The Hook-up: Dear T.O. Boys

Introducing Dear T.O. Boys

I met Niya B in a funny sort of way. We were both at Playground last fall and when I settled into one of the workshops, I checked Twitter and someone I didn’t know noted they were sitting beside me! I really didn’t even imagine anyone knew who I was let alone would want to tweet about it. We both ended up in the same lunch group. Since then, I’ve been devouring Dear T.O. Boys.

What gave you the idea for the blog?
I was asked to convert what was an unscheduled series of tweets that were hashtagged #DearTOBoys into a blog by some of my followers. The tweets were the result of very positive, or very negative, dating experiences with Toronto Boys. I converted those experiences into what I considered useful strategic advice for other contenders. It began as things to do, or things not to do, and has mostly remained in that vein. I figured someone should profit from what I lived through. I made an active decision to phrase them in a somewhat snarky, though hopefully amusing fashion. Since tracking the hashtag was too much work for my followers DearT.O.Boys, in blog form, was born in May 2011.

Do you think guys read and heed what you say?
Given the feedback I’ve received I’m certain they read it. Some of them read it in incredible detail. They often let me know that they find it amusing. Some have indicated that they see themselves in the posts. Others have gone so far as to apologize on behalf of their gender (but not of their peers – since each thinks himself to be a peerless embodiment of chivalry and good manners).

Do they heed the advice? Perhaps, but not when emailing, conversing, or dating me. I sincerely hope other women are benefiting from it. I haven’t seen any improvement at all, over the two years that I’ve been creating and sharing quotidian content.

In an effort to correct what may be an issue in delivery, or in the perception that a woman really has no understanding of what it’s like to be a man playing the game and thus her advice should be discounted, I have agreed to create and share content with the project team at the Mansformation Project (transforming men from hateable to dateable) who publish useful #ManLessons. Well, useful in my opinion. Hopefully that will make more of an impact.

Alternately, I might start making t-shirts of the less verbose lessons and giving them out as gifts.

Are the posts based on specific instances or are they an amalgam of experiences?
Each post is based on a specific instance. There have been multiple posts inspired by a single individual, based on interactions over time. If you read enough of the blog, you’ll see consistencies emerge in certain focus areas i.e. please don’t ask me out if you’re still in love with your ex and intend to go crawling back the moment she allows it. That said, I schedule the posts so that there is a variety of content over the week. This takes things out of chronological order, but I hope it prevents reader fatigue. Ideally I would like it if no one feels beaten over the head with content about proper punctuation and word choice.

Have you received any backlash about the blog?
One can’t please everyone, especially when one is criticizing a significant portion of the population that have access to power for their socially inappropriate behaviour. There have been a broad range of less than pleasant comments made through various media about the content, the writing style, and about me as a person based on the blog. Some of my favourites have been ones about:

  • how I should stop using my intelligence and sexuality as a weapon against potential dates and settle for what I can get 
  • how I couldn’t possibly be worth dating because of my hypocritical practice of advising my partners not to try and change me while I force my blog and my opinions of how they can better themselves upon them (NOTE: I don’t promote the blog actively, if at all. It’s very very rare that I suggest it to anyone, much less to current dates) 
  • whether or not I’m pleased by the fact that I’ve “priced myself out of the dating market” 
  • how I’m just another stuck up city girl who thinks far too highly of herself and should be lucky that my cat allows me her companionship because no human being ever will 
  • how my experiences are entirely my fault because I choose to date “Boys” and not “Men” (This is usually from 50+ men who then make rather ridiculous suggestions about how giving my life to be in service to them would make me a much happier individual) 

I should note that I have yet to receive negative feedback from women. Most women I know who read the blog were introduced to it by a man and they generally find it amusing, and sometimes relate to and share the content. This applies to both my local and international female audience.

