Types can get a bad rap. To some they imply narrowness. Rigidity. Superficiality. Overlooking a person for who they are on the inside and paying attention, instead, to only the outer wrapping.
After many years of dating though, I’ve come to believe that types can be a positive thing. I personally find it a breath of fresh air when someone knows who they are, what they want, what will work for them and what won’t.
My type includes qualities like emotional intelligence, self-awareness, softness and introspection. Femininity and down-to-earth energy are also very attractive to me. I was never part of Shane’s legion of starry-eyed followers when watching The L Word. The sweet, understated chef Laura interested me far more.
When I started my dating journey at 18, I didn’t know any of this. It was more of a free-for-all, with my newly uncaged baby gay heart open to anything and everything.
I remember collecting quite the smorgasbord of women on my Downelink profile (a Myspace-like dating site for LGBTQ people popular back in 2008). They ran the gamut across political orientations, aesthetic and gender presentations, and emotional intelligence levels.
That person’s cute, that person looks interesting. Throw it all in; my dating life is an exciting pot of gumbo, was largely my mentality at the time.
As I get older I’ve become more specific in what qualities I’m looking for. My “type” has narrowed. And this has brought greater clarity.
I’ve realized that with a type there’s less likelihood of stringing someone along or turning your dating journey into a guinea pig farm. I’ve come to find that when less clear in what I wanted, I hurt or at the very least confused more people.
When I think about the times I let a relationship go on for too long, or dated someone I didn’t feel that attracted to, they always resulted in hurt feelings. In reverse, too often I’ve felt like a lab rat off to the side of the path on another (questioning) woman’s journey.
To employ a buffet metaphor here, back in the day it was like I’d take a bite of the filet mignonette, then return it to the table.
Now I know right away I don’t like filet mignon, so I don’t even bother with it. I don’t waste its time. I leave it right where it is so that someone who’s certain in their taste for it can have access.
Types can also lighten the overwhelm created by that oft-cited paradox of choice phenomenon coined by Alan Schwartz. In Schwartz’ study, grocery shoppers came across two tasting booths that had either six or 24 flavors of jam. He found that although shoppers were 50% likelier to stop at the tasting booth with the larger array of jams than at the booth with the smaller array, they were 10 times likelier to purchase one of the jams from the smaller array than to purchase a jam from the larger array.”
“Scarcity forced us to consider each option more thoughtfully,” was how an older lesbian Lyft passenger I once drove referred to dating back in a time of reduced options.
There are caveats to this, “especially if things haven’t been working out for you by dating the same kinds of people over and over,” as one author on Bustle wrote. “At that point, we might want to consider that what we thought we always wanted may be dead wrong.” https://www.bustle.com/articles/151112-9-relationship-experts-talk-about-dating-your-type
And as author Olivia Petter put it, “It’s good to know what you’re looking for. It will help you to separate the meat from the fat, so to speak. The issue comes when clinging on too tightly to your ‘type’ — and refusing to stray from it — means you might be missing out on other people better suited to you.”
It’s also true that having a type can result in staying single for a greater amount of time. Yet I think of it as looking for a parking spot in a busy but coveted neighborhood. You set out knowing in advance you’ll be circling for hours — and you’re okay with that. You know you want a spot close to the restaurant, and you’re willing to circle for 10, 20, 30 or however many minutes it takes to find one.
You go in aware of what you want, far more like a cartographer than a gambler — guided by your heart, mind, and inner knowing.
Some people genuinely don’t have a type, and that’s completely valid (arguably, perhaps even more Zen, in some cases, than having an overly specific one). They like a lot of different people. Their palette for attraction is vast and extends widely.
It’s also valid to not know exactly what you want; (I think it’s just good to be upfront about this with whomever you’re dating though, rather than act as if you’re on the same page).
No one belongs in a box — but for those of us who’ve had years of experience and now genuinely want an authentic and enduring relationship thats meets our core needs, then a flexible type and rough template can make for an important and helpful road map to prevent hurt and confusion on all sides.
Type or no type, clarity and honesty are the air purifiers inside the at times dark and danky halls of the modern dating app climate.
I don’t want to waste my time or anybody else’s. Nor do I want to hurt myself or another person. And clearer focus helps ensure that I don’t. A narrowing of options lends itself to a wise investment of time.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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