Are “Intimidating” Women Really Matchless?

Anne Beckley ColemanAs I waited for the witty and charming emails to roll in, I began to wonder what was wrong with me.  I showed my profile to my friends.

“All that traveling is intimidating” said Kati.  “You don’t need to list so many books,” said Brian, a cousin who has recently posted his profile online. […]

So I edited the profile, changing my politics to “middle of the road,” cutting back on the books and deleting my love of Paris.  And thus began the dumbing-down of the Anne I presented online.

How sad.

But how true.

Today’s except comes from “Matchless” by Anne Beckley Coleman.  Although Coleman didn’t begin her adventures in online dating until her mid-fifties, she lives in Kennett Square (which is vaguely nearby… I think) so I decided to take a look at her memoir in the hopes that:

A)     She’s cool

B)      She lives happily ever after

C)      She’ll let me interview her someday and we’ll be able to swap online dating horror stories (although the more of these serial-dating memoirs I read, the more I realize just how lucky I was but that’s another subject for another day…)

Getting back to the matter at hand, I was relieved, then pissed, then extremely pissed to learn that Coleman, like me, felt the need to “dumb” herself down in order to attract a man.

At the risk of sounding like a total snob, I’ve been doing this for years.  It sucks, but I’ve learned the hard way that guys are easily intimidated and things like “I went to grad school in London” or “I’ve backpacked across Europe” or “I love Dostoyevsky” are an instant turn off.

No matter that I’m proud of these things, no matter that these things make me who I am and go a long way to explaining all of my various quirks (ie. the fact that I woke up at 4:00am to watch Will and Kate tie the knot earlier this year)—these things have to go.

In fact, so far as online dating is concerned, I’m actually grateful that my income is that of your average starving artist or else we’d really be in trouble!

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been on a date and have felt compelled to exchange a ten-cent vocabulary word for a five (and as a great fan of words of big words I can’t actually spell, this kills me).  I pretend to be impressed by guys who have travelled to California or Colorado all the while thinking, “Please don’t ask me my favorite city, PLEASE don’t ask me my favorite city, because if you do, I’m going to say Florence and we both know its downhill from there.”

It’s quite sad when you think about it, which was why it was such a relief to discover that I didn’t have to dumb myself down around Date #7, but Date #7 is a rare exception.

So, for all of my female readers out there: have you ever been told you’re intimidating?  Why?  And if so, what did you do about it?

And gentlemen, don’t think you’re off the hook here.  I’d like to hear your thoughts: what gives?  This is 2011!  Is it a pride thing?  Or some secret of the male psyche to which we women are not privy?     

Love Thy PitsFinally, have you survived a sticky situation of your own?  If so, share your story for a chance to win one of two $150 gift certificates to a department store of YOUR CHOICE, courtesy of Mitchum and their new Love Thy Pits campaign!  To enter, simply comment here on my blog or here on my Facebook page between now and August 10th– no purchase necessary.  Winners will be announced on August 11th.

30 Responses to “Are “Intimidating” Women Really Matchless?”

  1. Mark D. White

    Hi, Kat–I’m curious why you feel you “have to” dumb yourself down for a guy–in other words, why are you interested in a guy for whom you have to hide who you are? (By my thinking, Date #7 sounds even greater now.)

  2. Wendy

    I’ve never felt the need to dumb myself down (when I did online dating I was in grad school getting my PhD in chemistry). I did meet a lot of well educated men who I felt tried to knock me down a peg…and they didn’t get second dates. I may have met more men with the dumb down approach, but I don’t see how dates with them would have led anywhere.

  3. jennywintersconsulting

    Yes, I’ve been told that by a boyfriend I had a few years ago. He claimed that my thoughts on literature, history and the arts were just above his head. I never tried to change him–I’m not like that–but I did get him to the local arts theater once or twice, and to Phantom of the Opera on Broadway.

    Lucky for me, my husband is like me. He knows things that I don’t, has skills that I don’t, and we don’t intimidate each other. I’m attempting to do what he loves (Warcraft, Billiards) and he’s gotten into Bed-n-Breakfasts and the Spa world. We’re reading Jane Austen in tandem, and have memberships to museums and a subscription to live theater. I feel extremely lucky that I found someone like him!

