There’s a Birmingham man who’s so desperate for a girlfriend that he’s willing to pay $10,000 to whoever introduces him to a woman he dates at least six months.
But it’s not me. Honest. But it does make me think about how my ad would read if I did the same thing.
Ren You moved to Birmingham last year when he took a job here at a private equity firm just after he finished grad school in Boston. He’s from the Washington, D.C., area, so he has no social connections in Birmingham, and he says he works long hours which leave him little time to search for a girlfriend.
So he’s put up a website outlining who he is and what he’s looking for. He’s accepting applications — and he promises to pay $10,000 to whoever finds the right woman for him.
I’ve playfully kicked this idea around before, but more as satire than as something serious. Years ago, my friend, Whitney, used to threaten to post up posters on her college campus to find a wife for me. She was going to set up www.MarryDavid.com and plaster the campus of Washington University in St. Louis until she found the right weird young woman for me. It was a running joke that she threatened to turn serious.
Whitney never did the flyer or the website. She got married and moved to California instead. But the idea of satirizing an online search for love never left me. As recently as a few months ago, I kicked around the idea with a friend of setting up such a site for April Fool’s Day.
But now that I’m looking at a site someone else has done, it makes me think seriously about what mine would say. Ren You’s requirements for a woman seem pretty generic to me. He wants someone who is:
— Intellectually curious (about the rules to a new board game, random stuff on Wikipedia, etc.)
— Finds it fun to think about ridiculous hypotheticals
— Physically active
— Thinks take-out and a movie sound like a good Saturday night
— Knows the difference between “Astronomy” and “Astrology”
If that’s all he requires, it seems as though she should be found in short order. My requirements would be a little more complex. How about this ad?
“WANTED — Seeking dysfunctional woman for relationship leading to marriage and children. Prefer tall, brilliant, blue-eyed creative genius with personality disorder and unresolved childhood. Deep angst about solving life’s big questions desirable. Bi-polar disorder optional. Hearing strange voices in head OK as long as they’re under control, at least most of the time. Body type unimportant. No smoking or drinking. Psychiatric drugs OK. Reply before midnight tonight for a free set of Ginsu knives to the first five applicants.”
No? Too honest?
Most people seem to be looking for fairly generic things, from my point of view. Or maybe it’s simply that I feel so far out of the mainstream that it feels almost impossible to find someone like what I want — much less someone who’s looking for what I offer. What makes me so difficult to match? Let’s take a look:
— To be happy with me, a woman has to be interested in spending an inordinate amount of time talking, thinking and then talking some more — about all sorts of esoteric ideas. She has to think weird ideas — and offbeat “what ifs?” — are much more worthy of attention than what’s on television or who’s dating whom in Hollywood.
— To match with me, a woman needs to be a Christian but be comfortable in a theological space that doesn’t fit any mainstream labels. I’m not a theological conservative anymore, but I also don’t fit with progressive/liberal Christians for the most part. I have more questions than answers, and I’m comfortable seeking answers and simply trusting my experiences with God to provide the answers I need. Most people aren’t comfortable living in that space of uncertainty. Most Christian women seem to prefer a husband who will say, “This is the way I see the truth about everything.” I used to think I had everything figured out, but I know now how much of my own ego or intellect was part of those answers. I need a woman who’s comfortable living with that theological uncertainty.
— I need a woman who can live with a man who’s full of artistic doubt and angst at times. I find that there are parts of the creative process when there’s a lot of discomfort — when there’s something important you can almost grasp, but it keeps dancing away. When I’m dealing with that, I’m on edge and preoccupied. A woman would have to understand that temperament and that process — and be comfortable accepting it and helping me survive it.
— To match me, a woman has to be a bizarre blend of personally conservative but intellectually and emotionally open-minded. I need someone who wants a family that has a conservative lifestyle but is completely open to new ideas and constant self-improvement.
— I have to have a woman who is just as committed to family — and having children — as I am, but who has horizons that go much broader than just the household. She’s someone who is incredibly capable and competent, but who chooses to make family first priority. And speaking of family, it has to be someone who’s comfortable with ideas such as unschooling, and she has to be someone who’s just as eager as I am to keep learning more and more about the healthiest ways to raise children.
— My match knows that everything in life is a tradeoff and she’s willing to make the same tradeoffs I’m willing to make — to prioritize love, understanding, family and happiness over money, success and prestige.
— She has to accept living with a word nerd who cares far too much about writing, grammar and speaking properly. (Is it just a coincidence that most of the women I’ve been attracted to over the last 15 years are from the West and Midwest?)
The list could go on, but you get the idea. This is why I don’t do such an ad. Almost nobody would read my requirements. Even fewer would care.
Even though I’m making light of Ren You’s search for a girlfriend in this way, I actually understand why he’s doing it. The search is difficult for everyone. The way we typically go about it is pretty terrible — as divorce statistics will testify — but it’s even tougher for those of us with very narrow requirements which don’t seem to overlap very well with the rest of the world.
If you know of a candidate in Birmingham for Ren You, send him a message. You might win $10,000.
And if you know of the right woman for me, let me know. I’ll send you $7.41 and some really cute cat pictures.
Update: By late August, Ren You’s website was no longer active. Does it mean he found a woman? We might never know.