My Absolute Dealbreaker
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 One that superseded all the lesser, mere mortal dealbreakers.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.