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.