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Let’s Dating: Dating Deal-Breakers

In my past columns, I’ve explored some of the cultural differences that have made my relationships “zesty”, but the overall impression I’ve given is that love conquers all. Of course it’s nice to think of things this way, but let’s face it: sometimes the person you’re involved with does something that sends you screaming in the other direction. So how do you decide whether to turn around and come back?

Mr. T was my first bona fide Japanese boyfriend. He was very sweet and honest, but sometimes, as I soon discovered, honesty can actually drive people apart rather than bring them together. Case in point: somehow the topic rolled around to foreigners on the train and why they often complain that no one will sit next to them. Personally, I would be grateful if Mr. Sake Breath kept a wider berth, so this discussion was purely hypothetical.

Basically, Mr. T broke it down for me thusly: “Foreigners stink, and that’s why I don’t want to sit next to them on the train.” Nice. Is that why he’d practically recoiled in horror the first time I kissed him?

When he made that comment, he’d been driving me from his place to the nearest station so I could make the hour-long train journey back home. On the train (with no one next to me, adding fuel to the flame), I got to thinking. Was I really that offensive to Japanese noses? And if I was, how could he tolerate having me in his house? Or even more to the point, in his bed?

Looking back, this was the beginning of the end for young Mr. T and myself. It wasn’t that I couldn’t forgive him for what he said. Besides, he later amended his statement to “the cologne that foreign men wear can sometimes be overpowering” rather than “all foreigners stink”. (Apparently I smelled like roses, or natto, or whatever Japanese men dream their girlfriend should smell like.) No, the problem was that we just didn’t know how to deal with our cultural and communication gaps.

I ended things with Mr. T a month or so after the “stinky foreigner” debacle, realizing that we spent much more time fighting than making out, which is never a good sign.

A few years later, I made the acquaintance of a young lad we’ll call Mr. Seaweed. He invited me out to dinner a few nights after we met, and I happily accepted. Then, just an hour or so before we were supposed to meet, he texted, “Sorry, I can’t make it tonight.” No explanation why, no invitation for a rain check, nothing. Strike 1. You know what, let’s just go ahead and call that Strikes 1 and 2 (for flaking out at the last minute AND not even bothering to explain why).

Though things were not looking good for Mr. Seaweed, I was still willing to give him another chance. A week or so after the first date diss, I was planning to go out with a couple of friends who were visiting from out of town. I got a last-minute text from Mr. S, so I invited him to join us, figuring he wouldn’t be up for it. He surprised me by agreeing to come, but I welcomed the chance to have my friends check him out (friends are usually quicker to pick up on dating deal-breakers than the parties in question).

The venue we’d chosen for the evening is a place I often refer to as “the crazy bar”, thanks to the extremely sexually explicit and generally wacky antics of Mark, the proprietor. While my friends and I were laughing to the point of tears, Mr. S just sat there, barely cracking a smile. Did Mark’s sexual overtures make him uncomfortable? Did he just not “get” it? Was it cruel and unusual punishment to invite someone I barely knew to a place where the proprietor routinely fakes a sexual release when explaining the menu? I don’t know, but not being able to find humor in the same things is certainly one of the biggest deal-breakers there is. Confirming my suspicions, my friends pronounced Mr. S “a dud”. Strike 3.

So what have I learned from these experiences? Don’t take everything personally. Try to find out what your partner really means before taking offense. As much as possible, give your love interest the benefit of the doubt. However, if you detect any sort of BS behavior you wouldn’t tolerate at home – lack of commitment and flakiness spring to mind – it’s probably not just a cultural difference.