You probably didn’t realize you had “things” that never escape your attention on a date. Hard core honesty time: here’s what you just can’t help but notice.
No matter how charming someone seems to be, there are some things she can’t help but notice. And they aren’t what you’d expect.
First let’s get rid of the superficial and obvious stuff that I don’t feel great about, but I can’t help but notice. I can’t help but notice if: your breath smells like old books, your fingernails are really long, you have a bird’s nest on your head, your gauges are out and your earlobes hang super low, you are five or more inches shorter than I am, you have ample tufting nose hair that should be in the rain forest registry, you brought your baby on the date, you are showing your pecs (as in, you didn’t wear something I would necessarily call a shirt…maybe it’s a dishrag?) and/or the tattoo on your forearm says “Winona forever.”
And let me clarify, these are not instant deal breakers! I’m just saying I notice. One of these, and I might be able to carry on. Two, probably not.
But what I really can’t help but notice, whether you’re on a first date with me or at the table next to me at the coffee shop or the pie parlor, is that you are talking ad nauseam about yourself and your date has big eyes and she or he is nodding, nodding, saying, “right, right, right.” By the third “right” or “um hm” there should be an alarm that goes off in your mind indicating you need to ask her, or him, or me, about us. “What about yourself?” is a great, all too rarely used, segue. I notice how much you ask about me and if you seem to care. If you ask questions about them that have some depth, I notice this and I like it.
I can’t help but notice notice if you use words like “ergo” and “heretofore” and “evanescence” and “gestalt” and I sigh.
I can’t help but notice if you put yourself down. It’s so easy to do if you have something you feel a little self-conscious about, like you’re balding or you’re a little heavier than you wish, or you didn’t wash your elbows this year (truly scrub them, I mean). But the second sexiest guy I know is totally bald and the third sexiest guy I know has a dad bod and there is no excuse for grungy elbows. Anyway. I notice when you deride yourself with a joke and if you’re laughing with yourself and with me it’s awesome and funny. If you’re laughing with the world at yourself it’s sad and I want to give you the name of my friend, who’s single and who’s also a therapist.
I can’t help but notice how you talk about your ex. I hope you don’t talk about your ex. I really hope you don’t give me her phone number as a reference. This has happened! I’m not going to call her! She doesn’t want to hear from me.
I can’t help but notice if when you talk about her you use a sing-song whiney voice and snarl and roll your eyes and start to breathe rapidly and you blow a little your cappuccino foam onto my sweater. I can’t help but notice also if you get a little dreamy eyed when you talk about your ex and you say, yeah, the divorce isn’t final yet, financial reasons, she’s the one who wanted it, sigh…
And I really can’t help but notice when you say yeah, you’re still living together, but it’s sooooo much easier to share the kids that way and the drop-off/pick-up is such a breeze! Because it’s, you know, in the kitchen at the dinner table. I can’t help but notice if you tell me that I should watch out because your ex has Borderline Personality Disorder. And I can’t help but notice if you say that I should watch out because your ex is drop-dead-gorgeous and just got a “mom job” (that’s a plastic surgery triad for those of you who think I was just talking dirty.) I guess I would love it if you didn’t talk about your ex at first, but the truth is, this is all really good information. So it doesn’t bug me and I don’t think there should be a “rule” about that. There should be no rules, period, in fact. The sooner you let your freak flag fly the better, as far as I’m concerned. All information is good information.
I can’t help but notice if you dump the scone crumbs from the bag it came in into your hand, then use your tongue to cherry pick them off your hand. I can’t help but notice if you are chivalrous. I can’t help but notice if you try to pay (though I won’t let you), if you pick up my phone when I fling it on the floor, if you pull out or push in my chair, if you open the door for me. And, I can’t help but notice if you don’t.
I can’t help but notice when you jump up to get me a napkin when I dump my latte on my lap. I can’t help but notice if you are nice to the staff. I can’t help but notice if you tip, and how much you tip. I’m not saying do, or don’t do, any of these things. I’m just letting you know that I notice if you do or if you don’t. And I really, really, really notice if you are checking your phone. And if, heaven and earth forbid, you actually read a text, laugh loudly, text back, then put your phone down and look up and carry on talking about yourself, I completely notice.
I can’t help but notice if you recycle.
I can’t help but notice your conversational themes. If you spend the date telling me horror stories of bad first dates—the not-so closeted alcoholic woman you met on Match who passed out in her spaghetti and had to be hand delivered to her bedroom, and the woman who said she was fit but she so clearly was panting as you walked her uphill to her bus-stop, and the woman who said she was 35 but you have never seen a waddle quite like that on anyone under 90, I notice. And I probably say, “hey, stop it mister! Stop the meanness because honestly, it’s boring and tedious and makes me feel like I’m next.” But if meanness is your thing, I notice, and it’s perfect that I do, because you can go find a nice mean girl to date and this wasn’t going to go anywhere anyway.
I can’t help but notice if you are just being you. If you’re nervous, and you say, “I’m nervous,” I think it’s adorable. If it’s your first date out of the divorce gate, and you say so, I am super understanding and forgiving of your nose hair tufts. If you just got your chest waxed and you’re going to do it again in two weeks, that’s you being you. If you list your awards and accolades and make a side reference to your car and how much alimony you’re paying, that’s you being you and I don’t like it much, but somebody might.
At the end of the date, if you had a great time, I totally notice and completely appreciate if you say, “I had a great time and I hope I hear from you.” If you didn’t have a great time I appreciate it if you say, “Ta ta!” and do a soft shoe out the door all the way to your car. If you can’t wait to see me again, I hope you’ll say, “I hope I hear from you.” I notice and I know I speak for my friends when I say I hope you don’t put me on the spot and ask me right there and then in those headlights if I will go on another date with you. Because who has enough integrity and maybe inherent cruelty to say, “No, you suck, I won’t”? Not me. So I will say “Sure”, and then I will text you or email you that we just. didn’t. click. But you’re a great guy and have a super duper life. Good luck dating! I know you’re gonna find someone so great. Happy face emoticon.
This article was originally published with the Good Men Project; republished with the kindest permission.
About the Author
Molly Knipe: I am pondering my navel and my single mama existence, while raising kids and dogs, making messes as I go and hoping the world is better for it. I also happen to be a therapist and a writer and a teacher and a learner. Follow my blog at singlemamarama.com and follow me on twitter @mollyknipe_mft .