Two fans of the blog asked themselves “How would Bartholomew M. Quint answer that question?”
Here is the result.
Over the past few weeks, I had more than one conversation steered towards having a list of dating criteria. I was surprised to discover that most of the people around me have a list of dating criteria. When they asked me what mine were, I came up with values, rather than a list of things I like and dislike. According to them this is vague and describes anyone… and to be honest in the past I have made absolutely horrendous dating decisions and ended up in an abusive relationship, another one that ended with my partner leaving me for my best friend, and one resulting in a long legal battle so I can see my son that is not yet over. I find having a list sounds petty, but is it really something people should have? If so, more importantly, what should be in this list? How do you make such a list?
Looking for Love
[Slowly draws nails down a chalkboard]
You-all don’t know me. Name’s Sea Captain Awkward, here t’give advice. Matters of the heart ain’t easy, but Cap’n Awkward saw fit to let me try.
Scars. Scars are rough. We all have ’em, but lawyers, abuse, bein’ left for a best friend, not bein’ able to see your son, those scars are worse’n most. Those’ll do a number on you. Those’ll get you to where you don’t even want to get back on the water again. Takes a brave soul to go back out after bein’ hurt like that.
Sounds to me like you’re pretty brave yourself, and you’re interested in not gettin’ hurt again. Sounds like your friends are interested in not lettin’ you get hurt too– a lot more interested than the water is. The sea’ll throw you around all damn day and night without your say-so. But friends who stick by you when you’re turnin’ green and bein’ sick over the railing, those are friends worth listenin’ to. Could be they’re seein’ somethin’ you don’t notice when you’re pukin’ up a week’s worth of whiskey and rations.
The thing about scars is, when you look at ’em, you remember what bit you. But after they stop hurting, they remind you how not to get bit again. When it’s a lot to remember, what you do is make lists.
So, lists. You’ve seen your friends’ lists. Maybe their lists are shallow; doesn’t matter. They can be shallow as a tide pool if that’s what makes ‘em happy. The list that matters to you is the one you make yourself. It’s as shallow or as deep as you make it. If you want your list deep, you make it deep, and you make it yours.
What goes on a list? It’s easy havin’ things in common. Politics. Music. Movies. Whether sushi should be dinner or bait. But a list of their values … that’s not your list. That’s theirs. That’s a list of what’s important to them, not you. Your list, it should be about you.
Could be your list looks th’way it does because you think if someone has the right things in common with ya, they won’t hurt you. It’s hard t’think someone who likes what you like could see you hurt. But I tell you, they can. Used to be there was this girl I’d see pretty regular. Of a Friday we’d get drunk an’ cue up Netflix. I thought anybody who’d yell as loud as me at the sharks on “Blue Planet” couldn’t help but do right by me. Boy, was I wrong.
People who’ll hurt you, that’s somethin’ too big to see all at once. Dangerous people are like bad storms: little things tip you off. You see the little things a long time before you see anything big on the horizon. Clouds. Birds flyin’ low. The smell on the air. Twinge in the leg where the thresher got ya. See a whole lotta them, you know something’s comin’ won’t do anybody good.
People do little things. Make you feel guilty over things that aren’t important. Lie about things they don’t have to. Move too fast, try to dazzle you, set the hook quick so you don’t have time to think things over before they’re already reelin’ you in. Get mad when they’re scared, try to hurt you first before you hurt them. Try to cut you off and make you doubt yourself. Don’t listen when you’re mad or scared.
Every ship gets caught in a storm now and again. There’s no blame in that. Abuse. Betrayal. You can control a bad relationship about as well as you can control the weather. All you can do is get in out of it. Now that you’ve been at sea a bit you can start to see a sea change for what it is, and you’ll know what to do.
Abalone, they live twenty, thirty feet deep. It’s dark down there. Murky. No scuba tanks, you have to free dive. Down there it’s just you and a knife and your own breath. The water distorts your vision and your sense of scale, can’t tell how big or how far away things are. The divers, they each have an abalone gauge. Looks like a ruler with a point on each end, measures seven inches between the points, tells you what abalone are big enough to take. You get caught with one too small, that’s a thousand bucks right there. You find an abalone, you check it with the caliper. It’s big enough, you take it. It’s not, you leave it alone.
That list you’re making, that’s your caliper.
When you’re all caught up in the romancin’ someone new, it’s hard to get their measure. So, you whip out your list. Does this sailor meet your minimum standards? Does he treat you the way you want to be treated? If not, leave the puny bastard where he is. You know what they say: There are plenty of fish in the sea. We’ve just got to learn which ones are sharks.
If you have a question for Sea Captain Awkward, please place “Sea Captain Awkward” somewhere prominently in the subject line of your email and I’ll get it into the right hands.