“He’s the ONE!” Emily screamed into the phone. I held the phone away from my ear as she continued shrieking about Travis’ outer and inner beauty, stumbling through my thoughts for a supportive response. But I couldn’t come up with one. I had been here with Emily before. And I already knew where it was going to end. In my mind, I was selecting the bottles of wine we’d share while not watching specific episodes of Sex and the City, as she complained about Travis totally misrepresenting himself.
Emily had told me plenty of times the qualities she was looking for in her future husband: financially stable, ambitious and family oriented. Those were her deal breakers. She called it her “DB list” – aka her “Don’t Bullshit” list. “So, how did you find out Travis meets your DB list?” I asked. “He’s a Doctor!” she replied enthusiastically. “A DOCTOR!” she exclaimed again! I waited, silently. “And he has 2 sisters, twins, who live only 30 minutes away!” I still waited. “Isn’t that great?! A financially sound, ambitious, guy with a great family! Finally!” “Yup,” I responded, as I mentally added another bottle of wine to my “console Emily” list.
Cut to two months later. Sex and the City was playing in the background and 2 empty wine bottles were sitting on the coffee table in front of us. “I can’t believe he lied to me!” she sobbed, tears causing the mascara to stream down her cheeks. I just nodded and opened the third bottle. I didn’t have the heart to tell Emily that Travis hadn’t lied. Emily had just asked the wrong questions.
Society views being “single” as a problem. Finding your partner is the solution to that problem. So, how do you arrive at the solution? You trouble shoot. Our initial interactions with a potential partner are nothing more than “trouble shooting.” A process of elimination. But, for that process to be successful you have to ask the right questions. Emily wanted a financially stable man. So she asked Travis what he did and, when he responded that he was a doctor, she assumed she had the answer she sought. What she didn’t know, was that Travis had a gambling problem. And an addiction to strippers. And $300,000.00 in debt. Emily wanted a genuine family man. So she asked Travis if he had siblings and where they lived and if he saw them often and, when he said he had 2 sisters who lived 30 minutes away, she assumed that he was close to his family. What she didn’t know, was that Travis hadn’t spoken to his sisters in over 10 years and had stolen money from one of them to fund said gambling and stripper addictions. He hated kids and he thought marriage was cliché.
Northern Virginia Magazine’s Little Red Book Blog recently interviewed me about dating trends in the Metro DC area. I polled the members of Singles in the Suburbs prior to the interview and almost every member, male and female, responded the same way. Dating in DC is like a job interview, only, the interviewer is asking questions that ensure they won’t find the meaningful connection they seek. Questions like “What’s your job?” “How much money do you make?” “Do you own your own home?” “What kind of car do you drive?”
Going on 35 “first dates” in 35 consecutive days, I’ve learned to expect the unexpected. Especially when it comes to the questions that I’ll be asked. As I sat across the table from Billy at Busboys and Poets on 5th and K in DC on Friday night, I braced myself for the “interview” that I knew would follow. Where I lived. How much I made. Where I worked. What was wrong with me that I had to go on 35 dates in 35 consecutive days. So I was pleasantly surprised when Billy asked “What do you like to do for fun?” The conversation that stemmed from that simple, yet refreshing, question was stimulating and informative. I discovered that Billy had just earned his Green Belt (he’s disciplined). He had recently performed stand-up comedy, for the first time, to a receptive crowd (he appreciates humor). He loved improv (he’s a spontaneous thinker) and he came on the 35 dates night because it never hurt to meet a new person and he’s up for anything (he’s open to adventure). That information enabled me to ask more specific questions that helped me learn about his spiritual beliefs, his morals, the quality of his relationships with friends and family and his attitudes on many topics, his past relationships and his goals. Simply put, I was able to learn about Billy’s character. And learning about a person’s character is a more helpful diagnostic tool for trouble shooting your “single problem” than learning how much money they make or what they drive.
Two hours later, Billy and I exited the cafe and went outside where we proceeded to talk for another 30 minutes. The quality of the conversation was great. As a mathematician, Billy’s insight and analysis on issues is insightful. In fact, he’s the one that broached the topic of people asking the wrong questions and arriving at the wrong solutions, always acting surprised that they reached the same, failed, result – which led to the blog that you are reading today.
Billy said it best, “You know where you are and you know where you want to be. So how do you get from point A to point B? You need to be careful that the data you analyze is the data that will help you arrive at the solution. And it won’t ever be a straight line that connects the dots. And it won’t ever be easy to see the connection on paper. You have to stop, do your research, analyze, interpret, conceptualize and apply the data. It involves your mind. It won’t be black and white. If you rush this process, you have to be prepared that you could be wrong and that you won’t come up with the right solution. In which case, you have to be prepared to start all over again.”