Dating and Deception

by Conor Friedersdorf

Over at True/Slant, I've been writing about one of the sleaziest "pickup techniques" short of drugging. Like many calculated approaches to attracting the opposite sex, its core is deception and manipulation -- I dare any Dish reader who clicks through to muster a defense.

What I want to explore in this post, however, are the borderline cases where dating, manipulation and deception intersect. Every so often, there is the dream scenario where new romance is born of ideal circumstances: e.g., introduced via mutual friends, mutually interested people, confident enough to get to know one another without ego or insecurity getting in the way, etc.

But consider a more common scenario: two people who meet in a bar, or on, both with their share of character flaws. Perhaps one of them is more interested than the other. It is pretty to think the right answer is that any deception or manipulation is wrong -- but aren't a lot of things that strike us as fair game actually deceptive and manipulative?

Makeup is worn. Always messy living rooms are cleaned up before one's date arrives. A favorite poem is gleaned from her Facebook profile, memorized, and strategically dropped into conversation. That last seems a more marginal case than the others. Why? Does it cross the line? Why or why not?

I suspect that often our judgments about kosher behavior depends as much on who is involved as the specific scenario in question. A friend comes to us for advice about how to handle an awkward situation wherein she's inadvertently scheduled two dates for the same day -- and knowing she is generally an upstanding person, we laugh, sympathize, and help her formulate a solution, whereas if we were on a date with a women who deceived us about having another date immediately following ours -- or even worse, a guy our sister was dating pulled the same stunt -- the whole moral situation would seem to us entirely different.

I'd be curious to hear dating situations that Dish readers have experienced, or hypothetical situations they've conceived, that shed light on deception, dating, and the way we ought to think about how they intersect. Shoot them to conor dot friedersdorf at gmail dot com, and I'll mull them over and post a followup that lays forth my own thoughts.