I sat across from him and listened. He was trim, tall, bearded (as they all seem to be), a recent transplant, having only lived in Seattle for a year or so and worked at a start-up, after burning out at Amazon (as they all seem to have). He rode his bike around town; he had good taste in food and wine; and he lived across the street from where we were meeting. He was a software engineer or did something in tech (as they all did). And he was utterly unmemorable.
I don’t think he asked me a single question about myself. Our date—if you call these impromptu Internet meetings, dates—lasted an hour. It felt more like a job interview, but not the way a date is supposed to be a job interview. There was no grilling about where you were from and what your family was like and what you were looking for.
No, I spent a half hour or more listening to him talk about his job. Since I am not in the tech industry, I don’t understand any of it. It was all job speak—the type of language ladder-climbers use; it was the kind of talk that shuts vaginas down cold.
… As Amazon grows, the number of (boring) men grows too. The gender disparity is bad enough in San Francisco that one company, The Dating Ring, has resorted to flying women into San Fran from other cities.
You might think an abundance of men is a great thing, but as a wise woman once said, “The odds may be good, but the goods are odd.”
“I’ve lived in Seattle for seven years, single most of them,” Annie Pardo, a 31-year-old freelance event and communications consultant in Seattle, wrote in an email. “The only thing that has changed is the increase in men I’d never want to go out on a date with.” She added, “Can’t believe they actually strap on those new employee book bags.”
For Reifman, the number of men versus women presents a challenge for guys like him—he can’t seem to get a date or hold the attention of the women he’s courting because, presumably, he’s got so much competition. But the reality is that all he has to do is have a personality. I’m serious.
The exact same scenario has been playing out in San Francisco for the last few years. One woman, Violet, a 33-year-old who has lived in the Bay Area for eight years, with one of those in the “belly of the beast,” Palo Alto, experienced many of the same things I and other women did. They had money, but they were boring. They had a lot to say about their job, but their development as a complete human being seemed to be stunted. And they exhibited little to no interest in the other person at the table.
“There were a lot of tech men. I could talk a blue streak about them. I don’t have much positive to say. The biggest thing, the thing that bothered me the most is I felt like my intelligence was greatly devalued,” she wrote. ”I am a smart woman. I have a master’s from Berkeley in philosophy. My brain is very abstract, though, the exact opposite of so many men in tech who have very concrete/literal brains. They interpreted information as intelligence. I constantly felt like I wasn’t seen or valued by them, even though I experienced a lot of them as having a very limited view of the world.”
Carla Swiryn, a matchmatcher for Three Day Rule, a start-up that offers curated online dating services in cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago, said that her female clients are often hit with a double whammy: “I often hear women say they either date A-holes or nerds—or if they’re really lucky, both in one,” she said. “They feel like they’re dealing with someone who has poor social skills, not a lot of style, and isn’t that attractive, or is decently good-looking, successful, or cool, but by default knows it and acts like it, with a huge ego and selfish mind-set in tow.”
One woman, Bridget Arlene, spent three years in Seattle for graduate school, and said that she actually moved out of the city, in part because of the type of available men—most of whom had computer science or engineering degrees and worked for Google, Microsoft, or Amazon. “The type of person who is attracted to these jobs and thus to the Seattle area seems to be a socially awkward, emotionally stunted, sheltered, strangely entitled, and/or a misogynistic individual,” she wrote in an email. Arlene said that she was once contacted by a Microsoft programmer on OKCupid who required that she read Neuromancer before “he would consider taking me out on a date. He was not joking.”
In Seattle, it has been easy to hook up, but hard to find anyone really interesting or worthwhile for the long term. The majority of the guys who are moving here for companies like Amazon seem to be their late 20s or early 30s, and they are new and exploring the city. And that means they are exploring the city’s women.
