Heartbreak brings out different reactions in people. Most retreat into protective modes to shield their hearts from further damage, whether it is self-medicating (drugs, food), jumping into a rebound relationship to stave off the grieving process, or building an emotional wall to protect themselves from being vulnerable to others.
I’ve hid behind my emotional wall for far too long, my bunker nearly impenetrable like Ashton Kutcher’s ego. I’ve pushed potential dates and girlfriends away — sometimes harshly — and wallowed in pity. And while occasional reminders from friends and my brain-box told me to count my blessings for my ex no longer being in my life, the hurt and betrayal festered like an open sore that wouldn’t close.
Then there are those epiphanies that make you stop and examine your situation. Today, I received a lot of kind words and advice from friends for closing that chapter in my life, but one in particular stood out: when thinking of that ex-love, think of those reasons why she wasn’t the woman you wanted to marry and have babies with.
And so I thought about them. And thought about them. And in doing so, I thought about the qualities I am looking for in someone special. And while it seems like a lengthy list, these are core for me for many reasons — the ones that were missing in the one I loved and were missing in the ones I have met since.
1. Someone who is willing to try and appreciate new things
I’m not your average dude, and I don’t fit into the average stereotype of a black dude; my love of different types of music beyond hip-hop and R&B (rock, jazz, classical, offshoots of country), fascination with Japanese culture and quirky, absurd humor would have my “black card” revoked in 49 of 50 states. (Surprisingly, Connecticut is more progressive than I thought.)
Anyway, I like being around and with those that share a need for exploration with the outside world: trying new foods, going new places, listening to new music and sharing new experiences. While people having certain preferences is understandable and human, those that are not willing to open themselves up to foreign things on principle is too close-minded for me. I also know that I need to heed my own advice, what with that emotional wall and all.
2. Someone who is genuinely kind.
You can spot the differences in people who are nice to certain people in certain settings versus those that are gentle people at their core. People have the misguided notion that displaying kindness is a trait of a weak person; that is as far from the truth as a Shaquille O’Neal free-throw attempt, as being able to show diplomacy and empathy for others in the more dire and negative of situations takes more courage than giving into human nature and reacting based on your first reaction.
More than that, someone who is nice only in certain settings and certain audiences is probably not a happy person, insecurities festering in forms of spite, bitterness and uncertainty. Insecurity is human, but some overcome it and get on with life while others let it swallow them whole, dragging close ones in with them. I want that courageous person.
3. Someone I can learn from and learn about
This ties into the first point but from a different perspective. In trying new things, I want to experience their interests, beliefs and mindset, learning how and why they react and respond to things in their life. It’s more than learning pop culture bits (“Okay, so, like, Daisy from Rock of Love Bus got her own VH1 show, and she used to be a stripper.”), why they hate certain people and why one thing is better than another. I’m talking about what delights them, new perspectives on old thoughts, unique views on the world. This takes time, patience and understanding. And I want to be compelled to take that time.
4. Someone that wants to learn from and about me
See above and replicate from the opposite perspective.
5. Someone I have fun with
At first glance, I often come across as a serious, perhaps uptight, guy. I do take certain things seriously, but my friends can testify that I love to laugh and have a good time. Ideally, it would be nice to find someone that has a healthy balance of enjoying life and giving certain situations and thoughts the sincere and sober weight they deserve. Life ain’t a party, but it sure as hell ain’t a slow walk to the grave, either.
6. Someone who is mature
Society is increasingly resisting the qualities that define a mature person. We are constantly questioned about our individual worth as a person and consumer. We are given more and more ways and reasons to not take accountability for our actions. We are taught more and more to value ourselves before others. And all these things wreak havoc on our perception of ourselves, incubating the insecure, individualistic and immature people running amok. If 30 is the new 20, should 20 be the new 10? 15 the new 5? Where does it end?
Anyway, I want someone that is relatively comfortable in their own skin and is responsible for themselves. Again, human foibles prevent anyone from being 100-percent perfect. A passing grade (60-percent last I checked) is cool. (BTW, this is what I like to call a joke.)
7. Someone with social skills
Blame the Internet, more ways to avoid face-to-face interaction, bad parenting or genetic diseases and conditions, but social communication is becoming an art form. While society makes introverts to be lepers in contrast to the outgoing extrovert because of the emotional drain of being around people, certain people and situations bring out the Chatty McChatterson in the otherwise mousy person.
It’s expected for men to initiate and engage social interaction with women of their interest. For a shy person like myself, this is a bigger challenge than I would like. Therefore, someone who can carry a conversation with me is cool. Bonus points for appearing interested while doing so.
8. Someone who appreciates me for me
This is very important, and at the same time can be the most flexible. My laundry list above is certainly the ideal, but in the long run, the other person has their own expectations. And no one is perfect. So if someone can understand my personality — thought process, sense of humor, emotional needs and wants — and want to grow closer to me, that is all that I want. And if I can let down my defenses and grow closer to them in unison, that is all that I want. As humans searching for that one true connection to another human being, it’s all we ever want.
I know that I need to break down the walls to find someone special. Perhaps knowing what I want will give me a head start.