My friend Oscar Limon, a playwright who’s navigating the NYC gay dating scene, shared a story with me about his recent (disastrous) Grindr date: After Oscar walked up to his date and introduced himself, the guy said, “Um, yeah — this isn’t going to happen.” The dude then made his point by abruptly getting up and walking away.
I sympathize with my friend; after all, who hasn’t been on a really bad date — or, in this case, been rejected before the date even started? Most of us have some version or other of this crappy rejection story. We meet people, and often quickly dismiss them without giving them a fair chance. Our attention spans are short, and, in dating especially, we sometimes move on too quickly. I don’t think there’s always something wrong with a quick assessment. There are times when we just know someone isn’t right for us — and it’s better not to waste time pretending it might work.
What I’m taking issue with is some of the criteria we use to decide whether a person is worth our time. Physical attraction is important; most of us can agree on that. And yet, I think it’s also important to try and see beauty beyond what we’re made to believe is beautiful. We can’t all look like Kate Upton or Beyoncé, but that doesn’t mean we’re not beautiful in our own right. Think about it: Have you ever fallen for a friend whom you weren’t initially attracted to, but, once you fell, were wildly, inexplicably crazy about — looks and all? That’s happened to me a few times, and I’m better for it. But, I know it won’t happen if we all instantly swipe left and only pay attention to our quick reactions to a stranger’s appearance.
It’s not just the quick appearance assessment (and subsequent judging) that’s problematic, though. Another big issue is our insatiable desire to see who else is out there. We’re so curious about what we might be missing out on that we often overlook what’s right in front of us.
When I first moved to NYC, every guy I made eye contact with in the subway held the potential for a love affair — fleeting or otherwise. Flirting was fun, and I was comfortable giving my phone number out when a man shared my interest. But, even though I had the intention of being open and accepting to the range of NYC men who crossed my path, what I ended up doing was making rash decisions based on some nonsense or other. If a guy had a uni-brow or a weird-sounding voice, I wrote him off. Someone better would come along, right? This dismissal was easy, because I always had my eyes open and was ready to make another move. I thought it was exciting to have multiple dates in one weekend. But, I didn’t realize that I wasn’t giving myself time to experience one guy before I was texting and making plans with the next one.
When I finally met someone to whom I felt deeply connected, I learned to my chagrin that he wasn’t ready to commit. He kept me at arm’s length while he stayed busy vetting available women, waiting to see if anyone better was out there. It stung. I had looked around enough to know that what I had with this guy was special. He also knew it — but he wasn’t quite ready to give up the “what if.” And, I realized the detrimental effect that too much curiosity can have.
And yet, in spite of this realization, as my dating life progressed, I found myself once again behaving badly in my online dating approach: If I was going to date online, I was going to find the perfect guy — one who fit all my must-haves. I refined my searches to the exact height, age, education, religion, and location of the partner I wanted. He also couldn’t have kids or be divorced. Once all of my criteria was in place, I hit “search” and waited. And, waited. My standards were so specific that no one fit the bill.
Of course, my Perfect Person doesn’t exist. No one’s does. If I kept holding out for someone who lived solely in my dreams, I’d end up alone. If I refused to determine what really mattered to me in a partner — thereby letting go of plenty of shit that was small potatoes in comparison — I’d be single forever. Changing my mindset (and my non-essential priorities) was crucial. When I threw away my silly “requirements,” I opened up to a whole slew of possibilities I’d been missing.
I used to only date guys who were over 6’2″. Now, my current beau is 5’11″ — and that’s just fine by me. Between you and me, the stronger my feelings, the taller he seems.
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