The Right to Ask for Mr. Right

He looked at me with distaste, and slammed his beer down on the bar top. He began to chastise me:

“Don’t go looking to marry another Ivy-Leaguer. That’s douche-y. You want to be one of those couples in the Sunday Times? Don’t do that. The fancy diplomas, the championship ring — those are your things. Find someone who has his things. Find yourself a real MAN. I mean, a MAAAAN. Someone who thinks you’re fabulous, not ya know, fab-u-looooous, ’cause that’ll open a whole ‘nother door of problems for you.”

Jimmy swished his hand in a stereotyping display, and if I wasn’t offended I might have laughed.

I had been judged unfairly, by someone who knew me better than most.

I was being scolded for holding out for someone who could keep up. To him, that read as I was looking for a man with all the checks in the column — multiple top-tier degrees, a power job, an All-American past and cross-fit future, a golden retriever, and a perfect hairline. This wasn’t the case. He clustered me in with “the 800 other 20-something women I know in New York who are over educated, under paid, and who just can’t find a guy who can keep up.”

“I have a right, you know, to ask for Mr. Right, whoever that may be.”

Luckily, just then, the drunk male Red Sox fan standing next to us started a fight with a drunk female Yankees fan, and a bouncer intervened. His chastising of me was forced to a halt.

When I first finished my MA and ended years of traveling round the world as an aspiring athlete, people were quick to warn me that I’d have a problem finding a guy who was good enough — who was smart enough, who was successful enough, who was worldly enough, etc. It seemed important to the people who met me that I be worried about finding a Mr. Right. I wasn’t and people couldn’t understand that. Sure, I wanted competent companionship… but after I found a job with health insurance.

The job came, my career was finally on the move and people stopped being interested in my dating life… or at least, it wasn’t the first thing they asked about. People stopped prescribing a rich husband and started asking how much was too much to pay for an artwork. I become more than a single girl with an advanced degree in something people didn’t understand. It was a relief.

And then I had lunch with the Professor…

“It must be hard for you,” he said, after confessing that he’d googled me and found my blog.

“What must be hard for me?”

“Dating. I imagine the pool you have to choose from is very limited.”

“What do you mean?”

“Someone with your education — there aren’t many men that can keep up, I bet.”

I suppose, I should have been flattered, but I wasn’t.  He was exactly 20 years older than me, I was unclear about why we were having lunch together (the encounter walked a fine line between networking and well, not networking), and he didn’t know me.

“An ivy league degree doesn’t guarantee intelligence, or intellect, or sensitivity,” I replied. “What makes my dating pool small is not that fewer men have graduate degrees than women. It’s that I have passions and ambitions. If all I wanted to do was settle and have 5 kids, I’d be married by now. But I want more than that. I am more than the sum of my degrees and I expect my partner to be as well.”

He could sense the irritation in my voice. We proceeded to talk philosophically about happiness and relationships, about being a Marine during the sexual revolution and the pitfalls of being a dating blogger.

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Odds that the Next Guy I date Will…

Have a tattooed sleeve: 1 in 2

David, did you borrow my lace top again? Oh wait, those are your tats!

From the chef with the butcher’s map of a pig tattooed from this wrist to elbow to the Frye Boots specialist with the Man Ray photograph etched into his left forearm, it seems every man I share a drink or afternoon with is a painted gentleman.

According to a survey published by the Pew Research Center in 2008, 4 in 10 Millennials (the young adults of the early 2000’s) sport tattoos. Within this group, more men have tattoos than women.

Sometimes, I find the tattooed sleeve disarming — what’s he doing wearing my Zara lace top? But on the whole, I don’t mind it. I guess it’s a good thing I’ve always found a lil ink to be very sexy.

Live with his mother: 1 in 4

The most recent census revealed that nearly 6 million Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 lived at their parents’ homes last year. I was one of them. But on the whole, young men are nearly twice as likely as women to live with their parents. Of the last 5 guys I’ve met in this age group, 3 have lived with their parents.

These days, if he lives with his mother, it's not a strike against... it all depends on when he decides to tell you

Statistics and personal experience show, if I’m dating in my age group, a romantic night in, cooking dinner for him at his place, might entail cooking dinner for his mother (and father? and sister?).

So, in 2011, is it a strike against if a guy lives with his parents? I guess it all depends on a number of factors. But in this day and age, if all other signs of adulthood are neatly intact, it’s hard to call him anything but sensible.

Have traveled outside the US: 1 in 3

For the 2008/9 academic year, 260,327 students studied abroad, according to the Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange. With NYU as the leading sending school in the US, this means odds are pretty good that a Manhattanite has traveled and even spent a significant time outside his homeland.

Only 30% of Americans have a passport, but odds that my next date will have traveled abroad are still pretty good.

