One of the good things about dating again several decades after the prom is that we are clear — or clearer, at any rate — about what we can and cannot tolerate. His refusal to set foot inside a museum? No longer an issue! (The same goes for his mother's ridiculous fashion sense.) Ah, but his character quirks: Those just grow larger as the years roll on.
The five defects noted below can easily become deal-breakers. How many have you encountered in your own dating life? (Me, I'm 5 for 5!)
1. He suffers from selective hearing
During my first phone conversation with Rick, he mentioned he was taking a poetry course at the college where I teach nonfiction.
"I'll bring you some poems to read and critique when we meet," he said.
"Uh, better hold off on that," I responded. "I teach four courses, so I stopped reading my friends' and relatives' writing ages ago. I barely have time to read my students' work these days."
When I arrived at the restaurant, Rick sat at a table piled high with poetry — 200 pages of the stuff.
Did I throw them in his face? Did I "accidentally" drench them in water or ketchup? No, I did not. I merely (and calmly, I like to think) reminded him what I'd said on the phone.
"Just read the one on top," he pleaded.
I read the one on top. It was about his dog. His dead dog. I praised my date's dead-dog poem. Then I chugged my drink, told Rod McKuen I wasn't feeling well and hurried home.
Imagine what a turn-on it was, months later, to encounter this as the first line in my (eventual) husband's profile: "I am a good listener."
2. He is spoken for
I met a man on vacation. We clicked. He lived an hour away. He started visiting me, usually for half a weekend. Whenever I suggested returning the favor, he put me off. Finally I asked why.
"There's something in my house you might not like," he said.
"Termites?" I hazarded.
He laughed but said nothing.
"Another woman?" I asked next. Of course. He started to explain. "Don't bother," I told him. I may not have known exactly what I wanted in a relationship, but I knew a triangle wasn't it.
3. He doesn't understand kids
Many years ago, when my daughter was about 10 years old, I dated a calligrapher. He presented her with a set of calligraphy pens. Promising, right? She grabbed one and eagerly began drawing. The artist went berserk, shouting that she was "doing it all wrong." She flinched; I bridled. "Don't you dare talk to my daughter like that ever again," I told him.
He and I were wrong together for reasons I'd been able to ignore until then. But raising my daughter was the most important part of my life, and I realized I wanted to be with a man who had experienced parenting too. After that episode, I steered clear of partners who did not have children.