One of the unexpected parts of this challenge, is the way I’ve become a magnet for all things dating-related.
The more I expose myself to the world of singledom, the most stuff people draw to my attention. Take the story of the guy who sent an email out to people he met at a business networking convention in the United States, asking them to help him find his ideal woman.
It’s an interesting concept, because technically whenever anyone signs up to online dating, essentially what he is doing is widening his own social sphere, in an attempt to meet more women, who might fit his personal characteristics. And the websites allow you to specify those characteristics, to varying degrees. With some, the only initial search criteria are the sex of the other person, and perhaps their age. Some, more sophisticated sites, allow you to narrow down your search with far more stringent preferences. Height, income, hair colour, eye colour, skin colour, education, profession, smoking preferences, alcohol consumption, body type …
However, it’s viewed very differently, when someone emails a mailing list of complete strangers and asks them to recommend women to him! Particularly because of the manner in which he did so. The plastic surgeon in question sent a rather facetious email explaining that he didn’t need to network with the recipients, as he was already successful enough, however he wanted to use them to find a deserving woman. And in return he was prepared to offer anything from botox to (just one) breast enlargement, depending on how many successful dates he had with any women they supplied!
One of the recipients posted the entire email online, only to take it down because of the outraged responses it received. I managed to read it in full before it was removed, and it was laughable … but mostly because of the tone of the email itself. He actively listed his ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ preferences – must have, and preferable characteristics of the women he was hoping to meet. The whole email made him sound highly unattractive, as did most of the things he expected in a woman, however, whilst he may have gone about searching in completely the wrong manner, in reality the content of his email was very similar to the requisites anyone could enter in a sophisticated dating website.
Whether we admit it or not, we all have ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ preferences for the opposite sex (or the same sex, depending on that particular hard preference!). Some of us might be more aware of those preferences than others. And some of us might be more vocal about our ideal preferences.
Different people will always have different opinions about what should constitute a hard preference, and what should constitute a soft preference. However generally, if a preference can be justified by a practical reason, it’s normally more socially acceptable.
For example – I am a twenty-nine year-old woman. I don’t think anyone would begrudge me suggesting that I have a hard preference that I don’t date anyone older than my parents. There are practical reasons behind the preference (apart from the potential vomit-rendering realities!).
However, what one person sees as practicality, can often be viewed by others as superficiality.
Take one of my hard preferences for example. I would never date someone who was shorter than me. I don’t physically want to look down on a boyfriend, and I want to be able to wear high heels and not tower over him. For that reason, if I was ever searching a dating website, I would search 5’11” and over (the height I am in tall heels). 5’11” is my hard preference. 6’2” or over would be my soft preference – my ideal, but something I could live without if I met the right guy.
But not everyone considers height a practical preference. When I was chatting about height last week with The Surprise Package (in respect of the fact that Tinder does not show you your date’s height …. possibly because everyone is the same height when they’re lying down!), he admitted to being more than happy to date a girl who was taller than him (he was 5’10”). However, he did go on to admit that when he thought of a girl being taller than him, his mind immediately went to supermodel-like women, which probably affected his decision somewhat!
As part of this challenge, over the next few weeks I will be going on a date selected for me by the Christian website Threads. Their writer Girl About Town wanted me to experience a ‘Christian’ date, and see if Christian men are as boring as the stereotype might suggest (her stereotype, not mine!).
Interestingly, religion would normally be a hard preference for me, for very practical reasons. As Boy About Town explained, when he blogged about his reasons for not wanting to date me, dating someone with a different faith can create huge issues in a relationship. Particularly if their faith, or lack of faith, means they have very different views about pre-marital sex or cohabitation. As an atheist, I very strongly believe in pre-marital sex and cohabitation, because I believe that sexual compatibility and whether you can live together 24/7 are both really important aspects of a longterm relationship, and I would never commit to someone longterm without knowing that those two aspects of our relationship worked well. However the majority of devoutly religious people do not share those same views, and so for me, similar religious and social views are a hard preference.
However, I’m going against one of those hard preferences, in agreeing to date a devout Christian as part of my blog. Because in reality, it’s a date I know will go nowhere at all. In the same way that my date’s views on pre-marital sex are pivotal to his views of relationships, so are mine.
