Week 4: Why it’s not sexy to call grown women “trouble”
(The following contains very binary gender language. This is because I am a heterosexual cis female who has primarily dated heterosexual cis males, so that’s my lived experience in the dating world so far.)
My grandad used to call me trouble. And he’s dead now. Largely due to the fact that he called me trouble. (And also cancer. But mostly the trouble thing.)
I’ve been dating for a couple of years now and my tiny, lady mind still can’t quite wrap itself around all the blokes who think it’s sexy to call a grown-ass woman “trouble”, “cheeky” or, my personal favourite, “actually quite funny”.
Should I be more offended by the “actually” or the “quite”?
Trouble was me at uni, trying to get into Ministry of Sound wearing a pair of slippers with nothing but an oyster card and a bottle of Skittles vodka to my name. Trouble is me getting into fights because someone maybe, kind of looked at my friend a bit weird in Be At One. Trouble is me not checking that my accountant actually filed my self-assessment this year. (I know, taxes: not sexy. But we are grown now, honey!) Trouble is not me ordering a second glass of pinot grigio or asking if a man wearing a wedding ring is indeed married.
Aside from being infantilising and gross (especially when directed at a 31-year-old woman or, to be honest, anyone above the age of 12), these kinds of pseudo compliments, in my opinion, seep into the murky waters of a very toxic dating pool. Let me explain.
Box Park, Wembley. I’m chatting to a bloke at the bar. A friend of a friend who’s been hanging out in the group all day. Overall, we’ve had a pleasant time, but the tables are turning. It’s starting to become obvious he’s gunning for more than just my excellent repartee. I tap his wedding ring. It’s cute. It’s clear. He turns to me and says, “yeah? So what?” Followed by… “you are going to be trouble.”
What I hate the most about this situation (again, aside from it being just pretty much disgusting), is that by calling ME trouble, he’s pre-shifting all blame for his foreshadowed adulterous behaviour onto me. Like I’m the issue. I’m the one that tempted him. Another innocent husband lured in by the siren call of a totally uninterested woman! Not to mention how vom-inducing that he so easily turned my reminding him of his martial oath into the wink wink of a saucy little tryst. Grow up.
The “you’re actually quites…” are a little more nuanced. “Hey, Louise is actually quite funny”, is a totally acceptable thing to think. I’ve often been on dates where I’ve thought, “hey, this guy is actually quite hot” or “this guy is actually really smart”. But, while valid thoughts to think inside one’s head, they must be finessed for saying out loud. The key is to NOT patronise your date by dropping the “actually” (and probably the “quite” too). You’re really funny. You’re really hot. You’re really smart. All genuinely lovely things to hear.
It’s the difference between saying, even to a friend, “you look good today” and “you actually look quite good today”. The latter only serves to expose your preconceptions about a person, like they had something to prove. The latter statement comes off as though you’re trying to validate the other person. Whereas the former is just a nice thing to say.
Maybe it’s the English student in me, but I love getting to the root of language. Some people might say I’m pushing this analysis too far but, I personally believe that your “troubles” and your “cheekies” etc, were born out of a modern-day verve for dad joke culture. Aka cheap jokes, that we laugh at out of obligation for the form, and for the self-preservation (read: privilege) of the (almost always) male joke teller.
Another way to see dad jokes is minimum effort, with the expectation of maximum reward. So many blokes I see on dating apps or IRL flaunt their dad jokes like a badge of honour. Like they haven’t just ripped all their material from their 5-year-old nephew’s My First Joke Book or Gary’s best man speech, that reads like it was also largely plagiarised from the foreword of the same literature. I actually saw a guy’s dating profile the other day that said, “just ask and I’ll hit you with my best dad jokes”. Absolutely not. Who the f*ck is commenting on that? I immediately set fire to my phone.
I was chatting to a male friend recently about the proliferation of dad joke culture, and how unsexy I found it. How insulting it can be, not just because of the minimum effort vibes, but for its degradation of someone’s intelligence to account for poor wit and/or sheer laziness. We came to a mutual conclusion that the only acceptable form of a dad joke (and even then, we are talking barely acceptable) is a self-aware one, made with a strong sense of irony. Understanding that it’s lazy and hack and cheap, potentially lends an air of charm. But genuinely thinking that calling your Hinge date “cheeky” because they “did a little joke”, or expecting them to laugh at a joke that realistically belongs in the fact/trivia section of a Christmas cracker insert, is so the opposite of a panty dropper my asshole chaffs just thinking about it.
To see if I could back up my theory, I had a little Google around dad jokes. And, did you know, one of the top searches in Google for this term is “best dad jokes flirty”. I despair. I mean, the grammar, for one. But also, please, chaps... if we find ourselves Googling this term, we should 100% cancel the date. Also, I’m incredibly aware the audience I am now speaking to definitely don’t read this or, if they do, definitely haven’t made it this far down the page.
If, however, you have got this far down the page and are thinking “come on Louise. Dad jokes, really? We’re going after dad jokes now? Don’t you think you’re going a bit far with this? Can’t we just continue to say what we want because we think it’s funny and don’t really care how it makes other people feel?”
Well, my response would only be to say that if you don’t stop being so cheeky, you’re seriously going to get me into trouble.
And, crucially, you’re actually quite wrong.