  4. Zak

    I think… I know… that I would rather a smart woman be a smart woman than read another dumbed down profile. The problem I think happens is this: you can either be yourself and attract less, but better suitors, or be average and attract more but not-so-great suitors.

    I prefer smart women. I may have only traveled to Colorado and California, and barely made it to the Caribbean, but the fact is, it’s the stories from the travels, the adventure, what you took from it, and less the location. Of course, with a location like Florence, Paris, Hong Kong or Madrid, there’s naturally going to be more to say about the differences of culture, art and whatnot than comparing any US city to any other US city (barring the obvious middle-Alabama to downtown NYC comparison, and even then…).

    So, Kat – all ladies – be yourself, use your big words, be proud (but not bitchy) about your salary, education, travels, etc, and then accept that fewer guys will be interested, but at least the ones you get will be Date #7’s and not Date #-whatevers.

    • politeandparanoid

      YES!! THANK YOU, ZAK!!! Why hide your amazing self for a chance with a not so great guy? I’ve been told I’m intimidating, and I didn’t do anything about it. I kept being myself, and God gave me an amazing husband. Honestly, I’m glad that I didn’t date more losers because that would have been a waste of my valuable time (Remember, I’m not a manthropologist and research is not a waste 🙂 ).

  5. Kathryn Craft

    Here’s the choice, Kat: Be yourself now, or wait until after your family-wrenching divorce or some worse tragedy. It’s that simple.

  6. Philly Tap Teaser

    I tend to get the “you’re intimidating” vibe from the people I work with, moms of the stay-at-home variety, (sorry to open that can of worms), or folks I meet doing various other arts projects. I don’t apologize for my accomplishments – I’m proud of them, because I worked hard to get them – but sometimes I know it’s better to tone it down depending on the situation. Because, really, I might have a Masters degree and all that, but that’s all come through straight-up work. I definitely wasn’t born into money by any means, my family are blue collar folks. I’m nowhere near a fancy schmancy type of person.

    Men who are afraid of smart women are obviously very insecure with themselves. At the end of the day you want to be with someone who challenges you and inspires you to learn new things.

  7. Amanda

    Yes, I’ve dumbed down. Or diluted, omitted, whatever. I’m an engineer and not only does my knowledge bust into sterotypical “guy” territories, but I make a decent salary too.

    Just this week I was at dinner with collegues (all men). One guy wondered out loud about aged beef and I told him what I knew. It was like his manhood took a beating to have some girl inform him about meat. He jokingly told me that I should have lied to him and pretended not to know.

    (Zak and Mark) Its not that we are willing to take a guy that wants us dumb. Its that some good guys need to ease in to our awesomeness. Especially on a first date, guys are trying to be impressive and nobody wants to feel like they’ve fallen short.

    (also – guys do this too sometimes. My friend Mike lists his job as “teacher” when he is actually a professor at large, impressive university. He doesn’t usually mention his work with the UN on a first date either. He’s 32.)

  8. Katie

    I don’t like guys who aren’t smart. I’d never date someone I felt I had to dumb myself down for.

    I have to say, though, it does bug me when people talk about travel like it’s some kind of badge of honor. I sometimes feel like guys look down on me because I haven’t traveled much, but I just can’t afford it right now.

    • PHS Judge

      “It is a fine line knowing how much to reveal on a first (or second, or…) date, but as you say, there’s definitely a difference between prudent withholding and blatant misrepresentation.”

      I agree Mark, and I think this applies to other social settings other than dating.

  9. Fiercely Yours

    I blame this on Disney. If you’re a ding dong and eat an apple from a creepy stranger or remain hopeful while under lock and key the Prince of your dreams will save you from your life because you were too stupid to figure out how to escape on your own. If you’re smart and like books then you can just settle for a Beast and hope he turns out to be a Prince. Better yet, give up your voice and fins to be more like him until he learns to love you.

