My friend Mary has no doubt. “You can’t throw a can of PBR in the Mission without hitting a techie,” she says, sitting at the Sycamore Cafe on Mission Street in front of two lamb sliders with fries. I’ve just asked her if she has dated any of the guys who work at startups, Google, Facebook or any other computer-related venue.
Her answer is the perfect starting place for my research about a type of guy who brings to mind contradictions. On the one hand, going out with someone who can talk for hours about positioning, SEO and other concepts most civilians only pretend to understand can be difficult. On the other hand, it’s possible to learn something new.
But if it’s true that they’re only a PBR can away, meaning a tech date is likely, what do Mission women think about them? What have the dates been like? Does the industry attract a certain type of man who is better or less understood by women than, say, the typical “men are from Mars” scenarios?
“They were so busy working and learning that anything interesting about me was very interesting for them,” Mary says, reflecting on her experiences while I immerse my fries in ketchup. “They were easy to impress. One was even very impressed by my nose piercing, which is not very impressive at all.” Sweet. That’s hilarious. I cough, spit out some food and ask her to continue.
“Sometimes they can set their own hours. That’s good,” she says. “But one of them was a workaholic, so it was hard to see him anyway.”
Interesting. Are they free or are they not? I want more input, so I go to Four Barrel Coffee, where everybody seems to be working on a laptop while drinking expensive latte.
A political consultant, who wishes to remain anonymous, says she has been dating a software engineer for three months. “His work seems to be very flexible. It’s one of the sectors where if you produce good work you can be more flexible.”
“They have a job that pays well,” she adds.
Sounds good. But wait, it could be even better. What about those stories about techies selling their startups for huge amounts of money?
“Don’t they work for three months and then stop?” asks Anna Kempf, also at Four Barrel. Her experience is as limited as mine, but she imagines she would enjoy dating a techie. “I like nerdy things. And I guess they wouldn’t be too dramatic, too emotional.” Mmm, sounds typically male.
At my next coffee-stop, Muddy’s, architect Meg O’Halloran says: “I don’t date techies. I wish I did. They’re smart and ambitious.”
Over the day, the views expressed range from admiration to skepticism.
“Startups and technology … it’s revolutionary,” says Maria Mealla. “The idea of having an office job used to be a nightmare for young people, but now people do it and it’s exciting!”
She is sitting with her sister Carla, and the two discuss in Spanish whether they would like to date a techie. They don’t like being prejudiced, but they don’t think so.
“I dated one,” Carla says. “It didn’t work. I felt that at a personal level, we were very different. I’m an artist and I had the feeling I couldn’t really connect with him or his friends. Their lifestyle was not very alternative, and they were scared about having deep conversations.”
That doesn’t bother others.
“They’re stable, they have money … Maybe we could take a trip to Sonoma County on the weekend. That sounds nice,” baker Ashley Chapman says with a big, sweet smile.
She lives with three techies but has never dated any of them. “I don’t know what they’re looking for — probably not a baker,” she laughs.
She wouldn’t mind, though. “Oh, I don’t think they would be boring. They’re nerdy but there’s also this other side where they’re into music and trendy things,” she says.
“They have money,” says Cheri, who prefers to give only her first name. But money isn’t everything; Cheri says she would prefer the techie she dates to be an explorer of the world.
“They can be very selfish,” says a blond, pretty girl with glasses and a striped T-shirt at 780 Cafe. She doesn’t want to reveal her name, which is understandable, because she’s about to fiercely criticize almost all of her past techie dates and assert that she will avoid them in the future. She knows what she’s talking about, she says; she has not only dated a handful of techies, but has also worked for a tech company.
“They have a lot of money and are very stingy all the same. They think that what they’re doing is the most important thing in the world. They schedule girlfriends the way they would schedule meetings.” She defines them as “socially awkward,” a term she is not the only one to use.
At the same coffee shop, Rachel Aoanan says that one friend describes himself the same way. “He projects an authoritarian personality at work, but he’s cool, interesting and smart when you get to know him,” she says.
Of course, views change when the techies are friends or colleagues instead of boyfriends. At Dolores Park, three women from Pacific Heights, techies themselves, explain that they see girls who are interested in their co-workers because they are a popular type in San Francisco, even if they’re not particularly attractive.
At the door of the shop Therapy, two women from Facebook’s recruiting team say that techies are interesting, but they just don’t find them attractive. “I’m more into Mission hipsters,” one says. “Coding doesn’t make me excited,” says the other. Yet they both agree: “It’s becoming cooler.”
So they can be cool, too.
Unless, of course, they aren’t. At Dolores Park, Georgia Andrews, who works in the field herself, tells me about the new concept of brogrammers, defined by the Urban Dictionary as “a programmer who breaks the usual expectations of quiet nerdiness and opts instead for the usual trappings of a frat-boy: popped collars, bad beer, and calling everybody “bro.” Despised by everyone, especially other programmers.”
Georgia says: “Not all of them are like that, but there are these kinds of guys who are more fratty than nerdy … They’re sort of sexist, trying to be cooler than what they really are.”
I vaguely remember having read about that in Mother Jones just a few days ago.
Well, it appears there are plenty of exceptions, so I decide to stay open-minded. More experiences? Let us know. firstname.lastname@example.org
Our next question: What do techies think about dating Mission women?