People say that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Then allow me, Keysha Whitaker, to declare myself insane … at least in my dating life. I’m a 31-year-old woman of color who keeps dating the same type of man, over and over. Unfortunately, they often end up being jailbirds, pathological liars and rehab projects to whom I’ve loaned money, written resumes, forgiven lies, posted bail and bought clothes. But who can fault me? My type of guy—a smooth-talking, 6’3″, caramel-skinned, basketball-physiqued brotha with a beat in his step (think rapper T.I. or Michael Ealy)—looks good, and looks good on me. (And, of course, not all caramel-skinned brothas are these things, just the ones I snag.)
It’s easy for me to remember the guys in my life who were my type.There was Roger with his big brown eyes. After I helped him through emotional and financial trauma, he got a new fiancée two months after we went “on pause.” There was the sexy, thuggish-ruggish BK who’d just gotten out of jail and then skipped out on the $1,300 cell phone bill he ran up. I bought a suit for Army veteran Anton so he could go on job interviews. Lee, a minor-offense jailbird, used the wrong words. “I’m an upholstery dude,” he said one day. He meant “upstanding.” The Poet met my mental, physical and emotional desires save one quirk: polyamory.
Now I feel I’m in type purgatory: the place where good girls who’ve made one too many bad dating choices go to suffer. So I reached out to Andrea Syrtash, the author of the new book He’s Just Not Your Type (And That’s a Good Thing). Syrtash’s main point is that when you have a type and it repeatedly doesn’t work out—why not expand your horizons? Syrtash outlines three categories of “nontypes” or “NTs.” There’s the Departure Nontype (DNTs)—the guy who is the opposite of the ones you usually date. There’s the Superficial Nontype (SNTs)—the guy who, well, because of an affinity for grimy T-shirts or eating two boxes of Ho-Hos daily, isn’t likely to be any woman’s type. And then there’s the Circumstantial Nontype (CNTs)—the guy who could be great but is tossed because he lives in another city or is recently divorced. Syrtash dated her type—a high-paid, handsome corporate guy—for five years before breaking it off to be with, and eventually marry, her nontype: an average-wage teacher who plays music. Syrtash suggests that a woman looks for how she feels with a man rather than what he looks like on paper.
Over the phone one night, I told Syrtash my dating woes. I’d tried dating out of my type, too. There was an Italian boy with a blond streak down the middle of his brunette head, the bald Jewish ex-record producer with a bad case of crow’s feet, and an alcoholic Dominican boat mechanic—but those relationships didn’t end with the happily-ever-after stories that Syrtash and the women in her book recount. Now, I don’t know if I’m looking for my type or the total opposite. Syrtash listened attentively and said that in dating, “all relationships that don’t end in marriage are going to end.” Whether they’re your type or not. She said it’s important to “walk away from it with new insights on how you want to be and who you want to be with.”
“It’s not about settling for a guy who looks goofy,” says Syrtash. “You should be with someone who brings you to your highest potential. It’s about who you are with him. I’m asking all women to uncover their dating patterns because change happens through consciousness. We don’t have better luck until we change our patterns.”
Syrtash asked me to tell her about some of my more “successful” relationships. As I described them, I realized many of them were out of type. My first boyfriend in college was 5’8″ (only an inch taller than me), studious, quiet, and grounded. Let’s call him The Doctor. I wasn’t initially attracted to him, so we started as friends. He took me on sweet dates, sent roses on my birthday, and soon I was in love. We dated for four years, though in the beginning I broke up with him to chase my dream of bagging a Will Smith lookalike. The Doctor took me back, but the short breakup had done serious damage to our relationship and his self-image. One day, five years later, in a private conversation with his mom, she asked why we broke up initially. Proud of my growth, I told her that I had to get over my superficial obsessions before I could appreciate everything The Doctor offered: genuine love, super emotional support and stability. A month later, from his med school dorm room, The Doctor said he didn’t want to be with me because I “told his mother he was ugly.” Crap.
My next NT was Derrick. Again, I wasn’t initially attracted to him—I thought he had a skinny head. But he pursued me for months, until the day I saw a loving interaction between him and my nephew and I fell for him hard. After I gave in, he said he didn’t want a relationship, but we dated for seven years with intermittent periods of passion and exclusivity, then hate and elusiveness. I never walked away because I had an unexplained admiration for him and craved his company—mentally and especially physically. I still thought his head was skinny but I loved rubbing it. But in the end, he still didn’t want a relationship.
For the past year I dated a man, Mr. Maybe, who is my type on the outside but my nontype on the inside. Though he was lovable, caring and truly liked me, a large chunk of his personality was the opposite of the alpha-dog attitude that moves my mojo. I stayed because I believed I should wake up and appreciate him on the outside and inside.
Syrtash stopped me at “should”—a word she hates and wants women to erase from their vocabulary. She’s even dedicated a chapter to it, “Don’t ‘should’ all over yourself.” She said should is a security blanket that keeps us from taking risks and following our hearts. It wasn’t until she released the belief that she “should be with someone more polished and sophisticated” that she was able to fall in love with her husband. After scolding the should out of me, she said, “It seems you are drawn to the potential in a man, what you think he could be or feel he should be for you rather than who he is as a person.”
I’m not sure why I’m drawn to the potential in men; it probably stems from growing up without my dad. Maybe I’m hoping if I prove myself, a man will see my worth and not abandon me, so I consistently accept less than what I deserve in hopes that I’ll get more than what I need. Syrtash said my hopefulness is a good quality but in the future I’ll reserve it for sunny days and lottery tickets.
Recently, I started dating a guy who is soooo not “my type”—a multi-linguistic, advanced-degree earning, career-oriented man who knows a wine bar from cork to glass. Though he doesn’t have a basketball physique, he’s got a bicyclist’s thighs and legs that make my head turn even more. He’s also taller than me—Syrtash said it’s OK to have one or two non-negotiable superficial needs. Talking to him makes me feel more intelligent and attractive.
Though I’m not clamoring to get down the aisle — six days out the week I’m not sure I even want a man — I am sure that I’m going to stop my insanity and make conscious dating choices that keep me out of type purgatory and in the arms of guys who really deserve me.