Monk's Guide To Dating

Hi! I'm Friar Wally, and I'm one of the monks at The Monastery. There is a lot of misinformation out there on the subject of dating. Monks shouldn't even be thinking about dating, but I know that many of you non-monks are. So let's get on with it now, shall we? And, don't forget to check out the FAQ!

The Pseudo-Intellectual Concept

We all try to avoid over-analyzing the so-called dating situation, as if it is below our intellectual capacity to dwell upon primal functioning. It is a topic that is often circumvented through innuendoes, myths, anecdotes and occasional legends.

Dating is actually a contemporary phenomenon. It prominence parallels contemporary thought in individualism and freedom of choice. Dating was the answer to the historical precedent of arranged marriages. Yet, dating in its present form has become a puzzlement. Its rules were based on simple principles (which we can call paradigms because they still exist today). However, many of these rules come into conflict with societal trends and current awareness of political agendas ("correctness").

Another consideration is the nebulous area of the desired outcome of the dating process. The inception of dating as we know it was to introduce the element of choice. It was a kind of rebellion. Little did anyone know that the rebellion would continue into the multiple permutations that we see today. For example, the ultimate purpose of dating was courtship and marriage. Marriage was traditionally viewed as the vehicle for procreation. Love in marriages was developed through mutual experience as a result of the everyday struggle for survival.

Today, we can argue that the struggle for survival still exists, but it has been glossed over by technology. Luxuries and conveniences have made it possible to view the present day struggle as somewhat less strenuous. These conveniences have also offered a variety of distractions which, in effect, are merely placebos. Although we have not developed suitable artificial intelligence, and therefore, suitable androids, we have developed sophisticated technological substitutes for human companionship (e.g., television). The age of telecommunications has provided new options in human interface, some faceless but still very powerful. Take the telephone as an example. How can this simple object of convenience be viewed by some women as an instrument of torture (e.g., sitting around and waiting for the damned thing to ring)? (Greenburg and Jacobs, 1986) Some men also view the phone as an instrument of torture, knowing full well the anxiety that is created prior to making The Call. We are getting a little ahead of ourselves, though.

Who Makes The First Move?

There has been and will continue to be considerable debate concerning the dating protocol. Essentially, the question centers on who makes the first move, the man or the woman? For the most part, common knowledge seems to lean the responsibility toward the male. However, there has been striking research to indicate the contrary. Perper (1985) asserted that "over half the time, the woman - not the man - initiated the courtship process." Women, Perper (1985) contends, range from passive to assertive, but by-and-large the majority fall into what he coins as "proceptive."

What is proceptivity? Unlike passivity where the female may have an interest in a male but takes no action, or an assertive female who takes full initiative, a proceptive female uses a more subtle but positive approach to signal her interest in a man. The proceptive female may approach the male, or she may turn toward the male while both are sitting in close proximity. She might reach toward him, or may actually touch him usually on the arm with the palm of her hand. These are signals that are supposedly "to get a man to make the first move" (the more conventional first move). Hall (1975) discovered an interesting protocol that occurs within halls of the university library from Monday through Wednesday nights. The college men arrived early and found their places at the study tables, laying out their accouterments usually books that seemed to indicate what subjects they were studying. The women arrived later and seemingly perused the selection before making their choices of where (or who) they would sit (next to). Only under the exacting conditions that the men initiated the conversation and that it occurred after 45 minutes was there a possibility that a study break could be taken together. Although seemingly strange, there was an apparent protocol with an implied acknowledgment of proceptivity on the part of the women. In this case, it resembled an intricate dance with delicate choreography.

The analogy of dance as applied to the dating protocol is appropriate as the choreography between the two people involved is what determines the outcome. If one has "two left feet" and steps on his or her dance partner, the dance is essentially over. But when does this courtship process (Perper, 1985), or mating ritual (Fisher, 1993) begin?

