Here’s something I’ve been mulling for a while: Is there such a thing as standards being “too high”? Is this a question whose answer is different for everyone? Like, for me, I’m happy being single for the most part, so yeah, I’m not going to “relax my standards.” But what does that even mean? After all, I wouldn’t even allow Brad Pitt into my apartment, much less onto my Tempur-Pedic. I have been in long-term relationships before, just not in a while. And it’s been suggested to me, by married friends who’ve been with their partners for decades, that my “problem” may be these sky-high standards.
—Not Willing to Lower Expectations
While it’s nice that you’re not completely dismissing your friends’ advice out of hand, the “You’re too picky” trope is right up there with the “You’ll find someone when you stop looking” bullshit that coupled-up people are always trying to pass off as wisdom to their single friends.
One need only peruse the personals to find people with impossibly high standards. Chubby 60-year-olds (masquerading as 40-year-olds) seeking “slim, brilliant, beautiful women, ages 18–28.” Or perfectly fine-looking women in their 30s whose precision demands include someone exactly 2.5 years older who’s never been married, makes over $150k, loves rom-coms and rosé, and is of the same religious order as them. Certainly both these people could luck into love, but they could also win the lottery or grow a tail.
Yet people hook up all the time. Because they’re out there, trying. I don’t believe you have to lower your standards, you just have to make sure you’re realistic. A friend of mine has a theory that when he looks at a woman and gives her a number grade (yes, I guess men actually do this), he then takes a hard look in the mirror and upgrades her accordingly. So to a 25-year-old with a head full of lustrous locks, a woman might be a six. But for an older gentleman with a shortage of hair upstairs, the same woman has now been upgraded into an eight. It’s important to do this, because as vain humans, we tend to think we’re our best selves when looking for a partner: pre–boob droop, hair loss, belly bulge, and/or wrinkles. So we need to be as patient with these “failings” in others as we are with ourselves.
You also have to realize there are trade-offs. If you’re interested only in super-hot athletic types, the chances of that guy also being a Fulbright scholar who spends his weekends feeding the homeless and rescuing kittens are slim. I once tried to help a friend write an online personal only to reach an impasse when her must-haves were that he be over six feet tall and Indian. I reminded her that Indian men aren’t known for great height, so she should decide which of the two qualities she was willing to dump. Yet even though she was a shorty, she insisted he be over six feet, and to please her traditional family, Indian. And yes, she’s still single. Her standards weren’t too high, they were merely ridiculous.
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