This wasn’t what I’d signed up for. I’d moved back to Seattle, in particular to Capitol Hill, because when I’d lived here during the ’90s it was a beacon of diversity for weirdos. (I stress “weirdos”—there are few people of color in Seattle.) The weirdos were: young gay boys, old hippies of varying sexuality, straight artists and musicians, softball lesbians, punk-rock dykes who played house music, metal musicians, ravers, or people into the fetish scene. They were not straight, white guys from flyover country or California imported by a software company. They spent their time doing things other than making Jeff Bezos more money.
The problem has become pervasive enough in Seattle that when I went with a few girlfriends to Pony, one of the last true gay bars on Capitol Hill, I was shocked when I found out that the adorable pair of 25-year-old boys talking to us were heterosexual. They were there because—as one of them told us—”It was the only place on the Hill on the weekends where there are no bros.”
After I posted inquiries on Twitter, I was besieged by women with similar stories of entitlement and dullness in the men of San Francisco and Seattle.
@Iamuhura wrote: “I honestly am thankful every single day that I’m no longer single. Tech dudes are generally 7s looking for 10s. But they think they’re 11s and spew that entitlement wherever they go.”
Even men had something (nasty) to say: Wrote one guy to my request, that I “want to hear about your dating life + how the men in the tech industry have changed it”: “I think you accidentally said ‘changed,’ but what you meant was ‘ruined forever with their awfulness.’”
Why were they so awful? What was it about guys who work in tech that made them worse than lawyers or other white-collar industries?
In a way they exhibit some of the same qualities of those professions—ego, arrogance, and unlimited amounts of cash. In San Francisco, said Violet, “There were a lot of men to date with disposable income who wanted to take women out. It’s just, it was so boring,” she said. “My dating life went from dating artists and writers and going on cheap but exciting dates, to men who thought the ability to buy someone an expensive meal made them interesting.”
Because there are so many people in tech in Seattle and San Francisco, it is like the men in tech have eaten two previously diverse and interesting cities whole. The phenomenon of programming taking over as one of the top white collar occupations (according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer and mathematical science occupations are “projected to add 967,000 jobs in 2014,” the fastest growing in professional occupations), and the new breed of programmers that are being pumped into the tech sector—derisively dubbed “brogrammers”—is explored deeply by Nick Parish in Cool Code, Bro: Brogrammers, Geek Anxiety, and the new Tech Elite. (Full disclosure: I edited this eBook.)
With the advent of programming as a mainstream career, the nerdy, awkward programmer who liked Game of Thrones before it was a TV show has been supplanted by cocky, arrogant guys who, in another life, would go into finance. It is bad enough that I’ve include a line on my OKCupid account: “NO: Brogrammers.”
“SF, Palo Alto, Mountain View, and Man Jose (I mean, San Jose) are all tech-centric, and a potential problem there is that it can attract residents who want a certain kind of lifestyle—namely, a successful but very hectic one,” said Swiryn. “It’s a magnet for a lot of Type-A personalities. And while there’s nothing wrong with that personality or lifestyle, it can create a proportionately homogenous population, making it harder to find a balance with people which is necessary in any successful relationship.”
When everyone is exactly the same, you don’t get exposed to different worlds the way you would if you met someone who was a metalworker or a sculptural artist, or an actor, or an industrial designer, or a university professor. Books they read, plays they go to (or star in), people they know, parties they go to—these things are hopefully different than, but complementary to, your own world. The hope is, you’ll learn something interesting, and vice versa. When I went to Paris, I went on OKCupid dates with several men as a way to see the city and perhaps have a romantic excursion; one worked at a movie production studio, another was a video editor; one guy worked in finance; another was an interior designer. Each one was thoroughly different than the other.
Homogeneity in and of itself isn’t “bad,” said Parish. “It’s just not exciting. Part of the fun of dating is the intermingling of worlds, and the thrill of new experiences or new environments. A basic, beige scene full of clones is counter that, and emotionally stifling.”
“I don’t see increasing sameness as leading to anything but narrow-mindedness and dysfunction,” said Violet. “Add ego to the mix and it’s dangerous.”
