Wanted: One male, dry-witted, for baby making

Must be fertile, with tongue like Dorothy Parker.

Published February 27, 2007 11:27AM (EST)

Dear Cary,

Here is my problem and I know you hear this all the time but here goes anyway: I am a single woman in my very late 30s, trying to meet a man to settle down with and have kids before my biological clock runs out of batteries.

My problem is, I have a very dry sense of humor and am considered to be quite witty (sort of in a Dorothy Parkeresque way). I meet nice guys, some of whom want to go out with me, and generally, I do not think they are witty enough. Obviously having a compatible sense of humor is not enough alone to carry a relationship, as evidenced by my last boyfriend who had a razor-sharp wit, a diagnosis of clinical depression and a lying, manipulative streak a mile long. But I find I really can't fall for someone who doesn't make me laugh in a certain way. On the other hand, I seem to have no problem being friends with women who laugh at my jokes but do not actually make me laugh.

Are men not as witty as women? Am I being "too picky" by looking for someone with a sense of humor like my own? Is it possible that I am funnier than most guys I meet? I try to make myself like these guys who don't have that dry wit I crave and I find myself cringing when they make bad jokes. Any suggestions?

Getting Nowhere Fast

Dear Getting Nowhere,

Since you are on a deadline of sorts, let's take action: Make a list of all the attributes in a man that you desire. You may put wittiness at the top if you wish, but decline, for the moment, to make it a deal-breaker. In fact, make no one attribute a deal-breaker except perhaps for life imprisonment without parole. Just get all your desired male attributes in a list. These may be mostly attributes of personality -- skills and behaviors: quick-wittedness, capacity for irony, etc. -- but will also include a few hints of what kind of social status and education you would like the man to have. Be thorough. Pay special attention to this quality you call wit; that is, remember what Dorothy Parker said -- "Wit has truth in it; wisecracking is simply calisthenics with words." It may be that the wit you desire can be found in a man who simply sees the truth of things.

Then make another list of all the things that you want to happen for you. You say this quest is driven mainly by your desire to get married and have kids. So that will probably be at the top. List all the other things you want to have happen. If you want a house, what kind, where to live, how many kids, what sexes, what you want them to be when they grow up, what their names will be, etc. List the kinds of people you want in your life and what kinds of family relationships you want, what kinds of holidays, what kind of vehicle, what city you want to live in, etc.

Do these imaginative exercises with great concentration and great freedom. List things that come to you even though you are not sure you want them -- you can take them out later. Some such things may turn out to be important. Take a week or two. Spend evenings making these lists.

Watch for patterns to emerge. Compare the two lists. Look for correspondences and contradictions between the things you want in your life and the things you want in a man. For instance, if you dream of living in a big, crazy, ramshackle house but are attracted to men who are fastidious, careful and orderly, consider the contradiction therein. If you want life of great economic security and comfort but are attracted to men who are mainly aesthetes and thinkers, again, consider the contradictions. Try to reconcile the contradictions. Make choices. Mark things off the list that will be seen to be impossible or irreconcilable. Which is more important, the inner qualities of the man or what he can contribute to your practical well-being? Be merciless and frank. Consider which would be more important in the end. Consider what things you feel you absolutely cannot live without.

Also do this; this may aid you in broadening your thinking about men. Think of all the men you have known that you have liked. Was there at least one who did not have a killer dry wit but had other qualities that made up for it? What were those qualities?

Also in listing the attributes you are looking for in a man, consider how rare each attribute is, how likely you are to find it. Compare its rarity with its importance to you, and pay special attention to those things, such as a great, dry wit, that are both extremely dear to you and extremely rare in the world. Similarly, in listing your desired future circumstances and the life events you most want to have happen, consider how achievable each item is, how much effort would be involved, and how much risk there is of failure. Make notes about such things on your list -- you know, "Important but difficult to find," "Desirable and easily achievable," etc.

Single out the handful of essentials, things you long for intensely. Most likely it will be the man with a great dry wit and having a child. But one hopes that, having listed all these other wishes and hopes, you will see these essential, longed-for things in a larger context, and you will have imagined some alternatives.

The end result of this should be that you find your requirement for wittiness is now connected to many others. It exists no longer alone as the one thing you must have, but as one wish in a matrix of wishes and requirements that may fluctuate as you compare this list to the finite number of men who exist in your world, and the finite number of occupational and architectural options you have.

Keep in mind that basically you want a kid and you want some wit. You want some wit and you want a kid. Wit. Kid. Wit. Kid.

That's gotta be doable somehow.

You may meet a man who is not exactly Oscar Wilde but who is amusing enough in his own way. If he were to make you an offer that seemed right at the time, you might find yourself laughing uproariously. Fate, you might say, has a dry wit all its own.

So do these things. Make these lists.

I hope that's clear and helpful, if not exactly elegant. I'm working fast today. I, too, am on deadline. Sometimes we cannot wait around for the perfect phrase -- or the perfect man.

By Cary Tennis

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