What’s My Dealbreaker? Having Dealbreakers


What’s your type? Whether you want every man you date to look like Han Solo or are a Chewbacca fetishist, we all have ideals of what we’d like in a person we date. Everyone from Carrie Bradshaw to Ron Swanson makes preliminary romantic decisions based on surface-level, often unchangeable factors about a potential partner. “I’m a simple man,” Swanson gravels in his maple baritone. “I like pretty, dark-haired women and breakfast food.”

As we were discussing in the comments of Laura’s post about being a tall lady, almost everyone has cursory aesthetic demands on one’s imaginary perfect man (or woman). In the same way that Ron Swanson likes brunettes, Laura wants to meet a guy who’s taller than her. Heather made a good point about this:

I guess I think “preferring” a type of guy in general is problematic, although I know that everyone is attracted to certain characteristics in spite of themselves (give me a beard or give me singlehood). Seeking a man out expressly because he’s short or tall seems, as you said, either Victorian or deliberately contrarian, so to me it makes more sense to find someone you’re otherwise attracted to and compatible with and maybe worry a little less whether you’re taller than he is.

Heather’s right that it would be kinder to our potential mates to not have a pre-composed set of attributes we impose on them. Yet countless conversations over cocktails, in magazines, and between texts with your girlfriends allow us to dismiss a guy (in this case) because he’s “not my type.” Why is it socially accepted to ignore someone because of a previous outline into which he doesn’t precisely fit?

Ron Swanson says to a guitar teacher in whom he’s interested, “For what it’s worth, you’d make an incredible brunette.” This isn’t exactly a compliment – he’s telling this woman he merely spots across a room that she is only worthy of his affections if she changes her appearance to suit his personal preference. She’s blonde, so she can’t expect him to be interested—he’s a brunette man.

Of course, women do this just as casually: It’s a “dealbreaker” if a guy isn’t tall enough/doesn’t have an accent/doesn’t have green eyes/carries a Velcro wallet. Why is it an accepted cultural phenomenon to dismiss based on a surface-level attribute?

We don’t really ignore people we’re attracted to because of these cursory judgments. Types, dealbreakers, and stated requirements are all excuses to explain why we’re not attracted to someone. Sexual attraction is hardly that simplistic, and in making dating a less brutal game than it already is, we might benefit from not legitimizing the idea that a guy can’t like you because of your hair color. As Heather also notes:

I think for many men, masculinity is as fraught as femininity is for us (the thinking ones, anyway) so imposing these standards of tallness-as-attractiveness and worse, tallness-as-virility-and-suitable-matehood, seems like something worth attempting to avoid.

If we continue to consider “dealbreakers” as a valid explanation for not going out with someone, we continue a shallow, often unfair consideration of the people we might end up really liking. More fair than listing voice, cologne, or hair length in explaining why we do or don’t like someone, perhaps we should accept that people aren’t the sum of their dealbreakers, having a type is wildly limiting, and sometimes you just don’t want to go out with someone.

It’s not because she’s blonde, and you shouldn’t expect her to become brunette before she expects you to give her a chance.


13 thoughts on “What’s My Dealbreaker? Having Dealbreakers

  1. Haha why do you think I have been single for nearly five years?! Too many damn dealbreakers. They really are limiting. I do, however, believe standards are fine. I need someone who is educated or intellectual, not volatile (as I’ve seen too many women get pushed around by verbally and/or physically abusive men), kind, and funny. There are of course a lot of other qualities I’d appreciate in men, but I suppose they’re less important than my stated priorities.

    • I agree with you, Laura! There’s a difference between picky dealbreakers, like the guy having a velcro wallet, and standards, like a guy who is going to treat you well. I definitely think that you should not compromise your standards, even if you ARE single for a while.

      • Guys, totally. There is a difference between standards and shallow dealbreakers, as I think I talked about here. Being a jerk is something you can and should change. Being short or having brown hair isn’t.

  2. I’m sorry. I know this is going to be wildly unpopular, but I think it’s natural to have dealbreakers! I personally will NOT date a guy who’s main mode of transportation is a scooter, no matter how great he is. I also love straight teeth. Most of the guys I date have similar attributes. I am attracted to a certain type of man, and I don’t see anything wrong with that. I also expect that if I guy asks me out, that I already meet his basic appearance requirements. I don’t want to find out later that he is not attracted to my brunette locks. Shallowness is part of attraction. Do not tell me that any of you are going to walk into a bar and, purely based on looks, let everyone be an option to you. That’s not how it works. We all have a type and we all have deal breakers.

    • I’m not trying to be scold-y. What I’m trying to do is shape a conversation that makes dating a more fair, untraumatic experience. There *is* something wrong with a cultural framework that rewards a consideration that happens in two seconds over one that is more generous and more time-consuming (could that be why the cultural framework produces so many relationships that are terrible experiences?).

      You say that not giving a person a chance because they don’t match your preconcieved picture of Mr. Right is “how it works,” but that’s not how it has to work. It used to be that a girl couldn’t expect a gentleman suitor if she couldn’t play the harpsichord with her corset or sketch all the varieties of English sparrow, but thankfully, that has changed. It changed because somebody said, “You know, there’s probably a less wildly unfair and limiting way to do this.”

      • There was still a man for the untalented girl who couldn’t rock a corset if her life depended on it, and that is why the human population hasn’t ceased to exist. If one girl wants a tall guy, and another girl wants a short guy, there’s someone for everyone, but I will never want the chubby guy with crooked teeth and brown eyes (no matter how much time I spend with him) Hopefully, there’s someone out there for him. It’s just not me. Maybe that’s “shallow”, but I doubt that guy would find me to be his “type” anyway, and that shallow cirlce keeps the world spinning.

      • You don’t think finding love would be a better experience for everyone if you didn’t decide before you even saw a person that you could never care about them, and the opposite?

        (I was kinda with you on this rebuttal until you allege not to be his type. Cute, smart, friendly, you’re *everyone’s* type.)

  3. A Swens, I love you and dating is rough. Sorry to be a downer. I LOVED your post which is why I got so passionate about it! You’re a fabulous writer and an even more amazing human being. Thanks for writing this and thanks for letting me have my own opinions.

    • I’m glad you are so passionate about it, haha! You’re welcome to write a counterpoint column if you need the space to make your argument. And, of course: I prize discussion far higher than agreement. Agreeing with everything is totally boring.

  4. I’m going to have to side with Katey, though with slightly different reasoning. And though I think there are a lot semantic issues at stake here moreso than standards of social attraction, I’m going to plow through them for the sake of brevity.

    On the idea of having “standards” or “dealbreakers” being limiting, I think that’s exactly the point. It’s the other side to the “There’s plenty of fish in the sea!” coin; we, as romantically- or sexually-active individuals need to have some way to limit the pool, some way to navigate the waters of who will want to take to bed and/or to our parents. Sure, it coming down to a velcro bi-fold is a bit much for dismissal, but in this case it’s what the wallet is a symbol of. And dark hair? That’s a symbol too; of the possibility of a brown-haired child, maybe. I’m not saying that’s fair to non-fair-haired, but when there are so many possible-lovers out there, why not be choosy? I do believe I would go mad if I had to go on five dates with every person I met.

  5. Pingback: Boy Coy: For the Love of the Deal | Serving Tea To Friends

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