It constantly bewilders me how completely terrible I am at picking men. I can choose most things that I need in life, from the clothes that I wear to the food that I eat, with little-to-no ill effects. However, put me in a room with a group of men that I might find attractive, and I will, without fail, sidle up to the most emotionally stunted one of the group and leave the ones who might actually be able to carry on an adult relationship staring into the bottom of their beer pints. Isn't it funny how in this scenario, I've painted it as if everyone simply waits for me to arrive and once I have made my choice, the rest of them cease to exist? It's funny because it's true.
However, I can't take all of the blame on myself. Let's be honest, I never take all of the blame on myself. It's an important line that one must learn to walk, to always admit enough of an error to appear humble, but at the same time make sure that everyone else knows that you were far less culpable in whatever fiasco you have embroiled yourself than THAT person over THERE. So, as it turns out, it's not only the men that I choose that appear to be fundamentally damaged in some way, but apparently I'm giving off some kind of high-octane pheromone that only men with the emotional maturity of a 7-year old can detect.
Recently, my friend Lisa and I were consoling each other over our wine glasses when one or the other of us slurred something to the effect of "You know what we should do? Here's what [hic] we should do...we should make them fill out a questionnaire that what we should do. And then when they act like d-bags we can refer to their answers when berating them." And then the other one of us said something like "Yeah!" Then we both probably had another glass of wine. But the idea stuck. Wouldn't it be wonderful if you could just ask all the questions that would cut through all of the bullshit up front? I present you with Seven Questions that should help you weed out the losers, boozers and just plain crazies.
We're starting out easy, as there's really no wrong answer to this question. That is, provided they don't answer with the name of your father, mother, sibling or, worst of all, your ex. This has not happened to me that often, but it's always jarring when it does. And it's shocking how long a conversation in a bar can sometimes go on before names are exchanged...I've met men in bars whose names I never bothered to learn. Happily, I can also say that I've never dated any of them, but the point remains. When speaking to someone, finding out their name sooner rather than later can only help you...and delaying might lead to something horribly awkward.
This is another baseline that should quickly be determined when meeting people in bars. Obviously, if you are meeting someone outside of a bar, you can continue on to question three. Unless they reek of alcohol, in which case it's probably a safe bet to say that you should just move on without further inquiry. Also, it's not unhelpful to ask yourself this question when talking to a romantic prospect. A foggy pair of beer goggles has often been the culprit in the missing of obvious red flags. Now, since you're in a bar, this is another question that there is really no horrible answer to...except maybe "yesterday." However, it's important to establish relative cognizance before administering the rest of the questionnaire. Get people too drunk and they will tell you whatever they think that you want to hear to get into your pants. People too sober might be able to prevaricate believable answers in the moment and slip under your radar. I think a nice buzz is the best time to pounce on people to get the most honest, open answers. So basically, if they say "10 minutes," buy them a drink and if they say "10 hours," take everything said with a grain of salt. One might even hold off on further questioning until a more useful level of sobriety can be achieved.
Now we're getting to the meat. This is something that I never would have considered to be important before my ill-fated relationship with the Italian Stallion a few months back. Actually, allow me to re-phrase that...I would have always thought it important, I would never had thought someone could be dense enough to think important things could be discussed via text message. Or IM. Or e-mail. But, after several attempts at a relationship with The Guinea Prince, I'm forced to admit that not only do some people think this is not a problem, they actually actively try to avoid any other form of communication. This is really bewildering to me...the only way to properly discuss issues in a relationship is voice-to-voice, preferably in person though the phone is acceptable. Anyone with the maturity of stale bread should know this. However, after repeated experiences of receiving apologies, overtures and explanations being offered via the typed word, I'm forced to admit that people who do this need to be weeded out. Harshly. Completely. From the roots.
Now, this might seem like an intimate question to ask. However, I assure you getting definite answers on all implications of the query are of utmost importance. Obviously, we can assume that most of the male population have fully-steepable teabags. However, a friend of mine once was putting the moves on her date, and when she reached downtown had a nasty surprise waiting for her...or not waiting for her as the case was. When she snatched her hand back as if burned, and asked him if there was anything he wanted to tell her, he responded calmly:
"Oh, yeah. My testicles never descended."
That is, quite simply, not information to leave out. You don't need to lead with it (in fact, you definitely shouldn't), but if you're at the point that someone's about to find out for themselves, the polite thing to do is give them a heads up and prevent a scarring experience where someone thinks that they scared your nut-sac so badly it retreated into your abdomen. However, this interpretation of the question is not a deal-breaker...it's just good information to have.
