Let’s be real: we treat online dating profiles like job applications. We scan their interests looking for buzzwords like “witty sense of humor” or “law school.” We X out of the window as soon as we see words like “CrossFit” or “Nickelback.” Online dating has made it easy to narrow down the field—and too easy to miss out on great people.
Every hiring process involves a job posting that details the employer’s preferences and requirements. The posting describes some ethereal candidate they would like to see fill the position in a perfect world—someone who will always arrive promptly at 9 am (“reliable”), meticulously label every Manila folder in the file cabinet (“organized”), and wipe down the splatters of spaghetti sauce after microwaving their lunch (“team player”).
I had similar demands for potential boyfriends, and I considered this checklist each time I scrolled through an online profile or sat down at Flour Bakery for a first date over pastries and lattes. I interviewed them for evidence of the “required credentials,” such as passing a gender studies course, having a college degree, attaining high scores in Hygiene and Wellness, and passing the ever-important height exam.
My checklist also included idealized details. Politically conscious. Would split a bottle of Jameson with me. No beards. Can successfully match complementary patterns for shirt-tie combos. Likes sushi. Can distinguish between “your” and “you’re.” An environmentalist. Likes Harry Potter. Not necessary, of course—just a romanticized version of the perfect partner. In this résumé-centered world, I assumed I could toss out a man based on whether he wore Oxfords or sneakers, or if he had never really gotten into “those wizard books.” In my mind, if we couldn’t watch Order of the Phoenix together, he might as well go explode some lasagna in the breakroom microwave.
This logic was flawed.
A candidate can appear nearly perfect on paper. His résumé can glow with his feminism, his progressive ideology, his love of books and learning. He can have Goblet of Fire memorized. He can order bourbon and rant about increased CO2 emissions from animal agriculture. Check, check, and check.
But that doesn’t mean he’ll be the partner I was craving.
It doesn’t mean my lungs will freeze up when he steps off the train. It doesn’t mean the corners of my lips will sneak up when I say his name. It doesn’t mean I’ll feel loneliness slice through me like a cleaver knife each time we say goodbye. His résumé may suit the objective needs for a job title, but not the subjective, dynamic role of a partner—supporting me, invigorating me, and navigating life with me.
Then there are those whose résumés stray so far from my checklist that they would immediately be shredded, or maybe even used for a good laugh before ripping in half.
“He doesn’t even like to read!” I might say to a coworker. “What’s he doing applying if he doesn’t even read? What did he think he was applying for?”
“Look at this,” the coworker would chime in, pointing at his qualifications. “Nothing about gender studies. Has he never taken a gender studies class? He knows that’s a requirement, right?”
But if I had shredded the résumé right then and there, I never would have shared laughs with him watching 50 hours of standup on Netflix.
I never would have squeezed his hand while conquering my fear of heights on the colossal ferris wheel at Pier 57. We never would have mocked the excessively perky crosswalk signs in Vancouver or stopped to appreciate the cliffs at Deception Pass. I never would have been the target of his elated grin when he spotted me across the street at 14th and 6th, or when he found me unexpectedly waiting outside his office for his lunch break with his go-to Chipotle order already in my hand. I never would have discovered that he has that Demi Lovato song I love on his iTunes, or that he finds my badass emoji skills amusing.
A bullet list will never predict the way I’ll feel around him—hearing the nervous laugh he uses around my friends, or the endearing way he narrates his stories. One page of credentials would never tell me he would set out a vase of daisies on his kitchen counter just for me, or rest his hands on my shoulders to prevent the July sun from scorching my pale skin.
Fuck the résumés and the checklists and must-haves. It’s hella cool if he can talk about feminism with me. But it’s even better if he makes me happy to be with him—even if he listens to EDM.