By Steve Penner
"Maybe I'm still single because I'm just too picky."
"My parents tell me I'm too picky."
"All my married friends say I'm too picky."
In the 23 years I ran a dating service not a day passed that I didn't hear one of those comments.
Picky, picky, picky. Every single man or woman in the dating world uses that term at one time or another.
The fact is I never heard anyone say "Yeah, I'm not picky at all about who I date." And I literally spoke with thousands of single and divorced men and women.
Do single people have a right to be picky? Of course they do. But let's examine what the word "picky" really means.
In the course of interviewing a prospective member for my dating service, there were probably 25-30 different criteria that we would ask people about, both in terms of themselves and the type of person they wanted to meet.
We established the concept of the "Magic Circle," which is a deal-breaking "definite" that excludes anyone who does not fit that criterion. For example, if a woman states she "definitely" wants to meet a man at least 6 feet tall, that priority is circled, and she has just eliminated every man 5-feet 11½-inches or under, no matter how perfect a match he might be in other areas.
If a woman says she "prefers" a man over 6 feet, then she is told she might be matched up with a man an inch or two shorter, if he meets most of her other criteria.
Now if during his or her interview a person "Magic Circles" almost every criteria (and some people did), it is safe to say that this individual may very well be "too picky." And, of course, the degree of "pickiness" also strongly depends on the person defining the criteria.
That is, if a woman who stands 5 foot 2 inches states that she will "definitely" only meet men taller than 6 feet that is one thing; if a woman who is 5 foot 10 inches says the same thing that is a horse of a different color.
And so, in examining if an individual is too "picky," one must take a look at who that person is.
I like to use a real estate analogy. If you walk into a real estate agency and tell the agent that you are looking to purchase a $2 million Tudor home in a ritzy neighborhood, the first thing the agent will ask you is how much of a down payment you have and how large is your paycheck. That is, how much of a mortgage can you qualify to borrow?
And if you respond that you have about $2,000 in the bank and your crafts business brings in about 300 bucks a week, you will politely be shown the door. Yes, when it came to desiring that Tudor home, you were too picky.
Obviously I exaggerated to make a point.
But what I always found amazing is how absolutely off-base so many otherwise intelligent and educated single men and women were about how much of a dating "mortgage" they could afford.
The fact is that some people are too picky. And often what they are picky about are absolutely ridiculous criteria that in the long run are relatively meaningless, such as a year or two in age, five pounds of weight, or an inch or two in height.
I recall one man who refused to meet a woman who was a great match for him in every way, but she had mentioned that she liked Celine Dion. That was a deal-breaker for him. He refused to even meet her. I wonder if he imagined that life with this woman would solely consist of listening to Titanic theme music morning, noon, and night.
Of course singles in the dating world should be picky, because if what they are seeking is a long-term relationship, they have every right to be very selective. But what they need to be picky about are those factors that really will affect a relationship that both parties hope will last a lifetime.
I remember speaking with a woman who called to tell me that a man she had met through my dating service had just proposed marriage. She was so excited! She went on and on about how cute he was, and the fact that they both really liked downhill skiing. (The criterion of meeting a skier was something she had "Magic Circled" during her interview.) In fact they planned a trip to Aspen for their honeymoon.
But I also remembered that she was a practicing Catholic, and the man she was marrying had been raised Jewish.
"So what religion are you going to raise your kids," I asked.
"Oh, we haven't discussed that yet," she replied.
After all, she didn't want to be too picky.
Steve Penner was the owner of the Boston-based dating service LunchDates for nearly 23 years and interviewed and listened to feedback from thousands of single men and women from all over New England. "The Truth About Dating" reflects insights and observations based upon his experience.