Don't Be Weird: Dating Someone Different Than You
Before we get started, let me tell you a little bit about the things I either have no interest in or actively despise (in no particular order and mostly for no particular reason):
Sports, hunting, fishing, camping, guns, the gym, discussions about the gym, Crossfit, diets, music festivals, sports, Fitbits, cars, video games, sports, TV shows on CBS, rollercoasters, coffee, sports bars, outdoor activities, and sports.
And some things I like non-ironically:
Art museums, high-brow theatre, reading, literary science fiction and fantasy, Merchant Ivory and Miramax films, opera, Shakespeare, nineteenth-century poetry, talking very seriously about books and movies, The Golden Girls, experimental theatre, ballroom dancing, musicals, spelling bees, Josh Groban, ballet, classical music, being inside, and not camping.
To put it simply–I’m less Sam Malone and much more Frasier Crane. Oh, and I really like classic sitcoms.
As you can imagine, the bros are ABOUT this:
Due to my fancy-pants interests, I don’t typically have much in common with the men I date. I used to think I’d find my Niles Crane and live out the rest of my days in opera gloves and faux fur stoles being cultured AF. But then I learned a little more about David Hyde-Peirce. While wonderful, men like that aren’t always into what I got (with notable exceptions of course).
So, alas, I tend to date men who don’t know Monet from Manet and can’t even name an opera let alone hum an aria. It’s a shame, but it’s the world we live in. I occasionally even have to go to sporting events.
I view this as payback (I suppose some would call it a compromise); I make the men I date attend the theatre and go to art museums. Sometimes I even make them discuss the experience and have thoughts about it. So, sometimes I have to watch grown men and women pretend like schoolyard games matter.
I had one boyfriend who could sit in a crowded, hot stadium for hours on end watching tiny dots round a green, diamond-shaped field. He would watch this take place with the kind of attention and focus usually reserved for aircraft controllers. I believe he called this arcane practice a “baseball game.” Sometimes he would watch two of these spectacles in one day. I did not understand. Just like he did not understand my need to watch semi-amateur actors perform Romeo and Juliet as warring organized-crime gangs in the 1920s. We are both only human. We each have our flaws.
We also each learned how to appreciate the other’s interests. I can appreciate the homoerotic, sweaty power plays inherent in sporting events; I also discovered baseball pants are great. In turn, he grew to appreciate certain theatrical experiences. I rediscovered an interest in college basketball that I had been repressing since my days at the University of Kansas ended. He discovered his love for comic, edgy Broadway musicals so long as no one was dressed up as a cat or a '90s heroin addict.
We both learned how to emphasize the elements of our contrasting interests that the other could care more about. He knew I despised baseball, but could tolerate basketball, so we went to a lot more basketball games. I knew he’d be down for an Avenue Q-style musical, but absurdist experimental plays were out.
We also discovered how to find, isolate, and emphasize the stuff we did have in common. Star Wars, hiking, Game of Thrones, a slew of favorite authors and bands. Yes, we went to some plays and some sporting events; but we spent a lot more time at concerts and movies because those were the things we both could enjoy without any caveats. He continued to take his brother to baseball games and I took my mom to the ballet and art museums.
I know plenty of men and women who all too easily conform to the hobbies and interests of their significant others. I have no way of knowing if this is a product of growing up and opening minds, or if it’s a the result of feeling obligated to morph into what your significant other wants.
It can be very difficult to retain your identity while in a committed relationship. We all know those couples that morph into one indistinguishable boring person. But I’m here to say it can be even more difficult to open yourself up to someone else, and part of that is caring about your significant other’s interests—no matter how silly you may find them. I used to think shared interests were the only sign of relationship potential. Then I learned a very important lesson from an unlikely source.
Feature illustration by Kirsten Samanich, @kir_andloathinginlasvegas.