I am pathetic for reasons too numerous to count, so for the moment, let’s focus on just one: I watch a stupid amount of daytime TV. So that means I’m well-schooled in various bits of contemporary pop psychology, like this little gem care of Dr. Phil: For a relationship to work in the long term, you must be aligned with your partner on three key issues: Communication, sex and money. That’s what’ll keep you together according to Dr. Phil. But what about what draws you together according to me and my cursory knowledge of pop psychology? Is it the stuff of long-term commitments? Or something else? A lit match with a fuse that’ll blow in, say, under two years? I’m talking the stuff that makes you, when you meet him, be like, Oh. Em. Gee. You and me 4 eva, boy. But then six months or two years later, you’re like, “Wait. Remind me how you wound up as my boyfriend? Oh, right. I liked that we both liked that Kite Runner book.” Let’s call them weak foundations, shall we? Our shaky rationales. So before you forsake all those fish in the sea, before you accept a diamond or preemptively move in together, before you run your mouth about how this time, really!, it’s different, make sure your relationship is founded on none of the things listed below. Any number of them can, of course, be one of the many reasons you’re together. But please. I beg you. Don’t let any single one of them be the reason you’re together.
1. You like what’s on his bookshelf. It’s nice to like the same books, but this is not the stuff that dreams are made of. Know how many people liked The Kite Runner? The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo? The Lovely Bones? So many that these books were made into major motion pictures. So, um, like, millions. If you happen to stumble upon any number of them, by all means join their book clubs. Perhaps even go on a date. What you shouldn’t do, though, is cling to your shared affection of a bestseller as the reason to stay together. It’s like dating a guy because he likes chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream as much as you do. Which brings me to …
2. He’s got good taste in restaurants. I’ve had a number of conversations wherein I ask a friend, “So how’s the new guy?” and she answers, “Hello? Amazing! He’s got great taste in restaurants!” All I’ll say is that if I had a penny for every time I’ve heard it, I could purchase a Zagat Guide, and give it to the next friend who says it, so she could cultivate some restaurant know-how of her own. This way, his restaurant know-how wouldn’t strike her as such a hot commodity.
3. He’s handy. This is a great quality, I know. I once stayed with a guy for six months because he’d mounted sconces in my bedroom. In the moment of the mounted sconce, you do feel very, very cared for. You’re like, “I feel safe around him. He can tend to things.” Really, though, it’s just that your sconces look nice.
4. You both like to travel. Everyone loves to travel. It doesn’t mean you’re soul mates. It means you share the unique quality of liking to go on vacation.
5. You both like music. Everyone loves music. It doesn’t mean you’re soul mates. It means you share the unique quality of liking to listen to music.
6. You both like Christopher Guest movies. Duh. ‘Cause they’re awesome. All it means is that you and whomever else shares in this affection are, broadly speaking – and keeping in mind that humanity’s divided into two distinct groups, the Awesome and Un-Awesome – both categorically Awesome. CONGRATULATIONS! Do bear in mind, though, that being so keeps you in company with, ballpark, 3.5 billion others.
7. He’s friends with your friend. Sadly, the transitive property does not apply in this instance. It’d be awesome if it did, but alas: My friend Jenny’s friend Jon has the conversational skills of a microscopic dust particle. Which is just an opinion, of course. Jenny, for her part, swears Jon’s “brilliant” and “darkly contemplative.” She says potato, I say pretentious. Friends of friends work out mostly in the movies, is my point. In real life, however, they tend to be evidence of said friends’ faulty taste. (This calls you into question too, of course.)
8. You support the same sports team. No. Off-season’s a thing. Don’t risk it.
9. He thinks EVERYTHING about you is amazing. Seductive, I know. But bad for the long haul. You want someone who thinks you’re amazing in general, yes. Unconditional love and all that. It’s just, if his general mode of operation where you’re concerned is that you can do know wrong, you’re pretty much guaranteed to wind up doing wrong. A lot.
10. You’re impressed with his career. This is most important, to be sure: That you like and respect what he does. But if it’s the thing … I don’t know. I’d be wary. Over the course of a lifetime, you just don’t spend that much time watching the person at work, you know? And besides, some of the most self-absorbed, humorless people I’ve ever met do the most noble of jobs: I’ve met life-saving trauma surgeons or Peace Corps peeps or Teach For America types, all of whom are real A-holes. And conversely, one of the sweetest guys I know is a lawyer who defends this quasi-homicidal radiator production company. Point is: What someone does and how you think of it is a big thing. But it can’t be the thing.
Now: Go forth, my children. Find a man, make him your boyfriend, base the whole relationship on something healthy and important. Like looks.