A few years ago, my father and I got into a very serious discussion about my future. No, it wasn’t The Talk, but it was pretty close. We were debating which kind of person he would be less willing to allow me to date: a Republican or a Yankees fan. Both are certainly dire fates, but it was something that needed to be determined before I left for college. It may seem like a frivolous discussion to the allegedly more open-minded (or non-Red Sox fans) among you, but in reality it reflects a conversation that almost everyone has had at some point, either with their self or their friends. It’s the definition of your limits, where you draw the line about what is and is not okay. It’s your dealbreaker.
We Northwestern students are, by and large, focused and driven individuals with fairly high standards in life (disregarding the infamous Northwestern goggles). It stands to reason, then, that most of us have a pretty solid idea of our biggest dealbreakers. So what exactly will set you up for rejection by a Northwestern student? To find out, I pounced upon 27 unsuspecting students in Norris and posed this question to them in an anonymous survey. They were asked to come up with their own personal dealbreakers, differentiating between those that applied to a casual hookup or one-night-stand vs. those for a long-term relationship.
Some people insisted that their dealbreakers were the same across the board, but most acknowledged that their standards for one-night-stands were based much more on physical aspects and less on personality than those for longer relationships. As one student wrote, “I’m more inclined to look past particular shortcomings in a girl for a one-night-stand because I don’t have to have dinner with her the following week.” It seems that most people are willing to overlook a whole lot when they never have to see the other person again.
Want a lover? Better work on your stand-up routine.
Apparently NU students’ ideal mate is Tina Fey. The two most widely cited dealbreakers were lack of a sense of humor and unintelligence. Although some people specified exactly how unintelligent the potential hookup would have to be (“REALLY DUMB,” wrote one guy), most simply said that they could not be interested in someone who wasn’t intelligent. More than a third of those surveyed also said that no sense of humor was one of their top three relationship dealbreakers. Although when you think about it, it may be less that the person doesn’t have a sense of humor than that they have a completely divergent sense of humor. The Monty Python fans out there are going to have a pretty hard time finding common ground with someone whose idea of humor is watching Larry the Cable Guy’s latest instant classic, no matter how nice they are. But kids, if you’re not funny, don’t show off your inner Carlos Mencia. It’s better to be honestly not funny than the kind of girl that inspired one boy to write that his dealbreaker is a lady who “tries to be funny, thinks she’s hilarious, laughs at her own jokes — isn’t funny.”
Surprisingly, most people actually stayed far away from the big wedge issues, choosing instead to stick to more individual characteristics. Nobody mentioned religion at all (not even Scientology!). Politics wasn’t too significant of a factor, either, but a few people did say they would never date Republicans. “I tried it and it just doesn’t work,” wrote one woman. Interestingly enough, nobody said they were unwilling to date liberals. The liberals may need a little work on their sense of irony.
Motivation was a big one for the ladies. Several girls said they could never date someone who “isn’t a go-getter.” And more bad news for the vertically-challenged, commitment-shy menfolk out there: height (or lack thereof) was a commonly cited dealbreaker for potential hookups, with one woman even declaring a height limit (“Really, no people below 6′2″”). Guys were less specific in their relationship dealbreakers, mostly sticking to the common factors like unintelligence or lack of personality — but a few of them did make sure to rule out sports-haters (it’s fair to guess that none of them will be finding happiness with the women who had no use for “over-love of sports”). And, contrary to the illustrious example of some would-be role models, several guys specifically said that they wouldn’t be willing even to hook up with someone who was just too drunk and sloppy — or, as one perfect gentleman put it, “not if it looks like she’s about to vomit.”
Though Facebook lets us all superficially judge each others’ taste in music, books and movies, most Northwestern students appear to be fairly generous when it comes to judging in person. Only two people pointed out those preferences as absolute dealbreakers, while the rest seemed content to tolerate a love of the Pussycat Dolls in an otherwise perfect partner. However, one awful specter of pop culture did manage to make its presence known: two men declared that they could never be in a relationship with someone who watched ‘The Hills.’ And honestly, can you blame them? That’s almost as bad as saying that your favorite book is The DaVinci Code, which in turn is basically admitting that you are a terrible human being with even more terrible taste in books. (Seriously. This is true. Do not ever trust anyone who says that it is their favorite book)
Kiss and tell
The most surprising aspect of the survey was that nobody said it was a dealbreaker if someone was either a bad kisser or bad in bed. Funny, because usually that tends to be one of the first things people cite as a potential dealbreaker. I don’t know whether this means that NU students just have sex so rarely that anything is satisfactory, or if it means that they focus more on personality or readily apparent physical traits and are willing to allow for a generous learning curve when it comes to the bedroom. Giving you all the benefit of the doubt, this isn’t a bad thing at all; not everybody has the same level of experience, and it’s always fair to give people a chance to learn from their mistakes. But really, does nobody see bad kissing or (god forbid!) bad sex as a potential dealbreaker?
