By Nicolle

Dating is filled with etiquette questions: Who asks out whom? When do we define the relationship? Who pays on the first (or second or third or fourth or fifth…) date? When do you break the physical barrier? When do you introduce him/her to friends? Parents? Other family members?

And things get more complicated once you’ve been dating for a while: When do you talk about “long-term” or… commitment? Do you even broach the topic of marriage? What do you do if you feel more strongly about your significant other than s/he feels about you? How do you know if it’s “right”?

My point: Dating is complicated. So why do we complicate it more with online dating?

Online dating feeds into what we’ve always been told about relationships – we’re in control, we have the right to be picky and we deserve to have all our relationship dreams come true.

Well, if you’ve read anything else I’ve written on this blog, you should know I think that’s all almost total bullshit. And online dating only perpetuates the culture falsehoods we’ve bought into.

The Frisky, a celebrity gossip, relationship advice and beauty/fashion tips website, recently published a column entitled “Why Women on Dating Sites Don’t Respond to Men.” At first glance, it seems like a helpful how-to article, complete with numbered examples and quippy explanations of why online dating is a “woman’s world.” The writer tries to enlighten men on what they’re doing wrong so they can be more successful at winning women over with engaging emails, flattering photos and perfect pacing.

Unfortunately, the attempt at helping men figure out how to snag a woman online fails to acknowledge that dating (online or otherwise) is a two-way street. While men may or may not be making missteps on the road to courtship, women should be implicated as well.

Yes, men screw up (I’m a woman, so I’ve experienced it firsthand), and yes, women talk about how men screw up all the time. But why have we ignored the pickiness that seems to be innately female?

Women don’t like it when men aren’t sensitive (but they also don’t want a girly man).

Women don’t like it when men don’t have passion for their careers (but they also don’t want a workaholic).

Women don’t like it when men don’t prioritize them above all else (but they also don’t want a clingy guy).

Women don’t like it when men slap on flip flops and a worn tee for a date (but they also don’t want a guy who’s too into fashion).

Does anyone else see a paradox here?

Don’t misread me: When in balance, none of those extreme examples are wrong. It’s when they all come together to create a picture-perfect fantasy of a man that we have issues.

So, instead of spending our time critiquing the other sex on all the ways they’re messing up when it comes to dating, engagement or marriage, maybe we should take our own advice and spend some time assessing ways we can improve ourselves. And who knows – maybe we’ll even figure out a way to simplify dating for all humankind.