But what about non-NYC educated folks? Or what about the possibility of meeting someone who’s seen the world without the help of academic programs? The numbers suggest my next date will have at least a willingness to journey in a foreign land.

Of the 308 million-plus citizens in the United States, 30% have passports. Owning a passport, of course, doesn’t guarantee that it’s been put to use. CNN posted some interesting stats: There were 61.5 million trips outside the United States in 2009 and about 50% of those trips were to either Mexico or Canada.

And yes, Canada is a foreign country, eh.

Have a graduate degree: 1 in 9

On eharmony, you can limit your dating pool according to education. If it’s a priority that your mate have at least as many degrees as you, then check a box, and the logarithm will take care of the rest.

As of 2003, approximately 25% of all Americans could boast a bachelor’s degree or higher. In a region like the North East, odds of landing a date who’s graduated from college is probably closer to 1 in 2. But a graduate degree? Well that gets tougher.

Only 9% of Americans have a masters degree, but New York is not America.

Only 9% of Americans can say they have an MA or MS or MBA. But again, New York isn’t America. New York City has the most post-graduate life sciences degrees awarded annually in the United States while Columbia University alone currently has approximately 17,833 students enrolled in various graduate programs.

Looking at these regional statistics, along with the contemporary reality that an increasing number of people are turning to graduate school as an alternative to a sucky job market, it seems the odds of finding a guy with “at least my level of education” would be in my favor… eventually.

There's nothing classy about a Red Sox fan.

Be a Red Sox Fan: 0

The Red Sox nation has a surprisingly strong representation in New York. It’s uncomfortable, and I won’t deny, I have a terrible habit of falling for fans of my team’s arch-nemesis.

But the chances I’ll actually allow myself to date one? Not a shot in hell.

The Online Dating Match Approval Matrix: Or, a Road Map to Choosing Mr. (Almost) Right Online

Online dating is a challenge. As websites bombard you with supposedly viable matches and your inbox fills with messages and winks from men who think you’re “a cutie” or “reeeeeally cool,”  you think: it would be nice if there was a road map to help me weed out the guys I could walk arm in arm with from the ones I may need a restraining order against.

After months of scanning, surveying, replying, blocking, and first-dating, here it is, to your rescue:

The Online Dating Match Approval Matrix.

(in the style of New York Magazine’s Approval Matrix)

The Online Dating Approval Matrix -- Your Guide to Finding Mr. (Almost) Right Online


So, What’s Your Type

For as long as I can remember, people have always had strong opinions about what type of guy is my Mr. Right.

The summer I graduated from high school, my South African godfather came to visit. At the same time, a boy I knew from out of town was staying in our guest room. It was a house full of foreigners.

“He’s a nice young fellow,” Hilton said of my 17-year old guest, “but he’s far too young for you. You need to be seeing someone who is at least 21, maybe even 22.”

I assured him that the young fellow sleeping in the room next to mine was in no way a romantic interest. I was flattered that my worldly godfather should think I deserved a boyfriend who wasn’t a boy, but a grown-up man. It felt good to be a teenager who seemed mature beyond her years.

Dan decided I need a "No Reservations" style Aaron Eckhart to my Catherine Zeta Jones

My godfather was typical of those in my life — everyone I met had ardent beliefs about what type man was my match. They may not have all agreed on age difference, profession, and nationality, but all were quick to offer an opinion.

My roommate in college decided the only person I could have children with was Charley. “You’re sporty and strict. He’s awkward and friendly. You’d be the disciplinarian. He’d be the one that takes them for ice cream. Together, you’d read them The Odyssey at bedtime.”

I didn’t necessarily mind her pick, but I wasn’t sure how I felt about her assessment of my potential parenting persona. I do like ice cream, after all.

“You can’t marry a guy who makes you cook for him,” Dan said as he watched me drop homemade butternut squash ravioli into a pot of boiling water. “He has to be someone who will cook with you.”

I’d gotten so accustomed to people telling me who I should be looking for that I never designed my own version of  Mr. Right. Then one day, I was blindsided by a question no one had ever asked…

Could I say Gerard Butler is my "type?" Or is Gerard Butler just a look?

“So, what’s the deal — what type of guy are you looking for?”

I was at a loss. Smart, funny, athletic, and good-looking is non-specific– it’s the standard-issue type for the indecisive. When I thought about it, every guy I ever knew or dated was, in some form or another, smart, funny, athletic, and good-looking.

I racked my brain. Could I name an actor? Would Gerard Butler suffice, or is Gerard Butler a look (and an apartment)? Someone interesting enough that our wedding will win the “Vows” column in the Sunday Times? Likewise, non-specific.

