The Psychology of Pick-Up Lines
Published on September 6, 2012 by Sara Foss

If you've ever wondered why people use pick-up lines, and whether they ever work, then check out this piece by Scott Barry Kaufman over at Alternet

Annals of Online Dating
Published on March 7, 2012 by Sara Foss

The Awl has collected some horror stories.

Annals of Online Dating
Published on December 5, 2011 by Sara Foss

Over at GOOD magazine, Jill Filipovic explains what she's learned from online dating. The piece is both insightful and hilarious, with shrewd observations of a number of subcategories of online daters, including Nice Guys (who are never as nice as they think) and the guys who don't want to date crazy girls (who are often crazy themselves).

Here's an excerpt:

"I soon found that online dating did not force me to be nice—actually, it required me to be mean. And the process of ferreting out the weirdos was oddly cathartic. Offline, women are socialized to Be Nice (or at least to be polite and respond to advances). Men are socialized to Hit Anything That Moves (or at least to consider having sex with any interested woman). Online dating offered a new playing field. For women, OkCupid is both a less-intimidating medium for asking men on dates, and an easy out for evading creepy suitors. You’re entitled to select a date you are interested in and attracted to, which means you don’t have to respond to a guy’s advances just because he’s taken the time to advance upon you. The sheer volume of potential mates helps turn the tables even further. At a time when women are told that we’re getting too old and successful to find suitable partners, online dating offers us the buffet of options men have traditionally enjoyed.

Of course, buffet-style dating strikes a lot of people as overly consumerist: You’re evaluating potential mates not based on any real-life connection, but on a set of characteristics they list on a website and a curated set of self-shots. It can be limiting in that regard, but the little things can be significant. Online dating informs you from the get-go if your potential companion enjoys the musical stylings of John Mayer, thinks The Da Vinci Code counts as a “book,” or voted for Ron Paul. People lie—despite the appearances of my tightly curated online profile, my typical Friday night is not actually spent out drinking whiskey, but rather downing a bottle of $10 wine on my couch. But at least you get a sense of the kind of person a potential mate can be when they put their most dateable face forward."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Does Sex Addiction Really Exist?
Published on November 30, 2011 by Sara Foss

The new film "Shame," in which Michael Fassbender plays a sex addict, has been getting rave reviews. And Newsweek recently ran an article about the "sex addiction epidemic."

Over at Salon, Tracy Clark-Flory interviews clinical psychologist David Ley, author of the upcoming book "The Myth of Sex Addiction," about why this is all a bunch of nonsense. It's pretty interesting, and you can check it out here.

All The Single Ladies
Published on October 11, 2011 by Sara Foss

Over at The Atlantic, Kate Bolick takes a look at how more women are staying single, ponders why that might be and suggests that traditional marriage is no longer society's highest ideal. 

Here's an excerpt:

"What my mother could envision was a future in which I made my own choices. I don’t think either of us could have predicted what happens when you multiply that sense of agency by an entire generation.

But what transpired next lay well beyond the powers of everybody’s imagination: as women have climbed ever higher, men have been falling behind. We’ve arrived at the top of the staircase, finally ready to start our lives, only to discover a cavernous room at the tail end of a party, most of the men gone already, some having never shown up—and those who remain are leering by the cheese table, or are, you know, the ones you don’t want to go out with.

In the 1990s, Stephanie Coontz, a social historian at Evergreen State College in Washington, noticed an uptick in questions from reporters and audiences asking if the institution of marriage was falling apart. She didn’t think it was, and was struck by how everyone believed in some mythical Golden Age of Marriage and saw mounting divorce rates as evidence of the dissolution of this halcyon past. She decided to write a book discrediting the notion and proving that the ways in which we think about and construct the legal union between a man and a woman have always been in flux.


One Man's Dealbreaker: She Read the Wrong Kind of Books
Published on September 22, 2011 by Sara Foss

GOOD magazine has an ongoing series in which people explain why they broke up with someone. The most recent entry was about a dealbreaker I could relate to - poor taste in literature. Or, perhaps more damning, a lack of taste.

Here's an excerpt:

"When I was 21, my love of books ended my first post-college relationship. My girlfriend was flabbergasted as to why anyone would read anything that wasn’t required for class credit; I was offended that she dismissed my love of the printed word alongside her previous boyfriend’s obsession with video games. To really put this in nerd terms: If you’ve ever seen that iconic Twilight Zone episode in which Henry Bemis’ wife defaces his books in an effort to break his 'habit' of reading, this was similar. She was oppressive to the bookish. And she liked Reba McEntire.

After the breakup, I elevated my criteria for girlfriend material to levels rivaling Hammurabi’s Code. The contents of a woman’s bookcase had to at least be on par with her physical profile. Dating websites always give you pictures first, intel second, but some of us are turned on by brains, too. I’m not saying I could carry on a romance with a disembodied head who told awesome Goethe jokes. Nor is the possession of panties depicting Poe poetry an automatic win for a woman. But books have to be there."

I know that I would never consider dating anyone who claims that "Atlas Shrugged" or "The Da Vinci Code" is their favorite book. This probably seems like a pretty minor concern, but I've been amazed by how many guys claim that one of these books is their favorite book of all time.

On Being Single
Published on September 14, 2011 by Sara Foss

Over at The Awl, Joe Berkowitz has written a very funny and very insightful piece about being single and the culture of online dating titled "My Superpower Is Being Alone Forever."

