The Fault in Our Deal Breakers

Things with Jake are going really well. He’s funny, smart, hardworking, and chivalrous. We enjoy enough of the same things to be compatible and have a good time, but have enough of our own interests not to bore one another. The sexual chemistry is as good as it can be for two people who are not actually having sex. Simply put, after three months, he is still the bee’s knees.

It’s funny how such chemistry works, though. When I met Jake, we’d barely chatted on Plenty of Fish, both eager to just meet and see if there was anything there. At first sight, I remember thinking that he was, indeed, 5’8″, which was both a positive and a negative, in that he was being honest and 5’8″ is fine, but was not secretly a very sexy 6′ tall. I noticed that he was clearly a country boy and drove an attractively ridiculous pickup. I supposed the red hair wasn’t so bad, but I did wonder what he looked like without the hat. Yes. Those are the initial physical impressions I had of the guy with whom I’m pretty sure I’m falling in love. These observations were without negativity or distaste. I considered Jake the way I assume most people consider an online date, comparing him with the image I’d been given and assessing whether or not the result was workable. It’s almost… scientific. Looking back, though, I find it somewhat fascinating what does and does not actually matter in our relationship, in regards to the deal breakers I initially set forth, even after reading the book that helped me to completely reevaluate my priorities in January. For example…

What Doesn’t Matter

His Hairline

Two years ago, I went to a festival with Ava, a friend from high school. Ava’s married to her second boyfriend, so as much of a doll as she is, she’s not really capable of exchanging dating experiences. She had, however, brought a friend from work along, Sheila. I’d been discussing some of my latest dates with Ava, when Sheila shyly admitted that’s she’s tried some online dating as well. We started to specify, in a little more detail, what we will and won’t accept in a profile or photo, when Sheila announced with disgust “I don’t want bald guys.”

At the time, I was still in the midst of my Shallow Phase and even I thought that was a little harsh. I mean, bald can be attractive, particularly when worn with confidence, but I figured everyone has their limits and I didn’t want to be judgemental toward a woman I’d just met. That was then. Today, I’ll say with certainty that if you’re turning men down because of their hairline, you’re making a mistake. Statistically speaking, over two thirds of men will experience significant hair loss by age 35. It truly is only a matter of time and wouldn’t it be a damned shame to be single at 33 (disclaimer: assuming you want to be married at 33) only to realize that the petty reason you had for turning down potentially great guys five years ago is now a quality shared in most of the men you meet?

Personally, it took me a little while to get used to Jake without his hat, not because I found his hairline unattractive, but because he just looks like a different person without it. The fact is, however, that when he does all of ­­the sweet things he does for me, such as taking my dog out while I’m in the shower, cooking me dinner, or walking around the fair for 30 minutes looking for the chicken and waffles I just had to have… it never really registers which guy he looks like anymore.

His Height

If they’re going to lie, women lie about weight and men lie about height. This generalization is usually true, regardless of age and no matter who’s telling tales, the logic is the same:

I’m only rounding and once they meet me, it won’t matter.

We all know that lying in online dating is unfair, but we do it because no one responds to us, otherwise.

I’ll just post that more flattering photo from last spring. I look basically the same.
I’ll say I’m 5’10”. As long as she’s below 5’8″, she won’t care.

You don’t look the same. You’re not 5’10”. They’re going to care, because you’re lying by introduction.

We’ve been over this, though. What I haven’t really acknowledged, however, is how little height matters in the long run. When I first started dating online, I stated that prospects must be six foot, not because I was being shallow (okay, not just because I was being shallow), but because my dad and brother are both six foot. At 23 years old, I genuinely thought that six feet tall was average height for a man. When I learned otherwise (less than 15%*), however, I only lowered my requirement to 5’10”, because I wanted to be a dainty little lady next to my guy.

Now, as I mentioned, Jake is 5’8″. That means he has about two inches on me… only two inches on me… and it’s fine. Being an oil man, while not tall, Jake is stocky, so I do still feel quite small next to him, particularly since I wear ballet flats everywhere and he wears work boots that add an inch to his height. I’m not saying that I’d necessarily be just as attracted were he 5’3″, but I think I would even if he were just my height. Attraction is important. I’m not claiming otherwise. Just as with his hairline, though, when Jake pays for dinner, chases his giggling nieces, or laughs at my dad’s jokes, I don’t give one fig how tall he is. Eventually, the individual features that you’re considering on that first date just add up to a whole person. Hat or no hat, 5’8 or 6′, today, Jake just looks like Jake… and I find him pretty darned cute.

