An unfiltered fire hose of flaming condemnation

Having dated walking red flags

My friend, Maggie, recently had a book published. It’s called No One Cares What You Had for Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blog, and it’s filled with suggestions (oddly, 100 of them) of things you could write a blog post about. I thought that a good way to celebrate her success with this publication would be the practical application of one of her ideas. So after reading the book — a quick 122 pages that read exactly how Maggie speaks in person, as charmingly as humorously as if describing something unpleasant (maybe bone spurs, or four-hour erections?) as judiciously as possible to the President of the United States — I went back and picked a suggestion that I hadn’t ever used before. Today’s blog post is written in response to Maggie’s Idea Number 32: Break It Off.

“What are your relationship deal breakers? Some folks are annoyed if a date shows up ten minutes late. Others look for something weightier, like a felony record. Have you ever rejected someone over something that seems insignificant to your friends? Or do you have selective blindness for red flags?”

Only because this suddenly made me remember a certain guy who said to me on our second date, “You mean, you like elephants, too? I THINK THIS IS WHAT THEY CALL DESTINY!”

I don’t even remember his name, not a single letter of it, but I remember telling him upfront that I did not want any part of a long-term relationship. His response was along the lines of, but I already called my mother in New Jersey! And she’s knitting you a sweater! I went on a third date because he was a nice a guy, and I didn’t think it was fair to tell him that I didn’t want to marry him over the phone, although looking back now that is exactly what I should have done because he was so upset he wrapped his arms around my neck like a giant spider that wanted to eat my face off. For those of you who don’t know, that is not the most successful way to say to a woman, hey, wait, aren’t you being a little hasty?

I also dated a guy who said he couldn’t bring himself to sleep with women who had big butts. I didn’t take that stipulation very seriously because an ass is not a physical characteristic that I will ever possess, much like boobs or manageable hair. It wasn’t until I realized that his aversion to butts was just Chapter One in his memoir The Innumerable Ways I am Out of My Fucking Mind, and by Chapter Four: I Cannot Bring Myself to Sleep With Women Who Have Vaginas, I knew that I had stumbled into the wrong section of the library, if you know what I’m saying.

There was the guy who was perfect in many ways, loved the right music, voted for the right person, said the most wonderful things when I most needed to hear them, and (and!) he was an amazing kisser. It was just all the stuff that happened after the kissing that made the relationship more and more difficult to rationalize, and here is where I experience a lot of hand-wringing for all my Mormon girlfriends who got married without ever having slept with their men. It’s admirable, very admirable to enter into the covenant of marriage as a virgin, but what if smack dab in the middle of that first-night passion he starts quoting Al Pacino in Scarface? Or starts yodeling? Or says, “Do you mind if I turn on some Yanni?” IT COULD TOTALLY HAPPEN. This is indispensable research you have to conduct, or else you’re going to spend the rest of your life faking headaches.

And finally, the very good-looking blonde, athletic type who could fix things. He was the first guy I ever dated who could change a tire, and he was always offering to take care of the broken things around my apartment. When that sort of expertise comes into your life it feels like you’re seeing a blue sky for the first time. Like, you mean I don’t have to live with a shower door that won’t close? I HAVE NEVER KNOWN SUCH BEAUTY. But then I had to go and ruin everything by asking him to open his mouth and form a complete sentence, by asking the very difficult, complex question of what he thought about homosexuality. He shrugged and said, “Homosexuals are stupid.” Which, let’s give him credit, is as educated and informed of an opinion as that of an eight-year-old in a coma.

What are your deal breakers?

  • Honestly, probably my mother approving of them. Yeah, I know, it’s really sad.

    Other dealbreakers:
    right wing
    religious nutter (of any stripe)
    patronising to women
    doesn’t like my art
    doesn’t like my kid
    overly needy (can cope with a little bit now and again but not all the damn time)

    Fortunately I’m in a long term relationship so I’m no longer in the market, which is clearly just as well as I’m obviously fairly picky.

  • flyingbetta

    guys who don’t pay child support for their children, guys who can’t talk without cursing every other word, guys who talk during movies, guys who don’t have a tight circle of friends who are actually really cool, guys who can’t spell or speak properly, guys who have sweaty hand shakes, guys who can’t speak up for themselves or on my behalf, guys who can’t put an ikea coffeetable together, guys who can’t manage their bills, guys who get so drunk that they pee in their bed, (seriously) bad teeth, hideous laugh, guys who turn red with a little sun or a glass of wine. among others.

  • #293 reminds me of another rule. Clearly I have all these red flags internalized, so when it comes time to make a list, I can’t think of them.

    One of the first things I told my boyfriend when we were talking about “going steady” (or whatever the kids call it these days): I will not tolerate public spitting.

  • Daphne

    I once dated a guy who seemed really great… until I ‘tested out the merchandise’. Henceforth, he was never again referred to by his first name within my circle of friends, but simply as “Bad in Bed.”

    Why, WHY are you flopping around like a dead fish? Why are your arms under my neck, yanking my head upward? WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO DO, because you’re *not* accomplishing it!!

    I found a great reason to end my relationship with Bad in Bed – I told him I was planning on moving to Korea – which I was not.

    I agree with you 100% Heather, you need to take a testdrive before you buy. What if I had been stuck with Bad in Bed forever?

  • Kathryn

    considering that I am hopelessely in love with someone who fits the top 3 of my “don’t ever date” list, not quite divorced, teenaged kids, lawyer, (oh and we used to work together …)

    that said, bad manners


  • Mab

    bad teeth, baldness???

    Some people are incredibly shallow. Me, it’s always personality – Momma’s boys, those that can’t stand to get their hands dirty, whiny, needy.

    My husband has bad teeth. He’s going bald. He’s shorter than me – and he’s smarter, and more fun and more interesting than any man I’ve ever met in life. If I had a problem with bad teeth, I’d miss out on a great marriage.

  • vinny1977

    my deal breakers:
    man jewelry
    bad teeth
    dirty clothes
    ragged-ass shoes
    no job
    no amibition in life
    country music fan
    unable to hold an intelligent conversation
    corvette owners
    myspace users, if you’re over 28
    financially irresponsible
    bad grammar

  • Natalie

    Oh gosh, and I forgot the second biggest one:
    * Being a religious freak. I don’t do god. I don’t mind any of my friends or aquaintances being religious, but if I’m going to live with you I’m at least going to have to agree with you on that fact or there’s going to be a whole lot of arguing and loss of respect.

  • Oh, and cheaters. That one should have been first.

  • Red flags? I’m confident I have dated more than the lion’s share. In fact, I think in the 31 years I have consumed oxygen, that is all I have dated…red flags.

    I’ll have to give some thought to this and get back to you. Considering I am in the same Mormon boat as Dooce, I suspect our answers may be similar.

  • Natalie

    Wow. Now there are some crazy ones.

    I learned the hard way. After the fact, I decided that this was a dealbreaker: Lie to me. And then, when confronted, call me controlling and neurotic. (However at that point I was so invested in the relationship I tried to make it work. Ha.)

    Other ones that I just couldn’t handle:
    * Guys who don’t like dogs. I told my current husband straight-up when we started dating: If you ever make me choose between the dog and you, you will lose.
    * Smokers. Although, my husband will smoke a cigar once or twice a year at parties, and I let that one slide. While bitching about it.
    * I would have to agree with all those who cited gold chains. Gold chains, open shirts, and a big ego are all major turn-offs.
    * And immaturity. I don’t mind acting playful and silly. But he has to have some idea of where his life is going and how he’s going to get there – and not be content with working at a gas station the rest of his life.

    Luckily, I only dated one guy before my current husband. Unfortunately, he was crazy.

  • susies

    “Oh, and there was one guy I was seeing for a while, and the first time we had sex, as we were getting started he said “Tally Ho!!”

    Not sure if this would have been a deal-breaker for me. I might have wanted to try one more time to see if he repeated the call to the hunt, or if he came up with something different. And hey, did you think it was funny at ALL? Was he trying to be funny or was he rallying the troops, so to speak? I want to think of him being quirky and funny because I’m finding it completely hilarious.

  • otherworldlyglow

    but on second thought, he didn’t have back hair.

    seeing as those previous items were seemingly not enough to keep me away, i think the following might:

    – vegans (i just can’t cook for you)
    – guys whose first question when we talk about where to go to eat is “can i bring my dog?”
    – cat haters
    – spitters

  • My dealbreakers are men who don’t like children or men who say mean things about their mothers, or ex-girlfriends, or any girls anywhere. They have to like girls. And vaginas. Must love vaginas.

  • otherworldlyglow

    apparently, i just march right past all the red flags as the guy who just dumped *me* drives an uninsured car with expired tags, doesn’t have health insurance, can’t get it up, has a felony record, and has a substance abuse problem that would make robert downey jr (dreamy!) look like a alter boy. yay me!

  • Oh, and I don’t like guys who wear Cole Haans. Or guys who don’t make eye contact.

    Or dipping. No Copenhaagen or Skoal for me.

  • – Anyone who defines themselves by their hatred of someone or something else

    – men who treat their mothers with a complete lack of respect, even if they insist they’re joking (learned this the hard way with the ex-husband)

    – back hair

    – conservatives, whether religious or political. Especially the ones who insist that they have an inalienable right to decide how everyone else gets to live their life

    – a man convicted of a violent crime

    – men who order my food for me, tell me I’m working too hard, and have an instant “solution” for everything in my life. I’m not broken, I don’t need them to fix me.

    – men who tell racist jokes, use the “N” word, and make homophobic remarks.

    – men who get the use of “I” and “Me” backwards on a regular basis. I know, that one is shallow. But it grates.

  • Omg. I’m laughing so hard at this.

    I swore – SWORE – I’d never marry a man with an ass smaller than mine.

    Lo and behold, my husband’s ass is half a size smaller than mine. At least I can borrow his shorts on my skinny days.

    Dealbreakers in other relationships:
    If you so much as rush to answer your cell phone while we’re mid-sentence during a conversation, don’t even ask me why I got up, walked away and haven’t called you since.

    I HATE CELL PHONES. People are flucking rude. Rushing to answer them, as if the ‘missed call’ feature couldn’t be checked later.

    Sorry Heather, but that is a huge dealbreaker for me. I can’t abide social idiots who think technology is more important that human relationships. As far as I’m concerned, they can go suck, fluck, and eat with their gadgets if they don’t have enough sense to ‘be real’ or in the moment.

    Rant over.
    (smooths hair back. okay, I’m a little stressed at the moment. Moving continents is not fun and I’ll be glad when it’s over and done with)

  • How could I forget no sense of humour? Or the wrong kind? (I’m twisted and Monty Python rules all – deal with it)

  • DottyDi

    White pants.

  • Thanks, fiddlehendrix – I was getting depressed about my back hair after reading the first 100 or so comments, and thinking “I’ll be alone forever”. I’m already overly self-conscious about it (and have waxed it for GFs). Trust me, I make up for it in other ways (the first of which is that I come by my nickname honestly).

    One of the hot women at work, who is my own age and seemed fun, when I was telling her about one of many great concerts I had been to this year, said “I don’t go to concerts.” Buh-bye. Not that we were going out, or going to go out, but my interest (and her hotness) took a definite nose-dive.

    Unwarranted selfishness. It’s OK to put yourself first in a lot – if not most – situations, but come on. The world does not revolve around you.

    Lack of hygiene down there. See end of first paragraph above. Certain things require nose-breathing, which makes unpleasant aromas ten times more unpleasant.

    Cheapskates, be it tipping or what have you. Budget-conscious is good, economical OK, but not tipping AT ALL on two drinks because “I like to keep my money.”? See ya.

    Lack of knowledge of the “outside world”, AKA current events or the news, because “it’s boring”. How’s life in your cave?

    I’ve made many compromises in the past because I liked other aspects of someone’s personality, and it always ALWAYS came back to bite me in the ass.

  • June

    Dealbreakers –

    a) Let’s see, there was the guy who planned our future together without consulting me first…

    b) And there was the guy who let me know his career and his hobbies were more important than spending time with me…

    c) I’ve always been very leery of men (white, usually) with Asian fetishes (I call it “yellow fever”). Someone once told me that it’s no worse than preferring redheads, but when you walk into a white guy’s place and see bonsai plants everywhere and calligraphy scrolls on the wall, and he enthusiastically says that he wishes he was Japanese because they have such a fascinating culture and beautiful women… Gah! I can’t get out of there fast enough.

  • Laura

    I had a massive list and married a guy who, according to that list, had to be perfect. We are now divorced.

    I’m now married for years to someone who probably ticks 5 of the 10 boxes. Best relationship I ever had.

  • TexChic

    My dealbreakers are:
    Guys who think they’re cowboys or bikers; anyone with bad table manners (chew with your mouth closed, and stop that smacking!), poor hygiene or grammar; telemarketers or spammers; guys with obnoxious or psychotic relatives (including parents); and horndogs who “have to have it” more than once a day.