The Dance

Eye contact appears to be the first indication that there is interest. Fisher (1993) noted that the gaze is probably the most striking courting ploy. In Western cultures, where eye contact between the sexes is allowed, both men and women gaze at potential mates for about two or three seconds during which time the pupils may dilate signaling intense interest. The gaze triggers two basic emotions - approach or retreat. Fisher (1992) further elaborates:

"You cannot ignore the eyes of another fixed on you; you must respond. You may smile and start conversation. You may look away and edge toward the door. But first you will probably tug at an earlobe, adjust your sweater, yawn, fidget with your eyeglasses, or perform some other meaningless movement - a 'displacement gesture' - to alleviate the anxiety while you make up your mind how to acknowledge this invitation, whether to flee the premises or stay and play the courting game."

Interestingly, too, is the coyness with which women visually assess men. While the male is looking in a different direction or preoccupied, a woman may watch him. If he were to suddenly look in her direction, she will casually turn away. Men are much more obvious about staring at women, but durations of longer than a few seconds will not endear them to their interests. It would behoove males to hone their observational skills, and learn to identify the subtle occurrences around them. Many men are also prone to discard some valid observations because it seemed too unlikely.

Obviously, this section of the Monk's Guide to Dating is aimed toward the male audience because of the logistical decisions that must be made. Women merely have to make their interest known through a variety of subtle hints. Should a man wait until he observes some possible proceptive behavior or should he just go for broke? What if the male is a loser, knowing full well that no babe is going to be attracted to him on sight?

These questions are obvious judgment calls, and answers will run the full gamut depending on who one is talking to. The safest bet is to wait until there is evidence of proceptive behavior on the part of the female before initiating the dating protocol. There is nothing wrong, of course, with being friendly and saying hello or exchanging small-talk with all women. This facilitates a kind of canvassing that puts the man in the general awareness set of the females. Going for broke or asking any or all women through the cold call approach is riskier. A certain amount of charisma and confidence is required, and rejections will occur in high frequency.

Now, what about the loser? Should he just throw in the towel? It would be very easy to say, "That's it, I'm through! I can't compete!" Well, after looking around and seeing all the competition, a loser may view any effort as feeble and useless. One of the real problems so-called losers go though is that of the vicious cycle, an endless hellhole that leaves one fatigued and debilitated. The loser's attitude is poor to begin with, and he may also be socially inept. As he gets older, he becomes more anxious and, thus, more nervous. Social ineptness and nervousness will ultimately lead to disaster, which in turn will add to the loser's pathetic luggage. Sad to say, the mating game requires that its participants be free (or appear to be free) of any of these pathological quirks. It would be all to easy to say "Drop the loser stuff" but it is not as easy as it seems. Gilmartin (1985) discussed one specific group which he identified as severely "love-shy." Love-shyness is a male-dominated phenomenon, as shy women are able to become involved in relationships by merely permitting themselves to be approached by men. Men, on the other hand, are required to take some overt initiative during courtship, thus it comes as no surprise that severely shy men were found to be seriously neurotic (anxious).

Many losers drop out of sight, becoming workaholics, hermits or even monks as a result of their disappointment with their love lives (or lack thereof). This most certainly is not the answer.

The Mystery That Is Woman

Oddly, even in prominent works of research, the role of women in the mating ritual is a mystery. No one seems to know anything, as if there were no women around anywhere. Does this seem odd to you?

Many men still believe that women are passive, asexual creatures. They also believe that the courtship process is entirely dependent upon the male's actions. True, it is impossible to make generalities concerning personality or behavior, but surely we should have some idea of what is going on. Women claim a similar curiosity about men, but it seems that their intuitive impressions are seemingly accurate.

Are women really a mystery? Are they keeping their modus operandi a secret?

The simplistic model of the mating ritual can be likened to bringing together of two different cultures for a common cause. There is anxiety. there is uncertainty. There is fear. But there is also a mutual attraction, for without it this meeting would never occur. The dance is the learning process that is accomplished through alternate sharing.


Once it has been established that there is interest (i.e., confirmed occurrences of proceptivity), the male must respond in kind (if he has not chosen to flee). During the process of interaction between interested parties, a number of events occur which are not always obvious on a conscious level.