    Please, don’t dumb yourself down, it’s like showing up three inches shorter.
    Very provoking post!

  10. amanda

    i can honestly say i’ve never had to dumb down. BUT! i was told i was boring once. i’d gone out with my younger sister for her 21st birthday to a club. she got wicked drunk, and i ended up chatting with a rather good looking guy. when he called a few nights later, we set about having the sort of getting to know you conversation you can’t really hold when shouting to be heard over “one more time” by daft punk. since i was still an undergrad at the time, most of my free time was taken up by studying. or reading, because i’d rather read than breathe most of the time. at this point, he announced, “you’re kind of boring, aren’t you?” never mind that he’d just finished telling me he spent 3 to 4 nights a week clubbing. i made up some lame excuse about having to hang up and i never bothered to call him again.

  11. chauffeur

    I kinda get it, but I think you are not dumbing yourself down to appear attractive to insecure males. You may at times dumb down a little to make certain people are not uncomfortable or so you do not come off as a braggart until after the initial introductions, conversations etc.
    I may have a very cool job, yet I always try to down play it so I do not come across as too intense or a braggart when first meeting someone. Not sure that is dumbing down but I generally try to avoid the “what do you do” question for that reason.

  12. Mark D. White

    Chauffeur: I agree, downplaying an awesome job (or degree, achievement, etc.) is just simple modesty, which is admirable in almost all situations (not jusst dating), but using smaller words so as not to scare off an “insecure male” is a different matter entirely.

  13. Dennis Hong

    I don’t need a list of every book you’ve read, or every place you’ve traveled to. I don’t find it intimidating. I find it obnoxious.

    Your online dating profile is your resume, a brief highlight of your career. Just as you woudn’t fill your resume with unnecessary details of every single job you’ve ever had, so should you not fill your dating profile with unnecessary details of every single thing you’ve ever done or are interested in.

    It’s a summary, not a comprehensive listing.

    Your favorite book? Awesome. 100 books you’ve read? Obnoxious.

  14. Dennis Hong

    Oh, and to those who have felt the need to “dumb down” their profiles….

    Perhaps the issue is that you are confusing pretentious with smart? 🙂

  15. Coree

    I am going to go against the majority of these comments and agree with you Kat! I’m a Chemical Engineer, and I completely relate to what you’re saying. Men say that they love smart women and want a woman that is successful, but I can’t tell you how many men had a problem with the fact that both my income and my I.Q. were higher than theirs.

  16. Lost in France

    I would love for a women to be able to quote D…..that Russian bloke, and to use big words, Do not expect me to necessarily be able to discuss said author or understand all of the words. I would learn the meanings in the end.
    Hey may be I just an oddity, but there again I have always had this Librarian thing, and that would fit right in.

  17. Mark D. White

    But Coree, this is what I don’t understand–why are you trying to please these men who have this problem with smart, successful women, instead of looking for better ones who don’t?

  18. mydatingprescription

    I’ve been told I’m intimidating so many times, it’s ridiculous. The first time this happened I was only 21 and a sergeant in the military. There was a lieutenant who had a problem with me, and my supervisor at the time, said, “Don’t mind him; he’s just intimidated by you.” What? At that point in my life, I would attribute it to my height, 6′-1″ in heels, and that I was fairly decent looking. No degree, not well-traveled, no money.

    My sons have even said that I intimidate their friends. Why? I don’t know. I’ve always tried to be nice.

    Twenty years later, on the current dating front, factor in my height, my degrees, and yes, the fact that I’ve traveled, and I’ve only had 6 dates from in six months. However, I don’t know if I want to dumb down my profile just to get more volume. I feel I’m being as modest as I can be while still being honest.

    It reminds me of the Sex and the City episode where Miranda goes speed-dating. After being blown off by guys when she says she’s a lawyer, she finally opts for telling them that she is a stewardess. Of course, she gets a date right away, with a guy who says he’s a doctor. As soon as she cuts her thumb one morning while toasting bagels, she finds out he’s not a doctor, and realizes that honesty is the best policy.

    Intelligence is a big turn-on for me, but so is someone who accepts me for me. I don’t want someone who will need me to tiptoe around his ego. I think your Date #7 is a real find.

