Two years ago, when I was in the process of calling off my wedding, I briefly saw a therapist. I was raised Catholic and have some, shall we say, guilt issues. Add my standard-issue guilt to the fact that my fiancé's only job was a part-time internship, that his cancer was kept in remission by a drug that retailed at $1500 a month, and that his health coverage was scheduled to expire shortly before we were scheduled to get married, and you come up with a girl in serious need of therapy.
To help me sort things out, my therapist encouraged me to make a list of qualities I required in a significant other along with a list of qualities I wouldn't accept. Friends later reported that this is basically the first step in eHarmony dating but I, despite my penchant for list making, had never really thought of it before. I loved the idea, and it totally saved my mental health. I was able to look at my list, determine that my fiancé was lacking several of my must-haves but totally cleaning up in the dealbreakers department, and get on with my life. Magic.
I thought this list thing was like the greatest thing ever. Love, quantified. I talked it up to my single friends, insisting I never would have gotten myself into this mess if I'd had the list before, raving about how everyone should do this and jotting down my girlfriends' lists on cocktail napkins at bars as I quizzed them about their dealbreakers.
Although I haven't had much luck in love over the last two years, I hadn’t considered reevaluating my position on the list itself until this weekend.
Take, for instance, this must-have from my list: similar religious and political beliefs. Seems reasonable, but what good is it really doing me? Not much, as last night’s conversation with my sister and her (relatively) new boyfriend revealed.
Mark: So let's say you were dating a guy who was absolutely perfect in every way and then you found out he drove an SUV?So I'm starting to think this list thing is kind of silly.
Me: Um, what kind of SUV?
Laura: A Hummer.
Me: No way. He's done.
Mark: What about a Tahoe?
Me: Hmmmmm. Is it an old Tahoe he's had since before he started to care about the planet or did he just buy it?
Mark: It's brand new.
Me: Yeah, I don't think so. That's pretty environmentally irresponsible.
Mark: What about a Trail Blazer?
Me: I could maybe see my way clear to a Trail Blazer.
Laura: What if he drove a new Tahoe but he worked for a dog rescue organization and he needed the SUV to haul the sick doggies around?
Plus, the list can't account for all sorts of case-by-case issues. Take my sister, for example. Three months ago she called to tell me about a guy (Mark) she’d gone out with a few times. She listed a bunch of cool things about him and then said, “The only thing is he’s divorced and has two kids. Do I really want to get mixed up in all that?” “Um, no. Absolutely not,” I replied without even really thinking.
But she -- to her credit -- did get mixed up in all that, and now she’s dating the most awesome guy she’s ever dated and is happier than I’ve seen her in at least ten years. And his kids are awesome too -- they even like Shark Week!
Lucky for my sister she didn’t listen to me and my stupid list philosophy. Because, let’s face it, the list is stupid. It’s a good starting point, frame of reference, rough sketch, roadmap. . .whatever you want to call it. But the idea of accurately describing your elusive soulmate on paper, of quantifying love and somehow getting it right, of a Chevy Tahoe as a dealbreaker is HOLY FUCKING STUPID BATMAN.
So the list, in all its rationality, takes the backseat to intuition from here on out. Who knows, maybe that Republican with the hunting license and the slight cocaine habit and the taking really good care of me was the one after all.
Just to be clear, though, a Hummer’s still a dealbreaker.