There's been an interesting volley of posts in the past few days about this article from Alyssa Bereznak, "My OkCupid Affair with a World Champion Magic: The Gathering Player." To summarize, this woman went on a couple of dates with a guy who was a world champion in Magic: The Gathering, the card game, and felt that this was proof of being a "champion dweeb," and something that he had a moral obligation to disclose on the site rather than over their first dinner. So she wrote a post trashing the guy, and commenters responded angrily. Amanda Marcotte, writing at Pandagon, suggests that this is indicative of a larger "fucked the fuck up demand," "that women lay sadly under men they find unattractive while those men penetrate their bodies, all in order to prove they aren't "shallow".

Obviously I agree with Marcotte's general point that women have the right to say "no" to a guy without being condemned. It's true that some of the comments on Bereznak's article are uncalled for. But I'm surprised that this is being construed as a feminist issue. In my view, the original post is petty and ill-tempered. It's one thing to call out men who display predatory, creepy, or controlling behavior. However, from what the author describes, this is a perfectly reasonable guy who has a hobby she doesn't like. And I don't think people are criticizing Bereznak for not wanting to date this guy or leading him on, as this post suggests; for the most part, as far as I can tell, she's being criticized for arguing that an anodyne hobby is proof that a guy is unworthy to date not just her but anyone ("Mothers, warn your daughters!")--which actually is pretty shallow--and for trashing him on the internet. Again, some of the comments in response are indefensible. But there is no intrinsic conflict between feminism and civility.

That aside, however, I wanted to offer a comment on dealbreakers. There are some flaws that should be dealbreakers under any circumstances--abuse, dishonesty, cruelty, etc. And of course women (and men) have the right to define the traits that will or will not accept in a partner, whether those are substantive or frivolous. In my experience, having a hard-and-fast list of dealbreakers is not particularly worthwhile. I suppose we all have a wish list, but I can't think of any guy I've ever dated who had all the virtues I would enumerate, and none of the flaws. The inalienable virtues are kindness, integrity, and chemistry (although most other traits are subsidiary to those); beyond that everything is negotiable.

With that said, I will offer a list of things that give me pause:
  • Hostility to my frequent natural history gossip about animals I have seen or read about in the news. (An ex: "You don't need to tell me every time you see a lizard." Oh, but I do. I can see how this might get annoying, but that points to a larger principle: most of the things we would cite as dealbreakers probably beomce dealbreakers for the other party too, if only because the first person is so stubborn on the subject.) (By the way--while I was writing this post an opossum came on the porch. He made so much noise rustling through the dry grass that I thought he was a person and felt slightly alarmed because I couldn't see a person. When he turned up, I was calmed; but he was alarmed by me and walked away.)
  • Facial hair (I read once that only 10% of women like beards, but those who do are REALLY into it; so it's fair to say that on this matter it's better to stand on preference, thereby creating room for the Pareto-optimal outcome in which the women who love mustaches can have them.)
  • A self-described pattern of terrible romantic relationships. (I suppose some people are really unlucky, but in most cases, it's easy to spot the common denominator.)
  • Ad nauseam arguments about politics/insistence that political views are indicative of character. (I can go for a while with political arguments, but not forever, and there are lots of valid perspectives.)
  • Fussiness/primness. (Everything goes a lot more smoothly if everyone gets over themselves first.)
  • Being a bad driver. (My boyfriend doesn't even know how to drive, which is especially sad for me because he doesn't like to drink, and would therefore be a perfect designated driver; but I've found that even in the passenger seat he is an excellent traveling companion. In other relationships, however, I can recall being quite irritated when asked to do all the parallel parking.)
And things which are often cited as dealbreakers, but which I think are unimportant:
  • Personal style. (I once asked a friend's very stylish boyfriend how far one can meddle with one's boyfriend's style. "Harm reduction," he said. "That's all you can do." He's right; but this is often enough.)
  • Common interests. (A kind partner will take an interest in your concerns, and I can see how if you end up with someone who really cares about, say, tax law, you may feel like you drew the short straw. However, the world has more interesting subjects than any of us has time for, and one of the nice things about dating in general is that you get to be a sort of tourist in someone else's intellectual life.)
  • Musical preferences. (I am a young person living in Austin, but how much time do you really spend listening to music together, and how hard is it to find some areas of overlap?)
  • Similarly, preferences in books/movies/etc. (I don't understand why they ask this on dating sites. Are we supposed to articulate our values through consumer preferences, even if they are denominated as aesthetic? With that said, there are some favorite books and movies that, if cited, should be a red flag. I once dated a guy who said his favorite book was Perfume--the German novel about a psychopath who kills a bunch of women and chops them up and boils them down for fragrances. Would you like to predict the trajectory of that relationship?)
  • Dietary preferences. (I dated a vegan, and we went on a lot of road trips together in places where the restriction created some logistical concerns, but unless you're extremely self-centered, this is simply not that big of a deal.)  
  • Political views. (This seems to arise most often with regard to reproductive rights, which makes sense because that is the political issue most likely to be made personal in the dating context. So you should talk that out before it is relevant and decide on a case by case basis. The idea of ruling out all Republicans or all Democrats, however, strikes me as pretty narrow-minded.) 
What are yours?

09/06/2011 14:38

I'm not sure I can think of any out-and-out deal-breakers for the single version of me (1967-2011 RIP.) But some things were maddening. A lot of make-up and hair-care is a thunderhead on the horizon and almost any kind of determinism depresses me and makes me rather cuddle a stone.

Very balanced viewpoint, pretty good for an Aries.

09/06/2011 19:08

In my experience most everything is negotiable. In any event, the things that you most like or dislike about a person when you first meet them aren't the things that keep you together or break you apart. People are too complex, too often unaware of their own best traits and too used to hiding their worst ones.

Of all the sad things about the Gizmodo meltdown (including her callousness and the wildly disproportionate response of some internet commentators) is that it was such a regression to Middle School. The girls get together for a sleepover and talk about what they do and do not want in a husband. The boys they're not talking about, who spend a lot of time on the internet and play Magic: The Gathering, get together to fool around on the internet and play Magic and secretly hope they *are* the ones the girls are talking about. Molly Ringwald doesn't choose Anthony Michael Hall, everybody in school hears about it, and all hell breaks loose.

The internet. It's like an evil time machine that only takes you to your most emotionally immature age.

09/06/2011 23:37

Good point, Chris. I suppose a calling me undatable on the internet wold be a deal-breaker. She's just lucky that dude didn't turn her into a frog so far.

09/06/2011 23:44

Um, "she" above refers to Bereznek. A fella would be a scoundrel indeed to alter our hostess.

09/08/2011 02:07

I think restricting yourself to the person you are married to would have to be considered at deal breaker to (hopefully) at least 1/2 the people out there. Hopefully most of them being the ones married to each other. LOL

Personal hygiene is going to rank very high with a lot of people.

Commonality is overrated. Avoiding major clashes, and having a few points of interests in common would be important.

The young lady's post I think was somewhat on point. The young man had an obsessive all consuming hobby- the only friends he had shared this obsession.

She simply wrote it in a very non-PC way, and in addition, did actually sound like a shallow person herself. The very flippant way she talks about signing up for the dating service was telling in of itself.

I think the best way to meet people with at least one common interest is to go to some sort of club, organization, etc. where people will have a common interest with you. In my case that would be a book club- which has the added benefit of usually having a very high female to male ratio.

In your case, since you seem to be rather pretty, I imagine there is also a filtering issue: unwanted attention from those who have no points of commonality. So if you did animal related activities (animal shelters, etc.) you would at least get you one point of commonality that was genuine.

How do you meet non-drivers in Texas? Is he 14? LOL

09/10/2011 14:47

Things I hate:

Long-distance. I know this isn't really the fault of the other person, but long distance relationships make me feel like I'm crossing the desert...on my knees.

A lack of a sense of can be overcome, but usually, if you don't have humor, it's hard to have good chemistry.

Most of the others seem to have been covered already.

09/10/2011 14:48

Also, I wonder what it says that this post is titled "Dealbreakers, ladies" - and only men responded.


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