The new tech bros have one thing on their brains—making money. They are different than the programmers I knew from ’90s, many of whom were also artists—musicians, photographers, DJs, involved in underground and alternative subcultures. They were freaks. Coding was as much a creative activity as a means to making money. If you got into computers in the ’90s, you were already a little weirder than the rest of the world, you already thought differently. Now that computing is trendy—and economically fruitful—it’s attracting a different kind of person altogether.
“I can see exactly how the tech group in the ’90s may have been more interesting because they actually were disrupting things. They changed culture, and you can’t do that without not only a driven focus but also a wide lens,” said Violet.
Today, she said, “I went out with so many guys who thought they were a part of some big revolution, but who looked to me like any establishment dude in a suit. There was a lack of awareness that they are the establishment now. They wanted it all, to be treated like a tech revolutionary and to be fawned over like a millionaire banker. Who I was got completely lost in the mix.”
“The sad thing about guys who exhibit these brogrammer qualities is they seem to fall short of greatness in both worlds,” said Parish. “They’re not purely macho or purely geeky, they’re somewhat pretenders in both, and I would imagine that’s very obvious to most women.”
For her part, Annie Pardo sees at least one comical upside to the endless stream of dull tech men: “These dudes are easily recognizable with their PCs, backpacks, pulley ID badges, short buses.”
You can see them coming a mile away. There’s just enough time to run.
Having rounded up everyone she could on Twitter who agreed to join her grievance party, she did write an entertaining (and click-baiting) piece. But look behind the snark and you see a woman who judges based on style, clothing, and manner, and finds the worst in every man she meets. As a former programmer and resident of Palo Alto, I have to agree many programmers lack social grace and quite a few show signs of Asperger’s (or as we are now supposed to say, high-functioning autism spectrum disorder.) But many are socially graceful, and interesting, and empathetic, and interested in intellectual discussions with women. I just have a feeling that Ms. Romano gives off vibes that she may not be aware of, with disdain for men who are not musicians or artists or writers, who do not dress carefully and who may be too busy to follow all the cultural news she, as a journalist, has time to follow. And because of her signals, the single men of Seattle who she might have found more interesting steer clear.
This is the first time in a very long time that I read something and just genuinely felt hurt over someone else’s words so I’m going to share my story. Dating in Seattle has been very challenging for me. I moved up here almost two years ago freshly married to a girl I was crazy about having dated for six years. We moved because she came to a cross roads that either she had to choose a career or being with me, which we were living in a small college town and I had a stellar state job in IT. In my mind it was a no brainier, make the career sacrifice for her to work at Boeing and rebuild as it was her turn to shine. Fast forward a year, she is involved in a detrimental emotional affair that causes her to self destruct the marriage and I’m single again after 7.5 years at age 30 but just starting a stellar opportunity at Microsoft.
After taking some time to myself, I’ve entered the Seattle dating scene. Working at one of these mega tech companies means you are in a very male environment with opportunities to interact with women being far and few between thus making it not a viable source of individuals to date. Online dating was a total faus pax last time I was single, and has come a long ways to being socially acceptable now. I’ve invested in it some on OKC and Match but as a male it has been a giant time sink for me. As a 5’9″ average build intelligent decent looking guy with the divorce black mark who writes short but meaningful intro messages with some tasteful humor in my profile the response rate is staggeringly low for just trying to start a conversation. Online really removes your ability to have your personality come across no matter how well you try to sneak it in and is more of a quasi human shopping catalog. Funny enough though Tinder has been great for striking up conversations and has led to a few good dates so far.
That leaves me with the bar scene and extra activities. I see these type of tech guys you speak of who are well off, non committal and just shopping around for sex. They aren’t the majority and personally I find easy to spot. A vast majority of the girls I run into either just want a one night stand which I’m against, or make them selves unapproachable. I don’t blame them for being so standoffish, the hookup stigma of Seattle would do the same to me if I were in their shoes and treated the way I’ve seen people act towards them. I’d probably do better just visiting more darker dive bars and striking up conversations, but those places aren’t very fun in the down time. Then there are extra activities, which for me has been Underdog sports. This truly is a great way to meet people and stay active. It has been my saving grace in actually having a shot in the dating scene. I haven’t met anyone directly through the sports that I’ve dated yet, but it just starts the networking process so many of us transplants need to go through to meet quality people.
