My Absolute Dealbreaker

Image by Craig Jewell

Now that I’m single again, I’m trying to retrain myself to do the dating dance. I went on a first date recently, and the evening was pretty much a conversational ballet, the two of us daintily tiptoeing around each other with loaded questions and politically correct answers in an effort to figure out if we might actually like the other person.

As our dance continued center stage, behind the curtains I was casually browsing through my playbill of potential dealmakers and dealbreakers. Whenever she mentioned something about herself that I shared, my heart fluttered for a second, and I checked one off on my “good list.” Whenever she mentioned something about herself that I didn’t share, my heart muttered, and I checked one off on my “bad list.”

That night, I stumbled upon a Mega-Dealbreaker. One that superseded all the lesser, mere mortal dealbreakers. Within the rabid pack of dealbreakers frothing in my head, this one quickly established itself as the Alpha:

I can’t be with an absolutist….

I’ll be blunt. I hate camping.

I was born in Taiwan. In the glorified village that I lived for the first four years of my life, hot water and electricity were available—but by no means consistent. Spiders and geckos permanently punctuated the plaster walls, and plenty of venomous wildlife lurked outside. My father clawed our way up the socioeconomic ladder, practicing at three different hospitals and sleeping four hours a day. Because of his ambition, we were able to immigrate to the United States. By the time I was in high school, we lived in a plush Southern California home.

The material comforts that I lacked as a kid continue to drive my preferences as an adult. Now that I can afford hotels with spa tubs and monogrammed bathrobes, why would I want to go out and brave the whim of Mother Nature? Spending a week with no running water or electricity only evokes memories of a life that I’m proud to have put behind me. Frankly, I find camping just for the sake of “roughing it” to be an exercise in lunacy.

And yet, girlfriends have gotten me to go camping with them. I’ve spent five days in the desert in November, sweating my netherlands off during the day and huddling like penguins at night.

Astonishingly, I had fun.

Sure, by each trip’s end, I couldn’t wait to get home to a hot shower. But, I always cherished these experiences. Not because I enjoyed accumulating a layer of grime that could literally be etched off with my nails, but because I was spending time with someone I cared about. Because it made me feel good that she was having fun.

Several drinks into my recent dance, as we were starting to lose our mental grace and verbal dexterity, my date blurted out that she doesn’t camp. She doesn’t see the point of it, and she will never do it.

At first, I was elated. Awesome, I thought to myself. We can enjoy room service together. Check one on the “good list.”

Later that night, I thought about the absoluteness with which she made the statement. Sure, it worked out for me that she hated camping. But, the fact that she would never go camping made me wonder what other absolutes she had. Would there be other activities that she would never do? What if some of these were activities I loved?

Sure enough, the dissonance surfaced over the next few dates….

She doesn’t cook. She hates hip hop music. Sushi grosses her out. She doesn’t like this. She only does that.

I realized that she had meticulously disseminated all her likes and dislikes, down to the very minutiae of her everyday life. She even told me, quite explicitly, that she was comfortable with who she was and would never change for a guy.

I had to respect that, I suppose. But it also irked me.

I happen to like cooking. I listen to hip hop. I love sushi. Is it really that big of a deal that I can’t share these with her? Can any of these really be dealbreakers? How shallow, right?

Maybe not. It wasn’t her hatred of cooking, hip hop, and sushi that created the dealbreaker. It was the fact that she hates these things with such absoluteness. That was my Alpha: her absolutism.

To me, love is being open to new experiences. Relationships are about compromise. Yes, there are certain things that I don’t like and don’t tend to do. But, with the right woman, I find myself eagerly taking on these new endeavors. I went camping, for crust’s sake!

And that’s what I hope for in the woman of my dreams. Someone who will set aside her own preferences for a day—or five—and do something with me because I’m passionate about it.

I can’t be with someone who’s so fixed in her ways that we’ll only ever do the things she likes. I want her to try new interests with me, just as I hope to try new interests with her.

I can’t be with an absolutist. And that’s my personal absolutism.

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  • Great read. I completely agree. Did you tell her why her absolutism was a deal-breaker?

  • Nah, I just became withdrawn and moody and told her I had way too much work to do and trips to take and didn’t have much time to hang out with her…. 😉

  • Couldn’t agree with you more. I’m all for the “don’t knock it till you’ve tried it” philosophy, and people should definitely be willing to try new things for the people they love. However, I have one big problem: how can you like sushi if you don’t like rice?

  • Hmmm… I liked this article… I really did. But I have a question:

    I am an absolutist in a few things. For example, I HATE Mexican food, and avoid it like the plague. I don’t like guacamole, salsa, sour cream, beans or avocados. You can say that stuff is good and try to get me to eat it all you want, but I’ve tried it multiple times and still hate it.

    This being said, if a whole bunch of my friends are going out to a Mexican joint, I will go, drink my margeritas, join in the dialogue, and remain hungry.

    But that’s absolutism per your definition. I realize we’re never going to date, Mr. Dong… but would you think less of me for the well experimented and self-proven opinion?

  • @Allison: Ha. I like sweet-ish rice, which is how I like the rice they put in good sushi. So there.

    @res: It’s not so much that you’re not allowed to be an absolutist about something. It’s how many things you’re absolutist about. This girl had an opinion about *everything*.

    Also, by your explanation that you’re still willing to go out and enjoy yourself at a Mexican restaurant, I wouldn’t call you an absolutist. I mean, I’m not gonna call a vegetarian an absolutist for not eating meat. I had one ex who was vegetarian, but she still would go to steakhouses with me and order vegetarian dishes. And that meant the world to me. Hope that clarifies it….

  • That definitely works then. I hate when people keep telling me to try stuff that I know I don’t like. They call me wierd, or tell me this time they’re sure I’ll like it… no I won’t, but I won’t keep you from doing it either.

    Your view makes sense. Not that I don’t NORMALLY agree with you.

  • Ha! I finally came over to read stuff and found the post with Dennis admitting he eats rice! Sweet rice, but still. Does that mean you eat the rice desserts? I don’t know what they’re called, but I love the ones wrapped in the banana leaves and have half a banana inside.

    ~workerbee who is tired of being a worker bee.

  • It’s called sticky rice. And yes, it’s yummy… and one of the few ways I’ll eat rice. (Another way would be sake.) 😉

  • I thought sticky rice was just the way the rice is prepared, not the name of the dessert. So confused. I’m talking about the one where the sticky rice is made into a kind of dumpling. I know there’s another rice dessert that’s too difficult for me to describe but it’s yummy too. Meh, not important; I’m just glad you have put it out in the forever internet that you eat rice.

  • I know, what was I thinking? One day, when I run for office, this is gonna come back to haunt me, isn’t it?

    I can just picture the mudslinging now…. “That Hong. He’s a rice lover!”

  • Man, I found this site via Cracked a few weeks ago and love it! I had to comment on this article as I was courting this girl who I liked very much and had several things that I knew would annoy me, but the fact that she said she wouldn’t join in in anything she doesn’t already do even to try out what I liked doing… that told me I couldn’t go out with her and now we’re just friends.

  • Hey, thanks for reading, Beaverus. That’s cool that you can still be friends, though. I have a few friends who are like that, and sometimes, it’s even hard to hang out with *them*. 🙁

  • Hee hee Dennis one giant cliché that turned out to be so true for me is NEVER say never.

  • @TOM:

    Oh, really? I feel like you owe us an explanation for that one….

    By the way, why the glum face? 😉

  • Hey, thanks for stop by commenting. I agree that an open mind and willingness to try new things is important. Its cool for you tell me the things that you aren’t crazy about trying but being open to doing it because you care about me is always a plus. I like your style and sense of humor! Great blog

  • Yes yes yes!! So refreshing to see someone else who thinks this way! Life is about learning, and if you cut yourself off from new experiences early, you’re missing out on so much! A relationship should involve getting your partner into the things you like, getting into what they like, and motivating each other to try new things that you’ve both never tried before.

  • Found you from your awesome article on deadly injuries in movies.

    I totally hear you on this, and compromise is key. I’ve seen these happen with my girlfriends, I think sometimes women are expected to compromise more, or just naturally do it, then one day we flip out and go totally in the other direction – “I won’t change a thing! Not even my toothpaste for man!” which is not helpful either…

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