I've never considered myself shallow. In my mind, shallow people only care about appearance. They have no depth, or real intellect. All that matters to them is that they find someone who looks good standing next to them.
That's not me. I could care less if my hypothetical boyfriend is fat, bald, short, or all of the above. Honestly, his face could look like it was cut in half and then glued back together by a three-year-old, and I'd still be fine as long as we had everything in common, and by "everything," I mean mutual taste in music, movies, books, and comic books. The stuff that really defines a person. For years, I deluded myself into believing that my "It's what you like, not what you are like" attitude was the antithesis of shallow. I was deep. Deep for demanding someone match my definition of intellect and if they didn't have any sort of appreciation for say, a film where a drag queen eats dog shit, they were clearly not an intellectual.
By the time I began internet dating, I had accumulated a very large list of "dealbreakers"—many of which made absolutely no sense. Like if he wore a Sublime shirt in his profile picture, or thought it was more offensive to burn a flag than burn a book. If he had gel in his hair or took being a Virgo seriously, I was sure it would never work out. Not once did I see the hypocrisy in dismissing men for such insignificant things because even when I was writing them off for aesthetic reasons, I still managed to convince myself that it wasn't about looks. I just happened to be incredibly skilled at knowing exactly who a person was based off of an item of clothing they wore, or how they styled their hair. I was unknowingly digging my own shallow grave.
This has led to some disastrous dates. You see, much like one small thing could be an immediate "no" from me, one small thing could also be an immediate "yes." If a profile listed something I found especially impressive, I was quick to convince myself this person was perfect for me, not really caring to notice any more obvious warning signs. For instance, the guy who listed the Wipers as his favorite band also asked to move in with me on our third date. (I later found out that it was because his roommates kicked him out due to his heroin addiction.) The guy who messaged me that he wished he could draw an image of me in style the of R. Crumb, choking him with my thighs, ended up accusing me of giving him roofies because he was "unusually tired" on his drive home one night. (For the record: I did not.) Worse than that one was with a guy who liked the same 70s power-pop bands I did and convinced me to take shrooms with him. Long story short, I ended up believing that he was a literal demon. (Not only that, but he also made me watch The Fountain with him.)
Then there's the guy I thought might be a serial killer. This one's actually a cute story, depending on how loose your definition of "cute" is. We messaged each other back and forth a lot before we actually met. Right off the bat I noticed something especially odd about him: his obsession with murderers. I mean, I know that it's not that strange to have a fascination with the morbid or the frightening—heck, it was one of the things we bonded over. But it was all he wanted to talk about. Anytime I tried to change the subject, it would somehow go back to some dude who raped and killed a lot of people. One of his messages to me was, "You should really think about what Charles Manson has to say." Then he asked me out. I, of course, said yes.
I was living in Oakland at the time, and he told me to meet him at the Embarcadero BART station in San Francisco. From there he told me that he would take me to a secret location that I was not allowed to know about. Now, I know that most women interacting with a murderer-obsessed man they've never met in person would read that date proposal, and immediately back out. What can I say? I'm not like other girls! Besides, he promised to give me several issues of Peter Bagge's Hate, so it would've been stupid not to go through with it.
The secret location ended up being Fisherman's Wharf, and he was searching desperately for a specific pier. The fear of my immediate death crept in when we arrived and he immediately grabbed my arm to pull me closer to the edge of the pier. He told me to look down and stare at the water beneath us. I complied, unable to say anything. My heart beat frantically as his hand firmly clutched my arm. Finally, he spoke. "I wanted to bring you here, because it's at this pier where a woman from Oakland came and drowned all her children." He then released me from his grasp and that was that. My fear of being murdered subsided, and we went on to eat a delicious seafood dinner, his treat. All in all, it was one of the most romantic dates I've been on—but the chemistry wasn't really there, and we never saw each other again.
Nearly every man I deemed right for me ended up being a mistake. The sensationalized version of them I created in my desperate head was, more often than not, shattered within minutes of us being in the same room. But I kept sticking to this shitty pattern anyway. I was like a big dumb dog furiously running in circles chasing its own tail. It wasn't until a few months ago that I was even slightly self-aware about all this. It happened thanks to Jack.
I agreed to go on a date with Jack, whose initial message I ignored without even looking at his profile. It was a lame "hey," which has become a giant pet peeve. If you're going to put effort into messaging someone, try to at least write one full sentence to get things started. Anyhow, a week later, he messaged me again. This time with a complete sentence—chivalry is not dead. He told me he wanted to go for drinks. I ended up looking at his profile this time. One of his favorite movies was The Boondock Saints, and he made sure to write that he was passionate about protecting the environment. These two things alone would typically be enough to let me know that him and I were highly incompatible (I don't hate the environment; I just don't care to save it). On this particular night, though, I had no plans. I was bored and convinced myself to go.
We met at a bar near my place. I didn't even shower. My hair was greasy and I had no makeup on. When he arrived, I noticed that he was more attractive than in his profile pictures; still, I refused to hold out any sort of hope for this. Well, after only a few minutes of conversation I was shocked to find that we were hitting it off. He was funny, and had a lot to talk about. Not once did he mention recycling, or overrated late 90s crime thrillers. Things were going so well that I invited him back over to my place. We ordered Dominos, then made out for a while, and fell asleep on my bed.
At around four in the morning, I woke up feeling incredibly nauseous. I ran to my toilet and started throwing up. He woke up and assumed I just drank too much. I tried explaining to him that I might have food poisoning, because at this point in my drinking career, four or five vodka sodas was not going to make me puke. On the plus side, he was not feeling sick, so it couldn't have been the pizza. Whatever it was, I kept on feeling worse. I got up every hour or so to both puke and violently shit.
Things never came to fruition with Jack, but he at least helped show me what a stubborn idiot I've been all these years. What would my love life be like if I had just hung out with the hardcore Sublime fan or the guy with gel in his hair? All this time, I had been limiting my search for love because I was caught up in a kind of superficiality I didn't even recognize as being superficial.
Since gaining this newfound awareness, I have made a stronger effort to go on dates with men that the old me would have never said yes to. Admittedly, as of now, none of them have felt as compatible as Jack did, but at least now I have a little more hope than I had previously.
Also, one guy who I ignored several months ago now comes over about once a week to eat me out. So that's something.
Follow Alison Stevenson on Twitter.