ASK AMY: Woman meets men who want to spar, not spark

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Dear Amy: I am a divorced 52-year-old woman who is experiencing a disturbing situation. Men I meet for possible relationships have what I describe as argumentative personalities.

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They are never agreeable with any topics that come up in conversation. The topics range from personal decisions to politics to differences between men and women.

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These men come across as misogynistic, condescending, critical of everything around them, and yet they see themselves as decent, normal, good guys who know how to treat women. They couldn’t be more wrong.

They often present topics that are inflammatory and then say women can’t handle the conversations because we are too caught up in our feelings.

I don’t entertain these men for long, but I keep having these experiences. Just what has happened to the art of decent conversation?

After talking to these men for a short period of time the focus turns away from seeking companionship to sparring partners.

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I don’t understand it and it is very frustrating.

What is this phenomenon?

– Missing the Art of Conversation

Dear Missing: At the risk of being accused of misandry, let’s state for the record that men undoubtedly also have a laundry list of gender-based frustrations with the women they are meeting.

If you are having the same sort of experience over and over again, you should take a careful look at whatever (presumably online) venue you are using to meet these men, and see if there are red flags in their profiles that might indicate that they are more interested in sparring than sparking.

During my long-ago journey into online matching, I admit to having experiences similar to yours. It seemed that the people I was meeting were sometimes relitigating their previous relationships. I often felt unduly challenged and tested. Honestly, few of these people seemed actually interested in getting to know me at all.

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This might be a function of the speed with which many people approach the matching process. Match, meet, test for compatibility, move on. And the anonymity of social media has transformed some people into conversational jackals.

My take is this: Engaging in a peaceful and informative conversation has always been something of a rarity (yes, it’s an art!). Being with someone who listens with interest, who seems to “see” you, and who can challenge you without raising your hackles – these are qualities you enjoy in your deep and intimate friendships. This is what you’re looking for, and so your best bet might be to move off-line and to join groups and organizations where you can meet and get to know people gradually, IRL (in real life).

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Dear Amy: I regularly speak with a person who uses an earphone and mic device so they can talk on their phone while doing other things.

This person does not realize that the speaker picks up ALL noises in their vicinity, which are amplified into my ear.

It’s worse than just being on “speaker.”

I have said, several times, “Can we talk when you are not so busy so that I can hear you without all the background noise?” – and get snark in return.

They are so very busy that single-tracking is just not possible, I guess.

I had something important to say one time, and just gave up.

Any suggestions?

– Ear Phoned

Dear Ear Phoned: Remote mics can pick up a lot of ambient noise.

If this person calls you (not if you call them), you should try again: “I hope you understand that I actually cannot hear you when you use your earbuds and mic. Can you at least put me on speaker?”

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Dear Amy: I’m the part-time sex worker of 35 years ago who wanted to keep this knowledge from my mother-in-law (I signed my letter “Holding”).

Then, “Upset” wrote to you, disappointed that you didn’t call me out for being a sex-worker during my youth.

In response, I’d like to say:

1). It was 35 years ago!

2). I don’t believe I did any long-term damage to my psyche or libido.

3). My husband was a client – why isn’t Upset calling him out for patronizing a sex-worker?

4). You’d be very surprised at the number of seemingly “normal” young women who have been sex-workers at some point in their life while trying to make ends meet during their college or post-grad years. I’d guess that one woman in every 300 or 400 has done this for a time.

– Still Holding

Dear Holding: I don’t often run rebuttals to previously published Q&As, but you make a very good point.

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