Boy Coy: For the Love of the Deal

Editor’s note: This column was written by (*gasp*) a boy. No matter your scientific, expressed, or preferred gender, you too can write for us! Direct interest to servingteatofriends [at] gmail [dot] com.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a type. The list of 5’7”+ fair-skinned brunettes I’ve courted (or attempted to court)  easily provides sufficient data points to identify a trend. Data analysis would also reveal that the most genuine romantic experiences in my history were spent in the company of stark outliers. It is likely this very pattern that draws my attention (and this post) to the talk of types.

Anna’s Ron Swanson-referencing investigation of the deal breaker phenomenon sent my synapses in the direction of another equally hilarious NBC sitcom. In fact, the 3rd season finale of “30 Rock” features long-suffering protagonist Liz Lemon garnering media adoration for a conveniently relevant catchphrase: “…That’s a deal breaker, ladies!”

A cursory Google of the phrase turned up this delightful webpage, complete with an informative collection of Daily Deal Breakers. I was particularly amused by the accompanying image of a disheveled male 20-something: Deal breaker incarnate, it seems. While initially put off by his application of cadet grey slacks and navy pinstripes, my mood relented to sympathy under the influence of his pitiable “give-a-guy-a-chance” anti-swag. I began clicking through countless disqualifiers, determined to determine if Mr. DB was being held up to the draconian standards his expression implied. Many deal breakers (“If your man owns a mint-condition Hellboy figurine”) came off as a bit unfair. I quake in fear when I consider my girlfriend may put the axe on our relationship in response to the unrelenting torrent of Dragon Ball Z and Pokémon analysis that comprises my Facebook profile.

Gotta' deconstruct 'em all!

Others (“Your man wants to plan your honeymoon around Comic-Con”) registered as perfectly viable scenarios to alter the deal. In fact, the most common theme among Deal Breakers revolved around the stereotypically masculine lack of consideration or respect for a partner. My favesies on this end of the spectrum included “Your man disappears and then shows up after seven months of no contact” and “If your man has seven cell phones, but won’t give you any of their numbers.” Though thoroughly entertained, the page nearly failed to appear in this post because of its inconsistencies with the initial deal breaker conversation. Previous posts had debated the merits of a physical criterion, not  selfish habits that might delegitimize the validity of a long-term partnership. Furthermore, commenter Katey pointed out how the reliance on visual analysis is an unavoidable component of modern dating:

 “Most of the guys I date have similar attributes. I am attracted to a certain type of man, and I don’t see anything wrong with that. I also expect that if I guy asks me out, that I already meet his basic appearance requirements. I don’t want to find out later that he is not attracted to my brunette locks. Shallowness is part of attraction. Do not tell me that any of you are going to walk into a bar and, purely based on looks, let everyone be an option to you. That’s not how it works. We all have a type and we all have deal breakers.”

She’s right.  It would be unrealistic to consider any human being as acting in error for evaluating potential suitors with a “basic appearance requirement.” Likewise, it would be unfair to call someone out for establishing a preference for certain physical qualities.

Things become counterproductive, however, when these aesthetic sorting algorithms rationalize a continued relationship despite the appearance of Lizlemonian-mode Deal Breakers. This practice is grossly common among my heteromale peers. I have watched many XY’s willingly succumb to the allure of the trophy-girlfriend, only to be bemused as they continuously gripe over a litany of incompatibilities. Then again, this pattern is often the dominant motivation for relationships in the first place. If affirmation minimums and convenient orgasms are the signs of functioning companionship, our physical markers seem perfectly adequate for selecting a status-changer.

Reprogramming our brain’s inclinations for attraction is impossible.  Still, a more challenging approach to why we agree to go on dates in the first place may bear more fruitful results. At the very least, an adjustment may help to retool a system that Anna accurately describes as rewarding, “a consideration that happens in two seconds over one that is more generous and more time-consuming.”

Granted, it’s reasonable to assume commenter Geoffrey speaks for most of us when he notes that he would, “go mad if I had to go on five dates with every person I met.” On the other hand, should we accept dates as the sole medium for getting to know someone we happen to find attractive?

Love Her or Hate Her, Let’s Let Zooey Be Zooey

My enormous deer eyes command you to think I'm the cutest.

