Thursday, May 16, 2013

Real Talk With Rachel: Sticky Web Dating

by Rachel Kurzius

Hello all,

Hope that you’re savoring the sticky humidity of this evening. There’s a lot more where that came from!

Last column, a letter-writer asked me what to do about complaining in-laws. It seemed like anything the family did or did not do dissatisfied these folks. While the constant litany of comments irritated the husband, who wrote the letter, his wife (the daughter of the complainers) felt truly hurt by them.

I told “On the Outs” that the world is full of negative people, and while we can brush many of them off, some of the most negative are either our family, or the family of our loved ones. I told him to ignore the ridiculous comments his in-laws made and I suggested he get his wife to talk to her parents.

Some readers thought that I added to the negativity swirling around. One reader responded by saying, “Your reply to 'On the Outs with the In-laws' was appalling. You added your venom to the conflict... Instead of calming the man, to create a peaceful conversation and find a more relaxed solution, you added your personal venom...You called the parents who gave birth, love and raised the woman that he loves "these people reared her," referred to them as ‘windbags’ who are ‘spewing negativity’ and ‘garbage grumbling’.”

I explained to the reader that I wanted "On the Outs" to know that he should trust his instincts -- his house is great, his kids are great. All of these wonderful accomplishments, which would otherwise satisfy him, were somehow diminished by his in-laws comments. That’s why negativity is so poisonous!

Perhaps I could have fought off the negativity with sheer optimism. But I wanted to validate this guy’s frustration. These weren’t harmless comments that slipped out of the in-laws’ mouths every once in a while. This was a clear pattern of verbal abuse. Far too often I speak to people who continue to let their families, and the families of their loved ones, trample all over them, simply because they're family. At a certain point, it has to end.

It’s just the beginning for us, though, reader. On to this week’s question.


Dear Rachel,

My friend is a guy in his mid-twenties. He is always talking about how he wants a girlfriend. He just showed me a dating site that really grossed me out. He gets to look at a photo of a girl and then, based only on the picture, clicks “yes” or “no.” If he and the girl both say “yes” to each other’s photo, then they get to message each other.

To me, this is why he doesn’t have a girlfriend. He is superficial and this dating site he signed up for proves it. When I’ve told him that he needs to care about more than just looks if he wants a real relationship, he seems to roll his eyes. I don’t want to keep hearing him complaining about not having a girlfriend when it’s so obvious why he doesn’t. What do I do?

Putting the Super in Superficial

Dear Putting the Super in Superficial,

The main thing you can do is take that part of your brain that whirs and whistles constantly with judgement, and turn down the volume.

To me, this dating website doesn’t say anything conclusively about your friend, except that he is trying to be proactive about finding a girlfriend. After all, is evaluating a photograph on a dating website really that different from deciding whether or not to approach someone in a bar based on looks? Both of them involve a level of the superficial, sure, but also speak to a larger, more important aspect of a working relationship. You’ve got to like the way the other person looks.

Whether you like it or not, attraction often begins with the physical. That doesn’t necessarily make it superficial. Think about how you might respond to a photo of a potential mate. What do you evaluate? The features, yes, but you can glean more than that. The facial expression could show whether someone is goofy or comfortable with herself. Is the photo at a road race or on a mountaintop? The staging of the photo itself can clue you in to a person’s interests.

It’s not everything, of course. It’s just a photo. But your friend isn’t proposing when he says “yes” to a photo. He’s just indicating that he would potentially be interested in meeting the person in the photo for lunch or a drink, so long as she also says “yes.” Seems pretty harmless to me.

The bigger question is why this is your problem, Putting the Super in Superficial. I’ve got to ask -- do you wish your friend would get off of that dating site and look at what’s right in front of him? I can’t discern your gender from your letter, but if you are a woman, then perhaps you should tell your friend how you feel.

Maybe I read the letter wrong, though, and this isn’t secretly about your own feelings for your friend. In that case, remember this: we just don’t know what other people want in a significant other. It’s hard enough to figure out one’s own preferences and problems, let alone figure out why are others are struggling in the land of love. So instead of feeling so exasperated by your friend’s frustrations, just relax. Perhaps a glass of wine will help.

All my best,


Rachel Kurzius revels in giving advice, and has provided counsel both as a columnist and a friend. She lives in Washington DC, where she works as a news producer. Real Talk with Rachel is published on All Life is Local and the Cleveland Park Listserv,, on Wednesdays. Need advice? You can write to Rachel via or advice @

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