I was out at happy hour the other day with friends when the conversation inevitably turned to talk of everyone’s dating life. I started coyly mentioning a guy I’ve had an on again, off again crush on since college and immediately listed his job, master’s degree, city he grew up in, hobbies, and earning potential. After I was done listing his accompaniments like some human version of Linkedin, one of the guys sitting with us looked at me earnestly and said, “… but is he a good person, does he treat you well?” I was instantly ashamed of myself. I’d been talking for almost five minutes and he was right, I hadn’t mentioned a single thing about his personal qualities except to say that he wasn’t a douche.
I’m probably not the only female guilty of this. Maybe it’s a symptom of today’s hook-up culture, but women these days have created a litany of items that their love interest must have in order to be considered dateable — and to be honest, it’s upsettingly superficial. Of course, dating a guy with career goals and some amount of education should be on the table, but are we becoming so reliant on the so-called “boyfriend checklist” that we’re forgetting the most important thing – our feelings?!
I have mixed emotions on this. I dated a guy for years who was technically not great boyfriend material on paper. When we first started dating he didn’t own a car, didn’t have job, he didn’t even have a bank account, but he was so sweet I didn’t care. He grew tremendously throughout our relationship but one thing that always remained the same was that he was always caring, devoted, and had such a good heart. After we broke up I started dating a guy who would have been an amazing boyfriend on paper. Great job, great hobbies, great education, the works – and yet he turned out to be a complete asshole. He was well aware of what a “catch” he was and never let me forget it. Even once things were over between us he still managed to make me feel like I was the least important person he’d ever encountered.
I’m not saying to not have standards — having certain nonnegotiable expectations when it comes to the people you date (and eventually hope to marry) is certainly not a bad thing. However, when we become so wrapped up in those that we forget the qualities that are nonnegotiable, we have a problem. Is he kind? Is he gracious? Does he treat you with respect? Does he find the things that make you, you desirable? If you can’t answer these questions you’re probably marking off the wrong list. Jobs, education, and financial stability can always change, but your gut feeling of if he’s a good person will most definitely not.
If I were honest about the on again, off again crush I’ve had since undergrad I would probably say that he’s an alright guy. He’s impressive, fun, and we’ve been friends forever, but what does my gut tell me? My gut tells me we’ve been friends for almost 5 years and he isn’t the most receptive person. My gut tells me that, when I describe him to other people the first thing out of my mouth isn’t, “he makes me feel so happy”, so case closed. Maybe if women spent more time paying attention to the guys who make them feel good instead of wasting all their time on guys who meet x,y and z there’d be a lot less broken hearts.
I think a lot about what my friend asked me at happy hour now when I’m contemplating going out with a guy or even talking about a guy I might be interested in to other people. Am I describing some ideal guy off a checklist society helped create, or am I actually talking about a person who makes me smile, laugh, and feel good about myself? Maybe it’s something we all should be a little more cognizant of, and learn to throw away those lists so we can trust the only things that matter – our hearts.