Finally, it hit me:

“I want a guy who makes me smile the way my puppy does. He should be the kind of guy who would propose while we’re hiking up a mountain but want to hold the reception in the atrium at MoMA.”

“I don’t know anyone like that,” the person replied. “But I can set you up with a guy who has season tickets at Yankee stadium.”

I shrugged and wondered why he bothered asking. It looked like for now, a man with Yankees season tickets was just my type.

Ask not what your relationship can do for you…

shopping for labels? shopping for love?

When it comes to finding a mate, we all have long shopping lists. We have lists of superficial things we prefer (ex. he should be tall and work at Goldman), of values we want matched (he should like children and vote Democrat), and of qualities we think we need (he should be financially sound and be able to make me laugh).

But let’s not forget what we’re really after when we set out to find love everlasting…

What we really want is a travel companion or biking-buddy, fellow Trekkie or like minded museum-junkie, congenial Scrabble adversary or able party co-host. In short, what we’re really looking for is a teammate.

Everyone knows the cliche “there’s no ‘I’ in TEAM,” and anyone whose played a sport or watched a professional franchise win a championship knows what makes a team successful: synergy.  One person makes up for the short-comings of the other, while both foster and bolster each others’ talents. Yes, a successful team is whole that is greater that the sum of its parts, and love-based relationships are no different.

That being said, when it comes to finding the Misty May Treanor to your Kerri Walsh, or the Jorge Posada to your Mariano Rivera,  it’s important to have a grasp not only on what they bring to the relationship, but also on what you can or can’t provide in this partnership. I’m not necessarily prescribing a selfless “ask not what your relationship can do for you, ask what you can do for your relationship” approach to a new flame — that’s extremely dangerous territory in which to tread. But I do think it a worthwhile exercise to evaluate, as objectively as possible, your strengths and weaknesses as 1/2 of a couple.

I suppose, if I prescribe, I should take the first does:

My greatest strength as both a friend and lover is my loyalty. I’m an excellent and sincere cheerleader who will always be there on the sidelines ready to help you up after a bad game.

My greatest weakness? I want to me my own person. To some (read: a select few), my independent, stand on my own feet, “this is who I am, this is what I want and I’m going to get it”  attitude is attractive. But it’s often my biggest relationship roadblock. I have no doubt that my athletic aspirations and career goals have dead-ended several potentially awesome romances. For a long time, I simply wasn’t available enough to be someone’s girlfriend. Yet, while I may have more time in my schedule for dates and weekend getaways, I still refuse to subjugate my ambitions to those of someone else. Sorry, but I want Glen Lowry’s job, and I’m not going to get it if I have to move to Oklahoma with you.

In coming to terms with my relationship shortcoming, it seems I’ve found the critical, must-have quality on my significant-other shopping list: allows me to be independent.

I guess I don’t sound like too much of a team player, do I? That’s not entirely fair. Compromises will be made by both me and my mister, because at the end of the day, if I get to be my own person, so does he. The challenge is finding someone whose goals happen to be compatible with mine…and I don’t just mean retiring early to a villa in Tuscany.

What the holidays taught me about Mr. Right

Every year, a week before Christmas, my parents and I throw a little tree-decorating party. The party is actually a front — providing food, ice wine, and good cheer is how we con our friends into doing the grunt work of tree decorating, like checking each light bulb, attaching new ornament hooks, and untangling the garland. It’s a party, but it’s effectively the Tom Sawyer approach to white washing the fence.

The 12 Days of Christmas is a party-fulled season. With the exception of one black tie party, my folks and I throw most of the ones we attend. A generic holiday party in early Dec. Tree decorating. Christmas Eve. Christmas Day. Boxing Day. New Years Day.

All this cooking, decorating, and hosting got me thinking…

I need a teammate.

I am absolutely one of those people who would rather throw the party than be invited to it. I like hosting. I like to entertain. Part of it is probably due to a deep set insecurity and a need for praise. Mainly, I love bringing my friends and family together — I love to be a catalyst for good conversation and new relationships. Given this part of my personality, I realize that I want to be one half of a couple that entertains. I need a partner in crime. Someone that can play the part of host and enjoys doing so. Someone who wants to have all our family and a few choice friends over for the holidays. Someone who wants to plan menus. Someone who doesn’t need to be told to vacuum before the guests get here. Someone who will laugh away the evening with as we clear dishes and fill glasses.

there are a few other requirements for a potential mate that have come up while trimming the tree. Like he needs to have some basic handyman knowledge — fundamentals of electricity, intro to plumbing etc. A fuse in our tree-lights blew, which meant total tree blackout. I need a fella who can figure out it’s the fuse and change it. I mean, in theory I can do it (and I have, on more than one occasion), but i’d really rather not…