The figurative connotation is the far more frightening. First of all, almost everyone thinks that they have balls of steel, so you'll rarely get someone who'll flat out admit that they're a useless coward. But if you watch closely, you can see when someone hesitates, or protests too much, or smoothly laughs off the question and never really answers. These are the ones to be on the watch for, and further conversation will allow you to gather more information. Some red flags of jewel-less wonders that I've noticed are living with one's parents (unless pursuing some form of higher education or life goal), a constant fishing for/giving of compliments and the inexplicable desire to gaze longingly into your eyes while blathering pointless romanticisms that are full of sound and fury and signify exactly nothing. It might seem flattering at first...I suggest you run in the other direction.
Question Five: Do you have any outlandish requirements for people you date?
This is a tough inquiry, for two reasons. One, because absolutely everyone has outlandish requirements for people that they date. Don't try to deny it, it's completely true. For instance, I categorically refuse to date someone who can't correctly tell me what the proper usages of "they're," "their" and "there" are...I also prefer them to be the crown prince of a small European country, but that's not a requirement. There's a difference. And two, because an honest answer rests upon a third party's ability to discern what kind of requirements fall under the umbrella of outlandish. The large range of odd behavior cripples us in phrasing...one can ask "Will you freak out if I breathe heavily when I sleep?" and receive an honest answer in the negative, but you're leaving yourself wide open to later find out that they can't deal with the fact that you like to eat ice cream out of the container.
Hence, we're forced to ask a vague question, and hope they have the self-awareness to understand what their odd pet peeves are. In my experience, it's best to offer one of your own outlandish requirements to break the ice, after the knee-jerk denial you are almost guaranteed. After they say "Of course not," I say something like "Really? 'Cause I won't date someone who thinks that camping is anything less than cruel and unusual punishment. So put that in your pipe and smoke it." You'd be amazed at the relieved confessions that tumble out of people's mouths when the opening is given. My friend Adam once dated someone who had a "decomposition table." The freak-show was making compost on his kitchen table. Gross.
Question Six: How do you like to break-up?
Some might think that this is a defeatist question. I think that those people haven't been dumped horribly enough times to have earned the right to an opinion. So suck it, optimists. Here's the thing...every single relationship you have ends, until you have the one that doesn't. I, personally, would prefer to enter that final relationship as emotionally intact as I possibly can, and the people I date beforehand have a great deal to do with that. There are many proper answers to this question...they do NOT include being nasty so someone else will do the dumping, disappearing without a trace or any, I repeat, ANY form of written word. There are good ways to break up with people...and none of them include a Post-it (thank you, Carrie Bradshaw).
Question Seven: The Freebie
This last question is to be filled in by the interviewer in the heat of the moment. If the prospect has passed up to this point, you have something special on your hands. I can say that every boyfriend I've ever had would have failed somewhere in between questions 3 and 6. The key here is to make it somewhat random, but also leading, giving an opportunity to showcase some sparkling wit, and proof of witty banter. Banter is essential in relationships. Without it, you're doomed to become the couple that no one wants around, because you're too busy cooing new pet names at each other to actually be any fun. It's usually best to bring the question out of the conversation you've been having...and if no questions can be borne naturally, that's a pretty good indicator that the dialogue probably sucked. For instance, if I meet someone watching the Mets game, I might ask something like "Now, you understand that I'm not willing to discontinue my torrid affair with David Wright for anything less than a marriage proposal, don't you?" On the other hand, if we've been talking about movies, I might say "My friends and I can quote Steel Magnolias for approximately 30 minutes without repeating ourselves. What movie can you quote?" You get the idea.
Obviously, these questions can't cover for every eventuality. The world is rife with the kind of crazies that even the most clever person can't sniff out before they're entangled in the web of lunacy. But if we can find some way to start tossing the bad pennies out before we even pick them up, then maybe they'll finally stop turning up in the first place. And I think the way to do that is to institute the kind of rigorous screening process that most people have to go through to be accepted into the CIA. The line forms to the left, boys.
**Short Public Service Announcement: Starting in mid-September, I'll also be blogging for the new website OMGWTFTV.com, where I'll be writing snarky TV recaps for So You Think You Can Dance and Brothers & Sisters. So, if you want weekly doses of me, you can head over there and read the posts...I promise a lot of sarcasm, bitchiness, and even a touch of honest, artistic criticism. Remember to post in the comments!**