His Hobbies

When I started dating, I had this image in my mind of a man who reads non-fiction and perhaps high fantasy. He’d like to fish and hunt, but wouldn’t mount trophies. He wouldn’t really care for video games or have such a juvenile sense of humor as to watch stereotypical boy comedies.

Not only does Jake love South Park and tell me all about each new episode, he thinks Austin Powers is hilarious. He likes to golf and despises cats. We have an ongoing dispute over whether or not his deer mount has a name (it’s Buzz) and he loves to camp. Y’all, when it comes to camping, the only thing I DON’T have in common with the mom from Troop Beverly Hills, is that I will never love my daughter enough to camp.

Take my kidney, but I ain’t sleeping on the ground.

We share a lot of commonalities as well, though. We both like old cheesy science fiction and love the holidays. We enjoy horror movies and Jake doesn’t even mind that I screech like a rape victim whenever anything jumps out at me (at home or in a crowded theater). We share a dry and sarcastic sense of humor and I, in fact, do understand most of his South Park references, because I used to watch the show. I like older video games and can even be coerced into playing some newer ones. We both love to learn and Jake will more or less humor me in regards to any outing I suggest.

Having different interests gives us something to talk about and allows each of us to try something new. Jake’s really enjoying The Walking Dead and I’ve learned some fancy new hunting lingo. Did you know that a successful dove hunting outing does not equal “catching a lot of birds”? Because we work in entirely separate fields, there’s never a competition to be the expert. Perhaps, most importantly, Jake’s silly hobbies allow me mine. I can always crochet or read a trashy romance novel while he plays his new video game or watches the latest political debate. Just as my affinity for paranormal romance says nothing about my intelligence, his South Park quotes say nothing about his. Everyone wastes time in different ways and it’s just been really nice to sit next to someone while doing so. He’ll just have to deal with it, when I get a cat.

What Does Matter

His Weight
When I read my one and only dating guide, I was convinced that weight didn’t matter. Like height, weight was just part of the initial attraction and eventually, I wouldn’t notice anyway. Then, I had my date with Dell, who blatantly lied about his weight. This wasn’t 10 pounds, but 40 on a man who was only 5’7″. Jake isn’t a wisp of a guy, but he’s nowhere near obese, as Dell was. The thing is, as we’ve been dating, I’ve realized how much it matters to me that he’s not excessively overweight.

Unlike height, weight isn’t about attraction so much as physical capability. Never have I sat in a booth with Jake only to realize he doesn’t quite fit. Not once has he had to sit down and catch his breath from leisurely walking, as my ex-husband did, because he was morbidly obese. Being with someone so young, yet so out of shape is inconvenient and embarrassing. When Jake and I went to the zoo, on our 6th date, I was the one who needed the break, when my asthma started giving me trouble. Last Friday, we spent the whole day walking around the fair and Jake kept pace just fine. He doesn’t have high blood pressure, or bad knees, or trouble maneuvering in bed.

I think the most important issue in the long run, is that don’t feel pressured to eat poorly around Jake. When we went the fair, sure, we stuffed ourselves with bottled beer and syrup drenched chicken. In fact, I appreciate his ability to enjoy a day without calorie counting. I also appreciate his generally healthy habits, though, as they more or less match mine. We may not be talking forever just yet, but if it’s ever up for discussion, I don’t want to spend the next 50 years fighting about pouring gravy over everything.

His Time

From our first date, Jake has done something that’s set him apart from any man I’ve ever met. He’s made me a priority. When we first started messaging, I was hesitant to get involved with a man in oil, as ubiquitous as it is around these parts. Engineer 114 had been in oil and his schedule and priorities had both been problematic. Jake had assured me that distance wasn’t important to him and he’d travel to Springfield to meet me and buy me lunch. For our second date, he traveled even further to meet me at the mall in the heart of the Metro. For our third date, when we went to the Fourth of July festival in Springfield, he mentioned to me that he was supposed to spend time with his parents, but they’d arrived several hours later than planned. Rather than postpone or cancel with me, he explained to them that he’d made a commitment and he was leaving. He chose to forgo time with his family to keep his plans with me and not ruin my holiday.

Sure, when I was looking, I mentioned that I wanted someone who had time to date, but I never expected the level of commitment that Jake displayed from the beginning. It wasn’t that he was obsessed with me or clingy, so much as if he said he would be somewhere, he meant it. Yes, Jake’s been late when he’s come to see me from his family’s ranch, but he’s never bailed on me. In fact, last Friday, when he hadn’t messaged or called to tell me for sure if he’d still be able to come to the city for the fair, I assumed he’d been caught up in the rig check he’d done that morning. Dejected, I told myself that this is part of dating an oil man and I either am or am not up for it, but that Jake wouldn’t just stand me up without a damned good reason and I didn’t get to guilt trip him for it. I took care to keep my texts neutral.

I’m gonna go to the gym. Let me know when you’re able. Miss you.

Almost immediately, Jake called to tell me that he was halfway to Shetland and hadn’t answered the phone, because he was driving through a thunderstorm. On the surface, I’m dating a guy who won’t ditch me when he knows I’m looking forward to the fair. I look deeper, though, and I see a guy who won’t tell me he’ll mow the lawn and yell at me for guilt tripping him by doing it myself two days later… a guy who won’t get fired for staying home to play video games… a man who won’t leave me to miscarry alone and scared.

His Respect for My Field

To be fair, I did list this as a requirement in dating, but I never realized how important it was to me to not only be with someone who didn’t openly mock my field, but who genuinely seemed to respect it. As a librarian, in the dating world, I’ve received some pretty danged appalling comments about my degree and profession. I’ve written entire posts about them. In short, there’s just no quicker way to end a date with me than to to mock libraries and/or librarians… after I lecture you about how wrong you are.

Jake has never belittled me, especially in my career. On our first date, he naturally asked a lot of questions, and I think the stress involved in my job still surprises him. The other night, when he asked me how work was, I answered “over stimulating”, which threw him for a second. He’s hardly the only one who pictures a peaceful library instead of a night of secretarial work, in-depth research, information technology, education, babysitting, customer service, and the occasional call to the police. The difference is, he asks and listens. He processes what I’m telling him and believes me.

As an engineer, Jake has a very stressful job, sometimes working for 24 hours at a time, in a hole in the ground. Never once, though, has he responded to my exhaustion with a comparison to his own. He respects my field and my stress level for what they are, even if he doesn’t fully understand. Not only that, but when I excitedly told him I’d applied for a full time position at a library in a dangerous part of the city, he didn’t imply that he didn’t want me to take it… just that I needed to stop defending it with stories of how all libraries are sketchy and telling him about the bullet holes in the window next door. He knows my job isn’t just important to me, but part of who I am as a person.

I don’t know where things are going to ultimately go with Jake. In two years, I could be blogging about my new boyfriend or my new baby. It’s really too soon to tell. If this doesn’t work out, though? I feel like I know a lot more about what actually matters and what just… doesn’t.


2 thoughts on “The Fault in Our Deal Breakers

  1. I just wanted to say thank you for writing such an excellent posting. I don’t think many people take the time to really sit down and reflect (and I admit I’ve been guilty of this too) on what they are looking for in someone, and what really matters.

    It’s interesting because I have been seeing someone for about 3 months now myself. I don’t think I am quite as clear as what I am looking for as you are, but at least I am clearer than I was a year ago. My new girlfriend & I, who met on, have talked about how we seem to have a few things in common, but certainly not everything. She was relaying her initial apprehension to me because I’m a bit of a fitness guy, and she, being quite introverted, prefers to just stay home most of the time. She prefers hikes in the woods rather than training for a marathon.

    And yet … we completely click. I’ve tried to tell her many times that I think what matters most is not how many overlapping items you can check off … but who you are as a person, and who your partner is as a person. True – I think there has to be *some* overlapping interests – but I don’t think it needs to be a carbon copy match. To be honest, I wouldn’t want a carbon copy of me – what would we have to talk about, and what new things would there be to explore?

    Last year, I spent most of the year in another relationship with a different person. A blonde, in-shape, fit woman. By all “conventional” standards, most men would be very attracted to her. I was somewhat attracted to her – but something was wrong; something was just “off”.

    It’s funny, you know. I’m much more attracted to my new girlfriend, even though she doesn’t fit the stereotypical definition of what a “hottie” should be (whatever that means) … whereas my previous partner would.

    Isn’t love strange.

    • It really is. I think today’s singles are told to prioritize some weirdly specific things. Shows like How I Met Your Mother emphasize that a great deal, with the lead ending relationships based on the trivial, like whether or not she’s seen a specific movie. While it may work as a plot device, not so much in a real relationship. I’m glad you’ve continued seeing someone despite “must haves” that might have been missing. Hopefully, people in general will stop using online dating as a checklist so much and accept the whole person.

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