A year after I had been crushingly dumped by my college girlfriend, I was starting to feel the desire to date again. As a reasonably attractive single lesbian in a big city, I didn't have too much trouble getting dates, just a lot of trouble finding anyone I was interested in seeing a second time.
I went to a Valentine's Day dance for youngish queers with some friends. After a while I noticed that wherever I went, a young woman in a black velvet shirt would pop up nearby. I started testing whether she was actually following me around -- if I went to the bar, would she? What would she do if I danced? She was a constant silent presence. While she wasn't really the type that would catch my eye if she weren't such a consistent part of the scenery, I was flattered.
She didn't seem to be able to actually start a conversation with me, so I finally chatted her up. Even though this was 10 years ago, I remember her saying, "I like your tats" -- which really should have been the deal breaker. But I was still flattered by her attention and very interested in getting out and socializing more. So I gave her my phone number.
She called, and we made a date to see "The Crying Game," which had just been released. Afterward, I asked what she thought of the film and she gushed about how wonderful it was. I said I thought it was a little problematic and brought up some obvious feminist-type issues. She immediately agreed with me, managing to contribute nothing that might pass for her own thoughts. Deal breaker.
I quickly tired of trying to eke out some conversation and initiated some minor making out -- which she was happy to comply with even though she wouldn't have dared to make the first move herself -- but it was all academic at that point. I planned to call her a few days later and suggest we just be pals. Maybe invite her to a group outing or something. But she called me three times the next day before I even got up and I knew then I'd never call her back. She called every day for several months and left messages on my machine. As I listened to her alternately plead and threaten, I was just happy she didn't know where I lived.
In the early 1970s I was engaged to a man who had just graduated from a military college, which was fairly brave of me considering the anti-military climate in the U.S. at that time. He was sent to Fort Sill, Okla., for his first tour of duty, and a few months later I went to visit him for two weeks. This trip took place over my mother's dead body; she felt I was shaming my family in our East Coast community by staying with a man to whom I was not yet married. ("No one will know unless you tell him," I said in smart-alecky response.) At first, the reunion was wonderful. He pampered me and took me dancing at the officer's club. But then it happened. One evening he left his shoes under the coffee table in the living room. The next day when he returned home from work, he was barely in the door when he said to me -- pointing in the direction of the shoes -- "What are those?"
"Your shoes," I said.
And then he delivered unto me the fatal deal breaker: "I expect my things to be picked up and put away by the time I get home," he said.
Soon after, I broke the engagement. And for years thereafter I reminded my mother that had I not gone to Oklahoma to visit my beloved second lieutenant, I would have ended up married to him. And divorced from him.
-- Kathryn Wise
I was busy getting ready for my second date with Kip (not his real name) when he arrived at my door -- 45 minutes early. Standing in my underwear, pulling hot rollers from my hair, I jumped into my jeans and top and let him in. He sped by me, calling over his shoulder, "Where's your bathroom?" He was obviously in dire need. Once he emerged, calmer and slightly embarrassed, I decided not to be weird about it all. Stuff happens. That is, until I entered my bathroom and saw skid marks in the toilet bowl. Had he only flushed a couple times, there would have been no evidence of a deal breaker for me. Since I was unable to come up with a legitimate reason not to, we went on what was our last date.
I met this guy at my neighborhood health food store. I'd noticed him right away: not the usual, patchouli-wearing, ratty T-shirt type that generally worked the register. He was tall, elegant, with a mustache that made him look like an old-time movie star. Once, when he rang up my produce, he commented on my suede jacket, and we spoke often after that.
Before long, we were arranging to go to an art show. It was nice; he dressed kind of formally, in a tweed cap and pressed pants. I found him eccentric but charming. He gave me a chaste kiss that night, but a few nights later, I was sitting on his lap in the kitchen of his apartment, his tongue exploring my mouth.
I liked him, I really did, until I discovered -- by accidental snooping -- that the mysterious older woman whom he shared his apartment with was his mother. Not such a big deal for a 30-ish guy, if he admits it. But he didn't. It seemed like he was ashamed, which in turn made me think his situation was kind of pathetic. It was also truly terrifying when this mother/roommate almost walked in on us one night.
The other deal breakers? One, when he referred to a friend of his who lives in Cuba. Only he pronounced it "Coo-bah." It sounded so very pompous, coming from a white guy and all. Then, once during sex, he looked up at me and said, "I want you to sit on my face." Maybe it was the seriousness with which he said this that made my flesh crawl. The thing is, if my present-day husband said it, we'd both end up laughing. But this fellow had a script in his head for everything, and I was tired of acting in his play. So I walked off the set.
I'm all for deal-breakers, but was too insecure to use them back in college, which means I ignored the following painfully obvious ones:
1) The guy who slipped his arms around me while I shook a strainer full of pasta over the sink and whispered in my ear: "Hey, that sounds like us having sex!"
2) The guy who jumped out of bed after what might generously be called a quickie to hold up a lighter and do a whispered roar of the crowd noise as though Journey had just launched into "Open Arms."
3) Knit ties.