Fisher (1993) reported that women almost universally across cultures flirt with the same sequence of expressions:

"First the woman smiles at her admirer and lifts her eyebrows in a swift, jerky motion as she opens her eyes wide to gaze at him. Then she drops her eyelids, tilts her head down and to the side, and looks away. Frequently she also covers her face with her hands, giggling nervously as she retreats behind her palms." 
Males also respond universally using the "chest thrust," or the deliberate expansion of the chest to cause it to protrude outward (Fisher, 1993). It is little wonder why males spend a considerable amount of time at the gym doing bench press to increase pectoral size.

Conversations in the flirting phase truly exemplify the dance analogy of the mating ritual. The content of the conversation is not important. In fact, it can be about very mundane and rote events. Rather, it is the conversational style that is important. Eye contact is very important as is voice inflection. Compliments, especially from the female, are prevalent during this stage. There is also a painfully obvious circumlocution of hinting. For example, a topic of conversation might be what each person did during the weekend. After a short synopsis, a disclaimer might be added such as, "But, I really don't do that sort of thing often" or "I'm usually at home most weekends." Males may also make similar statements, but only to confirm their uncommitted status. Ultimately, the hints are provided as an invitation to the male to make the conventional first move.

The essential choreography of flirting is the gentle reciprocation that increases in intimacy over time. Some flirtation styles include sexual innuendoes, or sexual connotations, and these styles are not limited to the males. After all, whether we choose to believe it, sexual compatibility is an important consideration to many people. Confusion often results because sexual attraction must be downplayed due to "correctness" and etiquette. Where's Emily Post when you need her?

If the male remains stagnant in the flirtation and small talk stage, the relationship will never progress. It is more than likely that the initial interest of the female will wane, usually much more rapidly than the male who may still be vacillating on what to do next. After an extended period of time, it becomes a lost cause.

Looks Are Everything

There is no question about it. Looks are very important in the mating ritual. After all, that is what attracts you to someone in the first place. It is the first impression that one has about another person. However, people generally say that attractiveness is not too important to them, but their actions belie their statements (Hatfield and Sprecher, 1986). Yet, in the long run, most people revamp their priorities by placing attainable persons over highly attractive persons.

People are generally attracted to good-looking people for three reasons (Hatfield and Sprecher, 1986):

  • Aesthetic appeal - It is pleasant to be around beautiful people.
  • Glow of beauty - Appearance influences how we perceive other's non-physical characteristics such as personality.
  • Beauty rubs off - People gain by merely being seen with someone who is attractive.
This brings up the topic of the league. Ever notice that people, men especially, always attempt to assess whether someone is within their league? Notice, too, that these assessments are usually made solely on the basis of looks. The cutoff point for one's league is arbitrary, and usually established based on the rater's own physical characteristics. It is as if one knows his or her place. It is debatable whether the concept of the league has any credence or is merely a case of self-fulfilling prophesy.

The topic of physical attractiveness cannot be approached objectively. What is attractive to one person is not always attractive to another. One can easy verify this by perusing the various couple that are out in public. Sometimes the pairing seem logical. At other times, comments such as, "It must be true love" are heard, cruel as they may seem.

The bottom line is that there really is no "league." These arbitrary standards can only serve as a limiting factor, and does little for one's own self-image.

Men Are Pigs(?)

Men are, according to women, pigs, misogynists, rapists, stalkers, perverts and the list is endless. Women tend to interpret men's motivations as always being sexually related.

While men are fairly obvious in the manner that they peruse women, they are not necessary living out a sexual fantasy. It is a natural occurrence that tends to suggest that women have a very captivating power over men. Perhaps men have been socialized to view female attractiveness in and object oriented fashion. Or, perhaps it is an essential part of biology. From all indications, this particular phenomenon does not affect the female as dramatically.

From a variety of male testimony as well as field observations, the effect of a female in visual proximity has some short-term debilitating effects on men including hypoxia, total loss of concentration, and intense but brief emotional surges. The male of the species appears to lose control of his senses for a brief moment, and is helpless to do anything about it. Crazy as it seems, this phenomenon remains unstudied or is attributed to the socialization of men and the perpetuation of established male sex roles.

