Monday, May 23, 2011
When you're a full time writer (as I am) and you have several broken toes (as I do) and are looking for inspiration without leaving the house (as I've been), you turn to the most reliable source there is - the television. Throw a rainy day in there and you have all the necessary evil factors for a Millionaire Matchmaker Marathon. Oh, Bravo channel, how many hours I have lost at the hands of Patti Stanger and her tight dress / hair straight / boobs out cocktail parties. I loathe myself for succumbing to the vortex of mini dates and master dates, but I poured myself a glass of white wine, declared the whole process "research" and plugged myself into the boob tube (pardon the pun.)
While most of the episodes are positively laughable (Hello Kitty girl dates hot plumber) and some are downright atrocious (famous book publisher lusts after fat gay comic), there are a few sweet moments where you think that maybe, just maybe, the matchmaking team finally got one right (hippie surf dude dates Patti's friend from Florida. Beach dates = always romantic.)
The episode that really got me thinking though featured a Long Island girl with a catering business and a list of qualities she wanted in a man. The List is what drew my attention more than anything else. I began racking my brain, trying to think of a single woman I know who *doesn't* have a list of the qualities she wants in a man. Maybe it's just a few mental notes stored in the back of her brain, maybe it's written down in colorful markers on journal paper dating back to her teenage years but absolutely everyone I know has some version of The List. What are we looking for in a partner? What qualities are important to us? What do we NEED, and what characteristics would just be nice to have? What parts of a relationship are the bread and butter, and what parts are just icing on the cake?
As I am rolling all these thoughts around in my pretty little blonde head, Patti takes the bachelorette's list and burns it. She lit the list on fire and threw it in the garbage. What the fuck was that?!?! This woman is forty years old, never been married, has a successful career, lots of confidence, knows what she wants and the Matchmaker chucked it all away?!?! Just as I'm about to get angry on the girl's behalf, I stopped myself and thought about it from the other side: This woman is forty years old. She's never been married. She's so tied to her list that she can't find love because every time she meets a man, she compares him to The List and if he doesn't meet even one little criteria, the poor schmo is tossed aside, nary to be given a second chance.
On the one hand, I think that lists are super important. Lesson learned from Extreme Couponing is to always hit the grocery store prepared. (Hey, I told you I've been watching a lot of tv lately!) These couponing women have lists, tallies, coupons clipped and compared to store sales, carts at the ready. They are *prepared* in every sense of the word. They don't wander around the supermarket trying to remember if they needed mayo or cream cheese. Hell no. They form a plan of attack, go in, buy what they need, and get out. Frankly, I have been that woman perusing the aisles without a list of what I need and it's always when I'm unloading the car that I realize I forgot the cat food or the sour cream or the toilet paper. Are relationships like this?
What if we entered relationships without a List of qualities we were looking for? If we didn't write down that we want a man who is a decent provider, has an excellent sense of humor, wants a family? Would we end up in a boring, childless relationship with a broke guy? If we didn't admit to ourselves that we want someone older, taller, stronger, would we find ourselves partnered by a 5'1 dude barely out of college, having to lift all the heavy boxes by our lonesome? If we never considered how important manners or romance or adventure are to us, would we find ourselves channel surfing with a futureless couch potato who yells at waitresses and doesn't notice when the sex disappears?
These scenarios scare me enough that I whole-heartedly defend the sanctity of my list. I didn't have one when I was first dating, or even by the time I got married. Perhaps this contributed to my relationships with men who weren't "right" for me. Perhaps it didn't. But it's taken me all this time of being single to figure out what it is that I both need and want, as well as a few bonus point items just for fun. Since I know you're all curious at this point, I'll share a few of the highlights with you:
NEEDS: Someone honest, trustworthy, respectful, appreciative, loving, supportive, faithful, wants a family, good sense of humor.
WANTS: Someone romantic, passionate, communicative, motivated, stable, adventurous, thoughtful, affectionate, Christian.
BONUS POINTS: Someone tall, gracious, creative, strong, has shared interests, loves road trips.
When this list has come in handy:
I referred to the list when my ex-husband told me he didn't want children. Being a mother is in my NEEDS column. Non-negotiable.
I referred to the list when my ex-boyfriend was having an affair. Faithful is in my NEEDS column. Non-negotiable.
I referred to the list when Michael (y'all remember Michael, don't you?) was lying to me about doing drugs. Honest is in my NEEDS column. Non-negotiable.
When lists may screw you over:
If your list details that you want someone 6'1 with medium build and brown hair who went to an Ivy League school, makes six figures, speaks multiple languages, enjoys dogs, reads Bradbury, has dreams of honeymooning in Hawaii, and plays at least two musical instruments.
That is a steep list. Not to say that you won't meet this man. You might. It could happen. Just that you might have to scale back on at least one of your "requirements." What if you meet this amazing man but he's only 5'10? Or can't grasp languages despite his fantastic education? Or can't play an instrument to save his life but has a lovely singing voice? There are actually women out there who will still dump a perfectly great guy because he fails to meet her standards and to those women - like the forty year old career bachelorette on MM - I would say Burn The List.
Moral of the Story: The Millionaire Matchmaker is a demanding, controlling, crazy person but she might just know what she's talking about when it comes to dating. There are certain things that we, as single women, can expect, and certain cases where we might actually need to lower the bar. This is not to say you should date anyone who doesn't meet any or all of your criteria. This is to say that maybe, just maybe, we could give guys a chance. Overlook a few of their imperfections. Not expect them all to be sexy cowboys who look phenomenal in tight jeans and are excellent dancers. (Though that would be nice). Not expect them all to be Nobel prize winning peace advocates or Pulitzer prize winning authors or Templeton prize winning academics. (Though all of these things would be nice too.) Yet I can't help but wonder how I would fare against a man's list and frankly, I never want to find out.
On second thought, the only item on a man's list is big boobs. Score!!!