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September 28, 2007

Dating Coaches

A New York Times article on the recent rise of dating coaches offers this rejoinder to critics of the practice:

“We have business coaches, dietitians, accountants, but we don’t have an expert for our love life?” said Lisa Clampitt, a dating coach and a founder of the Matchmaking Institute, which trains matchmakers in Manhattan. “It doesn’t make sense. It is really the single most important aspect in our life.”

Once a week, I go to some guy's house and pay him a fairly significant sum of money so he can tell me in which order I should pluck strings on my guitar. I would like to learn to play guitar well. But it's nowhere near as central to my happiness as my lovelife. Yet I'm allowed -- even praised -- for seeking expert guidance there, but would be roundly shamed if I sought a dating coach.

The idea that folks who need a bit of coaching or advice on these matters are painted as pathetic and weird has always struck me as deeply unfair. This idea that our romantic lives should be organic and spontaneous is rather nice, but for some folks, quite unlikely, and for others, quite self-deceptive. Most of us, after all, have had dating coaches: An older sibling, or a charismatic friend, or an honest lover. That society suggests those who haven't had free guides or good luck should be too ashamed to seek outside help is pretty cruel.

September 28, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

First! Hmm, Ezra, what's going on? Tryin to beat your own posting/hour record???
:D

Posted by: Gray | Sep 28, 2007 12:07:38 PM

"But it's nowhere near as central to my happiness as my lovelife."

Hmm, I just read recently that chicks prefer men with a clean shave (Damn! Scratch, scratch [insert sandpapering sound here]). And it might pay off to invest into nail care, too (even though that's irrelevant on TV).

Posted by: Gray | Sep 28, 2007 12:12:00 PM

Ezra ... doesn't McMegan have a crush on you? Isn't it true that once you go WASP, you don't go back? Wait a minute ... that doesn't rhyme!

Posted by: DAS | Sep 28, 2007 12:15:21 PM

Gray: It's definitely not my experience that the clean shave, rather than the shadow, is preferred.

Posted by: Ezra | Sep 28, 2007 12:17:20 PM

Not everyone can play the guitar. In fact, there are people who take lessons yet never learn to play, or to play it well. Not everyone is good with numbers, even people who manage to make large amounts of money. With so much packaged and processed food and so many people who are still only one or two generations from a rural, agricultural lifestyle, dieticians make sense.

But I know complete knuckleheads who have managed to not only get dates, but have successful relationships. What exactly is a dating coach supposed to teach? Are they telling people to "be themselves," to not lie or cheat, to focus on characteristics that are important instead of shallow ones? Do we really need coaches for that?

Or are dating coaches giving people the inside tips on how to manipulate their targets and get them to do whatever they want? Maybe I'm missing the boat here, but ISTM that dating coaches either tell people what they should know already or they're churning out more jerks in a world already saturated with them.

Maybe I'm just one of the knuckleheads that got lucky, though.

Posted by: Stephen | Sep 28, 2007 12:18:55 PM

Right. Because having a relationship that's good for you is exactly like learning to play music someone else wrote on an instrument that is the same the world round.

Just learn the effing guitar and the dating will take care of itself. Women really like what fingers can do.

Posted by: serial catowner | Sep 28, 2007 12:18:59 PM

Hmm, ok, let's make it a rhyme:
Once you go WASP, you also go gasp!
:D

Posted by: Gray | Sep 28, 2007 12:19:19 PM

"It's definitely not my experience that the clean shave, rather than the shadow, is preferred."

I was really wondering if this was what went wrong with MY lovelife all the years...
Thx, Ezra, you saved my razor from a lot of work!
:D

Posted by: Gray | Sep 28, 2007 12:20:56 PM

Isn't it true that once you go WASP, you don't go back?

Yes, it's true. We whip silly them with our long blonde hair, blow their minds with our creative cheese-and-cracker arrangements, and then lure them into our Lily Pulitzer-covered beds by walking around in jodhpurs and white lace bras.

Posted by: litbrit | Sep 28, 2007 12:23:29 PM

Gray,

Clean shave vs. not is entirely dependent upon whether the guy in question can rock the look. So rather than accepting Ezra's experience as definitive, just take as objective a look in the mirror as you can and decide from there.

Oh, and that'll be $50, or whatever a "dating coach" charges.

Posted by: Stephen | Sep 28, 2007 12:24:43 PM

(that should've been them silly, not silly them, ahem.)

Posted by: litbrit | Sep 28, 2007 12:25:18 PM

"Oh, and that'll be $50, or whatever a "dating coach" charges."

Damn! Sorry, my finances are a bit tight right now. But I promise I'll pay you when I get 50 bucks for an Euro at the bank! Can't take too long...
:D

Posted by: Gray | Sep 28, 2007 12:29:32 PM

Stephen, yes.

Me, I love a bit of stubble on a guy. It goes with the dark-haired territory.