While females do tend to swoon over attractive males, they do not seem to go through the same short-term debilitation and emotional turmoil that men do. In a comparison of actions, the women will naturally ascertain the obvious indiscretion of the cretin male. Empirically, there does seem to be evidence that biology is the culprit. Scientists and researchers have been unable to determine what exactly causes attraction between the sexes, yet it appears to be biologically programmed. Even in early biblical times, the sons of God (angels) found the daughters of men to be very attractive and materialized in human form to have relations with them. Scholars of the Bible know that spirit creatures are of neither sex. From the standpoint of creation, women were apparently the most beautiful of all the creatures that walked the earth. In contemporary times, these statements would be deemed sexist however their inclusion here is merely to illustrate another viewpoint.

The Eunuch-Like Behavior

There are sure-fire ways of not getting a date, but the most effective means of becoming a dateless eunuch is to develop the eunuch-like behavior, of which the Data-like personality (after Commander Data on Star Trek: TNG) is a primary trait. Mind you, this is an ideal personality when one is a monk. This personality type can be categorized as dull.

Hatfield et al. (1993) identified the traits of the dull personality type, including:

  • Passivity - Dull people aren't really there, they just exist.
  • Tediousness - Dull people use a boring communication style including slow talking, long pauses before responses and rambling.
  • Distracting behavior - Dull people are side-tracked easily.
  • Low affectivity - Dull people rarely look others in the eye, have expressionless faces and talk in a monotonous fashion.
  • Boring ingratiation - Dull people try too hard to be funny, to be nice or to impress others.
  • Seriousness - Dull people never smile and appear somber or cold.
  • Self-centeredness - Dull people are preoccupied with themselves, with the past or with personal problems.
  • Banality - Dull people talk about trivial or superficial things, are interested in only one topic, and repeat the same stories or jokes again and again.
The eunuch-like behavior and Data-like personality preclude any chances of flirting. In addition to the Stonefacetm, true eunuch-like behavior requires the maintenance of a rigid posture. The absence of any movement or "displacement gestures" (Fisher, 1993) will dispel any notion of romantic interests. Exaggerated movement or fidgeting signifies implied interest as the body betrays a person's nervousness.

All in all, if one is not interested in monastic life, then it is important to make oneself as attractive as possible. But it is also wise to invest some time in developing an interesting yet honest personality.

Talk Is Not Cheap

Contrary to what some people believe, small talk is not trivial (unless it reaches new heights in banality). The seemingly useless banter in the flirting stage is really a precursor to developing trust through familiarity. True rapport occurs when people discover a sense of universality, or a common bond. As it were, it should come as no surprise that most people share more things in common than they think. Other factors tend to cloud the perception of that fact, and many people weed themselves out of certain social contexts based on those immediate perceptions (e.g., the league).

As in the case of many other activities, practice makes perfect. Prolonged isolation such as in a monastery can cause a person to become socially inept. Without continual social interaction, a person's social skills tend to atrophy. Similarly, a person who has been a loner most of his or her life may display an obvious absence of social skills. Add to that the stress of being in the company of a romantic interest and there is a potential for chaos.

An attempt to become versed in many interesting subjects does help facilitate conversation, but if one is not acquainted with the subtleties of conversational style and etiquette then that attempt may be vain. A list of tips could be included here, but it does little to substitute for real-life learning. A person who feels socially inept should make an attempt to join a group of some sorts. This is the typical solution, but it makes sense. It is nice when the group is founded on some common interests, but ideally it is best if it is a social group rather than a specific-interest club. Many social groups can be joined informally through proximity. These can be at work, school, the gym, etc. The more groups one is a part of, the more diversity one experiences.

The importance of social groups cannot be overstated. A social group forms the basis of a social enclave, a microcosm of society. The group members provide each other with feedback which is important for interpersonal growth. When one commits a social faux pas, the group is quick to correct that person. Thus, it is best to associate with a non-dysfunctional group. A more dysfunctional group atmosphere may promote destructive concepts such as "misery loves company" attitudes.

