The List


 

The List has taken over. If you are male, you may not be aware of this, but if you are female, you probably already have one.

You show me a single woman looking for love, and I’ll show you a girl with a detailed and specific written list of qualities she’s looking for in a mate.

Check our journals, check our spiral notebooks, check our online profiles, we have them.

I don’t know exactly when this happened, I can’t pinpoint the genesis of this idea, but within the last five years The List has become a cornerstone of the female dating process. If you didn’t read it in a book, some therapist encouraged you to make one. Or a group of well-meaning friends made you scavenge an old envelope out of your purse and write on the back: educated, tall, good job, likes dogs, on good terms with his mother, nice feet, sense of humor, blah blah blah.

Scattered across every dating and love advice column on the Internet — some written by respected therapists, others by unemployed former folk dancers blogging from their local public library — is some form of the following advice: “Manifest your divinely selected mate by making a list of the qualities you want.”

From JDate to eHarmony, most online matchmaking sites encourage some form of The List, and this may be how the concept took root.

It’s the JDate-ization of courtship. If I can select for “doctors, living in Los Angeles, over 6 feet, no kids,” press “enter” and get 19 matches, is the act of list-making not reinforced? And of course, there are the urban legends, the stories of The List conjuring a soul mate. These stories are whispered over breakfast, shared in great detail in the pages of self-help books. The List is considered a powerful spiritual offering, a rain dance that makes it rain men, hallelujah.

I would be the first to mock The List if not for this: a therapist (one of the team I keep on call) suggested I make one about four years ago. I set about the task that night, listing about 30 qualities ranging from “Ivy League educated” to “nice thumbs.” My assignment was to include everything, major and silly, that I wanted, some things negotiable, others not.

Three days later, I met a successful television writer we’ll call Listy.

The sudden appearance of Listy seemed miraculous, almost creepy. He was every single thing on the list. We dated for 10 months and Listy was great, other than the fact that by the end of the relationship I was trying to figure out what combination of prescription drugs would kill me the fastest. It was only when I stumbled on that list months after we broke up that I realized I had left something off: Kind. Oops.

So I can’t ridicule The List. In fact, I fear its power.

When I told my friend this story she had an eerily similar experience, only she had forgotten to include “heterosexual.” She met and dated the perfect guy, only he was also looking for the perfect guy.

“Working with the list makes you aware and alert,” writes one relationship counselor. This may true, but so does drinking a six-pack of Red Bull.

Again, I’m not against knowing what you want, clarifying priorities; it just seems to have fundamentally altered the human mating dance, putting our brains on “sort” when they could be on “receive.”

I understand “positive visualization,” the notion that putting your desires out into the universe can make them manifest, I just wonder if we’re all qualified to make our own lists. I certainly wasn’t. Whatever you call the power greater than yourself on the days you believe in one — Spirit, God, the Universe, The Force, Good Orderly Direction — perhaps It, He, She knows better than we do.

This may come as a surprise, but I’m no expert in Jewish liturgy. Still, my years in Hebrew school weren’t a total waste. If I recall, “Avinu Malkeinu” means, “Our Father, Our King” not “Our Burger King.”

You can’t just pull up to the divine drive-through and place an order, “Hold the pickles, extra sauce, no ice in the Diet Coke and please make him a blond who reads Robert Frost and can salsa dance.”

It could be that giving orders to the universe is like telling a masterful chef exactly what to put in your soup. Maybe it’s best to just shut up and taste what you get served.

This is all easy for me to say, because my current boyfriend is nothing like my list — and way better.

Teresa Strasser is a TV host and Emmy Award-winning writer. She’s on the Web at teresastrasser.com.

 

Fibber Seeks Same


If there’s any truth to the Yiddish proverb “a half truth is a whole lie,” then there is a whole lotta lyin’ going

on in the Jewish dating scene. It’s time to start telling the truth about who’s not telling the truth in the world of Internet dating.

Let’s look at one site that caters to Jews, which shall remain nameless. With 20 “Body Styles” (Is it just me, or is “Body Style” more akin to a car chassis than a person’s physique?) to choose from, how is it that “voluptuous” really means zaftig, “firm and toned” means the person goes to the gym but doesn’t necessarily see results and “ripped” just means narcissistic?

A picture is worth a thousand words in the land of half-truths. Ladies, he’s wearing that baseball cap to cover up a receding hairline, not express his unshakable love of the Dodgers! Men, she may have only posted photos shot from the waist up so you can’t see where all the lokshen kugel went. And, does anyone ever look bad in a professional headshot? Visual half-truths, if you will.

There are gender-specific white lies: Men tend to lie about their height; women tend to lie about their weight — little, well-intentioned untruths that we hope our future date will overlook once they get to know us.

Some people fib about their profession. One date was a bit vague about his job in the “travel industry.” A Google search revealed that he specialized in porn travel. (Porn travel is like going to baseball fantasy camp with porn stars, which gives new meaning to making it to third base.) Who knew that such a travel category existed, let alone that nice Jewish boys participated? My date didn’t exactly lie about the porn part; he just forgot to tell me about it.

Don’t get me started on the essays. Do men really believe that going for a long walk on the beach is the perfect first date, or are they just telling us what they think we want to hear?

Are you truly funny if the funniest thing you can think of saying in your profile is, “I have a great sense of humor and like going to comedy clubs?”

Although I have no statistics to back this up, lying about one’s age is probably the most prevalent untruth among the 35-plus set. Both genders lie, but in my biased opinion, women have greater reason to fib. How can we not, when 30-something men set a “Desired Age Range” capping out at 26, and 40-somethings cut us off at age 35? My informal sampling shows that men who have never been married have a greater propensity to lie about their age. And why shouldn’t they when we ask, “What’s wrong with him — 48 and never been married?”

An honorable mention is in order for my last boyfriend, an irresistible yet geographically undesirable, vertically challenged, older lothario sans college degree. He managed to lie about his place of residence, height, age and education, all in the interest of scoring dates with the cream of the crop. Bravo! Would he have shown up on my Internet radar screen had he been truthful? Absolutely not. Was he worth dating and getting to know? Absolutely. He considered his half-truths to be rock-solid marketing techniques. Besides, he outed his white-lying self on our first date.

What if dating Web sites verified all personal information? Wouldn’t it be nice to know your date’s actual age, height, marital status, education, place of residence and relationship history before meeting? Perhaps the Web could level the playing field by sending someone out to take members’ photos, kind of like The Recycler or AutoTrader does with cars? That way you could see if the “body style” was to your liking before taking him or her out for a spin.

On the other hand, learning about what someone chooses to fib about and how a person portrays him or herself in photos and writing can give you insight into that person’s personality and insecurities. One of my guy friends thinks it all comes down to self-image — “This is the me I know I can be, so I want you to see me the way I see myself. My potential.”

If you can get beyond it, fibbing can actually pave the way for some truthful interaction.

Be honest, fellow Internet daters — isn’t there something in your profile that could be a slight misrepresentation? So, lighten up and overlook the occasional white lie. Can’t we all just get along?

Go ahead and say you live in Los Angeles when you really live in Rancho Cucamonga. It may be the only way to get the babes in Santa Monica to click on your scintillating online profile. But, consider coming clean over the phone before you meet.

I hate to hoist my own petard, but after several years of holding steady at a sub-chronological age, my profile now reflects my actual age. And the whole truth feels better than the half-lies.

Andrea Gappell is a freelance food-stylist and marketing consultant based in Los Angeles. She can be reached at andreagap@sbcglobal.net.