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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 writer, Alyssa Bereznak, has been getting some flak for this piece, for a couple different reasons. One is the use of the Magic player's name. Another is her decision to reject him because of his Magic habit. My take on it is similar to Amanda Marcotte's, who argues that there's a certain type of "nice guy" who gets upset whenever a woman can't see how nice he is, and accept him unconditionally. She writes:

"I mean, any story that involves a woman rejecting a man for any reason outside of 'he hit me' is going to bring the Nice Guys® out in droves, projecting their own issues with women and their own entitlement onto the situation, claiming that she's shallow and she has some sort of obligatioon not to reject the guy for "shallow" reasons. Since the "shallow" reason in this case was that he's got a geeky hobby, and an all-encompassing one at that, the Nice Guys® were out in force, making the demonstrably false assumption that because a woman isn't into geeky stuff, that means she's rejecting nice guys in favor of jerks.  Demonstrably false, because it assumes a correlation between niceness and geekiness that doesn't exist."

She adds:

"The Nice Guy® whine is wrong for two reasons. One, they often equate irrelevant qualities with niceness. In this case, that someone plays Magic is being used as evidence that he's somehow nicer or more stable than men who don't. There's zero evidence of any correlation, and in fact lots of examples of geeky guys who are just assholes that no one should date for their own damn wellbeing. (Not that I'm weighing in on Finkel's character either way. There's simply no way to know, because there's no correlation.) Two, and this is just as important, Nice Guys® believe they are entitled to the women they want because they are 'nice.' You saw this a lot in the comments at Gizmodo. An example:

Yeah, the last thing a single woman needs is a smart single guy who makes a good living playing a 'geeky' game.

The assumption underpinning this is that a woman should take the first stable guy who will have her---no matter how unattractive she finds him---and be grateful to have him. That's what is so irritating about Nice Guys®, who generally do consider things like sexual satisfaction and joy to be important aspects of dating for them, but are unwilling to allow women to have the same desires. No, in their minds women should feel obligated to date a guy just because he's nice and stable, and a woman who holds out for a man that can make her happy is a shallow bitch."

I have three reactions of my own to the Gizmodo piece.

1. A serious Magic-playing habit is a perfectly acceptable reason not to date someone. Or at least a red flag. For me, the game Dungeons and Dragons isn't quite a deal-breaker, but it certainly is a red flag. In fact, I once decided I had irreconcilable differences with a guy because he was an avid D&D player, and because he insisted on playing the game when I was with him, even though I made it clear I didn't want to play. Let me back up: Initially, I had agreed to play. But when we began to hard work of creating my elf character, and rolling the dice to assign my elf courage points, or whatever, I had a revelation: I wasn't in high school anymore, I wasn't waiting for my mom to pick me up, and I could leave of my own volition. But when I said I wanted to go, the guy agreed not to play D&D that evening, and so I agreed to stay. Several hours later, while eating dinner, the guy informed me that he simply couldn't help himself, he needed to play D&D. At that point, it was late, I'd had several drinks, and I couldn't drive home, because it was a couple hours away. So I ended up reading comic books while a bunch of dudes played Dungeons and Dragons, which I found incredibly insulting and rude. And although I don't consider D&D a problem in and of itself, I am wary of anyone who seems obssessed with D&D, and seems to expect everyone else to share their obsession. Also, I'd like to point out that I was about 23 when this happened, and that it's been quite some time since a guy has proposed playing Dungeons and Dragons on a date. And than god for that.

2. I'm also pretty wary of guys who blab on and on about how nice they are, and how women won't date them. These guys are rarely as nice as they say, and always seem to have weird issues around gender. I used to be friends with a guy who often whined about how women wouldn't date him, even though he was a nice guy who only wanted to take care of a nice girl. The thought had apparently never entered his head that women aren't necessarily looking for a caregiver when they enter into a relationship, and that his constant whining about how nice he was actually made him less attractive.

3. You can break up with anyone, or decide not to date them, for any reason. Really, you can! One of the more baffling aspects of the response to the Gizmodo piece is the apparent need some people feel to weigh in on whether Bereznak's reason for not wanting to date the Magic player was valid. Frankly, it doesn't matter. If she doesn't feel like going out with him, she shouldn't. (Also, it doesn't sound like the Magic player was too interested in her.) It's not like there's some tribunal of dudes out there, and Bereznak needs them to make a finding in her favor in order to put a halt to the burgeoning relationship. Not so long ago, a friend of mine broke up with her boyfriend, who kept calling her and demanding a better explanation for her decision. "He doesn't think my reasons are good enough," she said. "So what?" I said. "The only person who has to think they're good enough is you. In fact, you don't even have to give him a reason." Crazy, I know. But there's actually no law prohibiting people from ending relationships for the dumbest of reasons. Of course, what's dumb for me might not be dumb for you, and vice versa. Like, I'm sure there are plenty of women out there who love playing Dungeons and Dragons. (Perhaps this person?) I'm just not one of them.

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