Saying Yes To A No: How I Found Happiness On My “Do Not Want” List

October 16, 2012  |  

Every woman has one. A literal or figurative list of traits and qualities she would like in a man. Charming, handsome, funny but not goofy, between 6′ and 6’5″, an average salary of $80k, loves his mother, has a great relationship with his father, etcetera, etcetera. This “Yes” list–an aspirational but certainly attainable list of attractive qualities that would deem a man worthy of putting a ring on it–while penciled in, isn’t usually etched in stone. This is a list which is often compromised. You meet a history teacher and he makes $60k a year and he’s an awesome guy, so you date him. You find out the cute doctor you’ve been dating hasn’t spoken to his mother in fifteen years, but he’s respectful, funny, and absolutely adores you, so you date him. There are myriad reasons for exceptions to be made on The List, and usually, everything ends up being just fine.

And then, there’s the “No” list: No short men. No pilots. No Aries. “I do NOT date men who went to Syracuse.” No Kappas. No HBCU men. The No List is often extensive and specific, and however arbitrary it may seem, is completely fair and rational to the respective woman who wrote it. She knows what she can absolutely not deal with, usually based on past experiences with men who fit in those various “No” categories. Whether consciously or not, the No List is rarely compromised. Once the line is drawn and the offending Do Not Want is placed on the list, it is usually avoided altogether.

A couple of years ago, my No List was relatively short and contained about five descriptors which had proven time and again to be not at all what I wanted in a man. Which is why I scoffed when a man whom I had known of through various online social networks, started showing interest in me. He proudly had not one but two of the things on my short list of Nos, and I had already decided to tune out any flirtation before it even had a chance to develop into anything else. These two Nos were a big part of his life, one being a side occupation and one a fraternity he’d devoted himself to, and even though he didn’t know these were two automatic strikes, I’d kept him at a safe distance.

When I was in his city on business and he requested to go to dinner while I was in town, I went against my list and agreed while lounging in my hotel room after a long day. What was the harm in grabbing a bite to eat with a handsome guy? …Then I fell asleep in my hotel while he waited downstairs in the freezing cold. I felt so bad, thought for sure he’d never speak to me again when I woke at midnight and saw the messages from him two hours earlier. Despite him having undesired qualities, he seemed to be a nice guy and I hadn’t meant to fall asleep so rudely. Imagine my surprise when he not only told me “no worries” about falling asleep, but talked to me for the rest of the night and into the morning, until it was time for me to catch my 7 a.m. flight. It was a refreshing and surprisingly comfortable conversation, filled with jokes that kept me laughing in my pillow, and having many “you too? I thought that was just me!” moments. Maybe he deserved a chance after all.

A year and a half later, I am still amazed at how we came to be. Happening upon a happy and fulfilling relationship with someone who I was so strongly against dating (I had second, third, and fourth thoughts before we decided to make it official) made me realize that sometimes, taking a look at your “No” list is just what you need. Maybe he’s exactly your height and you love to wear heels. Should that stop you from the potential of Love? Doesn’t have a degree? Maybe he hit a few rough patches in life and is playing catch up. If I’ve learned anything in the past couple of years, it is that what you think is so important may ultimately prove insignificant in the fabric of your relationship, because they are all different. I had refused to date a “serious” blogger, even being a blogger myself. Now I find myself attending various events and panels with him, helping with post ideas, and have actually found it quite cool to date a fellow writer, even if we have vastly different end goals. Love, in all its complicated simplicities, cannot be placed into a neat box, categorized and check-marked. I’ve realized that was the best decision I’ve made thus far.


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