Want to really get the War of the Sexes going? Sure, you could bring up the Big Issues — a woman’s right to have access to birth control, the dangers and idiocy of slut-shaming, everything that Rick Santorum has ever thought about anything, etc.

Or you could just mention Manic Pixie Dream Girl and #1 on your friends’ and lovers’ “can-bang” list (I promise you, this is true), Zooey Deschanel.

Zooey has become a deeply polarizing figure on the battlefield we call gender. Men seem universally to love her, while women have decidedly mixed feelings. Sure, she’s cuter than a tiny pig in tiny boots or a corgi in a sweater or a sloth doing literally anything or (well, you get the idea). But it’s that kind of cute that makes you sort of want to push her off a building, just to see if her teensy polkadot dress and massive doll hair catch her like a parachute, amirite?

Just take her character in her new TV show, “New Girl.” Jess, who is basically just Zooey playing herself, is a grade school teacher who wears adorable oversize glasses, sweet little dresses, sings to herself constantly, loves to be nice to strangers, and bakes cupcakes in almost every episode. And her three male roommates? Are they pining slavishly over her, competing to be her ironic sweater vest-wearing, facial hair-having, fixed gear bike-riding boyfriend? Nope. They think she’s weird and awkward and they are embarrassed by her.

In the sage words of my significant other, “That would literally never happen.”

The problem many ladies (myself occasionally included) have with Zooey is that she perpetuates an impossible ideal of womanhood, all while getting to portray herself as “edgy” and “quirky” and “outside the norm.” By that, she must just mean outside the norm of the 21st century, because these days, most women simply don’t have time to bake and craft that much. But in her own awkward-girl way, Zooey perpetuates a male fantasy — simultaneously infantilized and sexual, embodying the virgin-whore dichotomy, domestic and mysterious, cute as a button and utterly unattainable — that no one can possibly live up to. And more to the point, that no one should want or need to. We can’t all be expected to bike through the over-saturated scenes of our lives in sundresses emblazoned with hearts, and still accomplish anything. Zooey makes us feel like we should be a certain way, which is anathema to so many of us who were raised with strong, do-anything-you-set-your-mind-to female role models and senses of ourselves. At the same time, she makes us want to be that way. It’s exhausting.

But as much as Zooey Deschanel, and everything she seems to embody about fetishized cuteness, irks me, I have to say something really important. It’s not okay to hate her for being who, it seems, she really is.

To put it another way: There’s this amazing “30 Rock” episode called “TGS Hates Women.” In an effort to make the writing staff of TGS a little more balanced, Liz Lemon brings in a female comic to write. Unfortunately, as Liz soon finds, she is not the edgy, girl power type. Instead, she has long, straight blonde hair styled in porny pigtails and acts, dresses, and talks like a naughty infant. Liz ham-fistedly tries to get the new girl to be her “real self,” only to unwittingly reveal her identity to her psycho-stalker ex. Liz looks stupid, and everyone learns an important lesson: Feminism, and liberation, and all the things our foremothers and we ourselves have fought for, means being allowed to be whoever the hell you are.

Even if who you are is a sex-crazed infant who calls everyone “Daddy.” Even if who you are is a retro bombshell who just wants to make cupcakes for boys and has farm animals on her checks .

On a recent episode of “New Girl,” called “Jess and Julia,” the writers and Deschanel herself tackle all the Zooey haters in a surprisingly winning, funny way. The haters are collectively portrayed by the amazingly amazing Lizzy Caplan (Janice Ian from “Mean Girls,” among other memorable roles), a hot-shot lady lawyer named Julia who thinks Jess’ whole schtick is exhausting. Jess, however, doesn’t know she’s doing a “schtick,” and lets Julia know, in a fairly awesome monologue, how much bullshit it is to judge another woman about the way she presents herself.

And it is bullshit. Zooey Deschanel, like the rest of us comparably lucky American women, was born into a half-century that would have allowed her to be just about anything — from a hot-shot lady lawyer to a Supreme Court justice to a stay-at-home mom and food blogger, and anything in between. She has chosen a certain vibe, aesthetic, worldview, and set of interests. She has decided to be Zooey Deschanel, and we should be nothing but psyched for her. This doesn’t mean we have to be her, or make the choices she’s made, or embody the kind of womanhood she embodies. But it does mean we should let her be, and be proud of her success, and maybe occasionally sing show tunes while riding a bike in a sundress. You know, if we feel like it.