Breaking it Down: Dudes, Dreamboards and Dates

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It’s been two years since my friend sat across from me and told me I had to write down everything I wanted in a guy on a piece of paper—down to the stupidest, most insignificant details, as though I was writing a recipe for a batch of cookies made with jellybeans and coffee in the hopes that it would end up tasting good. “Everything,” she said. “Everything.”

She swore by this dreamboard thing, given that it was what she had done right before meeting who was to, just a couple months ago, become her fiancé. Speaks Spanish. Tall. Can build things. It was all on the list and, magically, it materialized in the form of a guy she ran into while on vacation in Mexico in 2012. After a couple years of miserable New York dating, there he was: Mr. Natalie Windham.

The list, of course, isn’t about magic. The list is about staying the course, I suppose, and quitting the crap when it comes to lying to yourself in the form of concessions. It’s okay if he has a kid and still does coke on weekends. It’s okay if he still wants to date other people. He’s like 5’3 and rude to waiters but it’s all good! I CAN LOVE YOU! The list, however, which does not include any of the above characteristics as relationship “must haves,” starts to hold you accountable; it makes concessions obsolete. Because here, you see, in your hot little hand, is an honest list of wants—most of which rarely get marked off during dating’s routine failures.

My list is more a nuts-and-bolts type of selection, starting with “I want someone who wants to hold my hand.”

And so, after two years of (very much continued) failure, I finally broke down this weekend: I made my Dude Dreamboard. I tried to stay away from the catchall “everything” my friend spoke of. At this point, getting into the nitty gritty of what I want in a person in terms of hobbies, ninja abilities, or whether or not they like listening to vintage Spanish guitar on vinyl seems too demanding for an, erm, 30-year-old almost-spinster. My list is more a nuts-and-bolts type of selection, starting with “I want someone who wants to hold my hand.”

Which is incredibly depressing to read.

You’d think that this would be the easiest thing in the world to convince someone to do. People will blindly shove their tongue down your throat, reach into your pants, commit all sorts of seemingly epic intimacies but the one that is really the most intimate is handholding. Because—though I don’t know when this happened or if it was possibly always the case—holding hands means more than a hand job… or a blow job… or having sex on the kitchen counter. Holding hands confirms some sort of public ownership, a willingness to admit that you like another person, a wanting to maintain the most base form of physical contact in between the opportunities to rip each other’s clothes off. You are mine.

While the last four years of my life have been peppered with its fair share of sex, it’s the hand-holding that’s remained the most elusive. Out of however many guys I’ve happened to sleep with over the last four years, I can recall just a few who reached out and grabbed my hand while we walked down the street, not wanting to let go of it, and not wanting to let go of me.

Due to a forceful watering down of expectations over the years, my most egregious concession has been to not expect hand-holding from anyone, to watch with sad acceptance as they walk towards their apartment three steps ahead of me, almost as to avoid the act entirely. I’ve let them get away with it, robbing myself of all I ever wanted. And so it’s staying at #1 on my dreamboard, a physical list that I’ve moved into my wallet so that I can remind myself when I’m sitting across from a boy who won’t hold my hand that he’s not the dream, just a passing mini-nightmare if I allow him to get away with it.

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