If You Like Bad Girls, You’re In Luck. I’m Bad At Everything.
How to get a man through self-deprecation—just not too much.
“It’s good to laugh at yourself. Have you ever heard of a laughing hyena with heartburn?” Bob Hope
Women don’t typically make fun of themselves. It’s like the “wounded animal” theory. The minute you show a sign of weakness, you’re pounced on by other women. Women are pouncers. Modesty, humility, self deprecation, these are all pounceable offences. It lacks strength and, in this post feminist world, it’s a step backwards.
“If you’re the sort of person who makes self-deprecating comments about yourself,” one woman wrote on Reddit, “stop it. You’re making other people uncomfortable.”
“Garbage,” a woman responded, “My boyfriend thinks it’s sexy as hell.”
According to anthropologist, Gil Greengross, that woman’s boyfriend may be right. In his studies, Greengross found that men find self-deprecating humour sexier than, say, sarcasm and ridicule. If you start a date with sarcasm, for instance, men figure it will bleed over into the bedroom. Men traditionally don’t like to have their johnnies laughed at or scorned.
Men traditionally don’t like to have their johnnies laughed at or scorned.
Most hardcore feminists have nothing against laughing at men’s johnnies, but they do have a problem with anything that diminishes respect. “Why do we want to be clowns at this stage of the game?” a woman wrote. “Haven’t we been laughed at enough?”
Being laughed at and being laughed with seem to be two points of entry in the mating game. That’s if you’re even trying to mate. For the true feminist, mating shouldn’t be an end. It’s a bonus that comes after you’ve established respect, which makes self-deprecation a double-edged sword.
At the University of Maryland, psychology professor Robert R. Provine, found that women who post personal ads were twice as likely to seek a partner who made them laugh. Since laughter requires a certain amount of give and take, women often rely on self-deprecating humor to get the ball rolling.
It’s not that they lack self-respect, it’s that they’re willing to gamble in the interest of finding a man who’s respectful but won’t put them to sleep.
The question remains, however, how far do you go? If a woman says, “I was such a blubber head today,” it could relate to one instance. If she keeps repeating it, eventually men will believe she’s a blubber head.
As one person mentioned, “It’s very hard for me to be attracted to someone I constantly feel sorry for. It goes against everything I look for in a mate.”
Blubber heads, by definition, make people uncomfortable, since it’s not so much self-deprecating as stating the obvious. That can be a problem. As one person mentioned, “It’s very hard for me to be attracted to someone I constantly feel sorry for. It goes against everything I look for in a mate.”
Women tend to be laughers, a sign they’re interested. Men tend to be performers, jokers. If your self-deprecation becomes too overt or continuous, men have no material. They can’t very well take advantage of someone saying, “I’m a blubber head.” It makes them sound mean-spirited, and might even get them socked by the guy at the next table.
There’s also self-deprecation that’s used to solicit a response. “I like a woman joking,” one man noted, “but if it’s a thinly veiled self-criticism and I’m expected to jump in and disagree, I’ll be moving on.”
In psychological terms, this is the “black hole” theory, explained by Scott Peck in his book “The Road Less Travelled.” We all have “holes of need,” and part of our survival — especially mating — is finding someone who doesn’t have an emotional hole you could slide a Cadillac through.
Used subtly, you can come off as charming. Carry it too far and men shrivel like baby sea turtles.
Self-deprecation is a type of litmus test, somewhere between eye colour and brandishing a knife. Used subtly, you can come off as charming. Carry it too far and men shrivel like baby sea turtles.
Part of this has to do with why you’re interested in men in the first place. We know women like a good sense of humor. If it’s to match their own, that’s a good thing. If it’s to replace their anti-depressants, it’s a bad thing. Men take enough anti-depressants as it is. Getting you off Xanax may have to wait until they get off it themselves.
One person on Reddit made a nice summary of humor in relationships. “Any woman with an active sense of humor is great,” he wrote. “They’ll laugh at your jokes, but they’ll also say something funny…on purpose.” This is opposed to passive humor, where the woman laughs at your jokes but does nothing to make you laugh in return.
According to Scott Peck and his black holes, you could call this contributory love. Like a charity, contributory love takes in more than it gives out. It’s not so much a belief system as a survivalist tactic. Some women feel they can’t go on living without positive affirmation from other people.
“It’s garbage day tomorrow. They actually have a day devoted to me.”
Check out Facebook. How often do people post new pictures of themselves? Usually this is in direct proportion to how much affirmation they need.
The more desperate the person becomes, the more likely they’ll take self-deprecation to the extreme. Take the example: “It’s garbage day tomorrow. They actually have a day devoted to me.” Even said in jest, a potential mate will see this as a hole even a late model Cadillac won’t get through.
Early mating is all about warning signs. Dating profiles that say, “I want someone to make me laugh,” is already on a downward slide. By simply turning this slightly and saying, “I want to laugh with someone,” you’ve gone from contributory to mutual exchange.
Well, most men flinch at the thought of a “well-hung woman,” so she was in the right ballpark humor wise.
Years ago, I went on a coffee date where the woman’s first comment to me was, “I almost hung myself this morning.” Fortunately, she followed it up by saying, “Then I realized I didn’t want you to think I’m well hung.”
Well, most men flinch at the thought of a “well-hung woman,” so she was in the right ballpark humor wise. She’d also read some of my articles and figured I wasn’t exactly squeamish about black humor.
Self-deprecation is a bit of a volatile sport, enjoyed by some, obviously questioned by others. Like anything you say, especially in early dating, you have to be careful. Maybe “sparing” is a better word for it.
You want to be funny, but you want to be healthy funny.
Remember, laughter produces the same oxytocin as sex. Sex is a good thing. So’s laughter. It’s either good or destructive. As one psychologist put it, “Men and women are both funny, but in different ways that the opposite gender sometimes finds unfunny.”
You want to be funny, but you want to be healthy funny. It’s a mutual thing, and it’s certainly no place for “blubber heads” or holes a Cadillac could drive through. You also don’t want to be pounceable.
Like I said, women are pouncers. They go after the wounded.
Robert Cormack is a novelist, journalist and blogger. His first novel “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)” is available online and at most major bookstores (now in paperback). Check out Yucca Publishing or Skyhorse Press for more details.