The Checklist (part one: staccato and reviled)

I was having a conversation with a male friend a while back, and he got onto the dreaded subject of “the difference between men and women.” More specifically, it was something of a semi-tipsy, circumstance-biased indictment of the female gender and our use of mental checklists when selecting mates. In fairness, I should mention that my friend was having a rough day and is not actually a woman hater. Or maybe he secretly IS a woman hater and just hides it really well. Not the point.

The point, friends, is the way he spat the word checklist at me in the same way that one would spit “dispicable,” or “pedantic.” Something staccato…and reviled.

“Guys just go along and see how it works out, but women, oh women all have some kind of checklist.”

Now, I suspect that guys also have checklists that are just more abstract than ours, but that’s not the point. The point is that this was roughly the 8 millionth time that a man spat the word “checklist” at me.

I defend the concept of the checklist. I’m not suggesting that we ladies actually write the list down and literally check things off. I’m just suggesting that we should know what we want and not get all hyper to settle just because what we’re looking for has proven difficult to find. I joke about all the things on mine, right down to the impossible and comical “…and he and I will start a dark cabaret band.” I’m kidding, guys. (Unless you want to start a dark cabaret band.)

There are things on my checklist that are damn near as hard to find, not said in jest and non-negotiable. The big two are “smart” and “funny.” Those two things are hard enough to find. Couple that with the third non-negotiable (“I have to want to eat his face”) and what you get is a whole lot of accusations of being “too picky.” It’s not picky. It’s “if you don’t have these things, I really would rather just be alone.” And by “alone,” I mean “busy with work, busy with hobbies, hanging out with my friends, getting a decent night’s sleep and not having to consult anyone before making plans for the weekend.”

Maybe guys hate the checklist because they feel like sometimes they never even get a chance. Like we ladies are going to look at them and go, “hmmm, dog person? wrong answer!” and send them down the bad egg chute like Veruca Salt. All we ladies are trying to do is not waste time, and that checklist is much more flexible than you think. The checklist is our way of policing ourselves, making sure that we at least make some attempt to find the guy we need and want rather than the guy with a good head of hair. The checklist is our way of clearly stating our expectations to ourselves.

Guys, all I’m saying is that it might serve you well to embrace the checklist. Start asking your female friends to write down their checklists solely for the purpose of letting you collect them. Read through 20 or 30, and you’re going to find a pattern of all of us pretty much looking for a lot of the same stuff.

I was beginning to feel guilty about my checklist, like maybe it really was the impossible dream, but then I realized that the important things on my checklist are based in values I was taught growing up. It’s my dad’s fault, because he was all of the stuff I’m looking for…but props also go to mom for making him man up and BE those things.

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34 thoughts on “The Checklist (part one: staccato and reviled)

  1. checklist with certain core values/traits needed to make you happy – yes!

    checklist with certain shallow, physical requirements that keep you from seeing beyond the gorgeous head of hair – no!

    knowing yourself well enough to distinguish between the two is the secret. good post- like the part about guys collecting their girl-friends’ checklists- good idea!

  2. “if you don’t have these things, I really would rather just be alone.” The blog I post later today will be about this exact thing.

    I find it despicable that men don’t have checklists. Are they really not that picky beyond physical standards? How passive! How unfulfilling!

    I don’t want to end up with a guy who doesn’t have standards for who he dates!

    Crystal
    http://www.crystalspins.com

  3. Values do count! I am happily married for 22 years and my husband and I have the same core values and kind of interviewed each other our very first night together! It worked, so stick to what you think is right!

    evelyngarone.com

      • Haha when I read this post today, I added to my blog idea notepad, “Man Checklist.” Need to think on this one, but I definitely have a list. It seems I’m adding stuff to it every day (which could be a problem!).

        Anything in particular at the top of your list?

  4. It seems impossible to me to think a guy does not have a checklist. Like we don’t know that being unbearably prissy is on some guy’s “don’t do it, man” mental checklist. I wonder if your friend had come up on the wrong side of too many checklists lately.

  5. I think I prefer guys to remain ignorant about the female checklist. A guy that tries too hard to match a fitted bill is not sexy.

    And for the record; mine is funny, good eyes and ambition. Nobody wants a layabout.

  6. “Guys, all I’m saying is that it might serve you well to embrace the checklist. Start asking your female friends to write down their checklists solely for the purpose of letting you collect them. Read through 20 or 30, and you’re going to find a pattern of all of us pretty much looking for a lot of the same stuff.”

