experience than it is now. No shade to the fine folks in the dating algorithm business, but perhaps the Hinge is rusty. Your point makes me wonder if the LW might want to take this opportunity to reframe her whole relationship with dating. She has the chance to acknowledge that she’s changed and to see where that takes her.

Shannon: I love the idea of reframing the relationship with dating. Given the circumstances, what would make all that swiping and waiting fun again (or at least tolerable)? Would it be taking a sabbatical from the apps? Making a once-a-week appointment with yourself to really dive into app, while having a fun snack and playing music?

Are there bigger picture things you’re thinking here?

Eric: Yeah, I wonder if dating even needs to be a priority right now. There are a lot of great things going for the LWjob, city, career. It seems like there’s a lot to enjoy in life. I completely understand the desire to share that with someone or even just to have a little fun and romance. But the waiting can take up valuable time that could be used for living. My hope is that she goes out and does the things that bring her joy and that romantic interest meets her out there where she is.

Shannon: Maybe she has some fun meet-cutes in her future!