  • Must be breathing.

    Must find my friends and me delightful and funny.

    Must be willing to carry me around on a little satin pillow.

    Must be comfortable talking about poop.

    Must be tolerant of my messiness.

    Must not be a racist or neo nazi.

    Anything else goes.

  • ktjane

    I have a long list, most of which has all been posted here already, but mainly: CHEATERS.

    I’m just wondering if “exclamation point” deliberately misspelled words like definite & designer because he’s that dumb, or if it was intentional to make you twitch…hmmmm? And if that’s how he feels, why is he reading your blog?!

  • Marz

    I refuse to date anyone who:
    1. .. smokes. (Chimney breath is not pleasant to me.)
    2. .. is impolite on the phone. (i.e. Does not say ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ or show any semblance of courtesy.) based on experience, I noticed how much that gesture is a reflection of their personality.
    3. .. refuses to make the effort to get along with my friends. I put in the effort, and he should try to do the same.
    4. .. thinks that beauty and someone’s race are in any way related. (i.e. “Only Chinese girls are pretty..”, etc. etc.)
    5. .. is tactless.

    Yeah, I guess that’s it.
    Great post!

  • April-Lyn

    After one of my college boyfriends broke up with me, I composed a list that included the following dealbreakers, among others:

    – Must not be a cheating bastard.
    – Must be at least willing to try dancing with me.
    – Must enjoy reading.
    – Must enjoy music.
    – Must not be a cheating bastard (I was really pissed off…)
    – Must have good hygiene.
    – Must know how to call/IM/email.
    – Must not find bare feet gross (I ended up getting married in bare feet. 🙂
    – Must not own a gun (this became a bit dicey when my now husband was in the army, but I decided it was okay since he didn’t actually *own* any guns)

    Since then, I would also add passive-agreesiveness, narcissism, lack of respect/compassion for me (like, always blaming me for our fights), and lack of self-confidence to the list.

    Also, must be a gamer. (Of the geeky sort, not the gambling sort.) Unlike one commenter, I like the black trenchcoats. Own one of my own, in fact. 😀

    On a related note: earlier this week I was out for dinner with my husband, and on the drive there we passed one of my ex’s walking in the same direction we were going. I prayed that we wouldn’t run into him, because explaining how I’m married now (only about two years after we broke up) and introducing him to my husband might have been more than a bit unpleasant. Fortunately we missed him, but we DID manage to run into my most recent ex, along with several of his girlfriends. Fortunately, he and I successfully ignored one another and we passed without incident. Talk about bad luck, though!

  • carynski

    He has to be able to spell. If he spells “a lot” as “alot” and can’t tell the difference between ‘there’, ‘their’ and ‘they’re’, it’s over.

    Not blowing his nose? That’s annoying but tolerable. Horking back his phlegm on a regular basis (even just once) is a crime and he should be slapped with something blunt.

    Hygiene is incredibly important too. Showering, using deodorant and a toothbrush and most importantly: WASH YOUR HANDS. ESPECIALLY before you touch food (mine, yours or anyone else’s) and MORE ESPECIALLY before you even DREAM of putting your hands anywhere that only my boyfriend and my gyno will ever see.

    I’m not high maintenance though. Pfffft.

  • Renee

    Off limits to date: Smokers and addicts of other sorts, and starving artists of all stripes (sorry, I’m a practical girl).

    I once stopped dating a guy because he wouldn’t stop flipping the channels on the goddamn radio and it was driving me fucking nuts. And he badmouthed my best friend, which any guy should realize is treading on thin ice

  • tbrannies

    Guys who wear a hat all the time to try and hide the fact that they’re balding. Just admit it to yourself and find a nice hairstyle that works.

    And game players. Hate em! If you wanna f*ck, just tell me. Don’t play me with lines like “I’ve never met anyone like you”. Some single women actually like sex too and sometimes we don’t want an attachment either. So, and here’s a novel concept, try being a little bit honest. It’s when you play the lines that you get a bad rep.

  • Momma

    I broke up with a douche in college cause he had gnarly feet and always wore Birk’s even in the winter. He sang old country songs when he was drunk and would play music instead of speaking on my voicemail. Yeah. He had to go.

    I broke up with somone recently when he said, “you remind me of a younger version of my mother”.

    I could never date anyone who drove a low-rider or suped up street car.

