When I got out of a two-year relationship in August, my self-esteem was extremely low. To further pollute the brain, I’d bought into the idea that D.C. women are stuck-up.

But when I did start dating again, I was impressed. Sure, there are elitists everywhere in this city, regardless of gender. But overall, I have found the women in Washington, D.C., to be quite awesome — a mix of smart, confident, self-aware, attractive and talented in something.

In the past six months, every woman I’ve gone on a date with via a dating app has matched this description. Even the ones I didn’t hit it off with. Which had me thinking: The D.C. man needs to step up his game.

My first online date was an art teacher and photographer who said hilariously inappropriate things on our first date. We dated for a few months and are still friends. This is another mark of awesome — the maturity to handle a friendship after it doesn’t work out romantically.

There was a Bumble date that went south pretty quickly, but she was killing it when it came to interior design; her apartment was fantastic.

Then there was the law student. We went to a nightclub where a friend is a concert promoter, sat in one of the backrooms, drank whiskey and argued about the distribution of wealth in D.C and Baltimore. This show was hard electronic, so not her style (nor mine, either). She still put up with this and requested a second date.

I went out with an attorney who just moved back to the States from New Zealand. She studied piano in college and played professionally for a bit. When I took her to a friend’s house where there was a piano, she started to play music she’d never seen before and impressed us both. 

Another woman refused to do dinner dates, so I had to come up with a different option. Instead, I invited her to a performance I was filming at Dupont Underground and then we biked around the trolley tracks.

Another woman helped me paint a mural. I like doing activities on dates that I’ve never done before. The unknown is more appealing than the known.

For all of the awesomeness I’ve found in the city’s women, I’ve been encountering a lot of lame men lately. I have friends who take every woman on the same date. One swears sushi is the winner. Another breaks out his profession way too early in conversation. There’s this one who gets extremely drunk on dates, always slurring. I know several who still can’t remove from their vocabulary the derogatory terms for women, even when they’re in the room. Or they blast the most misogynistic music en route to their “romantic” evening, with her seated passenger-side. Then there’s the friend who uses this ridiculous, Hemingway-esque prose when chatting with women on dating apps, to make himself sound more intellectual. She can tell you’re trying too hard, dude.

One thing I hear quite often is that D.C. men “have no game.” There are many interpretations of what it means to have game, but confidence is a good starting point. The D.C. man has confidence, but generally it’s a cocky alter-ego that does well in the boardroom or the Executive Office Building but gets in the way of intimacy.

Confidence is knowledge of your strengths and abilities, tempered by awareness of one’s flaws. Cockiness is an inflated view of your strengths, an attitude that leaves little room for the give-and-take a relationship requires.

The D.C. man’s pomposity is a protective shield. Just as in middle school, the cockiest one in the room can often be the most insecure. It can be disheartening to plant two feet in front of a woman, speak candidly about your interest in her and then she just swats you away. A man with self-confidence can deal with this.

If you told me years ago that the strongest way to market myself to a woman was to be myself, I would have had far more positive encounters. Previously, I’d approach a woman with some disingenuous or pompous line and the conversation would go nowhere fast. I’d have this concept in my head that women were some other kind of being and needed to be approached in some special way. It’s embarrassing to recollect, really.

If I’m at an event where I know few people, I have zero problems striking up a conversation with the guy next to me. Once I used this more organic approach when speaking to women, it became much easier. And life got more fun, too.

When the men of the nation’s capital are comfortable enough with themselves to show personality, then maybe women will have more to work with. We can’t control the ratio of women to men, but at the least, us men can try to raise our inner awesomeness to allow for a bit more symmetry. They deserve it.

READ MORE: