Dating Diaries: Breaking Up With My Dealbreakersby Nikki Metzgar on April 04, 2012
Out of all the times I’ve been asked out on a date, last week’s invite will stand out in my mind for a while. A friend of a friend who I ran into at a coffee shop invited me to some guy’s DJ night, while the sound of Nic Cage screaming could be heard in the background. (The universe has decided to react this way any time someone invites you to a DJ night. (Actually, I provided the soundtrack myself by watching a Nic Cage YouTube montage as he walked up to me, but still. It was “bucket list” material to flirt with The Wicker Man sounding off simultaneously.))
The date itself stood out too, just because it was so normal and pleasant when most of my dates seem to fall into either the disastrous (95%) or giddy, super-chemistry (5%) categories. My date picked me up right on time, came up to my door instead of calling from the car, opened my car door for me and was generally the most polite and considerate guy I had interacted with in a while. He introduced me to everyone he knew that night, instead of leaving me to awkwardly stand at his shoulder, but still prioritized getting to know me over hanging out with his buddies.
I really enjoyed hearing about his job running a record label and he appeared interested in what I thought about things. Sometimes it seems like the topics that interest me most, like feminism or talking about the future of my city, make guys’ eyes glaze over. Admittedly, I do sound like a boring high school teacher but it meant a lot to me that he engaged. I’ve sort of stopped hiding who I am behind small talk, even when it would be the well-mannered thing to do, and his listening was a first but big step in him accepting me as I really am.
Then, when we went back to the bar to get a second round, he ordered a Coke. He had done the same the first time, though I hadn’t noticed until later. When I asked why he wasn’t drinking he said he didn’t drink. In fact, he had never had alcohol in his life. [Insert sound clip of Nic Cage screaming in the background.]
It wasn’t that long ago that I dated a vegan who, over the course of two years, came to give up gluten and drinking as well. When we broke up, I was relieved that I could finally enjoy things I liked, like hamburgers and beer, without fear of judgment. I respect anyone’s decision to abstain or not abstain from things, but I came away thinking it pretty much impossible to date someone who had such a different lifestyle.
So naturally, I slammed the brakes as soon as he said he didn’t drink. I drink at least three times a week and I like to go out. He explained that no, he was neither religious nor a recovering alcoholic. It was just that growing up, his parents discouraged him from having friends so he spent a lot of time with his family and developing personal hobbies, like music. He doesn’t think he would be the man he is today if he had started drinking in high school or even in college and now that he’s gone all this time without it, he doesn’t want to disrespect what he sees as the condition that defined his character by having alcohol now. I actually really related to that because my mom always told me, “You’re at school to study, not to make friends.”
And he did invite me to a bar and he did buy me a drink. He said that there are many nights when he ends up with a crazy bar tab because he likes to buy drinks for people to show that he’s not judging or to prevent himself from sticking out. So what I would have declared a definite dealbreaker a week ago, sort of just became a dog-eared page telling me to come back to the issue later.
When he walked me to my door that night, he just gave me a hug and at first I wondered if that meant he wasn’t into me, but it seems very like him to give me my space and time. And I realized very suddenly that I liked that. Maybe what makes my skin crawl after so many dates is the fact that I had to kiss the guy at the end of the first night. I never consciously thought I don’t like to kiss on the first date, but maybe the rush of things is what keeps tripping me up.
Then again, ignoring a former dealbreaker might just be stupid. I tend to ignore or forgive things in the guys I like and I can’t decide if it’s blind infatuation or reasonable compromise. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a red flag — Alludes to Commitment Issues, Drinks Until Blackout — and wisely chosen to end things preemptively. I always say, “Hmm, that could be an issue later. I’ll keep that in mind,” then just go ahead until something terrible happens. But besides being a murderer, puppy abuser or a socks-with-sandals wearer, what should really be a dealbreaker?