Dear Prudence

Dear Prudence Uncensored: “Flea Market Dates”

This week, R. Eric Thomas and Nadira Goffe discuss a Prudie letter: “Flea Market Dates

R. Eric Thomas: Hi Nadira! I was really looking forward to chatting with you again, especially after reading this letter about friends who don’t have the gift of matchmaking. What did you think?

Nadira Goffe: Ahhh, yes. Matchmaking and dating in 2022, that’s not a traumatic topic at all…

My first reaction was that I agreed a lot with the original response, particularly the part about your friends not having to experience these “suitors” in date-mode.

I think what no one likes to say is that we’re all different depending on who we’re around and what we’re doing. It’s not that your friends think less of you if they’re setting you up with guys that aren’t suitable—it’s likely that they didn’t know what those guys are actually like to date!

Eric: Yes, exactly! We have different personas on dates, at work, hanging out casually, in line at the Whole Foods, et cetera. A friend who says “you’re going to love this guy” is really just guessing.

And I say that as someone who frequently says “You’re going to love this guy!”

Nadira: Right! Because just like they don’t know the dates in a more date-centered way, they also might not know what you are looking for in a date or relationship. Or what you are even like in a relationship!

Which is where I want to slightly, juuuuuust slightly, disagree with the advice. I think friends are a valuable resource in dating in 2022.

Let me tell you, as someone who is currently “out there,” it is not for the weak. (This is me telling the world I’m single: Hello, world!) And friends can really trim the fat of possible bad encounters you could have from online dates.

But, if it’s not working, did you ever try giving your friends feedback on why it wasn’t working? Maybe they don’t know what to look for, maybe they didn’t even think twice because the person they set you up with is so fun to hang out with!

But…maybe you’re not looking for “fun.” It could be that, not only do your friends not really think too hard about it, they also actually just don’t know what you want.

Eric: That’s a really helpful perspective! I hadn’t considered the possibility of constructive feedback for the friends. If LW has something specific or general that she’s trying to find, giving her friends as much info as she can to guide them is going to help everyone.

Do you think the friends might take it as a rejection of their previous choices?

Nadira: I think if LW is really gentle about it, probably not. Especially if they give their friends some specifics as to what wasn’t working—instead of just “well that was horrible, why would you think I would like that?”

People who want to help generally like to be told how exactly to help, it makes their job easier!

But, that’s the only point where I digress: if you lay out what you want and the set-ups are still bad, then you should definitely politely decline any future set-ups.

What’s the opposite of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”? “It’s all broken and…no one will fix it?” That’s what dating can feel like in this day and age.

Eric: Hahaha, oh God. I remember that very well. I think the worst question is “Why are you single; you’re so great?” Like, if I had an answer, we wouldn’t be here.

Nadira: If I had a dollar…

Eric: It’s very similar to “you’re competent, why won’t anyone hire you?” Babe, the market. Let’s be reasonable. But this LW has a built-in recruitment team in their friend group. Best to give them the tools they need.

Nadira: *Sigh* yes, you can file it in with all of the other insults that people don’t know are insults.

And completely! I know it’s easy to get discouraged with dating nowadays (trust me!), but your friends should definitely not be adding to that feeling! So I think it’s best to try and use them to the best of your ability since they’re clearly willing. And if you try everything you can to guide your friends in your search, but it still goes awry, then don’t make it more discouraging for yourself.

But, my last comment is: if you’re feeling the reason they keep trying to set you up is because they feel sorry for you or want another couple to join in their outings, then you have a different problem on your hands.

Eric: Yes, exactly! I know LW is coming out of an engagement but it seems like they’re doing just fine. If their friends are doing pity set-ups, then LW should have a different kind of convo.

Thanks for chatting today, Nadira!

Nadira: Thanks for having me! (I lied, my actual last comment is this: no matter how hard it gets…don’t text the Patrick Bateman fan back. That’s a recipe for disaster.)