He was cute. Very cute. He made me laugh. He tipped well. He loved movies and music, and admitted to liking the cheesy stuff we all deny. He had great teeth. We talked about everything -- family, travel, careers, college, even bad past dates and, ironically enough, the deal breakers. I was smitten. Then, while he was laughing at one of my more amusing stories, those great teeth of his moved. I was startled and perplexed; I wondered, "Did that really just happen?" No, I assured myself as I took a bite of my crème brûlée. But then it happened again, though more pronounced this time; they slid down just far enough to reveal his empty gums. I stared. He noticed. He explained that he had played hockey in college and had sustained a particularly nasty shot to the mouth, requiring him to get dentures. I feigned sympathy and averted my gaze. The check came. He paid. I tried to envision kissing him. I couldn't. He called. I didn't call back. I'm terrible, I know.
-- Molly R.
My deal breaker occurred about three years ago during a first date with a co-worker I'd had a crush on for a while. She was a tall beautiful African-American woman and I was a lanky tow-headed Caucasian. At the very least, I thought we looked good together -- like a Gap ad or something. Things had been going well. We'd already kissed and that was pretty nice and I was trying to move things forward into full-on make-out abandon. I've found that the best way to do this, especially after a few drinks, is with the right music. In hindsight I now realize that maybe Jeff Buckley's "Grace" -- beautiful, romantic and haunting as it is -- isn't necessarily prime music for sweaty fumblings on my futon (I promise that I've since got a clue and now reach for Peaches or the Faint). Alcohol had loosened her lips in all the wrong ways and after only a few bars of Track 1, she broke a kiss to pull back and say: "What the hell is this shit?" "Well, this is Jeff ... um ... what?" I was speechless. Then I was heartbroken. Then I was angry. Then I asked to take her home. I mean, the man is dead for Chrissake. OK, maybe she didn't know that, but still -- who attacks a clear attempt at setting a mood with such caustic behavior? And on a first date?
-- Will Nepper
I'd been cruising an online personals site for a while, hoping to find somebody in Washington, D.C., who wouldn't ask me whom I worked for two minutes into our first conversation. The usual suspects were there: the naughty but ultimately suburban temptress, the Goth queens, the political whores, the people with five profiles. But one profile caught my eye. We corresponded for a while, and she was engaging and seemed relatively harmless.
We met outside the Dupont Metro and had fairly good chemistry. It seemed obvious to both of us that neither wanted to cut and run at first sight, so dinner was on. We grabbed a bite to eat, and things had that little spark of potential. Few mentions of professional life or politics, compatible taste in music. Slowly but surely, though, various edges of her personality started to show. The naggish: "I thought you said you only smoked occasionally on your profile." While I'm one for down-home honesty, relative level of smoking, is, well relative. "Occasionally" for me can mean "on a first date." I parried with a feeble joke about "supporting my folks at RJR," and lit another cigarette. Though the smoking was a potential deal breaker, the conversation nonetheless remained buoyant.
Still, I caught a whiff of something pretentious about her over the pad Thai, but I hadn't sussed it out yet. It started to make more sense when I saw her reaction to the fact that I had attended a top college: jubilation. Apparently the smoking thing was not the deal breaker it might have been. She responded by saying, "Don't you just hate having to deal with people who went to state schools, or worse, people who lie about what college they went to?" Deal breaker. While the ruthless me wanted to bait her inflated sense of intelligence with a comment about prepositions and sentence structure, the me that was present sputtered, "Some of my best -- and most intelligent -- friends didn't go to college at all ..." And, in a not so freak coincidence, my roommate landed at the airport 10 minutes later and need me to pick him up.
-- E. Miller
The lady who took care of my cat when I went out of town set me up with Trey. He was locally famous, the son of a car dealership owner, and wealthy. I'd seen him on TV -- he was darkly handsome and sort of intellectual looking with these squarish glasses that made him look like an architect, or a scholar, or an architectural scholar. Trey picked me up at work and all was well -- he seemed pleasant, courteous and not obviously dismayed by my appearance. A fairly auspicious start.
We drove to a hip French restaurant he'd chosen, and I didn't have to worry about what to say on the way, because Trey did all the talking. He spotted a skinny blonde on the corner near my place of employment, and asked me, "Do you know her? What's her name?" Then he pulled out a cellphone and started yakking to somebody on the other end named "Alberto." The loud, raucous interchange went on the entire ride. We parked at the restaurant and, at a total loss for a conversation opener, I made some inane remark about the weather. Trey snapped at me, "I think we're beyond small talk, don't you?"
At the restaurant he stared at the waitresses and kept complimenting them on their T-shirts. In the lulls between waitress visits, I asked him what it was like to do commercials on TV.
At the end of the evening he asked me to come over and try out his hot tub. The invitation floored me. He was so rude, I'd thought he'd absolutely hated being with me. Perhaps the restaurant thing had been a test -- if you don't walk out, you're in. But I'd dropped a piece of plywood on my foot earlier in the day -- it was still bleeding, actually, under the Band-Aid -- and I had to beg off. He frowned, figuring I was blowing him off. Which I would have done in any case. He couldn't have peeled out of that parking lot any faster if he'd been on fire. I was so mad at the woman who'd set me up with him that I never spoke to her again. She must have known what he was like, and was probably punishing me for something or other, the way gals will do.
I guess you could call the entire date a deal breaker.