Dating Dealbreakers: Part 1

E. Louise

You hear a lot about how difficult it is to date in Charleston. But you gotta admit—some people don't make it any easier. You sit down with someone for a drink or coffee and realize they're one giant red flag. A living, walking, breathing... dealbreaker.  


Why? I'll tell you. Actually, 50 of my closest, unmarried friends will. I e-mailed them a couple weeks ago and asked them to tell me which behaviors their dates often think are hot/normal/acceptable, but tend to end things before they get started. 


I got back, shall we say, “colorful” responses—lots of them. Before I give them to you, here's how it works: * I separated them into three lists: What makes the girls cringe, what makes the guys cringe, and what makes everybody throw up in their mouth…. * Under each dealbreaker, I either summarized from the responses or listed out direct quotes *  The dealbreakers are ranked according to how many people mentioned them * Respondents ranged in age from about 25 to 40, heavily weighted in the 30s range. * Research Note 1: Gals’ responses were in line with each other and consistent (perhaps because men are pretty consistent?), but guys had comments all over the map (reinforcing the idea that women are one wild enigma?). * Research Note 2:  Judging from the responses, seemed like REAL dealbreakers are actually about spotting red flags. Smart, right?


So here’s Part 1.


Guys, Here's What Sends (Normal) Women Running for the Exits:


10. When You Can't Take Care of Yourself 

We want to feel safe, to feel like "everything's going to be okay." But we don't want to be solely responsible for everything being okay. That's why the gals who responded tend to drop the guy who can neither cook nor pick out a good restaurant for take-out, who haven't figured out a better system than laundry once a month, or who respond to our suggestion to call a cab at the end of the night with, "Okay, but do you have some cash?" Get it together. Be able to run the date—and your life.


Also, the girls told me that mama's boys aren't always so damn cute:


“Loving your mom, being devoted to your mom, all that's well and good... and it’s important. But loving her too much (i.e.: living with her past the age of 23, calling her daily/nightly, needing her to do basic chores like laundry) is a major turn-off.”


9. Pinky Rings. Owning a copy of The Secret. 4th grade sex humor. 

Also: A bad temper. Not having a plan on a date. Unwillingness to dance. Making fun of our car/house/job. Cell phone dependence/addiction. Rabid sports behavior ("Having a team is okay, planning your life around the games makes us want to jump off a bridge."). Bad teeth. No or very few friends. No opinions. Opinion avalanche. 


8. Your Home

There’s a fine line here, and we apologize in advance for it. Really, we do. 


"If your house looks like Martha Stewart would be hot for it, we probably won’t. Give us a little masculinity. Fine decorating is our job, and you’re free to judge us accordingly." 


"A mattress on the floor is really, really bad." Your bachelor pad should have two mattresses, a bed frame, pillows, a sofa, and toilet paper. We’d put a TV on that list, but we know you’ve got that. 


“Men’s bedrooms can’t have a theme. Southwest, Cowboy, Yankees, Beachy with Seashells from Pottery Barn, etc. Ick. Sports are the least offensive (but we beg for moderation in this realm). ‘Did your ex-girlfriend help you with this?’ I ask. ‘Nah, I did it all myself,’ he says proudly. Ew. No sex for you. Bye.” 


7. Ridin’ the Text Train

It’s easy to ask us out via text. It doesn’t mean you should. I read one column—written by a guy, for guys—that says it makes you look like a "passive wimp." The girls I talked to agree, saying, “Don’t use text as a crutch.” And that’s a matter of manners, which our respondents say are a “sign of good mental health.” And confidence (see #4).


6. Questionable Taste in Clothes

“Ed Hardy anything.”


“If you have a selection of different colored Lacoste shirts to wear for pajamas.”  


“If you dress like a member of the Von Trapp Family.” (Translation for men scratching their heads: That’s Sound of Music. If you have no idea what this is, you’re probably fine.)


“Backward baseball hats. Those days are gone, let them go.”


“Head-to-toe team spirit. Orange hat + orange jersey + orange sunglasses + orange coozie = orange blow-up doll for a girlfriend.”


“Men can be ‘label whores,’ too, and that's kind of weird. But then, so are your ‘mom jeans’ from 1984. Oh yeah, you have them, too.”


