Every evening I walk down the main street of my neighborhood on my way home from work and usually pop into a local spot to pick up dinner.
This street offers every type of food under the sun -- Korean, Greek, Italian, Lebanese, Portuguese, you name it, my street's got it.
I'm so used to this buffet of variety that when a friend suggests going to eat something I already ate that day or week, I'll usually decline saying, “No thanks, I had pizza for lunch today."
Don't get me wrong, I love pizza as much as the next girl, but I make a real conscious effort to diversify my culinary routine.
When it comes to food, variety is the spice of life.
Romantic love and sex -- similar to food -- are also fundamental needs.
However, unlike our preference for diversity in food, we seem to have a baseline set in our head, a standard for what we perceive as being attractive. In other words, a type.
Modern city living offers a diverse range of food, but also of people. Despite this, our drive to sample that variety does not seem to extend to dating.
Have you ever overlooked or swiped left on someone on a minor first impression because they just aren't “your type." Yup, thought so.
Hesitant to step outside of this mold, we seek out what we THINK we like and generally stick to that.
This is because certain features of the opposite sex just pluck and tug our memory strings. It just feels right.
Walking into a room full of strangers quickly confirms this phenomenon. Our mind processes information as it scans the room, almost like we are wearing pre-programmed goggles that alert us when the proper target has been acquired.
Your default preference is based on your innocent teenage crush, your first love and maybe some aspirational trophy partner you built in your mind.
A glowing halo of light forms around that person even though you've barely met. Attraction goggles work to focus your attention on these individuals and blur out all the others. Our mind is a funny machine that loves to play tricks on us.
Blocking someone out simply because they are not “your type” is unfortunately all too common, and stands on some very shaky reasoning.
When someone fits our type we automatically assume that by virtue of that they are also a perfect match for us. Said in another way, if you sense that unmistakable pull of attraction -- that spark! -- by default you must also be compatible with them.
I call this the compatibility trap.
In reality, someone's external packaging is probably the least reliable sign of potential compatibility. As visual creatures, we are naturally inclined to form judgements on someone's shell, but packaging can be deceiving.
When you jump into a relationships with someone simply because they fit your checklist, you're setting yourself up for failure. You're assuming you know this person inside and out, and as a result, you project onto them an idea that was created in your mind.
In consequence, this places a load of pressure on someone. Essentially they are being judged against expectations they're not even aware they should be living up to!
Undoubtedly, shit will start to hit the fan when you begin to realize a person is not living up to that idea, or when the weight of the pressure becomes too much for them to handle.
The emotional whirlwind and grip of attraction hijacks our ability to think clearly. Long-term thinking is the furthest thing from our minds. So we're quick to ignore the practical IRL truth that the outside is not an accurate reflection of someone's inside.
To override this you have to reprogram those goggles, which will help you view the playing field in a whole new light.
Think back on your teenage years when attraction to the opposite sex was a new, exciting and anxiety-provoking feeling. Your type was a blob of putty waiting to be sculpted.
You had no standard, no archetype, no mold to fill. Everyone had their own unique flavor and points of attraction. New crushes were a weekly occurrence.
Now put yourself back in your teenage shoes. Being able to view potential partners in a new light means viewing dating through the eyes of a younger, less-experienced self again.
Going for your type is not all that terrible, it can actually serve up some short-term fun if that's your thing.
But if you're looking for a stable relationship, or you've had a string of failed ones and can't help but wonder why, put your teenager cap back on, broaden your scope and think long term.
Doing this will prevent you from falling into the compatibility trap, at least not too deep.
It might not seem like a very romantic way to approach dating, but it's realistic. Being with one person for years or even decades is as real as it gets, so that decision should not rely on raw intuition alone.
Next time someone shows interest and you dismiss them because they are not “your type," stop and question what that means, and how valid that model is.
Most importantly, give people the chance you would want them to extend to you. Because variety is, and will always be, the spice of life.