In some ways, it actually makes me dating a Christian similar to me dating a girl. I’m completely straight, and so one of the things I would consider a hard preference in my future partner is that he’s a boy. However, in the same way dating a Christian is ignoring one of my hard preferences, arguably I should also do one of my dates with a girl. Because there’s just as much likelihood of the date going anywhere!
Who knows – there’s still ten more dates, so if anyone has a nice lesbian friend who might be up for taking me on a girl date as part of the blog, I’m open to it as part of my journalistic curiosity?!
We all form our hard and soft preferences from personal experience. For example, age is something I would consider a reasonable hard preference. I am unlikely to date anyone younger than 25 in future, or more than ten years older than me, because of my experiences dating younger and older guys in the past. At an age where I’m happy to settle down, there’s no point dating anyone of an age who isn’t prepared to settle down. But equally I want to have things in common with my partner, and a similar mindset, and when I’ve dated men far older than me, they haven’t been able to understand me. In fact I distinctly remember one ex, 13 years my senior, telling me how ‘immature’ I was. I wasn’t immature. I was just thirteen years his junior!
Whether you admit to them or not, we all have preferences for our partner. Some may be ridiculously trivial, like hair colour, a hairline, breast size, tattoos, no tattoos, waist size, eating habits. But they might not be trivial to you. And most of the time we’re aware of the things that other people might find more trivial, and don’t openly share these preferences aloud.
Interestingly, as the number of different dating websites increase, so too does their variety. And an increasing number play on those more trivial preferences. Look at UniformDating.com – a website designed for people who are attracted to people who ‘work in a uniform’. Or Muddy Puddles – an internet dating site created for people with a love of farming.
In the past I’ve spoken about some of my more superficial soft preferences. I don’t normally fancy bald guys or guys with dramatically receding hairlines. I’ve also always seen myself settling down with someone who went to university, purely from a position of common experience, a revelation which has caused an uproar from some of my blog readers (many of whom misinterpreted this as me saying guys who didn’t attend university aren’t intelligent enough). When I created this blog, I set the age parameters for dates s 25-35 (mainly because early on a friend suggested her divorced father for a date!). However, I also spoke about the fact that I believed this challenge might make me review some of the things I’ve seen as hard preferences in the past, and that by making myself date people I normally wouldn’t date, I might learn more about the really important things I’m looking for in a partner. So, it might be of interest to you that The Fresh Prince never went to uni, and is 36. And that didn’t stop me kissing him at the end of my date (or rather letting him kiss me!), and doesn’t mean I’ve ruled out the suggestion of a second date with him.
Whilst I didn’t agree with the American surgeon’s offensive email – the tone in which he addressed colleagues, and the way he bartered for date suggestions with free surgeries, equivalent to the success of the dates. Or with some of the things he quite openly explained as hard and soft preferences (I think we all have things we prefer in a partner which we know are better off unspoken!). Interestingly another dating story I was told offended me far more, and this comes from someone who is unashamedly picky!
You see, a friend told me about an ex-girlfriend who used to play a game with her mum on her way to primary school each morning. At the age of six, the little girl would sit and play ‘Fatal Flaws’ with her mum – a game where she would name a man they both knew, and her mother would tell the six year-old the man’s ‘Fatal Flaw’ – his reason why he was ineligible. Now this could almost be excusable, if the list of fatal flaws included things like wifebeating or rape! (And even then it clearly wouldn’t be a game to play with your six year-old daughter!).
But the list of Fatal Flaws was based on crazily superficial characteristics – ‘he rolls his sleeves up too high’; ‘he has an awful pair of trousers’…
What kind of lesson is that teaching a young child about finding someone to love? No darling, you should never love him, because he can’t roll up his sleeves properly. And the very nature of calling the game ‘fatal flaws’ says it all. Unsurprisingly, said ex-girlfriend is still very much single, and seems to hate all the men she’s ever interacted with!
What about you? Do you have hard and soft relationship preferences? Which dating sites are better? Those which allow you to narrow down your search to someone who fits every minute expectation, or ones which force you to learn more about a date’s personality before deciding whether he or she is eligible?
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx