Thought Catalog

3 Things A List Will Not Help You Do

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Frances Ha /
Frances Ha /
Every magazine, website, and news tease seems to be selling me a list. I’ve even written a list or two of my own (in addition to my epic, unpublished to-do lists). Everyone has suggestions for how to do this, how to do that, how to feel this way, how to change yourself — generally, steps for the reader to use to make some sort of difference in his or her life. Lists are the new Candy Crush life requests…you can’t avoid them, so here’s another one — this time, outlining the five things a list cannot help you achieve.

1. How to find or “keep” a partner.

“10 Women All Men Notice,” “5 Things Men Do That Women Can’t Ignore,” “Is He/She The One?” All of these are actual lists I have actually seen scattered amongst Buzzfeed quizzes on my Facebook Newsfeed. These lists are not going to help you find a partner or determine if the person you’re with is The One. I know, it’s disappointing, but it’s just not the case.

If I were to adopt the style, attitude, demeanor, and personality of one of the ten women all men notice I’m pretty sure I would not find a partner — or maintain a relationship for any length of time — because I am not those women. The five things men do that women can’t ignore? A guy who consciously tried to do any of those things would look awkward and uncomfortable.

As a person always interested in a good how-we-met story, I can tell you that I have yet to meet any couples who fit into any of these criterion. I don’t think these people exist — I think they are a type of people we want to believe exist, to believe there’s some quick and easy way to make things work for ourselves. Alas, there is no easy way and, ultimately, you’re going to be yourself because you’re you. Also, if you have to read a checklist to determine if your mate is The One, I feel like they probably aren’t. Part of me thinks this is something you’d know.

2. How to be happy.

Most of the “how to be happy” lists are pretty harmless, very similar, and often filled with some common sense techniques that are actually pretty psychologically sound. The problem is that, it takes practice. Happiness is a choice, a constant choice, and true happiness will not arrive overnight (or by beginning a relationship, a new job, etc.). That’s the thing about the lists for happiness — the number one tip should be: PRACTICE!

3. How to flirt.

This may seem like a redundant visit to the first one on this list, but it’s getting its own bullet because it brings its own issues. “Seem interested but not too interested,” “Don’t call for three days” — ugh. This is in addition to advice like, “brush against his arm,” “flip your hair back so he can smell your shampoo” (I’ve actually seen that in print, in more than one place), “show cleavage but not too much cleavage.” Ugh. We are adults, aren’t we? Maybe we can focus on just connecting as two people without the weird games in the way? Maybe?

Also? If I followed all of the flirting tips I’ve read over the years, I would be mistaken for someone in the middle of a medical emergency (the winking and smiling, looking and not looking, hair flipping). Just…no. You do what’s right for you, dear reader.

And so, you see, my issue with lists is what the list seeks to do. It presents itself as a cheat, a life hack, and then leaves you with nothing. Sometimes we have to take horrible advice and fail a few dozen times before we learn our lesson. My suggestion is to think about it (really think about it) before you decide to take anyone’s advice – because you know you better than anyone else. Ultimately, take what works and leave the rest.

And…always remember, if you have to read a list to determine if he/she is The One? They probably aren’t. Or maybe they are. That’s up to you. TC mark

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