Why We Need to Rethink How We Dish About Our Dates

A person's reputation is a very fragile thing.
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Monica Gabriel Marshall
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A person's reputation is a very fragile thing.
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It’s understood that when it comes to dishing about men, your female friends are your confidants, counselors, therapists, and—if need be—your jury in a trial where the defendant is not present. But your intention is far from cruel. In fact, dishing on men is usually more similar to a science club than a trial by jury. During the course of the conversation, your date has become a specimen to be examined, passed around for each member to have a closer look.

To be sure, this portrayal of the sacred scoop sounds a little clinical for the tastes of those who hold up post-date rehash as the pinnacle of female bonding. I'm a fan of a good dissection over brunch, but I do wonder how often the privacy of my date is overlooked or not even considered. In all the analysis, what is the cost to him?

A recent study, reported on by Time.com, suggests that our post-date analysis affects the men outside our circle of trust more than we might think. Evidence from the research indicates that women tend to be more likely to reject a potential date if the information is framed in a negative way—even if the information itself is neutral. Participants in the study were presented with two statements that said the exact same thing about potential dates, just framed differently. For example, "Seven out of ten people who knows this person say he is kind," versus, "Three out of ten people who know this person say he is unkind." Results showed that female participants were much more likely to reject the men who were framed negatively.

Bear with me for a moment while I go through a little thought experiment. Four women meet after work for drinks. One woman, let’s call her Emma, is new in town and is just getting familiar with this social circle. Another woman, Kate, has taken Emma under her wing and introduced Emma to her friends. Kate is dishing about her recent date with Jake, who runs in the same crowd as these women. Kate explains that her date with Jake did not go well. Why? Because he is really boring. The other women who have met Jake before agree wholeheartedly and proceed to expound on his boringness.

What's the first thing that is going to pop into Emma’s head when she meets Jake at the next party? Possibly something along the lines of ah, this is boring Jake.

Now, I strive to be a fair-minded person and like to give any guy who has the guts to ask me out a chance. But a person's reputation is a very fragile thing, and it’s hard to unlearn information about another person once it’s been learned. This scenario might sound extreme, but in a dating world that increasingly emulates the "swipe left, swipe right" mentality of apps like Tinder, it’s not beyond the realm of reality that Emma might just pass before Jake has much of a chance.

I recently found myself in a situation very much like Emma's in my story. I was new in town, and my Kate-like friend was telling us about a couple of dates she has been on with a guy, but in the end she wasn’t interested. Eager as I was for a proper post-date rehash, I asked Kate the name of the man in question. Kate’s response was super classy: She smiled and said, “I’m not going to tell you his name because he lives in the area, and he may want to ask one of you girls out.” We were still able to discuss the date while keeping the identity of the man a mystery.

So you see, it is possible for women to continue practicing our science while honoring the anonymity of our subjects. And it’s not to say that there is no time for naming names, but we can certainly do it charitably and with special attention to our audience.

Photo by Andrea Rose