  19. Carl Stanton

    this “Dumbing down” phenomenon that your blog post talks about is likely a result of the residual patriarchy in our society. In the past, it was expected that men be the protectors and providers for women, and that women were to be subservient to men. This meant that “strong” or “smart” women were intimidating because they challenged that. Unfortunately, some of the views and attitudes still persist. Personally, I am not intimidated by smart, or well-educated women. In fact, they usually are more attractive to me. As previously stated, being honest about yourself online might mean that you get less matches, but the ones that you do get are probably going to be people who you are much more likely to be compatible with.

  20. Landlord

    This post has me thinking…I know I dumb myself down in certain situations when my narrative may have a negative outcome, such as engaging in peace/justice issues in a corporate setting, when I am there to be an accessory to the chauffeur. (not that he EVER asks this of me or wants me to be that way, although there are times when I’d like him to do the same, not everything needs to be “a teachable moment”) However I have learned to interject “innocently” when I need make a point, or at the very least steer the conversation away from subject matter that could become incendiary 😉

    Now as for talking about culture, travel, etc. to others that may or may not have had these experiences, I have another thought…I grew up blue collar, yet my father instilled a sense of curiosity in me, we traveled, albeit by a small van and tent, we went to museums, and had adventures on a budget. So I don’t necessarily feel that talking about my experiences should make someone feel “less than”. In fact, now that I can travel to more exotic locales, I still do them low budget, so that I can travel frequently. When I talk about those experiences, such as, “my favorite city is Venice”, I do it because I am truly excited by those experiences and know that with careful planning and lowering certain travel standards, many others can do it too, and I LOVE encouraging them to do so. Engage me in a conversation about travel, and I will bore you to tears about how to do it on a dime!

    No moral of the story here, just my thoughts on the random replies and how feminism (and or being true to oneself) and being sensitive to others (lack of experiences?) to make them comfortable, can be seen in various ways.

  21. sarahnsh

    I dumb myself down sometimes when I was younger and dating, and have in some situations with talking to cleints, or even my co-workers. I know a lot of useless information, and sometimes when I talk about something and I get that blank look I’ll clamp my mouth shut and just play dumb after that. Or just play quiet, because they just seem bored by me, or aren’t exactly following what I say.

  22. lifeandothermisadventures

    I actually have two reactions to this. First of all, I don’t think anyone should “dumb down” their profile to the point where you end up sounding generic or misrepresenting yourself. I always pass generic-sounding profiles over. I mean, if you can’t find anything more interesting to say about yourself then “I like long walks on the beach” – please, don’t bother.

    However, it’s a fine line perhaps between interesting and intimidating. There have been profiles I’ve read also where the person lists SO many accomplishments – I speak 5 languages, I do volunteer work in Guam, etc… that it’s a little intimidating to me. If I met them in person and found that they were a nice, down-to-earth person as well as being accomplished, I’d be very interested. But if their profile lists too many things, I might be too intimidated to message them initially.

    It’s all about striking a balance. The writing style of your profile reveals your intelligence without you having to actually list out all of your academic credentials. And I think the best profiles are short and sweet, with a few interesting facts, rather than long lists or essays. Never dumb it down, but like poetry, leave something to the imagination!

  23. M

    I’m not going to address the issue of insecure men who feel intimidated by more successful women, which was what the article covered; instead, I’m going for the issue of men who are secure of their manly awesomeness, but always get the cold shoulder when they go for the smart, funny, cute, well-spoken woman.

    The problem these men have is that such charismatic, lively women seem to have little interest in “dating down,” that is, going for a sweet, lovable, but dumb and a little dull guy, when they’re such high tier women. “Well-traveled,” “well-read,” or “well-paid” are not turn-offs for secure men, they’re positive, attractive points that unfortunately put these women out of their league, but not out of their hearts.

    I’m not sure if the problem in this case is one of social convention — that is, that women should always “date up” — or one of the workings of female libido, but the glass ceiling is certainly there for these underachieving-but-cool-about-it men.


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