Should I Write A Dating Book For Geeks?

Earlier this week, I was contacted by a startup based in New York City. This is the conversation we had:

Startup: Hey! We specialize in matching up people and sending them on curated dates. We think we found someone that’s perfect for you.

Me: Great! Does she own a Wonder Woman costume? How about Catwoman? Like the classy Darwyn Cooke Catwoman, not the trashy Halle Berry one.

Startup:

Despite the lack of response to that pivotal question, the startup insisted that I join their dating site, and so I did. I’m not expecting anything to come out of it. But … The whole conversation got me thinking about this book idea I’ve been kicking around for a couple of years. So let me share with you where I’m at with this, since I get asked about it fairly often.

Originally, the dating book was going to be a collection of horror stories I’ve gathered involving people who went on dates through Tinder, Match and OKCupid. The problem with that version of the book is that it’s not quite a book as much as it’s a series of funny articles. (This is a thing my agent always asks me whenever I send him a proposal. “Is it a book, or is it an article?” If it’s an article, it’s not something that can be pitched to editors successfully.) I’d also be worried about putting people off using those platforms to find a date.

There’s nothing wrong with online dating, at least on paper. In reality, I’m convinced my gender has made the experience awful for women by sending unsolicited dick pictures and just otherwise acting like the same thing they’re sending pictures of.

So then I thought, “OK. Well, what about dating advice but done in a funny way?” There’s a bunch of problems with that too. For one, there’s no shortage of books out there that repackage and sell the same advice as the other books available. Meaning, if you’ve read three dating books, you’ve probably read them all. And then there’s the question of who exactly the book is for because a lot of dating books skew more toward an audience of straight men. If I were to write one, I’d like to attempt something that’s useful for everyone.

Speaking of the books skewed toward the straight guys, they also tend to talk down to the reader and the book is just as much about pumping up how great and suave the author is as much as it is about being of any real use. I always thought that was bullshit. Worse still, these books are also very focused on non nerdy guys. It’s a lot of the “Be an Alpha Male” variety of advice, and I just don’t find that kind of thing appealing. Part of being a nerd, or a geek, is accepting you’re not the “Alpha Male” type. (Which I define, basically, as Brock Lesnar. If you’re reading dating books, the odds are good you don’t look or act like Lesnar. Therefore, you’re not an “Alpha Male” as defined by the author. For example, I may be taller than the former NCAA, WWE and UFC champ, but he also hilariously outweighs me by 124 pounds.)

Besides, the biggest problem with the “Be an Alpha Male” advice is that we live in a world of fluid gender roles and a whole lot of a gray area when it comes to dating. So being an “Alpha Male” on dates isn’t helpful. In the real world, behaving like one, more often than not, makes you an asshole.

So there are two options here with how to do this dating book:

The first option is to write a book that collects and aggregates all of the best dating advice out there for men and women and put it out as an e-book that presents that material in a funny and hopefully useful way for everyone. Not just straight guys.

That’s the easy one. It’d take a while to do because I tend to research things pretty thoroughly. But regarding selling and positioning the book, this is the choice a smart, reasonable person would make.

I also like this option because I have ideas that I think could be useful for individuals in this brave new dating world of ours. As one example, I think the girl should ask out the guy. These days, if I ask someone out to lunch or coffee or just to hang out, it is never a date. I think as men; we’ve completely blown any built-in trust that we might have had and needed to earn it back. So the asking out on a date, or going back to her place if all goes well, that’s for her to ask and suggest. Not you. We have to collectively, as a gender, earn back that trust.

Is that controversial? For sure, but I also think it’s the right way to do things going forward.

This version of the book is the most likely scenario, and also the most commercially viable. But I don’t want to get pegged as some dating expert or guru, so there’s also a big downside because that’s the part I’d have to play to sell it. I’m just a funny person that’s curious about stuff. I don’t consider myself an expert on anything. Not even marketing and PR, which I’ve been doing my entire life.

That brings me to the second option. I may be either the worst or the best, person to write a dating book. Best because I’m able to take really boring stuff and make it fun and easy to understand. Worst because …

- I’m a vegan, not because it’s the cool thing to be these days but because I legitimately have a wheat allergy and lactose intolerance. This makes going out to eat on dates a monstrous task. That’s bad because so many dates revolve around eating food.

-I’m divorced, and that relationship fell apart on my end of things, not hers. Even though the divorce was a long time ago now, I still have that mark on my record.

-I have OCD, which can be funny and endearing, but also deeply frustrating because it mostly manifests itself as my mind always being in the gutter. (Not as fun as you’d think when you are a writer and porn is just a Chrome tab away.)

-I have a very specific kink. In all my writing, the Wonder Woman / Superheroine-in-peril thing has been a running joke, but it’s a running joke for a reason, I’m into it. It’s also one of few “deal breakers” that I have for dating. My partner has to be into it or willing to get into it.

-My family is crazy and not in a “Ha! Ha! Look at those crazy people. They should be on television” way. I mean in a, “It will probably be 30 seconds after meeting you that they say something racist and offensive before going about doing whatever crazy shit they were doing before you arrived to say hello.” That’s if they even say hi to you at all because they may go and hide in their bedroom instead of greeting you, or sitting in the dark to hide because that’s totally happened on more than one occasion.

-Related to the above but also: I’m genetically garbage. I don’t mean I think I’m garbage in like a “woe is me” kind of way. I think I’m pretty awesome. I mean garbage in the sense that there’s a laundry list of genetic issues I have that are enough to frighten away even a German scientist.

Now add all those things up. What do you have? If you guessed “The Screamapillar” from “The Simpsons”, you guessed correctly.

OK, you might have also guessed I have enough red flags to send my date running for the emergency exits. But. That’s your hook for this version of the book. “If this guy can put it all together and find someone, using this advice, then you can too.”

That’s the fun way to do the book, but also the challenging way to pitch it to a publisher because they have very fixed formats that books need to fall into. You can’t do a dating book with a twist; it has to be a dating book. You can’t do a funny marketing book. It has to be a marketing book. This isn’t a complaint; it’s just how many industries work when it comes to marketing and selling products. You can only be one thing. Otherwise, you’ll confuse the customers.

So, I don’t know which version I’m going to run with, but I thought I’d share this all with you while I figure out which version of this book I’m going to go with. I’m open to suggestions as well. Feel free to email them to bj@bjmendelson.com

B.J. Mendelson is the author of “Social Media Is Bullshit” from St. Martin’s Press.

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