Do you think it would be problematic if a man were writing a similar blog about women?
It likely would be. While I would personally welcome the feedback (because I can’t fix what I’m doing wrong if I don’t hear from my audience) there is a lot of sensitivity around men telling women how to behave in order to achieve markers of success, whether it’s dating success or career success. A number of my male readers have suggested that they would like to start writing Dear T.O. Girls, but no one has, probably for that reason, amongst others. It’s a strange culture we live in, where it is more acceptable for a woman to publish snarky and sometimes scathing points of view about male behavior than it is for a man to do the same. We’ve a long way to go before we get to that point.

You describe yourself as “dating for sport.” Is there any specific reason for this choice?
There is. I treat it like a sport, or more accurately, like a game. Given where I am in life, and what my schedule allows, anything more than a game really isn’t feasible. I am very clear about this with all of my partners. Doing anything else would be unfair and unethical. I should note that I use the following characteristics when defining a game, and consequently, dating. The activity as a whole is:

  • fun: the activity is chosen for its light-hearted character (i.e. this is not serious, relationship-oriented “we need to be married in two years or I’m not doing this” dating) 
  • separate: it is circumscribed in time and place (i.e. once we’re done, we’re done. This will not move out into the “real” world) 
  • uncertain: the outcome of the activity is unforeseeable (Anything that involves another person, or other people, has unforeseeable outcomes including pleasant surprises, untimely ends, and vast potential lost) 
  • non-productive: participation does not accomplish anything useful (In theory, there could be a useful friendship, but that has yet to successfully manifest) 
  • governed by rules: the activity has rules (I adore structure, and rules – and in this case, the rules are the ones for basic, civilized human interaction – the standard social contract applies) 
  • fictitious: it is accompanied by the awareness of a different reality (see the earlier note about separation). 

I also really like applying the Avendon and Smith definition of game playing as “an exercise of voluntary control systems in which there is an opposition between forces, confined by a procedure and rules in order to produce a disequilibrial outcome.”

What is the one thing TO boys need to do better?
I can only pick one? For me, it’s a toss up between audience research, and clear communication. These are the two main themes that run through the blog. My professional background in communications makes me more sensitive to, and less tolerant of errors that arise from, failing to know the audience. I’ve found that men in Toronto approach every woman they’d consider dating like they’re identical units of some larger hive mind. There is little-to-no effort expended to tailor strategy, key messages, and a tactical approach to a target audience (of one) with clearly defined tastes and preferences that are not difficult to discern. It’s especially insulting/amusing when they complicate their initial approach by stating how appealing it is that I belong to a racial or ethnic group that they’ve exoticized/eroticized. Acknowledging individuality, and using that information as a basis for conversation and other engagement would be far more efficient that using whatever cookie-cutter strategy is being mass marketed by the current popular Pick Up Artist.

I also have no patience for poor communicators (can you tell I’m not very forgiving?) because their inefficient practice means I have to do significantly more work in order to determine if they are worthy game players – and to figure out exactly what they’re trying to say. I am guilty of typographical errors and run-on sentences, but the message is clear, as is the word choice. There have been far too many instances where I’ve had to shop text messages out to a panel to achieve some sort of consensus as to what a message was actually supposed to say. I have switched to the panel approach because it is more efficient that revising the message and sending it back to the originator to confirm the meaning. That usually results in a long bout of them calling me interesting, if impolite, names.

What is one thing TO guys do really well in understanding women?
Toronto guys, for all their failings, are incredibly tenacious and have long memories. Despite being rebuffed numerous times, they hold on to contact information for years and don’t stop propositioning and inviting. I’m not sure if it demonstrates understanding necessarily, but I can always count on them remembering who I am and what we shared – if not why we chose to terminate the arrangement. This is not to say that they aren’t attractive, brilliant, charming, dapper, erudite, fascinating, generous, humane, introspective, jocund, kindhearted, lucid, masterful, noteworthy, open, polite, quirky, responsive, sensitive, thoughtful, understanding, vivacious, worldly, xenial, yielding, zealous men in the city. There most certainly are. I happen to be good friends with them and their boyfriends.