When Do We Compromise Our Standards?
One Friday night a few weeks ago I was having a drink downtown with some friends and, as usual, the topic of dating came up. To be more specific, we were discussing bad dates (which unfortunately seem to be more common than good ones), or rather, when dates don’t really go the way you expect.
My friend’s friend Jessica* was telling us about this time she went on a blind date (I don’t remember if she was set up by friends or it was through a dating website, but either way it’s immaterial to the story) and was meeting the guy in a bar. She was running a little late so when she got there, he was already sitting at the bar, waiting for her with drinks. She thought it was sweet of him to have a beer waiting for her (if a little presumptuous for thinking he’d know what she’d want), but she happily sat down to get to know him.
The date went swimmingly. They had effortless conversation, he was funny, and apparently very, very handsome. She was having a great time, and spent the evening silent thanking the dating gods for throwing a good blind date her way for once.
It started to get late, so they wrapped up the evening and decided to head out of the bar. When they got up to leave, and she saw him standing for the first time, Jessica noticed that the guy barely cleared five feet. She’s only 5’3”—usually used to craning her neck upward to make eye contact—and this guy was barely at eye level with her.
Jessica starting going on to us about how, given her dating track record, this was obviously a cruel prank on the part of the dating gods, and she shouldn’t have gotten her hopes up because there was no way her handsome, gentleman of a blind date was going to end so well. This segued into a conversation about how if things seem too good to be true, they probably are and we quickly got off topic.
A few minutes later my friend remembered that Jessica hadn’t finished her story and asked her, “Wait, so how did you end the date? What did you do?”
Jessica looked at us, smiled, and said, “Oh. I slept with him!”
I won’t go on about how funny this was (you had to be there), but as we settled down a good five minutes later, wiping away the tears of laughter, I started thinking about why Jessica’s evening ended the way it did.
Apparently the guy was a catch—he was smart, funny, very cute, well-educated, and a good conversationalist, and I’m not in any way judging her for going home with him. If Jessica hadn’t specifically mentioned how disappointed she was when he turned out to be shorter than she was, I wouldn’t have even begun thinking about standards (and she probably wouldn’t have told us the story). But she specifically told us the anecdote because it was about how she ended up being disappointed by a guy who didn’t live up to her expectations. Yet she slept with him anyway, essentially compromising her own standards—whatever those standards might have been.
Everyone sets their own standards for themselves, and I would argue that most people’s standards are fairly flexible. We adjust them based on how we’re feeling, what we’re looking for in that particular moment, who’s around to judge us (the “moped effect,” as my friend calls it: they’re fun to ride, but you wouldn’t necessarily want your friends to see you on one),
how much we’ve been drinking, and how much a person’s unexpectedly great characteristic can more than make up for a lack of something we thought was essential, but turns out to be less important than we thought. Sometimes our opinions about people adjust over time, as we get to know them.
I had a long-term, very passionate relationship with someone whom I was not at all attracted to the first time we met. In fact the very first thing I said to my cousin (who introduced us), was “couldn’t you have brought a cuter friend?”
But sometimes we actually set the bar lower than we usually would. Why?
Do we compromise more in terms of personality (by sleeping with people we might find attractive but wouldn’t otherwise date) or more in terms of looks (by sleeping with people we wouldn’t usually find attractive, but make do with in a moment of desperation)? Do we do it because of laziness? Out of guilt? Or obligation? For validation? Just to get laid? To get intimacy?
I suppose that all of these have applied at some point or another.
Did Jessica really feel like her date’s positive characteristics overshadowed his shortcomings enough that she was still attracted to him? Or did she lower her standards because she felt it would have been really shallow to blow him off about something as superficial as height after they’d had such a great date?
We didn’t ask her, so I’ll never know (although she did say that she never called him again), but it got me wondering, when do we compromise our standards? And why?
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*Not her real name.