    The more I think about it the more I think this is a brilliant point.

    And my blog about being a lone rather than paired up is up now (http://crystalspins.com/2010/08/25/dinner-for-one-please/).

    Crystal
    http://www.crystalspins.com

  7. “And by “alone,” I mean “busy with work, busy with hobbies, hanging out with my friends, getting a decent night’s sleep and not having to consult anyone before making plans for the weekend.””

    Indeed!!

    And, I have to say that any guy who claims not to have a checklist might not actually be fully honest even with himself.

  8. Funny, the way he spit the word checklist. It is so true they have a stigma attached to “the list”. I wrote a list out, fully expecting to NEVER find him, and that. Of course, I didn’t. The guy I found lacked one thing on the wish list. It wasn’t long before he had that too.

    It is truly out there! Great, great post. Congrats on being freshly pressed. 🙂

  9. My view is- you do loosen up on the checklist a little when you get older- however, one should never ever compromise too much, and there are values etc. that you should not change in order to please someone else. It is better to be alone that with the wrong person….

  10. Congrats on being FP, and for knowing what you want. I’m with geekgirl415 on making sure that the checklist has “needs” (smart and funny) and not “wants” (tall and dark). I think that most men probably do have a checklist of sorts, but perhaps they are too male to realize it.

    Hold out for the good stuff. It is so worth it.

  11. I think the checklist also helps to save his and my time. If I know now (because it’s on my checklist) that my guy needs to be educated or funny, because if he isn’t then in the future I will get bored and irritated with him and end it anyway, then why not just be honest with him and me and admit…you are not the one for me. 🙂

    [Hope that made sense]

    Great blog!! 🙂

  12. Funny, that. The differences between men and women, the way we drive one another nuts yet can’t live without the connection we have. Frankly it seems like some sort of cosmic joke on the human species. Perhaps our planet is one big “Truman Show” for the rest of the universe, and this grand experiment of men and women has lasted, somehow, far longer than anticipated.

    Lucky us. 🙂

    ~Laura

  13. I read this book called Frearless Loving and it taught me a lot.
    One of the biggest rules was to pick your top 5 traits in a man and find a man with those traits. She had these rules on dating that are really helpful in deciding wether your being “to picky”.

  14. Absolutely awesome post!!!! I applaud you for sticking to your guns on your checklist. I also have one but wish I had developed it prior to my two failed marriages. At the age of 40, I finally know exactly what I am looking for. Best of luck to you!

  15. I like your statement “embrace the checklist”. Of COURSE I had a checklist. And my husband met everything on the checklist. Everything that mattered, anyway… the values and characteristics I was looking for. He also just happened to meet some of the silly things on the checklist that I made when I was 14 years old… he plays the trumpet, he sings bass, he’s more than 2 years older than I, he’s taller than I… but those are just happenstance (he didn’t make the “dark hair, British accent, lean and muscular”). I know he had a checklist, too. He may have never written it down like I did (again, I was 14), but it was there. I’m pretty sure every guy has a checklist, even if they don’t admit it.

  16. Hi, being a guy, myself and I think most of the guy pals I know do have some sort of checklist. But I think its the way we tend to look at things, being more visual than verbal, preference for systems and the bigger picture rather than details. So it may be more of a “picto-list” or abstract form of the checklist so most of us don’t think of it as much of a list of individual traits as we tend not go into finer details.

  17. I really like your blog about the checklist. I´ve alawys implicitly known that I´ve had a checklist, but for some reason I haven´t fully consulted it before entering a relationship. Not because the guys looks are making me forget the checklist. Maybe because I´m younger and I feel like I still have time left to find the ONE.

    I think what´s more important than the checklist, or maybe it helps you see if he fills the items closer to the top of the list, is getting to know a guy pretty well before entering a long relationship.

    thanks for sharing this great post. I like your writing style and sense of humor. I also like the black and pink (similar to my generic blog design).

  18. To a part, I agree with you. In particular, I myself (as a man) have a policy that a woman has to bring a net benefit to my life—or I am rather alone. (For the record, this policy, in reverse to the above, is not popular with women, who often see it as being “too picky”.)

    However, there are at least three issues from the men’s POV that are worth mentioning, and that explain a lot of the male dissatisfaction:

    1. Women with a checklist also often complain about the lack of good men, sometimes based on criteria that are highly arbitrary, do not make sense, or are unrealistic (think of a female “Shallow Hal”). One specific criterion often mentioned is that “he should like me”: Certainly, this something we all want in a partner, but when combined with a “there are no good men” rant, it does not come over well with men.

