I’ve never been very good at dating. My relationships are fleeting and few and far between. I constantly think I’ve happened upon someone who’s different only to realize that the end result of each relationship is the same every single time. I reached the point at which something had to give, and by something, I mean me and my shallow understanding of “my type.”
When I first moved to New York, I was introduced to a city full of my favorite brand of suitor: the dark, brooding Mr. Darcy-esque artist. I wouldn’t bat an eyelash at a man without some artistic ambition – be it music, photography, painting, or writing. Finance and real estate “bros” need not apply; those men couldn’t possibly understand me or fulfill my intellectual requirements. After all, I already “knew” those guys and they weren’t my type.
Most of the men I’ve become involved with have a certain look about them: Beards are a typical accessory, as is a love of stripes and plaid. I’ve always preferred men who chose Brooklyn over Manhattan, and someone in Queens or Hoboken was S.O.L. But then I reached 26 and realized none of my relationships have worked for any significant period of time and was immediately reminded of that old, over-used adage: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I’m not normally a fan of spouting clichés, but my proclivity for dating the same guy in various slightly morphed forms and expecting something to change was absolutely the definition of insanity.
So I changed it up. The plan was to hit a dating site, and rather than dismiss 80 percent of the candidates based on my rigorous criteria (some of which included guys who listed Anchorman as their favorite movie, dudes who wear jerseys as shirts, finance guys, and of course, people who live across two rivers in New Jersey) maybe try something a little (or a lot) different. Candidate one was a guy living in the Bronx who’d never gone to college – a red flag that would generally send me running for the hills. Between drinks and a show, I figured out that usual “where’d you go to college” discussion wasn’t really an integral part of getting to know someone. This guy was cool. Not a love connection, but an alright guy.
Candidate number two was brand new to the city. A reformed finance guy, he now crunched numbers in the service of a charitable organization. He was baffled by my surprisingly expansive knowledge of low-, middle-, and high-brow pop culture. I was baffled by his ability to take a pay cut in order to do a thankless job, unlike the rest of us who just say we’ll try that “someday.” But at the end of the date, my fear of guys outside of my realm had diminished: this man didn’t judge me for my love of cat GIFs or die-hard dedication to Parks and Recreation as I’d feared. Again, there was no love connection, but the fear-based portion of my dating on-type tendencies was petering out.
Candidate number three was a little different. He was an IT guy I met at a bar. He did not have a beard and plaid was nowhere in sight. My friends would never call this dude a “Kelsea Special.” By this point, I knew there were cool people outside of the clones I traditionally hunted, and I made a connection with the IT guy. I even let myself get a little excited about it. But unlike the other candidates, number three eventually revealed a surprising truth: he was just like every other guy.
After a typical letdown at the hands of someone “different,” I’d learned that “type” was total bullshit. It wasn’t the plaid shirts and the facial hair that was messing with my life, it was a whole host of personality traits that have nothing to do with looks, profession, or what bands you would dare list on your online dating profile. While we’re busy trying to figure out if someone fits our list of arbitrary rules, we’re missing one very important thing: getting to actually know the person before our eyes.
Now, my little experiment has not led to some fantastical, perfect relationship overnight (though it has worked for two of my best friends, who both allowed themselves to step outside of their boundaries for their current boyfriends). It has, however, made my dating life a little less arduous. I’m more open to opportunity; first dates are no longer a reason for panic; and I don’t find myself reciting the same “this is me” speech to every guy I meet. Instead, I’m having conversations – you know, those things where you and the person you’re talking to listen and respond thoughtfully? It’s made dating, which can become monotonous when you’re single for long stretches of time, fun again.
Now, I don’t come into a date with the idea that I already understand the person on the other side of the table. Instead, I come ready to truly try learn about that person, and I can only hope that eventually I’ll learn about someone with the ability to capture my heart too. And if he just happens to have a beard, well, all the better.