The bottom line is that small talk is the social middleman that allows people a chance to get acquainted without too much risk. Although many discount it as part of a game or a ruse, it is the foundation of the mating ritual. Refusal to participate will only seal one's monastic fate. Small talk is the social lubricant that keeps the rapport going without disclosing too much too soon. No one wants to look like a player or a ho'.

Looking For Love

Everyone is looking for good advice, especially about how to find someone. Hatfield and Sprecher (1986) offered some general guidelines:
  • If you are looking for a lover, first search for a friend.
  • If you are attractive, see and be seen. Spend time in "open fields" (e.g., singles bars).
  • If you are average or less in looks, concentrate on people in classes or work. Join small clubs and activities ("closed fields").
  • If you are not shy, ask out the person you are interested in.
  • If you are shy, rely on "social density" networks and arrange to be at the same place at the same time as the person of interest, surrounded by people, of course. Rely on "happenstance" to bring you together.

Monk's Guide FAQ

Here are some frequently asked questions. Various cast members from The Life and Times of a 41-Year-Old Virgin have been gracious enough to provide some of the answers.

 What's a good pickup line I can use at the gym?

If you see a babe you really like and she is on the StairMaster or the treadmill, go over to her and say, "You must be really tired." Baby will answer and ask why you asked her that. Tell her, "You must be tired because you've been running through my mind for an hour." -- Contributed by The Cardinal

What kind of lunchbox should I bring to work?

If you are trying to attract babes get a "Power Rangers" lunchbox. When a babe comments on your lunchbox, ask her to come closer and whisper to her, "Let me tell you a secret. I'm the real Power Ranger." -- Contributed by The Cardinal

Do I need to be a stud and have big bank before babes will even look my way?

"Yes. That's why I'm The Bull." -- The Bull

Should I ask a babe for her phone number?

Never ask a woman for her phone number. Give her your number and have her call you if she's interested in doing anything. If she never calls, then that's okay. You haven't lost anything. If she calls, then you know she's interested. If she wants to give you her number, don't accept it. Tell her that it's not good to give out her phone number to men she doesn't really know. She'll respect you for that. -- Contributed by Matt

If I notice that a babe is looking at me, does that mean she is interested?

She could be interested, or maybe she has observed that you were staring at her. Men sometimes think that they are very coy when checking out the babes, when in actuality they are pretty much staring at them. I would review my own behavior first, otherwise there might be an untimely visit from the cops. -- Contributed by The 41-Year-Old Virgin

Is this for real?

The whole process of dating may sound like a joke, but an average dating relationship is intact and consummated usually within six to eight dates (about two to three months). Most boy/girlfriend situations are relatively short-term and rationalized as "experience." It seems illogical to believe that a series of short-term relationships will provide the framework for a long-term relationship in the future. -- Contributed by Friar Wally

Why don't the babes do more than hint?

The answer is: they don't have to. Most babes have more than enough suitors at any one time, so why would they need to do anything? However, babes do actively make themselves known to guys they are interested in. So, if no babes are in your proximity, it is time to get a clue. There are guys that absolutely no babes find attractive ... like myself. -- Contributed by The 41-Year-Old Virgin

What about real dancing? Is that important?

Dancing, or rug-cutting as it was called in the fifties, is an activity most babes really enjoy. It appears to be an essential part of the ritual. The willingness of the guys to go out dancing and make fools of themselves as they engage in purely robotic movements is endearing to women. There are a variety of theories that may address the importance of this most curious activity. One, it is a chance for the male to take a risk for the female. Two, it is an activity that most women have more expertise than men, and affords the women the opportunity to take the lead. The female is then able to assess the ability of the male to laugh at himself and be a good sport. On the other hand, watch what happens when a babe asks you to go dancing and you tell her, "I'm not a rug-cutting kind-of-a-guy." -- Contributed by The 41-Year-Old Virgin

Is it true that many gorgeous babes are never approached by guys?

