Author of Man Camp
You think you know exactly what you want in a man, right? You can probably even list the attributes, qualities and qualifications that your future husband needs in order to apply for the job of your mate. I had a three-tiered system myself. First, there were the requirements: an interesting profession (preferably in the arts), a great sense of humor, a sterling character, financial security. Next, there was the frosting (as in, wouldn’t-it-be-nice-if-he-were…): over six feet tall, devastatingly handsome, a cat lover. And finally, there were the deal breakers: children, difficult ex-wives, bad toupees. Of course, like you, I fancied myself to be magnanimous and flexible in as much as I was willing to overlook certain undesirable traits – say, thinning hair and a few extra pounds – for the perfect guy. Now, even if your list is different from mine, I think you know what I’m talking about.
Here’s some advice: Lose your lists now, Ladies! Mine almost kept me from getting to know my husband.
Tim and I were set up on a blind date by a mutual friend. We were both divorced and practiced daters, and knew the rules of the game. We met at a conveniently located wine bar and immediately set into the first date volley of get-to-know-you-questions: Where are you from? What do you do? How many siblings? My first impression of Tim was that he was utterly unobjectionable: nice, attractive, smartly dressed, well mannered. But something was missing . . . .
Let’s revisit my list. First off, Tim’s “interesting profession” was in finance, which to a writer like me seemed like a big snoozer of a job. Next, he was a listener, so at first glance, it didn’t appear that he had a “great sense of humor.” As for the other two requirements – a “sterling character” and “financial security” – both are tough to determine on a first date. What he did have in spades were deal breakers – two sons (teenagers, no less) and a horrific ex-wife. My thought bubble at the time? Check, please. What to do next was a no-brainer: I finished my glass of Shiraz, graciously declined his dinner invitation, gave him a peck on the cheek and thought, Nice knowing you, Buddy. I went home, curled up with a book and didn’t give Tim or our date a second thought.
Luckily for me, my husband didn’t subscribe to the list mentality himself. He called. He pursued. He courted. I joked about him to my friends – Who was this suit and why wouldn’t he just leave me alone? But Tim was sincere in his feelings and steadfast in his determination. He wouldn’t take no for an answer. Since I refused to make time for proper dates for weeks, he tagged along to some readings and other literary events. Reluctantly, over the course of several months, I got to know him. Turns out, Tim is unquestionably the man of my dreams, though he bears little resemblance to the fantasy man I thought I’d end up with. Tim is funny and smart and warm beyond words and, though finance still isn’t fascinating to me, it is to him, which is all that matters in the end. He has given me a daughter and made my life happy in ways I would never have imagined. And to think, if left to my own devices – and my own list – I probably wouldn’t even remember his name right now.
Here are a few things to remember. Lists only rule people out, which isn’t a good way of allowing someone new and wonderful into your life (presumably your goal). If the guy you’re with is not as tall or as rich or as skilled in witty bantering as you thought Mr. Right should be, take the time to notice what his strengths are. It’s always easier to see what’s wrong than what’s right, and far more rewarding to do the opposite. Remember, it’s hard to find love if you’re busy thinning the herd. Besides, are you really willing to gamble potential happiness away because he doesn’t earn seven figures? Get to know the person across the table from you and above all, be open!
Adrienne Brodeur is the founding editor of Zoetrope: All-Story. She lives in New York City.