    2. Many women make very quick judgements without giving the man a realistic chance: In the first ten seconds, the “right vibe” is missing, he wears the wrong shoes, he looks married, or similar. Apart from these factors often being just as superficial as “nice rack”, they are often not representative for the man in question—and a meeting on another day might have given a very different result.

    3. There are many men who find themselve rejected over and over again for the same reason, most often “being too short”. That these men grow resentful over time is understandable, even when no one woman is necessarily doing something wrong.

    In addition, rationally speaking, a checklist can be a bad thing, because it is based on a preconceived opinion about who will be a good match—and this opinion need not work out in the long-term. Yes, a Republican, non-smoking cat lady should think twice about dating a Democrat chain-smoker with a cat allergy, but most criteria will turn out to be negotiable or secondary in the long term. The kind-hearted janitor may well be a better match than a “type A” career success or the highly educated college professor who rather spends time with his books than with his girl (to look at just two common criteria—success and education).

  19. Yes Yes Yes! Definitely support the idea of a checklist! There’s definitely nothing wrong with knowing what you want in a man. And come on let’s be honest here. Men rant and rave about how us women are too picky when really they’ve all got their own personal checklists for us. Hypocrites, I tell you! Maybe it’s the Disney fanatic in me that thinks we all deserve our prince charmings. And if it takes a checklist to get one then I’m sticking with it!

    http://pocketfuloposies.wordpress.com

  20. Just out of interest are you single?

    I’m a man and I’ve never had a checklist – well that’s a lie but we couldn’t possibly tell you the sort of things that are on our checklists….

  21. I agree that everyone, male and female, has some kind of checklist, even if not a formal one that they mentally tick off as they evaluate a potential partner. My main reservation with such lists is when they cease to be a self-check to avoid wasting time and become a straight-jacket that causes the same mistakes over and over.

    One female friend went through a long period of very unsuccessful dating with her checklist firmly in mind. I remember her rejecting many guys after one date because they didn’t match up, and dating a number of guys for longer periods who were eerily similar and all complete failures as relationships. In the end, the problem was that her checklist was not really matched to her needs and that she was using it so restrictively that she was dismissing men before find out more about them than a surface glance. After a few unhappy years of this, she chucked out her checklist completely and started widening her choices. When she eventually married, she chose a guy who was quite different in attitude, personality and world view from what her initial checklist would have recommended. Only by experimenting outside her list did she find what she needed.

    I support checklists as a useful organizational tool, and not just in relationships, but I think they need constant oversight and revision, because no checklist can cover every possible variation out there and because our interests and even values may change as we grow as individuals. Don’t let a tool make decisions for you, let it help you make informed choices.

  22. The check list is so the thing to have. you cant just ramdomly say “OK, you are my Guy”! they have to met requirments!!!

    Great blog! I love the backround, its awesome!!!

    MACS

  23. *Sigh*— I wish I read this before my catastrophes! LOL

    I never wrote a checklist, but I have always had a general idea of the qualities I want. It was so easy to get distracted, though! Of course, in the end I would see what I had suspected at the start: “This one is totally not for me.”

    Congrats on getting FP!
    🙂

  24. I’m not against a checklist (a male, I find on reflection that I have one, but it’s informal), but it will cause all concerned a lot less grief if it’s phrased in terms of “Partner must have X of Y qualifications, and X must be <Y/2 unless Y<8". My wife and I have a friend who maintains her lonely status by having a large and intricate checklist which any prospective partner must match in all respects, and we cannot convince her that unless she can actually grow a chap based on her list, she'll never find such a creature. Like a google search, the more specific your criteria, the fewer matches you will find.

  25. What a good post! I also defend the checklist and believe that most men have these too. In fact, when I first met my current Mr. he informed me that he had a list written down. I had never gone so far as to write mine down but I do certainly have one. Though the thought alone of the list can be anxiety inducing I admit that there is some satisfaction of knowing that you have been held up to a list of personal requirements and managed to make the cut. There is nothing under the sun wrong with having non-negotiable standards!!

  26. Dead awesome airman!!!! I applaud you for sticking to your guns on your checklist. I also hit one but recognize I had matured it preceding to my two unsuccessful marriages. At the age of 40, I eventually experience exactly what I am hunting for. Good of phenomenon to you!

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