Last week, the dating "mistake" that had the Internet cluck-clucking in joyful schadenfreude was the survey sent by a "24-year-old finance guy" to one of his dates. Deadspin called it "creepy." But now the survey creator, who gave us permission to use his full name, Michael Stolar, is sharing his side of the story.
Stolar's practice of surveying his dates on his own date performance landed at Deadspin after a woman forwarded it on to Deadspin, and while she did not fill out the survey, she did pass on her review of him: he was "overall moderately attractive" and "a little socially inept...[not] too creepy, just the type of guy who overanalyzes every detail and feels completely awkward in the majority of social situations. It didn't seem like he got out much." This little story of a man, a woman, and the aftermath of their four dates went on to be picked up elsewhere, because, as we wrote at the time, "Everything We Do While Dating Is Creepy and Potentially Viral," and Stolar's survey fit the bill perfectly. Supposedly "creepy" actions, check. "Finance guy," a/k/a guy with a career we can hate, check. Embarrassing public disclosure of that which had been intended as private, check. Opportunity for mockery of someone else's presumed incompetence in the field of dating, which makes the rest of us creeps feel so much better about ourselves, double check. But that's never the full story.
Stolar emailed The Atlantic Wire the screengrabbed image above as proof that he is the survey sender in question. Of the email, he says, "As you can see it is dripping in sarcasm and I had to apologize in it for fear of coming off as patronizing." He also expressed his surprise that the story was presented in such "a negative fashion" on Deadspin, and then picked up and spun more wildly at each additional venue. "As the story grew I got a promotion each time it was picked up by a new outlet," he writes. "It peaked with TIME Business comparing me to Gordon Gecko and the guy from American Psycho. Unreal, right? Considering I don't work in equity finance and am not nearly approaching the neuroticism of Patrick Bateman (alright maybe true on this one)."
The Time piece to which he refers is titled "The Creepy Dudes of Wall Street: Are Finance Guys Losing Their Mojo on the Dating Scene, Too?" going on to detail the "jaw-dropping tale of Wall Street prattishness" of our survey-giver. Which is what everyone wants to read, right? But what if the survey, which asks questions like "Mike is very self-conscious about his hair, does he have reason to be?" and "How are Mike's conversation skills? He didn't talk about himself the whole night...did he?" was not actually serious and was, in fact, a tongue-in-cheek method of seeing who shares his sense of humor and who doesn't? Mike says it's also something of an attempt to turn "social norms" on their head. Stolar says he's sent his survey to six former dates, and has received two responses. "While dating you're forced to put on all types of fronts and be this very generic person to attempt to garner some attraction. It's unbearable," he writes us. "The survey was created to filter out un-date-able women (those, like my date, who do not find it funny), versus women with a sense of humor similar to mine. There's also the commentary on communication. She and I went on four dates, solely because we thought the other one was interested. In reality neither of us were interested. Why can't we ask questions like those in my survey? Why do you get labeled as socially inept when you confront an issue or ask for information instead of skirting around it? I could write for pages about all the things wrong and biased with the articles about this stupid, albeit it well written, survey," he continues. A few of them...
No one fact-checked anything, including where he works. "I work at an agriculturally focused non-profit, not banking, private equity, or finance," he says. "I have a finance degree and worked in wholesale lending for 7 months but currently, without getting into details, you could loosely refer to me as working in agricultural export finance. Loosely being the key word here. I'll assume the finance guy pitch was solely for publicity by my date (which was brilliant)."
That the survey went viral is not about dating but about Wall-Street bashing. Mike says his survey "gained traction because any opportunity to ridicule Wall Street is seized upon." He kind of has a point. See also the Time piece, see also dating spreadsheet guy, see also "How to date a Wall Street man."
What's so wrong with spreadsheets or "organization" anyway? "You're wasting a lot of time if you refuse to learn anything from your experiences by not wanting to be the 'creepy/nerdy/analytical guy who takes notes,'" says Stolar. "It's similar to writing in a journal, just exponentially more valuable in terms of future usability and reference." When the story of "dating spreadsheet guy," whom he cites as a hero, came out, I talked to a woman who kept her own spreadsheet while online dating. "Out of respect for the likely many people you are in correspondence with when online dating," she said, "a spreadsheet is a helpful tool for everyone involved," she said. Just don't share it with your dates was the caveat.
There's something of a double standard at work. Stolar says that "Dating is now presented as women fending off creepy guys searching for the one normal guy out of two dozen 'creepy finance guys.'" And it's true, the word "creep" gets thrown around a lot more with regard to men than women, but a lot in general, nowadays. "Here is the reality of my 'fling' with this girl," he writes, "Four dates that, honestly, she kept pushing for although she was clearly looking for something strictly physical, if you know what I mean....Again, without getting into details, she has her own spreadsheet that is kept for, well... health reasons. The next time a woman hears a guy speaking crudely about an ex at a bar, something I would NEVER do, maybe they should consider that it is because of their apparent penchant for attempted public humiliation of their dates?"
Despite the ridicule and the allegations of "creepiness," Mike says he'll keep giving out the survey, which he generally hands out in person and not via email: "It came about mostly for fun and sort of as a way to filter out women who will never be interested in me and those who might be. I'm also terrible with women. It can't possibly hurt the downward spiral that is my dating life," he says. "My OKCupid now has a link to an article about it...I'm happy to see my 15 minutes of fame coming from a general unwillingness or inability to adhere to social norms."