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Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013 04:09 pm

It’s scold in here

Online dating isn’t going so well. I’m a 34-year-old professor seeking a relationship. I listed an age range of 18 to 35 on my profile, not because I particularly like 18-year-olds but simply to avoid limiting my options. I messaged a 24-year-old woman, noting that I loved that she “enjoys supporting people who have a purpose and a passion.” She wrote back: “You seem really cool, but the fact that you’re considering dating women as young as 18 is a deal-breaker. 18-year-olds aren’t people yet. You’re a professor. You know that.” She then scolded me for failing to admire that she clearly has purpose and passion – she doesn’t just support those things – but considering my interest in 18-year-olds, purpose and passion probably don’t matter much to me anyway. Huh?! Should I really be faulted for being open-minded?  –Reprimanded

Online dating can be so efficient. It used to be that you’d have to wait to say hello to have your first argument.

This woman probably couldn’t go out with you anyway, as busy as she must be getting the ignition lock replaced on her broom. However, she may have done you a favor. Although most women won’t turn online dating into online berating, many probably share her anger and suspicion at the lower end of your listed age range. But, but … you protest, you’re just trying to be open instead of assuming that every single 18-year-old will be the dating equivalent of going out with a steak in a short skirt.

Your open-mindedness seems to be a rational approach. The problem is, we aren’t the rational animals we smugly insist we are. Research by evolutionary psychologists Martie Haselton and David Buss suggests that we evolved to make protective errors in judgment – erring on the side of perceiving whatever would have been least costly for our survival and mating interests back in the ancestral environment. This makes us prone to believe there’s a snake behind every rustle of a pile of leaves because the embarrassment from shrieking like an idiot would have been less costly than dying from a snakebite. In the mating sphere, women evolved to be “commitment skeptics,” prone to overperceive men as hookup-seeking cads until they prove otherwise. For men, it would have been costly to miss any mating opportunity … leading to a 34-year-old man being “open” to a wide range of women, including a woman only slightly older than some of his socks.

You can turn this into a positive experience in two ways: by thanking your lucky stars that you won’t be the boyfriend she’s ripping into at the supermarket for eyeing the wrong potato and by listing an age range that’s less ire-producing. This actually shouldn’t limit you in the slightest, since you can write to any woman you find attractive – including those who’ll think you’re “like, so much more amazing” than the other “men” they’re dating, because you don’t live with your parents or have a job that requires a paper hat.

Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, No. 280, Santa Monica, CA 90405 or email her at AdviceAmy@aol.com (www.advicegoddess.com).© Copyright 2013 Amy Alkon

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