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When a man declines to date a woman who’s less than perfect, he'll offer up excuses that border on the preposterous.

(originally published  July 4, 2002 in the Jewish Journal)

"TO MARRY A SECOND TIME,” wrote Samuel Johnson, “represents the triumph of hope over experience.” Experience will struggle valiantly to spare us a repeat offense. But it’s no contest. Two-timing is more attractive than first-timing; you can’t keep a good ex down.

Consider two women, each 29. Jane has never married; Sue is divorced. Who is more likely to say “I do?” Experts say Sue. Once a gal has walked down the aisle, she’s more likely to give it a whirl. Men, helpless creatures that they are, are even quicker to jump back into the frying pan.

a man sitting in a director's folding chair

a man sitting in a director's folding chair

Ready and willing; it’s a simple recipe. Yet we all know singles who insist they have the ingredients but can’t shake and bake with the current crop of prospects.

Rebecca married and divorced at 30, then spent 18 years being ready and willing before returning for seconds. Between engagements, she declined six proposals—three of them mine. After my best and final offer, she asked me—I’m not kidding—“Why do some people marry and others not?”

I bit my tongue. “People who marry,” I explained, “pop the question and receive a ‘Yes,’ or receive an offer and reply ‘Yes.’ Those who don’t marry don’t pop the question, are turned down, or, when asked, decline. It’s that simple.”

Weeding In the Prospects

Is it? If you’re a guy, yes. A lucky few win the princess of our dreams. Other saps hold out indefinitely, wearing their socks three days straight while collecting invitations addressed “...and guest.” The rest of us swallow hard and broaden our understanding of “good enough”. We stop weeding out; we start weeding in.

Must settling down mean settling? For us imperfect specimens, yes. “Thou shalt not settle” keeps die-hard singles single, argued psychologist Judith Sills in How to Stop Looking for Someone Perfect & Find Someone to Love (1984). A die-hard man will step into a roomful of eligible women and, in a blink, judge that 90 percent don’t make the cut. Instead, wrote Sills, he should see 90 percent as prospects.

We all know “career” bachelors—guys who insist they’re ready and willing—if only the right goddess came along. All they have to show for their “efforts” are more tick marks on their wall and more candles on their cake.

Stupid Male Excuses

Men are drawn to beauty; you knew that. But you didn’t know this: In judging beauty, men suffer tunnel vision. On principle, their standards are narrow—unless she has the face of a Victoria’s Secret model or boobs the size of Texas.

Occasionally I’ll suggest a charming woman’s name to lonely-hearted pals, or shown them her photo. They’ll wince in recognition at the name, or glance at the photo, and, with a sheepish “I don’t think so,” explain why she won’t do.

Their reasons range from the ridiculous to the sub-lame:

  1. Her hair is too curly/short/frizzy/red. Yep, men will turn down a promising date because her dead protein is the wrong texture, length, or hue. This from guys blessed with male pattern baldness.
  2. Her accent/voice/laugh/sneeze makes me barf. “I’m sorry,” confides a New Yawker, “but I can’t marry a girl who drawls.” Hey, guy: The Civil War is over. 

    I can understand balking at a disagreeable voice. Once, in an optician’s office, I overheard a shrill-voiced woman choosing eyeglasses with her husband. I could swear I was eavesdropping on Marge Simpson. “He must really love her,” I thought. When she turned and faced me, I beheld a drop-dead beauty. Suddenly I was listening to a sultry voice-over for Chanel.

    Give Ms. Shrill a chance. When you come to know her, you may come to love her.

    Sandra Bullock’s movie characters snort or guffaw when they laugh. But if you look like Bullock, guys will forgive you even if you laugh like Elmer Fudd.
  3. She’s two years older than I. Secure, are we?
  4. She’s two inches taller than I. Secure, are we?
  5. She’s eight inches shorter. Who’s being small?
  6. She’s damaged goods. A nebbishy roommate declined a date with a two-time divorcée. “Two-time loser,” he explained. She’s unworthy of a no-time loser?
  7. She’s fat. If there’s one trait that single men won’t abide, it’s excess avoirdupois. Even I plead guilty. “It’s not unfair,” we explain; “she can choose to lose.”

If only men could lose their punishing attitude. Sometimes I  challenge my single friends: “Suppose you find only one woman in five attractive enough to marry. I have a pill: Swallow it, and you’ll be attracted to four in five. Squeaky voice, frizzy hair, weight won’t matter. Want it?”

Each turns down my offer flat. “But she’s still fat,” they stammer.

“But you’d no longer care,” I remind them.

“Well, I'm sorry: I do.”

The Heartbreak Kid

No one could decline a prospect as creatively as Lonnie. At 38, Lonnie still lived at home. He yearned to marry, he said. So Lonnie was sent a small parade of bachelorettes. He stamped each “Return to Sender”. Roxanne had hair like Medusa’s. Barb’s voice was mousy. Ellen was damaged goods. And Ruth—a fine specimen now, but look at her mother. 

Lonnie was a “black-hatter,” a strictly religious Jew. He was ill-prepared for a contemporary professional woman, one who might shave her legs while tuning in to Sex in the City. “I don’t understand,” Lonnie once declared, “how a man could marry someone who would kiss him before the wedding.”

“This will come as a shock to you,” I replied, “but most normal women expect to be kissed. At least.”

At a Jewish singles weekend, the host—an Orthodox rabbi—agreed. He was asked, “Did you and the rebbitzin ever hold hands before the wedding?” “At least,” he grinned.

As a rabbinic student in the ’70s, LA talk-show host Dennis Prager was often a guest at a Sabbath dinner. One night young Dennis sat beside an ultra-religious bachelor. This black-hatter was a rare bird: over thirty but still single.

Not shy, Prager asked, “So why haven’t you married?”

“I haven’t met the woman of my dreams,” the man replied.

“And who might she be?” pressed the cocky youth.

“A Playboy bunny who studies Talmud.”

I shouldn’t be too hard on these guys. I was single once—make that twice. In my second singlehood, two names were floated my way. Myrna was too chubby, Helen too plain.

I wonder where they are.

© 2002 Paul Franklin Stregevsky

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