5. Lying About Anything... And We Do Mean Anything

We’re not just talking about the dudes who say they don’t have a girlfriend (or wife?) and do. Or the ones who say they’ve got a house in the BVIs during the pick-up conversation, then dodge the subject forever after. We’re talking about any untruth or exaggeration that makes us question your integrity/motives/future claims: how you grew up, why it took you so long to get to the door, why you’re outside our house, your age, whether you've heard of insert artist/author/historical figure here, whether you’ve ever watched the Real Housewives of Anywhere, if you’ve ever killed an animal for sport (and how big it was), and so on. Chances are, we don’t give a shit whether you’ve read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius or that you were late because the Braves went into extra innings. Normal girls just don't want the headache of figuring out why you lied.


Also: You think we don’t notice these inconsistencies, but it’s more often the case we simply don’t call you on it. We plant that red flag, wait for another, then give up on you as a real-deal attraction.


4. Insecurity (Not Nervousness… Insecurity)

That means it’s okay to be self-deprecating, but not self-aggrandizing. Slipping up and laughing at yourself is charming, but a thin skin is highly suspicious. If we tease you about something, go with it. We're not perfect either, and we're well aware of that.


Why is this so important? Not because every guy has to be Don Draper, with unshakeable confidence. It's because a) If you can't laugh at yourself, we'll assume you've been highly insulated by your mother (see #10) and we don't want to dance around your fragile ego for the rest of our life and b) in your attempts to divert attention from your shortcomings or jittery nerves, you can be kind of a dick. 


3. Excessive Grooming Habits

It’s a given we need a guy without body odor, toenails that scratch, bad breath, lice, or “unkempt nails or those bitten to the nub.” But judging from the abundance of answers I got on over-manscaping, things are getting a little out of hand... everywhere. You’ve bent the needle a little far past metrosexual for our taste. Bottom line? Know your limits. Better yet, know ours:


“Too much waxing and shaving is no good.”


"Waxing and shaving yourself bare tells us you take yourself way too seriously. Oh, it’s for a serious sport? Oh, then that makes it… still creepy. Unless your sport is your job or scores you a spot on the Summer Olympic team, we’re not into it. Let the hair grow back and start over."


“A man who gets highlights and/or goes to a tanning bed on a regular basis.”


“Don’t have more hair products than I do, or be more concerned with your looks than me.”


“I’m the girl, you’re the guy—deal?” 


2. Sidetracking Our Attention With Money Issues

This is a biggie. SO MANY responses about money. And it may surprise you to know that money flaunters rate as poorly as penny pinchers. Here are some examples:


“Yes, a nice dinner is delightful… but if you throw your money around as if there is no tomorrow, we’re skeptical. Or if you hang on so tight to it that you can't even stomach paying at McDonald's, then you need to reevaluate.” 


“Don’t pay with promo money like gift certificates or work trade.” Just keep the transaction simple and out of the spotlight.


“A man who puts more money into his car than anything else is a no-go. That’s vanity and weird. Don’t spend thousands in rims and sound systems and skip a savings account.”


“We don’t mind if you had money problems in the past. Who hasn’t? And people lose jobs, get pricey divorces, run up a debt or two, it happens. But when I meet you? I want someone living within their means. I’d rather rent a movie with you at home than watch your card get rejected at a restaurant or spot a Shut-Off Notice on the counter.”


“No source of income is a dealbreaker. Artists are cool, but a paycheck of some sort—from ditch-digging, waiting tables, selling tee shirts on the Market—is basic and essential.” 


1. Being Your Own Favorite Subject

This was by far women’s number one complaint. One after another said you Must. Stop. Talking. About. Yourself. I don’t even have many quotes to share on this one, because they all basically read the same way:


“Stop talking about yourself.”


It's not that we don't care who you are. Or what interests you. That's our thing, we like to listen. But the girls surveyed are majorly turned off when you: talk about yourself and don't ask questions about her. Talk about yourself complete with all the schools you’ve attended, countries you’ve visited, sports awards you’ve won, etc. Interrupt her to talk about yourself.


Just slow down. Give us a little mystery. Let us find out some of it out as we go....


DEALBREAKER BONUS QUOTE (UNCATEGORIZED, FOR OBVIOUS REASONS): "If they leave you stranded in Mexico and tell you to find your own transportation back to the States.  No joke."  



See you next week for Dating Dealbreakers, Part 2. We'll hear what creeps men out. Hint: They're just as firm on their #1 dealbreaker as we are.