  • I would never date a musician especially a drummer and I can’t tell you how many times I was asked out by a drummer. If I found out he was a musician – I was outta there.

    And then a few weeks ago I up and married a musician and yes you can guess it – he’s a drummer. I guess my deal breaker was a broken … 🙂

  • Thought they would be deal-breakers:
    – Beards
    – Can’t write a logical sentence to save his life
    – Doesn’t get my jokes

    My boyfriend is all of the above and I love ‘im! It turns out there’s all kinds of good stuff to make up for what I thought I wouldn’t like (and the stuff I thought I wouldn’t like is all pretty endearing too).

  • Joe Romano

    Struck a nerve here did we Heather?

  • whisper_lover

    I won’t date anyone who:

    1. …can’t spell or type coherently.

    2. …is an online/console gamer.

    3. …is obsessive about cleanliness to the point that a well-made bed or crisply ironed shirt gives him a hard-on.

    I broke up with my last boyfriend because he decided he was a woman inside… her name change went through this week, she’s on HRT, and she’ll probably have her surgery in the next two years. We’re still friends, but I realized when he came out to me that I can never date someone who doesn’t want to keep their penis. Same thing goes for someone who doesn’t want to use their penis *with* me. As often as possible (after the long, eye-gazing conversations, of course).

  • Okay so I am so excited that your friend wrote that book, because I swear JUST today I was saying to my friend that I wished there were a book out there with ideas for blog entries. This is awesome! I am so buying her book.

    Dealbreakers – I agree w/ the Nascar comment. Also, body odor. I once dated a guy who constantly smelled like Philly cheese steaks and Old Spice, which, apart from one another, are okay, but together? Not so good. Also, if they shave their entire body – bad sign. Once dated a guy who shaved EVERYthing, and that was just a tad disconcerting. Conversely, too much hair is bad. Especially in random patches. (Shudders)

  • Drinks budlight or similar crappy cheap beer.
    Talks too loud all the time.
    Can’t move on from the past.

  • kristin

    Stacy, I think we might be talking about the same man.

  • jeffeners

    Velcro shoes.

    Stupid hats (pretty much anything other than a baseball cap or stocking cap in winter).

    Anything NASCAR on his vehicle or his body.


    Thinking it’s acceptable to intentionally burp/fart in front of anyone.


  • Deal Breakers:

    Drug/Substance Abuse
    Doesn’t know how to cook, clean, sew, grocery shop (if he can’t take care of himself, how can he take care of me if I need it?)
    Lack of morality
    Lack of personal hygiene
    Doesn’t take charge of his own destiny

    That about covers it!

  • Deal Breaker for him: I told him I was divorced.

    Deal Breaker for me: He told me women couldn’t do certain physically demanding jobs. I told him what I did for a living. I was a grocery store butcher at the time. He never called again.

  • Kath :-)

    Just 4 things on my list of ‘NO WAY IN HELL”…

    #1-No Druggies
    #2-No Smokers
    #3-No Felons
    #4-No Kids (that either live with them or with their ex)

  • Apparently in the past I didn’t have any deal breakers, that is why I had a string of not so good men. I married one, had two of his children, divorced him, reuninted with him to have another child, only to finally leave him forever behind earlier this summer. Now I spend a part of every day deciding what my deal breakers are going to be.

  • Stacy

    Unmanly Men:
    – body hairless
    – drinks wine but not beer
    – let’s me get the tab on the first date
    – has smoother hands than me
    – is prettier than all my girlfriends
    – lets me hold the door

  • Matt

    Deal breaker? Intolerant liberals.

    What’s up with all of Repulican hating? I absolutely love this blog and usually the comments too. Now I’m starting to wonder if I have some sort of bipolar disorder since I’m a Republican as well.

  • victoria

    Voting Republican.

  • Daugher In Law

    Guys that assume you want to spend the entire holiday with their family.

  • YES! The cell phone! And for the love of all that is holy, stop TEXTING people! We are talking/ eating/ kissing/ whatever.

  • I went on a date with this one guy who I had a huge crush on in college. Huge. Like in the Jordan Catelano sense of a crush. We finally went out five years later. Once. During the date he proceesed to show me his boner in a cab and say “Look what you do to me” and before the cab ride was over he started reciting Jim Morrison’s “An American Prayer” and when finished asked me if he could put me in handcuffs. My crush abruptly ended. I had another first date where the guy asked me, during getting to know you cht chat, if I liked fisting. I did not see him again.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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