All I can say is, "Don't believe the hype!" Unless a woman stays home all the time, has no job, has no friends or is in a convent, there is a really slim chance that she is unattached or has no suitors. If she is truly dateless, then it is by choice. Most likely she is being very selective. The contention that there are many gorgeous, lonely women is a myth and/or rationalization spread by losers. One need only look around to see the real truth. -- Contributed by Friar Wally

Is there any way to really impress a babe?

What I would do is put on some aggie boots and show the little darlin' how much respect is commanded when the whole building can hear every footstep I take. Shoot! Then she'll just melt faster than an ice cube on a hot day! -- Contributed by BigFoot(tm)

What if I start getting serious with a babe?

If, after a few dates, you find yourself thinking in serious terms about your Babe, make it a POINT to meet said Babe's parents ASAP and watch how they interact (all three: your Babe's parents with each other and your Babe with parents). There is a lot of insight to be gained from this (like, do I really want to date a Babe who's Mom chews tobacco??) -- Contributed by reader, Madame X

What about the wild thing?

Sex is a personal issue. It is not any human's place to decide that issue for someone else. However, in this age where STDs have become so prevalent, it would be prudent to consider the alternative. Moreover, one needs to consider the psychological effects of recreational sex. Once an individual engages in recreational sex, it becomes easier to separate it from the specialness it deserves. Finally, in the case of pregnancy, one has to look at it from the child's point of view. Would you have enjoyed it if you learned you were born as a result a "mistake"? Would you like to have been an orphan? Would you be comforted in knowing that you could have not had your chance to live if you were aborted? The ultimate decision is yours, but careful consideration and prudence is worthy as life is a precious thing. -- Contributed by Friar Wally

What if I see a really hot babe dancing and I want to get to know her?

Do not, I repeat DO NOT just grab her and get freaky on her! You must ASK her if she wants to dance, otherwise this may result in baby saying "Excuse me, but I was dancing here!!" -- Contributed by reader, Madam X

In my case, it is the other way around, and I'm not complaining! -- Contributed by The Bull

Should I buy a few of those "relationship" books?

Baha! Ha! Ha! Haaa! There are hundreds of these "relationship" books coming out every month. This should be a red flag signaling the state-of-affairs, but do these books really help as much as they profess to? Remember all of those "empowerment" books? Where are they now? Doorstops. Or, they are lining the shelves of used book shops. Needless to say, the only empowerment that resulted was the author's inflated bank account. That is not to say that there is absolutely no value in any of these books. However, after sifting through the buzzwords, one is hard-pressed to find an issue beyond compromise and communication. Developing these skills go beyond the pages of a book. It takes practice, and a willingness to put all the game-playing aside. If both parties are not willing to do this, no amount of books in the library is going to help. -- Contributed by Dr. Psycho, M.F.C.C.

What about meeting someone on-line?

On-line dating is something I once thought was ludicrous, but it seems to be the rage and it's not letting up. The popularity of these e-romances has caused a proliferation in on-line dating services. This seems to be a sign of the times. Face-to-face communication has become outmoded, probably as a result of the breakdown of trust in our society. In a way, it is sad that we have resorted to electronic forms of communication. Sheesh! Roommates are even mailing each other instead of talking! The point to remember is that, although on-line dating may alleviate some of the anxieties, it still does not preclude the eventuality of face-to-face communication. A person may be a lot different than they "appeared" on-line. -- Contributed by the Keeper of Lost Lives


Fisher, H.E. (1993). After all, maybe it's ... biology. Psychology Today, xx(2), 40-45.

Gilmartin, B.G. (1985). Some family antecedents of severe shyness. Family Relations, 34, 429-438.

Greenburg, D., and Jacobs, M. (1986). How to make yourself miserable. New York: Random House.

Hall, E.T. (1976). Beyond culture. NY: Anchor Press.

Hatfield, E., and Rapson, R.L. (1993). Love, sex and intimacy their psychology, biology, and history. New York: Harper Collins.

Hatfield, E., and Sprecher, S. (1986). Mirror, mirror: The importance of looks in everyday life. New York: SUNY Press.

Perper, T. (1985). Sex signals the biology of love. Philadelphia: iSi Press.

© Copyright 1995, 1996 by The Monastery.