Here's an excerpt:

"With infinite choice comes infinite opportunities to judge. The more options that exist, the pickier you become. Scrolling through profile after profile, I am transformed into an imperial king, surveying his goodly townsfolk from a balcony on high. Those with minor perceived flaws are summarily dismissed ('Next!') because surely someone closer to the Hellenic ideal is just around the corner. Anyone cute might be cast aside for the smallest breach of taste: a penchant for saying things like 'I love life and I love to laugh' or self-identifying as 'witty.' Yet even when I genuinely find myself attracted to someone, I'll still react with skepticism. What’s the catch? What dark and terrible secret causes her to resort to this thing I am also doing? After scanning closely for red flags and finally deigning her regally worthy, I dispatch a message. But then the truth reveals itself: the king is not her type and also he is not really a king.

Messaging strangers on a dating site is a great way to dabble in Glengarry Glen Ross-style competitive salesmanship. Every hot lead is sure to have already attracted a multitudinous horde of Al Pacinos and Jack Lemmons offering the same bill of goods. You’re all sharing space together in an overstuffed inbox, so words need to be chosen wisely. Asking questions about a prospect’s profile is one way to go—except she probably wrote it months ago and so mentioning her affinity for Frank’s Red Hot now seems as dopey as it probably should. Another option is asking nonsense questions, like who’d win in a fight between Matt Lauer and Brian Williams. (Advantage: Williams.) Since such questions aren’t specific to each lady, though, she’ll probably assume you’re cutting and pasting, and let’s face it—you probably are. When an opening salvo goes sour in person, you can always keep talking. Online, you just get ignored forever. You can send a follow-up later on ('Do you HATE having an awesome time with handsome gentlemen?') but that smacks of Jack Lemmon-level desperation."

The essay also comes with cool illustrations by Joanna Neborsky. And I suspect that anyone who has ever dabbled in online dating will find something to relate to.

Annals of Online Dating
Published on August 31, 2011 by Sara Foss

Over on Gizmodo, this essay, which documents the writer's brief dating experience with a world champion Magic: The Gathering player, is getting a lot of attention. Basically, the writer considered the man's Magic habit a deal breaker - and also something that should have been disclosed on OKCupid, the dating site where she first met him. Here's her description of their first date:

"We met for a drink later that week. Jon was thin and tall, dressed in a hedge fund uniform with pale skin and pierced ears. We started talking about normal stuff—family, work, college. I told him my brother was a gamer. And then he casually mentioned that he played Magic: The Gathering when he was younger.

'Actually,' he paused. 'I'm the world champion.'

I laughed. Oh that's a funny joke! I thought. This guy is funny! But the earnest look on his face told me he wasn't kidding.

I gulped my beer and thought about Magic, that strategic collectible card game involving wizards and spells and other detailed geekery. A long-forgotten fad, like pogs or something. But before I could dig deeper, we had to go. Jon had bought us tickets for a one-man show based on serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer's life story. It was not a particularly romantic evening."


The Museum of Broken Relationships
Published on August 16, 2011 by Sara Foss

Good Magazine reports on a traveling museum that collects mementoes from failed relationships. The items are currently on display at the Tristan Bates Theatre in London, and although I'm hard-pressed to think of anything I'd be willing to donate to the Musem of Broken Relationships, I think it's a fascinating project.

The Museum's website provides instructions on how to donate to the Museum. "Would you also like to become a donor?" he website asks. "Recently ended a relationship? Wish to unburden the emotional load by erasing everything that reminds you of that painful experience? Don’t do it – one day you will be sorry.

Instead, donate the objects to the Museum while recovering and take part in the creation of collective emotional history."

Collective emotional history - now that's an interesting concept. I think of relationships as fairly private, but the museum seems to be suggesting that they're part of a larger, shared experience. And perhaps they are.

Annals of Online Dating
Published on August 8, 2011 by Sara Foss

In recent years, online dating has become normalized. Most single people are doing it, or have done it, at one point or another. Recently, there's been a spate of interesting articles/essays on online dating.

My favorite, titled "Online Dating Is Eroding Humanity," appeared in Comment is Free. In it, author John Walters suggests that online dating is fast turning love and relationships into just another commodity.

Here's an excerpt:

"Online matchmaking is premised on the notion of making rational choices. It is perhaps fitting that the language of economics and business has finally – in our late capitalist society – permeated the most irrational, the most human of all areas: the interpersonal. Internet dating is like shopping at LoveMart. We watch and read the adverts (people's profiles) and – based on what we are told is factually relevant data – we then, allegedly, make a rational decision to try the product. The more choices available (ie the more popular a matchmaking website), we are told, the better for those making the choice. Yet it is these intrusions by business speak into the very inner workings of society that should be of great concern.

This is further emphasised by the manner in which these processes are explained by proponents of online dating, as "opening up options" and "putting yourself out there". One site,, offers both efficiency ("Receive your compatible matches straight away") and informed choice ("Choose who you'd like to get in touch with"). The irrational and unpredictable nature of something very human – love and the interpersonal – is turned on its head and transformed into a rational product."

Also fairly recently, The New Yorker's Nick Paumgarten examined the phenomenon of online dating; his piece focused more closely on how the sites work, how the stigma of online dating has mostly gone away and what motivates people (particularly women) to try online dating.

And this piece in Slate took a look at how, the most popular online dating site, works.