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?

What’s My Dealbreaker? Having Dealbreakers

Dealbreaker.

What’s your type? Whether you want every man you date to look like Han Solo or are a Chewbacca fetishist, we all have ideals of what we’d like in a person we date. Everyone from Carrie Bradshaw to Ron Swanson makes preliminary romantic decisions based on surface-level, often unchangeable factors about a potential partner. “I’m a simple man,” Swanson gravels in his maple baritone. “I like pretty, dark-haired women and breakfast food.”

As we were discussing in the comments of Laura’s post about being a tall lady, almost everyone has cursory aesthetic demands on one’s imaginary perfect man (or woman). In the same way that Ron Swanson likes brunettes, Laura wants to meet a guy who’s taller than her. Heather made a good point about this:

I guess I think “preferring” a type of guy in general is problematic, although I know that everyone is attracted to certain characteristics in spite of themselves (give me a beard or give me singlehood). Seeking a man out expressly because he’s short or tall seems, as you said, either Victorian or deliberately contrarian, so to me it makes more sense to find someone you’re otherwise attracted to and compatible with and maybe worry a little less whether you’re taller than he is.

Heather’s right that it would be kinder to our potential mates to not have a pre-composed set of attributes we impose on them. Yet countless conversations over cocktails, in magazines, and between texts with your girlfriends allow us to dismiss a guy (in this case) because he’s “not my type.” Why is it socially accepted to ignore someone because of a previous outline into which he doesn’t precisely fit?

Ron Swanson says to a guitar teacher in whom he’s interested, “For what it’s worth, you’d make an incredible brunette.” This isn’t exactly a compliment – he’s telling this woman he merely spots across a room that she is only worthy of his affections if she changes her appearance to suit his personal preference. She’s blonde, so she can’t expect him to be interested—he’s a brunette man.

Of course, women do this just as casually: It’s a “dealbreaker” if a guy isn’t tall enough/doesn’t have an accent/doesn’t have green eyes/carries a Velcro wallet. Why is it an accepted cultural phenomenon to dismiss based on a surface-level attribute?

We don’t really ignore people we’re attracted to because of these cursory judgments. Types, dealbreakers, and stated requirements are all excuses to explain why we’re not attracted to someone. Sexual attraction is hardly that simplistic, and in making dating a less brutal game than it already is, we might benefit from not legitimizing the idea that a guy can’t like you because of your hair color. As Heather also notes:

I think for many men, masculinity is as fraught as femininity is for us (the thinking ones, anyway) so imposing these standards of tallness-as-attractiveness and worse, tallness-as-virility-and-suitable-matehood, seems like something worth attempting to avoid.

If we continue to consider “dealbreakers” as a valid explanation for not going out with someone, we continue a shallow, often unfair consideration of the people we might end up really liking. More fair than listing voice, cologne, or hair length in explaining why we do or don’t like someone, perhaps we should accept that people aren’t the sum of their dealbreakers, having a type is wildly limiting, and sometimes you just don’t want to go out with someone.

It’s not because she’s blonde, and you shouldn’t expect her to become brunette before she expects you to give her a chance.