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Dating in Seattle: It's a 'socially awkward town'

"Every city we go to, people think it's the worst city to date in in the whole country."

That's how Brian Howie starts off his ninth Great Love Debate show in the greater Seattle area earlier this week.

Howie is the host of the show, and has literally traveled the world trying to figure out the answer to the question, "Why is Everyone Still Single?" He's been to 81 different cities in the United States, and hosted over 298 shows.

I attended a Great Love Debate (GLD) show earlier this week at the Parlor Live Comedy Club in Bellevue, and had no idea what to expect. The room was filled with a mixture of singles and supportive friends, ages ranging from early 20s to late 40s.

"Every city is different," said Howie. "The farther south we go the younger the crowds get. We do a show in Boston/Philly/New York and everyone is over 45 pretty much, and half divorced."

Howie as a host is loud, persuasive and easily takes command of the room. Understandable, since he's literally been dubbed America's #1 Dating Enthusiast (though he jokingly points out that he's still single). There's no one who understands the complexities of dating in any individual city like he does. Through his live shows, he's able to take the pulse of various places he travels to - and the dating scenes can be incredibly different. In fact, in their last survey the city that came away as the best city to date in? Milwaukee.

"Milwaukee is the best city to date in," he said. "It's like Chicago, without all the bad stuff."

But everyone was there on this specific night to talk about Seattle. And buckle up, ladies and gents - because Howie does not have a lot of great things to say about us. Err - about the men, in particular. In fact, when I asked him what the number one challenge of dating in Seattle was, he said it was the passive men.

"Men have lost their confidence on how to approach women, and women don't make it easy to be approached," said Howie. "Basically, women have gotten harder, men have gotten softer."

Howie said the Seattle isn't the only city with passive men, but the big difference here is that the women aren't necessarily intimidating.

"Here the women are like 'We're not unapproachable!'" he said. "But the men here - it is a socially awkward town. Sorry! They're scared to fail. They're scared, because there are a lot of smart women here, and there are a lot of beautiful women here."

Howie thinks it's not necessarily about rejection, but that they're afraid everyone else will see them fail.

"It's just like high school," he said. "Which is on some level is weirdly narcissistic, because nobody is paying any attention to you! But they believe that somehow. They were nerds in high school and they got laughed at and picked on and it never goes away."

To prove his point, Howie criss-crosses the room, asking the men and women in attendance what they think the biggest challenge with dating in Seattle is. Answers ranges from:

  • Everyone is too busy ("Bullsh*t - you're here on a Wednesday night," said Howie)
  • Men are intimidated by the women here
  • Not enough cash
  • There are too many options
  • Men are too passive
  • Online dating is too confusing

Howie said most of these are the same in each city, but one thing he has always noticed about Seattle men particular, that he doesn't see other places - is their passivity.

"They overthink things," said Howie. "It makes them a little neurotic. It makes you try and do too much - it's like they're trying to solve the puzzle before even interacting."

"It's not like that in Charlotte," he said. "It's like 'I'll have a beer and I'll talk to her and we'll just have a good time'. Here they're like 'How do I fit into the world? What does she want? What does she need?' And they're so busy analyzing it that she's disappeared by the time they figure it out."

Now I'm going to interject quickly because I know that's a large generalization to make - that dating in Seattle is hard because men are passive. Remember, these are just Howie's assessments based on nine shows he's done here, and talking to the men and women who come to his shows. It might ring true with a lot of single women out there, but it may not!

One thing it seems like we can all agree on though? Online dating sucks. But Howie has a pretty good answer for that too, it's called the 3-2-1 Rule.

"In your bio, write three things about yourself, two things you want in a partner, and one thing you'd like to do together."

So for example: "I'm a dog-person who loves long walks on the beach and trying new foods. Looking for someone who is adventurous and funny to travel the world with."

Howie again polled the room to see why people online date. The answers varied from convenience, to ease, to broadening horizons. But the real reason behind all those things? Howie says it's fear.

"Studies have shown that when you're on the apps, about nine people catch your eye a week," he said. "When you're out in the real world, you come into contact with around 1,000 people a day. The odds are not necessarily better online."

This is where the passivity of men, and the un-approachability of women comes into play. Howie gave us all the perfect example and scenario in which to start up a conversation IN REAL LIFE - and in true Seattle form, it involves Starbucks.

"Next time you're in line at Starbucks, guys - turn to the women next to you and say 'Should I get a cake pop?'

Seriously. The key to happiness, in Howie's opinion, is cake pops. But as he explains more about the scenario, it actually makes sense.

"You're not asking her if she wants a cake pop, you're asking her to help make a decision for you," he explains. He said women will like the offer of to be in control of such a decision. "If they say yes, ask them if you can get one for them to!"

Worst case scenario, you get a cake pop and had a possibly slightly awkward interaction. Best case scenario, you get a cake pop, you buy a gal a cake pop, and you start a conversation.

"It works in line at Starbucks 100 percent of the time," Howie pledges. At the end of the day, he believes men and women are each looking for three things from their partners (besides cake pops):

"Women need men to make them feel special, make them feel sexy, and make them feel safe," said Howie. "Men need women to make them feel respected and admired, make them feel appreciated, and make them feel needed."

One of the reasons for modern day men's passivity, Howie said - is, ironically, the strong independent women movement!

"Men need women to make them feel needed," he said. "And in 2017 - you don't f-ing need us anymore!"

I'd argue that there is a difference between needing and wanting someone, but Howie has an answer for that too:

"I want world peace. I need tater tots. What do I seem more passion about?"

Ok well that's not fair. Tater tots are the best! But all joking aside, the biggest takeaway from my night at the Great Love Debate was that women and men need to be more comfortable talking to eachother in real life.

"Women, if you're not comfortable talking to men - go to Home Depot and start asking questions," he said. "Pick up something and ask the nearest guy if you can mount it."

And for men?

"Do the same at Bed Bath and Beyond. Pick two things and ask the nearest woman if they match."

Ok - despite the generalizations of where men and women shop - that's actually not a bad idea. Guys - time to get out of your own heads! And ladies - don't be afraid to make the first move either. After all, it's 2017 and you're a strong independent women!


Howie not only hosts The Great Love Debate live shows across the country, but he also has a weekly podcast - which just happens to be the world's #1 dating and relationship podcast. Find episodes online, and check if GLD is coming to a city near you anytime soon.