Despite the apparent tolerance of the NU student body for the inadequacies of other students’ bodies, there’s pretty strong scientific evidence to the contrary. In fact, kissing is extremely important in terms of judgment and can act as a very strong influential factor and, sometimes, a dealbreaker. A study conducted last year by researchers at the University of Albany found that many college students who were initially attracted to someone found that they weren’t interested anymore after kissing the other person for the first time.
“Kissing is part of an evolved courtship ritual,” said Gordon G. Gallup, Jr., an evolutionary psychologist and one of the study’s leaders, in the official press release. “When two people kiss there is a rich and complicated exchange of information involving chemical, tactile, and postural cues. While many forces lead two people to connect romantically, the kiss, particularly the first kiss, can be a deal breaker.”
Beyond the straight-up rejection of sloppy kissers, the psychologists also found differences between the sexes in the importance of kissing in terms of both physical and emotional relationships. Guys tend to kiss as a means to an end — maybe to move things forward toward sex or to make up after a fight. Girls, on the other hand, often use kissing as a benchmark, to monitor the status of a relationship or gauge their partner’s commitment level.
Because women place more significance on kissing, this also means that most of them won’t have sex without it. While most men were fine with the idea of having sex without kissing, the majority of women insisted on the importance of kissing before, during and after sex. But guys, even though it doesn’t matter to you, you might want to brush up on your technique a little bit — far fewer women than men are willing to have sex with a bad kisser. Think of it this way: chances are you’re not going to score if you trip rounding first base.
Watch your mouth
Though nobody specifically called out kissing, general mouth hygiene and odor was a big issue for almost everyone. Needless to say, nobody wants to go near some snaggle-toothed dude with a severe case of halitosis. But several people were much more specific than just bad breath or hygiene. Almost one-fifth of those surveyed named cigarette smoking as a definite dealbreaker for both hookups and relationships, while one woman declared that for her to consider hooking up with a guy, his “lips must be nice.”
And it’s not just about looks; what that mouth does is important, too. A guy wrote that he couldn’t tolerate either “baby talk or porn talk” from a partner, while “loud chewing noises” were the ultimate turnoff for one woman. Be careful about what you do between chewing, too, as one girl’s biggest dealbreaker was “someone who is openly rude to waiters.” However, the lactose intolerant among us might just be straight out of luck; I’d hazard a guess that none of them will manage to make much progress with the girl who won’t play tonsil hockey with anyone who “drinks soymilk.”
Oh, and you fellas should still be on guard even when it’s not your mouth that’s busy. As one girl wrote (and I think she speaks for many straight ladies and gay men), the ultimate hookup sin has to be “grabbing my head when I’m going down on him. Do it once, and don’t expect me ever to go anywhere near there again.”
But it’s not all about flossing and blowjob etiquette, young’uns. Most dealbreakers, at least the superficial ones, just aren’t that hard to avoid. Don’t be that guy who gets shot down by one lady after another because you’re wearing too much hair gel and rocking the Kyle Orton neckbeard, or the girl who can’t go home with the person you like because you were too busy earlier making out with everyone else at the party (one at a time. Or maybe all together. I don’t know what you kids do in your spare time). And at this point in time, it’s just an asshole move to exhibit one woman’s dealbreaker of “environmental insensitivity.” Recycling and treehugging is hot, guys! Just ask Jessica Alba! Maybe you’ll even be lucky enough to run into the girl whose major hookup dealbreaker is “whether he’s paying for the taxi home.”
Of course, this isn’t anywhere near a comprehensive list, and certainly nobody who answered the survey is speaking for anyone but themself. Everyone has their own quirky rejection standards and pet peeves — that’s what makes this game so much fun. But those of you who think, “Never mind,” when you hear that cute girl order a grande soy latte, or say something about LC’s new fashion line can take comfort in the knowledge that you, my judgmental friend, are not alone.
(Oh, and the answer to my hypothetical debate? The Republican. I might agree with a Yankees fan on some other things in life, but I’d have a hell of a hard time finding a conservative who has much in common with my tree-hugging, recycling, gay-marriage-supporting, godless Unitarian Universalist Massachusetts liberal self. And even if I did, there’s no way he’d ever get past my dad. Protective dads: the ultimate dealbreaker.)