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follow up: shopping lists

[follow up to this post]

The last time I had a "shopping list" for the perfect guy I was in seventh grade. I wanted a guy with long, curly blond hair, rippling muscles and piercing blue eyes. Sadly, Roger Daltrey turned down my marriage proposal and I was forced at an early age to lower my standards.

Rock star infatuations aside, I think your expectations of what a partner should be like - physically, mentally and fiscally - are formed at an earlier age than when you actually start dating. Society forced ideals upon you and you build off those ideals, mixing them up with the traditional norms of your family structure; what your parents see in each other and how they treat each other will have some bearing on what you look for in a mate later in life.

But there's another facet that comes into play - you know what your standards are, but are you reasonably excepted to attract that kind of person? I think most of us, when looking for a relationship as opposed to looking to build on our collection of fantasy partners for future masturbation sessions, will lower our standards to meet reality. Or, maybe that's just me, judging from some of the previous comments.

Let's go back to high school. Having not moved in the cheerleader/beautiful people crowd, I realized right away that setting my sights on a hunky, gorgeous football player was out of the question (I never went for the jock type, anyhow). Added to that was the attractiveness factor - my attractiveness. I think I set my standards in such a way that I wouldn't be let down time and time again. Shooting for the unattainable is a sure fire exercise in self esteem beatdown.

I didn't date much in high school, mostly because I didn't meet the criteria of the guys: I wasn't hot and I didn't put out. And that's probably where I learned to believe that most guys were only looking for two things in a girl; a pretty face and an easy lay.

In my early 20's I had a serious relationship with a man who caused me to rethink my priorities. Basically, all I wanted now was a guy who wasn't psychotic. Oh, he was a charmer. Good looking. Nice body. Good job, lots of money in the bank. And, as I would realize about three months before our scheduled wedding date, completely off his rocker.

After that fiasco, I met an average guy with an average bank account and the personality of a wet mop. And here I'll be completely honest - the most attractive thing about him is that he was attracted to me. After a long bout with self image demons, that was the only criteria I needed in a guy. Never mind that he was a compulsive gambler prone to wild mood swings and he was emotionally distant for long stretches of time. I married him.

After the inevitable divorce, I ventured out into the dating world again. I met one guy who, on the surface, was a shopping-list woman's dream - tall, charming, good looking, six figure bank account, great smile, good sense of humor, etc. However, upon the peeling of the veneer after he visited me several times at the restaurant I was managing at the time, I realized that this man had his own shopping list and there were just two words written on it: Italian whore. The Italian part was to please his mother. As for the whore part, he wanted a woman who would respond to wads of cash being thrown at her by spending half her time on her back and the other half in the kitchen baking him some pies. Interestingly enough, this man, like the man I almost married, was a prison guard. After I ditched him and reviewed my past mistakes, my anti-shopping list looked like this:

Not psychotic.
Not a prison guard.
Not Italian.

You would be surprised at how many men qualify on all three counts.

So is it any better to have an anti-shopping list than to have a list of specific, narrow things you want in a partner? Or am I just as shallow as the person who says they'll only date a 6'5 Norwegian lawyer?

Fortunately, I don't have to look anymore. I'm married to a great guy - and trust me on this one, I did not have a list that said "half my age, starving artist" or anything like that, but that's what I ended up with. Love comes in strange forms, sometimes. I think people who are too specific about what they want are missing out on opportunities for love. Then again, I think that some of these people aren't looking for love so much as they are looking for (as mentioned several time in the other post) someone to bear their children, provide financial stability and look good on their arm. Me, I'd much rather spend the rest of my life with a guy whose company I enjoy the same in bed and out. If I was looking for money or stability, I would have chosen the psychotic prison guard a long, long time ago. Instead, I ended up - years and lessons learned later - with a marriage that may not be overflowing my checking account, but is rich in laughter, fun and love. It's just icing on the cake that my husband happens to be one sexy man.

So I'm just wondering, for those of you who won't stray from their shopping lists - why confine yourself? Actually, I'm really wondering if the people with the specific non-negotiable lists really want a partner at all or if they are commitment phobic and set up this ideal, perfect mate checklist knowing full well that they'll never find it. Just a thought.

[And I apologize for the disjointed, rambling nature of this post - the not smoking thing is really playing havoc with my mind. My inability to concentrate or form a coherent sentence is in full effect today]


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Michele, at ASV, has a post about her Shopping list requirements for a man. Having been twice married and divorced by the time I reached 50, I have stayed a... [Read More]


Confining yourself to a list of specifications, in my experience, works about as well as trying to tell the sun when to rise. When you meet the perfect person, it's hardly ever because you were looking, and it's almost always in a place that you weren't looking to begin with.

I do have a few standards that I have to hold up to, but on most of these, if the person did not meet the prescribed criteria, we would not get along anyway.

Congrats on making it another day!

I didn't look for a mate w/a list in mind. I just dated until he came along (and boy, a list would've helped weed out some of those losers!)

Your post is a great example of the major flaw inherent having a shopping list - people eventually ourgrow them.

I've never been the kind of person who dates within a spectrum. It's been kind of fun to meet and know so many different kinds of people - let's me know who I really am and where I stand in regard to, you know, normal people. I've been with a woman for almost three years now that I couldn't have ever predicted I'd be with. But I guess that's where the best parts of love lie.

My husband told me that if a woman reminded him of someone who he had dated before (and ended up realizing it wouldn't work) - no matter what it was that reminded him - then she was off his list. It kept him from making the same mistake twice, at least.

I never had a specific list myself, but it seems I mainly got tall, white, geeky guys. Probably a function of the fact that all my friends are geeks, and most are white guys, but the tall thing... not quite sure. My husband is about a foot taller than me. And I did end up with an anti-shopping-list like you that was along the lines of

-no wimps
-no one in therapy

That's as far as I got before I got married.

I had a list. Thank God I never found THAT girl (Chainsmoking, semi-neurotic artist type).

The most important thing, IMHO, to remember is that love, REAL love, is a verb. We love who we want to love. We all have a friend whose spouse/SO left them, saying "I don't love you anymore". What they were really saing is "I don't WANT to love you anymore".

Confessional: I was not really "in love" with my wife when I married her back in the Reagan administration. I liked being around her, we had fun together - she was literally a friend with benefits. But there was no head-over-heels, fireworks in the sky "love".

We went through rough patches during the first 5 years. As they say opposites attract. But I had nothing better to do, so we stuck it out. We lived the DINKy life for 10 years and had a heck of a lot of fun, along with regular life struggles. Then came the desire for children, followed by struggles with infertility. Then, the frustration of the adoption process. Nervous joy watching our boy come off that plane. Just plain joy when our daughter did the same a year later.

And a strange thing happened. I don't know when or how, but it happened. I fell in love with my wife. I swear, when she walks into the room, I catch my breath. I want to be around her all the time. When I look at her, I not only see this beautiful woman with a beautiful personality, but all of those shared experiences; joy, sadness, inside jokes, arguments and everything in between. It stirs something in me that just gets me all loopy.

Life is so strange. In 1987, I had given up on the passive-verb "love" and decided to just go with the active-verb "love" with my female best friend. Almost 18 years later, life has given me a strange gift: I have both, and neither shows any signs of going away anytime soon.

Then again, I think that some of these people aren't looking for love so much as they are looking for ... someone to bear their children, provide financial stability and look good on their arm. Me, I'd much rather spend the rest of my life with a guy whose company I enjoy the same in bed and out.

The way you put it, Michele, you're making it sound like we've got to choose one or the other. No way; I'm holding out for all of the above. Of course we've got to enjoy each other's company; but that, along meeting basic, not unrealistic physical attraction standards -- gotta be a 7+ on my personal scale, and not overweight; too skinny is better than too fat) -- is just the minimum. I've dated, and been in relationships with, plenty of women who fit those criteria, but the reason I'm still single is, to paraphrase Gordon Gekko: that stuff just gets you in the door; the question is does she have what it takes to stay? Because seeing how divorce has affected people I know, one thing I'm sure of is, I don't want to get divorced; and if it means I'm single for a few extra years while holding out for the entire package, so be it. I'm decent-looking, in shape, have a good job making a good living with great prospects, have a decent personality, and I don't think I need to settle, so I can walk away from a bad deal if I have to.

So my shopping list of nonnegotiables:

(1) Younger than me. This wasn't so strict until recent years: I'm nearly 35 now, and I don't want to be under time pressure to have kids before we've had a few years together without them. I'd feel cheated out of something if we didn't have those first few years together, with it being just us, before kids came along.

(2) No kids of her own. See (1) above, and besides, I am just not willing to raise some other guy's kids. Besides going against my evolutionary imperative, it means some other guy got her while she was young and childless, got to enjoy those fun years with her without kids, and now she expects me to pick up the tab for him. No way; I can do better than that.

(3) Non-smoker. Not that I haven't smoked a couple myself on occasion, but I prefer not to; and when I did smoke I wouldn't do it around anyone I was dating or even for a few hours before seeing her, so I wouldn't smell/taste like an ashtray to her. I never dated a smoker who afforded me the same consideration; she always had to fire up a butt when I was around. Bleah. I don't like the smell or taste of cigarettes, I don't want to be with someone who can't control their habit, I don't want to have to nag someone to quit, I don't want to listen to her smoker's cough, and I don't want her to die 20 years before me in a hospital bed with tubes sticking out of her from something that was in her control to prevent.

(4) Similar values. This covers a lot of ground, and has been the biggest deal-breaker in relationships in the past. It's probably the biggest obstacle I face right now, being that I live in San Francisco and am surrounded by liberal Democrats. My last serious girlfriend was more liberal than most; we got along mostly great and had a couple of years together, and I would have probably married her if she didn't take political differences so seriously and personally, and get so angry when we argued about them. Other value issues that can be deal-breakers are things like attitudes towards money (like, does she just want to spend all of mine on designer clothes that are going to be out of fashion next year and expensive restaurant meals that are going to be shit the next day, or is she going to work with me so we are able to afford a good-sized house, a decent retirement, nice vacations, and other things I think are more important? Don't get me wrong, I like nice clothes and I'll splurge for a fancy dinner every so often, but too many people piss away way too much on those things), and what we do with our time away from work or each other (I work long hours because I want to put a nest egg together, buy a house, save for retirement, etc.; is she going to give me grief all the time because I'm not home at 5:30 and she's bored without me, or does she have a life and interests of her own? Does she want to sleep all day on Saturdays and Sundays and waste the whole weekend, or is she energetic enough to get up at 7 with me and go out and do something fun?), and others.

(5) Low maintenance and low drama. I don't care how hot she is; if she starts fights with me because she likes the excitement, or puts me through stupid tests and hoops, I don't need that. I'm a lawyer; I deal with conflict all day at work; I don't need it at home too.

Not much really; beyond that, I'm willing to negotiate.

(2) No kids of her own. See (1) above, and besides, I am just not willing to raise some other guy's kids. Besides going against my evolutionary imperative, it means some other guy got her while she was young and childless, got to enjoy those fun years with her without kids, and now she expects me to pick up the tab for him. No way; I can do better than that.

Who says she expects you to pick up the tab?

Maybe it's because I was a single mother for a while, but that whole paragraph made me see red.

Alex, if you raise them, they ARE your kids. DNA has nothing to do with it.

I know someone who was convinced that every woman will eventually turn out to be exactly like her mother. So after 1 or 2 dates, he made sure that he met the mother. If he didn't like her, he'd dump the girlfriend. Reflecting on my mother-in-law, that seems about right.

P.S. Michele, how does a prison guard have a 6 figure bank account? Does it pay that well or was there another source of income?

That's way too much of a list for me, Alex. I suppose we all want someone with similar "values" but there's no way I'm treating numbers 1 or 3 as a dealbreaker. Or even number 5.

Totally agree with you about number 2, though.

Everybody's different. We all have dealbreakers and bottom lines - until we find someone we love but doesn't fit the criteria we've made - it's a classic love story plot formula, and it almost always sells.

If I had to make a list, it probably would be something along the lines of

1) Loves music
2) Good sense of humor (i.e. won't fall to pieces regularly if I joke with her)
3) Loyal (family and friends have to be important)
4) More positive than me (not too hard to do)

Anyway, my wife is all of those things. Trouble is, I don't know for sure that all of those were the most important things before I met my wife, or if they're what I fell in love with about my wife.

So, my theory is that everyone's got a constantly evolving list that's most heavily affected by pursuing the traits of people we admire most and avoiding traits of cretins we despise.

Can I be the first to say that I think that Slartibartfast's first post was just about the nicest thing I've ever read by a guy referring to his wife? I really enjoyed reading that. My situation was very similar. When The Hot Wife and I first met, we lived together out of pure necessity and bizarre happenstance. I didn't love her at first, but now, after being with her for about 13 years, I can't imagine loving anyone more than I do her (excepting my son, of course). Sure, there are times that I just want to strangle the very life out of her, but I really couldn't live without her. She's a great mom to our son, which is one of the big things in my book. She understands most of my weird proclivities and obsessions, and pretty much lets me be who I want to be. She's secure in our relationship so she doesn't fly off the freaking handle if I notice that another woman is attractive. She's very tolerant of pornography (a necessary prerequisite in my book). I always found her to be attractive, but she's about 50 times more attractive to me now than she was when I first met her. She can just be passing the bathroom with her top off and it sends me into a frenzy! We still have incredible sex to this day, and even MORE frequently than we did when we first met! She's very intelligent and has a keen perceptive ability to read people. She makes me laugh and laughs with me (just about THE most important thing on my shopping list!) She's responsible. She's frugal (something I could really work on). I'm a pretty lucky guy. About the only thing I would change would be to have more personal time to myself. So really, my wife fits my shopping list pretty well, for the most part. She doesn't have a nose like Ingrid Pitt, but one has to be reasonable...

FWIW, Gotta agree with Alex and Allah on #2, even though it's far from any experience I might have in this lifetime.

When you adopt as a couple is one thing, bart, but no matter how tough it is for single moms, it takes a different kind of man than me to accept someone else's kids. My boss just remairried (late in middle age) and he's got 3 new teenage kids. What good is that? You got three kids predisposed to hating you and going through their rebellion years. Good night. Let the little f#ckers spin off a cliff, their not your flesh and blood.

Picking up the tab is exactly what it is michele, and thankfully for unfortunate single moms out there, some guys are extremely generous. But that guy would not be me.

You got three kids predisposed to hating you and going through their rebellion years. Good night. Let the little f#ckers spin off a cliff, their not your flesh and blood.
Picking up the tab is exactly what it is michele, and thankfully for unfortunate single moms out there, some guys are extremely generous. But that guy would not be me.

Let the little fuckers spin off a cliff? Charming. Very charming.

Many of us "unfortunate" single moms do find love again, with men who aren't so filled with self-doubt that they can't stand the daily reminder that their new wife fucked someone else waay before they met. Because that's what it's mostly about.

I am more thankful every day for my generous husband and his willingness to love and raise my kids.

Spin off a cliff yourself, jackass.

This post seems pretty coherent to me, Michele.

The problem with shopping lists is that if you're a slave to them, they're likely to get you in a mess of trouble. Humans are just WAY too complicated to be successfully reduced to a set of shopping list items, no matter how detailed the list may be.

The most effective way to determine whether someone is right for you is a holistic analysis. You can feel when something is wrong, even when the shopping list is giving a total green light.

I look at it this way: I don't need a shopping list item to tell me that I'm not going to be attracted to someone who weighs over 300 pounds. BUT, if I try to set an arbitrary cut-off for weight, where do I set it? If I say that I'm not going to consider anyone who's more than 20 pounds over-weight, it's entirely conceivable that I might be excluding an incredibly desirable woman based on her being - at this moment in time - ONE extra pound over her ideal weight. Same thing with age - I know I'm inclined to look for someone younger than me, but to totally exclude anyone older, no matter HOW exceptional they might be, just seems like a really bad idea.

Finding someone you are both attracted to and whose company you really enjoy is a difficult enough task under the best circumstances - I just don't see the sense in setting arbitrary cut-offs that can make it even harder. A deficit in one area can be more than compensated for by significant assets in other areas.

I don't think ANY decent-hearted man would reject a potential wife because she has previous children. But if we're still on the topic of what makes a good mate, meeting a woman with kids is an initial turn-OFF for the reasons Alex mentioned. We're males and that sense of self-pride is in the subconscious at all times. However, once a true blue relationship is formed and grown, it's part of the package and the man can grow to love the children as his own.

In reponse to Michele's comment, if us males got pissy every time we met someone that used to screw another man on a regular basis, well, we would meet nobody at all.

I've never really understood the antipathy many men feel toward kids who aren't theirs. I guess maybe there's a jealousy gene I'm missing, or something, because I've always believed that all kids deserve to have parents - biological or otherwise - who love them. Even if the kids are not initially accepting of that love. Apart from just being plain wrong, leaving those kids to fend for themselves is a recipe for cultural disaster. Our prisons are full of them...

Trust me, it's not just men that hate kids that aren't theirs, and I wish more people would be honest with themselves about whether or not they're willing or able to accept them.

My stepmother wished I'd never been born and she never bothered to hide it. I spent ten years being unwelcome in my father's house until I turned eighteen because of it, and the time after that until he died having to negotiate around her to get any time with him at all. It didn't matter if he hadn't seen me in a year and I was in town for the weekend, she reacted to him taking time out from whatever family schedule she'd set to spend time with me as a personal betrayal.

As hard as it sucks to be the adult in that situation, it sucks worse to be the kid, because the kid doesn't have any choices. Save everybody the pain and break it off or don't start it up if you can't deal with their kids.

Well, when I was single, all I really hoped was that my future wife would be a pilot like me. It'd be great if she was the one who said, "You know, it'd be great to have a faster plane."

Didn't work out that way. She doesn't enjoy flying at all but did support my decision to buy the plane last year. She even suggested buying a hangar as an investment property.

As for the other things, she's 7 years older than me and had two sons from a previous marriage. She's of a different race (asian) and religion, too. Love can make you overlook such things if you open your heart. Those who can't may well find themselves living alone for a long time.

We met in college when we both were extremely strapped for money. During our first couple months of marriage, our average income for a month was about $400. It was tight, but we made it. Today, almost 22 years later, we look back on those days with fondness. Such financial conditions can make or break a couple. It made us stronger. Today, our income is about the top 5% in the country but our attitudes towards money were established in those days when we didn't have any.

Her sons were teenagers when they came to live with us. It wasn't easy, but we made it. Last year, both of them became fathers, making me a grandfather. Life couldn't be much better (unless, perhaps, I had a faster plane).

Some people talk about "soul mates". Is my wife my soul mate? I don't know if such a thing exists. Still, I love her dearly and can't imagine being married to anyone else.

I dunno -- taking on kids either from infancy or older is a huge deal. It's not trivial. I can see why people would say they wouldn't want to jump into that kind of responsibility just willy nilly.

On the other hand, if you make that your shopping list (or anti-shopping list) and you are in your 30s or later... well... Good luck. ;)

I don't really have much to add here. I met my husband when I was 15, we started dating right before I turned 17, so I have no idea what I would be looking for in someone now.

It probably wouldn't be him, if I was "looking". That's sort of the amusing thing about it. His quirks and my quirks are sometimes nearly incompatible... I'm a morning person, he's a night person. I'm organized... he's not. I'm ambitious... he isn't. But I love him with all my being and I wouldn't trade him for anyone. As it turns out, having a night person and a morning person together is perfect when you have a baby. ;) I guess we're complimentary in many ways. But you usually don't make a shopping list of opposites, do you?

1) living breathing woman with XX chromosomes.
2) loyal/faithful
3) tolerant (of me and my goofyness and love for sports)
4) similar family/faith values
5) flirtatious/loving
6) independent
7) college degree preferred
8) not too skinny or too fat

I haven't outgrown that list. In fact,I satisfied it. Now that I'm married, I might have added a few more things to the list.

Leads me to believe that my list, while numerous, was rather general.

Yes, you're very shallow for ruling out crazies.

Naughty, naughty you, making the Baby Crazy Jesus cry.


Expect to move off some of those rules or stay single until you die. Somehow I can tell from your pissy tone, though, that you're no prize yourself. Hope you have fun being a lonely, angry old man.

Thank God, my wife didn't have a "shopping-list" (Speaking as a short, blonde/pale, non-handsome guy).

BTW, Allah, I KNOW my wife wasn't looking for my money (Sure I'm a pretty good provider but she's worth millions).


I wasn't being condescending or sarcastic, but like you posted earlier, you're irritable. Kudos to your husband for being a nice guy. Your kids are younger and you were apparently worth it for your husband to marry you and take on that responsibility.

That's great.

Warm. Fuzzy.

What I'm saying is that people who marry women with children, especially teenage chilrden, shouldn't expect anything. They are, in fact, picking up someone else's tab. It's not a slam on the women (who are "un-fortunate" in a basic sense, not out of pity). It's a slam, if at all, on the guys who proved to be such lousy fathers and husbands.

I have no experience in this, and likely never will. It's just my opinion, based on the friends I've seen who get involved with single moms, that the only explanation is true and unstinting generosity. It's great that these guys are out there, but I don't think it's a majority of the male population.

I hope you and your husband stay happily married, and I'll stay away from cliffs, if its all the same to you.

Hey Michele, not to rub it in or anything, but one of my wife's best friends in high school did the dirty deed with Mr. Daltry when they were on tour in the early seventies.

I've personally been on all three sides of the step-parenting experience. Growing up, I had not one, but two step-mothers who saw nothing in me but the woman my dad fucked before them. One was physically abusive, the other psychologically abusive to me and my sister. I swore I would never be a step-parent.

Today I am married to a wonderful woman who brought an awesome 7 year old boy with her into the relationship. I handle the job of helping to raise him by pretty much doing the opposite of what I experienced. I guess I'm doing a good job, as I've developed a much better relationship with his father's family than his mother ever has.

The third side of that is that I brought three teenage boys that live with their mother into the mix. One at a time they have each moved in with us and it's just never worked between them and my wife. Too many years living in the environment their mother provides has made it difficult for them to adjust to the standards my wife has for our household. Not that either is wrong, just different.

I guess I'm saying I see both points. If a person doesn't feel confident they are up to the task of helping to raise another person's child, I hope they do walk away. I wish both my step-mothers had been adult enough to admit that weakness. At the same time, I and aparently Justin are living proof that it can be a wonderful experience as well.

Sorry if I didn't put it in the most sensitive or diplomatic way, Michele; I was banging it out quickly, over coffee, before heading out the door to work, and I didn't put as much care into writing as I like to. But you asked for a list, and in the spirit of Allah I decided to go for honesty rather than what I thought someone wanted to hear. Those are the honest answers from a sample size of exactly one, though tossed out a bit flippantly, so don't take it as what "men" want, just one of them.

I know there are other guys out there who even think of single mothers as a plus; a package deal, if you will. I'm just not one of them. It's taken me years to even consider kids as being something in my not-so-distant future, and the thought of parenthood even 5 years from now still scares the hell out me, to tell you the truth. The constant responsibility and worries about them are daunting enough; the thought of dealing with the additional challenges of kids who are predisposed to not even accept your parental legitimacy ("Why should I listen to you? You're not my father!") just adds more uncertainty to the mix that I don't like the thought of. It's great that other people are willing to take those responsibilities on, and they're probably better people than me for it. I just have my own preferences. So again, sorry for my flippancy.

But Rex, you know nothing about me other than a couple of paragraphs I wrote in about five minutes over breakfast; you're entirely welcome to choke on my nuts.

I always wanted a woman that was athletic, brunette or redhead, socially adept, and could beat me at chess and basketball. I married a blond full-bodied homebody who has only a passing familiarity with chess and thinks sports are stupid.

Thank God. She's the best person I've ever met. She's my favorite.

My list, such as it is, is much more negative than positive. As in, "no more of those, please. I've had my fill." No one who's entirely caught up in themselves with no room for me. No one who's been abused and has not got any help for it.

Otherwise, I'm open to just about anyone, but I do want someone younger. I'm 40. I want someone not too heavy and not too boney (unless I can witness that they do, indeed, have an appetite and are not starving themselves). No numbers, just a case-by-case basis, and I prefer a little extra to not enough. They only have to be attractive to me, I don't care what anyone else thinks. I have dated women many guys thought were great looking, and I have dated women many guys would not like. So what? The only deal breakers are lack of intelligence and smoking.

And I didn't think your post rambled at all. It seemed perfectly coherent to my eyes.

What Lab Rat said.