But whatever floats one's boat, right?

Posted by: litbrit | Sep 28, 2007 12:29:34 PM

"We whip silly them with our long blonde hair, blow their minds with our creative cheese-and-cracker arrangements, and then lure them into our Lily Pulitzer-covered beds by walking around in jodhpurs and white lace bras."

YEAH! Only thing is, all those great girls have a guy and three kids much too soon. You gotta be fast...
And now excuse me pls, I need a cold shower.
Cheese and crackers...
Yummy...
:D

Posted by: Gray | Sep 28, 2007 12:32:26 PM

IMHO, people with "business coaches, dietitians, and accountants" are pretty pathetic as well.

Posted by: tps12 | Sep 28, 2007 12:33:41 PM

I thought the end of the TNR post contained the most interesting nugget: Apparently, dating advice is a Veblen good! Who knew?

Posted by: Daniel Munz | Sep 28, 2007 12:43:43 PM

Consulting, its the new manufacturing in the American economy.

My sense is that consulting exists because managers(daters too?) need a scapegoat if something goes wrong.

Well, I did what the consultant said!

Posted by: andy | Sep 28, 2007 12:44:36 PM

...and by "the TNR post," I meant this TNR post. Feh.

Posted by: Daniel Munz | Sep 28, 2007 12:44:57 PM

Get all the guidance available.
Growing up sexually in the 50s --
We got zip.

And look at how f*cked up all that came out.
Better days here. Take advantage..wherever.

Posted by: has_te | Sep 28, 2007 12:49:30 PM

mmmmm . . . jodphurs.

The stubble thing seems all well and good, but once the posing is done, doesn't it hurt?

Posted by: Klein's Tiny Left Nut | Sep 28, 2007 1:04:14 PM

I used a dating coach once, and I had terrific results with it. I want to write about this more on my blog (which I plan to start very soon -- like in a couple of days. Technical difficulties are delaying it for the nonce). But basically, I shelled out around $125 to a service that set me up on a mock date with a shrink, who, post-date, analyzed how I came across.

One of the reasons I used the dating coach is that I'd placed a personal ad and had gotten dozens of responses to it, quite a few of which looked very promising.

The mock date and the follow-up session with the shrink was a fascinating experience -- in a relatively short period of time, this guy had observed, like, a zillion highly specific and nuanced things about me. (It was all written up in a report). He gave me tips about a couple of things he thought I should change. I followed his advice.

Well, the very next day, I had a date with one of the guys I met through my ad. To make a long story short, he (the guy I met through the ad) became my husband.

As the ads say, results definitely not typical. And I certainly want to think that even if I'd never done the dating coach thing, my future hubby would have immediately seen how wonderful I am anyway and that we were destined to be together, no matter what. But I'll never really know. At any rate, I'll never regret the investment I made with the dating coach service.

Posted by: Kathy G. | Sep 28, 2007 1:22:09 PM

What exactly is a dating coach supposed to teach? Are they telling people to "be themselves," to not lie or cheat, to focus on characteristics that are important instead of shallow ones? Do we really need coaches for that?

What part of this couldn't be said about psychologists? And yet somehow, the clientele of that profession is not limited to "complete knuckleheads."

For what it's worth, Ezra has blogged about this kind of thing before.

Posted by: Cyrus | Sep 28, 2007 1:32:01 PM

The stubble thing seems all well and good, but once the posing is done, doesn't it hurt?

Yes. Or, at least, it can leave a bit of a burn. This can be ok, mind you, but it may leave you having to pretend it's sunburn or windburn when you get back to the office.

Posted by: nolo | Sep 28, 2007 2:18:22 PM

What part of this couldn't be said about psychologists?

That was my first thought, actually-- is there anything that a dating coach could address that a decent therapist wouldn't, in terms of identifying weaknesses that might send up a warning flag? Then again, surviving dates is not usually that difficult for me (except that when nervous, I tend to come across as more diffuse than I actually am)... but I do have a harder time getting first dates than second ones, so I'd need more of a small-talk coach or maybe a get-your-ass-out-there-and-socialize coach.

And wrt the stubble vs. smooth question... it depends. Not everyone can wear a slightly scruffy look well, although IME there's a certain appeal to it once the relationships's, er, intimate, followed eventually by the annoyance of having chafed skin without the new-relationship glow to match. I guess that clean-shaven's generally better early in the dating process because the effort to be well-groomed is appealing.

Posted by: latts | Sep 28, 2007 2:19:04 PM

The stubble thing seems all well and good, but once the posing is done, doesn't it hurt?

Yes. Or, at least, it can leave a bit of a burn. This can be ok, mind you, but it may leave you having to pretend it's sunburn or windburn when you get back to the office.

Or you could simply save the miniskirt for another day and wear trousers.

Posted by: litbrit | Sep 28, 2007 2:23:02 PM

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