I’ve worked very hard to be at where I am in my career. I’m not a programmer but work deeply in computer operations daily. We all have taken different roads to get where we are, but yes this is a very lucrative competitive field of work that has great perks. With that some individuals have developed a mightier than thou ego, but many others are extremely humble. Many of us in this industry have to live/eat/breathe what we do which may lend to talking about our work more because it is our lives. Others have passions that include competitive gaming or other “nerdy” hobbies that they don’t dare talk to girls about. Personally I really avoid talking about my job on dates because it is so hard to explain in a way that others can understand. I usually use some vague language like “I keep the magic working for 900 machines globally” and just try to leave it at that which actually has annoyed a few people. Luckily I have the gift of gab, hold interesting conversation with just about anyone I meet and have relate-able hobbies, but I know many others who don’t but are just quality guys if someone is willing to invest a little time.
So what is the point of me giving up my life story to the internet and situation I’m in? Generally I don’t give these type of articles my time of day and I’m not going to bash it or you even if there is a small part of me that wants to because it hurt me. I saw a friend post this on his facebook and even though he fits your identification method he is a stellar guy who hasn’t had the best luck finding quality girls who give him a chance. My gut feeling is he too felt put down by what you wrote and I wanted to put a “face” to this horrible stereotype you crafted. I’m a very interesting caring individual who truly valued my partner but was dealt a shitty hand and had the carpet pulled out from under me. It is a mentally and emotionally extremely challenging process to go through and really makes you question yourself. Luckily I have amazing friends and family that kept me going in the right direction. The thought of dating comes with highs and lows of mixed emotion as you put yourself out there again that can make or break your day.
What you wrote grouped me in with the rest of the other backpack toting, wearing a pulley ID tech men who ride the short bus. Many of us are in fact transplants which further increases the diversity and life experiences we have all had. Couple that with staggering numbers such as 10,000 people at the south lake union campus of Amazon, or 40,000 at the Redmond Microsoft campus(not including Bellevue) and you have a very large group of men to date. Somehow though you managed to come up with a way to identify all of us which resonated with me, so kudos to you there, and then put us down so harshly which made me feel very small today. I know personally though that I am the exact opposite of your complaints with this demographic, but you are telling all women out there “Hey here is how you can notice this type of boring self centered guy from 10,000 feet away, keep them there” even if from that distance you can’t even judge a smidgen of who they are. That negative association that I strive so hard to never be made me feel like shit, and I’m certain it also did for others.
Personally I think your article isn’t informative at all, does a disservice to women looking for quality guys and highlights a side of you that isn’t appealing. I would much more love to have seen an article for women like you who are attracted to the wrong type of guys and how to break those habits. Anytime I encounter someone complain about anything in life being lack luster such as their personal body image, people they meet, jobs they get I wonder what have they done to change the outcome. As for yourself, I’d personally look deeply into why you keep meeting the same type of guy and how do you manipulate the outcome. It can be a wide variety of reason such as having unreasonable expectations of a first date, to needing to change your behaviors like where you spend your free time in order to meet a different type of guy. A type of guy does not include where he works and what he does for a living.
I could dive into all kinds of reasons, but the take away here is you control the outcome through personal change instead of just complaining about it. You took the latter route and expressed your lack of personal awareness in the form of grouping 10’s of thousands of men, put them down in a public setting and encouraging women out there to do the same. Luckily for me I know that the quality women out there wouldn’t make such blind assumptions and the silver lining in your article is that if someone does listen to your advice you just saved me $50 bucks on a date that I’ll never have with someone I wouldn’t have wanted… Hopefully you learn the former route and can save your sex life before it dies as that is one thing Amazon doesn’t sell.