Ask A Woman: Secret Agent Man
If you’ve got a question that needs the female treatment, chances are you’re not the only one who wants to ask it. Beth is our source for the answers. From opinions on men’s style to decoding the sometimes mysterious ways of women, she’ll take on a different question every Thursday. And don’t worry, your identity will be protected too. Click here to get to know Beth, then get in touch with her by sending your question to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The three main topics that usually come up on a first date are: 1) What do you do for a living? 2) Where did you go to school and what did you major in? 3) What are your dreams, hopes and aspirations? I am having trouble on the first 2 topics. I can’t talk about my job. No, seriously.
I am obligated to keep my mouth shut about my job. I’ll usually get the “You’re joking right?” type of response, but I honestly can’t talk too much about it. I can say that I’m an engineer or a technician who manages people and oversees projects, but when asked about specifics of a project I can’t say. I can’t even discuss travel since that’s also supposed to be kept quiet per my employer’s instructions.
From that point on it sets a foul mood on the date. I try to move on and go to the next topic, “Where did you go to school and what did you major in?” I try to keep it generic and say I went to so-and-so school, what clubs I was in, etc… but I have a few degrees in engineering and a PhD in Physics. At that point, most dates just see me as a nerd. I feel as if I am on the Big Bang Theory.
Lemme tell you a story about me. I always wanted to be a writer. I went to grad school for a master’s in creative writing, with an emphasis on memoir. It was a dream come true–I was around other very weird, quirky bookworms who understood my literary references and writing aspirations. And yet, when someone outside this literary world asked me what I was in grad school for…I clammed up. Or gave a really lame, stuttered answer. In short, I was embarrassed by this question because it was hard to explain to anyone why I needed to go to graduate school in order to write, and what I would do with such a degree, and how I could possibly have enough material to write memoir when I was only 26. Eventually, I realized that people were reacting as much to my discomfort, as the actual answers I was giving to them. Because I seemed embarrassed and insecure about what I was spending three years of my life doing, other people reacted in kind.
All of this is to suggest…perhaps the same thing is happening with you. You have an unusual circumstance, and you’re very aware of it. Perhaps you’ve gotten some bad reactions from women in the past, and it’s now coloring your perception of how future women will react. I recommend the old adage fake it ’til you make it. Before you go on a date, tell yourself that you’re going to act like the fact that you can’t give details about your work is totally normal. When the woman inevitably asks you about it, smile and say, “You know, this is going to sound very Mission Impossible, but I actually have a job where discretion is really crucial. I’m a type of engineer, but that’s all I can say. But tell me about what you do for work.” Keep that smile going, keep the eye contact, and pretend it it’s not a big deal to you at all.
When asked about your schooling, just say you have a degree in engineering and physics. If it’s a first or even second date, there’s no need to go into more detail. Leave it at that and turn the attention back to the woman–“So you studied Russian literature, wow, how did you get interested in that?” Remember that dates are not commitment, and they’re not an opportunity for full disclosure. Don’t lay it all on the table–the idea behind dating is to get to know someone gradually. When/if you decide you have a real connection with someone, then you can mention, yeah, that degree in physics is actually a PhD. By that time the woman will know there is a lot more to you, and she’ll see an advanced degree as something attractive and special about you–not your membership card to the American Association of Nerdlets.
Finally, you won’t always get these sorts of questions. Well, the job question, yes. That will happen forever and ever, amen, because Americans define ourselves by our work–for better or for worse. But as you get older, questions about school and degrees may fade because when you’re 30 or 35, where you graduated from a decade previous is not as relevant anymore. By that time you’ll have a whole, rich, complex life constructed–hobbies that you’ve had the time to really develop, solid friendships, impressive accomplishments–these things are more interesting and present than the fact that you excelled in school.
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