November 16, 2006
Deal or No Deal
Let's start with the no-brainers: A suitable suitor should have the following qualities: intelligence, sense of humor, financial stability, emotional stability and passion. I also require my mate be heterosexual. He also should not be hygienically challenged, an addict or a felon.
The other thing that is near the top of my list is height. I like guys who are tall, but, more importantly, I prefer guys who tell the truth about their height. I met Bill through my friend's aunt. He had recently moved to town, and we had two weeks of conversations before we were able to meet. He said he was 5-foot-8. He wasn't. First words out of his mouth when we met were, "You are not 5-foot-6. You are at least 5-foot-8."
I was not taller than I claimed to be, it was Bill who was shorter.
All right, so, maybe my list is a bit longer than the average. Some say we tolerate more when we're younger; we have lower expectations. I say we're just more apt to know what we want after dating for a decade or so.
We all have a list of qualities essential for a potential mate. A cat person can't date a dog person. A neat freak does not want a slob. A person who likes to drink socially wants a designated driver.
Some ... many ... most of us have at least one item on our list of attributes a loved one cannot possess.
For one friend of mine, Shakespeare is his deal breaker. He had been seeing a woman for three months before he took her to see a Shakespearean play. He loved it. She hated it. They were over. He said it would have saved him three months had he taken her to a play when they first started seeing each other.
My friend Kate dated musicians when she was in her 20s. She managed bands and was a bit of a groupie. Kate had a hard and fast rule, though -- she could never date a guy who did his hair or makeup better than she.
Another female friend had a problem with her beau's table manners -- or lack thereof. They had just started dating, so rather than making waves, she figured they'd just break up sooner rather than later. Before she could end it, he did the unthinkable: He asked her if something was wrong. So, she said, "Yes," told him about her "needs," and he said he was glad she told him and instituted change. While etiquette was a deal breaker for her, he wouldn't let it be their breaking point.
Not all confrontations fare so well.
Mike was a friend of a business associate, who knew I was looking to meet someone. Mike called, and we had great phone chemistry. I knew he had been divorced and had kids. He came with a good recommendation. You can't beat that.
Mike had been used to online dating, so he asked me a laundry list of easy questions, before getting to the tougher ones.
"Have you ever been married? Do you have kids? Do you want kids?" he asked. "No, no and yes," I said.
At that point Mike suggested we stop talking, because he had kids and was done. The call was over -- just like that.
Wow. That was the shortest not-a-blind-date I ever had. I appreciated Mike's honesty, but couldn't help but wonder if things would have been different had we met in real life.
So, here's the thing. If we all were to lay our cards out on the table, we would save a lot of time. If we know up front that a person has a deal-breaking habit, pet or attribute, then we don't have to waste time dating a Mr. or Ms. Wrong. But it's one thing to have ideas of what you do and do not want in a life partner, it's another to dismiss someone without getting to know them just because, say, he has two left feet, doesn't like classical music or has a few extra pounds.
By judging people before we meet them, we may miss out on a great new friend or an important love.
Debra L. Eckerling is a freelance writer, based in Los Angeles who leads a writers support group in Santa Monica.